Parenting

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January 18

Monday, January 18th, 2021

L.A.B.E.L.S.

Don’t you just love ’em? Please notice the sarcasm included in that question. Truth be known most of us despise labels. And I am not talking about those identifying what we are buying.

Oh, not that all labels are bad. Calling your son “sport” or “Mr. Baseball Man” is okay. Calling your daughter “the light of your eyes” or “Honey” or “Loved one” is good. But sadly, we seldom hear labels like that.

We more often hear labels like “Ugly” or “Fatso” or “Dork” or “No Good” or “Lazy bum” or some other put down. And man, can it go on and on! As a result, we grow up or see kids (and adults) grow up with ugly labels running through their head and unless someone steps into the gap and tells us we are not stupid or a loser, we will grow up believing the lies. This makes us very vulnerable to other words that tear us down AND ARE LIES!  I used to be called “Highpockets” by my grandfather, whom I loved dearly. He used that term affectionately because I was tall, skinny and had long legs. There is a big difference between that and “stupid” or “No good.” The former was said in jest; the latter is pain.

There is one identity that never goes sour…one label. That label  is “child of God.” “My son or My daughter.” “My beloved.” God would never and will never give us an identity contrary to Him or His Word. We never have to wonder if God thinks we are incorrigible or a loser or a real problem child. Granted, we are all different (that is part of the fun), but God has designed us to be so. He has made us all unique and put His stamp of identity on us:  “Property of God.” Don’t allow names people give you to supersede what He thinks of you: Beloved. Cherished. Uniquely made. Incredibly loved.  MINE.

“Father, Psalm 139 says, ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ You make no mistakes. And you don’t give us negative labels. Help me to remember that today no matter what comes my way.”

December 22

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

These days, in fact many days in the past, Christmas gift-giving in our household is an interesting study in perplexity.  As in most households, we start asking, “What would you like for Christmas?” around or before Thanksgiving Day. Tami and Janna have always been fairly easy to buy for since they were pretty much upfront with their list. Braden is not so upfront but I figure Ohio State or Reds clothing or a gift card to Dick’s or Chik-fil-A will do him well. I’m pretty content with what I already have so I would suggest a gift certificate to a bicycle site (names included) and some jigsaw puzzle sites. It didn’t matter though because for the most part those suggestions were ignored. 🙂 But Jo?? She is extremely hard to buy for. She doesn’t wear jewelry (for which I am grateful for since I see what some wear and its cost). She doesn’t even wear a watch. Her Fitbit is most often in her pocket. She doesn’t wear perfume very often and was always picky as to what she would wear (Coty Wild Musk was a favorite). I don’t dare buy her clothes. Too big or too small I can’t win! 🙂

So one year I decided I wasn’t buying anything. I decided I was going to give myself. How’s that for a real treat? I made each one of them a booklet of 12 coupons. Any time during the month stated they could cash it in. I’m not very handy or creative so I can’t remember much about it. I do KNOW they liked the Date Night-a meal and doing whatever they wanted. I remember Janna and I actually seeing Back to the Future 3 on one of them.

Point: The greatest gift we could give each other is ourselves.  While other gifts fade away, that one lasts forever and there are no returns. No too big or too small. No wrong color.  There is, however, lasting impact and unforgettable memories. Give the best gift possible…YOURSELF.

“Father, you gave yourself in the person of Jesus. ‘The Word became flesh’ is the way it is put. May I always remember it isn’t the presents under the tree that matters but my presence.”

September 2

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

Straight from Chuck Swindoll:

Shortly before her death, Corrie ten Boom attended our church in California. Following the service, I met briefly with her. She inquired about my young children and detected my deep love for each one. Very tenderly, while cupping her small, wrinkled hands in front of me, she passed on a statement of advice I’ll never forget. I can still recall that strong Dutch accent: “Pastor Svindahl, you must learn to hold everyting loosely…everyting. Even your dear family. Why? Because da Fater may vish to take vun of tem back to Himself, und ven He does, it vill hurt you He must pry your fingers loose.” And then, having tightened her hands together while saying all that, she slowly opened them and smiled so kindly as she added, “Vemember…hold everyting loosely…everyting!”   (From Good Morning, Lord… Can We Talk?)

