Archive for January 28, 2012

I Want My Children to Have It All

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
I want my children to have it all. That’s right, I want them to be lacking in nothing! Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about them getting all the material possessions and privileges they think they deserve. No, that would just result in another spoiled and entitled person. We have enough of those in our society. Let me explain exactly what I mean when I say I want my children to lack nothing.
     ·         I want my children to lack nothing in basic care. I want them to have the security of a roof over the head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. Even more, I want them to have no lack of joy under our roof or around our dinner table. I have met people who grew up relatively poor but never knew it. Why? Because their parents always made sure basic needs were met without complaint. They sacrificed material luxuries in order to provide essential material needs while leaving time and energy for relational luxuries. I want my children to have all the wonderful memories associated with contentment at home that we can muster.
     ·         I want my children to lack nothing when it comes to my time. I want them to know that I value them enough to give them the generous gift of my time. I want them to lack no assurance that they have my ear when they need it. That I will take the time to listen when they talk, the time to celebrate when they succeed, the time to support when they struggle, and the time to comfort when they mourn. I want my children to lack nothing when it comes to my time.
     ·         I want my children to lack nothing in terms of the emotional comfort I can give them. I want them to rest assured that I always have a hug for them or an encouraging word to offer. I want them to know that they can always come to me and find a shoulder to cry on, a congratulatory slap on the back, or a comforting hug to hold them. I want my children to have absolute assurance that they lack nothing in regard to the emotional comfort available in our home.
     ·         I want my children to lack nothing in joy. I want them to remember a home filled with laughter and joy. I want them to look back on their days in our house and recall music, joking, and fun activities. I want my children to have all the wonderful memories of a home filled with laughter and joy that I can make possible. 
     ·         I want my children to lack nothing in the knowledge that they are loved and accepted. Even more, I want my children to know that I delight in them. I want them to see my eyes sparkle with excitement when they walk in the room. I want them to lack nothing in the realization that they are loved and accepted just as they are; to know that I delight in them beyond measure.
     ·         I want my children to lack nothing in their sense of security. I want them to see a marriage that is strong, stable, and committed for the long term. I want them to know they live under my watchful eye. I want them to have the assurance that even in my momentary anger and discipline, their safety and well-being remain uppermost in mind. They are as secure as possible under the watchful, loving eye of their parents. I want them to lack nothing in that sense of security.
I will falter in my attempts to give it all to my children. I will make mistakes. I will grow tired and miss the mark. It is in those moments that I want my children to recall that they lack nothing in regards to my love for them. I love them deeply and completely. And, that love will cover a multitude of mistakes.

7 Valentine’s Day Ideas for Family

Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away, time to come up with a romantic idea or two. You might also think of a creative way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family…after all, you love each person in your family. Why not celebrate love with everyone in your family? In case you haven’t made any plans yet, here are a couple ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
     ·         Send cards or flowers to everyone in your family. Mail them or use email cards. Put a card and a flower on the table for them to find at breakfast. Have a bouquet of flowers sent to them at home or work. Don’t forget to include a simple note in the card or with the flowers.
     ·         Maybe your family would enjoy a fruit, cookie, or balloon bouquet more than flowers. If so, have it delivered to your home and then take the time to sit down as a family to enjoy the love…along with a cookie, piece of fruit, or a quick game of balloon volleyball.
     ·         Write each member of your family a love letter. It may seem odd to write a love letter to your son or daughter, so maybe call it a letter of blessing instead.  Either way, take the time to write them a lesson expressing your love. Here’s how: For each family member, think of 2-3 traits or characteristics you admire and appreciate about them. Write them down along with 1-2 incidents that exemplify those traits. Keep it short, no longer than the front of one page. During dinner, read each letter out loud. Perhaps you can write a more intimate letter for your spouse and save it for later…when you’re alone.
     ·         Develop a treasure hunt. Write notes that explain how you feel about each family member (your treasure). Each note can include how you feel about your family followed by a hint or riddle about where to find the next note. You might write something like, “I love to play board games with each of you, which provides a hint as to where you’ll find the next note.” Have the last note lead to the dinner table where you can enjoy a meal, conversation, and dessert. Make the dinner special…candlelight, soft music, and everyone’s favorite dessert.
     ·         Everyone loves a good story, especially stories remembering times of love and connection. And, children love to hear stories about their parents’ lives. So, today at dinner, enjoy telling the story of “how I met your mother.” Tell stories about how you met your spouse and the fun times you had together. Tell the story of your life together right up to the stories that include your children and the fun you have as a family. It will become a family story fest recalling your family heritage.
     ·         Prepare a Valentine’s Day breakfast. Include heart-shaped pancakes, a candy heart message on every plate, and chocolate kisses for dessert. Not a morning person? No problem, have breakfast for lunch or dinner.
     ·         Spend the evening making a family storybook. Cut out construction paper hearts and connect them on one side. Collect pictures of you and your spouse, your children, your family, your vacations, special events, prom dates, etc. Collect as many pictures as you like. Spend the evening going through the pictures and gluing them into your family storybook. It will be your own fairy tale (or fish story in the case of the Salmon family).
Whatever you decide to do, remember to have fun. Enjoy one another’s company and celebrate your family on Valentine’s Day.

