Strong families – a crucial need in troubled times

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Violence wracks our nation.  Each time we collectively experience another mass shooting, we all grieve the loss of life, of innocence and of liberty.  We search for answers.  The newspapers search for motives.  The police search the shooter’s home, computer and affiliations.  Where and how did he/she get the gun?  Was he/she bullied?  We blame guns, mental illness, video games or the ease of finding extremist ideas on the internet.

Perhaps there is not just one answer, but we can all do something.  Whether we believe in gun control or greater protection, we can still change something in our lives to create a better society.  Parenthood.  Many of us have lost the art of parenthood.  While our lives have gotten busier, we have willingly handed over the authority over our children to “the experts.”  Who are these experts?  Teachers?  Counselors?  Therapists?  Teachers are responsible for teaching children. Parents are responsible for raising their children.

We need TRUCES!  Children who are the beneficiaries of these following qualities do not go out and shoot up strangers at a mall or a public event.

Time – If a family is to become a true family, it requires time together on a daily basis – breakfasts, dinners, conversation, true communication on what’s happening in each person’s life.  Put down the cell phones.  Remove the earbuds.  Turn off the TV.  Talk!  Smile at one another.  Forget the stresses of the outside world and enjoy each other’s company.  Most importantly, we have to give them our time persistently, especially when they negotiate the turbulent teenage years.

Respect – We should never call our children by derogatory names (I have heard parents call their children snot face, butt head, dumb bell, etc), but we should honor the life of God in them.  Respect what is good in them.  Observe your children and discover what they are good at.  Commend them for those things and if necessary, help them develop the gifts and abilities that you  see.

Unconditional Love – We must always love them with a feelable love, even when they’ve done something to test our patience.  Unconditional love wants the best for each child but it does not give them everything they want.  It makes decisions based on the best interests of the child.  Unconditional love is forever, even when children become teens and test everything that we stand for.

Consistency – We need to give them the rules, rules that will guide them in life, and let them know what will happen when they break those rules.  Then we need to maintain our integrity by applying the appropriate discipline.  When we’re consistent with discipline in whatever form we choose, they get the message.  Children who have a certain discipline in their lives (without an overabundance of rigidity) are happy and more secure.  They can hang on when the emotional teenage years bombard them with unhealthy and even dangerous choices.  Consistency is dauntless and yet not entirely without compassion.

Energy – We must find a way to renew our strength and energy either daily or at least weekly – either with prayer, meditation or time to reflect on what’s happening in our lives.  If we are frayed at all of our edges, we cannot keep up with the pace and responsibilities of parenthood.

Sacrifice – We have to be willing to give up a lot for the benefit of our children.  Sometimes it means the sacrifice of what we wanted to do with our time.  It could be giving up something financially so that we can offer our children extra lessons in piano, sports, art or ballet.  It most often personally means that I have to give up what I want to do at this moment because my child has a need that must be met.  I have to put down my phone and listen or, more important yet, I have to start the conversation with my child by asking a few focused questions.  Sacrifice is always important, but it may become more compelling as lives get busier and the children get older.

We need to understand that all parents make mistakes.  When it happens, we should own up to it and be ready and willing to change our behavior.

We as a nation need a re-education, a re-involvement and a renewed respect of parenthood.  Parents have lost the tools with which they used to raise responsible children.  Maybe some of those old tools were flawed.  Okay, but let’s not throw everything overboard.  Let’s create new tools within the new framework.  Do new parents need an app to show them how to deal with discipline, tantrums and responsibility?  Then let someone with gifts in creating apps create something together with someone who understands the needs of children.  Do parents need a new awareness of their own responsibilities?  Then let’s have a national program (or many local ones!) or an outreach to raise such awareness – never to usurp parents’ authority, but to enhance it and protect it.

It may take a village, but most of all, it takes parents who are there and who are engaged in this lifelong process called parenthood.

 

 

Youth Activism for a New Generation

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

SAVE OUR EARTH!

