Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ten Reasons to Watch Bowl Games

Below are the top ten reasons to watch bowl games. If you watch too many games, you can use the excuse that you are finding examples of these ideas to share with your children, that you are really watching football to help them!  Here are the things to look for in the games:

10.  Trite, but true:  You are either in the stands of life watching or on the field playing.  Bowl players have a passion to play, not just watch. Bravehearts are not content to sit and watch others live. Feed your children's good passions so they get out of the stands and onto their fields.

9. There are a lot of games to watch.  Our "game" is not the same as someone else's game.  While the focus of our attention and energies should be on what we are called to do, it is also good to enjoy and celebrate with others.  Bravehearts know that life isn't about them, and while each has an important arena, it is good to take time to enjoy other games and celebrate with the winners.

8. The key for each of us is to have a "game," not always and only watching others.  A high school football player will spend most of his time on his own game, even though he takes time to enjoy watching the bowls.  We all need a stadium where we make a difference in life. Help children find their place, their role, their game.

7. Bowls aren't for everyone.  Only 5.8% of high school football players play in college, and a smaller number in bowls.  Only 0.08% of highs school senior football players are drafted in the NFL.  An even smaller percentage will play in the Super Bowl.  Most of us are not going to be playing life where a lot of people are watching. What matters is that we are doing our best in our own game.  Little is only little in man's eyes. Big is doing what God asks us to do. Help children value this question "What does God want me to do?"

6. Bowl teams have players with great skills and work ethics.  The teams won't get there without skill and hard work.  While skills may vary a lot, we can all develop our own skills to their best by a mindset of hard work and growth.  A braveheart isn't afraid to try, to grow, and to work to do his or her best in the arena God provides.

5. There is no shame in losing if you have done your best.  Some of the most inspirational players and teams don't win.  But, their play inspires others because they lay it all out there, not holding back.  They have prepared hard and give everything, so when they leave the field they almost need to be carried.  Where can your children experience that exhaustion of effort?  Know your children, then give them a place to lay it all out that fits each one.
No image to lose!
4. Giving up is sad.  Bowl players don't give up when it is hard or they are afraid. Two of my best friends and I tried out for football in ninth grade.  They were better than me, more athletic and more skilled.  But, they both quit in spring ball.  Practices were hard and they were afraid they wouldn't be the stars they were in junior high.  They didn't want to lose an image. I stuck.  I didn't play much, but I learned and enjoyed being on the team.  I guess I didn't have an image to lose!  Bravehearts know that giving up doesn't win games.  Hard work and courage keep you in it.

3. In our culture, many seem to need to be the star.  I have seen students quit a spring musical because they didn't get the leading role.  And, quit athletics because they didn't get the playing time they thought they deserved.  Besides giving up the chance to ever be a star, they also give up growing, learning, memories, and understanding how to help a group succeed.  Help children know that stardom is fragile and fleeting, but being a part of something bigger than yourself is solid and lasts.

2. Every role is important.  Maybe most important is the equipment manager who makes sure every player is not distracted and is safe to play!  Without the right equipment, no one plays.  Maybe it is a second or third string player who makes it hard for the first string player in practice, so the star gets stronger.  Maybe it is a role that no one notices, except when it doesn't happen. (What would happen to a football team if there were no groundskeepers or timekeepers?).  God gives abilities and places to use them.  Bravehearts go for it wherever they are placed, knowing that every role is important to their game's success.

1. Most important, bowl teams listen to great coaches.  Coaches fit the team together, selecting a range of roles and skills to meet needs.  They help develop abilities in the players who listen and work (if a player doesn't listen and work, he won't last long on a good team).  Coaches have a plan.While we have human coaches, bravehearts know that listening to the one Coach they can always trust and always follow will make them winners.  God wants to be followed and to give every child a place in life, prepared for him or her.  Let's teach our children to listen and follow Him, with courage.

Enjoy the games!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Last Day of Class

This week my Marriage and Family class ended.  Working as a principal normally takes away my time to teach, so it was a joy to work with my twenty juniors and seniors this semester.  But, I felt a little like Jesus in John 16 when He said He had so much more to tell his disciples, but they weren't ready and He knew His time was short with them.  I had so much more to say!

So, I was down to one class to try to give them everything important about marriage and family, summarizing what we studied and covering what I left out.  Here is the handout I gave them:
(I did not know it was going to look like a face as I drew can make the bottom line smile or sad, or turn it into a mustache so it looks like me.)

Let me explain, although I can only take a stab at the thirty minute talk and what the students knew from the semester.  I believe that the key elements for a positive marriage and family are here.

1. The triangle.  God is at the top.  The closer you and your spouse get to God, the closer you get to each other.  Restoring intimacy in marriage that was lost in the fall is a major goal for a couple.  Emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical intimacy grows as God is included and both get closer to Him.

2.  The left circle.  Marriage.  Number one to make a marriage good is to know "It is not about you."  While each person in a great marriage enjoys many benefits and joys, what makes it work is each person's commitment to serve the other.  As long as we focus on our job (love or submit/respect) and not on what we get, marriage is a lot more likely to be a great one.  Marriage is one of the best ways to mature because we have to learn "it is not about us" for it to work.  Giving up self, just what Jesus did, makes marriage work.

3. The right circle. Children.  Number one is to "Be there."  Parents cannot abdicate their responsibility or give it away to schools, babysitters, or churches.  Only a present parent can model, teach, and answer questions (a la Deuteronomy 6). Being there allows a parent to "bring them up" in God's discipline and instruction.  Children don't need you there 24/7 or smothering, but they need to know that you are on their side, always watchful and ready to be their parent. Even if you can't be there physically, let them know you are there for them and on their side.

4. Above the line.  Unconditional love.  In all relationships, commit to the other person's best, no matter what they do. Love that is unearned, that does not require performance, that never waivers in spite of the actions of the other is God's type of love for us.  It is there, even when discipline is needed and even when the prodigal leaves.  It waits and welcomes back.  It is about the other person. Know them and love them so they know they are loved.

5. Below the line.  No regrets.  This doesn't mean perfect relationships, but it means reconciling when things aren't right.  Asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness.  Keeping accounts short.  What will you regret in twenty or thirty years?  Do what you have to do now, right now, to fix it.  You never know what is going to happen in life, so by God's help, live with no regrets.

That's it.  Creating a marriage and family where bravehearts can thrive, where love is free and life is lived well.

Oh, and one more.  Pray.  In class we prayed every day for our families to be protected.  Good families are under attack.  And we prayed for their future spouses.  They are alive now and need their prayers.  And, pray for those God calls to singleness, it is gift and a high calling.

May God help my class as they move into their futures.  May God heal what is broken and protect what is sound.  And, may God give you joy in your marriage and family.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Essentials of Respect and Truth

Not long ago, a colleague and I were talking about what misbehavior we nailed when our children were young.  This was after spending a good chunk of the day with no success in trying to correct a student who was disrespectful and would not listen to us.  We discovered that mom and dad had the same problem at home. As we talked, my friend and I found that when our children were young, both of us had been very quick to stop disrespect and lies and to expect respect and truth.  And, we were strong in how we did it.

