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

Friday, November 23, 2012

From Greed to Gratefulness This Year

Some woman was sitting in front of a Best Buy days before the holiday to save $240 on a television set on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Really? She gave up family time, a meal with those she loves and who knows what else all for a couple hundred dollars.

Of course that's a pretty extreme example, but I wonder how many of us really think about the messages we're sending to our kids, spouses and selves that really say, "You know, this Thanksgiving thing is really all about me getting what I want when I want it."  While we might suggest that we're really grateful people (and most of us probably are), are we still saying that it's not enough?

Sure, some people like the fun, tradition and the fact that maybe they really did get a good deal. And there's nothing inherently wrong in any of that. But why do we have to have that during a holiday that we call Thanksgiving? Couldn't we stop for a few days and truly be thankful, talk about how blessed we are and not have to have the next bigger, better, cheaper or even more expensive thing?

I wonder if a lot of the dysfunction and even emotional struggle in our country isn't because we have forgotten how to be thankful and grateful for what we have. Have we isolated ourselves that much from people not far from us as well as those around the world who have next to nothing and yet are probably happier than we are in many ways?

Can I suggest a few alternatives this year?  First, just skip all the drastic bargain hunting. Stay home, enjoy the days off and truly spend some time thanking God for your blessings.  Enjoy some things that are really priceless like time with people you love.

Second, cut back on Christmas gifts. If you have to spend money, give it away or go make someone else's holiday that much better. Find a mission agency and buy something for someone in another country that will make them ongoing income throughout the year. Give each family member a small amount of money and see who can get the most for someone else in the family with that little bit. I'll bet you'll remember that Christmas like never before.

Third, decide on some ways you can live differently all year long.  Christmas is just around the corner. Other sales, holidays, birthdays and random moments will beckon us to spend money on more things we don't really need and miss opportunities to bless someone in need. Why not commit to helping your family learn what it means to feel really alive by giving more away than we get?

Remember the things our kids learn best are those we model most. Think about how to model things that will last not just a lifetime but an eternity.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Putting Protective Locks on Your Marriage

If you know me or regularly read my posts you know that I travel to Russia a good big.  I was there two weeks ago as a matter of fact. However, I saw something on a recent trip that I'd never seen before. On the Luzhov Bridge over a canal there are these "trees" of locks where newlyweds come a place their own lock on their wedding day.

I don't know all the symbolism behind them but they apparently come expressing their commitment to each other in one more way to each other.  I like that picture and the trees are pretty cool, too.

Perhaps more of us need to think about locks that we should place on our marriage commitment.  Yes, some will immediately think that locking one's marriage means confinement, authority and a lack of freedom but read on because that's not the goal at all.

A lock also implies protection. We put locks on our houses, safes and garages.  We lock our cars with special electrical systems. We lock the things that we care the most about.

So what might locks on a marriage look like. First, I think it means you lock out inappropriate relationships. That means men don't build deep friendships with other women and vice versa. The potential for deeper involvement is high and dangerous.  Intimacy should be reserved for your spouse.

It's also wise to lock out a schedule without margin. Too many couples and families simply have too little time for each other or for spontaneous time to just enjoy one another. We're married to our calendars, our outside activies, work and hobbies. We need moments when we can talk and just enjoy the many things and people in our lives.

We need to also lock in  spiritual growth and training. If we're honest there is more to life than stuff. There is a world around us, made by a Creator who longs to know us, live in us and show us our purpose here. If we're just busy and avoid the spiritual we miss what really makes us alive.

Finally, lock in serving others and not just ourselves. Teaching our kids to serve plus serving with our spouse provides new persepctive about life, what we have and what we don't need. It will help you build memories that will last a lifetime and change you in the process.

So perhaps you and your spouse need to go put a lock somewhere this weeek or weekend. Have a little ceremony reminding each other what you're committed to.  That way if you want to have a great marriage, it will be a lock!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Our Kids Often Hear Things We Didn't Intend

Recently our three-year-old grandson Liam had his hands over his ears and announced to us all, "You can't hear me!"  Of course he just had things a bit confused, pretty normal for a little guy his age.

