Monday, October 31, 2011
One of the best parts for me this year is that my wife Jackie was able to join me in Russia for the third of my fourteen trips here. She worked tirelessly with our hospitality team as they took care of both our staff and those who attended the conference.
And while there were times when we didn't see each other too much (my job involved teaching, training, etc.) we have memories and shared experiences that we will enjoy talking about for a long time.
You don't need to go to the other side of the world to have this experience. But you usually do need to plan to serve others or it probably won't happen. We're just too busy.
And the benefits? There are many but here are a few. First, you get to see God work in some ways beyond the usual. Most serving opportunities simply won't work well without God's hand in them to guide, direct and even surprise. God has a special knack for bringing just the right people together, too.
Second, you let God build a similar vision and passion in you. Jackie and I will both return home with many of the same names, observations and cultural experiences that will keep us having long discussions for many months. And God does something for your spiritual connection as a couple when you take a leap of faith into something new.
Third, we learn to trust God more together. It took a considerable sacrifice for her to go - time, money and the taxing of the body. But because we've seen God's provision before and during the trip, we trust Him even more with our lives. Add that to the many daily "God - moments" we had and you have a built in spiritual growth plan
So, look for an opportunity to serve somewhere. Start now. Begin planning. That's half the fun. But whatever you do don't let other things crowd out your service for Him. You will never be the same.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
That's why it's important for parents to decide (ahead of time, if possible) what things they are going to go to war over. There are extremes on this. Some parents don't like any conflict and refuse to let their kids down or have them mad at them so they give in on most everything. Other do the opposite and fight with their children over most everything and offer little slack room.
So, how do you find a healthy balance? How do you determine whether to give in and let your kids do what they want or be tough?
First, ask yourself, Is this a decision the child should be making? For example, getting in the car to go somewhere with the family at a certain time isn't optional. And yet sometimes parents will say, "Landon, do you want to go to grandma's now?" That's not their decision. It's time and they need to go and you need to teach them that they don't have a choice on that. You must win that argument.
Second, Is there a character issue involved that I need to shape through this decision? Even though the issue may not be an important one at that moment, if your child has been disrespectful, dishonest or inappropriate in some other way then you need to stick to your guns. You can't look the other way when they have not exhibited appropriate behavior or a decent attitude.
Third, is it just not that big of a deal? If it's reasonable for them to make a choice and if frankly the world won't end with their decision, it's reasonable and they haven't been impolite towards you or others, let them do it. Sometimes the energy expended by taking your kids on over something that doesn't matter that much eventually becomes draining and destructive.
If you're married, I encourage you and your spouse to try to determine some of these decisions ahead of time. Other times you'll have to make the call on the run. However, sometimes you might try this line: "If you need an answer now, the answer is 'no.'' In the appropriate circumstances that can buy you a little time to make the wisest choice.
Hang in there.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
We wanted to help them grow as Jesus did in "wisdom, stature, favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52) in a significant way as they headed toward adulthood. So we developed a list of things that they would do with our help during the next twelve months. The tasks included activities to develop them intellectually, spiritually, physically and socially.
And while I won't include our list here (each child is different anyway) let me share some highlights to guide you in doing something for your children if you so desire.
One key activity was reading. While they read in school we wanted them to read some important books about people, life, faith and inspiration. You probably have some favorites of your own that you would put on their list.
A second key component was job shadowing at least three people in three areas of their choice. Our only requirement was that one of those people had to be involved in some sort of Christian ministry. Interestingly our grown son, Tim, is now following in the steps of one of the people he shadowed and God is using him in special ways.
A third thing was requiring them to learn some basic life skills - i.e. washing clothes, ironing, cooking and saving money. And this is where one of the major perks came from. If they basically completed the year-long exercise (be gracious but make sure they work at it well) we would match the amount of money they saved and they could spend that portion on anything they wanted.
You can of course come up with your own perks but that seemed to work well for us. At the end of the project we had a little party with some close friends to celebrate and let them know how proud we were of them.
Depending on your kids and their current activities, you might add physical exercise, Bible reading challenges, social events, etc. whatever might fill out the four areas of emphasis. Work out your own plan. You know your kids best.
Nonetheless, we look back at this plan as a home run idea with our children and think it's worth other families trying it out. Feel free. And if you do use it in some form, let us and others know how it went.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
However, the son had seemed pretty quiet and I didn't see or hear him talk for a number of minutes. Once the program started I could tell he had some special needs. Before long he laid his head down on his mother's lap and she just put her hand over his back and stroked it.
After a time he sat up again, made a motion or said a quiet word to his mom, I couldn't tell, and then laid down on his father's lap. Before long the boy sat up again only this time I could see that the father was wiping something from his own pant leg or lap. The boy had apparently drooled on him.
This time the dad just calmly wiped it up, it took some time, while the mom looked on. Nobody got upset or was surprised. This had all probably happened many times before.
And while I was in a setting where spiritual training, worship and teaching were going on, observing them was truly a spiritual moment for me. I saw love and compassion for this special young man that many parents would never display or enjoy. I'm sure there had been days of heartache and disappointment but this day their love did not wane.
I found myself thinking that God our Father is like that. He sees our flaws and knows we are needy. Nonetheless, he continues to love us even though we aren't as mature as we should be or we "drool" on him through our weaknesses and faults. Yes, He knows what we are capable of but also accepts our limitations. When we're tired and overwhelmbed He strokes our backs in the same way these parents did soothing us to rest.
I'm glad I met that family the other day. I may never see them again but hopefully I'll never forget the poignant image they painted for me through their care for their son. It was a picture of our Father loving us as only a parent could do.