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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What If This Thanksgiving Had More Thanks In It?


Most every family has some sort of Thanksgiving traditions. Many are meaningful and remembered for years to come while others may be memorable but aren't particularly anticipated or welcomed each fourth Thursday of November. Of course there are the classic ones . . . . Alright everyone before we eat, let's each tell something we're thankful for.

And as the food cools, the preschoolers share their thankfulness for things like the sky, the dog and mommy (dad seems to always get left out) while older ones try to impress and keep things moving with one or two word answers such as God, food, my room and cell phones.

Deep, huh? Although one of the parents, usually the one about to also pray and allow the food to turn completely cold, rescues the moment with a tearful, Well, I'm just so thankful for my family. . . . and football!

Of course if you avoid some of the holiday disasters that have been reported over the years, maybe you should just be thankful for that.  For example, Thanksgiving dinner conversations can get heated such as when an angry Maryland woman one year stabbed her half brother with a serving fork. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and she was arrested for first-degree assault.

But what if we intentionally tried to add more thankfulness to not just our holiday but more importantly to our lives and the souls of our family? Wouldn't that be a far greater result in this era of entitlement and privilege here in America?

How?

First, start affirming and even expecting thankfulness at home. No, don't turn your responses or comments into punishments or berating. Instead, start as early as possible to simply teach kids to say thank you. Model adding thanksgiving first to your prayers without immediately beginning to ask God for a list of things.

Second, don't give in everyone's expectations, personal preferences and demands. I know of many parents who allow home meals to become restaurant-like where everyone can order what they want, how they want it and what should come with it. Kids can instead learn to be thankful for what has been provided for them in that meal and later enjoy special times when their unique food wishes are granted.

Third, provide some experiences where the family is reminded how good they have it. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or for an organization that works with disadvantaged people. Serve at non-holiday times, too. A short mission trip accomplishes similar goals.

Fourth, talk specifically about the best things they have to be thankful for such as their salvation, life, health, a home, jobs, a good school, etc.

Finally, teach them to share some of what they have with others. For example, if they earn money, have them give ten percent or more to the church and other organizations.Some families give part of their Christmas or birthday funds to help others. This hurricane season is one setting where there's lots left to be done for many months.

However, you do it add some real thanksgiving to your home all year long and maybe you can avoid some of those embarrassing moments this November and actually eat your holiday dinner while it's still hot!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Thinking About The Kids When Your Church Is Struggling


Spoiler alert! There are no perfect churches. So, yes, your church will face problems too if it hasn't already. Some problems are minor, some a very big deal, but few can be kept private or away from young, curious ears and eyes. At some point your kids will probably hear something as well or perhaps should be brought into the loop.

Let me suggest a few principles that you might keep in mind if your fellowship experiences significant challenges. Of course, any actions and responses must be guarded and guided by the age of the children, the nature of the offenses and the people involved.

But in general several reactions are wise:

Clear up as much wrong or misleading information as possible.  Usually rumors and talk are guided by what people think happened rather than what they know for sure. Of course there are many implications and meanings to Jesus' comments in John 8 but his words, The truth will set you free, are certainly applicable here. And if you don't know the truth tell the children that you aren't aware of more but that you're not going to make assumptions.

Remind the kids that it's always important to talk TO the person(s) involved not about them.  Merely talking about them without their knowledge and without a biblical reason is gossip, nothing more, nothing less. People in churches often feel they have the right to go over someone's head before talking to them personally but Jesus again said otherwise in Matthew 18. Christ's church and individuals in it can be deeply wounded by words that are said to others even if there might be a sliver of truth in them.

 Pray together for the people involved, that God would bring healing and that the truth would come to the surface. If there are several opposing parties involved pray for them to find forgiveness, honesty with one another and resolution.

Commit to not talking about the situation with each other or others in the church.  Model for your children giving the authority and responsibility to handle things to the church leadership. They were put in place in part at least for that reason. Give them a chance to do their work.

Finally, talk with your kids about conflict being normal and okay if handled correctly. You might look at the story of Paul and Barnabas after their first missionary journey described in Acts. They disagreed dramatically and yet God blessed them both. Conflict is not a bad thing and can be used to bring healthy change and understanding.

If anything, when conflict bubbles up in your church, become a part of the solution and ask God to use it to grow the church, not tear it down. Jesus again said, By this will all know that you are MY disciples if you love one another.  Let's model that first and foremost and our kids will come through the difficulties just fine.


Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why You Don't Want Your Kids To Feel Entitled


My wife and I went to an outdoor concert the other night featuring one of our favorite groups. And the performers did not disappoint. Their harmonies were incredible, the weather was perfect and I even got to slap hands with the lead singer who ran down the aisle next to me during one song.

There was just one problem. We were in about the 20th row from the front and after three or four songs, all the students in front of us (and hundreds of others) pretty much stood for the rest of the show. We ourselves either had to stand in front of hundreds of people behind us or basically not see the stage.

Now before you complain that I'm just this old guy complaining and should understand the common habits and practices at today's concerts, hear me out. First of all, we were in reserved seats, not on the grass or at an Austin, Texas club where there are no chairs. Second, this concert was heavily attended by 40 - 60 somethings. None of us had come there to hear Maroon Five or a popular rapper which would attract mostly youth.

And by the way, we attended a similar kind of concert at a different venue about a month ago and saw the same kind of thing. Two women, a mother and daughter this time, stood in front of a group for quite a while. When one of the blocked patrons said something the daughter responded with something like . . . It's not my problem.

First of all, the refusing to ever sit when in front of others seemed rude for starters. But it was also almost as if the students felt entitled to do what they wanted to do, to see what they wanted to see and not care about anyone else.

You see, that's what entitlement leads to and why we need to teach our kids that life and the universe aren't only about them. A sense of always deserving certain things breeds selfishness. It's going to be hard to teach children about giving up something for someone else if they believe that they have somehow earned or inherited the right to be first and most important.

Entitlement can also lead to laziness. "I'm entitled to this money, this education, this seat at a concert,"  or whatever so why should they expend any effort to sacrifice for themselves or others.

Entitlement also leads to an errant worldview. Our kids can begin to think that life must be easy, that others don't really matter the way they do and that relationships of all kinds must have them at the center. And sadly, many who think that way have entered or will embark on marriages or parenting still believing that life all revolves around them.

So mom, dad, take a look at how your home works. Do you directly or indirectly foster entitlement? If so, what could you do differently. Don't lecture them, just start acting differently, expecting them to contribute and/or sacrifice more. Give them less stuff and more of yourself. They are entitled to that!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Five Things They Won't Likely Teach Your Kids In School This Year


School starts soon. For some it begins next week while for others the opening bell is another month or more away. Parents are excited to soon get some normalcy and routine back into the schedule while most kids can't believe how quickly the summer flew by and that school is almost back in session.

And thankfully, many of our schools will do stellar jobs teaching science, math, history, etc. orchestrated by committed, passionate teachers who give their best for too little remuneration in most cases. But it's worth remembering that there are some concepts and life lessons that we often think our kids are learning that probably won't get much attention in the hallways or classrooms.

Let me suggest five of the most important lessons our children would benefit greatly by learning some about in school but probably will not. We could certainly argue whether they should be addressed or not in our educational settings. Nonetheless, it's important that we then think about how we are going to teach and model these vital lessons for life.

1. Our kids won't be taught how to deal with relational conflict. Sure, when two kids fight, the teachers break it up. When a few of them loudly disagree with each other they may be told to hold it down. When there is a conflict between student and adult, most leaders will be happy to get the student to agree with them or just do it because I said so.

But there will be little training or modeling of how to appropriately, wisely and maturely work through differing points of view accompanied by intense emotions. And while we could argue that schools need to focus more on learning the basics and their accompanying subjects, there is still a place for showing students how to handle points of view that differ or resolving everyday disputes they will face with others.

2. Our kids won't be taught how to think logically. In public institutions they'll be told more what to think or to only think about a limited slate of ideas, often ones that generally don't include conservative, religious views. But we, even as parents of faith, need our kids to learn to think through options, evaluate truth from a variety of perspectives and be able to articulate why we believe what we believe.

Even in classes math and science, there is value in learning how to compare ideas, use the scientific method and examine all points of view for their validity. But most public schools will stay away from arguments for perspectives they deem non-popular or not to be tolerated while sometimes in Christian schools the students are simply told to accept Christian perspectives with little consideration of any evidence or analytical thinking.

3. Our kids probably won't be taught the whole truth about history. History is often re-written in our schools today where past heroes can be portrayed as horribly flawed, where America is more the evil empire than the greatest provider of aid in the world. The role of Scripture, the church and religious leaders has been nearly erased in many textbooks these days.

It has become more popular to criticize America and its leaders today rather than to have a balanced and fair perspective on our country both past and present. While we don't have a perfect country or past, there is far more good in it than will likely be highlighted in our social science classes.

