Community, Faith, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

Let’s stop trying to fix each other.

This past week through multiple interactions with people, reading different articles and posts, and listening to a few different podcasts, this one thought has permeated through my feelings: “We need to stop fixing other people and start truly loving them.”

Context

For those who know my story, its a journey of coming alongside families and youth who have experienced some sort of trauma, loss or neglect. This includes our own journey as a family, with losing parents, 4 major moves and dealing with our own brokenness (conflict, stressors, sin, etc.) as a couple and as a family.

In a post I wrote a few years ago called, “The Beautiful Messiness of the Gospel,” I shared my understanding of the Gospel (which is important to this post):

You see, If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me, is it truly the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it, does it mean I never received it? If I cannot do what Christ did: leave his home and comfort and to take on the grief and sin of this world, to bind the wounds of the broken, provide a voice to those who are marginalized, to love my enemy, has the Gospel truly changed me? These are hard questions for me to not only ask myself but to ask God. But I have to ask them. And not only should I ask these questions but I have to find ways through my actions and words to share with others that the Gospel is the only answer to the fear, doubts and hate we see in our world today.

This perspective of His work in and through my life and my own brokenness is important context for what I want to share next.

A Sense of Belonging

In his book, “What Happened To You?” Dr. Bruce Perry shares,

“Love, given and felt, is dependent upon the ability to be present, attentive, attuned and responsive to another human being. The glue of humanity has been essential to the survival of our species-and to the health and happiness of the individual…It is in the small moments, when we feel the other person fully present, fully engaged, connected and accepting, that we make the most powerful and enduring bonds.”

“What Happened To You” (page 81-82)

We see this so clearly in 1 Corinthians 13…:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:5-8

We use the word “community” a lot in Christian circles. We talk of its importance and the benefit of being in Christian community to help grow faith. I think this is especially true coming out of a pandemic but I wonder if we truly know the purpose and significance of community. Typically when we speak about community we do it through the lens of programing and activities (small groups/life groups, Bible studies, men’s and/or women’s groups, etc.), but that isn’t really getting to the essence of community.

If I asked you for words to describe the benefits of community, we might use words like; authenticity, trusting, safe, united, a sense of belonging, etc.

Unfortunately for many people this never becomes their experience in many of the programming mentioned above. Programs in and of themselves cannot produce the kind of faith many of these programs hope to achieve. Programming cannot replace relationships. For these initiatives to work we actually need to have a deeper understanding of what it means to produce healthier people and interactions. We need to have a fuller and deeper understanding of how faith is transmitted and strengthened.

Let’s Stop Fixing Each Other

One thing I often see, especially in men, is our desire to fix things.

I know I struggle with this at times, especially with my wife and kids, to always having an answer or response. We do this a lot in churches. We throw a Scripture verse at someone or use some Christian cliché.

I had hoped that a lifetime of coming alongside other people would help me be more empathetic and a better listener, but I always have work to do in this area. I do like to think that some of my greatest growth over the past few years is to give up trying to constantly managing others perceptions of me and just being fully present in the lives of other people.

What does it mean to be fully present:

To listen. To empathize. To not only ask good questions but the right ones (Jesus was amazing at this). If correction is needed, to do it with gentleness and grace. If you speak truth…do it in love.

I am struck by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2. Despite much opposition from the locals Paul shares his intentions:

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you” and then he shares an incredible image, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2: 6-12

“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children…” Paul is describing the bond of attachment a mother provides for her children that goes beyond just the physical benefits of nursing, but the emotional and relational attachments that are also forged and the benefits such as lower stress, increased calmness, a feeling of safety, etc.

Research has shown in multiple studies, such as The Mills Longitudinal Study and the Harvard Study of Adult Development, that people who feel connected to others is critical to healthier outcomes. These relational pictures of mom and dad that Paul is writing to describe his relationship with the Thessalonians as one of safety, healthy, nurturing, loving and caring. You don’t see judging, fixing, shaming, condemning. You see gentleness. You see in verse ll and 12, “as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging to live lives worthy of God…”

Maybe what we desire more than community is actually connection. And not just any connection: Healthy connections. Safe connections. Godly connections. Gospel-centered connections.

We do not necessarily achieve connection by always trying to fix each other.

