Sunday, December 15, 2013
In most cases it's not easy. There is usually all sorts of personal baggage hidden under their emotional layers of debris which will not be disposed of quickly. Often the person breaks down in despair seeing their prized possessions being thrown in a dumpster or at best organized.
Most of us watching a program like that would say, "That will never be me. I couldn't stand living that way." And we're probably right. There are only a small percentage of people who will endure the extremes of a true hoarder.
But I wonder if a lot of us aren't closer than we think, at least in spirit. We really do hoard we just do it in an organized and more acceptable way. Let me suggest a few areas where potential hoarding can crop up in our homes.
We may hoard successes. We keep trying to add one more award, win, trophy or adulation for our kids or ourselves. We live for the next chance to tell a friend or put on Facebook the latest impressive feats in our family. How many Christmas letters rather than just giving an update on the family's important moments of the year are filled with all of the latest things to brag about on each person?
We may hoard security. Of course it makes sense to set aside savings for emergencies and retirement and to do all we can to make sure our family needs are maintained. But many keep adding more: another piece of real estate, bank accounts, other income streams and the like. We're never satisfied that enough is enough.
We can hoard extra stuff. Just like we might do with our finances we feel we always have to have a lot of abundance or we won't be OK. So we buy mulitiples of everything, never miss a good sale and keep trying to find more space to store it all in.
So what might we do at our house to battle the temptation to hoard?
First, make giving things and money away the norm at home. Look for ways to share what you have, find a regular place to give things to and teach your kids to do the same. Yes, be wise and careful that you have planned well for your needs then give the rest to someone or a great organization.
Second, take inventory and pare things down to only what you need. This may take some soul-searching and admitting that you really do have too much. Get rid of a lot, have a garage sale or rent a truck and donate things to a needy organization. If you really want to get serious, move into a smaller home and you will quickly find you can't take it all and will have to do something about it.
Third, start living in ways where you must trust God more to make it. Don't be foolish. God has blessed us in many ways so that we would have what we need. Take good care of those basic things. But find some challenges, mission opportunities or whatever that require you to have special faith in God meeting your needs. You will live on a lot less but live a lot more.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
We all had that present, too, that our parents gave us last that we knew was the big gift. But there are very few of those that I want again now. In fact, I really don't long for any of them.
But there are a lot of gifts I wish I could enjoy again that I simply won't ever have. And they remind me and I hope you that we need to cherish similar gifts now while we still have them. It's so easy to just rush through the most special moments of all because we're wrapped up in the tyranny of the urgent or trying to do it all when only a few things matter.
For example I wish that I could again have:
My kids be little again for even an hour.
My wedding day with my young bride.
A morning with my dad or father-in-law.
A moment or two or a cup of coffee with some of my childhood heroes and mentors.
A Christmas as a young kid with my mom, dad, sister and any other relatives who decided to show up that day.
A game of basketball or catch with my teenage son.
A weekend back at college with my good buddies.
A date with my daughter in elementary school.
A school program, sporting event or awards ceremony.
An evening with our whole family at home together.
A day of playing baseball with my neighborhood friends.
A morning with my church friends from a bunch of years ago.
A snow day.
My first climb of a fourteener in Colorado.
The day our son or daughter or grandsons were born.
A conversation with Al or Don or one of many other friends now in Heaven.
A family vacation.
My list could be much longer. In fact, I'll probably put a more extended one together just for me. The problem with doing it now is that every entry brings tears to my eyes both of joy and sadness.
So what's the point? It's pretty simple. Enjoy every special moment now. Savor them. Slow down. Be thankful. Don't rush them and please don't wish them away even though some of these moments came with pain, hardship or challenge. Some of us still have these moments in front of us. Watch for them. Be ready. Relish every one.
We live such faced-paced, driven lives it's easier and easier to miss the great moments because of the quantity of mediocre ones.
They are still gifts. All of them. Gifts you'll someday wish you could have again.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
And now that the first round of food and football are over she is going full steam ahead to make Christmas as wonderful as it always is. There are gifts to buy of course, but the house decorating has always been an obsession with her so the attic and garage have been cleared of their Christmas decorations and she is on her way to turning her house into a fantasy land.
Granted her oldest will be home soon from college and her parents are getting up in years. She hopes to spend some quality time with all of them and even invite a few close friends over but all that will need to wait until she has things just right.