4 Fundamental Components of Spiritual Leadership

I hear many Christian men talk about their struggle as spiritual leader in the family. It’s true; men do strive to become godly spiritual leaders in the family. But, what does that mean? Does it simply mean reading the Bible with our spouse and children? Perhaps even expounding on the Scripture? Does it mean assuring that each family member spends time in pray and making time to pray together as a couple or family? Is it the spiritual leader’s responsibility to make sure the family goes to worship services and Bible studies? We like to use these activities as markers of our spiritual leadership because we can more easily measure our productivity. Statements like, “I prayed with my wife…” or “When I led my children in Bible study…” become indicators of our effectiveness as a spiritual leader. However, the mark of a great spiritual leader is much less visible than any of these behaviors imply. In fact, these visible markers tell us very little about the more subtle, and perhaps more important, actions of a spiritual leader. Consider these 4 foundational behaviors of strong spiritual leadership.
Strong spiritual leaders model a Christian lifestyle. Our families need to witness our daily lives reflecting our Christian calling. They need to see us model humility when our spouse points out our mistakes, patience while we sit in traffic, and joy in the midst of work-related stress. Our family needs to hear us encourage rather than criticize, compliment rather than complain. They will benefit from watching us live a life that models the priorities we proclaim. Each family member needs to see that our time management reflects and confirms our heartfelt priorities. Do we spend more time with family or TV, our children or our personal hobbies? Do we talk about the importance of church but choose to sleep in and skip church more often than we attend? Spiritual leaders model a lifestyle that bears witness to the Christian call.
Spiritual leaders develop loving relationships with each family member. After all, relationships are a priority to the spiritual leader. Relationships take time to develop; so, spiritual leaders spend time with each family member. Spending time with family allows the spiritual leader to informally teach values and beliefs throughout the day. Deuteronomy 6:7 gives four specific times we might teach spiritual values to our family: when we rise up in the morning, before we go to bed at night, when we sit around the house, and when we go about various tasks outside the house. Spiritual leaders infuse the normal conversation that occurs between the time we get up and the time we go to bed with statements that reflect love, honor, and integrity. Throughout the day, they look for opportunities to teach about values and beliefs. Remember, you don’t have to “beat them over the head with it.” Offer subtle and common place statements that may lead into deeper discussions. Make it part of your everyday conversation.
Spiritual leader take the initiative in practicing the “hard choices.” They lead the way in areas like forgiveness, personal sacrifice, loving the unlovable, and persevering commitment, to name a few. Spiritual leaders are the first in the family to forgive offenses. They lead by example in personal sacrifice. They may offer the final piece of pie or the better seat to a family member. Or, they may let another family member’s choice for dinner take precedent over their own. Spiritual leaders lead through service, volunteering to put aside their book, the movie, or “the game” long enough to wash the dishes, shovel the driveway, or clean the bathroom. Family members see the spiritual leader’s commitment to family when, even in the midst of disagreement, they persevere in showing love, honor, and respect.
Finally, spiritual leaders make their family a priority in prayer. They pray for their wife and children. They become prayer warriors for each family member’s physical health, emotional security, and spiritual maturity. 
Overall, the role of spiritual leader is more about personal choices and lifestyle than it is about demanding my family pray with me and have family devotions. Those things may be important. More important, however, is the lifestyle of the spiritual leader and the relationships he forms with each family member.

