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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Days Are Better With Stories

My dad, Harold Sinclair, served four years in World War II. He didn't die in the war. He passed away in 2000, a goal he'd told us about for most of our lives. "I at least want to live to see 2000," he reminded us most every birthday.

However, he could have died in the war and perhaps should have. You see, nearly fifteen years after his passing, I was in mom's attic going through an old trunk of his military things helping her get ready to move. My sister and I were passing things back and forth between attic and the main floor, reliving fun memories and determining what should be kept or not.

All of a sudden I pulled out a newspaper clipping from several documents in a folder and my heart nearly stopped. As I read it, tears came to my eyes and I quickly called my mom and Marilyn. The little article explained that my dad years before had won the Silver Star, one of the country's highest medals for bravery. He had risked his life to save some of his men while facing machine gun fire to do it.

I dug a little deeper into the trunk and sure enough found an old, faded box and the medal was inside.  My dad was a military hero. Sure he was a hero to us in other ways, but we never knew to what extent. My mom didn't know, we kids didn't know of this military award. I wonder if his mom and dad knew.

All I know is that I wish my dad were there to tell us about it. I wish he would have shared that when we were kids.  It would have changed a lot of Memorial Days into Memory Days, ones with far more meaning and impact. Yes, I know that those heroes like my dad were usually pretty humble and didn't want to talk about actions and events that may have had significant emotion and angst for them even years later. That's understandable and perhaps we should all just accept that.

However, it seems that young people today are missing out when they don't hear some of the stories of bravery, sacrifice and commitment that parents, brothers, sisters and others in their families exhibited and experienced for our country's freedoms. Who will pass on the legacy, the knowledge and pride to future generations?

Yes, war is hell and there's much that perhaps shouldn't be included in our stories. And our tales don't need to only be about the war, military or serving our country. But we don't need to remain silent and steal from our children the important lessons, examples and challenges those who served us so well and in many cases died for left us. Why don't we this year talk to our kids, share with our families and express some pride and thanks in story form about the ones who paid a significant price for us to freely enjoy this day?

Then perhaps the picnics, hot dogs, races and games will take a richer and deeper place in our thinking all year long.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Top Ten List For Dads

I can't think of many things I've enjoyed more in my life than being a dad. Of course, there have been a few hard, even disappointing times, but not many. Kids will always be kids and I know I sure made my share of mistakes, learning how to be a father by trial and error much of the time.

But I couldn't be more proud of my son and daughter, now observing them parent their own kids while my wife and I get to enjoy these six grandboys without all the mess (well, most of the time).

And while there aren't any set rules to follow or practices to embrace that will insure fathering success, I wanted to share my personal Top Ten List for Dads.

These are a few practices and insights that seemed to make a difference in any successes I've had as a father the past three decades or more.

Successful dads:

  1. Love their wives.  They don't just act as though mom is another helper. They visually and with emotion show their children that they love mom in very tangible ways and are committed to her for the rest of their lives.

  2. Keep their word. They say what they mean and mean what they say, even if they're not perfect at that now and then.

   3. Act like an adult most of the time. Healthy dads leave their adolescence behind, man up and lead their homes well in a partnership with their spouse. They're not seeking significance from their offspring.

  4. Still have a childlike heart. They can also enjoy playing and having fun with their kids while being spontaneous.

  5. Take care of themselves physically but aren't obsessive about it. Good dads model health and care for their bodies, but they know they don't have to be a super-jock or lifetime athlete.

  6. Live out their faith in everyday ways.  Too many men sit on the sidelines spiritually. Great dads model spirituality, not waiting for their spouse or leaders in the church to grow their kids in faith.

  7. Laugh a lot for the right reasons.  Some dads joke around all the time out of insecurity. Great dads laugh and have fun because they are secure and don't misuse their humor and joking.

  8. Initiate important communication with other family members. Mature, healthy dads are willing to go deep and start important conversations about faith, struggles, concerns and life in general.

  9. Pray every day for their family. Solid, godly dads don't dabble at praying. They live on it. It's natural, but it's powerful. It's common and it's real, not just a habit.

10. Live like they are dying. They live as though every day might be their last. They enjoy moments, make memories and say what needs to be said.

