When my oldest child was just barely 3, we hosted her first friend for supper. It was a very unique night because it was the first time we had a play date without the other parents present. We had no idea how incredibly fun and enlightening a night it was going to be for both our families.
As we were sitting at the table, the other little girl decided to tell us about her momma and daddy. She suddenly volunteered, “my momma says *&%$#*&.”
Joe and I shot a look at each other and one of us said, “what did you say?”
“My momma says*&%$#*& “ said the sweet little voice.
“Really?” we said. “Well, that’s not a nice word to say.”
Nodding vigorously, our visitor agreed. “Yes, my daddy says, ‘Gretchen don’t say *&%$#*&’
but my momma says ‘ I can say *&%$#*& if I want to Keith’ and then she says *&%$#*&, *&%$#*&, *&%$#*& over and over again!”
We cracked up! Not only was it super funny to hear this tiny little voice swear so correctly, but getting the dirt on our friends was no end of fun. Later, when we returned their sweet girl the story was retold and we all laughed a lot.
It was a great lesson about kid’s ability to repeat what they hear.
I still smile when I think of it now. But, it also makes me think of how many times she must have heard that conversation to be able to so accurately retell it. I was reminded tonight of this story when one of my children called a friends parent an ugly name. When I challenged it, they replied “well, the other parent (of a divorced family) and my friend both told me that about his mom.
The truth is, the things we say in our home are absorbed by our children – things that are good and those we hope they forget about. Their minds are taking in all that is around them and it is shaping what and how they think about things.
Scripture tells us that we have the ability to both bless and curse with our tongues. We can build up the people in our lives with words that encourage and gently correct or we can tear them down with hyper-critical and mean words. We can argue over things like our right to swear, or complain or vent – or we can show our children what it means to accept correction. We are quite literally building or tearing down our homes with our words.
What about you – could your children tell any funny but embarrassing stories? How are you using your words?
Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr Day here in the United States. It’s a day for everyone to attest to loving others, embracing those different than us and generally living in peace. We put his quotes on our Facebook walls and perhaps spend a few moments thinking about how we aren’t prejudice in our life.
And then we go back to our life.
Our life where we are confronted daily with opportunities to choose ourselves over others, to put the worth of someone else over ours – to talk about them, those over there – the ones we don’t like or agree with. The people who we don’t want near us or our children, those we don’t understand, agree with who stand with those we fear and near those who disgust us. And we see that our life is not very different than the one that came before.
Prejudice is simply an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. It’s that feeling we get when we assume we know about someone, we judge them on our past experiences or assumptions and we forget that we are all flawed children of God.
I wrote the following story previously…
We were walking around the outside of the apartment building, noting things that needed improvement when the old man came onto his steps. Realizing this saved us a contact later, we began to mention items that needed to be changed ending with a request to move the storage box away from his stoop.
“I can’t move it”, he exclaimed, “A black person might touch it.”
We both stood completely still and stared at him. I was shocked, reviewing what I just heard, thinking did he just say…? Our faces registered our thoughts well as he quickly retracted by saying, “Sorry, but I’m really prejudiced – I don’t like black people at all.”
Like a child shouting a taunt, I replied forcefully “Well we do – so keep it to yourself!”
I keep pondering this instance, thinking back to the moments on the stoop and the man who obviously believed such harsh and untrue things. I’ve alternately felt sorry for his ignorance and given gleeful thought to his own shortcomings but in the end neither of those things are helpful. I did the only thing I could do in the moment, take a stand for what I consider to be truth.
People are not to be disliked on the externals they cannot control. Regardless of skin color, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, cleanliness or anything else (and I realize this isn’t going to be an exhaustive list), people are to be treated with respect. As image bearers of God they deserve no less – even the old prejudice man on the porch.
