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The Blueprint for Busting Out of Pig Pens

Earl Middleton No Comments

blueprint, bust out, pig penIn one way or another we’ve all been in a pig pen. A prison of our own making. An unpleasant place in life arrived at via our own faulty, even foolish, navigation. Many of us feel like we’re in such a place right now in at least one area of our lives, and have no idea how to bust out of it. What if I told you there is a blueprint for busting out of your pig pen?

Busting out of a pig pen is not as easy as it sounds. By the time we arrive there we’re so resource depleted that it would seem like the only way out is to be rescued by some good Samaritan. Which makes the story Jesus tells of the lost son even more remarkable. This dude didn’t wait on a rescuer. He got himself out! And in so doing he created a blueprint for you and me to follow.

Warning! It’s not easy to follow this blueprint. But it works.

The blueprint reveals that there are no items to acquire to bust out of this pen, no metal files to steal, no bed sheets to turn into ropes, no tunnels to dig. The only thing needed is something even the most bankrupt person has in abundance. Thoughts. How a prodigal thinks about and views his pig pen determines when and how he gets out.

The blueprint is really a thought map with seven points of interest, like seven stops on an underground railroad. The points are sequential, and each stop is necessary.

1. Blame. When a prodigal first arrives in the pig pen, in the place of want and desperation, he immediately looks for somebody to blame. After all, this is the behavior of the powerless. The prodigal will blame the father who gave him the requested goods, the fake friends who helped him waste them, the people who refuse to give him anything when he extends his palm for a handout.

2. Critique. When prodigals realize that blame won’t change their circumstances they move on to system critique. It’s not people specifically that are responsible for the mess they’re in, it’s the system of life we’re all enslaved by. The economic system is unfair. Helping those who don’t have anything should be built into the system. Sharing should be required. It’s not fair that some have so much, way more than they need, while others have nothing.

3. Comparison. Critique failing to move the needle gives way to comparison. Prodigals soon begin to measure their circumstances against those of other prodigals and conclude that maybe things aren’t so bad after all. There are pig pens everywhere, in every city of every state in every country. “There are plenty of others in pig pens so maybe I’m really just a victim of unfortunate circumstances like them.”

4. Permissiveness. It’s only a short hop, skip, and jump from comparison to permissiveness. “I’m young, I’m supposed to go through this now. This is what young people do. This is the time of life to make mistakes and recover from them. I’m gaining valuable life experience. The pig pen is good for me right now. It’s teaching me character!”

5. Despair. Hunger pangs have a way of diminishing the immediate value of character. When prodigals begin to realize that they can’t eat intangible qualities forged through suffering they begin to take inventory of their ability to meet their physical needs and find the cupboard empty. That’s when despair sets in. “What am I going to do? How am I going to eat? No one’s trying to help me and I have no skills to help myself other than feeding pigs, something anybody can do. I’ll never get out of this pig pen!”

6. Depression. There’s only one place to go from despair; deep into the valley of depression. This is where the anger that was aimed outward in blame is now directed inward. The prodigal finally becomes angry with himself for helping to create his unpleasant predicament. This is absolutely the most important coordinate on the prodigal’s thought map, because this is the point where he finally begins to accept responsibility for the shape and circumstances of his life, and begins to reject blame.

7. Determination. From depression there’s nowhere to go but up. And that’s what happens when prodigals arrive at this final stop. They’ve finally made up their mind to arise, to get up out of their circumstances and move on. Along with determination comes vision, and a plan. These three working in concert propel the prodigal out of the pig pen. “It’s better at home. Even the servants have more than I do. I will go home and apply for a serving job!”

The blueprint for busting out of pig pens takes prodigals on a thought journey back to their source. It can be a quick trip, or it can take a lifetime. However long it takes you, happy travels.

How to Help Your Prodigal Child

Earl Middleton No Comments

prodigalHolding your child accountable is part of a legitimate spiritual skillset called parenting that does pay off in the long run. Cf. the prodigal son’s father, who held his son accountable by allowing him to make a bad decision he demanded to make which could only result in failure, watching him fail, and then staying out of his way while he gnawed on the bitter fruit of his failure. If many of us today were in that dad’s shoes we would have:
1. Given him only a small portion of the inheritance now and told him the rest is in a trust that can’t be touched until he’s 30. (In an effort to protect him from himself.)
2. Followed him into the far country…or at least tracked him by the gps on his phone. (In an effort to protect him from others).
3. Put alerts and spending limits on his account so he couldn’t waste all of his money on riotous living. (In an effort to protect him from financial failure).
4. Rented him a room and given him a food allowance just before he got to the pig pen. (In an effort to protect him from poverty/hunger…and perhaps spare our own reputation as well).
5. Given him a ride back home and paid his living expenses for a year to help him get back on his feet while he looked for a job. (In an effort to protect him from insignificance).
All this would have frustrated the divine plan to use this prodigal episode to change this young man’s heart.

