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I envy Kevin. My brother, Kevin, thinks God lives under his bed. At least that’s what I heard him say one night.

He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, ‘Are you there, God?’ he said. ‘Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed….’

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he’s 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life?

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed.

The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied.

He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work.

He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores.

And Saturdays – oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. ‘That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go! ‘ Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.

His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.

And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.

He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent.

His life is simple.

He will never know the entanglements of wealth or power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it.

He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.

He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue.

Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God – to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an ‘educated’ person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith.

It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.

It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God’s care.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won’t be surprised at all! 

Building one’s esteem or self value is an important part of functioning as a person. Obviously, positive esteem is what we are striving for, rather than having what is often termed, “bad self-esteem.” What we think about ourselves is going to determine how we act which determines much of how our life will play out.

In this post I want to focus on what I see as the three levels of building esteem.imgres

The lowest level of building esteem depends on other people. This is allowing the thoughts, opinions, and statements of others to determine how we feel about ourselves. Just as we should not let other people’s negative comments bring us down, we do not need to depend on other people’s positive comments to build us up.

The next level of building esteem is feeling good about ourselves based on our accomplishments or our abilities. While it is appropriate to do the best we can and take pride when we do well, this cannot be what our esteem is built upon. Our accomplishments and abilities will fade over time. Seeing the good in ourselves has a higher, more mature meaning.

The highest level of esteem is “God-esteem.” When we are able to see ourselves the way God sees us, as a good person just because we exist. To be able to consider the fact that we are loved by an almighty God to the extent of sacrificing his son, then we will reach the highest appreciation of ourselves. We will see the good in ourselves and feel free to be the person God created us to be, no matter what the feedback of others is or how many accomplishments we attain.

Let us work towards moving past needing to gain positive esteem by other people’s words or by our accomplishments and abilities. May we climb onto the level of “God-esteem.”

 

Justin P. Lewis, MA, LMFT

Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Gideon was insecure, Thomas was a doubter, Sarah was impatient, Elijah was depressed, Moses stuttered Zacheus was short, Abraham was old and Lazarus was dead.

God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called!

How did you meet?

Common interests and common hangouts draw people together. The places where you met or frequented while dating could be choices for a lifetime. Are you comfortable with where this could take you?

How long have you know one another?

Hopefully you have been dating or engaged longer than one year. It is not essential, but it is a good start. Getting to know each other should allow for many settings, which should include time with each of the families.

What do each of you value?

You both grew up in different homes. You will likely have different thoughts on what is most important. Soon you will consider the purchase of furniture for your home. Inevitably, this is an area of great delight, different tastes, and sometimes strong opinions. In addition to the style of furniture, it becomes necessary to discuss how much you will spend on what type of items. Be ready for this to take time. It is normal! Be patient with one another and listen. It may be helpful to learn the art of compromise. This is just one example of how your values will impact your marriage.

Have you been sexually active prior to your getting married?

It is more than just a good idea to abstain from sexual activities until married. God says so! God wants the best for us in marriage. After all, God created us for each other. God directs us to refrain from sexual relationships outside of marriage before and after we marry.

Why question God’s authority? Why push the envelope again and again only to find out that God’s way was the best way. Of course, God is right. He is God!

Dr. Wayne Oates with the Baptist Theological School presented at the Kentucky Association for Marriage and Family Therapy in 1987. He was in his eighties at the time. Dr. Oates had written over 50 books at the time. He stood before the group of almost 500 therapists sharing about things that people had difficulty figuring out. Dr. Oates said, “Why have people not discovered that when they go to bed before marriage that they put to sleep the senses necessary to make good decisions about the future of their relationships?”

Have both of you spent plenty of time with both of your families?

It is a good idea to be well acquainted with your future in-laws. Also, it is a good notion to pay attention to how your family relates to the special someone. Certainly, it is a plus if you get along. It is even more important to learn how to get along when conflicts exist. It is a worthwhile process to learn how to get along.

Have you had time to have conflicts and resolve them?

Blending two separate identities into one is a process. It is inevitable that you will experience conflict. This does not indicate that you have major problems. However, it does indicate that you think and feel differently at different times. This is normal. The work now begins as you explore your differences in values. It is essential to learn how to solve conflicts. By the way this is a never ending fine tuning process.

Do you have a common faith?

This is an important issue, but commonly overlooked. First, having a similar faith can be defined as believing in Jesus Christ as the son of God, who was born of a virgin, died when he was 33 years old, lay in the grave for three days before his resurrection, and now lives seated at the right hand of God. Most who call themselves Christians have this belief in common.

Secondly, and this is where the difficulty seems to arise, there may be conflict on the how and where this belief system is to be practiced. This can become a major source of contention.

I suggest that you pray and continue to study to develop a common faith practice. This is what the people did following the baptisms on the day of Pentecost. This is not an area that tends to get better by ignoring or avoiding it.

