Create Opportunities For Children To Deepen Connections And Belonging

Do you collect things that are meaningful to you? I do, including pine cones that I suppose others might think are a rather strange thing to collect. But, each one on my living room shelf is important to me. I wrote about them here.

When teaching at a youth camp in early June, I was surrounded by pine trees and lots of beauty in New Mexico. I thought about going exploring to find a pine cone to take home as a memory. Because my back was acting up and I was using a cane, I knew walking on uneven ground would not be wise.

One day with the almost 400 7th graders I taught every morning, I mentioned my collection when explaining that nature-smart people often collect and categorize by patterns. I explained that I was sorry I couldn’t go find a new pine cone to add to those I already owned to represent our fabulous times together.

Before I knew it, I heard myself encouraging any child who wanted to find and give me one to do so. I was stunned by how many did this, eagerly looking for me later that day to hand theirs to me. Some shared their stories of where they found it and why they chose the one they did.

Some found a pine cone for me because they’re nature smart and it was easy and natural for them to do so. What I found more interesting was how many did it to further establish their relationship with me. It was a belonging issue. It was clear to me in the way they approached and interacted with me. They wanted to participate. They wanted to be known.

It’s not hard to create opportunities to help children and teens establish themselves in a group. It’s not hard to deepen connections and belonging. It’s not hard to help them feel important, recognized, and known. We just need to do it.

Let’s think of some ways to do that today. Then let’s follow through and do it. Watch for smiles. Confidence. Conversations. Connections.

Don’t just do it once. Keep it up. Thanks.

Love For Our Imperfect Nation, All Year Round

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” ~Erma Bombeck

I do love our imperfect nation. I hope you had a great 4th and I hope we all keep the freedoms and love for country alive in our hearts year-round. Let’s talk with our children regularly about what it means to be an American.

Simply, Jesus

Recently a friend of mine lost her job. I’ve called and texted to encourage her. To do something different, I decided to color a picture for her. You may know that I color as a way of relaxing and I typically use what I color like a greeting card.

On Saturday I looked through the books I have to find a picture that I believed would be appropriate for my friend. Several had Bible verses that were relevant, but I kept coming back to the one that simply said, Jesus.

That’s the one I ultimately colored and gave her. I prayed as I colored, that she’d keep her eyes on Jesus during these days and weeks as she has the rest of her life. I prayed He proves Himself faithful as He has on so many other occasions. She didn’t need a reminder of a verse or a character quality of God’s she knows.

Just Jesus. Yesterday I worshiped with hundreds of others, singing about His name being above all of other names. There’s power in His name. Love. Authority. Healing. Deliverance. So much more.

Some Random Thoughts to Enlighten and Brighten 2017

Enjoy some random thoughts about a new year.

Have you thought of some things you want to change? Maybe some things to leave behind in 2016 and not take with you into this year? Great. Remember, you can make these decisions daily. We don’t need to wait for the year to change for us to change.

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I teach that “wishing it so won’t make it so.” If you want to change, it will take effort, diligence, perseverance, humility, … good old-fashioned work. Listen to your language. Are you telling people that you “wish you’d lose 20 pounds” or you “wish you’d be more compassionate when your kids struggle to learn”? It will take more than a wish. Let’s make work fashionable.

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Remember, it’s really hard (if not impossible) to start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the current one. Have you learned from the past what you needed to? Stop reading yesterday’s news and start writing the next chapter.

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We’re each one decision away from something. What decision do you want to make? Anne Frank said, How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

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We need to make sure any changes we desire for ourselves and children are appropriate and realistic. If they’re not, discouragement comes easily. I sometimes use the example of my height. I’m 6’1”. I’m not ever going to be short even if I pray a lot about it. Make sure your goals for 2017 fit. Do the same for your children. In the words of a young child, recorded in the book Really Important Stuff My Kids Have Taught Me, “If the tree had apples last year, don’t expect pears this year.”

Change is possible, but expectations must be real or disappointment and despair can set in. We can pray about and hope for juicier apples. Redder apples. Bigger apples. More apples. Tastier apples. Fewer worm-filled apples. But, not pears from an apple tree. If you want pears, plant a pear tree.

