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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Giving Up Your Entitlements This New Year

The other day I was watching eager shoppers days after Christmas flooding the stores and malls one more time apparently to either spend their gift cards, return something or find one more deal. It was as though the Christmas rush had never quit.

And of course I can't know what each of those people were doing or thinking. Some may have simply been out trying to enjoy a day with the family. And who doesn't want or need a bargain these days?

But the scene did cause me to wonder how much we think we're entitled to especially in the United States. Do we really think we're entitled to one more gift, the next best whatever or to the stuff our parents or grandparents never had?  And are we going to keep spending lots of time, energy and money to get it all?

Let's face it we live in an entitlement society. And while not all entitlements are necessarily bad such as ones we've actually been promised and earned, many things we enjoy aren't really ours to demand.

Let me suggest a few that perhaps we and our families not only can let go of this year but should release if we want to be healthier and more fulfilled.

Let go of your MORE entitlements. Tell  yourself this year that you don't really need more of anything, at least when it comes to stuff, money, objects and the like. Help your kids learn to say NO and even to give some things away. Make a goal to serve some others with less to help remind you that people can be happy with less.

Let go of the NEW entitlements. This mirrors the first one and makes us want more but we don't always have to have the newest car, computer, TV or other hobby items.

Let go of some of the COMFORT entitlements. Again there is nothing wrong with a massage or manicure or the top of the line hotel room, but do we always have to make our comfort our entitlement?

Let go of some of the entitlements for our KIDS.  Do they always have to do everything, play every sport, be in every activity and have the best teacher?  When will they learn that the world does not revolve around them?

I'm sure you can think of other things that you feel entitled to: being served well, prompt attention, getting your needs met before others.  Make your own list.

But remember that every day we get things, blessings and opportunities that we simply don't deserve from God Himself. Enjoy them, be thankful and leave some gratitude as a major part of your legacy.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Christmas Gifts You Could Give Your Family This Year

Most of us have spent countless hours and energy trying to find just the right gift at least for those we love the most. Other gifts have been perhaps more obligatory and in some cases perhaps we didn't even care that much.

However, a number of us have missed some of the most obvious and yet valuable gifts we could ever give. And they don't require huge sums of money, credit card payments or sets of directions. Let me suggest a few.

First, this year give the gift of your time. Gary Chapman suggests in his now classic book, The Five Love Languages, and in various versions of it that focused time is a key way that most people feel loved. So this year give your spouse, your kids, a friend or neighbor some meaningful time with you. Time doing what?  It depends on the person but it might include conversation (especially listening), doing something they like, just focusing on them for a while.

Second, this year give the gift of the story.  The what?  Yes, the story.  First, share the Christmas story.  That is the holiday, isn't it?  Christmas, Jesus, the manger, the splitting of the calendar - it all happened. It's the core of history and yet most of our movies and Christmas specials are only about reindeer, Santa, lights and presents.  But secondly, tell some more of your own stories.  Perhaps talk about Christmases you enjoyed or special events in your life when you were growing up.

Third, this year give the gift of less.  Christmas sadly has become all about us and often we give our kids more and more so they expect more and more. Try giving less to them and together offer more to others. Give some of your money away to a non-profit or overseas mission or charity. Buy a goat, pig or cow for someone in a deprived country so they can have sustenance all year long. Places online like World Vision and Samaritan's Purse make it easy to do.

Fourth, this year give them some new memories.  The above three suggestions might be a start. But perhaps you could add some new Christmas light viewing, a story time with special treats or a movie that you've not seen before about Christmas. One of our favorites is The Polar Express and it has some interesting spiritual overtones that are worth noting and talking about.

Use your own creativity but my hunch is that it will be these things that your family remembers far longer than any special material gift.  And you don't have to wrap them!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Some Sensible Lessons To Learn During Tragedy

We're all still reeling, aren't we, from the horrific shooting of innocent children and adults this week in Connecticut.  And naturally all sorts of questions are already being asked about the shooter, his motives and of course why could this have happened in the first place.  And for now we must wait for those with the greatest expertise and most knowledge to come up with those answers and not suggest our own trite or uninformed responses as tempting as that might be.

