Voices over the Fence

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:39 PM

There are seasons in my garage’s life. For some of those seasons my garage is a storage unit for ministry. This season does not allow for my car to comfortably make it inside so out of convenience we park just outside on the driveway. There are other seasons when it is a ping pong stadium and I have to park it just outside then as well. None of this bothers me, I am grateful to have a garage no matter what the season.

When I park on my driveway I have noticed that I can hear my neighbor’s conversations in their back yard quite easily. Which is no problem, it is a good way to get to know your neighbors; just kidding. With that thought brings the knowledge that they can easily hear conversations in my driveway when we are getting in the car; which is not a good way for my neighbors to get to know me.

I have four children at home under the age of 14 and at times I have two grandchildren with us from time to time that are two and under. Let me assure you that getting in the family vehicle can be a bit of a challenge.

You have to tell people to get in, you have to make sure everyone is buckled, and you have to reach across the seat to put in car seats. It can be a real challenge and some of the people involved can be very challenging. At times those challenges move me to say speak in a tone that I would not want my neighbors to hear.

Then there are the moments we have to chase someone around the car, or go back in the house three times to pick up our Bibles, a coat or some paper work for the place we are going. This happens often and I am sure at those moments if the neighbors are listening then they are getting a real treat.

For the next few minutes join me in self reflection and ask yourself this not so easy question. What would the world think of you if they could hear all your conversations, not just the ones in the driveway?

We do a pretty good job of holding our tongue in public, after all our reputation as a great person is on the line. Some do an okay job of using politically correct language at work. Then of course at church we are off the charts good about saying God Bless you when people sneeze and amen when the preacher says something that will help all those other people get right with God.

The holiday’s are here, stress is going to be at a high level. You are going to be around people who you might not always be around and let’s be honest you might not want to be around. Just at a normal stress level we often struggle with our words but at times when the stress is high, well let’s just say I am hoping the neighbors don’t like the cold weather when sitting on their patio.

As we ask ourselves the question of what the world would think of us as they heard our conversations let me turn it to a positive note. First forget the world and worry about those you live with. It is an inside game. Start inside your house and work your way out. If you are treating your family with respect in regards to words then you’re going to have little problem with the outside world.

If we use our words for healing not hurting, for expressing love not anger then our relationships will very likely have different outcomes, let me assure you.

So what is the best way to improve in this area of communication? I could give all the standard answers; we already know them. So here is my non standard answer: Act as if every conversation we are having will be heard by someone listening over the fence. Then go one step further and picture God sitting at the patio sipping a cup of coffee next door listening in. If that won’t change the way we communicate then it is unlikely the standard answers are going to do us any good anyway.

Scripture: Colossians 3:14, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” NAS

Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, guide us to use our words for lifting up not tearing down. Guide us to be especially sensitive within our homes where we dwell with the ones we love the most. We ask these things in the name of Christ, Amen.

A Product of Family

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 2:19 AM

Jason Garrett just received a promotion, good for him; we all love a promotion. He just became the Dallas Cowboy’s head coach. Here is what that has to do with the devotional today; nothing.

What about Jason that does have to do with the devotional is his family. He is one of 8, his parents Jim and Jane had been married 49 years at the time of an article in the Dallas Morning News in 2007. They had also been blessed with 27 grand children.

Jim’s job as a football coach and scout would mean that they would move often; if I counted correctly 11 times in those 49 years. For someone who has moved 3 times in 48 years that is hard to imagine, others of you might be able to relate better than I. That many moves can be hard on the kids, but I have found that adversity often bonds children closer together far more than affluence and ease.

When you are moving all the time, making new friends, going to new schools and living in a new house often your family is your security blanket. That is a good thing. All of that moving and all those brothers and sisters helped shape Jason into who he is and thus in the article he made this statement:

"It's my family," he said. "Everyone is a product of family. I'm just fortunate to come from the one I do."

