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reflections of mine others might find useful

These Life Skills might save your child’s life someday

Today, I got a frantic message from my daughter, Lexi, who now lives in China.  “Dad, is putting out a grease fire on your Life Skils list?  I must not have learned that one yet!”   Well, there’s an important life skill to add!   This incident reminded me that it would be good to update this post from four years ago.  It’s an important topic for parents.

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I believe effective parenting involves giving our kids high levels of responsibility!

We want to prepare them to become adults who take care of themselves and pitch in to help others in their community.  Responsibility certainly involves them doing their share of chores, which I believe should be assigned from toddlerhood on.

And it certainly involves us teaching them life skills so that they will be fully prepared for life on their own.

The link at the end of this post contains a comprehensive list of life skills that other parents and I have collected over the years in my parenting classes.  I doubt you’ll find many we missed!

How to use the Life Skills List:

  • Use it as a checklist with each of your kids to see what skills may need to be taught year by year until they’re ready for college.
  • Use it as a list of fun things to do on a daddy date or during time with mom.
  • When they master a skill reward them for learning it and celebrate together this new step towards their independence!

Three quick stories before you click the link:

First. When our kids were in elementary school and we would go on airplane trips, we would put them in charge of finding the gate, baggage claim, ground transportation, etc. It was like a scavenger hunt for them, and it taught them to recognize signage, read an airport map, pay attention, navigate confidently in the world of adults, notice when they took a wrong turn (yes, we let them!), redirect themselves, be a leader, etc.   (I met a grown woman this week who never flies because she dreads getting lost in airports.  In contrast, my girls could fly anywhere in the English-speaking world with confidence!)

Second.  Mastering these life skills could actually save their lives. When our oldest was working at a summer camp in upstate New York she posted this on my wall:

“Dad, remember that list of life skills you gave us?…um…prolly should have practiced ‘changing a flat tire’”. 

  • My heart sank!  She got a flat on a deserted road and she had absolutely no clue what to do.  My lack of teaching her this essential life skill might have put her life in jeopardy!  She was vulnerable and therefore at the mercy of whomever might drive along that road.  Fortunately, a nice elderly man came by and installed her spare tire, but this was a wake up call to me about the importance of properly preparing our kids before sending them off into the world!

Third.  I was glad to receive this text from our youngest, when she attended college in another city.

“Dad, Isn’t “driving on ice” on your life skils list?  Because that skill just saved me from driving into a creek!  It was kind of fun LOL”

Here’s the Life Skills List!   http://tinyurl.com/LifeSkillsForKids

If you see any we missed, be sure to let me know!

Finally, here’s a great Youtube channel I just heard about called, Dad, how do I? produced by a dad who didn’t have a dad to teach him such skills.

 

I’m Confronting You About Confronting

In my counseling practice, I often deal with relational conflicts, where one or both people have a grievance against the other.   They’ve been confronting each other about what the other person needs to change, but unfortunately, that usually doesn’t end well–which is why they’re in my office!

So I’d like to share some thoughts about confronting and then propose an alternative.

When I confront someone who ticks me off, I’m pointing out what they are doing wrong;  I’m spotlighting the ways I’ve been mistreated or how disappointed I am.   I’m taking someone to the proverbial woodshed.  For example, I might say…

You never listen to me and you don’t care about my feelings.

You’re never home to help with the kids.

Stop trying to fix things all the time!

You always leave the house a mess and expect me to clean up after you.

You drink too much.  You need to stop.

Notice all of the “you” statements I’m using as well as the exaggerated terms “always” and “never”.   And the use of direct commands.   In confronting this way, my focus is clearly on the other person’s deficiencies.  If that person was to put on one of those adhesive nametags that says “Hello my name is…:, I’d be taking a Sharpie and writing the words “MY PROBLEM” on it.  That’s what my opponent is to me…a problem.

The response from such a confrontation is predictable.  It will likely be denial (I’m not that way), defensiveness and deflection (yea, but you treat me this other way), distancing (I can’t stand being around your constant criticism–I’m outta here), or despair (I give up: I will never be able to please you.)

Rarely, does someone who has been confronted this way respond with, “Oh, that was so insightful.  I’m a changed person because of your confrontation!”

Can you see why some people avoid confrontation at all costs?  It’s precarious for both people and it usually doesn’t end well.  For them, it seems best to stuff their feelings and live at a distance–relationally and emotionally.

I’m suggesting an alternative to that kind of interaction.  Let’s stop Confronting and start Educating.

What if I look at the person who is displeasing me, not as my antagonist, but as my friend who simply needs to learn how to care for me better.  What if the nametag I stick on that person is “Unaware Learner” rather than “My Problem.”  Do you see the difference this would make?  What if we took the person to the classroom instead of the woodshed.   That’s far less risky!

To educate simply means helping my friend learn how to care for me better by letting that person understand me more.  It includes positive reinforcement just as much as disclosing the things that bother me.  Here are some examples:

It meant a lot to me when you asked how my day went.

Thanks for letting me vent just now.  That made me feel not alone.  It makes me feel closer to you.

I sometimes find myself feeling like I’m getting your leftovers when you work so late so often.  I don’t want to feel this way.  I love you and I appreciate it so much whenever you make me feel more important than work.

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed in caring for the kids and I find myself feeling angry sometimes when I see you on your phone so much.  I’m not saying this to beat you up, but to let you know how this affects me.  I don’t want to feel that way about you. Whenever you remember to set down your phone and help with the kids please know that I will be so grateful to you.

We both know that a tidy house is obviously more imporant to me than it is to you!  I know you don’t share this value, but this is something that is very imortant to me. I suppose I feel like the condition of my house is a reflection of my success as a woman.  I realize that it doesn’t come natural for you, but I want you to know how much it means to me when  you do remember to pick things up for me.

I get nervous when I see you drinking so much.  Sometimes I can’t even sleep because of it.  I worry about ways that alcohol might harm our family like I’ve seen it do to others.  If you were able to cut down on your drinking that would be such a blessing to me.

I find myself getting defensive when I feel criticized and I don’t like that about myself.  I want to share something with you that I think will help:  it would help me to grow and change if you could educate me rather than confront me.  I think this might draw us closer and I’d appreciate it so much if you could give it a try.

Each of these statements will likely lead to increased heart connection, understanding, and improved behaviors.

