Stand Strong

Wood Girls - spring 2012

“The most dangerous attitude a person can have is ‘That will never happen to me.’ It is dangerous because your guard is down and you are vulnerable to attack.”
This sentiment was a warning in a book written in 1984 by J. Allen Petersen called The Myth of the Greener Grass.

The point of this book was to warn pastors of the dangers of sexual sin for those in pastoral ministry. If a pastor thinks he is immune to the temptations of affairs or sexual encounters, Dr. Petersen warns that pastor is setting himself up for disaster.

As a parent, if I think I would NEVER
* hit my child in anger
* slap my child if they talk back
* respond with hurtful words when I have been hurt
* ignore my child when they sincerely need my attention
then I need to read the following Scripture…

I Corinthinas 10:12-13
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

As a mother, I need to heed this warning. I can remember thinking…I will NEVER do that!… after seeing a parent treat a child harshly. Emotions can be so volatile. It can be a weak moment when I am tired, I may not be feeling well, I may even be worried or afraid. These are the very times I need God’s strength to stand against the temptation to react to my children in unloving ways.

All our grandchildren who were old enough attended Bible School this summer, some in Washington State and some in North Carolina. They all had the same theme – Stand Strong. They learned that God’s love, family and friends, prayer, and God’s Word all help us stand strong in our faith.

I love hearing our grandchildren singing about standing strong as Christians. I need to apply those same principles to my life. The challange for me is to not grow complacent or think I am above “falling”.

What a joy it is to stand strong together in our families!

Cuteness Quotient

CalebAll babies are cute. Yes, I mean it. Some are cuter than others, yet there are cute qualities in all babies. There is something innate in the young of most species (shall we leave out snakes?) that causes us to respond with tenderness and a smile. I believe we were created that way so that we would care for the young and helpless.

An interesting study on the language patterns of adults talking to babies showed that throughout the world, in every culture, adults raised the pitch of their voices and talked softer to babies than other humans. Test it sometime. Watch the big, burly football player talk to a newborn. Precious!

All puppies are cute. Some are so ugly they are cute. I came home one day so excited about the basset hound puppies that were for sale. “They are SO cute, Phil. You must see them!” I pleaded. “Gayle,” he replied, “all puppies are cute. They just don’t stay that way. They grow up to be DOGS!”

Which brings me to the point of this post. Some of our children’s behavior that is cute when they are very small, is NOT cute at 4, 6, or 8 years old.

One of our daughters called today and said “Fred (name changed to protect the guilty) is NOT cute any more!”

“Oh yes, he is!” I immediately contradicted her as any grandparent would. He is only 18 months old and his smile melts my heart every time I see it.

“NO,” she replied. “He has started hitting his brothers and yelling at them whenever I hold someone besides him in my lap.” “Fred” had exceeded his cuteness quotient. His cries for preferential treatment will now be dealt with in order of urgency, just like his siblings.

We have all probably laughed when a small child says something that an adult would not get away with. Yet when we do this we send a very strong message that the behavior is funny, therefore people like it. It is not funny when older children are rude or disrespectful, so it should not be funny if they are 2 or 3 either. We should set an example of respectful behavior no matter what the age of a child. Certainly small children will make mistakes and say rude things. We can quickly and gently correct them and share an example of a better way to respond to others.

Does our Heavenly Father look at our mistakes and smile? Even if we are “baby” Christians? I think not. God is patient and kind, yet He does require obedience. The Bible talks about the importance of growing up as Christians. God does not want us to stay immature and self centered.

I Corintians 13:11-13 addresses this issue in the chapter many refer to as the “love” chapter of the Bible.

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

There is a time to put away childish things. As Christians we need to ask ourselves “Am I behaving in ways that are immature? Are there things I am saying or doing that I should “put away”?

I desire to be an example of mature godliness to my children and grandchildren. That may mean not excusing or encouraging “cute” actions that have exceeded the cuteness quotient.

Letting Go

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“Letting Go” – Those words evoke various mental images depending on what stage of life you are in. As a young mother the first image that came to my mind was someday in the “far off future” I would have to let go as my child moved out of the home when they grew up. What I learned along the way was that there are MANY times we must “let go” as mothers. These situations affect each of us differently, depending on many variables. Some of the situations that require letting go may include:
* leaving a child with a baby sitter for the first time
* leaving a child over night for the first time
* leaving a child at childcare
* leaving a child in the nursery at church
* leaving a sick child in the hospital
* the first day of school
* the first day a teen DRIVES a car alone (my personal hardest)
* leaving for the military
* leaving for college
* leaving to get married

Each of these situations requires us as parents to let go of our control of our children’s lives. We are no longer with them seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. How do we handle these situations?

