All Things Are New

All Things Are New

There we stood, on the edge of promise and defeat. And although we stand alone, we’re not alone, for with us is a great and mighty army beyond number as far as the eye can see. We, just like the ancient nation of Israel, are standing at the border, about to enter our promised land. Shall we allow our own weakness to stand in the way? How about fear? Are the giants going to destroy us, or shall we destroy them? Who knows, because here we stand, waiting for someone to take that first step.

Suddenly the ground reverberates as a booming voice shatters the desert, that was so recently shrouded in silence. ” Go in and possess the land, for I the Lord have prepared it for you.” Our choice has been made clear for us now, shall remain on this side of the valley and remain in our unbelief or shall we rise up as a phoenix from the ashes, discarding all doubt and march forth and take the land that lies before us, ripe for the taking.

As the swirling desert winds subside, I see standing before this army, is our King. He is adorned with majesty from on high, as He sits upon His mighty white steed. His appearance outshines the blazing desert sun and His brilliance is beyond description. The great assembly before Him is suddenly silenced as their King raises His sword high in the air, marking His signal to prepare for battle. Once more, He turns to those behind Him and lifts up a cry; “Come, take the land with Me. Behold old things have passed away, all things are new!”

There’s Power In Our Words

There’s Power In Our Words

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. “ Proverbs 15:1

Have you ever been told in your past? “Sticks and stone’s may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Anyone who taught this probably had only the best intentions in mind when sharing this with their child. The purpose being that child would not allow themselves to be impacted by someone else nasty comments. The problem is that names do hurt, sometimes more than stick or stones.   In fact, this little rhyme may only serve to reinforce the sense of denial that a child is building within themselves when what they are actually attempting to do is to cover up what they’re really feeling on the inside through the use of these words.

Words that are spoken to us, especially as children, go straight to a child’s heart and have the power to build us up, or tear us down. It is this power, this longevity encapsulated in our words, that we must consider carefully when dealing with our children. The words we speak shape worlds in our children’s mental and emotional consciousness. We set them up for success or failure by the very words we speak. When we utter words such as “You’re so dumb or you’ll be just like so and so,” we shatter our children’s self-esteem, self-confidence and sense of well-being. Yet conversely, when we say to them, “come on I know you can do it ” we lift them up and affirm them in ways that last eternally.

From the time that a child is growing in the womb, right up till adulthood, a child receives such qualities as self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence from their parents and other family members, but primarily from their parents. The way most often these qualities are imparted to our children, is the words that we speak to them.

A parent has the profound responsibility and privilege of building a child. As with any building project, the success or failure of the project depends upon the quality of materials and the tools that are used to its completion, but most importantly the foundation that we lay for them. For without such a foundation, the house is doomed to collapse due to a weak foundation. The same could be said about the building of a human being.  A child needs a solid foundation in their lives if they are to succeed in any capacity throughout their life, and that firm foundation can be given to them by the love and affirmation of their parents, from conception and onward for the rest of their lives.

In the Jewish culture, the concept of speaking words or blessings that will cause a child to grow in a positive way is very common. This can be seen in the Bible, in the story of the conception of Jesus.

  Upon hearing of the divine conception within her, Mary the soon to be mother went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth for three months. The purpose of this visit, which was very common at that age. During this time the mother and other relatives could pray, sing psalms (songs) to the child, and speak blessings or words over the mother and child. This was extremely helpful to the mother, as the first trimester is usually the most difficult. Also, according to the Jewish culture at that time, this was very necessary for the child’s development emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. For this is the way in which they would build the foundation of the child’s life. Although the practice of going to a relatives house may not be observed anymore or at least not as much, the practice of blessing a child while in the womb, speaking a father’s blessing right after the birth and continuing to speak words of encouragement throughout that child’s life is still widely practiced.

When a child lives with parents who believe in them, they instinctively hold a higher view of themselves. One recent study revealed that when teachers have a positive perception of their students, those students score higher on the tests given, even if their abilities are no different from those of their peers. In another study, research showed that juvenile delinquents who had been conditioned by excessive criticism couldn’t even recognize praise when it was offered.

If the custom of speaking positive words or blessings towards our children is practiced, the dividends that children and parents alike will receive is immeasurable. If not, then it is never to late to get started. Although the going will be tougher than if this custom was practiced earlier in life, most often the child or adult will respond positively. Here are some suggestions to follow in order to bring positive affirmation into a child’s life.

Get Specific

Phrases like a good job or nice going are fine, but they have limited impact because they’re too vague. Specific communication is always more effective. Praise that’s specific also affects future behavior.  Not only will your child feel encouraged they’ll also understand what they did well and will likely build on that.

