Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Watching Out For the Slippery Slope At Home

Jackie and I watched a little toddler almost die yesterday. We were at an overlook at Pedernales State Park in central Texas looking at the water rushing over two small falls that are famous in this part of the state. After heavy rains there was a significant amount of water flowing that makes that lookout particularly attractive.

A woman was in one of the reachable dry spots with her two young children where visitors often sit to get a better view. They were all seated on a blanket appearing to just be enjoying the beautiful day.  However, within seconds the toddler got up and started to try to walk down an incline next to the deep water. Normally she would have been ok but wandered too close to the part that had gotten wet and slid down into the pool. The mother thankfully responded right away and slid down in her blue jeans to where the little girl was and was able to pull her out.

Had the mom been seconds or even a minute later the little girl might have drowned.

We can also walk too near some slippery slopes in our homes if we're not careful.  There's the slippery slope of putting spiritual things aside. We skip church more and more, we get too tired to have family times, we skip our personal times with God.  Pretty soon we don't even notice that we've lost our spiritual strength, that God is just sort of an extra in our day.

Or there's the slippery slope of personal morality. We start having more lunches with opposite sex people who aren't our spouse, we watch a little more of things that we know are a weakness for our temptations or we let our bad habits gradually get more out of control.

Or there's the slippery slope of emotional distancing.  We don't share much of significance with our spouse, we rarely have time to talk with our kids about their lives and feelings, and we're not really close to anyone.  Or our anger keeps ratcheting up a notch or two to where others don't want to be around us much.

Chances are good that we probably know the slope we're on but we don't really believe danger is that close.  If that's you remember the mom at the waterfall. One moment everything was fine, the next her daughter was in grave danger.

Ask God to show you the dangerous spots in your world. What slopes are you on today?  And when you see them admit you're too close to the edge and find someone to help you stay in healthy territory.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Importance of Balancing Travel and Family

I recently made my fourteenth trip to Russia. Thankfully this time my wife went along but often she has to stay home. Thankfully I don't have to travel even more like so many do. But the impact of being away doesn't end when the plane's wheels touch down and I later walk in the door. I'm extra tired, jet-lagged and out of sorts for a few days as well. Let's face it - our families take a hit and make some sacrifices when we're on the road.

So what can we do to help minimize the impact?  First, make sure you actually need to travel as much as you do.  Can you use some of the new technology to do conference/video calling instead? Does your boss have you travel because he or she thinks you actually like the extra time on the road? Perhaps you like the road more than you should. Maybe there really is a way to cut back and not be gone so much.

Second, build in some time before and/or after your trip for family.  How about doing something extra special before you have to leave for awhile.  Jackie and I try to take some time for lunch or an extra day together to debrief, get caught up and reengage. That's important for your spouse and kids. Don't assume they've just gotten used to your being gone.

Third, make more of the time that you are at home. We should all be doing our best to communicate well, play often with our family members and give them face-to-face time. But if you have to be away a lot, then it would be wise to make extra efforts to engage with your family when you are there. Are you still at work most of the time when you're at home because you rarely stop checking your messages or are drawn like a magnet to your laptop?

Our kids only reach each age once but there will always be one more client to call, email to check and report to write. What's most important to you?  Our spouses put up with a lot for us to be gone.  Do we show them our love and thanks when we're home? I know that we can't always control how much we're away but we can control how we respond to being gone.

Fourth, be sure to connect with family when you're away. When I first went to Russia in the early 90's it was difficult to connect. Now I can call regularly anywhere I have wireless. There's not much excuse to not be in touch.

Leaving again soon? Make the most of it and show your family they still matter!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Be Honest About Your Pain

This week I experienced my first ear infection in say twenty-five years. The inside of my ear would simply start throbbing and the pain was awful. But I knew that in a couple of days I was also going to get on an airplane and fly 11-12 hours overseas. Not a good time to have ear problems.

So I did the manly thing and downed a couple of margaritas.  No, I actually went to my doctor and he quickly diagnosed the situation and prescribed some medication. We all have pain at times and most of us don't try to play through it, especially the emotional kind. However, many of us attempt to dull or cover it instead of handle it in mature, healthy ways.

Some common painkillers?  Silence, addictions, blaming others, working harder, spending, becoming more religious, serving more at church, sex . . . .  The list is long.  Now don't get me wrong - trying to reduce our pain, whether it's a headache or from the loss of a loved one, is normal and understandable.  But we have to learn to seek out appropriate painkillers, not illicit ones.

