Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Observations on Parenting... from someone who isn't one.

As I'm watching some news about the school shooting in Ohio yesterday, I have to say that I think a lot of the fault in this situation falls under lack of parenting... (17 year old shooter lived with his grandparents/parents had been arrested) lack of example, lack of lessons in personal responsibility. I have a few thoughts to share on these things...

I grew up in a house of guns and I don't know that they were ever held behind lock and key. I learned how to shoot a shot gun when I was a kid, but more importantly I learned from my daddy that you only shoot to protect yourself, provide food for your family, or practice your shot. (...and if you HAVE to shoot to protect yourself {meaning that someone is coming to attach you or your property}, you shoot to kill.)

I know I'm not a parent... but I work with students every day. I love my job and working with college students, but I have seen a consistent decline in certain areas of development that cause me to be concerned for their own personal development. I consistently observe students who do not want to take responsibility for their actions, who do not honor the contracts they sign, who are scared of failure to the point that they forget to use common sense, are so used to everyone on the team getting a trophy that they do not accept "No" or a differing opinion for an answer, and who cannot communicate verbally to their peers about their concerns.

I don't write these observations to be critical of any students in particular, for these observations are from different groups of young people that I have observed personally and professionally. But I write these, and reflect on this sad situation in Ohio with a challenge for those of you who are parents, and are willing to listen to someone who may not have a child, but works with a lot of them...

My challenge for you who are parents, please teach your children personal responsibility. By the time they get to high school and college, let them handle their own responsibilities with commitments, regulations, etc. Let them (at least) attempt to fight their own battles before you step in. Teach them to respect authority, because if they don't respect your authority, they will never respect anyone elses. Don't be their best friends... be their parents, until they are adults and have proved themselves to be mature enough to be someone you would choose as a friend. Let them fail. I don't know that I can stress this one enough. It is not reality for everyone to be a winner. Logically, if someone wins then someone has to lose. However this is where one of the most important parts of parenting (or mentoring for those of us without kids) comes in to play. If they don't win, don't treat them as or allow them to feel as if they are a loser. Ultimately if they make a mistake or  fail at something, as long as they take responsiblity and learn from it... then that mistake or loss is NOT a failure, but a lesson.

I can only imagine that you want every day of your kid's life to be a successful one. But some times in life we have to have those days that aren't so great... because they make us appreciate the good ones that much more. I'm sure that as a parent you want to walk every step of their lives with them, but eventually that isn't going to be an option, so it seems that it would best to not only practice seperating yourself from some of that decision making and at the same time you are equipping your child to mature and develope into an adult who can take responsibility for and make decisions for themselves. Independence is not a bad word, as long as your kid knows who they can depend on when/ if they need someone.

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 that you should, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." This training is not limited to behavior... but also includes responsiblity, integrity, confidence, and the use of common sense. It is training that I value, and use every day... and thanks to my mom and dad, who I did and have grown to call my friends in my more mature years, I have been equipped to live life independently and not fear failure, but recognize those challenges as lessons rather than losses.

Love y'all,

Monday, February 27, 2012

10000 Reasons

It has been a great week of celebration at Shades... and I'll reflect on all of that when I collect my thoughts... but in the last song of tonight's joint worship service with Greater Shiloh MB Church truly brought me to tears.

The song is called Ten Thousand Reasons and you can listen to it here, and read the words below. It's a beautiful song that brought me to another point of peace in missing my daddy.
Ten Thousand Reasons (Bless the Lord) By: Matt RedmanBless the Lord, O my soulO my soulWorship His holy nameSing like never beforeO my soulI'll worship Your holy name
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawningIt's time to sing Your song againWhatever may pass, and whatever lies before meLet me be singing when the evening comes
[Chorus]Bless the Lord, O my soulO my soulWorship His holy nameSing like never beforeO my soulI'll worship Your holy name
You're rich in love, and You're slow to angerYour name is great, and Your heart is kindFor all Your goodness I will keep on singingTen thousand reasons for my heart to find
[Chorus]Bless the Lord, O my soulO my soulWorship His holy nameSing like never beforeO my soulI'll worship Your holy name
And on that day when my strength is failing The end draws near and my time has come Still my soul will sing Your praise unending Ten thousand years and then forevermore
[Chorus x2]Bless the Lord, O my soulO my soulWorship His holy nameSing like never beforeO my soulI'll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I'll worship Your holy nameLord, I'll worship Your holy name
Sing like never beforeO my soulI'll worship Your holy nameJesus, I'll worship Your holy nameI'll worship Your holy name

