Be a Leader

ae_3 I had managed to avoid politics all year, but that changed last week when my oldest daughter had to watch the first Presidential debate for a school assignment. I couldn’t let her suffer alone, so we settled down to watch the debate together. Meanwhile my younger daughter, Autumn, was making cards in the kitchen. From there she could still hear the debate. After about 30 minutes Autumn said “Mom, they’re not being a leader.”

When I asked her what she meant, she said “They’re talking bad about the other one.” This did not meet Autumn’s expectations of a leader. She has been learning about being a leader the past two years at school through a program called The Leader in Me. The program encourages each child to learn to be a leader by choosing to listen to others, work together, and be respectful – the complete opposite of what she was seeing from the two people trying to be our nation’s next leader. debate

Children have a way of seeing things just as they are, don’t they? We can teach concepts all day long, but they notice if what they see lived out doesn’t match up to what’s being taught. Thankfully, Autumn is in a great school, and she does see those leadership qualities lived out each day. She also notices when she doesn’t see those leadership principles practiced other places, such as in that Presidential debate.

It is so important that children see a consistency between the words and actions of adults in their lives. When they don’t, it leads to confusion at best, and cynicism and complete rebellion at worst.

I can’t control how those candidates behave, but I can control my own influence. I need to make sure that my actions are consistent with what I teach. I need to lead by example.

If I teach my children that their lives should be full of the fruits of the Spirit, then I myself need to be patient, joyful, gentle, and kind.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

If I teach them to find their joy in the Lord, then I need to exhibit that joyfulness myself. If my joy comes from another source, they will surely notice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4 

If I teach my children to control their anger and their words, then I must also control my temper. I can not talk in a hurtful way about other people or to other people. If I do, then I can not expect that my children will behave any differently.

 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

If I teach my children not to complain, but instead to make the best of a situation, then I need to do the same. (This is the hardest one for me. I have to confess I was the one heard saying “Having to watch this debate is ruining my night!”)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; Philippians 2:14

If I teach my children that they are blessed and they should be thankful for all they have, then I shouldn’t spend my time wishing for what I don’t have. I need to constantly express my thankfulness to God for all that I do have.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

If I teach them that the things on this earth don’t last, and then focus all of my energy on earthly pursuits, it won’t make sense to them. Instead, I need to focus on eternal pursuits. My actions will reveal what I truly believe.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

If I tell my children that God should come first in their lives, then I can not let other things come before Him in my own life. Allowing other interests, ideas, and thoughts to pull my heart away from God will speak louder than any words.

And He said to him,  ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ Matthew 22:37

ae_1Do I want my children to follow Jesus? Then I need to lead them there – not just with my words, but with my life. When it comes to being a Christian, I don’t want the reality of what they see to not meet the expectations of what I’ve taught them. There’s no fooling them. Even when we think they’re not paying attention, those children are listening and watching.

Do we want our children to follow Jesus?

Then let’s not just tell them what a follower of Jesus looks like.

Let’s show them.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23


This Tomato Plant Makes Me So Mad

Tomato

One of the things I love about summertime is enjoying fresh, home-grown tomatoes. Growing up, my Granddaddy always had a garden and plenty of tomatoes for me. I have been known to fill a plate completely with freshly sliced tomatoes and eat every one. So, last year I planted my very own tomato plants and had great success. I was really looking forward to the same experience this year.

I don’t know what went wrong. I’m not sure if I bought a different type of plant, or planted it too late, but my tomato plants this year are doing nothing. Well, not nothing. They have given me a whopping total of TWO tomatoes, but that was about a month ago. Since then – nothing.

I told my husband the other day that I was just going to pull them all up and be done with them. His response was “Why? They’re not dying. They’re green and growing. Give them more time.”

They may be green, but they are not doing what I bought them to do. The whole purpose of their existence in my backyard was to provide me with delicious tomatoes all summer. If they’re not doing that, I don’t want them.

This conversation with my husband reminds me so much of the parable that Jesus told in Luke 13:6-9:

A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” And he answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”

A fig tree that does not produce figs is not fulfilling its purpose. A tomato plant that produces no tomatoes is not fulfilling it’s purpose.

We see throughout the Bible that a follower of Christ who is not bearing fruit for God is not fulfilling his purpose:

“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” Titus 3:14

“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:4

“so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10

It is not enough to look pretty and green. That is not our purpose.

Look how Jesus describes the thorny soil in the parable of the sower:

“The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” Luke 8:14

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the plants die. They become unfruitful.

Why is that? Because they let other things get in the way: worries, riches, and pleasures of this life.

This is where I’ll struggle. I personally fight this all the time. There have been plenty of times in my own life when I have been unfruitful for these very reasons.

I am so very thankful that God has been like the vineyard-keeper in Luke 6. He has fertilized and cared for me when I didn’t even know it. He wants me to be fruitful, and gave me the time to become so. He has been more patient with me than I deserve. He is more patient with ALL of us than we deserve.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Look, I know how I feel about my tomato plants, and I do NOT want God to feel that way about me. I would like to be described in the same way Jesus describes the good soil in the same parable of the sower:

“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Luke 8:15

God gives us all the chance to become that good soil. As long as you’re living, it’s not too late.

I guess I’ll give my tomato plants a little more time.