34 Years of Abundant Life

19861220 Wedding Photo 1

When I took that summer job, it was my 2nd to last choice.  I was getting desperate because I really didn’t want to work in the fields again that summer.  Not that I objected to the field work.  It was good honest work, but I felt it wasn’t helping me move forward in my future aspirations.  Little did I know what I would find when I walked into that JCPenney 34 years ago.  The credit booth lady was a lot younger than I expected, and a whole lot more attractive, but I was trying to focus on getting a job.  She was good at hers though and drew me in.  I was a rising Senior in college after all, so I thought I had this.  Well nothing will humble you faster than being at a credit booth in front of a young lady you want to impress when you don’t have a job.  That is until she asked, “Are you 18 or older?”  OUCH.  That plan ended like most of my plans those days.

Back to the main goal.  Get a job.  I scraped my ego off of the floor and dragged what was left of my dignity to basement (where the offices were) and resume in hand, inquired about a job.  I was hired almost immediately and since my head was still spinning from the credit booth encounter, I wasn’t thinking straight.  The only 2 thoughts in my head were, 1) I am not working in the fields again; and 2) I HAVE A JOB! Now I can go back and talk!  And march right back up to the credit booth I did.  Only to discover that she was busy with another family as they filled out their application.  Crash and burn twice in 30 minutes. 

Fortunately, my future conversations were a little more successful (although I was still pretty awkward – women were like aliens to me and this vision of beauty came from a different world than I did).  We spent a great deal of time together and within 7 weeks of meeting, were engaged.  That December, we were married and have been best friends and soulmates for 34 years. 

My life changed forever when I walked into that JCPenney (the first store in the mall that I walked into).  I could have just as easily walked into Mervyn’s, or The Bon, or even Nordstrom’s, but I didn’t.  I walked into JCPenney because the parking garage was full, and I had to park on the street on the other side of the mall.  I remembered my mother always enjoyed JCPenny, so I thought, I would give it a try since I was here.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the way a full garage would change my life.  While a job in retail was the 4th choice on my list, it came with the greatest job benefit one could imagine.  My bride.

I am not the same person I was before I met her. I cannot imagine what I would be like, if not for her.  I flew by the seat of my pants in everything, having ideas but no plans (that is called dreaming young mean – it won’t get you very far).  She brings out the best in me, and I hope, I in her. That is the mark of a remarkable relationship.  And I owe it all to my Lord and my Beautiful.  This is not a Facebook relationship where it is all roses all of the time. Hallmark, maybe (without the 3rd wheel) where there are misunderstandings and/or bad choices and someone gets upset, but it all works out in the end.   We are real people and God is still working on us.  That means we have had to ask for, and give forgiveness more times than I can possibly remember.  Because doing anything else isn’t an option.

I look back and chuckle at that summer.  I still clearly remember, even though I was pretty much over the moon the entire time.  We were kids.  We had no idea what we were doing.  Yet because of the unshakable love of God, a dedication to always resolve our differences and to be more like Christ every day, we have decades of experiences in the rearview mirror and a full tank of gas to explore the future together.

Our journey together has brought us a whole bunch of other people.  Our 7 children, 2 additional children as spouses and 7 grandchildren (2 we will get to meet when our days are done) bring a level of chaos, noise and laughter that is invaluable.  This afternoon as I reflected on how full my heart is because of how full my family is, I was humbled and immensely grateful.  Grateful to my Lord for bringing us together.  Grateful to Beautiful for saying “yes” 34 years ago.  This my friends is abundant life.  A life of peace, joy and purpose.

Here is to another 34 Beautiful!  May they be as exciting, challenging and joyful as the last 34. 

Happy Anniversary!


A Lesson in Unity From the Playground


The election we have been waiting for (most likely because we just wanted the political ads to stop) has finally come to a close.  The results have thrilled some folks, scared others, and probably just confused the rest.  Regardless of which category you woke up in to today, you most likely noticed how ugly the whole process was.  There are people all over espousing wildly conflicting perspectives.  The vote is divided neatly with Red being Rural and Blue being Metro America.  Just like 2 children in a disagreement.  Based on the noise flying around the last year, I think that is a pretty good analogy.