Notice the prevalence of “I” statements, the avoidance of commands, and a complete lack of blame and shame.   Educating like this is not soft-peddling or minimizing issues; it simply involves discussing the same issues with a different tone and a different goal.  The focus is on strengthening the relationship, not on controlling another person.  It involves kindness, honesty, straightforwardness, polite requests, patience, and hope.

So whenever we remember to, let’s replace Confronting with Educating!   In fact, let’s change the title of this blog post as well!

 

 

[Disclaimer, in this post I’m speaking of confronting as it pertains to personal conflicts in the everyday frictions of life.  Certainly, there are times when outright confronting is necessary, such as with addiction treatment interventions, poor performance reviews, or to stop harm from being done to others.]

How I read 52 books in 2020

 

Don’t you love it when your kids tell you about something amazing!  Lexi, introduced me to a great resource that has quite literally changed my life.   I’m blogging about it because many of you may find this resource as helpful as I did.  What is it?  Hoopla!

Hoopla is a free service, provided by public libraries (including Cedar Rapids), offering audiobooks, e-books, and videos.  To log in, you just have to use your library card number.  I use it almost exclusively for audiobooks, of which there are tens of thousands to choose from.   You simply stream or download the books to the app on your phone and listen to them!  They return automatically in 21 days.  I started using Hoopla in January and I was shocked to see that I’ve listened to 52 books this year!

How did I have time to read a book a week while being a full-time grad student doing a counseling internship?  It has amazed me how much time can be reclaimed by making use of otherwise wasted time.  I read while at the gym, on the treadmill, in the car, running errands, traveling, mowing grass, shoveling snow, vacuuming, gardening, working on projects, etc.

To give you a taste of what is available, here is the list of books that I listened to in 2020 (in no particular order), along with a short description of each.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. A riveting memoir about a Korean adoptee who searched for her biological family.
Understanding People by Larry Crabb.  He talks about what it means to be human and how each component needs to be mended.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.  I have been meaning to read this culture critique for years.  Written in 1985 but just as relevant today as ever.
Blessed are the Misfits by Brant Hanson.  The author shares his reflections on life with Asperger’s Syndrome.
St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton.  An interesting biography of a person I wanted to learn more about by an author I’ve wanted to read more from.
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.  A classic that I hadn’t read since college days.
When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper.  Encouraging reflections for Christians suffering from depression.
The Search for God by C.S. Lewis.  A collection of short essays about faith and culture. 
You and Me Forever by Francis Chan.  My daughter Brenda considers this her favorite marriage book and I now see why she says that.
The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper.  Three interesting biographies of suffering saints: David Brainard, William Cowper, and John Bunyan.
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John M. Gottman.  Scientific evidence about what builds or erodes marriages.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer.  Another classic that I hadn’t read since college days.  Are we balconeers (watchers) or travelers on the journey?
Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.  He unpacks the folly of talking the talk without walking the walk.
Paradise Lost by John Milton.  A literary classic.  I was amazed at the theological depths of human depravity expressed through this extended poem.
Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper.  A short book about the importance of delighting in God.
Contentment by Chip Ingram.  A good book on the subject.
Atomic Habits by James Clear – Book Summary by Dean Bokhari.  A client recommended this book on self-management, so I wanted to check it out. Good tips.
George McDonald by C.S. Lewis. This is Lewis’s compilation of many of McDonald’s profound reflections.
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  I re-read my favorite marriage book. What if marriage is about becoming holy, more than happy?
The Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb.  I really enjoyed this book.  Are you manipulating your spouse or ministering to your spouse?
Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage by Greg Smalley.  Humorous personal stories and principles for a healthy marriage.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan.  A historically researched fictional account of Joy Davidman’s life and marriage to C.S. Lewis.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.  Lewis’s personal reflections on losing his wife to cancer. 
Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.  This book was mentioned twice in other books, so I decided to read it.  A good one about caring for your soul.
The Truth About Us: How We Fool Ourselves and How God Loves Us Anyway by Brant Hansen. I really enjoy this author, his style is humorous, poignant, and convicting.
Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud.  My biggest take-away:   my spouse should not complete me, but rather complement me.
Crucial Conversations book summary (Flashbooks)  Good, quick 30 min overview of an excellent book on communication.
Summary of Crucial Conversations by (Abey Beathan) More comprehensive than the previous, but sounds like a robot is reading it
Costly Obedience by Mark Yarhouse.  Thoughts about Christians experiencing same sex attraction.
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis.  Part 3 of the space trilogy.
Prelandria by C.S. Lewis.  Part 2 of the space trilogy.
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis.  Part 1 of the space trilogy, which allegorizes creation, the fall, and redemption.
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis.  Thoughts on the education system and how human emotion is overlooked.
Becoming Whole by Brian Fikkert. Excellent follow-up to When Helping Hurts by the same author.  Compassionate agencies must address the whole person.
The Disciplines of the Christian Life by Eric Liddell.  I believe this is the only book written by Eric Liddell, published after his death.
Eric Liddell by John Keddie.  A wonderful biography of the Olympic runner.
Eric Liddell by Janet and Geoff Benge.  Another great biography of Eric.
The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson.  Part 4 of the fictional young adult series.
The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson. Part 3 of the fictional young adult series.
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson. Part 2 of the fictional young adult series.
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. Part 1 of the fictional young adult series by this famous Christian singer. It’s a fantasy, which allegorizes the Christian message.
Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud.  How change is sometimes necessary, though painful.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.  A fascinating memoir of an African boy genius who brought wind-generated electricity to his people from scraps he found in a junkyard.
Amazing Grace by John Piper.  A biography of  William Wilberforce, who brought slavery to an end in England without war.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield.  A call to be neighborly, by opening up our lives and homes to our literal neighbors.
Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray.  A short, but good book, dealing with depression from a Christian point of view.
Dispatches From The Front by Tim Keesee.  Amazing stories from around the world of how God is working in hostile places.
What Your Body Knows About God by Rob Moll.  Scientific evidence of how our bodies are designed to connect to the spiritual.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk. This was required reading for my degree, but it was amazing to learn about how trauma is connected to physical responses and the various ways to recover.