However, Liam's actions could be a description of many parents and the way they talk in their homes. They say things to one another believing that their kids never hear their comments or they make remarks that they believe won't bother their children. In both cases they are usually wrong. They can hear you much of the time.

Why?  Well sometimes they're in the house and actually hear what we say. Their radar is often tuned for the sound of our voice or sometimes they intentionally get close enough to us when we're not looking to hear what we say about them. And in those moments, intentionally or not, we sometimes send the message that they aren't smart or good enough or as gifted as a sibling.

Other times, we are speaking directly to them intending to say one thing but they hear something else. For example, we say that one of the kids is particularly talented in some skill, sport or academic area. We don't mean to slight the other but that's how they take it.  "What about me?" they may think.

Third, they may hear things indirectly that we've said about them through someone else.  We may have told an aunt, grandparent, neighbor or church leader something negative about them and all of a sudden our cute or clever story gets back to our child. All they know is that we were talking about them and they think the worst.

Of course, we live in a culture where telling kids they are wonderful, bright, talented and a winner is often overdone. I'm not suggesting we encourage that kind of overblown praise.  But we do need to be wise and careful about our words.

Always make sure your kids are out of earshot when you have to have hard conversations about them, their schoolwork or talents. Be careful what stories and tales you tell others. Ask yourself what you child might think if that story came back to them.

Consider the words you use when you talk to one child about their abilities and not another. Be sure to find talent and ability in both kids even though their skills may be very different. My sister and I both tried art and music but we clearly went different directions when we got older. My parents figured that out thankfully.

Proverbs wisely tells us in chapter 18, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  Remember the power of your words this week. They matter.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

Oh, How Much We Have! Teach It At Home.

I just returned from my fifteenth trip to Russia. I went with a terrific team of Americans to serve and lead a worship and church leadership conference in Moscow. I could tell you lots of stories about how God worked there, relationships that we will treasure forever or ways the Russian people blessed us perhaps more than we helped them.

However, what I want to focus on in this post is the reminder we all received again of how much we really have in this country and often do not appreciate. Even in a huge city like Moscow, one of the two most prosperous cities in the country, the differences to our lifestyle are striking.

For example, most everything you have to do there is hard, at least much harder than most of us are used to.  It's hard just to cross a major street there. You may have to go down twenty-five stairs or more on one side, walk through a long tunnel and then climb back up the same number of stairs on the other side. Or if you can cross on the surface, the street may be filled with trolley tracks, holes and uneven pavement, not to mention an errant driver who refused to stop.

It's also hard to move from place to place. If you have a car you will probably crawl along in traffic much of the day. If you are relegated to public transportation your trip will likely take 45 - 90 minutes each way or more and involve the Metro (subway), bus and/or trolley.  And from October through May it will be cold, rainy, cloudy, snowy and/or windy most days.

It's also hard to buy the things you need for basic life. While more larger stores are popping up in Moscow, it is still difficult to purchase all you need in one place for one meal or to get that small little item you need to fix something at home or that you need for your wardrobe.

The list goes on.  It's hard to complete paperwork, register for things, exchange money, get a bank account. It's hard to get to fun things to do or to just find places to play with your children. It can be hard to find good medical care or someone to help in an emergency.

Yes, we all have our hard days and some of us have major obstacles to overcome even here in the U.S. But it's always good for us to remember how much better we have it than most of the world. And we probably won't appreciate our better circumstances until we go somewhere and actually experience how others have to live. In fact, if you know missionaries or others who work in countries overseas, you might especially pray for them or send them a note or CARE package of encouragement.

And if you're a parent teach your kids to appreciate how blessed they are. Go on a missions trip sometime when you can. Go serve some people who live hard lives. Thankfulness is a virtue many families and individuals have lost in this country. Perhaps we can help keep it alive. Our family and country will be better off if we do.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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