Things That Matter

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Dad’s birthday is fast approaching. My siblings and I will be giving him the book Things That Matter. Mom suggested the title. My sister suggested this addition: Let’s all write essays about the things Dad taught us that mattered. Good idea. It begs these deeper questions, though: What are the things that matter? What should we teach our children?

There’s the practical stuff like always live beneath your means and pay off your credit cards at the end of every month. Dad gets credit for instilling those principles in his children at an early age. I think my siblings and I were nearly adults before we even knew the credit card companies let their customers carry a balance.

There’s the good manners items like don’t talk with your mouth full, look people in the eye when you talk to them, and speak clearly.  Those were particularly important in my childhood home, since Dad started to lose his hearing early in life. Now my sister is an actor, my brother is a worship leader, and I’m a teacher. Speaking clearly turned out to be important for all three of us!

Dad also shaped our attitude. Make the best of what you have. Look on the bright side. Take the tough stuff one step at a time without looking back. My dad has dealt with deafness, heart disease, cancer (twice), emergency surgeries and failed surgeries, but once said to my mom, “Boy, we need to be praying for So-an-So. He’s really going through some tough times. We’ve never had to suffer like that.” And he meant it, because he doesn’t look back.

Most of all, though, Dad taught us items of faith. 1 Thessalonians 5: 14b-18 covers much of what my parents (Mom deserves full credit, too!) instilled in us. My Bible doesn’t list the items in bullet form, but I have:

Encourage the disheartened.

Help the weak.

Be patient with everyone.

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong.

Always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always.

Pray continually. 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Those are things that matter. Those are things my Father wants and my father taught. I hope I do a good job of passing them along.

Thanks, Dad! And Happy Birthday!

BHFWYH

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House Rule Number Two: BHFWYH. (Be Happy For What You Have.) We all need to create (and maintain!) a habit of happiness, to make looking for our blessings a conscious choice. Being happy for what we have is not about creating better circumstances. An ungrateful attitude can sneak up on us in the best of times, and a determined attitude of gratitude helps carry us through when times are tough. In Hebrews 13:5, God tells us to be content with what we have, because Jesus has said he will never leave us or forsake us. He has told us to be content today, not when we have more money or time or sleep or respect, but now.

For years my husband helped create the BHFWYH habit in our kids by sharing three good things from his day, and then asking them to tell him about three good things in their lives as well. It occurs to me as I type this that we should be continuing that habit over our dinners-for-two! When life requires that we, or our kids, take “no” for an answer, it’s a whole lot easier to stay happy if we have already learned to be grateful for what we have.

Rule Three is really more of an adage than a rule: If You Fuss, You Lose. Take a look at Numbers 14:29, “In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.” When the Israelites fussed, they ended up in the desert for 40 years. When we fuss about the tough stuff in our lives, at the very least we lose our joy. We are so much better off when we learn to trust God cheerfully, even when he says no.

When we let our kids whine, they get grumpy and so do we, do here’s my unsolicited advice on that sort of lose-lose scenario.  If you offer one scoop of ice cream to Junior, and he fusses because he can’t have two, calmly put the unopened carton back in the freezer. If Sally and Susie grumble over who gets to play with a certain toy, calmly confiscate the item. Don’t be mean or vindictive about it. Just make whining a useless ploy.  (And if you’ve become a whiner yourself, it’s time to stop!)  

Two questions I’d love to have you answer by posting here: How do you and your family help each other to BHFWYH? Have you ever “fussed and lost”?