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I”m Breaking the Blogging Rules!

Guilty! I am breaking all blogging rules by posting something out of my intended subject area, broader than my target audience, and perhaps alienating to some of my audience. So to those who are reading this, please don’t blot out my blog! I will return to normal in my next post. Ok– much ado about nothing and slight overkill on the apology. I am posting a lesson I taught 2-3 years ago to my leadership. I needed it then and I need it now in my current circumstance of life.

Are You Irritable or Spiritual?

That question hit me over my pious head as I read it in Oswald Chamber’s devotion. It got my attention because I was irritable! In my own life, irritability stems from selfishness – a form of pride. I am irritable because I respond negatively to a situation or circumstances. Although I can explain my irritability, I cannot excuse it. The Holy Spirit showed me that the Bible addresses all my irritating issues. With that in mind, consider some of the common causes of irritability.

Common Causes of Irritability

1. Fatigue.

• Although Elijah had just experienced a great spiritual victory on Mt. Carmel, he became weary in his work/ministry. He viewed his situation in an exaggerated state which led him to be fearful and irrational. Elijah needed rest and food. Often we may neglect the need to sleep, vacate, eat properly, and exercise all in the name of work or ministry. I Kings 18 & 19.

2. Frustration.

• Frustration and its companion, fretting, can cause a person to be irritated. Frustration comes from many inconveniences – waiting, having no control over a matter, being misunderstood, suffering an injustice, or impatience. Psalm 27: 13-14 speak to impatience.
• Psalm 46:10 instructs believers to be quiet before the Lord. Sometimes the best thing for us to do is NOTHING or to hush while praying and allow the Holy Spirit to direct our petitions.
• I John 5:14-15 promises that God hears prayers that are according to His will. This phrase is not meant to be complicated, but to simply remind believers that our requests should be made in faith from a heart that completely trusts God.

3. Disobedience.

• In the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy, Kings, and the Chronicles, God reminds the Israelites that they are not to worship in the “high places” established for pagan worship. High places are representative of things in our lives that are not acceptable to God. King Asa is an example of someone who was obedient in the areas of his life that were important to him, but not in all areas.
• Often, we may refer to our high places as strongholds or “little sins,” (anger, jealousy, bad habits, talking ill of others, unhealthy or immoral thinking, etc.) giving us some excuse to overlook them. Other times, we may recognize them as blatant sin in our lives.
• When the Holy Spirit convicts you of a high place, confess it. I john 1:9.

4. Jealousy
• Proverbs 14:30 tells us that jealousy rots the bones. None of us would knowingly swallow something that we knew would deteriorate our bones, yet we will allow jealousy to live in our hearts and minds.
• Psalm 18 is filled with expressions of how God feels about His children. To be bound by jealousy is to turn one’s back on God’s promises.

5. Waiting

• Waiting is especially difficult for doers and fixers! Ironically, people feel themselves waiting on God because we think in time increments. God does not think in time. He is always at work. Therefore, what we view as waiting is in reality God working. Sometimes when He works we see His movement. Sometimes we just have to wait. Don’t focus on the waiting; focus on the working.
• Psalm 40 reminds us that David waited patiently on the Lord. While he waited, he cried out to the Lord. At some point, God moves David out of his current circumstance. David then has a NEW song and a NEW praise for the Lord. After the waiting, David had a reason to praise God that he did not have before. On top of that, the way God worked in his life was a testimony to others.

6. Worry.

• Worry is the result of thinking about things that have not actually happened or things we cannot control. Worry is a lack of faith and trust.
• Worry differs from a burden. Worry is in the mind. A burden is in the heart.
• Psalm 116:7 tells our souls to be at rest, for the Lord has been good to us.
• Phil 4:6 tells us not to be anxious about anything.

Spiritual Responses to Irritating Situations

1. Hope.

• Hope is defined as the feeling that something desired is possible; to look forward to with desire and confidence
• Hope is confidence that God is in control by focusing on Who God is. (faithful, loving, kind, gracious, compassionate, patient, all-knowing, listening, trustworthy, etc.) See Psalm 145.
• Hope looks beyond the immediate and dwelling on the fact that God has and always will prove Himself faithful and trustworthy.
• Hope looks back at what God has already done and looks forward to what his character proves He will do and be in the future.
• Psalm. 62:5; Psalm 71:14; Hebrews 11:1; Psalm 145:14; Psalm 18: 28 & 29; & Psalm 25:21, are reminders that there is no reason to give up hope.

