Sunday, November 25, 2012

Courage for the Dark Trail

Did you know that a rabbit's eyes are red when a light shines on them in the dark? But, a deer's eyes are bright green? At least I hope it was a rabbit and deer in the woods while I was walking not long ago!

My new headlamp let me walk in the deep dark. On the trail where I have walked a thousand times. But which looks very different at 6:00 in the morning in October. Things I have never seen or felt before and a lot of things I could not see, like eyes without bodies and whatever else might be standing inches from me. Elevated senses and jabs of fear were new, in the dark.

My headlamp gave me courage to walk boldly forward.

It took some adjusting. How far out should it shine? At my feet, a couple of car lengths, or as far as it could reach?

I found that a couple of car lengths was about right. Enough light to place my feet. Enough to feel secure that I wasn't sharing the trail or its proximity with a monster ready to pounce. And, if I set the light too far, I didn't get enough light up close to see small items like snakes, turtles, and rocks. Not pleasant to step on those.

Two car lengths of light let me have the courage to move boldly and quickly, confident in my safety and free from danger in my steps.

We can give our children courage by helping them see some things, helping them look far enough ahead that they have confidence in the next steps. Looking ahead with them and planning is like a light on the trail, they can put down their feet and anticipate the near future. Young children can learn to think through the next few minutes, elementary to talk about what is going to happen today or this week in school or with family, and teenagers can look even further, thinking of months and years. Most children crave knowing what lies ahead, as do adults, so they can prepare mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is frightening to go into an hour or a day or a year and see nothing except red and green eyes shining out of the darkness. Help them see and plan, within our human limitations. Sit down with them and talk about today, or look at a calendar together. Or a road map on a trip. Help them prepare so they have courage and can do their best.

Obviously, our headlamps only shine so far and don't show everything that might jump in front of us. Learning to know that God is in control gives courage when things change and to walk past the limits of our eyes. Proverb 16:9 reminds us that "the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Learning to look ahead is an important courage-giving skill for children, but an even greater life changer is that God is in control, even of our plans. I am so glad of that!

As we help our children look ahead, and trust God, let's not forget to use God's "headlamp." Psalm 119:105 says: "They word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path." As we understand His word, we see our path more clearly than anything we can create. He gives light and lights our path, step by step.

Take aways?
1. Help our children look ahead so they aren't afraid of the eyes glowing out of the dark. Help them prepare and plan, an important skill for giving courage to take the next step.
2. Know God is in control. Things will change, but He is never surprised and He takes care of His children.
3. Use God's word to light your path and your child's path, a lamp they can always depend on.

The courage to try depends on these.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What a Child Needs

Protection, Relationship, Discipline, and Failure
I am not sure if we have a good understanding of what a child needs.

Or, if we really know and it's just hard to deliver.

I think we know. I think it is hard to deliver.

In his excellent 2012 book, How Children Succeed, Paul Tough does a good job summarizing what a child needs by applying research results to his son:

"First, as much as possible, you protect him from serious trauma and chronic stress; then, even more important, you provide him with a secure, nurturing relationship with at least one parent, and ideally two. That's not the whole secret to success, but it is a big, big part of it."

Let's stop there. I understand this, but how do I do it?

What creates trauma and chronic stress in homes? Not war, right now. Family dysfunction? Mom and dad at odds? Constant pressure to perform? Chronic stress is not only a killer of physical health, but thwarts a child's success. Some things we can't control, like health loss. But what can we control to prevent chronic stress? Certainly our own emotions, with God's help. What else?

And, even more, a secure, nurturing relationship with a parent, ideally two. Are we too distracted to make sure each child has a secure relationship? Are we too unsettled ourselves to provide a secure relationship? Can we give up our own interests enough to take the time to build a real relationship with each child? It costs. It is worth it. And, it is a pleasure, which only gets better over years.

Tough goes on with the third and fourth:

"He also needed discipline, rules, limits; someone to say no." It is hard work to consistently discipline. Our job isn't to make our children happy or be their friend, but to make them great people. Loving, consistent discipline now makes the future easier and allows for positive, joyful relationships as time goes by.

