Being a parent

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Being a parent is the hardest and best job anyone can have.  It will not make you rich except in ways you cannot put a price on.  You start the job thinking you have all the knowledge you need only to discover that every day is a new learning experience.  If you made the mistakes at work that you make being a parent, you’d be fired.  Having a child is a matter of biology; being a parent is a matter of commitment.

Empowered by God – Responding by Grace

Following is a Stewardship talk I presented at Bethany Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois, Sunday, November 30, 2014:

“Now as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you — so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking” (2 Cor. 8:7).

I have been asked to share a message of stewardship with you, so here is my stewardship message to you – God loves you.  Actually He is crazy about you.  He wants the very best for you, so much so that He has even given you His entire creation.  He only asks that you take care of it.  God has hired you as Steward of His estate and castle.  You see that is where the word comes from, when the lords who were the landowners had a steward that managed their property.

Psalm 50:10 “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”  … and even the hills are His.  You see it’s all His.  He owns it all.  But He has given it to us, so when we give, we are being more like Him.

To recap our prior talks, we have considered how we are empowered by God. We’ve considered our theme, “Empowered by God — Responding by Grace” and how our primary response to God’s work in our lives should be that of the Macedonian Christians: To first give ourselves to the Lord. We said that our response should be, “Lord, I’m yours to use as You wish. Any time. Any place. Any thing. Any cost.”

I received a really good story a couple of days ago from a friend of mine.  You may have heard it since it made its way to me via Facebook, but I want to share it with you anyway.  It was found in the billfold of Coach Paul Bear Bryant of Alabama fame after he died in 1982.

Imagine you had won the following “PRIZE” in a contest:  Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use, but here are the rules:

  •  Everything that you don’t spend during each day will be taken away from you.
  •  You can’t just transfer any of the money to some other account.
  •  You may only spend it.
  •  Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.
  •  The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say, “Game Over!”

It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.  What would you personally do?  You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right?  Not only for yourself, but also for all the people you love and care for.  Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right?  You would try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?

ACTUALLY, this GAME is REAL.  Shocked?  YES!  Each of us is already a winner of this “PRIZE”.  We just can’t seem to see it.  The PRIZE is “TIME”.

  • Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life.
  •  And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is NOT credited to us.
  •  What we haven’t used up that day is forever lost.
  •  Yesterday is forever gone.
  •  Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time WITHOUT WARNING.

SO, what will YOU do with your 86,400 seconds?  Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars.

If God owns everything, including our time, can we do less than to put Him first in how we use this priceless resource?

How we use our talents is yet another way of “responding by grace.” Different people have different abilities. One may be an outstanding surgeon; another a carpenter. One may play a musical instrument with skill; another may teach young children.

But our talents are also what one person described as “gifts on loan from God”.

As some of you may know, I just finished Financial Peace University.  It’s the Dave Ramsey course that teaches people God’s principles for money.  We had a small but dedicated group and I am happy to say that I was able to replicate myself.  So Bill Odean and Janet & Bill Krusinski will be leading the next class of Financial Peace University on Tuesdays starting in January.  I had so many people tell me, I’d love to take that course if it just wasn’t on Wednesday evenings. Well, now’s your chance.  I am so happy and grateful that Bill and Janet and Bill are willing to pay forward the principles they learned.

And so for you, God’s faithful.  Here is my charge to you.  Replicate yourselves by getting another person involved at Bethany in the next year.  “You like to cook?  We need people to help with funeral luncheons.”  “What a great voice you have.  You know we could use you to help with the readings during the service or be part of the choir.”  Add a connection.  It can even be somebody in your own family.  You see Jesus thought it was such a great idea, he replicated Himself a dozen times.  He knew His time on earth was limited.  It would take a dozen to continue to spread the good news. And then a dozen times a dozen.

So thank you for coming out this morning.   Thank you for allowing me to share a message.  And if you don’t mind, I’d like to close with a story that Dave Ramsey tells.  It’s one that I can really identify with because, you see, I have two sons.   Dave was up early one morning, about 5:00 am.  He picked up the Bible to gather a little inspiration as he started his day, and he looked up to see his little son coming down the stairs in Spiderman pajamas, you know, the ones with the feet in them.  His son, Ben, was dragging his blanket as he came over to Dave, and Dave asked him, “Son, what are you doing up so early?  You need to get back to bed or you’re going to be tired and cranky in a couple of hours and heading for a time-out”

“Dad, can’t I just sit here with you for a little while?”

