The Mindset Mentor shares some great nuggets in this 16 minute podcast. He speaks to the secret wisdom each of us have. I encourage you to take the time to read this and be inspired by his words.
Let me set the stage: When I was fourteen, I entered high school with what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders. As most teenagers go, I don’t think I was that different. I had my own self-image problems, had my own friend problems, and was entering a world of new peers – those who didn’t know me for who I was but were making judgments as I was at that moment. One would think that is a good thing if you are ready to escape your past identity. But in my elementary years, I had found my niche, my posse. It was comfortable and I had let my guard down. I had been vulnerable. And people accepted me. I didn’t know Jesus at that time and I had no idea what church was except an institution that seemed to be for old people and out of touch.
But here I was, coming into a peer group of 200, from my previous 30. Two hundred – just small enough that everyone knows you and gossip spreads like wildfire – but large enough that it’s really intimidating. And here I was, overweight, one of the shortest in my class, nonathletic and struggling with my identity. Having walked through some abuse issues I was dealing with (it’s ok – that is ancient history that has been washed clean by the healing of Jesus), I was pretty screwed up. I didn’t know what was normal, what was abnormal – all I knew was that I didn’t fit in and I desperately wanted a community who would know me and love me for who I was.
But, grade 9s can be mean. Cruel. Judgmental. Not all – just some. So, here I was in September, walking through the halls, and friends I’d had for years were still friends but they were developing new relationships and not as available as they once had been. So, getting back home to my parents, although dreading the question, “How was school?”, was a haven.
On grade 9 day, when we went to do team building and get to know you activities at the beginning of October, I felt out of place (ever been last chosen 🙂 ) and uncertain of what this high school thing was that I was getting into. Was this what the next 5yrs were going to look like?
Enter Elizabeth. A woman in her early 30s, who had decided she wanted to volunteer in my high school, and be a friend to students. The only way I can describe it was the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of God. She came to me on that day, introduced herself and extended a figurative olive branch to me. An olive branch of peace.
Thus began an unlikely journey of me with this woman who, as it turns out, was part of an international Christian organization who saw school ministry as vital to Christ’s mission to make disciples of the world. So, there she was, volunteering 8hrs a week at my high school to meet with students. She had talked the school into giving her an old storage room as her office, and she filled it with warmth and love in the shape of teapots and coffee mugs and candies for students who stopped by.
I saw her walk through the halls, being greeted by so many students, and getting hugs from many of them. What was it about her? What was it about her that was magnetic?
She invited me several times to come to a youth gathering she had on Friday nights around the city. Several schools’ students would gather and have fun playing games, sing songs and learn about God. When I heard several schools’ students were going to be in attendance, I silently freaked out and thanked her for the invite. It took several months before I got up the gumption to go.
That first Friday night, we played the strangest, goofiest games in one of the student’s basements, with about 25 students and about 10 university and 20/30 something youth workers. These youth workers danced around in sleeping bags, passed bananas to us with their feet, and everyone had a great time. Guards were down, and I began to feel safe. Then came the singing of Pharaoh Pharaoh – a song I’d never heard before, with actions to boot – and then a time of reading the Bible. I had NO idea how to use the Bible, and there I sat in a small group looking at scripture verses, yet feeling safe and secure. And all the adult volunteers were like Elizabeth – magnetic, warm, inviting me into a community that gripped me.
We are magnetic. The Bible says that inside the heart of every man there is a hole waiting to be filled by God. You see, the Holy Spirit calls to us, inviting us to lay down our lives – our ambitious lifestyles, our anxiousness, our eagerness, our dashed hopes and our dreams and says meet with me and let me take you through this life as it should be lived. What I was seeing in Elizabeth and in these people was Jesus calling to me. They were living examples of Jesus to me. They were the only Jesus I knew.
After attending this group for about six months, we went away on a retreat and God spoke to me. Each of those leaders came and shared stories of how they realized they needed Jesus. Womanizers who found Jesus, a geek who was desperate for more than just the life she’d seen, another was a lawyer candidate who realized he didn’t believe in the civil law he was learning to defend, another was a uni graduate who had no idea where she was going next, another one was a single woman in her thirties looking for a husband, another was a big burly black man who would normally have scared the death out of me talking of how he came for a football scholarship but in the process found Jesus through a fellow student. In each story, I heard this desperation in each of them – a desperation of something bigger than themselves. A community, a faith, a hope, a salvation that was bigger than anything that they had seen in this world. All Friday night and Saturday their stories reverberated in my mind and heart and I just had to have Jesus. I had to meet Jesus. I cried out to him and my world turned upside down.
