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Here is what I said to my child when they did not make the team.

One of my kids didn’t make the team he or she (purposed ambiguity) was trying out for and they were completely upset about it. Heather called me at the office to tell me the news so I had some time to prepare myself as to what I might say. I am the type of parent that does not like to shoot from the hip (although some situations call for that) and so I started reading some articles as to what one might say to their kid when they did not make the team. I saw some really good articles and so what I said below might help a parent out there down the road. Please know that what I said may not have been the best thing but it was how I approached this situation. Also, I have included some things that I did and did not do so hopefully you can glean from that.

I told them that I was truly sorry. I felt their pain and the raw emotion of, essentially, being told that he or she was not good enough to make the roster. It hurt me too because I know how hard my child worked at trying to make the team. They were devastated. The rejection was quite real and there was no dancing around it. Rather than curtail the rejection I decided to rest in it for a while and let the emotions…the tears…come rolling out. I held back my tears as I watched my child cry from this disappointment. I know some parents would want to make their child laugh or possibly distract them from the pain or completely avoid it altogether but I resisted that urge and we both sat there a little broken.

I encouraged my child to resist the urge of making excuses. “Dad, the coach didn’t even take the time to look at my skills and if they would have…” I listened, affirmed and then gently said, “It’s over and there is nothing we can do about this. All we can change now is how we respond moving forward and playing the victim card will not get you on the team now and certainly won’t get you on the team in the future.” That stung a little and my child may be right about the unfairness of the situation (I could tell that the coach probably had in mind who he or she wanted) but I can’t know this for sure and the only thing I do know is where we move forward from here.

I talked a little bit about adversity. No parent or child enjoys adversity. It is not like we love the moments where our hopes and dreams (misguided or not) are crushed. If I am close to a sale and they don’t follow through rarely do I jump up and toe-tap with kindergarten-esk flamboyance. Yet, failing is important. There is no better teacher than losing and, despite what the everyone-gets-an-award culture says, it will drive us to become better if we use it to our advantage. I told my child this as they rolled their eyes at me gazing out the window as if outside had all the answers. I quoted Henry Ford and said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” I got another eye roll. (See Jocko’s video below. I use this for myself when defeat is in front of me)

I asked them, “What are you going to do about it?” They responded, “I don’t know.” Typical. It’s hard to be objective when defeat is not yet in the rear view mirror. Click To Tweet So, I tried another route, “Do you want to make the team next year?” They responded, “Yes!” “What are some things you can do between now and then that will improve your chances?” That rolled the ball in their thinking and they responded, “Practice more. Get better. Work hard.” I could see the wheels turning then and so what turned out to be a disaster, became the fuel that may drive them to succeed later.

I reached out to some folks for wisdom and help. I know squat about some of the sports my kids are into so I need some help from people who know a lot more than I do. I want to leverage their skills and my child’s desire to work so that they will be in the best position for tryouts next year.

I did not reach out to the coach. There may be a place for a parent to reach out and get some positive feedback as to why their child did not make it, but I am not that parent. At this point, I understand that there is much parody in sports and with only so many spots available eventually people can’t make the team. Plus, I always give coaches, teachers and others the benefit of the doubt knowing my kid is not the best at everything he or she does. I am OK with that. Some parents aren’t and will pitch a fit because their sweet Johnny deserves a spot on the team, or first chair in the orchestra or solo in the concert when clearly, they are not there yet. Again, all I can do right now is control how we move forward.

There you have it! I may have screwed up but that is what I did. What are some things you have done (or not) when your child did not make the team?

Here is the Jocko video…enjoy.

Lent Devotional 8 – My Son was Lost

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” ~ Matthew 18:12-14

I thought I lost my youngest son one day. It was a Saturday and all of the kids were playing with the neighbors and so I decided to watch some football. I dozed off a little bit and woke up and decided to go check on the kids. I saw the three oldest but my youngest son was nowhere to be found. I asked my oldest son, “Where is he?” trying to mask my obvious concern. He responded, “In the neighbor’s back yard.” We went there and he was nowhere to be found. My neighbor was in the front yard and he could see my concern and I could no longer conceal my angst. The kids started shouting his name and running frantically around the neighborhood. My wife was not home and so I feared the call I had to make. I asked my neighbor, “Should I call the police now?” Concerned he said, “That would probably be a good idea.” I went inside but decided to check his room one last time. I noticed a folded over one-person tent and then I opened it and there he was, sleeping in his tent fast asleep. All of us breathed a sigh of relief and I immediately hit my knees in prayer.

