Dear Church, Dear Salvation Army – Give Special Needs Kids A Break!!

Let me be vulnerable with you for a moment.
We have a son who struggles with disabilities.
He has some severe educational challenges coupled with ADHD.
One might say, “oh, well they have medication for that kind of thing”…and you’re right, but did you know that usually when providing medications for ADHD it’s a crap-shoot as to what will ACTUALLY work?  Did you also know that there are some severe side-effects to these medications?  Some even have long term effects that only exhibit themselves later in life through health problems.  Our son has always been extremely sensitive to medication.  We tried some of the ADHD medications, one made our son as high as a kite.  Another led our son to have extreme bouts of anxiety that forced us to consult a counselor.

He’s a great kid.  He’s extremely creative, and he’s also very sensitive about it even if he doesn’t let on that he is. He also privately suffers from anxiety and depression because of it.
I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for us, I just want you to understand what I’m about to say.

kid1One moment in particular still strikes the protective parent chord in me.  We were attending a required army event.    We were all at this meeting including our son.  You have to understand that children with ADHD have difficulty sitting still for prolonged periods of time…it gets better with age, but it does take a. lot. of. time.   Anyway, back to the meeting.  There wasn’t a youth track for this event, and so all of the families were to sit through a three hour meeting…in ADHD time this is the equivalent of a year sitting in an uncomfortable chair.
Our son became rowdy and restless even with various distractions provided for him.  Finally, after another restless shuffle in a metal chair and a very loud exhale of frustrated breath, a soldier seated in front of us turns around and looked at us and our son with daggers in her eyes and a dirty look on her face.  Not a word was said, but words weren’t needed, we knew what she wanted to convey to us and we weren’t all too happy about the situation either.  It was at this point that we took our son out of the meeting despite the “required” attendance.  I wish I could say that this was the first time this has happened…it wasn’t.  I also wish I could say that it will never happened again…I can’t.  We struggle.  It’s not easy.  Perhaps some of you out there with kids who struggle with ADHD and/or other special circumstances can relate and understand.

Give Special Needs Kids A Break! kid2
Churches and Corps should be sensitive to families who have children with special needs.  Don’t just assume anything.  Please don’t judge or condemn.  If you happen to have new families come and visit your corps building who have kids who seem disruptive please don’t automatically judge them and assume that their parents don’t know how to control them.  Please respond with compassion and care.  Perhaps help if you can.  Some parents would really welcome the help…trust me on this.  Please don’t lecture us either, we are trying, we really are!

Our current corps has a child who attends with his family who is autistic.
His father really, really tries.  He’s a single father…and he needs a break.
This child might not fully understand what he does, but he knows that he is loved in our corps.
He might be disruptive from time to time, but our corps members help out with this child.
Are there any churches who are completely capable to handle special needs children?  I doubt there are many…but there are many patient, and compassionate soldiers and church members out there who could help, and usually do help.

So What?
Why do I write this today?
What’s my point?
My point is this:
Don’t judge or presume to know what parents with special needs kids are going through if you yourself haven’t been there.  Perhaps instead of judging, which takes much less of a concerted effort, you could help.  Try to be compassionate and understanding.  Yes, we go to church to listen to the message and get blessed but so do these parents who have special needs kids, and most of the time they only get half of a service.  Church is not only about the message and “getting blessed” it’s also about being the hands and feet of Christ.  It’s also about being a united community helping one another along in the faith.

So I guess what I’m saying is be aware of kids who might have special needs.
Don’t just pigeon hole them and label them as disruptive, disrespectful children.
They need our understanding…and so do their parents.

Give them a break!
Something more to ponder today!

Here are some links to check out:

Church helps Special needs
Additional Helps

Don’t Starve Your First Flock!

I am drawn to this vital topic like a bug to a floodlight.
It speaks intimately to my heart.
This topic hits me directly, and at times I am found wanting and in need of some fixing.

Our First Flock. 

As a pastor and officer of The Salvation Army there is a lot that goes on in our ministries.
We are busy people and everyone is in need of our time, advice, and shepherding.
Sometimes it can take a toll on your life if you do not take time to replenish and rest.
I am not saying disconnect yourself from the flock, but find intentional times when you can simply get away and rest.  Pastoring is not easy.  It has its blessings and is certainly fulfilling when lives are touched and transformed…but the pastor’s life is also like having a big red target painted on you as well.  If something should happen to go wrong in the church – blame the pastor…if sin is confronted (appropriately and biblically with grace) and some people choose to leave the church because of it – it’s the pastor’s fault that numbers are now down on Sundays.  There are times when the flock will take out its pain and distress on the pastor.