Was high school all the sudden easy? No. But it was possible because I had Him. I had Him and a community of people who enjoyed life and didn’t care about appearances, how they fit in, how they carried themselves. They were living a life of freedom, and now I was too. And people noticed a difference. People at school saw me more confident. They saw me stand taller. They saw me become more grounded.
Scripture says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ” This was the abiding word in me. His loving-kindness became my salvation and it became such life to me. Soon after I found in my school library Nine O’clock in the Morning and Chasing the Dragon – two books about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the power it has in the life of the believer. It wasn’t long after that I was filled with his Holy Spirit and praying in tongues in my bedroom – laughing my head off that this was happening. I’m sure my parents would have thought me crazy if they weren’t at the other side of the house. I remember waking up the next morning and lying in bed wondering if I could still speak it and it came out no problem. I prayed all through my shower, and felt a new sense of purpose and lightness fill me. The Holy Spirit, who had made me holy through Christ’s blood, was now filling me with a dynamic that is beyond comparison.
So why am I sharing this today? Turn with me to Mark 8:34. Let’s read together:
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
These men and women were not ashamed of what God had done for them. They were not ashamed of the gospel. As it says in scripture: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
They showed me a better way to live. I had thought that life was all about accomplishing feats, of being popular, of being successful in business and career. And yet I was confronted with a Jesus who carried only the clothes on his back. He was the antithesis of what this world defines as success. He shows no favoritism to the rich and successful, he doesn’t turn his back on the broken and dejected, he didn’t go to university and become a teacher of the law. No, he was a carpenter’s son. They showed me that in laying down my life for Jesus, He’d give me his and we’d live a grand adventure together.
Sometimes we are running this race – we are caught in the waves of vision and dreams and programs – which are all excellent and can be very helpful to the growth and development of the Kingdom. But let’s remember that the Kingdom is made up of you, of me, people who encountered a Jesus who said lay down your life, give me your everything – all your hopes, fears, dreams, disappointments, and let’s walk through this life together. Let’s be Jesus to those around us, let’s take them by the hand and give them the hope we now have.
It’s that simple. People in this world need Jesus. People in this world need me. They need you. They could be the womanizer. They could be the football jock. They could be the geek. They could be the lawyer or the unemployed university graduate. But they each have a whole inside their heart that is longing for Jesus. They just might not know it. They might be scared to ask for it.
Today, the invitation from the Holy Spirit is manifold:
- Have you lost sight of that love relationship you had with Jesus when you first met him? Are you neither hot nor cold? Are you just lukewarm? As I spoke of that magnetism, that lifestyle that I saw in my youth workers – do you want that? You want that missional lifestyle – either for the first time or back again – you want to operate in that dynamic where people want to be with you who don’t know Jesus and they want what you have.
- You are saved but you don’t yet know the baptism of the Holy Spirit? It says in Corinthians that Paul wishes that we all be baptized and filled with the Spirit and speak mysteries that edify our souls. The invitation is there for you to be filled with his Spirit.
- Maybe you’ve been desperate for something but didn’t realize yet that it was simply Jesus. You could even be a Christian, or have a faith in God, but you realized you hadn’t laid down this part of your life to him and taken up your cross and followed him. You realized you were attempting to gain something but in the process, were losing your soul. The invitation to you is this – are you weary and heavy burdened. Come to me and lay down your burdens. But pick up my harness in your life. Allow me to lead you. Accept me, accept Jesus as your Saviour and the answer to every need you have. He’s ready to show you the better way.
- Finally, I mentioned abuse in my past. Some of you have a destructive part of your history that you’ve not dealt with. You suffered a harm that was unfair, unjust, and incomprehensible. Jesus wants to free you from that. He wants to set you free.
Now, I want you to know that this is just the beginning. God has more amazing plans for us here. He has big plans for us that are bigger than anything he did. Whatever he did, he said we would do greater. That means of the healings, the miracles, the signs and wonders that followed him – we are poised to do more. He just wants a people after his own heart who are willing to be ashamed for the gospel because they know it is the power of salvation.