Last: "And what he needed more than anything was some child-size adversity, a chance to fall down and get back up on his own, without help."

A braveheart!

For some reason, this might be the hardest for many of us. Tough thinks so:

"This was harder for Paula and me--it came less naturally to us than the hugging and comforting--and I know that it is just the beginning of the long struggle we face, as all parents do, between our urge to provide everything for our children, to protect him from all harm, and our knowledge that if we really want him to succeed, we need to first let him fail. Or more precisely, we need to help him learn to manage failure. This idea--the importance of learning how to deal with and learn from your own failures--is a common thread in many chapters of this book."

1. Protect from trauma and chronic stress.
2. Give a secure relationship with a parent.
3. Discipline, rules, limits, "no."
4. Let him fail and learn to manage failure.

Which is hardest for you?
I do think we know the basics.
I think they are hard to deliver, day after day, year after year.
All through childhood, adolosence, and teen years.
It is only by God's grace and power that we do these.

A beginning point is to know the list. And, to know that, for our children to succeed, we may need to change ourselves and some things in our lives.

It is hard work.
It pays off.
It is worth it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Courage, the Most Important Virtue

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality."  C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters

A few weeks ago, John Stonestreet (of the Chuck Colson Center and Summit Ministries) shared with our faculty. As John helped us better understand biblical worldview, he landed on the importance of courage in the lives of our children.

Here are a few of Stonestreet's comments:
* Being human means to be courageous, not just know truth but courageous to use it.
* To raise children to make right decisions and not just know the truth requires courage; "It is by his deeds that a lad makes himself known if his conduct is pure and right" (Proverbs 20:11).
* In the classic virtues, courage allowed the others to exist.
* Children want to be courageous and we offer them video games.
* A biblical worldview makes a right decision when in a tough spot, which takes courage.
* A biblical worldview is not just thought out but is lived out.
* A biblical worldview is not primarily expressed but embodied.

Stonestreet said that, "Dreams do not determine destiny; decisions determine destiny." It is courage that moves dreams and beliefs to decisions and action.

Reepicheep helps Eustace learn courage.
How do we create courage?  

Stonestreet suggests:
* Be aware that everything we do is forming children's souls; all education is worldview shaping.
* Teach habits. He quotes Aristotle: "So it is a matter of no little importance what sort of habits we form from the earliest age--it makes a vast difference, or rather all the difference in the world."
* Shift from entitlement to responsibility.
* Teach children to leave things better than they found them.
* Give children words to use in tough moments.

From the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, John explained how we can create courage in our children. In Dawn Treader, Eustace is a boy with no "chest," a boy who has not trained his emotions and is a victim of his feelings. He knows about ships but has never been on one.  He has never been taught about dragons!

Stonestreet says that children should know two things about dragons:
1. They exist.
2. They can be beaten.

In Dawn Treader, help comes from an unlikely source. Reepicheep, the mouse, has courage. He mentors Eustace. He helps Eustace by stripping away the dragon flesh and shows that Eustace has grown a chest.We need to mentor our children to defeat dragons. And, celebrate their courage.

Stonestreet says that our children must:
1. Know what is true and good (not just right from wrong).
2. Practice what is true and good (weight lifters don't get strong without the practice of lifting weights).
3. Learn and practice repentance, a way to actively follow Jesus with courage instead of being passive.

John Stonestreet
We need to teach our children how to defeat dragons. We need to put them on boats and teach courage so they can put ideas into action.

Thanks to John Stonestreet for his thoughts.

John suggested these sites to help us:
Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
Summit Ministries

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Friday Night Lights

It's football season.
Friday night lights.

What do you do when your game is away and you are a 35 point underdog?
When your opponent is intimidating?
When every player on the other team is stronger and faster?

You play the game.
You keep your head up.
You do what is right in the right way.
You help your opponent get up when he is on the ground.
You know that the scoreboard doesn't show all the ways to lose and win.

Courage makes it possible to go through a game you are likely to lose. And, to go through it well.
It takes more courage to do what is right and do it the right way when the foe is dangerous.
It takes courage to let God walk you through it and  to give the results to Him.

