Parenting

4 Reasons You Should Organize Your Time – Your Family Needs It.

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time-225For the last few years at our Vacation Bible School, we have held a “Power Parenting Class” each afternoon. The kids have to be picked up at noon so we simply ask the parents to join us at 11:45 for a brief discussion.  My senior pastor took the lead most days and we had a new topic during each 15 minute session.  We also took written questions from the parents about topics they would like us to address and issues they were struggling with.  What was interesting was the amount of questions and comments concerning simple time or life management.  Everyone seemed to be overwhelmed with “busyness.”  “Help me,” was their cry!

In a future blog post we can discuss some suggestions about how you should organize your time and how you can slow down, but today I want to specifically address the WHY.  If we don’t understand  WHY we should organize our family time then we will never fully grasp the how.

Here are 4 Reasons WHY You Should Organize Your Time:

1. You’ll feel less distracted. Being busy is hard work. It has an effect on your mind and body. I have heard many parents say they feel frazzled or overwhelmed. Trust me….we have been there!  And though there are certainly seasons where the chaos will be more prevalent than others, organizing your time will help bring some order and structure to your life.  It will be hard but it is possible. Remember, busyness is often procrastination and disorganization in disguise.

2. Time moves too fast. My family recently watched the movie “Hook.” As a grown-up Peter Pan, Robin Williams’s character showed up late or not at all for everything important in his children’s lives. “Peter, you’re missing it!” his wife pointed out. Sometimes we’re so distracted by the next moment that we forget to simply enjoy the one we’re in. I’ll be honest, there are some days I go to bed and realize – I was too busy today. I didn’t have a decent conversation with my wife or kids. I didn’t notice the little things. Time moves fast, I should slow down.

3. “Quality of Life” starts at home. Home is where everything starts. Home is the epicenter of family life. So let me ask, who told us rushing around to all those activities was more important than barbecuing in the backyard with the family? Whose priority is it that relegates time together as a family three places behind travel sports? Don’t’ get me wrong, my kids are involved in sports and church activities but we recognize that family time is not only free, but priceless.  Give up some quantity of activities for some quality ones at home!

4. Your marriage wants you back. Typically when our schedule becomes full the first place we sacrifice time is with our spouse. This is easy to do but is often the most costly. Righting this ship involves more than just squeezing an extra 30 minutes into our schedule….it involves re-prioritizing our lives. Like all areas in our schedule, we make time for the important things. Make time for your spouse!

Please do not misread what I am saying. I am not implying you should pull your child out of activities and stay home every night. On the contrary, our kids are involved in activities and we certainly enjoy the relationships we have made with the families we have met…..I am simply saying it is important to understand how having a bit of organization can be a true family time multiplier.

Remember – busyness is a trap that can snare many a child and adult, even those with the best intentions. Help combat it by adding a layer of organization. As parents we need to set the course for our family!  We can do it!

 

 

 

Want to Change the World: Make Your Bed

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I originally posted this last year.  I find myself needing the reminder often….

Every year around May and June, I am routinely intrigued and sometimes entertained at the number of celebrity commencement speakers at universities across our country.   Some commencement speeches are dull, some are grandiose, and some get made into Top 40 hits.  But some, some are truly motivational.  Last year was one of those moments.

Admiral William McRaven

In 2014, the University of Texas at Austin invited Admiral William H. McRaven to share his philosophy of leadership with the recent graduates.  At the time of his remarks, Admiral McRaven was serving as the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command.  Before commanding all of our nation’s most elite warriors, McRaven, a Navy SEAL for 36-years, had been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He had commanded a squadron in the legendary Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and even oversaw the planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.  On this day, he choose to share ten lessons learned from basic SEAL training.  Although all were compelling I found lesson #1 especially convicting.

Lesson #1:  “If you want to change the world….Make Your Bed”

McRaven shared that how every morning in basic SEAL training, his instructors would show up in his barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was his bed.

McRaven elaborated, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.  By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right…..And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

McRaven’s statement may sound a little far-fetched, but his advice is undoubtedly worth considering: if you want to make an impact on a large scale, you have to be comfortable making it on a small scale too.

This made me wonder: As a parent and spouse, how often do I overlook the importance of the small mundane tasks.

Do I spend more time planning for a great trip or vacation but neglect the blessing of an early afternoon off with the kids?

