Those 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.
At the time, it was a new luxury car. It was a car that I could only dream of owning. The owner was a wealthy man in our small church. I was a newly married, young preacher. That morning, as I walked out of our church building, I could see him already sitting behind the wheel of his parked car, puffing on a big cigar.
As I walked by his car, I waved to him. His window slowly came down. He glared at me and sternly said, “Let’s don’t talk about race anymore!”
That morning I had preached a sermon and at some point had said something about race and the way we treat one another. As I recall, I spoke regarding the way we as Christians are called to treat others, regardless of ethnic group.
Apparently this man did not like what I said. This was a new experience for me. I had never had someone immediately snap at me like this regarding what was just said in a sermon. I responded by saying something like, “I was just applying the message of the text that I was preaching this morning.”
I thought about his remark throughout the day. I knew he was used to having his way. I also knew that he gave more money on Sunday morning than anyone else and that our small church was impacted by his gift. I reflected on what I had said in the sermon and genuinely believed that what I said was appropriate.
On one level his comment was about race but it actually was about much more. His comment forced me to reflect on why I preached and why I did any kind of ministry in the first place.
Steve Norman has written a very fine post on some of the benefits of seminary. Working with Harding School of Theology, I obviously believe there are great benefits that one can receive at a seminary. See 4 Surprising Benefits of Seminary.
For your brain
These two articles deal with the kind of food that might enhance the brain. See 7 Back to School Breakfasts that Boost Brain Power and Researchers Find 8 Superfoods That Drastically Boost Your Brainpower At Work.
Bill George, a Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School has written a good article entitled Self Awareness: Key to Sustainable Leadership (Huffington Post).
Being with people in grief and loss
Maria Popova has written a great piece in Brain Pickings. See Barbara Walters on How to Be There for the Newly Bereaved and Brokenhearted. (Maria Popova often writes thoughtful and useful posts that are helpful and interesting.)
Terry Rush has written a post entitled Anti-Religion is a Religion. Worth reading.
Public speaking and preachers
Don’t miss this fine post. Volume and the Public Speaker: Be Heard and Be Effective. This post contains important reminders to anyone who does public speaking.
Marriage and the dangerous question
See this post by one of my favorite writers, Gary Thomas — The Question That Can Destroy Your Marriage.
Wise leaders understand that life and ministry is a long game. Far too many church leaders act as if real ministry began once they came on the scene. It almost sounds like what the congregation may have been doing for many years long before the present leaders showed up is not as legitimate as what is being done today. Wise ministers know that God has been working long before they arrived and will continue to work in that congregation long after they are gone.
Wise leaders never stop growing in character. For example, a minister preaches/leads/teaches out of a transformed life. As Ruth Haley Barton has said:
What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul — the place of my own encounter with God — rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 25)
Most ministers who I know are good people. In fact, some of the best people I know serve as ministers in churches. Many preach and some serve in other roles.
Ministers have the opportunity to influence other ministers as well as the elders of the congregation by what they model in their professional life as well as in their private life.
Some ministers are overly concerned with their visibility and their status among others instead of focusing on their character.
As a result, some ministers become preoccupied with things that just don’t matter that much. Some may keep score. “They asked him to keynote a lecture at Pepperdine again!” Or, maybe you see that your friend is preaching at a number of churches over the next few months and you can’t believe they asked this person instead of you. Or, you find yourself checking to see how many Twitter followers that a certain preacher has or how many Facebook friends this person has.
When the forming of our character is ignored, it may show up privately, publicly or both. Privately, one may begin to harbor grudges, resentment, and hatred for others. Or, you may begin to make poor personal choices and give yourself the license to follow your lusts. Quite often this means opening the door to pornography. Once that door is open, it is often quite difficult to ever get it closed again.
When we ignore the building of our character, it may show up publicly, perhaps in the way we do ministry. We may lie about the attendance at our church. We may exaggerate the good things that happen at our church. Many ministers take short-cuts. Some plagiarize sermons while others practice manipulation and dishonesty with the elders or a congregation.
Do you ever wish you could have a do-over?
As a teenager, I used to play golf frequently at Tenison Golf Course in Dallas. One of the first times I ever played, I hit a terrible drive off the tee. Someone said, “Take a mulligan.” I learned that “mulligan” was just another word for “do-over.”
