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

Monday, January 31, 2011

How Many I LOVE YOU's Are Too Many?

This past weekend I heard a dear missionary couple tell the story of how they recently lost their sweet daughter in her 20's to ovarian cancer.  And the same night a network television program focused on how another family's teenage daughter died in a car accident because she was texting and driving.

Oh, how I pray that no one else reading this post would ever face those kinds of tragedies, including me! But it happens, doesn't it?  Kids die young, brothers and sisters can be fine one day and gone the next. Parents who have been there for us all our lives can be suddenly separated from this world. Spouses are spending life with us each day and then one of us is taken.

I, like you, would rather not think about it and perhaps even this discussion may seem a bit morbid.  And of course, other than teach our kids to make wiser decisions, perhaps take care of ourselves a bit better and be more careful in general, there's a lot we simply cannot control.  But we dare not just live in denial and think that it never could happen to us.

Are there at least a few things we could do be more intentional about as we live in a world of evil, hurt, pain, death and the unknown much of the time?  Can we prepare at all for the possibility that someone in our world may be gone way before we ever expected them to leave us?

I think so.  First, say I love you  a lot.  Yes, it can become a little trite, repetitive and may appear not to have much meaning at times, but say it anyway.  I want my family members and others close to me to have heard it so much that there's no doubt in their minds, no matter what happens or who leaves first, that my love was as strong as it could ever be for them.

Write it down, say it in cards, speak it.  Words are powerful and that little three-word phrase packs a wallop.  Every person in this world longs to hear those words.  Say it often and like you mean it.

Second, make memories now.  I speak about this often in other posts so I'll be brief here. Don't wait until someday to do those special things together with your kids. Don't just sit in the stands or auditorium and watch them perform.  Find things to do WITH them now that they'll remember forever.  How many people do you know who have said something like, "I only wish we had . . . " and then the person those words were about was gone?  Too many.

Third, pray like crazy for those close to you.  And tell them you're doing so.  Pray of course for their safety.  But also pray that their lives will make a difference for eternity no matter how long they're here on earth.  In fact, pray with them sometimes.  Prayer has a special way of communication your love and passion for them.

Finally, keep short accounts.  Don't hold grudges, deal with tensions or issues that aren't resolved.  Try to make amends for things you've done to them and/or lovingly share ways they may have hurt you. Be humble, swallow your pride, and do whatever you can to restore the relationship. You don't want to look back someday and not have the opportunity to make a wrong a right and be able to embrace and express your true love one more time.

Psalms says that our days are numbered and that only God knows how many we have.  Make the most of them . . . and say I love you another time or two today.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Just Say NO - Sometimes

Jackie and I were shopping just a few days after Christmas and saw a mom debating with her young daughter about whether she was going to buy her a new toy or not.  Maybe I didn't have all the facts but I'm thinking, "Hmm, is this really an issue right after the biggest gift giving day of the year?"

It's not easy to say "no," is it, to the longings, loves and likes of the kids we love?  However, it's important that we make sure this little two- letter word is somewhere in our vocabulary. Kids need to know that life doesn't give them everything and that their desires aren't always wise nor the most important need in the family.

Why don't we say "no," at least some of the time?  It's likely because we don't want our kids mad at us or we think that they'll love us less when we're tough on them. Perhaps we had very harsh parents ourselves and we hate the thought of our kids experiencing the same kind of treatment from us.

Often a non-custodial parent will do more for a child than they would normally because they don't see that child often and want to somehow make it up to them. As a result they give them whatever they want.  Yes, sometimes it's easier to just give in. Don't go there.

Children can subtly begin to think that the more they beg, plead and coerce the more they'll get.  But is that how life works?  Of course not, so why teach our kids that it does?  When we turn down their inappropriate, though natural, requests we set up healthy boundaries that will help them make wise decisions and enjoy the good times even more.

But let me suggest a couple of guidelines.  First, don't say "no''all the time or more than you say yes if possible. When we first moved into a new house I had a tendency to do that.  I didn't want the walls marked or windows scratched so I was constantly saying, "Don't move that there," or "No, you can't sit too close to that," or whatever.  My wife finally had to say to me, "Do you know that all you say to your son these days is no?  Oops.  "No" must be one of many responses we give our kids but not the most prevalent one.

Second, say "no" calmly and firmly but not harshly.  Say it as though that is of course your answer on that issue and that life will move on just fine. Don't turn the situation into a battle.  Often a fight begins because we were simply harsher than we needed to be or used language that was more condemning than simply communicating.  You can turn down their request without being angry or demeaning.

Third, when you can decide ahead of time what you will say "no" to. There are lots of gray areas for parents that you won't always have a clear answer on but there are some that should be obvious.  For example, when a child is trying to play parents against each other, your first answer should probably be no until you find out more from the other parent. When they are clearly being demanding of their own way it's probably time to put the brakes on no matter what the issue is.

Finally, look them in the eye and make sure they heard you. This is especially true for young children.  "What did mommy or daddy just say?"  Or for the older ones, "Let's be clear on this, son.  What is it that we've agreed to here?"

