#1 - The Big Fat Puzzle Lie

[The generations puzzle seems unsolvable]

"They can't be fixed!"
"What's going on in their heads?!"
"Yes, I understand what 'teenage tornado' means!"
"I never acted like that, when I was a teenager!"

Scientists are trying to cure cancer, send astronauts to other planets, learn what makes gravity work, and many other tasks; too many to count. But as a silver-haired parent with grandchildren, I know a task almost at the top of the list... understanding and managing teenagers; any of them – anywhere on the planet.

Doctors can't do it. Mechanics can't do it. Mathematics professors can't do it. Mom's can't do it. And my dad certainly couldn't do it. There isn't anyone, that I know of, that can fix something without first knowing what's broke; what it is, exactly, that needs fixed. It's probably a lot like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together and not knowing what the picture looks like, and how many pieces are missing. Would the puzzle become next to impossible if the puzzle pieces were in the wrong box? How frustrated could you get, trying to assemble a puzzle, looking at the WRONG picture?

The big lie comes from the prince of liers, himself – Satan. The last thing he wants us to hear and believe, is that God is not the author of confusion, and requires us to follow 1 Corinthians 14:40:
Let all things be done, decently and in order. He demonstrates this over and over in 
nature and the creation around us. We carry the best evidence inside of us; our incredibly complex but orderly body systems.

But Satan continues his relentless neverending, often subtle, lying in our ears and heart, that all teenagers are in a stampeding self-destruct mode. Because we adults are so immersed in our own busy agendas, we blindly believe and accept Satan's lies about our youth.

All this would be somewhat automatic, if it weren't for all the Heaven-sent directives and promises that are certainly provided for our parenting and mentoring efforts. Our course of action must first begin with prayer, asking God how He wants us to reach out to these young souls for which He shed His precious blood on Calvary, just as He has done for you and I.

#2 - The Puzzle Picture

[Getting the puzzle big picture]

You can fix it; at least have a much better chance at it, if you can picture the problem – in this case, a puzzle of two generations. With a picture of either how it is, or how it is supposed to be, you have a great start in adding others, to determine the right course of action. The pinnacle of this, is having a picture in front of me when I go to the Lord in prayer. My heart reaches out farther and deeper when I can see a face, and especially a first name.

Our first task, right now, is to understand some about the surroundings in this picture of a puzzle of generations. The surroundings can be anywhere on the planet, in a church basement, jungle clearing, basket ball court, living room, or a pizza restaurant. We have to see the big picture first. On one side of the picture I see teens, both genders, racing at high speed with all the focus of a stampede of horses in a thick cloud of dust.
If you were to stop one of them for a second and ask just two questions, here is probably what you'll get. "Hey, teen! I got two quick questions for you. Number 1- Where you going in such an all-fired hurry? And number 2 – What's this going to cost you?" The questions are not rocket science and don't require a ten minute answer, but this is likely some answers you'll get:

The teen answers will likely include: "I don't know where I'm going or how long it will take. I don't know what it will cost, and I haven't asked. But see, everyone else is doing it. This is about the only way I'll have friends – is if I join the crowd. If you really want to know the truth, no one else wants to be my friend or even care a little about me; my parents are afraid of me and the church not far from my house doesn't want me around, 'cuz I like computers and they're afraid of them. They say 'God is Love.' Well he sure doesn't care about my generation, even if I don't have orange hair, cut myself, and smoke dope."

The teen continues, "See, what grownups don't understand, is that most every one of us teens is terrified on the inside. We don't know where we're supposed be, what we're supposed to be doing, and who we are supposed to suck up to. Sir, it's like we're hurting deeply and no one cares enough to at least listen. That's the first big step. Just listen to our needs without cramming a monster Bible down our throat before we finish our first sentence."

The Other Side of the Picture
The adults, especially the silver-haired ones, have bad memory. No, it's not the memory that fails to tell you where you parked the car when you come back out of the store, or even to take your glasses off, before putting eye drops in. There is a memory failing that is far more serious and becomes the basis of lots of lies that come from lips like ours. The lie is simply stated as: "Well, I never did that kind of stupid stuff, when I was a teen!" You've likely voiced it or at least thought it, when you've noticed teens that certainly wouldn't fit into your teen class at church. No, technology wasn't as advanced as it is now, but the self-willed youth that called his parents stupid and other such pitfalls was just as prevalent then. Satan was still at work, big time.

If you could peer into the hearts of the silver-haired couple on that side of the puzzle picture, you could see two hearts pounding with a passion for someone that needed them; someone they could share their many unused hugs. They continually ask themselves, most every day, "God what am I supposed to be doing before your soon return? Are you going to come back and find me only checking the newspaper to see if my name is in the Obituary? God, I want a mission project that can change a heart. No, I can't travel to Africa or Australia to be a missionary. Is there someone I could try to help nearby? I'm no preacher or trained missionary, but I know how to hug, teach someone how to fish, or bake cookies. Oh. And I know how to tell someone else how much love you poured into me and my spouse."

