Parenting

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February 22

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

Never underestimate the power of influence. In particular, early influence.

First, a little background. I grew up in a somewhat divided home. My mom wanted to be a missionary but then she met my dad.  I told her once she fulfilled her dream to be a missionary: she raised 4 boys who love Jesus. She did that in spite of some very poor cooperation from my dad. Not that he was antagonistic, an atheist, or anything like that. He never once told us we couldn’t go to church (except when the weather was bad during a Pennsylvania winter).  He wasn’t even uncooperative. Over the long haul his faith just wasn’t very important to him. To my mom, though, her faith was everything. And she did all she could to teach us and to take us to church.

My biggest influence? My grandfather, mom’s dad. Those early years spent with him, walking to church with him were like gold to me. Lots of teaching went into those 3-4 mile walks.

My mind went back to those early days this morning as I read 2 Timothy 3: 14-17: “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.” (You can read the rest on your own). Paul was reminding Timothy of his upbringing and that from childhood he knew the Scriptures. He tells us elsewhere who was responsible for that. Not his father. His mother and grandmother.

I’m grateful for my mother and my grandfather’s faith. I’m grateful they passed it on to me. Never underestimate the influence of early and consistent teaching.

“Father, thank You for that early influence. Help me to continue pouring my faith into my daughters, my grandson and other young people.”

December 7

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

I hate to admit that I’ve had a mixed “love affair” with Christmas down through the years. Maybe it is more accurate to say with Santa Claus. Of course, as a youngster I looked forward to Christmas.  What kid doesn’t? As a husband and father I was excited about my daughters’ excitement. But here is where things get a little “dicey.” I was not thrilled about the Santa Clause deal. And while I tried to focus the church folks on Jesus, I found myself getting “hard” against SC. We didn’t really talk about him with the girls nor did we talk against him. After all, Jo’s mom went all out and it would have been an effort in futility to do that.

Long story short: I’m ashamed to admit I became a bit of a Scrooge at Christmas time. While I enjoyed the nostalgia of celebrating Christmas as a child-the secrecy, the tree, the lights, the trains, the snow, etc-I was almost a Scrooge in taking that away from mine. Fortunately, Jo covered for me. 🙂 I enjoyed the laughter of my girls during Christmas. And I eventually straightened up. Strange that I would forget how much Christmas meant for me as a child and almost try to deny my own.

I know what my problem was…now. I was so focused on making sure others remembered the real meaning that I lost sight of it for me.  I focused so much negativity toward SC that I lost sight of Jesus. How crazy is that? Sure Christmas is more than being about presents and shopping and trees, all the trappings. But it is about giving.

And God set the standard! He gave the first gift! It doesn’t hurt to follow suit. And while I still try to focus myself and others on the meaning of the season (Jesus), I don’t want to lose the magic of the season either. The best gift I can give is myself. I can also give grace. My prayer is that will be my song this year.

Will you join in singing with me?

“Father, in spite of all that is going on around me, please help me to sing a song of joy to You this Christmas.”

Note: today is Veteran’s Day. Remember to thank one today for their service to our country and to preserving the freedom we enjoy.

October 18

Monday, October 18th, 2021

As a parent, you love and raise your child(ren) to let them go. You discipline them when they need it. You laugh with them. You cry with them when their heart is broken. You let them spread their wings. And then you let them fly. But through it all…you love them fiercely. You watch them grow into fine, principled young women (in my case). You watch them become good at what they do. You smile when they marry. You are sad if they divorce.

But no father, to quote Theoden from Lord of the Rings, “should ever have to bury his own son.” We were spared that sadness last week, but it is hard to watch your child suffer, no matter the age. I told Jo just this past Friday that it is still hard to believe that Tami had a heart attack.

But, it happened, and I don’t want to sound calloused, I still did not despair. I knew she was in good hands, the BEST. Then today I read Psalm 112:1 and also verse 7: “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the person who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments…He will not fear bad news; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

I have an online friend whose husband has gone through several heart procedures. While there is concern, there is no fear. And while there was obvious concern for Tami’s health, there was no fear. She’s in better hands than I have ever given her…the Father’s. And in those hands she will stay. And in those hands I will let her lie.

“Father, thank You that Your hands are strong and sure and enfolding.”

