Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beyond 76 Degrees

I have a golden retriever named Ruthy. I take her for a walk on local trails most every day. Every once in a while, I run into a neighbor who has two goldens. We were chatting a couple weeks ago and she referred to her dogs as as the "76-degree guys."

"They're either inside the house where it's cool or inside my car where it's cool... it's an easy life for these two," she laughed.

I've been going through old books trying to clean out my cluttered home office and ran across a couple parenting books I never read. I flipped through these books and noticed that both addressed the importance of helping children build a good work ethic. Running into my neighbor and her dogs made me wonder if I'm raising "76-degree kids."

I've long understood the importance of leading our children into an abiding relationship with Christ. We also support and coach them academically and in sports. But are we doing enough, I now wonder, in terms of helping establish an exemplary work ethic? Am I helping or hurting them by working so hard to make sure their environment is comfortable and free of challenge and struggle?

Todd's engaged for extended hours this summer on a project at work. So, I decided I would turn my oldest "76-degree kid" loose on the lawn. It took the better part of four hours over a two-day period. He was sweaty and tired when he was done. But he was probably the happiest kid in the neighborhood, because he had accomplished something physical and grown-up. My two other children pulled weeds, and everyone was ready for bed at 8:00 p.m.

I'm taking a slightly different tactic with respect to recreation this summer, too. We've been fishing almost every day (I came very close to, like, touching a worm yesterday... I did think I was just going to die, though...). We can hang out by the pond for hours. No one complains or bickers. Phones aren't ringing. We're not glued to PSP's and plasma screens. Instead, we see ducks and ecrus and birds and trees and squirrels and catfish and bass and butterflies and turtles and frogs.

What we don't see are too many other kids. I wish they would come and experience what we've found outside 76-degrees. God has mercifully made possible air conditioning and advanced technology and I am so grateful for all of that. But in productive, physical work and the beauty of nature, he's provided much, as well... arguably, more.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23)

(Fish pond pic by lemonpepper; see for restrictions.)

On my I-pod... Weather with You by Crowded House


Jamey said...

Sarah, I too have been thinking about my desire to 'make it easy' on my kids and protect them from their weaknesses and had a great revelation.

Recently in Sunday School we studied Ehud and Eglon in the Book of Judges. Ehud, a lef-handed Benjamite solider (probably lame in his right hand) was delivered by God to free the Isrealites from Eglon, King of Moab. Ehud was mild and probably not the most fearsome warrior but in his weakness God used him. Because of his weakness he was the unexpected and therefore had unprecedidented access to the king. While alone with Eglon he killed him and escaped returning to the Isrealites to let them know of the victory. That day Moab was made subject to Isreal and the land had peace of eighty years.

What struck me about this story was that God used Ehud in his weakness to bring freedom to Isreal. God didn't protect Ehud from his weaknesses, He showed his strengh, power and glory.

I remember vividly in 2nd grade making 'Creation Trail Mix' with Mackenzie's class. The idea was to read a verse from the account of creation in Genesis and then give the kids a food item that represented that day in creation (goldfish crackers for fish, gummy worms, etc). Well, I asked for volunteers to read God's word and immediately Mackenzie raised her hand. Knowing that Mackenzie was really weak in her reading, especially aloud, I passed over her to another student to protect her from embarrassment. By about day 5 of creation I could no longer avoid calling on her. There in front of her class she struggled through God's word stumbling on just about every other word. It broke my heart but it so warmed hers. When she finished her smile beamed with the glory of God. I was trying to protect her from her weakness but God used her in her weakness to glorify Himself through her boldness and desire to proclaim His word.

So often we want to make our children's lives comfortable and protect them from their weaknesses. But it is in our weaknesses that God uses us and then is glorified. If we accomplish something for the Kingdom through our weaknesses then it is obviously the work of God. If through our strenghts we succeed then the source of our success becomes gray with us often claiming victory.

We have got to give our kids a chance to live and serve with their weaknesses to give God the opportunity to use them. It will be through God's use of them that they will recognize His power and their desperate need for a savior.