I’m going to go on record as saying that sometimes-even though I know better-I hold things too tightly. It’s not as bad as it used to be but even at my age, I still want to hold on, to grip tightly.

Consider, for a moment, what we sometimes hold onto too tightly:

  • Our spouse. ‘Course I’m not speaking of hugging or being affectionate. You know that.  But sometimes we are too possessive (i.e. too controlling). In death it is hard to let go.
  • Our children. Many parents want to hold onto their children and not let go. Sadly, there will be times letting go is not pleasant (think Prodigal Son) but we raise them to free them.
  • Our way of life. Rough times tend to reveal the grip we have on the way of life we have come to expect or even take for granted.
  • Our stuff. Oh yeah, it is tough to let stuff go, either by necessity or desire.
  • Our health. We try everything to hold on to the fountain of youth. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves but vanity is an ugly master.

One thing we should grip tightly? Our faith in the ONE who loves us. And that’s another story for another time.

“Father, be my all. Help me to not sacrifice my relationship with You by holding too tightly to other things.”

August 7

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Down through the years I have talked to/counseled tons of people for all kinds of issues. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the different topics of discussion.  But I can honestly say with extreme clarity that the most common topic has been “a product of my environment” kind of talk. What I mean by that is that an individual is a product of their raising. 

Basically put: I am who I am, I act the way I act, because of my parents. Now, there is some truth to that. John Eldredge, founder of Wild at Heart, is often heard speaking about the “father wound” many of us have. Our relationship with our father determines a lot of why we are who we are. In many ways, we are the product of our raising. I know I am. I have traits/characteristics about me that are definitely from my mom and some from my dad. My purpose here is not to delineate them.

My purpose here is to say this: while we are a product of our raising, i.e. environment, we don’t have to be a slave to that. Too often I have heard and seen people who continue to bemoan their upbringing. They keep blaming their parents for who they are-40 years (arbitrarily-picked number) later! It’s time to stop that train and get off. It is time to realize that transformation of a heart, mind and life are a by-product of salvation. As a person yields daily to the power and life-transforming influence of the Holy Spirit, they can also throw off the shackles of the past and walk in freedom.

“Father, You have made me new. You have changed everything. And while I can’t change my past, I can change its hold on me. Please continue making me a new creation and changing me.”

June 19

Friday, June 19th, 2020

The term pro-life has come to mean several things. Say, “I’m pro-life” and it will be (rightfully) assumed you are against abortion. It should mean so much more though. Sadly, it has come to be a point of contention. It should mean you are for life. From prebirth to death life is precious. We have a couple who knew before birth their son would be born with health-challenges, particularly the heart. But abortion never entered their minds, never even crossed them. A handicapped child deserves life. An older person who suffers from dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, or any other debilitating disease deserves life.

Yesterday I took part in a special dedication ceremony. A Safe Haven Baby Box (SHBB) was placed in Spencer. There are only 32 of the boxes in the country- Owen County is #32. The SHBB is for mom’s who have realized their end of taking care of their baby to be able to put their baby in the box. A door opens and inside is a baby incubator, where she can place her baby. The door locks, an alarm sounds both when the door is open and when a baby is placed in the box. It is both heated and air-conditioned. The alarm is sent to 911 where a dispatch is sent to retrieve the baby and put it in good hands. Every life matters and this gives an “unwanted” baby a chance at life. That is being proactive about pro-life! Two of our ladies-Shelby and Vicki-were a big part of making this a reality. I was honored to be asked to pray a blessing over this endeavor.

Every Christ-follower should be pro-life. That is not a political statement. It is a “life statement.”

“Father, Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly. Help me to not only relish that life in and from Him, but to also show others life in Him.”

February 5

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Giver vs Taker.

There are tons of different people in this world. You know that.  We all do.  There are Go-getters and there are lazy people. There are Dreamers and there are “Today-ers.” There are Leaders and there are Followers.

There are Givers and there are Takers.

Now to clarify: I’m not speaking about money. I’m not talking about those who want handouts. I’m not even talking about selfish vs unselfish people.