July 7

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

As my girls were growing up, I/we tried to be good parents. The nature of our personalities and the way we were raised made for an interesting mix. I tended to be more forceful; Jo more docile. I tended to be the one who used physical discipline (God gave a place on the human anatomy for that); Jo not so much. I tended to draw a line; Jo tended to fudge the line from time to time.  All in all though the girls knew we were on the same page as to why they were being disciplined.  There was no pitting us against each other.

We were (and still are) well-meaning parents. We are great grandparents since we can have all the fun and then turn him back over after we have spoiled him. 🙂  (Although living 4-5 hours away sort of short-circuited our opportunities to do that). Anyway, back to earth. Well-meaning parents,-no matter who you are-tend to think the way to mold a child, i.e. shape, control, and regulate behavior is to legislate. We do it by threats, manipulation, and even guilt.

But the truth is that no matter how often we use those different means, behavior cannot be legislated. No matter how much we say, “Don’t do this or that” sin enters the picture. Because we are sinners, sin is a matter of the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that he “longs for the day when people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content and intent of the heart.” He was onto something. Not in the area of race (which he was referring to), but in the area of our behavior.

Until hearts are changed, lives won’t be changed.  Until my heart is changed, my life and behavior will not be changed.

I am grateful for God’s change in my life. I just want Him to keep transforming my heart day by day.

“Father, as Romans 12 says may I be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ May transformation be more than an outward show; may it be in inward heart change.”

April 13

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

INFLUENCE

That’s the word which crosses my mind this morning.

Today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday.  She never made it to 72. After being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer which (at the time) mainly struck woman who were non-smokers in December of 2003, she was given a drug concoction called Iressa (spelling in question). The doctor said it should either arrest the growth of cancer or at least slow it down. She received her first treatment in January.  It sped up the cancer growth. So rather than prolonging her life, it shortened it. Dramatically. I spent the last 6 weeks of her life driving back and forth from Sandusky, OH-where I was pastoring a church at the time- to her home in West Mifflin, PA, a drive by turnpike of about 5 hours one way.

He gave her 2-4 weeks to live. At the two week mark she was put in the hospital when her breathing took a bad turn. Come to find out the oxygen machine was faulty.  She was not expected to leave the hospital. Jo and I even made a one day trip to see her.  Yeah, that was a very long day. She came home after two weeks and spent the rest of her time alive and in her home.  She lived a total of six weeks after his diagnosis and the drug treatment. I would drive to take care of her for a couple of days, then head back to Ohio to take care of church duties, then head back. I am so thankful for my Uncle Bob and Aunt Dee who left their home in Texas to take care of her during that time. We made a great tag team.

Mom would wake up from her “nap” and would say, “Oh, I’m still here.” The disappointment was on her face and in her demeanor. But eventually one evening she went home to be with Jesus. She joined her parents and others doing what she loved to do-praise the Father around the throne.

My mother was anything but perfect. Far from it. She could be obnoxiously persistent. She could be a “harper.” But she loved Jesus. She made sure I was in church the first opportunity I had. She made sure I was dedicated to God one Sunday morning when Pastor Graybill laid his hands on me and prayed a blessing over me.  (No, I wasn’t sprinkled since we didn’t practice that).  She taught me the importance of praying and reading the Bible. I can remember her getting up and meeting with me before school to read our devotions and pray together.  There was only one other person who had more influence on me as I was growing up than my mom-my grandfather…her dad.

Influence. I know someday I will be reunited with my mother and grandparents and in-laws. But in some way, I am reunited with her today as I remember her.  I love you mom and T.H.A.N.K.S. for the memories.

“And I thank You Father for the memories. May my life be an influence upon others.”

March 25

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Hey everyone!  Okay all 2 or 3 of you. 🙂  Thanks for coming by Living in the Shadow today. Unfortunately, there is no devotion for you to read.

Jo and I left Tuesday for Ohio to visit our daughter and grandson. I like harmony in the home so I had to do this or get threatened with bodily harm from Jo. Well…not really. I have been wanting to see them both as well. With Janna having to work from home, and Braden being with her every other week, going to school, and now being full-bore into baseball season, we have to take the opportunity when we can. My April schedule is already getting full so Jo asked about going this week. Of course, being the magnificent husband (cough cough) I am, I said, “Sure we can go.”  It helped that I had a cancellation of a couple for premarital counseling on Tuesday night.

Anyway, I had posted yesterday’s post early since I had it done. But I am not going to do a second hand job just to post for today. So thanks for stopping by. I hope you will make Living in the Shadow a regular part of your day. You can sign up to receive them via email.

Meanwhile, I’d appreciate your prayers for a safe return.

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.”