June 18, 2006
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
"Harvesting What We Plant"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Steve Morrison tells a story about a friend of his who likes to read fairy tales to his two young sons at night. This friend has great sense of humor and often times ad-libs parts of the stories just for fun. One day his youngest son was sitting in his first grade class as the teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs. She came to the part of the story where the first pig was trying to gather building materials for his home.
She said "...And so the pig went up to the man with a wheel barrow full of straw and said 'Pardon me sir, but might I have some of that straw to build my house with?'"
Then the teacher asked the class "And what do you think that man said?"
This friend's little boy raised his hand and said "I know! I know! he said, 'Holy smokes! A talking pig!'" The teacher was unable to teach for the next ten minutes. (1)
We may not be able to predict what our kids are going to say, but there's one thing for certain, it'll usually be something unexpected. Hopefully they won't repeat something we've said, that maybe we shouldn't and embarrass us. And the other thing we know for sure is our children are like sponges, they soak up everything we say and everything we do.
What we say to them and about them makes a huge difference in who they become.
Listen for the Word of God and listen to what God is saying to you today as we read from Mark's gospel 4:26-34.
What we say and what we do are like seeds planted in the hearts and minds and spirits of our children. Jesus makes it very clear that often times it's the smallest things which make the biggest difference in our faith. The same can be said about parenting. Watch this.
SHOW IMITATION VIDEO (www.sermonspice.com)
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Our children will not only imitate us, but in many ways, they will grow up to be like us simply because we're their parents. Surveys show that parents still have more influence than peer pressure, even though the kids might rebel.
So, you might say that parenting is kind of like farming or gardening. You see, I learned something about vegetable gardening from Grandpa Bauer, We Harvest What We Plant. If we plant squash, we can't expect to get corn. If we plant potatoes you can't expect to get tomatoes. We Harvest What We Plant. The same is true in parenting. And in my opinion, the best way to make sure we reap the best harvest is to plant the best seed possible.
And that means we have to go back to elementary school for a little bit. Elementary school is where we learned all the basic for everything else we would learn. And one of the most important lessons for parenting in elementary comes from Show and Tell time. As parents we're called to Show our children how to live as a Christian in the world today. We're called to Show them how much we love them. And we're called to tell them how much we love them.
A. Let's start with the one that seems to be the hardest for some. Let's start with the Tell part. I've talked about the rocky relationship I had with my Dad while growing up. I understand most of it now that I'm older. Most of it had to do with how he was raised and his generation.
There were times growing up when I just ached for his approval. I just wanted to hear him say, "Good job!" one time. That's all it would have taken. When I was 15 I got a little bit of a clue of how Dad felt about me. You see, Dad used to be a tile setter. He was one of the most artistic and fastest in the business. He did the decorative tile work in the state capitol building in Baton Rouge, LA and in Springfield, IL. But his temper got in the way of career.
That's too many details. Anyway, when I was 15, Dad was already an independent heavy equipment operator and contractor. But he still did tile work for friends. And of course, at 15, I was his slave labor and assistant.
We were setting tile in one of his union bosses' vacation homes. Dad was off getting something when the union boss, who I knew from other outings, stuck his head in and started talking. He said very matter of factly, "Do you know how proud your Dad is of you? He talks about you and your brothers all the time. He thinks you've got a natural talent for tile setting, that's why he's letting you do so much of the work in here and why he's just telling you what to do."
Well, I was totally flabbergasted. I know I had to have the dumbest look in the world on my face. I couldn't believe my ears. Dad had never said anything like that to me, or even hinted at it to me.
About that time Dad came back. And once what the union boss had said sunk in, I kept wondering, "Well, if he's so proud of me, if he thinks I'm doing such a good job, if he thinks I have real talent in this area, why doesn't he tell me?"
That was the first time I remember hearing that Dad thought anything more of me other than being his stepson. I never could understand why he didn't say anything to me. He told his friends but not me.
I don't tell that story to make you feel sorry for me. Instead, I tell you that story because it's important that we let our children know we love them. It's important that we communicate with them. It's important that we tell them they are doing a good job. It's important to make sure they know the difference between our being disappointed in their actions and being disappointed in them.
You see, that day, after hearing what the union boss said, I felt like I could do anything. I worked harder than I think I'd ever worked. I would have walked on hot coals for Dad at that moment.
But the feeling didn't last very long. Because Dad never said, "Good job." All he did was criticize when I didn't do something to his expectation. And so, it wasn't long before I began to doubt what I'd heard. I began to doubt whether it was true.
Why? Because we went back to the same old way. Nothing changed. Dad was still Dad, he hadn't changed. And the good I'd heard was soon covered with all the negative stuff again.
B. Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray." As parents, we need to remember that We Harvest What We Plant. If you constantly barrage your kids with negative phrases, If they're constantly told how dumb they are and they'll never amount to anything or they can't do anything right, it won't be long until they live down to your expectations.
I know, I did. I learned early on in school that I would never measure up to Dad's expectations. If I got all A's and one B, I was told I was stupid or dumb and got in trouble for getting a B. If I got all B's and one C, I was told I was stupid or dumb and got in trouble for getting a C. If I got all C's and one D, well, you see the pattern. It didn't take me long to figure out I was going to get in trouble no matter what grades I got. So, why study? I was going to get in trouble whether I did or didn't. That was the message Dad planted in my mind.
