An Argument I Cannot Win

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As many as three times a week, I am tempted to argue with my kids. But in that particular setting, I know it won’t do any good. It would be to start an argument I cannot win.

We try always to eat dinner together as a family, even if I have an evening meeting. Then, when I do have a meeting, and I get ready to leave, nobody is happy. I would rather stay home; they would rather I stay home.

Sometimes one of them says something like

You’re always gone at meetings. You never stay home with us.

I know this isn’t true. I am home at least a couple of nights a week!  And, what’s more, I know parents who aren’t able to come home for dinner with their families as often as I do. And I know parents who simply don’t come home, even if they are able.

But when my kids say those things, I don’t respond with reasons, or justification, or by attempting to prove to them that I am doing better than some parents. None of those things would help. None of those are arguments I could win.

Instead, I hug them again, tell them I love them, and encourage them to “make good choices” while I am gone. I think they understand when I have to go to a meeting, and I think I understand how they feel.

I am very sure arguing won’t make it any better. In fact, taking up a case against their wanting their dad to stay home would actually work against me. I don’t want to convince them that I should be going to meetings, and I especially don’t want to convince them that they shouldn’t miss me.

So I accept their love and offer mine in return. Which is probably almost always better than arguing.

 

Is God like this?

When I climb the stairs in our house to check on our kids, I usually don’t announce myself. It’s not that i want to catch them doing something they shouldn’t be doing. I would just as soon catch them doing something they should be doing.Man-Walking-Up-the-Stairs 2

In fact, I would prefer the latter.

But I still show up unannounced. And regularly, I surprise them.

And sometimes, they are (or one of them is) doing something they wouldn’t be doing if they knew I was watching.

I recalled one time, having just surprised them, that children learn much of their understanding and ideas of who God is and what God is like from their early relationship with their parents.

Which has made me reconsider my stealthy approaches.

I don’t want to give my children the idea either that God is sneaky or that God operates by surveillance. These seem to me to be training them to live by shame, or the avoidance of shame.

I don’t get the impression that this is God’s primary posture towards us. In fact, in Genesis 3, right after the incident with the serpent and the fruit, God is walking in the garden, we are told.

NOT sneaking up on the humans.

And the man and women hear God coming and hide.

God calls out to them, giving them the opportunity to approach God, to come to God, to enter a conversation with God. And God does NOT shame them.

I’m going to be more careful  abotu how I approach my children.

 

 

 

Who am I to tell you…?

question.jpgCan I admit to you here how much I hate being treated like I don’t know what I’m doing?

Except, of course, when I am admittedly a novice or rookie.

But: I’ve been at this pastoring thing for almost 30 years! So when someone approaches me – especially when they condescendingly share that it’s from the Holy Spirit – that I need to change this or stop doing that or start preaching this other way/topic/etc., I really, sometimes, want to scream.

So far, I haven’t scream in the face of anyone who has so intended to bless me.

You see, that’s the problem: in most every case (if not EVERY case), the intent is to bless, not to curse. The condescending tone belies the fact that, and I have to believe this, most everyone is really just doing the best they can.

Sometimes, someone else’s “best” includes advising me on something I have compiled a good bit of experience, prayer, reflection, and study on. So it hurts.

On the other hand: there are areas outside – even WAY outside – of my expertise on which I readily offer unsolicited and probably suggestions and insights.

Hopefully I don’t do so with any condescension in my voice.

Because, more often than not, I’m just doing the best I can.

How will you remember?

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Six years ago today, we checked Eliza into Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. It was the beginning of what would end up being an almost 7 month process of correcting the dysplasia in her left hip.

The hospital was wonderful; we still have annual follow-up appointments as she grows.

If we didn’t have these annual follow-ups, and if she didn’t have the scar, I don’t think Eliza would even know she had been through two procedures, one surgery, and 24 weeks in a spica cast.

It is up to Rachel and I to remember it for her. We want to help her remember it well!  We have awesome stories about how we got to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, which include a chance encounter with a good friend of mine from more than 20 years before.

We all are who we are because others have done some remembering for us. Sometimes for the good, sometimes not.