Young children have to value respect and truth. By the time a child is old enough to stand on his or her own two legs, the two legs of respect and truth need to be holding up wisdom development.  If a child has respect and tells the truth, a parent or a teacher can help him or her grow.  If a child learns early to give respect and to tell the truth, teenage years are easier, launching from home is positive, and he or she is more likely to have the courage to live life well as a braveheart.  Let me explain.

In Ephesians 6:4, Paul says to bring children "up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (NASB version). Discipline and instruction are tied directly to respect and truth.  Discipline only works when a child respects authority; if a child will not listen to a parent or a teacher, discipline will not be effective.  And, similarly, without truth there is no instruction.  Or at least no instruction of value.  Respect and truth are foundational to raising our children the way Paul says.

Respect is the recognition that I am not all that matters.  Respect says that someone else is important, and in God's order, listening to and cooperating with those "over" me helps me learn and is life giving.  Children who obey parents live longer.  Fools can become wise.  The fear, or respect, of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  A child who is "mouthy," rolls eyes at parents, and demands the last word will not learn from discipline. When faced with disrespect, a parent must not let the child win.  Disrespect in a teenager is a lot worse than in a five year old and a lot harder to fix.  Nail it young.  It is true that you "pay now, or pay later" when it comes to expecting respect.

Truth is the recognition that there are ideas and facts that represent life the way it really is.  The "truth" does not depend on how I feel or how I see it.  Truth, like respect, recognizes something outside myself and my way of seeing things.  Satan is called the "Father of Lies" because he loves to distort and confuse the way things really are; he knows that truth will lead us to God and right living.  Deception, cheating, and lies are about self and are behaviors that  hide truth and keep a child from repentance and real change.  Instruction only makes sense when one person has a truth that is valuable for the other to learn and is valued enough to learn. We teach our children to value truth by expecting the truth and telling the truth.  If we lie, even "white lies" and half-truths, our children's foundation of faith, where truth and trust go hand in hand, is cracked.

The courage to face fears in life depends on respect and truth.  A child who respects and fears God more than his peers or his own feelings will choose to be brave and do right, even when his friends don't.   Likewise, his respect and fear of his parents helps him be brave.  When I was young, a healthy fear of discipline from my Dad kept me out of a lot of trouble, often making me appear courageous to do right even though I was really just more afraid of what my Dad would do than what my friends would say.  When I got older and my Dad told me that he trusted me, I showed courage at times because I didn't want to let him down, I respected him.  Facing fears with courage often depends on a healthy respect of God, parents, teachers, and other authorities.

Similarly, truth helps a child bravely choose right. If a child knows what is true and right, those truths become beliefs.  And, beliefs become convictions that drive a person to face great fears, to do the right thing for God, people, and causes. For example, when a girl learns the truth that God cares about the weak and she really believes it, she will protect the weak or bullied no matter if friends make fun of her. As our children grow, teaching and modelling big ideas and eternal truths will give them convictions that lead to courage.  What are the truths you want to intentionally have your children know and believe?  Tell them and then cement them in by your example.

May God give you the grace to lovingly teach and expect respect and truth.  And, may you enjoy the fruit of your labor as your children grow and have these legs to stand on.

P.S. The student came back the next day, respectful and willing to listen.  The student learned and is now learning.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turn the Report Card Over

When you go to parent and teacher conferences, which I hope you do, take the grade card and turn it over.  Instead of talking about points needed to change an A- to an A, look at the teacher and ask, "Is she kind?" and "Is she trying?"  A child who can get along with people and who works hard will do well.  And, every child can succeed in these areas.

A mindset of working hard to learn and grow will help your child use and develop God given abilities.  When you focus on your child's effort and learning instead of grades, you teach him or her a deeper motivation that will bring not only good, deep learning, but is more likely to bring better grades as a result . Focusing on the details of grades or the points he or she scored in a game is short sighted.  Encourage the long term investment of learning, growing, and trying and let the results happen naturally and without anxiety.

And, a child who shows kindness and works well with others will be given ample opportunity to learn collaboratively, to learn leadership, and to learn the value of serving.  That child will be respected as he or she respects others, respects the teacher, and respects learning.  Character and compassion are rocks that will help a child succeed in school, work, family, and life.  When we focus our questions on character and compassion, our children learn what is important to us and those qualities become important to our children.

Grade cards give glimpses of how a child is doing in school.  They are good tools to recognize potential areas of need if things aren't working.  They help you have a sense of how your child is learning the educational objectives that are being assessed.  But, normally they don't give a lot of information on the important long term skills with people and a mindset of growth. It is our job as parents to make sure our children know what we value and to make sure that what we value is of prime importance. You will probably have to ask questions to find out about characteristics that are important, but not found on the reports.

Even if you missed parent and teacher conferences or you don't have them, how about a note to your child's teacher asking how your son or daughter is treating people?  And, what kind of attitude he or she has toward work and learning?  Avoid the little details of a point here or there and make a big deal out of love and trying. Let your child know you are checking these things.  This approach will pay off in the long run.  I hope you will enjoy the freedom of a focus on kindness and effort and are refreshed as you watch the results.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dagwood's Dream

Following a dream takes courage.  Dagwood has been in the same office job and carpool for a long, long time!  He is avoiding pursuing his dream, it would change his world.  He has a dream inside, but wants to keep eating pizza undisturbed.

God put ideas in Jeremiah's heart that needed to come out:
"Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it."
--Jeremiah 20:9

Jeremiah was mocked and beaten for saying what was inside him, but let it out anyway.  Dagwood doesn't want his dreams let out, life would change.

Dream pursuit is frightening.  Life changes.  And, lives are changed.

How do we help our children have the courage to pursue God planted dreams?  Give them a view of the world bigger than themselves and a home to think about what they see.  Let them know that God is calling them to follow dreams that are just for them.  Let's not be afraid of the tender spots and passions that God puts inside them, but help them discern and develop those ideas.  Let's trust a trustworthy God that His call on them is good.  It may be hard, but it is good.

Real life isn't about eating pizza.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Yoda, There is Try"

A few nights ago, Dana was out for the evening.  After making one of my favorite alone meals of fish sticks and beans, I pulled out our VHS copies of the original Star Wars trilogy and enjoyed some great memories and movies.  Still love it!
But, I did catch Yoda hurting the whole braveheart idea.
Yoda tells Luke, “Do, or do not.  There is no try.”  
Yoda was wrong.  In his effort to stop using “I tried” as an excuse for a half-hearted effort, Yoda may have ruined a generation who think they can go from fear and mediocrity to success and greatness without trying and the messy in-between part.  A generation that is misled to think that you either have it or your don't.
 To be successful in real life and not the movies, “try” and its companion risk of failure are real, demanding effort and courage.  Expecting success to come without the messiness of fears and possibility of failure isn’t real.  No one goes from “don’t do” to “do” without the courage to try, because “do” is not a gift or accomplished by a dream.  Waiting until you are sure you can “do” before trying keeps a lot of children in the bleachers and out of the game.  Waiting until you know you can "do" leaves out the value of growth and developing abilities.
Yoda promoted an unrealistic jump to achievement where the importance of trying is left out.  Many children don't succeed because they are stuck in bad spots where they don't try for different reasons.  Some have given up.  They feel like they can never make anyone happy, so why try?  Some have no purpose, they have found nothing outside themselves worth their energy.  Some don’t try because they think the fine life will be handed to them.  Others look around their small world and have no hope or think they have no ability.  It is a travesty for children to be stuck, without the courage to try.
But, our children don’t need to be stuck in a bad spot.  They can learn courage and be bravehearts.  And succeed. They can know you believe in them, that they are gifted, and that they have a great God they can trust. They can have courage to try, even if Yoda says there is no try.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Believe in You

I believe in you.
I know these are living words that seep into your being.
I know they will give you courage because someone is for you.
I know all children need to feel that mom and dad believe in them.
I know how sad it is when you feel alone.