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Aside from Hoopla audiobooks, the Bible, and school textbooks, I also read four paper books
Silent Night by Susan Thomas.  The autobiography of the subject of the tv show Sue Thomas: FB(eye).  She was blind and did lip-reading for the FBI.
Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  Ancient wisdom from one of the church fathers.
Out of Your Comfort Zone by George Verwer.  A call to live a life of sacrifice and service by one of our modern-day heroes.
Marriage Matters by Cheri Swalwell.  A collection of stories about how to have a healthy marriage, edited by a former youth group student of mine!

Logging Out

Those who know me best know that, though I’m generally a content, positive, optimistic person, there is one thing that makes me absolutely incredulous:  observing others being made to feel insignificant, voiceless, devalued, and invisible.

I’ve seen the damaging effects such treatment causes.  People I know and love have been devastated by having what they love torn from them with no recourse, no negotiating, no alternate ideas, no compromising, and no say in the matter.

And I’m well acquainted with the fallout of such treatment:  the sleepless nights, the bewilderment, the anger, the disillusionment, the grief, the insecurity, and the despair.   I’ve spent far too many hours consoling such needlessly-wounded friends.

My incredulity usually compels me to draw attention to the unjust treatment of others;  I sense a duty to come to the defense of the marginalized.  I feel obliged to point out those being overlooked, to speak up for the voiceless, to enlighten the unaware, and to write passionate letters or emails.   Sometimes it helps.

Sometimes it doesn’t.  In those cases, I have found it useful to focus on two things:

  1. healing the wounded (my interest in becoming a counselor was augmented by the desire to better help such hurting people) and
  2. viewing the hurtful ones as blind, not evil.

About Blindness

My choice to view the perpetrators as blind rather than evil has been very helpful in allowing me to forgive rather than get stuck in bitterness.  But it didn’t stop me from judging them.  How could people be so blind to the obvious?  How could they not see the devastation they were causing?  How could they sit by and not be affected by suffering saints?  It was right for me to judge them.  Blindness is stupid.

And then last month happened.

At the beginning of the month, I found myself in a leadership position where I was in charge of carrying out the directives of a national office.   Being a responsible rule-follower, I was determined to carry out my duties to the best of my ability.  I studied the procedure manual and made a detailed list of all the tasks to be done.  I memorized the organizational flow chart and told everyone where they fit.

However,  the passions and priorities of some in our group differed from those outlined in my rulebook.  This problem was easily solved by viewing them as out-of-step and a hindrance to progress.   So I discounted their viewpoints — after all,  proper procedures must be followed,

Ironically, I was now the blind one — blind to how my actions were making others feel unimportant, unnecessary, and unwanted.  I was now the one causing people disillusionment, grief, and sleepless nights.

At the end of the month, through a series of hard conversations, God mercifully opened my blind eyes.  Here I was, doing the exact same thing that has bothered me so much in others over the years.  I was completely blind and didn’t know it.  I found that I am as capable as anyone of viewing people as problems, rather than as precious.

I quickly apologized and made things right with those I had wronged and my victims showed me grace in their forgiveness.  Happily, we are now moving forward at great speed — together — in reaching our goals.  This experience was humbling for me.

But an even greater humility came from realizing these things about myself:

  • I have been such a hypocrite in being prone to judge others for the very thing I am prone to do.  I can be just as blind as those I’ve criticized.
  • All of us have blind spots, but we are completely unaware that we are blind.
  • Blindness cannot be avoided.  When we think we are mature and incapable of blindness we are just fooling ourselves.  We can’t see what we can’t see.
  • Only God can give sight to the blind.  It takes a miracle to open a blind person’s eyes.
  • This awareness makes me less prone to condemn others.  Except by the grace of God there go I.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:5 (ESV).

  • Logging out starts with asking God to reveal my own faults before I start fixating on the faults of others.

Why I resolved NOT to read through the Bible in 2020

I’ve always admired those people who can read through the Bible each year.  I once met an elderly saint, who shared with me — shortly before his death — that he had read through the Bible something like 50 times over his lifetime.  Wow!  He has been a spiritual mentor to me, teaching me more about intimacy with God than anyone else.  In many ways, I want to be just like him.

But unlike my mentor, when I’m on my deathbed, I will not be able to report having read through the Bible 50 times–or anything close to that number.  Sure, I’ve tried it on occasion over the years, but most of the time unsuccessfully;  it was one of those New Year’s Resolutions that I couldn’t sustain.   Most of the time I would fall behind, then quit, and then feel guilty.

I admire those who can read through it in a year, and encourage people to do it, but here are five reasons why I am unlikely to make reading through the Bible in a year my annual goal.

  1.  My comprehension level is insufficient to skim-read effectively.  Compared to most people, I’m the kind who needs to read slowly in order to grasp what is being said.  Reading the entire Bible at my speed would take an unreasonable amount of time each day.
  2.  I am committed to the belief that every word (and jot and tittle) of the Bible is God-breathed and purposefully written and so I seek to fully understand all that God is communicating.  If I did try to skim-read the Bible I would feel like I’m just getting the headlines — an overview — and not the details of God’s message.  (This is also why in my Bible study I prefer a more literal translation rather than a more contemporary paraphrase; I’m more interested in the details of what God actually said than man’s interpretations about what God might have been saying.)
  3.  Someone once said, “What matters is not me getting through the Bible, but whether or not the Bible is getting through me. ” Unless I slow down and meditate on what I’m reading I know that God’s Word will not get through me–I will miss the vast majority of personal applications.   Someone else said, “We should read God’s Word for inspiration, not information.”  I want to read it with the mindset that it’s about God’s heart reaching my heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.  For me, that takes time and a lot of focus.
  4.  I don’t ever again want my Bible reading to be associated with guilt;  instead, I want it always to be a joy and delight.  To me, having to stick to a prescribed daily reading schedule for 365 days in a row makes reading God’s Word often feel like a chore on a checklist.
  5.  My lifestyle is too sporadic and inconsistent to do anything for 365 days in a row!   I know that there will be days when it is just not reasonable for me to spend a chunk of time reading the Bible.  Driving straight through to New Jersey, being sick with the flu, experiencing days of extreme exhaustion, or dealing with an unexpected crisis — these things are realities in my life where grace is needed.  If I were tethered to a strict Bible reading schedule, any missed readings would begin to pile up, necessitating more skimming, frustration, and guilt.  Or just quitting altogether–as I have done many times!