Learn to Lavish

In order to lead productive lives, children, like all people need more praise than criticism. As parents, it’s important to recognize the power of our words as well as the responsibility of affirming our kids and guiding them toward good choices. Even though we know we should be generous with our praise, it’s easy to get caught up in the little things our kids do wrong and overlook the things they do right. That’s when we need to remember and look for the positive even in the negative, and learn, even ourselves to lavish praise and encouragement upon our kids, even when it doesn’t come naturally. Encouragement, by nature, involves creativity and sacrifice on the parents part. But the reward is children who feel good about who they are and confident about meeting the challenges they face.

Dig Deeper

Parents tend to focus their attention on the outward behavior of kids, good and bad. But it’s just as important to look beyond the behavior and see your child’s character, honesty, diligence, playfulness, respect, and kindness. These inner qualities are essential for your child to grow into a mature adult. Whenever you address your child’s behavior, ask yourself, “What is it that I’m affirming?” Even when your child does something good, look beyond the work well done to find and encourage the character trait in your child.

Leave an Impression

When you praise your kids, it’s not the words that mean the most. What’s even more important is the lasting impression you’re creating on your children’s lives. Knowing you think they’re great will carry them through hard times, loneliness, discouragement, and failure. Maya Angelou once said, “They may not remember what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”

Personally, I have found this concept of positive affirmation to be just as important as the food that we eat and the air that we breath. For words are the food of our heart and spirit, and they can be either nourished and taken care of or poorly provided for; the determining factor is in the quality of our words. I’ve heard it said before that “a child only needs to hear ten negative things about themselves before they will believe it. In order to reverse such a trait, there must be at least one hundred positive things spoken before a child will forget the curse and embrace the blessing as truth for themselves.”

It is my goal now that as a father, to build my children up. It’s not always easy, sometimes it is downright difficult to say the things I should instead of the things I want to, but like money in the bank, my words are an investment. For me, this process began when we first found out that we were going to have a baby. I was always praying over and speaking to this precious life that we were given, even while in the womb. When each one was born I spoke a “Fathers Blessing” over each child, by speaking positive words of hope and promise. Even now when they are misbehaving, I try to correct the behavior with words of blessing. Thankfully albeit not always, I have seen a reversal from negative to positive behavior as they are corrected with words of truth and affirmation. Also, when I’ve used a more negative approach, well I think you can imagine the outcome. The words that we speak are powerful, so let’s be ones who build instead of ones who tear down.

“Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 Amplified Bible

P.S. Just in case anyone thinks I have it all together and that my kids are doing great, don’t. I fail often, but each time I do I ask for forgiveness, I trust God and I try again.

What’s Your Story

What’s Your Story

“I had always felt life first as a story and if there is a story, there is a storyteller.”

G.K. Chesterton

From the beginning of time, we have told stories, whether it has been the exploits of the day’s hunt, reciting a sonnet to the object of one’s affection, or my favourite, reading bedtime stories while snuggling with my children. Stories are powerful and are far more effective than dry narration when expressing the heartbeat of life, the heartbeat of our passionate God. In the Gospels, we see that Jesus taught and expressed the beauty of heaven, not through well-planned lessons in theology; Instead, He used the language of stories.

In a simple greeting, we ask one another. “how are you?” When what we’re really trying to understand is, “what’s going on around here?” In other words, tell me a story. Stories can bring clarity and understanding, where little or none previously existed. Stories are the stuff that unites us, be that a family, friends or an entire culture, stories have power, that in some ways, define us and provide us with purpose. Yet many of us may echo the sentiments of Samwise Gamgee when he asked a very simple and yet profound question.

“I wonder what sort of story we’ve fallen into? ”

An excellent question and one deserving of an answer for life, occasionally appear like something that we’ve fallen into and is completely outside of our own control. But just for a moment take a deep look into this theatre, we call life. Your story holds all the makings of one of the all-time legendary stories ever told. The Storyteller is creating your story as it has always been intended to be, an epic drama, and we play a crucial role on this stage that is unfolding before the universe to witness. The Storyteller of this tale has held nothing back, nothing has escaped from the production of this wondrous story, your life. Sadly, unlike the fairy tales of old, the performance that we have fallen into rarely ends ‘happily ever after.’ Yet life is no longer a fairytale that has been recited many times. No, this adventure that we are part of, is being written as we live it, and don’t try peeking at the last chapter to see how it ends for it’s still being written. Your life is a story of epic proportions. So go, live your story, your part is crucial to the entire plot, and without you, well, there’s just no story to be shared.

Vulnerability – A Prison or Freedom?

Vulnerability – A Prison or Freedom?

