Saturday, October 26, 2013

Parenting Backwards

Raise your hand if you want to raise broken and dysfunctional kids.  No one?   I'm guessing no mom has held their newborn child and dreamed of rearing up their little one with low self-esteem and a plethora of insecurities. Then, why do so many kids struggle as adults with these very issues?  I have a theory.

Many parents aren't parenting backwards.  That's right - Parenting Backwards.  What I mean is parenting with a picture in mind of what you want your child to be like when they're grown. When our kids are young, it's easy to stay focused on the here and now.  Each day has enough packed into it that it's hard to see past the next hour much less years down the road.  Let's face it, from the moment their little red bottoms are slapped at birth, life gets CRAZY!  Families are rushed and pressured to the breaking point.  This often results in a half-hazard approach to parenting. 

Life has a way of carrying us along day to day with no real thought as to where we are going.  I'd like to take a moment to challenge parents to 'parent with the end in mind'. When your kids graduate from high school, what characteristics do you want to see?  Integrity?  Responsibility?  Trust?  Confidence?  These are not natural human qualities.  If you want them to possess these traits as adults, you've got to teach to the heart when they are children. 

Proverbs 4:23 is an all-time favorite, "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."  How are you guarding and shaping your child's heart?  We spend fortunes on braces to shape their smile; education to shape their intellect; and private lessons or team sports to shape their talents.  But what about character? 

God instructs parents to be the ones to teach character and shape their child's heart.  "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)  These commands God gives are the heart shapers!  Sow this into your little ones hearts now and reap the benefits when they are adults.

Some day your present will be your past.  When you're in the future, what do you want your past to look like?  (Read that again slowly if you need to.) Let it be more than orthodontist appointments, good report cards, and soccer trophies.  Let love, truth, mercy and grace also be part of those memories and a part of your future.  Parent backwards to get the past you want in the future and enjoy the beautiful benefits of "heart healthy" children!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

God & Guitars

If you are really, really fortunate then once in your life you'll have someone cross your path who makes a lasting impact.  Like most parents, I pray for my kids to get good teachers and coaches in school, etc.  We've been blessed with some precious teachers over the years but tonight was a once in a lifetime experience.

Our son Jack has been taking guitar lessons for three years.  We've been with his current teacher, JRod, for about a year.  Jack has been working towards youth worship band auditions at church.  JRod is the former youth worship band pastor so he's got great insight.  Not only is he an extraordinary musician, he understands the heart of worship.  God has gifted him with a passion and ability to lead the next generation in worship and musical excellence.  That's a little bit about him, now let me tell you about Jack.

He made the worship band and absolutely loves it.  It's his thing and we're so excited he's found 'his thing'.  Since making the band Jack has been eyeing new electric guitars.  The one he has is a starter.  He's been earning money mowing lawns, pulling weeds, etc. for our neighbors.  He's saved up enough to pay for half of a pretty nice instrument.  JRod builds guitars and sells them to professional musicians.  There is one guitar in particular that Jack has admired in JRod's studio. It is a replica of his instructors vintage Stratocaster...the kind of guitar that even makes this novice's jaw drop. 

Jack has really no hope of getting this superior piece of craftsmanship because it's way out of his price range.  So he just admires it from afar.  To put it into my terms...this is a Louis Vuitton purse to one you buy off the rack at Target.  There's nothing wrong with the Target variety, but oh to have Louis.  But I digress....

A few months back Jack decided just for fun to make an imitation electric guitar (actual size) for his teacher.  He made it from sheet metal with a plywood base for stability.  He measured it out.  He used some sort of jig-saw (did you know they make different kinds of saws???) and metal cutters to shape the instrument.  Then he collected various parts from the hardware store and our garage to create the pegs, control knobs and pick-ups found on electric guitars. It was really quite impressive. 

All this time that Jack's been working hard to earn money and working hard on this gift, Chris has been talking with JRod about what kind of guitar Jack should get.  Chris even asked about this custom guitar in his shop but, not surprisingly, it was four times Jack's budget.  However, after thinking on it and praying about it, the teacher texted Chris and said he felt God wanted him to give this guitar to Jack at the price Jack could afford.  What?! 

Chris and I were completely overwhelmed.  Why would he do this?  This custom guitar had cost the teacher hours upon hours of time not to mention financial expense and emotional investment.  How could he part with it for such a low price?  This is the answer he gave. "I've had several people express interest in buying this guitar but I haven't been ready to give it up.  I've seen Jack's heart and I think he deserves this guitar.  I know he will invest himself in it for God's glory.  Jack's the man I'm supposed to give this to." 