Courage comes from seeing more than the scoreboard and listening to voices other than those against you.
It comes from seeing the unseen, from knowing there is more to life than the game we see and its score.

The writer of Hebrews tells about some game winners in chapter eleven, "And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets--who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promised, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight."

But, he also tells about those who lost in this world: "Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."

Whether they won on the scoreboard we can see or not, here is what they knew: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation."

"And, without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."

Knowing that God rewards and gives commendation because of faith gives our children the courage to play the ugly game.

Keeping the long term perspective, knowing that doing the right things the right way is more important than the score you can see, our children can face monsters. Keeping their heads up. Showing God's grace and strength in life, no matter what the crowd does or the scoreboard says. Becoming winners for eternity with God's pleasure.

Sometimes there are only two options: run away or face monsters. If we run, we never win, on the scoreboard or for eternity. If we face monsters, sometimes we defeat them, sometimes we don't. But, we always win God's good pleasure when we do the right things, the right way, by faith.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I have been struggling to know what to write about the film Brave. You would think that I could handle it. I have been writing on building bravehearts for a while. But, this film has perplexed me.

Is it really about being brave? Or, is it about a mother and daughter relationship where the daughter is driven to exasperation and actually loses heart and acts foolishly, neither mother or daughter right in the process. Or, is the bravery in each one eventually realizing she was wrong and restoring what was broken? There seems to be no real bravery, doing what is right no matter what. Unless it is right to rebel so you can pursue who you are and your dreams. Perhaps the bravery comes from doing something, even if it is rebellion. But, is that being brave?

I watched Brave in Dillon, Colorado with two of my brave twenty-something daughters. Both of them have pursued dreams and "who they are" without making their mother turn into a bear!

Pursuing "who you are" by using any means possible, even evil ones to change a mother, is cowardice. If Princess Merida had been truly brave, what would she have done? She certainly showed strength in archery and conviction, but not wisdom which channels passion to become a brave person. Being brave is more than being strong, it is being strong for the right reason.

Perhaps it is the ambiguity of the film that perplexes me. Merida is not a clear picture of a brave young lady. I can point to dozens of real and fictional girls I know who are brave, for the right reasons and pursuing dreams the right way. The mix of feelings between mother and daughter make it hard to know who is right and who is wrong, who is brave and who is a coward. And, in the end, was it bravery that pushed Merida to mend the tapestry and the broken relationship? Or, was she driven by emotions of an ambiguous relationship with her mother and not brave but passionate?

Brave seems like a film to which I would have enjoyed taking my younger children, although I would sort out the concerns of a mother who exasperates and a daughter who disobeys, and explore a better way. I would talk about what it means to be brave. Overall, we enjoyed the film for different reasons.  I just haven't figured out the bravery in Brave.

One thing seems clear to me. To build a braveheart is more than teaching someone to "embrace one's own identity" as one film critic said. To build a braveheart is to teach a child to do right, even when others don't. I wish for a clearer model for children than Merida.

While the ambiguity may be real, the lack of a clear example of bravery that we want children to follow leaves me empty. There is a place to explore the issues of family relationships, but lets not set them up as models to inspire. We need examples where children can say, "I want to be like her," and parents are pleased to applaud and say, "Yes, be like her."

P.S. Here are three examples to try. While flawed, they were brave the right way: Lucy in Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, and in real life, Corrie ten Boom. Who would you add?

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Power of Conviction

I am busy most of the year. You probably are, too. And your children. The busy days have little margin and sometimes in the evening the best I can do is to read a couple of lines from an old Louis L'amour novel before sleep conquers me.

Those days aren't all bad. They are rich times and I feel alive, like getting ready for a big football game or opening night of a play. It is exciting. But, when I am busy, there is a good chance that I will make a mistake and either react too strongly or skip over something that should have been addressed. If I haven't thought carefully before the busy time, it is harder to make the right choice.

When we and our children are faced with choices to make, we do one of three things:
1.  We react without thinking, which is foolish.
2.  We don't act because we don't notice or we don't see the importance.
3.  We do what is right with courage, which is wise.