What are your odds of marital success if you are both teens and if your parents have had multiple divorces?

Many young couples do not think to ask about matters such as this. Time is on your side. Teen marriages have a high rate of marital conflicts as well as divorce. You have matured to this point, which brings on deeper reasoning; however these same social and emotional abilities will take a major growth spurt over the next four years. In this time frame you will likely develop new ways of understanding and communicating. Your values are likely to experience equal growth.

You will have displayed a rare form of wisdom and maturity if you choose to wait. It is equaled by my hope for you to be able to be patient, while you experience this future growth. Reassess your growth in one year. Keep a journal abut how you think and feel. Read all of your entries in six months and twelve months. I just bet you see growth in what you read.

If you still plan to marry anyway, I do suggest that you plan to receive per-marital counseling. This process is usually more successful if done six months prior to your marriage.

May God help you to find strength to do His will His way to receive His blessings as you ponder marriage which He created.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6 NIV                                                                                                                                           

This short ancient proverb from the Hebrew Scriptures captures the importance of parenting.

The proverb is concise, yet gives much wisdom about caring for a child. The proverb states two truths. The lessons learned as a child will stay with him or her their entire life and parents have influence in the way a child turns out. This means that effective parenting must be intentional.

Lessons learned will stay with a child over their entire life. Quite an overwhelming thought. So, if that is the case, how do you teach lessons the most effective way? How are children going to learn these lessons?

The way that all children learn is experience. What children experience at home is how they learn to treat people, behave in social situations, and what they think about themselves.

Children are going to imitate what they see. The way their home life operates is the way they assume all homes operate until they learn otherwise. Even when they see otherwise, it is going to be the natural tendency to behave under the expectations given at home.

Prepare to be imitated.

What is a parent to do? Take action.

Because your child is going to imitate you, make sure they see you doing what you want them to be doing. This could be simple; if you want your child to show respect to others then show people respect. An example of intentional parenting is showing care for the community. This could be taking your son with you to participate in a service activity.

Telling a child what is good is appropriate. Showing them what is good is love.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “follow me as I follow Christ.” Parents should operate with the same mindset to start their children “on the way they should go.”

Justin P. Lewis, MA

An unborn child was enjoying life in his mother’s womb. One day God spoke to the child and said, “YOu will have to leave here.” The child said to God, “Why would I want to leave here? I am safe and warm and I hear my mother’s heartbeat. Nothing could be better than this.”

So God said, “If you do not leave here, you’ll never see the blue in your mother’s eyes or feel the wind on your face, or know the pleasure of the smell of freshly baked bread, or experience the beauty of roses or a golden sunset?”

The child replied, “What is blue, or wind, or bread, or a sunset? I don’t understand why you are talking about, and I don’t want to leave.” So God said, “But you can’t stay here. You’ll have to leave no matter how much you wish to stay.”

So the child said, “Will it hurt?” And because God is honest, He replied, “Yes, possibly more than you ever hurt in your entire existence.” And the child said, “Then I won’t go.” So God said, “But you’ll have to. That’s just the way it is. Trust me.”

The day came for the child to be born, and the child felt unbelievable pain and pressure. And the child said to God, “The pain is too great! I thought you loved me! How could you let me suffer like this?” And God said, “Trust Me. Hold on to Me.”

A few moments later, the child was born into a whole new world. He saw the blue in his mother’s eyes and experienced smells and feelings that he had never imagined. So he said, “God, Why didn’t you tell me it would be this wonderful?” And God replied, “I tried. You just couldn’t understand.”

There comes a day when God says, “You will have to leave this place.” And we say, “Why? I love my family and friends. I love the distant mountain peaks, the rolling sea, and the wind in my face. I don’t want to leave.” So God says, “But you have to. That’s just the way it is.” So we ask, “Will it hurt?” And because He is honest, God says, “Yes, possibly more than you have ever experienced. But hold on and all will be well.”

The day comes, and the pain is intense, and we say, “The pain is too great! I thought you loved me. How could you let me suffer like this?” And God says, “Trust Me. Hold on to Me.”

And a few moments later, we are born into a whole new world–a world full of beauty and love and without tears or pain or death. So we say, “God, why didn’t you tell me it would be this wonderful?” And God replies, “I tried. You just couldn’t understand.”

–adapted from Bill Watkins

Lord, thank you for this sink of dirty dishes, we have plenty of food to eat.

Thank you for this pile of dirty, stinky laundry; we have plenty of nice clothes to wear.

Thank you for those unmade beds; they were so warm and comfortable last night. I know that many have no bed.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my circumstances were not so modest, thank you Lord for life!

 

God of mercy, we confess that we tend toward selfishness and pride over selflessness and humility. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. Have mercy on us and forgive us; restore us and enable us to live more fully for you.

(adapted from The Book of Common Prayer)

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

– Philippians 2:5-7

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