“Godly gratitude – treating others as God has treated us”

Deuteronomy 24: 10-22
~ Exodus 23:14-19

Thanksgiving. Cooking turkey and dressing. Visiting family. Watching football. Shopping on Friday. Volunteering. Donating. Giving thanks. This holiday season is overlaid with multiple meanings. It can be difficult to keep them all straight. We are invited to donate at the stores where we are shopping – often by people wearing Santa hats. Spending time with extended family can be both a source of joy and of stress. We may be grateful to have them in our lives, and also grateful that they don’t live any closer.

Exodus 23 briefly summarizes three festivals – the festival of unleavened bread, ending in the celebration of the Passover meal, the Spring harvest of first fruits at Pentecost (the name, 50, representing the number of days after Passover), and the fall harvest festival, the festival of booths or tabernacles. These instructions are presented to Israel in the early days of their journey to the promised land, not long after they left slavery in Egypt. They are people on a journey, not people planting and tending crops. The instruction assumes that a day will come in their future when things will be different, more settled, better. At that time, then, they will be able to look back on this instruction and remember what the Lord had instructed them on how to give thanks for the harvest.

Have you ever received or given instructions that would only be useful sometime in the future? Did your parents ever say to you, “Now, when you get there… remember…”? Moses repeatedly told the people on God’s behalf, “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you… remember…” (NUM15; DEUT26) “When you get to school, remember…” “When you get to camp, remember…” “When you get to that party, remember who you are…” “When you get to college, remember what we taught you…” Most of our education is precisely this – equipping us with knowledge, skills, understanding and wisdom for a future day when we will need it. We know how important this is. We also know how easy it is to ignore, to tune out, to think, “When am I ever going to need this…?” I wonder if that happened to the Israelites.

Our other text from Deuteronomy 24 specifically discusses how to harvest. By the time this teaching is given, the original generation of adults has died in the wilderness because they refused to trust God and go forward into an uncertain and scary future. The people wandered aimlessly for 40 years in the wilderness, gathering manna and eating quail and livestock and whatever wild plants they could gather. Now, finally, they have again come to the Jordan River and are given another opportunity by God to step into the dream and promise of their blessed future. All the instructions in Deuteronomy are presented as a single monologue by Moses, rehearsing and reinforcing the teachings of the past 40 years. They are close to being able to plant and reap their first harvests, so it becomes more important to give specific instructions.

Moses gives a wide variety of instructions here on how to establish a settled community that is peaceful, righteous and just. In the midst of these rules on worship, marriage and divorce, punishment, handling a corpse… We have this refrain: Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.  The instructions on how to harvest have embedded within them provision for the poor, the stranger, and the foreigner in our midst, because we were once as they are. In our harvesting, and in our thanksgiving, we must remember those who are where we have been. And this we is generational. It is not just where you personally have been. It is about where we as a people have been. We were slaves in Egypt, and foreigners in a strange land. We were the poor and downtrodden. We were the vulnerable and the oppressed. And because this is true, we must treat with honor and respect those who are currently so.

“What does it mean for us to leave gleanings in the field?”

Are you someone who has financial resources? You are commanded by God to share with those who do not, as an act of thanksgiving in your own receiving. This shows that you realize that what you have is not only by your own making or doing.

How else might we apply this principle?

Consider Sandra, who has healthy relationships? How might she bless others who are less fortunate? What would it mean for her to leave a gleaning in the field of relationships? Sandra gives others the benefit of the doubt if they offend her or act foolishly. She is quick to forgive and refuses to harbor resentment. She offers offer mercy and grace because she at one time needed mercy and grace from another.

What about Jack, who has real talent and ability? How might he leave sheaves in the field? He has extra patience with those less competent? He gives some of his time to teach others what he knows. He donates his ability to those who cannot afford to pay and are not able to learn and do what comes easily to him.

Jackie is someone with a deep and humble faith. The grace of God flow through her so that she have an abiding faith and trust that guards her heart and mind from anxiety and worry and fear? How can she leave some fruit of the Spirit on the vine of her life so that others may take and eat and be nourished? She is praying for others to also find the peace that passes understanding? She is offering encouragement to others so that they might hear God’s voice? She is not busy trying to convince others that she is right about what God wants them to do. Rather, she allows room for the Holy Spirit to work in them as it does in her. She is not impatient to fix others, for God is patient with her.