So lay down your religiosity. Lay down your dreams. Lay down your fears and disappointments. Lay down the successes of yesterday or last year. Those aren’t the end game. The end game?? Nothing less than God’s best for you and me and Peterborough. And God’s best isn’t sickness, isn’t poverty, isn’t broken relationships, isn’t pursuit of the mighty dollar.
And do you know what’s going to happen? What Peter preached will happen:
“Now Lord, consider the threats of this world and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. And all the believers were in one heart and mind….And God’s grace worked so powerfully in them all that there were no needy persons among them.
Secret or not, I’m a closet musical lover. The first musical I saw? Les Miserables – two times in New York City, on Broadway, in 1995. Just a few months before I got married. I figured I should visit Time Square and see a show on Broadway. It was blown away by the characters, the broken Fantine, the abandoned and enslaved Cosette, the misunderstood but honourable 24601 – oops, I mean Jean Valjean.
A few years ago The Greatest Showman was released. My kids talked about it for months. My daughter and her girlfriends would be with us in the car, and soon enough they’d be belting the songs one after another. They’d been so impacted by the musical, and all I’d ever heard was the music. And I was so moved by the songs – the power and the passion.
Finally I got a chance to watch it with the family. The power and passion found meaning within the storyline. The voices of PT and Charity Barnum, Lettie Lutz and Jenny Lind appeared before my eyes. The songs that I’d heard so many times found their context. The aspirations, the dreams, the injustice, the discrimination, the heartbreak – all of them poured over us as we watched the musical. My kids felt vindicated with my pleasure. “See, dad, we knew you’d like it.”
I did – I love shows that impact me – that move my emotions. That’s where Ali and I differ. She hates movies that could cause her to mourn, or be sad. Her motto – “I don’t care if people are going to die, I just don’t want to cry about it.” Give her a solid action-adventure or espionage movie and she’s good. She’d choose that 10/10 times, hands down. She said it’s because she experiences enough emotions each day in her life, she doesn’t need to be provoked. Me – I rarely cry, I rarely emote when life might expect me to. I push through, set the course to walk through my emotions and, I guess, stuff them.
But movies are a place for me to process all of those pent up emotions. I let the loss, the ecstasy, the pain, the separation to wash over me. That’s basically the only place I actually cry – in a movie. Nowhere else. I cry the most at the plots surrounding broken relationships being restored. Father/son, brothers, spouses…you name it. I am just a mess watching people who lived in misunderstanding find each other again.
God made us, He chose to populate the universe with his children on planet Earth. He desired to be in relationship – He longed to walk with us in life. And yet we stepped away and chose our own path. He knew that was going to happen even as he formed us from the dust. He knew we’d turn away. And yet he did it anyway. It’s because he had a better plan. Jesus, before the world was formed, made the decision when God said he wanted a family that he’d make the way of reconciliations when we decided to turn away. He saw the Father and His children separated and he knew he could be the reconciling factor.
When I learned about God, and His profound unconditional love for me and my separation from Him because of my sin, I wept for what Jesus did for me. I wept. I cried out – I accept your sacrifice of love for me so I can know my heavenly Father. This, friends, was the greatest reconciliation I could have ever known.
Maybe that’s why I love these stories of reconciliation that catch me in my throat – I remember the sacrifice Jesus made to reconcile and I just want these fictional characters to know that same reconciliation between them. Ali has said she’s caught me praying during movies in our early years of marriage. It’s true. But it’s in those moments I’m even more aware of how beautiful my reconciliation with God was, and I think I love Jesus just a little bit more in that moment.
Now, you’ll have to forgive me, my favourite song from The Greatest Showman is just starting:
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious.
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
And I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) There’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me”
Taking on Giants
How to take down the giants in life is not common sense. It really isn’t. If it were, we would all be living our best life. There would be noNo condemnation there – just a fact.
Most days I give up before I start. I have already told myself that today is not the day. Tackle that mountain? Nope, not today.
How many of us have that as our attitude towards the goals we set in life? In his interview with Hailie Deegan, Jeff Haden talks about this very issue.
one of the most common reasons people give up on their goals is the distance between here, where they are today, and there, where they someday hope to be…That’s why so many people give up on huge goals: They don’t feel they can bridge the gap between here and there.
It can’t be the here and there that stops people. It’s the fear that is attached to getting there when all they can see is the here. The layers of the fear. The fear of making a mistake. The fear of looking foolish. The fear of not being able to do it. The fear of others’ opinion.
Which is why so many people fail because they allow the fear to overcome them before they even start.
