Sunday, August 17, 2014

The First Reason for Courage

Why have courage?

There are two reasons.

The first reason to be a braveheart is truth. Rock solid truth gives a reason to act with courage. If you
believe something is true and important, you can find a place for your feet and take a stand...or, take steps forward with confidence. Even steps into dangerous and uncomfortable places and situations.

Because you believe in something. Something that matters.

Truth is an accurate portrayal of reality. There is no such thing as "That is true to me, but not to you." It is either reality or it isn't, it is either true or it isn't. It may be honest to say, "This seems to be true to me, but you don't think so." That is perception, and perception is deeply influenced by culture, education, ability, and experiences. While there is only one reality, the way people see that reality can be unsteady. Which is the reason for education.

Education helps us make sure our children learn to see the world accurately, and then to act with courage in light of truth. This is what good education does: children learn to read and listen and watch, carefully and with discernment. For the sake of sorting out truth from lies. Developing skills to look at information and decide whether the information is true is a major, if not the major, reason for education. Figuring out: truth or lie?

Those decisions of truth or lie, in large and small, drive our actions. Is the advertisement true that the new car is worth the expense, or not? Is it true that the hamburger with cheese is better tasting than the one without? Are people valuable, or not? Our decisions of truth or lie determine our choices and actions.

For those who believe that the Bible is God's word and is accurate, solid truth about reality is available. Truths that give a child a reason to take a stand and to step out, even when risky. Eternal truths about God and man, about man's need, and God's answer. Eternal truths about the power of real love, hope for change and the future, and the strength of humility. And, so much more that helps children have a real, a true, understanding of life.

Truth isn't just philosophical, a propositional statement about life. It is also personal, developing and acting on an accurate and truthful view of self and those around. As Jesus says in John 8 in a fairly long discussion of truth and its value, "the truth will make you free." The more an accurate understand of reality is understood, in ideas and self, the freer we are to be something new and to walk with courage and grace in life.

How do we help our children learn to discern reality and the importance of truth?

First, make skills for discovering truth and a desire to seek truth at the top of our goals for our children, to give them the opportunity to be and do what they were created for, to walk through life with courage and impact. Don't settle for an education that doesn't care about truth and the skills needed to discover it.

Second, model a life of truth seeking and truth using. Do our children see us looking for what is true, what is reality in the big pictures of things and in our own lives? Do they see us acting on truth?

Third, make truth telling part of your child's whole day, every day. As Moses writes in Deuteronomy 6, teaching God's words throughout the day is vital. And, to be ready for teachable moments when your child asks what things mean (verse 20). How do you do this?

Satan is called the deceiver, the father of lies. He wants to teach children that there is no way to know truth and that whatever someone thinks is true is okay. If learning truth and using truth are not high on our agenda for our children, Satan wins, we lose. Children drift into the rubbery land of half-truth and "whatever someone thinks" and have no reason to have courage, to act with confidence and conviction. The belt of truth that Paul tells about in Ephesians 6 holds everything together in this battle with Satan.

Why have courage? The first reason is truth. Truth important enough to make stands and take steps in life.

Next time, the second reason for courage: love.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Building Bravehearts Pause, but not in the Need

I am convinced more than ever that children need courage, that they need to have brave hearts to use the gifts God gave them and take advantage of the opportunities that He gives. That they would have the best that God offers and not lose it because of fear, like Israel did when they first went in the Promised Land. But, because of fear, the Promised Land went to another generation. It could have been theirs.

I am encouraged about works and books that are infiltrating our culture, like "Mindset" and "Flourish" that take a psychologist's approach to the same idea that Paul said two-thousand years ago when he told fathers to not exasperate their children, so they would not lose heart. A lost heart gives up, it is the opposite of a braveheart, and a mindset that says "try" instead of "cower."

So, I have not given up on these ideas that are rooted in the Bible, long before psychologists began uncovering them.

However, I am going to take a "pause" (which, if you see how much I have written in Building Bravehearts recently, you would know I have already paused). While I will continue to explore new ideas about Building Bravehearts to help parents, I am going to shift some of my "free" time in writing to a couple of other areas, primarily building "biblical" schools (schools not only teaching truth, but operating according to eternal truths from Scripture) and sharing other specific educational insights from my thirty some odd years of school leadership. I also hope to explore some more personal things God has taught me.

I have not given up on Building Bravehearts. As I see ideas I will keep dropping in an occasional blog. And, I am confident I will come back. It is sorely needed in our world and for our children today. Satan traffics in fear. Our culture rattles foundations of truth, making children--and adults--hold back from conviction which helps overcome fear. Parents, through both hovering over children and neglecting them, increasingly create children who give up, who are afraid to try. Children must have heart, and it is increasingly important.

But, for a season, I think I can help more in my limited time in some other areas.

Please, explore some old blogs. Generally they are not tied to certain events and hopefully may give some glimmer into how to help your child be a Braveheart, willing to try and fulfill all God intends for him or her.

