7 Suggestions to Have the Best Christmas Ever

Christmas music

It’s Christmas time again. Seems to come every year about this time. The most wonderful time of the year.

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

(That could almost be a song. Wait a minute — I think it is.)

But, if you’re like many of us, Christmas will be over before you took time to enjoy it. You might even get past Christmas, realize how fast it passed, and so you set some new year’s resolutions to slow down and — maybe — enjoy Christmas more next year.

What if you could do that this year? Why not? Sounds like a good goal to me. Enjoy the celebration of Christmas. The birth of our Savior. Relish the time with family. Savor every moment.

I posted this last year, but it’s even more important this year it seems. Does this seem to be a harder year than usual to you?

Here are 7 suggestions to make this the best Christmas ever:

Set a limit on expenditures.

Something happens when Christmas becomes more about the value of the gifts than the value of the season. More, more, more only produces energy in a direction that can never really be sustained. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10) Start with a budget. Be realistic. Stop comparing. One problem for many of us is that we are trying to compete with everyone else. Obviously, if you have more money you can spend more money (and less — less). But, make it your goal to invest more in people this year than in things you can buy. And, don’t feel obligated or pressured to buy gifts you can’t afford for people. It will only be a temporary satisfaction and produce a lot of guilt in the new year when you see those credit card bills start arriving in the mail. (And, usually the guilt starts as soon as the cashier hands you the receipt or you push the purchase button online.)

Set boundaries in relationships.

This is especially true for younger couples and families, but really for most of us. You can feel pressured by extended family and friends to be a dozen different places. Remember, you aren’t responsible for pleasing everyone — in fact — you can’t. It’s impossible. (Some have a harder time with that than others.) Don’t let everyone else determine your Christmas schedule. You may have to have some difficult, but direct conversations with relatives or friends. Again, be realistic. You can’t be everywhere. There are some places you can’t (or shouldn’t) avoid, but, as much as possible, control your schedule rather than having it controlled by others.

Plan and prioritize your time.

This is similar, but also includes how we spend our own time at Christmas. There are usually more demands for our time than time for our demands. Just as you did in creating a money budget, create a time budget. Set aside some time for you to celebrate Christmas as an immediate family — or in a way where you best celebrate. Then build around that time. It’s okay to say no. (Do you need to read that sentence again?) If you don’t, you’ll run out of time before you feel you ever really celebrated. It’s hard, but again, you’re trying to actually celebrate Christmas — the birth of baby Jesus. That’s hard to do when you have lost all control of your time.

Lower your expectations.

That you have on others and on yourself. Sometimes we set very unrealistic expectations on what others will buy or how they will respond to what we buy. We look for the “perfect” gift — to give or receive — and our enjoyment of Christmas is based on that search — rather than the real joy of the season. We also set unrealistic expectations on relationships. We watch too many Hallmark Christmas movies where everything works out in the end to the perfect holiday celebration and when it doesn’t happen at our house quite like that we get disappointed. Remember, we aren’t characters in a movie. We are characters in real life. Real life is almost never perfect. Learn to enjoy your celebration with all the quirkiness that makes your family unique from every other family. (Because every family is quirky in some way — in real life.)

Practice health disciplines.

Sometimes in the name of “celebrating” we over do it only to have guilt about it later. Don’t overeat or over-indulge. You will occasionally – it’s part of the season — but, be reasonable. Keep exercising. Sample rather than eat full portions. You’ll feel better and have less regrets after the holidays have ended.

Serve others.

Find and establish a Christmas tradition of service. Whether it’s serving at a food kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, or just picking up trash along the side of the road, you’ll better appreciate Christmas when you serve. The real meaning of Christmas is based around serving others. The baby born at Christmas came to be a servant. The best way to celebrate His birth is to give back expecting nothing in return. You’ll be the bigger recipient when you do.

Remember the reason for the season.

Yea, I saved the best and most important for last. On purpose. It’s also the one we push to last if we aren’t careful and the ultimate purpose of this post, so I wanted it to be the last impression on your mind. Jesus — the reason for the season. It’s simple — even cliche, but, it’s true and it’s powerful — if you do it genuinely. In the midst of the madness, rediscover the miracle of Christmas. A Savior — who is Christ the Lord — has been born to you. Establish a tradition that helps you best identify with the true meaning of Christmas. You could take time to explore a character of the Christmas story you’ve not considered previously. Research elements of the setting and culture. Read the major passages in Matthew and Luke repeatedly through the season. Listen to only Christmas music. Attend special Christmas services. Whatever works for you. Be intentional to practice celebrating the real joy of Christmas.