Experiment time!

Let’s kick things off with a little experiment.

  1. Go to Facebook and look up a political post (right or left – it doesn’t matter)… Go ahead.  Right now.  I will wait.
  2. Count how many times there was a negative, derogatory or demeaning comment or implication about the opposing view in the post / article / comments.
  3. If it was less than 5, you hit Internet gold!

You see, even though we “communicate” more than ever we are more divided than ever.  We talk, talk, talk, but do we listen?  What is the purpose of our talking?  More often that not, we talk for self-affirmation.  That is, we say things that our like minded friends will agree with so we feel better about ourselves.  “Yay we won, we sure showed those idiots.”  or “Four years of pain and suffering, because people are idiots.”  Self-affirmation in communication is not communicating.  Believe it or not, it is bullying.  Yes, you read the right.  You are being a bully when you post or say derogatory comments about people that do not agree with you.  You are building your self-esteem at the expense of others.  That is the definition of bullying.  It is disrespectful, demeaning and destructive.  You will not persuade others with that kind of dialog.  But, then again, if it is self-affirmation you are after, that was never your intent was it?  If you are seeking to persuade, you will find that Aristotle did not include insults in his rules of Apologetics for a reason.

Teaching our Children to do Better or Learning from our Children.

Both major parties made a hash of their rhetoric, insulting and demeaning their opponents and their opponents followers, apparently forgetting all along, that they would be the leader of those  Americans too.  They were good examples of what not to do.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  You must do what you want your children to learn.   So, if we want our children to obey the playground rules, we need to as well.  In case you forgot what they are, here is a refresher. 

  1. Respect those in Authority.  Whether it is YOUR candidate or THEIR candidate that wins, after the election they are OUR President-elect.  Every President, especially ones I disagree with, will always be referred to with their honorarium: President Soandsuch. Don’t resort to the lazy, familiarization of the media that likes to refer them only by their last name like they are part of some sports team.  You don’t call your teacher by their first name like they are one of the gang and you certainly shouldn’t treat those officials in the civic sphere that way either.
  2. Listen to others. If they have a different perspective, have you listened?  I mean truly listened to why their perspective is different.  Do you seek to understand what experiences caused them to think that way?  They may not even be able to articulate why they feel the way they do, but they are people and chances are they have reasons to believe like they do.  Have you put yourself in their shoes?  Have you walked a mile in them?  Johnny might have a valid reason why he needs that ball now and not later.  You have 2 ears and 1 mouth.  Listen twice as much as you talk.
  3. Don’t insult people. Yes, you may actually be right, and they may really have a lower IQ than you, but that does not give you the right to demean them because you were blessed with more intelligence.  Apparently, you haven’t figured out that greater gifts mean more responsibility to help others, not belittle them.  What kid would ever get away with insulting or demeaning kids who are less intelligent?  But, here is a newsflash – chances are that kid you thought was so dull, is really gifted, and you missed it completely.  BONUS:  A corollary to #2.  For every defect in others you identify, find 2 in yourself (trust me, they are there for all of us).
  4. Don’t Exclude. If your little circle looks just like you, talks just like you and thinks like you, then you are probably a little insecure. Expand your world.  Go ahead.  You might find that you didn’t know as much you thought you did AND you might discover some REALLY GREAT people that you would have otherwise missed out on.  So, don’t horde the slide to your little clique of friends.  Those other kids would certainly enjoy it, and you will benefit from your time with them.
  5. Apologize.  When you mess up, fess up.  Then do your best to make it like it never happened.  Own your mistakes.  Learn from them.  Become a better person.  Help those you hurt. If you knocked Billy off of the swing, apologize and make sure he is okay.  Get him the help he needs, if he is not.  Learn not to run past the swing when kids are getting on.
  6. Accept Differences.  We seem to tolerate anything these days but someone that disagrees with us.  We are all different and that is part of what makes life together great.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree.  It also doesn’t mean that if you disagree with me that you are somehow phobic or a bigot.  Yes, it is possible to disagree with someone different than you and the disagreement has nothing to do with fear or prejudice.  It just means you think differently.  At the same time, some ideas are genuinely bad ideas.  If you want to jump off the top of the slide, that is a bad idea.  If I feel compelled to tell you, as a friend that I think your choice is dangerous, that doesn’t mean I don’t like you, respect you or that I am afraid of different ideas.  It just means I care and wish better for you.  In the end, it is your choice, I respect that, but you should also respect that my disagreement and warning is out of compassion, and not fear.  Likewise, I hope that when it is my turn to have a dumb idea (because we all do) you will feel like you can tell me so.  I might not agree, but I won’t be offended.  That is what sharing the playground is all about.
  7. Learn to Laugh.  Seriously, we all need to lighten up and stop taking ourselves so seriously.  We need to learn to laugh at ourselves.  When we trip on the sidewalk and nothing is there, that is kind of funny.  Enjoy it.  Let others enjoy it too.  We cannot be so self-absorbed to believe that every thought and action that we participate in is a blessing to human history.  We need to get over ourselves and enjoy life.  If what we have is so good, it ought to show by the joy and peace on our face.  If you look like you just downed a bottle of prune juice, then you might want to reconsider whether you are cut out for the playground police.  Perhaps you should spend more time on the slide, the swing, or my favorite (which is really hard to find these days) the merry-go-round, and less time telling others how to enjoy them.   