So…the next time we feel like we need to fix someone… we need to stop and listen. Identify with their humanity as an image bearer of God. Be fully present. Care for them. Love them…yes, even our enemies. Ask clarifying questions. Be safe for them. If we must disagree or correct…do it with a spirit of gentleness and care for them. We need to care for them as much as we care for the truth…because what we see in Christ and in research…healthy relationships and connections are the key to healing and restoration.

Community, Culture, Faith, Family, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

We Are Failing Children

The intent of this post is not to blame, shame, or politicize data. I also don’t want to oversimplify a very complex issue. I simply want to share a perspective I don’t hear talked about a lot in Christian circles. (This is the first of two posts.)

It is difficult for me to watch the news and scroll through my social media feeds nowadays without a sense that at some level we are failing children and youth on an unprecedented level. It’s everywhere. Postmodernism is redefining everything. Yuval Harari in his book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” provides some excellent descriptors of postmodernism: “Modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarized in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power...Since there is no script, and since humans fulfill no role in any great drama, terrible things might befall us and no power will come to save us or give meaning to our suffering. There won’t be a happy ending, or a bad ending, or any ending at all. Things just happen, one after the other. The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause.”“Meaning and authority always go hand in hand. Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”

If postmodernism contends that there is no objective truth…is it any wonder that children are suffering?

I typically have the following filters: a deep transformative view of the Gospel (good news); the sacredness of every life; the loss and trauma of our world. I have worked with at-risk and vulnerable children for decades and in multiple venues and situations. These filters I have are not just merely sentiments…they have been forged in the fire of life.

So, as I think about the sentiment of “we are failing children” there is a deeply personal part of this for me that comes out and that I have to process.

There are stories and faces of the young men and their families that had a huge impact on my time at EGA (residential care facility serving the 5 boroughs of NY City). As I served as a houseparent with my wife at a residential school, loving and supporting a home of 8-10 girls (70+ girls in 9 years). The lives, the stories, the joy, the loss. When I think of our own family journey of 27 years of marriage and three kids. It’s been a hard but beautiful adventure. There have been some really amazing and beautiful moments but there have also been hardships and losses.

Why are children failing?

I firmly believe that the family unit has been outsourcing and abdicating its responsibilities for decades (generations) because the very institutions meant to support and partner with families, such as schools, churches, and government, have effectively neutered the authority of the family by telling families, “we can do it better than you,” and “we know better than you.” (Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”)

In essence, how dare you show up to a school board meeting and express your concerns about what is being taught or talk about the safety of your children without being labeled or looked down upon.

How are we failing children you ask? Let’s look at some of the data:

  • Prior to the pandemic less than half of children in the US were flourishing according to a study out of John Hopkins. Children who are flourishing are directly connected to the strength (resilience and connection) of the parent/child relationship.
  • Since the pandemic, these indicators of children failing have gotten worse. According to the CDC: a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health; 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless; 55% reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.
  • 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting and beating
  • 29% reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.
  • Teen suicide is up (31% increase from 2019-2021) – and a fivefold increase in suicide attempts in children ages 10-12 (2010-2020)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 jumped 51 percent between February and March 2021. For boys, that number increased by 4 percent.

If this data is true, (and there is so much more data) then why are we not talking more about this? Why are children, after spending more time at home during the pandemic, seem to be worse off? Research tells us that the healthy parent/child relationship is critical to the long-term resilience of children and leads to better outcomes in children and adults than anything else. If children are doing worse, then what does that say about the health of homes and families? Our children should not be worse off…

This doesn’t mean we start shaming parents, although there is plenty of blame and ownership to go around with how parents are raising their children today. If you ask most parents, they would probably tell you, “I was just following the norm and expectations of taking kids to school, loving my child, being involved in their activities, occasionally taking them to church and they will turn out ok.” At some level, the pandemic ripped open these norms and expectations and the data doesn’t lie…our children are in trouble.

Things are not ok and these very institutions have betrayed (intentionally or not) the sacred trust that should exist to help protect the family and children even if it means calling out the very unhealthy behaviors that probably should be addressed in families. I know many teachers and school personnel that feel absolutely helpless in dealing with many of the behavioral issues and challenges in schools either by their own policies and/or what is tolerated for fear of reprisal and threats by parents. It’s not healthy on any level.

The Role of the Church

As I process what is happening culturally, what role does faith and the church play in all of this? Is this another institution that has missed the mark? I often hear the following sentiment from parents whose children are no longer in their homes and who have “walked away from the faith” yet attended church most of their lives and wrestle with regret about not being a better parent to their children: “I just wish I knew sooner what they needed from me.”