Alice is encouraged, however, because she did get up early on Black Friday and buy some of the gifts she knows her family will treasure and she saved some money this year in the process. And she knows that with a few late nights (OK, maybe a lot of them) she will also get her Christmas cards signed and sent out. This year's cards, more like booklets, are the best and most creative ever with lots of pictures and updates on the kids successes and family milestones.
Is Alice a version of you at holiday time? She certainly represents a lot of people who are caught in what I call the Immaculate Deception. It's the false belief that certain expectations must be met every year at the holidays. And as a result many individuals and families miss out on the most important opportunities of a time like Christmas.
Some common misguided demands? That everything be perfect. The house, the cards, the meals, the outfits, the church service, the time spent with family - they must all be refined to a standard that in reality can never be reached. As a result family members (often mom) never sit down, can't relax and miss out on the many spontaneous and casual conversations, interactions and special moments that they will never quite have again.
Second, that everyone be happy. Yes, holidays are a time when we should be happy and joyful but there is no way to please everyone . . . and yet we often try. We have to get Uncle Ralph the perfect gift and send Grandma Mary a card on time. Our kids need to get every gift they asked for and be allowed and even transported to attend every gathering required of them. Even Jesus didn't go to everything or give everyone what they wanted so why should we?
Third, we do more than in the past. If last year's Christmas card was really creative, then this year's must be more so. If we bought such and such last year for a present we should do better this year. We at least think that everything we've done before should be equaled if not improved. Says who?
The sad part about buying into the deceptions that often surround our holidays is that we miss out on what really matters. Let me suggest a few things:
Jesus. Yes, Jesus as the saying goes IS the reason for the season. I get it when non-Christ-followers don't focus on Jesus much but I don't get it when Christians pretty much avoid Him other than going to a Christmas Eve service. Try making Jesus the focus of your holiday and see what changes. Re-teach the real story of Christmas and tell about some of the things you are most thankful for from God.
Close family time. Notice the word close. Sure families are generally together during at least some of the Christmas vacation but are they close? Do they really talk? Do they slow down and just enjoy each other, perhaps even get to know each other better? When we're running, running, running there will be little time for each other.
Spontaneous get togethers with friends, neighbors, relatives or associates. What would our holidays be like if we took time to just grab a friend and go have coffee (egg nog latte)? What if we did something really unique with our family or in the neighborhood, something WAY out of the box that we would never forget instead of the usual? What if we just enjoyed the tree that we put up, played some games, listened to music or watch a favorite Christmas special without having to fit it in between events or responsibilities?
You know there is still time to make this year's Christmas different. But you'll have to make some decisions NOT to do a few things pretty soon. Nevertheless try it. Remember all that other stuff may just be taking you away from the best Christmas ever and from the Jesus who started it all in the first place.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
It's entitlement. And no I'm not talking primarily about programs commonly labeled as entitlements like social security and Medicare though perhaps they too are an indirect result of this virus.
But I want to challenge us all to think about an attitude and expectation that we personally should have certain privileges, rights, possessions and opportunities provided for us no matter what. In a recent blog I discussed how many parents expect that their child should receive the best coach, teacher, role in the play or whatever.
Go back and read that blog if you missed it. It's one subcategory of entitlement.
But this attitude goes beyond our children. We, too, believe that we should have priority in even the simple things like: the open parking spot, the place in line, tickets for the game the invite to the prestigious party or the full attention of the clerk in the store. See what the reaction is of most drivers when you accidently took their space in a driving lane or that one place left for a car to park at the mall!
Perhaps more significant might be our demand for: the best doctor in the waiting room, the head of the company to call us, the pastor to pay more attention to us or the local utility company to handle our complaint and problem first. One way to tell is to measure your anger quotient when you don't get something you felt entitled to. If it's highere than say "5" on the anger meter you probably struggle with entitlement.
But remember that this virus can be deadly. It can first kill our thankfulness. And when we're not thankful we aren't usually happy. We will always demand more from those around us, our kids and even our family.
Second, we will become annoying, arrogant people who people will ultimately pull away from and avoid unless they are just like us. No one wants to be around a person who constantly thinks they deserve more or better and is always trying to get their demands met no matter the cost.
Third, we will never overcome our personal challenges. Why? Because we will always require one more thing to satisfy us, one more person to give us what we we believe we're entitled to. And even if we do get something on our list, there will be one more. We won't understand that entitlement is really a black hole that never gets filled up.
So, whatever you do, squash the entitlement virus from your mind, family and home. Start by becoming thankful all the time, every day. As you feel your anger rising, tell God you're thankful for something He blessed you with that day anyway. Teach and model thanksgiving for your family.
