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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sometimes We Smell And That's A Good Thing

Alright let me be blunt here. Why do a baby's diapers smell so bad? Is it the vitamins? I don't know. Of course there are lots of things whose odors are so pungent that we immediately turn away. Rotten meat or eggs, manure in a farmer's field, something that burned on the stove or in the oven, even certain flowers not known for their sweet fragrance.

Whatever the case, when something has a bad fragrance we don't stick around long. We move away from it or at least try to cover it up.

But let's be a bit more positive. What smells and odors are we attracted to? Freshly baked cookies, bacon, a favorite perfume or aftershave, a just bathed and powdered baby who no longer has that messy diaper I mentioned earlier?

This morning I was reminded that God asks us to live our lives as a sweet smelling fragrance, an aroma that people are drawn to, the odor of life not death. And we're to give off that scent even during the tough times, when days aren't going as we'd hoped.

How can we do that?

Well, it's knowing that no matter what's going on in our world, God's still in charge.  He can still handle whatever we're facing. Just because life stinks, our world doesn't have to.

On my way to work I'll sometimes stop at a McDonald's for a morning latte. I've gotten to know the drive - thru team pretty well, too, so in the few seconds I may have there I usually get to talk to one or more of them. This morning the regular woman there who takes the money smiled and said, "Yours is free today. The person in front of you got it."

I said thank you but of course looked to see if I recongnized the car or person ahead. I didn't. I think it was a drive - by blessing. But somehow my spirit got lifted a little and I found myself wanting to do the same for someone else. I got a whiff of a caring fragrance that filled my car and my spirit.

I know I need to think more about my odor each day and is it one that people will hope sticks around or would rather dissipates quickly? Will my responses today be a sweet or ugly smell? What if we talked with our spouse and our kids about how we could through our actions and attitudes be more of a welcoming fragrance at work, school, church or wherever in the community? What if we shared at the end of the day how we attempted at least to make a positive difference?

Yes, there will always be smelly diapers and rotting garbage out there. But there are hundreds of ways to give our world something else, a scent that they'll enjoy all day, perhaps all week long. It may be the breath of fresh air someone needs to move forward or keep going.

How are you going to smell today?  The answer will be based on our choices and decisions. And it's possible that someone in our world could use some cleaner air. See today if you can help.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Three Things I Most Want To Leave My Kids

Most of us have heard the old illustration or challenge to think about the three things you would grab first if your house were on fire. And yet, our response to that question does tell people a little about our priorities, at least regarding temporal things.

But given more time, as we usually have with our children, what three things do you hope stay with your kids long after you're gone? This is a little different question since one, we do have time to work on these items and two, they're  more under our control.

So have you thought about them? Doing any planning?

Let me suggest three that seem pretty important to me. See what you think.

One, I want to leave my kids the model of a life lived beyond himself. No, I know they won't ever think I'm perfect. That possibility and image have been long erased. But I do hope they see that I sacrificed for them and for others. I hope they've observed both my wife and I putting aside many of our own wishes and demands so that others, including them, could be blessed, encouraged and helped.

I hope they too will look for opportunities to appropriately (see below) love and train their kids and make it a priority to serve their neighbor, friends and the needy around them

Two, in what may appear an opposing goal, I hope they saw my wife and I making our marriage and time together a high priority and continuing that goal after they left our home.  While yes we do make sacrifices for our kids and others, our relationship is still important and that has to be balanced out with our other commitments.  Some couples unfortunately make their kids and other family requirements their mini-god and worship at the altar of busyness around them.

In fact, we continue to pray that now as adults our grown children can find the healthy balance between parenting and keep their own relationships strong and healthy.

Third, I hope they will ultimately see that while I am clearly flawed that I made my faith, my walk with Jesus more than just something I did for work, to feel better or to impress others. I hope someday they'll look at my Bibles filled with notes from my personal study. I hope they can meet a few people whose lives were touched because I invested spiritually in them.

