Entries with tag spiritual formation .

Life Lessons from "This Is Us" - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

My wife and I are huge fans of NBC’s new show, This is Us. We love it so much, that we are even willing to admit that Mandy Moore isn’t annoying in this particular show. Seriously. She isn’t.

The show follows a family of five. Jack and Rebecca Pearson are the parents of three triplets, two biological (Kevin and Kate) and one adopted (Randall). This is Us does something unique with its storytelling, however, by splitting the narrative into two timelines. One focuses on the life of the family when the kids were children (usually when they are 8 years old), while the other focuses on the lives of kids as adults, after Jack has died and Rebecca has remarried.

Each episode is full of joy, pain, struggle, and reality as we follow these people’s lives and come to understand the unique issues that each faces. Almost every episode has made me cry at some point. Of course, it really isn’t too hard to make me cry, but still, I think it’s worth noting the emotional honesty of This is Us.

Even though Jack Pearson is dead in the timeline that follows the adult Pearson children, it is clear that he has made an indelible mark on his family. They love their father, and his family has been shaped by his optimism, his humor, and above all else, his utter dedication to them.

In the Thanksgiving episode, we learn that the Pearsons annually recreate their best Thanksgiving, which involved a 3.4 mile hike (to a convenience store), roasting hot dogs against an open furnace flame, and of course, a pilgrim’s hat. Behind each of these traditions is Jack’s unwavering faithfulness to his family, his devotion to ensuring that they are seen, loved, and cared for.

As a father myself now, watching this show resonates with me deeply. I look at how Jack has shaped his family’s life, and I can’t help but hope and pray that my children remember me as fondly as his remember him.

I hope that I leave a mark on my kids.

Jack’s mark, however, is not necessarily based in anything that he says. He doesn’t just have the right words at the right time for his kids, but rather, his impact is based on who he is. It is not so much the issue of Jack’s parenting, but rather it is the issue of Jack’s character.

I’ve talked with my wife a whole lot about how I want our girls to know and love the Lord, how I want them to feel brave and resilient, to have self-control and to be humble. We’ve discussed how we want them to stand up for goodness and truth but to be kind and merciful.

In watching This is Us, however, I increasingly realize that if I am to have any hope of my children learning these lessons from me, it has to be because I demonstrate them myself. You can’t share what you don’t have.

If I wish my children to know and love the Lord, then I must decide today that I am going to relentlessly pursue knowledge of and love for the Lord myself. If I want them to be tender, compassionate and merciful, then I need to demonstrate tenderness, compassion, and mercy in my dealings with them.

Above all else, This is Us has made me look at my own life and my own heart and realize how desperately I need to work on orienting myself toward Christ before I even dream of having an impact on my children. Both parenting and following the Lord are not just about saying the right words, but rather they must be about becoming the kind of person who has the right words instinctively, as a second nature.

St. Seraphim of Sarov is frequently quoted for saying, “Acquire the Spirit of peace, and a thousand around you will be saved.” I guess “a thousand” must start in my own home, with my own wife and my own children. But even before them, it starts with me, with my own acquiring the Spirit of peace.

This Nativity fast has been trying (and not because of the food). I have continually been presented with opportunities to see myself clearly, to admit that I’m quickly frustrated and extremely defensive/offensive when people disagree with me. It sucks.

But if I’m going to teach my children to repent, it means I’m going to have to model repentance in my own life, it means that I’m going to have to see myself clearly, that I’m going to have to model self-understanding and then the humility it takes to admit that I was wrong.

This is Us has been a fantastic show. It has given me an image for the kind of husband and father I want to be. Jack Pearson isn’t without his faults, but he is committed to his family, and that’s a commitment he passes on to his family.

My hope and prayer is that I, too, can become a man of commitment, first to the Lord and then to my family. Instead of just talking to my kids about Jesus, I’ll be able to talk to them as someone who knows Him, trusting that His grace will fill my words and kindle the fire of love for Him in their own hearts too.

Photo credits: Depositphotos

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.


For more on this idea, check out this episode of The Trench:


The Spaces We Create and How They Shape Us - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

Last week, I spent a week in Chicago. I went to college in a nearby suburb, and I absolutely love the area. Being back in the world of Cubs fans, beer lovers, and city walkers was more than my heart beset by the heat of Phoenix could contain.