Now this picture is easy to understand as you and I get the big picture, standing back. But put yourself in place of one of the teens or silver-haired couple. Tape your first name on the chest of one of them. Now, you're a part of the puzzle. There is no escaping, others are watching the puzzle picture as you now are in it.
What will they see? Can you imagine yourself looking up from the puzzle surface at those watching and ask, "Please pray deeply for me. I want to help fill in the puzzle gaps with my life, and only God knows how. Those teens across the puzzle are going to self-destruct, and I WAS ONCE ONE OF THEM!!"

#3 – 'Puzzle to Peace' Path

[A preliminary picture and plan.]

The picture God wants each of us to be, might first be described as 'happy'. But His love goes so much deeper, so that 'joyful' might be a better description. To me, joy is a more pure kind of happiness that the world can't provide, and to a large degree, doesn't even understand.Joy reaches down into me – 'where I really live'. That deep joy reassures me that I'm on the right path to greater blessings and favor in God. As we'll see shortly, it's an enduring joy, that survives through the toughest of teenager storms.

To get a better picture of our path from 'puzzled' to 'peace', we should get the right start by learning what the 'pinnacle HOW-TO manual' teaches;that's our Bible – God's precious inspired word. One small verse in the Gospel of John has some simple yet intriguing truths that apply to our search for the life God wants for each of us; for each day of our lives, and eternity too.

The 15th chapter of John, Jesus is teaching us the relationship of the branch and the vine. Jesus is the vine, and we are the little branches. Nestled in verse 11 is our path for what our heartaches for.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

The simple path we are to follow is listed in this verse. Let's take it in pieces.

"These things have I spoken unto you", tells me this is where the roots of joy are. Our joy-roots are in the teachings of Jesus Christ.But more than that, these truths have a delivery address written on each and every one – it's the 'unto you'. Jesus Christ came to this Earth via a smelly stable to deliver joy-roots truths to me and to you, and to that teen that God has placed in your mission field.

That joy that we long for, comes in a package. A package of truths just the right size and shape for each and every one. As we DAILY investigate those joy-roots truths, trusting in them, we DAILY take on the joy of Christ. The 'remain in you' says that this joy will REMAIN in me. It doesn't go away tomorrow, or when I'm faced with a challenge. Oh how I rejoice in the two words – 'YOUR JOY'. His joy now becomes my joy; and it doesn't go away as we DAILY feed on those joy-roots truths.

His joy becoming my joy; that doesn't go away, is more than I deserve or could hope for. But that's just a taste of God's provisions for us replacing the 'puzzle' in our lives with His peace that doesn't go away. But God's word has saved the best for last. It's the 'our joy might be full'. This is so rich, it's almost beyond our description. We'll have to look at this later.

Let's stay focused on our task in all this joy-roots plan. We must DAILY feed on the things He has spoken to each of us.

God has given each of us "braggin' bones." He's given us the desire and ability to brag. Brag to others about Him – you'll never be able to exaggerate!

#4 – I'm Solo 'n Surrounded

[A puzzle inside makes a puzzle outside]

Teens are a puzzle to their families, to the church, and to the whole of society. To say that's natural is true in more ways than one. Yes, teens across the ages have had the appearance of being a puzzle. The adults of every generation are also on a fast track that doesn't allow them the time to take a close loving look at teens and their challenges.

Youth in those teen and pre-teen (sometimes called Tweens) years appear puzzling because they, in themselves, are puzzled, about life. Their clothes often don't fit, their attitudes can't find a fit with adults or with the kids, they not long ago played with. They want to try their wings and become more independent. They seek self-esteem by applying some of their own ideas for life.

On the outside, they are surrounded, but sadly so, on the inside, they are despondent, distressed, often disillusioned by dead ends – especially with technology. On the outside, they are surrounded, but on the inside they are solo – singular – separated. They feel separated from a life with substance and truth. They are drowning in a sea of despair, and all the lighthouses are shining in another direction.

They try to drown out the nagging questions that never stop:
  • Am I a kid or an adult?
  • What do I do with all these new urges, my body sends me?
  • Will others cease to love me?
  • What standards am I now judged by?
  • Life as a kid was a game... but what now?
  • What about those strange questions from the opposite sex?
  • Am I ready for a job?
  • How do I learn a car is not a toy?
  • How do I shake the shame if I make a mistake?
  • How can I dump all this inside stress – and where?
  • Is the Bible just a pile of stories for kids and old people?
  • What should I definitely Not say to white-haired people?
  • How do I pick out a good role model?
  • Will my stupid choices in the past destroy me?
I'm superconfused. Someone on the radio said God is not the author of confusion. Well, does that mean He's mad at me and dumped me?