“Oh, I suppose.”  So Ben crawled up into Dave’s lap and Dave went back to reading.

Pretty soon a tear is running down Dave’s cheek and Ben got all excited.  “What’s the matter, Dad?  Did I do something wrong?”

“No, no, Son.  Your fine.  It’s not you.”

You see Dave had just read, “For God so loved the world, that he GAVE … HIS … ONLY … BEGOTTEN … SON.”

As we head into Advent, I hope you will give some consideration to the “first fruits” that God asks you to give.

Can this family be fixed?

Done with work and especially done with that guy or woman in the office that just doesn’t get it. If she really understood this business, she would never ask the things she asks.  Don’t know why you have to put up with her.  Just glad you can go home now, or maybe not. 

You want to pull into the driveway, but the kids’ toys are in the way. You walk into the house and there’s a bag on the table. What did he buy today?  He’s always spending money you don’t have. Maybe this has been going on so long, it’s all playing through your head even before you get home, so you go by the bar just to have one to take the edge off. So you sit in the bar stewing and fretting over your lot in life. This isn’t the way you envisioned it. 

You think about that person you married. If they would just be more understanding, more sensitive to how hard you work, all the things you do. Why don’t they see things the way you see them?  After all, what other way is there?  If they were just more kind, less crabby,  more loving, everything would be so much better.

Have you reached the end of your rope?  Are you done with that spouse?  Is it time to move on?  You’ll never be the person you want to be because of them … or can this family be fixed?  What would it take to make some real changes here?  Is it worth the effort?

The easy and the hard answer is yes, changes can be made. Hard because when you believe things will improve only if the other person changes, that perception is the problem. You have to start with the corner of the world where you have the most influence, and that is yourself.

Pull out that copy of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When the seven habits become ingrained into your life, you will see change.

        1.  Be Proactive. Don’t be reactive.
        2.  Begin with the end in mind. Have a plan.
        3.  Put first things first. Prioritize your actions.
        4.  Seek first to understand … then to be understood.
        5.  Think win / win.
        6.  Synergize.  1 + 1 = more than 2.
        7.  Sharpen the saw. As the Boy Scouts say, keep yourself physically fit, mentally awake, and morally straight.

                           I’m starting with the man in the mirror.
                           I’m asking him to change his ways.
                           And no message could have been any clearer,
                           If you wanna make the world a better place,
                           Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

                                      — Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard
                                           recorded by Michael Jackson

Life is a battlefield, love is the artillery that gets you through it.

A couple of posts ago (“Enough walking in a winter wonderland”), I commented on the victims and heroes of the weather we have been going through this year.  This week, I became one of the victims.  The sad thing is that it had nothing to do with the cold and the snow, in fact it was the first nice day in what had been a long string of nasty weather.  I was crossing the parking lot from my car to the door of my office building, stepped into a drain that had sunk into the pavement and fell against my outstretched arm that was trying to protect me. My automatic reaction protected my head from what would have been a severe concussion, but my arm took one for the team. I broke the upper arm just below the ball that goes into the shoulder socket.

This is the place where I whine and complain about the pain, which I’m sure a lot of people can identify with, but instead, I’d like to thank the academy for this award which I proudly display in front of me in a sling. To my friend, who I was chatting with as we crossed the lot, and saw me do my stunt. Thank you for helping me into the office and calling for help.   Your kindness will not be forgotten. To my team at work who helps and supports me every day, and has redoubled their efforts so as a firm, we do not skip a beat. I am grateful for each and  every one of you.  To the EMTs that gently placed me on the gurney and transported me to the hospital.   To a hospital staff who made me as comfortable as possible while they gathered the best information they could to evaluate how to handle this trauma.  And most of all to my family who came to the hospital, gathered up the pieces and took them home to begin the process of repair & restoring. Thank you.

So to get to the point. My last blog on this subject addressed the need for an emergency fund. Cash that helps you get through the unexpected. Every bit as important as financial deposits are the emotional deposits into accounts of the people who you can trust to love and care for you when the chips are down.  That requires daily effort to treat those people with the utmost respect, love, and caring. Doing the little things can make big deposits.  No assuming they know how you feel about them.  Love is a verb.