Be aware that despite perceived successes and failures in ministries that you have been called not by the deacon or by a supervisor or by a divisional/territorial leader – but firstly and most importantly – you have been called by God.  Be faithful to that calling above everything else.

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These are my crazy kids!

With that clearly said, let me poke at a sensitive topic in my life and I’m sure yours as well.
Your Immediate Family – Is Your First Flock!

Yesterday, I took my boys out to camp.
We are in the process of moving and currently our time is predominately occupied with boxes, transportation logistics, writing farewell briefs…in other words our house has currently been turned upside down.  Honestly, I haven’t been thinking much about what my boys might be going through in all of this.  I have been so consumed with packing and cleaning and preparing that my children have sort of been forgotten.
Anyway back to camping.
Photo May 20, 10 42 23 PMPhoto May 20, 8 39 37 PM
We left the house, got into the van and pulled out of town as we headed out to our divisional Salvation Army camp.  (It’s about an hour and a half from our house)  That night on the way (I had already packed our fishing poles) I bought some worms and as soon as we arrived at camp we headed straight for the lake.  The sun was just setting as a few fire blazed clouds floated through the sky…it was a perfect evening.  As I sat there on the dock, by the lake, some of the stresses and concerns just seemed to melt away.  I looked over at my boys as they disturbed the tranquil waters with lines baited with worms and neon bobbers, and my heart just swelled with a feeling a love for them.  Momentarily, in the midst of all of our pastorly duties, responsibilities, frustrations AND PACKING, we had begun to starve our first flock – our kids.  I had been guilty of neglecting their feelings, their concerns, even their spiritual well being.  Sitting there on that dock fishing and talking with them about life and what was happening in school, I reconnected with my first flock.  I reconnected with my heart again…not that I don’t minister as an Officer with my heart, but when there is a disjunctive note at home, the heart can not fully be in tune.   That moment fishing with my boys is something that I will always cherish…and I don’t want to miss out on any other moments that I have with them.  I don’t want to starve my first flock anymore.

Before you became a pastor and was given the responsibility of tending the church flock, you had a family as well (at least most of you do, I would imagine).  If you are raising children and have a spouse – you cannot neglect this first flock!

Some might argue that we shouldn’t differentiate between the flock at church and the flock at home, but I disagree.  After all, for the most part, the flock at church doesn’t live in your house.  They are not as intimately acquainted with you as your family is.  These important people in your life need to know that they matter to you!  If you hole up in your office for 60 hours a week and they hardly ever see you, perhaps it’s time to reorganize your priorities.   Perhaps it’s time to get your heart back in tune again.   Your first flock needs you! It’s not an ego trip to say that they need you…you aren’t superman or superwoman, but your kids deserve to have a Mom and a Dad who are physically there for them.  They deserve to know you care for them, that you take time for them, that you want to be there when they achieve certain milestones in life.

Don’t starve your first flock!
You only have about eighteen years to feed this first flock the appropriate spiritual and physical nourishment that they will need to live godly lives.  Don’t neglect this time!  Don’t regret not doing enough.  Don’t count solely of Sunday School teachers and other mentors to do your job.  These instrumental people are a support to the family, but they are not the parents that your children need.  Don’t starve your first flock!

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Perspectives Day # 4 Featuring Captain Marianneke (Anney) Summerifeld “Family”

familyFamily.  This one word evokes a particular meaning to the reader, doesn’t it?  Something specific.  Something defined. Something wholesome, perhaps?  A television show is “family oriented” or an activity is “family friendly.”  What does it mean to you?  The lines surrounding the definition are not rigid, and they are becoming increasingly fluid.  A traditional, nuclear, family is not what we once pictured it as.  Roles are changing rapidly around us, and if we, as ministers of the Gospel, are to preach the love of Jesus without discrimination, what does that mean and how does that look?

Sure, we are all know that “society is different” and “times they are a-changin’!” – but when things affect you personally, you become all-too aware of where there are lags in our ministry and motivation.

I love my family.  I am daddy’s girl, I look up to my mom, and my siblings have morphed into dear friends.  Growing up, we were the picture of ‘traditional.’ Everything normal, everything happy. In recent years and months, and even as I type, I am suddenly confronted with the idea that normal is changing, and happiness isn’t the be all and end all.  What is? Love.  Love for God and love for others.  Love for our family, however that might look.

