Category Archives: Practical

4 Low Cost Gifts Any Father Would Love

Father’s Day. A day to celebrate dad’s. But unlike Mother’s Day, gifts are much more difficult. Favorite foods maybe, but flowers and a card don’t usually work. Dad toys tend to cost a whole lot of money. Go big or go home, right? Well, if a new jet-ski, boat, or truck isn’t in the budget, here are a few ideas that anyone can give their father.

Honor

My daughters current favorite TV binge is a show called “Leverage.” Last night’s  episode featured an old man who passed up on millions of dollars for a chance to get the one thing he wanted. Respect. In the old days, branding a man a coward was to destroy him. I don’t understand the psychology behind the need, And not that the honor and respect need isn’t common to us all, but seems to be particularly strong among men.
“What should be done for the man whom the King delights to honor?” Ahasuerus asks Haman in the book of Esther, chapter 6. The King understands that the highest compliment and the greatest gift to a man isn’t  money or power but honor. Yet culture and media seem to portray the dad as the buffoon, the emotionally unintelligent, mentally slightly inferior, well intentioned but deficient man. This is as far from honor as you can get.
Honor your father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. Jesus takes the Pharisees to task over their maneuvering out of honoring.
How do you honor?
Speak highly of. Recognize contributions and work. Affirm identity.
But we also honor our fathers by stewarding their reputation. We represent our family. We reflect on our fathers well when we do well in life, leading an upright, Godly life.  Our lives honor or dishonor the reputation of those who raised up. For better or worse, a man is judged by his off spring. Yeah, i get the crazy kid thing and all that, we are responsible for our own choices. But there is no greater way to honor your Father than live a life worthy of honor.

Grace

Man do I feel like a strew up. I mess up all the time. And having worked with young adults for a couple decade now, I know there are no deeper wounds that can happen to a child that can be inflicted by a father. A man’s anger can be fierce, his tongue sharp, his physical presence felt.
In every man there is an battle. But even the most arrogant among us approaches fatherhood with trepidation.
Grace is unmerited favor. It’s forgiveness and understanding and gentleness towards. Every father I know needs an extra measure. Our expectation is that Superman never messes up, but Superman occasionally doesn’t get there on time, drops the ball and can’t dodge the bullet. He isn’t from krypton and bullets don’t bounce off his chest. Our fathers carry their own scars but their humanity and frailty is scary to us. So i know what I do. I hide it.
Grace says “I accept that you aren’t perfect and I forgive you in spite of my unmet expectations. “

But even the most arrogant among us approaches fatherhood with trepidation.

Seeing

What is the gift of seeing Your father? Fathers fill many roles. Provider. Protector, driver, coach, disciplinarian.
If you called your father by his first name, how well could you describe him? There is a temptation to see our dads as a role rather than a person. Giving someone the gift of seeing them is recognizing them as an individual, a person uniquely created in the image of God, with all the complexity and beauty that is built into that.

Belief

There is something powerful when you believe in your kids. Something incredible happens when we look our kids in the eyes and let them know we truly believe in them.
Fathers still have dreams. Affirmation and encouragement go a long way in a man’s world. “Out there” it is a “prove it, show me, I’ll believe it when I see it, you gotta believe in yourself (because nobody else will)” world. Many men have locked up dreams, but unlike the kid who dreams of being the fireman or starting a business, the Father’s in our lives often see their dreams at worst maligned, at best ignored by those around them.
The thing with all these gifts is their only cost is thoughtfulness and action. but they are worth more than gold.
I realize that not everyone had the same privilege I had, of growing up in a loving, nurturing environment where it’s easy to honor my father. If that’s you, remember this. Every person is created in the image of God. Without exception. There is something in them you can honor, there is certainly areas you can give grace, and there is alway room someone who sees you as you wish you were and believes with God all things are possible, even seeing dad change.
So to all the dads out there who are mess ups like me, who fail but get back up, who swallow hard and try to be a better man than before, who recognize your failures and brokenness but still keep trying, I honor you today.
And to all you out there, tell me how you are going to implement these ideas today? I’d love to hear practical applications. Please add your thoughts to the comments below.

Our near miss on Money Theology

 

Credit cards and the devil. The two twins of the American economy.  Debt is the devil.