In Colossians 3:2, Paul writes: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart." What we say, what we tell our kids makes a huge difference in who they are and who they will become. Some of us get the opportunity to overcome the negatives. But some of us don't and we just perpetuate them and pass them down like an inheritance. We Harvest What We Plant.
A. As parents, we have to Tell our kids how much we love them, but we also have to Show them. Words aren't always enough. Sometimes we have to Show our children through our own actions because, as a we all know, sometimes actions speak louder than words.
After Tim Russert's book about his father, "Big Russ & Me," became a best-seller, he received letters from daughters and sons who wanted to tell him about their own fathers. This story comes from his new book, "Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons." Which is an excellent read, by the way. (Read from the book)
A few years ago, I became the victim of a senseless, unprovoked act of violence that left several scars on my neck. I survived, and the assailant is in prison, but I will never really be the same. When I shave I see one of the scars, and, until recently, to see that scar was to trigger a visual memory of my assailant's rage-filled face.
The obvious solution was to stop shaving, but that didn't work. I began to remember the terrible event with increasing vividness, until I finally sought help.
My therapist's first question to me was, "Do you have a good relationship with your father?"
I said, "Yes. We have a great relationship."
The therapist asked if he had taught me how to shave. Before I could answer, a memory I had forgotten for many, many years popped into my head, and I smiled.
"Doctor," I replied, "this is so cool. I remember standing at my dad's side as a little boy, infatuated with the process of shaving. It got to the point that when he shaved in the mornings I was always there, watching him. My dad bought me a little toy razor, with a little knob on the bottom of the handle that opened the top, just like his. The blade was a piece of cardboard that looked like a razor blade.
"After that, I got to smear shaving cream all over my face and shave with my dad."
My therapist then suggested that I think of this happier memory every time I shaved, to displace the memory of the attack.
And, indeed, the "new" memory has replaced the violent one. Now, when I shave, I feel the love my dad showed me, and I also remember what it felt like to be innocent. My shaving memory marked the start of a long journey best described as posttraumatic growth.
Precious memories are made in an instant and last forever. I am so thankful that my dad had the patience back then to let me "shave." That memory has strengthened an already strong relationship, and what made me happy then is making me a happier man today. Bless you, Dad. (2)
We have to Show our children that we love them through our actions. And through the memories we build. We Harvest What We Plant.
B. But it's not enough to show them with out putting that love in action through putting our faith in action as well. We have to Show them our love and our relationship with the Author of that love. We have to show them our love for them and our love for God.
Rev. Brett Blair, United Methodist Minister and President of eSermons, in a Father's Day sermon writes: "Fathers, it's time to face some hard truths. Our immersion in the gray flannel jungle, our supposed busyness with business, is nothing but a camouflage, an easy way out. It is easier to provide a house than it is to provide a home. It is easier to give dollars than it is to give time. It is easier to write a check than to share love. It is easier to give fun than it is to give wisdom. It is easier to be a provider than it is to be a good leader. It is easier to push our children through the door of the church rather than lead them into the church. It is easier to be the bread winner, than to teach our children about the bread of life.
The simple fact is that too many fathers have simply defaulted on their Christian fatherhood simply because they are lazy. The father is to be the religious head of the home. Far too often, however, in reality the father is nothing more than the religious appendage. He is the church tag along. He is not the religious head, heart, and soul of the family." (3)
You and I as parents have to Show and Tell our kids how much we love them and how much we love God because We Harvest What We Plant.
A bald man and his wife one night decided to go out to dinner and hired a baby sitter to take care of their kids. While they were gone, the baby sitter got interested in TV and wasn't watching the kids very carefully. The couple's little boy got into his father's electric shaver and shaved a big landing strip right down the middle of his head.
When Dad, got home, he was furious. He said, "Son! I told you never to play with my shaver. Now you are going to get a spanking that you will never forget!"
He was just about to give the spanking when the boy looked up at him and said, "Wait until you see sister!"
The Mom and Dad were both horrified. They went into the next room and there was their little four-year-old daughter with the hair shaved off of her head. She looked like a skinned rabbit. By this time Dad was furious. He grabbed his son and said, "Now you're really going to get it."
Just as Dad was about to begin administering discipline, his son looked up at him with tears in his eyes and said, "But Daddy! WE WERE JUST TRYING TO LOOK LIKE YOU!" (4)
And that's key to whole parenting thing isn't. Many of our kids just want to look like us. And whether they realize it or not, one day what we've planted in their lives will bear fruit. We Harvest What We Plant. So, it behooves us to plant Faith, Love for God and a relationship with Jesus our Savior.
If we reflect the love of God in Christ for them, then they will reflect the love God in Christ for others. We Harvest What We Plant.
Plant well. Let the little things matter.
1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), June 1995 The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), August 2000
2. Excerpted from "Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons" pp 12-13, (Random House, New York, 2006)
3. www.eSermons.com, Father's Day, Brett Blair
4. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), October 2001
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