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

Friday, September 23, 2011

Most Journeys Are More Like a Marathon

I've written nearly 200 posts now on my Safe At Home blog. Compared to some bloggers and writers that's a drop in the bucket. However, put my total next to many others and  I appear like a novelist.

Whatever your perspective, I'm pretty thankful I've lasted this long. While I love to write it would be easy to think that I'm out of ideas or it's just not worth putting in the time. But over a couple of years quite a few readers seem to have been helped by my sharing while others are just finding out that they too can learn something from an older, more experienced guy.

My total, whatever it represents, does remind me that most good things and the overcoming of most challenges requires a long-term effort and commitment. Anybody can start most anything. Only a few in the big scheme of things finish or last.

Lots of people start to write novels, but how many Grishams are there? Myriad climbers have begun the trek up Everest, but only a small percentage make it to the top. Thousands have started music lessons but there are relatively few virtuosos.

So what is typically true of finishers, of those who reach the upper echelons of their craft, talent, relationships or climb?  A couple of things.  First, they understand from the beginning that their commitment must be for the long haul. While they can enjoy the small victories, they only savor the larger gains. They think in terms of the big picture.

Whether their journey is their marriage or the overcoming of a major illness, their mindset is the same. Small disappointments and setbacks may discourage them but they are not defeated. There's a wonderful challenge in the New Testament that speaks to this way of thinking.  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair . . . struck down, but not destroyed."  (II Corinthians 4:8)

Second, they sacrifice the good for the best.  They realize that there are certain things that may be desirable that they must lay aside if there are to reach their ultimate goal. I remember years ago hearing a young high school boy play one of the most incredible trumpet solos I had ever heard at Interlochen Music Camp. We knew the director of the orchestra and mentioned our enjoyment of his playing and how impressed we were.

The director smiled and simply said, "Remember, he gave up most everything else to play like that."

Third, they always have a greater purpose or goal in mind beyond the present. Most people who prevail in life have something or Someone within them that spurs them on. Some find their power in God Himself. I believe He's the greatest and most important power we could ever know. Others get their strength from a hero, parent or friend. While yes, selfishness has produced dramatic results in many who achieve great things, it rarely produces great things in great people.

So whatever you're doing and whatever you deem in that to be important, remember that it will require more than starting to be successful. You must see beyond the present and beyond yourself. And when you do your likelihood of completing your daunting journey is dramatically increased.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Great Communication: The Importance of Timing

Farmers think about it. So do climbers. Even surgeons know it's important. You can't plant corn in the fall in the Midwest. You don't head for the summit in the late afternoon in the Rockies. And doctors make sure their patients are physically stable before they allow them to be operated on.

In other words they all know the importance of timing. Families need to also understand that timing can make all the difference in the success and effectiveness of their communication with each other. While yes there are times when the urgency of the moment requires immediate action most of the time that's not the case.

So when husbands and wives need to tackle tough questions they would be better to agree to a more acceptable and workable time to solve their problems. And yet many couples dump their biggest concerns on the other person at the most inappropriate times. One of them has just come in the door from a business trip, another has been home all day with demanding kids or they are on their way to church with the kids in the back seat.

None of those times will likely work to handle a major (or even minor) crisis. Parents can exhibit the same time mismanagement in dealing with discipline issues.

So how can we do better at timing at our house?

First, know your spouse or kids better and maximize their best times to talk and respond. Yes, we can use timing to simply not deal with painful realities but that's not what I'm talking about here. Sometimes you need to simply figure out a better time to dig deeper and agree that the tension of the moment can wait.

Second, curb your penchant to always have answers right now. Most problems didn't happen in an hour so they probably don't need to be resolved in an hour either.

Third, remember how helpful it is when others talk to you in your best moments, not your worst. I know that after a long day of meetings and counseling I'm often not ready to talk seriously the moment I come home. I need to think about my wife's similar needs and give her the same courtesy.

While timing isn't the only thing that makes for deep communication, it sure is a main thing. Think about timing a bit more the next time you have serious issues to talk about at home. I'm pretty sure it will make a significant difference.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tips For Keeping Your Home SAFE

I originally named my blog Safe At Home for a reason. Sure, it's a clever (at least I think so!) play on words with a baseball analogy. But more importantly I've worked with families long enough to know that many homes simply aren't safe even though the people in it think so.

In recent years homeowners have been told that they should have their dwellings checked for radon gas. Apparently it's an unseen substance that can leak into a home and be deadly. The same is true for carbon monoxide. It's possible to be living around a deadly gas and not know it.

In the same ways, many homes have some destructive "gases" spreading through their families and the people who live there are unaware of the damage they are doing.

Let me suggest a couple of tips for keeping your home a safer place from those toxic elements.

First, ban destructive words. That's right. Have a family meeting tonight and say in front of your kids that you will end the use of words that are unfair, harsh and needlessly hurtful. Tell them that you will model, even when you need to be stern and firm, how to speak fairly, without yelling and to the point. Admit it if you need to change some things. But then require everyone in the house to do the same. You may need to have a point system, money jar or whatever to help this happen but do it.

Second, show every person that their comments, questions and opinions matter. Husbands and wives every day in certain homes tell each other how incompetent they are or suggest that their input into the discussion is unimportant. Children are told or it is implied that certain topics are off limits and that their comments don't ever matter when it comes to decisions made in the home or their feelings about life. Instead, listen well, invite comments when spoke appropriately and let your family know that their honest expressions don't ruffle you.

Third, keep rules and guidelines clear, fair and constant. No one likes to live in a home where what is right one day is wrong the next and vice versa. Few can tolerate being trusted one day and not the next when one's behaviors and attitudes have been consistent. If we're always moving the goal lines and boundaries on our discipline how will our children ever know what or how to obey?

Safety is not only a set of guidelines, it's also a state of mind and an atmosphere that a home must have to truly be a place our families look forward to return to each day. Who's guarding the safety in your home and have you evaluated your safety standards lately?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Don't Miss Imporant Lessons in a Tragedy

We all will face some sort of devastating experience, illness, or loss in our lifetime. Some of us have even faced what may seem horribly unfair especially when compared to others. And while we should never minimize our struggle or those of others there are important things we can and must take away from and yes through even the worst of times.

Let me suggest a few.

First, we can learn more about what really matters. Many people in Austin, Texas where I currently live lost their homes to wild fires this past week. When it comes to possessions most of them have nothing or very little. But I've already heard story after story of individuals and families who still feel blessed to be alive, to hug their spouse and children and to know they can at least start over. They've realized that their stuff was just stuff.

Second, we can be reminded of what other people will do for us when we're down. Sure there are people who will always be selfish jerks. But there are many more who come alongside us when we're hurting and ask nothing in return. Churches share Christ's love in tangible ways, neighbors give of what they have even when it's not very much and people go across the city or state just to help.

Third, we will see things done for us that we will do for others later.  Often the person who cares for others most is the one who was helped the most. A woman came to our church the other day to help those impacted by the fires. Who was she? The wife of a man recently killed in a tragic accident! She knows how much even the smallest actions matter to people who are hurting. And she was reminded that her life in spite of her tragic circumstances still matters.

Yes, we must be free to hurt, grieve, rest and heal. And our journey is our journey and need not be similar to that of anyone else. We will need time and we will never totally forget the impact of our tragedy. But be sure to take the time to embrace the life lessons that can still enrich, bless and encourage you and  your family both now and for years to come, even in the worst of times.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Is your home thirsty? Let it rain.

I currently live in Austin, Texas. We're experiencing our latest drought, one which has broken some all-time records. It was 112 degrees the other day tying the highest temperature ever. Our lakes our down some 40+ feet. We had the second most number of days in a row over a 100 and the most days above the century mark ever for one year.

So as you might expect the officials in our counties are taking some wise steps. They've banned outdoor burning. We've had to add watering restrictions and boaters on the lakes have new rules to insure safety.

And if you're home is typical, you and your family can face your own times of drought. You're thirsty for relationship, time, sanity, love, attention or a host of other good things that every person needs. What typically causes family drought? Over-commitment, selfishness, straying priorities, poor planning, unresolved marriage problems, challenging circumstances, getting away from God . . . 

There are more . . . you can probably add some of your own.

But you also know that if nothing is done in response to your drought damage can be done. And unlike in Austin where we can't just turn on the rain, you can do some things to at least stem the tide of the rain shortage.

First, slow down and take inventory. Sometimes slowing down will make a huge difference by itself but it's important to face what the rain deficit is doing to your home. Perhaps an activity or two needs to go, maybe some counseling would help, perhaps you've let your spiritual relationship with God go to the back burner.

Second, make some initial changes and take some first steps to find water. Go to that counselor, get back to church, slice some things from the schedule. Remind each other that all these extra activities will mean nothing if your family tanks.

Third, speak love and life into each other more. Because of busyness our homes can become void of meaningful discussion, encouragement and building each other up. Listen to feelings and needs. Talk more -period. But that will take some focused time. It may start around a game or mealtime but begin somewhere.

No family will survive well living in the desert. But if we're smart we'll bring along some of our own water, even if mother nature doesn't help us out.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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