When we give our kids the room and opportunity to fail we give God the opportunity to use them and succeed!

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Jamey... there is so much to what you've written here! You are so right... as good-intentioned parents, we tend to fret over weaknesses and exhaust ourselves trying to "fix" whatever it is we perceive is a potential disadvantage. But as you point out here, that's not the model put forth by God! Even today, some of the most powerful agents for our faith are those who shine despite their weaknesses and limitations... because, as you said, it is most obviously God who is glorified in the triumph of the weak.

I think I'd like to pull your comment out of "comments" and make it a separate blog post. This is very good... and it really addresses the "flinch" response that many of us exhibit as we rush to protect our kids from discomfort and failure. But, in the end, are these good intentions rendering our children defenseless... and setting them up for frustration and disillusionment as adults?

A LOT to think on here... thank you, friend. (Precious story about Mackenzie... I'm thinking I was there... either that or you've painted a vivid picture. I'm remembering the smile!)

Love, Sarah

Jamey said...


Today in the mail I received our monthly newsletter from Rusty Sugg, the Associate Superintendent of our school. He included an article on Trials that follows the theme of our conversation. I thought that you would enjoy portions of the article.

"He Must Become Greater, I must Become less"
...Okay, I admit it: I hate trials. We all desire for life to go smoothly for us but there always seems to be an obstacle in the way of that. I guess what started my thoughts for this article was my looking forward to summer - as if it arrival was going to somehow usher in a season of change. But really, all summer affords is a break from one set of trials only to open up another set and it's not long before we are looking forward to the next change of pace to relieve us of those!

The Scriptures don't offer much solace if it's the absence of trials we are looking for. In fact, the Scriptures have a strong way of tying trials to God's glory. Basically the idea is that trials expose our frame or constitution (namely that it is weak forcing us into acknowledging our need) and when we subsequently come through a given trial it is obvious to observers that is was God (not anything we did) who delivered us. From that perspective it would seem advantageous to God to put us though as many trials as possible; the more trials for us the more glory for Him.

FORTUNATELY, God does not allow trials to come into our lives because His ego needs stroking. In His divine providence trials actually bring us to a position (of humility) where we are able to receive from God what He passionately wants us to experience - His Grace.

He must increase, I must decrease captures the essence of the Christian walk. In my life God has always worked to bring me to the place where I have had to acknowledge my inability and cry out for His grace. The Bible teaches in 2 Corinthians 12 that God makes us usable by putting us though things to make us dependant upon Him. Frankly, I still hate trials but I also realize that apart from them I would never know and understand the truth of God's sufficiency and Christ's empowerment. There have been but a handful of times in my life where circumstances were such that Christ was all I had to cling to, but it was also in those moments that I truly began to understand that He was all I really needed.........." end

While I still struggle with the idea of "letting go and letting God", I would so love for my children to learn this very basic concept at a young age and begin to give Him the reigns and therefore control of their lives. It is that comfort with 'losing control' that allows us to be more comfortable with our weaknesses b/c we know that God is in control.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Jamey... thank you so much for sharing this. So eloquently written! I found myself nodding in agreement as I read... it resonated deeply.

So... this from your SCHOOL system?

I'm not sure how many people get into the comments here. But in your "spare" time... you could kind of glob all of this together and write an article for us (i'm wondering if it's easier or harder to say "no" when someone puts you on the spot in public... whatcha think?)

(I have to go back and read about Ehud... the left-handed thing is interesting.)

Jamey said...

Sarah, I will try to pull something together (using my own words) and get it to you via email.

Thanks for your kind words and encouragement.

Yes, this is from the Associate Superintendent at San Antonio Christian Schools. Check us out at We are a K4-12 grade Christian school located in North San Antonio. We were founded in 1968 and currently have about 1100 students.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

yea! don't forget a pic and bio! i just told Kathy P this morning that I'm tempted to shut down after the grief posts... really don't know where to go from there... so you might just keep us going!

(not to pressure you or anything...)