Blessings.
JN


Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Courage to Let Go

Starling in Flight
Fraser's Birding Blog
When it is time to let go, it is mom and dad who need courage. I love this poem for any age, but especially in the coming season of graduations and letting go.

Richard Wilbur made me think of my three daughters and son in "The Writer."  I bet you can see yours in the poem below as well.

I first shared this in 2010. We still "wish what we had wished you before, but harder" for our children, who are now outside the window.


"The Writer"

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.



Do we open windows for our children, windows to the world so they can find their way out of us and to their call? While we hope for ease, can we watch and pray while they go through the hard work, knowing that a rescue weakens them and the battle gives strength and courage?

And, another reason to stay out of the way sometimes.  "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Succeeding in College

Below is an odd piece for Building Bravehearts. It is a piece I have been toying with to help address college success of students in Arkansas, where I live. I am convinced that academic ability is important, but more is needed to actually succeed in college. Notice that all seven qualities are themes throughout Building Bravehearts and can be used anywhere at no cost: character, service, passion, wisdom, mindset, relationships, and values. 
Your feedback is welcome as I refine the ideas!  


  Deep College Prep

            Only two states and the District of Columbia have worse college graduation rates than Arkansas.  Only thirty-nine percent of Arkansas students who begin a four year public college graduate within six years.

            What do we do about it?  How do we see more young people spend less time, less money, learn more, and graduate often?

I grew up in rural Kentucky with a suspect academic background.  Neither of my parents finished high school, my father only going through eighth grade.  He worked in a factory.  I should not have been one of those who graduated from college.  But, there are some reasons that I made it, reasons that go deeper than our traditional approach to increasing levels of graduation rates.  Reasons that will work for our children.

            The Department of Education has rightly focused on strengthening the quality of learning through elementary, middle, and high school.  The University of Arkansas system and other colleges are working with high schools, admissions, and incoming students to build their academic abilities.  These are needed and good.

            However, while increased academic quality is essential, we can’t stop there.  More is needed to succeed.  A student who has ability and has learned good skills and knowledge is like a basketball player who has natural ability and has been coached well.  The player needs that ability and those skills to play at a higher level.  But, he needs a lot more to succeed. He needs things like increased commitment, harder work, teamwork, coachability, and other personal qualities. A student going to college also needs ability and skills. But, the student needs strong personal qualities to actually make it through college and graduate.

            Below are seven competencies that will help any student succeed in college.  These qualities go deeper than academic ability alone.  When a student has them, the student more often succeeds and can even overcome a weaker academic background. With a good academic background and these deep college preparations, our students will have successful college experiences.

            First, a student needs strong character.  Character will keep the student making good choices when away from home.  Poor choices about time, money, and people lead to failure quickly.  Courage to do right can be learned.  Parents help children develop strong character by being examples and by making sure their children have other adults and peers who value positive character.  As parents live out good character, they should talk about what is important and why with their children, even teens.

            Second, a student should focus on others.  Learning to serve others will help a student fit into a bigger world.  If a student thinks that everything is about him and then runs into the realty in college that life isn’t that way, he crashes and gives up.  Families and schools can encourage students to meet needs in their community or further away. Becoming involved with people different than their family can help students prepare for the bigger world of college.

            Third, a student should have a passion for something important.  This passion will give him a direction in college and a reason for what he is doing.  While passions may change, parents who encourage children to pursue a purpose with heart will have children who expand their abilities, grow strong, and do amazing things.  Listen and encourage dreams.  Avoid telling a child it is impossible or that he is too young for something big.  Give him or her purpose.

            Fourth, wisdom will help a student gain respect and manage day-to-day life with friends and finances.  Wisdom is the practical application of things we know about people and life.  It says things like, “be slow to speak,” “be slow to anger,” and tells us that words are pretty empty without actions.  Expect children to pause before reacting, think about good ways to solve problems, and to treat people right.  Wisdom is a powerful gift to give children to prepare them for college success.

            Fifth, a student with a great work ethic will make good use of money and time in college.  Not everyone will be a scholar with straight A’s, but everyone can become the best they can be. Parents should not let children think that grades or honors can be bought or they deserve them.  Applaud effort, not grades or touchdowns scored.  Effort will serve students well in every situation, especially if things are hard.  A student with a mindset of working hard to make things better instead of giving up will do well in college.

            Sixth, good relationships are important for college success and life.  Lone rangers can get wrapped up in their own thoughts and not get the support that a college student needs.  They are at a great risk for emotional problems.  And, much of success in college and life depends on working with people.  Help children become involved in groups and activities in which they have an interest.  Be relentless to find a place and a group where children are doing something they enjoy with others outside of class in school, church, or the community.

            Seventh, a child who values education will find ways to get it and make it work.  Adults in children’s lives must value education and make sure their children know how important it is to them, both mothers and fathers.   While my parents didn’t finish high school, I knew all of my life that education was important to them, especially for my sister and me.  They taught us that education was the way to live a different life with opportunity that they didn’t have.  I valued it and that value kept me going.