Not all of these will apply to everyone, but my guess is if there are a couple here you need to work on — to better celebrate Christmas — you already knew it. As we begin the rush of the Christmas season, pause right now, take a few deep breaths, and let’s make this the best Christmas ever.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

Christmas tree gifts

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year“.

But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time.

Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health. For the, Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

Several years ago, to prepare for a Christmas message, I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss.

Ideally, Christ is the answer. Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These suggestions are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical tips to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:

List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances, children moved out this year – whatever they are – write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain – write them down.

Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve – even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.

Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.

Take care of your physical body– Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us loss is universal and other people are struggling with you. Plus, something about giving fuels positive emotions.

Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.

Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.

Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.

In my Christmas message, I shared one more suggestion – one I believe is the most powerful of all. It’s this:

We have to learn to worship in tears. You have to learn to worship even in pain. When you realize God is good – even when it doesn’t seem life is good – you are better equipped to face the storms of life, which are sure to come.

Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

You can find all my messages on my Vimeo page at vimeo.com/ronedmondson. The message referenced is titled Obstacles to Christmas Joy: Loss.

7 Damaging Sins Which Can Cripple Every Marriage

couple in distress

Did you know there are sins which can cripple every marriage?

Yes. There are.

You realize there are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.

Right?

Let me repeat that.

There are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.

Every marriage will have seasons which are more difficult than others. I often encounter couples in our church who think they are unique. Because we tend to put on our happy faces at church, they believe theirs is the only marriage in a bad season.

In fact, I’m convinced not understanding how many couples have weathered through these rocky places in marriage may be a reason many couples give up on their marriage. If they understood how normal they are they might be more willing to raise the white flag – ask for help – and work to restore the marriage.

I have observed over the years there are some issues in marriages which, if not addressed, can be crippling to the marriage. These are the “biggies”. They may manifest themselves in other ways, but if you could trace back to the origin you would find these to be at fault.

And, let’s not sugarcoat. They are sins. And, we have all sinned. And, we all sin. Every marriage is comprised of two sinners.

And, this is the real reason there are no perfect marriages.

Left to fester on their own, these sins will eventually be the destroyer of the marriage or certainly keep it from achieving the oneness God commanded.

So, what are these damaging sins? I’m glad you asked.

Here are 7 damaging sins which can cripple every marriage:

Selfishness – Marriage won’t work without mutual submission. Read Ephesians 5:21. Marriage is not a 50/50 arrangement. Ideally it’s to be a 100/100 bond – where both spouses willingly yield their all. (And, I used the word ideal, because your marriage is not there and neither is mine.) When one spouse demands their way or will never work towards a compromise the relationship can never be all it should be. One person is happy – the one who got their way – the other is miserable.

Discontentment – I’ve said before – boredom is perhaps the number one destroyer of marriage. There will be seasons in every relationship which aren’t as “exciting” as others. Some days you will “feel” more in love than other days. But, the key to a long-term relationship is a commitment beyond emotion.

Pride – When one spouse can never admit they are wrong or see their own flaws it opens the door for a wedge of bitterness in the other spouse. Pride is also destructive when the couple is too proud to admit their struggles or get the help they need.

Unforgiveness – Holding on to past hurts not only damages the marriage bond it destroys the person who refuses to forgive. Trust can’t be developed until forgiveness is granted. And, isn’t grace received expected to be extended?

Anger – The Scripture is clear – we should not go to bed in anger. And, there is a reason. Anger is a wedge – one which only grows wider when not dealt with over time.

Complacency – As soon as you think you’re marriage is above the problems of other relationships you’re in trouble. The enemy loves to attack the unaware.

Coveting – Couples who compare themselves to other couples will almost always be disappointed. There will always be people with more – and it likely isn’t making them as happy as you think it does. And, keep in mind, many times people disguise their struggles well. The couple you think has it all may wish they had what you have. Every couple is unique. Comparison only leads to frustration.

Ask yourself this question: Which of these is most prevalent in my marriage today? Which is causing the greatest harm? Which of these, while it may not be an issue today, could be if we don’t get serious about it soon?

Be honest with yourself — and ultimately — with your spouse.

My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-clock

I have updated this post from a couple years ago.