There is nothing like a do-over. Grace through Jesus is the ultimate do-over.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
A do-over is what so many of us want.
The parents who are broken hearted over the lifestyle of their teenage son or daughter.
The father whose son witnessed his unholy lifestyle and now, years later, the son is imitating the father.
The business person who in a moment of panic chose to be dishonest on his taxes.
The young man who wishes he had never looked at his first pornographic website.
For many years I have been listening to stories. One man sat in my office and stared at the floor. He looked awful. I suspect he had not slept all night.
“I need to tell you something.”
Are you grappling with important questions?
Some people are preoccupied with their image. (How do I look?)
Some are preoccupied with their success. (How can I win?)
Others, however, have discovered that one’s life can really change for the good when you deal with some very important questions.
- The question of character. What is the most important thing in life to you?
- The question of legacy. What do you want to be known for at the end of your life?
- The question of the present. At this stage in your journey, what do you need to learn next?
(Thanks to Walter Wright for these three questions found in Mentoring, pp. 2-3.)
Some of us consider such questions but seem to think our thoughts are enough. Consequently, while we may say what we believe to the the most important thing in life, our actions do not reflect such values. Or, we may tell others what we want to be known for at the end our our life but them allow our compulsive desires to determine what we do.
Dealing with these questions are game-changers!
She sat in my office staring at the floor. I’ve seen that look so many times on the faces of men and women who have experienced hurt.
Sometimes, life is really hard.
You may feel hurt, disappointed, and empty.
You may feel numb.
Whatever the reason, there comes a point when you need to hear once again a word of hope.
I love Psalm 73. In fact, it may be one of my favorite Psalms. The Psalm speaks of a person who says that his “feet had almost slipped.” He became so discouraged after seeing the unfairness and pain that exists in the world. He saw the “prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). It seemed as if they had no struggles, burdens or the common human ills (73:4-5). They were a prideful and arrogant people (73:6-8). The world was not working right and it was very discouraging to this writer. He felt as if his faith was all for nothing (73:13)
However all of this changed later and he came away from the sanctuary very encouraged.
A young father goes to the doctor. He has been experiencing some discomfort in his shoulder. His physician recommends that he see a physical therapist. The doctor’s concern is that if the man doesn’t begin to work through the stiffness and pain in his body, his mobility will be even more limited than it is now.
The young father goes to work the next day. Someone at work tells him that the discomfort is no big deal and will work itself out. The colleague went on to tell his friend that he didn’t need to bother with physical therapy. Unfortunately, the young father chose to listen to the friend at work instead of the doctor. Sure enough, his mobility is now even more limited.
A single mother is having car trouble. Her next door neighbor is a mechanic at a local car dealership. He encouraged her to take her car to a mechanic as soon as possible. He was concerned about the condition of her brakes. Meanwhile, a guy at work said that this was probably no big deal and the repair could wait until her payday next week. She listened to her coworker rather than the mechanic. Unfortunately, that weekend her brakes went out totally as she attempted to stop at a traffic light at a busy intersection.
Do we listen to the people who have the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to give the best counsel? Or, do we instead follow someone else’s emotional reaction or their advice based on the anecdotal experience of a second cousin?
What do people who live well do differently? What do the people who finish well do that others don’t seem to do? What do men and women do that so many others seem to ignore or pay little attention to?
People who live well live in the present instead of the past. Yes, they may have had hard times in the past but they learn to move on. They may have experienced recent successes but they don’t keep reminding others of the way life used to be for them. People who live well learn to lean into the future while they learn to navigate the present.
People who live well don’t keep making the same mistakes that have derailed so many other people. Satan would like for us to believe that we can play with fire and somehow everything will be all right.
- A young married woman is paying a lot of attention to a male co-worker who is single. She reminds herself that she has done nothing wrong and she is just enjoying the mutual attraction.
- A college student roams through porn sites nightly. He tells himself that he is really not a bad person and no one is getting hurt.
- A woman in her 40s has been taking office supplies from her work and bringing them home. She tells herself that the company has other areas of waste and they sure won’t miss a few items.
People who live well learn from the mistakes of others.