I believe in you.
Not because you are perfect, you are not.
Not because you will always love me back, you will not.
Not because you are better than someone else, you are not.
Not because you did something, it is a gift.

I believe in you.
"Come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh."  "But...who am I?" "I will be with you."
"I have appointed you a prophet." "I do not know how to speak and am a youth." "Do not be afraid."
"Do not look at his appearance...God sees not as man sees."  "The youngest is tending the sheep." "Send for him."
"Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander."
"For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church."
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

I believe in  you.
Because you are mine, a trust God has placed in my hands for a time.
Because I am yours, I will be here for you and you can count on me.
Because you are gifted and called.
Because you are created for good works.
Because God loves you and gave His son for you.
Because I love you and nothing you can do will ever rattle my love, you are my child.

I believe in you.
I will do my best to be there for you.
I will do my best to hold you when you need held and let you go when you need wings.
I will do my best to tell you that you are a rebel, saved by grace.
I will do my best to tell you that you are saved by grace and gifted for a reason.
I will do my best to love you enough to discipline and to teach you eternity.

I believe in you.
You are God's child, prepared for good works.
Go and be.  I will be here to catch you.  I will be here to watch you fly.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Leading our Children through Fear

Sometimes it seems the hardest part of growing a braveheart is showing our children how to be brave and then giving them permission to use their courage when we can't protect them. Below is an excerpt from Donald Miller's recent blog, "Leaders Lead People Through Fear." Replace "leader" with "parent" (parents really are leaders, anyway) and get a sense of how we can lead our children through fear.

Here is the excerpt (with a link to the whole blog at the bottom):

Donald Miller
"I reminded my friend in an e-mail this morning that sometimes leading just means being out front, going to the places very few people are willing to go. But the cool thing about leaders is they show the rest of us that the path is scary but ultimately safe.

"As I e-mailed him, I thought about the few times I’ve gone through haunted houses with friends. For whatever reason, I sometimes feel like I need to be the guy out front. You know, the guy turning the corners first, feeling the walls, trying to find my way through the maze in the dark. But I assure you, I’m not feeling all that brave up there. I’m feeling terrified, to tell you the truth.

"Leading is like that sometimes. You’ve got a gaggle of screaming, giggling friends behind you, afraid of their demons, afraid of addressing their wounds, afraid of getting real about their coping mechanisms, and they’re looking for a shirt to cling to, somebody to bump into when the line suddenly stops because a guy just jumped out of a closet with a chain saw. They’re looking for somebody to scream with and to grab them and keep them from falling down. They’re looking for somebody to move them quickly through the room they’re in into the next room, the one that holds yet another challenge.

"To those of you who lead, I’ll tell you what I’m telling myself these days, and it’s the same thing I told my friend.

"The trick to leading a group through a haunted house is knowing the scary stuff can’t actually kill you. The management won’t let them.

"It’s the same with all the scary stuff we have to deal with, all the fear of abandonment and loneliness and wounds we have to address. They aren’t allowed to kill us. Sure we might feel some fear, and a lot of it. But in the end (even if it kills our earthly bodies) we don’t die. We just come through the other side with a knowledge we faced our fears, and we got out of that haunted house alive, our screaming and giggling friends in tow.

"If you’re a leader, just know you’re supposed to be a little afraid. And you’re supposed to be taking some people with you. And nobody can actually kill you in this thing. All they can do is yell boo. Be brave".

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Help

Dana and I finally went to see "The Help" and I am so glad we did.  It is about being a braveheart, a compelling story of justice, truth, and courage.  And, the difference that one young person with courage can make.

Let me share two lists.  The first, observations and questions that grew from the film. And, second, how we can help our children pursue right and truth with courage.

Observations and questions:

1. The preacher in the film spoke about Moses and his lack of skill to be a world changer, being "slow of speech and slow of tongue."  But, that meant that it was more about God and His power.  Moses just had to have courage and agree.  Where do I hold back because I am not gifted, even though God is ready to use me?  And, it just takes courage?

2. Some of the whites were mean-spirited and intentional about hurting "the help."  Others knew the help were being hurt, but were passive and watched instead of preventing the injustice.  Who was more wrong?  Which am I? Where do I need courage to step up and protect those who can't?

3. Many of the whites who were "good" people ignored or didn't even notice the hurt in the lives of the help and their families.  This was especially clear in the ironic contrast between whites raising money for poor "African children" overseas but ignoring those in need a few blocks away.  What am I not noticing because it is such a part of our culture?  Where am I looking far away when real people hurt here?

4. While not quoting scripture in the film, those familiar with "the truth will make you free" from John 8:32, would have thought of that passage at the end of the movie when "truth" and "freedom" were discussed.  Where do I not speak the truth, even though I know it?  Truth gives freedom.  Freedom from lies, burdens, and sin. It is worth the price.

5. Speaking truth is in some ways the easiest and yet the hardest thing we can do.  It is easy because you don't have to work to make it up or keep working to cover it up, like a lie. It is hard because it is seldom said without impact on the hearer and the teller. It is hard because the truth teller often pays a price personally--some of the help lost their jobs and the book author needed to leave town.  But, truth tellers are the ones who change the world:  Joseph, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul, Peter.  And many more.  Where can I be a truth teller?

6.  Personal experience with injustice inspires courage.  The author of the book in the movie was stirred through what happened to the lady who raised her and then the sad stories of others.  The "help" who told stories were motivated to help when they and friends were hurt.  Do I see and feel hurts around me that drive me to courage?  Am I looking?  If I had my Father's eyes, what would He be sad about in my world that I can help fix?

7.  The author of The Help, the book in the movie, had left the town for four years of college.  She came back with a different perspective that made her notice injustice and be willing to act, not just accept it.  Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from the intensity of day-to-day life to gain perspective on what is really happening.  How do we get a different look at our world?  Reading?  Spending time away?  Listening?

I am sure there are other observations and questions.  Those were the fresh ones, as we thought about the film.  And, as I began exploring what we can learn from the movie about building our own bravehearts.

Let's assume you want your child to be a braveheart, even knowing that the life of a braveheart is a life with danger. But, you also know that for your child to become all he or she can be, a life with courage is necessaary.  And, you are willing to let go and know that God loves your child more than you do.  If you want that life for him or her, here are a few suggestions inspired by the "The Help."