I hope they can see times when I stood up and did the right thing even though there was opportunity to do otherwise. I plan to share more stories about how God intervened and gave me opportunities to help others that I could never have done on my own. I pray that long after I'm gone they will see a spiritual legacy lived out in the lives of hundreds of others, including them, that my life touched over the years.

Yes, there are things that may get lost in a flood, fire or just because they wear out. But there are some things that need to last and be shared with the next generation. What will your list include?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Life Is A Vapor: Make The Most Of It Now.

An early morning text woke me today, telling me what I had feared that a sweet man and friend from my church had died following a major surgery. He loved Jesus and was never afraid to talk about his faith, raise his hands in worship or serve others.

He'd had quite a few surgeries in the eighteen months I've been at the church so I called him our Bionic Man. He loved the joking and always made my day with his smile and attitude. He was a key part of our MenUP! planning team again for this year's retreat in April. A lot of us are going to miss him.

But it seems like our church and community have recently lost an unusual number of people to deaths that weren't anticipated or expected. Most were way too young, some teens, some suicides, others in accidents or had health issues that went bad. So many families are still reeling from the pain of an empty space in their lives.

And of course, we can never hope to understand why and need to trust that God did not miss these events. Thankfully, when people know Jesus and have a relationship with God, we enjoy a hope that we'll see them again. But the the loss is still overwhelming and the sadness great.

And every one of these losses that any of us experience should be a prompting to not waste the special time with people close to us that we now enjoy. I know I need to do a constant check on my priorities that I slow down and keep the main things the main things. Do I really embrace every moment that I have with my spouse, kids, grandkids and extended family?

Are we just running through life doing what we think HAS to be done when there are moments we could be enjoying with those we love that cannot be embraced at 70 mph? Do we savor each other, take time to hear their stories or just play and have fun anymore without a schedule to follow?

Are there people we need to say thank you to or I'm sorry or I love you that could be gone before we know it and we've missed our chance.

No we don't need to live morbidly, but we each have to answer those questions for ourselves and would be wise to take inventory. I think of the song Vapor by Little Big Town.  It's worth a listen if you haven't heard it. The chorus simply says, I want to live, I want to love, Just one more day is never too much, never enough, I want to drink in every minute that I can, Life is a vapor, fire and paper, gonna make the most of it before it's gone.

So who will you stop and savor a moment or two with today? Where can you slow down and not just fly by some person you know you would so miss if they were gone?

Yes, life is a vapor. Make the most of it before it's gone. Skip, you'll be missed, buddy. I'm glad I knew you. See you again someday.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Three Things We Need to Quit Telling Our Kids

I'm confident I could find scores of studies that show parents really do have the ability to impact their children over time.  The research would no doubt suggest that if we do things relatively well we can teach our sons and daughters how to relate to others, love God, work hard, save for the future and someday lead a home of their own just to name a few. I'm thankful for that.

However, there are several things I hear parents regularly suggest to their children  and I just have one cautionary word for these likely well-meaning moms and dads: STOP!

I'm sure there are many examples to be mentioned but I'll go with what I call the big three, all untruths and errors we parents need to finally avoid saying or implying.

Just put your mind to it and you can do anything you want someday. What? No, our kids can't do just anything they want to do someday and neither can you. Kids with little athletic interest or skill won't make the Olympics. Someone like me who can barely cut a piece of wood or hammer a nail was never going to build a house and shouldn't for that matter. A child born blind isn't going to be an airline captain at Southwest. The more you think about it, the dumber this sounds.

And it's okay that we can't do everything we try or wish for. We're still humans, not Jesus. So let's not suggest to our kids that they will always succeed and reach their goals and dreams. What we mean, so let's actually say it, is that there are amazing things they can do and some will be things we only dream of now but the list won't be endless. There are exceptions. We just set our kids up for huge failure and disappointment when we're not honest.

