As I listen to the words spoken in ceremonies on Memorial Day I am reminded of what it means to have a military that has sacrificed so much for us and for others around the world. We take it so for granted.
Courage – Sacrifice – Bravery – Valor
They aren’t just words. They represent actions taken that has put their lives on the line.
In July, 1959 we became the proud parents of our first child, a son we named Robert (Bob). A happy kid, full of energy, he grew up with an inquisitive mind for computers, writing and creating games. He had a heart for kids and loved cats (he still does).
Eighteen months later, our daughter, Elizabeth was born. Bright, cheerful and full of life, she filled our hearts with happy escapades as she followed her brother around and at times made life miserable because doing things right came easy for her while he struggled.
Five years later, our last son, Don, was born. He was special is so many ways. With a twinkle in his eye, he could make you smile and laugh. Born without the muscle capacity to hold up his head, he learned to walk, swing on ropes, play the trombone, be in cub scouts and act in drama classes with a brace designed especially for him. After back surgery and fusions, Don went on to become a conceptual artist in Santa Monica, CA. drawing, writing, and producing. Pancreatic cancer took his life in 2009.
In the game of sports, coaches call time outs to discuss new strategies.
In the game of life, we need time outs to step out of intense work cycles, give our mind a chance to calm down, and allow our bodies to release tension.
I work out of a home office and I periodically leave my computer and spend five to ten minutes doing some mindless chore to give my brain a break. Or to simply sit quietly and close my eyes and use the relaxation techniques I describe in my book on stress and my Relaxation CD. Mindless chores allow my body movement while my brain disconnects from planning, worrying or thinking.
Everybody needs time outs – your children as well as yourselves
This is not a boring 3-5 minutes sitting in a chair because of noncompliance. Time outs are a way to restore balance. It is unplugging – unhooking from all the electronic devices we use to divert ourselves and purposefully setting aside quiet time to allow our brains and bodies to relax.
In the busy world we live in, we expect kids to obey and do it right now! When they don’t, we often threaten, take away privileges or ground them.
When we are tired, it is easier to get angry and harsh in our responses. When expectations are unclear, there are more arguments.
Obedience versus responsibility
We want our kids to obey. We also want them to become responsible. Obedience without understanding both choices and consequences, however, does not help kids become responsible. While there will be times when obedience without question is necessary, especially when danger is a factor, those should be the exception.
When we feel good about ourselves, we are ready to tackle the world. Bring it on! Nothing is too tough. Whatever happens we believe in our ability to handle it.
Brennan Manning in his book, “Abba’s Child,” quotes David Seamon from his book, “Healing for Damaged Emotions”, who writes that many Christians are defeated by Satan’s most powerful psychological weapon.
“This weapon has the effectiveness of a deadly missile. Its name? Low self-esteem. Satan’s greatest psychological weapon is a gut level feeling of inferiority, inadequacy and low self-worth.”
He goes on to say that even when we believe and have had “wonderful spiritual experiences”, low self esteem can “shackle” us and keep us from living a full life that God has put in place.
I have had some excellent teachers in my life and some that were downright lousy. In school they played an important role in helping me understand difficult subjects so I could learn.
What makes a good teacher?
For me, a good teacher is someone who is interested in helping you learn. They define their topics and goals and the steps needed to accomplish them and offer encouragement and motivation to achieve. As parents, we are also teachers.
Learning is a lifelong process. As a parent, we are teaching our children about how to be responsible adults as they go through childhood.
In my blog, Navigation, I wrote about the importance of rewarding children for the tiny steps they make toward a predetermined goal. Some children will need many tiny steps that are rewarded as they move toward the ultimate goal.
There is a kid in all of us. Sometimes we tie him up so he can’t say, “I’m tired of working so hard. I want to go play.”
Every kid needs time to play. That is true for us as adults as well. There is a kid in each of us who wants to fling out his arms and race down the hill with wild abandon while laughing for the sheer joy of laughing.
Play for the health of it
Play is that medium that releases the bubble of life inside each of us, inviting us to get off the merry-go-round of schedules and simply be. It liberates us from the pressure of work, stress and time constraints to let go and have fun.
Play – it can be individual or a group effort. It can be the simple act of working on a project that has no merit other than it is fun and pleasing in some way. It may be a solitaire state of being as you sit and watch an ant hard at work gathering and collecting bits of food, or a spider deviously waiting on his web of deception for that unsuspecting insect to land and be captured.
“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller
Christmas: a shining star – a break from the tedious schedules we find ourselves in.
But Christmas is more than a nice diversion – a blurb on the radar screen of our hectic lives.
For a moment in time we escaped the drudgery, the pressures, anxiety, and uncertainties.
For a moment in time we humbly knelt before the Christ Child whose birthday we celebrate.
For a moment in time we laid down our heavy burdens of doubt and fear and unanswered questions.
And now Christmas is over for another year: the torn wrappings stuffed in bags ready for the garbage pickup; bows packed away to use again next year. Families have returned home, and we collapse in an easy chair, take a deep sigh of relief and try to relax.
We are left with an afterglow of loving moments, age old songs that brought joy to our spirits and rituals that filled our hearts with special remembrances.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
We have heard the story so many times in Christmas cards, articles and sermons. It is a familiar and treasured tradition – a tradition that today is being challenged on many fronts.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 -King James Version (KJV)
Who is this God
Who is this God who sent His Son as a vulnerable baby to a self-serving world of treachery and deceit? A God who loves us more than we can imagine. A God who knocks gently at our hearts and waits for us to invite Him in.
This last weekend, the Skagit Valley Chorale gave two sold-out performances at McIntyre Hall in Mt. Vernon, WA.
This year’s program was a departure from our more traditional selection. Joining with our 100+ singing group was a Big Band Jazz orchestra. Together with a talented announcer, commercials and special spots, we replicated a 1940’s radio show.
Audience and performers alike loved it.
It is our tradition at the end of our Christmas concerts that the members of the chorale go down into the aisles of the audience to sing our closing number, “Peace, Peace”. It is a moving experience for both singers and people in the audience.
This year, a friend of mine who came for the first time to one of our concerts told me afterwards that when we sang “Peace Peace” in the aisles surrounding them on all sides, it was like having an “invisible blanket of peace wrapped around them.”