Trust

It is not trust in our children. They after all are children, no matter how well we parented, how bright and smart they are, or how much they have shown us we can count on them. They will make mistakes. Didn’t we?

It isn’t trust in the world we live in. It is all too clear around us that we live in a fallen world. Not only do those we love make mistakes, there are individuals that intend harm.

Our trust must be in God.

We must remind ourselves that God loves our children even more that we do. He is faithful to work His purposes in the lives of our children and to use their mistakes as well as ours to accomplish His will in their lives.

There are several examples in Scripture of God requiring mothers to trust as they “let go” of their children.

Hannah had to leave Samuel in the care of Eli, who did not have great credentials when it came to parenting. (see I Samuel 2:22-25) Yet God used Eli to speak to Samuel who later became a mighty prophet for God.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, faced this very real issue of letting go. One situation is recounted in Luke 2:48-49. Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem, without letting his parents know. When they finally found him three days later, Mary was understandably upset.

48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

It is not easy to trust, yet when we learn to trust as we let go, God proves Himself faithful. God knows what lies ahead in the lives of our children. Let’s make sure that we let go and let God.

The Right Clothes

Gayle Barker (Woody)

My mother loves to tell a certain story about me. I think it is meaningful to her because it was a defining moment – a moment that illuminated a personality trait of mine – weirdness.

Here is the story –
Gayle comes into the room at a function at College Church. She is dressed in a plaid skirt, a pattered blouse with a wide collar, and black textured tights. Mom is standing with her friend Jan who upon seeing Gayle says,
“Esther, how can you let her dress that way?”
Mom replied, “That is what she likes to wear. If people laugh at her – she will get the message.”

I did get the message. The message I got was that if I dressed “weird” I would get attention. I liked attention, I still do.

As an art major in college I could wear any combination and my friends thought I was “expressing my creative spirit”. (It was a bit disconcerting when my friends in the dorm came to my room on Halloween to borrow my everyday clothes as costumes.)

As an art teacher now, I can wear any combination of clothes and I am “artsy”. I have even been called “cute” – odd at 61 years old.

As parents we often fuss about what our children wear. There are certainly times and places to wear certain clothes – or not to wear certain clothes. Some people seem to have an innate sense of “style” and are very definite from an early age about what they want to wear.

Other children could care less. They would wear the same thing over and over or put on the nearest item of clothing not seeming to notice if it is on backwards or not.

Our family had both types of children. Clothing does express personality and can be a window into who our children are becoming or what image they want to convey. It is prudent to take notice.

Colossians 3:12 tells us how we should to be clothing ourselves.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

The right “clothes”, what people should notice when they encounter me should be compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The lovelest outfit in the world will not cover impatience, meanness, or pride.

I want to make more of an effort to wear those godly clothes every day.

“Look at Me”

look at me
“Look at me, Gayle. Did you hear what I said?” My mother often said this to get my attention. She wanted to make sure that I listened to what she had to say.

“Look at my eyes, Hannah. Did you hear what I said?” I used similar words to get my daughter’s attention and communicate vital information.

Why look at my eyes? Because our eyes communicate as well. There is the look that says:
* I have said this before – but here it is again
* you are in BIG trouble if you don’t listen
* you have disappointed me.
* you are dangling from my very last nerve
and finally –
* the look that kills. (this look does not actually kill, it just
makes the recipient wish they were dead)

As a teacher I wait to give instructions until all my students’ eyes are on me. (Heaven forbid that one is glancing down between their legs to read the latest text message!) If I don’t have their full attention – invariably a student will ask – after I have given detailed instructions – “What are we doing today?” Time for the look that kills.

There are so many things that distract us in life. We immediately think about technology in this current age, but I propose there have always been distractions for humans. Think about leaving your log cabin and having to watch for bear, snakes, or a hungry wolf.
The point is that because we are thinking beings – we become distracted.

The God who created us knows this. He also gave us the ability to concentrate, yet it often takes an act of our will.

Hebrews 12:1-3 Amplified Bible

12 Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have borne testimony to the Truth, let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance and that sin which so readily clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,

2 Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith and is also its Finisher, bringing it to maturity and perfection. He, for the joy of obtaining the prize that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.

The solution is to “look away from all that will distract”. Being the queen of distraction – this is a challange to me. Yet, when I keep my eyes on Jesus – when I “look at Him”, I am able to understand clearly what He is speaking to me.