Sarah is someone who has a good head for numbers and is skilled at managing finances. At the same time that she is prospering she seeks to bless those who do not have the same innate talent or learned abilities? Sarah mentors others in business and family finances. She teaches budgeting classes and makes micro venture loans to people trying to start small businesses. She guides young adults and those recently divorced or widowed who have never learned financial management.

Again, the question is: “What does it mean for us to leave gleanings in the field?” Few of us actually have fields or vineyards or olive trees that produce a livelihood.  We are being asked to leave a gleaning from our life’s work. What labor supports your household? What skills and abilities enable you to earn a living and support yourself and those who depend upon you? The commandment we receive is to leave the gleaning from our labors so that those who lack access to skill, knowledge, training or the means of production may feed themselves.

Dignity through work: An equally important principle within this commandment is that those receiving must be given an opportunity to labor as a way to maintain their dignity. The story of Ruth is a wonderful example of how this teaching was lived out. Ruth was a poor young widow, and a non-Jewish foreigner. Her mother-in-law Naomi, also a widow, sent her to the fields of Boaz to glean. Boaz was a kinsman, so Naomi hoped that they would receive some extra measure of grace in his eyes. The fact that this was even necessary may indicate that the commandments from Deuteronomy 24 were not uniformly obeyed. Regardless, Ruth did find favor in Boaz’s sight. She had shown herself faithful, and so he extended extra favor on her beyond the commandment as a reward for her goodness.

Limited control: Another principle embedded in this commandment is that who receives and how much they receive is our of our control, even though the resources are under our stewardship. At times this may be difficult for us to understand or accept. There is no guidance given for setting exclusionary limits on the gleaners – i.e. to curtail people from taking advantage. We might want there to be some. We might even decide to implement some. But God did not see fit to suggest any such boundaries. Remember the underlying premise – we do this because we were once also slaves, poor, vulnerable, oppressed. We also once had no control over the means of production. Those who own the land and the resources and the tools control who gets what. To be poor is to lack sufficient access and control over the resources of production.

This is the very definition of a “company town”. An area is so isolated that one family, group or company controls the entire economy. When this happens, others are excluded by this very structure. The Israelites were about to take over land and distribute it among tribes and families, according to the people in each tribe as described in the book of Numbers. But not all people are skilled farmers. Not all people are financially responsible. Not all people stay healthy so that they can work. Not all people _________. Fill in the blank. Some people need a helping hand – just as the Israelites did when they were slaves in Egypt. They had not become slaves by some inadequacy, fault or failure. It happened subtly, slowly, over time – similar to the Nazi pogroms against the Jews leading up to the Holocaust.  But once they were in that situation, they needed rescuing. Once the Jews were slaves, they needed rescuing. When people lack the basic resources for life, they need help. And we are commanded to help them because we once needed help.

Initiative AND Assistance: Now, I don’t want to get deeply into the “We built this,” “You didn’t build that,” political debate. I will simply say this, “YES.” Yes, people built businesses, and Yes they had help from lots of other people, including societal resources like public infrastructure and education. Great. The same would have been true for Israel. They had some resources to start with, and some people made better use of them than others. Jesus taught that this would be so, “Some yielded thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred fold.” (MK4) Some are apparently naturally better at business and finance: “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, each according to their ability.” (MT25) Acknowledging this is true, we still return to the command that those who have are to share with those who have not. This rests on the fact that at some point each of us needed help from others.

A human baby cannot raise itself to healthy adulthood. It will starve unless another being cares for it, feeds it, cleans it, protects it from harm. We have heard rare stories of wild children being raised by wolves or apes. Even these usually got through their early years with humans supporting them. And when they returned to civilization they required a great deal of assistance. We cannot learn language on our own. We do not learn survival skills on our own. We do not learn the math we need for financial management on our own.  We were once slaves to ignorance and weakness and someone provided for us and instructed us and led us out. As children and adolescents (and sometimes as adults) we have been aliens in the adult world of society. The behaviors and attitudes and customs, the expectations and assumptions of others are strange and unknown to us. We are foreigners, aliens, strangers in a strange land. Every one of us who live in North America came from somewhere else, or our ancestors did. All of us are immigrants here, just as the Israelites were. So might we still be under the same commandment to treat the alien among us with compassion and justice, for we were once like them?

