Vol. 3 Issue 38 | September 22, 2017

Three Things This Week

1. Too Good at Goodbyes

What it is: Sam Smith returns to the music scene with a tragic ballad debuting at number 5.

Why it’s sad: With lyrics like, “I’m never gonna let you close to me / Even though you mean the most to me / Because everytime I open up it hurts,” it’s an anthem for rejecting intimacy because of past heartbreak. The cultural antidote for pain is to suppress it, but doing so actually leads to the very thing we’re trying to avoid: more pain and isolation. “Numb the dark, and you numb the light.” Talk with your teens about the unhealthy coping mechanisms in the song, and remind them that “to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.” But that’s what makes us human. We were made to love and be loved in return. Instead of safeguarding their hearts from ever being broken, help them manage relational breakups in healthy ways. Our conversation kit on relationships, which explores how God designed us to be interdependent instead of independent, may help you start this conversation.

2. tbh

What it is: A new teen-focused, anonymous app has hit the top of the App Store, likely because it’s figured out what most other anonymous apps haven’t: how to prevent bullying.

Why it has potential: tbh (“to be honest”) has users respond to polls like “Who has the best smile?” by picking a friend. When someone is picked, they are told the gender and grade of the person who chose them, but not the user’s identity. Because these polls are only positive and because the app doesn’t allow direct messaging (yet), there’s virtually no way to use the app to bully others. Of course, as the app grows and adds more features, that could change. It’s currently available in only 9 states, but will be available in more soon. With bullying tactics like online “roasting” on the rise, this could be a breath of fresh air.

3. Sticks and Stones

What it is: Speaking of cyberbullying, NFL running back Eddie Lacy has opened up for the first time about the cyberbullying he has faced.

Why it’s a shame: In the article, Lacy responds to the fat-shaming, harsh memes, and plain rudeness he’s endured, saying, “You just can’t shake it.” In a culture that glorifies celebs and worships fame and fortune, it’s easy to think that achieving all those things makes your skin thicker. After all, who cares what the internet thinks when you’re living in luxury, right? Wrong. Read his story with your teens, then ask them what they learned about him that was surprising. Also, ask them if they’ve ever seen similar things happen to their friends, or if they’ve ever been shamed on social media.

A Ragamuffin’s Legacy

The first time I met him, he looked more like a homeless man than my junior high camp counselor. Barefoot and smelling of cigarettes, he wore an old white t-shirt and dirty jeans. I don’t think I ever saw him in anything else. He was a poet, prophet, saint, sinner, and the nearest thing to Jesus I’ve ever met. His name was Rich Mullins, and “to meet him once was to be in his life forever.”

Twenty years ago this week, Rich died in a tragic car accident, but his legacy lives on in those of us lucky enough to have known him. Like a seed that falls to the ground and dies, Rich’s life continues to bear fruit. In fact, he’s the reason I’m still a Christian today. As a 14-year-old kid, I longed for someone to just be honest with me about faith, life, doubt, and brokenness. Rich was, and it was captivating. He never wore a mask, never postured, never pretended: “The power of Rich Mullins’ life lay in the power of his brokenness and unblinking honesty.”

As you disciple the next generation, resist the temptation to fool your students into believing you’ve got it all together—they won’t be able to identify with that anyway. Instead, give them your whole self, warts and all. Rich changed the trajectory of my life because he had the audacity to believe in the unconditional love of God, giving him the courage to be vulnerable. As one of his pupils said, “I have sung his songs and read his writings and stood at his grave and am convinced that in his barefoot, quirky, grace-filled wake he left a pair of shoes that no one will ever fill.” May it also be said of us.

Gary Alan
Editor

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