Ten years  ago (even five, really), I wouldn’t have been able to define “polyamorous triad,” and if I did know what it meant, I would have never expected it to be a part of my lexicon, not to mention my family story. Never would mentions of divorce and infidelity ever come into mind as being in the realm of possibility.  But you know what?  Life happens.  People change, people grow; and as they grow and change so does our understanding.  I cannot stop loving my loved ones.  I continue to strive to love as Jesus loves, despite bumps along the way.  How can I not?  As an officer, an ordained minister, it’s my calling to share in Jesus’ love.  I have no room to judge or condemn.  Until you experience something yourself, you never know how you will react.

All of that isn’t to say, “hey look at my family, aren’t we a bunch of kooks!,” rather, it is to show that even circumstances thought to be so static and just right “as is” do change and while they change I cannot sit by on the sidelines wondering what to do and letting life pass by.  Should I change with it?

Yes.  And no.

As I write this, I am supposed to be writing my sermon for Mother’s Day.  I was finding verses on being Children of God and what it means to be in His family.  1 John 3:1 reads, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  Later in 1 John, we read, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands” (1 John 5:2).  And what are God’s commands? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

I’m pretty sure changing the Greatest Commandment isn’t a good idea.  Likewise, I shouldn’t seek to change the Gospel just because it might not gel with someone else’s belief system.  But I CAN change my approach. I can change the borders of my understanding as the borders of  family continue to change.  This won’t be easy.  Some might see loving others as endorsement or acceptance of lifestyles contrary to what we see as the Biblical standard. No one is saying we need to water down the message, and loving others doesn’t compromise our own beliefs and doctrine.  We need to look head on at the world around us, literally right beside us.  The growing definition of what family means WILL affect you and your ministry if it hasn’t already.  So the question is: what are we going to do about?

Tell you what, let’s start with love.  I can’t tell you HOW to love and how your ministry to your immediate family, your family of origin, your adopted family, your corps family…(you get the idea) is going to look and how it will work.  Most likely, steps made today will have to change sometime in the future. This is fluid.  Don’t be scared, rather, see this as a challenge – the good kind.  A challenge of loving God and carrying out His commands as best we can.  We will make mistakes, I know I have.  Ah, but remember, if we are jumping headfirst into love and loving others, this also means we are jumping headfirst into forgiveness and grace.  Take my hand; let’s dive together!

(Captain Marianneke (Anney) Summerifeld is the Corps Officer of the Burbank Corps in California.)

Into The Woods…more than a Fairy Tale (in a bad way)

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***Spoiler Alert****
If you don’t want to know about this movie before you see it, then stop reading.

“And they lived happily ever after”…oh wait they don’t.
That’s right, Jack (the bean stalk Jack) is orphaned.
Little Red Riding hood is too.
The Baker is a widower.
The Baker’s wife cheats on her husband then dies.
Have I forgotten anything else?  Oh, yeah the witch commits suicide.
And fairy tale endings now suck.

This is my impression of the recent Disney release of musical made for movie film – “Into the Woods”.
I didn’t watch any stage productions of this before watching the film…maybe I should have.
I can’t but help feel jipped somehow.  I feel like this movie was portrayed to be some sort of Kids movie in the advertising only to find out that it wasn’t…it really wasn’t.  In a way I feel like I’ve been taken by a snake-oil salesman.
Sure, there were some funny moments in the film.
There were some intriguing scenes.

Here come the “Buts”…
But perhaps the writer(s) real life experiences spilled over into this script…
but the plot was thin.
but the actors were a little stiff.
but the message was cynical at best and dark at worst.

hugo
I feel like I just watched the movie “Hugo” all over again.
Do you remember that film?  It was also portrayed to be some sort of kids movie with mystery and awe…but it just turned out to be an adult homage to a long retired film maker.

Perhaps you’ll disagree with me…that’s fine.
We all have our opinions and this is just mine.
Perhaps you have more sense of this movie than I do, and you actually saw the musical on stage.
I didn’t like it.
I felt cheated out of two hours of my life.
shrekI went to the movies expecting this to be a funny Shrek-like film when what we got was a Fable-turned Shakespearean tragedy full of “life sucks” themes.
My kids were unimpressed.
I just can’t buy into this philosophy.
Who knows…maybe this film just wasn’t for me…but advertisers: could you have just been honest with us?

