Monday, November 25, 2013

Character Building Through Games

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Some of my favorite memories are of family and friends around the table, or campfire, drinking coffee, enjoying some home-made cookies or snacks and laughing, joking and teasing each other over a game of light hearted competition. When I was growing up my grandparents played Checkers, Yhatzee and did puzzles with us by the hour when we stayed at their house.  My brothers and I and all the neighborhood kids played many summer evening games of Kick the Can and Hide and Seek. We had bicycle races and we played games of Monopoly, Aggravation, and various card games over the years. As I grew older, I found myself looking forward to playing games by lantern light near the fire on camping trips.


When there is healthy, light hearted competition, relationships deepen and great memories are made. Games can be the perfect ice breakers for new acquaintances as well. Games can also be a vehicle through which character is exposed, both in positive and negative ways.


Over the years as we have raised our children, board games and back yard soccer, baseball and foot races in our yard, have provided opportunities to teach the kids healthy competition, good sportsmanship, and how to have fun as a family. Playing games together is a great way for the kids to learn to handle the pain of losing and to enjoy the feeling of winning without gloating. Remembering what it feels like to struggle and the frustration of knowing you are coming in last or totally getting skunked has helped the kids develop a sense of compassion for others who aren’t faring so well in the game.


A healthy level of competition can be a really good thing because it can motivate us to do our best academically, physically, musically etc. However, it can become unhealthy when it’s out of control and we lose sight of the importance of relationship and forget who equipped us with our abilities and talents.


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We have a couple of kids out of our seven, who are by nature, extremely competitive. Playing games as a family has provided the opportunities for us to address this characteristic.  They were so competitive that when they were younger they would actually cry and get angry at anyone who was having fun and laughing good naturedly, if they felt that they were losing or even worse…..simply not leading the competition. We could see that this wasn’t a simple little problem, but actually had the potential to be a lifelong problem that could have serious repercussions.  We actually grounded one of our kids from family games for a while until we could see an improvement in the child's attitudes and responses over time.


Since they are older now, we can sincerely enjoy playing games with them. They have learned to appreciate some light hearted fun, even some joking at their expense while playing games or sports and they more readily take losing a game in stride.


If we didn’t play games together, I’m sure this character issue would have been revealed in another way, because God has proven faithful at providing plenty of opportunities to address character issues in our home, but I definitely recommend family games and back yard sports as a wonderful way to connect and build memories and teach healthy competition.


Unbridled competitive natures can eventually be very destructive.  Have you ever been close friends with someone who competes with you, even though you don’t knowingly invite the competition? Have you ever tried to work alongside a highly competitive person on a project, in a club or in a ministry?  They tend to stomp on the feelings of those around them and destroy relationships. Why? Because behind a competitive nature something else is lurking…..and that something else is PRIDE.  Pride is a liar and a cheater and a thief and is very destructive. We all deal with it because we all have sin natures, but the good news is that we don’t have to let it rule our lives. If God commands us to love others and to put on the fruit of the Spirit, we can change.  Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”


I am currently reading through the book of John in the New Testament and this morning I was reading in chapter one. This chapter begins with John the Baptist entering the scene and the beginning of his ministry. His entire ministry and mission was to introduce Jesus Christ to the world. John boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God.  He was eager to testify about what he saw. He took every opportunity to lead people to Jesus. In John 1:36, John was looking upon Jesus, fixing his eyes on Him. Now, John had caused quite a stir amongst the people and more and more people were hearing about him and coming out to see what he was all about. The scriptures says in John 1:35-37 that he had disciples. “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked as Jesus walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”


Now if John had a competitive spirit and took his eyes off of Jesus and became concerned about his own popularity, do you think he would have been pointing others towards Christ? Do you think he would have been happy that his disciples followed Jesus instead of him?


When we take our eyes off of the Creator, it is easy to lose sight of truth. It is easy to look to man for approval and to hope people will follow us, notice our talents, and look up to us. We need to remember that every talent we have whether it’s writing, speaking, music, sports, photography, cooking, baking, art, teaching, even parenting….whatever talents we possess, are gifts bestowed on us by the Creator.


Something I have observed over the years, is that when people are highly competitive, they do not encourage others. They can’t compliment, support or boost someone else up who may be equipped with the same talents. In fact, in some cases they bar others from being involved in ministries that could greatly benefit from their talents or even go as far as to smear their reputations.


I love this quote from Matthew Henry: “Humble and generous souls will give others their due praise without fear of diminishing themselves by it.”


How about you? Do you love and serve, support and encourage those around you, or do you withhold encouraging words from them? I know I have struggled in this area at times.  The reminder that any talents I have are a gift from God and that I could do nothing without Him enabling me, puts things into perspective.  They are His, and it’s my mission in life to point others to Him using whatever talents He has equipped me with in His way, for His glory and in His perfect time.


This takes a lot of pressure off of us because it releases us from looking to people to affirm us. It doesn’t matter if nobody ever notices our talents if our heart motive is to point people to God.


“Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” James 1:17


“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” James 4:6


“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  I Corinthians 13:13

Friday, November 22, 2013

Portraits of Thanksgiving

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This has been one of the prettiest, most colorful fall seasons in our area.


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My camera has been happily out of its case on a regular basis as we have enjoyed the activities of a busy and beautiful fall season.


A couple of weeks ago we had lunch with some friends and then enjoyed a short and refreshing, brisk hike up a small hill in our area.


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The kids had a great time.


After reaching the top of the hill, they had leaf fights and the paparazzi was busily capturing every moment of a glorious fall day.


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We have enjoyed some fun activities as a family this fall and our property provides a great creative outlet for my little camera.


Sunset through the trees


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Hiking around on our property


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Views from our back yard


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More views of our yard and a view from our kitchen window


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Fun Fall Festival


Our church does a beautiful festival each fall and it's an amazing outreach to the community. Our little guys loved it and our older daughter enjoyed working in one of the booths.


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There was this crazy lion there that totally photo bombed one of my pictures. HA!


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The boys got their faces painted and loved playing games at several of the boothes.


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It's been a great fall. It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is next week already. Where did the time go?


The leaves that graced us with their brilliant fall wardrobe, now stand bare against the sky and there is a new beauty of frosty mornings and woodstove fires, to enjoy.


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Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving season!


Remember to count your many blessings!