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Daily, weekly, and monthly, let’s make 2017 great. That reminds me – instead of telling the next person you talk with to “have a great day” encourage him or her to “make it a great day.”

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Do you have any enlightening and/or brightening random thoughts to add? Please leave a comment! Would love to hear what you have to share.

The Greatest Fulfilled Promise of All Time…

The birth of Jesus Christ is the greatest fulfilled promise of all time.

God keeps His Word. He keeps the promises declared in His Word. Look for them and be refreshed. Keep the miracle of Jesus’ birth alive in this way.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” ~2 Corinthians 1:20

Listen Now So They’ll Listen Later

 

Listening to your children matters. Really listening. Listening to understand, not listening until they go away or until it’s your turn to talk.

Responding matters. Not treating them as unimportant. Not making them feel like pests.

Be with them. Be fully present.

What’s your motivation? Hopefully, you love your kids and enjoy being a parent. Great!

I respect that many parents today are busy and easily distracted by legitimate pressures. Yet, here’s what I know. You have to make time for your children. If you’re waiting to find time to spend with them, you may never develop a close, trusting relationship. Or, you may lose the one you have.

If your children approach you and you regularly say “not now,” your children may say “not now” later when you want or need them. They want or need you now. You’ll want or need them later.

You earn the right to be heard later by listening now. You earn the right to lead later by sometimes following now. Go to the tea party your daughter wants to have. Play a game together now even though you have cleaning to do. Build a tent in the living room with the sheets and blankets you were going to wash and wash them later. Ask your son to demonstrate his favorite video game. Listen to your daughter’s favorite music.

Be with them now so they’ll want to be with you later.

Meet The People-Centered Generation

Many young people truly care for other people and inspire us to do the same.

The good our young adults and teenagers accomplish is rarely reported on by the national, state, and local media. It can be so discouraging. Collectively, they’re a wonderful generation concerned with people. Of course, as with our generations, that’s not true of everyone, but as a whole they care. They do more than care.

For example, did you hear how much 40,000 college-age youth contributed at the Passion Conference over New Year’s? They were challenged to contribute toward the building of a hospital in war-torn Syria. $995,128!! This came from “poor” college students!

I can almost guarantee you that they didn’t give to build a hospital. They gave to the people who don’t have medical care. See the difference? This generation is people-centered.

We need to understand that this generation wants their “caring” to show up. To do something. Make a difference. Change things. Matter. Solve problems.

And, they also want our caring to show up with action. They’re not satisfied with platitudes, genuine statements of concern, and just prayers. They can get angry when we don’t seem to know or care about the people involved with the crisis we’re talking about. Youth have told me they wish people in their church would stop just praying for something and “do something.”

We need to listen to young people. They’re intuitive, creative, and solution-focused. Ask the ones you know what people they’re concerned about and what problems they’d like to solve. Ask them for their ideas and don’t dismiss them. Not quickly. Not later. Listen longer. Tell them you’re available to help them think and research. Ask if they’d like to talk with people, observe somewhere, find a mentor, volunteer, travel, …. Don’t force yourself on them, but let them know you’re there for them.

The two following examples are profound. That’s my opinion. See if you agree. Have your teens and young adults read about these entrepreneur inventors. Let these people inspire yours!

Veronika Scott invented a coat for homeless people that becomes a sleeping bag and just a bag when it’s not in use. Brilliant! Her non-profit is based in Detroit. She now employs formerly homeless people and pays them a living wage. In fact, her mission focuses on them and not the product.

Doniece Sandoval is another person who observed a people group with compassion and chose to do something even though it had never been done before. Because of one woman’s tears and frustrations she overheard, she started a non-profit that turns busses into mobile showers for homeless people in San Francisco. (She hopes to expand.) I love what she says on her site about “radical hospitality.” If you take the time to read the mission statement, you’ll see that her company is about restoring dignity, not just helping people be clean.

For our younger generation, it’s about the people. We’d be wise to remember that.

Okay, I must add … don’t just read this and respond “interesting.” Do something! 🙂

What Do You Want? … from Jesus?

“Who are you now?”

