Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tangles in the Hair

We are all getting older. Does that thought scare you? It may, mainly because this is a youth-worshipping society, and one would have to be blind not to see how the aged are disrespected and at times, even despised. How would you like to be treated when you're old? The way we'd like to be treated is the way that we should currently be treating others. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matt. 7:12) We know this as "The Golden Rule." God teaches it as a life principle.

Norman and I have been visiting a lady for several years who attended our church years ago, but she is now what would  be called a "shut-in," leaving her home only for medical appointments. We were delivering groceries and just stopping by to spend some time with her recently, but I was saddened to see the changes that had happened in the months while I was away traveling. The Lord laid her on my husband's heart, and he said to me, "She's probably not long for this world. We need to go and see her." This dear lady is in her 90s and failing. In fact, at this visit, she asked me who I was, and I had to remind her of my name. She then looked at my husband and I said, "And that's Norman." She didn't seem to recognize either of us, but that didn't keep her from holding my hand.

As I looked into her face, I could see the lady I used to know, and I could even tell that the longer she studied my face, the more she was beginning to recognize and remember who I was. When I asked, "May I get you a bowl of cereal?" she perked up and accepted my offer. I watched as she drank the milk out of the bowl, leaving most of the cereal behind because she didn't feel like chewing. Do we even realize what a blessing it is to be able to enjoy our food?

After her light breakfast, I asked if I could comb the tangles out of her hair. You see, this sweet lady lives with her adult son, but he is also handicapped and cares for her as best he can. Social services has offered to move her into a nursing home, but she has steadfastly refused. Her son defends her decision, saying that a nursing home would "make her give up on living."

So, she spends her days in a recliner, leaving the chair only to go to the bathroom or to go to bed at night. Her hair was matted from sleep, so with her permission, I began the slow process of removing the tangles from what looked like many days. As I combed, she leaned into my hand. Once the tangles were out, I switched to brushing, and again, she leaned into the brush and seemed to genuinely enjoy this simple process. Do we even realize what a blessing it is to be able to brush our own hair?

If you have "shut-ins" in your church, adopt one or more and become their friend. We have it so good in this life, especially if we can jump into our cars, drive wherever we want, pick up our own groceries and carry them into the house, plus much more! We take these abilities for granted, but these are tasks that many can no longer do for themselves. Those of us who are able need to keep an eye on those who have needs. "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (I John 3:17)

Spending time around older people who have ailments, pains, memory loss, and more is good for us. It balances our view of life, reminding us of how things can change over time. It also deepens our compassion and makes us more thoughtful. "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous..." (I Pet. 3:8)

One day, if the Lord tarries, we may live to be 80, or even 90. To paraphrase Matthew 7:12, "Brush out someone's tangles, as you would have them brush out yours."

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (I John 3:16)

Author's note: This was written on November 10, 2012. On November 22, 2012, the dear lady who couldn't brush her own hair went to heaven.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are You Training Up a Sloth?

A reader at asked this question:
 "What does a sloth do?"

Here's how another reader responded:
"Sloths don't do much: they eat, sleep, walk (very slowly) and eventually find mates. They then reproduce and have babies..."

Not far from the truth! A sloth is one of the world's slowest creatures, moving at a rate of about 6 feet per minute at top speed! They sleep more than they're awake, and consequently have very slow metabolisms. Sloths rarely climb down from their trees. They eat, sleep. and give birth from one spot, reportedly leaving the tree only to relieve themselves occasionally. If it's raining, they'll even "go potty" from midair in the tree!

This sounds too much like a human sloth. When we allow it, we raise these in our own homes. Are you training up a sloth? Watch out for these warning signs:

1. They only work under pressure. "The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute." (Prov. 12:24) These are the types that heard what you said the first time and know what needs to be done, but they wait until there is a risk of punishment or loss of fun. Slothfulness is chased away by threats, but this is too much work for the parent and not enough for the child.

2. They won't finish what they've started. "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious." (Prov. 12:27) This child will start working, but finishing is too much work. If your child has a string of unfinished projects, or a habit of quitting in the middle of things, you may have a sloth in training.

3. They often complain about anything that requires an effort. "The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain." (Prov. 15:19) "Make the bed again? But why? I'm just going to sleep in it again tonight... " If your child whines about small tasks and you cave in, you are contributing to the delinquency of a slothful minor.

4. They look for ways to get out of working. "He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster." (Prov. 18:9) Is it time to eat? They're all there. Yard work? They disappear. If your child dodges work like it's a lethal bullet, a lot of your time will be spent doing what the sloth should be doing for himself.

