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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Things Worth Re-Gifting At Your House

OK, so we've all done it. We've taken a gift given to us by someone else that we really didn't want and then passed it on to someone else later, right?  If we're honest, yes, that was a kind of cheap and lazy move for the most part.

However, there are some things we have been given in life that we would be wise to pass on, especially to our kids, that they can take with them as well.  And yet, some of us aren't terribly intentional about that sort of re-gifting  so think about some of the following challenges.

First of all, be sure to re-gift your faith. That would seem obvious if you are a fairly religious, church-going family but it's not. Many people expect the church or Christian school to do the bulk of their modeling and teaching about what it means to follow Christ. And yet the Bible clearly suggests that parents are to be the principle teachers when it comes to helping our kids know, love and serve God.  See the Old Testament, the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6.

Second, re-gift the importance of hard work. We live in an entitlement culture where so many comforts and things to make life easier are at our fingertips all the time. Many in our educational systems want to merely level the playing field and make sure that no one feels bad or loses. But in reality anything that's good or worth having will require diligence and sacrifice. Teach and model that kind of ethic in your home. Make sure children and teens appropriately help with chores and family needs even if they're active in school and extracurricular activities.

Third, re-gift the specialness of family. We only get so much time with each other. Make sure it's not all taken up with personal activities, lessons, games and media. Those things all have their place but we need to have time to just enjoy each other and learn to love better. Take inventory on this one, slow down and don't pre-program every moment of your family's life.When's the last time you were all together just to have fun, for a vacation, or to do something truly spontaneous?

Finally, re-gift a thankful heart.  While we may seem to have much or little we're all wonderfully blessed.  Even in the middle of hardship there's much to be thankful for.  Model that you don't always need one more, or the new version, or the same thing they have next door to be happy.  Learn to make do a little more and to wait until next year some of the time. Regularly ask your spouse and kids to share something they are thankful for and then tell God about those things.

Some gifts are worth wrapping up and passing along even if you've seen them before.  I've shared a few.  What are your ideas?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Than A Coffee Table Life

Have you ever noticed something common to many offices, funeral homes, waiting rooms and even homes?  There is often a stylish table or two stacked with books. The volumes are often beautiful, covered with striking pictures, multi-colored and likely expensive.

The problem is that most of them never get opened.  Perhaps the top one gets paged through now and then but the rest accumulate dust and are for all practical purposes useless. They sit there for years and accomplish little. And most of the books on those tables look alike even though in reality they're probably quite distinctive.

I wonder how many families have never gone or imagined life beyond the coffee table stage.  Sure, things in their home look good and there's lots to be thankful for. And everyone there may be relatively happy and feel a sense of accomplishment. But they look like and are doing what everyone else does. They are involved in all the same activities, go to the same events and strive for the same things as their friends and neighbors.

And yet how many of those families would say they intended to have a coffee table life?  Not many. But if we're going to have marriages and families that are distinctive it's going to require that we think hard and actually plan to do some things that are fundamentally different and in the long run make us feel truly alive.

The things we could actually do to be distinctive and truly enjoy life are myriad. Only the limits of our imagination and creativity limit us. And when we invite God into the equation the possibilities become endless for all practical purposes.

So where do you start?  First, look for local ways that your family can serve others.  Your church, community center and schools can be a place to begin.  Find some people in need, look for an agency that would like some volunteers, or come up with your own project that would give your family an opportunity to care for others. A warning though:  once you start you might get hooked and decide to stay involved for a long time.

Second, plan some marriage or family events that would be unique or special for you.  Climb a few mountains, go whitewater rafting, take some sort of lessons together . . . you get the idea. Take one portion of the year when your kids don't need to be in a sport or music or whatever and do something you all like. With the power of the internet these days you can write books, make photo albums, research your family and who knows what else for very little money. Make some memories that none of you will ever forget.

Third, dream together. What are the skills, talents, resources and interest your family or marriage enjoys?  How could those attributes be used to make a difference?  Children and adults both have dreamed dreams and found that they could literally start programs and even movements that others rallied to and impacted thousands. Why not you or your family?

Don't just be a book that looks like everyone else?  Stand out, take some risks, do something together that you'll never forget.  And the time to start is now.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

The other day I heard someone on radio say, "Christmas is my favorite time of the year."  And of course most of us know the Christmas song favorite that begins, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."  And it is a special time. Who doesn't enjoy the gifts, lights, music, festive gatherings, great food and of course the story of Jesus' birth and all it means to us who follow Christ?  It's all great.