The Black-eye Of Sports

I love sports.
I am an avid fan of various sporting teams.
There are certain players that I enjoy watching play the game.  There are superstars with an insane amounts of talent and to see them in action is truly inspiring.  I don’t want to take away anything from these sports that I love.  The game, in its pure form, can be spectacular to behold.

Recently in the news there have been stories of rampant racism, and domestic violence.  Some perpetrated by team owners while other acts such as domestic violence perpetrated by big named players.  It makes us sit back a bit from the couch.  It makes us re-evaluate what is important in life, beyond our weekly fascination with our home town teams.

The Black-eye of Sports:
The issues are really two-fold.
1) Personal struggles.  domestic
Sometimes it’s because people have harbored ignorance and racism in their lives and these troubles that have been left unresolved and addressed.   In 2014, it is shocking yet not surprising that racism is still alive.  It hurts my heart to even imagine ignorance like this still kicking.  It hasn’t gone away, but I sure wish it would.  While other times individuals have grown up in environments where learned abuse has become a “passed on” trait in their lives.  This does not excuse abuses by any means!  Violence against women or children, or anyone else for that matter, cannot and should not be tolerated!  When a sports figure, no matter how nationally recognized they are, is convicted or has displayed evidence of such a crime, they should not be allowed to continue to take a public stage in their respective sport.  Consequences for violence should be swiftly dealt with by both the league they compete in as well as the appropriate legal system(s).

But this topic is also quite complex as well.  There shouldn’t be just punishment for the offender.  If these individuals have grown up in homes of abuse and in turn have become abusers as well, counseling and rehabilitation ought to be sought also.  How will this cycle ever end if both the short term outcomes as well as the long term outcomes aren’t addressed?

rug2) Sweeping Things Under The Rug…
Sports franchises and leagues ought to be held accountable if they ignore such acts of violence by their players.  The whole Ray Rice situation has been both quietly and publicly analyzed.  Did the NFL try to keep the evidence under wraps?  What was the extent of their responsibility?  Did they scramble and only react because of the public outcry?  What does it say about integrity and ethics?  Understandably action was taken but if there had not been such a public response who these reactions been as severe?

zeroZero Tolerance For Every League!
No matter what the sport, every league should analyze how they respond to such proven crimes of domestic violence as well as evidence of racism.  Serious offenses such as these ought to be handled both in the court system but also within each respective leagues.  This isn’t JUST an NFL issue.  I believe other leagues are ignoring potential horrific abuses of the kinds as well.  I hope that every league in the US (and abroad) would implement vital policies to stop abusers of every kind long before the public gets wind of viral videos, long before there is applied pressure by the public.  I am hopeful that leagues will become more sensitive in protecting the innocent instead of protecting their investments…that they seek to send a message to the rest of society that abuse of any kind is wrong and should never be tolerated.

For The Rest Of Us…stop
We too have a responsibility to society.
We may not know star athletes and we may not travel among classes of wealth (perhaps some of you d0)…but we should  have a responsibility in our local communities and neighborhoods.  We can end domestic violence.  We can stop it, report it, and combat it through non-violent means.  We have a voice.  We have various means to end these awful, sometimes unspoken, crimes.  We should never ignore such blights of society.  We cannot turn a blind eye to innocent children and women being abused behind closed doors in their homes.

We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to racism in the work place, the social gather spaces or  our neighborhoods either.  We must actively campaign against such ignorance and injustice.

We may not be able to individually control sports leagues and their wealthy bankrolled lawyers and image consultants.  But we can implement change within our own communities, stand up from the innocent and work towards publicly altering the environment in which these leagues operate in.

As a Christian and a Pastor, It is vital that we help those in need including and especially those without a voice.  Abuse is no joke.  It can permanently damage lives and ruin families.  Speak up, take a stand and help to end domestic violence!

Something more to ponder today.

For more information on Domestic Violence:
Domestic Hotline
End Racism!
Fight racism now!
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Other sources

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There’s no question that General and Founder of The Salvation Army William Booth was a man on a mission.  He and His wife Catherine Booth were pivotal in starting something powerful within the World, yet I have to wonder if there was ever a trade-off with his passion.  We know some of the famous speeches like the “I’ll fight to the very end” speech and the phrase “do something” in speaking to Bramwell about a homeless situation.  There is no doubt both William and Catherine Booth were visionaries and innovators within a mission that ignited the foundation of this Army.  They are both revered and loved…

But…

There is a danger of being a visionary.
There can be a trade-off and sacrifices can be made along the way of blazing a trail. 
Without a doubt we know Booth to be a great General, albeit our first general, but was he a good father as well?   From most historical accounts one might draw a startling contrast from founder to father.   

