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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Help Your Kids See Stars . . . And Other Awesome Wonders

We are privileged to live in Austin, Texas where we on average receive three hundred days a year where the sun shines. That means we have a lot of cloudless nights. And even with the city lights on around us, hundreds of stars, planets and the moon are visible most evenings.

In fact, a couple of times a month the space shuttle will fly over our part of the country for a few minutes each morning or night and we'll go out and watch it go by. (Some would suggest we need to get out more if that's our idea of fun).

And during those shuttle watches we are always amazed by the bigness of just what we can see in the Heavens from our little corner of the world. It's hard to imagine how much more is out there in the universe.

I've heard that scientists have discovered a star that is supposedly 265 times bigger than our sun and some ten millions times brighter.  Just one star!  Add to that all the light years of distance that the scientists have estimated and the black holes that appear to have no end to their depth.

I'm pretty convinced that we as parents need to remind our children of that bigness around us and help them to stop long enough to see it and experience it now and then. Sometimes parents of faith wonder how they can teach the deep spiritual truths about God to their children. Here's one pretty powerful method.  Take them outside some evening and look at the solar system. Lay on your backs and stare up at the heavens.  Get out of the city and enjoy it all even more.

Go to a planetarium, watch an eclipse of the moon, look for shooting stars. Learn more about the magnitude and incredible order that exists out there. And if you're a Christian family, spend some time praying to the God who you are confident made it all. Read some Scripture about the creation. I'm pretty sure it will be a worshipful time.

In fact, because young children are usually pretty fascinated by new things they will probably be quite impressed both that you took some time with them and that sky around them is so amazing. Give it a try. You'll find yourself pretty awestruck too!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Family Lessons From Whitney, Michael and All The Rest

The other day a friend told a young person that Whitney Houston had died and the teen replied, "Who's that?" How quickly we forget how young our kids are, how old we are and how fleeting even fame is. But like so many who die young, famous and not so famous, the stories are usually tragic ones. Whitney's was no exception.

Certainly one of the greatest vocalists of all time, she was not that long ago at the top of the entertainment world with #1 hits, unforgettable Super Bowl appearances and favorite movies. Now she's gone with so much of her legacy unknown and certainly tainted by rumors, destructive lifestyle choices and harmful associations.

So what do we as parents do with events like this in our homes? Some of our kids probably don't care and like the teen I mentioned earlier may not even know of some of the Whitney's in our world. Should we just chalk her, Michael Jackson. Amy Winehouse and all the others up to just being larger-than-life icons or do their stories provide teachable moments for us?

I think the latter.

Whether our children say anything or not about the aberrant actions of those in the limelight they do take notice at some point even if someone like a Whitney was too old to be on their personal radar. They see others in their list of favorites who self-destruct and we would be wise to help them process that.

So where do we start?

First, don't lecture. Discuss. This is not the time to have a long sit-down I'm going to make sure YOU never do what they did speech. Instead, have a conversation. Ask them questions like, So what do you think would make a person want to live that way? Why do you suppose all their money and fame wasn't enough for them.  Of course the depth of your questions will depend upon the age of your kids but talk with them not just to them.

Second, don't water down the tough stuff. Talk about the real issues, at least the ones you know about. It's tempting to speculate and suggest that they were probably on drugs or something when you don't know that to be the case. But talk openly and honestly about what you do know and if hard subjects are part of the discussion talk about them age appropriately of course. And be sure to help your kids begin to know what to do when they are confronted with similar temptations and choices.

Third, show compassion for hurting people. It's easy to send the message that these people are destroying our culture and deserve what they got in dying or going to jail or losing everything.  I'm pretty sure Jesus would not have responded that way. He was the friend to the outcast, the adulterer and the tax collector. He still spoke truth and challenged people to a better way, but He had compassion on the multitudes.  We must model the same.

As the adage suggests, there but for the grace of God go I.

Yes, there will be more Whitney and Michael stories. But we dare not look the other way and think they don't matter. They do. For lots of reasons.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Three Cautions About Valentine's Day

OK, so some of you reading this are already mad at me for trying to spoil your special day, right? Believe me, I'm not attempting to mess up any good that will come out of your or my celebration. In fact, later today, my wife and I are going to celebrate a little early and also give each other something on the actual day. So there.

However, I need to use the occasion of Cupid's holiday to give us all some fair warning and challenge. Because you see, Valentine's Day and other somewhat man-made occasions designed to force us to do something nice can be deceiving.

First, they can help us feel better about the weaknesses in our relationship. We give each other a nice gift, card, dinner or whatever and then life continues on like normal. We feel good that we celebrated and were able to tell others about our gift giving but the rest of the year we're still struggling. We would be wiser to spend less on Valentine's Day and more towards counseling or at least time every week to be together and grow as a couple.

Second, they can distort what it means to truly be loving. Of course, the stores, flower growers and candy makers all want us to believe that giving their gifts will totally change our relationship. But we all should know at least that being loving is way more than giving some nice gifts now and then. Our gift giving is best when it's another gesture of the kind of love we've shared all year as opposed to making up for what we needed to be doing every day.

Third, they can cover up what it means to be truly intimate. I've said in other posts that intimacy in marriage involves way more than sex.  It's closeness of body, soul and spirit. That takes a lifetime to begin, develop, sustain and enjoy. No holiday gifts will come anywhere near that kind of intimacy.

Perhaps this year, in fact, the two of you can talk about ways to increase your intimacy in all three areas.  Set some goals, get rid of some activities that you really don't need to do anymore.  Use that time for each other instead. Marriages usually don't break up because of one hard hit. They erode because of lack of attention over many years.

So, sure, go celebrate with your sweetheart. Do something nice and surprise him or her. But this year make it your goal to start or continue a relationship that has so much love in it all the time that Valentine's Day is just another beautiful rose in the bouquet of your life together.  Hmm . . . where did I put that card?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wise Parents Learn to Pick Their Battles

Some of us are old enough to remember Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Anyone who's ever seen the movie likely recalls the final scene where the two main characters are surrounded by more firepower than they will ever be able to handle. It's over because there is no way they can fight against everyone. They are outnumbered.

Sometimes we need to look at parenting the same way. No, not as though we are defeated and will die! But we often have to admit that we can't and don't need to fight and win every battle with our children. We will probably have to choose which ones are most important. We just don't have enough firepower to go around.

So, how do we decide?  Well, first of all, ask yourself, "Is this a decision a child should make or not?"  Choices about whether they're going to get in the car and leave with us or if they are going to go to bed at a predetermined time really shouldn't be theirs. We're the parent and we determine those things in most cases.

However, if clothing is an issue, is their choice really that big a deal or can we give them a choice of some kind and move on?  Does the choice of video game or doll to play with really matter at the moment?

Second, consider, "What's the negative consequence of giving them their choice?  It might be that we are giving them the liberty to be belligerent or to disobey and not be disciplined. Probably not a good outcome. Another negative might be that they will spend money unwisely or get into a dangerous situation. So of course we need to be firm and take the heat for saying "no."

However, if the potential result isn't a big deal we have a little more leeway in determining whether this battle is worth the energy to fight. And remember as children get older they need to learn to make good choices.

Third, does their action fly in the face of some fundamental principle that you want them to learn? Does giving them their way on something teach them to be deceptive, ornery, impolite, manipulative or whatever?

I'm sure you can come up with other good questions between you and your spouse or on your own. Just remember that some fights simply aren't worth it especially when the results aren't destructive, harmful or long lasting. Sometimes we might just be putting too much of our parenting success on winning small battles when really it's the longer term results that are the better indicators.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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