Tag Archive for community

The Avengers, Jesus, & Family

What do the Avengers, Jesus, and family have in common? Two things. First, they take action…lots of action. What would the Avengers be without action? They are, after all, “action heroes.” When the Avengers were not involved in action, the enemy seemed to gain strength. They had to take action in order to weaken and destroy the enemy. Jesus was also a man of action. He took the initiative to come to earth and serve. He was actively involved in the creation of the world and He actively engaged all spheres of life during His human journey on earth. Now, He remains actively involved in the world through His Holy Spirit. I recently read Brennan Manning’s A Glimpse of Jesus. In one chapter, Manning states that Jesus “calls us not to fear but to action. Procrastination only prolongs self-hatred.” Jesus was, and is, a Man of great action. 
 
Second thing the Avengers and Jesus have in common? They do not act alone. Instead, they act “in one accord.” The Avengers had to “act in one accord” with one another in order to have success. They could not just look out for their own personal interests and neglect everyone else. That led to arguing, one-upmanship, suspicions, group weakness, and vulnerability. They needed one another; they needed to work together in order to accomplish the goal set before them. Jesus did not act alone either. He acted in accordance with His Father. He did what His Father was doing, said was His Father was saying, and went where His Father directed. Jesus also picked 12 men to work with Him during His earthly ministry. These 12 men helped feed the five thousand, prepare the upper room, and even proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus still wants His people to “act in one accord” with Him and one another. We are told to “not look out for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). We are to encourage one another, lift one another up, comfort one another and admonish one another. We are to act together.
 
The Avengers and Jesus are both people of action. They had to work together to find success. What does that have to do with the family? Do I need to say it? I can’t hold back…I have to say it. Creating an intentional family demands that we take action and that we “act in one accord.” If we want our families to grow healthier and more intimate, we need to take action. Start doing the work to create a healthier family today. Take action. Do not procrastinate…that could lead to disaster, feelings of insecurity, and even self-hatred. Do not get sidetracked and distracted from action by dwelling on disagreements and petty jealousies…that will surely lead to disaster. Instead, start doing the little things that bring health to a family. Become a person of action in your family today. Initiate the action of encouraging family members, saying “thank-you” to family members, and engaging in courteous behaviors like holding a door open or getting a family member a drink.
 
And, while you are taking action, remember that healthy families act together. They do not just look out for their own personal interests–that leads to arguments, one-upmanship, suspicions, family weakness, and vulnerability. Instead, look out for the interests of other family members. Give up that last cookie and let another family member have it. Give up fighting to be “first in the shower” and let your brother go first. Volunteer to clear the table or wash the dishes or help with the laundry or…well, you know. The list of actions you can take to strengthen your family goes on. Reach out in love to actively support, encourage, comfort, and forgive one another. The actions of love done in “one accord” will take your family to new heights of intimacy and joy. Start today!

The 5-Fold Mission of Parents

Parents, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to prepare the way for your children as they mature. This mission will involve the following steps.
     ·         Explore the community in which you choose to raise your children. Identify your allies and locate the safe areas in your neighborhood. Your allies can support the instruction you provide your children and offer discipline that will promote your children’s maturing character. The safe spots in your neighborhood can nurture your child and further promote the values you want to become central to your child’s life. Safe spots and allies in your community may include clubs, sporting activities, coaches, church groups, youth leaders, etc. Visit these areas and befriend these allies ahead of your children. “Scope them out.” Make sure they truly are what they appear to be—no hidden agendas or hurtful ideas hidden under a beautiful facade.

·         Identify those areas in your community that might poison your child. These areas appear safe enough to the innocent eyes of children…they may even appear inviting, appealing, or enticing. However, the experienced adult recognizes these attractive activities and influences as poisonous flowers that threaten our children’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Teach your children to look beyond the attractive flower to identify the deadly lies and influences they hide—the hidden agendas, the hurtful designs, the life-threatening lies. Teach them the truth to counteract the poison offered. Provide them with the unconditional love and solid acceptance at home that will empower them to turn away from these enticing poisons in the community.

·         Identify the potential players in the neighborhood. Every neighborhood has those people who prey on the innocent and naïve. Teach your children how to protect themselves from these players. Teach them to travel with their allies, finding safety in numbers. Teach them to think before they act and to discern consequences before follow. Listen closely to your children. Lovingly problem-solve with them when they face difficult circumstances and people.

·         Develop additional safety zones in your community and in your children’s life. Nurture relationships with adults who can provide positive influences. Take time to know your children’s friends and promote their growth in mature character. Support the efforts of other adults, parents, and groups in your community that want to raise a strong moral generation of young people.