How can we overcome this fear? Here are seven tips I have learned in this past year:
- Take captive every thought. When fear or doubt about the here and there creeps in, as it will do every day (sometimes many times a day), don’t entertain it. As one friend says “Don’t let it land.” Every person who has found success in the big and the small has had to stop the barrage of negative thoughts ready to take them out.
- Acknowledge that you are not the only one who struggles with this tendency. That can be a powerful tool if we see that if others go through it and overcome, then I can too.
- Find your tribe. Find those people in your life that naturally elevate your thinking. Whether they cause you to think big, live big, reach far or keep your head above the weeds, find your tribe. Their influence in your life can be stronger than any negative thought that tries to land. They will be there to check in periodically, encourage you, ask you great questions, and speak to the giants in your life.
- Read, research, surround yourself in the thought culture that aligns with your goals. If you want to become an excellent cook, you have to follow the learnings of those who went before you. I’d suggest you follow people on various stages of the journey. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube can all be helpful in research and spectrum thinking. Following beginners, intermediates and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), can help you with keys to success along your journey. The beginners are particularly helpful because they are your comrades, your brothers-in-arms, as you step out. Buy books, watch Ted talks – anything that helps you align your thinking.
- Meditate, pray, journal. Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the night or having a mini-panic attack during the day where you have made a mountain out of a molehill? It’s when you rehearse again and again all that needs to be accomplished, all the reasons why you can’t or won’t be able to reach your goal. In those times, worry has become the meditation of your heart. To journal, pray or intentionally settling your thoughts can have a profound quieting effect on those mountains. By naming the mountain, naming the panic, we can minimize its power, and it shrinks back to being a molehill. That’s why some experts recommend you keep a notepad on your side table at night, so you can write down those “to dos” or things your prone to struggle with. They say that by writing them down, you effectively lay them to rest, so you can rest your mind.
- Simplify your life to make room for the things you want. A friend of mine once used the analogy of Lego blocks when discussing relationship. If you picture your available time as those raised circles on a Lego piece, you only have a finite number of connections you can make to those in your life. This can be said too of your time to complete tasks. If you are spending most of your time on tasks that detract from your goals, then simplify your tasks. For some, it might be reducing your meetings out, or reducing your activities (or your children’s activities). For others, it might be reducing your possessions (less possessions have been proven to increase free time and creativity). Whatever it is, evaluate your life and begin to simplify. Learn to say no to the things that keep you from saying yes to the things you want to accomplish. It will be hard at first – deconditioning is reprogramming your mind – but with regular baby steps of simplifying, the tide will turn.
- Similar to finding your tribe, find a select few who you invite into your accountability. They will be more closely aligned to you than your tribe. They will have access to you, and will likely have strengths that you don’t have. I would recommend you read Who’s in Your Personal Boardroom by King and Scott. A very helpful resource, challenging us to be intentional with our relationships.
This is not an exhaustive list of tips. There are so many articles that speak of productivity and goal setting. This will probably not be my last article about it either.
What tips do you have for me?
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
Uh oh – the dreaded “spanking” post
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.
We spanked our children. Some more than others, but we did. I’d like to say at all times they deserved it, but I’m sure that’s not entirely true. I’d like to say I never did it in anger, but I know that’s not true. But did I always do it in love and with intentions to train – absolutely. God gave me these little people to raise and cherish, and honour and mold and shape the gift they are to the world. It’s a big deal raising a child. And as such, with the love of a father, discipline included hugs and chats, conversation and listening, but for us it also included spanks, time outs, or squeezes of the hand.
This stopped for most of my kids by the time they reached school age, but sometimes extended beyond it – up to grade three I think. By those ages, reasoning and other consequences took precedence. Plus, they say up to age five you’ve done 80% of your work in disciplining your children. (Don’t be scared by that statement if it frightens you – it frightened me. I just kept calling on the grace of God and the love of God to cover a multitude of wrongs. Parenting choices included…)
Some people used different things to spank and some didn’t spank at all. We interviewed and observed a lot of families about this. In my own childhood I only remember being threatened with the belt. One time I remember making my mom cry, and when my dad came home from work and found out about it, he chased me up the stairs pulling his belt out of his work pants as he followed me. I still have vivid images of that moment, now with laughter. I’ve never run so fast in my life as that day. I’ve never been more grateful to hear him say, “You better stay in that time out until I come get you” in my life. I welcomed that time out in lieu of belt spanking. But I will say being chased up the stairs in jest by Ali still makes me squirm. But, my dad assures me that I was spanked as a child. I just have no recollection. That just tells me the other experiences far outweigh the memory of those linked to spanks.