Saved by grace: Finally, and most importantly, we were once enslaved to sin (RM7; GAL4) but now have been set free (RM6:18) as Pauls says: 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Remember again our teaching from Deuteronomy – we are to leave gleanings from our abundant harvest so that those without the benefits we have may take their fill and be nourished. “What does it mean for us to leave gleanings in the field?” What does this mean spiritually? It means that we who have found peace with God through Jesus Christ are to treat those who lack such peace with overwhelming compassion and tender mercy. Remember that you were once slaves to sin and aliens to God. Your salvation is entirely the work of God. (EPH2). Christ restores the relationship between God and Humanity. With the coming of Jesus the reign of God was ushered into human history in a new way. This is the Gospel for which we are to prepare ourselves through repentance and in which we are to live here and now. Not all have heard or received this Good News. Ours is not to judge why. Ours is simply to go and share what we have received.

The Commandment we have been given is to show compassion, justice and love to those who are as we were. We should live our faith so that others are nourished. Does your spiritual life with God produce enough good, rich, nourishing fruit of righteousness (HEB12) so that you can feast and also provide for others? Or is your field, your vineyard barely giving enough for you to eek out a meal now and then. Are you spiritually malnourished because you have not been tending your spiritual gardens? How can you let your spiritual life nourish and feed others? If you are dwelling with Christ in prayer and study, if you are serving others in humility, if you are loving neighbor and enemy as you love yourself and God with all you are and have, then your life will bear the Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (GAL5). When these are abundantly present in your life, then others can glean and be nourished until their own spiritual gardens and vineyards begin producing the fruit of righteousness.

We give thanks for what we have, whether material, relational, emotional, mental or spiritual, by sharing with those who lack. This is not about handouts – it is about giving free access to what we have received so that others might work out their own salvation. God commands us to do this while we enjoy the fruit of our lives and the bounty we have received. Godly gratitude includes allowing others to be nourished by our lives and not to assume that everything we have is for our own enjoyment. Freely you have received. Freely give. (MT10)

 

Parenting Troubled Teens – an Introduction through the book Teens in Turmoil

Teens in Turmoil: A Path to Change for Parents, Adolescents, and Their Families

Maxym, Carol & Leslie B. York. New York, Viking, 2000.

Parenting is difficult, even when the family is fortunate to have a wealth of resources at their disposal. Each of us come with some relationship limitations, blind spots, and traps. Part of the work of maturing is working through and overcoming these things in the midst of our lives and relationships. This means that those around us get the joy of experiencing us when we are not at our best. And that may result in some distortions in their lives as well.

We may be part of the cause of other people’s brokenness, without necessarily being to blame. And regardless, at some point each person has to take responsibility for their own thoughts, words and actions, in so far as they are able.

Taking responsibility as parents: As parents, we need to take responsibility for our words and actions which with which we relate to our kids. We need to honestly assess: “Have I spoken or acted in anger?” “Have I been selfish in my parenting?” “Have I tried to make my child over in my image rather than nurture the image of God in her/him?” “Have I spoiled, neglected, disciplined too harshly or not enough?”

Once we ask these questions, when we see our own responsibility, and guilt, then we name it and ask forgiveness from those we have hurt. We make amends if there is something that can be repaired.

This process accomplishes several things. 1) it humbles us to the place where we are able to admit our mistakes and moves us from the pretension that we have ‘gotten it right’; 2) it moves toward restored and reconciled relationship by seeking to bridge the separations that mistakes of the past have created; 3) it models for others how they too can practice this kind of bold honesty with self and others.

We need to understand that God has already forgiven us, before we asked for it, and even before we were aware of our own failure or sin. God’s presence in the world through Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Will we still experience consequences of our sin? Yes. Does this mean that God does not love and care for us? No. Nothing you have done, are doing, or may do in the future can lessen God’s love and concern for you. What these sins do is to build up barriers in us that limit our ability to experience the love that God has toward us.

“Behavior is a metaphor, a way teens have of acting out the real problem. The real problem is the teenager’s attitude toward herself, toward others, and toward life. However a teen is acting out, beneath the surface of the actions and attitudes lurk the teen’s self-doubt, self-disrespect, and self-hatred, providing the rationale for behavior that is self-sabotaging (and self-destructive).” (Maxym, 17) [Emphasis and parenthesis mine]

COMMON BEHAVIOR-ATTITUDES OF TEENS IN TURMOIL (Teens in Turmoil, Maxym, 19)

  1. They don’t like themselves.
  2. They feel like failures
  3. They are demoralized and react with an I-don’t-care attitude toward school as well as others
  4. They are frightened and resentful
  5. They are self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-indulgent
  6. They lie
  7. They manipulate
  8. They test limits
  9. They are struggling with profound existential questions
  10. They are sabotaging themselves, their future, and their family.
  11. They are self-destructive.

If kids grow up expecting mom or dad to bail them out and rescue them every time, then when they have to take responsibility for themselves life becomes overwhelming.

“You cannot expect your life, your family’s life, your teen’s life to change without really changing yourself.” (Maxym, 59)

EXERCISE: Letting go of what you hate most

In your journal, let out what you have been keeping inside. Say it. Finally. Write down the five things you hate most about the way your son or daughter is living these days. Review the list of behaviors-attitudes above if that would be helpful. Is it her language? Is it the way he dresses? Is it the secrecy? The intimidation? The lies? Drugs? His girlfriend? The depression?

This is the time for you to stop the rationalizing and excusing altogether. What do you hate most? Write it down and consider hanging this piece of paper on your mirror. It will remind you that you do not have to accept language, behavior, or attitudes that are loathsome to you. You also have the right to a life.

EXERCISE: Getting rid of your guilt

Guilt debilitates. Guilt hurts. Guilt blurs your vision. Guilt hinders your judgment. Guild makes you unhappy. Guilt doesn’t bring anything very positive.

Do you ever wonder why you spend so much energy feeling guilty, even protecting your guild as though it were your most prized possession?

It is easier to cleanse your soul of guilt than you may have thought. You can leave your guilt behind, not only because at least some of it is imagined, but also because feeling guilty will only sap your energy, suffocate your love, and help you waste your life.

Write all the reasons you feel guilty for what your child is doing now. Keep the list with you for a short time – thirty seconds to a few days. Share it with someone you trust if that makes sense for you. Then get rid of it. Flush it down the toilet, throw it in the fire. Toss it into the ocean. Allow it to be released from your being. (Maxim & York, p62)

PART II Learning from other families shares a series of family stories

PART III Finding your own solutions returns to guiding you toward reclaiming your life

PART IV Resources and programs is for those parents who have decided that their teen needs more help than they as a family can provide

EXERCISE: Observing your family from a safe distance

We are often better at seeing the reality of other people’s lives, so this exercise lets you step back from your story and gain some perspective. 1) First write in the first person about an encounter with your troubled teen. 2) Next, take a walk or in some other way give yourself some space from what you have written. 3) Now rewrite it in the third person, as though it were happening to someone else. 4) When you read this new version, what do you see? How do you think about this “other family” and their situation? Write out your thoughts and talk with someone about what you notice. Ask what they see or hear?

Troubled Parents Troubled Teens .pdf

RESOURCE LIST:

REFERRAL LIST

Collin Count

*

Dallas County

READING LIST

Raising Cain

Boundaries – (for mother’s self protection

Larson, Scott. When Teens Stray: Parenting for the Long Haul. Ann Arbor, Vine Books, 2002.

Maxym, Carol & Leslie B. York. Teens in Turmoil: A path to change for parents, adolescents, and their families. New York, Viking, 2000.

Cline, Foster W, MD & Jim Fay. Parenting Teens With Love and Logic: Parenting Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood. Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 1992.

Dobson, James. The New Dare to Discipline. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1992.

