Saturday, July 13, 2013

The First Essential Question Needed for Courage: Is It Right?

Let me invite you to explore four essential questions that our children, and we, must answer to be a braveheart. Today, I will explore "Is it right?" and then catch the others in later posts. Here are the questions:
1. Is it right?
2. Is it wise?
3. Am I the one?
4. Do I trust?

With the right answer to these questions, courage happens, courage that makes a difference.

Question one: Is it right?

Are the words or the actions that are wanting courage "right" to do? And, let me add two other questions we could ask that might help in some situations: "Is it good?" or "Is it excellent?" Or, maybe you can think of other questions that would help decide if words or actions are important and hard enough to need courage. But, lets start with "Is it right?"

Knowing that something good and right needs done or said is the power behind courage, and prevents courage from slipping to foolishness. To have courage, a person must know a right or a good. A person without an understanding of right and good has no reason to be brave.

Trying to decide between right and wrong, or good and bad, can sound simplistic. Sometimes the distinction is simple and works well, but sometimes it doesn't.

For example, you can be sure that telling the truth and being kind are right. Rooted in the Bible and in most cultures, these are standards of right and wrong. If a person is being picked on, it is right to be kind to him. If the building inspector asks you if you are following code, the truthful answer is right.

Doing or saying the right thing can cost. Being kind to someone who is ostracized by the group can result in the group ostracizing the kind person. Telling the truth to a building inspector can result in more expensive work. But, they are right.

Not to become legalistic, but are we teaching children things that are cleanly right and good? Things that they will not doubt because they are taught in God's word and are common sense. And, how do we teach? It is best done by word and example. What do they know from you and me by what we teach and model, not "Do as I say and not as I do" but "Do as I say and do!" What is our source of rights and wrongs in life? What is our authority? And, what do we teach or model unintentionally?

Dana and I were just talking about some things we think our children learned from us, and some were not intentional. Between annual vacations and moving, they learned to have adventure and that moving is okay. They learned that they can live away from their parents, because we did. They learned to value books and reading: that one was intentional! What are your children learning is right and good from you?

Picking a right can get complicated. It is right to tell the truth, always. But, Paul says in Ephesians to "speak the truth in love." As in most decisions to act or speak, there is right. But, the right needs to be done in
love, for the best of the other person. The controller is love. That is clear. But, knowing what that means in any specific situation can be fuzzy. How much of the truth? Do you write a note, give a hug, or shake your finger?

Let's not get lost in the fuzzy. Fuzzy can often become an excuse to not do or say the right thing: "I don't know if this is right to say because I might hurt her, so I won't say anything." Fuzzy means be careful, not give up on doing right.

That is why we need wisdom. Wisdom sorts out the fuzzy. And, often points to the best way to act or speak.

A discussion on wisdom is coming. But, don't wait! Start now. Ask God. James 1:5 says: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." That will hold you over!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

All In for the Big Jump

A couple of years ago, Dana and I spent the weekend at a beautiful lodge in Mt. Magazine State Park.  Mt. Magazine is known for being the highest point in Arkansas, bears, butterflies, and hang gliding.  While we were there, I watched two hang gliders launch into a two-thousand feet drop and fly until they looked like small birds.

"Clark Kent"
The two men hang gliding were friendly, so I learned some things. I learned that people who hang glide are different. One was a mild-mannered Clark Kent type and the other a Mountain Man. Mountain Man came to the edge, went through his checklist quickly, ran a few steps, and jumped.  Clark Kent was methodical, carefully examining each strap and bar, and waiting for seven or eight minutes for the wind to blow straight into his launch.  He rode the updrafts a lot longer than Mountain Man.

I also learned how much they had prepared.  To do this somewhat difficult jump, you had to already have ten hours of flight time, which takes a lot of five and ten minute jumps. They learned to hang glide by running on flat land with no equipment.  Then running on flat land holding the metal brackets.  Then, with wings.  Then, they got a small rise to jump from.  Bigger and longer each time. They worked hard to prepare, to become strong.  One of the gliders said, "We really aren't afraid because of all of the preparation that got us ready."

When Joshua led Israel to claim the Promised Land, God told him three times to be "strong and courageous."  The generation before had not claimed the special place God had for them because of fear.  The spies of that generation had reported that the Land was special just as God had said.  But,there were big people there.  Their fear kept them from having the best God offered and this special place was given to someone else.  Joshua's conquest needed what the first generation lacked: strength and courage.

The hang gliders were strong, they had prepared well enough that they had confidence in their jump. It would still be dangerous, but they had the courage to come up to the edge and be all in because of their mental and physical strength developed through hours of practice and training.  The hard work of preparation, becoming strong, is a key to giving children courage.  Courage comes from knowing you are ready for the challenge.  Strength gives courage for the challenge.

How do we prepare our children?  Help them to increasingly understand that strength is up to them, not something you can do for them.  While a coach can set up a training plan for a player to lift weights, it is up to the player to lift and work.  Show children that the hard work of preparation pays off, whether in preparing for a test, an athletic contest, or a concert.  Give them small experiences as they are young and larger jumps as they get older, just like the preparation for the hand gliders.  Show them hard work in your life.  Don't help them look for shortcuts or complain that teachers are too hard on them. Support them, but let them see what preparation feels like and how it pays off.

Help them think about the importance of becoming strong in a variety of areas.  The things that schools traditionally do--like reading, writing, speaking, and reasoning--prepare children for many of the challenges they face in our culture; if they feel strong in these, they will have courage to enter the work force, pursue other training, and engage with people.

But, don't stop there.  Try these.
* Social skills and strength in getting along with people. How can they prepare for working with others?
* Emotional strength: are they comfortable with themselves. How can you help them see themselves rightly?
* Physical health keeps a child and adult able to face challenges of all sorts.
* Spiritual strength:  A right relationship with God helps children know why they are here and gives purpose and courage.

As you pray and look at your child, periodically evaluate strengths and areas that could use attention.  Encourage them with comments about their strengths.  And, normally for areas that need growth, it is better to not tell them (that is discouraging) but sneakily plan and help growth. (For example, if a child is not physically strong, maybe Dad starts biking with her, making it a fun time with Dad instead of a remedial training experience--look for positive, relational ways to strengthen weak areas.)

And, one more area of strength that is of particular importance to courage:  strength of character. Todd Beamer, the 9/11 hero who helped overcome the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 before it could reach its target, was "known for his strength of character and leadership in everything he did" (excerpted from the Wheaton Academy Connection).  Todd was the one who said, "Are you guys ready?  Let's roll."  Todd's strength of character, his hard work, and his "rare ability to subjugate his own benefit for that of the team" prepared Todd for his unexpected need for courage.  (For an example of strength and courage, you can read Todd's story to your older children in Let's Roll by his wife, Lisa.)

As we help our children gain strength so they are ready for their call, let's praise them for hard work and character, things that won't fade.  Let's help them see the benefits of preparation by connecting their work with success.  Let's think about their areas of strength and weakness and find subversive and pleasant ways to build their weaknesses in their spiritual, social, physical, and emotional growth. 

Let's help them build strength of character that is ready for the unexpected, so they can answer God's call to what He has planned for them, ready to be all in like the hang gliders.  There is nothing more beautiful than a life lived faith to faith, rich and abundant, with strength and courage to jump and enjoy the flight.

(If you would like to see the beauty of what happens after the jump, click here:Airtime at Mt. Magazine. While you are watching, maybe you can ask yourself if God is trying to get you to "be all in" and jump toward something important and beautiful, has He prepared you and now you are at the edge while He is talking to you or giving you a push?)