“Sticks and Stones”

The Words

This phrase first surfaced in The Christian Recorder, in March of 1862:

 “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

Wow, did someone get that wrong.

I understand the sentiment. A person shouldn’t be a pin cushion for the sharp pointed words of others. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be the target. We shouldn’t own the insults of others. But still, words can hurt and can be the deepest cuts of all.

Which is the most offensive if used to describe someone?

  1. Goofy
  2. Clown
  3. Obnoxious
  4. Chunky
  5. Weird

Which do you think?

Lots Of Words

Globally, billions of words are spoken every day. They flow from our mouths, keyboards, pens, and pencils. Lots and lots of words.

How long does it take to say the wrong thing? I could speak ten thousand words that were all good and fine. But what happens at ten thousand and one, if the one is the wrong one? It takes less than a blink to make the wrong lasting impression.

My Trouble

I used one of the above words with a friend, and it hurt. There wasn’t anything ugly or insensitive intended, but still, it stung. I apologized and it was appreciated. But better that I hadn’t said it all.

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Sometimes our words hurt. Sometimes we need to apologize.

James

In James 3:2-12 it says that none of us is perfect when it comes to controlling what they say. We all say things we regret. And even if we don’t regret it, we still shouldn’t have said it.

In Closing

Maybe we need to shut our yaps. Lock our lips and seal them shut. Perhaps our greater need is to clean up our minds, purify our hearts, and rid ourselves of damaging thoughts.

Maybe.

“Words can never hurt me?” Really?

Shalom

A Motorcycle at Our Church

Here’s Something

I was sitting at my desk when I heard something loud and obnoxious. So, I got up to look and immediately determined the problem. It was a kid on a motorcycle racing around our church parking lot.

He was about 18, plus or minus. The motorcycle was sporty, fast, and loud, and he was going all out. Suddenly, he drove onto the street, pulled a wheelie; and shot down Area Boulevard as far as I could see.

Some observations:

  1. There are no signs on our property inviting motorcycle racing.
  2. Our parking lot is not a race track.
  3. The young man wasn’t wearing a helmet, long pants, or shoes.
  4. He looked excited, happy, and full of joy.

I was almost ready to confront him. He was disturbing the peace and bothering my sermon preparations. He had some nerve.

But he left. But if I had, I would have told him to get off our property, and to do it quickly, because our church is no place for people to get excited, happy, and joyful.

Wow, I’m such a good leader.

Well…

Okay, that didn’t come out just right. But it’s an interesting question. Is the church I preach for a place where people can be excited, happy, and joyful?

Some might say that excitement and joyfulness are too much like the motorcycle. Some might say that those who inspire such things need to calm down, get all their wheels on the ground, and put on some long pants. Maybe some shoes too.  

One Day At The Temple

There were two responses to Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey:

  1. Excited people.
  2. Angry leaders.

The crowds were happy but the leaders were apoplectic. They were angry with Jesus because he interrupted their exploitive operations in the temple courts. And he healed the lame and the blind who weren’t supposed to be in the temple area. Then the children began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

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“Shut them down, tell them to stop, this is no place for loud and happy children.”

Jerusalem was buzzing about the Son of David’s arrival. But the religious leaders were frustrated and angry. The Temple was no place for excited, happy, and joyful people.

To Close:

The people lifted Jesus up while the leaders tore him down.

The children praised him but the leaders resented the children.

Jesus welcomed the unclean but the leaders despised their presence.

Celebration and praise enthusiastically erupted but the leaders didn’t like it.

The leaders felt that some wouldn’t like it. That is wasn’t a good time. 

Excited, happy and joyful?

Shalom

Flapped, Totally Flapped

Patience

Patience is a problem, it’s problematic, and having to wait is the worst. Having to wait patiently is just painful. Not a toothache kind of pain, or a broken leg kind of pain, but still.

When it comes to waiting patiently, I’m not unflappable. Unflappability isn’t a strength of mine. I’m not unflappable, just flappable.

Besides, I shouldn’t have to wait, waiting requires patience and I’ve already admitted to having a problem with that. It seems so circular, so oddly endless.