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Truth: 
If Ballington Booth had not resigned within the Army the Volunteers of America would not have been founded, but why did Ballington leave the army?  He and his father did not see eye to eye.  Sure disagreements happen in families, but basically William Booth labeled his own family member a deserter to the cause.  In essence Booth excommunicated his own kin.  I certainly don’t think this is “father of the year” material.  However, in the heat of the moment, I can see regrettable comments being said and the damage being done.  

Still…
Family is our first ministry, our first priority.  I am not blaming our founder, but I do see warning signs of overworking oneself and sacrificing family for the sake of a cause.  Two things can take place when we overwork ourselves – 

1) Loss of perspective.

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Have you ever worked on a project so hard that you just had to step back from it to gain better perspective?  It seems to me that everyone of us can be guilty of tunnel vision from time to time because we are so success/vision focused.  If Jesus had to get away and be alone with the Father, so too must we.  We need to have a clear perspective, but if we overwork ourselves we will sacrifice something in the process.  It is like staring at the bark of a massive tree, but we wouldn’t know how great a tree it is until we took a few steps back so that our vision could refocus and we gain a broader outlook.  

2) Misalignment of Priorities

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Secondly, we can lose the true order of priorities when we overwork ourselves.  Suddenly the mission becomes the only thing that is important, and we begin to lose the support cast (and family) around us.  God first, family and then our mission…if we discombobulate these we run the risk of losing everything.  

These are just two lessons that I see when I consider The Salvation Army’s founder William Booth.  Yes he was a great man.  Yes his wife Catherine was the true driving force.  Yes an Army grew and lives were changed…but could family matters have been handled better in the process?   Is there something for us to learn from this as well?  Perhaps for starters stop placing Booth on some sort of deified platform.  He was, after all, still a man with imperfections like the rest of us.  I’m not saying don’t admire what he and Catherine accomplished, but be careful how much you revere the man.  Secondly, yes hard work does pay off, but be careful not to sacrifice your children and families in the process.  

Live a disciplined life but find rest and grace in the process.  

-Just some random ponderings of The Salvation Army today.  

 

Is the traditional family close to death? 4 threats that will flatline the family.

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The divorce rate in the United States is at an all time high – 50% and climbing.  For married couples, the busy world around them and the drive to be successful can be both rewarding and detrimental to their relationship.  If that issue were not enough, children within the family structure are facing greater societal pressures and visual/auditory simulations than ever before.  From images and videos on the web to television and online streaming accounts, the standards of moral living and what accepted behavior is, which should be taught by the parents are being contradicted by these outside influences.  

The argument can be made (and rightly so) that it is the parent’s duty to monitor and regulate the “data” consumption of their children yet all too often parents are either too busy working or have little to no interest in correctly parenting their children.  This is just one danger that threatens families today.  A sociological description of this is summed up in the phrase: “if you want to change society tomorrow you must teach the children of today!” The question is, who is teaching our children if the parents are not?  

4 threats that will flatline the family:

1 Societal Pressures: As mentioned above, who is teaching our children and what sort of influences are we allowing to infiltrate our homes?  Sometimes these influences seem innocuous yet just beneath surface there looms a greater threat which could potentially disrupt the teachings of the parents.   I don’t wish to sound like an alarmist or fire the danger flares without a clear sign of danger but parents be aware of what you allow your children to see, hear and do while they live in your home.  You have the greatest power to mold and shape your children, don’t let these outside influences disrupt or distort the godly principles that you are displaying and teaching them!   

2. Busyness: 
Parents, this is a warning to all of us.  Do not let your work and your job become all that you do!  Your first ministry and profession is to be a good parent!  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work, but rather prioritize your schedule where possible in order to be there for your children.  The threat of “busyness” can be translated by your children to mean that they don’t matter to you, they are less important than your work, and this is how they should in turn become parents to their children in the future.  

Do you remember the old song “Cats in the cradle”?  In the chorus there’s that haunting lyric:
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then

You know we’ll have a good time then.”

