Apr 03 2014


Fundamentals

the-sandlot

“This is a simple game.  You throw the ball.  You hit the ball.  You catch the ball.”  (Bull Durham)

The coach’s admonition to his players in this offbeat baseball film is true, isn’t it?  Baseball really is a simple game.  Throwing.  Catching.  Hitting.  Running.  Simple stuff – right?  And yet, the complexities and nuances of baseball are a huge part of what still endears America’s National Pastime to the hearts of diehard fans everywhere.  Don’t confuse simple with easy, either.  In the email I just sent out to parents of the 4th grade baseball team I am coaching this season, I included nine key points for successful batting.  NINE!  And these kids are only ten years old.  Let’s face it, a major leaguer who consistently gets a hit only one out of three at bats is likely headed for the hall of fame.  Hitting a baseball ain’t easy.  And then there is the challenge of knowing where to throw the ball at any given point in the game, based on a number of different factors.  It’s a lot to learn.  It’s a lot to remember.  It’s a lot to execute.  And let’s keep those errors to a minimum.

And it’s a lot of fun!  When we can keep it simple.  So much like life.  Whether we are dealing with marriage, parenting, career issues, addiction recovery, or any other field of play.  There is much to learn.  Much to remember.  Much to execute.  Much to avoid.  But with all the nuances and layers and challenges of life, it really doesn’t have to be so complicated.  Robert Fulghum wrote a bestselling and rather endearing book called, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”  If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you do so.  It’s great stuff – and pretty simple.  The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a lot of heady stuff in his various letters over the years.  But now and then he really boiled life down to the basics…

Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. Take care of God’s needy people and welcome strangers into your home.

Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Be friendly with everyone. Don’t be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people. Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Dear friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,

“I am the one to take revenge and pay them back.”

The Scriptures also say,

“If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads.”

Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

- Romans 12:9-21 (Contemporary English Version)

And how about this one for some serious cosmic perspective?

Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought:

Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others. So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

- Philippians 2:1-11

How’s your game?  How’s my game?  Are we keeping it simple?  Are we respecting, helping, and encouraging our teammates in life?  Are we showing the perseverance to keep going when our team seems down and out?  Are we giving more credit to others than we are striving to get for ourselves?  Are we having fun, while giving our best, while remembering God’s love through Christ’s sacrifice has already settled the score?  Are we doing everything for His glory, in view of His great mercy and love?

PLAY BALL!!!

p.s. – And does anyone know if Harry Caray gave his life to Christ?  Because if there is baseball in Heaven (please, LORD, let there be baseball!), I’d like to think he’s going to be the color commentator.  Just sayin.

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Mar 21 2014


Character

big-phony

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.     – John Wooden

I have one of those inspirational quote a day apps on my iPhone, and this quote from Coach Wooden came up yesterday.  WOW!  It hit me as such a solid foundational truth, and one that is so challenging and personal to me, that I took a screen shot and made it my lock screen image so I will be reminded of it daily.  It seemed pithy and relevant enough to me that I thought it worth sharing with you on my blog.  And so I sat down at my laptop, found a catchy image to accompany it (we are visual creatures, are we not?), and began to write.  “This is such a rich truth that there must be some passage of scripture that would drive this point home more deeply,” I thought to my self.  And so, I opened up BibleGateway.com, and the Holy Spirit hit me with this gem…

“And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.  All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”     Romans 5:4-5 (Contemporary English Version)

This really grabbed my attention, because I am all about finding and sharing HOPE, as you may have guessed by the name of my website, and would certainly know if you have ever visited my office.  (See exhibits A-C from my office below)  And this verse explains where we can obtain the best kind of hope, “a hope that will never disappoint us.”  GREAT!  So real hope that is absolutely dependable to pay off in the end is a product of character.  Brilliant.  Have the right character, get real hope.  Got it.  But it hit me that verse 4 begins with “And,” and this means we are joining Paul in the middle of an inspired thought, so I would do well to go back to the beginning of his topic in order to get the real point.

photo 2photo 4photo 3

“By faith we have been made acceptable to God.  And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God.  Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand.  So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.  But that’s not all!  We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.  All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”     Romans 5:1-5 (Contemporary English Version)

WHAT?!!  Hold up, there, Paul.  Gladly suffer?  I’m looking for hope, and was kinda thinking joy usually gets sprinkled in with that deal.  What’s up with the suffering business?  And “gladly?!?”  WOW!