For us, I’d say 95% was done with the hand spank or squeezing the hand. It was easier to gauge how much it actually hurt if we felt it too. On a few times did we use a wooden spoon, but that had a more convincing result. A quick, single whack worked wonders. But, Ali didn’t like us using any sort of implement and I agreed for the most part. She recalled an instance from her childhood where she stole the spoon from her mom and used it to whack her back. We peel with laughter now thinking of little Ali trying to “spank” her mom.
We had pretty strict rules about spanking. The most we were ever to give in one instance was three spanks, and that was usually reserved for lying or sometimes willful, repeated disobedience. I admit a few times I spanked 5 times for willful disobedience, but I always got disciplined by Ali afterwards and I would have to go apologize to the children as a result.
But overall, lying was the worst thing you could do in our home, and still is to be honest. No matter what the situation, if you were honest it resulted in leniency. Consequences were measured according to your honesty. Even to this day, I believe our kids are as honest with us as they are because we laid this foundation while they were children.
And to help with honesty, we’d always explain that we expected full disclosure or the consequences would be higher. And it’s also great that kids are horrible liars in general, so the “God gives mommies and daddies special ability to know when their kids are telling the truth and when they’re not” was an easy trump card to play. Our kids thought simple discernment was like a superpower from God to parents. 🙂 So this has allowed trust to grow exponentially in our house (in most situations). But I’ll talk more about disclosure in another entry (Proverbs 20:12).
But back to spanking – each child’s needs differed. With our daughter I just needed to speak sternly to her – I maybe threatened spanks but that was as far as it got. We rarely had to spank her for that reason.
In my own life, I’ve learned how being honest with the Lord because otherwise he allows my circumstances to discipline me until I’m honest with the Lord and honest with myself. Sure, grace and mercy are always available, but when you ask the Lord to refine you, there are some things that God can’t let mercy and grace do the work of in the fire. David had to endure hardship with Saul, Moses had to walk through some tough stuff – all to grow in their honesty with the Lord and with themselves. It made them better leaders. And, once I have been honest with the Lord and with myself, at the point when discipline has been received, he can reason and teach me so much more.
He’s not a bad boy
Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul
Discipline is an interesting word. It’s from the same root word as disciple. Disciple is not as scary a word as discipline is. Discipline suggests heavy correction, negative consequences to bad choices. But disciple suggests teaching a better way.
With our kids, we were careful to not call them “Bad boy” or “good boy” when we spoke to them about an action they undertook. Their inherent goodness was unrelated to their actions – they were always good children – they just made good or bad choices. Their identity, first and foremost, was that they were good kids. We wanted them to know they were loved and important and a joy to us. But when they did dishonourable things, they made bad choices, we recognized that this was what we were needing to deal with, not who they were to us. WE were disciple-ing their choice-making ability, not who God made them. They are made in His image.
But there were definitely days I struggled with discipling our children. One of them was particularly strong willed and he was a tough nut to crack. He was a biter, a poo-smearer (yuck!), extremely jealous of others – so much so that he’d bop anyone whom he felt encroached in on a close friendship. He was sent home several times from school for bullying behaviour in kindergarten for that very reason. Man that was a tough season.
But we called on the Lord, we asked for help from Him. We sought out families who raised kids who seemed to be tackling life successfully (this is so important to do) and we talked ad nauseum with each other so Ali and I knew we were on the same page (equally important). We attempted to be consistent in our discipline so our child would know cause and effect. It worked well sometimes but to be honest it was exhausting. There were moments, days, weeks that we would want to throw in the towel and just let him do what he wanted.
But, God never gives up on us, and so we didn’t either. Now, there were times when we consequence our son and we saw he was backed into a corner by us and he couldn’t see anyway out. Even though we were consistent and clear in our expectations, he somehow couldn’t break the cycle of behaviour. As a result, we realized we had to have jubilee moments. Jubilee was an old testament term that meant debts were forgiven. Ali and I would see he was unable to get himself out of a predicament he’d gotten himself into. You could see in his eyes that he didn’t know how to break the rebellion. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” was our safeguard in those moments. We’d pull him out of his never-ending time out (he’d cross the line every time he was given a reprieve so back he’d have to go into another time out). We’d sit him down and tell him we loved him and we’re only giving him consequences for his wrong choices and that life would be much easier if he simply honoured us (Exodus 20.12). And, we’d explain that he needs to know how much more enjoyable life is when you listen to your parents’ instruction. Then we’d share about the mercy of Christ in words understandable to a toddler, and tell him we were letting him off because God loves to bring mercy, but also know that our son will continue to struggle and not enjoy this area of his life until he heeds our discipline.