·         One more task in this mission…pray for your children. You cannot follow your children into every potentially dangerous situation or guide them through every experience they encounter in life. You would not even want to. They need time to learn on their own…to get lost and find their way out, to fail and recover, to slip and get back up. They need the opportunities to learn when to ask for help and the humbly experience of doing so. In the midst of all this, you can pray for your children. Ask God to protect them, guide them, nudge them when they stray, and quickly lift them up when they fall. Make them the subject of your prayers multiple times a day. 
 

Parents, this is your mission should you choose to accept it. Your effort in this mission will impact the development of your child and ultimately influence your level of joy as a parent. This message will not self-destruct in 10 seconds, but continue on throughout the life of your children. Good luck, Parent…and God bless.

5 Tips for the Dirtiest Job of Parenting

I love to watch “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe. “Dirty Jobs” gives us a glimpse of dirty jobs that most of us never knew existed and would avoid if possible, even though they contribute to our life. Parenting involves some dirty jobs—jobs like changing diapers after an “especially explosive episode” or cleaning a toddler after he eats his first cupcake. I recall a particularly dirty episode in parenting my daughter. I was holding my daughter over my head, pretending to make her fly, when she threw up…right into my open mouth. These are dirty jobs. There is one parenting job, however, that will most likely not make the “Dirty Job” cut. This dirty job may well be the most difficult and arduous job of all. I am talking about the job of letting our children go.  It begins early in life, as early as their first steps. Remember when you started to help your 3-year-old zip up their coat and they looked you straight in the eye to say, “I do!” Your child was telling you to “let go” even then. The steps we take in the process of letting go only grow larger as our children get older. From watching our children leave our side to attend first grade…to trusting them to resolve simple conflicts without our input… to dropping them off at college, letting go grows more demanding as our children mature. 
 
Letting go is a positive parenting goal though. We instinctively teach our children to make decisions independent of peer pressure. We encourage them to pursue independent interests and goals. We cautiously step back and allow them to independently learn from their mistakes. We even admire their independence, most of the time. When their independent decision seems contrary to our individual goals, we may unjustifiably become upset. When they decide to pursue some career outside of our dream for them, we mistakenly question their independent wisdom. When they want to go out with friends rather than us, we wrongly perceive it as personal rejection. Perhaps most difficult of all, when we see their independent decisions leading to simple, but painful, consequences, we jump in to save them, rather than trust them to learn, from their mistakes. This “letting go” really is a “dirty job;” but, there are some basic skills that can help make it a little easier.
     1.      Put aside your dreams and expectations. Look at your children; study them to find their “natural bent,” their natural talent, personality, and ability. Nurture those unique attributes. Take the time to step into their world of interests and develop an appreciation for those interests. The more you know your children, the more comfortable you will feel “letting them go.”

2.      Connect your children with other adults–youth leaders, teachers, mentors, or extended family. Step back and allow these adults to nurture your children’s talent in ways you never could. These adults will also be able to tell your children things that they will not hear from you. You will find your children coming home excited about something a teacher told them while you think, “I told you that 2 months ago.” Sometimes, parents become jealous of the influence other adults have with their children. After all, “I used to have that influence.” Remember, you still do have that influence. It may seem as though your children no longer listen to you, but they do. You will hear other adults talking about what your child said and you will recognize your words coming from your child’s mouth. So, rather than become jealous, be grateful that there are other positive influences in your child’s life. Take time to thank them personally.

3.      Provide your children opportunities to expand their independence. Let them make choices. When they are young teens, let them participate in decision like which night will be family night and which night they can spend with friends. Let them choose whether to watch a movie with you or with friends. Encourage them to seek the advice of a mentor in addition to input from you. Allow them to take sponsored trips with trusted groups such as those at your church, school, scouting organization, etc. Encourage their involvement in positive activities outside of your presence. As they show wisdom and maturity in those decisions and actions, allow them more opportunities.

4.      Allow your child to have time independent of family. This time will increase with age. A toddler needs constant supervision. However, as children mature, they make more independent decisions, engage in more peer related activities, and define their individual life more clearly. They will spend less time with family and more time in pursuit of their individual lives. A parent’s role changes from one of control to influence. In order to have influence, we must give up control.

5.      Give up control and pick up trust. Trust the work you did as a parent. Trust that you have instilled positive values and decision-making skills in your child. Trust that they have experienced your love and will always feel safe to return to that love when they need to. Trust that God will bring people into their lives who will continue to provide a positive influence to them. Trust your children’s growing level of wisdom and maturity, nurtured by childhood years of loving discipline and instruction from you.
 
By the time our children leave for college, they need the skills to independently manage their decisions, time, and relationships. They begin growing toward that independence from the moment they learn to walk. Join them in the process. Work toward the goal of independence. It’s a “dirty job,” but someone has to do it.