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I would totally recommend you try this at home as a tradition in your family.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. Our two amazing sons – and daughter-in-law. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate) age 27 and 24 – are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously. God keeps using them for His glory in ways I never imagined. Jeremy’s wife Mary – if I had raised a daughter – or picked a wife for my son – I would have wanted a Mary.

4. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years – but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

5. Kingdom opportunities. Wow! This year has been incredible. I love to invest in others and I never thought I’d get to the point where I have to say no more than I get to say yes to the opportunities God is bringing my way. Amazing! I am a living example of God’s grace – that He can take dust and produce something He can use – and I’m humbled by this truth more every year.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families – with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night – who aren’t our friends because of our positions or for information or any other reason other than to be our friends. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. After three years, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. Our staff are our friends. I love being around people I truly enjoy, who believe in me as I believe in them. We’ve made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year – some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run – and walk – and feel well enough to work – and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted the city as home quickly. I wear a lot of Kentucky blue. It’s our mission field, and, I believe, this is what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. We are here to serve! What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. This truth makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright – because He is my light. (Cheesy – maybe – but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually – but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me – thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

Recharging – Critical Advice for Today’s Leaders

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a guest post by Jeremie Kubicek – co-founder of GiANT Worldwide – a global company dedicated to leadership transformation through intentional apprenticeship. Jeremie has a new book, which I believe can be helpful for all leaders – maybe especially in the church.

Recharging.

I was taught the importance of hard work from a very young age. Growing up in Oklahoma, I learned from the state’s large agricultural industry that individuals literally, reap what they sow—those diligent to their craft that work hard and place high emphasis on quality, would yield the best crop.

I also learned the importance of this in church. As Christians, we are to work diligently in all we do, not for our own glory but for God’s. Colossians 3:17 says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

We see this work ethic in Jesus’ ministry, as he works faithfully at all times to share the Gospel. He even challenged us to work similarly. John 9:4 says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

But what I didn’t learn early on was the importance of rest, taking a break, recharging and strolling with God. For so long, I heard verses like 1 Timothy 5:8, which advocates the importance of providing for one’s family, and thought my responsibilities as a Christian, husband, father and businessman stopped there.

I was wrong. Many 80-hour workweeks later, I began to realize I had personally accomplished a lot, but not what God wanted me to accomplish.

We know God rested for a day in Genesis after creating the world, and He encourages us to do the same. And Jesus later modeled the critical act of rest. The Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray,” frequently after large events in his ministry.” In Matthew, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert away from the busyness of everyday work to spend time and grow with God. We see him refuel in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare for his next few days of “work.”

I was convicted; although we are called to work hard, we are also called to recharge hard.

Early on, I learned that resting and recharging do not always mean sleeping. Although sleep is a big part of the process, coherent recharge is, too. We are all wired differently and for this reason, each of us must find the way to rest and recharge that best fits our unique makeup.

For introverts, this might include relaxing activities such as reading and meditation or more active things like exercise, gardening, cooking or woodworking.

While these may also enliven extroverts, more social activities such as discussing ideas with a mentor, spending time with family and friends or attending concerts or movies may be just want they need to help them wind down.

At the end of the day, it isn’t the form of rest that is important but the intentional inclusion of it in your day. So take a cue from our God and Savior and find a moment to recharge today.

Check out “5 Gears,” for additional help in balancing life, work and rest.

7 Ways to Help Children Deal with Fear

image

Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night — and all throughout the day. We talk about it at the dinner table. And, as fun and engaging as it can be, we can thank social media for keeping us constantly informed of all the bad things happening in our world.

Evil is rampant — and, because of this – fear is rampant.

And, it doesn’t impact only us.

Our children are not immune from fear. In an Information Age — they know what we know, filtered, of course, with their childlike mind.

Violence even happens in school — in malls — in churches — places children go regularly.

Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. We should never diminish a child’s fear or the impact the news of the day is having on them. It may be totally irrational fear – something you know is completely impossible — but it’s very real to them.

How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions to help children deal with fear:

Don’t assume their thoughts

Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened they don’t know about it or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid — even a recent time.

Limit their exposure

You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember children process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance than their time with you.

Ask them questions

You may think children are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots. Getting them to talk about what they are afraid of can help them learn to better rationalize and seek comfort and assurance from you.

Assure them they are safe

Let children know they are safe. Don’t lie to them or give them false assurance, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare — very rare. Remind them you will do anything to protect them. Show them ways you’ve already provided for their safety. Let them help you lock the doors at night. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live a normal life as much as possible

As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm around them

Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Discuss the world events – and especially your fears of them – outside of their listening ears. Let the home be their “safe place”. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. Renew your commitment to each other. Children often get their faith through parents.