4. Our kids won't be taught that moral guidelines of the past have relevance in our culture today. Perhaps the most obvious one is that sex was intended by God to be enjoyed and to flourish in marriage between a man and a woman. I was watching a game show the other night and the prize was an overnight date with the person the woman chose as her favorite. And to make it worse, they told us that the date ended up with the woman actually hooking up with the limo driver the night of the date!

And yet, living together, having casual sex and one-night stands will be generally accepted, assumed or ignored in most of our school settings.

5.  Our kids won't be taught the value of life. Yes, certain poor treatment, abuses and even killings may be criticized, critiqued and bemoaned as they should be, others, such as the killing of life in the womb abortion or taking the life of someone in law enforcement if they feel the cause is justified will be ignored.

And of course, if we stop here the news for many of us and our kids isn't good. Yes, some of us will find more peace in our private school setting where some of these issues awill actually be addressed.

But it's critical that we as parents don't just sit back and hope for the best or let others do the important work for us of teaching our children the key things we want them to learn. Instead we must start, be proactive and find creative ways to teach them. We don't have to train them all by ourselves however. Some of what we can do is take our children to places, seminars, teachings and other experiences that can assist us with these important lessons. We can get them next to people who will model truth.

Start or continue the task now. Don't wait. Don't assume. Your school is less likely to help you than hinder you. So make the most of this school year -  and teach the other things, the missing things, at home.






Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Three Ways To Help Face A Difficult Mothers' Day


Tomorrow of course is one of the most important Sundays of the year (no, not the Super Bowl guys) besides Easter. For most it's a  day of celebrating, pampering and thanking mom for all she's done and continues to do for the family.

And I hope many of you will tell your moms how much you appreciate them and all they've provided and sacrificed for you over the years. However, some of you don't find Mother's Day something to look forward to at all. You've perhaps lost your mom recently, have no real relationship with her or will be a long distance away.

Whatever the case you might not be one of those who plans to enjoy the day much. The adulation for moms at church will only add more pain or sadness and you've thought seriously of just not going. You'll avoid the restaurants, too, because they'll be filled with moms and their families fawning over them.

You're thinking that Monday can't come soon enough and then you'll have 364 days of grace before you have to face the next one. If that's you, then you're not alone. And though I can't possibly take away the pain or other angst a Mother's Day might bring you, I can suggest a few things you might do to redeem the day at least a little bit.

If possible spend some time being thankful for the mom you had and the time you had with her. Yes, some moms would not induce much thanks and if that's your situation I understand. But a mom who passed away too young or was one of your best friends who's now not here is someone worth remembering. No one can take away your memories and much of what she invested in you is still a part of you. That's something.

Get to know what makes someone else's mom special to them. Yes, our hurt can make this difficult but take the step anyway. Ask a friend, other relative, neighbor or church attender what they appreciate most about their mom. Celebrate, even for a moment, their blessing and that they may be enjoying what you too still cherish. You just might make their day.

Finally, renew your commitment with God and yourself to be the best parent you can be, whether that's still ahead of you or current. And if you're not likely to be a parent pray similarly then for who you will continue to be as a person. You see, no event including the tragic loss or poor relationship with your mom has the right to steal your joy and growth now.

So this Mother's Day, don't get robbed. Ache, even cry if you need to, but there is some joy out there to be found. Make it and take it.  Let God give you needed perspective. You just might be surprised at how you do tomorrow.


Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Five Things To Teach Your Kids About Money


The teenager lost a contact lens while playing basketball in his driveway. After a brief, fruitless search, he gave up. His mother took up the cause and within minutes found the lens.

"How did you do that?" he asked. "We weren’t looking for the same thing," she explained. "You were looking for a small piece of plastic. I was looking for $150."

Yes, kids have always had a less than stellar view of money, especially while living at home with one or more parents covering most of the expenses. They often don't appreciate how much effort it took to work for or save the money that provided their home, clothing food and the like.

However, we have to remember that our children will not likely learn to handle their finances wisely and appreciate what they have if they haven't been given some tools and practice using them before they leave the nest. So let me suggest five things that we as parents would be smart to put on our teaching agenda at home before they move on.

Teach them that you have to work to earn something. Too many kids get off easy when it comes to doing things around the house or they never get the experience of working for pay. Now of course, it's probably not wise to simply pay our children for everything they do, but as they get older there is wisdom in tying some extra chores to remuneration or their allowance.

Others may be able to get a part-time job in their later years like babysitting, cutting lawns or at a nearby store when they are old enough. And yet more and more parents these days are telling their kids to wait on work so they can add one more team or other activity to their already bloated extra-curricular schedule.

