What I Wish I Had Known When Our Children Were Born

 

SullyCharlotte and I have two daughters and a son-in-law.  We now have three grandchildren! Little Sully was born to Jamie and Cal just the other day.  As I drove home from Oklahoma City yesterday, I thought about what I wish I had known when our children were born.  Like others, Charlotte and I were trying to figure out what we needed to do as parents.  In spite of the way it may appear at times, no parent has this figured out.  Good parents are constantly learning.

What I wish I had known when our children were born:

The best gift two parents can give their child is for them to love each other.  If a husband and wife love, care for, and cherish one another, they have given their children a precious gift.  Children watch their parents closely.  Often parents think their kids do not overhear unkind words or see the menacing looks. Typically, children don’t miss very much.  They see the way their daddy treats their mother and the way their mother treats their daddy.  You cannot talk your way out of problems that you have created.  You can’t explain away the contempt you have for one another.

On the other hand, when children see that their mom and dad are tender toward one another and that they cherish each other, they experience a special kind of security.  When they see that their daddy adores and treasures their mother (and vice versa), they are witnessing something that can positively impact them for a long time.

Some of the very best parents I’ve known were single parents.  Some became single because of the death of their spouse. Others experienced divorce.  At almost every church we have served, there were single parents who gave their all for their children.  It is tough to be a single parent and yet so many raise their children in homes of joy and contentment.

How to Damage a Perfectly Good Relationship

anger2Have you ever known someone who unnecessarily damaged what was otherwise a good relationship?

Far too often men and women will unleash their anger on the people closest to them.  Perhaps it is someone in the family, a friend, or someone at church.  What transpires is often hurtful, damaging, and sinful.

Examples:

  1. The young couple who unleash their fury on one another cussing at one another and calling one another vile, degrading names.  Yes, this couple is typically in church on Sunday.
  1. The teenage boy who torments his insecure sister making fun of her weight and appearance. Yet, this same young man is often known as a very sweet and kind boy by some of his teachers at school.
  1. A group of people went into an elders’ meeting one evening angrily demanding that the preacher be fired. At one point, one of them cussed and demanded the elder group do what he requested.  Yet this same group will later tell you that they “love” every one of these elders.
  1. The married adult daughter of an older woman in the church regularly talks harshly to her mother.  Her mother is in poor health.  Yet, this daughter is often rude, abrupt, and hurtful.  Among many of her friends, however, she is known as sensitive and kind.
  1. A man in the congregation verbally attacks a friend whom he has known for years.  His friend was stunned at the man’s accusations.  A week later, the same man acted as if nothing had ever happened.

It is almost like we give ourselves special permission to talk to particular people in a manner that we would never speak to most people in our lives.  We will say things like “I know I shouldn’t say this, but . . . .”  What comes after the “but” is often deadly to a relationship.

Some seem to think that the words or behavior of another gives them the right to say what they want in return.

Not exactly the way of Jesus.

What Are You Thankful For?

(Thanksgiving Week)

ThanksgivingTurkeyThis is Thanksgiving week and I am grateful to God. Like you, I can make quite a list of what I am thankful for.  I will give you some of the reasons why I am grateful. Perhaps in the comments you will be willing to share what you are thankful for.

*I am grateful to God, that through Jesus, I can have relationship with him.  As a result, I am also privileged to have relationship with many, many people in his church.

*I am grateful to Charlotte, for decades of marriage, for being a partner with me through each chapter of our adult lives. Together we have lived in Florence, Ala.; Pulaski, Tn.; Dallas, Tx.; Abilene Tx.; Florence, Ala. (again); Kansas City, Mo.; Waco, Tx.; and Memphis, Tn.

What Your Preacher May Not Tell You

shushRecently, I was with a number of ministers from across the country. Many of them were fairly young.  I would guess that most of these young ministers are conscientious people who want to do the right thing for their church.

I have preached for over three decades. I know many preachers. Most of them are good people.  The following are some realities of ministry that may not fit every single minister, but it is certainly characteristic of so many of us.