Read them Scripture

Children need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word of God, which will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often. Help them memorize some. (When our boys were young we played Scripture music appropriate for their age. Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in Your Heart series was great for this. You can find them online.)

What else would you share with parents?

Why I Don’t Always Give People an Answer – Even When They Come to Me for Answers

multicultural mentor

I have a theory I practice often.

I’ve been using it for many years — as a leader, father, a friend, and a pastor. It’s not always what people come looking to me for, but I think it’s the best practice.

I don’t always give people answers.

  • As a pastor, people come to me for answers.
  • As a dad, my boys come to me for answers.
  • As a friend, people come to me for answers.
  • As a leader of a team, people come to me for answers.

In either case, I don’t always give people answers.

I don’t try to solve their problems for them.

I know that seems hard to understand – maybe even cruel of me. 

Now, if there is a clear Biblical answer for their problem or issue, I give it to them – as I understand it. I’m talking about the issues more difficult to discern. Things such as career choice decisions, the calling in life decisions, who to marry, how to respond to a marriage conflict, etc. — the unwritten answer type decisions.

For those type issues, I probably have an opinion, but I almost never “have” the answer.

Instead…

I help people discover a paradigm through which to make the decision.

  • I become an objective listener.
  • I help them see all sides of the issue.
  • I share Scriptures whigh may speak to both sides of the decision.
  • I serve as an outside voice.
  • I connect them with people who have experienced similar issues.
  • I may diagram the problem, as I hear it, so they can see the issue on paper.
  • I help them learn to pray and listen to God.

And then I release them to make a decision.

Here is my reasoning…

If I solve the problem:

  • I’m just another opinion — and I may be wrong.
  • They’ll resent me if it proves to be a wrong decision.
  • They may never take ownership of the issue.
  • They’ll likely do what they want anyway.
  • They won’t learn the valuable skills of listening to the voice of God.
  • They won’t learn from experience.
  • They will only need someone to give them the answer next time.

My advice:

Don’t always have an answer.

Help people form a paradigm through which to to solve their problems or make decisions.

Leaders, parents, friends – ideally you want people to develop healthy decision-making skills. You want them to gain independence and be able to stand on their own. If you’re always making the decisions for them they will never they will never become all they can be individually.

Are you too quick to have an answer sometimes?

Olive Tree Parenting – Growing Children of Character

Smiling little boy digging in vegetables garden

Every time I write about parenting, people email me asking for more. I understand.

Parenting is hard work.

Most people who follow my ministry closely know this is one area of my life I have taken very serious. One specific desire Cheryl and I had in raising our boys was encouraging them to love Christ and display His character. It’s great to teach our children how to play sports or to do well in school, and I think we should, but our greatest goal should be to help them be people who aspire to have good character – specifically the character of Christ.

Recognizing the Bible is a great guide to do this, I once developed a model for parenting called Olive Tree Parenting.

This model is based upon a couple verses of Scripture.

Psalm 128:3 says, “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.”
Psalm 144:12 says, “Our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants.”

Here are a few facts I’ve read about olive trees:

  • They were a symbol of peace and happiness to Hebrews.
  • It takes some varieties 8-10 years to even bear fruit.
  • It takes 20-50 years for an olive tree to be mature and really productive.
  • No one knows for sure how long they grow, but estimate is at least 300-600 years, with some estimates up to 2000 years.
  • When the tree trunk of an olive tree dies new sprouts come out keeping the tree alive.
  • Olive trees are evergreens.

Do you see any parallels there in raising children – or your desires for them in life?

I firmly believe we are more likely to get out of life what we actually aim for, so our goal became to raise children to be adults that bear righteous fruit for generations. We began to think strategically how to develop Biblical characteristics of fruit in our two boys.

The Bible also gives us some clear indication of what righteous fruit looks like.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Here are some suggestions to encourage each of these fruits to grow:

LOVE
Love is the first fruit mentioned and perhaps the most important. Jesus said “love” was the greatest command for us all. I don’t believe we can teach our child to love. We must model it for them.

Here are some actions you can take, however, to instill this fruit in their heart.