Here’s the thing – it’s unusual to be so blatantly confronted with prejudice. What surrounds us all to often is a slight shifting, a measured step away from that which is different than us. Here in my middle class community of people we are quick to pronounce judgement on the others: the child who smells and hasn’t had anyone to train him up, the parent of our kids friends who has made different lifestyle choices, the person who wants to join our group but is hampered by economics, the acquaintance with strong beliefs that goes against our strong beliefs….
The list of those we feel it’s okay to remove ourselves from is long. Today, take a moment and ask yourself this question, Do I need to love my world better?
Many years ago I played with my kids during the day and spent the hours after bedtime cleaning up. I poured over home organization books and created schedules of home maintenance that would make our home “people ready” at any moment. I dreamed of the day when everything would match and I could model something that fit easily into Southern Living. I had lots of ideas of exactly how things should look.
Most of my ideas were unrealistic when played out by our cast.
We are a family of 6 living in 1500 square feet sharing 1 bathroom, 3 smallish bedrooms and 1 living room. The children are within months of being all teenagers with all the chaos you imagine that entails. My husband spends almost 3 hours per day in a commute and needs respite at night rather than chores and I work wholeheartedly at a multi-scheduled job. This is our season of busy.
On any given Friday night there might be more than 5 others sleeping over or coming to our house looking for food and welcome. Some are the days I work at the office and others are the days I use the kitchen table as a desk. My oldest balances 2 jobs with her last semester of school and attends a practice almost every day. The “baby” is hardly that anymore with peer contact ramping up and her brothers scarcely go anywhere alone. Things are eventful and chaotic at our house.
House beautiful we are not. However, as the momma of this group I realized that I could fight our season or go with it. I could spend my energy and the cracks of time I’m allowed maintaining a standard of beauty or of welcome. You see, I wanna be people ready all the time.
For me, No More Perfect Home means:
I have laid aside the guilt that comes from realizing others are cleaner, more stylish or better organized than our home.
I have made a decision to invest my time in creating an environment that makes my family happy rather than makes others proud of me
I have determined a standard of household maintenance that fits our schedule and desires and I work hard to stick with it
I realize that this season of life with 4 teenagers and two working parents is a season and I will adjust as needed
I try to look at every situation through the eyes of the people involved rather than through the lens of possible disruption of my standard.
We are not perfect around my house and I’m just fine with it!
I have a good friend who has lost a significant amount of weight this year.
Rather than signing up for a program, or committing to a plan, she has simply decided to eat good food at each occasion. Her diet has changed from tons of processed quick fare to mostly fruits and vegetables with whole grains. She looks great, but more importantly she feels really good. We were talking about the changes she has made to her diet and she made a statement that has really stuck with me. She said, ”I just had to get over the idea that it was going to taste good. I told myself my body needs fuel and this is the best possible fuel, so just eat it.”
I just had to get over the idea it was going to taste good.
Thinking about her success with that mantra was eye opening. How many things do we avoid because they don’t taste good initially? What if we just told ourselves – this is the best possible thing – and got over the idea of good taste?
Fun? Fulfilling in the short term? Easy? What if we just did what we knew to be best regardless of taste?
What if we spoke kindly to that child because they needed kindness rather than venting the frustration that tastes better?
What if we forgave that friend who hurt us because forgiveness is required rather than hold the grudge that tastes better?
What if we lived with the budget categories that we had figured out on paper rather than buy the item that tastes good right then?
What if we made the first move toward our spouse, gave up our seat or went out of our way to help someone? What if we got over taste and did what was right?
I think we would look better, but more importantly we would feel really good.
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10 msg
This year I want to think about fixing things rather than just talking about them. In the spirit of resolutions I have challenged myself to two things – read 52 books and memorize 24 scriptures.
Big goals, right?
They are big and here is why I chose them. I am quite aware of the things I am putting into myself will yield results and I would like those results to be good. I want those results to spur changes, raise my awareness and challenge me.
If I want those results – I need that input.
So, I shopped my house for books I have meant to read, remember fondly as good or just never got around to and easily found over 40. I cleaned out a shelf and arranged them in a prominent spot. I created a list on Pinterest to share with others. Mostly, I started reading.
