How Children Raise Parents

How Children Raise ParentsRaising kids is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve had to do some difficult things so far in my life and I continue facing various challenges along the way. Raising kids tops the list of most challenging. I’ve been in the business for 15.5 years now. Enough I’d say to have gained some insight. Yet, there are still days when I feel at a loss, clueless, and frustrated with my inability to finally wrap my mind around it and figure out the perfect way to raise ‘em right! Regardless, at the end of every day I am thankful for them as they are and for the opportunity to love them and, with what I have, shape and guide them.

Today, as I was reminding them of some ground rules around iPhone use, it got me thinking about a book I read a while back. It stood out to me back then because of its title, How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family.

Dan Allender is one of my favourite authors. Every one of his books I’ve read has been a deep and refreshing dive into my heart, mind and soul. This one was no exception. I’m going to take another look at it now that my kids are in their teens. Something tells me I’ll understand it much more now.

Here are a few quotes from the book that I found jotted down in an old word document. Enjoy!

One problem is that we are too child driven.  We spend too much money and time on child-oriented things that compete with the simple and profound appreciation we should feel for our child.  In turn, the money and time we spend dragging kids to tennis tournaments, music lessons, debate clubs, and a legion of other devilish opportunities fuels a child’s sense of entitlement and a parent’s feeling that his child is an excessive drain on energy, time, and money.  This sense leads to the attitude, « my kid owes me big-time ».

There has never been an era when parents have spent more time, money, and energy on pleasing their children.  And there has never been an era when children, in return, have shown their parents less respect, intimacy, and honour.

I know I must suffer, struggle, grow, and sometimes fail to mature. But when this reality shows itself to be just as true for my children, I can barely endure it.

Growing up, as opposed to merely growing old, compels us to embrace both joy and sorrow. To mature we must learn to suffer and not yield or turn hard. To mature we must also learn to engage joy and not demand that it hang around, nor fabricate a counterfeit when it departs. There are many other ways to maturity, perhaps, but they all dance to the music of sorrow and joy.

Becoming great parents is a learning process – it does not involve our following a list or rules.

We must let go of the myth that right influence guarantees the desired results, and we must discard our unswerving faith in the power of right principles to guarantee success.

Thank God for your children because they are the ones who grow you up into spiritual maturity.  Far more than being concerned about how to correct, or convert, or counsel your children, thank God for what your children are teaching you.  To the degree that your heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for your children, they will gain the core education they most need – the knowledge that they are truly loved, treasured, and delighted in.  Only a genuinely thankful parent can invest in his or her children the conviction that they are the focus of unconditional love.

What do you think? Does anything stand out to you?

Prayer Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Prayer might not be what you think it is.

You may have heard stories of people who prayed for something, maybe for a loved one to be freed from cancer, and it didn’t happen. You may also have heard similar stories of people who prayed the same prayer and their loved one did heal from cancer. You may have heard stories about people praising God for sparing their home in the aftermath of a tornado while the house down the street is ripped to shreds.

Hearing these stories and considering my own often gets me thinking about prayer.

The idea of Santa Clause isn’t all that far-fetched when you think about it. Ask the guy up north and make your requests. If you’re good he’ll give you what you asked for, if you’re not, well, try again next year.

Prayer is often approached in the same way. Pray to the guy upstairs and make your requests known. If you’re good he’ll give you what you asked for. Unless of course he doesn’t. If you’re not good he won’t listen. Unless of course he does.

Prayer is quite arbitrary if it’s just about the answer because the answers to your prayers are quite random. It’s like a roll of the dice. Some heal and some don’t. Your house is left standing but not the other. There is no answer. It is what it is. Maybe it’s all part of a bigger plan, maybe it isn’t. It certainly feels nice to believe there is a God in control. I’m not suggesting there isn’t but rather proposing that our understanding of « control » may not be accurate.

Regardless, on the ground it doesn’t make much of a difference. You may or may not heal. You may or may not get the job. Things may or may not go your way. Whether or not they do is perhaps not the point.

Think about it. If prayer is about the answer, we’re constantly left scrambling, trying to understand and making up explanations to make sense of things. God answered because of this or he didn’t answer because of that. The gymnastics involved can be quite exhausting and ridiculous.

Why pray? It must be about more than just answers.

Perhaps prayer makes more sense if it’s about your disposition. Prayer, if anything, is about positioning yourself in awe and wonder or maybe in anger and confusion. It’s an acknowledgment that most things, if not all, are out of your control, arbitrary and chaotic.

Prayer, then, is preparation for what is coming. It is to say, “while I do not have control I choose to remain in the moment and roll with the punches. I will not give up and surrender. I will not lose hope. I acknowledge how easily I can become angry, jaded, self-centred and cynical. I don’t want that.”

