I believe our culture is beginning to feel the effects of a society that is having their children later in life. A hundred years ago (and practically all of recorded history before that) people married young and had children young. It was unusual for a woman to begin having children after the age of 30. Today, many couples are deciding to finish their college degrees, perhaps complete their post-graduate work, begin their career and possibly pay off their college debt before considering beginning a family.
The unintended consequence of this is that young people are having much less time to spend with their Grandparents. If we take a couple that wait to have their first child at 35 years of age, and if their children wait to have their first child at 35 years of age – that would make the grandparents 70 when their first grandchild is born.
A couple very important points:
1. Not everyone consciously waits. Some may not find their spouse until later; some may not be able to have children until later in life. However, this has always been the case.
2. I have never personally met anyone that did not have fond memories of time spent with their Grandparents. Even if their relationship with their parents was strained, they undoubtedly had a close relationship with at least one of their grandparents. Those years spent learning from Grandma and Grandpa are precious.
3. The Bible speaks often of teaching one’s “children and children’s children”. Grandparents have more experience their parents. This wealth of information is getting lost in our current cultural trends.
4. My wife and I own a farmhouse that is about a hundred and twenty years old. It has an addition on the back that was a separate residence at various times in the homes history. It was built on the back of this house in order to provide a “home” to the original owners child, spouse, and grandchildren. This was often the case. Not only did grandchildren know their grandparents for a longer length of time but they also usually lived in close proximity.
5. Grandparents understand better that their time on earth is limited and their desire is usually greater to instill something to their future relations. Grandparents have more time to spend with their grandchildren due to retirement years. Grandparents can often fill in the gaps that parents have due to their busy schedules.
Time lost with Grandparents cannot be replaced with anything else. This has to be having a negative effect on our young people today.
A failure to communicate is at the core of every relational problem. Marriage problems, family difficulties, work stress and more is generally centered around or the outcome of a communication problem. We must begin fixing our relationship problems by fixing our communication woes. Here’s some initial steps:
1. Don’t assume. Many, many, many of the relationship problems that I have counseled with are the result of misunderstanding. One individual assumes what the other one really meant by something. One made a comment and the other misunderstood what they meant or what their real intention was. We focus on supposed intentions. We jump to conclusions. We are judgmental even if we don’t think we are.
2. Lead the conversation. Leading the conversation does not mean dominating the conversation. It does not mean doing all the talking. Leading the conversation is done by asking the key questions or redirecting the conversation back to the topic you wish to cover. This can be done subtly and with few words. It is often best done with a question.
3. Listen, Listen, Listen. A good communicator listens to what others are saying. So often I have been in a conversation where you can tell that the person I have been attempting to talk to is distracted and focused on getting out their next sentence whenever I am talking. Listening involves turning off cell phones, putting away laptops, muting televisions and powering off radios. Focus on what others are actually saying. Work at listening.
4. Compliment. Give compliments to those you are talking with. Compliment their help, their time they have given, their understanding and their interests.
5. Keep emotions in check. Don’t argue. Don’t get mad. Don’t lash out. Don’t call names. Bite your tongue. Don’t let your emotions control your comments and your responses. Stop and think before your speak. Don’t just blurt out what is on your mind. Slow down.
I have heard so many parents tell me lately “I just want my kids to be happy”. Unfortunately, this has now crossed thresholds in our Christian homes that places a value on happiness over all else – even sin. There have been a number of instances where an adult, married child has decided to leave their spouse and they end up committing adultery and beginning a new relationship with someone new. Too often, Christian parents respond today by proclaiming: “I just want my child to be happy”.
I want and pray for more than just happiness for my Children. My boys are both young adults now and I desire that they have a close relationship with Christ. I pray that they are always in the midst of God’s Will. I expect them to always place integrity and character at a high level. I pray that they put others needs and comforts above themselves.
When Jesus had finished washing the Disciples feet He proclaimed to His hearers that if they would follow His example “happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). So, ironically, in God’s system – when you don’t seek happiness but serve others – you end up with happiness. Searching after our own happiness shows our selfishness and pride of life.
So I am not looking for my boys to “just be happy”. I am looking for them to be the men that God wants them to be – and in doing that they will indeed find happiness.
When hiking the Appalachian Trail the hiker is burning calories at a tremendous rate. When coupled with the fact that the hiker can only carry a small amount of food with him, the hiker is always looking for the next town, restaurant, hostel or anywhere else he can buy a meal. Hikers love to find buffet’s where they can eat as much as they want. The hiker is often surprised at how much more they can eat now at a single meal than they ever would have eaten before. They refer to this appetite as ‘hiker hunger’.
In the Christian life we are supposed to be “hungering and thirsting after righteousness”. Too often it seems the Christian is nibbling at the Word of God or sampling at the truth. The Christian should have ‘hiker hunger’ – a strong, unabated desire for the truth of God’s Word. There should be a deep seated hunger to learn more, hear more and study more about God. Christians don’t have a hiker hunger for God because they have become couch potatoes for God. We are content to nibble and snack here or there. It’s time we get hungry for truth and righteousness!
The Appalachian Trail is famous for being a well marked trail. The ‘White blazes’ which mark the trail are 2″ by 6″ and there are tens of thousands of these markings that show the way for both north and south bound hikers. It may take a bit of diligence in some areas to find the blaze, but for the most part the entire 2185 miles is well marked and easy to follow.