A Child’s Fish Tale & The Freedom of Limits

Children love to hear stories, especially stories about their parents’ childhood days. One of my children’s favorite stories involved a fish tale I use to tell them. Not just any fish tale, mind you, but a fish tale involving a talking fish named Cokey.  Cokey lived in our aquarium when I was a kid. He hated that aquarium…it was so confining. He could only swim around in circles…back and forth, up and down. The total distance around the aquarium was only 35 “tail waves” (that’s a fish measurement describing the distance around the periphery of an average size aquarium) and he wanted more. His parents seemed perfectly content living in this confined glass bowl, but Cokey wanted freedom. He wanted to live his own life, choose his own destiny. He looked through the glass of the aquarium and longed to sit on the couch. “Cokey,” his parents would say, “You can’t sit on that couch. Be happy in the aquarium where you belong. Enjoy resting by that beautiful fern over there.” Cokey wanted to feel the texture of the carpet, taste the cheese on the coffee table (“oh the power of cheese”), and watch the TV with no glass pane in the way.
“Why should I be confined to this glass prison, Mom?” he asked one day. “The world is full of choices. I can be anything I want to be. I just have to get out from under these glass rules.”
“No Cokey,” his father said, “You need to stay in the aquarium. We live in the aquarium for a reason. We can be everything we want to be here. All our needs are met. You will only find happiness in this aquarium.” Cokey didn’t believe it. On his 4th birthday (that would be 16-years-old in human years), he decided to “take control of his life” and jump out of that aquarium to start his life of freedom. He swam round and round the aquarium to pick up speed.
“Cokey, what are you doing?” his mother asked.
“I am jumping out of this glass prison to start my new life of freedom!”
“Cokey, don’t do it! You need the aquarium. Stay in the aquarium with us. You have everything you need and want here—food, water, companionship. You are free to live a happy life. You’ll be trapped if you leave the aquarium.”
Cokey didn’t listen. He swam faster and faster. He swam so fast his surroundings began to blur. Then, he swam straight for the surface. With one final wave of his tailfin he leapt out of the water and flew through the air, over the edge of the aquarium and onto the carpeted floor that he so longed to touch. “Yes,” he thought to himself. “I made it! I’m free!” But then he realized that he could not breathe. He needed the water. He felt like he was suffocating. He tried to get up, but he couldn’t stand on his fins. He simply flopped around on the spot where he had landed. He began to get scared. Just then, he heard a purring sound. He looked toward the door and saw a housecat walking toward him, licking his lips with every step. “Oh no,” thought Cokey. “Now what will I do. I should have stayed in the aquarium and listened to my parents.” The cat walked closer. Cokey began to panic. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t run. He closed his eyes and prayed. Suddenly, he felt himself lifted from the ground…but instead of feeling a cat’s tongue lick against his scales, he felt a finger gently rub his side and voice asked, “What are doing out here, Cokey? You’re supposed to be in the aquarium.” Opening an eye, Cokey saw the person who always fed him (my mother, by the way). Cokey took a deep breath of water as the woman gently dropped him back into the aquarium.
Cokey never tried to escape the aquarium again. “I learned something very important that day,” he told me. “I learned that all the choices in the world don’t make anyone happier. No, true happiness is found with my family, living contentedly with those gifts I have. Really, when I accepted the limits of my aquarium, I discovered I was free to be me…there are no limits then.”
We live in a world that shouts out, “Choices bring freedom and freedom produce happiness.” We practically have unlimited choices in TV channels and myriads of choices in salad dressing, entertainment, careers, colleges, classes, etc. Unfortunately, too much choice does not create happiness. Too much choice does not increase freedom.  Instead, too much choice leads to dissatisfaction, frustration, and even sadness. (Watch Barry Schwartz: “The Paradox of Choice“). Choices and freedom do not result in happy children. On the contrary, children flourish under the protection of limits, boundaries, and guidance. They mature and grow best when parents actually teach them to limit superfluous choices. In fact, when children learn to live within appropriate limits, they find that the sky is the limit. They discover greater freedom to become themselves as they live within appropriate limits. Like Cokey, children discover that the aquarium is not such a bad place to live. The message to parents: love your children with age appropriate limits. “He who loves well, disciplines well.”