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It’s Me Not Waiting Patently, I’m Totally Flapped. Not unflappable, Just Flapped

Lovingly Supportive

I’m thinking about my friends who are supportive regarding my impatience and flappable manner. Here are my top five caring and supportive friends:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Well, as it turns out, none of my friends are supportive regarding my impatience. Mostly, they want me to, “Grow up and stop whining.” They also mentioned something about an “intervention?”  

Does that seem right, “Grow up and stop whining?” Wow, how impatient of them!

The Holy Scriptures

Somewhere in the bible, or several places in the bible, patience is linked to suffering. Really? Suffering? Who wants to suffer? It seems unnecessary and it feels bad. I avoid it.

I could read more about the spiritual value of suffering, and about trials and perseverance, but reading is tedious and dull, and it takes too long.

Seriously

Control is the epicenter of impatience. Not self-control, but the need to control everyone and everything. When I’m not in control, then I get impatient, I get flapped, totally flapped?

Ever seen a 4-year old lose it because he can’t control something?

Just a few impatient thoughts.

Shalom

Would You Do It Again?

If You Could

If you could live your life over, would you make any changes? Maybe some different choices? Reverse the damage and pain inflicted on loved ones? Anything?

How about a do over?

Some “Do Over’s to Ponder:

  1. Would Adam and Eve still eat the forbidden fruit?
  2. Would Abraham have a baby with Hagar?
  3. Would Jacob still give Joseph a special robe?
  4. Would the ten spies change their report about Canaan?
  5. Would Moses still strike the rock?
  6. Would David send for Bathsheba?
  7. Would Solomon still choose the foreign wives that destroyed Israel?
  8. Would Mary still want to be the mother of Christ?
  9. Would Judas betray Jesus?
  10. Would the Jewish leaders change their minds about crucifying Christ?

The Gospel

The gospel doesn’t give us a choice to relive our lives. But it does give us a choice to live a new life. A second chance for a sacred connection.

However, the gospel offers nothing for those who make the wrong choice, the consequence for the poorest choice of all.

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul wrote of judgement for those refusing the gospel.

I’m Wondering

In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote that we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ to give an account for a life of faith or a life of faithlessness.

So, I’m wondering, will those not entering heaven’s light wish they could go back and make different choices?

When the water started rising, did the people of Noah’s day, the people he preached to, pound on the ark and beg to get in?

To Finish

The gospel wasn’t invented by religious men. It wasn’t crafted by holy clerics to separate them from the profane. It’s not just a church thing. It’s more, it’s so much more. 

So, take it seriously, because the gospel is divine, and sacred and is the power of salvation.

You don’t get to live your life again. So choose faith. Live in renewal. Live in peace.

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Shalom

Pt.6, Loving the Different

Parenting is a joy and a delight, almost all the time. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s challenging, difficult, and confusing. Sometimes it’s painful, gut-wrenching, and sad.

Equipping Children

All decent parents know they are responsible for their children:

  1. Physically
  2. Emotionally
  3. Morally
  4. Mentally
  5. Spiritually

It’s our job to feed them, provide for them, and protect them. It falls to us to keep them spiritually and morally healthy too.

Speaking for myself, I found it to be fairly easy. With our first born, there were few challenges, if any. It was smooth sailing all the way every day. Then he turned two.

To complete this series on equipping children, here are a few final suggestions. They may be of little value, but here goes:

  1. Equipping children requires leadership. We lead them to their first steps, their first words, and their first raising of a cup or spoon. We must also lead them to pray. We must share our faith stories and model our faith in front of them. As they age, our leading becomes harder, for we lead them to exercise their faith muscles and that means risking rejection, disappointment, and opposition. 
  1. Equipping children requires courage. It’s interesting how often faith and courage go together, (Joshua 1:3-7). Courage is needed when your child is bent on taking the wrong path when you know the right one. Courage allows them to make mistakes knowing that some lessons are only learned through our mistakes. Courage is needed in leading them to make the right decisions, knowing it will be unpopular, and could result in their being singled out in a derisive manner.
  1. Equipping children requires commitment. Parents are challenged with compromise. The team, club, or school wants your child to conform to something that is opposed to your values. Their friends are doing it, their friends parents, your peers, are supporting it, but you know it isn’t right, and standing up means going against the grain. Your courage and commitment to be spiritually uncompromising will be unpopular, perhaps no more so than with your child. Do you have the leadership and courage to trust in God’s providential care for your family?

