To read my parenting model, click HERE
Most parents want to develop a close, lasting bond with their children that goes beyond the years a child lives in the home. Having a relationship with children that transcends time begins early in a child’s life as the heart of the child bonds with the heart of the parent.
I’m happy to say my boys are grown, but they are two of my best friends. And, they call or text frequently to discuss life and seek my input. I couldn’t ask for more. I realize now there were some things we did along the way that built the bond we have even today. Some of it may have been “accident” on our part. They don’t have to be for younger parents.
Choose activities to do together that they enjoy. It’s a great plus if they enjoy your hobbies, but you will have better success in connecting if you do the things with them they enjoy most. Don’t try to create a clone of you. When they begin making choices for themselves, learn to love their activities and play times.
Don’t force yourself on your children. As children get older and begin developing outside interests, do not be the parent who always has to tag along. Be there if you are invited, but allow your children some freedom to explore. As they get older, welcome other adults you trust to invest in them. This is one of the great values of being active in a local church. Men I admire made huge impacts on my boys.
Remain accessible to your children always, but especially during busy or stressful times. Children cannot handle or understand stress the way adults can. They just know when they want or need their parents. Make sure you are available as much as possible when the desire strikes them. We made sure our boys knew they were never an interruption and we were always there when needed. That meant building our schedule around time planned with them. The busier I was and more stressful life became, the more I protected that time.
Communicate on their level and with their interests. Understand the language of their age and learn about the things they have interest in doing. I never knew much about soccer or wrestling, but one of our boys did, so now I do. Wanna wrestle?
Learn to love their friends. This is huge and will show that you value their choices in friends and relationships. We sometimes had to gently guide them and we even distracted them from some friends, but we wanted them to love everyone. Be patient with them. They should not be expected to have the maturity of an adult yet. They will make mistakes and will not always make the decisions you want them to make. Help them form good values then honor their ability to make choices while you are still there to help them recover when they make bad ones. They’ll need good decision making skills for a lifetime.
Slow down. Life races by and before you know it the kids are gone. Believe me when I say this…it passes fast. Too fast. In your race to provide them all the right opportunities, all the stuff, make sure you give them what they need most…YOUR TIME.
Be intentional. When my boys were young I didn’t have a smart phone. I worked hard running a business that I owned, was active in dozens of professional and spiritual activities, including holding public office, but I rarely missed a ballgame or practice. Their time went on my calendar first. FIRST. And, I had no problem saying no to other opportunities.
To be clear, none of these are excuses to give children everything they want or to allow them to set the standards for your home. I believe parents should parent. For more on my parenting philosophy here read other posts under the category of PARENTING. Connecting with children in a way that lasts beyond the years they must connect with you, however, begins early in the child’s life and takes a consistent effort on the part of the parents.
What ideas or ways can you add to build a lasting connection with children?
I was at a gym recently on an elliptical.
At the entrance there is a table with sign up sheets for various machines. People reserve their space in advance a week at a time. On that particular day, there was no sign up sheet for Monday. There was a sheet for other days, but not for Monday.
What took place for the next 20 minutes was humorous, but illustrated a great principle.
Half a dozen gym members debated the missing sign up sheet:
Maybe Monday is a holiday.
It’s not a holiday that should affect the gym.
No, it’s not a holiday.
There may be an error
No, because they have Tuesday and Wednesday
I bet they’re saving that day for something special
Yea but they usually put a sign on the door
And what about us regulars?
It’s probably a private party.
I hate when they do that.
Has it happened before.
I think so.
It’s not fair.
We should complain.
After 20 minutes of similar dialogue, one wise person said, “I’ll just go ask.”
She did. It was a clerical error. Problem fixed. Problem solved. In a matter of minutes.
Unfortunately, I see this kind of thing all the time in leadership and life. Even in families and other relationships.
Especially in relationships…relationships of all kinds…when it involves people…when miscommunication or misunderstanding is possible…and it always is…
I was walking in the hall of our church building recently when I had to stop to let a classroom of children walk by me. We house a school in our building and an early childhood development center. It’s not unusual to encounter some of them on a daily basis. On this occasion, it was a class of what I would guess to be 4 or 5 years of age.
They were perfectly lined up by their teacher. They were behaving nicely. Their teacher was doing a great job with them. So cute.
All of a sudden. Out of nowhere. One little girl broke into meowing. Cat meows. She was good too. She didn’t know anyone else was around it seems. She simply started meowing.