Webster’s  dictionary defines vulnerability as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
By its very definition, vulnerability is something to shun or to avoid at all costs.
Why is that?
Because if I do, I will open myself up to the opinion of others and willfully leave myself exposed.
Will my ideas, life, will I be accepted. Does it, do I really matter?
I don’t know, so what do you do when you’re left exposed or naked?
You cover up!
You put on one layer or facade after another, till even you don’t recognize yourself anymore.
So what is the danger the danger of being vulnerable?
Isolation, misunderstanding – alone – all alone.
So we put on just one more layer of armor, armor that was never meant to fit because it’s not mine to wear in the first place. But wear it I do and I continue to stumble through life, weighed down as I wear this false self, a fake me, hoping beyond hope that this “me” will be accepted and perhaps even loved.
Vulnerability is a prison.
It keeps you locked up and the guards of this prison are shame, guilt, self-loathing and fear.
But, there is one thing…
This prison that you’re locked in, that you have locked yourself in…
You hold the key.
Did you hear me, YOU HOLD THE KEY!!!
So how does any key work?
You have to turn it.
So, turn the key that locks you in and embrace the truth.
Truth is hard, very hard. As I write this, it is very hard, but truth must and it will triumph over the lies that have kept you imprisoned far to long, telling you that if you reach out to others that you are weak, you should be able to handle this yourself.
As I tell myself this one little truth, can I tell it to you as well?
You can’t do it, this life on your own. You were never meant too.
I need other people, we all need other people.
It’s ok to feel the things that you do, to think the things that you do.
It’s ok to be you.
For if we were all a bit more honest – a bit more vulnerable, we would see that we’re not so alone after all.
Others think, feel and in secret, do what you do as well.
Vulnerability doesn’t have to be so limiting.
Yes, you may open yourself to harm, but you may also open yourself to the healing we all so desperately need.
And as you open yourself to receive the gift of help, you in turn, allow yourself to give the help that you have received.
Victor Hugo, a poet, playwright, and novelist once said, “The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves or rather loved in spite of ourselves.”
Know that you, yes YOU are loved, and if you are the only one who knows this incredible truth, then love yourself and look into the face of God.
To love another person is to see the face of God.” Victor Hugo
P.S. That prison I spoke of earlier, well vulnerability is a big part of what sets you free.
The Garden

The Garden

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24

The flowers rested as the gentle mist fell upon their faces. Within the garden they knew they were the most prized within all of His garden. Many times He would gently take care of them to ensure they would grow to be even more beautiful than before. Each plant rested in complete peace, for they knew that the Gardener would always take such great care of them. As His care for them grew, so  the flowers love grew more for their the Gardener. They could often be heard telling tales to one another of the Gardeners gentle ways, His love for them but the most treasured and shared tale of all was how He had saved each one of them from the drought, as he refreshed each of them with His springs of living water. The dream of each flower, shrub or tree within the garden was to be like the Gardener and hopefully bring life and love to others who are suffering, as they once were.

The plants of the garden trusted the Gardener deeply, and their hearts would leap for joy as they heard His footfalls approaching. Today, they noticed something was different about the Gardener. His face, which usually radiated a serine calm and love, was today etched with concern and determination. Although somewhat perplexed by the Gardeners unusual demeanour, they knew that they could trust Him, for His ways were always gentle and kind. Any apprehension immediately gave way to calm as they felt the reassurance of the Gardeners strong hands lift their leaves from the soil. Quickly, and without warning the Gardener pulled his pruning shears from his belt and set about pruning each of His beloved plants. He circled the young saplings as a jungle cat circles its prey. The garden plants could not understand why He was treating them so. With His old pruners in one hand, He set about the task of expertly pruning each of them. Their astonished cry’s seemed to be ignored, as He wrapped the blades around their stems and squeezed. They would try to resist His shears to no avail, as the blades would get stuck half way through a stem. Frustrated, He wiggled the pruners until the branch gave way exposing the raw wood beneath the bark. He continued, seemingly without mercy till his task was completed, leaving each plant with barely more than their roots in the ground.

During a brief period of respite, the plants caught their breath and with pain in their voices they collectively cried out. “Why, why have you done this to us, we thought that you loved us, have we displeased you in some way, is that why you’re punishing us like this?” The Gardener knelt down on one knee, and when he looked up to His friends, his face once again radiated a peace that passes all understanding. “Oh My precious ones, don’t you realize that within all My garden, you are My most prized possessions. Yet a bitter frost has settled upon you and is slowly destroying you. I have heard your hearts cry, as you yearn to be more like me, and I will answer you. Yet that day is not today, for first I must strip away all that is not of Me. The bewildered plants once again cried out, “but why are You cutting so deep. We are already in great agony, if you do anymore You’re going to kill us!” A tear silently rolled down the rugged face of the gardener, as he looked at each one with love and compassion, he replied. “In order to give you abundant life, I must first allow you to fall and let all that is unhealthy and not of me to die away. I know this is painful, but it is for your good. This death must take place, in order to save your lives. Without this pruning today, you would surely and completely die.” Taking a deep breath, the Gardener once again faced his beloved and continued.  “Since I planted you within My garden, I have never left you. I know you feel alone and confused as My pruning shears have cut you so deeply, please understand, I never have nor will I ever leave you. I will care for you and restore you to  your former glory. Fear not My loved ones, spring is almost here.

a new day

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