Who was a positive, influential adult during your childhood? A teacher? A coach? A parent? A church leader? A friend’s parent? You may have had more than one adult you remember as being influential. Thats great! Everyone looks up to another individual for different reasons, but all positive, influential adults have one trait in common - they cared! They cared about you! They cared enough to make a difference.
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, who stripped him of his clothes [and belongings], beat him, and went their way [unconcerned], leaving him half dead. Now by coincidence a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road]. But a Samaritan (foreigner), who was traveling, came upon him; and when he saw him, he was deeply moved with compassion [for him], and went to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them [to sooth and disinfect the injuries]; and he put him on his own pack-animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii (two days’ wages) and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I return.’ (John 10:30-35, AMP)
A person who makes a difference can be found in the most unexpected places. Perhaps the injured man saw the priest approaching. He would have breathed a sigh of relief - surely a priest, a man of God would care, would stop to help! But the priest passed him by, more concerned about himself. And then came a Levite. The man may have again thought help was at hand - surely a Levite, a servant of the Lord, would care, would stop to help! But the Levite passed him by, more concerned about himself. And then a Samaritan came. The man certainly did not expect help from a Samaritan, for the Samaritans and Jews despised each other! They went to great lengths to avoid walking through each other’s lands. Yet, the Samaritan stopped, helped, and took the injured man to where he could properly recover, paying all expenses, asking nothing in return. The most unexpected person can make a difference!
Can you be that person who makes a difference? July is National Make a Difference for Children Month. While we should always strive to be a positive influence in the lives of others, this month, focus on how you can make a difference in the life of a child. Perhaps you interact with children as part of your daily life. You are probably already making a difference! Reflect upon what you have done and how you can change and improve your interactions.
Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:11a, AMP)
If you do not interact with children daily, how can you make a difference? Pray for the Lord’s direction. Should you join a program such as Big Brother/Big Sister? Should you volunteer to coach a local sports league? Or volunteer to watch children? What action can you take? Pray for children and consider ways - and take action! - to make a difference to child.
Ahhhh, summer! Time to soak up those rays from the sun and enjoy the warmth of the outdoors. Perhaps go sightseeing or play some volleyball with friends! Go for a picnic, grab some ice cream, or light up the grill! Of course, if you’re not careful, these activities can become deadly!
While enjoying and soaking up the sun, it is important to remember that the ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays of the sun can be harmful. UV rays affect the skin in numerous ways, from darkening the skin (tanning), to causing wrinkles, to causing cancer. UV rays have been directly linked to various forms of skin cancer! Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The skin is largest organ of the body and the more exposure to the sun, the greater the risk.
However, some easy steps can help prevent the damage UV rays cause. Since skin must be exposed to UV rays, cover up! No, you don't have to be covered from head to toe - that can lead to overheating and dehydrations, which creates a whole other set of problems! Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes, face, ears and neck. Wear a shirt when outside working.
If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time - or even just a little - put on some sunscreen! And don't forget to reapply every couple hours! Reapply even more frequently when around reflective surfaces and at higher altitudes. Avoid being in direct sunlight during the time of day when the sun is at the strongest, and the UV rays are at their strongest.
Take care this summer and stay protected!
From the day we are born, we build relationships with those around us. The first relationship a child builds is with their mother and father. As an infant, they care for you completely - they feed you, clothe you, bathe you, burp you, and answer your every cry, even if they don’t know why you are crying! A relationship of trust and love is built. As you grow, you begin to develop other relationships, while continuing to build and expand upon those already developed relationships, first with siblings, then other family members, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, then, finally, with family friends and neighbors. As you continue to grow, your relationships continue to grow and expand - you now have school mates with whom you become friends, and school mates with whom you don't get along. You become involved in sports and other extracurricular activities, ever expanding those with whom you build relationships. You go off to college, move away from home to start a new job, and again expand your circle of relationships. Until the day you die, you will continue to build relationships, for better or worse, never knowing the relationships that will last a lifetime. And, hopefully, sometime during your life, you will begin the greatest, the most important relationship of your life - a relationship with your Lord and Savior.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” … So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man [Adam], and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:18, 21-22, ESV)
God created us to be social and interact with others around us. After creating Adam, He realized that none of the animals were suitable companions, so He created Eve. We were not meant to be alone, but to develop relationships! Studies have shown that those with strong social relationships are better at dealing with stress, healthier, and more likely to live longer. July is Social Wellness Month! It is a time to examine the relationships in our lives and focus on nurturing and growing them.