2. Trust.

• Trust is defined as confident expectation; firm reliance on the integrity and ability of something/one
• Proverbs 3: 5 & 6 tells us to trust in the Lord. The Psalms are filled with “trust” verses!
• Psalm 85:8 tells us that God promises peace to His people. Peace comes with trust.

3. Submit

• To submit is to yield to another’s authority. In Luke 22:42 we see that even the Son of God submitted to the will of the Father over his own personal desires.
• Although it seems contradictory, it is possible to submit while hoping and trusting because submitting could mean we do not get the outcome we “hoped” for. Our hope and trust tell us that the desires will somehow reconcile to God’s outcome.
• Rest assured that God has plans for us that are for our good (Jer. 29:11) not our harm. This does not mean that we are free of pain, trials, and difficulties, but we are free in them to stay focused on God.

4. Pray

• Pray without ceasing…anytime! I Thessalonians 5:17
• When you do not have words, the Holy Spirit intercedes on your behalf. Romans 8:26

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Little Lamb

The Lamb
William Blake

Little Lamb, who made thee
Does thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice.
Making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Does thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by His name,
Little Lamb God bless thee,
Little Lamb God bless thee.
This poem has been one of my favorites for a long time. I recall reading it as a child to my younger sister from one of her books and later teaching it to my high school students. Its beautiful message is wrapped in comforting words and soothing rhythms. Today as I read it, I cannot help but think about parents, grandparents, and teachers who can share  the love of The Lamb with the little lambs God sends to their field each week.

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins, yet He is also our Shepherd, guiding us to the right places for our life — nourishing, protecting, restoring, and reassuring us. We need it, because like sheep, we can be creatures of habit who favor the “spot” we want in life, whether or not it is a safe and healthy place for us to be. Sheep are totally dependent upon shepherds.

Think of the flock of little sheep — lambs — that God has entrusted to you. What is their condition? (Proverbs 27:23) What are they looking to you, their shepherd, to provide them in the spiritual field of your home or classroom?

God Bless Thee!

(If you have never read A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller, I highly recommend it — one of my faves!)

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Hold On — You Gotta Let Go!

collageHolding my newborn babies is one of the sweetest memories I have. The thought of that sweet little head and face against my neck still brings a smile to my face. The twenty year old scene of my husband holding our newborn son in the hospital and telling him in essence to grow up to be a good young man has collided with the present. We now watch him make major life decisions… and, yes, thankfully, he has proven to be a good, Godly young man.

Our role as parents is to teach our children  how to become independent. There is a leadership principle that demonstrates this equipping progress in parenting. “Show me how to do it. Do it with me. Watch me as I do it. Watch me show others how to do it.” Model the behaviour lifestyle you want to see in your children. My Pastor reminds young parents that “When our children are little they follow our advice. When they are older, they follow our example.”   First of all, as parents, lead by example.  Secondly, don’t just assume your children will become well-rounded independent adults in all areas of life without your intentional guidance. Thirdly, pray for your children!  This means parents have to progressively allow their children more and more personal responsibility, as difficult as that may be.

There are so many areas where we do this naturally. (Hopefully you do not spoon feed your 8-year-old!)   On the flip side, consider the following areas where you need to intentionally guide your children to independence, and then one day LET GO!

  • Earning and handling money
  • Personal Hygiene & Health
  • Care of possessions
  • Decision making
  • Relationship issues
  • Relationship with God
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Work ethic

Happy Parenting!

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Do You See What I Hear?

Personality Styles 

Well, this post will take a little different twist in style, which is rather appropriate since it is about different styles.  Although this post was written with the preschool teacher as the audience, there is plenty in it for parents to glean!  Enjoy.

Psalm 139:4 tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Of course, this does not mean we are perfect, but it does imply that we are individually designed by our Creator. One unique part of our design is our personality. Personalities can be grouped into four general types that help us better understand ourselves, others, and our interactions with others. Personality types are not an excuse to say, “Well, that’s just how I was made!” Instead, understanding our personality traits makes us come to God with our weaknesses and ask for His help and to make sure our strengths are surrendered to Him. Knowing the personality traits of others helps us understand how things affect them and the perspective from which they come.

The extroverted choleric personality likes to have control. A life slogan for them could be “My Way.” These individuals can grow into decisive, driven, confident leaders. Cholerics are energetic and strong-willed. They are very comfortable taking charge, but they can tend to be bossy. A competitive spirit in them makes them driven doers who are not afraid of a challenge. At times, a choleric can be a discipline problem if they feel their way is better or more logical than the leader’s way.

Teachers need to understand that cholerics often choose to disrupt things in order to assert control. Acknowledge and appreciate this tendency to lead by giving choleric children opportunities to be in charge under your guidelines. Such action is highly motivating to them. Giving cholerics opportunity to make simple, safe choices motivates them. They also respond better to guidelines rather than strict legalistic rules. For example, the teacher can say, “Never take the blocks to the home living center.” A choleric child could argue for a good reason to have a block there and therefore attempt to prove the rule inadequate. Saying, “We play with the toys the way they are supposed to be played with and in the area where they are kept,” says the same thing, but does not challenge the reasoning of the choleric quite as much. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by a choleric child or give in to their efforts to overstep boundaries. Realize a bribe puts them in control and lowers their respect of your authority. Instead, look for opportunities to reward acceptable behavior.

Cholerics take charge. Sanguines have fun! A slogan for them could be “The fun way!” As extroverts, sanguines are entertaining, very spontaneous, and impulsive. They love to help and will easily volunteer for something. As adults, they often do not think through what is required when they volunteer for a task. As helpful as they desire to be, sanguines can be forgetful and often procrastinate.

A sanguine is a people magnet. Their presence is felt in a room. They easily interact with people and are often entertaining. All this fun hides the fact that a sanguine wants approval. They need to hear that they are special and accepted. This need for approval also makes it difficult for them to receive criticism or correction. However, be careful not to let them get by with something because of their charm.

Teachers need to realize that sanguines have rule amnesia. They often do not think before disrupting or realize that they are disrupting. Teachers need to help them see how their spontaneity could impose negative feelings on others at times. They need to feel accountable for their “forgetfulness.” Use the sanguines as cheerleaders and encouragers, but do not lean on them to carry the upbeat mood for a class. Motivate them to action by making things a “game” in their eyes. The sanguine becomes so wrapped up in enjoying what he is doing that he may need prompting to let others have a turn.

Unlike their extroverted “cousins,” a phlegmatic personality is more introverted and very easygoing. A slogan for the phlegmatic could be “The easy way!” These personalities tend to be quiet, patient, and easy to please. They are pleasant, compliant, and function as peacemakers. They usually are well liked by many people. They can be behind the scene servants, but also have very organized thoughts, so when prompted, can be good leaders. Keep in mind that this cooperative individual also has a sneaky and lazy tendency, often doing just enough to “get by.” They can be stubborn.

The phlegmatic child will often approach things slowly and remain on the periphery of what is taking place in the classroom. They often prefer to play alone, needing their space. This does not mean that something is wrong with them. The teacher must be intentional to interact with them, as they will not demand it. Subtly and quietly let them know you care. Forceful people can cause them to pull back.

Although they are cooperative, keep in mind that they are subtle. Watch for little mischievous things from them rather than “in your face” behaviors. They often set up others to get caught. They function well with parameters and need exact instruction. A phlegmatic could be told to pick up blocks and pick only one or two, place them wherever is convenient versus picking up all the blocks and putting them on the block shelf. A teacher should also realize that these children, unlike the sanguine, do not like center stage. They can also shut down when paired with rowdy children.

Another more introverted personality is the melancholy. Melancholies feel a need to be perfect. Their slogan would be, “The best way!” A melancholy person can be a more serious type person who struggles with moodiness. They are conscientious, reserved, and cautious. Because they strive to make things the best they can be, they often are negative, self-condemning, and easily overwhelmed. These personalities are usually very smart and extremely creative, gifted, musical, and artistic. They are alert to details and tend to be thinkers and analyzers. At times, they can suffer from “analysis paralysis.”