As I walked through the city, I became increasingly aware that the atmosphere of Chicagoland had shaped my love for the Cubs. I grew up in California, but I spent my early childhood years watching the Cubs on WGN, a nationally broadcast station. I had always been a fan of the Cubbie blue, but it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that my love for the Cubs really exploded.

Surrounded by Cubs paraphernalia in every restaurant and bar I frequented, I had my heart and thoughts directed toward this team that couldn’t seem to win it’s way out of paper bag. The Cubs became a permanent part of my inner world as my outer world was more and more engulfed in Chi-town sports culture.

On this this particular visit, while I was already ruminating on how Chicago had shaped the part of me dedicated to baseball, I visited the unique Wicker Park coffee shop, Wormhole Café. It was there that I finally began to understand the formative power of the spaces we create.

Wormhole is an interesting place, dedicated to “Nerd Culture,” complete with a large statue of Michelangelo (not the painter, the mutant turtle) as well as a full-sized flying Delorean over the bathrooms (Great Scott!). The internet password was kept on old school floppy disks next to an old Macintosh (remember when it was called “Macintosh”?) computer. Don’t even get me started on the number of bumper stickers and Boba Fett decals on Wormhole’s appliances.

Oh. And the coffee. Lord, the coffee. I’m not one given to poetic rumination on a beverage-related experience, but this coffee (I bought a bag to bring home) instantly transported me back to my childhood in the rolling hills of the Shire, where I watched Gandalf’s firework displays as Uncle Bilbo’s pipesmoke filled the cool air of Middle Earth in the summer. It was that magical.

Wormhole Café is designed as an expression and celebration of Nerd Culture. While I only dabble in Nerd Culture from time to time, I certainly was delighted by my time at Wormhole. But I wasn’t just delighted; I was also enchanted.

The more I spent time there, having my imagination captured through iconic representations of Nerd Culture, having my sense of taste directed through the transcendent coffee experience, and having my relational sensibilities activated by being surrounded by those who regularly partake in Nerd Culture, the more I realized that I, too, was deepening in my love for Nerd Culture.

I immediately wanted to leave and go watch Back to the Future. I wanted to run down the street to Myopic Books and buy every comic book on the shelves. I wanted to call my mom and ask what happened to my old collection of Star Wars action figures (next day shipping to Chicago couldn’t be that expensive). I desperately wanted to jump headfirst into a world of graphic tees and Deathly Hallows tattoos after just an afternoon in a space devoted to and directed toward the love of Nerd Culture.

Though Wormhole may intend to be merely an expression of Nerd Culture, I found that being there was very formative for me. Wormhole is representative of the reality that as embodied persons the spaces we inhabit, the things we do with our bodies, form our love, directing it toward something. Anything. We are creatures designed for love and to love, and our love is shaped by the spaces we inhabit and what we do.

Being in Chicago formed my love for the Cubs as a college student because I swam in a culture of Cubbie Love. Being at Wormhole shaped my love for the nerdy. This makes me wonder about the spaces we inhabit in our daily lives, and I wonder: do these spaces shape our love for God, or do they shape our love for something else?

If someone were to come into my home, I wonder if they would be able to discern what my family really loves. Would it be as clear to them that my house is devoted to and directed toward the Lord as it was for me to know that Wormhole is devoted to Nerd Culture?

Many of us wonder how we can “keep our kids in the Church,” but if we were honest with ourselves, we might notice that the culture of our homes directs them toward some lesser love than love of God.

Do we spend our time truly listening to one another and praying for each other? When we make dinner, is this a communal act, an offering of the entire family, an act of stewardship over creation, or is it something we rush through in order to get the kids to bed so that mom and dad can watch Breaking Bad?

If we are going to reach God’s Kingdom together, we may need to reevaluate what kind of spaces we inhabit and then shape them differently so that they, in turn, can shape us, directing us toward love for God and neighbor.

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Photo Credits:

Cubs: Depositphotos 

Wormhole Cafe: mollyrootsrated via Compfight cc


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