Family

Listen Without Complaining

It appears that hardwired in every child is an ability to never quite hear what their parents say.  It is almost as if everything that is said to a child must be immediately met with “what?” even if they physically heard what you said.  The struggle to communicate to them and see results is quite intense.

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I am sorry, are you talking? 

I have lamented this many times to people and never really thought it applied to me anymore.  Certainly I have grown up, right?  Then I read Numbers 14.  In Numbers 14 Moses is leading the Israelites along after freeing them from Egyptian slavery.  One might think that they would be willing to listen well to God because He has powerfully showed up. He rescued them.

Instead they complain.  They grumble against God.  They wish they were back in Egypt.  They even decide to vote in a leader to take them back!  Basically they look at God and say “yes, I know you are demonstrating your love for us, but I don’t really think you love us.”  They are in one sense hearing and seeing God act out a radical love for them and in the very next breath complaining that they aren’t slaves anymore.

I have been guilty of this.  I have had times when things just weren’t going my way, and even though I saw God minister to me in His grace during those times, I still complained about it.   I still questioned God there.  I guess adults are just older kids.

When Jesus hung on the cross, people around him mocked him and even cast lots for his clothing. In a most dramatic fashion, they did not hear what was being said.   Even though He had shown the kingdom of God to them in the flesh, they just did not listen.  They would rather do things their own way and in doing rejected the only means of freedom.

The challenge is this:  Do not get so caught up in religious tradition that you miss the message of Christ to you.   I pray that as we enter into this coming season leading up to Easter Sunday that we would hear loud and clear the voice of God “I love you.”

 

The Most Important Thing Now

To the untrained eye it might look like dad is being kind and letting his daughter win.  If that is what you are seeing, then look a little closer.  Actually what you are seeing is dad lose back-to-back games of Candy Land.  The game is all about how the cards are stacked. (or in our case pile up since they are so bent) But, yes, I get it.  There is no real skill involved in this game. But is it possible that my 5-year-old daughter actually has skill in this?   There is another game she likes to play called Spot It.  You spot things on cards and then you get that card.  She will win those too.  I think I am easily distracted or just too slow.

img_0627The other morning she got out Chutes and Ladders.  I was making breakfast, so I couldn’t play.  That didn’t matter to her.  She just grabbed her toy dog, Max, and played with him.  She would move him over to the board, spin for him, and then taunt him when he was not winning.  Where does she come up with this stuff?  I am fairly certain I would have lost that game also.

img_0629Kids have a way of slowing life down a bit.  They want to stop and look at the caterpillar on the road.  They want to slow down so we can look at the deer.  They don’t have the same pressures on their time that we do.   “Hey, dad, do you want to play Candy Land?” is a hard thing to turn down. And do you know what that does?  It allows me to enter her world for just a little bit.  The truth is I have things I need to get done.  But what is the most important thing right now?  I think I need to lose another game of Candy Land.

If you are alive today, you have opportunities to enjoy life.   What is the most important thing right now?  It might not be what you think it is.

 

Mix Up Your Stressful Nights

Weeknights can be stressful. It seems like the moment the kids come home from school the universe is set on a collision course with itself.  No that doesn’t make sense.  They get home and need food because the three block walk from school wipes them out and they must eat right now! Okay, I guess it has more to do with their early lunch time.  Hey, let me tell the story.  Anyway,  then they unpack their backpacks and papers are strewn about. You need to sign this.  I need this money for the school activity.  Some nights there are sports or other activities.  But there is always time for homework and then next best thing, complaining about homework.

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School days are full days.

Tonight I was feeling the tension.  The kids were fighting. Then a couple of them were playing some random game that involved barking and marbles.  No, I did not understand it, but they were getting along.  That seemed to be going okay until they broke the glass jar.  Then there were tears.  In the next room homework was going on.  That was no going so well.  The way they are teaching math now is like a foreign language to me.  My attitude was going south quickly.   And then the suggestion: “Let’s play telephone”

How long has it been since I played telephone?  I mean that would never have been a suggestion I would have made.  Okay.  Let’s see what happens.  The kids started to come up with their phrases.  “The barn is green and yellow.”  Then there was something about ice cream and kibbles.  We were quickly laughing.  It is amazing how quickly the tension was gone.  There was no more fighting as the kids now tried to think of fun things to say. Looks like the kids figured out a way to bring some life to the boredom and tension of the evening.  My suggestion for you:  play a game of telephone and see what happens. Lighten up a bit and mix it up.  You will be glad you did.  I know I am. 

Glad I’m Not January

After a tough start to winter this year, we finally had some days where we could go outside and not have the wind freeze our flesh. It was quite the treat.  As I walked around the yard I noticed that the snow was deeper than I remembered it being and that getting that snow in your boots is cold.  Over on one side of the yard sat the Christmas tree, waiting in line to be burned in the fire pit during the summer. It still looks really green, but is not as nice as it was in the living room.  In my hands were Christmas lights that for whatever reason decided to stop working, ironically just like my preteen son.  And then it hit me:  I would sure hate to be January.

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January — brrr

December gets all the hype, fun lights, gifts, movies,elves, and sweet treats.  November gets Thanksgiving which takes food and football and merges them together in merriment.  What does January get?  Dark days and nights.  Cold temperatures.  Frozen pipes. Cars that won’t start. Ice covered roads.  Garage doors that break. (yes, the replacement of the aforementioned door is happening this week– could be a blog post in that)  All of this and the let down emotionally that Christmas has now come and gone once again.  Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the seasons of the year.   I look foward to them in fact.  It is just that January seems to get left out of the fun, like that one friend that nobody thinks to call and invite to the movie.  Thankfully February shares candy hearts early with everyone, which makes us look forward to spring and February 15th when they get marked down to 50% off.

