Monday, June 29, 2009

Racial radar

I totally support our church children's camp, but I sort of got off on the wrong foot the first morning. A friend of mine was in charge of the snack each day and she gathered us helpers, three other women and me, to tell us her plan for setting up the food and coordinating each camper group that would be arriving. She needed to do something to settle the kids down before they ate. She said she would start with a song, and she suggested, "Jesus Loves the Little Children."

I immediately said, "I don't like that song." Everyone turned to me, incredulous. "Why not?!" The song has a great message. Jesus surely does love all the children of the world and they are truly precious in his sight. But I answered, "Because children are not red and yellow, black and white."

One woman said, "My husband said that song is not politically correct." Politically? I don't care about that. I think the words to the song are racially insensitive. My beautiful daughters are certainly not "yellow" and my Cherokee family members are not "red" by any stretch of the imagination. All the people of the world are lovely shades of brown! Without a word my friend went in to meet the campers and sang a different song.

Having children of a different race has opened my eyes to our culture's biases and stereotypes. My radar zeroes in on them. What do you think? Am I being too sensitive?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Long week

The past week the girls and I have been at the preschool camp at our church. Arielle was a junior counselor, Liana was in the camp for the children of the workers, my granddaughter Lana attended the camp, and I served snacks to about 150 kids each day. We've been involved with this camp for years and years. I've taken my older two grandchildren, and my girls have gone since they were tiny. I was a counselor for many years but being a snack lady suits me just fine now.

This camp is the ultimate VBS. There is not single kid in the universe who wouldn't like it. It's well-supervised--one adult and junior helper to five children. This little group travels around during the morning from one activity to another, indoors and out. The children go to crafts, games, music, nature, snacks and of all, they see the skit Granny Bear and her crew have concocted. Granny Bear is an older woman who has served in the children's ministry for many years at our church. She's the best. Each summer for two weeks (there are two weeks of this camp) she dons a bear costume, recruits other "bear" actors, and writes a skit that is appealing to small children and hilarious even to adults. Her well-written storylines also teach great Biblical truths.

Anyway, since we left home early each morning, I had no time for writing and no time for my quiet time and Bible reading that gets me off to a good start each day. On top of that, I had the after effects of some virus I had last weekend. (No, I wasn't contagious.) So I was totally wiped out every day when we got home. I look forward to getting back into the routine next week.

QUESTION! I plan to continue the dares with my husband and with my daughters. But unless someone tells me they are following along, I will not write them in here anymore. So please let me know! Do you want me to post the dares??

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kids and conflict

As I wrote out the dare for marriages, I kept thinking of my two daughters. They have conflict, as all siblings do. But how do they fight? Do they fight fair? Isn't their relationship the training ground for marriage? The guidelines I set and enforce (or don't set) when they are quarreling might set the stage later in life for how they get along with their husbands and whether they can sustain a marriage.

From my older boys I've learned how much name-calling hurts. Those names stick with a child throughout life. Even with one of my girls, when she tells me the other called her a name, she says it with tears. Name-calling is devastating. I do not allow it, but it can go on in a sneaky way even if we don't hear it. As moms, do we allow our children to shout at each other? Do we allow them to say hurtful words like "I hate you"? Do they bring up issues that happened two years ago? Do we judge fairly when we're put in the middle of the conflict? There are times we need to let them settle things on their own, but also times when a parent needs to step in.

My girls are not allowed to hit or touch each other in any physical way when fighting. This was never a problem for Arielle. She is a very gentle child and was horrified the first time another child struck her. And she did not retaliate. I don't think it is in her nature. But Liana was different. At a year old she was a fighter and still needs to be reminded not to strike out in that way. It is a terrible thing when marriage partners resort to physically hurting each other.

Failure should not be an option for siblings. I remind my girls continually that friends come and go, but your sister is your friend forever. Siblings are the longest lasting of human relationships. When I hear of adults who can't get along with their siblings, it is very sad. Sometimes I think I only get along well with my siblings because they are out-of-state. I wonder how it would be if I saw them on a regular basis. My four sons are each so different. One of them said to me once, "If he wasn't my brother, I wouldn't be friends with him." But they are brothers and they are friends. They've become closer the older they get. I so much want that for my girls.