Many years ago, I changed the way I read the Bible.

Now, I prayerfully determine a specific number of minutes that I want to spend in God’s Word each day, knowing that some days it will not be reasonable to do so.   When the appointed time comes, I go to a quiet place with my Bible and a highlighter and I set a timer for my predetermined amount of time.  Then I dive in, absorbing myself into God’s Word, reading as slowly as I can, comparing relevant passages, and underlining the things that are particularly meaningful or insightful.  I get so absorbed that I often lose track of time completely.  When my timer goes off, I simply draw a line in the margin at that point and pick it up there the following day.  No quota to meet, no rush, and no pressure:  just the enjoyment of meditating on what God is saying.  Sometimes I get through two chapters, sometimes no more than a single paragraph.  It doesn’t matter in the least!   Sometimes, God gives me opportunities to share what He showed me that day.

Whatever your plan and pace, I hope that 2020 finds you growing in your reading of God’s Word!

[Update:  in 2021, I tried something new.  Using the Youversion app, I read through the Bible Chronologically, reading through the text and also listening at the same time.  I didn’t stick to the daily calendar schedule, my life is too sporadic for that level of consistency.  But I was able to set aside irregular blocks of time, completing the whole Bible in 7 months, something I’ve never come close to doing before. There was value in chronologically “speed-reading” the entire Bible this way, but it’s not something I will do very often for all the reasons in this blog post.]

 

“Hey while you’re up, grab one for me too!”

Last night, while sitting in my Lazy-Boy chair, I said those startling words to our daughter, Lexi.  My wife, Cindy, not realizing I was joking, called me out for my rudeness.   Lexi just laughed and brought me the yogurt.

What??  Many people would find the conversation I just described confusing.  What was startling about my words and what made it a joke?  Let me explain.

One of the foundational principles of our household has always been respect for one another and one basic way to show respect is by not demanding things.  None of us feels honored by being ordered around; being commanded by others robs us of autonomy and self-worth.  The stakes are high:  those made to submit to oppressive controls either become bitter toward authority or they become helpless victims.

In contrast, making polite requests of one another, avoiding commands, and using enforceable statements are good methods of building up one another, cultivating trust, forming confidence, and avoiding any abuses of power.

So, as soon as our kids could talk, we implemented a “no commands” policy.  The expectation was that if you needed something from someone else, you must do three things:  1.)  put it in the form of a question, 2.) include the word please, and 3.) say it in a pleasant tone of voice.  As parents we modeled this back to our kids, treating them with the same respect as we required of them toward us.   It was a policy that communicated that everyone matters (parents and kids) and that it’s never ok to presume upon others.  Favors aren’t owed, they are favors.

That’s what made my command, “grab one for me too!” so outlandish.  In our home, we would never speak to each other that way.  What made it a joke was that I was acting the part of a dictator, something completely foreign to the way we normally interact with one another.  Lexi got the joke, took no offense, and brought me the yogurt.  “Yes, your majesty.”

I’m not saying parents should never use commands, but I am suggesting that their use should be rare and it should be attention-grabbing when they are used.  For example, during a snowstorm one Saturday night, I called Cindy and said these exact words:  “Get in the car and drive to Camp Wapsie right now.”  I violated all three of our household rules:  it wasn’t polite, it wasn’t a question, and I didn’t use the word please.  Cindy instantly knew this had to be an emergency and, rather than take offense, she got in the car and drove the 20 miles to Camp Wapsie in a snowstorm.   [The emergency?  We were desperately trying to get 100 kids home from a retreat before the blizzard got too bad, but the bus key had gotten lost in the snow.  The only spare key happened to be in Cindy’s car!]

You can get away with an occasional command if you use them only when necessary.   Screaming “Get out of the street!” is the right thing to do when your kid is in the path of an oncoming truck;  it would not be a good time to say please and use a polite tone of voice!  The urgency justifies the suspension of etiquette.   In fact, a rare, out-of-character command will draw attention much better than the constant issuing of directives.  Too many parents, however, have formed the bad habit of ordering their kids around, which will likely result in resentment and rebellion.

My advice?  Pay attention to how often you use commands in your communications with your kids.  Taking more care with the choice of our words is important.  Here are some simple adjustments that might help.

Instead of… Try this…
Pick up your toys! Let’s get your toys picked up.
Go brush your teeth! It’s time to brush your teeth.
Put on your mittens! It’s cold out, you might want to wear mittens.
Stop making that racket! Can you do mommy a favor and play quieter? I have a headache.
Turn off the TV! In ten minutes it’ll be time for me to turn off the TV so you can do your homework.
Go do your homework! How’s your homework coming?  How can I help?
Get out of bed you lazy bum! It’s time to get up, would my squirtgun help you awaken?
While you’re, up grab one for me too! This one’s ok, as long as you’re joking!

 

Special case considerations. 

Stong-willed kids.  In my observation, strong-willed kids are usually commanded more, but it only exacerbates the problems.  Making specific demands draws a battle line in the sand, a battle that your strong-willed kid will be very determined to win.  Try to find alternate ways of getting them motivated other than telling them what they have to do.  Erase battle lines as much as possible and look for ways to influence rather than control them into wise choices.  Some battles are needed–most are not.  Choose your battles wisely and be sure to major on the majors.

Toddlers and those with developmental, behavioral or mental disorders.  Admittedly, commands will be more necessary for this population.   The “no commands” philosophy works best with those who are rational and reasonable and who have the capability to think about their actions and consequences.  It makes sense that if kids are not able to regulate their own lives, they will need others to do it for them.  However, as they become capable of self-regulation, parents should reduce controls and commands accordingly. This will give them increased dignity as they are given the opportunities to make choices of their own without being told what to do all the time.

You don’t have to like it to eat it.

I am perhaps one of the most qualified people to write this post.

I know some people who are very particular about what they eat.  They immediately spit out whatever they find the least bit distasteful.  That’s not me.

For some unknown reason, I’m oftentimes more interested in experiencing a new taste sensation than I am about needing to be pleased by it.  I’ve said many times, “This thing that I’m eating is very unpleasant–but oh, how interesting!  It tastes awful, but it will sure make a great story!”  I’m also known for accepting food challenges, like chugging a bottle of Tabasco, or winning the Blazing Challenge at BWW.