The truth is my Real Hope ultimately comes through Christ by faith.  I am powerless to save myself, and I am simply too depraved in my sinful nature to ever present myself as acceptable before the throne of the Holy God.  Jesus came to open the door for me.  Thank you beyond all my words, Lord!  But if I want to have real abiding peace in this hope through Christ, I must live with His upright character.  And if I want to develop that kind of high character, I must practice it by enduring suffering.  It is through the fires of trial and temptation that my heart is refined with the kind of fire than can produce high quality character.  I may be able to put on a good show with my public actions that lead to a noble reputation.  But my true character is revealed in the motivations, desires, and words of my heart that are always in God’s plain view, regardless of who else may be looking or seeing the truth about me.  Will I stand on His Word and seek His will and His righteousness and His glory?  Or will I look to my own strength and whatever I can find for myself to make ME feel better or to escape the pain of the suffering.

And I can attest to this truth.  I have lived most of my life with a high reputation.  Most people tend to like me and think well of me.  And sometimes this really is a reflection of the character of Christ living in me.  But other times, it is simply a reflection of how well I can impress people.  Big whooptie-do!  Like that’s of any eternal value.  I know that when I have been living in a place of low character, being motivated by my sinful nature (pride, fear, resentment, lust, greed, etc), rather than by the Holy Spirit of God living in me, I have been stripped of my peace.  And when peace is gone for long enough, hope begins to drain away after it.  By the same token, when I am living with character that is fueled by and reflective of the Living Word of God, I am filled with great peace, hope, and joy.  And when I am living this way, I am really rather unconcerned with what others think of me (my reputation).

Thank you, LORD, for eternally washing me with your blood, your love, and your grace.  Thank you this season of my life for bringing me back to your Word for daily bread.  Thank you for gently, yet firmly, taking my eyes off of the glitter of this world and leading the gaze of my heart back to your glory.  And thank you this week for using an old basketball coach and an iPhone app to remind me how worthless is the pursuit of reputation, and how priceless is the pursuit of character.

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Mar 11 2014


“If you like ‘em…I like ‘em.”

fox

Just by seeing this image, many of you will know immediately the music video my son has repeatedly used to torment me asked me to watch with him.

“Why,” you may ask, “would a reasonable man such as yourself willingly allow his senses to be so mistreated by a loved one?!?  Don’t you know how to say, ‘No?’  Haven’t you told us, right here on your blog, that a good parent knows how to set good boundaries with his/her kids?”

Well, I appreciate your concern, and I am not waffling on my own parenting advice.  I guess I just haven’t forgotten one of my own Dad’s shining moments…

I believe I was in the fifth grade.  (My son is currently in the fourth grade, for what it’s worth.)  The year was 1985.  Think zippered parachute pants, fat high tops, ripped acid-washed jeans, jelly bracelets, and denim jackets covered with buttons bearing smiley faces, corny jokes, and bold proclamations (“You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny!”)  Perhaps you can actually hear the Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Lionel Richie, or Def Leppard in the background.  I finally got the sweet, fat Reebok high tops I had been dreaming of.  And I was eager to trick them out and get them looking their best.  Out with the standard issue laces.  In with the grid of fluorescent orange and purple laces.  Stop laughing.  How goofy did YOU look during the 80s?!

Anyway, picture these bad boys, but with the shoelaces I just described (I SO wish I had a picture of them)…

reeboks

Jealous much, Heather?  Sorry, 80s flick flashback.  Where was I?  Right – Dad.

