On November 30, 2012, my mother, Ruth Johnson, left earth to spend eternity in heaven. She lived here for almost 92 years, demonstrating faith and hope that most of us can only imagine, and over the years she developed a relationship with her Savior and Lord that impacted everything and everyone in her life. We are grateful for her legacy, and her impact on our family for many generations to come.
Mom prayed for us constantly, and we always knew she was intervening on our behalf. More than anything, she prayed for us to know and understand the love and forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. Her unlimited sacrifice on our behalf was given with a deep personal understanding of God’s grace and love.
She wasn’t perfect, but she was a very selfless person, always putting the interests and well-being of others ahead of her own. We are grateful for all she gave to us as mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
Mom, Dick, Rodney & Phil
Mom & Phil 2006
Fall 2011-Mom & Phil
November 2012–Barb, Mom, Phil
Summer 2011–Maggie with Great Grandmother
Gathering our entire family together is a difficult and infrequent occurrence. Getting a decent picture of the entire crew is almost impossible. But on December 24, 2012, immediately following a wonderful Christmas eve service, we were all uncharacteristically awake, and fully dressed, at the same time. Although unplanned, the family photo happened.
Front L — R: Rachel, Phillip, Nate, Barb, Grace, Phil, Micah, Colby, Elliott, Tabitha
Rear L — R: Tyler, Laurie, Sarah, Levi, Maggie, Jeremy, Annie
Former Bears Coach Lovie Smith
Although not an enormous surprise, it was sad to learn that Lovie Smith was fired after nine years as head coach of the Chicago Bears. His calm demeanor, high integrity, and deep respect from players, coaches and fans made Lovie a unique leader. Even after a 10-win season the new general manager Phil Emery wanted a change, supposedly because of “the team’s inability to perennially advance to the postseason.”
Lovie’s firing is a harsh reminder of the immediate success expectation that is rampant in sports today, as well as the low priority assigned to character, family, integrity, leadership, and self-sacrifice. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl, but he’s one of the most respected coaches in the NFL. He’s the type of guy you trust and root for because you understand there are more important things than winning a game. He represents the best in sports. However, the only measuring stick that seems to matters is immediate championships. It’s sad.
Similar to Tony Dungy, Lovie will be hotly pursued by other teams. He will be successful, and will continue to provide high caliber leadership for another NFL team. His day in the sun will come soon enough, but it will come on his terms, and will be achieved the right way. Too bad for Chicago. Another coach will come, and hopefully win. But it will be a very long time before a better person patrols the sidelines for the Chicago Bears.
I have a very good friend (DP) who retired after serving many years as a high school guidance counselor. I recently asked DP to share his experiences, thoughts, and observations regarding how parents might have a greater impact and be more influential in shaping the lives of their children.
DP is a Christian, which clearly influences his perspectives. He’s also single and never raised his own children. I greatly respect his opinions. I believe his objective viewpoint can be extremely helpful and instructive.
By comparison, I have four sons, and I know my subjective involvement has often clouded my judgements and sometimes inhibited opportunities for my sons to learn important lessons. Like all children, my sons have frequently needed protection and guidance, but they sometimes have needed to learn difficult lessons from their own mistakes. Learning is often a painful experience for children as well as parents.
I thought it might be interesting to compare DP’s thoughts and observations with my own. Perhaps this comparison will be helpful, and may reveal the difficulties and frustrations of trying to do the “right thing” as a parent.
Following is a thought from DP, followed by my own:
DP: As a parent you need to “step out” of situations in order to decide what life-lessons you want to teach your children, then align conduct to enable teaching to occur.
PJ: “Stepping out” of situations is a luxury that parent do not have. Every situation with children requires an immediate response from parents. Commonly, emotions cloud judgement, and resolving the situation can take precedence over the life-lesson. Parents need help in order to “step out” of situations. Advice and guidance from older adults, relatives, and others can be infinitely helpful to parents, and enable them to view situations with greater objectivity and a clearer focus on long-term life lessons.
Sometimes I believe I read too much. I tend to read things I agree with, rather than things that challenge my thinking. Is this good, or is this a serious weakness? Do I really think for myself, or do I simply reflect the opinions and attitudes I borrow from others?
I’m learning to contemplate more, but it’s a struggle. For me, contemplation makes effective prayer possible. Without being deliberately contemplative, I approach prayer as task that needs to be completed efficiently and checked off my list of tasks. I must continue taking more time to contemplate, listen, observe, pray.
I believe my greatest strength is the ability God gave me to think for myself. Conversely, my greatest weakness is my unwillingness to think for myself. Contemplation enables me to be the unique person God created me to be.
Smallmouth Bass in Maine
I’m in the process of reading a complicated book, The Shattered Lantern by Ronald Rolheiser. It addresses our inability (or unwillingness) to live in a manner that allows us to see and experience God. It smacks me in the face with reminders of all the excesses in my life that consume my time, energy and resources. Even more concerning, the clutter in my life often prevents me from seeing and experiencing God.
As described by Rolheiser, “When we are excessively self-preoccupied, we tend to see nothing beyond our own heartaches and problems. Our sense of reality shrinks accordingly and it is not then surprising that we have trouble believing in the reality of God since we have trouble perceiving any reality at all beyond ourselves.” Rolheiser says our obsession with self results in a “non-contemplative personality” that is oblivious to God, unable to see Him in ordinary life.
I’d like to think Rolheiser’s description of a non-contemplative personality does not apply to me. However, it does. I’ve been thinking about this and wondering about my ability to make some changes, and move in a direction that reduces the clutter and distractions in my life. I want to be more contemplative.
More thoughts later .…
About six years ago I made some notes to myself regarding my work, and the impact of my Christian faith on my daily work activities. It helps me to look back and remind myself that what I believe really does make a difference (at least I believe so). Here are a few thoughts from 2004:
- My daily work is an opportunity to reflect God’s grace. By showing love, respect, and kindness to others, I demonstrate that His grace has impacted my life. Question: Do I treat everyone the same, regardless of status or position?
- I must recognize every task as an opportunity God has provided specifically for me. Question: Am I focused on doing my very best, or am I pursuing money as the end goal?
- I am called to serve God with boldness and without fear. Don’t waste time worrying about my “calling” in life. Question: Do I fear failure, or relish new challenges?
- I should aggressively pursue my passions and interests, knowing God gave them to me. Question: Do I have confidence and faith in my God-given abilities?
One of the most insightful editorials I’ve read relating to our current economic situation was written by Star Parker, president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal Education. She reinforces Presidential candidate Mark Santorum’s claim that “morality and economy cannot be separated.”
Star points out that our society relies on politicians and bureaucrats to write laws and regulations aimed at achieving fairness and justice. As a result our courts are swamped with trillions of dollars in lawsuits attempting to force regulatory compliance. Yet our society tolerates a million abortions a year, and many claim there is no place for traditional values in the public space. A terrible inconsistency, and according to Parker, “a sign of our deeply troubled and lost society.”
Read the complete editorial at Urban Cure.