1. Support our children in their moments of helping make things right.  When one of my daughters was five, she was playing on a playground with her younger sister while we watched our son's soccer game.  We looked over and she was shoving a boy of about six to the ground.  While there were some feelings of being aghast, when we found out that the boy had been picking on her little sister and someone else, I was pretty proud.  There were others ways to deal with the problem, but I sure supported her desire to protect the weak.  She still protects the weak today. The mom of the braveheart author in the movie supported her daughter and showed pride in her impact.

2. Help our children gain a bigger perspective on life.  The braveheart author in the movie gained a different perspective from going to college out of the community.  It seems that often those most involved in injustice are stuck in a small world that they only see from their eyes and those around them. It seems that those who right wrongs have had their eyes opened with a different view.  Maybe not through living somewhere else, but travel, reading, education, visiting...learning to have a view of the world and people that isn't trapped by culture.

3. Help our children find and develop passions for important things.  Even three year olds can get excited to help Grandma or a sick neighbor.  As children see needs and have ideas, don't squelch them but help them go further.  When a middle school girl named Katie found out about congenital heart problems of children in Tibet, she found a way to save lives by creating a business making necklaces.  When some parents would have said, "You don't have time," her parents supported her, so much that Katie said, "It has changed our lives to change others. We have a passion to change the world."  Fanning sparks makes a difference.

4. Model the values of justice, truth telling, and courage.  I can't shake Micah 6:8, "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."  Do our children see us speaking the truth to make things right, in love, or avoiding truth telling for the sake of keeping the peace and avoiding conflict?  This is what the passive bystanders in the film did. Our children need for us to show them how we speak truth and do justice, even in small ways. They learn so much by watching us.

5. Give our children stories of courage.  The Bible is full of people who risked their life, through faith, to help redeem people and make things right.  Look for stories of people who took stands, spoke truth into lives, and refused to go along with the crowd when things weren't right. Read good literature to your children and talk about those heroes with courage.  Tell them about people who are truth tellers,even if they are not famous.  When we lived in Iowa, there was an older gentleman in church who a lot of people found intimidating because he spoke the truth, he wasn't afraid to ask hard questions and talk about the "elephant in the room."  It didn't make for gentle dinner conversations, but his courage changed me.  When one of the help stood her ground to tell the truth, others followed.  Her story changed them.

I am sure there are more.  While there is some rough language and intensity, "The Help" might even be one of those stories you can share with your older children by watching it together.  And use the questions above to talk about the film.

May God bless you as your have courage to raise your own braveheart.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Six Skills You Can't Live Without"

"The real risk is not risking." 

Joe Robinson in "Six Skills You Can't Live Without" demonstrates the benefits of Braveheart ideas like risk taking, initiating, experiences, absorption...really, just living life fully and richly for which we are created. But a life too many hold back from.  Joe explains studies that show how the six actions listed below contribute to long life, healthy life, and a fulfilling life where success is much more than making money or succeeding in athletics, education, or beauty.

The article supports the need for building bravehearts.  It demonstrates the values of a broad education, confidence in entering life wholly, and becoming who and what you were meant to be.

While I agree with Joe about the value of the six skills, I don't agree that they are for "leisure" time, "life outside the professional world."  I think these skills should be lived in all of life, not accepting that our professional lives and non-professional lives are handled differently, but that both should be lived heartily with the same depth and excitement that these six skills bring.

Here is part of what Joe says.  As you read, you might think about how each of these six skills can be encouraged in your child's life.

"Passions and the active leisure skills that create them work wonders for your health and outlook because they satisfy core psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and connection with others. This makeover show happens where it matters, inside. Yet this power of this health resource doesn’t filter down to us because of the ingrained notion that recreation and leisure are little removed from outright vagrancy, since they don’t produce anything (unless you want to call living a productive endeavor)."

"We concentrate all our skill-building and education on the work side, where we believe all the value is. Work skills–getting results, micromanaging, staying in the comfort zone–get you nowhere when it comes to activating your life, which is about input, not output; experience over results; letting go; and getting out of the straitjacket of habit."

"It takes another skill-set to create a fulfilling life outside the professional world. Here are some of the key leisure skills that get your life going:

1) Intrinsic motivation. Pursuing and enjoying experiences off-the-clock takes a different motivation than the work reflex of external results: intrinsic motivation. You do it for the inherent interest, fun, learning, or challenge. Research shows we enjoy what we do and remember much more of it (critical to memory, which is what tells you that you like your life or not) when the goal is intrinsic. Expect no payoff, and you get a big one, internal gratification.

2) Initiating. Instead of being told what to do or watching others doing the living, we have to break out of spectator mode and self-determine our lives to feel gratified. We need to research and plan activities and vacations, seek out and try new things, invite others to get out and participate, and if they don’t reciprocate, go alone.

3) Risk-taking. The real risk is not risking. Security is a red flag for the brain, which is built to seek out novelty and challenge. Make the risk intrinsic (the result doesn’t matter), and you’re able to venture much more, because, instead of having anything on the line, you’re just exploring.

4) Pursuit of competence. Since competence is one of your core needs, it’s a handy thing to build and sublime to feel. The idea here is that you want to get better at something–not to show off, not for anyone else, but for your own gratification. Pursuing competence leads you to build your skills at an activity to the point where it can become a passion. It’s a fabulous self- and life-sustaining skill.

5) Attention-directing and absorption. The work mind wants to get everything over with ASAP. The key to optimal experiences is being 100% engaged in what you’re doing now. That means losing the electronic devices and distractions and putting all your concentration on the activity at hand. The more absorbed you are, the more your thoughts and deeds are the same, and the happier you are. It’s called harmony.

6) Going for the experience. Observation and hanging back don’t satisfy the engagement mandate of your brain neurons. To activate a fulfilling life, we have to participate in the 40% of our potential happiness (the rest is inherited or due to circumstance) we can actually do something about–intentional activities. That’s the realm of experience. Experiences make us happier than material things because they can’t be compared with anyone else’s experience. They don’t lose value through social comparison. They are personal events that engage our self-determination needs."

"These skills take us inside the participant dynamic essential to a healthy and extraordinary life. They show us that the good life comes from a place quite a bit different than the recliner and that the script of nonstop production is about as accurate a route to satisfaction and aliveness as a divining rod."

The above is excerpted from Six Skills You Can't Live Without by Joe Robinson in Don't Miss Your Life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Turtle and the Rabbit

You may be thinking this should be "The Tortoise and the Hare."  But, this is a different story.

Sometimes I see the strangest things on my walks in the woods.  Today's "Turtle and Rabbit" gives insight into teaching your children at different times in their lives.  Wisdom from a turtle and rabbit.

There is one spot on my walk where the woods open and there is brush on both sides of the four feet wide trail.  Often when I get about five or six steps from there, a rabbit hops across the trail in front of me.  I can't figure out why, unless it is safer on the other side and I am frightening.

Yesterday the rabbit hopped across.  But, right behind the rabbit was a baby bunny, following mom across the trail.

