Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Are Your Rights?

One of my favorite times of the entire week is Sunday morning, 10:45. Our Sunday School class is refreshing, invigorating, and challenging … and fun. Pete Ramsey has been teaching our class since its creation a few years ago, and one of his secrets of success is allowing this classroom full of latent scholars the freedom to contribute, interject, and even argue with his lessons.

But underlying the participatory nature of the discussions, the teacher’s preparation lays the ground work for our lively lessons. A key to this sort of forum is providing topics to keep our minds popping and our ideas flowing. And we’re not talking about your typical topics, such as “why did Sarah insist on Hagar’s substitution for bearing a son,” or “what are the symbols in Isaac’s near sacrifice?” We, in this Adult 3 class, have all been through the easy stuff like that. Rather, the teacher digs way below the surface to mine the hardest minerals.

From this last week’s discussion questions:
* How does God want His people to respond to the aggression of others? - OK, this is sort of basic. It takes you back to a consideration of the Old Testament’s God of Wrath versus the New Testament’s Grace Gospel of forgiveness. But the bite comes in the second part of the question:
* Does the Christian have any rights? If so, what are they? - Ah-ha! Rights! Of course we want to stand up for our rights. But what rights are we talking about? Do we have the right to demand recompense in a court of law for wrongs done us in this world? Hmmm? “Of course we do”? But aren’t we taught to give more than is taken from us? To turn the other cheek? and how many times? “Seven times seventy.” A colloquialism for “as many as it takes.”

Was Christ more interested in our worldly rights to equal justice and equal standing among the rest of the inhabitants of this life? Or was His teaching more about sacrifice for the purpose of leading others to Him? When Jesus tells us daily, “If someone steals your coat, give him your shirt, too,” where does that leave us about filing charges against a pick-pocket, or a burglar, or a mugger, even? Or, for that matter, how is Christ asking us to respond to the mugger standing before us with a gun, demanding our money or our life?

As we delve deeper into these sort of painful questions, we are actually being asked to answer the question, Who are we? Are we just people, like everyone else, who just happen to go to church and call ourselves Christians? Or are we a holy, sanctified body, representing Jesus Christ Himself, as his ambassadors and His face to a lost world who needs to see Him?

WHAT ABOUT STEPPARENTS?
And, to steer the discussion directly to the subject of this blog, how does this principle apply to stepparenting? Do stepparents have rights? Of course. But should we insist upon those rights to respect, to recompense, to politeness from our stepkids? Is it prudent to start demanding that our stepkids smile and sweetly say "Hello, dear stepparent; thank you for your sacrifices and your consideration"? Is it realistic?

Sure, we have the right to require that - we've certainly earned it! But how much more trouble will we stir up if we begin being pushy about what we want? I've seen many a marriage endangered just because the stepparent wasn't strong enough to forgive and forget the many slights they receive. How do you determine the limits without damaging the possible relationships?

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See what I mean? Pretty stiff stuff, huh? That’s the sort of discussion that keeps me anxious for each week’s next Sunday School class. I would encourage you to find a class like this for yourself. It’ll keep you from getting complacent about this life you have been granted. It’ll keep you thinking about who you really are in the Grand Scheme of things. Or, if you’re in Western Arkansas on a Sunday morning around 10:30, come on to East Side Baptist Church and find Pete Ramsey’s class. But bring your thinking cap - you’ll need it!

PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS TOPIC - WHETHER YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN OR NOT, I'D LIKE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ... in other words, as a non-Christian, do you think it's hypocritical for Christians to preach "turn the other cheek" then call the police when someone keys their car? COMMENT, PLEASE!

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Easier than you think!

I've got a shocking newsflash for you stepparents:
Stepparenting is much easier than you're making it!

Over the years, working with over a thousand stepfamilies, I've heard it all. From mean stepkid stories to ex-spouse horrors to marriage messes. But one thing that's common in most stepfamilies is that the stepparents are frustrated and worn down by the difficulty of it all.

Most stepparents had really good intentions going in. They were going to love their new partner and his or her kids with all their hearts and win them over. Maybe even straighten out a few bad behaviors and make them a perfect family. It all seemed so easy and clear cut. Just apply love and enjoy the rewards!

But then the unexpected happened - perhaps your new spouse seemed to give their child preference over yours. Or they didn't follow your suggestions on how to better discipline their kids. Or, conversely, they started telling you how to raise your own kids. Or their kids ignored you ... or they ignored your kids ... or their kids ignored your kids. Something got in the way of your perfect picture and the colors began running together, just making a mess.

But, as I've told so many in our private sessions or our group meetings, "You're making a simple blessing into a hard, uncomfortable job." Stepparenting, when done right, is a very simple prospect. So, why do most - the vast majority in fact - of stepfamilies end in another divorce?

And there's a pretty simple answer ... pride.

Instead of moving into an ongoing family with the sincere intention of being an uplifting blessing to the family, so many of us go in looking for what they can do for us. And that's a certain recipe for failure! Jesus stated the formula for success pretty simply: "Do to others what/how/like you wish they'd do you." It ain't brain surgery, folks! But it is heart surgery.

When I can help a couple get their minds twisted back around to where they were at their wedding ceremony: "I am so blessed to become part of this wonderful family," They can begin re-building the hope. But far too many of you are hanging onto your "why are they so mean to me?" mind set. How many? Well, the divorce rate for second marriages is two out of every three; and the divorce rate for third marriages is around NINE out of TEN! That's how many.

Look, like I said, it ain't brain science or rocket surgery!
  • Back off and let a parent do the parenting. 
  • Don't stick your advice where it isn't directly asked for.
  • Parent your own kids and leave the others' discipline to their own parent.
  • If your toes get stepped on, go to the bathroom and put on a band aid.
  • Be nice.
  • Be kind.
  • Act like you did to attract your spouse while you were dating.
  • Be a friend / confidant / helper to your stepkids and that's all.
  • Focus on being a perfect spouse to your spouse - that's the only job you signed on for!

I know, it's a lot more complicated than just saying "be perfect." I've faced my own multitudes of attacks, hateful glares, rude mouthings, and more as a stepdad. But as soon as I learned (and began applying) the principle that this is an easy job, it got much easier!

If you don't understand, don't get discouraged. This is advanced stepparenting stuff. Like how in college algebra they taught you all the hard formulas at first and then showed you the short cuts in advanced algebra. Well, here's the short cut: it's a lot easier than you're making it!

Still confused? Write me. I'll explain in more detail.

Meanwhile, relax. It can be fun. Really.

God bless y'all,

STEPcoach Bob Collins
stepcoach@gmail.com

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