  Pass the Baton…

Another generation is watching us.  They are looking to see how we handle these differences between us.  We have a choice to make.  We can be hypocrites and break all of the playground rules or we can do what we tell them to do.  They look like they are having a lot of fun so the rules are clearly working.  For my part,  I will enjoy my time while it is my time, and I will play by the playground rules.  I look forward to sharing the playground with you all and when my time is done, I look forward to watching the youngsters enjoy it (of course they will have all of the cool, new stuff that is “safe” to play with).  That is entirely different blog post…

A Tale of Two Pink Slips

pink slip

This post is about two different pink slips.  If you are my age, you remember when that meant, you were fired, or that you owned your car.  I am not discussing those  pink slips.  Rather two completely different approaches to child development.  Pink slips coming home from school have become “a thing.”  Who knew!?   I am not sure why they chose they color pink, but it seems to be theme.  Perhaps it is because bad news delivered in pink is supposed to be less condemning.  I am thankful that God’s judgment will not be meted out on pink slips.

This tale of two pink slips will hopefully demonstrate different approaches to school-parent communication.  While it is true that life rarely fits into tidy little scales where we can weigh one concept neatly against another, there are things we can learn from differing approaches.

Pink Slip #1

Once upon a time, a pink slip was created for a school.  It’s purpose was noble.  It would convey vital information to parents about their child, in order that they may be part of the development process.  This way, the school and the home are operating in perfect harmony and the child is the beneficiary of this focused attention.  As the pink slip grew, it began to demonstrate some surprisingly dark tendencies.  When our pink slip reached maturity, it was no longer the lovely herald of tidings that it was intended to be, but rather a harbinger of doom.  How did this happen you say?  The explanation is actually very simple: There was darkness in its heart from the beginning.

Yes, I know, it is a little over dramatic, but I think you get the point that what looks like a good idea, can easily turn out to be a bad one if the execution is off.  The pink slip in our first scenario details a list of infractions that a child may have committed throughout the day.  Possible infractions include: forgetting a textbook, failure to turn in homework, a uniform infraction, etc.  The pink slip I am describing (not in the picture above) is one that is distributed at a very well known, and respected school.  So respected, it is emulated across the country in various manifestations.  I am not criticizing the school, or even the pink slip.  Rather, I am challenging the thinking behind it in the first place.