And the song goes on and the son becomes just like his Dad and never has enough time because he is always busy.  
Spend time with your children.  Don’t let this threat flatline your family and your relationships to your children!  Someday, if we allow the busyness to consume us, we will come to regret all of the broken promises and unfulfilled plans that never happened because we never took the time.  

3.  Materialism: 
This might get personal, am I stepping on anyone’s toes yet?  Good! 
This whole “keeping up with the Jones'” needs to end in our homes!  We run the risk of becoming so “stuff” focused that we lose sight of the precious relationships we have right in front of us.  God gave us these living and breathing miracles to watch over, to teach and to love, and if we are so consumed with “stuff” what will our children see and want to become as well?  There are some things we absolutely need in this life, but then there are those things that we crave and desire and even covet.  Has materialism become an obsession in your household?  There is no doubt that in our media saturated world the “tech craze” has perpetuated our wants over our needs.  It has driven people to spend beyond their means and even at the risk of their families and livelihoods.  If we have become obsessed with stuff, not only do we run the risk of our kids following close behind us in our footsteps but perhaps we have removed God from His rightful place as well.  Does materialism rule you?  Beware of this family threat that could flatline your family.  Perhaps this threat may not flatline you right away, but gradually over time it has the propensity to wreck havoc in your lives and the lives of your children. 

4.  Financial Pressures: 
money
One of the biggest threats to marriages today falls within the realms of finances.  Some of these financial pressures are interconnected with the third threat of materialism.  Families dream of buying that bigger or better house only to find that they have a bigger and harder mortgage to pay per month.  Financial pressures build and create fissures within the marriage relationship.  Married couples have to then work harder and slave over longer hours to help pay for the financial mess they find themselves in.  Along with the housing pressures come the credit card pressures (I’m beginning to sound like Dave Ramsey now).  Credit cards can be useful at times but it can also perpetuate this never ending cycle of debt in some and the dependence on borrowing money that we do not posses to pay off.  “At the end of the second quarter 2013, there was approximately $850 billion in outstanding revolving debt, mainly credit cards.” (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/five-shocking-credit-card-debt-statistics/) 

Here’s another credit card statistic: “the average credit card balance per consumer was recently reported to be $3,779″ (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/average-credit-card-debt/) 

Many families are living from pay check to pay check and at times have become enslaved to their credit card debts because they have overspent and lived without a backup plan and/or financial understanding of realistically “living within their means”.  This isn’t a discussion about poverty or the rich vs. the poor, this is a discussion about understanding how dangerous credit cards and debt in general can be on the family structure.  Financial pressures can be inherited and taught just as moral principles of living can be taught.  This doesn’t mean that all children will emulate their parents all the way into financial woes but certain habitual traits within finances can leave unhealthy blueprints for our children’s future.  

Get out the paddles and jump start the family heart: 

 

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Spend quality time with your family!  Regulate and filter what your children watch and hear in a media saturated world!  You are the parent so take the time, live like it and share your love and passions (those things that matter) with your family!  Don’t let these threats flatline your family, instead jump start your crew by intentional time and care!  Plan creative family events.  Do a family movie night.  Talk around the dinner table.  Invest in your children and in what they love to do.  Go to their school events when you are able!  Show up, don’t merely attend!  The family is your first ministry.  From your home stems all other avenues of God’s love for the world around you!  Don’t let your family flatline, it’s far too valuable to lose!  

-Just another thought to ponder.  

 

 

 

10 things…

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Your top ten may look drastically different than mine, but here goes…

10) Cherish Life!

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 “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” 
― Helen KellerThe Open Door

That’s right don’t take a minute of this life for granted, no matter how mundane or boring it can sometimes get.  Today, for example, the outdoor temperature is currently -15 below zero with a windchill of -40 below…so you can imagine we are not doing much outside today.  Regardless if life is entertaining or not, cherish this gift, this spark of life that we have all be given!  

9) Perspective.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” 
― Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden

We don’t (or shouldn’t) live life in a box.  Meaning that life and the living of it is so much broader than our own interpretation of life.  So it’s important to understand our interpretation of life as well as other people’s perspective on this vital subject.  If we only view life from our perspective then we fail to view humanity as a whole.  It may sound rather philosophical but if we are to truly appreciate this gift of life and to cherish it, we ought to understand more than just our little box of living.  Stepping back, viewing the world from someone else’ perspective might help us to better appreciate what we have in life.  What this “stepping back” will also do is help us to see other people as well.  When we can begin to see other people besides our own wants and needs, we can begin to see God’s handiwork through humanity and creation.  