Do I shoot for the moon on my wedding anniversary but totally miss the target on scheduling regular date nights?

Do I overlook the importance of the hours I have today while focusing on my 5 year plan?

Like Admiral McRaven, I too am convinced that we all need to be reminded that success in most parts of our life revolves around doing the simple things really well.

Do you want to have an impact on this generation…start by making your bed!

bed

 

(After making your bed, I highly recommend reading the other 9 leadership lessons McRaven presented that day http://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/admiral-mcraven-commencement-speech)

Widen Your Child’s Circle

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circle of influence

Mom and Dad – get ready to swallow a tough pill – here we go – A time will come when you and your child will need another adult in their life besides you. Did you catch that….I’ll write it again, “A time will come when you and your child will need another adult in their life besides you.”

Now before you leave this page let me ask you a quick question? How many contacts do you have in your phone?  Weird question, huh?  Go ahead and look……

I have something like 700 contacts in my phone. You might have double that, or half that. My friend Josh has like 3,000. It’s just the world we live in.

But even if you only had 100, you wouldn’t really know each of them well. Not deeply. Not personally. You couldn’t. Our relational span just isn’t that big. If I were to be honest, there are really only about three to five that I call or text all the time. These are the handful of people closest to me.

These few folks know me inside out…my good points and not so good ones. My dreams and my struggles. My favorite and least favorite things. They’re the ones who are not only great friends, but great advisors.

I’m sure you’ve got those people too.

But do your kids?

When your kids need to talk, who do they talk to?  I mean beyond their friends and beyond you as a parent? Friends are of limited help. As a former youth pastor friend used to say, “Sometimes the last thing a 16-year-old needs is advice from another 16-year-old. And sometimes the last person they want to talk to is a parent.”

I’m sure there are parents who say, “My kid will always want to talk to me.” But let me ask you something, did you tell your parents everything? Exactly!!

So who do they go to? To whom can they turn?

I would encourage you to spend some time over the next few months identifying people your kids can build a trusting relationship with. My guess is between small group leaders, neighbors, family friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents, coaches and teachers, you will find a few who will be willing to spend a little one on one time with your child periodically.

Widening the circle doesn’t have to be a sneaky parent move. Let your kid in on the conversation by brainstorming people your family knows best. Then answer the questions: What can each person do well? What can I learn from them? How can they help me? How can they be a part of our family’s circle?

As author Reggie Joiner states in his book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, “You are the most influential person in your child’s life, but do your kids (and yourself) a favor and widen the circle of influence with trusted adults. When that day comes, you want to make sure the right people are in place to support your kids.”

I am thankful for some great family members and some wonderful friends that continually pour into both my boys.

They come to sporting and church events.

They take them fishing.

They play basketball in the drive way with them.

They coach their teams.

They sit by them in church.

I could go on and on…..

Simply put, their actions say, “I am here for you.”  And my family is better because of their influence.

 

The Applause of Man

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“It doesn’t matter if the world knows, or sees or understands; the only applause we are meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.” Ron Owens (former Director of Worship at the International Mission Board)

IMAGE-BASEBALL-HOF80 years ago today, on January 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members in Cooperstown, New York. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America chose the five greatest superstars of the game as the first class to be inducted: Ty Cobb was the most productive hitter in history; Babe Ruth was both an ace pitcher and the greatest home-run hitter to play the game; Honus Wagner was a versatile star shortstop and batting champion; Christy Matthewson had more wins than any pitcher in National League history; and Walter Johnson was considered one of the most powerful pitchers to ever have taken the mound. Today there are over 300 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The overwhelming majority of us will not end up in any hall of fame; however there is something intoxicating about the power of our fellow man’s applause. Maybe it is just me, but deep down most of us love it….the affirmation, the sense of worth, the praise.  It can become addicting.

As a leader, parent, or spouse, consider how many decisions you are called on to make in any given day—some in private and some in the public arena. Every day presents multiple opportunities to make applause-generating decisions. However when our daily self-worth and identity come primarily from the applause of those with whom we work or live, we are finished. Why? Because (1) it will never be enough and (2) it will one day go away.