Children & Pressure: What’s a Parent To Do?

Our children face multiple pressures. They live in a world where significance is idolized, recognition (being number 1) is sought with great fervor, and self-worth is determined by performance. Those pressures, unfortunately, sneak into our lives as parents and attack our children from within the home…from their own family…from us! Lies and rumors voiced among parents in the community fuel our fears and those fears translate into a performance-orientation. Hearing other parents boast about the accolades, awards, and opportunities their children have received arouses our own insecurities and fans the fear that our children may miss out on the “limited opportunities available” for success. Rumors incite us to encourage our children to prepare their college resume as soon as possible, to become proficient in sports yesterday, and to make crucial career decisions now. As a result, our children are forced to make adult decisions before they are developmentally ready. They find themselves compelled to make commitments to adult pursuits (career, sports involvement, etc.) while still lacking the experience and wisdom to do so. When these pressures sneak into our family life, whether the result of parental fears or misguided dreams, our children suffer. They find no respite, no relief. As family shepherds, we must guard our home against these pressures in order to maintain a refuge for our children. How? Here are a few hints to help.
First, identify the pressures your children face in their school and community. Most likely, they encounter one or all three of the following pressures.
     1.      They may feel the pressure to achieve, perform, and gain recognition. They may also feel that the only way to truly know you have achieved is to earn prizes and awards. In the midst of this performance-oriented environment, children find it difficult to simply enjoy a fun activity. Such an environment threatens to squeeze the joy of internal motivation out of our children and replace it with the craving for external rewards.
     2.      Or, your community may emphasize material belongings. Perhaps the families in your community live by the rule that says “the one with the most toys wins.” 
     3.      Your children may also encounter families that feel the need to give children everything they want, to never suffer the pain of disappointment or discipline…even if it means the family suffers. In these families, children’s schedules and desires run the household. Children grow more entitled every day as their family experiences a growing sense of resentment over their children’s lack of gratitude.
After you have identified the threat, give serious thought to your own beliefs in that area. Parents also risk falling into the trap of community pressure. To avoid the discomfort of seeing our children disappointed or “wanting,” we may give in to their demands and spoil them. We don’t want them to miss out on the opportunities that their peers experience, so we give into their every request and desire. In our desire for them to “have a better life than us,” we push them to perform and achieve in order to get into the best colleges or gain the most promising opportunities. All done with the best of intentions, but none the less, conforming to the pressures of the world that harass our children.
Once you have identified the pressures your children face and confirmed that you do not personally play a role in creating those pressures, you can create alternatives in your home. Since your children most likely encounter at least three pressures, consider at least these three alternatives.
     1.      Replace the pressure to achieve and perform with the grace of unconditional acceptance. Honor one another for effort and learn to celebrate participation in activities by simply having fun together. Allow your family to play and enjoy one another’s company without the need to perform a certain way or achieve a certain level of “expertise.” Have fun just to have fun!
     2.      Replace the emphasis on material belongings with a focus on relationships. Give your family the gift of your time. Let them know that your relationship with them is far more important than any material blessing you might have. Teach them that material belongings do not bring happiness, loving relationships do. Build intimacy with one another. Practice gratitude for the many material, relational, and spiritual blessing you do have…and share gratitude freely with one another.
     3.      Replace a sense of entitlement with an environment of generosity and service. Teach your children that we find greater joy in giving than in receiving. Model generosity with your affection toward them and your service in the home. Teach them by example and actions that service is a sign of true greatness.
Make your home a place of refuge from the world of pressure. Create an environment of honor and grace. Shape your family into a celebrating community of honor and grace.

