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Taken the garbage out lately?

A friend and I were talking about different ways to get our children to obey us without nagging at them. A recent challenge for her and her son had been her request that he take out the garbage. He said no, and it took a lot of convincing- sometimes known as nagging –  to finally get him to comply with her request. We brainstormed for a different approach, and hit upon this idea:

What are the consequences of not taking out the garbage? Nothing very understandable to a 9 yr old boy. So,  the next time this happens, without nagging, the proposed plan is to tell him, ‘If you don’t take the garbage out, then I will put it where I think best.’ Then the garbage will be put next to his bed. When he says he doesn’t like it there, Mom will tell him “That is where I thought it was best to put it since it didn’t go in the garbage can.” She will explain that it will stay next to his bed until the next day, when she will ask him to take it out to the garbage can again. Even though he offers to take the garbage out right then and there, she will not let him take it out to the garbage can. He must face the consequences of his decision. This youngster shares his bedroom with a sibling,  and it doesn’t seem fair to subject his brother to the smell of garbage in the room, but part of this exercise is to illustrate that our decisions do affect people around us.  Mom will let the garbage remain next to the child’s bed  until he sees the wisdom of taking it out to the garbage can when he is asked.
See any spiritual parallels here? I do. I know I have been prompted by the Holy Spirit to take care of garbage in my life, and I have refused to do it – to confess it and ask for God’ s help in cleaning up the mess it has created and the people it has offended. I need to take my sinful garbage out, and let the Lord remove it ‘as far as the East is from the West.” I am plenty stubborn, though, and have certainly sat in my own stinky garbage for long stretches.
 Lord, help me to learn this lesson – that it is for my own sake that you show me my sin, my garbage, and help me to respond in obedience to your Holy Spirit’s leading to ask for forgiveness. “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7
Remember this poem by Shel Silverstein?

SARAH CYNTHIA SYLVIA STOUT
WOULD NOT TAKE THE GARBAGE OUT
Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
“OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!

Shel Silverstein, 1974


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