Jesus Christ told us “If you love me; keep my commandments”. The way of the Savior might be “straight and narrow” but it is easily marked. We don’t have to wander around looking for the right way because the way is clearly marked. The Lord gave us some clear markings for our walk:
1) He gave us his written Word – the precious Word of God that tells us exactly what God expects of us and how exactly He has reached out to us.
2) He walked Himself as an example for us. Christ came to this earth and was ‘tempted in all ways as we are’. He endured this life and lived a perfect example.
3) They Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit of God to reside within us as the temple of the living God to direct us, remind us, correct us and comfort us.
4) Those that have gone on before. God has given us Godly examples, both the examples within the Word of God and those who are more contemporary in order to give us a guide and an example of how to live for Him.
We may not have ‘White blazes’ to follow – in fact – we have so much more. We are therefore – Without Excuse!
The Appalachian Trail is 2185 miles long and it is a footpath. The only way to cover the distance is by walking. One foot in front of the other one step at a time. If you are going to cover the entire distance you must keep walking.
Is it raining? You have to keep walking. Cold today? The best way to warm up is to keep walking. Trail too muddy? Still have to walk. Knee hurt? Walk through the pain. Bored? That’s a shame but you have to keep walking. If you stop everyone else will keep passing you by. They do not deliver pizza out there. The warmth of a hotel or a soft bed in town is only possible if you keep walking.
The Christian life is not easy – it is not supposed to be easy. God promised us that He would direct out paths if we acknowledge Him in all of our ways (Proverbs 3:6) God directs the paths of the person who is moving – not the one who is standing still. Psalm 23 reminds us that we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. When we walk – because we will walk through that valley at times. God will guide us. God will lead us. God will walk with us. However, we must keep walking. Never give up. Keep walking!
Most hikers will take a day off from time to time along their hike in order to rest or avoid some bad weather. Hikers refer to these days off as ‘Zero Days’ – a day when they register zero miles. Zero Days are important because they give the through hiker a much needed day off the trail. Zero Days help blisters to heal and joints to find relief. Zero Days also allow the hiker a day to do laundry, eat food they don’t have to cook, and catch up on news from the outside world. Zero days are almost always done in town.
God implores the Christian to Be still and I know that I am God. Jesus would often spend time up in the mountain or out on the lake. Matthew 11:28 tells us Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
While there is much work to be done in the Christian life – it is also very important that we take ‘zero days’. Time for vacation, rest and special time with the family. Rest allows us time to recharge for the work ahead. Rest also allows us quiet time with our Lord.
The Appalachian Trail is 2185.4 miles officially as of this writing (it changes from time to time as portions are re-routed). The goal of a Through-Hiker is, of course, to finish. To hike all 2185 miles from one end to the other. Most through-hikers attempt to accomplish the entire trail in one year. The average hiker needs between five and six months to walk it entirely. Some through-hikers don’t have the time necessary to hike the entire trail at one time – so they hike it in sections – thus completing their through-hike over a number of years. Either way – the end result is the same – the goal is just to complete the entire trail.
Most through hikers begin in the south at Springer Mountain in Georgia and head northward to Mount Katahdin in Maine. This direction works best with the weather. Therefore, for most hikers, the goal is the summit on MT. Katahdin
God does not give us points for artistic style in our spiritual walk. There is no medal for speed, no trophy for performance, no competition and no competitors. Like the trail – the goal is just to finish. Paul declared “I have finished my course; I have kept the faith”. Our goal is just to stand before God and here Him say “Well done thou good and faithful Servant”. Just finish!
This week my son, Philip, passed the 1000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail. I have been able to walk with him on two occasions now and have walked about 50 miles with him over four days. Three of those days I hiked consecutively with a 30 pound pack on my back. One day I was able to walk with him in southern Virginia without a pack. Needless to say – I would much rather walk 15 miles without a pack than with it.
Hikers call this ‘slack-packing’. There are ample opportunities for them to call for a shuttle to pick them up and allow them to walk certain areas without taking their pack with them. For example: they will come to a road and call a hostel/shuttle service that is about 15 or 20 miles ahead. That shuttle will pick them up and bring them to their hostel to sleep for the night. The next morning the hikers will leave their pack at the hostel and the driver will shuttle them back to the pickup area where they will be able to hike back to the hostel without the extra weight. Then, the next day, they will again hike 15 or 20 miles away from the hostel without their pack and call the shuttle to once again drive them back to the hostel and their gear. The third morning, they will have themselves and their gear shuttled back to the previous pickup area where they will begin to hike as normal – but having been able to cover an easier 30 to 40 miles without the extra weight.
As a Christian, we often carry too much “weight” with us in the form of stress, burdens, sin, anxiety, fear, etc. Our Christian journey is much more difficult that it is supposed to be because we are not leaving our burdens at the foot of the cross but are carrying our burdens with us. The journey is not any easier – just like the trail is no easier without the hikers packs – but walking it is easier without carrying the weight that God wants us to leave with Him. After all – He is our Trail-manager and He wants to walk with us and help us along. This very thought is captured in the great hymn God Leads Us Along:
In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.
Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose, God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along.
Away from the mire, and away from the clay, God leads His dear children along; Away up in glory, eternity’s day, God leads His dear children along.