Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
We, as a family are striving toward - and hoping to maintain - a simple lifestyle.
I have referred before to what Dave Ramsey calls keeping life in "big chunks" so it is more easily managed.
Because of this, our kids are busy but they are not involved in a bunch of things at one time (over the past couple of months it seems that this activity/involvement level has been ratcheted up a couple of notches too high but we are working on reducing it back down again).
AA missed little league this year and I feel sufficiently guilty, however I did not think it wise to carve out two to three more nights during the week that we would be obligated to be some place.
Now I say all that in order to tell you about something in which they both are involved.
This Friday, we drove to Kennesaw, Georgia for the ACSI (the accreditation association for our school) Spelling Bee. It was AA's first time to be in the Spelling Bee and he worked pretty hard at representing (along with 3 others) his first grade class.
Ab, on the other hand, is something of a veteran, having participated in Spelling Bees in the 2nd and 3rd grade and having won both the local Independent Schools spelling bee and the ACSI Bee last year.
We didn't get to watch this competition. The parents just sit in another room ... waiting until it's over. . . then watching for some sign on the face of your child as they re-enter the room.
AA was back in the room with us first. He had survived 8 rounds but had gotten busted on a word he knew... pint. Apparently he strayed from the "say it- spell it - say it" format and as the judges waited for him to say it after spelling it - AA assumed they were waiting for more letters. So he added the obligatory "e".
He was fairly devastated. I think because his sister has been so successful in this arena - he set his sights too high. I also hear in him a desire to just be recognized... maybe he senses that he is in the shadow of his big sister.
Ab, again, won for her age group. We were very proud. If you read this blog much, you know something of this girl's diligence. She literally amazes me.
She and her Mom have worked on these words on a regular basis since around Christmas. She excels because she is intelligent, but also because she works hard and I am very proud of her.
So how do you properly celebrate the success of one child, while at the same time, being sufficiently conciliatory toward the other child that did not win?
On our way home we stopped to eat lunch at a restaurant and something happened that was so perfect in it's timing that it had to have originated in the heart of a kind God. . . and it had to be played out in the obedience of a very considerate person.
As we sat at lunch, a woman stopped by our table and told us she had seen us at the Spelling Bee where she had been one of the judges. She singled out AA and said the he was in the group she adjudicated and she pointed out what a nice job he had done. But then she went on to tell him, and us how that he had just brought joy to the judges.
That's what my boy does. He brings joy and a smile. He loves to make people laugh and many times without even trying - he just evokes joy.
I couldn't tell for sure if her words had any immediate effect on that boy; but since I believe they originated with God and His words do not return void - I must believe that they did some good.
The woman then spent a moment or two congratulating Ab as well.
Let me tell you - I am so proud to be my children's Dad!
I hope you feel the same way about your kids!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
He said something about all parents wanting their children to like them. That just sort of struck me as something that I hadn't really thought about. I guess I thought most kids wanted their parents to like them - not the other way around. But as I thought on it, I realized that that statement is VERY true for me.
I really, really want my children to like me.
We inherit that desire from our heavenly Father. I think that pretty much any good thing around here on earth is a facsimile of the real thing in heaven.
And God wants His kids to like Him!
...not in some neurotic, co-dependent way ... He just wants us to like Him.
I think that is amazing. . . remarkable . . .
and I'm glad, cause I really do like Him!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I am getting it out now because my wife over at God's Design Not Mine will probably write her version and I want to influence history by putting my side out first!
Here is my story...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Right now, as I sit here typing, my kids are busily cleaning up the kitchen.
And its a happy sound.
I do not hear the beeps, buzzes and incessantly pulsating music of their handheld electronic games. Instead I hear water running and feet scampering back and forth, and happy conversations. . . also the occasional clinking of a dish or two.
How did we -as parents - finally figure out how to harness that childish energy and channel into a force for good, you may ask?
And when will our picture be appearing on the cover of "Parenting" magazines across the nation?
Actually I don't know the answer.
And I don't why my kids were suddenly "smart" (that's what my Mom used to call it when I would suddenly become a thrifty worker).
But, I like it.
Maybe it's because they are on Spring Break this week.
One night Ab decided she wanted to help in the kitchen and she got on a roll (not literally, I think we had toast that night) and did a thorough job of cleaning.
Maybe it was because they had a good bit of free time this week - time that wasn't packed tightly with activity - flitting about from destination to destination.
Maybe it was just the general attitude of Spring's new start that caused them to take on the challenge of doing some cleaning themselves.
Maybe they made the connection between my lectures about the intrinsic value of hard work and reality. Perhaps the light finally came on as they realized that there really is a strong sense of self-worth that accompanies a job well done.
Or maybe it is because that Ab got to avoid taking a bath the other night because she spent so much time cleaning up the kitchen...