I read someplace a few years ago, a recommendation to spend money on travel rather than things. The article argued that even trips that leave a lot to be desired end up being “improved” by memory as the years pass. I have found this to be true in my own life, but I also know people who seem to remember things as worse than they could possibly have been.

How will you remember?  Some of what you remember may have a great affect on how you live, and even on the lives of others.

Blogging for Lent

Three years ago I gave up blogging for Lent. This year I am moving in the opposite direction.  it has been over a year since I have regularly posted here, so for this season of Lent, I will commit to blogging each day.

Except Sundays, of course. Sunday’s aren’t counted as part of Lent.

I know that six posts a week is way more that optimal blogging.  Consider it making up for lost ground.

Feel free not to read them all.

I had already made this plan when I came across Jeremy’s latest at Hacking Christianity, “Would a Missionary give up Swahili for Lent?”  Here’s the Len Sweet (@LenSweet) Quote that secured my commitment to blog this Lent:

Good luck with saying in the past 500 years “I’m sorry, I don’t do books.” Good luck with saying in the next 30 years, “I’m sorry I don’t do Internet.” As the book was the delivery system for learning and faith development, the Internet will be the delivery system for learning and faith development…

What’s the first thing a missionary does? Learn the language. This is the language of the world we live. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. You could go “okay, I don’t like Swahili.” Well, if God has called us to be ministry now in this kind of a world, so you don’t get to choose: you have to learn a new language.

So it looks like I’ve got a lot of writing to do over the next 40 days.  If you’d like to help, send me a topic or a question for me to answer.  Either comment here, twitter (@steveheyduck), find me on facebook, or email me at steve (dot) noncon (at) gmail.com

What comes between you and your children?

What comes between you and your children?  Before you answer, consider this:

what they seeI am about to head out to my children’s preschool spring program.  I am excited to see my own children perform, as well as all the other children.

But what will our children see?  Too often, as I observe, the above picture represents what our children see of us during such “big moments” of their lives.

I will make a concerted effort this morning not to let my camera come between me and my children.

It’s not worth it.  Even if I think this will help my memory of “the event” years from now, I have to wonder what their memory will be.  I don’t want the above picture to by the memory my children have of me.

(Christian) Maturity

Eliza, our almost-3-year-old daughter is experimenting with being a big sister to Liam, her 11 month old brother.  Most of this experimenting is harmless.  Some of it gets rough.

One of the things she really seems to enjoy doing is pushing him to the ground.  She knows this earns her a time out.  After time out is over, we talk about what happened and why.  Eliza typically identifies the errant behavior.

Yesterday, following a time out in the afternoon, she went a step further.  She told me what she had done, and that she knew she should not do that to “baby Liam.”  Then, as she walked away, she said, “and I’ll never do it again.”

I fought laughing out loud.  I appreciate the sweet good intentions of our daughter, and imagine that for all intents and purposes she meant what she said in the moment she said it.

Yet, I fully expect her to do it again sometime.  This is part of the nature of being a  two year old.

Within seconds I made the same realization that you are making now; I have said the same thing, countless times, after doing something wrong.  In the moment I feel fully remorseful and absolutely committed to never doing that again.

Sometimes I even make a promise to God that I won’t do it again. Ever.

Hopefully, now you are having the additional realization that I had the next moment.

Being no longer a 2 year old, I really ought to be, and expect to be, able to make such promises and commitments and keep them.

We are, after all, more mature than two year olds, right?

Too many of us Christians have bought into the understanding of sin and depravity that lets us all off the hook of ever getting better in our behavior. Sadly, we have sometimes taken this the extreme of laughing off efforts to reform our behavior with thoughts of  “that’s what God’s grace is for.”

If you are satisfied with the maturity level of a  2 year old, keep on letting yourself off the hook with that one.  If, however, you are of a mind to think that perhaps a person of your age could learn to control his or her behavior, then maybe now is the time to start letting that grace we are offered by God do the work in us that God intends it to do.

Is there something in your life that you should never do again?  Would changing that behavior help your efforts to follow Jesus?

Pick one; try it.  If you need help (and most of us will), that’s what church is for!

Let’s all grow up a little this week.