Just Buy the Paint

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“Raising Strong Daughters”,

That was going to be the name of this post.
But the thoughts and reflections have spun out of control.
What started out as four or five little points grows daily (over ten now).
I guess it’s not a coincidence that my oldest daughter turns 18 and leaves for college tomorrow.
It wouldn’t be correct to say that my life is flashing before my eyes.
But I do find myself drifting back to the day she was born (and all points in between). That wild combination of joy and fear. The realization that I was now responsible for the direction of the life of another person. A new awareness of dependence on God.
Eighteen years later……..I wouldn’t enter her in a dishwasher loading contest.
And she struggles with the concept of turning out lights in unoccupied rooms.
But for all those times I uttered that prayer,
“Lord, help their mother and me raise these children in a way that’s pleasing to You”,

I am beginning to see more clearly now the results of so many answered prayers.

Sure, there were so many times when I failed, as a dad, to listen for God’s answers, commands, and guidance.  Thankfully, as I have written before…”it takes a village”, (and she has a pretty awesome mom)

As she leaves home, I know she loves and trusts God.

She is strong.  I do not doubt her ability to make decisions.

When she was small, I never thought this day could be this way, but I am filled with peace and assurance because of the strength of her heart and character.

The moments continue flash through my mind.  What did we do right as parents?  What should we have done differently?  How did we get here?  And do I possess knowledge and experiences that have value to “younger” parents?

Hopefully I can share some insight that can help other dads (and moms?) with this and subsequent posts on the subject.

Just buy the paint.

I believe it was the summer after Macy’s freshman year of high school.  She told me she wanted to paint a mural in her bedroom.  Not just on a wall, on all four walls.  I doubted her.  My initial reaction, that I kept to myself, was that she would make a mess of the walls and be frustrated and disappointed with the result.

But when our kids believe they can do something, parents need to make it a priority to never tell them that they can’t.

“Daddy, can you just get me four sample-sized cans of paint in these four colors?”

I bought the paint.

The finished mural was “good”.  What was “great” was that she believed she could do it, and her belief led to action.

I bragged on her work and showed it off to visitors in our home.

Her artistic talents have progressed since then, and I am pretty amazed by the work she does now..

But I didn’t really do anything good as a parent.  I simply failed to do something really bad.  What if I had told her she couldn’t do it…..suppressed her creativity, her dream?  And worst of all, what if the message she heard from her dad was, “No, you can’t do that!”

Sometimes dads can be a great influence simply by recognizing mistakes before we make them.

When the opportunity arises, just buy the paint.  Don’t screw it up.  Look for AND create chances for her to create, figure things out on her own, and believe she can do anything.  Be your daughter’s biggest cheerleader.  And don’t ever tell her she can’t.

she believed

Travel Sports and Sunday Games Are More Satanic Than Kiss Albums

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I’ll admit it.  Three of my kids have played travel sports.  They even played on Sundays.  Sometimes we missed church two Sundays in a row.  Shriek!

Their mother and me thought our girls would be the next Mia Hamm and our son is the next Lebron James.  And of course, if they are to go to college without paying for it, they need to play anywhere and everywhere and often.  Right?  No, not at all.

No, this isn’t another lengthy blasting of youth/travel sports taken too far by overzealous parents.  It’s more like a gentle reminder of the delicate balance that exists between sports and faith in our children.

Sports teach kids things that words and parental modeling alone cannot.  Teamwork, physical challenges, determination, overcoming adversity, and lessons in character just to name a few.
And sports can certainly teach an observant parent valuable lessons along the way (by watching other parents and coaches) in exactly how not to act.

I’ll skip right to what I believe to be the tipping point of that balance: when parents lead or allow their kids to believe that a sports game or practice is more important than their faith or church attendance.

When the traveling is over and your kids are beginning to make more of their own choices, what’s the message they have been hearing from their parents during their travels and adventures?  When they make their own choices about church attendance and involvement, what will they choose?  Which end of the scale are you pushing them toward?

Traveling time with family during the younger years is golden time.  The memories, experiences, and friendships made are priceless.  The absence from church services is temporary.  But the importance placed on faith must be constant.

That kid that missed 4 weeks of Sunday church service as a 9 year-old will be 15 before you know it.  The depth of their faith and the value it has in their life will not be dependent on where they spent those four Sundays.  It will depend largely on the message they receive from their parents over the course of the entire 52 weeks.