That quote is rich in several different ways. I look around at my own life both with my family growing up and with the family I am in the process of growing and I see exactly what he says. I am indeed a product of family and my family is influenced by my parents influence.

No matter if we like it or not we are greatly influenced by those who we grew up around. We deal with crises the way we saw them dealt with by our parents. We parent by the way we remember our parents parenting. How many times as a parent have you said something and then thought for a second and said that sounds just like my mother or father, you just can’t help it. You’re a product.

Let’s pause for a moment and see what God says about producing the best possible product:

· Love God. If we are to produce the best family product we are to love God with all we have and to teach our children to do the same. Simple enough. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

· Security. Children need security that has little to do with how much we move but how much we love them. From their parents they need to know they are loved and nothing is going to change that. They need to know we are going nowhere and our love isn’t either. Colossians 3:12-14

· Discipline. That doesn’t mean we are beating our kids, it means we are instructing clearly. They need easy to understand rules that come with clear consequences if broken. Many think of discipline as something harsh because rules were enforced in an unloving manner when they were children. Discipline in reality is love because it is looking out for the well being of the child, giving them structure and in the end providing security. Not to discipline is to not love your child completely; trust me your child does not need another friend they need a parent. Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:6-8, Proverbs 3:12

We are all shooting for the same thing when it comes to our families; a good product. I see in Jason’s quote something that I would hope to hear from my children; an appreciation for having been raised in the family he was raised in. He said it like this, “I am just fortunate to come from the one (family) I do.”

Jim and Jane through all the moves kept their eye on the prize, not raising a NFL quarterback and coach but the real prize; raising a solid and secure family. Let’s shoot for the same. Remember what we produce will affect the generations to come; your children, their children and on it goes.

Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:4-6, “Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to raise families that honor you in all ways. Guide us down the right path so that the generations that come after us will know our love for you and our love for them. Give us the power to overcome our sins and mistakes as parents and keep our eye on the goal, raising Godly children. We ask these things in the name of Christ, Amen.


Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 4:23 PM

As I was at home eating dinner in the background was a report by Yale about fast food restaurants on television. In this study they covered all different aspects of fast food and much covered advertising geared at children. They made quite a few negative statements about our beloved fast food industry but one really got my attention.

They talked about how indeed over the last few years the industry had begun to give choices for children to get on the kids meal. Trust me I know this to be the case because I have done my own study over the last 25 years when I took my kids in for the beloved kids meal. The choices are better but for Yale this was not good enough, here is the deal.

They said that fries and a coke were the default and here are the words of the report, “In most cases you have to work very hard to get a healthy side or drink in a fast-food restaurant,” she said. “You have to know it exists and you have to ask for it.”

What really got my attention was when during the report someone said the parent had to take the initiative to get a healthy side. Okay this is where I had to breathe deep and look the other way.

Since I am indeed a person with much fast food experience I can tell you that indeed you can get healthy choices. I can also let you know that all you have to do is read in most restaurants, if not all and it will be quite clear that you can get something besides a serving of fries or a coke. How hard is that? You would have to have your head buried in the sand to not know that there are healthy alternatives in 2010.

The key word is initiative, what an interesting word. Here is a definition; energy or aptitude displayed in initiation of action. Bingo that is exactly where the problem is. We as adults expect others to take the action to keep us healthy so we never use our own initiative. We have become a society that expects others to take care of us instead of us taking the action to do the right thing. So what we do is blame the fast food restaurants for making our children obese.

Perhaps we could take the initiative and get our kids some exercise instead of having them sit in the house all the time. Perhaps we could take the initiative and slow down our schedule and eat at home from time to time to make sure we control what our kids eat. Maybe even and this is a crazy thought but we could take the action to read the menu at Wendy’s and figure out what works best for our child in the healthy food area.

Lack of personal initiative is the problem with our fast food choices and it bleeds over to our religious life as well.