In an infinitely more passionate way God is concerned about those of us who have wandered away. I take that as what Jesus is trying to get his disciples to think about. A lost sheep meant no income, as there would be no wool, milk, meat or even a loss of babies for the future. It was an analogy that many would know and all too often experience. A sheep by itself would not last long because there are many predators looking to pounce on the weak and wandering. I wonder if these verses are speaking to you or someone you know right now. How wonderful is it to know that God does not want any of us to perish? Right now he is seeking out those who need to come back. May you find God who is desperately and frantically looking for you.

Prayer: We are all wandering sheep father looking to find rest in you. Sometimes the path seems so discouraging and winding especially knowing many are against us. Find us Lord. Amen.

Thought Questions:

  1. Why is God so concerned about the lost?
  2. Who are some people right now who need to find God? List them and pray that God will open doors for them. Perhaps you are one of those doors.

4 Redemptive Lessons You Can Learn from Kaleb on His Birthday

I am always somewhat reticent when it comes to celebrating family events on social media. When my wife has a birthday you won’t find me posting a sappy message on her Facebook wall because I like to look her in the eye, kiss her and say it face to face. I don’t need affirmation (via likes or favorites) on social media for my affection toward my family. Yet, there is another sense in which celebrating those types of things publically can actually be good news to others who also participate in your story. When they see a happy birthday message about a family member they can, with swelling pride, say “me too” as you share your love for all to see.

It is in that regard I wish to reflect for just a moment today on the birth of my oldest son Kaleb exactly eleven years ago today. Kaleb came into this world with much expectation and joy. He was our first child[1] and with that comes the nervous tensions, excitement, anticipation and uncertainties that linger for first-time parents. Our world completely changed that day when this pudgy, hog-headed beast of an infant took his first breath. Nothing prepares you for parenthood, which is why Heather and I spent $0 on how to books, classes or therapy. Plus we were broke. Most people in our generation developed their career, then got married, saved their money and then had kids.

Not us. We plunged right in to all of it rather quickly. A friend of mine just had a kid this past month. By the time his child graduates high school Kaleb will be close to thirty years old.

Perspective.

I wanted to share four redemptive things I (Heather can “second” these as well) have learned being Kaleb’s father these past eleven years.

#1 – I have learned that it is still manly to be very affectionate to your son.

I actually first learned this from my dad years ago but even more so now that Kaleb is in the world. I hug and kiss him—yes, kiss him—every single day. Kaleb also randomly, but quite frequently says to me, “Love you daddy.” God looked at his son Jesus and said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Affection and tenderness are emotions embedded to us through the trinity. The economic affection the Father has with the Son and the Spirit we also share with our own flesh and blood. There may come a time when he will shy away from hugs and kisses but he will always know it will not reduce his manliness in any capacity.

#2 – Grace and mercy triumph over works and merit.

I do not intend to get into a theologically debate as to why you’re wrong about this but as a parent I see my love for God deepen as I rest in his grace much like Kaleb rests in mine. Kaleb has done a lot of stupid things to disappoint me and will keep doing so for years to come. I am thankful I never did that to my parents but I digress. No indiscretion has the ability to sever the love I have for him. At no point can Kaleb make me love him any more or any less by his own efforts. I could read James 2 a thousand times and each time I will read it the same way: A relationship grounded in love and grace will only lead to good works.

#3 – Emotions on our sleeve are not necessarily a bad thing.

Kaleb comes by this honestly. I am not one to hide many emotions and what you see with me is most often what you get. The older I get the better I am at guarding myself from revealing some potentially damaging emotions but most of the time if I am angry, sad, joyful or apathetic one can see it in my expressions. Kaleb is the same way. I can read him like a book. When he disappoints his mother or myself and he knows that he has done it he will immediately start to cry. I like that about him. I hope he learns the “seasons” (Ecc. 3) of our range of emotions and uses that to gain a better perspective on life. Many of us are so guarded with our emotions we have forgotten how to weep, how to dance, how to belly laugh and how to rest. Not Kaleb.

#4 – Charisma is a gift that God can use to build his kingdom.

People flock to Kaleb. I don’t know why but there is something about him that people love and admire. The French would say Kaleb posses a je ne sais quoi which is a quality that is beyond description. I see it when he walks into a room of his peers. All eyes go to him and there is an aura of warmth that hovers when he walks. I know you think I am bragging about my kid like the dad who thinks his son is the best at baseball but I am really objective about this I think. I am good at ready a crowd and within 10 seconds based on nonverbal cues I can tell you the pulse of most any given situation. Kaleb has it. Our job as parents is to continually humble him but in the same regard feed that gift so that he uses it to give God glory. Too often those with charisma praise self instead of Savior. We have our work cut out for us but I already see fruit from Kaleb’s gift.