But I wonder if making holidays or seasons or special events our favorite doesn't somehow diminish our ability to enjoy every day as truly special and worth being thankful for. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older and more thoughtful, but I'm learning to make the most of now and it's making a difference.

I remember my mom sometimes saying to us kids, "Don't wish your life away," when we would incessantly talk about how we couldn't wait for something or some time in the future. There was probably some wisdom in her comment.  It's so easy to think that some future event will really make us happy or fulfilled so we wish for that to come while missing out on today.

How do we keep ourselves in the everyday moments that God gives us and teach our kids to do the same?

First, be thankful a lot.  Paul wrote in the New Testament that we should give thanks in everything.  There is something in most every moment and experience for which to be thankful.  No, not everything is enjoyable or positive, but we can still learn to thank God for anything he wants to teach us through it.

Second, watch for God sightings.  What do you see God doing in this current moment?  What person around you might He be wanting you to be Jesus to?  It's possible that God has something wonderful in store for you to do or see even if you're at the mall, grocery store, work or school.

Third, if you're a parent, model gratitude for your kids.  Don't give them everything.  Teach them to appreciate what they have. Express your thankfulness often in prayer and praise. Remind them often of how blessed they are and how much they have by helping out in a nursing home, working with underprivileged kids center or serving in a soup kitchen.

Finally, talk with your spouse and/or kids about special things that have happened each day.  Get in the habit of sharing the blessings of every day even though you certainly have to talk about challenges and difficulties as well.

When we begin to see the amazing things that go on around us every day we will begin to discover that there really aren't any most wonderful times.  Some are just a little more special than others but they all count for something.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

That Three Letter S Word

OK, so it's time that I talk some more about that three-letter word that starts with S. It's so difficult to mention even though we know we think about it all the time.  Of course I'm talking about SOX.  No not the White Sox or Red Sox, but the "socks" that you men still throw on the floor.

It's one of those little things that yes you do to passively-aggressively (I am a counselor you know) annoy your wife. She hasn't mentioned it since the second week of your marriage but every time she picks them up she throws them into the clothes hamper with a "Hmmph" that expresses her continuing deep hatred of your laziness and obsession with ESPN.

She's even considered just hiding them all until one day you look in your drawer before work and realize there are no socks to wear on a day when the temperature is barely above freezing.

Actually, there are hundreds of little sock-like annoyances that can crop up in a marriage which can slowly destroy our relationship. Or we can figure out how to live with them or at least work through them. I have a favorite pre-marital counseling theorem that I often use with couples:  If you throw your socks on the floor before you get married, you'll throw them on the floor after.

Your wedding day changes nothing when it comes to your habits.  Just because you went to this beautiful worship center or outdoor venue for your wedding, enjoyed the company of hundreds of family and friends and said your vows before "God and these witnesses," you will still be you the next day.  You won't likely say, "Oh, I'm married now so I won't be doing such and such (well, except dating, I hope) again."

So how do you handle those little annoyances like socks on the floor or how they brush their teeth or the way they clean or don't clean or whatever?  First, you remind yourself that you love this person including the good and the bad.  Part of loving someone is accepting who they are faults and all.

Second, you determine just how important their changing is to you, your family and your overall safety.  For example, if your spouse enjoys driving eighty miles per hour around town with you and the kids in the car, something needs to change. However, if they leave a drawer open now and then is that worth a fight or major discussion?

Third, when something does need to be discussed speak the truth in love.  Don't turn a habit into a character-fault issue.  "You are such a lazy bum.  Why can't you pick up your stupid socks?  Your parents obviously thought you were the center of attention and I'm telling you that's not going to be the case in this house?"  Tell them how it makes you feel and what you need that would help you feel differently.  In fact check out my posts on communication - there are some helpful tips there.

Finally, learn to compromise.  What could each of you do to make the issue that much less problematic, annoying or threatening.  Part of intimacy is looking at the things in each of us that aren't so pretty so get them out on the table and work out a solution that you both can accept if you can't stand things the way they are.

But remember, when it's all said and done, most of our annoyances are about us more than the other person and many of our annoyances are far worse than theirs. You only have so many days together.  Decide today which parts, the good or the bad, you're going to focus on during the years you have left!  And for Heaven's sake, go pick your socks up.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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