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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Are You Wandering or Really Headed Somewhere?

At my mother-in-law's residential complex there is an innocent man named "Walter" who spends most of his day just wandering all over the grounds. They say he's harmless and he apparently bothers no one. But in an hour or two there we'll see him go by six or seven times. He looks like he's talking to someone but it's just to himself.

It's kind of sad to think that Walter spends his day, every day, just wandering through life. I've wondered what he's thinking, if anything. I'm sure there are some mental deficiencies that keep him locked up in that orbit most of the time.

But while most of us don't wander like Walter does, I've been challenged in my own life recently to make sure I'm not just wandering around either. Sure I may be much more functional, able to vary my actions, thoughts and responses and make decisions in ways that Walter can't, but I (and you) could still be wandering.

Let me suggest what our wandering might look like.

We can wander by just doing the same things, enjoying the same little pleasures and being happy with the same routines for years on end. I wrote on that in a recent post - go back and read it if you missed it. One of the things I notice about Walter is that his expression never changes.  Interestingly, I see a lot of people all around me like that as well.  Too many of us are probably just bored so why get too excited about anything?

Or we can wander by settling for life as it is. We may feel defeated or penalized or without purpose so we just settle for what we have, what we've done in the past and accomplish little of substance. We've quit trying to overcome our challenges and won't take on a new goal, job or activity because it's a little too scary.

Or we can wander by never focusing in on the main things. We're trying to do it all or at least a lot, we want our kids to do the same but we rarely do any of it well or in a way that we deeply enjoy what we're doing. Things blur together and we flit from one event to the next forgetting much of the time what those events were in the first place.  And the main thing or things get lost in the busyness.

Or we can wander by rarely planning for the future. We just take life as it comes, react more than initiate and never plan anything special with our spouse, family or good friends. We've never made a bucket list or talked with anyone about five things we'd love to do if we only had time. We don't dream big or pray to God for a vision down the road that only He could make happen.

Are you wandering?  Are you really just another Walter?  First be thankful that you're still able to decide, turn a corner in your life and try something new. Remember that you're not paralyzed.

But then hone in on a goal, a direction, a plan, a dream. Pray for God to give you and your family some direction, a purpose that will truly change your life. Remember the big problem with wandering . . . you never really get anywhere.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Five Things NOT To Teach Your Children About God

There are lots of great churches, Christian schools and books out there that can help us with the fundamentals of our faith that we need to teach and emphasize at home. Unfortunately, I've noticed a number of things that seem to be subtly or unintentionally passed on in our fellowships and families that are way off the mark.

Let me suggest five.

One, God's ultimate desire is to make us happy. Well, I'll be the first to admit that living for God does bring great happiness and blessing (Matthew 5 and the Beatitudes, for example) but that is not His main goal. He wants us to mature, to be strong in our faith and to ultimately do what glorifies Him. That's why He doesn't always take away the tough times or necessarily find us a parking place ahead of someone else.

Two, serving God gets us closer to Him and eventually more favor from Him. Yes, we are to commit ourselves to Him with all of our hearts, but our serving is to be a result of our love for Him, not to get that love. We can't get any closer or further from Him once we're His child.  Just because we're doing mission work, giving time every week at a soup kitchen or spending great amounts of money for the kingdom doesn't make us any more spiritual than the family in a third world country who loves Jesus but is just trying to stay alive every day.

Third, if we mess up enough, God will finally give up on us. I talk to people every week in my counseling office who feel that way.  They think that because of their mistakes, their spouse's leaving, their kids messing up or whatever, God has now passed on them in terms of using them for something that matters. But Psalm 57:2 reminds us that God will continue to fulfill His purpose for us.

Fourth, the more earthly success we have the more worthy and important we will be in His eyes and others eyes. So often our children who play in a sport or do an  activity almost every day of the year begin to think that their doing well in those events makes them extra special.  And while kids can learn a lot about themselves and life through sports, music and drama they're not better or worse as a person whether they participate or not.

Fifth, God is only about love or only about rules. God actually cares about both. He loves us unconditionally as no person can ever do. His love is greater than any sin, past or mistake.  However, He gives us rules to help us live well and avoid things or people that will eventually harm us.  Every wise parent will model having both love and healthy guidelines in their home.

So if you're teaching any of the above, stop and take inventory.  Begin to explain and model otherwise.  If your kids follow a God who really isn't the way you make him, it's going to be your fault. Don't live with that.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Learning In A Restaurant About Happiness

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Have You Had a Rest Lately?

As I write this post I am just into my final two weeks of a nine-week sabbatical from my work as a pastor. Yes, nine weeks off to travel, relax, do nothing, read a book, spend time with my wife or whatever. I am very thankful that my church, Austin Christian Fellowship, makes that kind of break after seven years of service an option.

So as we head off to one more adventure in San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, I wanted to give you a few of the benefits of this time off that I know I must keep in my life in some form, even if I can't get nine weeks in a row very often.

You see we live in a driven culture. We all exist under the umbrella of expectations, potential and success. We want to have what everyone else has, we fear our kids will miss out on something they need for life and we're addicted to the rush of accomplishment. So we rarely slow down. Even our leisure is harried. Our vacations are even jam-packed with more to do, see and overcome.

Things that should be plain fun like watching our son or daughter play a game or star in a play are often simply opportunities for us to catch our breath or sneak in a short nap. We cram our exercise and meals into an already jampacked schedule. We take more to help us sleep than ever before and many of us are getting by on the bare minimums.

Time off, real time off, reminds you that you simply can't keep living that way and that there is another, better option.

First, time off or rest reminds us what is really important. There are a lot of things I have not done during this time that I usually do each day or week that I found I can live without. I also discovered some things that I was able to add to my life that I don't want to stop now.  I need to play more, keep exercise important but not rushed and spend more time just drinking coffee without a timetable. I have new goals regarding my wife and family that I haven't thought about lately.

Second, time off or rest give us perspective. Busyness keeps us from evaluating what we're doing and why. We may be accomplishing lots of good things but are they the best things, especially for us and our family.  It's too easy to wake up one day and realize that ten or twenty years went by and we just did the same things over and over and never thought about why.

Third, time off or rest help us focus better on our relationship with God. When we're too busy we can become too busy for God or we begin to think that He wants us in this ratrace too.  We start thinking that the more things we do for him earn us more points or favor when in reality He often just wants to be with us where we are.  He wants us to enjoy Him and Him us.

One day on the sabbatical I was in North Texas where the mornings are usually cool even in the summer. I got up early and went to get coffee for the adults and walked out the door into the pleasant temperatures.  As I drove to the coffee shop and back and enjoyed the crisp air I found myself worshipping God and thanking him for that moment.  I was just enjoying Him, His creation and my moment in it. I want and need more spaces like that and I would guess you do too.

And we won't get them if we don't slow down and really rest. We may have to do it in little moments much of the time but if those moments become normal we'll never go back to living without them.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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