The words I put in bold... those are the ones that brought me to another realization of peace... which hurts a little, but is just another reason to celebrate Daddy's life and not mourn his death. Daddy did not have many reasons to stay here on earth with a sickness that would keep him from the things he loved. Mom, Shane, and I... his parents, his family is truly the only reason I think Daddy would have stayed on this earth to fight Leukemia if God had given him the option. But oh.... I can only imagine the reasons he had to leave this earth for his Home above. He had ten thousand of them... or more. 

I am sure he fought a little as his time came close to ending and as his strength began to fail, but I am sure that as he caught a glimpse of just one of those reasons, that one was enough... 

And then I think of him singing. Daddy had such a strong voice and I'll always miss singing with him... but the throught of his voice as he sings out to our Lord... it's just overwhelming the thought of how much more beautiful it is... Daddy loved music... he loved to sing and to play his guitar. I think that knowing he could sing his Praises to God live and in person forevermore was also reason enough for him to go... 

And lastly, I think that the fact that he knew his family were all believers, having faith in the Lord and thus fulfilling his responsibility as a husband/father, and knowing that we would one day join him at Home... that was another reason, and probably the most important to him, that he could go Home. 

We all have ten thousad reasons to worship His holy name. Today... my reason for praising him is the wonderful man he paired me with as my father. I praise God for the 26 years I had to share with him... I wouldn't trade a day of it for anything in the world. 

What is your reason today? 

Love y'all!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lesson (of how not to act) from... the Israelites

So as usual a blog post hits me late at night... hence the 2:15am post. But... I have a confession that I've made to God and feel the need to share that lesson with whoever might take the time to read this thing. 

Lately, I've acted like an Israelite. 

Yes, those folks that wandered around for 40 years in the desert to find their eventual Promised Land...
Those folks who sometimes listened to their leader Moses who did some pretty amazing things via the power of God if they paid attention...
"Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin (location not an action, notice the proper noun!), according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, 'Give us water, that we may drink.'
So Moses said to them, 'Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?'
And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said 'Why is it you :have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill is and our children and our livestock with thirst?'" (Exodus 17: 1-3)
Ummm... Excuse me people of Israel - did y'all forget the whole Red Sea, Bitter waters made sweet, Manna, Quail, etc thing... you know God provided for all howevermanymillions of yalls needs?!?! I know it's been an inconvenient trip and y'all been walking for a heck of a long time... but do y'all not think that if God led you through all that, brought you out of slavery and allowed you to cross a SEA on dry land (not a creek y'all... a SEA), that he would just then let you dehydrate in the middle of nowhere on that family vacation y'all are having called the Exodus. 
The answer to that, dear Israelites... is NO. 

You see... the reason I am like the Israelites is that lately I have been doing THE EXACT SAME THING!!! Okay, let's subtract the walking through the desert, slavery, and being chased by Egyptians part... but add in Cancer, Leukemia, Death, missing home, and being unsettled in my job. Just as God brought them through their mess... He has brought me through mine!!! 

