The Curries

The Curries
Keith and Patricia

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

RELATIONSHIP: "Eat your food, son..."

     This blog is not ours, not directly. It is Jean-Luc's. He wrote this not long ago, and I asked him if I could reprint it on our blog. So, from Jean-Luc's perspective, come sit with us at dinner.

     Our dinner table was always a center of laughter, of joy, of stories and songs, of the day's events, of schedules and commitments, and of discipline and correction. I view our table with deep has fostered so much that I see as necessary to my growth. It also fostered memories which I cherish and will re-live when my childhood is far behind me.

     Our table was a place where we entertained guests, foreigners, the homeless, the helpless, relatives, outcasts, and friends. It was where Dad taught us to sing, and dutifully bore our painful, childish screaming attempt in the process. Our table heard conversations about God, life, government, sports, money, marriage, children, wine, food, church, the military, family, and about love.

     The round shape of our dinner table has puzzled me. When I was younger, I viewed it as an oddity (after all, none of my friends had round tables). As I grow older, it signifies the respect and equality which my parents show us when we come together as a family. No person's opinion is omitted or overlooked; everyone is responsible to contribute. The things for which the table stands are an integral part of my being. I was shaped and molded, I grew and developed, I laughed and loved (and even lied occasionally) at our round table. That table represents values, memories, and lessons which I cannot divorce from my childhood. The importance is inestimable; the lessons, invaluable; the memories, irreplaceable.

     It was at the table that I was taught to serve. Meal times were a priority in our house. We sat, ate, and prayed together. Because of the large fanfare it took to feed six children and two parents, meals were a daily, family activity. Through setting the table, wiping the table, bringing food, sweeping, etc...I learned humility. I had to humble myself, submitting myself to the will of my parents and siblings, and serve them. I learned that service requires humility.

     It was at the table that I was taught to love. Meals were not always a smooth affair. Occasionally, conversation became heated (or I would kick my little brother under the table). Drinks might be spilled, or food catapulted across the room. Through the chaos, we conversed with one another, and shared life together. I learned (and am still learning) to care about what others were saying, and about what they thought. My parents practiced endless patience and love in dealing with me and my siblings.

     It was at the table where I learned to listen. Listening, for me, was, is, and will be one of my most difficult challenges. As a young lad, I came home bursting with stories of the day's adventures, happenings, and mishaps. Meal times were an opportunity for me to narrate the day's fantastic events to an audience of seven interested listeners! Or not.
      Dad was constantly correcting me, "Son, it's not about you. How many people are at this table?"
      "Eight." I responded.
      "Therefore, you should talk one-eighth of the time, and listen the other seven-eighths."
      When I did talk too much (which was often), he would calmly redirect my exuberant energy..."Eat your food, son."

     Meal times, whether it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner, forced us to listen to one another. It forced me to focus on someone else's day, priorities, agenda, or story. It forced me to hear what was going on in their lives, thereby forcing me to be a part of it. And this coercion was in no way demeaning nor detrimental to my development. On the contrary, it made me value people where I otherwise would have focused on myself. "All the world's a stage," but I am not the main actor.

     We loved one another; therefore, we listened to one another. Through listening we learned about each other. As we learned, we discovered what each person needed, and we met those needs. By meeting each family member's needs, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, we were serving. By serving each other, we loved each other. Because we loved one another we valued the other person, and their thoughts and ideas. Because we valued them, we listened to them. As we listened, we discovered their needs, and met those needs. We served. We loved. We listened. And the cycle continues. Serving, loving, and listening are all interconnected. As you follow the cycle, relationships are taken deeper – to new levels. More listening creates more service which shows more love, and so on. And the relationship continues to deepen and germinate, and soon there is rich connection.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DISCIPLINE: Why? Relationship!

Why do we discipline?
“They break the rules.”
“They need to be trained.”
“To keep order in the home.”
“To teach obedience.”
All of these answers are true, but there is a deeper reason.

     Jean-Luc and Dan, our two youngest, are about as different as two young men could be. Jean-Luc is driven, goal-oriented, and directive. Dan is laid back, compliant, fun-loving. When they were younger, Jean-Luc gave orders and Danny followed; but as they have matured and walked through teen years together, Dan developed more of his own mind. He became resentful of Jean-Luc’s “bossing,” and hostility began to show up between the two. Words were sharp and patience with one another was gone. The rules kept being broken because the relationship was broken. We shut everything down on more than one occasion and worked on the relationship. As parents we helped them get to the root of the problem. Getting them to talk it out, to bring out the issues, to ask forgiveness, and to restore the relationship. Then they tried again. Little by little their relationship improved and today is much better.
     When Patricia’s aunt stayed with us for a week after Patrick’s wedding, she commented, “Your kids get along so well.” It is true. It has been by our design, because we believe that it is God’s design. In faith we tried to implement what Jesus taught: What is in the heart comes out in relationships.