So, after tricking out my high-tops, I proudly marched into my parents’ bedroom, where my Dad was sitting on his bed reading a book or something.  “Hey, Dad,” I said with a beaming grin and a gleam in my eye.  “What do you think of my new laces?”  I will never forget my Dad’s brilliant response.  It was truly one of the best moments we ever shared.  He looked down at the outlandish gear on my feet, paused for a couple of seconds, and then slowly and seriously exclaimed in his Tennessee/Arkansas manner…

“Son…if you like ‘em…I like ‘em.”

What he meant was, “I can’t believe you would voluntarily make an already ugly pair of footwear look that much uglier.  You have actually done everything possible to draw attention to the fact that you clearly have no reasonable standards of fashion decency.  Wow, now I know what Bill Cosby meant when he said all children have brain damage!  But I love you, so I will smile and nod, and I will refrain from saying what I really think about this visual atrocity which obviously makes you so proud you can’t wipe the silly smile off your face.  I will even show you some supportive encouragement.  You’re my son, and I’m proud of you.  And I want you to know that more than I want you to know what I think of your present immaturity.”

And the lesson I learned was that sometimes kids get really into seriously silly or obnoxious stuff, and parents aren’t going to like it at all.  But if it isn’t harmful to them, and they really identify with it, we would do well to be supportive and recognize them identifying with their goofy stuff.

Thanks, Dad!  I don’t know if you saw me watching “What Does the Fox Say?” on YouTube with your oldest grandson in his bedroom tonight, or not.  Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you.  Thanks for the lesson.  And for what it’s worth, be thankful we didn’t have YouTube back then.  At least you didn’t have to listen to those awful shoelaces of mine.  Oh, man, I REALLY hope Shep doesn’t decide to get a flattop permed mullet in junior high!  Wait, did I just post that?…

 

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Mar 04 2014


I survived my first budget meeting! (And you can, too)

FPU

Talk is cheap.  I won’t make a big to-do at this point about my new journey with my wife and family into Financial Peace via Dave Ramsey’s course at our church until I have stuck with it for long enough to have something to really talk about.  For now, I will stick to the following observations:

1. Even though our first budget meeting went approximately two hours and thirteen minutes longer than Dave recommends for a “Free Spirit” (read: rebellious type with ADD) like me, I survived to tell the tale.  My spleen didn’t even rupture, or anything.  Our future monthly budget meetings shouldn’t take nearly as long, and I am actually beginning to get excited about the process.

2. My wife, who doesn’t really get any more excited than I do about hammering out financial particulars, seems to appreciate her husband finally “manning up” and engaging in the process of financial management with her.  Guys, if you have been hiding from your finances and leaving your wife to keep the accounts together, it’s time to step up and take care of “bidness.”

3. If you have not yet learned about the power of compound interest, and how it is either working for or against you, I recommend getting educated immediately.  Dave Ramsey can certainly help you with this.

4. My wife is an amazing, lovely, and patient woman who shows me so much grace – I hardly know what to say in response.

5. When you start using cash, instead of plastic, you suddenly become aware of the importance of little things – like returning items to the store that it turns out you didn’t need for your home improvement project.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  And if you, or anyone you know, could really use some common-sense financial guidance that will lead toward genuine freedom and peace, I would heartily recommend Dave Ramsey’s materials to you.

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Jan 23 2014


Home Improvement

couple-painting (This image was so gloriously cheesy that I simply couldn’t resist using it!)

 

Thanks to a generous Christmas gift, my wife and I are now moving forward with some home improvements that we have been hoping to do for some time now.  Paint, caulk, counter tops, sinks, quarter rounds, molding, ceiling popcorn, cabinet hardware, flooring tiles – it seems the details and materials required are growing by the week!  Thankfully, we are now in a position to pay professionals to do much of the labor for us, so we won’t end up on an episode of “Renovation Realities.”  Whew!  But I didn’t post this to brag about getting a new home makeover.  I’ve been off of Facebook long enough now that I’m just out of that mode.  Thank God for freedom!!!