The Thinker
Being too busy results in being foolish or not acting when we should. Our children become too busy with activity and information. This is probably one of the reasons that teenagers sometimes make foolish mistakes or miss needs: their minds are busy with feelings, and people, and questions so they can either react or don't even notice when the trash needs taken out or someone is talking

To make a wise choice and to act on it with courage instead of reacting or ignoring takes conviction. 

While a belief is something we know, a conviction is a belief we will act on. A conviction is an important part of ourselves, developed over time as ideas and beliefs are sifted and reworked. Before the critical moment of making a choice to do what is right, a conviction to guide and grab is needed.

The problem is that convictions don't happen if a child's mind is too busy with too much activity or information.

Convictions happen in minds that have time to take big ideas and let them become a part of the child. A conviction needs big ideas, so we need to place big ideas in our child's life. But, there must also be time to wrestle and integrate those beliefs into lives. Stimulus all of the time and always feeling hurried (who created five minute passing times between classes?) hurt developing convictions.  Before a child can be brave to do right, he or she needs time to have developed a conviction.

In a recent New York Times piece, "Decline of the Big Idea," Neil Gabler says "We are like the farmer who has too much wheat to make flour. We are inundated with so much information that we wouldn't have time to process it even if we wanted to, and most of us don't want to." He ends his article with this:  "What the future portends is more and more information--Everests of it.  There won't be anything we won't know. But there will be no one thinking about it."

The overload of busy minds will not only ruin the pursuit of big ideas, it will end bravery that comes from conviction.

Gabler also says, "In the past, we collected information not simply to know things. That was only the beginning. We also collected information to convert it into something larger than facts and ultimately more useful..." We have become so busy in our schedules and minds that we don't take time to turn information into conviction.

For what will our children stand up? For what will they risk friends, career, or life?  Not a fact, not a tweet, not a line from a new comedy. They will stand up for convictions that have had time to settle into their pores and soak into the very marrow of their bones. They will risk for important things that they have been able to move from information to belief to conviction.

How can we help our children? 

Intentionally and selectively cut off information streams. Aggressively give space in life to talk and think.  Trips in the car don't have to be filled with screens to placate cries of "he hit me," but can be filled with quiet and conversation for thoughts; it is okay to stare out of the window and count cows!  One of my twenty-something daughters just reminded me of the one-hour-a-day-of-screens rule we had when they were young.  It wasn't too bad most of the week, but Saturday mornings were tough!  If they could get me to watch with them, the time expanded. I watched some great cartoons back then, piled on the couch together.

Dinners at home, where everyone sits until the others are finished creates collaborative family thinking; it really is okay to have them wait to be excused!

You can make a schedule where chunks of time called "thinking time" or "nothing" are scheduled so they happen. Everyone can pose like "The Thinker," wouldn't that be interesting?

Read quality and time tested books to children, pray together, share family devotions, go for walks.

Where can you intentionally introduce your children to big ideas and give them time to settle those into convictions?

Your example is powerful. Share with your children what is important to you. Stand for something yourself.  Act on your convictions so your children know people do that. When was the last time you stood for something important and your children knew it? Can you list your top ten convictions, the beliefs and ideas for which you will take a stand?

Good choices will follow conviction. Choosing to do what is right requires knowing what is right before crunch time and then being willing to do something about it. Convictions developed over time from big ideas take on feet in our children's lives.

Children with conviction become bravehearts.

I hope you find ways to let big ideas seep into your child's life and grab their hearts as convictions.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Escaping the Rat Race"

Courtney in "Escaping the Rat Race" (found at Women Living Well) quotes Francis Chan: "Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter."

As we build our own bravehearts who have the courage to face fears such as the fear of failure, it is probably good to know that instilling some fears is healthy: fear to cross a busy road and fear to drive while texting are healthy fears.

Chan and Courtney uncover another fear we should help our children have.

The fear of living a busy life that misses what is really important.

Here are some of Courtney's words:

"So often we fear failure. We fear that our children won’t make the ball team or get good enough grades.  We fear wrinkles, grey hairs or missing out on the latest and greatest new gadget for our kids. But do we ever fear being successful at things that – at the end of the day when we stand before God’s throne –  don’t really matter at all?"