Teach well.  Make sure kids know that you’re not away from church because sports are more important.  Keep your eyes open for teaching moments.  As your kids get older, the moments become clearer.  Are you prepared for them?  And more importantly, how well have you prepared your kids for them?

A local basketball tournament changes schedules around and places your son’s team playing on Sunday.  Let him know it’s ok to choose to go to church and miss his game.  Let the choice be his, but lay out the steps for him to choose faith over sports.

Your daughter’s soccer coach holds practice on Wednesday nights during your church’s youth group activities.  Let the choice be hers to make.  Make sure she knows that you think it’s awesome if she makes the choice to attend youth group.

Encourage them to take those bold steps that say, “My faith in God is the center of my life.”

Yes, sports are a wonderful part of a child’s development in so many ways.  But they are temporary.  Parents have to be aware when the balance scales are tipping dangerously in the wrong direction.

“I can’t miss a single practice, no matter what.”  The tipping point is when parents adopt this same philosophy.

And like sports are temporary, childhood is temporary.  A big part of parenting is simply training up our children to make good choices as they mature.

Pave the way for these types of choices, encourage them:

“Coach, I won’t be at practice tonight.  I’m going to church.”

“Coach, I’m not going to soccer camp this year.  I’m going on a mission trip.”

“Coach, I’m going to miss some summer league games.  I’m going to church camp.”

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you are on a given Sunday morning.  It matters greatly where your heart is and the lessons that your life speaks year-round.

Play hard.  Have fun.  Watch the scales.

The sports equipment goes to the yard sales and closets sooner than you realize.

Hopefully, most of us won’t wait til then to try to convince our kids how important a Christ-centered life is.

 

He’s a Good Boy…..When He’s Asleep

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Very few people have the ability to be obnoxious, even in their sleep.

I would be one of those people.

No, I don’t snore. Nor do I kick, punch, swear, or yell.

My sin of slumber?

The iPhone alarm with hand-picked tunes for an alarm tone.

I don’t see it as a problem.

But I am told that my wife hates it when Bohemian Rhapsody makes it all the way to the part where the Wayne and Garth start rocking out in the Gremlin…..and it fails to wake me.

Or perhaps a quick dose of Parry Gripp’s “Chimpanzee Ridin on a Segway”.

Sure to irritate every time.

And I’m a chronic snoozer.

But overall, everybody is on pretty good behavior during their hours of slumber.

It’s during those darn waking hours that we are destined to start screwing up.

And just like a spouse with an obnoxious alarm, it’s much much easier to get irritated with others’ shortcomings rather than our own.

Sometimes we have the luxury of avoiding offensive others.

But what about when those offensive others happen to be our children?

“_______ is acting like a complete moron.”

“Son, if you’re trying to get on my nerves, you’re doing a great job.”

“______ hasn’t hit a lick at anything all day.  It would be nice to have some help.”

So following years of faulty reasoning a bad parental reactions, it finally occurred to me…….

in ALL cases of poor habits and behaviors displayed by my kids, they learned them for me.

And even if in cases where I didn’t specifically teach or model pure forms of ignorance, obnoxiousness, or laziness, I failed in one of two simple areas:

1)  Consistently modeling good habits, behaviors, and reactions.

2)  Giving specific instructions in cases where I have specific expectations.

If my kids have small failures along the way, it’s because of me.  It’s up to me to make corrections.

Effective parenting dictates that the buck stops here when it comes to accepting responsibility for shortcomings.

When my kids seem to excel at something, the praise goes elsewhere.

Victories are a gift from God.

He will help you turn your next struggle into a victory when you humbly, patiently, and obediently look to Him for guidance.

Catch your kids doing something right and praise them for it.

Catch them struggling with something and know it’s up to you to help them work through it.

No blaming and complaining allowed.

No thinking “I got this, I’m good at this.”

No leaving God out of the plans (or the battles).

Give thanks always for the privlage of parenthood.

Don’t be too proud to ask for help.

And make it a point each day to look down on your children while they sleep.

A great reminder of a parent’s great responsiblility and great purpose in life.

A great reminder of God’s love for us and our dependence on Him.

Now go find some really bad music to set 5am alarm to……even if you have no intention of getting up.

Having a spouse talk about your stupidity promotes humility.

 

I Forgot How Bad Walmart Sucks

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I’m not just a “glass half-full” guy.  I’m a glass 3/4 full guy.

I tune out the chatter of all the ills and downfalls of my small town, my state, and the USA.  Look for the good and you will find it.  If you can’t find it, look harder.  Or better yet, just set out to make some small part of your world a little better each day.  Find the bright side.  Yeah, that sounds good.

And then I wake up in a strange town in desperate need of donuts, night crawlers, and chicken livers.  Without knowing where to turn for these three key items, I have a lapse in judgement and ask Siri those words that don’t seem natural to me, “driving directions to Walmart”.  I don’t do Walmart when I’m at home, but that’s another story for another day.

This is an early morning trip, designed to miss the first of the month mayhem.  I arrived in a good mood, happy to be away from a stressful job, free to spend a relaxing day of fishing with my family.  I drove away minutes later, convinced that our country is in complete and hopeless decay.

I suppose our view of the world depends on which part of the world we’re looking at, who we spend our time with, and what types of media we allow to invade our brain.  For those who work at Walmart, you have my sympathy.  Unconsciously, I have sheltered myself daily from a large segment of people.

As a teen, during the “rock music will send you to hell” era, I used to tell people that people didn’t turn to the ways of evil because they listened to heavy metal, but for those that were heavy into evil……heavy metal would obviously be the music of choice.  So I’m not saying that everybody that shops at Walmart is lazy.  But if you are lazy, then you wouldn’t dream of shopping anywhere else.

It’s an absolute haven for people who come from the school of thought that preaches doing as little as humanly possible and the greatest theme for life in general,

“Somebody else will get it.”

The store wasn’t very full at this particular time of morning.  I was amazed at the number of motorized shopping carts in use, not because they were needed by most……..just because they were so convenient and so dang available at this early hour.

Impaired lady in checkout line ramming her cart against the counter, causing the cashier a momentary panic……check.

Lady with a half-dressed infant slung uncomfortably in the bread basket of the shopping cart……check.

And the greatest scene of all came in the parking lot.  47 shopping carts.  Seven in cart corrals.  Forty running wild.  Forty people put their purchases in their car and listened to that voice in their head,

“Somebody else will get it.”

Too lazy to walk 15 feet to do the right thing.  Fifteen feet away from freeing up parking spaces and reducing the grave danger of runaway shopping carts.  But it’s too much to take on.  I’ll just get in my car and leave it there for someone else to deal with.

So I get judgy.  I go ahead and assume, that of those 40 cart leavers, zero have had a job and done it well.  If they do have a job, I bet they live in total fear of doing too much or doing more than their share (I’m sure they have nothing to fear).  I bet they talk quite a bit about what’s fair.  I bet they talk a lot about what they think the government should be doing for them.  I bet some have never worked, never tried, and never intend to.  I bet they’re too lazy to raise their kids right.

A real Sherlock Holmes.  Amazing what a guy can deduct from a few scattered carts on a Walmart parking lot.

But what if every cart was left by a 90 year-old WWII vet or a single mother with four kids under the age of 5? What if they were struggling and I didn’t even notice? Didn’t offer to lend a hand.

Maybe the guy with the 3/4 full cup needs to look past the empty buggies and silly judgemental assumptions.

Find a greater, God honoring purpose.  Count blessings.  If my cup is overflowing, I need to ignore the objects and distractions and open my eyes to the people around me.  Fill someone else’s cup.  Make some part of the world better even if that part happens to be a Walmart parking lot.  It’s not about the place.  It’s about the people.

But Walmart still sucks.

 

 

Daily “I” Exam

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Today………

I don’t have to have clear sight of the final step.  I just have to have enough faith to take the next one.

I will not allow hurry to enter my world.

I don’t have to finish everything.  I just have to make steady progress.

I will accept responsibility for my own failures.  I refuse to blame.

I will not take actions that require apologies tomorrow.

I will learn from my mistakes.

I will pray.

I will give thanks to my Heavenly Father for all things.

I will forgive.

I will not ask for help if I can do it myself.

I will not over-react.

I will look for the bright side in every situation.

I’ll remember that I am weak but He is strong.

I will know how valued I am as a child of the King.

I refuse to allow discouragement to stick around.

I will be slow to anger.

I will search for eternal perspective in all of life’s situation’s.

I will allow God’s word to transform my mind daily.

I will lead patiently.

I will give.

I will smile.

I will laugh, and others will laugh with me.

I will sing, even when I don’t know the words.

I will learn something new.

I will encourage, pat somone on the back as I pass by.

I will listen.

I will approach my work as if doing it for the Lord.  I will not half-way do anything.

I will be a peacemaker.

I will choose my words wisely.

I will cheer others.

I won’t sweat the small stuff, but I will celebrate small victories.

I will value people more than tasks and schedules.

I will remain calm in the storms, knowing God is with me.

I will make myself last, not first.

I will model a life worth living. Someone is always watching. I AM a role model.

I will love.

I will make the most of today, knowing that God holds every tomorrow.

 

 

 

Image Is Everything?

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Kids need their parents’ approval.  They need encouragement.  Security.

But they don’t need to grow up watching their parents live as if the approval of the world is of great importance.

Galatians 1:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 

So how do we raise kids who are secure enough to walk around in public with their pants unzipped and leave home each day without looking in the mirror?

Maybe the first step is to commit to redefining “image”.  What do others think of me vs. what do others think of my God.  Sure, we can dress in Iron Maiden and Metallica shirts just to avoid the cookie cutter church guy image (but that qualifies as image management that should be avoided).  And when we do something nutty in public, and our kids say, “Dad!  What are people going to think?”, we can fire off that we don’t really care what people think.  We say we don’t care what people think, but do our actions really portray a life that revolves around pleasing God or trying to impress man.

Ultimately, parents need to consistently model for their children, a life of obedience to God.  Not a life where anything less than perfection is considered failure, but a life that displays daily choices and actions that paint a picture of surrender.  Peace comes from God’s love and living to please Him.  Choose daily to love others (not just the easy-to-love folks), serve others, give up our own selfish desires, and seek the character of Christ.

Just a few simple suggestions or at least some things to think about before our kids freak out because they can’t find a boyfriend or girlfriend at age 15 or post a selfie on Instagram that gets 100 likes (or whatever Instagram pics get?)  And why should anybody listen to me?  Because I have two boys (14 & 8) that have never combed their hair.  That pretty much qualifies me as an expert in leading children down the path of “I’m not real worried about what anybody thinks of my appearance”.

1)  Don’t complain about doing a good deed and not receiving praise or recognition.  You might be doing it for the wrong reasons.

2)  Do look for opportunities to praise and encourage others.  Pride fools us into thinking we are deserving of gratitude and recognition.   We can’t demand these things but we must give them to others.

3)  Serve others.  Put others before yourself.

4)  Don’t obsess over appearance (your own or your childrens’).  Avoid phrases like, “you’re not going out of the house like that”.  If their tail is clean and proplerly covered and their teeth are brushed, they are ready to face the world.  God doesn’t judge us by our neatly combed hair or having clothes that match.  Kill the “what will people think” mentality, early and often.

5)  Don’t play the fairness card.  Don’t even talk about it.  “If I do ___ , I deserve ___ . ”  “I’ve done twice as much work as my brother so I DESERVE _____ .”   Another part of the battle with pride.  Kids need to learn to do the right thing without reward.  Life’s not fair so suck it up, and all that great stuff our kids hate to hear.

6)  Love unconditionally, just as God loves us.  Appearance and performance can’t be viewed by children as a measuring stick of our love for them.  We love who they are and not how they look or what they accomplish.

7)  Don’t use overkill with the word “pretty”.  Beauty is on the inside.  Make sure your kids know it.

8)  Always be mindful of making choices based on the management of your image.  Am I trying to impress man?

The only “what will people think” that matters is “what will people think of my Lord because of the way I live my life”?  Can I influence them to follow who I follow?  Am I maintaining an image that influences others in some way that helps them find their identity as a servant of Christ?

You don’t have to like my hair or clothes, but on my worst days, I can’t do anything to turn someone away from my Savior.

 

 

 

It Takes A Village

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I turned 46 last week.

In their birthday wish, someone jokingly asked if I had a funny story to share from the events of the day.

It’s usually not hard for me to come up with a tale of my own incompetence or seemingly planned misfortune.

Sure, I did fall backwards on my birthday while hand-trucking a refrigerator and it did sort of come down on top of me (but I’m so experienced and skilled at falling that I wasn’t hurt).

And I did spend two hours trying to remove the chipped and broken blades on my riding lawnmower.  Cut my hand open while impatiently separating the 3-pack of new blades.  And it only took me 20 minutes to attach the new blades the second time when I realized that I’d installed all three of them upside down the first time.

It’s almost as if I do stupid stuff for the purpose of telling good stories.

Laughing at myself comes naturally.  Perhaps speaking in general terms of being richly blessed seems natural too.  But puclicly counting blessings just seems awkward; more like bragging about our own good fortunes than about the goodness of God.

But…..today, I make an exception about “bragging”.

The biggest event of this week was not the birthday of a middle-aged man or his acts of goofiness.

A remarkable young lady graduated from high school this week.  Nothing remarkable about that.  Thousands of kids graduate every day at this time of year, and every parent thinks their kid is amazing.

But, Oh my gosh! When did my baby girl become this young lady?

And the mind of a parent spins and reflects.

The journey from birth to 18 years.

How did she become the person she is today?

I see obvious physical and personality resemblances to her mother and me that make me smile.

But I also see amazing character traits that go beyond the trial and error parenting journey that her mother and I have traveled for 18 years.

It is evident that God uses ordinary people to impact our kids’ lives in amazing ways as they are growing up.

Hindsight is a little clearer now of the awesome collective influence of these people……so I brag on them:

The Sunday school teacher who taught her about the love of Jesus.

The basketball coach who pushed her a little harder than she wanted to be pushed.  Lessons is toughness and determination.

The childrens minister who inspired a love for reading the Bible.

Grandmothers who were available for anything and everything around the clock year-around.

A student minister who taught her what it meant to love Jesus and keep a pure heart.

A piano teacher that pushed her to practice until she got it right.

Soccer coaches that helped her find the confidence to believe she could do anything she set her mind to.

Teachers who always managed to make her feel special in a classroom crowded with so many other kids.

The church Christmas program coordinator who whispered her lines to her as she repeated them so quietly that no one could hear.

Cross-country and track coaches that turned her loose and encouraged her every practice, every race.  Always believed in her.

Teachers who stirred her creativity and made sure she figured things out on her own.

Two younger brothers who were always secretly proud to say, “that’s my sister.”

Parents of friends who treated her like their own daughter.

A sister that shared with her every part of life.  A true best friend.

The student minister who celebrated her graduation in our church service, and handed her a microphone to hear her boldly and confidently tell of her plans to attend a Christian university and serve God in the mission field.

A mother.  A tireless worker.  Selfless.  Perfect model of a godly woman.

It takes a village to raise a child.

I’m thankful for the village that’s raising my children.

Pray for our children.

Pray…….and get movin.  Every child is amazing.  I bet God can find an amazing part for you to play in a child’s life today.

Thanks to all who have played a part in my daughter’s life (so far).

 

macy and pappaw grad

Sweat the Small Stuff

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I like to keep things simple.  Choose spoken words carefully, avoiding those with no value and speaking only when there is a least some chance that someone is remotely interested in what I have to say.  The flip side of this is that I often make the universal sign for “blah blah blah” when someone else is talking too much.   I’m judgemental.  People spew more words than I want to listen to.  And at least once a day, I accuse someone of “making something a lot more complicated than it needs to be.”

Maybe we have a lot of churches that are treading water by doing both of these things at the same time:

1) Making it too simple.  “Invite people to church.”  “Tell people about Jesus.”

2) Making things a lot more complicated than they need to be.  See the two directives in #1.  People freak out about their shortcomings and get stopped in their tracks because they can’t see themselves doing “the big stuff” that churchy people speak of. Then think about your own inadequacies, lack of bible knowledge, shyness, less than stellar reputation from a previous life, etc.  It becomes overwhelming, hopeless……especially for new believers. BIG STEPS SEEMS TOO HARD AND PATHS FOR SMALL STEPS AREN’T LAID OUT CLEARLY ENOUGH.

 

Obviously, it’s a difficult matter to balance, but maybe we could be more effective in the true mission of our churches simply by teaching our members to be more like Jesus? (sounds so easy, right?)  But I guess poor disciples can’t effectively spread Christianity.

