Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Getting God's Word into our Home

I’m always on the lookout for different ways to make God’s Word a centerpiece in our home. When I’m at a friend’s house and I see a children’s Bible I’ve never read before, I sit down and flip through it to see if it’s any good (usually without asking!). I do the same thing for kids devotionals. I want to find great Bibles and great devotionals that help my kids get into God’s word. One of my recent finds is Seeds Family Worship (www.seedsfamilyworship.com). Seeds is a music ministry that puts the Bible to music. It's quickly becoming a favorite at our house.
     I know what you’re thinking (because I thought the same thing when my wife told me): Forcing a tune onto a Bible verse usually doesn’t work out. But when I gave Seeds a listen, I was pleasantly surprised! Far from being annoying, lame, or trying too hard, Seeds puts the Bible to music with creativity and quality.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THEIR VIDEO FOR "THE GOOD SONG (PSALM 34:10)."

     Besides being decent music, the main reason I was sold on Seeds Family Worship was that it helped our family memorize Scripture. Nothing gets stuck in your head like a good song lyric, and since Seeds’ lyrics are taken directly from the Bible, it’s a win-win! My three-year-old quoted Philippians 4:6-7 in it's entirety: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition present your requests to God.” 
     The Seeds Family Worship website has a blog with continuing encouragement to memorize God’s word, and inspiring parenting and family posts from time to time. I found one article about how to prioritize family relationships during the busy times that particularlly impacted me."When Time Is a Four Letter Word," written by Sarah Patrick, comes from the perspective of a family where the husband travels extensively for work. Even though my family situation is different, there are many good take-aways for all of us who find ourselves in a crazy, hectic schedule. I appreciated the reminders to put Jesus first, be friends, and communicate as much as possible.
 
I wrote this, my friend and co-worker Kyle Hill improved it, and it originally appeared on the COCUSA Blog.  You can find it and more cool posts about parenting at www.cocusa.org/blog

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Discipline and Celebration

There's tension in my house. I try to navigate it every day with my kids, but it's tough to balance. I want my kids to grow to know, love, and live like Jesus, but I sometimes that seems like an unattainable goal. In parenting them to live like Christ, I've found two contrasting areas that are an especially difficult challenge: Discipline & Celebration.
DISCIPLINE
     Discipline is a skill that every parent learns along the way - no one comes by it naturally. All kids need to be corrected, and it's amazing to me how young kids are when they start to exhibit acts of defiance and selfishness. Without correction (and sometimes even with it!), that defiance can grow into full-blown tantrums and fits. As parents, we're tempted to choose 1 of 2 extreme responses. We can swing to one side by hesitating to correct our children at all. We let them run the show and just try to make ‘suggestions’ to their behavior. We can swing the other way and become an ultra-authoritarian ("You do what I say or else!”). This can border on tyrannical if done without compassion or restraint. Neither of these extremes is a good option because neither one points kids to Jesus.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you point kids to Jesus in correction:

Check Your Motives.

     Are you wanting to "drop the hammer” because you're angry? Are you avoiding disciplining your child because it’s too hard? We need to make sure our motivation is to help our kids become more like Jesus. If we do, we’ll avoid both correcting in anger and not correcting at all.

Connect Your Discipline To God's Word.

     Children need to know the reason behind discipline. Never correct your kids without teaching them how to behave in light of God's Word. Help them to see not just what they did wrong, but what they can do right next time. Share a verse or passage of scripture that teaches them how God wants them to behave.

Right The Wrong.

     Give your children the opportunity to apologize and make amends. For young kids, you might need to walk them through what to say and what to do. For older children, remind them they should make things right and give them a chance to act. This is also a great moment to teach the other person how to show forgiveness and unconditional love.

Include Consequences. 

     If there aren't consequences involved in discipline, it isn’t much more than a conversation. Far from being cruel, providing an age appropriate consequence teaches kids that their negative actions can bring negative results. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way."