The most important relationship one can develop is with their Lord and Savior. In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are instructed to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (ESV) This instruction is repeated numerous times in the Old Testament, as well as by Jesus in the Gospels. Through a relationship with Him, we are never alone. We always have someone to whom we can talk and turn to in difficult times. Jesus demonstrated this numerous times. He would often step away from the crowds, and even His disciples, to spend time with His Father. The time spent with His Father gave Him strength and peace. Jesus didn’t need scientific studies to prove to Him the benefits of a relationship with the Lord! Do you follow His example?
Jesus states that loving the Lord is the most important commandment, followed by loving our neighbors. When questioned by those crowded around Him as to whom constitutes a neighbor, Jesus told them the parable of the Good Samaritan. Everyone is our neighbor! We are not to restrict with whom we build relationships! Sometimes the relationships we build may be short lasting, however, God can use even the briefest of interactions for His glory. Studies have shown that helping others has a positive affect on the lives of the both the giver and receiver! This Social Wellness Month, make it a goal to help others more and see how such actions affect your life and attitude!
As you contemplate the relationships in your lives this Social Wellness Month, also take time to pray for those who are not free to explore social relationships. Can you imagine spending 23 hours a day, locked in a small room all by yourself, year in and year out? Can you imagine never hugging someone, or giving a simple handshake? Can you imagine the only touch you receive, being one to restrain you? Can you imagine having no one to talk to for those 23 hours? And spending that other, single hour of the day, with limited contact, perhaps through a fence? This is the life of death row inmates. Often attorneys for death row inmates will argue that their time on death row, in isolation has driven them insane. Could it have? Pray for these men and women. Pray for their relationship, and yours, with Christ and with others.
“Kids today! They have no [insert quality lacking here]! My parents would have never let me get away with that!” How many times have you uttered that sentence? Or one similar? Have you looked around at today’s youth and shaken your head at their actions? Do you read or see on the news the “shocking” antics of a young celebrity? Or the latest, barely-there outfit being worn? How did this happen?
Far too often, the answer is parents, or, more accurately, the lack of parenting. Parent is a title. A title implies responsibility. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 instructs parents on their responsibility.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9, ESV)
Being a parent is a sacred duty entrusted by the Lord. Parents are not to be their child's best friends, but rather their instructors, their teachers in life.
July is Purposeful Parenting Month! Is being a purposeful parent part of the Lord's instructions given to parents? Yes! A purposeful parent is a parent that is actively engaged in their children's lives. A purposeful parent guides the actions and behaviors of their children towards pleasing the Lord, as instructed in Deuteronomy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where such actions and behavior are not the norm. Many parents believe that in order to be in their children's lives, they must become the child's best friend, never say "no!" to the child, and never correct their child. That is not the instruction of the Lord! Children need to be taught, and they need to be disciplined, lovingly and not out of anger. Contrary to what many children believe, the parents are in charge! God put them in charge!
When parents abandon the teachings of the Lord in favor of the views of the world...well...look around and see what has happened! Satan and his friends abound! We have television shows that glorify premarital sex. We have celebrities, to whom many children look up to admire, who are venerated for their sexual exploits, their partying lifestyles, and breaking the law.
”Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”(Titus 2:7-8, ESV).
Parents are also to teach by example. Children learn far more by observing actions than being lectured. No one, except parents, can be responsible for teaching children how they should act and behave. It is not the responsibility of the schools. It is not the responsibilities of day-cares. It is not the responsibility of the church. It is not the responsibility of the government. It is the responsibility of the parent to teach children the way of the Lord.
Of course, a parent cannot monitor their children all day, every day, especially as they grow. In school and elsewhere, they will hear words and see actions that are not of the Lord. As a parent, it is your responsibility to prepare your children for the world, to battle against the sins of the world. Parents are to build a strong foundation, to provide the child with the tools and knowledge needed to overcome worldly temptations. Parent cannot protect children forever. Eventually, the parent must step back and allow their child to use the tools and knowledge that they have provided. Even the strongest foundation can crack and crumble - and sadly, some will. Your responsibility as parent never ends. A purposeful parent continues to pray for their children, always.
Are you a purposeful parent? How can you become more engaged in your children’s lives?