  • Ask your children questions about their life. Get to know your child and what they are thinking.
  • Do everything in love — even discipline. (They will know when you are not acting in love. You will too.)
  • Discipline. Don’t neglect discipline in “the name of love”. Discipline should actually be an indication you love them enough to train them to do the right thing.
  • Watch how you treat other groups of people — including other races and ethnic groups.
  • Watch your child’s attitude — always recognize attitudes over actions (1 Sam. 16:24) and respond accordingly.
  • Love your children’s friends.
  • Be kind to your neighbors, friends and family. They are watching.
  • Get involved in church and community not out of compulsion, but because you love other people.

JOY
The goal of producing joy is not to make your children happy – even though most parents rightly want that for their children. The Bible makes a distinction between joy and happiness. (Psalm 68:3)

Here are some actions you can take to instill the fruit of joy in your child’s heart:

  • Don’t reward everything. Life should not be a big celebration. Life shouldn’t revolve around the next big event.
  • Have a sense of humor. Have fun parenting. Let them see you enjoying life.
  • Be positive. Children can’t take the pressure and stress of life that an adult has to handle.
  • Allow your children to enjoy life at the age they are – without trying to make them someone they are not.
  • Life is difficult and there will be trials, but let your children see you use trials as something you learn from and have faith during; trusting that God will work all things for good.
  • Remind yourself Scripture says to “be joyful always”. Model it for them.

PEACE
Peace is a foundation for other great character traits you will want your children to have. The Bible says we can have peace that is there regardless of the storms of life. I know many adults who would like this kind of peace themselves. You would certainly want it for your children.

Here are some actions you can take to model peace for your children:

  • Pray for your children daily in their presence. This shows them the importance of prayer and relying on God for daily strength.
  • Teach them to pray. Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Help your children understand they can talk with God anytime. They will catch on quickly. Faith comes much easier when built as a child.
  • Let them see you read your Bible regularly. Truth can ground us when we are afraid or stressed.
  • Talk about your faith. Peace is found in a relationship and they need to see that modeled for them.
  • Remain cool in stressful situations – as best as you can. It’s okay that they see you emotional, but they should quickly see you display a peace that surpasses understanding.

PATIENCE
This is a tough one for me, because it is one of my weak points, but it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit God has encouraged us to have. And, our children need it greatly.

Here are some actions to help your children have this trait:

    • Let them see you waiting patiently. (If my boys or my wife reads this they will be wondering when they will see this in me. Still, I have had to wait for many big picture things in my life many times. I’ve attempted to do so patiently.)
    • Make children wait sometimes. Yes, I said it. Children shouldn’t get everything right away and they certainly shouldn’t be able to demand it with temper-tantrums or tears. One statistic I read says that children today get 90% of everything they want, yet as adults they will get less than 25%. We are setting them up for failure when we give them everything.
    • Don’t be a complainer. Do everything without complaining or arguing.(Phil 2:14)
    • Don’t let your children think they are the center of the universe. They are not – actually God is. Encourage them, but don’t crown them kings.

KINDNESS
Kindness could be defined as “genuine friendliness, helpfulness and generosity”.

Here are some ways to instill kindness in your children:

  • Be a giver and not a taker. Let your children see you giving to others regularly.
  • Never let children see you being unkind to the cashier or waitress.
  • Know your neighbors and actually have concern for them.
  • Never allow degrading comments to be made to other family members.
  • Care for the hurting people of the world.
  • Be a regular giver/servant at church and in the community.

GOODNESS
Jesus said “well done good and faithful servant” and “a good tree produces good fruit”. This is the opposite of bad. (Makes sense, huh?)

Here are some suggestions to instill goodness in your children:

  • Reward good acts towards others.
  • Give extra praise to your children for doing good things. (This can be done verbally and doesn’t always mean buying something.)
  • Never let them see their parents argue and fight.
  • Demand respect always. They don’t always have to agree, but they should always have to respect.
  • Always declare truthfulness. Never let them see you telling lies; even “little white lies”.
  • Teach prompt obedience. Don’t let them “think about” obeying you. This is especially true for younger children.

FAITHFULNESS
Children will be as faithful as you are, so in order to see them grow into faithful individuals you will have to model it for them.

Here are some action steps to help the process:

  • Be faithful early in their life to what you want them committed to later in life. If you want them to go to church as adults then take them faithfully as children.
  • If you commit to doing something then do it. Let your Yes be yes and your No be no.
  • Be an anchor in their life in whom they can always depend upon.
  • Be faithful in all relationships. They are watching.
  • Be consistent. If it is morally wrong today — it is tomorrow.
  • Let them know they can depend on you to do what you said you would do for and with them.
  • Let them find you in your devotion and quiet time on a consistent basis.