            While these seven ideas for deeper college preparation won’t guarantee that children will succeed in college, they will give them a much better chance of a wonderful college experience that ends in graduation.  As parents, schools, and churches are intentional about preparing students in these areas, deep roots grow to support college success.  At little cost and possible for every child.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Poles in the Way

All of the sudden, a barricade of poles appeared on the steep part of the trail where I walk. I have seen a lot of odd things in these woods, but never had someone put logs in my way.

I wasn't about to go around the poles just because someone put them there. And, stepping over was hard. I was irritated that someone had messed up my walk.

Until the fourth day. For three days I grumbled to myself as I climbed, having to lift my foot high to step over the poles. On the fourth day, I didn't lift my foot high enough, so I stepped down on the poles.

I realized that I had been making a mistake. Certainly complaining was a mistake, but my whole view was off. Probably because I didn't like someone interfering with my trail, I liked it how it was. My attitude clouded my eyes.

When I stepped down on the poles, I realized this wasn't a barrier to make it harder.

This was a step.

It actually made the climb up or down easier and safer. Why didn't I see it sooner?

I wonder how often I see things as barriers, as trouble, and they are really steps to help me get up or down. I wonder how the way I look at things makes them hard when they could be for good.

Isn't it this way with most problems? We really do learn from them, which then helps us take the next step even better.

Or fears. When we step right up to those things we are afraid of, instead of going over them or around them, we build courage for the next time and begin to look at obstacles as opportunities. We grow and learn that obstacles help make us who we are, for good. And, our example as we encounter problems influences others, especially our children.

Our children need to see problems and fears as opportunities to grow and make a difference, not something to strenously high step over or find another way around. The value comes from our attitude, our approach, to the obstacle. Grumbling and avoiding only bring us down. Seeing obstacles as opportunies takes us higher.

Is it an obstacle or an opportunity?

Courage is built by taking one step at a time.
Grumbling or giving in keeps our children from learning that they can step up, that things do work out, that God won't try them beyond what they can endure. That He is with them, now and in the future.

If we use the poles as steps

Let's help our children learn this much faster than I did!


Monday, September 30, 2013

The Most Common Command


N. T. Wright, in Following Jesus, says this:

"As the college barman in my undergraduate days once said to me, 'The trouble is, everything Jesus is against-I like.' But this conception of God is in fact a lie. The resurrection of Jesus proves that it's a lie. Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles? What do you think-'Be good'? 'Be holy, for I am holy'? Or, negatively, 'Don't sin'? 'Don't be immoral'? No. The most frequent command in the Bible is: 'Don't be afraid.' Don't be afraid. Fear not. Don't be afraid."

"Every one of us has something on her or his mind about which we badly need a voice to say: 'Don't be afraid. It's going to be all right.' As the Lord said to Lady Julian: 'All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.' Let's make no mistake about it: until you learn to live without fear you won't find it easy to follow Jesus."

We, and our children, won't find it easy to be and do what God has planned for us until we replace fear with heart. May we learn to trust. And, "All shall be well."

P.S. Thanks to Jim Wilhoit for leading me to this.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Afraid to Lose

We were closing on an undefeated volleyball season. Each match got harder. The opponents weren't getting better, but it was increasingly hard to play the way that got us where we were: smart, aggressive, loose. I remember a reporter talking with me about the team, asking what would keep us from going all the way, why we seemed to be struggling in the last couple of matches.

I didn't hesitate. "We are becoming afraid to lose."

The more we won, the more we became afraid to lose.
And, when you are afraid to lose, you play a different game. 
You hold up on hits, don't take chances, you just keep the ball in play instead of going for the kill.
Which gives the other team a chance, they become the strong ones, and you find yourself always in a defensive posture, digging and diving their hard hit balls instead of making the other team do that.

I watched a classic high school volleyball match recently. Two great teams with a long rivalry.
The match went to five games and it was close to the end.
But, you could see it, you could see it in their eyes.
You could see the favorite team, the one who usually won, become afraid to lose.
They weren't used to losing, but the other team had some good plays and had them down.
The favorites starting playing it safe. They kept the ball in play, but in a way that let the other team set well and hit hard. The favorites played defense instead of hard ball. They were afraid to lose.
They lost.

Fear freezes.
And, creates losers.
It is true in sports, relationships, work, growing. Pretty much everywhere.

We can help our children by teaching them to notice when they are taking a defensive posture. We can help them notice when fear instead of faith is driving their choices.

Noticing the slip into a defensive mindset lets a coach call a time out and tell the team what they are doing, to readjust their mindset and get back to what wins games.

Sometimes we need to help our children by calling a time out. Pulling them back from the busyness of life and pressures of the day and adjust their approach. And, maybe check our's to make sure we aren't the reason they are afraid to take risks and play to win, whatever the situation.

They need our help, our love that is deep enough to do what is best for them and helps them address fears.
"Perfect love casts out fear."

Timeout. Call a timeout. When things aren't moving forward and they are back on their heels. Timeout.

Pray and encourage and understand, so they can move from defense to joy and life, lived with passion and pursuing the win, not afraid of losing.