Will The Real Parents Please Stand Up

I have noticed a phenomenon that is happening in our society that I’d like to explore with you over the next few posts. I notice that we excuse our children’s behavior all the time for whatever reason. Some of our youth are on Facebook and we’re friends, so I read the news feed some of the posts were way out of line. Now, keep in mind, I am not a prude in any way, shape, or form, but some stuff was just not what I would want to have my kids writing on a public forum. I spoke to the youth and their parents. Their parents quickly went on the defense. Here are some of the responses:

Aren’t these pages a form of their private expression? Uh, NO! The Internet is so wide open that privacy and Internet are not words that even go together.

Aren’t these pages just for kids? Well, if they are, then why do I have access? Have you read the papers or turned on a TV in the last century? There are predators out there.

He didn’t do it; it was a friend of his who wrote it. So when it was discovered why wasn’t it removed?

There is a lot of pressure out there and she just wants to fit in. So in her circles of influence fitting in means what exactly?

Pastor Susan you are funny of course not but you know! No, I really don’t.

Not one, not one single parent, reacted in shock or surprise and went to change things for their child. This child’s reputation is harmed and the results in a small town are devastating.  I read recently that Facebook is checked in consideration of college admission. So a post can be damaging on so many levels.

I am not just picking on anyone either. These parents are just a reflection of the rest of our society. Parents just either don’t know what to do or don’t want to be bothered. I think the greatest failure in America is that we decided we were our children’s friends. The problem with that thought process is that we aren’t. Or what I should say is, that we weren’t designed to be. We were called to be parents.

1 Corinthians 4:15 There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father.

You know what? They won’t find their own way through life. You’ve got to lead them in the way you’d like for them to go if you want them to be successful. Children have lots of friends but only one set of parents.

Ethos

byu.org

Ethos is defined as the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society;

Understanding the definition of ethos, we can see that our family has an ethos, our workplace has an ethos, our schools have an ethos, our church has an ethos, our society has an ethos, and we as individuals have an ethos as well. In an ideal environment all of these groups would have similar characteristics and would function well together but in reality, sometimes they function quite differently and contrary to each other. The question I pose today is where do we as individuals stand in these ever-changing environments? Do we conform to the pattern of this world or do we stay true to what we know is right? Do we even know what is right?

The bible speaks to us about what God deems right and wrong, and while we Amen in the ethos of our church culture, we also Amen in the ethos of our work and home environment, even when the two don’t always intersect. This confusion stagnates our growth, compromises our beliefs and ultimately destroys our soul.

It is then no wonder that people laugh at followers of Christ and don’t follow Christ because of us. We set fire to an abortion clinic rather than get on our knees and pray, or better yet, help fund single mothers, and yet when it’s our unmarried daughter who is pregnant suddenly abortion is a possibility. We rant about the sin of homosexuality, all the while having sex outside the confines of marriage. We cry out against same sex marriage, yet do not uphold the sanctity of marriage simply by staying married. What we say and what we do don’t match up and we aren’t hiding it well.

When we decide that our ethos is going to take on the character and culture of Christ, there will inevitably be a consistency in the culture in which we live. When we decide that love is the banner under which we live, and that there is no room for anything else, our culture will change. Not without a fight, because it’s never as easy as it seems. Our home, our desk or our hammer, our opinions, can and will truly serve God once that decision has been made. We may be the only ones in our environment who walk it out but walk it out anyway. Eventually, someone will notice. The things of the world that easily ensnare us will no longer have a hold on us. Ethos describes our code of conduct. It refers not only to our community but our individuality as well and if we want things to change it must begin within ourselves first.

The church I serve in requires leadership to read and grow and learn. It’s not enough to hear a sermon preached on Sunday, we are challenged to find out if our Pastor was telling the truth. The most consistent comment I hear from members is that they have learned more in the time they have spent with us than in their entire walk as Christians. Why? Is it because we’re so dynamic as teachers? Not even close. The reason is that we give them the responsibility to work out their own salvation on their terms. They do not get invited to form the ethos of our church if they are not already breathing, eating, and living our belief system. Forget faking it, it comes out in the end.

My challenge to you today is study out your environment. What do the things you allow in your home say about your belief in God? Are you consistently the same person at work, home, with friends, at church? Do you dictate the ethos with your behavior or do you allow the ethos to dictate your behavior?