I have a simple message to share today: House upgrade projects can either be home improvements or home wreckers.  It really depends on your attitude.  Your relationship with your spouse, and even with your kids, can either be brought closer or eroded by the way you face the challenges of remodeling in your home.

It really depends on your attitude.

Oh, I guess I already said that, didn’t I? A couple of years or so ago, my wife and I decided to paint our kitchen cabinets.  It was not a pleasant time.  And our marriage took a hit.  Why?  Because my attitude stank.  I wanted my wife to just come to immediate decisions without ever changing her mind, be thrilled with any effort I was willing to throw at the project, and for her and our son to never say a word to me or look in my direction if I was in a tired or frustrated spot (which was probably most of the time I was in or near the house) for the duration of the undertaking.  Not a pretty picture.  And the sad part is…I’m not exaggerating.

The good news is – I learned my lesson.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  It really doesn’t.  Which brings us up to today:  We have a half bath that is in total disarray, and I am only semi-confident we may have finally figured out how to solve our flooring conundrum in there.  All our bathroom cabinets are primed, unpainted, and missing their knobs.  We have a very large Oriental rug rolled up and stored underneath the middle of our dining room table.  There is a bathroom vanity unit sitting in our dining room.  We have carpet swatches scattered around our bedroom.  There are two wadded up rags hanging out of the ceiling in our master bath area.  Solid surface countertop brochures and images litter our tables and iPhone camera rolls, and we still haven’t nailed down a selection.  Assuming we don’t change our minds and start looking at granite options again.  There are sixteen foot lengths of quarter rounds precariously perched in our garage near the big sheet of bead board, while the rear driveway shows obvious signs of the paint job I just gave said items.  Let’s see, what am I forgetting?…

Oh, yeah – IT’S GOING GREAT!!!  Seriously.  No sarcasm involved.  I am thrilled with the process of our home improvement project.  Okay, having some extra money and some really excellent trustworthy professionals on hand helps.  Not gonna lie.  But that isn’t the biggest difference.  The big difference is my attitude.  My wife and I are having fun.  We are coming together and bonding in the process.  It’s exciting.  We are learning and growing together.  Heck, even my son is starting to get over his disdain for two hour Lowe’s/Home Depot outings, and getting into it with us.  I’m pretty sure I caught him smiling as he felt carpet samples the other day.

Challenges can bring couples and families closer together or tear them apart.  They can be exciting opportunities for growth.  Or they can bring out our worst destructive natures.  What makes the difference?

It really depends on your attitude.

Be patient.  Be kind.  Serve with gratitude.  Listen carefully.  Think things through.  Consider advice and new ideas.  Be quick to forgive.  Try new things.  Don’t gloat.  Get your rest.  Take breaks when needed.  Ask for help when needed.  Be generous with thanks and honest compliments.  Celebrate victories.  Don’t wallow in defeats.

And be sure to play Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Quirkle along the way!  Have fun.  : )

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Jan 09 2014


Game On!

family-playing-bard-game-together

One of the memories I cherish about my childhood family life is the way we would regularly play games together.  I loved playing Hungry Hungry Hippo, Mr Mouth, Clue, Yahtzee, Stratego, Monopoly, Guess Who, Risk, and other games with my parents and my two sisters.  I learned about following instructions, paying attention to details, reading people, communicating effectively and respectfully, gracious winning and losing, patience, and so much more.  And it was just fun.  I mean…Mr Mouth – talk about passin a good time!  : )

And probably more than anything, playing games frequently with my family helped me develop a secure sense of family connection and continuity.  As long as we were playing a game together, it just felt like our world was okay.  I’m so thankful for that.  And nothing captured that spirit more than playing our family favorite – Rook.  My Mom and older sister were always partners, and Dad and I were always partners.  (Sorry, little sis, I’m thinking back to the days before you really joined the family gaming in earnest, and we moved on to other games.)  In addition to always knowing it would be girls vs guys teams, there was another thing you could always count on.  Dad and I always won.  I can honestly only remember one exception to this, and it was quite an experience for Mom and my sister to win.  I remember as a kid, always wondering why in the world Mom or my sister never insisted on being Dad’s partner, since we all knew his team would win.  As I got older, I realized it wasn’t worth it to them to have to live up to Dad’s expectations of his partner.  They just had fun playing.

