No Hitting, No Spitting…

“Mom she’s touching me! She stuck her tongue out at me.” “Ow! She hit me! Well she spit on me!”

Boffalo abide

My wife Donna and I went to Yellowstone Park last weekend to celebrate our 32nd anniversary.

We love the park, winter or summer, and have been there many times, from our honeymoon on. It’s our backyard after all–just over a few mountains.

Too bad we have to share it with the rest of the world.

But, then again, that’s part of what makes it so unique. I always love seeing people experience it for the first time, we can start to take it for granted so it’s good to see it through the eyes of others sometimes.

Snow Coach resize

We took a snowcoach into Old Faithful and there was a young couple in our coach who had a couple of kids—8 year old twins; a boy and a girl. They were very well behaved but they were still kids and kept their parents on their toes, especially walking around the geyser basins where you have to stay on the boardwalks, out of the boiling water and away from the buffalo.

Of course this reminded Donna and I of the many times we took our girls to the park. Keeping three little girls from getting lost, gored, boiled or eaten was always a challenge, as was keeping them from killing each other after too many hours in the car.

At one point last weekend as Donna was laughing to herself at the antics of our 8 year old companions she said, just loud enough for me to hear; “No hitting, no spitting, no fighting no biting.”  She was quoting the Swaningson family rule that our girls now know well. This rule was actually born on one our trips to the Park when the girls were young, no doubt after the umpteenth squeal of “Mom she’s touching me! She stuck her tongue out at me.” “Ow! She hit me! Well she spit on me!”

If you’ve ever been a road trip with more than one child in the car you know what I mean, right? Finally in exasperation, somewhere between Canyon Village and Yellowstone Lake I declared, in what Donna refers to as my scary dad voice, which always became the final answer— “No hitting no spitting, no fighting no biting!”

It’s that simple. Follow that rule and we’ll all get along and have a great trip, and life for that matter.

I don’t think I had intended it to be a rhyme but it turned out that way and turned out it pretty much covered all the basics and was fun to say, so it eventually turned into a joke, a joke with meaning, because I meant it and more importantly, it was not a suggestion, it was the law. If you are a part of this family, those things will not be tolerated. And what’s left? Respect, kindness, patience, gentleness—love.

It’s quite simple, abide in the rules, abide in Daddy’s word, and you will continue to abide in this family as a happy camper.Geyser basin resize

Now, I would be tempted to say here of this family rule, that it was—Abide by the rules—’No hitting, no spitting, no fighting, no biting.’, And you can continue to abide in this family!”—but that’s not entirely true. Nor is it true of the Family of God. We are not children of God, we are not brothers and sisters, by virtue of having kept all the rules. We are family by blood, and love–the blood of Jesus and the love of the Father.

My girls know now, and they knew then, that they will always be a part of the family, the Swaningson family. ‘This is the family that gave you your name and your genetic makeup. The family abides in you, it’s in your blood, it’s in your DNA and you carry the name.’

‘You cannot make me stop loving you, and you cannot make me stop caring for you, but if you want to be at peace in this family, if you want to be trusted and enjoy the blessings of a real relationship with me, and others in this family, you need to abide by the rule.’

The rules make the family a safe place. A place where we can abide in love.

Keep my commands water fall

Our family rules were condensed into one easy to remember principle. So is the word of God—all the rules handed down from generation to generation, as revealed in great specificity to make sure we had no excuses to do harm to one another, were boiled down and condensed into one easy to remember all encompassing rule, a new command that could only be given by the Word of God become flesh, the only Son of the one true God and that is “love one another as I have loved you.”

Do that and you will be abiding in my word, my word abiding in you and you will have my joy abiding, remaining, in you.

What a promise; just, love.

Here’s what the Holy Spirit told me as I was working on this message:

Abide in me as I abide in you, and your love will never fail. Do not grow weary, just love, keep on loving, never stop loving.

annointing buffalo

When in doubt, love. When in doubt, receive love.

Abide in love. Let the Holy Spirit bear witness to your Spirit that you are loved. That’s what that anointing that John talks about is, (“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” 1 john 2:10) it’s the Holy Spirit telling us that he is in us, that Jesus is Lord and that he loves us. It is our salvation and our joy, our hope and our strength. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee.

Real Love Fire Hole River

Which brings us once again to the key verse of my recent blogs, and the core principle behind the Apostle John’s writings, the one thing he desires more than anything for us to do, as those who love and are loved by the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:18

No hitting no spitting, no fighting, no biting. Wouldn’t the church be a wonderful place if we all abided by this?

little children love 1 John

And if you look deep inside where the Holy Spirit resides, (If you have invited him to do so) you’ll know that it is true that you are loved— Jesus loves me…. And you cannot make him stop loving you.

Lord I believe, help me in my  unbelief !

book cover

Claim your place in Christ!

Heart Treasures

 

-Making Memories- Hyellowstone-national-parkere’s a word for you parents with young children; don’t get so hung up on the challenges and frustrations of trying to shape young irrational, stubborn and impatient minds and souls that you miss out on the potential significance of want is happening right now. Don’t stress because your plans and fantasy of perfect children being raised by perfect parents in a home full of fun and educational crafts, fresh baked cookies, butterfly catching and smiling singing children who take naps on que and wake up ready for their piano lessons haven’t come to fruition.