Well, why didn’t they know sooner?

It’s because their primary and life-giving role is not elevated within the walls and programs of the church. It’s a secondary or tertiary intervention at best to help parents when it should be a primary role of the church to equip and inspire families to thrive and flourish.

On a regular basis, parents need to be reminded from the pulpit that they are their child’s number one pastor and then offer and design innovative ways to help them do that. Church Programming such as Sunday School, Youth Group, Retreats and Camps, and many other programs are meant to support the role of the parent, not replace.

Somewhere along the line, we have bought into the idea that a youth leader is better suited to teach our children about Jesus than parents are. We let them handle it – after all, they’re “cooler” than us. They understand scripture, have a better understanding of the pressures teens face, and probably have some training on how to make a better impact on their lives.  Most youth leaders I know play a huge role in teens’ lives and in most cases the previous descriptions are true (cool, relevant, and can teach the Bible).

But that doesn’t mean I outsource my child’s faith.

I hope you do not hear criticism of the amazing work we are doing in our churches, that being said, we can no longer pay lip service once a year to a child’s dedication of the important role parents play and then never mention it again.

How is Faith Actually Transmitted?

Research (i.e. Families and Faith, Vern Bengtson) and scriptures (i.e. Deuteronomy 6) instruct us that parents play the most important role in faith transmission. As Christian Smith (professor and author, “Souls in Transition”) has stated about the role parents play, “Parents are their child’s number one pastor.” I don’t believe that is hyperbole.

We are failing children because we are not respecting the design God has created in the way faith is transmitted.

If my main role as a man (husband and father) in my house is to be pastoral in my home, how would that change and influence my everyday life? I would suggest that being pastoral is not optional. It’s a part of the design. As a dad, whether I am present or not, I am passing some sort of “faith” tradition down to my children. They will then live their lives accepting or rejecting the truth which I have modeled and taught them by the way I have lived and loved them. Do I lead with a Gospel centered worldview or a postmodern worldview?

The truth is we are impressing something onto our children. If not us, someone is waiting to impress something onto them.

There is no substitute for the direct investment a parent has on their children. As many scholars and researchers will tell you, no one can replace or even come close to the impact a parent has on the faith of their children. Our faith is something we cannot outsource to someone who has them for one to two hours a week. We need to find partners in youth leaders and in the church to help reinforce a strong faith, but their key role is to come alongside to support.  It is my job as a parent to find key adults and communities to speak truth, love, and grace into their lives, and trust me…most youth leaders want to see you involved.

Final Thoughts

This is a complex subject and at some level, I have not given it justice. Working as the CEO for a faith-based child placing agency (foster care and prisons) where we stand in the gap between many of the institutions I described above, I see every day how we are failing children. Every day I am tired of the poor outcomes despite the many amazing individuals who work in these fields working desperately for better outcomes for kids. The truth is… it starts with these very institutions to stop playing the hero… and focus their strategies and programming around inspiring and equipping moms and dads in their families with the tools and truth that actually lead to better outcomes in them and in their children AND ultimately point to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus (who is the ultimate “hero” of this story). There is no way around this truth. There is no way around its created design.

Look for post #2 on this topic as I go further into defining a critical aspect of faith and how faith is transmitted.

Karen Baldwin

Looking Forward

 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 NLT

A little over a year ago, I found my spot at camp.  I would sit on the bench, which was on the bridge overlooking the creek.  It was a protected sanctuary that had a roof of large trees and leaves.  They would protect me, drawing shade from the hot sun and a shelter in the midst of a rain storm.  I would sit there to get away from the unknowns, the struggles, and honestly, the realities of having no control of my family’s future.  I would praise God there. I would sob for forgiveness in my unbelief. I would beg for assurance and peace of what I could not see ahead of me.

But it was a place where I could escape and find a moment of tranquility in what seemed turbulent and unsettled.

Sitting there where all I could hear was the invisible wind, making its presence known, birds singing as if they had no cares in the world, water flowing with a confidence of where the path would lead…it was peace for my soul.  It was a moment to just be still, and to know that the God of creation and the nature that surrounded me cared more for me than the beauty those sounds and visuals could ever fully express.

