Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Courage to Let Go

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

"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
Starling in Flight
Fraser's Birding Blog
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).

Richard Wilbur

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Building Courage by Investing in Children

Building bravehearts with the courage to try depends on parents intentionally investing themselves in their children.  We make decisions every day about spending our limited energy and time.  Let me share three insights into the importance of investing energy and time in your children from an eclectic group of sources  I ran across this week, all saying the same thing: a country song, Harvard Business Review article, and a Bible verse.

I can't resist an occasional country song.  "Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold" by Dan Seals has become a new favorite, even though the song is old.  It talks about a rodeo star leaving behind her guy and their little girl, Casey:

"Everybody said you'd make it big someday,
And I guess that we were only in your way
But someday, I'm sure, you're gonna know the cost;
Cause for everything you win, there's something lost."

"But then sometimes I think about you, and the way you used to ride out
In your rhinestones and your sequins, with the sunlight on your hair;
And, oh, the crowd will always love you, but as for me I've come to know
Everything that glitters.... is not gold."

Next, Clayton Christensen, the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School writes in the July-August 2010 edition of Harvard Business Review:

"When people who have a high need for achievement...have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they'll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments.  And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we're moving forward.  You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted.  In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn't offer the same immediate sense of achievement...People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers--even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness."

Christensen says that instead of creating a family culture of successfully working together, parents often use "power tools" when children are young, forcing cooperation through power because it is easier.  But, he says, "there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work.   At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture of home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do.  Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently."

Christensen continues:  "If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won't magically materialize in high school.  You have to design them into your family's culture--and you have to think about this very early on.  Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works."

Last, Paul's blunt comment in Galatians 6:  "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

Let's have no regrets about where we spend our energy and time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thawing Cold Hearts

Dana and I climbed to Agnes Vaille Falls three weeks ago, in the mountains outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.  Agnes Vaille isn't a hard climb, lots of dogs and children.  But, it is always a great introduction to the thin air of the mountains before harder trails.  You climb along a rushing stream to the falls and look up to see it cascading over the rim, probably sixty or seventy feet above, bouncing off boulders to where you stand.

Agnes, like most of the water in the Arkansas River Valley, is fed by snow melt.  Because of unusual heat a few days before our trip, the snow melted so fast that the Arkansas River was flowing over forty-five hundred cubic feet per second creating dangerous white water.  When we arrived, it had settled to a more normal, but still stout, twenty-five hundred. As temperatures warm in the summer, snow packs melt, then icy water flows down Agnes Vaille and countless other streams to the Arkansas River providing wonderful hiking, sightseeing, and rafting. Without the snow melt from the mountains, Agnes Vaille Falls and the entire whitewater industry on the Arkansas river wouldn't be

When our children have lost heart, they can be like the snow pack that sits on top of the mountain, not making a difference.  Stuck.  Not fulfilling their purpose.  Until someone comes along who warms them, who touches them so that they melt and join the race down the mountain with others fulfilling the best God has for them.

How do you warm a cold, lost heart, a child who has given up and does not have the courage to try? How do we keep a child's warm heart flowing?

Unconditional love can penetrate and warm any heart.  When we love a child as God loves us, freely and without regard to what we do or don't do, the child has no reason to stay cold.  Love, God's way, is patient since some hearts need time to melt life's snow pack.  Does your child know you love him or her like this? Freely and patiently, not only when she is "good" or he makes you happy but when there is no response.  Being accepted and cherished, without condition, lets the warmth of love thaw a lost heart, freeing the child to take the next step toward joining others pursuing God's call on his or her life.  The mighty Arkansas River is nothing without warmth starting the flow, just like our children.

Photo from a great site at

Monday, July 5, 2010

Strength and Courage in Business

Most of our children aren't called to conquer lands through combat like Joshua did when he claimed the promised land.  While victory was assured if Joshua would believe God and go, casualties and blood were likely.  God's direction in Joshua 1 to have strength and courage made sense when fighting armies.

But, our children are more likely to face business decisions, angry people, and nagging questions of insecurity.  The same types of problems that Solomon met when he tried to build the temple.  His battles and fears were like those our children will meet.

The solution is the same.  To fulfill God's purposes and to have success, strength and courage are needed in business as well as battle. David tells Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22:13:  "Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statues and the ordinances which the LORD commanded Moses concerning Israel.  Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed."

Even though Solomon had 100,000 talents of gold, 1,000,000 talents of silver, and practically every other resource imaginable, David knew that his son would need to follow God and have strength and courage.  David knew that being king and having wealth weren't enough, fears and lost hearts are inherent in any endeavor worth pursuing.  Solomon, like our children, was in danger.  Solomon needed to be a braveheart to build God's house, just as our children need to be bravehearts to build their lives.