And for me, it wasn’t so much that I loved all the winning (although I’ll admit I did thoroughly enjoy that).  I think it was a combination of two things.  I felt a sense of wonder and honor at learning from the man who was clearly the best Rook player in the world.  And I felt deeply affirmed by my Dad that he trusted me as his partner, even though I was the youngest player, had trouble focusing, and never mastered the ability to remember everything that had been played already (let alone developing Dad’s uncanny ability to know what cards other players had in our hands before we played them).  Heck, I still remember the early days when I couldn’t even hold my cards in my hand like a fan, and I would lay them face up on the piano bench next to my chair.  And I loved it.  I loved every game of Rook we played.  I was part of something magical.  I felt kinda grown up.  And I did do a lot of growing up along the way.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for making our family a game playing family.  You blessed us richly with that.

I am so thankful to my lovely wife for joining me in making our family a game playing family – especially since playing family games wasn’t really her thing when we got married.  But man, did she convert!  I have such wonderful memories of our newlywed years of playing games like Yahtzee and Skip-Bo nearly every night.  Sometimes it was even our gaming traditions that helped us resolve the marital conflict of the day, because, doggone it, it was time to play some Phase 10 or Mancala or whatever.  Bon Temps!  (That’s “Good Times” for those North of I-10.)  Playing games together as a couple really did help us to bond, deepen our friendship, and develop a firmly rooted sense of connected identity.

And family game playing is more fun than ever these days, now that my son has developed beyond the early days of Candyland, checkers, Connect Four, and such.  The three of us absolutely love a rousing game of Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride (huge thanks to our best friends, the Stuarts, for introducing us to both of these), and I’m also eager to try out the Qwirkle game we got for Christmas from a friend.  Our two family faves of Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are fun and challenging.  They push each of us to think ahead as well as to interact with one another both competitively and cooperatively.  There is a certain level of determination and persistence that is required for both.  And you can’t win either game without feeling a genuine sense of accomplishment at having done so.  Incidentally, our bright ten year old is just as likely to win either of these games as my wife or I are, for those who may be curious about age requirements.  (No, I’m not getting any kickbacks from either of these newer game making companies.)  I sincerely hope my son will one day look back on his own childhood with as much joy, satisfaction, and appreciation for our family game times as I do on mine.

What memories will your kids have about playing family games in your home?  What are they learning?  How are you using games as a growing and bonding tool in your family?  What fond memories do you have of favorite family games?  If you’re coming up short answering these questions, I hope you’ll open up a game with your family and start some new fun traditions.  You will all be blessed in the process.

p.s. – It just occurred to me that playing classic dominoes with my grandfather was just as wonderful and magical as playing Rook with Dad.  Thanks, Granddad, for every patient game you played with me.  You never hid the fact that you wanted your grandkids to score as much or more as you did.  That always amazed and encouraged me.  I miss playing dominoes with you, Granddad, as much as I miss playing Rook with you, Dad.  Can’t wait to experience family game nights in Heaven with both of you.

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Nov 12 2013


Changing Seasons

leaves

I simply love the changing of seasons.  It’s one of those elements of God’s earthly creation that makes me marvel, smile, and tip my hat to Him.  And my favorite season change has got to be the change from summer to fall (even though it does bring with it the accursed pollination of r@gweed).  Of course, here in South Louisiana, we only have three legitimate season changes, so the field of choice is narrowed.  The emergence of one season from another is a promise that change is coming, with a new set of opportunities, experiences, and growth.  And autumn, in particular, is a season of finding the beauty in saying goodbye to what was once vibrant and green, so that life can continue on with greater health and vigor in the coming year.