I have followed and tried to implement the teachings of financial guru Dave Ramsey. My wife and I were introduced to similar teachings around the time we got married, but back then it was Crown ministries. I’ll be honest. Some seasons have been better than others. Currently, we’re in a decent place.

And the basic idea that flows from these teachings is debt is bad. “The borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:&)On one level, I agree.

But if debt is bad, and I have debt, am I bad?

Seems like a natural connection to me.  Though I aspire to debt free living, when we needed an accessible wheelchair vehicle for our son, we simply did not have the cash on hand to purchase a vehicle. The “never ever ever buy using debt” people would argue that I should save for three years and purchase then.

And in the meantime, how’s my son in a wheelchair supposed to get around?

“Well, those are exceptions, not the general rule. “

Ok, but how often are the exceptions ok?

Much, if not most, of what the Bible has to say about the lender-debtor relationship is spoken not to the borrower but to the lender.

To say it differently,  the Bible is more concerned about those who give loans than those who receive them.

Consider

The lender was commanded to give back the cloak of the one who borrowed.

The lender is commanded to return the land after 7 years.

The lender is commanded to return freedom to the servant.

The lender is commanded to not take interest from the borrower.

It was an understanding of the Jewish people that one of the reasons for the exile was that they never followed the rule of Jubilee, returning land and erasing debts. So for 70 years, the land rested and Jubilee was restored.

Is the Bible full of warnings of the dangers of debt? Absolutely!

Does the Bible teach living within your means? Yes!

Does the Bible condemn taking out debt? Actually no. The Bible assumes that there will be times that people will need access to creditors.

In one parable, the King has 2 servants, one owes a lot, one owes a little. He forgives both.

The king has a servant who owes a lot. That servant has someone who owes him a little.  The servant is forgiven much but refuses to forgive little.

In another parable, Jesus commends a shrewd servant for using the limited scope of authority he has to reduce the debts of others to secure a place for himself in the future.

Again, the metaphor is not biased against debtors.  In none of Jesus stories is the debtor the bad guy, or even the fool.

What’s the point of this rant Charles?

I go back to my earlier statement. We have a culture that abuses debt. Instant gratification is the norm of the day. Delayed gratification. That’s the narrative. And that is a true narrative that drives the unwise debt of millions of people.

But there is another narrative, one less popular. Debt is sometimes the result of situations. Like in Bible times, debt happened through job loss or medical needs or family emergency. All of these are situations that can take very financially wise people and send them into debt.

Having debt doesn’t bring condemnation on you. Having debt doesn’t ascribe moral inferiority on your character. Debt is something that we as humans have to struggle with. And we want to clear that debt. We want to live debt free, and have money in savings. We want to live wise.

But lets get off our moral high horses when it comes to debt. Learn from Dave Ramsey. Learn from the training programs. Stop buying stupid stuff and financing everything. Don’t go into crazy debt over that new shiny thing.

At the same time, give as much grace as you can to people struggling with debt. Forgive debts that you can. Loan money to others that you can afford to loan. Make solid agreements about terms of repayment. Do all that.

Stop saying this when friends are in crisis…

Another random Facebook post. A friend asking for vague help, their circumstances not allowing them to share publicly whats really happening, but nevertheless, they fling a desperate cry out into the void.

Stop saying “How Can I help” say this instead.

A diagnosis. A crushing blow. A job loss.

Condolences and “prayers” come flooding in. Along this flood of well wishers, perhaps this phrase is more used than any other. And you need to stop using it.

“Let us know if there is anything we can do to help.”

Listen, when you are in crisis, and life is upside down, you don’t know what you need. You are simply trying to breathe. Until the moment of crisis passes, your body just goes into instinctual survival mode.

A number of years ago, my wife came down with an attack of pancreatitis. The diagnosis was missed two days prior in Dar es Salaam, and upon arrival in Kenya, we went to the emergency room. She was hospitalized.

At that moment, well wishes and prayers for her healing were all good. But I had an 18 year old intern from the states, a new born and a 4 year old. But I couldn’t think straight enough to formulate what I needed from the community around me.

When friends and loved ones are in crisis, stop saying “let me know.” You already know.When the ship is sinking, having crew members ask “how can I help” doesn’t help. In crisis, the captain needs crew members who “See a need, fill a need”

What do all humans require?