8) Fun & Laughter

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” 
― Audrey Hepburn

If we fail to laugh, we fail to live.  I want to and try to find humor in this life.  I don’t want to take myself so seriously that I can’t laugh at my mistakes and my failures.  Laughter and fun heals a lot of issues in life, and I want to make the most of living.  They say it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile…so I try to smile often.  

7) Healthy Living

A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison. ~Francis Bacon

By now you might begin to think that I’m all about living…and you’d be right.  Why create more pain and issues down the road by NOT living a healthy lifestyle?  Confession time:  I’m not as health conscience as I should be…but I know what I need to do to get there.  I need to eat better and perhaps enjoy smaller portions.  I’m not feeling guilty!  Perhaps I should also stop staring at the elliptical machine and get on it more often.  I want  no I desire to live a healthy life…and eating right as well as exercise will help me.

6) Education

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

As a person who desire to know more about life as well as the One who created this life, it is my desire to read more about Him. There are many good writers out there who have many wonderful perspectives that would not only edify my life but others as well.  In life education never ends.  Education helps us grow as people.  Education cultivates a broader understanding of the spiritual and physical world around us.  My desire is to only stop reading and applying what I’ve learned on my deathbed.  

5) Write about what I know!

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

Here is where some lists may vary.  I would probably explode if I didn’t write.   When I have gathered inspiration and caught a hint of a spark from the writings of others I just have to share it.  When I write, my world seems clearer and the page becomes my very breath.  Thus, it becomes quite important to share with the world what other words of inspiration have taught me.  

4) Fellowship of Believers

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” 
― A.W. TozerThe Pursuit of God

I have been renewed and re-tuned by times of genuine fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ!  I crave it’s support in this life and I desire to grow more deeply in its waters as life progresses forward.  I could delve into what is and isn’t genuine Christian fellowship, but perhaps that is for another time.  Long story short, if you find friends and peers who encourage you and push you further in the faith with love and care, then you too are/have experience(ing) genuine Christian fellowship!  

3) Family

“Family is saying to one another “let’s go another mile together” even if the last was unbearable and painful…family is forever mile after mile.”  -SES

I wouldn’t be where I am without family beside me.  My parents and sister encouraging me, fighting with me and loving me.  My extended family who love me in the best of time and the worst of times.  The love that I feel as I converse with my children within my immediate family now, and the love of my spouse who challenges me to be better than I am right now.  Family, my dear friends is vital to me.  It makes life so much more worth living.  Another aspect of having children is that I now have this important responsibility to teach them how to live appropriately.  They are little mini-me’s walking around looking to me to set a good example of godly living.  Sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed…all the time I need God’s guidance and wisdom to help me.  Sometimes…family is life.  

2) My Wife

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“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” 
― Dr. Seuss

Some might say, “What?  You didn’t put her at the #1 spot in your life?”  She knows how important she is to me…at least I hope she does!  My relationship with my Love is one of a kind and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  She is my other half, my friend and my compass.  To say more, might get me in trouble.  

1) My relationship with Christ.

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“Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” 
― Augustine of Hippo

Whether it’s meditating on His words in Scripture or talking with Him through out my day, this relationship has to take the number #1 spot.  But don’t get me wrong, in every other listed thing of importance in my life Christ is invited in.  These things that I list here are nothing without Him in it.  Every moment of every day should be immersed in Him.  I too must confess it is not always so…sometimes it is far from so, but this is my desire!  My relationship with Christ is life, it means life to those who seek after Him, and it means life even after these final breaths on this side of the veil!  

 

What does your top ten look like?  

In our Eternal Lingerings (poem for my family)

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We linger in one another’s presence

As if minutes even hours can replace

the years that have separated us…

Yet we try.

The love that binds

us all, wound in affection,

Storied and often flawed

We love regardless…

I cling to our conversations

And our passing here

For with each passing year

Our time grows ever shorter.

But our love, this love yet remains…

Steadfast, firmly grasping on

To the times that make sense

The times, like still frames

Captured sentiment and warmth

That bathes us in its brilliance.

These moments are glimpses

Mere impressions and fragments

Of what we have yet to discover

In the great unknown. 

Yet I know but one thing,

This lingering, the drawing close

Of heart to heart will never fade

Only increase as Eternity

comes ever nearer. 

 

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