For example the church does not have as many activities as it should so we keep our children at home. Perhaps we could take the initiative to make these activities better. My children do not want to go it is boring, really? Sounds a lot like my kids would rather have French fries instead of an apple at McDonalds, which one are you going to do. Most the time we cave in on both.

Here is the Americans favorite one, I am too busy. In other words I am too busy to read the menu at Burger King just give me the default. Same thing works for our religious life we are too busy to take time to read the instructions or attend any kind of service so I will live my life in default, doing what I please with little regard to God.

Here is another problem and it rings true in both cases; adults are not taking any action in their own personal life. For instance why should my child want an apple when I am over there munching on a double cheese burger and fries, not the best example? Same with our relationship with God; we want our children to have a real and meaningful spiritual relationship with God but we go to church only so often or not at all and spend little other time on Godly activities. What does that say to a child?

Initiative, not something Americans are very good at these days, thankfully we know a God that took the initiative (action) to come to this world, live a perfect live and die for our sins so that we could have a real and everlasting relationship with him. Now that is the kind of action we can all appreciate, perhaps it can inspire us to take some action of our own.

Scriptures: Galatians 6:4, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

Prayer: Dear Lord, lead us to action in our lives that helps us come closer to you. Lead us away from the blame of others and to responsibility. God help our actions reflect a great love for you. We ask these things in the name of Christ, Amen.

With Her Hands behind Her Back

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 2:55 AM

I have a partner in ministry and a traveling companion, her name is Gracie and she is my almost 5 year old daughter. Often when there are errands to run or people to see she travels with me.

This may not amaze you but there are times she likes to be in control. What also may not amaze you is that these times seemed to be handled much more smoothly when my wife is around. Let’s save that thought for another day.

Walking across the street or in a store is one of our favorite times to butt heads. I like for her to hold my hand; she likes to walk on her own. I would love to let her walk without holding my hand but she has little regard for cars, people or shopping carts.

I have often tried to figure out what part of this girl is special needs; certainly being stubborn is not an area she is in anyway developmentally delayed. In stubbornness she is well ahead of the curve.

She is on to me about this hand holding thing. Let’s say I get her out of the car and put her down. She starts walking and I come to her to hold her hand. Nothing doing; she sees me coming and immediately puts both hands behind her back. So here I am walking in this parking lot with this sassy little girl trying to catch her hands so I can hold them.

Every time I get close to grabbing hold of her hand she just turns to avoid me, trust me we are quite the scene. This does not end until I pick her up and safely carry her to the destination which does not please her at all. She thinks someone as independent as her should not have to hold a fathers hand or most certainly not be carried by him.

Let’s face it when it comes to the Heavenly Father we are lot like Gracie. Our stubborn and independence leads us to conflict with someone who only cares about helping us make it through lives journeys safely.

How often do we decide to do things on our own and even at the slightest hint of need instead of falling on our knees in prayer and turning to God in dependence we decide to travel on the journey a little further? We are sure we can do it but with each turn we find ourselves digging ourselves deeper and deeper in a hole we have no way of getting out of on our own.

Still we hold our hands behind our back from a loving God whose desire is for our best.

Often we walk through life ignoring the oncoming landmines that the Father knows are just around the corner. If only we would pull our hands out from behind our backs, reach up for help and allow God to do what He wishes to do; bring us to safety.

Some day when we arrive on the other side we will see the places when God wearied of our stubborn heart but still out of love for us reached down and picked us up. Even as we struggled against it He carried us to the safe place, at that moment we will be humbled and thankful for such a loving God.

Today why not pull the hands out from behind your back, reach up to God. Like with any good father your hand won’t have far to travel; his hand is already reaching down to you.

Scripture: James 4:7-10, “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, deliver us from our stubborn hearts. Guide us to you and you alone as our help. We ask these things in the name of Christ, who loves us so. Amen.

all simple/truths are written by richard harris

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