Anyone who knows me knows that I always strive for “the full experience.”  Adventure matters more to me than pleasurable tastes in my mouth.   I like surprises and trying new things.  So at restaurants, I generally look for the most interesting thing on the menu —  the more unfamiliar or extreme the better!  Or I’ll randomly order “lunch #7” just to see what the waiter brings me.

When Cindy and I took our trip around the world last year to visit friends in Europe, Africa, and Asia, one of my side goals was to sample each country’s most exotic foods.  Ever had African cow udders on a stick?  How about Chinese pigeon heads (including the skull!)?  Or Myanmar’s stinky fruit ice cream?  Or fresh silkworms from the Chinese market?  What about steamed pig fallopian tubes?  Or Togolese goat head stew, including the snout, eyes, and brain?

I’ve eaten all those things and more, and the picture at the top of this post documents some of it! And with only a few exceptions I always choose to finish whatever I start to eat, regardless of how much I may or may not enjoy it.

So why am I telling you all this?

Not merely to merely entertain you, although I hope I made you smile!  Not merely to make you feel better about your own less-miserable life!  Not because I’m suggesting that you join me in my culinary escapades (I know you’re relieved to hear that!).

I share this because my peculiar attitude toward eating might actually provide somewhat of a metaphor for abundant living:  we mustn’t let the tastebuds of our lives filter out everything we find unpleasant.   Too often we allow our personal preferences to be the gatekeeper for what we allow in our lives.

Too often, we allow our personal preferences to be the gatekeeper for what we allow into our lives.

We’d better not parent that way!  Obviously, the early stages of parenting require us to give up our preferences.  Like it or not, new parents’ lives revolve around their helpless infants and, of necessity, these parents give up their own preferences–after all, who really desires to change that poopy diaper!  Yet as the kids grow older, parents may be tempted to reclaim their preference fulfillment, demanding that their kids accommodate their parental wants.  Wise parents know which preferences are worth battling over and which are not.

We’d better not live that way in marriage!  Cindy and I were having a discussion about marriage the other day with a young couple.  As we shared about components of a strong marriage, we reflected on the importance of each spouse letting go of their preferences for the sake of unity.  (You can imagine how much Cindy does that with me all the time!)   In a good marriage, there is a determination that I will remain committed to you even when you don’t do all the things I would prefer.  There’s also an attitude that says, “ I don’t need you to fulfill all my wants and preferences.”

We’d better not practice self-care that way!  How ironic it is when we allow our preference for comfort-in-the-present to sabotage our future well-being.   Immediate gratification keeps us from the growth and development that only comes through hard-earned exercise, healthy eating, soul care, etc.

We’d better not select a church that way!  When choosing a church, shouldn’t we look for a church that challenges us, awakens us, and confronts us where we need it?  If we choose one primarily because we are comfortable with everything (location, music, preaching, facilities, decor, etc.) might we unwittingly be limiting our own spiritual development?

We’d better not determine our calling that way!  I get inspired by people who sacrificially give up their personal preferences on a daily basis to serve a higher calling.  Teachers, social workers, medical practitioners, military personnel, volunteers, and others, challenge me to focus on the needs of others rather than focusing so much on my own wants.  Think what kind of world we would have if no one was willing to give up their preferences to do such things for the sake of others!

We’d better not recast Christianity as a feel-good religion.  The prosperity gospel portrays Christianity as if God is most interested in our comfort and pleasure.  That is quite the opposite of what Jesus modeled and taught, in fact, he guaranteed persecution and suffering for his true followers.  Ours ought to be the religion of sacrificial love, not self-love.  I am impacted by contemporary stories of persecuted Christians around the world who are standing firm even while suffering for their faith.  I admire missionaries who so readily set aside western comforts and conveniences in order to be ambassadors for God in faraway places.  The Christian life was never designed to be easy or comfortable — at least on this side of heaven.  Doing hard things is part of the package, just as it was for Jesus Himself.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have preferences or that we should seek out the way of suffering all the time.   Pleasure can be a very good thing–indeed, God has designed us with natural desires, cravings, and sensations that must have been made for our delight.  The very existence of beauty itself is an evidence of God’s creative goodness and love.  Apparently, He delights in bringing us delight.  The joys of life are little tastes of heaven and it seems right that we should embrace them when they come.

What I am saying is simply this:  we mustn’t let our preferences have too much sway as we decide what to embrace and what to reject in life.  In other words, “You don’t have to like it to eat it.”

 


In Togo, giant rats like this are a delicacy; this one actually cost $22, that’s more than the cost of a goat!  However, to us, it was no delicacy!  It tasted terrible;  One small bite was all we could stomach!  It’s one of the few things I couldn’t finish!

Enforceable Statements vs. Issuing Commands.

command

Scripture affirms the importance of human submission to authority in all its forms:  to God (James 4:6-7), toward church leadership (Heb 13:17), to governments (Romans 13:1-7), within marriages (Col 3:18) and toward parents (Eph 6:1).  According to God’s Word, our obedience to authority is a big deal!

Therefore, as parental authorities, it is our right and responsibility to be an authority to our kids, which often involves telling them what they can and cannot do.  [By the way, in English grammar, telling our kids what they must do is what we call using the “imperative mood.”]

Here are some examples of this imperative approach:  “Sit still”. “Be quiet.”  “Keep your hands to yourself.”  “Eat your peas.” “Clean your room right now.”  “Stop that screaming.”  “Do your homework.”  “Take out the trash.”  “Do the dishes.” “Get out there and mow the yard!!”  Notice how these are not requests, they are commands!

However, when parents use commands too often,

it causes relational problems:

  • People universally resist being told what to do all the time — and our kids are no different.  Being ordered around makes one feel small, powerless, disrespected, and at the mercy of others.  This can cause a victim mentality and subsequent resentment toward authority.
  • Each time a direct command is given it forces you and your kids into a “battle of the wills.”   The battle will be especially confrontive with kids who are strong-willed, oppositional, or passive-aggressive types.
  • Direct commands that are directly resisted by kids create very precarious situations in the home.  If a child has a mind to ignore commands the subsequent battle over compliance will create a lot of negative energy for everyone.
  • Every battle has the potential to create lingering resentment and a breakdown of the parent/child relationship.

So we have a dilemma.  On the one hand, Scripture says children need to obey their parents’ commands.  But on the other hand, those very commands can jeopardize having a good relationship with our kids.