That’s all I got this year. Maybe I can share more next year Lord willing. Saya prayer for Kaleb would you? Thank God for him. Thank God for his mother. Pray that he listens to the Spirit and moves where ever the wind blows.

___________________________

[1] Heather and I had a miscarriage two years previous to Kaleb’s birth in December of 2006. Needless to say we were ecstatic when he came.

Kaleb and Christ: A Story of Redemption

Nothing prepares you for the moment a child decides he or she believes in Jesus. All the emotions leading up to that moment puts a smile on my face even now as I type the words. My oldest child and son, Kaleb Christopher, was baptized yesterday as the culmination of the Spirit working on his heart, his mind and his soul. The process started many years before he was even created. The story of redemption began as a promise from God that he would bless his people and would be present among them. What started as presence in fire and flame now sees its culmination dwelling in the hearts of his children. “God with us” is not merely words etched in parchment like those in the Iliad or the Odyssey. Those words become life manifested in things like confession, repentance, worship and other disciplines that are countercultural to a society positioned to focus on this world.

Baptism is a special moment for many parents and one I honestly didn’t think would happen this early. It caught me off guard a year ago when he started asking about it. My first reaction was, “Son, you’re too young to do this” but who am I to question how God works and when God works? “Does he really understand the ramifications of his decision?” At 35 there is not a day that goes by where I do not fully understand the ramifications of that decision and furthermore I am in a constant process of growing toward Christ-likeness (progressive sanctification). So we had the conversations in the car about what baptism meant but more so what walking in the kingdom of God meant.

The process was very informal and more like a journey than it was deductive logic. I didn’t set any standards upon which I assumed he was ready for baptism because really no such standards exist. I doubt the Ethiopian Eunuch knew much about kingdom life other than he wanted Jesus to be his lord. We talked about some of the things that will frustrate him in his decision but also how rewarding it is to walk with God. Of course, the kid has heard and absorbed close to 500 sermons in his life coupled with bible classes and a host of other things a youth minister’s kid is dragged to. Needless to say this past week when he said, “Daddy I am ready,” I believed him.

So Kaleb is now, as Heather so succinctly put, “my son and my brother.” The moment was so special as we had friends from both churches I have served there to support him. Before he confessed that Jesus was his Lord (more like professed) I shared with him the lyrics of the old hymn “Jesus Paid it All” and prayed with him. His baptism was routine for many in the auditorium but for some it was otherworldly. Coming out of the water was a new person who is now a “new creation.” Somewhere in the metaphysical expanse where angelic bodies dwell there are some entities that are rejoicing because Kaleb is now a disciple.

Speaking of disciple. As the weight on Kaleb’s shoulders was lifted I felt it transfer to me. I have always felt a responsibility to lead my kids to Christ but now that he is “in Christ” I feel the weight of leadership even more. But I look forward to it. I no longer lead to but I lead with. With the help of Heather, the Spirit and a village of believers holding him accountability we have now embarked on a journey that sees no end where one day we will all sit in eternity basking at life free of sin. Sitting there with saints from the past but maybe more special he will be there with family members he never knew and some who left this world too quickly and he only knew for a little while. But until then, Kaleb and I both cry out, “Come, Lord!”

The Graduation Speech

*Originally preached at the Main Street Church of Christ on May 15, 2011.

The Graduation Speech

By Robbie Mackenzie (May 15, 2011)

            I have done many things since I have been alive. I have been to South America and Africa. I have attended numerous World Series games. I hiked down the Grand Canyon and back up in one day. I have watched four beautiful kids come into this world. But there are many things in this world I have not experienced. I have never jumped out of an airplane. I have never, unfortunately, found gold on the other side of a rainbow. I have never been to the North Pole and I have never, ever participated in synchronized swimming. Something else I have never done is speak at a graduation. I have probably sat through some thirty graduations and even leaving one in the middle only to arrive at another in the middle. I have heard every quote imaginable like, “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” and “If it’s to be it’s up to me.” I have heard many people misquote enough Scripture for me to pull my hair out and by the looks of my hair I have heard a lot of misquoted Scripture. Nobody remembers a graduation speech because they are all the same. This is why I am offering you a different graduation speech but in the end it will be forgettable and pretty soon it will be—well—just another graduation speech.

