"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
August 17, 2011
My great-nephew, Jax, is two and has started talking a lot and will repeat a lot of words that he hears. We have to be really careful about what we say because his little ears pick up on it and he'll repeat what is said. A while back he heard a not so nice word somewhere, and began to say it, which was quite shocking to his parents. Instead of making a big deal over it, which had the potential of making it worse because he'd realize that it would get him attention, they'd just say, "Oh man!" and he'd repeat that instead, and soon stopped saying the undesirable word.
I was at their house recently visiting with my niece and she told me something, to which I responded by saying, "Huh!" Jax was playing and I didn't realize that he was even paying attention, but as soon as I said that, I heard this little boy voice imitate me and say, "Huh!" Later I said something else, and Jax immediately repeated it. It made me realize that I have to be really careful about what I say and do, because this impressionable child is watching and listening to me.
Knowing that someone is imitating me is a bit daunting. But children learn from the people that they're around the most, whether it be parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, siblings, daycare teachers, etc. They pick up things from TV shows and movies that are watched in the home. Two of my sisters work as teacher assistants at Head Start, and another sister worked for a while at a preschool, and they have been somewhat shocked and disconcerted at some of the things these 3 and 4 year old kids say and do. But these children are at very impressionable ages and imitate what they see and hear. They are at an age where they're learning what's right and wrong, and need good examples to follow.
It's not only little children that copy adults, but adolescents and teens also do so. Perhaps they won't repeat everything that they hear (although they can do that too), but they pick up attitudes and habits. What they're told regarding themselves can also shape a kid's life. If they're repeatedly told that they're worthless and stupid, then that's what they'll tend to believe. But if they're told that they are smart and can accomplish whatever they set their mind to do, then they'll tend to try harder to achieve their goals. If a child is ignored and made to feel that they're unwanted and in the way, then they'll grow up believing that they're unloved and have no purpose. But if a child is hugged and repeatedly told that they are loved, then they'll feel secure.
A few days ago, I had been babysitting Jax and was getting ready to leave his house to come back home. He is not a big fan of hugs and kisses. Generally, when anyone picks him up to hug him, he'll say, "Finished!" and want down. I had picked him up and was hugging and kissing him, and said, "Jax, you have to always let Aunt Loretta give you hugs and kisses. Even when you grow up and get big, you have to let me hug and kiss you." Jax looked at me and said, "Oh man!" His response made me and his mom laugh, because he sounded like he was thinking, "Do I really have to??" But this little boy is going to grow up knowing that he is wanted, loved and cared for, regardless of how he feels about hugs and kisses right now.
Ephesians 4:32 and 5:1 says, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children."
Verse 5:1 in the Amplified Version says, "Therefore be imitators of God -- copy Him and follow His example -- as well-beloved children [imitate their father]."
When we imitate God, we don't have to worry whether or not we're doing the right thing. We can have complete and total assurance that we are following the best example possible, and are not going to say or do something wrong. We're going to have the right attitude, and know that we are adored and loved by our Heavenly Father.
A while back, Jon's nephew posted a picture on Facebook of his young son dressed up in his military uniform. He said, "Daddy, I wanna be you." What greater honor than to have a child want to be just like their daddy. And how proud that must made a father feel.
As proud and honored as it makes an earthly father feel, can you imagine how it must make our Heavenly Father feel when we tell Him, "I want to be just like You!" then do our very best to imitate Him and follow His example?
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." Another version words this verse as, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Those are pretty bold words.
Would we honestly be willing to tell people to imitate us and follow our example, because we are confident that we are doing everything possible to imitate and follow Christ? I'm not so sure I could truthfully tell others to imitate my life; in fact, I'm more sure that I would rather they didn't and find someone else to pattern their life after. If I thought that someone was closely watching my life and following my example, I would be a whole lot more conscientious about my words and actions and attitude. I would be more careful watching my words to make sure they weren't gossip, or negative, or hurtful, or put others down. I would want to make sure my conversation only consisted of beneficial words that encouraged and helped others. I would have to watch my attitude that it wasn't stinky or selfish or negative. And I'd work a whole lot harder to make sure my every action and deed glorified Jesus. I'd probably spend a lot less time watching TV and goofing off, and be more productive. There would be a lot of changes that I'd need to make first, before boldly proclaiming that others follow my example, because I was whole-heartedly following the example of Christ. But isn't that what we should be doing anyway?
