Monday, April 29, 2013

Blessings and curses: Being parents who bless

There's a  lot of pressure on our kids these days. We want them to over-perform and out-perform  other people's kids in every category possible. I think it is this desire that has given rise to the phenomenon of helicopter parenting - the parenting philosophy that encourages us to be over-involved in all the aspects of our kid's life that has to do with outward performance.

We tend to get wrapped up in how our children are being seen by the world instead of how our children are developing on the inside. This tendency has caused us to make excuses, ignore bad behavior, and justify almost everything our children do or become. We have begun to think that if we are not constantly praising our children and helping them to "feel good" about who they are, then we are not being good parents. Instead of helping our children deal with disappointment and failure, we are not allowing them to be disappointed or fail. We are constantly giving them a false sense of reality; causing them to have unrealistic expectations of themselves, the world and those around them.

By pushing and prodding and helping our children all the way to the top, we are not helping them to succeed we are making ourselves succeed. The entire process really ends up not being about our children, it ends up being about us. Don't think for a minute that our children don't know this.

I believe this new way of parenting which my generation has grabbed onto with both hands will be the curse of the rising generations. Very few people ever succeed without having failed.  Children can't learn to overcome if they never face adversity. Our kids are not going to follow their conscience and make good moral choices if we constantly make excuses for them and don't hold them accountable for their bad choices.

Grace covers a multitude of sins but it doesn't erase the consequences of those sins.

If we truly want to bless our children, then we need to teach them about responsibility, consequences, and self-control, along with a large measure of love and grace. We need to give them opportunities to fail, pick themselves up, move on and still feel good about who they are because of who God created them to be not because of who the world (or we as their parents) think they should be.

In this life there are many more important things than academic, material, or social success. We need to teach our children to measure themselves and others by who they are (children of God), rather than by what they have accomplished. If you want to see your child have true self-esteem, then help them to focus on the One who created them rather than on the things that they create.

 As parents, if we can give our children this one, true gift, then we will truly have blessed them.

-Chesney Szaniszlo

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

-Deuteronomy 6:5-9


Monday, April 22, 2013

Blessings and Curses 2

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- Deuteronomy 30:19-20

It seems to me that most of us find it easier to modulate our tempers and have more patience with people who are not part of our families.

I think this is because we invest less of ourselves with strangers and acquaintances. Our expectations are much higher for those people we live with day in and day out than those we merely work with or see occasionally.

We want to come home and relax and not have to filter everything we say and do.

We tend to have a blind spot for our behavior in regards to our families. The people who are closest to us are able to disappoint, frustrate, and hurt us more than anyone else and so we act and react more intensely with them.

All of this can lead to situations in our homes that range from not great to very bad.

The remedy for these situations are hard work. Our parents were right when they said nothing worth having, comes easily. Many of us have fallen for the storybook portrayal of married life and believe that if we are with the 'right' person marriage is easy and our children are perfect.

This is a LIE! Relationships, no matter how old or new they are, take effort. Think of relationships with your family as trying to garden in Texas. You have to start with the soil - amending it so it will support your plants. You have to make sure it's the right season for what you are trying to cultivate. You have to protect your plants from bugs and scavengers, floods and drought. At some point, you have to prune to ensure healthy, future growth. Maybe, if you do all of this well, you will collect a harvest.

It takes a lot of TLC, time, and patience to get a harvest and some years are pretty lean.

Our families are our own personal gardens where we have to build a strong foundation of love and trust. No matter how long you've been married or how old your kids get, you have to take the time to nurture those relationships through kind words, affirmations, time and affection. Our relationships will stagnate and break down if we don't make the effort to do these things.

You sometimes might feel like you are the only member of your family doing the hard work. But I guarantee your spouse and kids also feel the same way (hopefully at different times!)

As people who have been offered forgiveness and grace countless times by our Savior, how can we not turn and give the same forgiveness and grace to those we love most in this world.

As we work to pass on God's grace to our families, we will find that we need it from them just as much (if not more) as they need it from us.

Coming to realize that we are not only 'putting up' with them, but that they are 'putting up' with us is an important realization. It gives us the ability to bend and soften our positions so that we can be less reactive and more interactive. As we acknowledge our own need for grace in the intimate relationships we have, we are also better able to give it.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, April 8, 2013

Blessings and Curses 1

We started a new sermon series yesterday on "Blessings and Curses". We'll be looking at how, as Christians, we have opportunities everyday to bless (or curse) our community, our spouses, and our kids.

It's been making me think about how I can more consciously choose to bless rather than curse the people around me. As usual, this highlights my shortcomings!

I want to bless people rather than curse them. I would love to believe that I am allowing God to work through me to change this world for the better. I would hope that as I continue to grow in Christ (and yes, even pastors are on a discipleship journey) that I will be able to more freely offer myself as a conduit for God's work in the world. That takes a lot of letting go, though - something those of us who are self-acknowledged control freaks and worriers have a hard time doing.

I think my big fear is that if I give and give and give and give to those around me, my well is going to run dry. So instead of pouring out blessings on the people in my life, I pick and choose when to dole them out. Here's an imaginary conversation between me and my family:

"What are you fussing about! I blessed you twice yesterday! You can only get a half one today because there's a weekly quota!"

Ridiculous when you read it but I actually have similar thoughts that run through  my head - particularly when it's 'tucking in time' and I've pushed back bedtime, read an extra chapter, given extra hugs and kisses and still have more demanded of me. I have this thought that goes through my head -  "If I don't get out now, I'll be here until midnight!" (picture me in Edvard Munch's "The Scream").

It's not that I don't want to be selfless - it's that I am still sinfully selfish. We are all works in progress - the more progress we make, the more clearly we can see where we need to continue to remodel!

I know there is no limit to God's love and if I allow God's love to flow through me to others, there is an never ending supply of it waiting to refill that which I give away. I just need to be more mindful of that well and take advantage of it so that I share God's blessings rather than the world's curses.
God - give me the courage to be filled with YOUR love, the generosity to give it away freely, and the mindfulness to do this in all situations.

- Chesney Szaniszlo

The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
    but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4