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To Close

Raising children is tough. The stakes are so high. And the competition for their souls is fierce.

Good parenting is an unending, relentless effort to shape a child to become a spiritually mature, emotionally intelligent, morally centered person of faith.

God be with you as you raise your children, filling their minds and hearts with his divine light. For your children must one day take their places in a dark and broken world.

It isn’t all doom and gloom. Remember to smile and find the joy and happiness. Never forget that you are the best thing that will ever happen to your kids.

Shalom

Children Loving the Different, Pt. 5

Everyone loves getting gifts.

Top Five Gifts I’ve Received

  1. My first bike: 1963
  2. My first car: 1973
  3. My first serious Fly Rod: 1983
  4. My first chronograph watch: 1997
  5. My first trip to Israel: 2011

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Other Gifts I’ve Received 

  1. Loving parents
  2. Family
  3. Faith
  4. Life tools
  5. Opportunity

Parenting and Gifts
Jesus said that fathers know how to give good gifts to their children. He was right. What is the greatest gift a parent can give? Love? A happy childhood? Education? A stable home? A great bike? All good gifts.

What about the gift of faith; the gift planted and nurtured in the heart of a child? Is that a good gift?

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Consider This From Michelle Anthony

“The best gift we can give our children is the confidence to see that we believe everything is filtered (even the bad stuff) through God’s hands. We need to release our control of their circumstances. We need to start looking at these hard things that happen in our kids’ lives as things that God wants to use to refine them—and then we need to walk with them, prayerfully, and model for them how they should respond in grace under trial.”

 Parental Fear, From Michelle Anthony

“If I know that spiritual growth comes out of my painful trials, why do I try to protect my children from similar experiences? That’s the real question. Why would I want to keep my children from the very things that I know, firsthand, will grow their faith in God and their dependence on Christ? Why? Because it pains me to see them hurt. As parents we lose sight of the end goal, and we sacrifice it for today’s pleasures.” 

What One Parent Told Me

 “Our job is to gradually teach them. Baby steps. We put them in small situations to test them when they are young, when the consequences of failure are small. Then gradually, as they grow, they are tested more and more. We don’t keep them in a bubble till they are 18 then throw them to the wolves. We teach them lessons as they go so that when they leave us they can be trusted with the big stuff.”

Loving the Different

We want to raise our kids to love and care for others, but fear what could happen. We don’t want them seeking the acceptance of those who are different, but offering acceptance to the without being drawn in to their misbehaviors. It’s hard.  

Giving What We Don’t Have?

Without a doubt, the greatest gift a parent can give is the gift of faith, the fundamental belief that God loves them and seeks to lead, guide, and help them.

A national survey found that more than 80% of parents believe they are the primary source of spiritual training for their children. Yet, less than 10% of those same parents pray, read the bible, have family devotionals, or serve in a ministry with their children.

Where is the disconnect?

Stay tuned…

Loving the Different, Pt 4

From One Parent To Another

“You only have 10 years left to imprint this boy with the character he needs to survive the future.”

“In two years your daughter will be taking her cues from her boyfriend. Prepare her now to be wise!”

The focus isn’t on how little time is left, but on what to do with the time you have.

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Patience

It’s a tough commodity when it comes to parenting. 

Patience is about slowing down. Not being in such a hurry. Not missing the important stuff. It allows you to see the bigger picture, the larger landscape of where a child is headed. It takes patience to be fully present when your kids are at risk for pain and dissapointment.

The unwise parent believes their child can be insulated from the bullying, cruelty, and meanness. The naive parent believes their child can be protected from sin’s temptations.

A wise parent does what they can to protect their children. But they also recognize that the trials are coming, and effective parenting prepares a child for the coming trials.