"Today I had big plans for our day – it was supposed to be a family day (daddy was off work) and my daughter got a belly ache right in the middle of the day and messed up all of our fun plans.  I was on a mission to make a great day for the kids –  but all she really needed was a mama who loved her and cared about her belly.  My plans faded into the distance – and I was the one disappointed – cause this mama gets sucked into the rat race sometimes!  What mattered to her was not the long list of plans I had but that her mommy would sit quietly on her bed rubbing her hair while she cried.  And this forced pause in our day – reminded me of what really matters in life."

Remember Martha and Mary.  Martha was so busy, serving, that Jesus told her:  "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."  Mary was sitting, listening to Jesus.

What really matters?

Let's help our children know what is important.
And, fear a life consumed by the trivial and busy.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tired of Parenting?

You read books about parenting. You listen to sermons. You read the Bible. You get advice from friends. You talk to teachers, youth pastors, and family.  You even read blogs, like this one.

You go to bed late, finishing the dishes after the kids are in bed. You get up. You hurry.  You drive. You pray. You worry.  You pack and unpack. You go to games and lessons and classes. You help with homework. You cook, eat, clean.  You go to work. You go to church. You make Christmas and birthdays happen. You drive some more. You tuck in little ones and you talk late to teens. You read to them and hold them. You tell them it hurts you more than them, and it is true.

All because you are committed to being the best parent you can be.

All because you want your children to grow well.

Sometimes it seems like there is so much to learn and so much to do.  To do it right.

Fred Rogers said that "life is simple and deep, but we have made it complicated and shallow." This is true for parenting. There is no long list for doing it right. What are the simple and deep things, that bring joy and freedom and refreshment in parenting?  Here are three suggestions:

1. God causes the growth, not you or me. Paul said, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God causes the growth." Even as parents, we are planters and waterers in the lives of our children.  We can't make them grow.  God does that.  And, He cares more about them than we do. We can't hurry growth or demand it.  Let go of this burden.  It is God's part.

2. Trust God. Philippians 4:6 and 7 say, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  I love what comes right before this in verse 5:  "The Lord is near."  Be at peace.  He is right here taking care of you and your children.  He knows, He cares, and He is strong. He is near.

3. Keep it simple. Love God. Love people. Love them unconditionally; there is no cost or burden or list of activities to do that. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." "Bring them up" requires being there and knowing them and caring, very relational, love. Teach and talk and hold them for Him. Let them know you care about them and care about Jesus. They will forgive your mistakes if they know you care. Just be there. Most other things don't really matter so much.

We can get lost in good advice and good things to do. And, get tired.

So much really isn't important.

If you get tired, consider what is important.  Consider what you can do and can't do. Consider God's grace and deep love for you and your children. Let Him love them and you. Let Him work.

May God carry you along and take away the burdens you don't need to carry.  May you be able to freshly love.  And, be loved.

You are in good hands.

And, maybe you have other ideas that will help, that you can share below.

Friday, June 8, 2012

"The Go-Nowhere Generation"

In a New York Times article, "The Go-Nowhere Generation," Todd Bucholz and Victoria Bucholz describe a situation addressed in "Out of Sight." The Times article gives compelling reasons to make sure our children have the courage to try. The entire NYT article from March 10 can be found at "The Go-Nowhere Generation." 

Here is the beginning of "The Go-Nowhere Generation."

"Americans are supposed to be mobile and even pushy. Saul Bellow’s Augie March declares, 'I am an American ... first to knock, first admitted.' In 'The Grapes of Wrath,' young Tom Joad loads up his jalopy with pork snacks and relatives, and the family flees the Oklahoma dust bowl for sun-kissed California. Along the way, Granma dies, but the Joads keep going."

"But sometime in the past 30 years, someone has hit the brakes and Americans — particularly young Americans — have become risk-averse and sedentary. The timing is terrible. With an 8.3 percent unemployment rate and a foreclosure rate that would grab the attention of the Joads, young Americans are less inclined to pack up and move to sunnier economic climes."