But What If I Don’t Wanna?

With not an inch of space to walk and the stench of a locker room emanating from the boy’s room, kitchen counters sticky from lemonade making and gently asking for two weeks daily for the sugar spilled on the kitchen table to be picked up before we were visited by ants, I finally flipped out. Granted, the sugar spills were daily in a new location and the sticky countertop was wherever the lemonade had made that day, at 17 you’d think he would pick stuff up right? Wrong!

My 17 year-old said, “You act as if we are doing this TO YOU. We aren’t. We simply don’t think about it. My teacher says you should only do what you are passionate about. Nothing else. I am trying to live that.”

I said, “Yeah well your teacher lies because he can’t say everything he does he is passionate about.”

“Yes he can, he loves teaching!!”

“He may love teaching but does he love getting to work on time, having meetings, meeting deadlines, and all that goes with that? Your dad loves preaching but he hates parts of his job. He does them because they allow him to pursue his passion. With everything you do, there are parts of it that aren’t so great but you do them to get to do what you want.”

“NO! He really doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do.”

“Whatever! Do you have groceries in this house?”

“Yes”

“Have you had them here for the last 10 years?”

“Yes”

“Well, I hate grocery shopping so what if I just stop doing that? Since it isn’t my passion?”

The eyes begin to look desperately for the next argument to prove his point.

“You see, you want more responsibility but you aren’t handling what you’ve been given. Until I see that you are taking care of this stuff, I can’t give you more.”

Yes, sometimes we look more like the Roseanne Barr Show than the average family.

There’s a bigger issue here. You see, we’ve created this monster, and it’s not just in our home, it’s in your home as well, and in many other homes. It’s the American spirit that has brought us to this mess. It’s this ideal that I was created to only do what I want to do and we should all live out our lives happy and entitled. Dishes should magically clean themselves and beds should come with a remote control that pull the sheets up. Work should be an afterthought or for the idiots who haven’t figured out what they were created to do.

And just to be clear here, I am not asking for perfection. I’m fine with closing the door to the kids rooms, but when the smell starts creeping down the stairs or when the dirty stinky shirt is on the kid who needs a ride in my car, it’s then that I have an issue.

There are things we do, not because we want to, but because we are part of a community and that requires the good of the whole, not the one. We need to get back to center and it starts in our home first.

The Art of Conversation

Ephesians 4:29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. ~ The Message

I am a people watcher. One particular day Doug and I had decided to get Indian Food at a line-out-the-door-hole-in-the-wall, that has some good grub. We had a good 20 minute or more wait, so I watched the couple in front of us. She kept trying to talk to him, he kept reading his phone and answering in one or two words. Technology etiquette blog on the way. There were two girls from work discussing work it seemed, there were people quietly walking through the line. As we moved closer to the front, I began to look for a table. There were three women and two men, laughing hysterically and enjoying their lunch. What fun to have lunch with friends, I thought! One woman was a loud-mouth and chewed with her mouth open. Another etiquette blog. I watched her in what seemed like slow motion poking her fork into her curry chicken and then chewing with her mouth open as she talked to everyone. I wondered how much food was being sprayed into the others plates. She chews like a cow, I thought to myself.

We ordered and found a table to sit down at. As we waited patiently for our food to arrive, I noticed that many of the couples there were reading their phones and not interacting. Ourselves included. Okay, I thought, we really have to get back to the basics. Where’s the conversation here? I mean this has the potential of being a really good date for the two of us.

Ohoh! Landmine at the table with the three women and two men. Loudmouth girl says loudly, “That stupid f*^@&*# b%#@%. I asked her if something was up between us and she said no.” So the women begin to dish on whoever they were talking about. I quit looking at them because they were quite engrossed in their conversation. One of the men sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. The other man put his hand to his mouth. They looked uncomfortable. They looked away. They looked down at their food. Then the one man, with his hand to his mouth, engaged the other man in a conversation of some sort, and they both even positioned themselves and moved their seats slightly apart from the women. Now instead of five people talking at a table, there were two sets of conversations going. Displeasing conversation had broken up the camaraderie.