Promoting Greatness in the Family

Today is Martin Luther King Day. I love so much of what Martin Luther King said. I read this quote from MLK on the MLK Day of Service website: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” What a tremendous question. What are you doing for others? What are you doing for those in your family? What are you doing for those outside your family?
Today is the MLK Day of Service, the “only federal holiday observed as a national day of service- a ‘day on, not a day off.'” It offers people from all walks of life to “answer Dr. King’s challenge to do something for others” (Click here for more info). 
This would be a good day to find a way to serve others as a family. After all, where do people learn to serve? In the home. Loving families encourage helping one another and nurture service to those in the home and those in the community. Families that serve together find a level of happiness and intimacy that cannot be found when everyone looks out for themselves. It is in service that we find lasting happiness. Moreover, families promote true greatness when parents model and encourage service. After all, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Jesus Christ); and, “everybody can be great because everybody can serve” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). Greatness comes through service…and, everybody can serve. We can teach our children to serve at any age; and, in doing so, we promote greatness in their character. So, what will you do for the MLK Day of Service? How will you promote greatness in your family? Here are a few ideas:
     ·         Do a chore for another family member.
     ·         Offer to do some work for a neighbor.
     ·         Volunteer at a place like the Ronald McDonald House, Kane Hospital, or a local nursing home.
     ·         Volunteer to clean the house for a shut-in who is known at your church.
     ·         Bake cookies and deliver them to the nurses at a local hospital.
     ·         Take a walk through your neighborhood and pick up litter.
     ·         Shovel the driveway for an elderly person in your neighborhood.
     ·         Share your ideas in the comment section below.
Enjoy your call to greatness as you serve one another. Please share your additional ideas, thoughts, and experiences in the comment section below.

For A Happy Family, Keep Your Eyes on the Road

My daughter just got her driver’s license. I have to admit…she is a good driver. She gets better every day. (The fact that my brake leg gets tired while I sit in the passenger seat says more about me than her.) Watching her learn to drive makes me realize how much really goes into driving–an awareness of what’s in front of us, beside us, and behind us, which cars might suddenly turn onto the road and which cars seem to come to a stop before turning off the road, how to successfully (and safely) switch lanes, changing speed limits, multiple signs, pedestrians, gas gauges…The list goes on. While all this was going through my mind, I met with a couple who described difficulty putting past experiences behind them. Negative past experiences kept creeping into their current relationship, creating fear and growing into self-fulfilling prophecies. They were driving their “relational car” with their eyes glued on the rearview mirror instead of keeping their eyes on the road ahead and their focus on their current surroundings. Just like driving, we can not have a successful family life if we keep our eyes glued on the past in our “rearview mirror.” We have to keep our eyes on the road ahead of us and any obstacles that might arise around us. Of course, we glance into the rear view mirror to make sure old habits don’t overtake us from behind; but, for the most part, we keep our eyes on the road ahead. Here are 3 suggestions to help you keep your eyes on the road and off the distant past.
     ·         Maintain a long-term perspective on your marriage and family. Set some long-term goals. Plan ahead. What summer activities will you enjoy with your family this year? What family vacations do you want to take before your children leave for college? Consider what you want your family and marriage to be like 3 years, 5 years, or even 10 years from now. Think about activities and trips you hope to enjoy with your spouse once your children leave home. What special events will come up this year or in the next three years that you can enjoy with your family? What characteristics do you want others to think of when they think of your family and how can you develop these characteristics? Answering these questions, and others like them, will help you develop a long-term perspective of your family. The answers can help you implement activities and interactions today that can move you in the direction of that shared vision, which brings us to…
     ·         Walk the talk. Commit to practicing daily actions that support your long-term family goals. Commit to maintaining long-term involvement with your family. Successful family relationships are a marathon, not a sprint. They grow and develop through consistent interactions that occur over time. Successful family life demands committed involvement and attention. It takes some discipline, but the rewards are amazing. So, commit to long-term involvement, long-term interaction, and daily activities that support those long-term goals.
     ·         Although we keep our eyes on the long term goals and commit to living out daily actions that move us toward those goals, we do glance in the rearview mirror now and again. Why? To make sure old habits that might harm our relationships don’t creep up on us and sneak back into our lives. We look in the rear view mirror to keep our individual habits from overtaking us again. Notice, I do not look for my spouse’s old habits or my children’s old habits. I look out for my bad habits. My spouse and children remain responsible for their own past. Each individual has enough past of their own to keep them busy. So, go ahead and glance in the rearview mirror now and again to make sure you are leaving your old habits in the dust. If they start to overtake you, speed up toward greater future intimacy. 
Three ways to keep our eyes on the road ahead: maintain a long-term perspective, commit to practicing daily actions that move us toward our goals, and glance in the rear view mirror to keep old habits in the dust. Keep these three goals in mind for a “safe driving experience” in your “relational car” (and maybe my brake leg won’t get so tired if I’m sitting in the passenger seat–lol).