If I were to graduate again (which may happen) I would want to hear this type of speech at my graduation. I would want to have someone tell me what really might happen as opposed to God’s plans to “prosper us and not to harm us” (Jer. 29:11; taken out of context of course J). Those who have battled drugs, alcohol, divorce, financial heartache and difficult circumstances usually are not the ones invited to speak at graduations. Why? People want to hear the wealthy, famous, successful and “problem-free” at graduations yet those people are in the minority. Most of us fit into the second category of simple, problem-full, but content with our lives. That’s boring and nobody wants to hear about it. So this is my attempt to put pen to paper and give flesh to words that I would say if it were the last words I would say to a graduate. The speech is more about what you really may experience but it is a little uncertain. So here we go.

First of all, you’re going to grow apart from your friends. There are certain people in your graduating class you will never ever see or talk to again. Even your BFFs, whom you swore, pinkie-promised, and vowed to stay in touch via text, phone, SKYPE, or even just a visit on weekends, will grow apart from you. It’s going to be awkward when you come home and go back to a high-school football game and see your old buddies. You will realize they have changed and so have you and it will be a cool feeling knowing you are the college kid. Pretty soon you will just feel old and then you will stop going back to high-school functions. The saddest part about going different ways is watching some of your friends who cannot accept the fact that they are no longer in high-school. They still talk like high-schoolers, hang out with high-schoolers, and their maturity level stays that way for years. If they could just grow up and move on life would be better but they can’t. That may be you by the way. What they don’t tell you after you graduate is that life happens and things get in the way and we just become too busy. You might even lose a friend tragically in a car accident, overdose, or a physical ailment like cancer or something else. It’s going to hurt and you will cry.

You’re going to realize that the boyfriend or girlfriend you thought you would spend the rest of your life with will not work out. Nor will the next three or four. You will realize that there are some seriously messed-up people out there who are looking for nothing more to score with you and that is going to hurt. Perhaps you’re on the other spectrum and you will just wait, and wait, and wait while everyone around you is getting a significant other without trying yet you pray, ask someone out and still nobody will date you. Then you’re going to go home and it’s going to sting every time someone asks you, “Are you seeing anybody yet?” and then the awkward look you get when you say, “No!” To make matters worse they will offer you a monologue about them having two kids by the time they were your age. That doesn’t help either. Life does not consist in a relationship but it sure beats being lonely sometimes.

You’re going to have to say goodbye to your parents. Whether you work at home or go off to college you will have to say goodbye to them somehow. You’re going to have to convince your parents that them moving in with you in your dorm room is actually a horrible idea. They are going to call you, once, twice maybe three times a day just to hear your voice. Some of you will want to run from your parents so bad and so fast that you are going to blaze a trail along the way but some of you are not going to want to leave your parents because you will be afraid. You will get homesick because you’re going to miss the family meals, nights at the park, and games of uno, vacation and long conversations on the way to school. The phone calls from mom will get really annoying but deep down inside her voice will be like water in the driest African desert.

You’re going to be broke. Growing up your mom and dad were like a free-flowing ATM but now that day is long gone and you actually might have to work which, by the way, you don’t have time for. You may get into credit card trouble thinking you can pay the balance sometime later if you just meet the minimum payment and it’s going to come back to bite you in a very personal way. Worst of all, you might actually get that date with that someone only to be so broke you have to spend your romantic night at the dining hall or McDonald’s because you can’t afford anything else. By the way, your mom is calling you and you probably should pick the phone up.

You’re going to change physically. It’s a strange thing that actually eating 8-10 Krystals used to be fun and proper nourishment but now all of that eating during freshman year has become a part of your backside that you, literally, carry with you wherever you go. The concept of “freshman 15” no longer is a myth as you’re just trying to avoid freshman forty as you huff and puff up the stairs to your room. On top of that, guys you might start to notice that you lose hair at this time and girls you might start getting wrinkles. Your chaotic schedule and stressful demands does not make your physical issues any better. You may also get the world’s worst case of Athlete’s Foot because apparently your roommate does not have the human dignity to wear shower shoes or at least cut his feet off. The sad part of this is that you’re going to realize quickly that the physical issues, from this point on, only get worse.

You’re going to struggle attending worship services because mom and dad are not there to wake you up. Wait—is that mom calling me again? You are going to wonder what’s the point of attending services. You’re going to look at the people in the church and say it is filled with hypocrites and, you may be right. You’re going to struggle immensely at fitting-in and you are going to wish you could come back and participate in youth group again but your jerk of a youth minister will not let you. You’re going to wrestle with what the church is versus what it was in Scripture (welcome to the club). You’re going to wonder why churches invest so much time, resources and money with programs like the youth, older members, missions, building funds and yet not much time, resources and money (if any) are invested in college students. For you, church is going to be difficult.