I laughed. She didn’t seem to understand why. Her teacher told her to be quiet. She didn’t seem to understand why.
What is wrong with a little meowing anyway? Especially with such good pitch. I mean, it wasn’t a lion’s roar. That would be different, right? It’s a kitty cat. The cat’s meow.
But it made me think…
Suddenly my mind reflected on another time in life…several years ago now…
When my youngest son was little he was often afraid at night. As long as he knew he could call and I’d be there…anytime at night…he was okay. He could sleep without fear. Without worry. And he tested that numerous times.
I also want to skip and kick a can down the street and not worry about the effects on the environment. Just once. Random. I know.
I want to laugh more. Belly laugh. About things other people don’t even think are funny.
I want to enjoy my ice cream. All over my face, if needed. We can go to the bathroom later and wash it off. Or just go swing for a while. Whichever.
I want to climb a tree. A really big tree. Without a fear of heights or a fear of falling. I might even shout, “Look at me” from the top of that tree.
I want to take a run in the woods, jump in some puddles, and wear my play clothes all day.
Life is serious. Too serious. Very serious.
This world is a messed up scary place. Somedays it seems everyone is crazy. Doesn’t it? Even me. Who can I trust? Does anything make sense anymore? Anything?
But I know, I really do know, that my God is on His throne. He’s not moved. He’s in control. He has a plan. And, He loves me. He really does. He watches over me at night and counts the hairs on my head. All while making sure the stars are still aligned. And, I think He even laughs at my corny jokes. And at the cat’s meow of a little girl.
So when I grow up I want to trust more and worry less.
I want to enjoy life knowing someone else is in control. I want to laugh in the midst of sorrow knowing there is coming an answer. A resolution. Glory yet to be revealed. Knowing hope is here today. Not tomorrow. Today.
And, I want meow. Whenever I choose to meow. Life’s too short not to meow at will.
I love the local church. I really do. I believe it is God’s design and His plan to reach the world with the Gospel…with life and hope.
I really do. I hate destructive drama in any setting, but especially in the church. It shouldn’t exist. It especially shouldn’t exist in the church. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and for believers for it to exist at all, but, even still, it does.
Drama. Gossip. Back-stabbing. Politics. Jockeying for power. Rumors. It’s destructive and has no part in the local church. I’ve seen lots of it. And, along the way I’ve learned a few things.
Not all rumors are true. Most aren’t.
People like to expand on what they know. Or think they know.
There are consequences to sin. Even though there is grace. Some confuse that.
Some people enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things bigger and “better” than they really are.
There is usually more to the story than what you know. But it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.
Many people never consider the ramifications of what they are saying.
Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request.
Thumper’s mom was right.
The only reliable source is the direct source.
For those who have given up on church because of the drama…Please reconsider. I still believe in the local church. I think we need people who like me…hate the drama of church and just want to live out the Gospel. Don’t let the drama keep you away. Come be a part of ending it.
What have you learned about church drama?
When I’m talking to a pastor who has accepted a new position, after I hear the excitement in his voice of what he sees God doing, I almost always ask the same question:
There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She’s doing okay.”
Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:
“It’s been harder on her than I thought it would be.” or, pushing even further, “I don’t understand why she’s not as excited as I am. She agreed this was what God had for us.”
Many times, when the pastor is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will come in time, but for now, she’s not as excited about the change in positions as he is.
I like to encourage pastors to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The new pastor has found his center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for hers.
You, the pastor, when you come home at the end of a long day, have something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging you daily. Even on days things aren’t going well…you have drama in your day you can’t wait to share.
Many times, right now, her days look the same.
You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most…your partner in life and ministry.
But, if you’re not conscious of her emotions, depending on her state of mind, she may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.” Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”
Granted, you are not thinking those things and would never want her to think those things, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. That’s part of change.
She’s moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. She is often more relation-centered emotionally, so her heart transitions slower. The roles she held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.
You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or seem to have for now. That will change in time, and she probably knows that intellectually, but emotionally she feels a sense of loss that will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.
Granted she is your partner, so she may be excited for you personally as a couple, but remember, she is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
That’s enough encouragement for today. I’ll share more in a future post some thoughts on helping your spouse find her center of gravity and purpose in a time of transition. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, share your stories to help others.
Pastors/Pastor’s spouses, did you have a harder time in a season of transition than your spouse did?
I couldn’t get past the “Farmer” commercial during the Super Bowl. My grandfather on my mother’s side lived in Kansas. He died when I was young, but I’ve always lived somewhat in his shadow…he was a hero of mine. Everything I knew about him was captured in that commercial. If you missed it, or want to see it again, watch it now.