Prayer, not unlike other approaches to meditation, is about zoning in on your heart, your soul and your attitude vis-à-vis the variety of things going on in and around you. If you believe in God, your prayer is addressed to that God whom you believe is in control and working to make all things good. Others will find their center within themselves, something or someone else. The purpose is the same. To be whole. To live well. To make sense of things. Opening yourself up to listen, observe and hear.

The thing is, prayer might not be what you think it is. What if it’s not only about what you ask for and not only about whether you get the answer you’re looking for?

Failure

 

failure post

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook brought back this picture we had posted back in the fall of 2013. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was an exciting day. We were at the restaurant drawing out plans and next steps for our new adventure called church planting.

When I saw the picture on my Facebook feed, it got me thinking about failure.

Failure. No one likes it. There are always well meaning people who will be quick to say that it’s not failure, it’s a growing opportunity.

Sure. I know. You know.

When it happens it still feels like failure and still needs to be processed for what it seems to be. Whatever it was you were trying to do did not work. You set out for something and didn’t make it. You failed. Technically. Lire la suite « Failure »

My 6-Step Daily Sit-up Routine

Daily 6 step sit up routine picI’ve been thinking about fitness. I’ve tried many workout routines in my time and have found that most of them simply don’t fit in very nicely with the daily rhythms of an ordinary joe. Many of them require that I go out of my way to get them done. Others are expensive and simply not appealing.

Now that I’m 40 I thought I’d share the daily 6 step sit-up routine that has served me well thus far. Let’s call it the secret to my longevity. Some of you might recognize the routine.

Step 1 (Up): sit up and get out of bed – this is the tough one. You’ve been resting for hours and your body is in a warm and comfortable position. Much determination and will power are needed. If you can get passed this first sit-up, you should be good to go.

*Note: many have found they are good to go only after step 2. This is a matter of preference or personality. If you’re unsure which one you are, take your queues from people around you.

Step 2 (Down): sit down and drink coffee – after what your body just went through with step 1 and to move on to step 3 in a somewhat decent way, step 2 is very important. This is when your body gets its morning shake and the needed energy for the remainder of the sit-up routine. It’s a good idea to have your coffee maker pre-set to brew as you are going through step 1. This will save you some time and will make step 1 easier.

*Note: others who share this routine have reported needing to repeat step 2 one or more times throughout the day.

Step 3 (Up): get up and get ready for work – This next step also requires motivation. It is not as difficult as step 1 and not nearly as pleasant as step 2. Mind over matter. If you’re thinking to far ahead, this sit-up will be excruciating. Just get up and do what needs to be done. What you do here will determine what kind of looks you’ll get throughout the next few hours. Not to be taken lightly.

*Note: there is room for flexibility here. How you prep yourself during this step really depends on where and how you will be setting up for step 4.

Step 4 (Down): sit down and work – Step 4 brings mixed feelings. Some days it’s relatively easy and fulfilling. Other days it can suck the life right out of you. This is the longest part of the routine. It requires focus for multiple hours at a time.

*Note: for most, this step is done with other people. Not all of whom are necessarily as good at it as you are. Requires patience, team work, perseverance and the ability to suck it up.

Step 5 (Up): get up and go home – as step 4 winds down, you find yourself looking forward to step 5. This is the “second wind” part of the daily routine. You’ve worked hard and you’re tired yet you suddenly feel a little rejuvenated. During the last few hours you’ve wanted to give up but you pushed through the pain and now you’re experiencing a new burst of energy.

*Note: as you make your way home this step is a good time to reflect on how good or bad step 4 was. Think about what you’ll do about it during the next routine. Also a good idea to do mentally prepare for step 6.

Step 6 (Down): reward yourself with some down time – Your workout is complete for today. Now you can do everything else you want or need to do. Be mindful however. Tomorrow’s sit-up routine is just around the corner. Reward yourself, but don’t overdo it. Soon you’ll need to put your body to rest so you can repeat the routine tomorrow.

*Note: You need to remain realistic during step 6. While this may sound like an easy do it with your eyes closed kind of step, you will find that the tension between ‘want to do’ and ‘need to do’ can sometimes put a damper on things.

There you have it. The sit-up routine for the ordinary joe.

Something tells me I may need to start adjusting my routine … that’s for another day.

The Older I Get the Better I Cook

Georges' chocolate eclairsA few days ago, I hit 40. I’m not much of a birthday person so I can’t say it’s a big deal. I think people around me enjoy it way more than I do. Is it because I’m boring, dull and lack the ability to simply have fun? Maybe. Maybe not. I can seriously overthink this.

Regardless, I might as well seize the “oh my gosh, I’m 40!” moment and reflect. Thinking. Now that is something I love to do.

