By Peter Story
I listened to a song demo today. I’d heard plenty of them before, but this one sounded unusually rough. I tried not to let on that it grated on my nerves. My friend had warned me that it was a demo before he pressed the play button, but I still wasn’t quite prepared. I hoped he hadn’t noticed me cringe or squirm in my chair.
After about a minute of private anguish, Jesus managed to get through to me.
It’s just a demo, He spoke to my mind.
I know, I replied, but it’s still difficult to listen to.
You have to hear it as the musician hears it—as it will be, not as it is now.
That’s an interesting way to look at it.
Yes, and also the best way. It’s how I look at you, actually.
Ouch! All right, I’ll give it a try.
To my astonishment, it worked instantly. When I listened beyond the rough background noises, the missed beats, and the off-key notes, the song was actually quite good. The melody, it turned out, was beautiful and relaxing, and it fit the lyrics perfectly. I looked forward to the finished product, and I told my friend so.
Throughout life, people make mistakes; they say or do some things wrong, and sometimes repeatedly or with disastrous results. That’s because we are all rough demos in God’s hands right now. There’s a lot about each of us that He still needs to fix, and it’s going to take time.
When we can look at our children that way, when we try to see them not as they are, but as they will be, everyone wins. They have leeway to be less than perfect, learn by trial and error, and thus keep growing.
The Love Catalyst
Love is not blind; it has an extra spiritual eye that sees the good and possibilities that others cannot see.—David Brandt Berg
Treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Everyone has good qualities. Find specific things about others that you can sincerely compliment them on, and be generous with your praise. If you can’t find anything right off, look deeper. Ask God to show you the positive qualities that must be there, because He sees things worth loving and praising in everyone. The harder it is to find that special something, the greater the reward is likely to be for both of you when you do. If you can find even a threadlike vein and shine a little love on it in the form of praise, it will lead you straight to the mother lode. Your children will open up to you, and you’ll discover lots of wonderful things about them.—Shannon Shayler
I was a scrawny, asthmatic eight-year-old living in India with my family in the early 1980s when an old family friend visited and informed me with a smile that she had taken care of me when I was a baby. I felt a special link with her. As she reminisced with my parents, I knelt behind her and silently braided her honey-colored hair. It was my first attempt at braiding, and it turned out quite loose and unsymmetrical. But when I finished and I asked her how she liked it, she felt the back of her head and said, "It's lovely! And it's much more comfortable in this heat. Thank you for doing that for me."
An eight-year-old who thought she wasn't very good at many things gained a sense of worth and learned the reward of helping others in little ways.
A year or two later, also in India, we went for an all-day outing up a local "mountain" with a thousand stone steps. My asthma forced me to rest often, but it was worth the effort. When we reached the top, we explored a fascinating old museum that had once been a magnificent palace and observed the lifestyle of bygone Indian royalty in the carefully preserved, fully furnished rooms and lush, immaculately kept gardens.
The next day our teacher asked us to write an essay about our excursion, and I became completely absorbed in painstakingly documenting every event of the day—the hike up the mountain, the monkeys we met on the way and how they took peanuts from our hands and ate them, the massive statue of a fierce warrior at the entrance of the palace, and every detail of the palace itself. I was pleased with my essay and so was my teacher, but she gently explained that it's usually better to not begin every sentence with "then." She suggested some alternatives, and I liked the way they sounded. Such constructive criticism and collaboration were new concepts to me, but the encouragement and help I received that day steered me toward a fulfilling career in writing and editing.
So whether you're are a parent, teacher, caregiver, or "bystander," never underestimate the influence you have on the children who share your world. Sometimes all it takes is an approving smile or an encouraging word to change a young life, and the love you give will come back to you.
What many people fail to realize is that the world of tomorrow is what the adults of today make it, according to what they choose to give or not give the next generation.
—David Brandt Berg
Courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission.
What is the greatest weakness in most families? According to Dr. James H. Bossard, a former professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who spent 40 years probing what he called "neglected areas of family life," it is the way parents talk in front of their children.
After studying extensive recordings of table talk, he wrote, "I had no idea I would discover a real pattern in the [mealtime] conversation of families. I just wanted to learn what families talked about, but to my amazement I have found that family after family had definite, consistent conversational habits, and that the critical pattern was the most prevalent.
"These families rarely had a good word to say about anyone. They carped continuously about friends, relatives, neighbors—almost every aspect of their lives, from the lines of people in the supermarket to the stupidity of their bosses.
"This constant negative family atmosphere had a disastrous effect on the children, because a high percentage of [these families'] children were antisocial and unpopular. And this pattern of the family's hostility many times turned to quarreling amongst themselves. Without fail, their meals were a round of insults and bickering. The children absorbed that pattern, and it caused the children trouble.
"Long ago," Dr. Bossard continued, "a great Teacher pointed out that what comes out of the mouth is a great deal more important than that which goes in to it." That Teacher was Jesus, and that wisdom is found in Matthew 15:11.
Words flowing from a soul filled with God's Spirit of love will have a magnetic quality that will draw others. When the heart is burning with divine love, you don't need to try to put pathos or tenderness into your conversation. All your words will have a savor and a power that comes from an inner depth.
The root of the problem isn't actually the tongue, but the heart. Words only convey what's in the heart. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things" (Matthew 12:35).
There is no way under the sun to change the quality of our words except to change the spirit from which those words flow. There has to be a change of heart.
If you need such a change of heart, begin by praying. Then as you spend time with Jesus, the fountain of all goodness and kindness and gentleness, you'll soon find your words to be a greater influence for good in the lives of those nearest and dearest to you.
By Virginia B. Berg, courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission.
Charles and Carla Coonradt tell the story of an immense, 19,000-pound whale, Shama, that is taught in Sea World, Florida, to jump 22 feet out of the water and perform tricks. How do you suppose they teach the whale to do that?
A typical parenting approach would be to mount a rope at 22 feet high out of the water, and encourage the whale to sail over it. “Jump, whale!” Maybe get a bucket of fish up there, reward the whale when it does the right thing. Set goals! Aim high! And you and I know the whale would stay right where it was.
The Coonradts say, “So how do the trainers at Sea World do it? Their number-one priority is to reinforce the behavior that they want repeated—in this case, to get a whale or porpoise to go over the rope. They influence the environment every way they can so that it supports the principle of making sure that the whale can’t fail. They start with the rope below the surface of the water, in a position where the whale can’t help but do what’s expected of it. Every time the whale goes over the rope, it gets positive reinforcement. It gets fed fish, patted, played with, and most important, it gets that reinforcement.
“But what happens when the whale goes under the rope? Nothing—no electric shock, no constructive criticism, no developmental feedback, and no warnings in the personnel file. Whales are taught that their negative behavior will not be acknowledged.
Positive reinforcement is the cornerstone of that simple principle that produces such spectacular results. And as the whale begins to go over the rope more often than under, the trainers begin to raise the rope. It must be raised slowly enough so that the whale doesn’t starve, either physically or emotionally.
“The simple lesson to be learned from the whale trainers is to over-celebrate. Make a big deal out of the good and little stuff that we want consistently. Secondly, under-criticize. Children know when they screw up. What they need is help. If we under-criticize, punish and discipline less than is expected, children will not forget the event and usually will not repeat it.”
We need to make it difficult for children to fail, so there can be less criticism and more celebrations.
Words for Loved Ones