Teach them to save. If I have one financial regret in my six-plus decades of life, it's that I didn't commit to save at least $1 every time I got a paycheck. Of course, saving more is better and there are better options in many workplaces to help but get your kids to start the process now. We gave our kids some matching gift challenges, telling them that up to a certain point we would match the amount they saved giving them some needed motivation. But however you do it start a savings account that they can't touch until you say so.

Teach them to invest. I'm not a financial expert, but investing is how money grows. And there are simple options for our sons and daughters to use that will give them a taste of how to earn more money than the pittances given by many savings options today. Work with them so that they will naturally invest or take advantages of work options that will assist them down the road.

Teach them to give. You may or may not be a person of faith, but the Bible clearly tells us that one of the blessings of following Christ is to give a portion back to God and ultimately to others. And parents, whatever motivates your charity it has to start with you!  Give boldly, give sacrificially, give together as a family and talk about the blessings of doing so. When our kids were learning about money and began earning through a job or allowance we required that ten percent came off the top and was given to the church or a related group.

Teach them perspective.  The ultimate goal is not for our kids to accumulate more and be rich. Some might do that and God can bless them that way. But the bigger picture is to help them learn that everything they have is from God, that we're only taking care of it and that we're to manage it as well as we can.

If you've got work to do with your kids, there's likely still time. Have fun and . . . work hard.


Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Five Things To Teach Your Kids This Easter


There is a little funny that's not so funny, one that we pastors often say before holidays like Christmas and Easter. Here it is: Holidays are hard to write sermons for because the story is always the same. In other words, most of our regular attenders have heard the narrative for decades. And most visitors have at least some sense of what the celebration is about even if they don't have all the details quite right.

So our job is to try to keep presenting the holiday message in ways that continue to keep people's attention, make it practical to life and not bore then in the process. It's not always easy.

That's why I want to also challenge you parents to be a part of helping make this Easter, now just days away, come alive and not just be another special day. I'm not saying you can't enjoy dressing up a little, having some candy around or getting together with family. But God actually tells us as parents that we're to be the chief purveyors of biblical truth, example and understanding. Seems like that needs to include the preeminent day of our Christian calendar.

So let's think for a few minutes about what might be several of the most important things you could reinforce about Easter in your children, young or old, this year.

1. Teach them that Jesus is also the reason for this season.  Yes, we usually use this phrase at Christmas, but Easter is the rest of the story. Jesus came at Christmas to ultimately face Good Friday and Easter thirty-three years later. So don't let the candy and usual other festivities cause the rest of the Jesus story to take a back seat to the exciting and vital conclusion.

2. Teach them why Jesus had to die for us. This can be a hard concept but doesn't have to be. You might talk about how even in our community and national governments there are laws and when laws are broken there is punishment. Someone else can take the punishment but the laws don't change and the charges aren't dropped. Jesus died so that we could enter God's presence clean and holy, something we could never do ourselves.

3. Teach them that Jesus had to rise from the dead or He could never die in our place. He would have been just one of us then, someone who died but didn't come back to life on earth. His rising was proof that He was everything that He said He was, including being God, a perfect, unblemished Lamb, like those needed in the Old Testament.

4. Teach them how Easter has changed your life. It's just another nice holiday especially to children  if the day seems to have little significance to the ones who teach them about it. You don't have to get all theological or super spiritual either. Just show them how Christ's forgiveness, power and purpose have caused you to look at life and the people in the world through Jesus' eyes, not your own. What difference has it made in your career, how you run your home and what's important to your family? Tell them stories. They'll listen.

5. Teach them how to tell their Easter story to others - all year long. No, we don't need to be great evangelists or go door to door (which tends to be dangerous these days). Teach them to live life in a way that others ask them about why they make those choices, help them to learn to tell their salvation story in a simple form and how to lead someone else to Christ.

Of course, all five of these things are age-dependent and you'll need to introduce and adjust the details accordingly. But this Easter, let it be a weekend when Christ comes truly alive again in your home, your purposes and your talk. It could change your home forever.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

5 Ways To Teach Your Kids The Bible Without Boring Them To Death


Jackie and I were on one of our annual couple getaways, a time each year when we put life on hold, found a nice hotel with a hot tub, enjoyed being face to face without much interruption and evaluated how we were doing. We would also try to come up with some next steps that we wanted to take to shore up a hole or two or simply be better as a couple or as parents.