With our kids, we were careful to not call them “Bad boy” or “good boy” when we spoke to them about an action they undertook. Their inherent goodness was unrelated to their actions – they were always good children – they just made good or bad choices.
It was a good reminder for me that God will continue to allow things to happen to me to discipline me. And, until I learn those things, I won’t have let discipline change me. Disciple-ing will continue until I give up and give into God’s love and better way for me.
I’m grateful to say that my son now enjoys much freedom, no longer poo-smears, no longer bites, and loves life. He’s strong and loyal, but in the right ways. He still has issues but life’s like that. Always an opportunity to experience the grace, mercy and love of God.
There’s always a backstory…
“Ears to hear and eyes to see – both are gifts from the Lord”
Whenever we ask our kids about circumstances and situations that we know they are wrestling with, we’ve found the most effective way to deal with it is through the eyes and ears of the Spirit. What’s the backstory? What’s their body language displaying that we need to observe? What they aren’t saying is often just as important as what they are saying.
The Holy Spirit prays through us in the Spirit because we often get in the way with our words. They are often inadequate or only tell part of the story. So, the same is true when we listen to our kids. Sometimes their words get in the way, wittingly or unwittingly. It’s our job to let their guarded speech to run its course – that’s when the words that really carry meaning follow.
When we do this, through open ended questions, allowing for uncomfortable pauses and silences, we get to the heart of the matter much faster.
Perhaps your child has a real desire to please you; the last thing they will want to admit to something they think will displease you. For example, my daughter might say “I got my test back – a bunch of people failed.” I know she didn’t do well and she’s attempting to cough it with a “it could have been worse.” The test mark isn’t what’s important here – it’s her self-worth and how I want to value her willingness to tell me anything, no matter how she thinks I will feel. Because in 10 years, it won’t be a poor test mark she might be coming to me with. It might be something much more important. So, I’m setting the ground rules now.
allowing for uncomfortable pauses and silences, we get to the heart of the matter much faster.
My response is not one of anger. I may be disappointed and may even tell her so, but I need to take her to a place where she has hope and expectation that next time will be better. Here I would share an experience in my own childhood when I knew I had failed or done poorly, and how disappointed I was in myself. How I knew I could have done better and how I was afraid to let my parents down. I’d speak of learning to be honest. Taking the consequences are second to knowing the better way, the love of my parents that will help me move on.
As I share my experiences and my own feelings, I’m teaching my daughter how to evaluate the circumstance herself – recognize triggers and disappointments. I share experiences with her that her dad – her hero still – survived bad tests, and remind her that parents are people who understand.
That means when she goes through her first break up or her first tough problem, she’ll be more likely to tell me, evaluate it herself in a mature fashion, and get through it that much faster.
There’s always a backstory – our children’s and ours – that the Holy Spirit will lead us to as we open our eyes and ears.
Father, teach me by your Spirit to have ears to hear and eyes to see – help me to embrace those gifts as a parent and allow my children to learn from my example.
Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without the advice of others.
Why reinvent the wheel? Every time Ali and I encounter a new phase of life – marriage, first car, first home, first child, debt, toddlers, school and teachers, teens, the first one leaves home, we would inevitably look to those who’ve gone before us and ask them what they did. We listen, we talk, we ask questions, and then…
…we synthesized. We listened to each other – what had we taken from all the counsel, what does the Bible say, what do our leaders recommend, and then we act.
It saved us from a lot of unnecessary battles and failures. Sure, we still made mistakes – loads of them – but I can only imagine how many more we would have made if we hadn’t taken counsel.
Counsel doesn’t mean just in times of difficulty. We constantly amass good strategies for tackling life in our home. At one point I thought we’d eventually have our lives running on all cylinders, but each season seems to upset some aspect of our groove. There’s always need for adjusting, and realigning, so good counsel never goes out of style.