You see, as I read quality non-fiction on a variety of topics I find that I am exposed to new ideas. I am forced to think outside my everyday thoughts and I am provided with very real options for my life.
Secondly, I committed to memorize 24 scriptures. My choice, my pick but still a very hard goal for me. I tend to be fairly undisciplined and would admit to “having trouble focusing.” Yeah, that’s me – not so good at memorizing.
However, I do believe in God’s word. I believe it is the infallible truth I need for life. I believe it has power beyond my understanding. I believe that it can and will change my thinking, acting, being. So…I need to believe it enough to memorize it.
“Pushing on people doesn’t move them any further than it does air or rope. But ask them about themselves, find out what their interests are, put their interests ahead of your own and you can ‘pull’ people from vast distances. The influence created by pushing does not carry far. The influence creating through pulling is limitless.” Go-Givers Sell More by Bob Burg and John David Mann
Pulling people is the essence of mentoring. We often think it’s all about creating a person to fulfill a role, take our spot or fill the gap…pushing them where we need them to go. Certainly we can arrange an apprenticeship for those motives and even be successful. Following the principle of I do, you watch and then you do, I coach will allow you to teach a willing person almost any skill. It works great for task oriented items like how to set up a classroom, teach a lesson or clean a kitchen.
But, what about the greater work of apprenticeship? Looking deep within someone and asking God to help you call out of them more. More than they can imagine more than they know they can do and even sometimes more than you can explain. It’s about pulling them toward a better future.
Walking alongside a wife as she learns to really love that man who is too immature to love her
Coaching the man who has years of wisdom for other younger men but has no idea how to convey what God has taught
Speaking truth to the mom who listens to surly teens all day and wonders if she will ever actually impact their life
Getting your hands dirty in another person’s life.
When we take time to partner with God and invest in another person’s life, things happen. As you build a relationship, speak truth into their life and cast vision for how God could use them they begin to be draw to that picture. The motivation to grow as God intended and take risks for him grows. The process of knowing someone else’s dreams, desires and fears and helping them take the next step is an incredible chance to see someone else’s growth.
This new year, ask God who you can apprentice with Him.
Email after email offering suggestions, tips and advice on ways to change my life here in January. A new year brings with it all the promise of a new start, a change to do over what you wish had been different during the undisciplined days that came before. Discipline is good. Dictionary.com offers a variety of just slightly different definitions for this important word.
[dis-uh-plin] Show IPA noun, verb, dis·ci·plined, dis·ci·plin·ing.
1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at thetypewriter is discipline for a writer.
3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.
And here’s the thing about these definitions – I need all the facets of this word in my life and so do you. We all need to be constantly working toward a better picture of ourselves whether it’s losing weight or learning to forgive. The tangible task is no less important than the intangible emotion. Without growth both inside and out we fall prey to the #4 meaning above. Life is a harsh teacher when we don’t opt to discipline ourselves.
I am starting to see that in a fresh way. I turned 40 in March of 2012 and this whole year has served me as a NEW YEAR. Something about reaching what certainly feels like half of my assured productive years has made me evaluate and evaluation suggested discipline.
It’s the cry of my year and the most engaging thought. I don’t want to come to the end of my days and have it said “she had a lot of potential.” I’ve been working on many areas of my life this 40th year, some are going spectacular, some moving slow. But I am aware of the need to build on discipline as it says in 1 Corinthians
“ You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27MSG
I handed my phone to my son, “your grandma wants to talk to you.”
After handing him the phone, I stayed close interested in hearing his side of the conversation. You see, she called to apologize to him and I wondered how his teenage sensibilities would react. I listened as he clearly didn’t remember the potential offense, it was explained and better than that I watched his face. I watched his cute face that began to grin as he listened to her explanation.
“Oh Granny,” the words tumbled out on a laugh. “You don’t have to worry or apologize – I knew you were just joking.”
