7 Life Lessons I Learned Running

My health was precarious.  At 32, the doctor was summoning me to her office for diabetes tests.  I never exercised.  My diet was poor.  Actually, poor is an understatement.  On average, I drank sixty ounces of Mountain Dew per day and ate Taco Bell at least two or three times a week.  Abysmal might be a more apt description.  My diet led me into head-to-head combat with kidney stones.  The kidney stones won with a knockout, and I would prefer to never fight a rematch.

Determined to shed some weight and get in better shape, I started running.  Well, my first attempt was probably more like a fifty-yard shuffle than it was a run.  I am pretty sure I made it about one block and about passed out.  I was out of breath.  My sides were on fire.  I just turned around and walked home, defeated.

Parenting…There’s An App For That

Looking for a little something extra to help you as a parent?  You might want to check out ParentCue by reThink in the Apple App Store.  This great app provides you with cues throughout the week to remind you to take some moments with your kids, and lead them in their walk with Christ.

Most of us don’t leave home without our cell phone.  And if statistics are right, most of us now (51%) have a smart phone.  For those who happen to have an iPhone with access to the Apple App Store, there is a gem of an app you can download that has all sorts of parenting helps for home, and on the go.

It gives songs to sing during “Drive Time”, conversation starters for “Meal Time”, activities to do during “Hang Time” and for when the kids are not around, links to great articles and a podcast for “Parent Time.”  The cost is $1.99, but if you are looking for some cues to help you with your parenting routine throughout the week, it is well worth the cost.

You can download ParentCue here.

What other apps have you found helpful for parenting?

Persistence In Parenting

It’s reported that 80% of all sales are made on the 5th to 12th sales pitch.  Whether someone is selling life insurance or a snuggie, most people won’t buy one the first time they hear the infomercial.  Most likely, they have to hear the sales pitch as many as a dozen times before they’ll buy whatever it is being sold.  The  trouble is that many salesmen give up long before the 5th try (on the other hand, some don’t give up even after they have been told “no” 100 times, but that is a different problem altogether).  Persistence is important in sales, and it is also important in parenting.

We’ve probably all had a similar experience.  Shopping in the supermarket you turn down the aisle to walk past a mom and her 3 year old son.  As you pass by you hear the three year old ask for a candy bar and he mom promptly reply “no.”  You then pass the same mom and boy again in the next aisle.  Only this time the kid isn’t asking for a candy bar; he is screaming and crying for it.  The mom still is saying no.  Finally, you pass them one last time.  This last time the child is calm, and the mom is defeated.  Unwilling to endure a misbehaving and screaming child, she gave in to his demands just to shut him up.

What we occasionally observe in the supermarket, is repeated everyday in homes all over.  I remember one Sunday when a child was misbehaving in kid’s church.  After a few minutes of them getting out of their seat, crawling on the floor, and bugging every kid around them, I simply asked the child to sit down and stop talking.  They replied “I will if you give me a prize.”  When I asked him why I should give him a prize for behaving like every child is expected, he simply said “My mom always gives me what I want to behave.”  This kid was blackmailing his mom daily with threats of bad behavior, and she was giving in.

So what is a parent to do when a child doesn’t want to behave?  Persist.  Realizing that giving in, and giving them what they want, only has short term gains.  It  may keep them from screaming the grocery store, but it will result in them screaming later in life when they don’t get what they want then.  Better to learn the lesson early in life, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

It’s true in grocery stores, and it is true in homes.  It is true of kids, and it is also true of teenagers.  Persistence is a key to effective parenting.  If you are unwilling to repeat the same lesson 5, 6, 7, 12 times there will be many lessons your kids will never get.  Kids are like every other person, and they don’t buy the sales pitch on the first try.

What about you, where have you seen persistence play a role in parenting?

Should Your Kid Ride the Bus?

We need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work enviormonments, and raise their families in the most hedonisitic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings.  Furthermore, they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ’s love inside these desperate surroundings.

Photo courtesy of © flickr.com/photos/wwworks/3957311986/in/photostream/

This quote, which I didn’t write it myself and can’t remember where I got it, came to mind when I was talking with a mother recently.  She was talking about how she was afraid to let her kid ride the bus home, because “nothing good happens on the bus.” The truth is she is right, nothing good really does happen on the bus (bad language, bullying, you know the drill), but does that mean our kids shouldn’t ride on them?