No, there aren't any perfect dads but there can be some great ones. You can be one. I'm going to keep trying as long as I've got a chance. You know, live like I might be dying.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

When We Mean Well But Make It Worse

When a loved one, friend or neighbor faces a tragedy or challenge, our natural response is usually to do something, say something helpful or in other words, make it better. We certainly would never intend to add more angst to their situation but frankly we sometimes do - unintentionally.

And our misguided, ill-timed responses are often expressed through our words. We say the wrong thing though it may sound like the right thing.

Here are a few examples along with the better, more helpful, more realistic response.

1.  I know everything's going to turn out fine.  The problem is that in life everything doesn't always turn out okay. Thousands may pray and people still die or remain ill. We lose a job and there's no other job on the horizon anywhere. The better answer . . . ?

I know that you're going to get through this and a lot of us are here to help you.

2.  One of these days you'll discover why this happened.  Thankfully we do sometimes learn what God had in mind or how we grew and what was accomplished in us through a major challenge or tragedy. But often we never learn the why. We'll find out in Heaven perhaps, but not in this life. So it's a bit dangerous to promise someone that they will get the answers about why in this life. Maybe they won't. The better answer . . . ?

Sometimes only God knows all the reasons, but I will pray that you move from having to know WHY to finding out WHAT you will do now and HOW.

3.  I know exactly what you're going through and . . . .  In reality, none of us knows exactly what someone else is feeling or facing even though we may have a similar experience or story.  There may come a time when our sharing our perspective could give the other person some practical help about how to move forward or what not to do. But saying it in the moment of their pain only discounts their struggle and suggests they ought to be able to get through it easily because of where you have come.
There are better answers especially when the hurt is still raw and extremely potent . . .

I can't know what you're feeling but you are free to talk to me and share that anytime including right now. 

Get the idea? To be truly helpful means that we simply stay with another person in the moment without trying to fix, simplify or discount their hurt. Down the road may be the time for other suggestions. Initially make it your goal simply to listen and respond accordingly. I guarantee that the person you're caring for will thank you later for your ministry of presence and care, even though you did little to take away the pain.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Three Things To Be Sure To Teach Your Kids About Home

My wife and I recently moved again after less than two years at our former residence. We've actually been blessed to stay in several places for eight to as long as seventeen years at a stretch but whatever the time frame moving can still be tough.

It's not only the challenge of packing, sorting and then unloading and setting it up all over again. Often the bigger issue is the myriad emotional struggles we face leaving friends, finding new doctors, learning where things are, what you need and how to get places.

And sometimes we can begin to think that we left our real home and are now stuck in some sort of barren Purgatory that will never be the same as what we had before.

In this continuing fast-paced, often - changing - locations kind of society, it is important that we make sure our children know that home is more than a place, an abode of brick and mortar or a school system.

Home is where the family is. I know this sounds like a greeting card or Hallmark Special, but it's easy for kids to forget or simply not know that. In fact, while I don't encourage lots of moves every few years, I do know that the moves we've made have reminded us that home goes with us. Yes, with US. That means, just as the church is not the building, but the Christians, our home isn't that address on Orchard St, but rather the parents and kids.

Home is also a place where we help each other with the challenges, including moving. Yes, it is hard for children to make new friends, leave the familiarity of their school and learn new names, streets and amusements. But each time they have to endure that they are reminded that none of those things were really home anyway and most of the time the new setting is better. They survive and so do we.

Home then is affirmed as that group of people who yes love us but also help us make it. We live through it together and care for each other when we're hurting. We may have all shed some tears driving out the driveway but we also share the smiles that can come with a new place with new adventures and new dreams.

Finally, home is the place you always go to feel safe, comfortable and real. When I was in seminary and our son was just two we lived in Texas for the summer.  Our home, however, was in Michigan. The day we returned after ten weeks in the South, we were bringing things in from the car and knew Tim was in the house but we didn't see him.

So we of course went to discover where he was and we found him sitting on his bed. And as we walked into his room he simply said one word, "Home!"

You see our kids will face some tough times perhaps having to leave a location and some people they care about but thinking they're leaving home. And while we know better often young minds don't. So teach them about home where their real home is. Prepare them for that day when home might be somewhere else but not with someone else.

I'm thinking Heaven might be like that, too.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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