One of my wife’s favorite singers is a young lady named Francesca Battistelli and one of her favorite songs is titled, “He Knows My Name.” Consider the lyrics to Francesca’s chorus:

I don’t need my name in lights / I’m famous in my Father’s eyes / Make no mistake / He knows my name /  I’m not living for applause /  I’m already so adored / It’s all His stage / He knows my name

There is something freeing about no longer working for the applause of man. You still strive for excellence…you still steward your gifts and talents well…and guess what – the applause still comes…however your motivation is based simply on the fact that you are already fully and completely accepted by Him!

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to seek first His kingdom.  What do you seek first?  The applause of others? The affirmation of man? The answer to this question will determine the legacy you leave behind.

 

 

The Myth of Balance

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MythbustersExhibitHave you ever watched the TV series Myth Busters? It is about a couple of guys who take well-entrenched cultural beliefs or adages and test these things to see if they have any basis in reality. Pretty cool show. I wish I could tee up a concept for them to test…the balance of life.

There are a lot of definitions of balance but I like this one best: It is a point of equilibrium between two or more countervailing forces. A point of equilibrium –  it’s neither going this way or that way.

So we’ve got forces wanting to push down or pull up or twist sideways, but our lives somehow are supposed to find this perfect point where it all balances out.

baby mobileMaybe it is just me on the hunt for this thing called balance…where our work, leisure, family, and all these things come into some lovely equal poise? You know, where it all floats around elegantly, delicately like a little mobile. These things never clash against one another and they perfectly weigh out against the other. Isn’t everybody looking for that, balance? I hear it all the time.  I’m just trying to live a balanced life. I think it’s a myth.

Do you have in your head what I call the “if-only,” and the “as-soon-as” clauses? The “if only I had more money,” or “if only I didn’t have this job,” or “if only I lived in that house.” Or we also say things like “As soon as I’m done with this season of my life,” or “as soon as these three weeks go by and this crazy time is over.” If-only and as-soon-as derive their authority from this sense of something like “in three weeks my life will become easy.” Has that ever happened? No…why? Because balance is a myth.

I remember years ago once listening to a sermon on this very subject. To paraphrase the Pastor: “Can you think of one person in Scripture who lived a balanced life? When you think of King David, do you think, Oh, there’s a man who has got it all together? I mean, whether that guy is living in caves or he’s ruling the kingdom, he is a man after God’s own heart right? What about Nehemiah…spending twelve years busting his chops to accomplish what God called him to do. What about the Apostle Paul, does he strike you as somebody living a balanced life?  Jesus came myth-busting, didn’t he? I love when he routinely says, “You’ve heard it said … But I say to you.” He uses this statement to drive home the truth. To bust myths!

crossSo what am I getting at?  I believe this:

In Scripture and in Christ what we see modeled is not balance but a great deal of consistency, a great deal of peace, a great deal of certainty and purpose in the midst of some pretty dramatic and out-of-whack circumstances. Simply put…A great deal of surrender!

My challenge to you…don’t worry about a balanced life. Instead shoot for a surrendered life.  Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God.

My Top 10 Books of 2015

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10K. Chesterton once remarked that “there is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.” This past year I have found myself floating back and forth between these two categories so the book choices below reflect that (study and leisure).

A couple of disclaimers first:

*The majority of the books I read this year revolved around leadership, church strategy, and family ministry. This list reflects that.

*These books are not in order by preference. They take on many different styles so I choose not to rank or compare apples and oranges.

*Most of these books are faith based books written by authors with a Christian worldview. However some of them (and others I read this year) are not. Several of these books are thoughtful accounts of history, leadership lessons, and practical life hacks. They will be profitably read through the lens of an intelligent Christian worldview, though the books themselves are often not written from such a worldview. To quote Al Mohler, “The world needs more careful Christian readers, who can read honestly, reflectively, thoughtfully, eagerly, and well.”

Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs. Bill Hybels.  Hybels is the founding and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois.  He has become known worldwide as in expert in training Christian leaders to transform their communities through the local church.  I have read many of Bill’s books and this possibly ranks as my favorite (Courageous Leadership is excellent as well).  In this book, Bill provides 76 Leadership Proverbs that can (and should) be used by leaders in the marketplace, military, and ministry!  This would be a great book to walk through with the key leaders of your organization.