CELEBRATION

     The other side of the coin is celebrating your kids' good behavior. Surprisingly, this is also a difficult time to point kids to Jesus. If your kid does something awesome - like great work on a school assignment or helping a sibling without being asked - it's far too easy to simply say “Good job! I’m really proud of you.” What’s wrong with complimenting your child? Nothing in and of itself. But if you never go any further and point to Jesus in your compliments, it opens the door to selfishness, pride, and behavior that's motivated by people-pleasing and not serving God.
     Changing our compliments to things like: “That was awesome, I love it when you live out your faith in Jesus by…” or “Great job winning that race, God has certainly gifted you.” Small tweaks to our compliments keep everyone's focus in the right place.
     In discipline, in celebration, and in every situation, we must remember to point to Jesus in our words, actions, and attitudes.

I wrote this, my friend and co-worker Kyle Hill improved it, and it originally appeared on the COCUSA Blog.  You can find it and more cool posts about parenting at www.cocusa.org/blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Proliferation of Holidays

We recently finished another read through the "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

These books follow the Ingalls family in the late 1800s. Consistently, over a book series that spans 10+ years of real time and history, they only celebrate two holidays. Two. Christmas and Independence Day.  

And when I say celebrate in the 1800s, I mean they had a special meal and took the day off work.  (Except that when you live in an agrarian society you never really get a day off).

Today we celebrate: Christmas, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Good Friday/Easter, St Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, Halloween... I'm sure I'm missing some. 

And when I say celebrate today I mean: lawn ornaments, candy, days or time off work, more candy, gifts, decorations, maybe a special meal, and lots of stuff.

Am I arguing that we give back holidays?  Not necessarily. 

I just wonder if they've proliferated because of a felt need we had as a society to take better care of our laborers, or because consumerism always needs new things to sell to work.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Some Extra Thoughts on Prayer

Here's some leftovers after my longer post.

I’m amazed at how few Christian adults are comfortable praying out loud. (Ask a room full of happily chatting people at a church if anyone would like to pray:  It will go dead silent and everyone will drop their eyes to the floor.)

I’m also amazed at how naturally comfortable some kids are with praying. Without any hesitation whatsoever I’ve seen 6 year olds pray in front of a group of 100 people. 

There’s a big difference between saying prayers and actually praying. If we're honest, most of us toe the line more than we might want to admit.

There’s something both powerful and peaceful about taking the time to pause in the middle of an insane crazy day and say “Let’s pray.”  Don’t believe me?  Try it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Teaching and Modeling Prayer

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (NLT)
     Jesus gave us the perfect model for living a prayerful life. Even so, the people who spent the most time with him still needed help developing their own habit of prayer. My wife and I are also still growing in our habit of prayer. While we wouldn't consider ourselves prayer-experts by any means, we've made a choice to make prayer a priority in our home. We believe it's much better to model prayer for our kids than it is to teach them "about prayer," because ultimately the goal is that our children will be comfortable praying to God, not just able to say prayers. I hope that this post helps you to teach and model a vibrant prayer life to your kids.

Create a Routine for Prayer

     As my wife and I lead our kids in modeling prayer, here are some routines that we use to work prayer into our family life.
  • Meals: This is an obvious time to pray. Maybe even too obvious. The danger is that we might say a rote, thoughtless prayer instead of authentic, real prayer to the Lord who gave us all of the grub on our plates. My family adds specific things to pray for at each meal. At breakfast we have a list of medical needs that we pray for. At dinner we pray for a missionary family or group somewhere across the globe. The specifics you choose aren't as important as looking for something to get us past the “Good bread, good meat, good Lord, let’s eat!” style of prayer.
  • Bedtime: At bedtime we ask our kids to tell us about their favorite part of the day. We also ask if they have anything that they are worried or scared about. These are great conversation starters, but also natural connections to turn to prayer. We often ask our kids if they want to pray (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t). We also make sure they understand that prayers don’t need to be fancy or long (just read Matthew 6:7-8). Sometimes, a one-sentence prayer from the heart is a huge win for my kids.
  • Leaving: When someone leaves the house for the day (which is usually me going to work), we pause and pray for the day. We pray that we can all grow more like Jesus throughout the day. We’ll also pray for safety or protection depending on what’s going on. Bill Allison of Cadre Ministries has a Disciple-maker’s prayer that's a great “on your way” prayer to start your day.

