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Monthly Archives: February 2010

My cousin, Jay, recently sent me a couple of DVDs with old video of his family vacations from the 1950’s and 60’s.  His family took wonderful trips across America to spend time together.  It was a time when life was much simpler.  Families were creative about spending time with each other.  There was no cable television, Internet, cell phones, or social networking.  The interesting thing about my cousin’s vacation video was that it looked like my aunt, uncle and two cousins were actually having a great time together!

 I remember growing up playing with my parents!  Dad and I played catch in the yard and shot baskets in the driveway.  We built forts and rode bikes.  Inside we played games and had dinner together…every evening!  How weird was that!  We talked to one another at the table, learned good table manners, ate our vegetables, and ended up knowing what was going on in each other’s lives.

Today so much competes for our time that parents must take the initiative in planning time together as a family.  Single parents face an even greater challenge since there is no one to share the responsibility.  Love really is spelled “time.”  But today it seems that our time is the single most abused and maligned part of our lives.  Decide today to make the necessary changes in your schedule that will result in your family spending more time together.  Plan meals, play games, take short excursions to local attractions, or hang out in a special place.  Just do it with each other!  Most of all, as a family, make a new commitment to spending time together in order to grow more close as a family.

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Dad passed away a couple of months ago.  He was just 90 years old and had been married to my mom one month shy of 66 yearsThey were members of the same church for 61 years where mom has taught the same Bible study class for 26 years.  They have lived in the same house for 41 years. Rather the picture of stability wouldn’t you say?  Well, it’s not the stability that I want to note but rather dad’s total lack of religious fervor.  Even though he earned his living as a minister, religion was not what defined his life.  Relationship was what dad was all about and specifically a relationship with God.  Dad sought to know God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30-31). He loved people and sacrificially served them all of his life.

Dad spent the final two months of his life in a nursing home fighting the battle of dementia.  Two strokes in two months played a role in his passing and, for the most part, was unresponsive his final few days.  One day near the end I was with him, alone in his room having a one-sided conversation.  The night before I had sat beside his bed and written his obituary.  This particular day, knowing that he would very soon leave this world to spend the rest of eternity in heaven, I stood, looked dad in the eyes and said, “I’ll see you in a minute!”  If I live to be 90 I’ll be alive for another 33 years.  In the span of eternity those years will be but a minute in time.

Less than two days later he was gone; reunited with dozens of family and friends who had preceded him in death.  He is this very day enjoying the fruits of relationship with God.  Dad was not a religious man, but he did know God passionately.  Stability in his life was a good thing, but it was not THE thing.

There are special places all over your world if you slow down enough to notice.  It could be a rooftop in Bangalore, India, Panera Bread in Edmond, Oklahoma or a Kowloon café looking across the bay at Hong Kong.  This morning it’s the Paris Bakery in Paris, Texas.  It’s old, like nearly everything else in Paris and it sits just off the town square across the street from one of the coolest looking old courthouses I have ever seen!

 Sherri is down the street selling her wares to the local ladies boutique.  This week she travels throughout east Texas and southeastern Oklahoma seeing store owners in small towns that all have some very special places.  I take advantage of her travels to get away and do some writing.  I hang out in places like this one in Paris, the historic public library in Broken Bow, Bob’s Café in Durant, and a bench on the square in Sherman. 

Standing at the counter in the Paris Bakery, I ordered lunch and while waiting on it noticed a distinguished looking fella in line beside me.  He was wearing  a clerical collar so I struck up a conversation.  I asked him about the weather and he ended up joining me for lunch at my table.  Turns out, he is a Lutheran minister who is serving as the interim pastor of the Episcopal church in Paris.  Pretty interesting guy!  My conversation with Terry Germann made my special place this morning even more special!

 You ought to slow down a little and notice where some of the special places are in your life.  You probably walk or drive by them everyday.  Slowing down and spending some time in a special place gives you the opportunity to reflect, journal, pray, or even do some work.  And it’s always more fun and interesting at a place that is special to you.

“To listen is the queen of compliments; to ignore, the chief of insults!”  Everyone needs listeners in their life and everyone needs to learn to listen.