From, “Spiritual Parenting” by Michelle Anthony:

“What my children needed were the skills and faith muscles to be able to walk through the trial and be strengthened, not victimized, by it.

This is an essential life lesson for them, and it’s necessary for me, because protecting my children from the evils of this world would be a full-time job.

We live in an evil world. Bad things will happen to our children. People will hurt them intentionally and unintentionally. Life will not be fair.”

Patient Parents-Christian Children

  1. Parents get frustrated because their children don’t manifest the right attitudes or behaviors soon enough. Patience is essential, because parenting is from the nursery and to the cap & gown.
  1. Godly character is a lifelong process, so be patient. Don’t expect your kids to be perfect, or to be above making mistakes. “Foolishness is caught up in the heart of a child.”
  1. It’s so hard to let go of parental peer-pressure. We get tied in knots believing that  other parents judge our parenting. It shouldn’t be about ego or how our kids can make us look good. Be patient, don’t make them responsible for how great you are.

To Close

Patience is a byproduct of faith, and our faith is often weak when it comes to trusting God with our kids. We fear what will happen. Our instincts drive us to keep them safe. So turning them over to God seems counterintuitive.

We must surrender our need to keep them isolated. Giving them to God means instilling our children with a faith that can grow, with a God dependency.

Our children weren’t meant to be propped up on a shelf like porcelain dolls. They aren’t trophies to be show cased for our honor. It all points to him, or it should. 

More is coming. Stay tuned.

That’s Why We Praise Him

Great Expectations: not the Dickens novel, but the perspective of people of faith.

Some amazing places I’ve visited:

  1. The Grand Canyon
  2. The Great Wall of China
  3. The Mountain ranges of Alaska/Western Canada
  4. The view from the Empire State building’s observation deck
  5. The Statue of Liberty
  6. Jerusalem, London, Beijing, New York 
  7. The Temple Mt. and the Garden of Gethsemane
  8. The oceans

Some I saw as a child, and some I’ve seen since. But all were places intentionally visited, with eager enthusiasm, and with great expectation.

The Final Expectation

I’ve seen wondrous things and visited magnificent places. But there is still one place on my list. It’s the place I’ve wanted to see most, but haven’t gotten there yet.

I want to see Heaven.

What Paul Said

To encourage those who were struggling, Paul wrote this:

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we will be with the Lord forever.”

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I Can Only Imagine

No pain. No hardship or heartaches. No disease, sickness or suffering. No abuse or cruelty.  No hate, malice, or war. No greed. No oppression or poverty. No sadness. No mental illness. No more struggle. No more death.

No more.

It’s Why We Praise Him: From Psalm 145

I exalt You, my God the King,
and praise Your name forever and ever.

I will praise You every day;
I will honor Your name forever and ever.

Yahweh is great and is highly praised;
His greatness is unsearchable.

In Closing

Worship is more than liturgies. Its more than reciting rote prayers and mumbling ancient hymns. It’s the expression of our minds and hearts and comes right out of soul. It’s our gift to God, the gift of honor and exaltation. 

That’s why we praise him, that’s why we sing.

Shalom

Loving the Different, Pt 3

Jesus

Jesus didn’t seek acceptance. He gave it. His acceptance of others was bigger than his exposure of their sin. They heard what he said about their sins, but his love was the brighter thing.

Me?

I think my judgment sometimes shines brighter than my acceptance. Since I’m uncomfortable with difference, I tend to devalue people who are different. The devaluing  helps me justify ignoring them. But I’m growing, I’m getting better.

What Happened?

God led me to a non-profit ministry doing child sponsorship and orphan care in Haiti. They offered a position and I accepted.

Then came my first trip. I read books, saw countless pictures, and explored Haiti on the internet. I was prepared.

But I wasn’t prepared. I walked out of the Port-au-Prince airport and into an avalanche of poverty, sickness, and hopelessness. My senses were assaulted. I felt dizzy and queasy. I wept in my hotel room, for them and for myself. I asked God why he sent me there? I felt unimportant, irrelevant, and uncomfortable.

The people, they were so different.

Truthfully, I wanted the Haitians to acknowledge me, to treat me as important, to make me feel better about their poverty. I was waiting for their acceptance.