You’re going to do some things you’re going to regret. Some of them may be minor but some of them are going to be major. You’re going to wish you could take it all back but you won’t be able to. You’re going to remember what your parents said about the dangers and now you’re going to have to tell them what you just did. It’s going to break their heart. The saddest part of it all is that you’re too stubborn to learn your lesson and so you’re going to do it all over again. You’re going to sit there late at night looking up at the ceiling wondering what you are going to do with your life. You may want to end it all.

You’re going to struggle with God. Who is this divine being that was taught so heavily to you? God has not been helpful to you and by the looks at what’s happening in the world God really doesn’t seem to care anymore. You’re going to have people cast doubt on your faith with different beliefs, ideologies and philosophical inquiries which some seem possible to believe. You’re going to try to help your faith by doing what your parents, youth minister or preacher suggested. It’s going to be tough and in my experience, when the going gets tough sometimes…well…the tough gets tougher. There are going to be moments when all you can think about God is anger, frustration and confusion. Like David, you are going to say, “How long, O Lord? How long?” (Psalm 13).

But…

However…

Nevertheless…

You’re going to make new friends. The kind of friends who do not have strings attached to them. The kind of friends whom you will laugh with, cry with and the kind of friends who will be, like the Proverb writer said, “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). The friends you make will be in your weddings, at the hospital when you have a baby and next to you when you lose someone you love. The kind of friend who will utterly depend on you and years down the road these friends will need you most when their own world is turned upside down. You’re going to go to baseball games with these friends, have cookouts, go on mission trips with them and you might even have the opportunity lead a few of those friends to Christ.

You’re going to meet someone…it may take years…and you know what…it may not happen. You’re going to look at that sweet lady who keeps asking you if you’re married yet because she had two children by your age and you’re going to smile and say, “that’s not what God wants me to do right now.” God will make it happen if it needs to happen and you’re going to be just fine with that. You just might have four kids before you are thirty though and people, by the way, will make fun of you and call you crazy and psycho but you will realize that you will be 47 by the time your last one graduates high-school which will be the age your buddy will be when his first one starts middle school. But it’s also ok if you wait that long. You follow what God wants you to do not someone else. It’s ok to be crazy so don’t change that for a second. In the words of the musician Tom Cochrane, “Life is a highway and I want to ride it all night long.” You’re going to be able to look at the person you will spend the rest of your life with and vow to be with them in sickness, and in health until death due you part. You’re going to get that same passion every time you go to someone else’s wedding and you’re going to wake up each day feeling unworthy to wake up beside the most beautiful person in the world…not your youngest child who crawled in the bed…but your spouse. You’re going to really feel blessed to be next to that beautiful person especially when you make it to the mirror in the mornings.

You’re going to regret trying to run away from your mom and dad so quickly. You’re going to want to pick up the phone and call them as much as possible. You’re going to remember their lectures, words of “wisdom”, and caution and know that they were actually right.  If God blesses you with a child you’re going to name the child after your parents because of the influence that had on your life. However, if home was a nightmare filled with abuse then you’re going to prove mom and dad wrong. You’re going to make a difference and with God’s help you will show them what you can do even when they told you it couldn’t be done.

You will eventually make money but still, somehow, be broke for a while. It will be tough at first (remember the credit cards and loans?) but God will provide and mom and dad will help you out. I promise. If you don’t go to college then no worries because no matter what anyone says it’s ok for you not to go to college because, get this, college is not for everyone. You will show them that you can still provide and work hard and do what God wants you to do. The church will step in and provide for you in times when you could not provide for yourself. You will have to fight the evils of consumerism and you will eventually give much of your income to the church. People will think of you as crazy, stupid and a little off kilter but you will consider that suffering for the kingdom’s sake and little bit like emptying yourself which is what Jesus did for you. You will have ups and downs financially and there will be days you will have to eat beans and rice and rice and beans but you will make it because all you need is a roof over your head and food on the table.

You will learn to live with your body. It’s ok that your body is not in pristine shape or that it’s shape looks like a hamburger rather than an hour glass. It’s ok. God just wants you to be healthy. You will eventually enjoy eating things like salads, grapefruits, tree bark and you will especially enjoy drinking lots and lots of water. Balding only gets worse and so do the wrinkles and your physical deterioration will be a daily reminder thanks to your kids and sometimes teenagers who decide to take a stab. Laugh at this and consider it a way God humbles you. Look at your body as a gift from God and each day is another opportunity that someone else did not get.