GENTLENESS
The word means “not harsh”. It doesn’t mean to be a “mealy mouse” and it doesn’t mean to avoid discipline. It means to be gentle — even in your anger. In John 2, when Jesus went into temple to drive out the money-changers, He first made a whip. It was a definite and determined response, but it was “gently” planned.

Here are some steps you can take to instill this character trait in your children:

  • Grant forgiveness easily. Don’t hold grudges against those who have wronged you.
  • Don’t let your children fear coming to you about anything, because of the way you may react.
  • Get down to the children’s level when trying to explain something or in the way you respond to them.
  • Always be available to talk with your children.
  • Talk gently to your spouse.
  • When there is a disagreement in public, such as in a restaurant, it is okay to protect your interests, but it should always be done with gentleness and respect for the other person. There is never an excuse to be rude or obnoxious.

SELF-CONTROL
The opposite here is being undisciplined. This is an important trait, because it affects all the others.

Here are some action steps to help build self-control into your children:

  • Don’t allow temper tantrums. “Expressing themselves” is not an excuse for unruliness.
  • Learn personal disciplines and model them — things such as daily Bible reading, exercise and tithing.
  • Know sin has consequences and teach this principle to your children. (Unfortunately you may have to model it also.)
  • Use appropriate discipline for each child. All children are different.
  • Determine the motive behind the action before disciplining your children.
  • Provide appropriate tests for them as they mature to see if they can handle a situation. As they get older grant them more and more trust.

There is a final step in the Olive Tree Parenting Model. You must teach your children to abide!

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If our children can learn this skill all these others will become and remain a part of who they are. They will learn this best as they see you doing so.

I’m praying for your parenting.

I need to remind you that this is a “model” – and I wasn’t perfect at doing this. Some I did better than others. The fact is, however, we seldom hit a target we aren’t aiming for – so make this your goal and you will find it easier to achieve than with no plan at all.

10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife

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This post is written to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but the spouse of the pastor may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before — I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

Three years ago we ventured out –  again – this time into church revitalization. Church planting was hard – God allowed us to be part of 2 plants – and this would prove to be our toughest assignment. And, there have been many in our years together. Some days, especially early when change seemed rapid, Cheryl came home in tears many Sundays because people took the emotions of change out on her instead of me. (I’ve never understood that cowardly move, but it happens.) 

Yet, God’s been faithful and Cheryl has been faithful. And, for the overwhelming portion of people the church has been faithful. I couldn’t have done what I’ve been called to do without all of them. 

But, second only to God, Cheryl deserves my applauds. Not that she’d ever expect it. That’s one of the reasons she’s so great – she just faithfully loves and serves others – but because it’s right for me to honor her. And, I have this public opportunity, so here goes. 

Cheryl, here are 10 “Thank you’s” to the pastor’s wife:

Thank you for following me where God leads me — without complaining, or resisting, or refusing to move even though life was very comfortable where we were and the future looked very uncertain where we were going. Truth is, you are usually ready to walk by faith before I am. What a blessing!

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encouragement and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it is wonderful! Even if you think I’m doing wrong your message to others is one of support.

Thank you being a safe place to share — even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong. And, guts to tell me when I’m wrong.

Thank you for believing in me — even when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion – you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable. I’m always amazed how you’d rather spend time with me than anyone. I know people in your life far more “fun” than me.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that has meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry, which I can’t sense. This is why I have you help me interview people. It’s why you have protected me from people who don’t have my best interest at heart. I feel safer with you around.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need. And, you fill it completely and consistently.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here!

Better yet, also send her/him a card!

7 Random Suggestions for Younger Leaders

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I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime.

I also love sharing some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

If you can learn and practice some of what I’ve learned early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Please know these are intended to help – not hurt or discourage. I believe in you.

Here are 7 random pieces of advice I give young leaders.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes

It helps you remember to write it down, but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people this is what you are doing.

Respect your elders

The fact is you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will help ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet

This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it

You may never use a resume again in today’s work world. It’s all about knowing someone or knowing someone who knows someone. But, the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared. (Also keep your LinkedIn account up-to-date. Future employers will look.)

Never burn a bridge

You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise. Leave well always. Always honor your past.

Be an encourager

Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection made

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. Always value networking. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness

Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience challenges them. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions.

Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?