Train Up a Child

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I don’t know what you hear when you read this verse (or hear someone using it to tell you how to raise your child), but this is what I hear: “Raise your kid right. Teach him all the rules about how to live a Godly life and how to treat other people and when he is old, he will live that way. Train him to be a Godly man, and he won’t go down the wrong path. Whatever you teach him or forget to teach him, will determine how he will live and if he will be a productive member of society.”

Well..I hear something like that anyway. However, this is NOT what the Scripture says. I’m not going to debate all the ins and outs of what I hear, but I do want to point out what the verse actually says. Charles F Boyd says:

“The phrase ‘in the way he should go’ does not refer to some prescribed path that every person should follow. In the Hebrew language, the phrase is better rendered, ‘according to his way.’ And the Hebrew word for ‘way’ is derek, which literally means ‘bent’ and refers to a unique inner design or direction.” 

This verse is not about rules and a path, but about a relationship with my children. It means I’ve got to learn how God made them – their spiritual gifts, their skills/abilities, their passions/heart. I need to work at God’s side. God designed my children a certain way for His specific purposes and my role is to watch them closely, to recognize God’s handiwork, and then to join Him to strengthen and grow those gifts within them. I need to pay attention to the people in their lives and the opportunities that God presents to them. All of these things can be pieces to discovering God’s will for their lives. In order to “train them up in the way they should go,” I’m going to have to know something about the way they should go. Building close relationships is my best chance at getting that part right.

In the world we live in, it’s clear that people are able to accomplish more when they operate in the their strengths. That’s what this verse is about: finding our kids “strengths” (spiritual gifts) and then training them to develop those gifts to their full potential.

Quiet – The Internet Can’t Do This

Quiet – The internet doesn’t do quiet. It’s good for a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them. The internet overflows with information. It is loud and noisy. It’s a million voices. It’s full of people. (Many who would never be so obnoxious in person.) This can be a great thing. Sometimes, we need sensory overload and we need to fill our brains. Only then, can we sort through it all and make sense of the world around us.

Unfortunately, we need quiet for that part to happen. We can’t live our lives fully online, ’cause the internet doesn’t do quiet. When we’re online, we don’t see the long, quiet, thoughtful moments where people wrestled with themselves or with God or with other people. No one communicates the deep unsure quiet space where they work through things…..where they pray or where they seek guidance, but we need these times to sort through all the noise and settle in on the quiet where we find the “still small voice.”

I studied under Mike Ayers in college and he used to say, “A leader needs time to sit and stare out the window.” We’ve all got to have time to stare and imagine what life “could” be like and maybe more importantly, how it “should” be. Staring out the window gives us a chance to imagine and create a way to get to these new places, how build something new, to develop a new strategy. It allows us space to dream. Maybe daydreaming should be a bit of a discipline? When we need to make big/important decisions we need space and margin. We need quiet. Internet can’t do this.

Confession: Quiet is what I need. Soccer games, and football practices, and dance classes, and church responsibilities, and work, and family, and lifegroup, and, and, and. It all just overwhelms me. My life seems like a lot of noise. Then I come home to the internet……and it’s just more noise, more information, more, more, more. The stress builds and just piles on. I feel like screaming. I just want it to stop. I need quiet. I need margin and space so I am working on it. As a family, we are taking January off from sports – no soccer games or practices. We didn’t sign up for basketball. We’re planning to go camping. I’m also refraining from tv and much of the internet – planning to read more and write (on this blog) – to contemplate and sit and “stare out the window.” Pray for me.

I’d also encourage you to do the same – take a break from the internet. Disconnect and I believe you’ll find real connections – deep connections which the internet cannot provide. Get quiet. Listen to God. He is so much better than the internet. He has real answers without the booming voice – without all the sensory overload and confusion. He is the “still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

Lowering the Bar

I was inspired by a friend (Denice Lambert) who posted this on facebook:

J: What do you want these boys to wear?
Me: They already dressed themselves. They sort of match and their clothes don’t have any holes or stains.
J: So those are the standards now?
Me: Yep.