You will eventually grow to love and adore the church. Yes there are hypocrites in church but your experience in life will show you that there are hypocrites everywhere inside and outside the church. The church never claimed to be perfect anyways besides there are so many people in the church who have changed their lives drastically because of the work of the church through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The church will need you to teach a class, lead a song, direct a program, visit the sick or teach a bible class. You will have a renewed commitment to the church and it will drive you and you will soon find out that it is not you that is driving you but it is the Spirit of God inside of you. You’re going to find out that the church is filled with plenty of people as messed-up as you! That will put a smile on your face and the face of thousands of angels watching.

You’re going to think about the regrets from time-to-time and they will enter your thoughts at weird moments. The regrets will be like a bruise that won’t go away or rainstorm that will not depart. You may have to call people to apologize for what you did and you may have to tell them you have changed. You may have to earn someone’s trust back because of what you did but it’s going to be worth it. You’re going to show God and others that you are a radical disciple who has radically changed. “I’m not that way anymore” will come out of your mouth as effortless as air discharged from your lungs and you will say it with a smile. Like Paul, your past will not break you rather it will shape you. Your story will become a testimony for so many people to hear.

Then there is God. He always was and always is and always will be. You’re going to find him because you’re going to long for him. Like a fire in the midst of a blizzard you will long for his warmth and light. He will show up in your life not as a boxed-in, compartmentalized God but as the living, active God. He is going to lead you to places in life you never thought were possible but pretty soon you will realize that God is in the making-the-impossible-possible business. You are going to realize that truly Jesus came so, like John told you, “we may have life, and life to the fullest” (John 10:10). You will long for something John and Isaiah described as the New Heavens and New Earth. You will feel God’s presence in your life with the utmost assurance that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39). You will feel God in your bones and in your core and it will be most satisfying. There will still be valleys where the questions of theodicy (making God just) come back but you will know, deep down in your core, that eventually God will reign over all and all will be made right.

This is my graduation speech and it is filled with paradoxes, difficulties, some contradictions and uncertainties. But such is life right? Life is never a linear process but often we find it as a cyclical pattern that repeats itself but rests on the grace of God. So may you find the friends you need. May you discover the spouse who is yours or may you rest in the state you are in. May you love every minute your family is alive. May you live fiscally sound so you can give until it hurts. May you rejoice in the body God gave you but may you treat it well. May you love the church and realize it truly is, like the preacher said, a hospital for the sick. May you use your regrets to empower and inform your future. And may you run to God, wrap your arms around him and never, ever let go.

So, Dr. Seuss was right…a little…“be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

 

Madelyn Joy: A Lesson on Empathy

1910391_527568232389_4853_nToday my Madelyn Joy turns seven and I am elated! Seven years she has blessed our lives and we are certainly better because of it. I want to share a gift God has placed in her that I see few people in this world have (myself included). I want to explain her gift with a story.

Madelyn was our first baby to come into this world without any complications after her birth. Kaleb had severe jaundice and Amelia had pneumothorax and so this was beautiful for us to experience. It wasn’t long, however, until I realized that Madelyn really liked her mother and did not want to be held by another soul. I joke and say that I didn’t hold her until she turned one but that is pretty close to the truth. I want to say that she was just being a “mommy’s girl” but I think more was at play. Going from two kids to three was tough and so I was spending more time with the older two and Maddie just sensed that Heather needed her. I firmly believe that. Madelyn never complained when she was in Heather’s arms and always wanted to be close to her. Even to this day Madelyn always checks on Heather.

This leads me to sharing the gift Madelyn has and that is one of empathy. I looked up the difference between empathy and sympathy and found this helpful definition:

Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally ‘feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person. (Source)

Madelyn has a unique gift to intuitively feel into another person (especially in their hurt) and be present with that person or at least seek help. I used to think that only a person who has experienced the same type of pain could empathize but Madelyn is starting to prove me wrong. It is much like Jesus who dwelt among us to empathize with us even though he did not know us.

I saw an interesting article on Forbes called “Why Empathy Is The Force That Moves Business Forward” by Jayson Boyers. He made a statement that stuck with me:

Though the concept of empathy might contradict the modern concept of a traditional workplace—competitive, cutthroat, and with employees climbing over each other to reach the top— the reality is that for business leaders to experience success, they need to not just see or hear the activity around them, but also relate to the people they serve.

I like the language he uses. To relate one must serve the people under them and to effectively serve the people they must know them. Ministers and leaders in the church would do well to listen to the life of Madelyn by knowing the people, feeling into the people and serving them accordingly.