Slaying the Monsters in Your Child’s Life

Every day our children battle dragons and other mythical monsters. Boggarts, shape-shifters that assume the form of a child’s greatest fears and insecurities, dance in your children’s minds. They tower over your children, taking the form of personal failure, overwhelming schedules, rejecting peers, family instability, financial woes, or even death of a friend. Boggarts appear larger than life. They leave a child feeling inadequate and unable to deal with the towering fear that has taken shape in his or her mind.
 
Your child may also battle the giant bully monster. This giant monster towers over a child with bulging muscles, red anger-filled eyes, a forked tongue of ridicule and threats, and fists that can pulverize your child’s personal strength. Your child may encounter the giant bully monster in the community, in school, or on-line. This monster threatens your child’s confidence and can send them reeling into the legendary pit of emotional darkness, depression, and despair.
 
The most frightening monster of all may live right in your own home. That’s right…the two-headed-fighting-parents-monster can appear right in your living room and wreak havoc in your family’s castle. Although connected to the same body, the two heads of this monster agree on nothing. They constantly fight, call one another names, and verbally abuse each other. Because this monster resides in the home, it creates an atmosphere of insecurity for your child. As long as the two heads continue to yell, scream, and argue, your child will never feel safe. In addition, their loyalty to both heads will tear them apart, potentially leaving their heart torn to shreds.
 
Parents can help children slay these monsters. They serve as the protector and provider, the knight in shining armor rescuing their children from these monsters…even as they attack. How do we slay the monsters in our children’s lives? Here are three strategies that other parent-knights have found effective.
     ·         Remain present in your children’s lives. Stand with them…be physically, verbally, and emotionally present in their lives. Let them see you in the community, in the school, and in the home. Make your presence known to them in their technology. Text them. Email them. Call them. Friend them on Facebook. Establish a precedent from the very beginning that you, as a parent, have access to their Facebook, phone, and any other technological device so you can monitor what happens there. Assure them that you monitor these devices for their protection. Even offer examples of people who have encountered the giant bully monster and boggarts on-line. You are there to protect them from those monsters, even on-line. Let your children know they do not have to face any monster in their life alone. You are always ready to help!
     ·         Tame the two-headed-fighting-parents monster. Work with your spouse (the other head) to resolve arguments as they arise. Let your children witness the resolution in your spoken apologies and affectionate interactions with one another. If your children witnessed the two-headed-fighting-parents monster at its worst, you might even explain to them how you resolved the argument and assure them that you love each other. Children grow best when they know their parents have a stable, loving relationship. Allow them to witness your love for one another in how you speak to, touch, and support one another. If you experience significant trouble taming the two-headed-fighting-parents monster, seek counseling. Don’t wait until both heads are beaten and abused. By that time, your child is feeling the devastation of the battle. Get help. Learn how to resolve your differences and tame the two-headed-fighting-parents monster.
     ·         Spend time talking with your children so you can learn about the boggarts they live with, the fears and insecurities that take shape in their mind. Be open to hear about these fears. Listen closely to understand the fear. Accept that this fear is a real concern for your child, not just some childish fantasy they’ll get over. Acknowledge the bravery they exhibit in facing their fears. Encourage them by helping them recall other times they have successfully overcome fears. And, problem-solve with them. This may include planning ahead, breaking the boggart into smaller parts and tackling one issue at a time, identifying more resources, or any number of other solutions. By listening, acknowledging, encouraging, and problem-solving, you teach your child the skills necessary to slay any boggarts that arise in their life.
 
As you help slay the monsters in your children’s lives, they will be able to rest and relax in your home. They will rest in the assurance that you, their protector and provider, have made their home a safe haven in which they can find peace.

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.

Freedom & Family

Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, a step toward a free and independent United States. What does family have to do with the Fourth of July? For one thing, we celebrate the Fourth of July with our families.   Secondly, and perhaps of greater importance, family lays the foundation, creates the stability, and perpetuates the freedom and independence of our country…in any country really. People have known this truth in our country since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and represent such diverse times as…
…Elias Boudinot (a President of the Continental Congress) who noted that “Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow”
… to EH Chapin (a preacher alive from 1814-1880) who realized “break up the institution of family, deny the inviolability of its relations, and in a little while there would not be any humanity”
…to Charles Franklin Thwing (a clergyman and president of Adelbert College and Western Reserve University alive between 1853-1937) who proclaimed that “Under any system of society…the family holds the future in its bosom”
… to Pope John Paul II who, in 1986, stated that “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live”
…to Barbara Bush (First Lady of the United States from 1989-1993) who said, “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens at the White House, but what happens inside your house.”
 