This particular year, however, we realized that we weren't doing a very good job teaching our young children about spiritual things, biblical content and how to live in a way that honors Jesus. Like many, while we were blessed with godly parents and Christian homes, we still struggled with how to do family worship as some would call it, and yet have our kids (and us) actually enjoy it.

In addition our two kids, a boy and a girl, were nearly five years apart adding a few other challenges. So one of the ideas we came up with was to start acting out Bible stories rather than just read them from the Bible or other not so interesting book. We quickly discovered that younger children get especially engaged when they can be a part of the story.

Our son especially enjoyed being the lion to my Daniel while anything Amy could do to dress up made any story extra fun for her. All their stuffed animals lined up on our couch as we went through Noah and the ark made for an especially fun time. You can imagine how others might have turned out.

That little exercise helped us realize that there are other ways to get our kids into the Scriptures. I don't have time to cover more than a few ideas but I encourage you to think of ones that might work best in your home, with your unique kids, backgrounds and training.

However, let me mention a couple of directions you might go. One is to watch a movie and plan to talk about some of the implications afterwards. Of course, your choice of movie and even whether to use this idea will depend on the maturity of your children. If they're not old enough for a full-length movie, use a short piece that they can hang with long enough to get one important idea.

You can also serve together at a local shelter, retirement home, children's home or low-income neighborhood. Somewhere in the process read some of the key Bible passages (and there are many) about helping the poor, widows and others in need. Talk about their experience and let them verbalize other life lessons.

Do an interactive study where everyone gets to participate, answer a question or give a comment. Try using a simple method such as W-O-R-D, with W standing for worship and looking for a characteristic of God, Jesus or the Spirit. O stands for observe. R stands for reflect on what it might mean to you and D is do, what actions could come as a result of reading this passage?  Again, this must be age appropriate but it works.

You see, there are lots of ways to teach the Bible, to place God's truth in the hearts of our kids and yet do it in such a way that it is welcomed, enjoyed and embraced. Are you willing to try some things at your house this year? Training our kids in the way they should go is not optional, parents, and it's not up to the church or Christian school to do it all though they can help.

I wonder how many more of us just might look forward to embracing the challenges from our pastors and other leaders if we only had a little creative success along the way. Try it. You can't afford not to. Go for it.


Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Teach R-E-S-P-E-C-T Because It's Almost G-O-N-E


In January our current President was sworn in. But even some of his own party have chosen to work against him, not for him. Hollywood elites have publicly stated their own uninformed disdain for him and others with whom they disagree.

The other night so-called comedian Stephen Colbert unleashed about him one of the most vulgar attacks ever made against anyone on network television.

For months now police have been excoriated for just doing their job, mistreated at many junctures because one law officer did something unwise or even made a horrible mistake.

An NFL player the other day was found live on Facebook blatantly doing exactly what his coach was saying in another part of the locker room NOT to do. Soldiers these days are continually mocked, scorned and ignored for serving their country admirably. Respect?

College professors feel they can promote their religious faith, leaders or atheistic perspectives while making fun of or even providing lower grades to those who don't hold similar views. Respect?

There are few who are exempt from the new disrespect, now almost a badge of courage to many of those in the media, halls of politics or entertainment business. What has happened to treating people kindly even if we disagree with them? In my thinking respect is quickly being gobbled up by crass humor, entitlement, elitism and selfishness.

It's one thing to disagree with someone. It's another to call them names, speak about them in a setting designed for another purpose or to simply treat them as dirt because they don't happen to see or live life the way you do.

And it happens in many smaller arenas including churches, schools, local governments, neighborhood associations and restaurants. And what is even worse is that those doing the disrespecting demand the opposite for themselves or of those who they would support. It's what I call one-way tolerance.

What is respect? Treating another person with dignity and openness whether we agree with them or not. And if our culture is going to remove it then we parents must be that much more determined to require it of our children, model it and go the extra mile to see that it remains a value in our homes, churches and places of work.

How do we teach it? One, model it in your own conversations or commentary on public life. Use phrases like, we may not agree but that person still deserves our respect.

Two, ask those who disagree with you to 'tell me more.' Be willing to learn more about what someone else thinks before you respond to their perspective. Still be their friend and agree to disagree.


Three, I think we need to keep speaking out against the one-way tolerance and commentary. We can graciously write to our political leaders, television networks and editorial pages while speaking without apology about it to those we know. Maybe at some point a few people will finally realize that if we lose R-E-S-P-E-C-T we're going to also lose part of O-U-R-S-E-L-V-E-S, something that we may never be able to bring back.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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