Be a Better Dad Today! 10 Tools Every Father Needs. Gregory W. Slayton.  Slayton does a remarkable job setting the tone for the importance of fatherhood.  He believes “the future of civilization depends on how we (fathers) do our job.”  With humor, empathy, common sense and stories from his personal experience, Slayton provides his “Ten Tools of Fatherhood.”  I read this book with one of my best friends.  We read a chapter every day or so and emailed each other our responses to the “For Further Reflection” section.  A group of men at our church completed it together as well.  The major draw for me was the practical and down to earth tools Slayton provides.  Highly recommend it for dads young and old.

The Mission at Nuremberg. An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis. Tim Townsend. The Nuremberg Trials were intended to bring those most responsible for the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust before a court of justice. Adolf Hitler and some of the most senior Nazis escaped the court, but more than 20 senior leaders of Nazi Germany stood trial before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The most significant trials were held between November of 1945 and the following October. In the end, twelve death sentences were handed down against those who were found most responsible for crimes against humanity.

But a largely unknown story within that well-known account concerns Rev. Henry Gerecke, a U.S. Army chaplain assigned to the prisoners throughout the trial, and eventually to the condemned. This Lutheran minister found himself face to face with those who had plotted the extermination of 6 million Jews and had brought the world to the horrors of a global war. Even more moving, was the reality of how Gerecke faced the deepest personal and theological questions imaginable, specifically how much he believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is an extremely powerful book. Consider this excerpt:

For Gerecke, the decision to accept the assignment wasn’t easy. He wondered how a preacher from St. Louis could make any impression on the disciples of Adolf Hitler. Would his considerable faith in the core principles of Christianity sustain him as he ministered to monsters? During his months stationed in Munich after the war, Gerecke had taken several trips to Dachau. He’d seen the raw aftermath of the Holocaust. He’d touched the inside of the camp’s walls, and his hands had come away smeared with blood. The U.S. Army was asking one of its chaplains to kneel down with the architects of the Holocaust and calm their spirits as they answered for their crimes in front of the world. With those images of Dachau fresh in his memory, Gerecke had to decide if he could share his faith, the thing he held most dear in life, with the men who had given the orders to construct such a place.”

Decisive. Chip & Dan Heath.  Recommended to me by my Senior Pastor, Decisive tackles one of the most critical topics in the workplace and in our personal lives: how to make decisions.  The Heath Brothers present research to suggest that our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases.  Their book revolves around what they have labeled the “Four Villains of Decision Making.”  They provide strategies and practical tools that enable us to make better choices….a key for any great leader.

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof.  A few months ago I was on my way to work and was listening to Carey Niewhhof’s podcast.  On this day he and Reggie were discussing their book so I picked it up.  In this book, the authors describe how the two powerful influences of church and home can be combined together to widen the capacity of our parenting.  Perhaps the best chapter is the chapter on “Making it Personal.” As parents, we can’t pass on what we don’t have, and if parents are going to maximize the potential for their own kids to love and follow Jesus some day, then it must be true in their lives as well. Fairly easy read with great practical advice.

Working with Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman.  This book is a follow up to his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence (EI).  Goleman continues in this work to discuss the important of emotional intelligence.  He basically states that the old days of hiring based off of IQ or proficiency alone has passed.  He presents facts and stories to show that IQ explains surprisingly little of achievement at work or home. He states that companies (and leaders more specifically) should look for people with high emotional intelligence.  He categories EI as: self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and adeptness in relationships. Although a little scientific at times, this book is a definite read for those at the executive leadership level of any organization.

American Creation. Joseph J. Ellis.  Ellis is one of my favorite American Historian Authors.  If you have never read Ellis, I highly recommend him.  He is a master story teller.  His Pulitzer Prize winning book Founding Brothers is one of my top 5 books of all time.  In American Creation, Ellis continues his examination of the last quarter of the 18th century….perhaps the most politically creative era in American history.  He spends most of the book focusing on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison; specifically analyzing their successes and failures. Overall it is a fairly easy read that will give you a greater appreciation of the “human nature” of the Founding Fathers without tearing them down.

Manage Your Day-to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. Super easy read!  Time is valuable.  Time is limited.  If you are like me, you try to manage your actions each day to effectively steward the time you have been given.  With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, 99Us’ Manage Your Day-to Day helps equip you with pragmatic insights and tools for using your time wisely and making your best work.  This book was recommended by the author of a blog I follow and it did not disappoint.