There’s an old adage that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think we have lost some of this over the decades with the prominence of individualism, political correctness and pluralism. We are largely for “what is good for me” marriages and families. As a result, we’ve seen people foray into ubiquitous partner swapping and infidelity. We’ve seen the rise of the child as the centre of the family – where the child’s needs and wants outweigh what’s best for the family. Heaven forbid if social standards for manners and socially acceptable boundaries are thrown aside – tried and true standard of respect and honour are abandoned. This leads to unbridled and undisciplined children who are free to speak unruly to their parents and other adults, have temper tantrums that are left unchecked, because we as parents have encouraged our children to think we’re equals and they are not in need of discipline.
We have such a wealth of knowledge in those whom have gone before us. People who have walked the walk and learned which way to go and which way to avoid.
As a result, Ali and I – since our children were babies – have fostered extensive interaction between our children and those in our church. We are grateful for the families who said they wanted to take our children for an evening or afternoon, or even overnight. We knew that our children were being parented by other adults we trusted and we knew that they would grow with a healthy respect and honour of those in our community. And, they would recognize their part of a bigger community than our nuclear family. It has helped shape them to be very comfortable seeking counsel from many advisors now. They reach out to people in their 20s to 80s for insight, advice and to listen to their stories. But that would not have happened, I don’t believe, if we hadn’t started with them when they were young, exposing them to our wider community and trusting those individuals with our most precious possession – our children’s well-being.
It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. And I, for one, am grateful.
Wise lips and protected ears
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is incredibly powerful. The ultimate desire is to teach my children to value and honour the gift in others, the life that others have lived. This requires a laying down of hurts or failed expectations that I have for myself or others, and walking out in understanding and compassion. Heaven knows that they must have compassion for me. So, who am I to judge someone for failing to meet my expectations when for sure I have failed to meet someone’s at some time in my life. This is sobering.
But, as much as I can, I live the life I want my children and those I lead to aspire to. When my children were young, they saw things but their grace and forgiveness level was enormous. But, as they get older, their opinions about how I live become more developed. They see how much time I spend away from the home supporting others. They see how often I have my device in my hand. They see the way I touch and care for Ali. They see the way I speak of others when they’re not around.
That’s a perfect example – a community is built not through disharmony and strife but through acceptance and encouragement. I am grateful that Ali and I have worked incredibly hard to speak well of others around our children – even when we struggle with their actions or intentions. We may cry in private, but in public we honour the person. We want our children to make their own judgments about people, and not be held to their parent’s feelings or emotions. We can do more damage to their development. If they take on any of our hurts or failed expectations, then we are asking them to make mature decisions to walk that out as we would as adults. That’s not fair to their psyches. They are capable of a lot, but having to walk out our issues with people is not one we should put on them.
Thus, my children have wonderful relationships with people young and old. They speak well of others, and if there is offense or misunderstanding, they assume the best of the person and come to us to understand why something went south. And, as safe as we can be, we walk them through their emotions and help them recognize that each of us has an opportunity to bless and cover other people’s weaknesses. That doesn’t mean we excuse them, or don’t put up boundaries when we need to, but it does mean that when something does go wrong, we recognize that this is where humanity meets grace.
So, as I walk through my day to day, I recognize that I have four little people in my home, and countless others around me who are watching me as I act and react. It’s not to put pressure on me to be perfect. No, not at all. But what it does remind me of is the desire to “shine like stars in the universe.”
“Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future lies before those who love peace.”
Psalm 38.37, NLT
Getting married or having children can be daunting to consider all the things we don’t know. There were many times Ali and I could have been overwhelmed at the prospects of what to do. What if we make mistakes? What if we are absolutely clueless on what to do? We began to talk, even before we were married, about what kind of life we wanted to build. But, how were we going to learn how to do it? Our parents had taught us things, but there was so much more to learn.
So, one of the first things Ali and I did when we spoke about our relationship was finding people – couples and families – that emulated what we wanted in our home.
We spent a great deal of time watching – observing families and couples to see how they interacted, how they showed love to each other. Not only how they loved their kids, but how their kids loved them back.
As we saw what they were like in private and in public, we began to describe what we saw. We found this the best way to determine what hallmarks we wanted for our family.
Discipleship can be as simple as that – making yourself known to others in authenticity and vulnerability, allowing others to learn from your successes and mistakes. And, for those who want to be discipled – the best way to be discipled is to offer to serve those who can disciple you. Run with those who are running because if you want them to stop running to take time with you, then you aren’t seeing them in action.