Learning by Following
This is so much like our children when they are young.  Unless we have done something to hurt them, they love to follow mom and dad and do the things they do.  They are growing and learning leaps and bounds (hops?) as they find joy and comfort in seeing where a parent goes and what a parent does.  It is the "I want to be like you, Dad" stage.  What power to teach by our lives.  What a responsibility.  What an opportunity.

I know you can get tired of being followed.  It goes fast.  Cherish it.  Invite them, engage them, let them do the things you do as much as you can.  And, show them your heart.  And, courage.

But, then we hit the turtle stage, usually around twelve, but it varies a lot.

I ran into a turtle on the same trail.  He looked at me as I approached.  As I took a wide loop around him, the shell stayed put, but the head and eyes watched me.  Guarded.  Your teens are watching you.  They may not be following like they did before, but they are moving their eyes and heads to see if what you believe and what you say are for real.  They may not move their shell, but know that you are impacting their hearts as they watch what you do.  Example is powerful at all ages.

Learn by Watching
I took a turn and moved closer to the turtle.  You know what he did.  When I got too close, his head went inside the shell.  On my return trip down the trail, he was gone.

Yep.  Teens often operate the same way.  However you can do it, keep your relationship open.  Instead of expecting them to follow you like the bunny did, find things they will do with you.  But, ever so gently.  If mom and dad get too close, pry too much, there is a tendency to retreat.   And, if you keep pushing, they will disappear for a while if they can.  Give them time and they will come out again when they feel it is safe.

A few years ago I asked ten parents who had great teens what they did.  Everyone said the same thing:  "we keep a bridge open," a relationship, no matter what.  It might mean not getting too close sometimes.  It might mean being careful to "pick your battles" and let some things go that really aren't that important.  But, whatever you do, keep a relationship active.

That's it.  The "Turtle and the Rabbit."  Teaching your children isn't too complicated, really.  Know what you believe and want.  Talk about it.  Be intentional but not smothering.  Know which stage your child is in. Take advantage of the rabbit years.  And, know how turtles operate.  Young ones learn by following and they all learn by watching.  Live what you want them to learn.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why We Need Bravehearts

Let me confess my personal agenda behind Building Bravehearts.  I want to help equip and give courage to young people to make an impact for Christ in their world.  While success by anyone's definition is best achieved with courage, my agenda--or vision--certainly needs it.

I have two dreams that have haunted me.  Years ago, in the Chicago Tribune, I read a column by Bob Greene about 12 year old Liliana Ciprianu who was beaten to death by her step-father because he didn't like the way she dusted the house.  Apparently a bubbly, sweet girl. I still see her face with long dark hair. Greene wants to know who will come up with answers before another death happens.  He says, "The answers to all of this must be out there somewhere."  I dream that someone I know will find the answer for child abuse and unreached homes.

My other dream is global.  While I worked at Wheaton Academy, Chip Huber led a connection between our high school students and a community in Zambia.  We became immersed in the big picture needs of hunger, health care, water, and AIDS.  And, we saw ways to help solve those things locally.

Max Lucado in Live to Make a Difference (Thomas Nelson, 2010) says:
"The book of Acts announces, 'God is afoot!' "
"Is he still? we wonder.  Would God do with us what he did with his first followers?"
"Heaven knows we hope so.  One billion people are hungry, millions are trafficked in slavery, and pandemic diseases are gouging entire nations.  Each year nearly 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade.  Every five minutes, almost ninety children died of preventable diseases.  More than half of all Africans do not have access to modern health facilities.  And as a result, 10 million of them die each year from diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, malaria, and measles.  Many of those deaths could be prevented by one shot."

Lucado says that "God has given this generation, our generation, everything we need to alter the course of human suffering."  I believe him.

So, Bravehearts.  I work and write largely with fairly privileged Americans.  Anyone reading a blog has a computer and internet, thus resources well beyond most of the world.  I would love, through Bravehearts, to help every child make a difference in his or her world.  I would love for some to change the world.  We do have everything we need.

More often than anything else, a lack of courage holds us back from making a difference.  Fear kept Israel from the best God offered in the Promise Land.  Fear keeps all of us, at times, from stepping out in faith to do something special or unique.  We live in a world with fears, real and imagined.  Courage is needed.

In one of the few passages from the Bible to tell parents specifically what to do, Paul says in Colossians 3:21:  "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart."  Keeping heart is so important that God tells us to make sure our children don't lose it.  A child with a lost heart gives up and doesn't make a difference. 

But, a child with heart, a braveheart, will grow and become who and what God intended.  He will live out Ephesians 2:10:  "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." 

My two dreams are only two dreams. There is a world of other needs and dreams out there, down the street and around the world.  Wherever God leads a child, I hope that each is equipped and courageous to make a difference in ways that I can't begin to imagine.  I hope and pray each one is a braveheart ready for God's adventure and use.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fixing Overload Failure in Children

“I have found that the most dangerous disability is not any formally diagnosable condition like dyslexia or ADD. It is fear.”

Edward Hallowell says that fear of mishandling the large number of normal daily inputs is a major reason that gifted people don’t perform (in a 2005 Harvard Business Review article called “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform"). He continues: “Fear shifts us into survival mode and thus prevents fluid learning and nuanced understanding. Certainly, if a real tiger is about to attack you, survival is the mode you want to be in. But, if you're trying to deal intelligently with a subtle task, survival mode is highly unpleasant and counterproductive."

Hallowell explains that gifted leaders become so overloaded with inputs, information, and needs that their brain goes from an orderly and creative approach controlled by the frontal lobes to a survival mode of the lower brain characterized by “fear, anxiety, impatience, irritability, anger, or panic.” This overload creates a situation where the person “is robbed of his flexibility, his sense of humor, his ability to deal with the unknown. He forgets the big picture and the goals and values he stands for. He loses creativity and his ability to change plans. He desperately wants to kill the metaphorical tiger.”

The same thing happens to our children when they can't handle, as Hallowell says, “the hyperkinetic environment in which we live…Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many data points. Everywhere, people rely on their cell phones ,email, and digital assistants in the race to gather and transmit data, plans, and ideas faster and faster…As the human brain struggles to keep up, it falters…” Our children are faced with the same overload, but with less maturity to handle it.

(This overload is subtle and pernicious. Without thinking, I just clicked to my email to read a response from one of six notes I sent earlier for work. And today is a vacation day!)

Hallowell suggests four approaches to either stop or control the overload. They are good ones to incorporate into our parenting, as we help our children reduce fear from our stimulated world so they can grow and live freely in the world of learning, creativity, and courage.

1.  "Promote positive emotions" by "building a positive, fear-free emotional atmosphere."  A critical role for parents is to make home a positive, supportive place; it is a hard world out there, even in First Grade.  Physical contact and relationship are essential; make time for them.  Let's start by turning off screens and their inputs and replacing them with people, play, and creative places in our homes.

2.  "Take physical care of your brain with sleep, good diet, and exercise."  Children should never suffer or do less than they can because of an adult's lack of attention in this area. The basics are so important.  Let's make sure our children sleep and rest enough, eat foods that are healthy and that maintain steady glucose levels (not white breads, sugars, and power drinks), take vitamins, and exercise regularly.

