Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seven Things We Should Say to Our Children

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  –Ephesians 6:4

Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of overhearing a conversation you did not intend or want to hear?  This happened to me the other day in a grocery store parking lot.  I was walking back to my car after shopping when I passed a man and a teenage girl, presumably his daughter, having what sounded like a heated conversation.  As I passed by I heard the man say to the girl, “Retire?  How can I retire?  I can never retire and it’s because of you!”  I know better than to interfere with other peoples’ conflicts, but my heart ached for this girl.  The man said something she may negatively remember the rest of her life.

I know what the man said to the girl, but what do you think she heard?  I believe she heard something like, “You are a terrible burden to me and you’re causing me a lot of trouble – more than you’re worth.”  I walked away from this considering all the times I have spoken harsh words to my sons in moments of exasperation that I later regretted.  The only way to overcome the harsh words we have spoken in the past is to resolve to no longer speak them.  The next step is to cover our children with positive words of encouragement.

The following are my suggestions of things we should say to our children:

1. I love you.  These simple words speak volumes, and no matter how old our kids get, keep telling them this.

2. I am proud of you.  The world will point out our kid’s mistakes, so it is up to us to let them know how proud we are of their accomplishments.

3. You can accomplish this.  Listen when our children speak of their goals, hopes, and dreams.  Encourage them with the reminder that anything is possible if they trust God and set their minds to it.

4. I am here for you.  It’s up to us to let our kids know they can count on us when they need us.  When my sons were teenagers, we made a pact that if they were ever in a situation and needed me to come and get them, I would come, no questions asked.  Remind them that if they are at someone’s house and there is alcohol or drugs and they do not want to be there, they can call you and you will come – without judgment or lecture. 

5. You have a bright future.  This is the polar opposite of telling a kid how worthless he or she is, and believe me, countless children are often told such hateful words.  Remind our children often that they are unique individuals of unlimited worth and potential.

6. So, how’re you doing?  Are we truly willing to listen when our children speak to us?  If you have a trusting relationship in which your kids are willing to talk to you, then you are blessed, my friend.  Nurture this trust and let your kids know when they want to talk, you are willing to listen.

7. I’m sorry.  If we have failed our kids in some way, spoken harsh words, or were not there when they needed us, then a heartfelt apology is in order.  Swallow your pride and tell them you are sorry.  You may be surprised by the results.

Are there helpful and encouraging words you would add to the list?  How may I pray for you and your family today?  Start a discussion.  As always, you may post anonymously. 

Family is God’s gift to us.  Cherish them and nurture them.

God bless you.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ten Reasons Life is Worth Living

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.  –Psalm 3:5, 6

Often when I am talking with someone and trying offer encouragement, I realize I have no idea the true depths of despair the person may be experiencing.  He or she may be teetering on the edge of giving up on life altogether.  It may be that the person you speak kind and encouraging words to today may be hanging onto life by a slender thread, and your words could mean the difference between life and death.  Who knows that the person we bump into at the bank or grocery store may be so mired in sorrow that checking out of this world is beginning to look like a viable solution.

Several years ago, an acquaintance of mine stopped by the church office to see me.  I had known this man to be a hard worker, family man, and by all outward appearances emotionally solid.  He sat down in my office and began to speak of the internal struggles he was facing.  Through tears he confessed he believed his family and the world at large would be better off without him.  I sought to convince him that this wasn’t the case.  “Your family needs you,” I assured him.  “People all around you need you,” I said.  I sat there hoping and praying my words rang true and hit home.  I am glad to say the man is still here, and while I don’t see him very often, he is still among us, which means he is fighting the good fight of moving forward with life.

Maybe you have felt like the man I spoke with.  Perhaps you have experienced the hopelessness of despair and sorrow.  Let me assure you like I assured him that the world is a better place with you in it.  God has a wonderful plan for your life.  With this in mind, let me share today my ten reasons life is worth living.  Some of these overlap a little, but I pray they are an encouragement to you. 

1. Life will get better; give it more time.  You will be amazed at how life will have improved in a year from now.

2. You are an individual of immeasurable worth and potential.

3. You are not here by accident.  You were created by God for a divine purpose.

4. You are stronger than you think you are.

5. There are people who love you and need you in their lives.

6. The world is a better place with you in it.

7. You may feel terrible, yet you will be happy again.

8. God is perfectly willing to help you.  Ask and He will be there for you.

9. You possess gifts and talents from which others may benefit.

10. Joy is coming.  Seek it and wait for it.

How may I pray for you today?  Perhaps you just need to get something off your chest.  As always, you may comment anonymously.  

God bless you, it's going to be a great day!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Life Will Get Better. Give it More Time

For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.  –Psalm 30:5

            Endless days stretch before you.  The little squares on the calendar mock you.  The hands of the clock appear to be your enemy.  Your mind is troubled with hard questions. 

            “How will I make it through today?” you wonder.  The question can go no further, for you dare not think too far ahead.  Attempting to think beyond right now is too painful.  It’s all you can do to make it through the next few moments.  Dark thoughts crowd into your mind.  They tell you lies.  In your anguish you begin to believe, even if it’s for only a moment, life will never get better.  You feel you are stranded on this island of misery with no hope of rescue.  You come to a harsh and desperate conclusion; life is no longer worth living.

            Stop right there.  You must cease from thinking in these terms.  Allow me to share with you a simple truth which explains why I am so serious about this.  Life will get better if you will give it more time.  Let’s not play with any shallow parables about time healing all wounds.  Right now you need something of greater substance.  Put away any thoughts, no matter how sketchy they may be, of doing something drastic, and give your life more time.  If you will heed this advice you will be amazed at the results.  One year from now you will be amazed at how your life will have improved. 

            I understand perfectly what it feels like to believe life is no longer worth living.  Joy is gone, happiness is a foreign idea, and peace is overshadowed by constant gloom and sorrow.  Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, shaving, showering, getting dressed, and facing the world all have become too much trouble.  Pursuits which once brought tremendous joy now seem pointless.  Lying in bed and sleeping look much more appealing.  In fact, if given the opportunity you would sleep all day every day.  You sleep because while in the twilight of dreams you no longer contemplate how miserable you feel.  Were you to relay all of this to me I would pat you on the shoulder, gently, calmly, and share with you my own dark battle with depression.  During my darkest days when I thought I could go no further and life would never get better I resolved, with God’s help, to hold to a simple truth; life will get better if I give it more time. 

            How long did it take for me until life got better?  My struggle lasted six long years, from 2000 until 2006.  However, I held to this certainty; life will get better.  Heading into the sixth year I again claimed this powerful principle.  I again reminded myself that one year from now my situation will have improved.  The following spring the light shined, the dark clouds parted, and with God’s help the climb out of sorrow, depression, and all the accompanying loneliness and despair began in earnest.  Each succeeding year has become brighter as I have learned how to better manage and overcome depression.

            You can accomplish this.  You will get better.  Life will improve.  Your situation can and will look brighter.  No matter how lonely and desperate you may feel do not give up.  Give it more time.  You will be amazed down the road how life has become better, brighter, and more hopeful.  You will live again and you will be happy.

            Does feeling better and living a happy and productive life appear impossible?  One year from now your life will have improved. 

            Take life one day at a time, one hour at a time, and if you have to do so, take life one minute at a time.  You will never know the joys which await you if you give up.

            Keep going, for life is worthy living and will get better.

            Your journey has just begun.

How may I pray for you today?  As always, you may comment anonymously. It's going to be a great day.