I have known some outstanding parents who have said “no, my kid will not ride the bus.”  Parents who have pulled their kids off the bus, out of public school or away from non-Christian friends because they have noticed their kids being affected negatively by those environments.  I know parents who have pulled their kids out of poor school systems, because they were in fact poor school systems that were only holding their kids back.  Honestly, I think many of these parents were right in pulling their kids out.

I have also known parents who have left their kids on the bus, in the public school system and purposely made sure their kids have non-Christian friends.  I was one of these kids.  I was a bus riding, public school teenager, with several non-Christian friends.  Honestly, I think I am the better for having those experiences, and I think that many other kids would be better for having hem too.

So, when if ever, is it okay to pull your child out of these environments, or should Christian parents keep their kids in there, to grow and to represent Christ?

Should your kid ride the bus?  Should they go to private, or home school, rather than public school?  Should the not hang out with non-Christian kids?  What’s your take?

It Takes A Team To Raise Good Kids

You may, or may not, remember the 1986 Basketball Eastern Conference Finals.  A young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were squaring off against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.  What many people remember from that series is Michael Jordan’s game 2 performance.  In that single game alone, Jordan scored 63 points, which still stands a playoff game record.  The thing that stands out to me, and to most of my Boston friends, is that the Bulls lost that same game.

Photo courtesy of © flickr.com/photos/arndog/3042577756/

Michael Jordan set a playoff single game scoring record that stands 25 years later, but his team lost the game, and ultimately lost the series.  I think it goes to show, that it takes more than one person to win a basketball game.

It also takes more than parents to raise a great young man or woman.  It takes a team.  Many parents try to do it all by themselves.  They try to be the superstar parent.  They may even score 63 points all by themselves.  The trouble is, parents can be the Michael Jordan of the parenting world, and still lose their kids.

I have written previously about how kids need multiple voices speaking in their life here.  Kids who have no voices speaking into their life, outside of a miracle, are not likely to grow up to be Godly men and women.  Kids who have a all-star parent have a better shot; but how much better off is the kid who also has a youth pastor, or a children’s pastor or Sunday School teacher who is investing in their life?  How much better off is the kid who has close family friends that they know they can go to when they need help with something?

The reality is, even if you are the best parent in the world, there is coming a day when your child will want to talk to someone else about their problems, not you.  In fact, in may be because you are such a great parent, and love your kid so much, that they don’t feel comfortable coming to you.  You are too close to the situation.  When this happens, will your child have not just someone, but the right someone, they feel comfortable talking to?  Will they be going to their friends who will tell them who knows what, or going to someone that you know reflects your families values and priorities?

Who they are going to go to for advice depends on the team you are building when they are young…or whether you are building a team at all.

The End is Near

Monks on the island of Cyprus have an interesting custom.  These monks, by torchlight in the middle of the night, visit a catacomb where the bones of other monks are kept.  While there, they pray and chant for their deceased brothers.  At first this ritual may seem bizarre, or even a bit morbid, but they do it for a very important reason.  This ritual is practiced to keep the reality that death is inevitabel to us all front and center.  It doesn’t matter who you are, the richest, the most popular, even the most spiritual person, will die like everyone else.  These monks want to remember that truth, so that they are reminded to spend the little time they do have here, wisely.

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When we realize how scarce our time is, we value it a little differently.  For example, I added it up, and I only have about 751 weeks left with my son Jack before he leaves for college.  No way around it, Jack will turn 18 one day, move out of the house and I will no longer have him to myself.  751 weeks, give or take a few, and there is no way to get more.  This reality makes me value my time differently, makes me spend it a little differently, makes me prioritize my time with Jack over other things that are really trivial in comparison.

Too many people invest their time poorly.  They spend their time earning lots of money, only to find out when they reach 70 or 80, that they have burned all their relationships and have no one to spend that money on.  They are even too old to spend it all on themselves before they die.

Others spend their whole life building themselves up.  They build their career, their platform, their legacy.  The trouble is they never take the time to invest in others, so that someone picks up their mantle and their legacy continues after they are gone.  They spend their whole life building something that will die with them.