A good friend…and a great leader…Jason Cummins sent me his thoughts on the commercial.
The Super Bowl was last night, and as always, my wife and I looked forward to the commercials. However, I’m not one to go online and view them ahead of time. I feel the precise broadcast time establishes context, and thus is an important part of the overall experience.
As we entered the second half, I was a bit disappointed. No croaking frogs, dive-bombing pigeons, or office linebacker sightings. Rather, Madison Avenue seemed content to reflect our culture’s status quo…a preference for short-term gratification over long-term reward.
Then entered what will be referred to today as simply, “The Farmer” commercial. Narrated by one of my all-time favorites, Paul Harvey, the ad immediately transported me back to my childhood, riding on the bench seat of the family roadster or huddled around the single, family radio in my grandparents’ house.
But it wasn’t merely the voice that made the commercial so powerful. Rather, it was the verbal content and the accompanying deep, pictorial images. Americans respect farmers, and the farmer was extolled for his virtuous characteristics. As I rewatched the commercial this morning, I pulled the five following traits from the rich narrative. These resonate with our souls, for deep down, we respect them, desire them, and want to be led by those who embody them:
1. Disciplined work ethic. He is willing to get up before dawn, work all day, finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then work another 72 hours. He isn’t afraid of hard work. He is hard work.
2. Selfless. He attends school board meetings, applies first aid, and willingly attends to the needs of others before himself.
3. Competent. He can shape an axe handle, shoe a horse, or make a harness out of scrap. He knows his trade and confidently, yet humbly, goes about doing his work.
4. Compassion. He sits up with an ailing colt and splints the leg of a meadowlark. He heart is attune to his surroundings, and he is willing to do something about it.
5. Character. He plows deep and straight and will not cut corners. He will choose the harder right over the easier wrong. He works for good.
And then the commercial concludes with, “To the farmer in all of us.” Much like a good class, the ad not only made us think, but it also made us feel. And in the process, it reminded us of important characteristics we should all aspire to emulate. May each of us live a little more like a FARMER today.
Who do you think of when you watch that commercial?
In a tweet and Facebook post recently I said, “The hardest conversation is often the most needed.”
It was as a result of my counsel to another pastor in a leadership setting. I happen to encourage those type conversations often. Apparently, from the retweets and “likes”, it’s a frequent issue. In relationships, there are consistent needs to have difficult conversations. Often leaders, spouses, and friends avoid them, but it’s often to the detriment of the relationship.
I decided to expand beyond Twitter length encouragement. Do you need to have a difficult conversation?
Conviction – There first needs to be some sense of urgency towards having the conversation. People who have frequent hard conversations just to have hard conversations are obnoxious at best. Hard conversations, where you challenge someone, confront a situation or address sensitive issues should be rare, not normal. Make sure you know it’s something you must do in order to improve the situation or protect the relationship.
Prayer – You should pray as a part of the conviction process also, but this is prayer after you know you are moving forward. Pray for God’s favor on the conversation, open hearts for you and the other party, and God’s resolution to be realized.
Notes – Jot down your main points you are trying to make. You might read THIS POST. It’s about how to write a sensitive letter, but the points in it will help you prepare for a face-to-face conversation also. (and there are times a letter is best) You want to be prepared. The main issues (but read the post) are to be factual, to the point, but kind, truthful, and helpful. Be willing to assume blame where needed.
Setting – Time and place are critical in difficult situations. You should never “attack” someone in ways that will embarrass them more or add unnecessary stress to the situation. Be strategic with your when and where.
Rehearsal – Go through your notes and your part of the conversation. Imagine if someone was having this conversation with you and how you would respond. You can’t determine how they will respond, but you can rehearse how you will respond. The more you do this the better you’ll be able to control your emotions when the time comes.
Action – Do it. You need to plan the when, as stated above, but the longer you wait the harder and more awkward it will be. Have the conversation while you’re prepared and in a prayerful mindset about the situation.
Follow up – Most likely the conversation won’t end with the conversation. You will need to check in with the person, send them a follow up email, phone call or even another meeting. You may need to reiterate your care for them personally even after the conversation. If nothing more is needed between you and the person, at least take time to think through how the conversation went so you can learn from it and be better prepared for future difficult conversations. You can be assured of additional opportunities.
What steps or advice would you add?
(Reposting the most read posts of the year.)