Parents I know, of children I have watched grow from infancy have been recipients of multiple pink slips a week (for one child) and most have more than one.  I understand that all people make mistakes, but you probably don’t know these kids.  They are a genuine blessing that I believe any parent would be proud of.  Here is the first execution problem: more is less.  To help understand this, consider your email.  I don’t know about you, but between my work and personal email, I am receiving close to 400 email messages a day.  That means I have to be very selective about what I pay attention to in order to get anything done.  When you communicate this level of minutia, you have to expect that much of it will be downplayed.  Why?  Because it should be.

Every time the child brings one of these pink slips home, the school is forcing the parent to make a statement to their child.  Verbally or not.  Here is the second execution problem: the school derives its authority from the parents, not the other way around.  The school is forcing the parent to either adopt its culture at home or undermine the school.  Neither choice is good.  If you ignore the pink slip, you are undermining the school’s authority.  In other words, you are telling the child you disagree with the school.  Therefore, your only option is to discuss it.  If you address it, you are acknowledging their behavior was a problem.  Given all of the important things to discuss with our children do we really want to spend time discussing why they neglected to wear their belt today?  Or why the textbook was left on the kitchen table when they went out the door rather than in their backpack.  I am not saying those things don’t matter, I am just wondering how can they possibly be important enough to receive a special note home from school.

In my opinion those execution problems really pale in comparison to the last execution problem: forcing the child to carry home their own condemnation.  Many of you may have not have issues with this because “normal” kids typically don’t show symptoms of a problem with this, until they are much older. Even then, many of them will likely just laugh it off when they are older (because they will see it as silly).  For those that have children with challenges, you will know right away what the issue is here.  Children with challenges frequently have issues understanding the degree of an offense, but they know that pink slip means there was an offense.  This means that guilt for wearing the wrong socks will feel to them the same as guilt associated with knocking down a classmate.  And, we are making them carry that home.  Regardless of whether you have children with challenges or not, this is a horrible idea.  How does this fit with the correction cycle of teach, model, and reconcile.  You may remember “wait ‘til your father gets home.”  How did the rest of the day go for you?  Is a child going to get anything out of the rest of their classes?  Not much, I would think.  So in the end, if  the pink slip was effective at anything, the children missed learning so their uniforms would be neat and orderly in the future.  That is completely counterproductive.

There has to be a better way.  In fact there is.

Pink Slip #2


The picture to the left is an actual  pink slip that PC brought home.  This pink slip is what inspired this post.  It was such a refreshing difference from our friends experience that it shocked me.  The child is able to bring good news to their parents and it is something they are proud and happy to share.  Positive mental chemistry results and learning is much more efficient and effective.  What a contrast.  Our little pink slip is an angel of good news again.  Adults are happy.  Children are happy.  What could be better?

At our children’s school, the teachers are in constant communication with us.  There are so many forms of communication available now, it is almost unfathomable that we would make the child carry home bad news on paper.   We know before the child gets home if they had issues.  In addition, as their parents, we can decide how to address it (or whether to address it).  This is how to empower parents to more effectively raise their children.

If a school truly understands that it derives its authority from the parents, and not the other way around, then you can simply do this.  It is a small change, but it will have profound positive fruit:  let the child bring home the praise, and communicate the correction directly to the parent.

Happily Ever After

Communication with children is a complicated subject because parents are regularly dealing with issues with children.  We all pray that it would be as simple as remembering to bring your things to school.  However, we all also know that there is a lot more at stake than that.  Real children have real life problems and our conversations with them ought to be spent helping them navigate those.  If not, the alarming rate of kids that abandon the previous generation’s values will continue.

Here is on last thought on the subject.  Something to ponder as an exercise if you will.  Schools that want to see more of their children “own” those great values that they are trying to instill should consider what values they are actually communicating. That is the only way we will all see the happily ever after for our children.


kissy heartsParenting is all about shaping the eternal.  Like craftsmen, our goal is to bring out the very best in those little hearts and minds by putting the very best into them.  Each child we work with is a unique work of art that will last forever and will go on to invest in other little, eternal people.  It is an amazing process, but it is also a full time job because their little minds are constantly being exposed to images, and thoughts.  Some will be good, some bad, and others amazingly funny.