And as has been my thought many times before when God slammed doors shut on our life journey, I would wonder what a year from now would look like.  Obviously God knows the plans he has for me, plans to give me a hope and future.  And a peace would come over me, knowing that I would look back a year from that time, and see a glimpse of his perfection and goodness in my life through the changes a year would bring.  He has a plan, He cares enough to have it all laid out.  He has the moments that will take my breath away, moments where I’ll fully see his hand, and the pieces will fit together.  Moments where he will take me to new places and answer the prayers that have been most pressed on my heart.

Here I am.  A year later…seeing the pieces fit together.  Completely? No!  I’m still in personal transition.  It takes me the longest to find my place!  But I have a home…what a miraculous experience it was to find the only home with the desires of heart and location.  Close to the schools that fit our girls so well.  Three minutes from the church we’d call home.  Across from a shopping center where our daily needs are met. A neighborhood with walking paths and a pond.  Did I already say it was the only house available?  It fit our family perfectly.  It is beautiful, spacious, with little maintenance, fenced-in backyard, and a refreshing place to rest, enjoy family time, eat, sleep and feel at home.  We longed and prayed for those things: good schools, a good church for our kids and for us, a place where we could be safe, feel cared for and to experience God’’s goodness…together.  He not only answered, but he blessed more that we could’ve planned or imagined on our own.

He provided a job for Roy.  I’ll let Roy tell his side of that journey…because like every other chapter, God showed his perfection in the job, ministry and passion to the things that built up to this moment.  But I will share that once a door first opened, it was less than 8 weeks before our house was packed and being moved across the country…again.  And so again, all of the details we had to figure out in that short amount of time…between holidays even…God had to take our hands and dictate many of those details for us.  It’s like a parent, he clearly said, “call this moving company, this is the home for you, fill out the paperwork in a parking lot, this is the church you will attend (not the one we had planned on!!), register your kids in these schools.  Here’s the dates.  Here’s the plan.  Just follow my lead.”  He had to dictate.  We could’ve never figured it out on our own.

Nebraska?  Really God? 

Where the heck is Nebraska anyway? 

I know it’s out there somewhere between NH and CO…but exactly where?  What?  No mountains?  I know there’s no big bodies of water…but corn and endless fields?  Ugh…but the people.  The beauty of people is so much more beautiful than even the greatest of mountains.  I’m still on the relationship building journey, but people out here are NICE!  I mean they just make you feel like family, like they’ve known you for years.  I’m still learning to raise my head and give eye contact as I pass people…because they really want to be cordial!  Though I’m still navigating relationships, I see my kids make friends and connect, at church and school.  And for me, that was the priority.  They are so happy and so very content.  They’ve adjusted quicker that I could have imagined.  And they each have found friends who are in the foster care system or have been adopted.  That just is a God wink for the call to which he had for us here.

Did you hear my repeated words throughout?  More than I could’ve ever imagined or planned in my own strength.  Every part of the journey has found its place in the greater story of our last this last year.  I won’t lie.  I questioned and grieved, worried and doubted a year ago.  But I also fought the lies that God couldn’t move us on to greater things.  I fought it by reminding myself that the questions of the present will have many answers a year later.  The faith isn’t a one-time belief in a God who protects and orchestrates.  Faith is the journey by which we live each day, depending on the One who already has it all figured out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad He has it figured out. I’m completely exhausted when I take those measures into my own control. I’m reminded today, as I look back and remember,  I just need to follow His lead…and find peace, joy and purpose in the midst of the journey, which is the here and now.  And be expectant.  Because a year from now, I think I’ll be looking back at relationships, where my kids are at in their own journeys, and the  passions he’s placed on my heart…and I’ll see the pieces of the coming weeks and months play out perfectly and often miraculously.

Roy Baldwin

The Beautiful Messiness of the Gospel

If you have been in Christian circles for any amount of time, then you know that the term “gospel” is a part of our everyday lexicon. It should be, considering it represents the hope and distinctiveness of Christianity. The Gospel articulates the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, the redemptive nature of his love, and the inheritance of an eternal family and life. Here is the problem…the Gospel isn’t as clean and neat as we have made it out to be.

While there are lots of books on this topic, my goal in writing this post isn’t to give a treatise on this subject: merely to share an observation, especially during this unprecedented season of life filled with fear, loss, and hatred. 

The Gospel:

It’s messy because God wants me to love the unlovable and bless those who persecute me.

It’s uncomfortable because He wants me to grab a cross and hoist it upon my shoulder.