Oster, Gerald D. and Sarah S. Montgomery. Helping Your Depressed Teenager. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1995.

Overview of My Coaching Practice

Where do you want to go? Let me help you get there.

Rationale: Coaching is about helping you achieve your goals. These may be professional, relational, physical, emotional, spiritual, or some combination of these. Perhaps you are not even sure what goals you would pursue in a coaching relationship. Great News! Coaching is an excellent process by which you can identify and clarify your goals so that they are concrete, specific, achievable, and measurable.

Structure: Coaching may be conducted in person, by phone, by email, or a combination of these. Coaching is typically conducted during a phone conversation in two one hour sessions monthly, and email support is available between sessions. Preferably these sessions are scheduled for a regular time (i.e. 1st & 3rd Thursdays from 2:30-3:30pm). The client is responsible for initiating the call to the coach.

A complementary introductory session affords the coach and client an opportunity to make an initial exploration of the client’s goals and determine together whether this coaching relationship is likely to be fruitful for the client, or whether some other process might be preferable.

Coaching is client-centered, meaning that the client sets the agenda for the conversation by responding to:

Question Number One: What do you want to work on today?

It may be that what you thought you wanted to work on two weeks ago has resolved itself or been overshadowed by something more pressing. So, starting with QN1 keeps the focus on the client’s agenda. Even so, the coach will likely say later in the conversation, “I remember that last time we spoke, you were going to work on _______, and I’m wondering where you are with that.”

Following the initial session, a three month commitment is recommended. This time honors both the desire to move forward without ‘dragging our feet’ and also the recognition that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and ‘anything worth doing is worth doing right’. Goals and outcomes are revisited at the midpoint of this period. The coach requests written feedback on the client’s experience with coaching at the end of three months.

MORE ABOUT MY COACHING PRACTICE

I have coached inside organizations, and in various external settings for 15 years. Some of my clients have worked on developing better skills in relating to family, friends and employers. Others have come to a transition period in their lives and needed a conversation partner who could help them sort through their options and have the clarity and courage to choose among them. They have been at early career, mid career, and second career or retirement/second-life stages. Some clients prefer to work in an ordered and focused office setting, while a coffee shop environment suits the needs of others. My priority is to help you find the path that will enable you to tap into your core strengths to accomplish your deepest goals.

MORE ABOUT COACHING

Coaching related to Counseling:
Coaching is not counseling. There are some similarities, and marked differences.
Counseling is traditionally problem-focused.
Coaching is strength-focused.

Counseling assumes a problem to be overcome.
Coaching assumes untapped skills and opportunities to be pursued

The Client who will benefit from coaching may also benefit from counseling, and if this is discerned, it can be discussed in the context of the coaching relationship and a referral offered if desired.

Coaching related to Mentoring:
Coaching is not mentoring. There are some similarities, and marked differences

Mentoring assumes significant knowledge and success in the shared field of interest.
Coaching assumes not such knowledge – in fact, too much such knowledge can be a hindrance to the coaching relationship on both sides. The coach runs the risk of offering ‘advice’. And the Client risks seeking wisdom from outside rather than relying on her/his own internal wisdom as nurtured and supported by the coach.

Mentoring assumes a personal relationship of familiarity and often includes working side-by-side.
Coaching assumes nothing beyond the coaching relationship, though it is not necessarily hindered, so long as the coach and client can be clear about the context and boundaries of the various relationship dynamics

Professional/Life Coaching related to Athletic Coaching
You might liken it to the person who says, “I want to achieve a challenging physical fitness goal.” In working with a trainer, that client discerns that they want to run a marathon. The trainer then serves as the coach, helping that client move toward successful achievement of that goal. The trainer does not run the race for the client, but is there each step of the way, helping the client stay focused and committed to what she or he wishes to accomplish.

Coach as a vehicle of transportation:
One other helpful comparison is to a Stage Coach or other hired transportation. In this model, the client determines the desired destination. The ‘coach’ is simply a resource for the client to get where she/he wants to go.

Call or email me so we can talk more about what you hope to accomplish.
Ken G. Crawford ~ 214-288-1663 ~ kendrickgc@yahoo.com