  1. Your preacher may not tell you about how difficult this task really is.  Of course it is true that there are some lazy ministers who do not honor their calling through their lack of a work ethic.  However, most ministers I know work very, very hard.  Most work long hours.  When I was a young minister, I remember hearing several times someone use the old line about preachers working one hour a week.  Those were awkward moments for me.  I knew how hard I was working.  I knew the stress I felt.  Somehow, this old line was supposed to be funny or relevant.  I never quite understood that.
  2. Your preacher may not tell you how hurtful and frustrating some remarks really are.  Some years ago, we were seconds away from beginning our morning service.  I was about to say, “Good morning!  I am glad you are here.”  I was standing at the front of our auditorium, on the floor, just about to speak, when a lady in the second or third pew said aloud to me “I am so angry with you!”  I was not expecting that at all.  I paused for a few minutes and then said “Good morning!”  However, her comment felt like someone had let all the air out of my spirit for the morning.  I talked with her later and things were made right.  It’s important to choose words that encourage rather than harm.
  3. Your preacher may not tell you how difficult it is to preach week after week. Someone asked me a few years ago, “Jim, how do you come up with new and fresh material week after week?”  I don’t remember my answer.  However, after thinking about his question for a few years, I realize that whatever he saw in my preaching each week reflected many hours of prayer, paying attention to the congregation and culture, reading, and intentional growth.  Know that most preachers don’t simply have the gift of gab.  Rather, they work hard.
  4. Your preacher may not tell you that he is right in the middle of life right along with you.  Marriage concerns.  Child concerns.  Dealing with aging parents.  Health issues. Problems with siblings.  Financial issues.  Problems with elders, etc.
  5. Your preacher may not tell you that he is a person who probably needs encouragement.  Yes, in most congregations, there are people who are generally very encouraging to their preacher.  However, I believe that elders often underestimate how much encouragement their preacher needs.  Quite often preachers (particularly in small to medium sized churches) deal with many troubled people, address family issues in the congregation, and minister to the sick and dying.  Encouraging words help greatly. Some congregations may have a couple of people who are constant critics.  Unfortunately, in far too many congregations, the people who love their preacher and appreciate his ministry are silent.  They don’t criticize.  They don’t praise.  They say absolutely nothing.   If you appreciate the person who is preaching to your church each week, it might mean so much if you were to express encouragement to them in person or through a note.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

coffeeA.jpgReading

I’m not sure how he does this much reading. Nevertheless, you might be interested in this piece by Albert Mohler “Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books.”  It fascinates me to see the systems that others use for their reading.

Children

Not surprising but still disturbing.  “Many Children Under 5 Are Left to Their Mobile Devices, Survey Finds.”  Also see the piece by Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.”

Displaced

Also see this feature article in The New York Times MagazineThe Displaced: Introduction.”  Very sobering look at the plight of 60 million people.

This May Interest You

Right now, I am reading Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.  I just read Dr. Ruth Chang’s How to Win Your Child’s Heart.  (Kindle $2.99)  A good little book with some very important reminders about what it means to be a parent.  Just finished listening to John Maxwell’s new book (Audiobooks)  Intentional Living.  An excellent and helpful book. Maxwell is very biographical in this book.  Just listened to the latest Mars Hill Audio (vol. 127).  I especially enjoyed Kevin VanHoozer.  I look forward to each edition.  This audio resource has helped me appreciate the offerings from Christians who work in a variety of disciplines.

Do any of these interest you?  Hopefully.  Of course I am also interested in any nuggets that you have discovered recently. Please leave these titles/authors in a comment or on my Facebook page.

 

 

Don’t Let Your Fears Take Control

Generalized-Anxiety-DisorderOver and over the Bible says, “Do not be afraid.”  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Isa. 41:10)

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Ex. 20:20)

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isa. 43:1)

Are you like me in that you know fear?  

I suspect I have overreacted in a number of situations with my children through the years because of my fear.  I also suspect this has caused me on occasion to be self-protective with my wife.  Fear has been a part of my ministry at times.  There have been times when my view of God was rather small compared to what I was fearing.  Fear has its way.

Fear can have its way when we consider our future.  Some people may allow their fear to cause them to seek perfectionism.  Nothing in their eyes is ever quite good enough.  They may obsess about the smallest details of most anything.  Such people may believe that they really can’t begin a project until everything is near perfect.  Still others allow their fear to lead them to procrastinate.  Out of their fear they put off starting what they could have actually finished months ago. 

How to Murder Your Own Ministry

church144-300x300There are many ways a person can murder one’s own ministry.  Sometimes ministers self-destruct by unwise choices and decisions.  Ministers who serve on a staff at a church can kill a perfectly good ministry through foolish words and actions. Sometimes such choices result in a minister being “fired” or “let go” from a church.  Yet, in some situations one might self-destruct and yet continue to stay in the same role for years.

A minister can get intoxicated by his own sense of self-importance.

This person can begin to believe that since he is retweeted regularly on Twitter or invited to speak at out of state events, that he is important and unlike the ordinary people.  This is the person who might place in his own biography, “He is a highly sought after speaker.”  Really?

A minister can regularly function by asking for forgiveness from others rather than asking their permission.

Do what you want to do knowing that later if you appear to be contrite, you will be forgiven.  After all, this person reasons, it is far easier to get forgiveness than go through the process of getting permission.  Of course, this person might never use the word “manipulation” to describe such  may never be used.  Yet, this is manipulation.

A minister can become focused on money for his own gain.  

This minister may move to a different church primarily due to a larger salary.  Or, this minister might keep score as he learns about the salaries of other ministers.  The problem is not money per se.  There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to support your family.  However, one can become totally focused on financial gain.