It's a great joy when our children love and respect each other. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity." Psalm 133:1.

Dare 13

Dare 13: Love fights fair. Like it or not, conflict in marriage is simply inevitable. The forced closeness of marriage strips away your public facades, exposing your private problems and secret habits. Welcome to fallen humanity. Every couple goes through it. It's par for the course. But not every couple survives it. This dare is about dealing with confict in such a way that you come out healthier on the other side. Both of you. Together.

The deepest, most heartbreaking damage you'll ever do (or ever have done) to your marriage will most likely occur in the thick of conflict. That's because this is when your pride is strongest. Your anger is hottest. You're the most selfish and judgmental. Your words contain the most venom. You make the worst decisions.

But love steps in and changes things. Love reminds you that your marriage is too valuable to allow it to self-destruct, and that your love for your husband is more important than whatever you're fighting about. Married couples who learn to work through conflict tend to be closer, more trusting, more intimate, and enjoy a much deeper connection afterwards. But how? The wisest way is to learn to fight clean by establishing healthy rules of engagement. If you don't have guidelines for how you'll approach hot topics, you won't stay in bounds when the action heats up.

Rules you and your husband might agree on beforehand:

1. We will never mention divorce.
2. We will not bring up old, unrelated items from the past.
3. We will never fight in public or in front of our children.
4. We will call a time-out if conflict escalates to a damaging level.
5. We will never touch one another in a harmful way.
6. We will never go to bed angry with one another.
7. Failure is not an option. Whatever it takes, we will work this out.

(One Fred and I have: we will not call each other names.)

Rules you might set for yourself:

1. I will listen first before speaking.
2. I will deal with my own issues up front and consider how I might be wrong.
3. I will speak gently and keep my voice down.

(One I have: I will not jump to conclusions before I know the facts.)

Fighting fair means changing your weapons. Disagreeing with dignity. It should result in building a bridge instead of burning one down. Remember, love is not a fight, but it is always worth fighting for.

The Dare: Talk with your husband about establishing healthy rules of engagement. If he is not rady for this, then write out your own personal rules to "fight" by. Resolve to abide by them when the next disagreement occurs.

Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. James 1:19.

What unspoken rules do you have?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dare 12

Dare 12: Love lets the other win. If you were asked to name areas where you and your husband disagree, you'd likely be able to do it without thinking very hard. And sadly, unless someone at your house starts doing some giving in, these same issues are going to keep popping up. Defending your rights and opinions is a foundational part of your nature and make-up. It's detrimental, though, inside a marriage relationship, and it steals away time and productivity. It can also cause great frustration for both of you. Granted, being stubborn is not always bad. Some things are worth standing up for and protecting. Our priorities, morals, and obedience to God should be guarded with great effort. But too often we debate over piddling things. Other times, the stakes are much higher.

Though these issues may not crop up every day, they keep resurfacing and don't really go away. You never seem to get any closer to resolution or compromise. The heels just keep digging in. There's only one way to get beyond stalemates like these, and that's by finding a word that's the opposite of stubbornness. That word is willing. It's an attitude and spirit of cooperation that should permeate our conversations. And the one best example of it is Jesus Christ.

As God, He had every right to refuse becoming a man but yielded and did--because He was willing. He had the right to be served by all mankind but came to serve instead. He had the right to live in peace and safety but willingly laid down His life for our sins. He was even willing to endure the grueling torture of the cross. He loved, He cooperated, and was willing to do His Father's will instead of His own. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5. The attitude of willingness, flexibility, and humble submission. It means laying down for the good of others what you have the right to claim for yourself.

The very moment one of you says, "I'm willing to go your way on this one," the argument will be over. And though the follow-through may cost you some pride and discomfort, you have made a loving, lasting investment in your marriage. That's not to say your husband is necessarily right or being wise about a matter, but you are choosing to give strong consideration to his preference as a way of valuing him.

The Dare: Demonstrate love by willingly choosing to give in to an area of disagreement between you and your husband. Tell him you are putting his preference first.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A little girl's dream

"I want to be a teacher when I grow up." That's all I ever remember saying about my future goals when I was a child. I loved learning and thought everyone else did too. My little brothers and sister were my students and I would give them "work" to do, although they were not always enthusiastic about doing it.