"The likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has dropped well over 40 percent since the 1980s, according to calculations based on Census Bureau data. The stuck-at-home mentality hits college-educated Americans as well as those without high school degrees. According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of young adults living at home nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008, before the Great Recession hit. Even bicycle sales are lower now than they were in 2000. Today’s generation is literally going nowhere. This is the Occupy movement we should really be worried about."

Young people (or anyone!) who are "risk-averse and sedentary" will not grow, use their gifts, or fulfill the best God has for them.

"The Go-Nowhere Generation" ends by saying that we must do "whatever it takes to get our kids back on the road."  They are right.

While home should be a secure place and maybe a retreat, it should give courage to launch, not stay.  How do we make home comfortable and safe, but at the same time make sure our children have the courage to leave, grow, and make a difference?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Out of Sight

Sarah is in Israel for the summer, interning at Nazareth Village.

Nazareth Village (
Dana and I noticed an interesting phenomena. The further Sarah got from home, the less we worried. Now, don't get me wrong, we still care. But, we have peace knowing the family she is living with, that good plans have been made, and that she is with two great friends.  And, we pray, get emails, and expect to Skype some.

We have found that we get more worried about our children driving from our home to the grocery than we do when they are in other countries. When they get in the car here, we want so much to say "Go slow," "There are crazy drivers," or what has become a standard line that expresses our angst, "Be careful, it is slippery out there." Said even in dry weather.

It seems that one of the best steps we can take to help our older children be bravehearts is to get them out of our sight.

That doesn't mean that we don't love them and care and want them to be safe and succeed. It means that there comes a time when some distance helps them know we trust them, that they are capable, and that what happens depends on their choices.

Courage does not happen when we are comfortable. Without taking risks that need courage, growth slows and impact is hindered.

Jesus found difficulty in being accepted in his hometown and said "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household."  There is something about making a difference that does not happen as well close to home.  It is hard for family to let go of the past and, perhaps, their continued desire to care and worry. When in the close circle of being known, we often have a hard time being free to become a person who is using gifts and opportunities boldly.

How do we help growing and older children to get out sight so they can boldly use their gifts with courage?
And, hopefully we can relax more! Here are three ideas:

1. As they grow, increasingly give them times when you are not there to watch and intervene.  If separation anxiety exists, make sure it isn't yours! Drop them off and go.Don't watch recess from behind a tree or soccer practice from the bleachers. Let them grow and learn to trust God without you, in progressively larger steps.
2. Keep building your own life. God is God, children aren't gods to absorb all of our attention. Build memories with your spouse. Find expanding ways to use your time for others as your children grow. Develop your own gifts and impact so that you can let go and they know you have a life without them. Help them learn they aren't the center of the world and that you won't always rescue them, even though you care deeply.
3. Help children learn to manage risk and approve their plans, asking all of the questions you need to ask. Our son, Luke, and friends wanted to go to Florida for spring break during their senior year of high school. We said no. Until they developed a plan to be on the west coast, away from some big beaches. And, to stay with the grandmother of one of the young men!

I won't say that we haven't been watching the weather in Israel and reading maps and books about the area now. We have. And, we love getting email updates. But, I don't worry about the detail, partly because I don't know them. That isn't bad. That is healthy.

Sometimes helping children be brave is harder on parents than on the child. Maybe it will help to get them out of sight a bit, we can learn to trust better and they can grow.

God bless you in this hard parenting work!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Top Ten Braveheart Builders

Here is a quick list of ideas that can help you give your child the courage to try, so he or she can be the person and live the life God planned. They are explored with more detail in older posts.

1. Discover passion.  Passion, especially from being "called" or doing right, trumps everything.

2. Develop strength.  Strength of mind, soul, and body gives confidence, be "strong and courageous."

3. Past experiences.  David beat Goliath partly because David had already conquered a lion and bear.

5. Find fit.  Matching gifts and abilities with the task gives courage.

6. Growth mindset.  See everything as a way to grow so that fear of failure goes away.

7. Model courage. There is nothing more powerful in teaching children than to see it in the lives of parents.

8. Manage risk. Anything important has risk, so learn to manage it instead of waiting to get rid of it.

9. Live life. Life is meant to be lived abundantly and with purpose, how sad to watch others live it.

10. Trust God. Faith in the Living God allows men and women to overcome fears and make a difference.

And there may be others.  What comes to your mind?