On the Ides of March this year, young people around the world held climate strikes to protest what is happening to our environment on our beautiful planet.  It’s wonderful that today’s young people want to step up and do something to improve our beloved earth.  Certainly, our weary earth could use a little support together with some positive changes.  Along with the protests, I heard a few short clips of young people talking about why they were protesting.  Some of them said that climate change is the biggest current threat to human life.  One young lady was lamenting the condition of the world and her future.  She laid the blame on older generations and she said something to the tune of “We just want a world like you had.”

Her words struck me as (at best) uninformed.  Really?  You want the world that we had?  We had the Cuyahoga River filled with so much debris and pollution that it caught on fire.  We had so much air pollution that the skies over Detroit and many other major cities were red.  What we did not have was recycling programs or trash to energy plants.  We had Three Mile Island and superfund sites.  In our youth, we had rampant discrimination against blacks and lynchings.  We had Emmett Till, the Mississippi Burning civil rights murders, and the Birmingham Baptist Church murders.  Then we had the civil rights demonstrations where people were tear gassed and water cannoned.  We had the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcom X.

We should never desire to go back in time or wish that we could have something other than our current situation.  Our generation made it possible for the new generation to worry about single use plastic bags, bottles, cups and boxes.  Our generation created recycling programs and trash to energy plants and closed down many nuclear power plants.  We demonstrated for civil rights and against the Vietnam War.  Although some of us embraced chemical fertilizers and GMO crops, others of us began organic gardening, seed saving and the Environmental Protection agency.  So, quit blaming the preceding generations.  Now it’s time for you to step up to the plate.

Your generation has awesome ideas.  Put all of your boundless energy to a positive use.  Many of your generation are creating ways to clean up the oceans, end the use of plastic bags in grocery stores.  Do some research.  Find out what the problems really are and create solutions that will not only work, but also add something positive to our earth.  Remember that you too will leave a legacy.  Leave one that you will feel proud of one day, and when your children reach their age of maturity, don’t let them tell you that they wish that they could have what you had.  Remind them that you had issues too and that you dealt with those issues and that they should not look back, but look forward and use their energy to solve the problems of their day.

Check out Regeneration International, a group that is not just going organic but is trying to leave the earth BETTER than it was before.  (https://regenerationinternational.org/)  We don’t have to continue to hack down our forests and destroy the earth with mountains of chemical fertilizers.  We can improve.  We can go one step further than previous generations.  You can.  You can do it, but don’t waste your precious energy blaming generations before you. They did their best.  They didn’t know what you now know about plastics.  Create something better.  It’s all inside you.  Let it grow.

Time Passages

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I love the title of Al Stewart’s song, Time Passages.  It describes so well the amazing gift of time that we have on this earth.

My dear mother passed away in early January.  A parent’s passing is always a defining moment in a person’s life.  My mother was blessed with time.  She was 96 when her time came to pass on.  Although she had been afflicted with some type of dementia for several years, she was still cute, sweet and at times downright funny.

However, it wasn’t always so.  Helping to write her obituary, I realized a lot of things about my mom and ever since her passing, there have been conversations with siblings about her life and reflections on what she accomplished in life.  One single life on this earth is so complex and so precious.  Each life has a myriad of experiences to go through and so much to learn from those experiences, taking each lesson learned on into the next experiences.

Mom had a lot of challenges in her life.  She had a fairly controlling mother, eight children and not much money.  She lived through the depression years, World War II and the shocking 60’s when all societal rules seemed to fly out the window.  She spent hours dealing with her own mother when she herself had small children to take care of as well and later, when her father and her mother-in-law were old and needy, she spent all of her days caring for them and taking care of those needs.

My mother was an overcomer.  She met all of those challenges with grace and dignity.  Sometimes she had reactions as anyone would, but she did what she needed to do without complaint.  As we were writing our mother’s obituary, we realized that we couldn’t make it so flowery that she would seem to be a saint from the moment of her birth.  It wasn’t that way.  It never is, right?  Isn’t it more real, more adventurous, and more challenging to have a life long parade of situations that, through the passage of time, shape our nature?

Mom always had her own personality, but her character developed as she aged.  She became more patient, a better listener, more concerned with others.  As those qualities increased, others decreased: less anger and less worry.

