Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

8Dec/140

Where Will Christ Be in Your Christmas?

Light displays, Christmas songs, plays and performances, movies, cookies and pies, family potlucks and gift exchanges, a visit to see Santa Claus, a visit from Santa’s elf on the shelf, a Christmas tree or two, letters to Santa, gifts on Christmas Day, shopping…shopping…and more shopping. It’s all driving me nuts this year. Why? Because I don’t see any lasting meaning in any of it! Aside from the worship I am doing at church…which I do every week of the year, Christ isn’t very prominent in my Christmas.

Do me a favor: add up all the hours you have spent on Christmas traditions, then compare them to the hours you have spent seeing Jesus in the season. If your like the average American Christian, it’s a pretty pathetic ratio, maybe even as bad as 100:1. In fact, beyond Christmas carols, I’m afraid that most people’s only Christian Christmas experience may be worshipping on Christmas eve.

27May/140

Mindless Parents – I’m gonna get in a fight someday…

AngerI stood an aisle away on Saturday, listening to a parent lecture his twelve year old son as they shopped. I wish that I could say that some of the lecture was helpful, but none of it made any difference for the son or for me. The main content sounds like news clips from an old ranting preacher:

  • You need to grow up and be a man
  • You kids these days don't know how to be responsible
  • Your mom can't do everything for you for the rest of your life
  • Your a loser and I've got to compensate for you

I hope I never talk to my child like this!

First: You don't make negative character judgements on your kid.

That only reinforces a self image that says to them, "I'm a loser. I'm incapable. I'm lazy. I'm dishonest." Kids need to be challenged to live up to a high standard and told they can be better than their present actions make them seem. They are changeable. They are growing. Encourage and picture growth in how you talk to them. Don't praise your children for being better than they are--if they lie, call them out on the lie. But call them out for being dishonest, don't call them a liar. One is a poor choice or action, the other is an identity.

Second: Don't simply tell your kids what to do all the time.

The other problem the Dad had, was he never once asked his kid to think for himself. It's no wonder the kid is lazy and waits for you to command them...that's all they know. Kids don't pull down initiative and responsibility and good decision making from the sky--parents are supposed to teach it to them. If I could have told the guy one thing on Saturday, it would have been this:

If your kid is irresponsible and immature...it's your fault.

It's the parent's job to teach their kid to make decisions. To do so, often times we need patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness. We need to ask good questions of our kids. We need to let them choose--even if their choice is a poor one. Experiencing the consequences of a poor decision helps them to think about their next decision and make a better choice.

Ultimately, there will come a day when our kids make choices based on their own maturity and the influence of others beyond their parents. It's not always the parent's fault that their kids made poor choices...but if anyone is failing children in the world today, it is their parents.

19May/140

The Fowler Family Update, Spring 2014

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Stacy and I thought that an update was in order—so much of life has changed in these past few months that it seems like a great excuse to send snail mail, complete with a picture of our family and an update on our involvement in a mission project in the Middle East!

Elisha Scott Fowler was born on Saturday, March 22nd weighing 6lbs and 4oz via c-section. Everything about his arrival was a surprise, we didn’t even find out our baby’s gender until we got to see him for the first time! Most first steps as new parents proved very hard for us, for Stacy in particular. We are blessed to have had very good doctors and nurses, very helpful family, and encouraging friends to pray for us and help us through the weeks of adjustment. But we have learned a lot the hard way and are passing along the news: be prepared, prayerful, and ready to change your plans as a parent at a moment’s notice. Don’t set your expectations so high that you are disappointed by the challenges you face as a parent. The books often paint too “average” a picture to adapt it to your child. And remember: you are blessed to live in a world where pregnancy and childhood are VERY VERY safe compared to every other generation that lived before modern medicine!!!

So many new perspectives come to life in Scripture when you are having a child of your own…the pain and trials of loss and infertility become frighteningly real, every verse of parenting becomes alive with meaning, and the life of Jesus—who was a baby—becomes so interesting! Many of these thoughts are finding their way onto Patrick’s blog at www.journeymanproject.org if you are interested in reading them.

Since Eli’s birth, Patrick’s been busy on the house—creating a garden and a chicken house for Stacy to plant and manage on her 16 week maternity leave. Being close to nature is being close to God for Stacy, so we are doing all we can to create an awesome home for her and our child(ren). We expect to have lots of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and eggs this summer. If you are in Clarksville, be sure to let us share the wealth in fruits and vegetables if things go well!

We are also using Stacy’s temporary freedom from work to build more relationships. Having her home daily, rather than after 6-7pm most days is awesome! She’s able to become a very experienced caretaker for Eli and she can plan to join me for dinner with friends or with people we are getting to know in the community without exhausting herself. While Stacy’s job provides good health insurance and a great income, we are VERY hopeful that we can find opportunities for Stacy to work less and less in the future so that we can continue to use every opportunity to share the love of Christ without taking time away from our relationship and our family. Keep us in your prayers for a good future job in that respect. It’s hard to make enough as a pastor to support a stay at home mom, but I am hopeful that we can manage money and opportunities in a way that makes that a reality.