Second, you let go of your demand that you get everything you think you must have to succeed or be OK. God is the only one capable of giving you that. So let Him be your guide.
Desire those things but don't demand them. If you do, you'll lose any chance of having a thankful heart and experiencing an ultimately fulfilled life.
Monday, November 18, 2013
I do my best to help encourage them and give them practical suggestions on how to walk through their struggle, make necessary changes and heal from their pain. We often go beneath the surface to find unhealthy behaviors and thinking that may be adding to their challenges.
However, one of the common inhibitors of growth I see in them all and in myself from time to time is a lack of gratitude. They don't find anything to be thankful for. They've put on blinders so to speak and can't see how they might still be blessed in some ways in spite of their difficult times.
As a result they tend to walk down the path to more discouragement, bitterness and emotional paralysis. If they could only begin to think bigger than their own circumstances and in the middle of their moving forward stay thankful.
One way to assure that people remain thankful at your house is to make gratitude more of an attitude. How?
First, model it. When you pray, especially with others, include praise and thanks, not just requests. Talk about things you're thankful for at the dinner table, when you're having fun and even working.
Second, practice it. Have some sharing times with the kids where you all talk about something you're thankful for that day or week. Talk about the little things, perhaps things that everybody else wouldn't necessarily think of.
Third, teach it. Scripture is filled with passages that speak about the power and place of thanksgiving. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I am confident that many of the people who come to see me in pain would find their journey made easier and heal more quickly when they focus more on being thankful. In fact, some of the greatest healing comes when hurting people start giving to others even through their pain. And they won't start investing in others if they remain bitter and angry rather than thankful.
So perhaps this Thanksgiving holiday could be the beginning of a new era of thanks in your home all year round. And perhaps you're the person to get it started. Happy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Even as I walked by their car with the windows rolled up I could still hear him pleading with mom for that cookie.
But to the mom's credit she wasn't yelling or chastising. She had him firmly by the hand as they calmly kept walking out of the store. Her eyes were focused ahead, she said nothing and didn't flinch. The little boy at one point even looked at me perhaps hoping I would go back and get him the gingerbread man. His eyes seemed to say, "Help me, please!"
None of it worked. And in my mind that mom was a model parent at least for that moment.
She had perhaps faced this before. Either way she knew ahead of time what she would do and she was determined that her cute little boy was not going to win that battle. This was probably one of a number of watershed moments she had had and will probably have again that will convince her son that mom means what she says.
Would it have been tempting to give in? You bet. Would she have made a big mistake in doing so? No doubt. There's nothing wrong of course with a gingerbread man cookie now and then. But when it's demanded and a tantrum ensues no child should ever be given what they want.
Through her determination she was teaching him that his tactics to change her response would not work. I would hope that sometime later she explained to him that there are other ways to both ask for things and to react when you don't get something you want. I would hope that she made it clear that she still loved him no matter what.
But her victorious moment of parenting today during a tough situation should get an A+ and will likely bring her great success down the road plus help her little guy to grow into a respectable, obedient and un-entitled young man someday. How are you doing when it comes to giving in versus your child getting their own way much of the time?
Remember winning a small battle now will likely assist you in winning the bigger war later.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Now the rest of our discussion did include the fact that we can work on our motives and need God to help us keep the right perspective.
But I think most of us forget that even though we may be Christ followers and forgiven in God's eyes, we will always be human and our selfishness will always still creep in. It doesn't matter how long we've been a Christian or our chronological age. We won't ever have perfect motives, thoughts or attitudes.
We thankfully can get better. We certainly don't need to stay the way we are. That's why we need the fellowship of other believers, the truth of the Scriptures and some spiritual discipline in our life. But we must always be aware that we can slip up, even in a big way.
And when we accept that truth we'll actually be better off. Why?
First, we will pretend less because we no longer live according to an impossible goal that someday we will have things all together. Instead we can be honest about our failings and ask others to keep us accountable.
Second, we will live in less guilt because we know we can't be perfect now. We can strive for it but we'll never get there until Heaven. And that's OK.
Third, we should be more on the alert knowing that we're always vulnerable and could really do the worst of things given the right circumstances. Yes, Christ does make us new, but those changes take time and we must grow in our faith. There is always a chance we will slip up again.
So, if you've been subtly trying for some sort of perfect life, welcome to the real world. And remember you're among friends.