I want to look at it from a different angle. I want to look at it from the standpoint of encouragement, of what you or I do when it comes to the emotional need of another. Paul says encouragement is a spiritual gift (Rom.12:8; I Cor.14:3-4). How cool would it be to have Joseph? No, not that Joseph. Another one. You might know him as Barnabas? (See…we don’t even know him by his real name).  This quality was so evident in his life the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”

We live in an age when encouragement is needed. My sister-in-law is living in a long-term care facility at this writing. I wonder how many there never see any family or hear a kind word? Remember the old song “Home, Home on the Range?” It has the lyrics: “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” Many people cannot sing that song because they don’t hear an encouraging word at all.

So…are you a giver or taker of encouragement? Do you sit around wanting it and expecting it or do you make an effort to give it? Wouldn’t it be cool to be known as “the son (or daughter) of encouragement?”

“Father, life is hard enough as it is without living in discouragement. When I see someone today who looks lonely or is all by themselves and alone, help me to practice encouragement. Help me to be an encourager to someone today.”

February 21

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Defensive Student vs Willing Student.

As I read this morning several thoughts came to my mind:

  • Defensive student is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp and low fat butter.
  • I can choose to be a willing participant in my ongoing learning (classroom) experience or I can fight tooth-and-nail every moment along the line.

Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Notice the four words: “Teach. me. your. way.” Teach me. That statement-those words alone-require a willingness of heart to learn.

Deuteronomy 6 is a real jewel. Not only does it include the Shema (“You shall love the Lord your God…”) but it also includes instructions for teaching one’s children. They learned the truth and they were to pass it along to their children. That required a willingness to learn on the part of both the parent and the child.

A student cannot be defensive. He cannot be argumentative. He cannot be closed-off. He cannot be arrogant. He cannot be a know-it-all.

A student must be receptive. He must be submissive. He must be open. He must be humble. He must be will to listen and learn.

God uses willing students. Defensive ones (if there is such an animal) are another story.

“Father, teach me your will and your ways. Find in me a heart that is willing to listen and learn. Help me not to be resistant to your teaching, but eager to learn. Help me to be a student. And as I learn, help me to apply. Help me to walk in your ways.”

February 20

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

My title is Ordinary People vs Extraordinary God.

A number of years ago the “rage” in Christianity was what I will call “the cult of self-image.” First, I need to say that I am not opposed to people, especially young people, having a good self-image. We have way too many young people (and adults) who have a self-image that stinks. But I think it was taken too far.

Let me illustrate. I once knew a family-the Doe’s- who had two children, John and Jane. Both were nice kids. They even liked me! 🙂  But mom and dad bought into the cult of self-image. John and Jane were extraordinary. They could do no wrong. They were pushed to be the top of everything (except sports). Mom was definitely very OC and pushed her above-average-striving-for-perfectionism on them. Remember I said they could do no wrong? Not in their parent’s eyes. Whenever something happened it was never John or Jane’s fault. John was going to be a doctor (they said so…he bought it). Oh, I forgot to tell you their age. He was barely into Junior High School and she was several years behind. Sadly, the cult of self-image became him and her. John was older so he adopted the “prima dona” mentality. She was still fairly innocent at the time but moving that way. To this day I have no clue what happened to either of them. Mom had surgery; went off on a hyper-charismatic tangent and the family left the church.

I use that illustration to make a point. Christ-followers, especially parents, have bought into the cult of self-image, i.e. my kid is the best and I’m going to keep telling him or her that until it is part of their psyche.

I once read of a club of boys who made up simple rules: “Nobody act big. Nobody act small. Everybody act medium.” Truth is we are all ordinary people who happen to serve an extraordinary God. I’m nobody special. Don’t put me or anyone else on a pedestal. To do so sets up a huge fall. When we stop thinking we are “all that and more” our lives will change. Only then will we be able to make much of God’s name. There’s only room for one at the top: Him or me. I don’t belong there.

“Father, You are the extraordinary God who uses ordinary people. I am not better than anyone else or visa versa. I’m still a work in progress. Mold me to your desire.”