It demands everything: my life, my goals, my dreams, my time, my passions, my hobbies, my education

It demands me to offer forgiveness even when it’s not deserved.

It requires me to move beyond just tolerating people to truly loving them.

It draws me out of my comfort zone.

It encourages me to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

It pushes me to ensure justice for those being crushed and extend mercy and grace to those who do not deserve it.

It prunes the branches that are not only dead in my life, but the ones that are bearing fruit.

It urges me to serve by kneeling and grabbing some water and a cloth to wash feet that are dirty.

Radical Sacrifice

As pastor and author David Platt reminds us about the gospel, “it demands radical sacrifice.”

If this is true of the gospel, then why is it good news? For this simple reason “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

I saw that back when I was the Executive Director at Monadnock Christian Ministries.  There were times when I wanted to replace our “Welcome Home” sign with “Triage Unit” or “Emergency Room.”  The brokenness was very real, and I am not just talking about the guests we served. The more we served others and the more we pointed others to the cross, the more I realized how broken I was, the more I realized how much I fall short and how much it cost Him.

A few years ago, I went on a trip to Haiti with Love in Motion ministry (now a part of Mission E4). The whole experience really brought this to light for me.  Because of my work with at-risk families, I am very familiar with US poverty.  Going to Port Au Prince was overwhelming for me because of the plight and needs of the Haitian people, especially their children. It’s one reason why we sponsor a child through Mission E4.

But seeing it firsthand changed me.

One situation while we were down there that really hit home for me was witnessing true street orphans, in which I saw 2 young girls surviving on the street that were the same age as my daughters.  Paul Deasy, who at the time was our director of Love in Motion, had shared with me that some of the girls recently brought into the orphanage had been sexually abused and/or raped.  As I came face to face with them I saw they were wearing dresses that were way too big for them and dirt smeared across their faces. I knew they were going to sleep tonight without the protection and safety of a family, of a father, and without hope.

The choice for me from this experience is to simply ignore the ramifications and say, “How can I do anything about that?” and move on…or I can allow The Gospel, in all its beauty and messiness make me uncomfortable. You see, If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me, is it truly the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it, does it mean I never received it?  If I cannot do what Christ did:  leave his home and comfort and to take on the grief and sin of this world, to bind the wounds of the broken, provide a voice to those who are marginalized, to love my enemy, has the Gospel truly changed me? These are hard questions for me to not only ask myself but to ask God. But I have to ask them. And not only should I ask these questions but I have to find ways through my actions and words to share with others that the Gospel is the only answer to the fear, doubts and hate we see in our world today.

How about you?  How is the Gospel radically changing your perspective about who you are and the world around you? My fear is that many young people are walking away from truth because they see the hypocrisy of our faith rather than the hope it provides. The Gospel has answers to the messiness of our world and our lives. The Gospel wasn’t meant to avoid the mess but to embrace it. Just like Jesus did…His life modeled for us the messiness of loving people all the way to a cross and empty grave. This example would eventually become the good news we know today. We see this beautifully illustrated for us in Philippians 2 :


“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminals death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.


I love these words. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.”

Jesus chose the messy path.

He chose your mess.

He wasn’t afraid of it. In fact, He is going to redeem it.

He is going to make your mess beautiful and he did it the way of a cross. 

During these trying days, when there seems to be so much brokenness, fear and evil, the God we serve is calling us into the difficult and uncomfortable reality of this messy world so that we may see and experience the good news.  He isn’t calling us into it because we have it all figured out. On the contrary, He is calling us into it because we are his billboard for what he can do with a messy and broken life. This messy world is depending on the Gospel’s beautiful and redemptive power.

Roy Baldwin

All Things Come to an End

All things come to an end: life, seasons, a job/career, a calendar year, summer camp, a decade…and the list goes on. The end of a year can bring with it a chorus of different emotions and thoughts.

The end of every calendar year brings a time of reflection and evaluation for most people. I believe we naturally do this as humans because we are ultimately seeking answers to life’s 3 biggest questions:

“Who am I?”

“What is my purpose?”

“Where am I going?” 

Did you ever notice that people tend to ask us these questions indirectly? People are always wanting to know how we are doing, what we are doing and where we are going. Depending on where we are at in life, these questions can sting when we are in between careers and relationships, what we want to be when we grow up and why we are still single.