P.C. demonstrated this in typical P.C. form.  We are all (im)patiently waiting the arrival of “Little Buddy,”  that cute little bundle of love between Coco and Sweetness.  There has been all kinds of interesting ideas exchanged between the ladies about how to get the labor started.  I have no idea if any of them actually help, and I am not about to even begin to speculate about that.  That would sort of be like the pot telling the potter how to go about their work.  Even so, that did not intimidate P.C. from offering his own advice.  Partly because he is just P.C. and will offer ideas to anyone (even if they didn’t ask), but more importantly, because he had some valuable information to share.  He knew how this all worked.

Beautiful decided to take the “farm route” to school yesterday.  This was the inspiration that P.C. needed.  He informed Beautiful that he knew how to get Little Buddy out.  He told her, “Coco and Sweetness just need to eat, then kiss and then hearts will pop out of their heads.  After that, Little Buddy will come out.”  You see, that is how the chickens do it in Minecraft.

Yes, my son has his understanding of reproduction from a virtual Lego building game.  We will fix that when the time is right, but for now, that is close enough!  Our minds were created to know creation.  They do not handle a knowledge vacuum gracefully.  I am grateful that there was information there for him to work with.  Given P.C.’s creative thinking, I am not sure where that would have gone without his Minecraft knowledge.  I am glad I will never find out. 

In the constant struggle to shape their little minds and hearts, we sometimes miss things. That is why it is important that we think about how to reach and grow our children.  We would like to miss as little as possible.  As a parent, it is comforting to know that Minecraft has my back.

And, yes, we are still (im)patiently waiting Little Buddy’s arrival.

Shifting Solar System

IMG_3355We had a change in the solar system recently.  You would think something like that would be memorable, but honestly I could not pinpoint the day it happened.  It just did.

It is sad for us, because, Beautiful and I enjoyed the old order.  We were the twin stars of Pooh Bear’s little world.  He would love nothing more than to see either one of us.  No matter what was happening if we walked into the room, everything else in his world stopped.

Every morning he would get up and charge into my office to get his morning hug and see what Daddy was working on.  That was then.  That was the old star.  Oh, he will still come see me, and I still get hugs, especially when he is tired or just needs a little “pick me up.”  But there are other things he needs to do now.

Pooh Bear is a busy toddler with a jammed packed schedule.  There are only so many hours in the day to play cars, watch Cars, or read about cars.  He has to make sure he is getting the most from his day.  If he were older, he might say he was “Redeeming the time.”  Or “Being a wise steward with his day.”  If he were more classically trained, “Carpe Diem,” might be his mantra.

As a parent it can be somewhat deflating to know that even in the eyes of a two year old, you take a back seat to things (sticking with the car theme here).  And that is where the problem is.

We don’t have children for our self-esteem or for how they make us feel important, needed or valued.  Children are a gift that we are able to enjoy protecting and pass along the pearls of wisdom that were given to us by our parents, or that we picked up along the way.  We are parenting well when we can equip them to not need us, and simultaneously do it in such a way that they still love us, and love to visit with us anyway.  Each child at each age has unique challenges that require help to overcome.  As we teach them to overcome those challenges, we are teaching them to stand, as much as possible, on their own.  You may be blessed with a special needs child that will always require your help their entire life.  Their independence will be limited to a large degree, but we need to give them what we can.

Being replaced in the solar system is a natural part of the world.  I have been through it seven times now.  It doesn’t get any more enjoyable to know you were demoted, but it does get easier.  At least in this case, a demotion is a good thing.  I might not be Pooh Bear’s sun anymore, but I know that is not because I got smaller. It is because his world got bigger.  That is fun to watch, if you are not too busy feeling sorry for yourself.

I might not be Pooh Bear’s sun anymore, but I know that is not because I got smaller. It is because his world got bigger.