Lowering the bar might be the most Godly thing you can do. (as long as it’s the right bar/standard) Lowering one bar is sometimes essential in order to raise another.

One simple example: Our house doesn’t always have to be spotless. When visitors drop in, it’s highly unlikely that they will find an OCD dream. Most of the time, we have shoes piled in one corner of the room and there might be clothes folded on the couch or backpacks opened with school supplies falling out onto the floor. It’s “lived in.” When I come home from work, I could focus my attention on cleaning up the place, or I could go outside and play with my kids. Some of you may disagree, but my calculations say that time with my children is more important. By lowering the “clean house” bar, I can raise the bar for my relationships. (Let me also say, that this one with my personality is easy for me to lower. My beautiful bride, who is usually correct, would like for me to pick this bar up off the floor a bit more.)

By choosing a specific bar to lower, we can focus on those things which are more important. By lowering one bar we might also grant permission to others to do the same. Using my previous example….maybe my wife only feels like the house has to be clean because her other friends have raised this bar…because our culture has said this is the “norm.”

By continuing to follow our cultural standards to always raise the bar, we perpetuate the myth that we can have it ALL together. It’s simply not true. We can play this game and mask the fact that we are not perfect, but that doesn’t make us perfect. In reality this game, forces us to neglect some other area in our life – quite possibly an area which is ultimately more important. Also, by continuing to raise all the bars, we overload ourselves with unreal expectations. When we fail and these expectations aren’t met, we feel an unnecessary sense of guilt.

When I attended CBS (College of Biblical Studies) they used a system called “Contract Grading.” They set a standard of a specific grouping of assignments and explained that if the student did each assignment successfully, he would receive an “A.” A smaller subset of those assignments would receive a “B” and an even smaller set would receive a “C.” They did not put pressure on students to work for the “A” all the time, and even explained that they understood that each of us had a life outside of school. They said that it might even be “sinful” to get an “A” in the class if it took us away from something that might be more important. I LOVED this approach and was set free emotionally to put as much or as little into each class as I felt like God would want me to do. These teachers communicated a trust in our own judgement and yet still held us to a standard that would stretch each of us. They gave us the option to “lower the bar.”

What bars/standards consume your time and drain your energy? Are they getting in the way of more important bars? Is someone else’s high bar making you feel inadequate? If so, evaluate the bar, is it important or will you choose to keep it low and focus elsewhere?

Prayer:   LORD, Help me to see which bars I need to lower and which ones I should raise. Give me discernment. Lead me to a schedule that will allow me to focus on the standards which you think are important and whittle away those which are not. AMEN.

Compass or Map

compassThe goal of teaching is to enable and empower students to navigate this world with a compass, but I’ve been teaching them with maps. Here’s what I mean: As a teacher, I work very hard show my students the steps it takes to accomplish a task. The problem is that if they follow those steps they get the task done.

What? That doesn’t sound like a problem.

Well, I guess it’s not a problem if your goal is the simple task, however a teacher’s goal is larger. I want my students to understand the content well enough that they can interact and navigate around completely on their own. By following the steps (my map), my students haven’t discovered the landscape around the task. Many haven’t even looked up from the map to notice the landscape. They haven’t made mistakes which would teach them how to navigate towards their goal. A compass is a much better instrument for students. It forces them to learn the landscape and to get a real grasp of the content. When they get off course, they will need to find their way back and will discover that missing a few steps is not failure. They might even discover a better way to get somewhere. A compass allows a student more freedom and room for personal expression than a map – as long as they are within the boundaries they can go anywhere they’d like. If students had this kind of freedom, they might be a bit more motivated. Compass work forces deeper thought and requires higher order thinking skills.

Let me be clear. To create a “compass” lesson is much more difficult for the teacher. It requires more flexibility and will most likely bring some chaos. The “compass” teacher/student relationship probably looks more like an apprenticeship. There needs to be more one on one time. More exploration time. There should probably be more mistakes and disasters as well. As a matter of fact, I’d say that if there aren’t many mistakes, then students aren’t learning. As hard is these ideas might be, I believe our students are worth the efforts.  

