10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Son Today

boy and father

I previously posted 10 Things I’d Do If Raising a Daughter Today. In this post, I will focus on the boys.

I know a little more about this subject, having two incredible sons of my own. But, we always look at life differently from the other side of it. My boys are grown. I’m still parenting, but in a completely different way. Mine now is one of influence. Thankfully, both boys still come to me for that influence. There is no greater joy than seeing boys become God-honoring young men. I’m thankful to have a front row seat with my sons.

But, even with the incredible young men I know as sons, there are things I would do differently if I had that part of life to do over again. I know boys become men. And, every man I know, whether or not he admits it, struggles at some level with confidence. He struggles to know he is enough, that he can do what God calls him to do. Every man is desperate for someone to believe in him.

And, sadly, we are living in the age where the absentee father is the normal. It once was the exception. (That’s the subject of another post, but it’s plaguing our society. Check any statistics.)

I was mindful of these truths when my boys were young, but I’m older now. The seasons of my life have taught me so much more.

So, I would be even more intentional today…if I were raising sons.

Here are 10 things I’d do if raising sons today:

I would tell him daily that I love him and I’m proud of who he is and the individual God created him to be.

I would show him I believe in him, by learning to enjoy and value the activities important to him.

I would discipline myself to be available when he needs me. Not only when it’s convenient or doesn’t interfere with my work or my hobbies, and assure him that I will never leave him or reject him.

I would strive to live a life that’s respectable, God-honoring, so he could model after me, and likewise be respected, knowing this will be his greatest need.

I would show him how to love a woman, by valuing and treating my wife as a treasured gift from God.

I would help him build confidence by giving him ample opportunities to explore, to dream, to be adventuresome, allowing him to fail under my watch, so I could encourage him to start again, explaining to him that the only way he will be a failure is if he doesn’t get back up from a fall.

I would lead him on paths of discovery, trying lots of new things, helping him find his place in the world, with the awesome reality that the only limits on him will be the ones he sets for himself.

I would let him know the boundaries of the house, knowing he would test them, so he could learn that even in freedom there are consequences for misbehaving and sin.

I would teach and model for him that the real value of a man is not in the sum total or his possessions, but in the sum total of knowing God intimately and knowing that those who know him best are honoring him most.

I would at times let him see me afraid, even let him see my cry, to show him that man can be courageous and still vulnerable, but then let him see me following even closer after God as my source of strength.

IfI were raising a son today…

Are you raising a son? Tell me about him.

Final note on these two posts, one for raising daughters and this for raising sons. They are somewhat interchangeable. Some of each list could apply to raising boys or girls. They are aspirations. There are no perfect parents. I have observed, however, that there are parents more intentional than others. There are parents who parent with the sober reality that we have precious little time to mold children who will be adults longer than they are children. Parents who know it takes time, energy, consistency and intentionality to parent well. Mostly knowing it takes the grace of God to be a great parent. As I finish this post I’m praying for parents who will read this…and for those who won’t.

10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Daughter Today

father-daughter

I never had a daughter. I have a great daughter-in-law, and she has a special relationship with her dad, but I never got to raise a girl. I missed out, didn’t I?

But, I know a few grown girls. I’ve witnessed scars. All women have a scar of some kind. And, I know a dad plays a role. An important role. And, one that, if the right foundation is set, can help a girl avoid, or at least recover, from many of the scars life naturally will bring. Even when a girl becomes a woman.

And, it’s made me question what I would do if I were raising a girl today. These are scary times. Our children need us more than ever. I would want to be wise and intentional.

Here are 10 things I’d do if I were raising a daughter today:

I would tell her daily how beautiful she is and that I love her unconditionally.

I would let her know, in word and actions, that she is more important than my job, my hobbies, and my iPhone.

I would dance with her, take her on regular dates, and hold her hand frequently.

I would hold the standard high for her, but instill in her the belief that I’m here for her, regardless of what she does wrong, and that nothing she does could ever cause me to turn my back on her.

I would let her hear me pray for her daily and strive to live a godly life, after which she could model…and trust to be consistent.

I would let her know my wife was the most important woman in the world to me and encourage her to wait for a man willing to say the same.

I would get her self-defense training. And, teach her where to kick.

I would encourage her talents and abilities and remind her that God is going to use her in incredible ways.

I would help her understand that every boy’s intentions are not honorable and that she is worthy of and should always demand respect.

I would consistently remind her she has what it takes to do anything she sets her mind to do and to settle for nothing less than her best.

If I was raising a daughter today…

Are you raising a daughter? Tell me about her.

Next read 10 things I’d do if I were raising a son today.

7 Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Children

family lifestyle portrait

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.

Here are a 7 tips to help build strong, lifetime relationships with children:

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?

Communication Often Changes Everything

gym

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.

Sometimes…

  • Rather than complain
  • Rather than make up your own scenario
  • Rather than stir gossip

Sometimes, all you need to do is ask.

Especially in relationships…relationships of all kinds…when it involves people…when miscommunication or misunderstanding is possible…and it always is…

Communication often changes everything.

When I grow up…

Happy childhood

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…

I want to be like that girl when I grow up.

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 want to be like that boy when I grow up.

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 can’t wait to grow up.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Drama

20130321-135731.jpg

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.

But, I hate church drama.

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.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about church drama:

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.

Gossip destroys.

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.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip and 5 Suggestions When Your Life is a Drama. Or, even better, read the Book of James…New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

What have you learned about church drama?

The Pastor’s Spouse: Emotions in Times of Transition

man woman talking 2

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:

“How is your wife dealing with the change?”

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.

Why is that?

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?

Farmer Super Bowl Commercial: Reflections

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.

Here is a guest post from Jason reflecting 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?

7 Steps to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

20130123-203052.jpg

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?

Here are 7 steps to prepare:

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?