A Logic Lesson for Parents

There is a REALLY common logic fallacy that is very popular today (which is also another logic fallacy, but that is for another post).  The Latin name for it is post hoc ergo propter hoc. Literally, that means “After this (post hoc), therefore (ergo) because of this (propter hoc).”  It is essentially confusing chronology with causality.  In other words, just because something happened after something else, doesn’t mean that the first event caused the second (unless there really is a causal link).

A Couple of Examples

Johnny and the Cookie Jar 

Suppose little Johnny goes into the kitchen.  You hear a crash and investigate and find the cookie jar on the floor.  You may be tempted to conclude that it is Johnny’s fault that the cookie jar fell.  That would be a fallacy without other evidence.  It is also important to note that if it is his fault, shame on you for having a cookie jar out where little Johnny could reach it!  What we don’t  have here is a causal link.  What knocked the cookie jar over in this fictitious example was the cat, startled by Johnny entering the room.

Improving Schools

This is not a home example but it is a recent one for us, and alarmingly popular so I thought I would share it.  Schools want to boost their scores because that is how we measure how effective the learning is.  Toward that end they make their curriculum harder in order to achieve that result.  Low and behold, each year their scores do go up (and they will, by the way, but not for the expected reason).  It would be easy to conclude that the more difficult curriculum did the job.  The kids are learning more and it is showing on the tests. However, there is no causal link here just like in the cookie jar example.  More than likely the children that were pulling the test scores lower, left the school because it was crushing them. 

To truly measure the effectiveness of the teaching, you need to approach this much more scientifically: 

  1. Take an exam on a set of material. 
  2. Teach the material. 
  3. Take the same exam with the same kids. 

Viola! (how about that – 3 languages in one post!)  This way you can measure the knowledge of the students before they were taught and then measure the mastery afterward to be able to measure what new mastery they have after the teaching.  Those of you who are scientists, will no doubt have a dozen additions to improve the method, but this is sufficient for you to get the point.

The reality is, no school (that I know of) does that.  Instead they are measuring the mastery of the students annually and that only reflects the pace of the school.  In other words if I teach the material before the other schools, my students will score higher because they have been exposed to new material that the other students haven’t.  Therein lies the subtle and dangerous fallacy. 

I am not maligning hard work.  I would just rather see the schools do what they want the students to do:  THINK.  I can bail water out of a sinking boat with a cup, or a bucket.  I will work a lot harder with the cup, but that doesn’t mean it is more effective.  Yes, you can build character with hard work, but you can also crush spirits with too much of it.  More effective learning should be the goal, not more work.  We want to help them build a better boat, not bail faster!

Okay, enough examples, how is this relevant to parenting.

Think about our Children

Parents are always trying new things with their kids.  That is a good thing.  Don’t get complacent.  Your children are always changing and your parenting needs to mature with them.  Don’t conclude just because you tried something and received the immediate result you wanted, that the reason the child responded was because you did what you did.  Or more importantly, that the lesson you wanted to teach is the lesson the child actually learned.  If you getting angry at the child for some behavior, and you do something stupid as a parent, the lesson learned might not be, “don’t do that”, but rather, don’t make Mom or Dad mad.  Right result – behavior has changed, wrong lesson – you didn’t really change their hearts, you just showed them you are a hypocrite.

Children are complex little people and sometimes the lesson they are learning is not the one you wanted to teach.  I have had a couple of conversations with the older children (Coco and Princess) and they had a few stories about situations where Beautiful and I thought we were so clever in how we handled a situation and it turns out the lesson learned was utterly the wrong one.  Not because we got angry and did something stupid, but because they learned about how we operate, not the moral lesson we wanted to teach.

You cannot completely avoid the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in parenting because we cannot see inside their heads or hearts to know exactly what is going on.  If we could the “whodunit” conversations would be a lot shorter!  Instead, we need to be vigilant to see if the children are growing and maturing and keep adapting to provide the right nutrients for their precious little hearts and minds.  Children learn how to “play” their parents early so don’t expect that to go away just because they got older.  Think and pray and ask good questions.  The children will help you help them if you give them that respect.

Love is . . .