Here’s my biggest question: In this type of classroom, students must have some sort of self motivation. A teacher who works with students individually like this can’t possibly watch everyone else simultaneously. How can a teacher like this keep everyone on task? How can a teacher motivate those students who simply don’t care? Of course the answer is to give them something they care about, but the truth is that there is no course/content/class that can motivate everyone. Ideas? Thoughts? Please leave some comments, I’d really like to know your thoughts.

Community Group

adults2We just got back from a little trip with our Community Group (or “Life Group” as they will be called soon) and so I’ve been reflecting on some of our times together:

I love this group. We play together, serve together, worship/learn/grow together, and just do life together. They have been there for us in both good and bad times. Don’t get me wrong – cultivating these relationships hasn’t been easy. We’ve all worked at being intentional and made sacrifices, but in the end, it’s definitely worth it.

In general, we just enjoy being together and find ways to be together. I don’t think it matters what we’re doing near as much as just being together. In doing so, we “rub off” on one another and begin to share memories/experiences which shape us. Even our parenting skills are influenced as we watch how everyone else “does” it. These are the people I consciously choose as “influencers” in our lives and I will protect those relationships.

kidsHere are just a few of the things we’ve experienced together so far:

  • Before my son Kasen had surgery earlier this summer, the kids from our group gathered around him and prayed for him. In this one act, they were an example for taking our burdens to the Lord. Their faith gave him more courage and their little prayers communicated their love and support for him. They taught him that God is in control and his faith was strengthened as he witnessed God answering those prayers.
  • When my truck broke down, one of the guys in our group came to my house to help with repairs – truly an answer to prayer. I’m not good with this sort of thing, but my friend is. This is how the body of Christ should function – each one offering his own gifts.
  • Some of them showed up to support me on the night I was leading a fundraiser for another organization I’m involved in. One of them actually serves on the board.
  • We volunteer together at the Pregnancy Help Center and work to be a blessing to one of our local schools. We also serve at our church together by cleaning the building and working behind the scenes.
  • The girls celebrate birthdays together and the men hang out and see movies together. We plan “Date Nights” together. Our kids play on the same soccer teams.
  • We go on trips/retreats together – Jellystone and Livingston.
  • We spontaneously decide to do things together – bike rides to the park for picnics.
  • We spend time praying for each other and study the Scriptures together. We have worked our way through a few books (Respectable Sins, The Praying Life) as well as sharing our own life stories with one another.

Prayer:
LORD, Thank you for giving these people to us. They are instruments in Your hands to help keep our family on track. When they speak, I often hear Your voice. When we’re together I sense Your presence and know You are near. When we’re together, I feel safe to ask questions and wrestle with what it means to live as You have called us. These relationships give us opportunities to practice living out this call to love one another and I must admit that sometimes it can be difficult. I’m so grateful that You brought them to us and pray that You will continue to draw us into deeper relationships that will push us deeper into our relationship with You. AMEN.

 

 

The Tackle

It’s been more than 30yrs, but I still remember one tackle. I was in elementary school and my parents were moving me from the YMCA football league to the City league. These kids were older and bigger. I was a little scared, but also knew that I was good. (Well, I thought I was.) It was my first day of practice and in spite of my nerves, I had something to prove. They put me in as a Defensive End and told me that my job was to make sure the ball didn’t get outside of me.

The quarterback got the ball and started running my way. I recognized it as the “Option” and saw him pitch to the running back. With 3 blockers coming right toward me, I could make out one leg on the runner. My heightened awareness caused everything to go into slow mo. I could see one tiny hole to thread the needle of defenders and I went straight to it. This wasn’t just a tackle during practice. I was earning my place on the team. It was important. I got him and more importantly, it caught the attention of my new coach.

I wonder if this is what we are all longing for? Singular purpose. Focus. Heightened awareness. A higher purpose for the mundane things we do each day. There were no distractions for me that day – well, not in that moment. Nothing could have taken me away from that moment. I was passionately pursuing that tackle and wouldn’t have noticed if a two-headed purple alligator had crawled onto the field.