It's hard to shepherd a flock from a conference table but easier to do from a coffee table. Click To Tweet

So here are three quick lessons I learned from Madelyn that will help you:

  1. Empathy does not show favorites. I think this goes without saying but sometimes we only care for people we only care about.
  2. Empathy seeks no gain. “Seeking other’s interests” (see Phil. 2:1-4) is what an effective leader engages in to benefit the person without the prospect of gaining from the relationship.
  3. Empathy moves forward to help. It’s not enough to feel for/into a person as we need to move to help.

Hope you learned something from my birthday girl!

Qualifications of a Real Parent

I am really not a snarky person but lately I find myself wanting to throw the laptop across the room. It stems from reading blog posts that remind me of cigarette commercials with beautiful women taking a drag and we are supposed to believe that good-looking people smoke cigs. Come on marketers. Really? I look at my rss feed and I see these titles:

  • How to be a good parent: 10 tips.
  • 10 Tips for Positive Parenting.
  • One of my favorites: 10 Scientific tips for raising happy kids.

HAHAHA! Are you kidding me? Scientific?

Eh hem…let us continue…

  • Parenting 101: Tips for Parents
  • 50 easy ways to be a fantastic parent (Do I keep these on a flip chart in my wallet?)

And my favorite.

(DRUM ROLL PLEASE)

Because every parent needs a good life hack right? Oh my word. I think I am too much of a realist with a mixture of minimalist. In other words, I try not to make parenting too complicated and I also try to be realistic with my parenting. Of course I am not going to ignore obvious advice and we all need help but I feel most of these “tips for parents” posts are more about readership than they are about helping the parent. So in my nine years of parenting I want to give you some REALISTIC qualifications of parenting.

Please note this is not for the faint of heart and may discourage you from actually being a parent. Also note I am not an expert and have no PhD in Childhood Psychology so these are just observations from someone who is still learning. I am not including everything on this list because my oldest is only nine so if you discover I missed something raise your arm over your head extending it behind your back and give yourself a pat.

I bet that felt good didn’t it?

So here you go… A list of qualifications.

  • You have to learn how to run out of the house screaming at the lawn instead of your kids.
  • The ability to scrape boogers off the wall is important.
  • Dodging pee in the diaper years.
  • Learn how to cover up holes with spackling compound.
  • Focusing on work while your kids practice football in the living room.
  • Waking up at 3am looking at your kid vomit like the exorcist girl and catching it with your hand so it doesn’t get on the carpet then giving them a bath and changing their sheets.
  • Doing it again at 4am.
  • Smelling morning breath after the 3am and 4am adventures.
  • Exercising patience when your kid lifts his leg and farts…in church…during a prayer…and says, “That was a good one daddy!”
  • Learning how to divert questions when the kids are asking about each other’s anatomical differences.
  • Learning how to divert the “Who made God?” question.
  • Learning how to divert the “Where do babies come from?” question.
  • Trying to be patient when someone tells you…again…”You are going to miss these years” immediately after you told them how your kid hit a golf ball at a neighbor’s house.
  • The ability to watch Disney movies over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
  • Understanding how some days you feel like a referee instead of a parent.
  • Looking the other way when the inside of your vehicle looks worse than a cherry bomb exploding in a pinata stuffed with 65 dozen eggs.
  • Not losing it when one of your “precious angels” decided it would be neat to use the wall as a canvas for fecal matter abstract art. Laugh it up as you read this post. I like to call this kid of mine Pooping Picasso.
  • Praying when you found that other golf ball in the lawn…with the lawn mower…and now you hit the neighbor’s house.
  • Trying to explain to a sweet old lady at church what your child meant when they said she looked like Cruella de Vil.
  • Having the courage to enter the church auditorium immediately after you dragged your kid out as they screamed, “Don’t spank me hard this time!”
  • Having the ability to take a toilet off the flange to unclog the toys your child attempted to flush down the toilet.
  • Having to do it again.
  • And a third time.
  • Learning how to sleep with a child tossing and turning in their sleep like they are attached to a 76,000 Watt battery.
  • Have I said something about morning breath yet?
  • Learning how to respond with grace when you put your foot in a boot to find a sandwich in the bottom.
  • Trying to understand ministers are not supposed to cuss when you wake up and step on six toys on your way to the bathroom. Then you flush the toilet and it is clogged again.
  • Feeling like an idiot when you’re at the baseball park and you hear someone say, “Look at that boy with his pants on the ground peeing on the fence” and feeling that sick feeling in your stomach knowing it is your kid. What do you do? You lie of course and volunteer to go help this poor kid whose parents have obviously failed. A minister wouldn’t lie though so I would tell my wife to go handle it while I bang my head into a wall.
  • Learning how to convince your kids that standing 30 centimeters in front of the television is actually not an appropriate way to watch TV. “Your parents weren’t glass-makers?”
  • Also understanding the skill in explaining how HVAC units cannot cool or heat the surrounding county if your children leave the front door open. It is nice of them to think of others but is just not that efficient.