So, 40. Happy belated birthday to me. I’ve never wished myself happy birthday before. 40 is the year to do it.

Is this when I can start pulling the “When I was your age” or the “if there’s anything I’ve learned in my time here on earth” statements? To be clear, I’ve been saying these to my kids for quite some time. But maybe now I can start using them more frequently, like at work or when I’m chatting with the cashier or barber. When I was just 39 I didn’t have much to say. But now! I mean, come on, I’m 40. Time to get cracking. Maybe 40 is when I finally start writing on this blog with a hint of regularity.

I may be imagining this, and my mom can correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall (back when I was young) something in our house that read “The older I get, the better I cook.” Mom, am I making this up? Is it the old age making me imagine things?

I do cook better today than I did before and those chocolate eclairs are a demonstration of my superior skills. But this little post is not about my culinary skills. It’s just about being 40. It’s about getting better at life and what we learn from it as we journey along. Not all of us get better at it I guess but I like to think that I do.

This past week I discovered the song ‘You’ by Gungor (posted below). Go ahead, listen to it and then come back. I’ll wait.

The song got me thinking about my 40-year spiritual/religious journey and where it has lead me so far. I think I’m at a place of better understanding and maturity. Some of you might disagree!

I like how the song describes a journey that is not a rigid straight line. It is rather multilayered. At times certain, at times confused. At times holding on, at times letting go. A journey filled with turning points and markers that help us identify what we’ve been through.

The older I get the more I find myself wondering if there is a God and yet the more I find myself trusting that there is and hoping that this God is as good as the Bible says (although not always very clearly). The older I get, the more I embrace uncertainty about things I thought I was certain about for most of my life. The older I get the more I think the church needs to let go of doctrinal certainty and its desire to control if it wants to follow Jesus and change the world. The older I get, the more I hold onto the hope that Jesus did come to change the world and that all things can and will be made new.

The bible begins and ends with the beauty and order we all long for. Everything in between is a series of stories showing humanity (for the most part through the lens of individuals and a one group of people) trying to figure out what the hell went wrong and wrestling with the way God works and how the story we are invited into is meant to engage our entire being. Through it all, this God steps into our mess and at every corner tries to be known (even to the point of taking the blame for some absurd and awful things – try genocide). Then, Jesus comes along and says look at me and you’ll see God.

Simple? Not always. Beautiful? Definitely.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular. I was just listening to a song and it got me thinking.

Chaos On the Toilette

toiletteHave you been to the toilette in a public washroom? The ones with the sensors that flush after you move away from the toilette? Have you ever been occupying one of these when suddenly the toilette flushes while you’re still going? The loud flush, the high intensity water twirling around and rising in the bowl. Meanwhile, you are still sitting there in the middle of your business. In that second you find yourself inconveniently forced to make a decision. Stand up in a moment of panic or stay seated and risk the water rising high enough to touch your butt. Either way, you risk getting dirty. Not fun. The other day I experienced this ordeal (not for the first time) and it got me thinking about how life doesn’t always flush when it’s convenient.

Yes, as much as we like to live under the illusion that we can schedule and control everything, the reality is that at any moment the toilette of life can randomly flush and destabilize you. Life’s sensor is totally off. One moment you’re quietly taking care of business and the next you’re thrown a curve ball and left scrambling. The sensor is supposed to detect when I move away from the toilette therefore signalling to the toilette that it is time to flush. When I sit on that toilette seat I trust the sensor to do what sensors do. But life is much more random than that.

It’s a good thing to realize. Too much of what we buy into, whether it be via religion or the latest self-help book, tries to sell us a vain attempt at fleeing the randomness, the chaos and the pain of life. As though we could somehow actually escape those things and create for ourselves a life where the sensor never fails. We try and we try hard. Sometimes we even manage to fool ourselves with the illusion; until the toilet flushes unexpectedly and the water rises.

Happiness, deep abiding joy and peace, are actually found when we embrace the randomness and chaos of our lives. Whether it be the chaos around us or the one within us. Rejoice during the days when the sensor is working well but it’s when the sensor malfunctions that we can actually go into the darker corners of our existence, face what is there and own it, learn from it, grow into or out of it and find peace.

I’m reminded of Jesus when he says “I have come that you may have life to the full.” Interestingly enough, this life to the full, according to what Jesus says elsewhere, requires a certain taking up of our cross and following him. The notion of taking up a cross doesn’t sound very pleasant. It actually even sounds like death. Yet, if we are to take Jesus’ word for it, it is in some way the path to abundant life.

Today when you sit on the toilette, whether it has a sensor or not, think about that.

(bonus random thought : have you ever looked at one of those sensors and asked yourself if they have cameras in there?)