Which comes first? … the love story or the family …

“For unto us a child is born …” it is indeed that time of year again when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. And it seems as if the rest of the world celebrates as well and there is nothing wrong with that no matter what the reason. If this is just the opportunity to pull the family together before the year ends and share a meal, a smile, and maybe pass a gift, good for you. No lectures from this blogger.

There is something that touches our souls in the anticipation of the birth of a child. A child is all hope and potential. They are starting out fresh, the slate is clean. It is all that they can do to take in breath and nourishment. Hopefully, in making it through the birth experience, they can have a few days of just bonding with the parents before trying to figure out life.

This is the start of something great, or is it? We want to believe that children are the result of a great love story, so the real start may have begun with the love story. Two fully integrated mature adults connecting in a spark that lights the universe. That’s the ideal. The reality may be something a little less romantic. Most children are still conceived as the result of a human anatomical process that may or may not have included a love story. And although the one giving birth was once a fresh new-born herself, full of hope and potential, life happens, and there may have been some damage along the way.

As smart as we are, with all of the advancements and technology that we have, we still struggle with the elephant in the room, our emotional intelligence. In the 1950s, “the pill” was created which helped prevent unwanted pregnancies, and with unbridled freedom, the “sexual revolution” took place. I’m no prude, but don’t undersell the importance of the love story in starting a family.

A love story goes way beyond magic in the bedroom. A love story includes loving your mate’s family, no matter how that may be composed. If you can’t stand your potential future in-laws, maybe this is as far as the relationship goes. The apple does not fall very far from the tree.

A love story includes discussions on values before you ever hook up. Talk about your dreams, where you want to live, what is important to you, religion, politics, music, what your hot buttons are, money, careers, children, nothing can be off the table. Work out your ranking system, deep dish pizza once a week may be a 2 for him, but a 9 for her. What kind of car do you want to drive? That may be a deal breaker right there.

A love story includes what you are thinking about that person when you are not with them. Do you think they have it easier than you do? Are you constantly worried that they are connecting with someone else? Do you think about things and places you want to share with them?

Love is a verb. It’s not something you fall into and out of. With rare exception, the birth or adoption of a child should have started long before with a love story.

What Makes Family So Important?

Can you answer the question for me?  What is it that makes family important?  Or perhaps you don’t agree with the premise. If family is not important to you, why not?  Have you been abandoned by family?  Do you avoid family?  How is it that some people steer clearly wide of the family from which they came, but can go on to have successful families of their own? 

For me, family is the warmest, happiest place I go.  I blog on family because my best memories are times with my family and my happiest moments are when I am in their company. It is such a great feeling, I want everyone to have that experience. I believe it is a common experience based on the number of commercials and shows centered around it. It’s just prevalent in our society.

And yet, I see so many families disintegrate. 

I think Seth Adam Smith hit it on the head with his blog, “Marriage Isn’t For You”.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-adam-smith/marriage-isnt-for-you_b_4209837.html

This speaks to the disintegration of a family when the “I” becomes more important than the “we”.  I support this notion cautiously because a very good friend is going through a divorce now after years of suffering mental abuse,  and like so many abuse victims, she keeps asking herself what did she do wrong and is she to blame for this.  When someone hands you a blog like this in the midst of ending a marriage to an abusive narcissist, you tend to wrap yourself in a blanket of guilt. We could not be more supportive of this particular friend’s divorce.

I also am well aware that not every family starts with a marriage.  Another very good friend has a family that is her, her daughter and her mother. She intended it that way. The daughter was born through in vitro fertilization.  The woman is a successful executive. It’s a great family that we love.

Modern Family is more than just a TV sitcom.

We have a son that is 700 miles away. He could not be more in this family if he lived in the same house. Cell phones and internet make it way easier to stay in touch. He and his brother are on their computers together over the internet almost every night. It’s a great family we have.

The center of a family is love, pure and simple. It’s a love so strong that you would die for each other. It is a love that is relentless, unconditional, forgiving.

Love is a verb. How will you love your family today?  How will they know you care?

You can’t love anybody else if you don’t love yourself first. What will you do to make yourself healthy, happy, in touch with God, and a better human being?

At work, are you listening?  What will your customers tell you today?  What are they asking for?  SEEK to understand, not try to understand. Anticipate expectations.

Character/Competence. How will those around you develop this week?  What deposits can you make into the culture?  What is it that this organization can become?

Financial stability. What must go out / be billed this week in order to be here next week?  Who is waiting on what?