The other night I sat at the kitchen table with my wife.  She was speaking to me about something that is very important to both of us but I didn’t hear.  I was busy on my laptop preparing for what was in store for me the next day.  I looked up, suddenly realizing I had hurt her.  Not by anything I said, but by failing to be attentive and truly listen to what she was saying.  I had deeply hurt the person I love more than anyone…by failing to really listen.

Do you know how to listen?  Or do your eyes stray and betray your wandering interests?  A good listener always listens with his ears AND his eyes.  Do you let others’ words and ideas fly by while you plan your next comment, cooking up some sage word with which to stun them at the first opportunity?  Do you interrupt others or, even worse, second-guess them, trying to finish the line, or coach when they stumble for a word?  Do you probe, question, interrogate, cross-examine, and thus suggest impatience or superiority?

Or do you truly listen?  Can you go beyond merely hearing words and phrases to catch the ideas?  And beyond the ideas, to the feelings?  My sweetheart needed me to catch what she was feeling.  And the only way I could have done that is to have looked her in the eye and really listened with my heart.

Listening is not hard.  But it does require one’s focus and effort.  It is also worth the effort.  Good listening builds intimacy and trust in a relationship.  It says to the one to whom you are listening that they are important to you and worth your time. 

Learn to listen.  Practice when you are in conversation.  Be intentional about it.  Work at it.  Pay attention!  Listening is a warm expression of your love to another!

 (Part of the above is taken from The Freedom of Forgiveness, by David Augsburger)

I waited too long after the light turned green and the guy behind me honked and flipped me off.  I immediately turned angry but I managed to not embarrass myself by doing something stupid.  I wondered though, as the guy pulled around me shouting obscenities through closed windows, what makes us speak so unkindly for no reason at all.

 The Bible says, in Colossians 3:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to respond to each person.”

Speaking graciously is a simple thing to do.  All it requires is that we consider others before ourselves.  What a novel thing to do!  If you want to get along with others, then consider them before you consider yourself.  If you want others to speak well of you, then do not give them reason to think badly of you.

Another Bible verse, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”

 When my kids were much younger I often tried to help them with their speech by having them consider three questions before they spoke inappropriately:  Is what they want to say true?  Is it kind?  And, is it necessary?  If they got “no” for an answer, then they needed to stay quiet.

 The other day I came across a little card that presented the following:

“THINK” before you speak!

 “T”        Is it True?

 “H”        Is it Helpful?

 “I”          What is the Intent?

 “N”        Is it Necessary?

 “K”         Is it Kind?

 All of us would be happier if we managed our speech more effectively.  Think before you speak especially when you are angry.  It might be me in the car in front of you!

It is so easy to come up with a reason not to go to church. 

What’s your excuse?

  • “Sunday is my only day off.”
  • “All the church wants is my money.”
  • ” Those people at church are all a bunch of hypocrites.”
  • “I went to church once and no one talked to me.”
  • “I can hear all that stuff on television.”

 

The list goes on.  But frankly, church attendance can be a very healthy habit in your life.  The investment of your time at a good church can be how God chooses to bring great change in your life.  Being a part of a church that effectively teaches the Bible can provide answers to life’s questions.  Regular church attendance can lead you to meaningful relationships that meet needs in your life and ultimately make a huge difference for you.

The church is full of people.  A lot of them are just like you!  And, yes, there are hypocrites in the church.  You may even be asked to give some of your hard-earned money to keep the work of the church going.  And you can hear a lot of that “stuff” on TV, but you will hear it all by yourself with no chance of building relationships along the way.

 Attend different churches until you find the one that is right for you.  How do you decide where to go?  Ask.  Ask your friends at work where they attend church.  Go with them until you figure it out for yourself.  Make a list of the things you want in a church and don’t settle for less. 

 Some things to consider are:

  • Is the Bible taught in a way you can understand and apply to your own life?
  • Is the music appealing to you?  When people stand and sing, does it seem that the experience is meaningful?
  • Are the people friendly?  Does that church seem to be a place where you can make friends easily?

 

Finally, consider this question.  How would you do for church if there were no church buildings or trained clergy?