The Two-Step Solution: 

  1. Choose your battles well–the fewer the better!  Make sure you don’t major on the minors!
  2. Replace most of your command-induced-battles with one of my favorite parenting tools of all time:  Enforceable Statements

Enforceable Statements are declarations of decisions that are entirely within the control of parents.  Instead of focusing on what the KID must do, you inform them of what YOU are going to do.  No commanding needed!

Here’s an example,  “At 9 pm, I will be putting all of the toys that are not put away into ‘Toy Jail’, where you may bail them out later if you want.”   Do you see the difference?  Rather than telling the child what to do, the parent is informing the child what the parent will do.  There is nothing to argue about or push back against.  The parent is in control and asserting authority, but there is no opportunity for battle lines to form.

Here’s another example — from our home.  We had a family rule that said, “We allow in our home any pet that you completely pay for and take care of.”  (Notice that this rule is also an Enforceable Statement.”)  Lexi, our youngest daughter owned a cat.  The only part of cat ownership she disliked was changing the kitty litter, so you can imagine the potential this had for weekly household battles over cat poop!  We used the following Enforceable Statement whenever the smell exceeded our acceptable level:  “Lexi, guess what?  Today is kitty litter changing day! If you haven’t changed it by midnight tonight one of us will be happy to change it for you and reimburse ourselves $3 (for our inconvenience) from your next allowance.”  It worked–we got her to faithfully relocate her cat’s poop for a whole decade without the use of a single command!  There were only a few times that she forgot and ended up “hiring” us. Most importantly, in the 10 years that Lexi owned the cat, we never engaged in a single battle or a raised voice over cat poop!

A Few Pointers on how to Craft Good Enforceable Statements.

1. Make them very measurable and clear. “I pay $1 a bag for leaves put in yard bags if done to my satisfaction.”

2. Only give options you’re willing to live with. Don’t say, “I’ll feed you tomorrow if you finish your supper.”

3. Don’t word them as threats, but rather as positive statements and/or rewards.  “I read bedtime stories to kids who treat me with kindness during the day.  Compare the tone of that to “I’m not reading to you because you were so rude to me earlier.”

4. Be gutsy.  The parent must be willing (and courageous enough) to actually enforce what he or she declares.  If a parent says, “I drive kids to soccer practice after school if I felt treated respectfully by them that morning” then the parent must be willing for the kid to miss practice.  Think long-term:  consistency in your enforcement will make them think twice before behaving badly the next time.

5.  No empty threats. If you make an empty threat that you don’t intend to enforce, the child will quickly figure that out — and leave you helpless forever!  Most of us have seen a parent say to their child in the middle of the mall, “Come over here right now or I’m going to leave without you!”  This is a statement the parent has no intention of enforcing.  Not only does this undermine the parent’s authority and make enforceable statements a joke,  it would also undermine a young child’s basic sense of security and trust.

Examples of Enforceable Statements

Here are a bunch of examples of Enforceable Statements that some friends and I brainstormed for different ages of kids; this will give you some ideas of how these work in day to day life.  Consider how these might reduce commanding, scolding and nagging in the home.