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Missing Prayer

When I pray for my children, I almost always ask God to keep them under His wings, to guard and keep them from difficulties. My real hope is that they won't have trials and attacks to face, that God will give them an easy road.

I am afraid to say what I should be praying for, because it means that my prayers may be wrong, at least in part.

I think I should be praying a lot more for my children to have the ability to face trials and attacks instead of not having problems.  I don't like that idea, because I don't want my children to have a hard time.  But, it might be what is best for them.

Let me give a few ideas from the Bible that show I may have been praying too much for an absence of difficulty and not enough for the ability to deal with them.

* From the writer of Hebrews:  "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (12:1-3, and read chapter 11 about heroes facing trials).

* From Peter:  "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ..." (1:6-9).

* From James:  "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, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" 1:2-4).

* From Paul:  "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:35 and 37, but read 8:18 through the end of chapter 8).

* From Jesus:  "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, but read chapters 14-17).

* Moses,to Joshua, as he led Israel to take the Promised Land, "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1).  He doesn't pray for no enemies but to conquer them!

In none of these is the prayer to get rid of trials and foes.  It is to endure, to trust, to be strong, to be courageous, to know that God is with you.

In all of these there are huge benefits to going through trials, for the person and for God's program and glory.

But, what about God's wings?
I got my idea of praying for my children to be protected by God's wings from Psalm 91:4:  "He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark."

Here, in this safe place, under God's wings is a place of refuge, a place to rest and prepare.  It is not an absence of problems, but a place to pause and feel His goodness and care.  To be reassured.

The psalmist follows in verse 5:  "You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that files by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon."

The problems are still there.

As much as I will probably keep praying for my children to not have problems, I need to get on board with God's approach and pray even more for their strength and courage to face the problems, to be bravehearts. That is the way they grow, the way they conquer, their part in God's story, the way they experience God's power and grace, the way they bring glory to Him.

What do you pray for your children?  I need to change my prayers.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"How to Be Outstanding"

Below is a recent article from Jeff Goins, one of my favorite bloggers. He tells about the need for courage to "be outstanding."  A great piece to give older braveheart children...or ourselves!

To read Jeff's blog go to

How to Be Outstanding

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 02:00 AM PST

Everyone wants to be extraordinary, but no one wants to be unpopular.

Everyone wants to be a genius, but no one wants to be called a nerd.

Everyone wants to be outstanding, but no one’s willing to stand out.

Earning the attention you deserve will be the hardest, scariest, most grueling thing you do. But it will also be the most rewarding.

The typical tale of an outstanding person
I once met a girl named Patricia. She wanted to live life to the full. When everyone else was playing those “reindeer games” she was being Rudolph. She was standing out.

This usually earned her a few rolled eyes and jokes cracked at her expense, but that didn’t bother her.

Then one day, Patricia stood up when everyone else was sitting down. She did the bold, courageous, amazing thing. And everyone admired her for it.

Suddenly, Patricia wasn’t the outcast, anymore. She was the leader. And there was a crowd of people standing behind her — literally — ready to go wherever she would lead them.

The cost of courage
It takes courage to go where no one else has gone. It takes the heart of a pioneer and the mind of an engineer — to set out for the Promised land and build the road as you go.

To do something this creative — something that’s never been done before — you have to be a little crazy. Fortunately, those who are, end up changing the world.

Of course, like all new endeavors, this involves risk. There’s a cost to doing great things.

To be a leader in today’s world, you have to be brave enough to wander off the worn path and make a new one. And no one will be walking with you those first few steps. So be prepared.

It’s lonely
There’s a reason why most startups fail and most books never get finished: Being a leader is hard.

Which is precisely why we need you to do it. Why we need you to do what so few are willing to do: to be different. To take the initiative. To courageously go where no one’s gone before.

So what are you waiting for?

“An engraved invitation?!” as my dad used to say to the parked cars at the green traffic light. Green means go. Time to be outstanding

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Courage to Have God's Best

Recently I preached a sermon on Deuteronomy, a rich experience for me. Our church is going through the entire Bible in a year. Since that means one or more books in a week, we are getting a chance to get the big picture.

