Saturday, April 25, 2009

Speak No Evil

I watched American Idol for the first time the other night. I know, I're wondering what cave I've been living in with Nell.

I'm not a fan of reality T.V. and recently I've made tremendous strides to watch less and less of any television show. We cut back to the most basic cable you can get ($11 a month) and I can honestly say I haven't really missed it. But, my kids and Dan have watched idol this season and love to cheer for their favorites and see what they'll sing, so I decided to check it out.

I'd heard a lot about Simon and while I agree he can be rude and negative, as I watched him rate each performance, I found myself agreeing with him. I also found it very easy to jump right into the judgement role and begin criticizing every detail of the performance I didn't find impressive or inspiring.

As we all sat and watched and did our own play-by-play comments, my oldest daughter became increasingly upset to the point of not wanting to watch the show together anymore. She felt we had become (and me in particular) too harsh in our criticisms, focusing only on what any particular singer did wrong and not giving any credit to their courage for being up there in the first place with relatively great voices.

She was right.

I've always had a critical streak, something I like to say I inherited from the paternal side, but calling something hereditary and moving right along doesn't assume any responsibility. So it was convicting to have my daughter brought to tears by my negativity.

I just finished reading a book by Chip Ingram called "The Miracle of Life Change" (I highly recommend it to everyone) and it talks about how we are transformed from the inside out when we become Christians. His focus comes from Ephesians chapter 4. Verses 22-24 say we are to put off the old self (old habits), get renewed by the Holy Spirit in our minds and then put on the new self (we are made new creations in Christ). A lot like changing clothes.

And then a few verses later (vs. 29) I read "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."

Sometimes I think my daughter is an angel in the room - God's gentle reminder that it's better to give grace than assume the role of judge.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Do you know how at certain times it seems everywhere you look you're getting the same message, but it seems random?

Like, it's Spring (or so the calendar would have us believe - it's 40 degrees and raining), and so the days are longer and I have a little more energy in the evening to do some Spring Cleaning. I haven't gotten into the whole "clear out the house" weekend yet, but I feel it coming on.

Then there's this website I recently discovered where people offer up stuff actually worth something for free or ask for stuff they want that someone else might be willing to get rid of for free. A huge trading network - very no-nonsense - "this is what I want/have, here's when it can be picked up, etc." Once you get past the crowded inbox, it's great. We've gotten a free ceiling fan and given several toys, stationary, hangars, etc. away. It reminds me of the WWII era of "we're all in this together" and beats the heck out of storing it all for a dreaded weekend long garage sale that will yield $200 on a good day.

Then I'm reading this book (well seven actually, but this particular book is) about making room for life. In fact, that's the title "Making Room for Life". Someone gave it to me today and I read the first five chapters on my lunch hour (quick read). The author, a pastor, was talking about being in Israel and seeing the Bedoin families in their tents in the desert and feeling sorry for them until he learned they are the least stressed, happiest, longest-living people in the country. And guess what? They don't own anything they couldn't pick up and carry at the end of the day.

I got seven e-mails in the past two days looking for donations. All worthy causes, from cancer research, to clean water in Africa to a local family whose house burned down.

I'm thinking the message is we have so much stuff! I look around and I can't possibly maintain all the things in this home. And I regularly give a bunch of it away. Which makes me think I'm still accumulating more than I think I am.

Now some of this is part of the territory of being a mom with three kids. Even in this wonderful age of technology a lot of paper comes home from school. The mail is ridiculous. We fill a ginormous recycling bin EVERY WEEK with paper and plastic. And I know, my sentimentality is partly to blame, but I'm parting with more and more all the time. I now understand the minimalist approach my mom has that I used to make fun of.

I open my fridge and freezer (and fridge/freezer in the garage) and I have more choices than 2/3 of the worlds' population. But I still run to the store four times a week because I'm "out of everything"!

How did I grow to value so much stuff as necessary?

I remember before Caitlin was born, I was thrown (count 'em) five separate baby showers. Through the generosity of others, her room was wall-to-wall Classic Winnie the Pooh. I'll never forget the first time my mother walked into that nursery stunned and shaking her head. She said "when you were born, there was a crib and a picture of Bambi on the wall". I don't think my sister even had the crib - she probably slept in a drawer like all the other baby boomers.

I read a book awhile ago called "The Treasure Principle" by Randy Alcorn. It talks a lot about how you can tell what you value most by looking at your checkbook and calendar. Then it offers a biblical perspective on storing up the kind of treasure that doesn't perish (see the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-20).

I find that the inventory in my house is saying a lot about the stuff in my heart.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Next Time Count Off

Spring is here. Sort of. It's snowing outside right now and perhaps all of 33 degrees (that's Fahrenheit for you Aussie readers) and they're calling for 4-7 inches accumulating before all is said and done. Guess I shouldn't have put the boots away just yet. Last year we got slammed with a huge snow storm on Good Friday and I remember building snow bunnies in the front yard for Easter. We're really not safely into Spring weather until late April early May and by the end of May we seem to be full fledged summer. But Spring it is and that!

The Cubs' played an exhibition game against the Yankees in their new stadium and lost huge, but I still like our chances this year. Of course, like any deluded Cub's fan, I like our chances every year. The season opener is tomorrow (not to be confused with their home opener on Tuesday) against the Astros which is the team Ryan got placed on in little league this year.

He's had two practices (one indoors after a rain delay and more non-Spring like weather) and one outside on a balmy 45 degree day. He's grouped with 3rd and 4th graders so he has the advantage of being slightly larger and more experienced than half his team. It's still astonishing to me the size range you see of these kids who are never more than a year apart. The smallest is maybe 50 pounds soaking wet and the largest could probably take out most high school tackles. They stand next to each other and I try not to laugh.

The coaches seem like they'll be great. Not too competitive, but intent on teaching them the basics, not too nurturing, but willing to encourage and guide, and not at all the kind who show up leaving you wondering how on earth they got the job because they obviously know nothing about the game. So I was really pleased watching this practice....right up until the point when they decided to pick teams.

They appointed two captains (ironically the two largest kids) and had them each select a team from the boys they had just met. You know how the dreaded drill goes -the kids shuffle back and forth praying to God they're not the last one picked. And their parents sit in the stands and pray the same thing. Ryan was picked second to last. Would someone please explain to me the upside of this approach?

For those of us who've been subjected to the humiliating experience of being the last one picked (sometimes repeatedly) we can attest to the fact that it doesn't do much to build confidence or camaraderie among teammates. So I'm wondering what goes through a grown man's head when he defaults to this option. Because I'm talking about a practice for kids on the same team, the majority of which haven't hit double digits age wise! Why, oh why, do we line them up and beat them down??

I told Dan when I got home and he was disgusted. Aren't I blessed that he's my husband?