3.  Develop strategies that help handle the overload.  For adults and children, have chunks of the day when email and videos are banned.  Don't use screens as the default in parenting, make screens the exception. Create a neat space; your office or a child's room can be messy, but there should be a clear place somewhere.  Help your child organize and prioritize needs rather than adding unnecessary burdens or getting frustrated when they aren't done well.  Give your children an atmosphere for work that works for them.

4.  "Protect your frontal lobes by staying out of survival mode all you can."  Guard your children's inputs and stressors, reducing the ones you can and helping them sort out the others with a plan.  Give them chunks of time when they don't have to experience the pressure or inputs.  Do things like play games or read books that require their total concentration on one thing so they can forget all the inputs except the one pleasant one they are doing.

You might want to look at Dr. Hallowell's site Crazy Busy for ideas on being busy, Don't Miss Your Life for ideas on getting inputs and fears under control, and 45 Things about life in the workplace (the picture above is from this site).

Or, even better, memorize Philippians 4:6 with your child, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Maybe study Jesus' life together and how he handled pressures and crowds.  And model for your children, "Cease striving and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

What does all of the input our children absorb do to them? Let me end with this quote from Luke's Commonplace Book, originating with Agatha Christie: "I suppose it’s because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas."  How do we help our children control fear and its consequences from the overload?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad's Courage

If you read through Braveheart blogs, you'll find a recurring theme:  the power of parents who model courage to their children.  No matter what we want our children to become, "do as I do" has a lot more impact on our children than "do as I say." That's a little frightening, isn't it?  Our children are watching.

Leslie Neff
As we move beyond the cards and grilled steaks of Father's day, I hope that we can do what my Dad did for me.  Even though he didn't always know it, I watched him a lot.  And I learned. He moved on to life with God over two years ago, but his impact on me still makes a difference every day.

From an outside look, Dad wasn't a world changer.  He worked as a machinist, lived in a modest home in Arizona, and managed to enjoy fishing and hunting as much as he could squeeze in while working and fulfilling his responsibilities.  But, the leap he made from a farm in rural Kentucky to the end of his life was over a gap that took more courage than I will ever muster.  He modeled courage to me.

I hope that when my children and your children look back they can say that they learned courage from us, courage to be bravehearts for the right things.  Here are some ways Dad modeled courage:

* He married my Mom, when he could have left her alone with child--me!  He had the courage to do the right thing instead of leaving.

* He sold everything he had and moved from his beloved Kentucky home to Arizona to help my Mom's health.  He pulled one small U-Hall behind his truck and gave up all he knew to do the right thing.

* He had the courage to give my sister and me a big vision, a vision for a life different than he had known.  His life wasn't bad at all, but he was bold to give us something new and big.

* He had the courage to quit smoking.  When he decided it was wrong, that was it. Courage and strength to decide what was right and do it without complaint and without turning back.

* He had the courage to serve my Mom for decades of illness, giving up his dreams to be at her side twice a day in her nursing home.  He had the courage to show how Jesus loves us.

* He had the courage to humble himself in his last couple of years on earth and let Jesus change him in ways that surprised me.  Sitting and talking on our porch in his last visit to us, I hardly knew this man who had God's grip on him.

My dad didn't talk much about these things, he just showed me.  That has made all the difference.  May you and I have such an impact on our children through our lives.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Call for Christian Risk

When I began Building Bravehearts, I decided that I wanted the bulk of blogs to be original.  But, I have bumped into other folks who have something strong to say about helping you raise your child with courage.

John Piper
Below is an almost ten year old article by John Piper that is so relevant, about the need for risk and courage.  It underscores the importance of intentionally raising bravehearts who become the people God wants and are free to love His way.

Pipers thoughts:

"For the followers of Jesus the final risk is gone. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). "Neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 3:38-39). "Some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish" (Luke 21:16, 18). "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

"When the threat of death becomes a door to paradise the final barrier to temporal risk is broken. When a Christian says from the heart, "To live is Christ and to die is gain," he is free to love no matter what. Some forms of radical Islam may entice martyr-murderers with similar dreams, but Christian hope is the power to love, not kill. Christian hope produces life-givers, not life-takers. The crucified Christ calls his people to live and die for their enemies, as he did. The only risks permitted by Christ are the perils of love. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:27-28).

"With staggering promises of everlasting joy, Jesus unleashed a movement of radical, loving risk-takers. "You will be delivered up even by parents . . . and some of you they will put to death" (Luke 21:16). Only some. Which means it might be you and it might not. That's what risk means. It is not risky to shoot yourself in the head. The outcome is certain. It is risky to serve Christ in a war zone. You might get shot. You might not.

"Christ calls us to take risks for kingdom purposes. Almost every message of American consumerism says the opposite: Maximize comfort and security - now, not in heaven. Christ does not join that chorus. To every timid saint, wavering on the edge of some dangerous gospel venture, he says, "Fear not, you can only be killed" (Luke 12:4). Yes, by all means maximize your joy! How? For the sake of love, risk being reviled and persecuted and lied about, "for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12).

"There is a great biblical legacy of loving risk-takers. Joab, facing the Syrians on one side and the Ammonites on the other, said to his brother Abishai, "Let us be courageous for our people . . . and may the LORD do what seems good to him" (2 Samuel 10:12). Esther broke the royal law to save her people and said, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16). Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down to the king's idol and said, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:16-18). And when the Holy Spirit told Paul that in every city imprisonment and afflictions await him, he said, "I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course" (Acts 20:24).

"Every Christian," said Stephen Neil about the early church, "knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life" (A History of Christian Missions, Penguin, 1964, p. 43). This was normal. To become a Christian was to risk your life. Tens of thousands did it. Why? Because to do it was to gain Christ, and not to was to lose your soul. "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:25).

"In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising. Things are getting back to normal in "this present evil age." Increasingly 2 Timothy 3:12 will make sense: "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Those who've made gospel-risk a voluntary life-style will be most ready when we have no choice. Therefore I urge you, in the words of the early church, "Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:13-14).

"When God removed all risk above
He loosed a thousand risks of love."

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:
May 29, 2002

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Peeking at the Eye Chart

A few days ago I went for my annual eye doctor visit.  The nurse had me look through machines that took pictures of my retina, scanned the cornea, and flashed lights for me to watch.  Then we came to the electronic version of the traditional eye chart.  Without my contacts, I didn't recognize the big E at first.  I am thankful for eye doctors!

As the nurse had me read different letters with one eye at a time, she told me that children often peek with both eyes so they can tell her the right letter.  They are more interested in getting the answer right than following her directions.  Their attempts to "cheat" were often humorous and she was on top of it.

These children had learned that getting the "right" answer is most important.  And, they will break the rules to get there.

This happens with children in school.  Many just want to get the "right" answer, get the grade, and move on without the deeper values gained from applying themselves.  Real learning with deep benefit takes more time and work than just coming up with the right multiple choice letter for the current quiz.  The hard work of growing that leads to real success is shorted by the student who just tries to get the right answer down.