And appropriate honesty is the best place to start especially in your home. When you're hurting because you lost your job, it's important to talk with your spouse about what's going on inside of the two of you as a result of your financial struggles. Instead people often go to one of two extremes.  They either don't talk about it or get so angry and irritated that they begin to hurt others they love or demand even more from them.

And if the two of you don't have much in your emotional tanks to help each other then go and get some outside help from a counselor, pastor or friend. But whatever you do don't just dull the hurt. And avoid the subtle painkillers like working harder or serving more. Working and serving are wonderful but not when they're just a way to avoid the real issues.

Like the prescription I received from my doctor, sometimes we need the healing words of God Himself and of others God has placed in our lives.  Don't face your pain alone. Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."  Let words of truth be spoken into your pain.  But you'll have to be honest about it!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Being Ready For Parenting Turbulence

On a recent flight I sat next to a new, young pilot-in-training.  He even asked to sit by the window so he could see more of what was going on outside.  I asked him a couple of flying questions and he was more than eager to tell me what he knows.  As a long-time wannabe pilot I found his discussion fascinating and it made the trip go by faster, too.

However, not too long into the flight we encountered some pretty bumpy air, more than usual. I wasn't panicky (I happen to enjoy flying) but I looked over at the young man and he was as calm as a cucumber.  He said, "I don't get worried unless my head is hitting the ceiling."  I guess that's the kind of pilot everyone wants flying their plane.

Parenting can have its bumps, too, and Jackie and I found it's a good idea to prepare as much as possible for it ahead of time. While we can't ever totally know what our kids will do, our kids need to know what we'll do!  And so do we!

This is especially true for families with both mom and dad at home to together about strategies and steps they'll take when things might hit the fan.  Are there certain things you'll at least both agree to try when a child has a meltdown?  Can you agree on actions you'll avoid at all costs?  Are you willing to leave a restaurant, someone's home or wherever if things get out of hand? What are your options?

Have you decided on your limits or what you will do when a child has simply had enough and it's not wise to push them any further?

These kinds of discussions are important so that you as parents can be on the same team and provide a helpful and united response when your kids go beyond acceptable limits.  If you're a single parent then at least do some homework about what actions and words are actually doable for you and appropriate.

Take inventory of those times at your house or with your kids that are bumpier than others. For some it's time at a restaurant while for others it's bedtime. It's helpful to arm yourself with some practical strategies that you can use when the bumpy air comes along on your journey. If you need some ideas, talk with some other parents about what they do in certain situations, read some good books or even someone's blog like this one!

And then at some point you need to act. Show your kids what you will do and won't do when things get rough. Turbulence in parenting is inevitable, but it doesn't have to cause great harm or unmanageable angst if we're prepared for it.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bring the World To Your Home . . . and Vice Versa

I'm going to Russia again next week. It will be my fifteenth trip. This time I get to travel with many very talented musicians, artists, technical people and some who just want to help out. We'll be helping lead our third worship conference for pastors, worship leaders and others who want to learn about helping others praise God and teach truth in meaningful, compelling and inspiring ways.

But obviously my involvement in Russia started awhile back. . . . close to twenty years ago now.  I won't take time to give you all the details other than to say I'm so thankful for God's allowing me to learn to love a people and a country that I would never have dreamed of visiting once much less a dozen times and counting.

Yes I've learned some Russian, met wonderful people, seen many of the famous sights of both the Moscow region and Siberia and been able to teach some people there about spiritual things. However, I'll always highly cherish what my overseas involvement has done for my family. Serving in another country brings that other country into your home - literally at times.

We've had Russian pastors, friends and acquaintances around our table many times. We've collected Russian artifacts, books and souvenirs. We've enjoyed Russian concerts and music. And we've together developed a heart for the Russian soul. That can't help but change one's perspective and it did for us.

Jackie has traveled there with me three times but has also learned to cook borscht, understand a few words and appreciate the kindnesses of dozens of Russian friends. My grown kids have not gone with us but have had the privilege to eat Russian food, hear our stories and interact with incredible people from the other side of the world.

Families . . . don't miss engaging the world in your home.  You don't even have to travel.  But if can go at least once.  If you can't then invite people from other cultures into your house. Make friends.  Serve. Take time to be with people who don't look, think and go through life like you do. Learn some of their language, customs, and faith stories.

Adopt a family, an orphan or even part of a culture. Begin to read about it together and to pray for the individuals, families or people group. Young children will love learning something new and will probably grasp even more than you do at some point.

Our culture is not the center of the universe.  God has made us different for a reason.  Help your family to figure out why!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.