Enhancing the positive qualities and diminishing the negative ones is what this life’s journey is all about.  We are all born with issues and we all encounter troubles along the adventurous road of life, but what an exquisite testimony there is when one of God’s children is at the end of their journey here, giving those who knew them the opportunity to look back at all the hardships along their route and to witness firsthand the growth of God’s life in that person.  What a solid evidence, sure and positive, that we can do the same in our lives.  Our situations may be different, but we have the same potential that they did.

When we witness a wonderful life, we don’t have to stand far off and feel dismal about our own existence.  This person was an ordinary person, just as we are, and he or she began his/her life with the similar challenges and similar skepticism about the possibilities of ever changing them.  Because we, like them, are born into the human condition, we too can allow our circumstances to mold our character and improve those things that require either a bit of touch up or a major overhaul.  We too can experience time passages and watch God’s handiwork in our lives.  Day by day, step by step, we come up a little higher and when time has finished its passages in our lives, hopefully others will say of us that we were overcomers and will, in their time, find inspiration to do the same in their lives.

Verses and a verse: Courage

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**Sandinista Avioncitos

The little airplanes of the heart

with their brave little propellers

What can they do

against the winds of darkness

even as butterflies are beaten back

by hurricanes

yet do not die

They lie in wait wherever

they can hide and hang

their fine wings folded

and when the killer-wind dies

they flutter forth again

into the new-blown light

live as leaves

–Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

These are difficult days that we are experiencing.  Sometimes, it feels as if we are buffeted by the winds of the hurricanes that have recently traversed our world or by the flames that scorch our west coast.  We need to take heart in the Scriptures that uphold the righteousness that God has planted in us.  We need to surely know that righteous lives soften the paths that others must follow in the future.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

** Although this title seems negative to me because of the reference to Sandinistas, I have chosen to leave it in so that the poem can be properly identified.  The poem itself is very sweet.

Life is an allegory of something bigger

 

My garden is my place of quiet and peacefulness.  Yesterday I brought in the top of a lettuce plant that had gone to seed and this morning I was taking off the tiny flowers and opening them up.  The tiny seeds inside fell into the paper bag.  Soon there were enough seeds in the little bag to plant plenty of lettuce in next summer’s garden.

One lettuce plant produces enough seeds to create ten future gardens.  Imagine how many gardens could be created with all of the seeds from all of the plants in the garden!  God is amazing.  He put enough seeds in one plant to create an abundance of new plants.  It’s a miracle.

Think of a maple tree.  Each maple has thousands of tiny helicopters on it that will float down to earth and potentially become more maple trees.  He gave us enough seed to make up for all the possibilities.  Seeds falling on rocks.  Seeds being eaten by squirrels.  Seeds being washed away by rain.  Even with all of the destruction that can happen to each maple seed, in the spring we find our yard filled with tiny maple seedlings after a few spring rains.  And no matter how I clean up my garden, in the spring I find random lettuce plants growing here or there, tiny tomato seedlings sprouting where I don’t want them any more.  About fifteen years ago, I planted some mustard green seeds.  Every year those mustard greens still show up.  They never sprout in exactly the same place, but they faithfully make an appearance wherever the wind has blown them.

As I open each miniature seed pod and scrape out the seeds, it is impossible not to realize that these seeds represent hope.  They are the hope of a successful garden, not this year, but next.  They are the hope of the return of spring even before winter has arrived.  They are the hope of new life, of all things good, of things even bigger and better than this year.  Thank God for hope.  Thank God for the tiny seeds that anchor us in the faith and knowledge that life will go on.  Winter does not last forever.  Hardships will cease. Spring will come.

Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature – his eternal power and divine character – have been clearly perceptible through what he has made.  (Romans 1:19)

My attitude, my choice


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Contentment does not depend on outward circumstances.  Contentment is my choice no matter the circumstances.  If I’m not content, am I not finding fault with whatever it is that God has allowed to come my way today?

The promise is not that my circumstances will be easy.  The promise is that those circumstances, whether they be easy or difficult, will all somehow lead me to Him.  What more could I want?

Philippians 4:11. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.