He was quiet for a moment as she obviously repeated what she had previously told me; about wanting to make sure that nothing ever said in a moment of humor would change the child’s perception of being well loved. She wanted to make sure that there was no offense.
My son hung up the phone and announced to the room “she is the sweetest person!”
I’ve thought about that call a lot the last day or two and I want to remember the lesson of it. In a world that often lives by the mantra that we never apologize to a child, never let them see us sweat, never admit a wrong – this was refreshing. In fact, it was beyond refreshing. It was loving and gracious and Godly.
We’ve been to church and heard it sung and depicted on video. Several friends have posted the version from Charlie Brown and others have put snippets of scripture on their Facebook status. The story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 is all around us. It’s familiar, comfortable…tradition at its best.
I found myself reading the Christmas story looking for something new when I noticed verse 19 which tells us “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
Pondered. A young girl has found herself pregnant, been visited by an angel, loved and protected by a man who had every reason to distance himself and finally given birth far from home to a baby that had visitors arriving to worship him. Confused probably wouldn’t begin to describe her state of mind. I’m sure that nothing made sense, nothing lined up with her view of how things were supposed to go, nothing was explainable.
Can you imagine Mary looking for the words to give an explanation? Scripture tells us that she didn’t try to explain, control, imagine the next step or argue her understanding with Joseph. Instead, she pondered.
This word means “to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate” Mary had a lot happen – things she didn’t understand and couldn’t explain; yet her reaction was to ponder, To think deeply rather than rush to a snap decision or judgment. We live in a world that gives us moments to make choices, that waits so briefly before declaring something to not work – what if we learned to ponder?
Can you imagine if you took time to bring your thoughts, your worries, your decisions before God? To ask instead of assume that you know the best? Instead of dismissing and explaining away what seems out of the norm – what if we evaluated, sought advice – gave ourselves time to soak in the impressions from God?
Two women stepped in front of me in the aisle at Macy’s. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention, but they were talking loudly the one chastising the other for not listening while she was talking.
“I was trying to tell you about my trip!” she nearly shouted.
“Well, I’m listening – I was just checking the price on these sweaters” her friend replied explaining her momentary wandering out of the aisle into the racks.
“So, anyway…this year is my 40th anniversary. I’m taking a trip!” She announced this and continued without a pause. “The anniversary is in March but the nincompoop can’t take time off till April and at first I was upset but then I realized ‘who really wants to travel with him anyway’.”
Her friend made a murmur like she agreed as the conversation continued. I trailed behind them as they discussed the pros and cons of various places. I listened but my mind was thinking…
NINCOMPOOP. Really? 40 years of marriage and the lady casually refers to her husband as a nincompoop in conversation as she discusses the best place to spend her anniversary without him.
And I know, they might be completely in love and fawning all over each other all the rest of the time – I hear your defense of her. She’s talking to a friend, intends no disrespect, uses that term as a pet name, wasn’t thinking, etc.
And to that I will say, “out of the overflow of the heart – the mouth speaks.”
Obviously this couple is celebrating a 40th anniversary so I’m not trying to diss on their marriage. But, it made me question a few things in my own life and maybe they are good questions in your life too.
How respectfully do I talk about my spouse in public? What about to their face – am I encouraging and loving in my words?
How much do I enjoy being with my spouse? If the answer is small, what am I doing to change that situation?
What little things am I allowing now in our relationship that will erode our connection and intimacy enough for me to consider him/her a nincompoop?
We are smack in the middle of the holiday season. This might be a time when you might have more opportunity to hang with your spouse. Parties, family gatherings, long drives and days off could be the opportunity to build or tear down your relationship. Or you might find that this time creates more time away from your spouse. Maybe you or your spouse works extra hours, serves at a half dozen Christmas services or chooses different venues to spend relaxation time and it makes connection hard.
Thinking about my mall experience, I have to ask – whatever the situation, how’s it gonna look in 40 years?