I looked around the room and realized we were unaware of each other, even when we’d opted to dine together. People were busy on their cell phones, others were merely eating, still others were having separate conversations unaware that others were uncomfortable. I looked over at the couple who had been in front of us in the line. She was sitting quietly annoyed and he was still on his phone. We were still on our phones, as Doug began to tell me about what he’d learned about beer on the History Channel. I crinkled my nose and said, “Beer is gross.”

It begs the question are we engaging each other in real conversations? Conversations that matter? The gossip at table of five separated out lunch buddies, the cell phones separated out many. Wait! I look over in the corner of the room. There are three old guys with long hair. Hippee-types from another time. They were eating Tandoori salads, leaning back in their chairs, in friendly discussion. No phones, no women! I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Maybe their free love talks of days gone by, have given way to political discussions about Wall Street? I don’t know, but it made me wonder if we’ve lost the art of conversation?

If You’re Poor You Can’t Be Choosy

We run a thrift store. Out of that thrift store, we are able to help people in our community with essential items. Some of our customers come in to shop for bargains. Others come in to shop for free due to a hardship. Thank God our community has responded so well to this. They donate items all the time and they keep us running. They are truly the blessing in this story.

As with anything else, there are a few bad apples to spoil any bunch. We have people who come by to donate a couch, let’s say. The couch has been out on the back porch for a while. The dogs have laid and peed on it, it’s been rained on, it’s got huge gashes of fabric missing and the cushions are pretty much flat as a pancake. Like the picture above it is passed it’s expiration date. The conversation goes something like this:

US: “We’re sorry we won’t be able to take your couch as a donation. It has to be a usable item. It has to be ready for someone to use. Unfortunately we don’t have people who can repair it.”

THEM: “Well, isn’t it going to poor people?”

US: “Yes it is, however this couch isn’t usable in its condition.”

THEM: “I just think if you’re poor, and you need something, you take what you can get.”

US: “Yeah, sorry, no, we can’t take it. It isn’t usable. If you’d like us to dump it for you the dump fee is $20 since they charge us to dispose of it. If you want to pay the $20 we’ll dump it for you.”

This is when the conversation either gets weird or good. Sometimes it’s met with relief. They understand the problem, they just don’t know what to do with the item. They gladly pay the fee and leave it with us. Other times, they become angry. They say things like, “I’ll just go dump it by the homeless people stay.” Or they wait until we’re closed and leave it for us anyway, thus sticking us with the dump fee and therefore taking away $20 from the community help coffer.

Just because a person is having a difficult time, don’t they still deserve dignity? If you were the person struggling to make ends meet, would you want something that is not usable? How would that help you? How would that add quality to your life? We need to think beyond ourselves.

My prayer for the New Year is that we see that poverty in America is not always a sign of laziness. I know families who were on top of the world. Cars, kids in private school, living large and now, due to a reduction in the availability of work, they are having to ask for assistance. Yes, I see abuses of a system. We will always see that. Unfortunately just like the person wanting to save $20 from their pocket and stick it to the church, there are those who want to scam the church out of $20 too. Humanity dictates to us that we treat each other with dignity. Let’s try it. This year, let’s realize that everyone deserves a measure of respect. You never know when you’ll need that kindness reciprocated.

Not Bone Of My Bone

I have struggled with step-parenting. That is true and well documented. However, we really need to change our minds about how we speak of our children.

While out with Lauren, my stepdaughter, a man we both know, asked me, “I haven’t seen your kids in awhile. How are they doing?” I smiled, knowing what he meant but not wanting to feed this thinking, I answered, “One is standing right behind me.” I heard Lauren snicker. The man persisted, “No, I mean your real kids.” I answered, “She looks pretty real to me. Are you talking about my two oldest? They are fine. Working and living in Los Angeles.”

People who are reading this today, my request is this: please don’t distinguish between a biological and an adopted child. My step-children may not be bone of my bone but they are certainly children of my heart. Maybe it’s incomprehensible that a stepmother would love her children, since fairy tales tell us otherwise, but I do. So please think before you speak. I know most people do not think about what they are saying and I’m sure it wasn’t meant as a slam but what if you were Lauren hearing this conversation? What if I had responded in a different way? Would that have hurt her heart? Let’s just be a little more careful with our words.

Late Again?