In college I was distracted pursuing other interests and gave up my dream. Then came children (three), and then financial difficulties that led me to nursing school. My dad always told me I was useless and would never amount to anything, so it was "Here's to you, Dad!" as I graduated at the top of my class. And I felt very useful when I worked at the hospital. But another baby came along and I left nursing to be just a mom at home. My years with my little boys on the windy plains of Oklahoma were among the best of my life.

Later the need to support myself again brought me back to school. A difficult marriage made me once again feel useless and stupid. I went to chiropractic school and graduated at the top of my class. "Here's to all of you negative voices from my past!" The boys were older now and I became Miss Career Woman. I admire women who have careers, but for me, I felt I was just pretending, and I wasn't entirely comfortable in that role. Then tiny Chinese faces from the other side of the world tore at my heart.

Never was my desire so great or my focus more intense than when I worked to bring my girls home. This was my true calling--to be a mother to my children. Nothing else ever fulfilled or satisfied. When I was a little girl and wanted to be a teacher, I never thought I would be teaching a class of two. That might not seem like much, but it is enough. I have all I ever wanted, and I have nothing else to prove.

My dream is not yours. So what is yours? Are you living it? Fulfill your calling whatever it may be at this time in your life. God never gives us the whole picture--a panoramic view of our entire lives. We have just enough light to illuminate the next step. So take that step and then you'll see the one after it.

So is this the end for me? I've finally found my place in the world and we all live happily ever after? I'll never presume that. I might be driven back into the workforce again someday. But for now, in this season of my life, I'm right where God wants me. It's the only place to find peace.

I hope I can one day pray as Jesus did, "I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do." John 17:4.

Dare 11

Dare 11: Love cherishes. Marriage is a beautiful mystery created by God, joining two lives together as one. This not only happens physically but spiritually and emotionally. When your spouse goes through a tragedy, both of you feel it. When you find success at your job, both of you rejoice. But somewhere along the way, you experience disappointment, and the sobering reality that you married an imperfect person sets in. This, however, does not change the fact that your husband is still a part of you. You must treat him with the same nurture and care that you treat yourself. When you show love to your husband, you are showing love to yourself.

When you mistreat your husband, you are also mistreating yourself. Your lives are interwoven together. Your husband cannot experience joy or pain, blessing or cursing, without it also affecting you. So when you attack your husband, it is like attacking your own body.

Your husband needs to be loved and cherished. If he has issues causing pain and frustration, then you should care for these with the same love and tenderness you would a bodily injury. If he is wounded in some way, you should think of yourself as an instrument that helps bring healing to his life.

Don't let the culture around you determine the worth of your marriage. To compare it with something that can be discarded or replaced is to dishonor God's purpose for it. When you look at your husband, you're looking at a part of you. So treat him well. Speak highly of him. Nourish and cherish the love of your life.

The Dare: What need does your husband have that you could meet today? Can you run an errand? Give a back rub or foot massage? Is there a chore you could help with? Choose a gesture that says, "I cherish you." And do it with a smile.

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery..." Ephesians 5:31.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dare 10

Dare 10: Love is unconditional. If someone were to ask you, "Why do you love your husband?"--what would you say? Women would probably say something about their husband's good looks or personality. They'd commend him for his steadiness and consistent character. They'd say they love him because he's always there for them. He's generous. He's helpful.

But what if over the course of years, your husband stopping being every one of those things. Would you still love him? The only logical response would be no. If your reasons for loving your husband all have something to do with his qualities--and then those same qualities suddenly or gradually disappear--your basis for love is over.

The only way love can last a lifetime is if it's unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love. This is God's kind of love. He doesn't love us because we are lovable but because He is so loving. If He insisted that we prove ourselves worthy of His love, we would fail miserably. But God's love is a choice. Unconditional love will not be swayed by time or circumstance.

The Dare: Do something out of the ordinary today for your husband--something that proves that your love is based on choice and nothing else. Do a chore for him or make his favorite dessert. Demonstrate love to him for the sheer joy of being his partner in marriage.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:7.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Envious of Fred?