Teachers need to help these types of children realize that we all make mistakes and that they can forgive themselves for not being perfect. A melancholy can shut down in self-condemnation and give up. A melancholy will not seek attention; however, they are motivated by encouraging and loving words. They do not seek recognition but can be offended when someone else who did the same or similar things gets recognized but not them. Because they feel that perfection is important and impose that on themselves, they often point out rule breakers, making them into tattle tales.

Motivate your melancholy children by breaking tasks into parts to help prod them on. Help them look at the positive side of things. Plug into their talents and give them opportunity to use them. Realize they have a need to know the “why” behind something. Realize that terms like, “I know you can do better than that, why didn’t you,” can shut them down. They will respond better to phrases more like, “You got a good start. What else can you do?” When pointing out their weaknesses, realize they will desire to discuss them and are devastated by a quick, nonchalant approach to learning their faults or mistakes.
Teachers, do not let these children whine, complain, or have pity parties. . Teach them to replace a positive with a negative from time to time.

Finally, keep in mind that we can possess mixtures of these personalities to some extent, but one will be predominant. Various settings and surroundings complement the different aspects of our personalities. Your role as the teacher should be to gain understanding of your children, realize not everyone reacts and thinks like you do, and attempt to use a variety of methods for the variety of styles to which you minister.

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I’m All Ears — And More!

Hearing your child and being in their presence are often just pieces of the puzzle when it comes to communication. Intentional communication lets another person know they are valued. Truly communicating with your child can be challenging — especially in the midst of other obligations and commitments. Here are some quick tips on communicating to your children.

1. Make eye contact. Be intentional to look your children in the eyes when you speak to one another. Eye contact makes what we are saying more personal and intimate. It adds strength to what is being said or heard. Eye contact is a mirror into the person. Although there will be plenty of times when eye contact cannot be made, take advantage of the times when you can talk eyeball to eyeball, even if that means stopping what you are doing.

2.  Check your tone of voice. Tone trumps words. It is the revealer of how we truly feel. Play a little game with yourself! Communicate different emotions one at a time by saying the word YES out loud. The tone of your voice can instantly shut a child out or instantly draw them in.

3. Watch your body posture. There are times when you need to be on the child’s level physically to communicate.  Kneel, sit, or even lie down near your child to enhance your conversations and better connect.   Although silent, your body language speaks loudly.

4. Think about touch.  Touch talks. A gentle pat on the back, an arm around the shoulder, and other simple gestures can reassure a child that you are focused on what they are saying or that you need them to focus on what you are saying.

5.  Be an engaged listener.  When your children express a concern to you, ask them questions to see how they feel about the matter.   Repeat back to them some of the things they have shared with you to let them know you heard them.  Keep in mind that emotions drive actions and reactions; dig to find out what is behind your child’s thoughts and behaviours.

These five actions can help your child know that above all else, your HEART is engaged in what you say to each other.  I close with this beautiful illustration of my heavenly Father communicating with His children:

Psalm 40:1

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Literally, the Heavenly Father cared so much for David, that He bent down toward him to hear his cry.

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Up!

Well, I am going to put myself out there and write about something that I may not always practice, but still need to preach to the mirror. I am in my 31st year of marriage to a wonderful man and am still learning and growing through our relationship. That’s a good thing, for growth means life! I am sure you have heard somewhere along the line that all relationships have their ups and downs. I thought I’d share a few UPs and DOWNS that we try to practice in our marriage.

Cozy Up & Sit Down! Spend some time with each other in close proximity.

Team Up & Touch Down! Work as a united front with your children. Work out your differences in private. Share the workload — sometimes carrying a heavier load when the other is stressed or struggling. Find a hobby or activity you can do together.

Man Up & Settle Down! Don’t pout or hold grudges. Be a person of integrity. Handle your responsibilities. Lead by example.

Dress Up & Get Down! Look good for each other. Plan an extra special date. Have eyes & thoughts only for each other.