Children: Jesus is in the House

My wife and I enjoy visiting family and friends. We also enjoy having family and friends visit our home. But, imagine what would happen if you were to visit my home and I answered the door saying, “Quit knocking so loud. I’m not deaf you know.” As you step into my house, I demand that you “take your shoes off…now. I just mopped the floors and I do not want you tracking mud through my house!” You smile politely, albeit somewhat confused, and take your shoes off. “Why are you giving me that look?” I continue. “I just asked you to take your shoes off. If you have a problem with it, just leave them on and track mud through my house.” “No, that’s OK. I don’t want to muddy your floors. They look beautiful,” you respond politely.
“You don’t have to get smug about it. I just asked you to take your shoes off. Never mind. Just go into the living room and sit down.” You attempt to make small talk as we enter the living room but, just as you are about to sit down, I yell, “Don’t sit there! That’s my seat. You sit over there” pointing to a less-than-comfortable looking chair in the corner. The visit continues and I continue to make similar comments. “I like your outfit but you probably paid too much for it. You have no common sense about money.” When you express frustration about a recent experience, I tell you to “Quit worrying about it. You get overemotional about everything.” When you compliment the cookies, I state, “Don’t overdo the praise, buddy. I bought the cookies, but at least I did something.” So the evening goes. How will you feel as you leave my home? How excited will you be to return?
Of course, you and I would never treat a guest so rudely. And yet, we often make these kinds of comments to our children. I have heard parents make comments like those above to their child on a consistent basis… conversations overrun with “do not’s,” demands, sarcasm, and subtle putdowns. Speaking in constant “do not’s,” demands, sarcasm, and putdowns leads to negative feelings that fuel misbehavior. These negative feelings also make it difficult, if not impossible, for a child to really listen and understand. If we want a child to listen…really listen…we have to stop the constant “do not’s,” demands, sarcasm, and putdowns. What can we offer instead? Here are a few ideas.
     ·         Tell your child what behaviors you desire rather than the behaviors you “do not” desire. It is important for parents to teach their children proper behavior; but, if we constantly tell them what not to do, how do they learn what to do. The behaviors they hear spoken about most often will remain most prevalent in their mind…and acted upon most often as a result. Given no positive alternative, and hearing constant yell about negative behaviors, a child will simply repeat the negative behaviors. Instead, describe appropriate and desired behaviors to your children. Tell them what behaviors you want to see. Fill their mind with images of proper behavior and the expected results of positive behavior.  
     ·         Make requests rather than demands. Demands arouse defensiveness. They make us want to “fight back.” Demands create competition. They reveal an underlying belief that our child does not want to help, and will not help, unless demanded to do so. Demands focus on “my needs” and “my desires.” Requests, on the other hand, communicate respect for the other person and a belief in their desire to help. They build cooperation. They take the other person’s needs and desires into account as well. We ultimately want our children to cooperate with us rather than simply comply because we are bigger and more demanding. Making requests instead of demands helps build the desire to cooperate and help.
     ·         Speak lovingly and honestly rather than sarcastically. Sarcasm reveals an underlying sense of anger that arouses more anger from the recipient. Constant sarcastic remarks fuel beliefs like “I’m never good enough” or “I can never do anything right.” A child will develop a sense of inadequacy in response to sarcastic remarks. They will come to believe they are not acceptable. Loving, honest remarks, on the other hand, build a sense of adequacy and acceptance in our children. This translates into a healthy sense of personal worth and, ultimately, better behavior.
     ·         Empathize rather than criticize. Children are learning about their emotions. Adults help children learn how to manage emotions by accepting the emotion and empathizing with it. When adults criticize a child’s emotion, the child feels shamed and humiliated. They may come to believe that something is inherently wrong with them because they have “unacceptable” emotions. When we empathize with our children’s emotions, they learn that they are normal…they belong. They learn that we manage those emotions in healthy ways and they can, too. Additionally, when parents empathize with their children, children learn that emotions provide us opportunities to connect with others and grow more intimate. 
     ·         Encourage rather than put-down. What do you want to shape your child’s sense of self-worth, a steady stream of putdowns or a steady supply of encouragement? Whichever they hear most often will form the recordings that constantly repeat in their mind throughout life. Fill that internal self-talk with words of encouragement that will play over and over throughout their life.
PS—After Christmas I often think about Jesus growing up. Mary, His mother, had some idea of who Jesus was–an angel told her even before He was born. I wonder how Mary parented Jesus. Did she respond with criticism or empathy to His sorrow when His friends hurt Him or He got frustrated with school? How did she get Him to do chores or tasks around the house, by demanding or requesting? Did she give a sarcastic “It’s about time you helped out around here” or an honest “I’m glad you helped me by cleaning up. Thank you”? Did she encourage Jesus or say things like “Is that any way for the Son of God to act?” How would you treat Jesus if He were a child in your home? Jesus set a child on His lap once and said, among other things, “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes Me.” Our children serve as His representative in our house. Perhaps, we can practice treating them as we would treat Him. After all, when we “do it unto the least of these…” Just a thought.