Early Childhood

  • I’ll serve your food as soon as you are buckled in your booster seat.
  • I allow children to be at the table as long as they’re not throwing food on the floor.
  • I respond to requests from those who 1. put it in the form of a question, 2. use the word, “Please” and 3. use a pleasant tone of voice.
  • I provide “big girl pants” to children who are potty trained.
  • I close the door when children scream.  I open it when they are quiet.
  • My ears are special — they don’t recognize the sound of whining, so if it seems like I’m not responding to you sometimes, that must be why.
  • The car is leaving in 10 minutes.  You may walk or I can carry you.  You may be dressed or you can go to school in your jammies.
  • I make disappear all toys that are thrown.
  • I give treats to children who share their toys with others.
  • I read TWO stories at bedtime to children who have shown extra kindness to others during the day.
  • Elementary
  • I will pay the babysitter a tip — an “inconvenience fee” — from the allowances of disrespectful children.
  • I charge two dollars a minute to listen to fighting in the car.  You may pay me with cash, confiscated toys, or extra chores.”
  • I will serve supper until 7 pm.  After that you’ll have to wait until breakfast to eat or eat PB&J.
  • I’ll provide you with a meal of my choosing, which you must eat without complaining — if you don’t like what I serve feel free to eat leftovers .  When you cook, I’ll promise not to complain and if I don’t like what you serve I’ll eat leftovers.
  • I don’t allow pets to be mistreated.  If I feel they are being neglected or abused I will find a new home for them.
  • (depending on the kind of pet) I’m giving you complete responsibility for your pets. If you neglect them and they die, it will be your problem and on your conscience.
  • I provide doors to kids who don’t slam them.
  • I provide desserts and sweets to kids who brushed the sugar off of their teeth last night.
  • I’ll be happy to take you shopping as soon as your chores are done to my satisfaction.
  • I’ll wash any clothes that are put in the hamper.
  • I’ll consider any dishes that aren’t rinsed and in the dishwasher to be considered by you to be reusable, so that’s what I’ll use in serving your next meal or beverage.
  • I lend money to those who have collateral.
  • I will match you dollar for dollar for birthday presents you purchase for your friends.
  • We allow kids to have electronic devices as long as they check them in with us each night before bed. We’ll return them in the morning as long as there are no problems.
  • I drive to practice those who behave pleasantly in the car.
  • I made an adjustment to my car.  The gas pedal now only works when there’s LOVE in the car!  I’ll be happy to pull over and read my book if I’m not feeling love.
  • I’ll provide the power cord for the wifi router whenever chores are done to my satisfaction.
  • I’ll pay for sports for those who show good sportsmanship on and off the field.
  • I charge 50 cents a mile for extra driving caused by your negligence.
  • I’ll pay for music lessons for those who practice in between time.
  • I’m going to mow the lawn at 7 pm.  Any toys that are in the yard at that time will either be mowed or sent to “Toy Jail” at my discretion.
  • I’ll enter the parental control password to the cable tv when you’ve finished all your homework.
  • Pre-teens / Teens
  • I’ll listen as soon as your voice is as calm as mine.
  • I’ll be glad to discuss this when I feel I’m being treated respectfully.
  • I pay show choir expenses for those who treat me like a celebrity.
  • I pay sports team expenses for those who treat me like a superstar.
  • I’ll pay for lessons for one thing at a time (sports, music, etc.)
  • I don’t call in excused absences for procrastination.
  • I write school notes that are truthful.  “Lexi is arriving late to school today because apparently she needs more than 4 alarm clocks.”
  • I impound possessions of those who owe me money until the amount is paid. If need be I will sell those items on ebay or at a pawn shop to repay myself what you owe me.
  • I’ll pay you $10 per hour for time you spend diligently working through the Smart Prep (ACT preparation) course.
  • I’ll pay $6 per book report you get done in June, $3.50 for ones done in July; or $2.00 for ones done in August (to combat procrastination)
  • I’ll pay 75% of all your church trip expenses; 50% of all school expenses.
  • I’m happy to help you with homework until 10 pm, after which time I’m going to bed.
  • I provide internet for those who use it responsibly, have accountability software installed, and who provide all passwords.
  • I’ll pay for a phone for you after you’ve first paid for replacement insurance.
  • I’ll allow you to have a smart phone, as long as you report to me any apps you’ve installed, given me a “tour” of them, and provided their passwords to me.
  • I will make random inspections of your apps to verify your trustworthiness, but I promise not to snoop through your private messages unless you give me reason to doubt your truthfulness or your judgment.
  • I’ll install pornography protection software on my own computer and designate your mother to receive reports of my internet use just like I will expect from you.
  • I provide electricity to the rooms of those whose music doesn’t disturb other family members.
  • I provide 10 minutes worth of free hot water.  After that I charge $1 a minute, deducted from your allowance.
  • I allow kids to go out at night who come home when they say they will.
  • I will be comfortable letting you go on solo dates when you’ve convinced me I don’t have to worry about you giving in to physical temptations.
  • I will be comfortable letting you go to school parties when I am convinced you are responsible enough to avoid substance use temptations.
  • I will be comfortable letting you go to a stranger’s house party when their parents have convinced me there won’t be drugs or alcohol present.
  • I will provide dishes to those who properly rinse them and put them in the dishwasher.  Others may purchase their own paper plates, or eat off the tabletop (which will need cleaning afterwards).
  • I’ll let you drive my car by yourself as soon as you’ve paid me a deposit in the amount of our insurance deductible.
  • I’ll be happy to let you use the car as long as you convince me that I don’t have to worry about you using alcohol.
  • I’ll be willing to let you stay out late on a school night as long as I’m convinced it won’t be detrimental to your school performance.
  • I’ll make exceptions to the normal “curfew” when you’ve convinced me there’s a good reason for it and that I don’t have to worry about what you’re doing.
  • Young Adults
  • I’ll help pay for college for those who don’t smoke pot (as determined by random drug testing).
  • I’ll match you dollar for dollar for paying college expenses.
  • I’ll let you live here during your college breaks as long as you abide by my house rules without complaining, which involve keeping me informed of your whereabouts, being respectful, bringing no alcohol onto my property, asking my permission before having friends over, and doing chores or paying rent.
  • Spouse – yes they work with spouses and everyone actually!
  • I consider projects finished only when all the tools and mess are put away. At that time I will demonstrate my thanks to you! xoxoxo
  • I’ll purchase grocery items that are written on the list on the refrigerator.
  • I’ll wash any clothes that are put in the hamper.
  • I’ll iron any shirts that are hung in the laundry room by 8 pm.
  • I’m always happy to kiss lips that aren’t covered up with lipstick.
  • I’m always happy to kiss faces that aren’t prickly.
  • I’m happy to wash dishes that are rinsed and placed in the right-hand sink.

I need to credit Love and Logic for introducing me to this concept years ago.

Majoring on the Majors — implementation!

I’ve already written two parenting blogs about the Majors and the Minors, but there is a need for one more.  The first post explained the difference between Majors and Minors.  The second post gave two illustrations of some outlandish behaviors of our girls that we declared to be Minors!

This final post will be a step-by-step guide to recalibrating your current list of Majors into one which is more useful.

Whether you are conscious of it or not, you currently govern your children by a specific list of Majors.  You likely don’t even think about the list, but it’s there.  There are certain things you choose to engage in battle over, and other things you don’t.

HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR CURRENT LIST OF MAJORS

If I were to videotape your interactions with your kids for a whole week I could write down a pretty accurate list of your Majors.  Here’s what I would look for:

  1. Your use of commands is a dead giveaway.  When you tell them what they have to do, you’re clearly revealing things on your Majors list.
  2. Your choice of consequences is another undeniable indicator of your Majors. What things cause you either to use obvious punishments (such as groundings, taking away a phone, or sending them to their room) or to use the more subtle concealed punishments (verbal scoldings, blame-and-shame tactics, labeling, bribery, or other forms of manipulation)?
  3. Your tone of voice is a less obvious, but equally clear gauge of what you treat as a Major.  What behaviors do you raise your voice over?  Or nag about?  Or threaten regarding?  Or get sarcastic about?  These verbal cues subtly reveal your Majors.
  4. Your body language will also give it away.  Are your hands on your hips?  Are you frowning in disgust?  Does your face look cross with disapproval? Are your brows furrowed?  Are you rolling your eyes?  Is your face turning red?  Each of these wordless communications reveals that your kids have violated one of your Majors.
  5. Even how you pronounce your child’s name will reveal your list of Majors.  Do you normally speak their name sweetly? Or sharply, with a tone of disdain?  Is it said affectionately? Or does your voice’s pitch drop off at the end of their name, indicating your irritation with them?

FOUR STEPS TO RECALIBRATING YOUR MAJORS LIST

STEP ONE – Take Inventory

First, you must identify what things are on your current list of Majors.  Pay attention to the five things listed above and write down the Majors that are indicated by your own behavior toward your children.  Realize that you are naturally going to be blind to many of them because the interactions with your kids have likely become habitual.  Recruit others to help you identify what your own behavior reveals about what seems to bother you most.

STEP TWO – Eliminate 90% of Your Majors

Looking carefully at your list, ask yourself which of those issues are worth jeopardizing your relationship with your kids over.   My guess is that 90% of your current Majors are issues that don’t matter nearly as much as enjoying harmony with your kids.