Giving Bread I have always felt that the posts that end up on this site are inspired.  Not inspired as in Apostolic Authority inspired, but inspired as in our lives serve a purpose and part of that purpose is to share it with others.  You may notice that I have not been inspired since last December.  There has been a good reason for that as our family has been in a bit of turmoil and I was not in a position to write about it.

The emotions are too raw for me to get too close to the actual topic at this point, because it has been a heartbreaking disappointment to watch it all unfold realizing that so few people get it.  But, I have been inspired to share this with you.  I hope it is helpful to someone.

An authority figure in our children’s lives that we were parting ways with recently told Beautiful, “I want you to know, I loved your son a 110%.”  We know she meant it because we have known her and her family many years.  We are grateful for her love and efforts, but we also know that it wasn’t enough.  That is why we are parting ways.

The fundamental problem is that as Christians, those who ought to know what love is better than any others, are frequently, the worst students of it.  We, the recipients of the greatest gift ever given, frequently do not know how to give, unless we are asked.

Jesus said, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Mt 7:9–11)

The point of the Jesus’s teaching is that since we know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father in heaven outdo us.  This is absolutely the case!  However, in both examples, the child asked for something and it was given to them.  Frequently, the child or recipient in question doesn’t know what they need.  This is further complicated when we think we know what they need because we know what other kids need, or, worse, we know what worked for us.  Therein lies the problem.  We take the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” literally.  God wasn’t commanding us to love the exact same way we need to be loved, but with the same priority, and effectiveness.

Here is another way to think about it.  As Christians, we understand the importance of objective love.  This has two dimensions.  First, the object of your love is important.  I love Milk Duds.  They are not giving me any benefit other than the enjoyment of chewing that tasty treat.  They are not good for me in any way.  The object of my love affects me, but it does not help me.

The second part of objective love is that the manner in which you love is important.  Many people feel admiration and affection for Jesus the same way I love Milk Duds.  They love what He does for them.  The problem is that that love is ineffective.  Jesus also said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).  In other words, love that does not manifest in obedience is not love.

Let me bring this all together.  Love, no matter how vigorous and heartfelt, is not love if it does not match the object of our love.  If we do not take the time to learn about the needs of the children in our care, we are not loving them as they need.  We may be heartfelt, committed, and energetic, but it will never be enough for the child, because it isn’t what they need.

We recognize physical differences all the time.  This one is gifted athletically. This one is gifted academically. And this one – well they just are.  Unfortunately, we cannot see beyond those differences to differences of brain chemistry, spirit, interests, etc.  One size does not fit all.  As long as you believe that it does, you will be handing your children stones when they really need bread.

If we are not students of the objects of our love, we will be ineffective at a minimum and more likely causing harm.  Does the child need more structure, or do they need more freedom?  Do they need exercise, or quiet?  Who knows if we are not paying attention and don’t know our children.

I pray that all of us as parents will figure out what our children need so will not have to answer for that someday.

On being really, truly Colorblind

Our little family is comprised of a veritable rainbow of race and color.  We have white, we have black, and we have all the shades in between.  Our children are beautiful.  I know that as their father, I am biased, but I am making absolutely no apologies for that bias!

My children talk about their skin color in the most superficial of senses.  They see it as no different than eye color, or eyelash length, or tall or short, or any other attribute.  That is how it should be.  They know God made them the way they are and they have no reason to be ashamed, nor does anyone else.

You see, our children are colorblind.  They are colorblind not because they don’t notice color, but because they understand what it is, nothing more than a physical attribute.  They understand that all people have value and that you measure a person by their character and their character alone.

That is the rub.  You cannot ever achieve colorblindness in any society where there is a vacuum of value.  The world is built around comparative value.  It cannot be ignored nor denied. The world is not egalitarian.  There will always be smarter, prettier, richer people than others.  There will always be people that can perform better, say things better, write better, paint better, and so on.  Kids understand this inherently.