Or perhaps it is because we are planning to go to Walmart this morning so that Ab can spend some of her savings on a major purchase and we couldn't leave until the kitchen was clean...
Woe! There is a major lesson there about how people acting in their own self-interest will often-times accomplish much good for themselves and for those around them - even if it is not done for all the right reasons.
That is something akin to what economist, Adam Smith referred to as "the invisible hand".
And if God is glorified when we are happily working to bless others - then maybe Brother Lawrence had something there when he talked about experiencing God's tranquility while in the "noise and clatter" of his busy kitchen.
We've got to teach them this stuff at home... it is not prevalent in our society.
Lord, teach us to teach them!
"Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith
"Practice the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence
Friday, March 20, 2009
Congress this week demonstrated hypocrisy rising to the level of Captain Renault, as they erected a facade of fake drama and outrage surrounding the AIG Bonuses.
Their ridiculous antics bent on fomenting the fervor of class envy would be laughable were they not so dangerous.
When did it become okay for elected officials from congress to the president, to go after and bemean ordinary citizens?
All the time turning the focus off of their own incompetence and graft.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Since Dad's heart surgery last year our perspective has changed toward my parents. They suddenly have become vulnerable. . . needy, at times. Dad has improved greatly since coming home in November but he is nowhere near where he was two years ago.
Our weekends have been overly busy for the past month so I haven't been able to get by on Saturdays as much.
This past Saturday, my sister, her husband, my brother and Ab, AA and me all happened to be there at the same time and I heard a little story that I want to pass along to you.
This past week, my brother found himself with a little time to kill and he was near Mom and Dad's house one afternoon so he decided to drop in.
For a time, it was pretty necessary that someone drop in on them pretty often, but Dad's condition has improved to the point that they are much more independent. So it was unusual for my brother to drop in.
What he didn't know, was that as he was arriving at the idea of stopping by - Mom and Dad were praying.
Mom and Dad had locked themselves out of the house. They had no cell phone with them, Mom did not feel comfortable at all with leaving Dad sitting on the steps while she went to a neighbor's house to get help.
So in a sort of desperation they plopped down there in the carport and someone said -let's pray.
Pray they did.
Within moments, my brother drove up.
I am not clear on how they actually got into the house - I think they found a spare key - but the points are these:
- Of Plopping - God came through when His people called on Him. Now they may have come up with some other solution - they might have survived sleeping in their vehicles - but at the point that they plopped down and said "We need help , let's pray" - it was as if God was standing ready to send in resources.
- Of Popping - Secondly, my brother did not have a revelation (though I think he was claiming that he might have had a revelation later, in order to appear more holy) - it was just an idea that popped in his head. Pursuing the idea allowed him to be on God's Mission.
What are you struggling with?
What problem are you trying to wrestle down to the ground before seeking help from God?
Maybe it is time to stop, and plop down somewhere and just pray. If you are married, invite your spouse to join you and pray together.
How many little ideas pop into your head throughout the day?
How many notions get pushed aside because you are too busy or think you might not be able to afford to stop and pursue the idea?
How many opportunities do we pass up daily - to be on a Mission from God?
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Today, I have been thinking about that silent motivation.
I have been running - okay I always have to add this qualifier: you wouldn't really call what I do running, but it is cardiovascular and aerobic in nature - since last Fall.
I hate running.
My daughter was my first motivation. Having recently joined the "Running Club" at school and in preparation for the upcoming "Pumpkin Run", she had taken to running some on her own at home.
I decided to join her . . . as is typical, I learned from Ab.
She told me about how you should run at a rate that allows you to carry on a conversation, and she told me how her teacher prays when she runs.
We had a good time. AA even joined in at times.
We do not live in a "neighborhood" instead we live in what we in the South refer to as "the country". There is a small patch of woods and half a stone path that separates our home from our closest neighbor - my wife's brother and his family.
Since the track that Ab and I had mapped out included his driveway, he noticed our running.
So around November he started running as well.
Now my brother-in-law and I are alike in some ways but on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to timing: he loves to run in the morning - and at least during daylight - I find that I prefer to run after dark and as a means of winding down from the day.
So we run at different times.
Now lately it has been cold, and my breathing has been hampered by the lingering remains of an earlier cold. That coupled with the fact that I can't seem to get anyone to join me anymore and I have grown tired of running the same course - has all left me discouraged with running (which I don't really like anyway).
But every day or so, I see my brother-in-law, making his run.
He stands as a silent motivator. . . a sight that quietly holds me accountable.
Last Sunday, our Sunday School teacher focused the study on the disciples of Jesus, known as the "inner circle". The four that seemed to be closer to Jesus than the others: Peter, Andrew, James and John. He pointed out how that among them, Andrew seemed to be the one content to let someone else get the glory. He didn't seem to care who got the credit.