And so I find myself reflecting on the six years I have spent as an avid Facebooker.  During that time, I took several Facebook fasts (all of which were very healthy for me), and really thought about pulling the plug a couple of times.  Frankly, those couple of times came from what I believed to be promptings from The Holy Spirit, but I found a way to talk myself into staying – usually by focusing on what I saw as the redemptive qualities of my use of the medium.  And there certainly were redemptive elements.  Offering words of encouragement and guidance.  Responding to those who were struggling.  Rejoicing with those who were experiencing the highs of life.  Sharing resources I believed to be helpful for a variety of life issues.  Posting pictures of God’s beautiful creation (with a curiously high concentration of frog photos for the last several months).  Even keeping up with significant news events (I pulled the plug on watching TV news some years back).

But the time has come for me to respond in obedience to my Lord, Father, Redeemer, and Friend.  He is calling me to focus.  He is calling me to invest more deeply, rather than so broadly.  He is calling me to live with purpose (according to His good will) and self-control and discipline.  I must thank my pastor, Hans Googer, for being the willing and eager instrument of God’s word of direction and challenge to me on Sunday.  I don’t know what changes are coming as a result of the falling of the Facebook leaves from the tree of my life.  And I am learning to be a bit more circumspect in making bold assertions as to what I will be doing months, or even weeks, from now.

What I do know is simply this.  Making the decision to pull the Facebook plug was ridiculously difficult for me, and I believe that idols are not simply passive things that fall down when we seek to serve the One True God more fully.  Idols reach deeply into our hearts and put down roots.  They seek to remain and to dominate us.  And doing away with them is a difficult, cleansing battle of the heart.  As hard as it was to get here, I am already feeling lighter and freer.  I am eager to see where God is leading me to invest my time and attention more deeply, and I am most enthusiastic to participate with Him in surrendered partnership on this new season of the journey.

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Oct 28 2013


Using Halloween as a Creativity Catalyst

Roger the rodeo clown

(Granted – I didn’t win any costume awards a few years ago as a kind of Raggedy Andy-ish rodeo clown.  But I had a lot of fun with it, and got plenty of laughs and weird looks.  Believe it or not, I’m guy who likes to play things safe, and taking this risk was really good for me.)

 

Active creativity is such a powerful asset in anyone’s life, and it is often the key to setting someone apart from the crowd and leading a person down a path of success and making a truly meaningful impact on the world.  While teachers, coaches, pastors, and other adults can be instrumental in encouraging creative development in our kids, no one is better positioned to do so than parents!  Ironically, this time of year, where folks are putting so much effort into looking like someone else, can be a wonderful opportunity for parents to nurture individual creativity and bold courage in our kids.

Some families encourage Halloween creativity by having kids develop their own costumes, rather than buying a pre-assembled one from the store.  But even if your family will be using purchased costumes, you can challenge your kids to add their own creative enhancements to their ensemble.  Be sure you commend them far more for their creative energy and efforts than for how “professional” is their final look.  Following directions to produce exacting results is a great life skill for math, science,  and other areas, but unless your child has dreams of being a Hollywood costume designer or special effects artist, they will benefit more from the exercise of being creative costume builders than precise ones.

Another way to encourage creativity during Halloween activities is to challenge kids to come up with the best trick-or-treat lines to use at each house.  Sure, good ole “Trick-or-Treat!” has been working for decades.  But how about finding something more clever and in-character?  Just be sure to impress upon your kids to be respectful to their neighbors.

And what better avenue is there during Halloween dress up season for nurturing creativity than using the ultimate tool of self-expression: YouTube?!?  Have a video contest for your kids and their friends while they are in full character.  Whoever comes up with the most creative and clever video wins the honor of having you post it on YouTube for all their friends to see.