When your routine fails, pray anyway

     The reality of life, however, is that it isn’t always routine. Sometimes life smacks you over the head, and you have to do your best to stay afloat until it returns to normal. Modeling honest prayer during these stressful times is even more important than the routine times for prayer. Last fall my family went through a pretty stressful time surrounding a vehicle purchase. For two entire weeks, every prayer we said centered around God watching over our vehicle situation, restoring what was ours, and protecting us. Our kids learned that if a situation is causing you stress, you can bring it to God and ask for his help and peace. Your kids will notice if you turn to God when things are hard (and they'll also notice if you don't).
     "Any-moment" prayers are useful when your kids are stressed or upset. We might gloss over an upset child by labeling their issue as "just a kid-problem." We might tell them to "get over it" when a sibling is mean to them or they scrape their knee. But in these tough moments, we should show them how to pray for God’s help. We can pause and pray with our kids right then, whether we think they are being whiny or not (and trust me, I’m still working on this one).
     Prayer is both awesome and scandalous: We can approach the God of the universe with seemingly trivial requests or concerns. The best way to teach our kids to do that is to model it ourselves.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-11 (NLT)

I wrote this, my friend and co-worker Kyle Hill improved it, and it originally appeared on the COCUSA Blog.  You can find it and more cool posts about parenting at www.cocusa.org/blog

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fill in the gaps

Sometimes I wrap up a bigger and mentally engaging task with about 15 minutes to spare before a meeting, the end of the work day, etc.  For those occasions I've found it helpful to have small odd-jobs close to me (either on my desk literally or as a to-do list).  They let me better use my time while I'm at work.
  • Updating employee records
  • Filing papers
  • Writing Thank You notes
  • Checking metrics or statistics
  • Responding to email
If you give any of these small jobs a prominent place in your work day you're wasting your best time and energy on minutia.  But if they have to get done sometime, keep them close and let them fill in the gaps.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ducks go last

It's tempting in leadership to deal with the minutia.  To spend your time getting all of the ducks that are out of order back in line.

But the thing with ducks… they keep getting back out of line.  Faster than you can say ‘quack’.

Better to take care of the big picture and important things first.  And if you do that first, the ducks might get back in line on their own.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Clarifying roles

None of this is mine, but pieced together from Seth Godin and Derek Sivers.

Free-lancer: Someone who works for themselves on their own time at their own pace.

Small-business owner: Someone who runs a small business and is integral to it continuing and succeeding.  He/She can't take any significant time off or it will fail.

Entrepreneur: Someone who builds something, usually a business, to the point that it runs itself.

There's nothing wrong with any of these options, but it's good to clarify and decide what you're shooting for.  I'm learning that in my job, the more I can pretend to be an entrepreneur, the better things will be in the long run, whether I'm there or not.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A blog about nothing

This is a blog about nothing. (Thanks George)

I want it to be about something, I really do.  But at present I'm not set on a specific topic.  Nor do I have enough time to try and build a following around that specific topic.

So what we're left with is nothing.  I will dabble in consumerism, discipleship, parenting, church, and living intentionally, but mostly it's a random hodge-podge of what's in my head.

I hope you hate it. (Thanks Reese)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Routines that work

I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel more on top of things than when I fall into a good routine. It's true for me both at work and at home. If I have a regular plan for how things should go and I execute that plan well, things hum along smoothly. On the other hand, nothing makes me feel more off my game than when I can’t settle into a groove. If my routines are disrupted, I get grumpy fast (you’ve been warned!). 

I don’t think this just applies me. Routines help all of us by letting us put the unimportant parts of life on autopilot. We all have laundry, dishes, cleaning, and a million other things that need to get done. When we have to spend time actively thinking about all of those things, we get dragged down. Honesty check! Have you ever had these laundry room thoughts:
  • “How many more days can I go without doing laundry?”  
  • “I definitely did not buy this many pairs of socks for my kids. Where did they all come from?!”
  • “That business about separating light clothes from dark clothes is probably an urban legend. I'll just dump all the clothes in together!”
Note: These examples have no correlation with my personal experience (No really, I promise.).