Don’t Waste Your Life. John Piper.  A re-read for me.  A good friend and fellow Pastor (Omar Garcia – www.gobeyondblog.com) was recalling a few stories and lessons from this book which prompted me to read it again.  I didn’t regret it.  Piper warns us not to get caught up in a life that counts for nothing.  He boldly writes that God created us to live with a single passion: to joyfully display His love and sacrifice in all the spheres of our life.  This is a great book to start your 2016 reading with!

Counter Culture. David Platt.  In Platt’s newest book, he shows Christians how to actively take a stand on issues such as poverty, sex trafficking, marriage, abortion, racism, and religious liberty.  According to David, in a day when social issues are creating clear dividing lines, neutrality is not an option for those who believe the Gospel. Drawing on personal accounts from around the world, Platt presents an unapologetic call for Christians to faithfully and lovingly follow Christ into the cultural battlefield.  This book challenged me to look beyond the specific social issue and have a deeper understanding of who God is and how He relates to everything around us.

What about you? What are some of your favorite books of 2015.

Hunting and Life Lessons

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I love the outdoors – fishing, hiking, riding 4 wheelers, I could go on….but I especially like hunting. When Liz and I first got married I remember talking about taking our kids hunting.  I couldn’t wait for that day.  We even named our first child Hunter! (I can also share with you offline how Liz vetoed my recommended name for our second son).  Well God has been especially generous; we now have two young boys who are roosted on our family tree and are already bearing camo-clad fruit on the branches of our heritage as hunters.

hunting boysEach year we take at least one hunting trip with my father in law. The boys love hunting with their Dad and their Grandy; while my father in law and I simply love spending time with the boys.  This past week we completed this annual tradition again.  As we have now returned from our week in the woods I begin reflecting on the lessons hunting teaches my kids (and all of us).

Stay in Your Stand: Sometimes you see deer, sometimes you don’t.  Patience and endurance is KEY.  The longer you are willing to wait, to stay in your stand, the better your chances of having a successful hunt. Hunting teaches us that a lack of patience and endurance bears little fruit.

For my boys, there will be a day in their future when they will stand before a beautiful young lady and vow to be her husband. I hope they remember, like their deer stand, they should not climb out of it.  There will be great times and there will be tough times.  Hopefully they will remember, “Stay in Your Stand.”

Or maybe like me, they may find themselves standing in an airport about to board another flight for another tour in Iraq or Afghanistan and thoughts of “why am I doing this again?” pops in their head. Hopefully they will remember, “Stay in Your Stand.”

Stay Awake: Last week I read an article in a hunting magazine that stated the #1 reason why hunters are typically unsuccessful is that they fall asleep during key moments of the hunt.  I personally know how hard it is to stay awake.  Arriving in the woods before sunrise and sitting still for hours is the perfect recipe for a nice nap.  Add some cold weather and bundles of warming layers and even the best hunter is tempted to close his eyes for a moment.   In its most raw ways, hunting teaches us that comfort based decisions are costly and rarely produce results.

I want my young men to know that there will be many times after a long day at work that they will want to go home and rest, to check out for a while…however their wives and kids will require time and attention. I hope they seize the moment to spend time with their family.

Throughout their life, I hope they put aside personal comfort for the sake of others.  Hopefully they will remember, “Stay Awake.”

aim 1Know Where to Aim: The first thing we always do during our hunting trips is conduct some refresher training. We go over gun safety rules, the hunting laws (what we can and can’t shoot), and most importantly, when the right time comes, knowing where to aim.  Anyone can shoot a gun, but knowing where to aim and how to hit your target makes a successful hunter.

As both my boys go through life I want them to have a crystal clear focus on where to aim. The world will present cheap targets with brief, momentary satisfaction. My prayer is that throughout the struggles and setbacks, the successes and victories, that my boys will always keep their aim on Christ and Christ alone.

There will be a day when both my boys sit in a deer stand alone….no longer needing me to supervise or assist. They will be able to make their own hunting decisions. The clock is also ticking toward that day when they pull out of the driveway and into manhood. Among the many things I hope they remember forever, I’ll add the simple hunting principles of “Stay in Your Stand, Stay Awake, and Know Where to Aim.”