Deuteronomy's big picture is about having courage to live in God's best.

Years before, Israel failed to go into the Promised Land because they were afraid.  While the land was as great as God had told them, Israel were afraid of the big people in the Land and rebelled against God.  They didn't get God's best because of fear.  A whole generation of warriors died while the nation wandered for forty years.

In Deuteronomy, Israel stands to the east of the Jordan, ready to complete the conquest and to live in the Promised Land.

Will they overcome the fear from forty years before, take the Land, and live well there?

Moses pours himself out in Deuteronomy in three sermons.  He is about to die and he so much wants the nation to move in the Land that God gave them and to live well there.

Moses says four things to help Israel overcome fear and move in the Land.  The same four will help us and our children overcome the fear of moving into the life that God has prepared for us.

First, remember our story.  In chapters 1-3, Moses reminds Israel of their story, of God's direction and care for them.  God wants us to remember what He has done for us, our story, so when we face something hard, we know we have been there before and He is faithful. How do we help our children remember their story?  Books, pictures, telling stories, or a bulletin board with memories of God's care and rescue?  What else?

Second, God's steadfast love. In chapters 4-11, Moses shows God's steadfast love for His people.  It is about relationship and God's commitment to them.  And, their commitment and love to Him. As we learn more and  more about God's deep love, we know He won't leave us and will be there.  There is no need to fear the obstacles in the way of His best for us.  Church, family devotions, quiet moments in a busy life, and a parent's unconditional love will help children know God's love.

Third, standards for living well.  In chapters 12-26, Moses gives specific ways to live well in God's Promised Land.  It isn't enough just to get there, but living well and rightly for generations is his dream and God's provision.  While the specifics don't fit our world, the idea of teaching our children to live well is the same.  What principles of life, biblical and not, will help our children live a life of courage in their own Promised Land?

I noticed that most of the directions Moses gave are costly, either time or money.  Feasts and providing for the poor costs money.  Taking care of a neighbor's donkey or praying for someone costs time. Living in God's best for us and our children is not about comfort and privilege, it is about celebrating and caring, about loving God and loving people.  God's best for us is costly.  But, worth every penny and second.

Fourth, choices to make.  In chapters 27-34, Moses declares that Israel has to make choices, between life and death, between bad and good.  And, there are consequences.  Will we and our children have the courage to choose to live well, to enter the life God has for us, even if there are monsters and it is costly?

If we remember God's care in our own story and reflect on God's rock solid love for us and our family, we can face the fears that come with living the great life He has for us.  He is trustworthy and able.

May our children have the courage to enter God's best and live well there.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Report Card for Parents

Building Bravehearts is so much about parenting.  How are you doing?  Our students just got their first semester grades to give parents a snapshot of how their children are doing.  This is a great time to think about how you are doing as a parent.

What is even better is knowing that you can start a new grading period for yourself right now!  Set some goals, make some plans, and ask God's help.  Then, in June, see how this semester went for you.  None of us do it all right, for sure.  But, thinking about how to improve as parents is a huge step the right way.

You won't get it all right, but God is gracious and children are pretty resilient.  Intentional, sincere, and humble parenting will move your children forward and give God room to work!

Below is a piece I did in Tween Ages.  Maybe it will help you think of how you can grade yourself.  You might have some changes from the ideas here.  Creating your own categories would make it even better.

I trust you have a great semester!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"I Hope You Dance"

About twelve years ago, Lee Ann Womack recorded "I Hope You Dance." What great dreams for a child are in the song, words to inspire our prayers and hopes for our own children as they become bravehearts.

I am encouraged every time I hear this song written by Tia Sillers and Mark Sanders. I hope some of the same things. I hope they never lose their sense of wonder. I hope they always have a hunger and love and don't take life for granted. I hope they don't fear the mountains or taking chances.

I hope they choose to dance.

As you watch or read, I hope you search your dreams for your own children and put your own words to them in prayer.

"I Hope You Dance"

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances, but they're worth takin'
Lovin' might be a mistake, but it's worth makin'

Don't let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin' out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder, where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance


(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder, where those years have gone?)