Andrew stands as one of those silent and steadfast motivators who leads by example. Unlike his brother, Peter, who would sometimes display a sort of "holy hubris", Andrew would just steadily do the right thing without fanfare.
Among some, he is known as the disciple of small things ... indeed it was a small boy with a small lunch that Andrew brought to Jesus that day of the miraculous feeding of five thousand. He was always bringing people to Jesus. In fact when we first meet him, he is running to get his brother, Peter, to tell him he has found "the Christ".
Much has been made about the negative connotations of being a "silent witness" for Christ. In many Christian circles, this is observed to be a cop-out.
But there is something about a silent motivator - one that - like my brother-in-law - compels others to do the right thing simply by regularly doing the right things.
Do you remember the story of Daniel, how that even his enemies were keenly aware of the consistent nature of his prayer-life?
I think God is calling us to become consistent. Look around, is there anything in the world today that people can trust to stay the same? How brightly would one stand out if they chose to do the right things daily - not to be seen, but to honor God?
Oh that I can become a silent and steadfast motivation for others.
And by the way, I learned something else about Andrew. According to tradition, while he was not boisterous and did his service to God without fanfare - he was not silent.
When Andrew was hung on the "Saint Andrew's Cross", tradition says he did not cease preaching Jesus to all who passed by.
Consistent in bringing people to Christ to the end.
"...let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus . . . " Hebrews 12 1b & 2a KJV
In fact I would venture to say that R. is a rotten patient.
Our whole family has been on the "verge of something" most all winter this year. I think we each had our own episode of cold or virus and then whatever it was seemed to linger on, never quite releasing its grip.
This week it returned with a vengeance and R. bore the brunt of its fury.
"It's positive. You have the flu" - R. said the nurse had told her shortly after her test.
Immediately the nurse slipped on a pair of latex gloves and set a plan in motion to get R. out of that examination room before she contaminated someone.
This set up something of a pattern of resentment for my ailing wife, toward any form of quarantine.
I have had to sneak out of the bedroom and wash my hands in private so as not to offend her. I also thought it best to close her door so she could not hear me fogging the room with Lysol after she passed through.
Last night she seemed somewhat put out when I suggested the kids stand outside the bedroom doorway in order for her to get a look at them. This followed my first attempt at appeasing her desire to see them of just bringing in a photograph.
When I discovered that she was pretty much utilizing the entire bed - including my side and my pillow, I decided to be chivalrous and opt to sleep in the living room so as "not to disturb her".
Incidentally, I still have something of a yen for what Opie called "adventure sleeping". For Opie on that particular episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" - Adventure sleeping meant sleeping on the ironing board between two chairs. For me, adventure sleeping meant an attempt at "operation air mattress". First, I tried two different blow driers to inflate it, finally I went into the attic and found the official pump. When all was settled and I attempted to lie down, I heard the s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s of air escaping. There was a leak.
Despite a makeshift patch of Scotch Tape (from Ab's stash, of course) and a second inflation, I was sleeping on the floor by 4:30 this morning.
Today it dawned on me that the idea of loving the patient and hating the flu is a lot like the concept of loving the sinner yet hating the sin.
Sometimes those that are suffering the ravages of sin are put off by our regarding it as undesirable. They feel that it is they themselves that we regard as undesirable.
Perhaps we act that way at times. We seem to have such difficulty with trying to show love while at the same time, not endorsing their choices.
So often times we keep our distance.
We are afraid to get too close; afraid that they may encroach upon our space, or require more than we want to give, or perhaps they will drag us down.
When the Puritans were on their way to America to establish what would later be known as Plymouth Colony, the members of the crew made life difficult for them.
But when the tables were turned and many of those same crewmen took sick, it was the very saints they had previously slandered and persecuted - that came in to help them.
Some marvelled that their former friends were nowhere to be found when the fever struck; yet these brave, loving souls, risked their own health in order to save these men.
Greater love has no man than this.... that a man lay down his life for his friends....
That is true love.
Get well soon, R.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
One was journaling.
The other is reading.
With journaling, I had decided prior to starting this blog, that I might have become too legalistic in that area. So I would not require myself to journal on a regular basis - but rather, only when I felt I had something worth saying.
I still journal on occasions and usually it is about things I don't care to share on the blog. I have been journaling since 1995. In several instances, I can go back now and actually trace elements of the Holy Spirit's work in my life - leading me to changes.
With reading, I thought that my loss of momentum that occurred last year was because I had to return the book "Boundaries" to the library before finishing it. It seemed that after that I just couldn't finish a book.
At the beginning of the third month of this year - my consistency is astounding! But I have recently begun one of those books that you see popping up everywhere so hopefully my pace will turn around.