Is there something that makes you get lost in the moment? Anything that stirs your passions so much that nothing distracts you?

The older I get, I must admit that the number of things that distract me has probably increased. My children command my attention and my bride deserves it, but I’m certainly guilty of not “hearing” them. When I’m with them, I find myself thinking about work or other things. When I’m at work, my mind is at home. I wonder how life would be different if I could truly just “be” wherever I actually am? Could I develop the kind of focus that allowed me to make that tackle in my regular, everyday activities? Somehow, I think Jesus may have been this way – completely present in every moment. The people He was with always seemed to think He was completely in tune with them. He always “heard” them. I wanna be like Jesus. Present. Focused. Passionate. Attentive. Loving.

Blazin’ a Trail

I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve climbed around that tree.

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  ~ Unknown. (Sometimes attributed to Emerson & McAlindon)

Meridian State Park (Texas) is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s where I first understood the cross. (I guess I’m actually still working on understanding it’s magnitude, but. . .) Anyway, one of my memories of Meridian was a time when my friend Shayne Hackworth and I went exploring. We blazed trails all over that park. We found natural springs and uncovered fossils. We saw and experienced things the rest of our group missed. We’d take turns leading each other. We waved big sticks in front of us as we traveled in order to clear the spiderwebs from the trail. In spite of our efforts, I still remember getting covered in those webs. Cuts and scratches all over our legs were common as well as the occasional poison ivy rash.

Leadership was not glamorous or easy. It was a sacrifice. It was a way to honor those behind you. The leader may have been out front, but he served his followers. He was in the lead position, but he placed himself underneath them. He believed they were more important and understood that they could travel further and accomplish more if he served them by taking the lead position. He got more dirty, more bloody, and more sweaty than the rest of the group.

Leaders serve.

Servers lead.

 

Zero Negative Footprint

“You’re so negative!” Miranda’s words hung over me for a few days. It was just a couple of weeks ago. I had posted a few updates on twittter/facebook and after reading another one, Miranda responded. . . Loudly. . . Accusingly. And if I’m man enough to admit. . . Correctly. My wife has the ability to cut right through my facades and break me open. (and I’m exceedingly grateful for her.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how my attitude affects my experiences. If it impacts my own experiences, what does it do to the rest of my family? My friends? The world around me?

I’ve heard of people making it their goal to have a “zero carbon footprint” in regards to their use of things that harm the environment.

What would the world look like if we all worked toward a “Zero Negative Footprint?” What if we were able to stop our negative interactions with people? How do negative attitudes harm our relational environment? What if everyone you came in contact with was encouraged or impacted in a positive way by your interaction?

Somehow, I think this is the way Jesus must have lived. Scripture is full of people who were impacted positively by Him. Even the Pharisees were given tough love (ultimately positive) by His discipline. To be a Christian is to seek to live as Jesus lived. Although He is the only person to ever walk the earth with a “Zero Negative Footprint,” He is our example, our guide.

“I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Being positive is tough. It’s counter-cultural. But it also changes people. It changes attitudes. It’s contagious! Murphy’s Law no longer applies to anything. God’s law is much bigger! It’s the difference between being a critic or an encourager.

Miranda’s words are still looming over me, “You’re so negative!” but I’m working on it. God is working on me. I’m grateful.

Pelicans and Leadership

Recently, I had the privilege to join some friends (Thanks Shelby’s!) at their bay house. It’s a beautiful place and a perfect place to “get away” a bit.

I don’t think I’ve ever really sat and watched pelicans diving for fish before. They fly up high to get a good wide perspective and scan for prey. When they see something they circle to get a good angle and then dive with abandon. Recklessly even. They aren’t very graceful – just effective. In order to survive, they must do this regularly – every day even.

I wonder what leaders can learn from pelicans? Do we escape our normal routines and seek out “high places” where we can get good perspectives? Do we continually scan for new opportunities? Do we work to get a good angle and then dive recklessly? Are we so afraid of being ungraceful that we just continue to circle without ever diving? Do we get comfortable enough that we stop working this process or do we do it daily?