Hopefully you get my point. If we have to give mundane but necessary tasks our full mental attention, it keeps us from focusing on what's truly important. I know that I’d rather focus on my relationship with God, my wife, and my kids instead of undone laundry and dirty dishes. Routines can automate the ‘need to get done’ parts of our life so we can spend more time focusing on what matters.

The pitfall of a routine, of course, is that things can become so rote, so run-of-the-mill, that we stop caring. We all need a Parenting Wake Up Call from time to time to make sure we’re not putting all of life on auto-pilot. Our routines need to serve our families, giving us more focused time with them, and not robbing us of meaningful interaction. I recently heard a story of a husband who sent automated emails to his wife if he was working late. Let me go on record and state that I think that is a bad idea.

Here are three Lindell family routines that work wonders for our sanity (and with 5 kids, we’re taking all of the extra sanity we can find!).
  • Laundry Sorting Wednesdays. Every Wednesday evening before we start our bedtime routine, we all get our laundry to the washing machine and sort it into piles. Huge piles, like mountains. We get the first load started right away. Getting that head start allows us to have all of our clean laundry fully put away 24 hours later.  
  • Bedtime Clean Up. Most of our bedtime routine is pretty standard: PJs, brushing teeth, reading stories. However, before we start those things we begin with a whole house clean up. Getting all the toys and general clutter picked up before the kids go to bed makes everything feel so much more peaceful. When we forget this part of the routine even for a night or two, things get messy fast!
  • Grocery Shopping. We go grocery shopping every two weeks. We always go on the same day at the same time. Our shopping routine has two benefits. First, we don’t spend time wondering when we’re going to the store next. Second, we save money. The less we shop the less we spend.
What about you? What routines have you found that work for your family? We’d love to learn from you! Leave a comment and share your wisdom.
 
I wrote this, my friend and co-worker Kyle Hill improved it, and it originally appeared on the COCUSA Blog.  You can find it and more cool posts about parenting at www.cocusa.org/blog

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Extra

We all have it. 

Some of us have more than others, but each of us has that little bit of extra.

That time, energy and focus you spend on...
  • football
  • house projects
  • TV
  • Facebook
  • Etc.
The list could go on endlessly I think.  The problem, at least for me, is that when one extra wraps up, I tend to find another one.  There were years I gave my extra time, energy and focus to the prospect of moving to a new house. Not a bad thing, my family did need to move.  But once we moved?  I decided to fill in that extra with a dog.  Not a bad thing, but neither was it the best idea I've ever had.

What do you do with your extra?
 
At some point maybe we could all stop filling our extra with something meaningless and just ... I don't know ... share Jesus with our neighbors and friends.  Crazy right?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What we need...

More than great politicians, what we need are great leaders.*

So if you're in Illinois, go vote for some leaders in today's primary election.  Don't vote for the winner or the least worst option.  Vote for a leader.

Being a leader in your corner of the world wouldn't hurt either.

*In a random morning conversation last week, my lovely wife said this. She's pretty smart.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Life is connected, but separate

It's crucial to have systems to help you manage the complicated world we live in today. (A fair amount of notebooks, plus Trello is my current strategy.)  But even if you have the ultimate life-management system down pat, you still need to do a little separating. 

All of life is connected, and we should live all of it for God's glory, but I'm just not sure it's helpful or even possible to keep it all in mind at the same time.

So if you serve at your church, have a specific time that you put your effort into that.  When you get home from work, leave it at your back door and focus on your family.

If this isn't the time for you to be reading blogs or checking email, then you should probably stop.  If this is a good time for you, thanks for reading this one.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wake Up

Although we would never admit it, when it comes to parenting our children, it can be very easy to put things on auto-pilot. As parents, we want the best for our kids, and we strive to actively love and care for them. But if you're like me, real life often gets in the way of our desires. When the day-to-day grind comes in with its endless tasks lists, countless distractions, and continuous running to and fro, we put active and caring parenting on the back burner. What we end up trending towards is parenting by default - putting in less time and energy instead of more. We start doing less, despite our best intentions.

