Lesson from a 3rd Grader

Yesterday I made my weekly trek to South Euless Elementary Schoolsouth euless 2where I mentor a couple of boys.  One of them is in 3rd grade, the other in 6th.  This week, I met only with the 3rd grader.

As usual, I checked in on social media. This time, I checked in with this statement: “What will I learn from a 3rd grader today?”

And my bluff was called. So, what did I learn from a 3rd grader yesterday?

That I don’t always communicate what I intend to communicate, and that if I don’t pay attention, I’ll miss something.

He and I have been meeting together over lunch most of this school year. Each time, he seems eager to sit down with me and start talking.

I learned early on that we are better off if I don’t force the conversation where I want it to go.  When I do, I quickly sound like just another older person dispensing advice and wisdom.  I know this because I see it in his eyes, and I hear it as he gently mocks me.  Sometimes he’ll parrot my words back to me. Sometimes he just says, at increased volume, “You tell me that every week!”

I don’t believe I do tell him the same think every week, but if I argue with him about that, then I’ve lost the battle for relationship before I’ve even started.

It is a challenge for a 52 year old to meet a 3rd grader on his own terms, but if I want this child to respect my experience and the wisdom and insight I’ve gained along the way, I owe it to him to try my best.

We only have 30 minutes together each week. Sometimes this will be filled with significant conversation. Sometimes it will be mostly his making faces at his friends at other tables.

But he still looks forward to my meeting him at lunch. That’s something I’ll take any day of the week.

Lesson from a 3rd Grader

Who is holding up your trampoline?

During the day of our big annual event, a Lord’s Acre, this past Saturday, I received news that one of our youth had run away the day before.

Our Director of Student Ministries jumped on it, contacting folks and catching up with family members.  I interspersed prayer into the other events of the day I to which I was committed.

By that evening I had received word the youth was safe, and taking some steps toward returning to normalcy.

Whenever I would pause and pray, I kept getting drawn back to a class in seminar. It was my first Joy class.  By “my first Joy class,” I mean my first class with Dr. Don Joy Here is a bio, written by a seminary classmate of mine who now teaches at Asbury Seminary.

trampolineDr. Joy taught us about our trampoline.  Or let me put it this way: he had us all look at our own life as a trampoline. Then we were required to identify the people who served as springs and legs – those who held up or supported our trampoline.
If I remember right, he had us draw a box as our trampoline, and then draw “supports” off each side of it, something like this:  20151026_112127

Then we were required to write the names of people who supported us, encouraged us in significant ways, around each side of the trampoline.

These were the people who held up the trampoline that was our life.

Anyone knows who has ever bounced on a trampoline, that it needs quite a few springs to work well. In fact, one could say, the more springs the better.

The point was quickly clear to me, and, I assume, to the rest of the class. To grow up well, or to live healthy as a person, one ought to have a support system holding up one’s trampoline.

This particular youth, the one who ran away, has quite a few people holding the trampoline up.

Of course, part of adolescence is that it seems increasingly difficult, as one tries to find one’s own identity, to maintain those ties, to accept the support of others.

I not only invite you to pray for this young person, but I ask you also: who is holding up your trampoline?

And, finally: whose trampoline are you holding up?

Who is holding up your trampoline?

On the BTTFDay Bandwagon

Many, many people will be posting about Back to the Future Day ( #bttfday ).

This the day to which Doc and Marty went “into the future” in the second installment of the Back to the Future movie trilogy. So newspapers and website and probably 45% of the blogosphere will offer praise and lament for what the movie got right and wrong about the future.

I’ll echo the greetings of Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), for this day:

“Great Scott, if my calculations are correct it is now precisely October 21, 2015.

“The future has finally arrived.

“Yes, it is different than we all thought.

“But don’t worry, it just means your future hasn’t been written yet. Noone’s has.

“Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”

Or this.

Maybe you’ll want to spend some time today thinking in the direction of October 21, 2045. That’s the day that is to today what today was to the original story.

On the BTTFDay Bandwagon

Parenting by Hypocrisy

My kids were really noisy this morning.

Perhaps this is better than having to drag them out of bed to get them ready for school.

At one point, though, I caught myself yelling at them to stop yelling.

Reminded me of the time I spanked my older daughter (she’s 26).  She was probably 3, and as I spanked her, in perfect rhythm with the spanks I spoke words of correction:


I didn’t spank her after that.

I don’t think stopping the yelling at my kids will go away so easily.

I am on my way to becoming the parent who looks up from his smartphone to tell his kids to spend less time with their electronic devices and more time with the real world.