Yet, as I thought about this I realized that there is a lot of joy to be had in January.  Life is full of adventure and experiences.  Winter sports are in full swing.  Movie nights in the warmth of the living room are a nice treat that does not happen in the summer.  Getting out the skis is a fun activity that even the littlest among us can figure out pretty quickly. (I mean how can you look at her and not smile?)

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Enjoy each day

Yes, I guess there is joy to be found in every month of the year.  It takes looking for something that will brighten your day and doing that.   For me it might be getting a cup of coffee and staring out the window for a while.  At other times I enjoy pulling my daughter around the yard in the sled or working on some project.  Whatever it is for you, get out and enjoy each day because each day is a true gift from God.   Yes, even January.

 

 

Staying Untangled

It seemed like a reasonable request to him, but to me it might be a bit much.  “Dad, you need to change the carpet in here right now.”  Why the sudden concern over the flooring choice in our living room?  Like most things in life with him, it starts with a John Deere tractor.  As it turns out, the new cultivator he bought with his Christmas money does not work well on the longer carpet.  It gets tangled up and it falls off.  We have ourselves a frustrated farmer. The only solution is to change the carpet.

We might laugh at that, but it isn’t actually too far away from how serious God is about our sin.  Jesus even went so far as to say that if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  Which, by the way, is hyperbole — don’t really cut your hand off. But what it does is show how serious it is to stay untangled in the “carpet” of your sin.  Run from sin. Stay away from sin.  Change your scenery if it is just causing you to stumble.

Remember that this world is doing everything it can to take you away from God. Change whatever you need to avoid the trap of sin.

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Stay untangled

Leave Them Better Than You Found Them

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered something.  Actually, I was just about ready to fall asleep and I had a thought pop into my brain.  As a side note, that is a strange place for that to happen for me, usually it is when I am taking a shower that I think the clearest.  But anyway, I got to thinking about how in many different places in my life I have been told to “leave it better than you found it.”  This is easy to understand when you are given something to borrow, or you are in someone’s home.  But what about if we thought the same about the people we encountered everyday?

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Encouragement comes in many places.

I was at a hotel with my family some months ago and I noticed an older couple strolling around the lobby.  The older man was in a wheelchair and his wife was pushing him around.  Immediately I had compassion for them because they looked tired to me.  She loved him and would do anything for him.   He had some sort of health problem that limited him to the wheelchair.  I noticed they wanted to go into the pool area to see what was going on in there, but holding the door was challenging.  I went over a held the door so they could come in and then when they left again.  They both smiled at me and thanked me for my help.  I didn’t do much, but I hope I left them better than I found them.

Words have the power to hurt and heal.  Of course working with people can be a challenge.  If I chose to be negative or grumble about others, I will just add negativity to an already negative situation.  People don’t always do things like I do them.  Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes other people make mistakes.  We are all human.  One thing that helps make things better is gratitude. I can say thank you.  In fact, I have found that one way to counteract negativity in the workplace or in the home is to say thank you, even to that person that can rub you wrong.  Actually, this is probably something we all can do better at.  It doesn’t hurt and it is free.

What can you do today to leave them better than you found them?  Someone needs you to lift them up today. 

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Who can you lift up today? 

Joy, Pain and Christmas

The season of Christmas has such interesting dynamics to it.  On the one hand, it is really fun.  I mean who doesn’t love seeing their kids dressed like sheep and angels?  It can be fun to have time to catch up with family or friends. My daughter was giving me the details on how many sleeps it is until Christmas and the order of events.  To say she is excited about this Christmas is an understatement.  But in all of my preparation this week for two services,  and time with my family I have been thinking about the amount of suffering that people are going through.  Does that seem strange?  Well, keep in mind I am a Pastor of a church and an EMT in the local community.  I have seen some suffering.  I know we sing songs about how wonderful this time of year is and declare “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.”  But what about those who are not experiencing so much joy

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Christ is the hope of Christmas.

this year?  You can’t just sing it and make the pain go away.  Some people have experienced more loss this year than at any point in their life.  Suicide.  Depression.  Alcoholism.  Abuse of all kinds.  Stress.  Anger. Anxiety. Financial Challenges. Illness. I mean, can we just be honest and say that for some people this season does not make pain get better, it just amplifies the issues.

So what difference does this baby make for those who are hurting this Christmas?  Micah 5:5 says that this ruler who was to come out of Bethlehem would be our peace.  Peace is something we talk about and strive for, but can’t seem to achieve.  But if Jesus is our peace, maybe we can experience it.  Maybe this one we celebrate can actually enter into my mess and help me.   And of course the answer is emphatically “yes!”  You are why He came!  You are why He left the comforts of His heavenly home and entered our world in an insignificant town surrounded by insignificant people on some insignificant day in a very insignificant way.  In doing so, however, He did provide for us something we were so desperate for: hope.  Hope says that while right now things are a mess; one day things will no longer be that way.  Why?  Because Jesus has come and is coming again.

Do you have some questions?  Yes.  Do you have some things you are hoping to see resolved?  Yes.  But there is comfort in knowing God was not content just telling us how to live; He needed to send His son to demonstrate His love for us.

So if you are in a good place right now and you know someone who isn’t, it could be a real good idea to encourage them in some way.  In fact, I think it is exactly what Christ demonstrates for us in His birth.  He showed up in our mess in order to save us from it.  I  have showed up many times just to visit with someone who was really having a tough time.  Those kinds of things mean the world to people.   It reminds them that God has not forgotten them — the very heart of the Christmas story.

Oh, and get to it because there are only 3 more sleeps until Christmas.

 


Want to hear more about what Jesus Christ has offered to us?   Check out my Christmas Sermon Series on our Church Website.