You'll have to decide what works best but remember that "no" isn't a dirty word. Just use it wisely.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Five Greatest Marriage Killers

Marriages are being assaulted! I don't know of anyone who doesn't know at least one close friend, relative, neighbor or coworker whose marriage isn't struggling big time, on the verge of divorce or impacted by an affair. And I realize that one, marriage is never easy and two, there are lots of factors that complicate people's marriage stories and any attempts to fix them.

Nonetheless, I want to also be sure that couples are aware of several things that may be overlooked when they think there is little or no hope of salvaging their relationship. These five perspectives or attitudes can often keep people from actually turning their marriage around if they'll only understand what's really true.

First, thinking that your spouse must meet your needs. The truth is no spouse can ever be enough for the other person. Yes, we can and must do all we can to learn to love and respect each other, but it will still never be enough.  Only God can fulfill our deepest longings.  See Psalm 42 for example.

Second, thinking that your worth is on the line. Many couple's disagreements turn into wars because they cross a line when they believe that they now must win a battle about their personhood.  Deep within they believe that if they aren't right, aren't seen in a positive light or whatever that they will somehow decrease in value and matter less.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Our worth is totally dependent upon our relationship with God and once we are a child of God in Christ five things are always true in any circumstance.

We matter, we have purpose, we are children of God, we are loved and we are forgiven.  No circumstance or comment will ever change that.  See earlier posts on self-worth for more details.

Third, thinking that your spouse must change for you to have a great marriage.  Yes, there are things that must be changed in some circumstances that either spouse must not just let slide - abuse, bringing danger into the home, threatening suicide and the like. But certain characteristics and uniquenesses, even if they are hard for us at times, do not have to become our personal mission to transform.  Yes, talk about them, compromise if need be, but also learn to love your spouse for who she or he is. Sometimes their irksome habit or style is a healthy balance to one of yours.

Fourth, thinking that your problems are too big for God to overcome. The Bible says in Jeremiah that nothing is too difficult for God and that includes healing the hurts and diseases in our marriage.  Have you really given your marriage to God, have you brought your story together to God in prayer, have you gotten others involved to both provide godly counsel and extra prayer? 

Fifth, thinking that splitting up will necessarily be better, easier or more enjoyable.  Yes, there are circumstances where a permanent break is simply inevitable.  But don't quit just because you want to escape the pain and believe that everything will be so much better later.

When you run into problems give God, yourself and your spouse every chance to make it first.  There just might be a miracle around the corner that God is ready and willing to do in you to save your marriage and keep you from just becoming another sad story.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kids ARE Impressionable!

 I heard recently from a Christian school teacher who was shocked at how many of her elementary-aged students had received M-rated videos for Christmas. And of course most of us have seen young kids in movies, watching television programs or at concerts that were clearly inappropriate for them.

The excuse that many parents use is that most of the mature concepts just go right over their heads and that they don't get the negative parts because of their age. Hmmm.  I was just around my three-and-a-half year old grandson and he repeats everything!  Sure, he might not "get" the implications or meanings of certain words or ideas but it's clear they have been impressed on his maturing brain.

When our son Tim was still young enough to be carried into the house, I heard him one night saying "Shoot, daddy," as I was trying to get my key into the lock of our side door on the house.  I quickly realized that he had often heard me say "shoot" other times when the key didn't easily slide into the lock.  Glad I didn't say something worse!

So imagine a six to ten year old with a mature rated video, in front of a racy television program or watching an PG-13 film.  Do we think that all the impressions and intentions of that experience will simply go over their head?  No way.  Some of it will stick.

We must be reminded that we parents are the gatekeepers of what goes into the hearts and minds of our children.  No, we can't keep them from every evil or inappropriate influence (nor should we) but we can do what we can now while we are able.  These early years are when we must teach them appropriate boundaries, morals and guidelines from which to someday make their own decisions about right and wrong . Their little minds can't handle the barrage of input that they can have access to if we don't limit it in some way.

In fact, much of what is presented to us in popular entertainment isn't just immoral - it's amoral.  Intentionally or not, many of those who produce today's popular movies, video, music and television offerings treat everything as equally right and acceptable.  What a person chooses to do is what is moral for him or her.

So when we let them do just anything or what everyone else does we're also saying, "It's all ok. Don't worry about it. It won't make that much of a difference."

So parent, don't just let your kids watch, see and do anything. Monitor the movies and other entertainment they might be exposed to both in your home and their friends' homes. Say "no" to popular gifts that they simply aren't ready for. Turn off the television when programs aren't appropriate.  You aren't being a tyrant or a prude.  You're being wise.

And when they are exposed to something you know they don't need to see, talk about it with them. Turn it into a teaching time about what's truly right and wrong. In fact as they become middle and highschoolers  you'll need to have more of those discussions.

Our children were made to be like soft, handfuls of clay ready to be impacted by the many wonderful things God has made for us all to enjoy. Don't let those benefits be crowded out because you simply looked the other way.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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