I hear from both sides continually. Between the two sexes, communication appears to be the biggest struggle. It’s a constant work in progress in my own marriage. The differences in men and women make communication difficult. (I also posted 5 Tips When Communicating with Men.)
My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike, but there are some generalities that can perhaps help a woman better understand a man and improve communication.
We meant what we said…not what you heard – Thats true 99% of the time. (Statistically verifiable ) Men are usually more literal, and frankly simple-minded, so we aren’t usually talking in a code language. Not that women would be… Try to hear only what was said without attaching extra thoughts triggered by emotions. Ask if his statement had a deeper meaning before making assumptions. Most likely he meant only…nothing more…than what was said. (I can’t tell you how many classic examples of marriage problems I’ve seen develop with just this one tip.)
We don’t often like to give details – If we said where we were going, who we had a discussion with or what we had for lunch, that’s usually enough for us. We may not like going into detail beyond those simple facts. I understand you may need and even deserve more information, especially when a man hasn’t proven trustworthy, but know its often out of our realm of comfort to provide it. When it’s not a matter of trust, the less you pump for details the more likely we’ll be to share facts, and even occasionally, details.
Our range of emotions are limited – Most men don’t feel as deeply or multi-faceted as a woman feels about an issue. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we are wired differently. If you ask us how we feel, “happy” or “sad” may be as descriptive as we can get. Because of this, men tend to communicate more factually and less emotionally.
When you may tend to cry we may tend to get angry – I get criticized for this point sometimes, but I wrote a post about this issue HERE. There is never an excuse to misuse anger and abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, but anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible says “in your anger do not sin”, but it seems to assume we will have moments of anger. The same things that cause most girl’s emotions to produce tears, often cause a man to develop testosterone-producing anger. A godly man learns to handle that anger responsibly, but it doesn’t eliminate the response. When an issue riles a man emotionally, it helps if you understand his emotions may be normal and you may even be able to help him channel his response to that emotion. Cheryl does that for me continually.
Sometimes we have a hard time communicating what’s on our heart…often we never do – This is sad and we may even know it. The more you make us feel we’ll be respected regardless of the situation or the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions. You can actually help us with this one!
Please understand. I’m not making excuses for men. The basic premise of all of these is to remember that men and women are different. You can read my thoughts about mutual submission in a marriage HERE and HERE. I’m simply trying to help you communicate with a man.
Men, what did I miss?
Wives, any tips on how we could better understand you? I’ve learned a few and could share them, but thought it may come better from you .
Do you care to hear my women’s version…even realizing I’m not one?
We truly never know the changes a year will make, do we? Cheryl and I moved to Lexington, Kentucky this year. I am now pastor of the historic Immanuel Baptist Church. Immanuel has a rich past as a Kingdom-building church. After nearly 10 years as a church planter, this was not a change we saw coming…and one we resisted at first. We love our new city and the people of Immanuel are some of the most loving and gracious we’ve ever encountered. We moved here in June and the first six months have been a blur, but we’ve seen God do some incredible things already. Greater things are still to come. We are certain of that.
We have acclimated quickly to the city with more restaurants per capita than any city in the nation! Cheryl has a part-time job in an accounting firm. I’m enjoying her flexibility in schedule. She’s a true partner in ministry and has been such a blessing with my extremely busy schedule. We moved into a beautiful neighborhood, bought a townhouse, and discovered what good “walk score” actually means. We enjoy our neighborhood grocery, pharmacy, restaurants and ice cream and coffee shops…all in walking distance. My running pleasure has increased dramatically!
Jeremy and Mary are enjoying life in Nashville. Jeremy’s solo career as a social media and communication consultant is going well. He is such a great network-builder and will be successful at whatever he attempts. Mary is working for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and loves her job. Both are active at Cross Point Church and building great relationships in their small group. They have a Weimaraner named Henry who will quickly steal your heart.
Nate graduated from Moody Bible College…just this month. He will begin the new year at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has a part-time job working with students at Chase Oaks Church near Dallas. He preached for me this year and did an amazing job. God is going to use him in the days ahead.
We lost our sweet 12 year old Yorkie this summer. NaJe was a precious part of our family and anyone who has a pet knows the sense of loss we experienced.
Other than that, Cheryl and I remain healthy and happy. It’s such a blessing to be married to your best friend. We are loving this season of life. We miss our boys and have such fond memories of their childhood, but we are learning that empty-nesting isn’t so bad after all.
God’s grace has clearly been displayed upon our life and for that we are eternally grateful.
God bless you and Merry Christmas!