A minister can give himself permission to do what is apparently wrong for everyone else to do.

Through rationalization and self-justification, this minister may give himself permission to think too much about a particular woman in the church or community.  Instead of protecting his marriage, he seems to be playing with fire.  He pridefully rationalizes, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not even tempted.”

Yet, instead of dealing with the temptation, he seems to be getting as close as he dare.  Then one day he says, “I never thought this would happen to me.”

A minster can self-destruct in relationships with elders.

A younger minister would do well to find out why ministers sometimes have difficulty in their relationships with elders. In fact, this person might become a student of such relationships.  What are ministers doing in churches where these relationships seem to work well?  Are they doing something intentional or do they just have a good group of elders?

A minister can be a taker instead of a giver.

You know the givers.  These are the generous people.  They consider how they might encourage and help others.  Then, there are the takers.  These are the ministers who seem to always concerned about who gets the credit.  They want to position themselves to be able to be seen by any large urban congregation that might be looking for a preacher.  As one guy said to me, “I’ve got to keep my resume up to date.  I’m ok with the church I’m with but I want to be ready in case one of the large churches has an open position.”  When ministers model “taking” as a legitimate form of ministry, they are modeling before the church anything but servant leadership.

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

MondayConversation

From Business Insider see “How to Start an Interesting Conversation with Anyone.”  This is a good piece.  Far too many people are passive in the company of others.  This could be very helpful.

Goals

This post from Life Hack is a reminder that there is value in reviewing one’s goals.  See “5 Actions You Should Take to Plan Your Next 5 Years Well.”

Parenting

This is a good post by the former Stanford University dean.  See “Former Stanford dean explains why helicoptering parenting is ruining a generation of children.”

David Brooks

I like New York Times columnist David Brooks.  Like any writer, I don’t agree with everything he says.  I like Brooks because he makes me think.  I also like him because he is not predictable.  See his recent columns here.

On Being

I occasionally listen to NPR’s radio program On Being with Krista Tippett.  Recently I listened to a portion of the podcast with Adam Grant, “Successful Givers, Toxic Takers, and the Life We Spend at Work.”

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

w-Giant-Coffee-Cup75917Children

Some very interesting articles appeared recently regarding children, play, etc.  See “Schools Hire Consultants to Make Recess Safe, Structured, Sad” and “Kids Need To Get Out And Play.”  Also on the subject of children be sure to at least skim  (from the Washington Post) “Are parents ruining youth sports?  Few kids play amid pressure.”

Conversation and Technology

See the interview with Sherry Turkle in the Huffington Post regarding her new book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.  The article is “Texting Isn’t the Problem: A Conversation with Sherry Turkle About Reclaiming Conversation.”

Productivity

See Adam Toren’s “7 Healthy Habits that Maximize Your Productivity Every Day.”  (Reading these kinds of articles often reminds me of a bad habit I’ve acquired or a good habit that I’ve neglected.) See also “7 Invaluable Lessons from World Class Achievers.”

Parenting

Be sure to read my recent blog post “What Good Parents Do.”  These are some reflections on the practices and habits of good parents.

Odds and Ends

I am reading Tim Keller’s book Preaching.  This is an excellent book written by a seasoned minister who has been preaching for many years.  I especially pay attention to Keller’s footnotes as he is apparently one who reads widely.

This weekend I read several two articles and an interview by James K. A. Smith in Comment (print edition).  (See online edition here.)  In particular I enjoyed his “An annotated reading of your world.”  I will quote one section of this article:

The world needs your (continuing) education, and your soul is starving for it.  We are remarkably well-educated dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants who could only dream of what we enjoy.  Let’s not squander our inheritance. (p. 11)

 

 

What Good Parents Do

child-and-adultThose of us who have children are always learning, or at least we should be.  We have two daughters who are adults and are still learning what it means to be a dad and mom to two adult children.

James K. A. Smith, in an article in Comment journal (fall 2015) speaks of “the currents and dynamics of society that are essential but often ignored because they are banal and taken for granted.”  He observes that “While headlines focus on spectacles and draw our attention to controversy, the things that make a society tick hum away in the background, in the quiet of life-giving homes and the energy of formative classroom . . . .”  (“Health Beyond the Hospital” p. 2-3).

As parents, we need to be aware of the significance of the “quiet of life-giving homes.”  This may be where some of the most significant work of our lives will be done.  Yet in our busyness and fatigue, we may also ignore some of the most important realities of being a good parent.

What do good parents do who wish to raise children in life-giving homes?

Good parents continue to learn.  Pity the child who is being raised by a dad or mom who won’t learn, grow, read, or ask questions of others.  Their default is often their own experience.  “This is the way I was raised.  This is good enough for my children.”  Granted, all of us can learn something from our families of origin.  However, we bless our children when we continue to grow and mature as parents.