 

It has been a tradition in our family the last several years that my son and I go with some friends to the Bluebonnet Swamp Haunted Hike in October (we went twice this year!).  Costumes are encouraged, and this year my lad decided he wanted to be a ninja.  We challenged him to see what he could produce from the materials in his own bedroom.  Incidentally, searching through his bedroom for costume materials is actually not too different from going on the actual Haunted Hike.  But I digress.  Several minutes later, he emerged from his bedroom/swamp to ceremoniously present his ninja-clad self to his Mom in the living room.  He had actually done quite a good job pulling it together, and I had offered just a couple of extra touches for him at his request (nothing like a ninja headband cut out of one of Dad’s old black socks!).  My wife was duly impressed, and told him she really liked the creative way he came up with his ninja look.  Without missing a beat, Shep proclaimed, “I think a lot of kids may be jealous of my costume this year!”  Now, mind you – we don’t want to raise up an arrogant, vain young man.  And with an only child, we must be careful about leading him down that kind of path.  But this wasn’t that kind of comment.  It was a simple, genuine statement of confidence in the work he had put into his costume.  He knew he had really done his best, and he was eager to show off his handiwork to the crowd at the swamp.  Not sure how many jealous kids were there that night.  But I do know our home contained two pleased parents who were glad to see creativity, effort, and delightful satisfaction on display in our nine year old.

 

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Sep 30 2013


Training Kids to Succeed

I have recently begun leading a two month parenting class at our church.  (It’s at The Chapel in the Oaks on Siegen Lane at 9:00 am on Sunday mornings.  We would love to have you join us!)  You know, there is really nothing like teaching a class to remind you how much you need to learn and grow.  Doing what I do for a living, none of this material is really new to me.  But there is just something about facilitating discussion of someone else’s material that really helps me to stop thinking like an “expert” and get back to thinking like a parent in my own household.  This week I was reminded of a bedrock principle I teach my client-parents:

Parenting Like You Mean It! places a higher priority on training kids for success than on correcting their errors.

Correction is important, and kids will suffer greatly in the long run if their parents do not consistently correct them when they are out of line.  But even more important is taking regular time to explain and show them how to do whatever it is we want them to do well.  Perhaps an illustration from my household will help you see what I mean…

My son is in the fourth grade and seems to be utterly unfazed by sporting teeth that look like some kind of science experiment.  Or maybe he has simply found a most convenient way to carry around an extra little snack for those tricky times when he just can’t stop to grab anything.  “No problem!  I’ve got a whole wedge of cheese and half a chicken nugget stored right here between my upper right cuspid and incisor.  I’m good to go.”  Trust me, at this point you should be thankful I decided not to include a picture with this post.

I’m sure my wife and I both have taken the time to show him how to brush his teeth well.  His Nana probably has, too.  But lately, it seems we have been pouring lots of energy into checking his teeth when he is “done” and sending him back for a second brushing, and not so much energy into training and modeling good dental hygiene.  We have been fairly consistent on this issue, and even felt pretty good about how calmly we have been handling it (most of the time).  But his teeth have still been looking like rotting cheese.  So much for calm, consistent correction getting the job done (alone).

Then, I’m preparing for class this weekend, and it hits me, “Maybe I should start brushing my teeth WITH the lad every night!”  Remember that old V-8 television add where the person would smack his own forehead and exclaim, “I shoulda had a V-8!”?  Yeah, it was one of those moments.  So now I am brushing my teeth at the second sink in my son’s bathroom, making minimal commentary in the process.  And guess what?  His teeth are already cleaner.  Go figure.

Oh CRUD – now I’m finally going to have to start flossing!

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Sep 03 2013


Beginning the Sex Conversation

April-2010ParentChild

I wrote the following post a couple of years ago in a series entitled “Having the Tough Talks.”  At that time, I had not yet begun the sex conversation with my own son.  We have recently crossed that bridge, so I thought it appropriate to re-post this one with some updates.  See my updated comments and a big list of resources after the italicized re-post:

Hoping you can somehow forever avoid talking to your kids about sex?  You aren’t alone.  But you also need to face your fears, say a prayer, dig deep, and dive in with your kids.  You may want to start with this post about having the Tough Talks with kids.