For this reason, Rachel and I gave up cell phones (and tablet, etc.) at meals before Eliza was born. We knew that parenting required at least a little credibility.

Jesus identified this challenge when he asked:

Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Hey, fellow parents: Let’s work on our hypocrisy so that we might not only correct our children, but maybe even model for them better ways to behave.

Hey, Jesus people: Let’s try to be a little less hypocritical in our judgment and consternation toward the world around us.

It’s not like we’ve got all our stuff together.

Parenting by Hypocrisy

Blame Game

Why are we so quick to place blame?

We blame without even thinking about it.

Last week, I made a quick stop at a fast-food place.  It doesn’t matter which one; all that matters is that it was a fast-food restaurant with multiple drive-through lines.

I placed my order, listened as it was read back to me, got my total, and pulled up.

My total was $11.13.

When I got to the window, I was asked for $6.52.

“My order was $11.13,” I said.

The attendant looked at the monitor for a few seconds. Completely understandable. My order was found, then she turned to me and said, “Oh, you got out of order.”

I got out of order?

I pulled through when I was directed to pull through.  I didn’t gun it to cut the car in the other line off.  In fact, that car wasn’t moving.

But, anyway: does it matter if I got out of order?  Does it matter what happened?

I think all that really mattered is that each customer get their own order and pay their own price.

This is more about language than customer service. It seems we learn to form sentences in ways to pass the blame off to someone else whether we mean to or not.

I didn’t feel like the attendant expected an apology; only that she had figured out the problem. And that it was my fault.

Why does someone have to be at fault?

Because we play the blame game.  We even play it unconsciously, which I think is what was happening here.

When merely identifying or naming something that has happened, does your choice of words usually affix blame somewhere?  If so, is blaming really necessary?

I have to admit, I am being a little touchy here.  But I share this not so much for you to stop blaming me, but ti invite you to do as I’ve begun doing; learn to check the words you say for how they might be heard.

For a start, let’s all work on not starting a statement with the word “You.”  Describing an event or making a statement can easily be done without starting the sentence with “You.”

Come on, now.

You can do this!

Blame Game

Wasted on Jesus

In Matthew 26:6-13, a woman interrupted Jesus’ visit to Simon’s home by anointing him with oil.  She took an alabaster jar ‘f “Very expensive oil” and poured it on him while he was sitting at dinner.anointing Jesus

The disciples, Jesus’ closest and dearest, most committed followers, take offense. “Why this waste?” they asked.

Wasted on Jesus.

The perfume could have been sold, they continued, and the proceeds given to the poor.

Jesus’ disciples, his closest and most committed followers, felt that this extravagant gift had been wasted on Jesus.

The disciples were all about efficiency.  They weren’t a wealthy lot, and the had quickly picked up on Jesus passion for the poor.  They couldn’t stand that this expensive perfume had been wasted. On Jesus.

Yet Jesus, rather than applauding their penny-pinching, corrects them: “Why do you make trouble for this woman? She’s done a good thing for me.”

Now, I don’t know about you or your church, but we don’t have a lot of extra money lying around here.  We have a lot of generous people here willing to give to help the less fortunate.

Like most these days, we want the money we give to be used to the best, most-efficient purposes.  Some won’t give to general budget because they want every dime of their money to go to the cause; the efficient, don’t-pay-for-the-red-tape feet-on-the-ground need.Some of us want to see the financial reports that prove we aren’t wasting money.

But what if we are wasting it on Jesus?

I think it is significant that this passage appears in the chapter after Jesus teaches that giving to the poor is giving to him:

‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

So, I believe, in giving to the poor we are giving to Jesus. But what, then, is the point of this story in Matthew 26?

Like  so much of our lives, and our issues, I believe it comes down to control.

The disciples, in the interest of efficiency, overlook the moment and the passion of the woman anointing Jesus.  They don’t grasp what is happening, or what it might mean to Jesus. And they think they can manage the moment and the gift better than the woman who is doing the giving.

Besides this being about the disciples’ concern over what someone else does, it is about their interest to control and direct resources. In this case, not even their own resources, but someone else’s.

They correctly caught that Jesus cared for the poor. But they misdiagnosed his care.  Jesus didn’t care for the poor as merely a matter of redistribution of resources.

Jesus cared for the poor out of a generous, sharing, giving heart.

Jesus knew, the Bible teaches, and modern research has proven, the power of generosity.

The woman anointing Jesus is not careful with her gift. She is lavish, extravagant, generous. Jesus is pleased and gracious in receiving her gift.

May you and I learn to model generosity more than concern for waste.

Wasted on Jesus