Somewhere along the way the growing process has given way to the shortcut.  Its true in education.  Its also true in things like relationships and business.  This tendency has been around along time.  The Pharisees did it.  Here is part of a parable Jesus told in Luke 18:

"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: God, I thank you that I am not like other people:  swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get"

The Pharisee missed the point.  He created a little grade card and gave himself A's for fasting and tithes.  He thought he was righteous ("right"!).  Jesus said that the Pharisee would not be justified because "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled."  It isn't about getting the grade, its about what happens deeply inside.

There is pain and pleasure in the growing process.  A braveheart has the courage to go through the process of hard work, risk taking, and perseverance, strengthening himself and laying the foundation for life time success.  Shortcuts don't work for becoming strong.

I worked in my yard last weekend for about four hours.  I got carried away pulling weeds, trimming hedges, fertilizing, and watering.  I was tired and sore.  But, I also felt great from the exercise and looked with pleasure on the work of my hands.  Because I took the time, I gained not only physically but in my joy.  While I could have paid someone to do the yard, my investment in the process helped me become stronger and brought me both pain and pleasure.  If I had paid to have it done, I would have examined the work to make sure it was done right, but I would not have gained in myself like I did through my investment in the work.

Bravehearts need to know that shortcuts usually don't help them in the long run.  Perseverance, tenacity, hard work, and investment produce growth and success.  Not finding the fastest way to get it right and move on.  Growing and real impact requires dedication and commitment, something a braveheart understands.

How can we help our children avoid the tendency to just get it done any way possible?  And, to learn the pleasure of a hard job well done, growing through the process?

As in most things, we can begin by being a good example.  What shortcuts do I take to get the checklist done, but give me superficial results without lasting impact or value?  Do we have places where we are expedient instead of investing?  How can I be an example of perseverance in work and relationships to create lasting value?  Example is always our first step.

Then this.  Work with your child.  If you are going to rake the leaves, have her help.  Have her learn that the process can be joyful and rich even if it is long and hard.  Have her fell the pain, but have her rejoice in the job well done and create memories of spending time together on a project.

I used to do house projects a lot, often so that the kids would learn that they can do things themselves.  I wanted them to learn that everything doesn't have to be paid for and that they can tackle all kinds of needs.  I invited them into the process.  Was it slower and sloppier having them help paint the bedroom wall?  I am sure you know the answer.  But, they learned.

Invite your children in the real world of work, without shortcuts.  Have them help garden, paint, wash the car, help with taxes.  And, do them together so you can teach, build relationship, and they can learn the joy of the process and the pleasure and gain of work well done. 

A good example.  Work together.  Great memories.  Powerful lessons.  It takes time and work on our part, but as in any process, the invested time and work in our children pays rich dividends, accompanied by some pain along the way and the pleasure of a job well done as you see them become bravehearts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Sisyphus and Motherhood and Coffee"

I am convinced that it is in the routines, in the power of endless moments, that lives are shaped and bravehearts formed.  While big events may break bound hearts and open eyes, daily life shapes the pieces and fits them together. 

"Mama: Monk," Micha Hohorst, shares her life with little ones and the struggle for these moments in her most recent blog on April 28, "Sisyphus and Motherhood and Coffee".

If you are looking for a blog to follow about a mom raising her young children that is refreshing and real and beautiful, you might like to follow Mama: Monk.  I pass it on because building bravehearts is so much about those little, real investments that she is living.

Here is another sample from her March 29 post:

"When I started this blog, one of my deepest fears was whether or not God could ever be pleased with who I am: the simplicity of my life. I had always wanted to be a woman who rescued orphans and dug wells for the thirsty and sacrificed comfort for the sake of the broken. And instead I found myself a SAHM in the middle of comfortable America, my only suffering being my lack of a washer and dryer. What was I doing for the world? Sure, I believed God loved me, but could he really be proud of me? After all, despite the sacrifices all moms make, it wasn’t hard for me to love my kid. And that’s what I did…All. Day. Long."

"Since then, I’ve been a slow transition of my heart and mind. It’s not that I never knew God loved me, it’s simply that I’ve begun to believe it. I believe that when I practice the most mundane exercises of motherhood, I am living in God’s sweetness. I no longer hold fast to a version of God that has a Wall of Fame with his best and brightest smiling in frames. Instead, I rest in the reality that God adores me because I’m his, not because of what I contribute to his cause. Lord knows, even if I’d chosen an entirely different path, none of my striving could have landed me a spot on that Wall."

"So, as I went about my Monday, wiping baby Brooksie’s butt while August stood on a chair beside the changing table and laughed about poop, while I sat on the floor nursing while pretending to be Mater (the tow truck from the Cars movie), while I read stories and told August for the 18th time that it’s so sweet to kiss your brother but you have to be gentle with his head, I felt something new. It was God’s pleasure. God was being kind to me, not because I’ve earned a great place in the Kingdom of Awesomeness, but because I haven’t."

"There’s a verse in Zechariah (chapter 4, verse 10) that asks the question: “Who dares despise the day of small things?” I first discovered that question six years ago, when I was straight out of my MFA program and working as an administrator at a construction company. It was not the job I’d dreamed of doing. (My dream was to somehow have my poems discovered and to become a great poet who could then afford to build a lot of wells around the world.) So, I’d tell myself that I could find joy in filing work orders, organizing plans, and making phone calls to subcontractors who called me 'girl.' "

"And though that passage dwelled with me in that season, I feel more and more like it’s settling into my core. Yesterday was a day of the smallest of things: the survival of two children, their nourishment, their snuggles, the building of a foundation of love in their lives. Who despises that?"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in a Braveheart's Life

Death. Then life.  The pattern of Easter, that Jesus died for us and was raised from the dead.  The penalty for my sin paid, the proof and power evident in His resurrection.

It is the same pattern we are called to live daily:  death to self, life in Christ.  It is the same pattern that strips us of any reason for pride, but at the same time gives us an inestimable reason for living and power to become the person God wants, doing the things He has called us to in life abundant.  A life well lived.

"Jesus Resurrected" (Anna Kocher, 2006)

It is the same pattern that our children need to learn to become bravehearts.  Die to self.  Live in Christ.

Yet, we often don't want our children to go through the hurt of giving up self and the humility it takes to let Christ live in them.  This is not the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons or reality TV episodes.  It digs to the innermost hollows of bone and contorts our insides while it happens.  It is at once something that we want for children because we know it is best, but we are afraid of it.  Something that we prepare them for, but don't want to relinquish our control and the life we plan for them so that God can take over.

In all of our work as parents-support, protection, managing risks thoughtfully, providing opportunity, teaching them truth and surrounding them with people who do the all of our work to prepare bravehearts, we are reluctant to loosen our control and let go of our pride at the most critical moments and let them go alone, which they must.  We can build them strong and catch them after, but we have to let them jump.  Moments where self is lost and Christ is gained are lonely, except for His presence.

Perhaps this is on my heart now not only because of Easter, but because of the current season in the life of schools.  It is the season of awards assemblies and celebrations.  Honor roles, "The Best of Class"...or whatever the name is in your world.  Athletic awards, academics awards, citizenship awards, art awards, college admissions, scholarships, and the applause of spring plays.  The list goes on.

