Friday, February 29, 2008

Perfect Parenting 101

There is nothing better than physical affection from my children. When it comes to hugs and kisses I am a big teddy bear. Seeing a two year old run at you screaming Daddy! With a huge smile on her face is the greatest. I love them! However, there are times when they will try to buy you off with this cute wide eyed, innocence, how can you accuse me of such a thing, look at me I’m cute expression. Mostly after they have been given specific instructions such as clean your room, or brush your teeth, or get me a soda! (okay the last one very rarely works , except with the six year old because it is his joy in life to serve anybody)

So, anyway they’ve been given clear instructions which for whatever reason they have decided to ignore, and instead they begin running through the house doing other things. The things they select to do at these moments are generally things that we would give medals for if they were done without being told! Things like: give everyone a kiss, (including the three dogs, lizard, parakeet, and whatever stuffed animals happen to be grazing on the living room rug) or pick up some stray bits of trash and making sure to take about eighteen times longer than it should, (carrying it through three different rooms “looking“ for a trash can only to “find“ it inches from the starting line of their world trek.)_ Or collect their shoes and put them away, anything but what they were asked to do.

Now, they have a fairly strong argument that these are good things, however, they are not what they have been asked to do. I find it extremely tempting to just allow them to continue. (mostly because they are quiet and not interrupting my DVR’d Jericho or Monk!) but I have noticed a trend. When they are allowed to get away with such small and seemingly innocent lapses in response to authority it never ends well. It always escalates!

Parents beware! It is not my place to tell you what type of discipline to use in every circumstance that you may find yourself but I beg of you, I plead with you to make whatever it is stick! This is not the time to be wishy-washy, you must be consistent! Get off the couch, pry the remote out of your hand, turn off the Ipod and deal! Here is where the rubber meets the road! Ninety percent of effective parenting is not saying things you don’t mean, and making the things you say mean something!

Tonight as I was sending my children up to bed my six year old began to stall. He was grinning slyly as if he were getting away with it and I was tempted to just let it go, after all bedtime in our house is a fairly soft deadline. (and I was watching Jericho) But, when Dad says something he needs to mean it. Now I was not angry or gruff, but I put an end to his charade and he happily went to bed.

After the incident I kind of half heartedly thought to no one in particular, what is that about? This is generally when God takes me to task. It seems that I am frequently guilty of similar behavior when God gives me instructions. God says, Witness to your neighbor, so I take their garbage cans in from the curb hoping they’ll notice my “lifestyle”. God says Give to the needy, so I clean out my closet and give the leftovers to Goodwill.

Worse yet I often times ignore his instructions completely! Oh I will sing loud in Church that Sunday, maybe even harmonize a little, clap my hands, shuffle my feet, see how much I love you? Or comment in Sunday school, or on someone’s blog when I should be praying for a sick friend or going to visit them, all the time hoping to distract God from his original intent with my “good deeds”.

At the end of his lecture God reminded me of a verse that I don’t think I ever really understood until tonight. God desires obedience more than sacrifice. He wants us to do what he asked not our interpretation of what he really wants, or some substitute. He doesn’t just talk because he likes the sound of his own voice, there is a purpose and a plan, more often than not a time sensitive plan, in every command he gives! Maybe your neighbor needs to hear tonight because he plans to end his or someone else’s life tomorrow. Maybe that friend is going home to be with Jesus and needs your companionship to ease their discomfort, or more likely maybe there is something you will gain from obeying that you will miss otherwise?

At any rate the next time you are tempted to substitute something good for obedience, remember this little verse, turn off your worship CD, close your Bible (yea I said it) open the door, cross the lawn and step out in obedience in whatever God is asking you to do. By the way I often find that some little something I have been asking will suddenly be answered when I cross things off my Sonny Do list.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Quiet morning in a barbershop

It was a quiet mid morning, the last dying gasp of an Oklahoma Winter was on the air.
“You selling something?” the question came from a man ensconced behind a huge box of donuts moving my way down the shaded portico of a strip mall.
“Looking for sponsors for a theatre company actually,” I tried desperately not to drop my notebook as I reached for a business card, it worked.
Donut Guy smiled, “You know who likes that stuff? This guy, Travis here in the barbershop, talk to him.”

Travis, it turns out is in his late twenties, he handles a straight razor with the ease of a pro and is finishing a haircut on a guy about my age. The man’s wife sits patiently, with a look of satisfaction with the haircut holding their, I guess, one year old son.

I tell Travis why I’m there and drop a card on his counter and sit to wait.

The man in the barber chair requests a trim for his young son, and the boy is placed lovingly in his lap by the mother. I notice “Dad” does not wear a ring , but “Mom” does, fiancĂ©? I wonder. The boy is a thing of beauty, sitting quietly with his large blue eyes taking it all in. He is quietly sucking a pacifier, which, once removed, reveals a beautiful serene smile.

The barber weighs his options, first approaching with the clippers he abandons these for a small pair of shears and goes neatly to work shaping the baby soft tufts above the youngsters ears, trimming up the back, wisely leaving the front in its natural state. He moves quickly, but there is no rush. He is quiet and confident and the infant senses no need for alarm.

In less than five minutes the entire procedure is complete and Dad is happy with the results, the soft ding of a cash register, the rustle of currency changing hands, “Have a nice trip,” says Travis.

“Thanks,” says Dad and they are gone.

I am left in quiet gratitude for having shared such a beautiful moment. I wonder if Mom will remember the man who quietly commented on her son’s ease of mind. I have just witnessed the boy’s first haircut, a moment of his life, unique in the history of the world. It makes me feel connected.

He buys a small ad from me, Travis, this quiet, confident young man, and we spend a moment idly chatting about what best to fill that space in my program. I wonder if he felt it, the awe, at having been witness to such an event?

These moments seem far too rare in my busy life. It is as if all the other transactions of the day are artificial, this one small moment ringing true, real life is so illusory. Even with my own children moments of intimacy seem to come so rarely and fly by before they are noticed. This is the kind of thing that twenty-twenty hind sight is good for. The memories.

It is sad to say but I am not sure I was there for my own sons first haircuts. Of course, this is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but I think I will remember this quiet boy for some time to come, his curious eyes following the barber’s shears, his tiny shoulders shrugging up against the cold steel of the scissor blades. His questioning glance to Mom who is remarkably calm and the quiet acceptance of this state as normal, no struggle, no fight, just life.

I wish I were as still in my Father’s lap when he brings out the shears. When He gets the notion that my unruly locks could use a little TLC. But I am no Baby, I go kicking and screaming into the “sprucing up” of life, and frequently earn nicked ears in the process. Even the pain, and the bleeding are usually not enough to remind me that it is my fault I am hurt by God’s gentle pruning.

God help me to be still in the trimmings of life. Help me to see that you are not here to hurt me in your corrections. Help me to see your quiet smile, feel your confidence, let you do what needs doing, remove the things that keep others focused on the unruly appearance of my too long ignored shagginess, and help them see the real me. The me you are undyingly trying to reveal, even if it kills me. Let me cooperate when next you come to take away some prop, that, by the way, you placed there to keep me from falling on my face, that I have become attached to and now believe it is mine to own. Let me gently smile, as the boy with the pacifier, and accept the better thing you always have to put in its place with quiet gratitude.