Watch Mary Poppins, the Sound of Music, laugh hysterically, and then go treasure the fact that you have real children who have a strong will, a desire to get really dirty and want to rule the world starting with your house, because God has entrusted you to shape them into a force that will affect their world and advance the kingdom of God and you have no idea how you just being there with them every day— challenging them, correcting them, wiping their noses and just keeping them from killing one another—is going to affect their lives for eternity.

They won’t remember the times you didn’t flit into the dining wearing your apron and high heels carrying a pan full of made from scratch oatmeal cookies as they were practicing their spelling. But they will remember that you were there and you allowed them to be kids without allowing them to play in the street, jump off the roof with a garbage bag for a parachute, get a tattoo of the Ninja turtles when they were twelve or pierce their little sister’s ears for her with an ice pick and a potato.

They will remember that you cared enough to be there for them and have the struggles that allowed them to live to adulthood largely unscathed. And if you managed to instill some mental snapshots into their hearts of the good times you had as a family— then you have really excelled as a parent because these have become heart treasures, touchstones, that they will carry for eternity.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51

 

I didn’t write a blog last week because Donna and I had taken the weekend off to head to a place where we have created a full album in our hearts of mental snapshots— treasured memories; Yellowstone Park— just a short drive from where we live. Yellowstone is a place that indeed brings back many great memories and reminds me that life is an adventure worth living, a fight worth having.

So last Saturday Donna and I stopped at Canyon village in the Park for lunch. We waited for and got a seat at the very busy lunch counter in the café there.

Across the counter from us was a family of six. Parents with three young girls ages 8, 10 and 12 I’m guessing, and a little boy about 6. I don’t know where they were from but they weren’t speaking English, I couldn’t hear them well enough to even guess, they looked maybe the Mediterranean or even middle eastern.

What I could see though was that they had 4 beautiful children who were enjoying themselves playing with a bag of polished stones and other trinkets they had probably just bought in the gift shop next door as they waited for their lunch. This brought back many memories of taking our own daughters through the park, the fun times and all the challenges that go with that.

Suddenly the challenges presented themselves to this family as the little boy starting getting angry and causing a commotion. I saw the mother sitting next to him give her husband a “Do something with your son look.” Soon he was sitting next to the boy who was starting to throw a fit, pointing at his sisters and demanding something. His father tried to quietly diffuse the situation and apparently thought he had succeeded because he went back to his own stool leaving the little boy pouting with his arms crossed.

Suddenly he very resolutely announced something to his parents and quick as a wink he slid of the stool and stormed off under the divider and into the very busy store adjacent to the lunch counter. His mother looked at her husband for just a second with a mixed look of shock, anger and fear and took off running to fetch the boy on a mission, dragging him back screaming to the counter where he sat and pouted some more—but stayed put.

While all this was going on I was also watching the girls, I could tell because I know kids, that they were still having fun. They were in the park having the adventure of a lifetime and they knew their little brother would get over whatever was troubling him soon enough. Soon they all had their American cheese burgers and life went on.

Donna looked at me at the point where the mother was running after the boy into the crowd with a what is going on look and I said: I can’t understand what they’re saying but it seems as though the girls had something the little boy didn’t and he was bound and determined to go and get it—some things are universal.

All of this brought back memory after memory and I just wanted to go over to this shell shocked couple and say; “Cherish this day, this is a day your kids will remember for the rest of their lives and in years to come you will look back and say, wow, that was a special trip, I’m sure glad we did that.” And this stress of trying to herd little kids through a crowded tourist haven will be long forgotten. I was wishing I had one of my books— Hope For Families— on me to give them but they probably wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway. But I stayed put, and I didn’t talk to them, I try not to be a creeper and they didn’t need me—they were doing it, they were having an adventure and they were making heart treasures.

You see, it’s not being perfect, it’s not the money you spend or the grandeur of the adventure, it’s just being together. Taking the time, making the effort to be there, to make memories, to build monuments. Everyone in that family is going to remember something different from that trip but they are all going to remember it and I’ll bet someday they will bring their own kids there and then their hearts will be full when the memories come flooding back and they see their own kids making new memories of their own, adding to your treasures and the heart gets fuller and fuller just knowing that you are helping the next generation find their own heart treasures.

Don’t get so busy just trying to live that you neglect making memories. You will never have this day to live over again, you cannot redo your children’s childhood and you cannot add treasures to a heart that you don’t make time for.

You have to be intentional about finding your treasures, they don’t always just happen. It doesn’t have to be Yellowstone, it can be the city park, a favorite camping or picnic spot. An activity like fishing, bowling, riding, playing games, all of the above— you name it. The point is, be there, be intentional and treasure the times you have while always looking for opportunity to make more.

And realize that the kids in Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music had full time nannies raising them so they probably grew up to be spoiled neurotic adults who resented their parents for not raising them themselves—just a theory.