So Chris came up with a plan to surprise Jack.  Jack's work of art was ready to be presented to JRod.  We drove over last night to give it to him.  JRod didn't know about Jack's gift...and Jack didn't know about the surprise that awaited him.  You should have seen JRod's reaction upon receiving this imitation guitar.  He treated it like priceless art.  He spent time looking at how Jack made it, the shape, the strings, etc.  His beautiful wife was there and she expressed great appreciation for the time it must have taken Jack to make it.  They talked about where they would hang it in the teacher's studio.  You could say their reaction was worth more than the guitar Jack had built but they saw it for what it was - an expression of thanks for an admired mentor.

After this JRod said, "Hey Jack, did I tell you I sold my Sunburst?  Yeah, I sold it to a kid I teach.  He loves the guitar and I decided I would only part with it if I knew it were going to someone who would use it for God's glory.  That's why the kid I sold it you."  (I'm crying again now just thinking about it.)

Are you trying to guess Jack's reaction?  Did he jump up and down?  Did he say, "Get out of here!"  Did he burst into tears?  How do you respond to such a great gift?  Jack had spent a few hours working on an imitation.  It was cool but it wasn't the real thing.  The teacher had spent countless hours, sweat, energy, and love on this authentic guitar.  Jack was speechless.  Tears welled in his eyes.  He was amazed.  The once admired piece of work in the master's studio now belonged to him.  He didn't have to look at it hanging on a wall and wonder what it would feel like to play.  He held it.  He played it.  Now it would hang on his own wall and he could play it any time he wanted.

There are so many beautiful illustrations in this story but it boils down to this.  When we bring our offering of worship and admiration (the imitation guitar) to the Master, He loves it.  He knows our limitations and weaknesses but he knows our heart too.  He knows our motive is love and admiration. 

What happens when we give all we have to God?  He meets us right there with His overwhelming greatness.  He pours out healing and blessing and meets the deepest need of our heart. God's gift of Himself is the real deal.  He's poured His energy, sweat, and blood out for us.  We don't have to admire this gift from afar. Draw near to the Master today and experience Him for all He's worth.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Challenge of a Chocolate Pie

Last week I stood before a large, intimidating mountain and dared to climb.  Here's my story.  Before I married my wonderful husband, my last name was Smith.  Being raised a Smith means certain things.  Smith's love Jesus.  Smith's support the Dallas Cowboys.  We laugh a lot and food is at the center of it all.  Our family gatherings revolve around a menu of traditional Smith favorites.  Who is cooking what, when will we eat it and how soon can we plan the next meal are central questions to be addressed.

Among our food traditions and addictions, there is one special dish that rises to the top.  My mother's chocolate pie.  Everyone who knows my mother knows she is a great cook.  People love my mama's cooking.  The woman can prepare anything she sets her whisk to.  In our family there are several recipes we always want mom to fix but none can compare to...The Chocolate Pie.

That's why no one else in our family ever dares to make it.  Until one day last week I decided to climb that mountain. We had special guests staying at our house.  As an expression of my love for these friends, I wanted to make a special dessert.  It doesn't get any more special than The Chocolate Pie.  I'd had my mom's recipe for years but never dared to actually attempt it.  How could it possibly compare?! No way!!  My mom laughs at my trepidation, but my apprehension was justified.  I was scared to follow in my mom's footsteps.  Has anyone ever heard of Picasso, Jr. the great painter or Einstein the second, the great thinker?  I didn't think so.

In the Old Testament, a guy named Joshua had his own mountain to climb.  He'd been trained up under Moses to succeed him but when the time came...well, holy cow, how do you follow freaking Moses?!  In Joshua 1:1-9 God boosts Joshua's confidence with these words, "(v.3) I will give you every place where you set your foot..(v.5) No one will be able to stand up against you; I will never leave you nor forsake you...(v.6) Be strong and courageous...(v.7) Be strong and very courageous...(v.8) Be careful to obey everything I tell you...(v.9) Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Does God know how to give a pep talk or what?! Yes, Joshua had big shoes to fill.  Who could blame him for feeling a little intimidated?  God said Joshua could do it.  Joshua believed God.  Joshua obeyed God.  Joshua saw God come through. 

Well, it doesn't quite compare to entering the Promised Land, but I made that pie.  After several calls to my mom for support it was finished.  By listening to her encouragement and following her recipe the pie turned out great. 

What mountain stands in front of you?  What is God asking you to do that scares you?  If God says you can do it, then you can!  Believe Him.  Obey Him.  See God come through then we can celebrate.  I'll bring pie!