The Dares have given me lots to think about. I admit I have been envious of Fred at times--his charisma with people mostly. I think back on cooking for the Alpha course at church. We worked in the kitchen with some difficult people. I would usually just keep to myself and ignore them. Not Fred. He made the effort to talk and joke with them, listen to their tales. He accepted their quirks and helped them with their tasks. They, in turn, loved him. He was greeted with enthusiasm each week when we arrived. Me, they ignored.

People always like Fred more than me. When he was a chiropractor, his patients adored him. He had the busiest practice in town. They mourned his retirement. But really, Fred and I are not competitors. I am thankful he's the way he is and I'm glad he's my husband!

As for greetings, Fred and I excel at this. We have long established habits of good-byes in the morning and hellos when one of us returns home. I walk downstairs with him to send him off, and I'm available to go back and retrieve items he's forgotten to bring along. I wave at the window as he pulls out of the driveway. Corny and silly? Maybe. But it sets a good tone for the day.

During the day Fred continually calls me every chance he gets. When he's leaving one point to drive to another. When he's coming home. He asks if I need anything on the way. We always say good-bye with an "I love you." When he gets home, I make the effort to give a cheerful hello and a hug or kiss.

No matter what has transpired in our relationship during the day, we are civil to each other before the lights go out. If an apology is due, we give it. It doesn't mean every issue is resolved, maybe it's only a temporary cease-fire. But after a night's sleep, we will see things differently in the morning.

In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Ephesians 4:26.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dare 9

Dare 9: Love makes good impressions. You can tell a lot about the state of a couple's relationship from the way they greet one another. You can see it in their expression and countenance, as well as how they speak to each other. It is even more obvious by their physical contact. But how much importance should you give a greeting?

Jesus noted in his Sermon on the Mount that even pagans speak kindly to people they like. That's easy for anyone to do. But he took it a step further and said that being godly included being humble and gracious enough to address even your enemies with kindness. This raises an interesting question. How do you greet your friends, coworkers, and neighbors? How about acquaintances and those you meet in public? You may even encounter someone you don't necessarily like yet still acknowledge them out of courtesy. So if you're this nice and polite to other people, doesn't your husband deserve the same? Times ten?

It's probably something you don't think about very often--the first thing you say to him when you wake up in the morning, the look on your face when you get in the car, the energy in your voice when you speak on the telephone. But here's something else you probably don't stop to consider--the difference it would make in your husband's day if everything about you expressed the fact that you were really, really glad to see him.

The Dare: Think of a specific way you'd like to greet your husband today. Do it with a smile and with enthusiasm. Then determine to change your greeting to reflect your love for him.

Greet one another with a kiss of love. I Peter 5:14.

Friday, June 05, 2009


My girls are having trouble with the dares because they fight all the time. It's very difficult for them to go a whole day and not say anything negative to each other. "You're a baby!" That statement alone can provoke tears and desire for retaliation.

Sibling rivalry at its core is pure jealousy. A first child is doted upon and has her parents' undivided attention. They only have eyes for her! Every word she speaks is profound and mom and dad praise her continually. Then sister #2 comes along. Parents tell the first child, "We love you so much we wanted to share that love with another child!" Huh?? What if your husband said the same to you? "I love you so much I want to bring another woman home so we can share the love around."

From the beginning I knew there would be trouble with my two girls. We received the long awaited picture of our new second daughter from China. Oh, the excitement! We made calls to everyone we knew. We scanned the photo and sent it out across the country via e-mail. We stared at the tiny image, admiring the adorable, plump baby who would soon be ours. Oh, the joy!

Three-year-old Arielle watched all this, momentarily out of the spotlight. "Your new sister!" we exclaimed. Who needs a sister? her expression told us. Then later, that object of our adoration disappeared! The picture was missing! The only tangible evidence of our new daughter was gone. We tore the house apart thinking we had misplaced it, knowing we would not have done that. We couldn't find it anywhere. Arielle! We kindly asked her if she "put it away" for us. Then, "Did you take it?" we demanded. No matter how much we cajoled her she did not respond. How could a little child fool us like this? Where could she have hidden the picture so that we could not find it?

Several days later the picture appeared. We never did know where Arielle had hidden it. But we know she did. Later on she would hide Liana's toys, toys maybe Arielle thought Liana didn't deserve, or maybe a toy Arielle herself wanted.