As I reflect on the past year, wrestle with what has transpired and grapple with what the future of Monadnock holds, I have found myself really wrestling with these bigger questions of “Who I am?” “What is my purpose? and “Where am I going?”  These questions are not just applicable to me as a ministry leader but more importantly as a husband and father. I feel the weight of not just answering these questions for myself but in leading many others.

The circumstances of life and the answer to these BIG questions can be extremely overwhelming and daunting. One of the biggest things that can exasperate this natural and spiritual process of reflection and evaluation is our busyness and hurriedness.

Why do I share these things with you? My fear for all of us is that if we don’t take the time, we will ultimately miss the blessing that God has in store for us and for those God has called us to love and serve.  It’s at the heart of what we find in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  You will see throughout the Old and New Testaments, and specifically Jesus’ teachings, that there is an emphasis on “looking forward.” The Lord guided, encouraged, inspired, pushed, pulled, challenged, humbled those he was calling to something greater than themselves, in order to fulfill his ultimate kingdom purposes.

Why do so many falter in taking possession of the things Christ has called them to?  The book of Hebrews reminds us that those who have gone before us, the heroes of our faith, (Hebrews 11) had a faith we need to emulate.  What kind of faith did they have? They had a faith described as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Would your faith be described as “the substance of things hoped for…”

To be very candid with you…I am tired of telling others or even myself, “This has been a challenging year and hoping this next year is better.” I keep thinking, “it cant get any worse” and then each year seems to get harder and more challenging.  

Ann Voskamp writes in her advent book, The Greatest Gift,  “You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph’s, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob’s, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you. You can never be undone. No matter what intends to harm you . . . God is never absent, never impotent, never distant. You can never be undone.”  If this is true, which I believe it is, means that regardless of our past or future, blessings or challenges, joy or grief, peace or anxiety; in Christ, we truly can do all things in Him. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1–4)

As we look forward to the coming year, The Greatest Opportunity for you and for me, is how do we make known to others the hope we have found in Jesus Christ. When we see those around us struggling with the 3 big questions of life, can we point them to the author and answerer of those 3 questions? How can we allow Christ to take all of the circumstances of our lives and use them not just to strengthen our faith, but for others to see faith played out and to experience the hope and joy of knowing Christ on a deeper level.”

Ministry, Roy Baldwin

Fragile

When you hear that word what comes to mind? Webster Dictionary defines fragile as: “easily broken or damaged; delicate; not strong.” We quickly assign this word to things like glass or fine china.

Some of us might describe our hearts and lives as fragile. Our hearts can be as easily broken by a hurtful word as a glass is when dropped onto the kitchen floor.

Have you ever experienced a broken promise? Our promises can also be seen as fragile.

How about your family? Have you ever noticed how fragile our families are, how quickly the family “boat” if not cared for can quickly take on water and sink?

How about your mission or calling? Have you ever thought about the things you aspire to be as being fragile?

God has been reminding me recently in both positive and not so positive ways of how fragile our dreams and callings are and how we need to handle them with care.

WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?

A few years ago I noticed a piece of paper lying on my office floor. Now, if you ever saw my office you would not be surprised that I had papers on my floor. But this piece of paper looked old. It was folded and creased and had a tinge of yellow around it.

I picked it up and turned it over. At the top it said, “Personal Mission Statement.” My heart warmed as I saw it. It was over 20 years old and must have fallen out of one of my boxes I still had yet to unpack.

I kept reading.

At the top of the paper it had a scripture verse and a quote “Never choose to be a worker, but once God has placed His call upon you, woe be to you if you turn aside….to the right or the left…” (Deuteronomy 28:14) and “He will do with you what He never did before His call came to you, and He will do with you what He is not doing with other people. Let Him have His way.” – Oswald Chambers

I then had a list of my priorities in order: my relationship with Christ; my relationship with my wife; my relationship with my kids; etc.

Now, it has been a long time since I saw that piece of paper. As I read my thoughts, I realized how fragile life is. I was also reminded of how far I still needed to grow as a follower of Christ, as a husband to my wife, and as a father to my children.

OUR CALLING IS FRAGILE

If I asked you to state your calling in life, could you do it? Would that statement line up with the choices and decisions you are making each day? Why or why not?

As a follower of Christ we might be quick to say, “My calling is to tell others about Jesus and to love God and love others,” and you would be correct in that answer. Each of us has been given that as a part of our calling. The problem with that approach is that we forget our mission and calling are as unique as our fingerprints.