As promised in my Parenting 101 interview, below is a big list of varioius resources to parents to help you in talking with your kids about sex as you lead them toward healthy sexuality and making wise choices for themselves.  I would encourage you to take some time browsing through these various resources, and see what is most helpful for you and your family.  First, here are a couple of simple tips to keep in mind:

Having the Tough Talks: SEX

Q.  Why is it so important for parents to talk to our kids about sex?  Can’t kids figure it out on their own?

A.  As long as you don’t mind your kids learning about sex via porn, other kids who think they are experts, experimentation, or entertainment choices that offer no moral guidance, then you really don’t need to concern your self with having this Tough Talk.  Sure, they can figure it out on their own.  Let me know how that works out for them!

Q.  What can parents do about their fears or awkwardness regarding having this Tough Talk?

A.  Before you let your fears and awkwardness stop you from talking with your kids about sex, consider how much trouble they can find sexually if you don’t talk with them.  Maybe your fear for what your kids could experience without your guidance will help motivate you to plunge in and get the talk going.  Also, don’t expect that you have to talk it all out in one big conversation.  Start with some basic information and guidelines before moving into all the nitty-gritty details.  And be sure to offer basic moral guidelines throughout the process.  You will offer the best guidance for your kids with the least stress for both of you if you will work toward making sexuality a part of an ongoing conversation between you where questions and comments can be offered without shame or reactivity.

UPDATES FROM THE “VETERAN” SEX EDUCATOR:

  • Having the initial conversation/explanation with your child doesn’t have to be an ordeal.  Prepare, pray, keep calm, and stay at a level of information your child can handle.
  • As I mentioned in the previous post, DO NOT try to approach this as the one big, perfect talk that covers all things sexual.  Don’t even try to have The Talk.  You are having the first in an ongoing series of conversations that may well span for ten years or more.  Set the tone that you are available and comfortable to talk with your child (then teen) about anything related to sexuality anytime, and that you are committed to being his/her best source of information.
  • I chose to have the first talk with my son about sex as he is beginning the fourth grade at 9 1/2 years old.  Ideally, I would prefer to wait a couple more years to really dive into this subject with him.  However, in today’s world of media bombardment, if I don’t begin this process early, I will be late to the party, so to speak.  Others will have gotten to him first, more than likely with inaccurate information, questionable morality, and less than savory delivery.  Parents, whether you like it or not now, you DO want to be first in line to open the door of sexuality with your kids.  You want to be the one to set the tone and be sure they start on the right path with the right guidance in this often treacherous domain.
  • I am not sitting back waiting for him to make the next conversational move, now that I have had the initial explanatory talk with my son.  I am finding small opportunities to make calm, relevant comments about sexuality here and there.  I don’t want to overdo this and embarrass or frustrate him.  I do want to make it clear that this is a perfectly normal topic that is significant in the daily fabric of life, and that I am perfectly comfortable to discuss it with him without it turning into some awkward situation for either one of us.

If you have any questions or comments about this issue (or any other, for that matter), please feel free to share them with me by either commenting on this post or sending me an email via the on-screen boxes in the right column.  Blessings to you and your household!

Living in a “Porn is the Norm” Culture (article from CPYU)

Love’s Got Everything To Do With It! (article from CPYU)

Guess Who’s coming to Breakfast (article from CPYU)

Questions Kids Ask About Sex: Honest Answers For Every Age (paperback)

God’s Design for Sex Series (4 books at 4 developmental levels)

Learning About Sex For Boys (5 books at 5 developmental levels)

Learning About Sex For Girls (5 books at 5 developmental levels)

Teens And Sex (booklet from CPYU)

Pornography (booklet from CPYU)

Next Time I Fall In Love (book)

Sex Q & A (booklet)

Talking About Sex (article from Focus on the Family)

Talking to Tweens About Love, Sex, and Relationships (article from Focus on the Family)

Healthy Childhood Sexual Development (article from Focus on the Family)

How to Start Early (article from Focus on the Family)

Sex Education (articles, etc from Family Life)

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