2 Family Lessons From the Bluetooth Wanderer

The other day I was in a grocery store and someone started talking to me. I turned and responded, but he ignored me. In fact, he didn’t even notice me. That’s when I recognized the far off look in his eyes and the Bluetooth attached to his ear–familiar and identifying marks of the Bluetooth wanderer. The Bluetooth Wanderer was not talking to me at all. No, he was talking to an invisible someone, unheard by me, but obviously speaking plainly to him. I didn’t know who he was talking to; but I knew that I was not the person who had his ear. I was not the person on his mind. Whoever talked at the other end of the phone had his ear. He completed his shopping in a somewhat mindless manner as he focused on the person he spoke to on the phone. The tell-tale sign of his far off stare, as though he was looking across the Ethernet to see the person on the other end, signaled that he was more intent on his conversation than his present surroundings, listening more intently to the person who had his ear than to the everyday sounds that surrounded him. As I continued my own shopping, I realized that I might be able to learn a few things from this Bluetooth Wanderer. Maybe he can teach us a few things about family. For instance,
1.      This Bluetooth Wanderer gave “mind space” to the person on the other end of the line. He kept that person in mind. Even when they were not physically present, that other person had his ear and filled his mind with their spoken thoughts, desires, and experiences. We honor our family members when we keep them in mind as well. Giving “mental space” to family members’ desires and experiences, even when they are not physically present, allows us to think about them throughout the day. We can remember them with affection and look forward to rejoining them at the end of the day. We can recall positive aspects of their personality and our relationship with them throughout the day. Our family members suddenly hold weight and influence in our everyday decisions and actions when we allow them to take up residence and become permanent tenants in our mind.
2.      That Bluetooth Wanderer filtered his experience in the store through the conversation he held with whoever talked at the other end of his phone. The person he spoke with took priority over his daily experience and shaped how he viewed his daily activities. Our mindful awareness of family will filter our world as we keep them in mind as well. Our priorities and daily actions will reflect their presence in our mind. By allowing their personality, interests, and desires to occupy a portion of our mind throughout the day, we may even find a simple gift or action to offer them to express our love. Our devotion will grow as we practice this mindful awareness of family. Temptations to drift from family will decrease as we give our mind and attention to our family. When we let our family hold sway over our mind and attention, even when not physically present, we are less likely to be tempted by other, less important, things.
The Bluetooth Wanderer always surprises me. I mistakenly think he is speaking to me only to discover he is more interested in someone else, a person who holds sway over his mind and attention through the Bluetooth. I don’t know about you, but I want my family to hold sway over my mind and attention. So, perhaps we can learn this lesson from the Bluetooth Wanderer.