Your mission in life is to be found faithful to the personalized calling God has given you. You live that out each and every day by the way you work, live, love, and lead. The secret to being found faithful to your calling is what Oswald Chambers writes: “Let Him have his way.” Fully surrendered.

A fully surrendered life is your calling and mission and as you live that out His story is brought to life in your story.

While I was at Focus on the Family (2009-2014) I helped dream and launch the Dad Matters Blog along with a couple of other key staff. It was very near and dear to my heart. It was one of those things that I hoped would live way beyond me. It was legacy thing for me. Focus on the Family decided to end the blog after I left in 2014, after two years of dads sharing their reflections and most intimate moments as fathers, husbands, and sons.

To be honest, I was devastated. I was hit with the fact that my dreams and longings are quite fragile. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of fathers and affirm them in their God-given role. I wanted the blog to far outlive my life.

This is the challenge we are faced with daily. Am I OK with what God determines with my efforts? Am I good with the fact that I practice and compete to win the prize that God has called me to run and then trust him with the results of those efforts regardless of whether it lasts two years or 40?

In his book, Victorious Christian Living, Alan Redpath writes:

Therefore, in relation to any duties which you would undertake for God, I want to say very earnestly that the supreme question is not, “Are we qualified?” but “Are we called?” Are you grasping for position, or are you called of God? Answer that to the Lord, in His presence. Nothing is more important in your life than the answer to that question.

Roy Baldwin, Uncategorized

The Right Question

Imagine for a moment that the CEO or boss of the company you work at is this huge toddler, meandering his way around the office, asking this simple yet profound question, “Why?” Now, I am not talking about the occasional why. It’s the “Why” about everything.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why

Well, the truth is, we need to always be asking and evaluating the “why” behind our decisions and processes. It helps you stay on mission. As someone who has had 3 major job changes in the past 12 years and twice as the leader of the organization, asking lots of why’s are critical to the assessment the leader makes of the organization. I feel like anytime you make an assumption about any decision, process, or program you leave yourself open for problems and challenges.

You see, I believe in not just asking any question or questions, but asking the right question or questions.

You see, I believe that great leadership is about asking the right questions. The day you stop asking questions about who you are (yourself and others) and where you are going (of yourself and others) is the day your leadership has failed.

By asking the right questions, we can then arrive at the right answers.

I believe there are many benefits to asking the right question:

  • It can reveal the inner thoughts and feelings of a person (or organization) who is answering the question, as well as the person (or organization) who is asking the question.
  • The right question allows for ownership of the issue or problem at hand.
  • The right question can not only teach responsibility but it models what responsibility looks like.
  • It creates teachable moments and lifelong learning. (Deuteronomy 4:32-33) What do I mean by “lifelong learning?” It’s the belief that learning isn’t just what happens in a classroom. All of life is about learning and the learning will continue as long as I draw breath.
  • It provides opportunities to process truth and dispel lies.
  • It creates the right moment to have courage and take a risk versus accepting the status quo and what’s comfortable.

Did you ever notice how Jesus interacted with people? He almost always asked a question to get to the heart of their need.  John Marshall, Bishop of Burlington, Vermont, and later Springfield, Massachusetts, wrote a book titled But Who Do You Say That I Am? In the book, he collected and listed all the questions Jesus asked in the Gospels and there are over 100 times Jesus asks a question.

Some of Jesus greatest miracles started with the right question? He was able to get to the heart of the matter by his ability to ask, listen, assess, and then he acted. His work was always redemptive and purposeful.

So often we fail to listen. We start with lecture and stating our position, and in all sense shutting down the conversation or relationship before it even has a chance. I would encourage you to look at the benefits of asking the right question and see how your situation, regardless of the environment, can lead to better outcomes.

Roy Baldwin

The Gifts of Failure

After 45 minutes of deliberating, the church leadership took the offer back off the table. The promising opportunity to work for the church was gone. The offer not only had employment implications for me and my family but the offer we put on a house. What was supposed to be icing on the cake became a moment of failure for me. I learned that day how powerful perceptions are, regardless of whether they are true or false.

We had so many questions, as Karen and I were left picking up the pieces and figuring out what was next. How could a God that is good and worthy of our praise lead us into a situation where everything seemed to be lining up and then at the finish line pull the rug from out under our feet?