So going back to the discussion of legitimate vs. illegitimate jealousy, you would have to say Arielle's jealousy was legitimate. She thought the two people who loved her the most, who belonged to her, had turned their love to someone else. Her very own parents wanted another child. You can understand how she felt. Usually second (or third or fourth) children will not feel this extreme jealousy because they were never their parents' sole focus.

So how do we resolve this? When does a legitimate jealousy evolve into selfishness and quarreling? When is it time to "flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace? And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone...not resentful." (II Timothy 2:23-24) We spend the rest of our lives assuring our children we love them equally but maybe because of personality or life experiences, some kids never lose jealous feelings. They need to. It will affect their future relationships with others.

We have the 4-H Fashion Revue coming up in a couple of weeks. For the first time, Liana, as well as Arielle, will model and be judged on an outfit they sewed. Ribbons are awarded and winners go on to compete in the regional show. They are not competing against each other, as they are in different age groups. But still, I anticipate hurt feelings.

I asked Arielle, "How will you feel if Liana wins and you don't?" She said, "I won't care. I won two years in a row."

I asked Liana, "How will you feel if Arielle wins and you don't?" She said, "I won't care. I just had fun making my outfit."

Life will be easier if no one wins. But if one of them does, will the other be mature enough, and does she love the other enough, to offer sincere congratulations to her sister? We'll see.

What were your experiences growing up with siblings? How do you handle sibling rivalry with your kids?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The power of words

To be honest, I didn't like the dare when we were supposed to make a list of our husband's negative traits. I think when you put thoughts into words, it gives them power. I even told this to my table group at church. They said, don't worry, you tear it up the next day. Even so, I didn't like this. It caused me to focus on the negative. And the negative was something that can't be changed anyway, so what was the point?

Scripture is clear about thoughts turning to words turning to actions. "Take every thought captive..." because that's where trouble starts. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Next, you act on your words. Now think about that sequence in a positive light--you dwell on your husband's good qualities, you tell him how you feel, how proud you are of him, how glad you are that he is the man he is. You praise him for the good things he does. Then you naturally will want to do nice things for him to show your appreciation. This can only make your marriage better.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4:8.

Dare 8

Dare 8: Love is not jealous. Jealousy is one of the strongest drives known to man. There are actually two forms: a legitimate jealousy based upon love, and an illegitimate jealousy based upon envy. Legitimate jealousy sparks when someone you love, who belongs to you, turns his or her heart away and replaces you with someone else.

Illegitimate jealousy is in opposition to love--it is rooted in selfishness. This is to be jealous of someone, to be moved with envy. It is sparked when someone else upstages you and gets something you want. This can be very painful, depending upon how selfish you are. Instead of congratulating them, you fume in anger. If you're not careful, jealousy slithers like a viper into your heart and strikes your motivations and relationships. It can poison you from living the life of love God intended.

When you get married, you were given the role of becoming your spouse's biggest cheerleader. But if selfishness rules, any good thing happening to only one of you can be a catalyst for envy rather than congratulations.

It is time to let love, humility, and gratefulness destroy any jealousy that springs up in your heart. It's time to let your husband's successes draw you closer together and give you greater opportunities to show genuine love.

The Dare: Determine to become your husband's biggest fan and to reject any thoughts of jealousy. To help you set your heart on your husband and focus on his achievements, take your list of negative attributes and tear it in tiny pieces. Then share with your husband how glad you are about a success he recently enjoyed.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice...What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. James 3:16, 4:1,2.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

America's tower of Babel

“Having absorbed the world’s values, Christianity in our society is now dying. Subtly but surely worldliness and self-indulgence are eating away the heart of the church. The gospel we proclaim is so convoluted that it offers believing in Christ as nothing more than a means to contentment and prosperity. The offense of the cross has been systematically removed so that the message might be made more acceptable to unbelievers. The church somehow got the idea it could declare peace with the enemies of God.”- John MacArthur
I found this picture and quote on our pastor's blog. The message on Sunday was from Genesis 11, not a favorite passage for most people. "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves..." Gen. 11:4. He summed up what the tower meant--human pride, over-reaching, and self-deification.
We should never make a truce with the enemies of God: worldliness, self-indulgence, love of possessions and money, and a quest for a life of ease and comfort. Jesus said, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" Matthew 16:26.