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.

 

 

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.

God’s Garden in our mind

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The article in the following link was published in the latest Natural Awakenings magazine.  It’s a free magazine that is usually found in our local health food store.  Dennis Merritt Jones is the author and he calls his article “Mind Gardening.”

http://www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Natural-Awakenings/March-2015/Mind-Gardening/

The allegory in this article is so appropriate for a lovely spring day!  What do we find growing in our minds?  What do we allow to take root in there?  Sometimes I find my mind wandering off and pretty soon it’s off on some tangent, ruminating on some topic that had nothing to do with the first thing it was thinking about.  If I go back and trace its path, I find that what led me astray was a thought of complaining or of resentment or even anger.  Do I enjoy continuing down that black path of resentment and fault finding?  If I do, pretty soon the thoughts coming out of my mind will grow darker and darker.  They are like ugly, tangled weeds crowding out the sun.

But I have a choice.  We all have a choice.  No one forces my mind to follow any train of thought.  It is the one place where I have true liberty.  From my God given free will, I can choose to pull out those ugly thought weeds and plant beauty.  God’s paradise is a beautiful place.  If I keep my mind on God, His kingdom and positive ideas about life here on earth, my thoughts can be a colorful garden that is filled with a stunning variety of blooms.  If my thought garden is full of sunlight and a colorful array of flowers, it will always be at the ready to help anyone in need.  It’s all up to me.

The Kingdom of God is within.  It is in our minds and hearts.  We can create His kingdom right here on earth by sowing beautiful seeds in our minds.  So, the next time you’re driving down the road and finding that your thoughts have begun to flow into a sea of self pity or complaining or anger, pluck those ugly weeds out.  Plant in their place a seed of love and gratitude!

Different, but working together!

Men have such an amazing ability to focus on one thing at a time.  It is their strength.  I’ve written about it before (1/20/13).  However, at the time I first wrote about it, I didn’t add to it the perspective of how the strength of women is to see all of the potential results of their own actions and the actions of others.  These two very different strengths ought to compliment one another, but sometimes they come into sharp contrast with the troubling result of starting an argument.

What happened around here this morning is a great example of how these abilities could try to divide us.  This morning, my husband and I were going to go to a Bible study meeting.  We usually bring a large pot of coffee along with us for the participants.  Before we left, he wanted to wash up some of the dishes that were in the sink.  However, it was starting to get late and I was thinking of the repercussions of being late.  He was focused on finishing the dishes.  Maybe you’re already seeing where this is headed.  He picked up the rather large filter for the coffee pot and said that he was going to get rid of the grounds.  I asked him not to.  I had two reasons for that, both of which seemed valid to me and both of which seemed difficult to explain to him on the spur of the moment.  I thought that it was getting late and I wanted him to finish with the dishes already so we could leave and also, the grounds were still hot and I didn’t want him to put them on my outdoor plants while they were still hot.

While those thoughts were still percolating in my brain, he was already reacting, complaining that I always tell him not to do this, not to do that.  We carried on in silence for a while until a little light bulb went off revealing what had just happened.  Like a man, he was completely focused on getting those pesky dishes done, convinced that he was making me happy by doing it.  At the same time, my brain was visualizing all of the ramifications of him continuing with the dishes while time was moving on and of what would result from him throwing the hot grounds on my beloved plants.  He was doing what men do best, focusing, and I was thinking like a woman.

Men and women both have their innate strengths.  If we can recognize them for what they are, we can work together and become a stronger couple instead of reacting and resenting one another for being different.  Men need to be able to focus intently on what they’re doing.  It helps them to do a great job.  And women need to be able to think of all the possibilities of what might happen because of their actions.  Their precautionary wisdom keeps us from doing too much damage to ourselves.  Using our talents and working together, we are really strong.  In the case of what happened this morning, once we talked about it, we could each see what the other was doing and laugh at ourselves a bit, all the while appreciating each other for our differences.  Vive la différence!

A simple hike leads to this stunning panorama

I’ve changed the picture at the top of my page.  There is a little story behind the photo.  Recently, my husband and i went camping for a week in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We love hiking but at the outset of our vacation our hiking legs usually need an upgrade.  On the first day, we went on a lovely and not too demanding hike to the top of Mount Willard.  The view from the top is outstanding and I recommend it highly.  The second day we went to Arethusa Falls.  It was about as demanding as the first day’s hike and the beauty of the falls was incredible.  On the third day, we just began hiking without really knowing our destination, but God knew where we were going.  After about an hour and a half of hiking we had to choose: continue upwards to the summit of Mount Jackson or head downwards to see another falls?  Well, we prefer to do our hard work of upward climbing first, so we headed up.

The description of the “moderately difficult” climb did not prepare us for the rest of the hike up the mountain.  It was NOT moderate, at least not in my definition of the word.  Very near the end, we met a man with a young boy coming down and the man encouraged us to go on because, as he said, “It’s only a few minutes to the top.”  I thought, “If a kid can do it, I can too.”  Hehe.  Those few minutes necessitated scrambling over enormous boulders with only a few small branches on the sides to hang onto.  But then … we reached the top.  John went first and told me to try to make it.  He said it would be worth it.  At the top was a panorama perhaps a hundred times more beautiful than the picture you see at the top of my page.  There were no trees, so you could see 360 degrees around.  Mount Washington rose in the distance and the valley that we had come from meandered much further below us than I had imagined.  We took a lot of pictures and gaped in awe of God’s creation that remains so beautiful in spite of what man has done to it.  The wind began to whistle and the clouds foretold a possible change in the weather and so we had to tear ourselves away from that gorgeous spot.  I think that it will always remain in my mind as the most amazing and beautiful view I have ever seen, the view of a lifetime.

A simple hike on a normal day.  We started out, not knowing where we were going.  Life is like that.  We start out not knowing our path or where it will lead us, but we keep on climbing.  I would like to encourage everyone out there to keep on climbing.  Choose the way up.  It may be difficult, even more difficult than you had anticipated, but when you get to the top, the view will be more beautiful than anything you could have imagined.  God can show you things in this life that will stay with you forever.  Those views will encourage you through the hard times and lead you onward.  Take the risk.  God is so worth it.  He is the summit of all summits, the panorama of all panoramas.

 

A Question for Rappers

Yesterday, a friend posted a rap on their facebook page and it came up on my home page. It was eight minutes long and usually would be too long to tempt me to click on the play button. However, the title caught my attention. “Man vs. God/Official Mime Video.” I went ahead and clicked and it held my attention right from the start. Very well done. It made me ask myself again something I’ve wondered in the past. Why don’t rappers rap about subjects that will uplift people and help them to have more respect for themselves and others instead of all of the trash talk and venting of anger?

So, rappers, why don’t you do that? You hold a LOT of power in your hands to help people or to make them descend into a deeper pit. Use that ability you have to make this world a better place! Just saying.