Stacy and I are blessed beyond belief. We wouldn’t trade our life for another, knowing that our circumstances and challenges are nothing compared to most of the world. We send this out to you in hopes that you will thank God for His blessings to us and to you, and that you’ll let us know how we can pray for and stay in touch with you too.

Sincerely,
Patrick and Stacy

29Apr/141

Jesus was a baby? Seriously?

"God, did you REALLY send your Son as a baby?"

I always thought that was cute and fun--but now that I have a baby, I keep thinking, "really?" This person is totally helpless, totally dependent, weak, demanding, scared, cold, and unable to do anything but cry, sleep, eat and poop. The Son of God spent His time in this condition? He nursed at Mary's breasts? Mary and Joseph wiped His butt? He came through the birth canal bruised and bloody and crying? He kept them awake at night?

AND - this was your design for humanity? To start as a seed that would need to be planted, nurtured, and monitored for years in order to reach it's potential? Wow. You really did design us to be servants--to take joy in training, nurturing and growing others. I've always thought of us as conquerors, achievers, and managers. I'm sorry. I really need to lean more deeply into the design you have for us. I promise to learn how I am built to be a father. And I'll never doubt Your humility again. You are willing to do whatever it takes to regain our love. I'm so grateful that You loved us that much. That You CHOSE to take on the flesh of humanity--the fragility and limitations of a baby--to save us.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
~ Philippians 2:5-8

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
~ John 1:14

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
~ Hebrews 2:14-15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.
~ Hebrews 4:15

22Apr/140

Dispatches from Eli’s Arrival, Part 2

Adjusting to the demands of pregnancy and the new baby is hard. Change is always hard. But you’ve already been in a season of change for nine months. How you do going forward is a reflection of how you’ve done recently. If you have been sensitive, hard-working, and responsive to your wife’s needs during the pregnancy up until this point, then you are probably well-trained to adapt to her needs and the needs of the baby in this new stage of their lives. If you’ve ignored or pressured your spouse to be just as productive and engaged as she was before she got pregnant, then watch out! You’re in for even more tension and rougher waters. Start serving her now. Be sensitive to her extra needs, take advantage of moments to refresh and refill yourself, and remember: she is the weaker vessel. You are designed to bear this load. It won’t last forever. Be ok with working extra hard for a season.

The hospital has been the hardest part for me so far. Stacy needed me and me alone for those segments. Me only to comfort her through 28 hours of labor: encouraging, rubbing her back, finding new ways to help her cope with the pain…at least for the hours and hours before her epidural. Thank God for modern medicine. Without that, she would have been exhausted when baby arrived. Then I was her coach when pushing baby for 2 hours…keeping her distracted and then comforting her when she had to accept the fact that a c-section was the best way for baby to arrive. Again, thank God for modern medicine. I am so glad doctors can see that baby was turned backward in the birth canal, and that he was getting distressed by all the pushing. Why would I pursue a more “natural option” at home and miss the life-saving advantages for both mom and baby in the hospital? Sure its more expensive (a little) and they overly poke and prod my little one. I’m ok with that when it means life or death in many cases. Pregnancy is a leading cause of death in many places, modern and ancient. Thank God for modern medicine.

The other hard part about the hospital was the difficulty of getting rest. People came in every hour or so to poke and prod Stacy, to visit, and to teach us new things about parenting. A lot of the advice was helpful, the watchful eye of the doctors and nurses on Stacy and baby (who was jaundiced) was appreciated, but the pace of it all was overwhelming. I walked outside once or twice to catch my breath and avoid killing everyone. Sleep deprivation at this stage can make you crazy. Rest every chance you get before this stage…and leave the hospital for a few hours to regain your sanity. At the very least, find the chapel. Meet with God and enjoy unbroken silence, as I have only been in a few chapels where anyone else was present.

Being home is awesome…if you have a good support system. With a mom joining us to cook meals, do errands, and help with the baby (and comforting Stacy as a new mom) I was able to take my week of vacation and turn it into project time for all the things that Stacy and I have been working to do at the house. While that might sound neglectful—Stacy’s dream is to have a ranch with a garden and chickens—timing is crucial to making her dream come true. So as she adjusts to the schedule of taking care of baby (with help), I am nearby and attentive, but busy in a way that will reflect my return to work soon. She gets a pretty good deal. For my part, I usually take baby early or late—whenever she most needs a big favor, and I make sure that I never complain about helping. I change diapers or bottle feed, I clean her baby items, and I let her parents know how incredibly grateful we are that they are helping! I can’t imagine doing this without help! And one more note: Having a mother-in-law who cooks REALLY well is also awesome. I’m eating better than I have in years!