I know I come back to this verse time after time:

Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
But it seems that new and long-time believers alike miss out on the life that God desires for them because we fail to embrace the concept of daily growth/change/surrender.
We know big changes are needed and fail to seek God’s guidance through the patience of making small changes over time.
It seems hopeless.
We can’t see the end, so we don’t even take the first step.  We fail to trust.
Face each day with a willingness to change for God.
Or perhaps worse, we fail to acknowledge the need to change.
We coast, living under the impression that we’re doing ok.
We settle for mediocrity, living only by our own strength and not by faith.
I guess I should really circle to a point since I claim to be a man of few words.
If you are a Christian of one week or 50 years, you have spent periods trying to figure out what the heck your spiritual gift is.
You may be like me and spend years believing you have none.  You can’t do anything BIG, so you do nothing at all?
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says to make disciples of all nations.  Sounds like a pretty tall order on the surface.
Now go back to Romans 12:2.
The great commission starts in our mind with our commitment study God’s word, to seek his will daily, to become more like Jesus each day.  If we are to tell the world about Jesus, our co-workers, friends and neighbors have to see us living like Jesus.
We have to become credible messengers.
My spiritual gift….and yours…..is small victories.
Daily growth, closer to God.  Understanding His word and His will more each day.
Loving others, forgiving, serving, putting others before self.
Modeling honesty, kindness, compassion, integrity, strong work ethic.
Placing value on every relationship and every encounter with every person every day.
I guess it was in the 90’s that the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” books were popular.
I think the concept was not stressing or freaking out about small stuff (good idea).
I can’t see myself hitting many homeruns in my Christian walk.
But consider the value of the opportunities that “small stuff” present each day.
When we tackle the small stuff God’s way, time after time, day after day……….that small stuff becomes an absolute jackpot.
Others may actually want to follow who you follow.
Others may place value on your spoken words.
Seek God’s guidance each day to make the small stuff count.

 

My Brother’s Keeper

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“Mom, Dad never has time to do stuff with me any more”.

Pretty sobering words relayed to me by my wife from my 8 year old son.  I responded in typical male fashion- defense mode, “I know, but I just can’t help it right now.  There’s nothing I can do about it”.

John 10:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Life to the full.  What’s that supposed to look like for a follower of Christ?  Eternity is a long time.  Point our eyes toward heaven and do something while we are here and do it well.  We’re not on this earth long enough to sit still or to wallow in mediocrity.

I can’t offer the perfect formula for balance in life.  Like a training athlete, we have to be willing to push ourselves and to be pushed.  We can take on such an overwhelming load that God’s presence and strength obviously carries us through, and our faith grows.  Or we can fly around wildly, over-promising ourselves and under-including God and littering our world with a whole lotta C- efforts…..just getting by.  Maybe this is the way that many of us truly develep our trust in God, by failing and seeing more clearly our dependence on Him.  It’s the logical next step that comes after “I’m about to have a complete beakdown.  I can’t handle this”.  Either way, we learn of the importance of seeking His will and His strength and trusting Him more each step along the way.

Life to the full.  Wife and four kids.  Demanding job managing a family business.  Involved in church leadership and teaching Sunday school.  Coaching middle school basketball and Upward basketball.  Two daughters in high school track, cross-country, and soccer.   Doing laundry at 2am to make sure everybody has clean uniforms and underwear for the next day.  Certainly not taking advantage of all my opportunities but certainly not sitting still.

BOOM!  A lifetime of suffering with migraine headaches is taken away.  My basketball coaching load is taken away.  I have TIME.  I have prolonged clarity of thought for the first time in my life.  Clarity told me that I’ve been working 40 hours a week at a 65 hour a week job for the last 15 years in an effort to raise children that make a difference in this world (definitely not something I regret, but something that has left a stinky trail of mediocrity in its path).  So I’m not only tackling today’s problems with energy and focus, I’m backtracking and fixing yesterday’s problems, and preventing tomorrow’s problems.  Sure, now is the best time to do this.  It’s ok to work 60-65 hour weeks NOW.