Have you ever wondered where God was in your situation?

FAILURE

It’s a word we hate so much that we like to pair it with others words such as “but” or “however.” We don’t like the story of failure without a dose of good news with it. We like reading the feel-good stories of Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, or Abraham Lincoln — all of whom experienced failures in their lives but somehow were able to overcome the odds. We like their stories because they give us hope.

But what about the rest of us?

For every Steve Jobs, there are many of us who haven’t experienced success at all, but what feels like one failure after another. If we just look at our Facebook feeds, for every “feel good story” we see story after story of setbacks, loss, illness, job loss…you name it. We might not necessarily see those as failures but for those experiencing them, it sure does feel that way. Am I cursed? Did I do something wrong? What could I have done differently? All these questions go through our minds and at times can be quite paralyzing.

What do you do when your story hasn’t started upward yet?

The truth is many of us don’t like these stories until we know there is a good ending…maybe we need a new perspective.  How do we see failure as a gift?

THE GIFTS OF FAILURE

Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons like when the job offer was taken off the table; let go because of organizational restructure; camp closing down and I am now seeing these lessons as gifts:

Gift One: God is worthy of my trust.

God is asking, “Do you trust me even when it doesn’t make sense? Will you obey my leadings in your life as you step into the unknown?”

F.B. Meyer wrote in Streams in the Desert: “The education of our faith is incomplete if we have yet to learn that God’s providence works through loss, that there is a ministry to us through failure and the fading of things, and that He gives the gift of emptiness. …One way or the other, we must learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver.”

Gift Two: Obedience doesn’t always lead to blessing.

What is the point of obedience—my comfort or blessing? Obedience to God’s leading in our lives is for Him to determine what He does. I have to relinquish all control, all of my rights to myself. Yet, that is exactly what He demands.

Did you ever notice how parents demand obedience from their children? There is a BIG difference between the parent who says, “Because I say so” and the one who says, “Because I love you.” Ultimately we want our children to obey, even if it hurts or costs something at that moment because we have a better future in mind.

The job offer being taken off the table made absolutely no sense to me. We had friends especially in the church who were grieved just as much as we were. Some even expressed their hurt by saying, “how can you even stay here based on what they did?” Our simple response, “it’s our home! How can I call something home and only accept the good?”

Gift Three: Obedience can lead to a transformed view of self and who He is…if you allow it

So, you might be wondering why they took the job offer back. One of the concerns raised about my role of leadership in the church was the perception I was a troublemaker. I stirred up problems. If this was true and I was supposed to live a life “above reproach” then there was no way I could “hold office” in the church.

Now, I admit I am not a perfect person. I have definitely made my share of mistakes…but the notion I was a troublemaker was false.

After the offer was taken off the table, Karen and I stayed at the church and continued to serve. We did not speak falsely of anyone, although we expressed our pain over the decision. Over the course of the next few months God made it very clear He wanted me to walk a different path vocationally. Those months were very difficult ones for us. However, God gave me many opportunities as we served our Church (Sunday school teacher, nursery, etc.) to absolutely destroy the perception that I was a troublemaker, especially when the opportunity to create troubles were gift-wrapped for me.

Gift Four: Obedience serves His purposes not mine.

This was probably the biggest takeaway for me. 2 Chronicles 16:9 is one of my favorite verses…”The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…”

The goal of obedience is not for my personal comfort or blessing. Don’t get me wrong. I love the verses that say that God will never leave us or forsake us; that He has good things in store for those who are His; and that He will see me through to completion. I love those promises. But those promises are based on my willingness to live surrendered to His purpose, whether there is anything in it for me or not because it’s not about me. It’s about something bigger.

THE TAKEAWAY OF FAILURE

Failure is inevitable. In fact, God can use it powerfully in our lives. The reality for us is: Do we trust Him as we step forward in obedience?

As I look back on that time, God was preparing me to work in adoption and therapeutic foster care, which prepared me for my season at Focus on the Family, then as a Director of Monadnock Ministries, and now at Christian Heritage.  I find it fascinating that God guided my steps into foster care after the offer was taken off the table and here I am 13 years later leading a foster care agency. All of these experiences were leading to the next thing.

We need to bring a different perspective to the failures we experience in life because ultimately, as we walk the path in front of us out of obedience, we will experience failure and success. The true question is, “Will I trust whatever I experience as a gift from a loving and generous Giver?”