“I am a follower of Christ.”

This is part of the routine and conversation between my Pastor and someone who trusts Christ and chooses to be baptized as a public declaration of their decision. Being a follower of Christ is a beautiful thing.

One of my favorite passages about following Jesus is recorded in John 1:35-38. Two men who were being discipled by John saw Jesus and began to follow Him.

“Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked,

‘What do you want?’” (verse 38)

How would you answer that question today? “What do you want?”

At this time of year, it’s common to be asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” Many children are asked that question often. About three weeks ago, my nieces and nephew asked me what I wanted and I emailed my list. They emailed me theirs in return.

What if we thought more about what we want from Jesus? As this year comes to a close and another one is about to begin, what do you want from Jesus? Think about it. Go deep. What are you lacking? What do you want more of from Jesus?

Peace. Joy. Strength. Satisfaction. Mercy. Answers. Hope. Abundance. Contentment. Patience. Goodness. Kindness. Faith. Gentleness. Self-control. Love. Wisdom. Truth. Rest. Motivation. Security. Purpose. Grace. Inspiration. Forgiveness. Freedom. Unity. Blessings. Healing. Assurance. Acceptance. Transformation. Power. What else?

What if we also – maybe first – thought about the question this way? Instead of what do we want from Him, what do we want to give Jesus?

A heart of devotion for Him. Faith. Love. Obedience for His glory. Dependence. Our concerns. Our enemies. Love. Our mind so He can transform it. Our hopes. What else?

Join me in thinking more this week about how to best, individually and personally, answer the question Jesus asks His followers:

“What do you want?”

A Child’s View Of God’s Glory

What do children think of God’s glory? Diminishing it? What’s the opposite?

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell.”
– -C.S. Lewis

A while back, I posted this quote on my personal Facebook page. I knew it resonated with people based on the number of “likes” and “shares.” So, I decided to share it here.

I encourage you to discuss it with your children. What do they think it means? God’s glory? Diminishing it? What’s the opposite?

Are there other truths/phrases they can suggest? I wonder if they’ll use their smarts when filling in the blanks? Would you?

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by                                                              than someone can                                                                                                 .”

Or take it out of the context C.S. Lewis used, and discuss statements like these:

  • A friend or classmate cannot make me dumb by telling me I am.
  • No one can convince me I’m not creative when I know I am.
  • If someone doesn’t remember my name, it doesn’t mean I’m unimportant.
  • If a lot of people don’t like my Instagram picture, it doesn’t mean it was bad or I am ugly.

What’s going on with you or your children lately? Would creating a statement like one of these help you have a meaningful discussion? I think so.

A Dangerous Development Met With God’s Grace & Empowering Smarts

I had just left an important meeting about a pro-life initiative we are going to be involved in. It was a stimulating, encouraging, and uplifting time. I was among great people and was so glad to be there.

I walked  to my car, started the engine, and pulled out onto the streets of Dallas heading for the highway home. I expected it to be a normal drive like many others. That’s not what happened.

While entering the highway, I ran over a large rock that was in the road. I didn’t see it because of the car in front of me. Gratefully, I maintained control of my car and kept driving. All appeared well until about ten minutes later. I heard what I initially thought was a large truck coming up behind me. I quickly realized that my car was actually the one making the loud noise. I realized that the rock must have damaged my tire. Because of the sounds, I knew it was shredding and I’d soon be driving on my rim. I was in the middle lane of a major highway going about 65 mph. God provided a way out and I made it to a safe space on the side of the road.

TireCourtesyPatrolI caught my breath and praised God for taking care of me again. I called for service and was set to wait for a predicted hour. Before the technician could arrive, a courtesy officer with the sheriff’s department arrived. What a blessing!

This officer was friendly and compassionate. I immediately felt even safer than I had. He very efficiently changed my tire and sent me on my way.

Just two hours after I pulled off the side of the road, I was already at the tire repair store near my home. Amazing! It happened in Dallas, I live in Fort Worth, it was 2:30 in the afternoon on a major highway, and I had to drive 60 mph because of my spare. It could have been miserable. It wasn’t. Another reason to be grateful.