It may be one of the most dangerous times for building bravehearts, depending on how mom and dad handle all of the honors being passed to children.  If personal honor is important to us, it will be important to our children. If he or she isn't noticed in a play, doesn't get the award we dreamed she would, or is accidentally missed in the big presentation, what do we do?  And, what does it say to our child?  Personal glory is antithetical to dying to self and Christ in me.  How big a deal is the honor to you, for your child?  Are our words and actions as parents telling our children that life is about them and their glory, or about Christ and growing like Him?

Probably one of the saddest pictures I have stored in my head are the scenes of parents losing control with a teacher or coach because their child wasn't properly honored.  Usually in public and usually embarrassing.  And, always telling their child that personal honor is most important.  Glory is what it is about, not growth.  Children learn from mom and dad.

Let me share a piece by Henri Nouwen from In the Name of Jesus:

"Beneath all of the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair.  While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world."

After describing the desolation of those who look for fulfillment in our secularized world and its glory and methods, Nouwen gives the solution: 

"Before Jesus commissioned Peter to be a shepherd he asked him, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others do?' He asked him again, 'Do you love me?'  And a third time he asked, 'Do you love me?'  We have to hear that question as being central to all of our Christian ministry because it is the question that can allow us to be, at the same time, irrelevant and truly self-confident."

Love Jesus.  Not self.  Let Him live in you.  Irrelevant and self-confident. What a fascinating paradox, the more our children seek glory, the more likely they don't make it and come up sad and empty, not growing and becoming what they can be.  It is short sighted.  But, when they focus on Jesus and others, not self, and let Him live in them, they actually grow more and are more likely to gain some glory, now or later.  But, that glory means nothing to those children except a dangerous tug at pride.  Applauding those who do well is great, but the applause that matters is from One Person.

What do we do?  Applaud things like effort, selflessness, and unconditional love.  Put them in places where they can see others model a life lived in Christ and the joy of growing, not glory.  Model it:  do those things behind the scenes that no one ever sees, because children do see and learn.  If they get an award, say "Great job, You worked hard, and I am proud of you," but say the same thing if they don't get the award...if it is true.  Talk about different gifts and abilities and how each is important to God.  Let them know that God does not make mistakes.  Show them how to live for One Person, not for the acclaim of others.  Love them unconditionally, not only when they perform and achieve.

Peter says in First Peter 4, " And, all of you, clothe yourselves in with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the might hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casing all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."

And, Paul in Colossians 3,  "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Managing Risk for Life's Adventure

Whitewater rafting is dangerous, which is what makes it so much fun.  Dana and I sat overlooking the Seidel's Suckhole on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista, Colorado and watched rafts flip, a potentially life threatening event.  (You can see one video here: Seidel's Suckhole.)  Is it dangerous?  Yes.  Is there risk?  Yes.  But, there is risk with almost anything worthwhile.  The key is managing risk.

A prime parenting task is to teach our children how to manage risk.  For a five year old, it might be learning which streets to cross and how to do that safely--some streets aren't safe, ever.  Some crossings require knowledge and maturity a five year old just isn't ready for.  So much of life is in assessment, preparation, and facing risk.  Risk is everywhere, from the decision to let a toddler use a fork to teenage driving and dating to guys like me deciding whether to climb up on the roof to fix a shingle.  How do we manage risk in life so our children can be bravehearts?

The first step to good risk management is assessing the risk.  Is there "no real danger," "danger to manage," or "danger to avoid."  Making this decision isn't easy. Lying down to take a nap in your bed sounds like "no real danger."  Unless bed bugs have found a home there. Good risk assessment often involves using a lot of information, which is why we don't let ten year olds drive; wisdom of age, experience, and training make some things safe for some people but a danger to avoid for others.  We often practice risk assessment without really thinking about it, but intentional thought will help you make good decisions about risks, opening some doors and closing others.

The second step for risk management is preparation.  If a teenager is mature enough to drive, good training and practice will make it a "risk to manage" and doable.  The video of the rafts at Seidel's does not show what happens before and after the rapids to manage the risk.  Seidel's is safer than it looks for the customers of whitewater companies who have prepared well.  A video clip, a news story, or a rumor doesn't always give an accurate picture of risk because they focus on the danger and not the preparation that makes the risk safer.

While managing the risk appropriately did not originate with Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting and Adventure Company(Noah's Ark Colorado Rafting), it is where I first saw it implemented well.  While other companies may manage risk by careful preparation, Noah's certainly has developed a strong plan for preparation that comes long before any dangerous rapids and prepares for safety after the rapids.

To minimize risk, the guides prepare intensively by studying books, then riding with others on the river and swimming the rapids to experience the danger first hand.  Then they row the rapids again and again until each is checked out by a supervisor before taking a commercial group in that section of the river.  They have learned to avoid dangerous situations.  And, they have practiced emergency situations like flipped and torn boats, know emergency aid, and organize their pods of boats so that newer guides are always under the watchful wings of experts who can help if needed.

If there was a Noah's Ark raft at Seidel's and the video looked down river, to the right, you would see Noah's Ark guides standing in the water with rescue lines and boats ready to help anyone in trouble.  Not only did they prepare to minimize risk before the rapids, but were ready to make it safe if there was a problem with help to get out.  Risk, yes.  But strong preparation with experience and a way out, if needed.  A solid approach to risk management for anything.  (For a video on Noah's rafting click here: Noah's Ark - Colorado Rafting video.)

Teaching a five year old to cross the street begins with maturity.  Then, preparation begins with verbal instruction followed by practice with mom or dad holding his hand.  Next, crossing while a parent watches beside the road.  Finally, a solo trip with a parent probably peeking out a window to make sure he gets to the neighbor's house.  Always ready to yell or rescue until the child has the practice and experience to do it alone.

A few years ago, our daughter, Kristie, travelled for two months throughout Central America with another young lady, Hannah.  Our parental wisdom was questioned a few times by friends.  But, we had assessed the risk.  Kristie and Hannah had worked as river and mountain guides.  They had experience travelling to other countries and big cities, even organizing trips and being responsible for others.  They had a track record of making good decisions, knowing people, and being resourceful.

They had a plan.  And, a back up plan for safe homes and places if something didn't go right, which was good, because the first spot to stay for a week was a sustainable farm community that was so spooky they left after one day.  They followed Plan B, wading through miles of mud instead of waiting for the twice-a-week bus to get to a safe place. Kristie even dyed her hair dark to avoid being noticed because they had learned ahead of time about the common macho approach to girls from young men.  They prepared well.

The girls had maturity and experience.  They planned well and had backup plans.  The trip was wonderful, with rich stories after they made it home.  It was not entirely safe; the trip was risky.  But, what could we do as parents?  Deny the trip for which they had carefully prepared?  As Madeleine L'engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, asks:  "But do we want unmarked children?  Are they to go out into the adult world all bland and similar and unscarred?  Is wrapping in cotton wool, literary or otherwise, the kind of guidance we owe them?"

Do we really want children who are safe but heartless, protected with padding we provide and shaded by the umbrella we carry over them, so they can watch the world happen?  The goal is to teach them to live an abundant life.  Good risk management makes living this adventure possible and allows bravehearts to grow.