Just as I have learned to be very careful about what I say and do when Jax is around, knowing that he will copy me, I should consistently do that no matter who I'm around. I have a long ways to go, but my goal is to be able to truthfully say Paul's words, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ."
Negative attitudes can be infectious among adults, too. When everyone seems to be talking about how bad this or that is, it seems to spread across the whole country sometimes. Several years ago, the news kept broadcasting how horrible the economy was. People started to believe it. And not long after they started, the economy did fall. And now, as we see help-wanted signs showing up all over, they keep right on saying the economy is terrible, and people seem to believe it.
When tragedy hits, many people wanted to keep others informed. But sometimes, it seems people just wanted to make sure they were first to spread news. Especially bad news.
Philippians 4:8 says, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." And Matthew 15:11 says, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."
Creamy Chicken and Bacon
4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup milk
8 oz. Sour Cream
6 slices bacon
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Boil whole chicken breasts (don't cut up into pieces) until tender. Layer chicken breasts in bottom of 9x13 pan. Fry the bacon and crumble. Mix the bacon, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and milk; pour mixture over the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes. Cover with shredded cheese and cook until melted.
When my brother-in-law was recently in the hospital, I kept my great-nephew and great-niece one evening for a few hours so their family could spend some much needed time together. It made me realize why this 46-year old woman shouldn't have a 2 and 3 year old to raise! The kids were hungry when I got them, and Abigail told me, "McDonald chicken and fries sound good!" There was no way I was taking two little ones to McDonalds by myself, so I told her I'd pick some food up on the way to Jax's house and we could eat there. It started raining on the drive, and Abigail fell asleep and Jax was cranky. We got to the house and I got their chicken nugget happy meals set out for them on Jax's plastic picnic table in the play area. Abigail wanted to sit right beside Jax, and he didn't want any part of that, but wanted to sit across the table from her. There was a lot of thunder, and Abigail doesn't like storms, so every time it boomed, she'd tell me, "It's thundering!" It was getting close to bedtime so I told them after they ate that we were going to have a pajama party, so they would need to put their PJ's on. That excited them! I think it was the word "party" that did it. They started jumping up and down yelling, "Pajama party, pajama party!" I got them dressed in PJ's and played with them until time to put them to bed. One thing I learned; they like repetition if it's something they enjoy doing. Abigail wanted to march, so I played a plastic drum, Abigail played a tambourine, and Jax had maraca's in one hand and bells in the other and we marched and marched and marched and marched round and round the living room and play area. I was making up silly songs as we marched. I would stop and try to get them interested in something else, because I was the one getting tired, and they'd say, "Again, again!!" So off we'd go! I finally talked them into letting me build a tent out of blankets, but that then turned into a game where they would pull the blankets down on top of their head and then scramble to get uncovered. They then would set down on the floor side by side, want me to throw the blanket over them, and they'd giggle as they tried to uncover themselves. And we did that again, and again, and again!! Finally, I managed to get them upstairs to Jax's bedroom and trying to get a 2 and 3 year old to both lay down at the same time was quite a challenge. Jax would cry, and Abigail would look at me, unblinking so she wouldn't fall asleep, and say, "But I'm not sleepy. I'm not tired. I can't go to sleep." Apparently, I didn't do too bad though with the kids. The next morning Abigail told her mom, "Aunt Bee-Retta put these pajamas on me [it was a t-shirt that belonged to her Aunt Janee', Jax's mom], and we had a pajama party, and we marched, and I really like Aunt Bee-Retta!" Hearing that made it all worthwhile!!
Live each day to the fullest, and don't worry about the small stuff that really doesn't matter!
Update on Jimmy, my brother-in-law: Jimmy got to go home last Friday and is doing well, considering that he just had major surgery. He goes in today (Wednesday) to get the 63 staples taken out of his head. On the 29th he will go visit with the oncologist about radiation and chemo. They still have a long road ahead of them, and both he and my sister, Janie, and their family need your prayers.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon