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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Are We Teaching Our Kids About "Stuff?"

It has become known as Black Friday. It's the day after Thanksgiving when so many get up in the middle of the night or don't go to bed at all so they can shop for all the sales. For some it's a holiday tradition while for others a chance to seriously save some money. Who knows if they really save anything but that's their sincere goal in many cases.

And frankly, enjoying family time in a fun, unique way or saving a few dollars both have their merits.  But this year a woman in Los Angeles peppered sprayed ten people in line in front of her so she could be first. Another man experiencing a heart attack was walked over. And a lady grabbed as many two-dollar waffle irons as she could as her pants began to slip down off her bottom.

Sure, these are extreme examples. Not everyone who engaged in Black Friday shopping was so rude or crude. But it's worth considering whether we're sending signals to our family that stuff means more to us than it should. While we may not even shop on Thanksgiving weekend, we can still be teaching things about our possessions that will be harmful in the long run. How might we do that?

First, we may have a habit of always wanting one more thing or the next best one. Companies have a way of coming out with new products within months sometimes of the last one. That's fine but do we always have to have the latest one? If so, we teach our kids that appreciating what we have doesn't matter.

Second, we may tend to get things NOW rather than later. We can't wait, we won't settle for keeping the old one and we fear the embarrassment that others will have something that we don't.  If we're not careful we can subtly teach our families that waiting and saving are not that important. In fact, this perspective can lead to significant credit card debt and overspending.

Third, we may simply talk more about getting than giving. We may help out our token charity, give to the church or serve once a year but giving to others isn't a regular part of our home life.

You get the idea. We don't have to be a Black Friday fanatic or do something wildly absurd or unkind to send all the wrong messages. We teach our families by what we do the most and how we live our lives from day to day.

You want to teach your family members how to keep your "stuff" in perspective? Live your life in a way that it wouldn't matter that much if you lost it all.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Different Kind of Christmas For Your Family

I'll bet you're already envisioning what Christmas will be like at your house. Perhaps it will include a  service somewhere, family gatherings, a special breakfast, gifts under the tree, visits to local lighting displays and lots of great food.

You probably have other special traditions that are unique to your family and all those things are good and right to enjoy. Christmas should be a time of celebration, joy and family.

However, what might it be like if we allowed Christmas to take a significant turn in our home and we did something radically different? What if we made it a day more of giving than getting? What if we did one of the simplest, yet most memorable holidays yet?

A few suggestions.  First, think about purchasing a gift that keeps on giving. World Vision and other agencies have catalogues where you can buy an animal, for example, that would help keep on feeding a family in another country. Their brochure or website is usually full of ideas from small to large that are difference makers and would model for your children what it means to really sacrifice for someone else.

You  can invite your children to be a part of the decision making process, too, and have lots of fun picking out just the right gift. You can also get more information about who you will be helping plus follow up later.

Second, think about only giving each other one or two gifts this year. Explain that you're going to use the money you save to help others or you want to just simplify the day and focus on its real meaning. Another option is to just limit the amount you spend on each other but see who can get the most for the money.

Third, read the Christmas story together and/or watch a video that will help you think about Christmas as a family. Even in Christian homes the actually story of Jesus' birth can get lost in all the busyness that we allow to crowd into our homes. You can count on the TV networks to only show holiday movies that get no deeper than dreams, trees, smiles and snowmen. Give your family better.

Fourth, go serve others somewhere on Christmas Day. There are usually nursing homes, shelters and homeless camps who would love to have a family like yours come and spend a part of the day with them volunteering or just talking to people. Or if you're willing to consider bigger ideas use your holiday time off to do a missions trip.

You can no doubt come up with many more ideas but think about making this the most unique kind of Christmas ever. I know your family will never be the same and you'll have memory that you will talk about for a long time.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When Right Loses Out to Reputation

I'm sure thousands of articles and blog posts have been or will be written about the terrible revelations of child abuse at Penn State. And unless we're experts in the law or know facts that the general public doesn't know none of us writers should be making judgments about motives, actions and intentions that we can't possibly know about for sure.

However, there seems to be one thing that is pretty clear in all of this.  And sadly it's probably true in many other offices, homes, and universities. People often don't do the RIGHT thing because they are more worried about their reputation. Or put another way, they don't do the hard thing because they don't want to look bad, it's painful or they might get rejected by someone.

Unfortunately, we all have this tendency. Some of us just take it to greater extremes than others. The sad part in the Penn State case is that the result of not doing the right thing is that a number of young children have been irreparably hurt. Yes, they can heal and hopefully by now have been able to move on as young adults but they lost something that can never be returned. They have memories that will not be erased.

Much of that could have been prevented if a few people would have just done the right thing.

So we'll have to let the authorities and other officials determine how the Penn State situation plays out. However, we can certainly look at ourselves and ask if there are corners we are cutting, things we're avoiding or actions we're taking that we are unwilling to expose because our reputation might be on the line.

Who's going to be hurt if we keep doing what we're doing or are not willing to take the high road?

So let me suggest a couple of ideas for anyone at a crossroads of right versus wrong. First, tell someone you trust. You don't need to tell the whole world, but tell someone. Let them help you take the next steps or keep you accountable. Second, if you know something as serious as the Penn State allegations, talk to the police. Don't wait one more minute.  

Third, if you personally need forgiveness, talk to a counselor who can tell you about God's love for you and walk you through finding His forgiveness. There is nothing He can't or won't forgive. We just have to be willing to ask.

Knowing the right thing is one thing. Doing the right thing is everything. Do it now.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Great Habits Help Make Great Marriages

I'll bet that you and your spouse can quickly come up with a list of things you do individually that are just routine in your daily schedule. You make your coffee, take a shower, read the paper, turn on the TV, go to church, take the kids to school and dozens more.

And while some of those activities are simply our personal choice,  many of our habits are helpful because they keep us doing things that are important. We stay clean, we see that our kids get an education and we go to work and help pay the bills.

However, how many routines do you and your spouse have that are important to the health of your marriage? I find that most couples who are struggling rarely take time to develop habits for their marriage. They're too busy or they simply haven't thought about it.

So let me suggest a couple of habits that could help add new life, strength and even healing to your relationship. And by habits I mean that you do them so regularly that if something interferes with them you will naturally do them the next time.

First, have a time during the week that's just for you. Yes, when you have kids at home this is more difficult but don't let parenting get in the way of this one. When our kids were little we shared babysitters every other week so we could have a Saturday morning to ourselves. For many years since I've been a pastor we've taken Monday or Friday off.

And we just spent 12 days in Russia when we missed two of our off days but guess where we'll be this Monday?  Together doing something.

Second, have a time that you pray with or for each other. It's this simple - prayer matters. God is in the business of giving strength, healing and providing wisdom. But even beyond the spiritual benefits, praying for each other deepens your care and trust for each other in ways beyond what you can imagine. And I've never heard of couples fighting during prayer!

Third, be habitual about speaking words of love, life and encouragement to each other.  If you are speaking kindly to each other regularly, you'll know when you've gotten out of the habit.  You'll be able to tell that you miss the words of your spouse that build you up and vice versa.

So, take a look at your habit list and make sure some of those habits involve your spouse and time together.  True intimacy doesn't just happen.  You need to get in the habit.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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