“Dad never has time to do stuff with me now”

“There’s nothing I can do about it”

TRUTH.  When we are where God wants us to be, doing the things that He desires for us to do, He provides a way.  Satan provides excuses and we can’t wait to grab them and use them.  Most likely, the responsible thing for me to do in the short-term is to continue to work extended hours while I have the focus and energy to fix the results of my years of neglect.  But as far as finding time to do things with my youngest son, I can do something about it besides make excuses.  Claiming to be “tired” in the evenings is not an option.   Plan something and do it.  And don’t pawn off “dad duties” on mom or big brother.

And that brings me to the greatest point in this long and winding story.  When we are faithful (and apparently even when we are just somewhat faithful but willing to admit our failure) God provides a way.  When you are living for God, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough of you to go around as a dad (or a mom), He provides a way to fill in the gaps.  Special people……grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, youth ministers are there to provide that special something.  When that little voice in your head says, “I can’t do it all”, don’t give up.  Do your best and trust Him with the rest.  Obviously I can try harder as a parent, but I can see clearly now how God has filled in the gaps with an awesome mom and older brother.

My 3 great lessons for the week:

1)  It’s not acceptable to make excuses for not having or making time for our kids.  Plan it.  Do it.

2)  Where I have shortcomings as a father, I am so thankful these shortcomings seem to be perfectly offset and overcome by the strengths of my wife.  In the case Kal, our 8 year-old son, I’m thankful the God gave him the best mom in the world to do the exact things that I have failed to do (like teach him to ride a bike).

3)  Kal is truly blessed to have a big brother that takes care of him when the responsibilities of life call mom and dad in other directions.  Saturday, it was truly like seeing up close, the hand of God at work, as Kal’s 14 year-old brother selflessly devoted his entire day (and night) to playing with, entertaining, teaching,  and patiently listening to his little brother.  He takes care of his little brother, not because he’s been instructed to but because he wants to.  That’s not a normal teenage boy thing.   That’s a “what God’s love looks like” thing.  And it’s pretty cool to see when you aren’t really expecting it.

I can’t do it all.  But I don’t have to.  But I still have to try.  And I have to trust.  And mediocrity is not acceptable.

 

 

Just To Spite the Seinfelds

frank constanza

In one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, both Jerry and George’s parents are considering moving to a Florida to the retirement community of Del Boca Vista.  Frank Costanza gets the impression that the Seinfelds don’t want them to live there.

“You think you can keep us out of Del Boca Vista…we’re moving in lock stock and barrel.  We’re gonna be in the pool, we’re gonna be in the clubhouse, we’re gonna be all over that shuffleboard court…AND I DARE YOU TO KEEP ME OUT!!!”

Just to spite the Seinfelds?  And he yells in reply, “JUST TO SPITE THE SEINFELDS!”

Do you ever find yourself reaching that point (or living for years at that point) where you’re constantly puzzled by finding the truth of being where God truly wants you to be and doing the things that He wants you to do?  Feeling like perhaps you’re doing the right things but doing them poorly?  Thoughts of scaling back and simplifying your life creep in or sometimes come over you like an avalanche.   Tired of making excuses and wallowing in mediocrity.  “MAN, I SUCK AT______.”  God desires excellence and I give him excuses and half-done………everything.

I recently told my middle school basketball players that this would be one of the most important quotes/lessons they would every hear from me:

“Your confidence on the court cannot be based on your performance or your ability level.  Your confidence must come from your level of effort and determination.  When this happens, there is no failure.”

Practice what you preach, coach.  Performance, results, people-pleasing, excess of self-reliance or self-confidence………they all cloud our vision of simply doing what is right by God’s standards.  Obedience rarely equals comfort and popularity.   In a life of Christian faith, I suppose we could substitute the word “peace” for “confidence”.  A peace that comes from maintaining a high standard of effort toward pleasing and obeying God.

What God desires for us to do, he also equips us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

He desires excellence in all things from His children.  Discouragement, stress, overload, fear of failure……these are lies of Satan.

Don’t scale back.  Don’t retreat.  Know that you are where God wants you to be.  Stay there.  Try harder.  Trust more,

JUST TO SPITE THE DEVIL (but truthfully, just to please our Heavenly Father).

DETERMINATION= “I am gonna do this.”  +  FAITH= “My strength is not enough, but my Lord will become greater in my weakness.”  EQUALS…….Satan loses every time