However, after several trips, it slowly got better. God has a way.     

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Lessons I Learned About Acceptance

  1. I’ve now been to several countries. In many ways, people are the same everywhere. And people everywhere respond to smiles and kindness.
  1. The people I feel awkward about, due to their difference, are often awkward about my being different. Go figure. 
  1. The best way to overcome awkwardness with the differences of others is to offer them your acceptance and to find a way to serve or help them.

A Haiti Illustration

In the annual medical clinics, the first station, always my station, was height/weight, which required the kids to remove their shoes. It’s hard for younger students to do quickly. I found that sitting on the floor, with the child in my lap, was the quickest route for shoe removal.

I then saw the effects of ill-fitting shoes. Most kids didn’t own socks. Many had foot injuries and skin problems. It’s third world.

After the height/weight was done, I got back on the floor to get their shoes on. I did this over and over, for hundreds of kids, year after year.

The floors were filthy; the feet were dirty, and it was sometimes stomach-churning because of the open sores, odors, and foot problems. But with each child, a little piece of my pride dissolved, some ego melted, and the smallest bit of humility found its way in.

I don’t know if they accepted me. But it didn’t matter because I finally accepted them.

And it made all the difference. God has a way.

Do you have those values? Can you teach them to your child? Can they live with them?

Everyone needs a Haiti.

To Close

From Francis Chan,

“Life is comfortable when you separate yourself from people who are different from you…but God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

Stay Tuned

Loving the Different, Pt 2

My earliest memory of someone different.

 

I Was Eight

I think it was polio. My 3rd grade class had a kid who walked with canes. They were a substitute for his useless legs that drug along behind. He was laughed at, made fun of, and singled out for exclusion.

He was different.

I didn’t like the teasing. I was strong enough to stand up for him, but too weak for friendship. Thus, began a life-long challenge of how to act towards those who were different. 

Kids can be so mean to each other. Adults can be worse.

So It Started

My parents taught me kindness. To respect others. But as I grew, my need for acceptance forced me to fit in, to not stand out, to side with the group, even if it was wrong. A teenager’s greatest fear is castigation for being different.

Difference is the enemy of acceptance and insecurity can quickly betray good parenting.

What Happens?

  1. We learn to fear; we weren’t born with it.
  2. We learn to avoid those not like us.
  3. It’s about being cautious, it’s for our good.
  4. Is it?

We don’t like discomfort.

  1. The Priest and Levite walked past the injured man.
  2. Eye contact is avoided with those on the corners.
  3. The homeless are dismissed as lazy and irresponsible.
  4. People of certain ethnicity are ignored.
  5. The Pharisees hissed at the poor and the broken.

Jesus

Here is one of the many ways in which Jesus is not like me: He loved anyone, he extended friendship to everyone, and recognized their worth regardless of their moral, economic, or religious characteristics.

But there’s more. Jesus didn’t bury his holiness to blend in. He didn’t hide his light to gain acceptance. He didn’t need it, he didn’t seek it. Grasp this: 

His interest wasn’t in being accepted, but in offering it.

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A Friend of Sinners

He befriended prostitutes, adulterers, the demon possessed, and the sick, diseased, and the lepers. To his detractors, such people were to be ignored, barred from Temple, excluded from synagogue, and shunned from fellowship.

They despised the different.

Jesus talked with people about their sins without them feeling like their sins were more important than their souls.

He never viewed them as lesser people, never devalued their worth. Their humanity was always more important to him than their failings.

Jesus didn’t see them as different.

Some Closing Thoughts

  1. Our kids learn by watching us: good and bad. What are we teaching them?
  2. We seek acceptance, so we fit and blend in.
  3. We fear being different and so we fear those who are different.
  4. Can we change from seeking acceptance to being people who offer it?
  5. Can we teach that to our kids?

Finally

I’ve spent much of my life devaluing others due to their sins, life-style choices, and their differences. I’ve learned to view them as lesser people, does it justify my aversions?

But by God’s grace, I’ve changed some and have grown some in the past few years.

In Part 3, I will share some of my journey of learning to Love the Different. 

Stay tuned