Heb. 12:11  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
The word righteousness can be simplified to mean “right relationships.” The goal of discipline is to bring about a harvest of right relationships. Nothing is more important. If we make righteousness only a Godward, religious term, we miss its application in everyday life. Absolutely, our relationship with God comes first, and it is closely followed by our relationships with one another. As a matter of fact, the scripture clearly teaches that our relationship with God is on display in our relationship with others. Discipline at its best will produce God-reflecting relationships.

James 2: 8  If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.
At the core of any law or rule should be this concept: rules help us live together better. They guard and nourish relationships. The reality is that when rules are broken, some relationship is broken. The discipline should point to the relationship and mend it. Rules serve relationships.

Matthew 22: 37-39  Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
     When Jesus was asked about the greatest rule or commandment, he taught that the purpose of the commandments were the love relationship: love of God, love of others.
     Once this becomes clear to us, we can see it everywhere in the scriptures. The Pharisees were obsessed with getting things right. So they created rules and more rules. Jesus stepped into their world and taught and demonstrated not a petty rightness but a glorious righteousness (right relationship), and the Pharisees were confused and angry. They just did not understand that we can be right but not righteous. Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.
     When we insist on being right, we often offend. Years ago, a friend angrily told me, “You always think you are right.” It was not a compliment. Broken relationships have taught me to see others differently and to value them as eternal. God is always right; I am not. He says to love others, love your neighbors, love your brothers, love your enemies. After I have mastered these things, I might work on being right.

Let’s kick our “Pharisee rightness” out and let the Jesus-righteousness  in.
If we discipline with that in mind, our kids will get it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

RELATIONSHIP: Our First Wedding

Patrick, our oldest son, married Melody Strom this past Sunday afternoon. I was struck with the richness of the event. Of course, the food was good, the ceremony was heart-tugging, the reception celebratory, full of laughter and dancing hearts. Melody was beautiful, and Patrick was a bucket of tears, as was most of his immediate family. If the Curries have a family trait, it is probably that we blubber all over ourselves in our happiest moments. What a way to show happiness!
Every wedding has its own endearing surprises. For almost everyone, this particular wedding’s memories will include the challenge of finding the way to the Marquardt Ranch. Some said the directions were erroneous, others incomplete, and then others simply had trouble knowing left and right. Yet the wedding itself did not take a wrong turn. The scenic ride to the Marquardt Ranch was filled with crossing streams of running water, discovering fields of Texas Bluebonnets, and even spotting deer and turkey along the way. Split rail fences, stone fences, and fences made of mesquite posts stacked side-by-side.
The ranch itself was a beautiful stone structure atop a shady hill, surrounded by pastures and fields. The bride and groom exchanged their vows overlooking a beautiful flowing stream bordered on the opposite bank by yellow wildflowers. Although the day was overcast and threatened rain, the spirits of the guests were not dampened in the least. A middle eastern tune played by the DJ called forth the Arab Debka dance , Patrick riding on the shoulders of his brother Will and Greg Marconi. Soon Texas seemed to be a middle-eastern melting pot, Greek music playing, Patricia and the Jajeh family leading the Debka according to their Palestinian heritage, and several people joining in because they thought it was a Jewish dance. Such is the beauty of cultures and families coming together in a wedding.
I was struck by how rich we are in friends and people. The Strom family was gracious and worthy of the occasion. Randy and Jody, Melody’s parents, were the reception hosts, generously sharing their joy with everyone. Several of the local San Antonio church community gave of themselves to decorate, bake and clean up at the end. The out of town visitors from both families added so much with their presence and sacrifice. Nebraska, Ohio, Colorado, California, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas all celebrated together. Farmers, doctors, lawyers, geeks, educators, all entered into unity to savor the moment, to share the joy of the day.
I withdrew for a few moments and walked outside to the edge of the little cliff overlooking the winding Joshua River. I simply gave thanks. For the marriage. For marriage as God’s idea. For family. For community that thrives and rejoices when marriage is honored and upheld as a gift from God to us. For the depth of a God-honoring community that spans miles and states and continents. For the contribution that each new person brings to our lives and to the lives of our children.
Once again the hope of God rose up in me. The next generation will be blessed.In the midst of frustrations, struggles, and pain, there is still joy in the journey. The cause of Christ will continue to spread and grow throughout the earth and throughout time. And our greatest riches are in the people that God has joined with us.
O Lord, I have learned
To compose my soul in quietness
Like a child content in mommy’s lap
I don’t ask you for a thing.
O people, let us learn
That our hope is in the Highest;
From now until forever,
It is He who makes us sing.