Or a related misguided comment is, You're really good at that . . . when they really aren't. Again, we're falsely building them up believing that our phony praise will be good motivation and they won't feel bad. The problem is they don't need our pretend accolades to be successful. If anything, we would be wiser to help them find what it is they actually have an aptitude and affinity for and let them succeed at that!

We tell our kids that they're great soccer players at age five and many of them actually hate playing it every week, but we prod them on. In reality we often need them playing more than they do. Why do you think so many terrible singers get angry, throw tantrums or run down the street shouting obscenities at the judges who told them they were terrible on American Idol? Didn't they know they were horrible singers? Probably not.  In many cases mom and dad kept believing that they were awesome, going to someday be superstars and should never let anyone tell them otherwise.

The main result from this one is a bunch of kids who feel entitled thinking that everyone else should see that they're wonderful. But instead they become a laughing stock in front of millions on Idol or quit trying to find a job or go to college because they got turned down a few times. What happens to their view of themselves now?

You deserve to be happy. The problem with this seemingly innocuous comment is that it ultimately implies that our happiness is based on others giving it to us. And if those others do not come through for us, then we're victims, we've been mistreated, even abused in our minds. In addition, because we supposedly deserve happiness, then some take that as license to either demand it from others or focus all of their efforts and energy on pleasing themselves to dull the pain.

Instead, why don't we show our kids how we find happiness and joy even when times are difficult and life doesn't work the way we'd hoped?  Let's spend time pointing them to our God, our faith, the source of true joy even when we've faced tragedy, pain and sorrow.

We have much to teach our kids while they are in our homes. Let's not screw it up with messages that miss the mark of truth and reality by a long shot.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, January 8, 2016

Marriage: The Important Three Circles of Connecting

If you were to ask most married couples how and when they spend time with each other (if they do) they would likely tell you about an activity or meeting together that falls into one of three options. Some would say, Well, we connect and communicate as we go through our day - phone calls, texts, little conversations here and there.

Others would say that they plan periodic meals out, parts of a day together, an evening alone at home here and there. Unfortunately most couples these days admit that these times are just that - periodic - and they wish they did them more often but they just don't make or have the time.

Or a few, and this number is usually less than the other two choices, say that once or twice a year they actually get away from home, go on a couples' trip, tack on some days after a conference or business trip or celebrate a special anniversary, birthday, etc. with just the two of them.

What I'd like to suggest is that healthy marriages intentionally include all three.  Why do we need the Trifecta of Connection?  Because they each  accomplish something unique and just doing one or two of the others will still omit some key ingredients in marriage that are important to the solid marriage recipe.

For example, the getaways are times when you can finally let go of some of the pressures of everyday life, think more long-term and actually do some serious brainstorming, planning and yes, praying. Companies make time for this and so do many growing churches. Why not couples and families? Longer periods of time also help us relax and enjoy each other in ways that we just don't when we're time strapped.

But those meals, afternoons, days together, etc. are also important. They're the fertile soil for you to talk about current feelings, challenges, dreams and potential changes. These times let the other person know that they're not just a passing ship in the night or merely one of the supervisory team at home. These moments continue to cement the idea in each other that you really do still matter even when life gets crazy.  Leaving these regular events out will cause serious questions to arise in each other about how important you are in the big picture.

And of course, the daily, quick connections are important and usually not a problem for most couples. But they take on a little less challenge and urgency when you and your spouse are connecting in the two other ways as well.

I encourage couples to think of three circles of connecting.and to include all three as priorities.

                                       Big Events/Getaways      Regular         Every Day

Of course the every day circle should include the most connections. The regular events need to be well . . .   regular, ideally at times that you guard carefully.  And finally, the big events will only happen on a very limited basis. But they complement each other and will all add communicating and connecting to your marriage that will be life giving to your relationship for years to come! What area do you need to shore up next?

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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