Time management is a great skill to have. Notice I said it’s a skill. A person who cannot self manage themselves limits their leadership ability. People who are consistently late are saying loud and clear that they have poor planning skills. Psychology tells us that people who are consistently late are rebellious and care little about other’s time. They want to inform you that they don’t care about what the expectation is. In their own fantasy of life, they are the king or queen of the universe and you are the servant who will wait to be honored by their presence. Naturally, this is very strong language to be used so usually they deny it, but that realization will only do one of two things: reinforce the boorish behavior or modify it. It is simply a way for the person who is late to show people disrespect without having the confrontation of words. Leaving you waiting is of no concern to them. Actions speak louder than words so the message is perfectly clear.

If you have someone in your life who is chronically late, reassess your friendship. You are not valued by that person and they are not honoring you or holding you in any sort of regard. If you have a person who is chronically late in your workplace, they are quite simply stealing from the company. Time is important, too important to waste on those who think nothing of you.

If you are chronically late, quit making excuses. Everyone’s time is important. Yours is no more so than the people you keep waiting on you.

Running occasionally late happens. Running chronically late there simply is no excuse for.

I Thought You Were A Church

Through our church we run a thrift store. Our thrift store handles our benevolence as well. It’s curious to me when people try to point fingers at us for their perceived offenses at what we do. Recently a customer came in to purchase $12.00 worth of items. She tried to pay with her debit card but it was declined. She rummaged through her purse to come up some of the money but she was still short. Our cashier explained that she didn’t have the authority to override the purchase for a lesser amount. The customer became livid.

“I can’t believe you won’t let me have the rest of my purchase. You are supposed to be the church. I am going to tell all of my friends not to come here.”

Our cashier was upset because she was following policy and asked me later how it should have been handled. Our cashier said that because the items weren’t essentials, she felt confident in maintaining the policy. I backed up our cashier’s judgment.

We often get these rants. What is amazing is that people often throw the “you’re supposed to be the church” comment to us. In other words, what they are saying is that since we are the church they should be allowed to take advantage of us. We should bow to their whims. We should give them what they want.

I understand that we live in an entitled society but I wonder if they yell in the same fashion at their local Walmart or Target? When they are short on cash they do begin to yell and make a scene that their things should be free? I have had to put things back before, or leave a store without something I wanted. Trust me, it isn’t the end of the world.

I often find the people who come in using their vouchers are so much more respectful, often humbled by their life experience, they try to stay under their voucher amount. They come to the register and ask the cashier to ring up their purchases because they don’t want to go over their voucher amount.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if the economy is down because we are a society who must have what they want when they want it regardless of what the price someone else has to pay for them to have it?

It is because we are the church that we must be fair and even-handed. Not allowing others to take advantage of the generosity of many.

Cell Phone Etiquette

 

Just because a cell phone seems like a tether to 24/7 access doesn’t mean that manners went away. Here are a two very important things to remember when using a cell phone:

  • Use the 9-9 rule. If this is a personal cell phone you are calling, please do not call before 9 am nor after 9 pm unless it’s an emergency. A REAL emergency, like someone has been rushed to the hospital, not like you ran out of milk for your cereal. Instead, if it’s important, send a text, if the person is available they’ll call you. If not, you’ve not disturbed them.
  • Do not hang up and call over and over again. If the person didn’t answer the first time, leave a message. Sometimes, if I’m in a meeting and you call, I can’t answer. If you hang up and call right back, I’m still in a meeting and still can’t answer. If you hang up and call a third time, you’re just being annoying and it gets irritating. LEAVE A MESSAGE.

Do not expect that because it’s a cell phone the person has the phone on all the time. There are times when I’m home and downstairs cooking dinner, doing laundry or whatever and my phone is upstairs. There are times when I’m on a date with my husband and want to focus on him. There are times when I (gasp) take a shower or take the dog for a walk, or am sitting on my front porch reading a book. It’s not personal, we have lives away from our cell phones.

For me, I found that I had become addicted to the phone and others had become addicted to being able to call me all the time. It hit home one day, when at family dinner, we all had our cell phones next to our plate. I determined to simplify my life this year. To get back to basics. To not fall into a trap of having to answer while I’m trying to eat. So my phone gets turned off sometimes on purpose. It gets left behind sometimes on purpose. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it just means I am not always available.