#5 - The Puzzle Surprise!

I like surprises... most of the time. With these words, I'm about to spring one on my silver-haired generation, about the teens in our radar. Our list, “Things adults don't know or understand about teens”, is a long and colorful one. We'll touch on just a few of the important ones toward the top.

Teens most often are visual feeders. Because their reading, writing, and typing skills are not always up to par, they go for the video/audio resources. Besides... video and audio is faster, louder, and flashier. They like to create things, put their own imagination to work. It's like they want their creation to have their stamp on it, that somehow says, “Hey. I'm no dummy!”

They love challenges. Boys on games, girls on multitasking conversations and being the fastest 'news' reporters of their on-line network. Today it's a gigantic phenomenon called, “Social Networking.”
More specifically, boys like loud, messy, high energy, construction, and competition.
The girls like feelings, fashion, communication, and companions.

One bit of a surprise, you'll learn with a bit of investigation, is that the older youth like to have things organized, but don't know how, much of the time. With that, they crave a bit of control in their lives. One teen corrected my understanding of why youth (called 'emos') repeatedly cut themselves. He said cutting themselves produces the only pain in their lives they can control. Otherwise, their view of the world is like much of the news portrays.

Those of my silver-haired generation feel mankind is so out of control, that only God can bring peace and order to the world. The phrase 'peace and order' has such a calming force to our thinking. It so often draws me to the serene scenes described in Psalm 23.

The Surprise

With visions of teens in their loud high energy competition and communication, I spent a couple hours with some close relatives just about to step into their teenage years. I thought somehow I had been teleported onto another planet. Those youth were working jigsaw puzzles! Yes, you heard me right – jigsaw puzzles! I thought their parents had given them some kind of 'downers' pills, but that wasn't the case, at all.

I identified with them right away, as they turned all the pieces face up and separated out the edge pieces. Then, referring to the picture, the four corners were put in their approximate position. I watched their eyes and looked for any phoneyness or 'staged' actions for our benefit. There was none.

How I loved watching them involved in one of my favorite hobbies - working jigsaw puzzles. Long ago I thanked the hobby for reminding me the importance of order and especially paying close attention to the subtle differences of the pieces; when I so often thought two pieces were identical. I now use that same technique in observing youth and looking for the personality differences God has given each of them.

I'm just amazed how God has given us so many tools; so many ways, to interconnect with those souls around us, that are crying out for someone to listen, and deeply about their needs and interests. Sure we can connect with youth in the on-line social networking computer programs, but for those not so computer inclined, He's given us jagged pieces of cardboard to teach youth the peace and calm of putting things in order. We place things in the order of His will for our lives as we reach out to teens close by us.

#6 - Orbit of Order - Intro

Our space program has given us multitudes of examples of circular motion; of rotation, of paths of processes that follow a circle. We can call them orbits or race courses, or cycles. Like the ride on a Ferris wheel, the journey is usually more than 'one time around', and maybe rather continuous.

We notice the orderly cycles of blood flow within us, and the countless cycles of the seasons where we live. I like to think of a circle as a reminder of 'timely repetition with a purpose'. Genesis tells us God provided the solar system to provide times and seasons.

We can remember well, the rotation of classes and subjects when we were teenagers in school. First Biology, then Algebra, History, Health, etc. Each day was a cycle; a rotation of those subjects and others. Let's think of our Orbit of Order as different subjects that we get some exposure to each week. 

Just like in school we rotate through the subjects and then repeat the cycle. Our orbit cycle can use all or just a few of the ones we touch on here. Depending on the needs and interests of those teens you mentor, you can even add other ones also.

#7 - Orbit of Order - Scriptural

"Let all things be done decently and in order."
Scripture reminds us in the 1Corinthinas 14:40 reference above, that God wants us to be organized use compassion and good sense in all that we do.
We see God setting things in order in Genesis 1, when He made the heavenly bodies to give us light and as time-keepers to organize our days. God's Word is filled with principles to guide our efforts to 'set our house in order.' One important principle comes with a guarantee to nurture peace in our hearts. Matthew 6:33 promises, 
"But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Emphasis mine).

Luke 2:52 caps off this chapter that is rich with the order and priorities Jesus grew into His teen years with, and beyond.
Mark's gospel presents the life of Christ to the Romans, who were a military-minded organized people. Under the inspiration of God, Mark includes a detail of Christ feeding the five thousand miracle, that reminds us that order must be found in all the things we do. Chapter 6 verses 39 and 40 hints at the orderly positions all were to be seated on the green grass, so that no one was missed. Their positions were grouped in 'companies', 'ranks', 'hundreds', and 'by fifties'.

As we adults mentor youth, we must first and foremost show scripture as the pinnacle 'how-to' manual for bringing peace, meaning, and order to their lives... and ours.