And what do I do about that sometimes?? 
... I complain and grumble about what I don't have

I definitely had one of those moments in church on Sunday where I literally laughed out loud with the biblical truth that was slapping me in the face:


I have recently had the experience of questioning His plan as I try to discover what it is... and that has truly become a mental debate for me of whether I am trusting His plan or (because I am pursuing different opportunities as I actively search) testing it! During the sermon on Sunday Past Danny said this: "Every difficulty will be a test that makes us better or a temptation that makes us worse." That is such a simple truth for all of our lives. We either trust or we don't... simple as that. The Israelites did not trust, but their leader did. Moses sought help from the Lord, (because he literally feared for his life because of the contention of the people) and the Lord provided a plan for him: hit a rock with your staff and it will become a water fountain (Exodus 17:6).

To put my problems into perspective, no matter what they may be, they were not as bad as what Israelites faced... so if God can make a water fountain out of a rock, He can surely provide new opportunities for me! Even though I have always very much appreciated and valued the Journey on my way to whatever my destination may be, I should never forget His blessings and the lessons learned a long the way. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lessons from... paint.

Lately I've been very uninspired... and how incredibly dramatic does that sound?!! I think I've just gotten myself into a stagnant place... and that's not a comfortable place to be. I think too much... I analyze too much. And when I analyze too much I think too much... see my confused pattern. I'v been reading Chambers' My utmost for His highest and there is much talk of His Will and my calling... so I'm trying to take the hint and reflect on those things. I've made these lists, of things I love to do, things I feel called to do, and things I'm good at... and I'm reflecting on those to try and recognize what I am supposed to do when I grow up (a little late, aren't I?). Sometimes when I get to that point where I've been thinking too much. I pick up a brush, I pick a color and I begin to paint. Usually I don't know what the plan for the painting (much like life...)... but I proceed with painting.

Art is therapuetic for me. I enjoy painting... and often I just do it for myself but recently I've been toying with the idea of selling painting to help make some extra money for a mission trip and other things. I was staring at a canvas the other night... and really began to think of the beuty in the paint. You see, I don't like the paint to be crisp and clean, lines unmarred and straight. I think it's beautiful when the colors mix and bleed and run... when they come together to create something I didn't intend... it's a beautiful thing. One the pallate where I put the paint, it ends up being layer over layer throughtout time... and I love the way the paint looks, in it's rubbery texture, when the colors mix, but are still representative of their original hue. I think that pallate represents community... and can represent the individual. Everyone brings their own color to a community... and eventually you mix together to become one, but you are still an individual... but the beauty of the mixture would be less without you... the depth and diversity not as strong, you... the individual are important and you have your place in your community, whatever that community may be.

I was working on this canvas with a lot of different colors the other night... I didn't want it to have a solid background, but wanted it to me more of a faded colors effect. While I was mixing the colors, I realized that my life, our lives, is very much like a painting. It started with different colors squirted onto a white canvas. The white canvas can represent how we enter the world pure, with no experiences. The different colored paint... our life experiences. The brush, I think the brush represents God's will... and what He allows. He said himself in my favorite verse, that " we are his workmanship..." (Ephesians 2:10) so He is calling Himself the artist. With every stroke of that mixed paint across the canvas, the painting changes. Perfection is unattainable on a painting like this becuase it's not the goal, in fact, every mistake can make it better. I believe this is true with life too... I know my name isn't Jesus, so I can't be perfect. And though I try to avoid the mistakes, if I learn from them... they make me better. Maybe this is why I like painting so much. It's controlled to a point. I can pick the colors and where they go... but I actually don't determine how it turns out... because I don't know how those colors are going to dry until they do. I love the way you can spray water on a canvas and the colors will run... but it can make it look better. You can paint in circles or straight lines and it will make things turn out completely different... just like life's choices... what we choose to do can make things turn out completely differently.

I also like that painting is completely personal. They may not be the most beautiful things in the world... but when I give someone a painting or when I make something for someone... I'm showing them what's in my head... and yeah generally it includes bright happy colors... but it will represent me as long as someone knows that I painted it, and that makes an impact on me.

So there are a few life lessons from paint. I'm going to go back to working on that canvas now. :)

Love Y'all,