Even those who held less esteemed views of the family knew that family undergirds any society. Lenin (living from 1870-1924) is known to have said, “Destroy the family, you destroy the country.”
 
Why do such diverse people note the importance of family to our society and our country? Because…
Family provides the training ground for moral character. Successful families honor moral character above personal comfort and material possession. Parents model moral character for their children. All family members encourage one another to stand for what is right. Families teach us to act in kindness and fairness, and to make personal sacrifice for the welfare of one another. It is in families that we learn moral behavior contributes to a happy, successful life.
Family teaches us of loyalty and faithfulness. Family members teach the importance of faithfulness when they keep promises made to one another. They show the importance of loyalty as they support one another in the face of difficulties, protect one another in spite of personal danger, and encourage one another in the face of disappointments. They show tolerance and work cooperatively to strengthen the family even in the midst of disagreements. Families elicit and teach that loyalty brings stability. They show that peace and trust extend from faithfulness.  
Family models that freedom is not unrestrained but accompanied by personal responsibility. The price of freedom is costly. Parents have the personal responsibility to work so they can support their family and maintain a home. Children learn the personal responsibility to complete chores, doing their part to maintain the household. When everyone in the family does their part in keeping the household running smoothly, the family is free to engage in fun activities and experience times of relaxation. However, if even one member of the family does not “pull their weight,” opportunities diminish and the whole family becomes overwhelmed with stress. The family teaches that “doing my own thing” results in others being hurt and the family unit becoming strained. Discipline soon follows such situations. So, family members learn that freedom is not unrestrained, but contingent on personal responsibility. 
Family also becomes the training ground for compassion toward others. Not only does family teach personal responsibility, but they teach us compassion for those in need. Successful families treat each family member with kindness and grace, coming to one another’s aid when a need arises. They reach out, as a family, to those in need and experience the joy of helping others. When one family member mourns, the whole family mourns with him. When one family member rejoices, the whole family rejoices. In compassion, each member of the family reaches out to encourage and lift up those family members struggling with any hardship or difficulty.
 
Overall, families are the backbone of a free and independent society. Without healthy families, society will lose its most important teacher and training ground…the foundation of freedom will crumble. Without strong families, our individuals will become more self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-serving. The accurate perception of responsibility, loyalty, faithfulness, moral character, and compassion will be lost. So, celebrate our independence with your family. Teach your children patriotism and loyalty. After all, the strength of our country and the perpetuation of our freedom and independence rest on the shoulders of strong families.

Family Relationship Training Program

For all my athletic friends…I invite you to join the “Relationship Training Program.” It may prove challenging at times, but the long-term benefits are astounding. This training program can culminate in the completion of the Iron Man of Marriage—a 50-year anniversary. I know people who continued training after the first Iron Man and completed a 70-year marathon of happy marriage, leaving a tremendous family heritage. Over the next several weeks, I’d like to share a daily exercise routine, a strength- and resistance-based workout, and a distance workout that can enhance your overall relationship goals, especially in regards to family. But first, let me make a few suggestions to promote your success in this challenge.

First, surround yourself with people invested in a “Relationship Training Program”—people who value family relationships and whose lifestyle promotes positive family relationships. Hanging out with people invested in family life will help you stay involved with your family as well.

Second, find a buddy with whom you can share your plans and goals for family. Having mutual accountability with a friend who has similar goals is a great way to stay honest and on track.

Third, set achievable, weekly goals. You might set a goal to thank you spouse for two things a day…or, a goal to complement each family member every day. Make a goal to sit down for a cup of coffee and conversation once a day for a week. Read a book together and talk about what you read. Whatever the goal, make it achievable.

Fourth, incorporate fun into your training routine. Many times people drop out of training because they don’t enjoy it. Look for activities that you enjoy when involved in the “Relationship Training Program.” If you don’t enjoy going for walks together, try going to a movie. Sign up for a dance class together or have a game night. You might enjoy having breakfast together instead of dinner. The options for family fun are limitless. Be creative. Find the family activities you enjoy. The more fun you have, the more likely you will continue the training program.

Fifth, make the “Relationship Training Program” part of your daily routine. Think of ways to fit the exercises incorporated into the “Relationship Training Program” into what you already do. When you talk, offer a compliment. When you meet one another, share a hug and kiss. When you go to bed, share a word of thanks. You will find a million ways to fit various exercises into your daily life. 

Finally, make family a priority. You have to make your goal of a more intimate family a priority or you will never achieve it. The hustle and bustle of life will simply interfere. We all make time for those activities we prioritize. Prioritize your spouse and your children. Prioritize your family.

One other thing, before you begin this training program check with your physician to assure your heart is strong enough to engage in these activities. JUST JOKING!! Just enjoy the program and the benefits of fit and healthy family relationships.

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