Those are realistic qualifications friends. Have those and you will be a great parent.

In all seriousness and being completely transparent with you parenting is tough. I know I will miss these years because they are already slipping by. I do value experts in what they say and I am grateful for all the help I can get. I hope I made you laugh with this and I hope you understand the things I said in jest. In no way do I think parenting is easy and my hope is that this sarcastic post will help you realize just that. I will leave you with a good quote I came across:

To be a good father and mother requires that the parents defer many of their own needs and desires in favor of the needs of their children. As a consequence of this sacrifice, conscientious parents develop a nobility of character and learn to put into practice the selfless truths taught by the Savior Himself.

James E. Faust

Teaching My Kids About Valentine’s Day

I must admit that when it comes to Valentine’s Day I am a bit of a conscientious objector. There are many reasons for this: 1) Hyper Consumerism, 2) I have a lot of single friends who spend this day upset, 3) Why do I have to show love one day? This does not mean I am completely against it but rather I am against the typical overt expressions of this day. Heather and I typically do not celebrate this day.

Call me a grouch.

Call me whatever.

I have four kids so let’s just say I celebrate with my wife more than one day :)!!! I just went there. It’s biblical so keep reading.

So often as parents we have to teach them a different narrative then what they hear from culture. Our culture tells them bigger is better and we have to say, “Not necessarily.” You get the idea.

So what about Valentine’s Day?

How do you teach your kids about the overt nature of what culture is telling them about this day? I must say that I fall short completely short so I am no expert but here is me thinking out-loud.

If you have girls then dads make sure you are their first valentine.

Every year I have bought my girls flowers. “Robbie, you hypocrite!” I know. Reach your hand straight up in the air, bend it, extend your arm backwards and pat yourself on your back and whisper to yourself (in a Robbie voice): “Good job!” Do you feel better now? My point is that if there is going to be someone I want them to learn how to be loved from that someone is going to be me. I am going to set that high standard and buddy you better come up to that standard or beat it. The only thing that can separate the love I have for my daughters is death… and even that is temporary.

Take her to lunch, where a nice suit and tie and pamper that little girl. I guarantee you when some loser comes they will look at him, roll their eyes and move on. Just a note for you single moms (if Dad is out of the picture): see if you can arrange for your dad to pamper that sweet girl or if you have a brother or some positive male role model. They need them in their lives.

If you have boys then coach them on how to treat a lady with respect and dignity.

The horrible ways guys treat girls is a global epidemic. Look at the news and you will see all the domestic violence issues and this is just completely unacceptable. Also the small things though. Like opening a door. My wife and I were eating at a restaurant and I remember a couple was going through the doors with the guy heading first with the girl four steps behind him. He walked right in. I hurried to the door, looked at her and opened the door for her and she responded: “Thank you so much!” I noticed them later at the dinner table with his head buried in the phone and I thought to myself: “This moron. He has a prize (she was gorgeous) right in front of him and he is looking at a $300 phone.”

I threw a roll at his face. Kidding. But I wanted to.

The way society objectifies women it is difficult for men not look and treat women as puppets. This has to change. It starts with dads leading sons.

Finally, sit down with kids and talk about what love is and what it isn’t.

Yesterday I sat down where I volunteer for after school kids and a question was asked: “Who are some people you love?” Me and a kid from my group had this exchange:

Me: “Who do you love?”

Boy: “My girlfriend.”

Me: “How old are you?”

Boy: “Nine.”

Me (pointing to the door): “Get out of this building. You have no clue what love is.”

Actually I didn’t say that but I just went to the next kid rolling my eyes. Love is not just a feeling but a sacrifice.

Ask Jesus.

Look at 1 Corinthians 13 and look at what love is and what it is not. Many want a feeling but not the sacrifice. Love takes work. Love take humility. Love take devotion. Love ruins your pride. Love shatters your false expectations. Love gives and expects nothing in return. Love is metaphysical.

This is not a one-time conversation you have with your kids but an ongoing conversation that is both verbal and nonverbal. They need to know what love is from what they see in your own marriage. If you made some mistakes then talk about them. Coach them.

So what are some suggestions you have?