What are the things that really matter?  Fortune, fame, glory?  For me it is my relationship with God, family, friends, my ministry at the church.  Your list might be different.  Whatever your priorities in life, it is important to realize you only have a limited time on this earth to invest in them.  When that time is up, it is up.  You can’t reallocate how you spent your time after your gone.  You can’t go back and focus on the things that really matter after life is over.  And, the reality is, the end is getting near.

When was the last time you thought about how short life really is?  When you think about the brevity of life, what priorities come into focus?  Are you focusing on them currently, or do you need to start spending your time differently?

Why Teens Rebel

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I have heard it more than once.  “Can you pray for my son.   He is just going through that tough time in life that all kids go through and rebel?”  It is a statement that surrenders to the idea that every kid, with few exceptions, has to go through a difficult time where they rebel against their parents.  But, why is it that so many teens seem to hit a time where they want to do their own thing, and go their own direction?

I know that every kid is different, and no doubt there are many reasons kids rebel, but I think that one reason some teenagers rebel against their parents is because their families are simply boring.  Here is what I mean…

Think about the average family for a minute.  They wake up late, leaving no time to spend together in the morning, except to argue  about who needs in the bathroom.  Then off to work and school, typically sitting in the car in complete silence, or perhaps with the radio on.  They spend their days separated, then the kids return home after school to an empty house that is full of nothing to do except passively watching TV and updating their Facebook status.   Then there is taco night for dinner, followed by dad heading off to the living room to watch TV, mom to clean the house, and the teenage son or daughter bored out of their mind heads out to hang out with friends.  When they return home, the TV is still on, like it has been for 6 hours straight.  Before everyone starts winding down and heading to bed, there is some light arguing about how there is still homework to complete.   The teenager slams their door shut, talks to their friends on the phone, sends a few (hundred) text messages, then falls asleep.   The next day, and almost every day thereafter, the same boring routine is repeated…again…and again.

Think about this routine for a minute.  It’s boring.  It’s mundane.  It lacks a sense of purpose.   And it drives kids to look for something better to do.  The trouble is they often find something more exciting in all the wrong places.

Tim Kimmel in Grace Based Parenting writes,

If we fail to address our children’s need for a significant purpose, it doesn’t mean they will necessarily end up living useless and unproductive lives.  In most cases, our lack of deliberateness in grooming their sense of purpose sends them into the future with a foreboding sense of irrelevancy and far more vulnerable to Satan’s counterfeits.

Read that line again, “Sends them into the future with a foreboding sense of irrelevancy and far more vulnerable to Satan’s counterfeits.”  That I believe is why many teens rebel.  Searching for purpose that their family doesn’t provide, they have went out looking for it, and have stumbled across something fake.  It might be a person, an activity, a substance, or something else, but they have found something that offers them greater purpose and joy than sitting around bored, watching TV all day, and arguing over homework.

What if families offered something better though?  What if families offered something that catches the imagination of their kids? What if rather than sitting glued to the TV every day, they served together in a soup kitchen once a month feeding the homeless?  What if families gave up their vacation one year to go on a missions trip together?  What if rather than ignoring each other at home, families spent time serving in their church and community together?   What if parents spent time showing their kids there is a God ordained purpose for their lives, a purpose that cheap substitutes cannot fulfill?

If this happened, I think Satan’s counterfeits would seem far less appealing to teens.  I think less kids would rebel.

I don’t want to oversimplify a complex problem.  Again, I realize that there may be many reasons kids decide to rebel against their parents and their values.  I wonder, though, if one of the reasons kids do rebel is because their families are just so boring?  Because their family lack a sense of purpose, and the counterfeits seem to offer something their family does not?  What do you think?

Kindness

We have been having a ton of fun talking about kindness in kid’s church this month.  This past week we had the kids write up a want ad for a fake newspaper, asking them to describe what an ideal kind person would be like.  All the responses were great, but this was my favorite…

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As the father of a 3 year old, who typically picks the most inopportune times to need use the restroom, I am always thankful for a kind person who gives a bathroom to the bathroomless!

This coming Sunday is the last week we are talking about kindness.  In March, we move on to courage.  Also, if you haven’t heard yet, our Sunday morning service times will be changing in March to 8:30, 10:30, 12:30 & 6:30.  So be sure to be on time!