Ignoring Front Porch Critics

Some time ago, I heard a story about a man, his son, and their donkey. From this, I have learned one key lesson.

While walking up the road, a man, his son, and their donkey passed by four houses.

As they past the first house, the man walked ahead of the donkey, guiding him by the reigns, and his son was riding the donkey. On the porch of the first house, sat a harsh critic. At the sight of the group passing by, the critic thought to himself, “What poor discipline. That father needs to make that kid walk so he’ll understand how tough life can get.”

After the group had passed by the first house, the man asked his son if he would like to guide the donkey for a while. The son obliged and the man sat on top of the donkey. As they passed the second house, a second critic on the porch thought to himself, “Well I must say. If that isn’t sheer laziness and pure lack of discipline on that father’s part, I sure don’t know what is.”

By the time they came to the third house, both the man and his son had decided to ride the donkey up the road. The critic at this house, looked at the sight and said, “Those cruel pet owners. That poor donkey is having to carry a full load, while they sit back and do nothing.”

Finally, upon passing the last house, the man and his son walked along together, while the man guided the donkey along with the reigns. Once again, a fourth critic looked at the sight and thought to himself, “How silly. That man and boy have a perfectly good donkey to ride on. They don’t even have to walk.”

I’m sure you already determined that the moral of the story is the one key lesson. You will always be criticized, no matter what you do. Rather than trying to please everybody, consider a simple switch that will take the pressure off of you. As one orator put it, “…we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In a nutshell, pleasing one person (or two if you count yourself) is much easier to do than trying to do the same for seven billion people.

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I Miss the Roads Down in Africa

In my life, morning radio programs and Saturday afternoon traffic share one common characteristic.

If you can imagine yourself in my shoes earlier this week, you would have experienced a nice, hot shower, clean clothes to wear, and an incredible urge to lay back down on your unbelievably comfortable bed that your parents gave you as a wedding gift. You would have turned on the radio to listen to music just before sitting down to eat the wonderful breakfast your wife prepared for the two of you to share together. Then, before you walked to the table, you would have pointedly turned the radio off in a brief rage because, instead of hearing your favorite music, you had stumbled upon a couple of radio show hosts who had nothing better to do than complain about all that which is wrong with the world.

Fast forwarding to Saturday, you and your wife travel to see family for the first time in a long while, because hey, you have a car, and it actually works. As you get on the highway, you get angry at the bus that nearly runs you off the road, because hey, he’s supposed to drive better. As you nestle down into your padded seat with your heart set on reading a good book, the car jostles up and down after your wife accidentally hits a gynormous pothole, sending your book, and your senses, flying out of order. Having nothing better to do, you, in a brief rage, let your words stumble out to complain about all that which is wrong with the world.

Then your wife says something magical. “Well, I guess we could be in a worse car driving down the dirt ‘roads’ in Africa.”

That’s when you decide to make a simple switch. Rather than allowing those brief episodes of rage and indignation to last for very long, you decide to do all things without grumbling or disputing. Believe me, it makes the trip more enjoyable.

hearts

I like the idea. Sometimes I forget that there are other people in this world besides myself. I’m going to make a simple switch, to find those who are hurting the most, this day in their lives. Will you join me?

gypsy

In preparation for valentines, which we never really celebrate, I put some decorations up… inspired by this wall of hearts!  Also, this is my favorite soulpancake episode to date… absolutely ADORE IT!

SOULPANCAKE EPISODE ON OWN

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Rattlesnake Control Via…Pencils?

I was taught how to be responsible in the third grade. Along with our sparkly planners, we were given boot camp instruction regarding their proper use in the field. Now, I cannot live without one. My planner is my second brain.

I pencil in every assignment due date, and every daily to-do item. Daily, I pencil in what I must do in order to accomplish each assignment by the corresponding due date. My writing is reduced to a handwritten helvetica font that is crammed into a space in which the lead itself can hardly breathe. Were it not for spotlights, magnifying glasses, and 0.000005 lead sizes, my second brain would be no better off than if it had had a lobotomy. Thankfully, my second brain often becomes full of itself instead.

When the process is finished, I open my planner and find a rattlesnake. Yes, a living, breathing, full-grown, striking, angry, and hissing rattlesnake. I look at it, and my pulse races. Sweat trickles down my brow, and I want to start backing away slowly despite being frozen with fear. I reach down slowly, and with my hand dancing on the line of danger, I catch the corner of the book, slam it shut, and trap that good for nothing.

Then, when least expected, I whip open that book and proceed to beat that snake to a pulp…one assignment at a time.

Did you see that? I just became the victorious snake slayer. How? By making a simple switch. When it comes to worry, the first step is a timeless principle, wrapped up in the phrase, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). That is, take a step back, and live in the boundaries of today. Look no further beyond the boundaries of today, and live it.

The Facts of Grief (1)

I am very fortunate. Not only can I remember attending the funeral of my paternal great-grandmother, but also both funerals of my maternal great-grandparents. I am fortunate because many people my age have been to more family funerals than I have.

At these three funerals, I remember sitting and listening to the stories my family told about them. I remember sitting and telling myself not to cry. I remember telling myself that everyone would think I was weak if I cried. I remember clenching my fists and tightening every muscle in my body. I remember when I looked away from the grown men who outwardly expressed their grief. I remember…that I wanted to cry.

Those memories flooded to my mind when one of my college professors shared one of her personal life experiences. Before she taught at the undergraduate level, she had directed day care centers for several years. She told us about a boy in one of her programs who had been taught by his father that ‘real boys don’t cry.’ Unfortunately, I cannot recall what had provoked this boy to tears, but I remember that she told us how this boy bit his bottom lip so hard (in order to keep from crying), that he actually bit through his lower lip.

I can’t answer why men in this culture believe crying is a weakness. All I can say is that grief is a natural response. Such is true in scripture’s shortest sentence. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

As time goes on, I am attending more and more funerals. Consider, with me, making a simple switch if and when you experience such grief. Rather than holding it all in, let it out!

Be free.

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Click here for the second part of this series.

New “Miss Fabulous” Crowned

For all but the first four years of my life, I have understood what it means to have a sibling with special needs. After my sister was diagnosed with Autism when she was two years old, my family and I experienced the unique joys that come from interacting with other children like her. I was most glad to have gained that experience when I first met the woman I would one day marry, because her brother has always been in a wheelchair with more severe issues. Now my brother-in-law, I cannot imagine what my life would be like without these two, wonderful siblings.

I have found, however, that the joy and relative ease I feel towards children and adults with special needs is not always found in the lives of others. That is why I was so thrilled to find this video. I hope you watch it.

My plea for those who find difficulty understanding the special needs world, is that you make a simple switch in mind and heart. Please, whether in dealing with those who have special needs or those who do not, remember to look as God sees and not as man sees (I Samuel 16:7).

Look at these tender hearts and see how fabulous they are. You don’t know how much good you will do by acknowledging them with a smile. You don’t know how much good you will give to a parent or guardian by complimenting their perseverance. A new perspective and a good deed will change your life.