5. They want rewards without labor. "The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labor." (Prov. 21:25) Dad has the "Hip National Bank" and Mom has the "Purse ATM." Both are supposed to provide instant cash, anytime day or night. If your child expects you to buy things that they could work to on their own, you are financing slothfulness. If you keep this up, expect to provide long-term financial assistance later in life as well. Faulty philosophy of a sloth: "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine."

6. They make excuses for not working. "The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets." (Prov. 22:13) The excuses can be anything from "I forgot that the book report was due" to "I put my homework on top of the van and it blew away!" If your child has more excuses than completed assignments, this is slothfulness wrapped in negligence.

7. They love the bed too much. "As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed." (Prov. 26:14) Staying up late is often part of this problem, but it shouldn't be rewarded with unlimited sleep-ins. If your child routinely sleeps past 10:00am, you may have a sloth in training (or your child may need to get to bed earlier).

Here's a homemade verse: "Train up a sloth in the way he wants to go, and when he is old, he won't move a muscle." Are you training up a sloth? Yelling won't fix this problem. Make some changes to your training, and you'll change the outcome. Slothfulness is a breakable habit. Break it early.

"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord..." (Rom. 12:11)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Date Your Spouse

"Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Prov. 5:18) The word "rejoice" in this verse means "to make glad." I think many couples are "rejoicing" on the wedding day, but the daily grind may cause some to go through a reduction in their gladness. Dating may help restore the joy.

When we were in premarital counseling, one piece of advice really stood out: "Go on regularly scheduled dates." I wondered why the counselor had to tell us something so obvious. It seemed to me that people who were already dating would keep up the practice with no problem at all, right?

And then we said, "I do," and we understood.

The dating habit that came so naturally during the courtship (for most couples) can evaporate faster than fog on a sunny day if we're not careful. Dating allows us to stay connected. It reminds me of what happens when the computer is sluggish and you have to restart it to "reboot" it. Rebooting causes the operating system of a computer to load again, and then it works better.

Dating is like a marriage "reboot" that helps a couples' operating system. So what do we do for dates?

  • Fancy restaurants make us feel robbed, so we save that for our anniversary once a year. And even then, we don't always do a fancy restaurant! In 2012, we decided that we both wanted gourmet bacon cheeseburgers! Total cost of this fancy date: $31.00.
  • Popcorn dates are my personal favorite. We go to a local popcorn shop and buy two bags of buttered popcorn. Then we drive to Post Road and park in the cell phone lot at the airport and watch the airplanes takeoff and land. Total cost of this date: $5.00. It could be done cheaper by bringing popcorn from home, but I want take-out popcorn when I'm on a date!
  • Sight-seeing is mostly free, unless you go to national parks, and even then the fees are usually reasonable. Of course, all the driving followed by walking or hiking stirs up an appetite, so expect to spring for snacks. We each had a big warm pretzel while walking around Seaport Village in San Diego. They scalped us because we were in a "tourist trap," but the pretzels were big enough to count as lunch. Total cost: $8.00. It would have been cheaper, but Norman just had to have the pepperoni pretzel. 
  • Long walks in pretty areas are also no charge, but it's nice if you walk to a location like a cafe or an ice cream shop, share a treat, then walk back. Cost varies, according to your treat, but you can surely  keep this kind of date under $10.00.
  • When our children were younger, we'd hire a sitter to spend the night so that we could drive 20 minutes into downtown Minneapolis once a year for an overnight stay in a nice hotel. In the morning, we'd stroll the shops, have lunch, and then head back home. If either of you travels for work, save those hotel points for these dates and you will only have the cost of  your meals. Otherwise, look for hotel deals online. Cost of this date: depends on your taste in hotels. Just beware of the one-star hotels. You may end up counting bugs instead of sheep.
  • Scenic drives are a great way to spend time together. You can stop at a park, and well, you know, park. Hey, married people have licenses for parking and smooching!
  • Go on a photo date and take lots of fun pictures together. If your husband will endure it, get matching jackets or sweatshirts for the pics. This will make a memories not only for you and your beloved, but if you have children, they will enjoy seeing a happy Dad and Mom captured in photos.You'll cherish these pictures over the years.
People often forget how to enjoy each other after spending years together. This can be remedied by keeping up the habit of dating. By the way, don't bring up gloomy discussions on your dates. It's okay to have "vision meetings," talking excitedly about future plans, but be careful not to end up making your hearts sad with heavy conversations during dates. Just rejoice in and with each other.

The word "rejoice" is also used in this verse: "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel." (Prov. 27:9) Here's some hearty counsel: Date your spouse.

"My beloved is mine, and I am his..." (Song of Sol. 2:16)

Do You Know What You Have?

Someone out there may be struggling with this holiday called Valentine's Day, and I can relate.  This is my third Valentine's...