I don't know about you, but I know that I need a parenting wake-up call every now and then. Bill Allison of Cadre Ministries regularly writes about parenting on his blog, Cup O' Joe with Bill. He has some hilarious takes on parenting (like this one here), but more importantly, he provides the wake-up call that I need on a regular basis. In his post "The Disciple-Making Dad," he challenges us dads to be active players in raising our kids (instead of passively hoping that school teachers and youth pastors can do the job for us). Bill does a great job of balancing his challenges with encouragement,
"Great news dad. You don’t have to be perfect to be a Deuteronomy 6 disciplemaking dad. You do have to be present AND engaged though." 
What our kids need, more than a perfect parent, is a parent who is willing to disciple them in the every day moments.

My wife regularly reads Jess Connell's blog, Grow on Purpose. In this blog post, she shares about some of the struggles that moms go through. I love that she fights the cultural norm of go-go-go and says it's fine (and even good) to spend time with your kids. She says:
"It is a HUGE thing to 'just' spend time with your children. Christ Himself spent three entire years with 12 grown men and some of them still took a while to really get it." 
Take some time just to be with your kids. Look for potential disciple-making moments, but also realize that intentional focused time is one of the best things you can do, regardless of any cool stories or outcomes.

Here's to waking up and parenting to the best of our abilities.

I wrote this, my friend and co-worker Kyle Hill improved it, and it originally appeared on Camp of Champions USA's parenting blog.  You can find it and more like it at www.cocusa.org/blog.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Send it yourself

I send weekly prayer updates over email to friends and family that want to receive them.  Recently I switched to sending them via an email service instead of just doing it through Gmail and BCC everyone.  I liked a few features of the email client and, to be honest, like to try something new and techy when I can.
 
Well, sometimes the simpler things are better.  Due to the new service, my emails had been getting lost or redirected in a few friend's inboxes.  (Thanks mainly to the aforementioned Gmail.)
Sending it myself, while not quite as cool, still seems to be the best option to get my emails seen by those who want them.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Car Buying Tip

Most of my car buying tips you probably already know. Don't take on a car payment, get a vehicle history report (horror story on not doing that here), etc.

Here's the tip that most people don't know about: Use Consumer Reports to determine a vehicle's reliability. 

Consumer Reports is a magazine turned website that gives ratings on every product you can imagine.  Once a year they put out a "Auto" edition that has literally thousands of car models with rankings.  (You can purchase an online subscription to view their information, but I've gotten by with a library copy of their magazine anytime I need it.)  The most important thing they rate is a vehicle's reliability.

The thing is, no one person can possible drive enough vehicles to know which ones are reliable or not. Yes, there are more reliable brands (like Honda or Toyota), but even they have some clunkers mixed in at random.  Consumer Reports gathers thousands of users experiences and breakdowns to give an overall reliability rating on each vehicle.

As I'm car shopping I look for cars that are above average reliability.  I have yet to be let down or find Consumer Reports to be wrong. 

One story: We were given a vehicle by a member of our church with an average reliability rating.  Not only did it die sooner than any other vehicle I've owned, it also had issues in the areas Consumer Reports observed: electrical and major engine.  Could be a fluke, but I doubt it.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Many Advisers

The Bible says:
Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. (Proverbs 15:22, NLT)
That is a completely true statement, but what you have to realize is that this statement is also true:
Many advisers bring success... and add a whole heap of time to the decision making process.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Email Time Warp

It's a funny thing.

If I check my email 20 minutes before I need to leave I can usually respond to everything I need to.

If I check my email 20 minutes into my day it takes me all day to be finished with it.

There must be some sort of time-warp when digital communication is involved.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Baptists in the plural sense

At a small group recently we realized there are a bizarre number of baptist churches in my hometown:

  • Bethel Baptist Church
  • Calvary Baptist Church
  • Cross Baptist Church
  • Faith Baptist Church
  • First Baptist Church
  • God and Country Baptist Church
  • Grace Baptist Church
  • Grace Baptist Church (not a typo, there are two of them)
  • Liberty Baptist Church
  • New Testament Missionary Baptist Church
  • Town and Country Baptist Church
  • Zion Baptist Church
Wow.  I'm not sure what that says, but it felt like it was worth recording somewhere.