Keep in mind that by Majors, we’re talking about things you absolutely requirethings that are so important that you’re willing to engage in battles with your kids over them. These are demands of yours that justify having a strained relationship with your kids.

Most of the things that you’ll be crossing off of your Majors list–i.e. the Minors–are not that important.  They may feel important to you at first, because you’ve clung to them so long, but they are really only preferences. They are certainly not important enough to justify erecting a wall over them between you and your kids.  Re-read my first blog on this topic for a refresher on what factors should determine our Majors.

Your purged list of Majors should be noticeably shorter.  In fact, you might be shocked by how small your list is!  Not many issues are actually worth battling over, in fact, this process should greatly reduce the number of battles you have with your kids!

STEP THREE – Do Some Self-Reflection

This would be a good time to look at what you crossed off and ask yourself what made those things Majors for you in the past?  Was it your own impatience?  Was it your need to control?  Was it a need to win battles with little people?  Was it fear of them failing?  Was it the embarrassment of what others might think of your parenting if your kids acted imperfectly?  By asking these questions we’ll oftentimes discover that our own personal issues, fears, and insecurities have been causing many of the unneeded battles with our kids.  Maybe we never had a “problem child” but rather a “problem ego!”

STEP FOUR- Let It Go

Just like the annoyingly memorable song from Frozen, we have to learn to let go of the things we formerly considered Majors.  We will be tempted to return to the old list, harping on things that we wish were different.  Bad habits die hard, so we will have to be aware of our tendency to glare, scold, command, frown, and punish our kids over things that, in the grand scheme of things, really don’t matter nearly as much as our kid’s hearts.  We’ll have to let our preferences go unfulfilled and some of our expectations unmet.  We’ll have to bite our tongue sometimes.  We’ll often have to hide our disappointment.  For the sake of relational closeness and harmony.

STEP FIVE – Enjoy Each Other

With the number of household battles potentially reduced by 90%, you’ll have much more time and opportunity to enjoy one another!  By not sparring with them all the time perhaps you’ll start to see them as precious people with their own unique personalities, rather than your biggest disappointment.  Perhaps you’ll discover who God made them to be, how He wired them, and what matters to them.  Conversely, by not perceiving you as their constant critic or micromanager, they might also gain an interest in getting to know you, your heart, and what matters to you.  Influence flows from relational harmony and mutual respect, and as I’ve blogged about before, influence is a much better parental strategy than control.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR COUPLES

I’ve written the above from the standpoint of a single parent, relating to a single child.  But what about couples?  What if their lists of Majors are not exactly the same?  Three thoughts.

  • Everything above still applies to married parents.  Most of your interactions with your children happen one-on-one, between one parent and a child during the course of the day.  If you improve your personal relationship with each of your kids, reducing the battles you have with them, the whole family benefits.
  • There certainly will be areas where the parents will have to agree on household rules, i.e. acceptable expectations for children no matter which parent is present.  Wise couples will have conversations about what rules are worth battling with kids over and which can be let go of.  When agreement can’t be reached, commit it to prayer and consult with others who may offer insight.  Be intentional, not hasty, when possible.
  • Sometimes a decision needs to be made without reaching parental consensus.  Keep in mind that, scripturally, the husband is ultimately held responsible in the eyes of God for the well-being of his family, and that his leadership is to flow out of his own sacrificial love for his wife and children.

FLEXIBILITY IS THE KEY

  • The list of Majors will change somewhat over time and most household rules should remain flexible.  Always be open to reasonable feedback from any household member.  Ultimately, the parents are in charge, but everyone’s input should be valued and considered.  As family dynamics change and as kids grow older the expectations should also change accordingly.
  • Adjust rules according to the current needs of the moment.  For example, when the baby isn’t sleeping, everyone can be loud.  Or when a tidy mom is on a trip, dad and the kids shouldn’t have to keep the house immaculate–until just before she returns!  Make sure the rules in force always serve a useful purpose and are not arbitrary.

“Emotionless gratitude” is an oxymoron

Cindy and I visited a church this past Sunday that I just have to blog about.

Now that I’m no longer working on Sundays, we’ve been free to experience a variety of eastern Iowa churches over the past 8 months.  We have loved seeing the vast array of Christian expressions among these faith communities–different styles of worship styles, outreach passions, ministry strengths,  and various ways of connecting people to God.

Sunday brought us to a predominantly African American church–we were two of only five Caucasians present.  We had been hoping for a unique cultural experience and it did not disappoint!

During the 2 1/4 hour service we enjoyed the passionate, biblically-sound preaching, the friendliness of the congregation (hugs included), communion, and the exuberant music.  But the thing that struck me most was the overwhelming sense of elation that permeated the room during worship.  These people were deeply grateful for God’s blessings in their lives to the point of being literally overcome with joy.  At times, some danced, some shouted, and some praised God very LOUDLY, without any pretense or self-consciousness.  At one point an older lady even did what I would describe as “one person conga line” around the sanctuary!  She simply couldn’t help but be so animated at the goodness of the Lord!

My mind raced back to Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes commercials I had seen as a kid, where the TV “Prize Patrol” would arrive at the doorsteps of unsuspecting residents to announce that they had just won a million dollars.  It was always fun to watch the family go bananas over this totally unexpected news: jumping, screaming, speechlessness, dancing, laughing, falling to their knees, etc.  Just like the people in church on Sunday.  Outlandish.  Over-the-top.  Undignified even.

Observing all of this, it occurred to me that those of us who are more reserved in our worship are actually the ones who are deficient.  What if the “Prize Patrol” came to the door and the family responded with a yawn?  It could only mean that either (1) they didn’t understand the magnitude of the gift or (2) that they didn’t believe it was really a free gift intended for them.  Because if they had any understanding at all of how this million dollar gift would transform everything about their lives, their response would have been anything but emotionless!

Seeing these exuberant worshippers on Sunday reminded me of one of the best youth group lessons I ever gave — over eleven years ago.  On that day, I called up one of the kids and proceeded to give her thousands of dollars in front of the group.  The story is worth reading.  The point of my lesson was that the magnitude of God’s personal blessings to us makes us trillionaires.  And undeserving, newly-made trillionaires should respond with nothing less than outlandish gratefulness.

Something’s wrong with me when my gratitude to God is emotionless.  And I’m thankful for how those worshippers on Sunday modeled to me something I need to work on!

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