Enjoy all the Days of Your Life

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees…..Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14 NLT

When I was young I was inspired by John Kennedy, because he was the most youthful U.S. president, and he showed what younger people can do. Now that I am older, I am inspired by Ronald Reagan, because he showed us what older people can do.

When I was 19 I was invited to join a home Bible study group. Everyone else was in their mid twenties to early forties. As well as studying the Bible together we did a lot of social activities, and as a 19 year old I thought it was cool that people in their twenties and even forties would hang out with me. Over thirty years later, I found myself at a restaurant, eating nachos with one of my college age Bible study groups, and I thought it was cool that people in their early twenties will hang out with someone in his fifties!

Its funny how our perspective changes as life changes. Many people fear getting older. I don’t. Long before I turned 50 a few years ago, a few people in their 70’s and 80’s told me the 50’s were the best years of their life. There are three reasons to love being in your 50’s. 1. People take you seriously. 2. Usually you are financially solid by 50. 3. Most people in their 50’s are still in reasonably good health. Some joke that while 50 is the new 30, 9 pm is the new midnight. It is true that in my early twenties whenever I would have a Bible study finish early in the evening, I would run over to the baseball stadium to catch the rest of the game. Today whenever a Bible study finishes early in the evening, I think, “Great! I can get to bed early tonight!” Sometimes I will force myself to do things I used to do, just to prove to myself that I am still young.

There are other advantages to growing older. Having worked with so many different churches and conferences over the years I know a lot of people. My friends list keeps growing. A couple of years ago when I had to evacuate Florida for a hurricane, there were several families between Texas and Tennessee that let me know their homes were open for me. As you get older you get wiser in choosing your friends, and over the years you have more friends to choose from. Also as more young faces appear in my life, I have more people to share my old stories with, who have not already heard them a hundred times. By the way, when an older person tells you the same story a hundred times, it is not because he forgot he already told you. It is because he gets to relive it every time he tells the story.

Speaking of younger faces, I have found working in the education field that everyone likes working with young people whether it is coaching and teaching, or just coming to school one day on career day to talk to kids about their career. I believe we all find hope for ourselves by believing we are making a positive difference in a young person’s life. Also kids keep us full of life. I remember a few months after my mother died, I was visiting family, which of course made me think of my mother. I left the visit to go join the 5th and 6th grade class from the school I worked with at an outdoor ed camp. While driving I became very sad thinking about my mother. I told myself once I got to the camp and was surrounded by youthful 5th and 6th-graders their presence would cheer me up and I would be happy again. Sure enough that is what happened. Those kids had no clue how they helped me overcome my grief!

Two thousand years ago, Mary, a young girl, probably around 14, was told by an angel she was having a baby. She went to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who was on the other side of the child-bearing age margin, but was also with child. Their visit must have been very meaningful as Mary’s youth must have inspired aging Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s experience must have inspired a very young Mary. They both needed each other. Today we all need each other. We should not be afraid of growing old. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago. Psalm 23 tells us God’s goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our life. As a youthful Kennedy and an aging Reagan have both inspired my life, we all need both young and old people in our lives. What is more, whether we are old or young, people need us in their lives. Enjoy your youth. Enjoy your old age. Enjoy all the days of your life!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Coaching and Mentoring Vs. Grooming

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was watching my favorite show at the time, Unsolved Mysteries. This episode was about a young boy who was mentored by a young man. Since it was Unsolved Mysteries, where we’re often told to call the 1-800-876-5353 number (still works btw) to catch the bad guys, I was bracing myself for the turn in the story, when the man would harm the boy. That time never came. Instead the boy, grown, was using the show to find his mentor, to thank him for being such a great friend in his time of need. It turned out to be a heart warming story about an adult mentoring a child.

Sadly the media often shares the horror stories which have made a couple of my friends, both male and female, afraid to mentor children, even though they would make amazing mentors to worthy young people, like the boy in the Unsolved Mysteries story. The horror stories, sadly mostly true, that get passed from church to church, scare legitimate mentors away from helping children as well. They do not want their intentions to be misconstrued.

This week at school, I heard an excellent discussion about child safety, which mentioned grooming. Grooming is where an adult with ill intentions, over time gains the trust of a child, only to abuse that trust. During the talk, it occurred to me, exactly why some would-be great mentors refuse to mentor. Is it possible to them, mentoring and grooming look alike? After all Satan has to have his counterfeit for everything good. He knows how vitally important mentoring is, so he wants his counterfeit, grooming to look like mentoring. This gives him a double victory. He can destroy innocent lives through grooming, and make good people afraid to mentor for fear they will be considered groomers. As a matter of fact, before I started writing this, I Googled, “Mentoring and grooming,” and found this website saying that grooming and mentoring are synonyms! That gave me a hunch that I may be on to something.

So I thought it might be a good idea if potential mentors could have a clear picture of mentoring, and a clear picture of grooming, so they could tell them both apart. I realize I am not an authority on the subject, so I would like to paint a picture of both just to get the ball rolling, and hopefully some people a lot more skilled than I am can chime in and agree or disagree and add some insight. Here goes:

Mentoring: A coach works with a group of children and other adult coaches to give each child a sense of belonging to the group and community. When a particular child needs extra coaching, the parents and/or child approaches the coach, and the coach gives the extra one-on-one instruction on the group site, only as requested and needed. The goal of the coach is to get the child back into the group mainstream. The coach networks to get the child the help he/she needs. If Sally needs extra help memorizing her Sabbath School memory verse, the coach will share tips, like word associations, and then encourage other students and/or coaches to practice with Sally. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is a valued part of the community, and trains Sally to be a useful and healthy member of the group and community. Mentoring is community driven and social in nature.

Grooming: A coach meets a child in a group, but then isolates the child from the group, under the guise that the child needs extra and “special” training that only he/she can give. He/she may even claim that Sally should not be working with others, as she may become “confused” by the tips others may give along with the tips he/she provides. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is special when she is around her/him, instead of feeling special to the entire group. Instead of training Sally to be a healthy member of the group and community, the coach teaches Sally to rely on her/him and the special instruction only she/he can give. Grooming is one-on-one driven, and is isolating in nature.

Does this make sense? Does this help? I hope together, we can give a clear picture of what healthy mentoring looks like, as boys and girls can use, not one or two, but many positive male and female mentors in their lives. The more the merrier-and the healthier!