R. got me Francis Chan's "Crazy Love" for Valentine's Day and I have jumped into it with both feet. I first heard of the book last Fall from Pete Wilson's Without Wax blog, since then, the book keeps coming up in conversations.
Hopefully I will stay with it until the end, but Francis isn't helping.
This is one of those books in which the author frequently tells you to stop reading and do something else. . . that's not a great practice for people with short attention spans - or for people with young children.
In the first chapter, the reader is directed to a couple of web-sites to view a couple of videos and this was very effective! In a later chapter, he directs the reader to stop and to "read the Gospels".... I am assuming he means read portions of the Gospels.
Those of you familiar with my practice of reading the Bible ve-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-y slowly, will know that it could 2011 before I get through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!
Seriously, the book is really challenging and thought provoking and I am looking forward to continuing. But what is odd about me reading this book, is that a lot of people are reading it and it is new. Usually I do not get in on these things until the "wave" has well passed.
A book has to "click" with me or else I have to put it down until another time. There have been some books that I started over and over again, then one day I pick them up and the time is right - I just flow through it.
What this means is even if I start a book that everyone is reading ... it still may be a couple of years before I actually read it.
A few years back, everyone was reading Rick Warren's monumental "The Purpose Driven Life". I got in on that wave fairly early, even though I had been seeing banners at numerous churches announcing the book and subsequent sermon series long before I began the book.
R. and I read the "Left Behind" series (Jenkins and LaHaye) but we didn't until three or four books were out.
I have yet to finish Stephen Covey's, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (though I have listened to it on tape) and it's been out about twenty years now.
Another reason that I do not get in the wave with everyone else is that I like to buy used books. For a number of years now, I have attended the local library used book sales. I love old books. And I often see something that I meant to get when it was popular... only now it costs a quarter. That makes me feel good too.
R. and I are planning to attend a Sunday School class in the near future that will be going through Chan's book. The book is really challenging me to take a different view of God and to gain a better understanding of His love ... and our lack of love.
If this book doesn't get me out of my reading doldrums I will be forced to go back to my earlier practice of reading "Bob the Builder" and "Veggie-tales" books.
In all three instances, however, there has been a common element which makes me quite uncomfortable: Speaking Intimately in Public.
This is that inevitable portion of the service, in which the speaker makes you look each other in the eyes and say something intimate. Sometimes the speaker will supply the words, at other times, they make you come up with your own.
R. is uncomfortable with it, too. I know this because if she is uncomfortable doing something she won't do it; at one event, I had to do some of my intimate speaking in public to the back of her head.
When I was a kid, there was an evangelistic family that would come through the areas in which we lived from time to time. And they had a practice for several years of ending their services by making husbands and wives look at each other and repeat their marriage vows. My Dad did not like these exercises: he never has been one to be very verbal about his love and though he seems a little hard on the outside, he cries very easily.
We kids loved it because we didn't have to do anything and Mom and Dad would be on the spot... Dad with tears trickling down would repeat the vows. Eventually we started visiting my grandparents when these folks came to town.
R. and I are - in many respects - a quiet couple. Most mornings we barely speak before coffee. Early in our marriage, I thought she was angry. Finally I learned that she just doesn't want to talk in the mornings, and not being naturally energetic in the mornings myself - I've adjusted.
While I do believe it is important that we assure each other of our mutual love often. I do not like it when we are pushed through a prescribed pattern, all in an effort to force communications.
I don't like it, but I will do it.
R. will - on the other hand - boycott something if she doesn't want to do it. That leaves me in the unenviable position of trying to participate -alone.
Now let me confess something: As much as I would like for you to think otherwise - I care about what people think. In fact, I spend an inordinate amount of energy at times trying to behave in a certain manner because I think people are watching.
This is a problem because - in my neurotic fashion - I figure that if people are all watching me and I am speaking intimately to my wife in public and she is ignoring me ... then they must think that we have a rotten relationship.
I am learning- with God's help - that most folks don't really exert that much concern on me. In other words, they really don't think about me all that much.
Recently, I have further discovered that when I follow the dictates of the speaker in such instances, I am saying those intimate words - not because I mean them - but because I do not want people to think that I don't mean them or that R. and I have a rotten relationship.
So while it would be nice if she participated - it might also be nice if I participated with the right motives. It appears that she is the one with the problem, but alas - it is me. In the words of Pogo: " We have met the enemy and he is us."
Oh by the way, here's an important tidbit that I have picked up on as it relates to my marriage (and this post illustrates the point). When I complain to God about my wife and ask Him to fix her... invariably it will turn out that I am the cause of the problem.
When I think R. should change - when I think she has a problem, I have pretty much learned now to just go ahead and ask God what it is that I am doing wrong.