Sunday, November 17, 2013

Daily Decisions: Mini-Crossroads

Daily decisions: Mini Crossroads
Peggy Mack
November 12, 2013

We often refer to monumental changes in our lives as crossroads where a decision we made had an immense effect on us and the rest of our lives.  Hopefully, most of our crossroad decisions were positive ones that helped us along the way of life as we grew in faith and became better people. 

This morning I realized there are mini-crossroads each day which have little monumental effect but can alter a chain of events that effect our lives.  I was brought into a memory of those days, now some ten years in my past, when I was teaching Kindergarten.  My co-workers and I were constantly part of inservice training events that allowed us to stay up-to-date in teaching concepts without having to take college courses while teaching and caring for our families.  I was drawn to early childhood workshops and loved those which focused on "positive reinforcement".  We learned to change our vocal directions to children.  For example, instead of saying, "Stop running!"  We were encouraged to give a positive direction of the goal we had for the child.  "Walk, please. We walk on the sidewalk.  We walk."   The instructor told us that young children heard the last word we speak, so if you say, "Stop running!"  All they hear is RUNNING.  And you can predict a negative outcome.  The child simply continues their negative behavior.

I loved this theory.  It worked so well for me because I love being a positive person.  So if you observed my teaching techniques you might hear me saying, "Sit quietly." or "I like the way the GREEN team is working together quietly."  It made my day so pleasant and I saw the kids respond well to it.  Those who were off track seemed to do well in self-checking and self-adjusting as we went through our scheduled activities.  They, too, wanted to receive positive recognition and to be reward with praise.

At this point when I arrived at the mini-crossroad in my career to "give positive commands", I altered my own attitude about teaching and others' concepts of how I maintained discipline in my classroom.  I was so pleased with the results.  In contrast, at the beginning of my career some twenty years earlier, I was working with a seasoned teacher with "old school" beliefs in tough love. She, too, in her career had made a decision about how to best maintain discipline in her classroom.  She chose to "take care" of disruptive by responding with screaming in the faces of the little rule breakers.  "How many times do I have to tell you to stop running?, she would bellow.  The silent response I made for the little one was, "a zillion times!"  Why?  Because she made the choice to focus on the negative behavior.  She drew attention to it which in turn, reinforced the bad behavior.  She never learned.  She never waivered.  She had made a choice.

Where am I going with this in reference to our Christian lives, you may ask.  Both of us had the same goal:  safety in the classroom.  We did not want the students to be injured which often occured when a child ran in the classroom.  We had arrived at a mini-crossroad that demanded a choice.  We experienced a thousand of those in a career that lasted decades.  The choice was ours in how we responded.  How many times in our family or friendly relationships have we identified a challenge and at the mini-cross road made a decision on how best to handle it.  Here comes the Christian influence injected into our lives where we walk the walk and talk the talk.  When at a mini-crossroad, how do we react?  Do we select the direction that leads our family or friend through our positive guidance or praise when they are on the right track or do we choose the path where we respond with expected disappointment when they fail or criticism when they do the wrong things?  Since we know we are all sinners, then we accept that we are prone to failures.  If that is the case, we should not focus on the negative behavior or response.  If we want to see them respond positively, we would do well to focus on good choices, on successful steps, on concerted efforts. 

What should our response be in that mini-crossroad moment?  What would our Christian response be?  Think of someone in your neighborhood, your family, your Sunday School class, etc.  When you think of someone who opens up to you with their shortcomings, what is your response?  Frustration and criticism are not Christian responses.  Write down their challenge on a sheet of paper.  Write down your probable response.  If it is negative or critical.  Stop and reconsider a more positive, encouraging response.  I have seen it work in the classroom for decades.  The amazing gift from it all was that I loved teaching.  I loved going into my classroom each day and being the head encourager, the chief positive influence, the source of patience and forgiveness.  After all, I was not teaching for a paycheck.  I was teaching because God called me teach when I was in fourth grade, way back in 1960.  Once I felt that spark, I never looked back.  Teaching was a gift from God.  Be a light in someone's life.  Be a positive source of encouragement.  Watch the love grow and the challenges fly by with ease.  Keep your eye open for mini-crossroads.  We have choices to make each day.  Like the old Gospel song says:  The old crossroad now is waiting....which one are you going to take?  One leads down to destruction.  The other leads to the Pearly Gates.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to be aware that in addition to the major decisions of our lives, those crossroads that will alter our lives in a defining way, let us realize that there are mini-crossroads we face each week.  Those decisions can help us way in your light and follow your lead or send us off on our own foolish ways.  Be with us Lord.  Help us to hear and to respond to your guidance in a positive way each day.
In Jesus' Name,

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