Sunday, April 24, 2011

What Needs to be Done?

Last fall, Ted and I co-led a "Spiritual Parenting" class based on the book with the same name by Michelle Anthony. It was excellent and we highly recommend it. Our kids are grown, but they're never too old for the new ways of loving and encouraging we found in this book.

The simple question, "What needs to be done?" 
can open doors to selfless giving.
The author wisely shared her prescription for "igniting a transforming faith," helping kids "find their identity in Christ," and putting them in "the path of the divine," rather just managing behavior and looking good on the outside.

One of my favorite parts is her introduction of the question: "What needs to be done?" Anthony suggests this is one of the best questions you can ask of your kids. She describes how children, even at an early age, need to move beyond "all about me" and see their interdependence to the world around them. When they see what they can contribute, they begin to grasp the value of serving others.

I did a lot of reflecting on this simple, yet profound question. It's so appropriate in so many situations:
  • Ask it of a toddler when it's time to pick up toys to go to bed.
  • Ask it of a 10-year-old who needs to set priorities for schoolwork.
  • Ask it of a teen sorting her way out of an emotional conflict.
  • A couple in our class told us they asked it of their kids when a realtor phoned wanting to show their home. The kids each found things to tidy up to make the place look more inviting.
  • We can ask the question of our kids, grandkids or other kids in various mentoring situations.
Asking that simple question teaches our youth to contribute to a family or group, which reinforces their worth and belonging. Then, it takes their identities in Christ a step further by encouraging them to give their gifts to others as part of His family.

The essential lesson of helping kids to become others-focused opens doors to independence, confidence and responsibility. When we ask, "What needs to be done?" we equip them to walk into any situation or relationship and use their leadership and problem-solving skills. They will be a better playmate, team-mate, room-mate, sibling, spouse, parent and community volunteer because of it. We empower them to assess the situation and to think for themselves, as we are there to guide them. Asking questions is so often better than giving answers!

We've all seen kids (and even adults) who are stuck in selfishness, not developing and using their gifts, not feeling equipped or empowered, waiting for someone else to do it. What a great thing it is when we teach  kids to really think for themselves. It's sure to enhance the purpose and meaning in their lives.

What needs to be done? Of course, the best way to sink the roots in deep is to model this behavior for our children. When they see us loving and serving others, they grow up knowing it is an important part of life.

Dear God, help us as we teach our kids to love one another, to see the gifts they have to give, and to find their divine purpose in life. Equip us, as parents, in this very important role!

Who can you encourage with this question?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Blessing Waiting to Emerge

Several months ago, I got a little handwritten note card from someone with whom I had lost touch over the years. She invited me to give her a call and to have lunch sometime.

It is always nice to be remembered by someone, and it made me smile. Nonetheless, it caught me at a busy time and I set the card aside.

Now, anyone with good manners would never approve of how long I procrastinated before making that one phone call. I had good intentions of making the call, but would move it from one stack of "to-do's" to another. I looked at the card every day -- can you believe it? -- for several months. What was I waiting for?

I have no idea why I made a little thing that could be so easy seem so hard. But, when I finally made the call, it wasn't difficult at all. We made plans and got together for a delightful lunch and sweet conversation. Not only did I reconnect with someone I had long ago admired, but now we have a richer connection as we found we are sisters in the Lord!

All those months I looked at that card as a "to-do" instead of a relationship "to be"! How could I have been so lax? The positive connection made me wonder how many other blessings I've been putting off or missing altogether.

Is there anything you've procrastinated about? Maybe it's time to move on it. There could be a blessing waiting to emerge.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings of the people you put in our lives. Some for a reason, others for a season, some for forever! Thank you, especially, for my brother and sister believers. They're special indeed because we'll share eternity together.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More Delight. Less Division.

"Love More Delightful Than Wine" was the name of the marriage enrichment seminar I shared yesterday at the Women's Breakaway. (I named it after the deep, committed, passionate love portrayed in the book of Song of Solomon.) I have a passion for helping women make the most of their marriages. I want to see couples find more delight and less division. Let's take just a few tiny sips of that wine today...

A great way to find more delight is to have a "teachable spirit." Are you always ready to learn more?

With all the negative forces around us, I think we need to be sharing encouragement with one another, building strong marriages and keeping delight flourishing. Let me share a few things I've learned, and then I'd love to hear from you, too!

It's not about me. Look around you and see how solid marriages are built up with selfless behavior and others are torn down with self-centered behavior. I have been blessed with a wonderful example watching my mom and dad serve each other and look out for one another's best interests (married 57 happy years and counting). Conversely, haven't we all seen marriages stagger under the weight of "it's all about me" thinking?

Listen to his heart. Remember how you hung on each other's every word when you were dating? Everything he said was important and you replayed the details in your mind when you were away from each other. Let's strive to listen like that again! Listen for the heart, and not necessarily the words chosen. Don't read more into it than what's there; don't run on ahead. Believe that your partner is on your side.

Don't put him in God's place. My husband is wonderful, but he's not God! He can't be everything for me or fix everything for me. I need to be bringing those needs to God. I've found that when I put God first in my life, everything else has a way of coming into the right focus. (Besides, my husband could some day be taken from me, but nothing can ever take God away!)

Gracious God, you've given us the example of perfect love -- it's sacrificial, unconditional, lavish and extraordinary. And it's for eternity. Let us bask in your love today. Please teach us how to love!

There's so much more, but I'll save it for another day. Please feel free to share your words of wisdom on any of the above. What makes your marriage great?