If you’re currently holding your child accountable for his decisions and actions while being a resource for her when she repents then you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing as a responsible parent. You may seem mean and harsh to the rest of the world but you stay the course, it will bless your child in the end!

Claim your child’s success even when you see him headed to the hog pen. Declare that the hog pen will cause her to come to herself! That it will provide the moment of clarity he needs to turn his life around.

Why Preaching to Your Rebellious Kid Won’t Work

Earl Middleton No Comments

Preaching won't workShow, don’t tell anymore.

In a Christian, word based church culture we can get seduced by the transformative power of the word to the point where we think that it’s the word that will also get people’s attention. But this is not, was not, and will never be the case.

The word is a/the change agent, but it is not the attention agent. And attention always has and always will precede change. God’s attention agent has been historically and will continue to be miracles!

We have to demonstrate the power of God before it will be received. That’s why Jesus came doing signs and wonders, so that the people would listen to what he had to say. And that’s why the Holy Spirit released signs following the word, so that people would believe it. And that’s why when raising rebellious children we need to stop depending on the logic of the word to produce change in their lives.

Just telling them what to do and telling them why they need to do it won’t get them to do it. They need a sign. They’re not seeking after a sign, but they need one. They need a demonstration of power before they will submit to the power.

When our son expressed, via his behavior, that he no longer wanted to do his chores no amount of reasoning, cajoling, or threatening could make him change his mind. So we stopped setting a place for him at the dinner table and removed the TV’s remote control to our bedroom. When he finally asked, “Why?” we told him, “Only those who participate in the operation of the household can enjoy the benefits of the household.”

He needed the gentle signs of lost control over television viewing and having to get his own food to eat alone to arrest his attention so he could hear the connection between household participation and household benefits clearly.

God will tell you what demonstration is necessary in your particular situation and will move you to release it. He will work it through you once you accept that it has to come before the power of the word will take effect.

I know it goes against everything you’ve been conditioned to believe in church: the word, the word, the word, they need the word. Yes, they need the word, but before they can be ready for the word they need the demonstration of the power of that word to grab their attention.

Stop trying to grab their attention with the word (by yelling, and cursing, and threatening), it wasn’t designed to do that. Miracles were. Signs. Wonders. Show them something! Then you can tell them anything!

SLAP Your Parents

Earl Middleton No Comments

slap your parentsSLAP = See.Love.Appreciate.Pray4 (all of this is implied by HONOR).

I present a workshop to teens entitled How to SLAP Your Parents (and Why). It’s pretty popular. Here’s why.

See your parents. This means to acknowledge them AND to enable others to acknowledge them by promoting them and making them famous; to announce them; to glorify them (as Jesus glorified his father). One of the principle things a child is called and commanded by God to do is to glorify his/her parents, because this prepares us for the same. We can’t make ourselves famous. Promotion comes from the Lord. So, to position ourselves to be glorified we need to do the same for someone else first (Eph 6:8). This begins at home and the first people we are called to promote are our parents because they gave us life. Announce them to the world the way Jesus announced his father.

Love your parents. This means to agape them; do what is in their best interest regardless of how you feel about them. This is decision-based, not feelings-based, and driven by truth, not circumstances. Even if they have been horrible to you, you are called to love them in order to imitate our Heavenly Father who causes His sun to shine on the good and bad, and His rain to fall on the just and the unjust. So, we love even our enemies, bless them that curse us, and do good unto them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. When we step into a place of love for even our enemies we become impervious to evil. Nothing can hurt us.

Appreciate your parents. This means to place a value on them that is higher than their behavior, no matter how good or bad it is or has been. Esteem them as a prize that continues to appreciate in value because they are the soil of your blessing. They are the ground you sow into that will produce blessing and benefit in your life.

Pray4 your parents. This means to go to God on their behalf, even if they despitefully (thought less of you when they) used you and persecuted (pursued) you, because in so doing you create an environment in which God can reach them to change them. Use and persecution are learned, responsive behaviors. People treat their children that way when they have been treated that way as children themselves. When you decide to respond differently to the behavior than they did themselves, it gets their attention and provides an avenue for God to show up in their conscience and experience; but most of all it rescues you from visiting the same behavior on your children. Prayer can change the person you pray for, but the biggest change it effects is in YOU.

So, when I say “SLAP your parents” what I really mean is “see, love, appreciate, and pray for your parents!” Now, why on earth would you do that if your parents have not been good parents, model parents, caring parents, nice parents? Why do good for people who have been bad? Why bless those who curse you? Why do good for them who have hated you? Because there is a built in blessing that comes with it that you can’t get any other way; and one of the reasons people who have had bad parents end up with such screwed up lives is because they have not mastered slapping their parents and all that is available to them is the curse of hate transferred by their parents. You can send the hate away and bless your life by slapping them.