But I think there are some things we must re-visit and hopefully continue to learn from as we walk through these unexplainable events that seem to be plaguing our country and world more of late. Let me suggest a few.

First, evil is real and something more than the occurrence of bad things or the actions of bad people. While some things can be explained by mental illness, events of the past or a terrible upbringing, not everyone who experiences those things goes out and kills the innocent. Evil takes these humans to another level that goes beyond any sense of decency, normalcy or compassion for others. Evil comes from a source beyond our world, from Satan himself, whose ultimate goal is to devour, kill and destroy.

If there is no God and no Satan, then the actions of these deviant ones are merely genetic and the bad results of evolution. Our grief and sense of loss are the same. It's all just chemistry. But who wants to make that argument today?  Does it make any sense?  Not really.

It's why faith involvement, training and relationship is still essential to us and our culture. Yes, we want to be a country where all views are respected, but we must never allow expressions of faith and the use of faith principles to be completely removed from our classrooms, public squares and discussions in general.

Second, death for many has become unreal or fantasy. No, I'm not going to suggest that we should remove all violent video games or that video games directly cause these tragedies, but parents ought to quit letting their kids and teens keep playing them indiscriminantly. They have turned killing into a game where the people get back up again to play again.  But Hollywood and other media should also be challenged to quit making the death of someone easy without remorse or consequence in their programs and films.

We must change our culture back to a society of life, good and hope from one of easy death and destruction.

Third, we must remember that God is still in charge.  The question that is surely being asked over and over is, "Why would God allow this to happen?"  And none of us has the whole answer to that but we can certainly know part of the truth on it. God gave mankind a choice as to whether we would follow Him or not. He never planned on making us into robots.

As a result, many people choose to embrace their own way, their own choices and ultimately Satan's evil desires over God's. And when those choices get carried to their logical end, very bad things happen. Does God ever intervene?  Of course. Probably more than we know. He has certain results in mind that we won't ever understand in this life.  He does miracles all the time. Sometimes we see them, sometimes not.

But God wasn't looking the other way. I'm sure He's more sad than we are. And I'm confident He will still do something good with all of this. He always does.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lessons Learned From My Grandchildren

This past week my wife Jackie and I got to enjoy something for the very first time. We were together with all four of our grandsons at once. While the oldest is more than five we've never been able to all be in one place so this was a pretty special time.

And while there are lots of great memories I could share with you perhaps the most profound things I could say are little thoughts or impressions I had while watching or interacting with them.

First, each child is unique. We must never expect them to be the same. One is more shy, another speaks non-stop, a third likes to read while the next would rather play with trains. The shy one likes to wrestle, though, while the talker loves football. The reader also likes Angry Birds but the train engineer is also friends with everyone.

Uniquenesses in children can be frustrating but they must be celebrated. God made each one his own person and their specialness is to be enjoyed.

Second, love is real and more than a chemical reaction. Most grandparents like us find themselves overflowing with love for their grandchildren. You can't help but have great affection and a desire to do or give anything for them. The toughest of men or the most callous of women suddenly melt when those little ones walk through the door.

And yet some would suggest that we all just somehow got here without any role of a Creator. My question? How then do we explain something like love?  Is it just the physical result of our ever evolving structure over the years?  Is what I feel just reaction of various chemicals making their way through my brain or other physical system?

Third, time with family is precious. I don't know when we'll all be together again. It's not easy to arrange a week like we just had. It could be years for all we know. One of us could be gone before the next time. And yet so many families take these gatherings for granted or are fighting over the most petty of issues and can't enjoy being together at all. Perhaps we need to see the time we do get more as gold rather than Kryptonite.

As Christmas approaches we all probably have opportunities to connect with family. If so, embrace each child uniquely, pour on the love and value the time. You won't have it forever.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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