If you teach them that every choice is as good as another, you are teaching them a lie, and what is worse, you are robbing them of the only true way to measure humans.  What are they going to fill that void with?  If you think they won’t you are kidding yourself.  Just walk into a classroom of any age and you will see their little “value” system at work.  They will establish a pecking order.  It is unavoidable.  The only question that remains is what is the basis of their pecking order.

You don’t solve the “race issue” by continuing to talk about it (even if you are the President).  You don’t solve it by the media highlighting some racial tragedy.  You don’t solve it by forums, coalitions, or task forces.  You don’t solve the race issue by legislating “hate crimes.”  And you certainly don’t get there by treating someone special because of their color (or lack).  These things just fan the flames with more attention to what should not be.

I remember when our President was elected and how everyone claimed it was a victory for the race issue.  It demonstrated how far we had progressed as a nation.  I remember kneeling next to my son’s bed that night and crying.  Crying for him and our nation in prayer.  If we are talking about the man’s color, we haven’t achieved a thing.  If people cannot look at our President the way I look at my son and only notice his skin in a completely secondary way, then there is no victory.

If you want your children to be truly colorblind, don’t teach them that everyone is the same.  Rather teach them to love their differences and value character.  You see, being colorblind cannot happen when we are blind to everything

Colorblindness can only happen when we see character in 20/20.

Practice makes …


There is an old adage that Practice makes perfect.  I don’t agree.  Anyone who has participated in athletics will understand my reasons.  If you practice swinging a bat incorrectly, how does that perfect your swing?  I can bang on the keys of piano for hours on end, but I won’t be playing any of Beethoven’s Sonatas any time soon.

No. I believe practice makes permanent. If you want to improve at something, you have to have a goal in mind for what you want to accomplish, and then relentlessly pursue it.  That is how you become a master at what you do.  Thunder has recently experienced this.  Last year he was fantastic hitter with an average at .425.  He has worked relentlessly and this year, in a tougher league, he hit over .700.  But this post isn’t really about baseball (although isn’t everything about baseball??).  It is about how you live your life.

I am going to use generosity as an example of what I am talking about, because I think it is an area that is often overlooked.  Most parents want their children to grow up to be generous.  How do they learn that?  It is not a difficult formula:  they see you practicing and they practice as well.  Help them to love it and help them to exercise with you and when the Lord calls on them to be generous they will be ready to step up to the plate and do what needs done.

Here is the beautiful part about practicing this kind of “exercise.  Not only does generosity become a reflex, they get really good at.  Not just being free with the resources our Lord Jesus has placed in their care, but in knowing how to really help people. Here is an example of what I mean.  How many times have you heard of a friend or family member that has had a tough time and you leave them with, “let me know if you need anything.”  That is a equivalent of a 2 strike slap foul at anything close to the plate just to avoid striking out.  If that is all you do, you will never get past that point.  Practicing generosity allows you balance all of the things that Jesus teaches on the subject.  It enables you to  anticipate those needs of someone having a hard time, it enables you balance anonymous giving, it enables you to redirect gratitude to the real provider (hint it is not you) and it enables you to know when, not to give.

Remember, you are going to make mistakes along the way.  But, you will not learn from them if you aren’t actually practicing.  A hitter doesn’t learn to hit well by watching.  They learn to hit well by swinging the bat and making the necessary adjustments when they have done it wrong.

I was blessed to grow up in a family where my parents modeled this kind of sacrifice and as one of the younger children, was able to see my older siblings take up the torch.  I pray that I am doing as well with my children.

If you want your kids to learn to be generous, remember, practice, practice, practice.  You will all get better and we all know, practice makes permanent.

A Penguin in the Off Season

PenguinP.C. has experienced some pain in his hips off and on over the last year.  We are still investigating that with various doctors so we would appreciate your prayers.

He woke this morning with pain in both hips and asked to stay home from school.  He explained to beautiful that he didn’t want to go because, “all the other children will laugh at me because I walk like a penguin and it is not winter.” 

Apparently, it is okay to walk like a penguin when it is winter, but not in the spring.

You have to love that boy’s view of the world!