Shut Up & Calm Down! Don’t nag one another. Keep emotional reactions in check.

Sit Up & Lean Down! Take notice of each others accomplishments. Be sensitive to the others’ needs & concerns. Read between the lines.

Look Up & Bow Down! Pray for each other. Guard your relationship with the Lord and let Him guide your relationship with each other.

Listen Up & Quiet Down! Don’t do all the talking. Focus on what the other is saying vs. what you have to say. Ask questions about how the other feels, etc. Heed advice.

‘Fess Up & Break Down! Admit when you are wrong. Live up to your mistakes.

AND… do all you can to never Give Up &  Fall Down on your marriage when life’s challenges come along.

(If your marriage consists of things you cannot work out or that endanger you or others:  seek help!)

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Frustrating Freedom

Not long ago I had the privilege to spend two weeks in various cities in India. It was an amazing trip and a great experience personally and professionally. There were many things I had in common with the people I was around, but even more things that were vastly different. I am at a loss to describe the sights, smells, and sounds I took in.. One thing that was common in every city was the chaotic transportation! Scooters, cycles, cars, buses, rickshaws,people, and animals all vied for the same space at the same time. For the most part, there was freedom to travel whatever direction in whatever space at whatever time one wanted! Vehicles forged their way through by beeping horns; legged travelers pushed, shoved, and jumped their way in, almost as if the vehicles did not exist. There was complete freedom! With eyes opened wide enough to pop out of my head, I appreciated the traffic lights, stop signs, and lined lanes that “restricted” me at home! I guess you could say while in India,  I was fearful and frustrated in my freedom.

Without realizing it, well-meaning parents often set their children up to be frustrated in freedom.  Children need guidelines and boundaries in their lives that place proper restrictions,but at the same time provide for healthy development.    What are some possible signs to you as parents that your children may be struggling with too much freedom:

1.  Displaying emotions inappropriately for their age.

2.  Failure to stick to commitments.

3.   Casting blame on others.

4.    Nor feeling responsible or accountable to complete tasks given to them.

5.   Making demands of others.

6.   Lack of desire to improve themselves.

7.  Lack of remorse for poor mishandling  of situations or people.

8. Disrespectful attitudes or actions toward others.

A life without boundaries gets out of control and creates fear and uncertainty.  Fear can lead to insecurity. Insecurity can lead to self-centeredness.  Self-centeredness can lead to anger toward others. A life with boundaries may sometimes feel annoying and inconvenient ( i.e. speed limits that don’t meet my current need to be somewhere quickly!), but a properly drawn boundary can feel safe and  encouraging.

At the same time, parents need to be wise in setting boundaries.  Just like a speed limit for the interstate is differs from the speed limit for a mountainous, curvy road, limits in life are based on age, temperment and maturity.   If I were restricted to twenty miles an hour on the highway, I would instinctively know the boundary was not balanced and would struggle with feeling too restricted or with just ignoring the boundary.  What are some possible signs that your child may be too restricted by a boundary?

1.  Frustration (for not being able to function according to what they can handle.)

2.  Shutting down rather than discussing a desire to expand the boundary with a parent.

3.  Sneaking outside the boundary or blatantly going outside the boundary.

4.  Frozen in simple decision-making skills for fear of not being forgiven for a mistake in judgement.

5.  Anger.

6.   Avoidance of the particular area of life/circumstances where the boundary is enforced.

7. Weak self-esteem from feeling stifled.

 

Here are some guidelines for setting boundaries with your children:

1.  Know the longterm skill, value, or character trait you want to develop in your child and use that as your guide for boundaries.  ( honesty. responsibility.  etc.)

2.  Think about the emotional and cognitive skills of your child.  ( A two year old has to learn to not hit when angry.  A four year old should already have been guided to know this.)

3.  Consider boundaries and consequences together. ( A lie may have a different consequence than not taking out the trash.)

4.  Clearly explain your expectations to your child.

5. Adjust your boundaries  when necessary as your child matures emotionally, intellectually, etc.

6.  Be confident and consistent — which is the polar opposite of being reactive, proud, and unpredictable.

Thanks for reading!  Namaskar, ya’ll!