  1. Food prep. While someone is in crisis, they and their family still need to eat.
    1. Suggestion: Ask instead: What’s your favorite meal, favorite restaurant? What do the kids like to eat? From gift cards to home cooked meals, these are always needed!

      Listen, when you are in crisis, and life is upside down, you don’t know what you need.

  2. Childcare: If the friend is in crisis, the whole family is affected and if multiple children are involved, they get a huge emotional hit. My older son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when my youngest was 2 months old. The youngest struggles with deep anxiety. Could it be that the emotional trauma during his first months of life is connected? We don’t know.
  3. Companionship: At this level, you need to have more than a surface relationship. But there are times when you simply need to get in your car, get on the bus, get on a plane and go be.

Living in Tanzania, funerals were more part of my life. One beautiful lesson I learned from Tanzanian culture was that when someone dies, you don’t’ wait. You don’t ask. You GO. And you sit. That’s it. You offer small words if the grieving family needs. But generally you just sit. Give the gift of presence. Loneliness is tough.

  1. Bills. This is a bigger step, but very few people that I know are going to ask for help with their bills until they are in major crisis. So navigate this one with tact, but there are bills that you can take care of without having the ackward conversation. Gas in the car. Oil Changes. Is school upcoming? New shoes and clothes for the kids. New backpacks and school supplies.
  2. Lawncare and carcare. Taking care of the yard, the weeds, the snow blowing (for those in northern countries), the little things.
  3. Prayer. Everything throws the word around. But prayer is more than wishful thinking. It is more than desiring good, or “thoughts.” If you believe, then Prayer is engagement with the Divine Creator of the Universe who actually cares. Your prayer then should be written out, communicated clearly. Share scriptures (not the generic Jeremiah 31, but pray Psalms and great prayers of the ages for your loved ones. And then communicate that to them.

“Let me know what we can do” put the onus on the person already dealing ith too much. How about if we tried “let me do this for you…”

What are some other ideas? What do you do in your culture? Share you thoughts and feedback on our Facebook page..

Why this Duck Dynasty Star should never get lucky with his wife.

My daughter’s favorite show these days is Jep and Jessica, the spin off from Duck Dynasty. My little butterfly loves “the Rednecks” original show and so adding kids into the mix is exciting. The show is about as exciting as watching grass grow if you ask me.

Jep and Jessica

In an early episode, Jep does manage a funny comment. Something to the tune of “That decides whether I get lucky with Jessica or she puts on the sweat pants.” That’s actually a funny metaphor.

And also a sad metaphor. Sad because men “get lucky” in marriage.

Listen ladies, if sex in your marriage is about luck, then something’s wrong. Something’s broken.

Sex isn’t about winning or losing.

Sex isn’t “friend with benefits” with God and society’s approval.

Increasingly, our cultural has moved sex into the realm of leverage, of influence, or simply of mood. And this is just in marriage. Don’t get me started on the stupidity of sex outside of marriage.

I’ve never written about this before. And I’ll probably get so blasted I’ll got back to writing about organizational culture. But hear me out.

Love shouldn’t be about luck.

Said NO ONE EVER “Wow, she got lucky. Her husband brought her flowers, or held her as she cried.”

Said NO ONE EVER, “Wow, she got lucky last night. He complimented her, he supported her.”

And they shouldn’t.

Luck has no place in a strong marriage.

Ladies, sex is more important than you understand in a marriage. It’s not just for him, its for both of you. I realize that this aspect can be broken for so many reasons, (prior relationships, physical issues, etc…So get the help you need).

Believe me.

No man wants to get lucky in marriage. Men want intimacy and sex is just part of that.

Let’s change the conversation.

3 things that Great parents teach that good parents don’t.

3 things that great parents teach that good parents don’t.

what great parents teach

Loving your kids is what average parents do.

Caring for your kids needs is what average parents do.

Appropriate physical affection is what average parents do. (Give your kids hugs. Its not rocket science, though it is simple, good science. ) Grounding your kids in their faith. Basic assumption.

After working with young adults for the last 20 years, I’ve found that young people who start their adult lives with these 3 skills lead healthier, better lives than their counterparts, who come from “good families.”

  1. Great parents teach their kids how to manage money and build wealth.

Many families struggle with money. The expectation, it seems, from children at least, is that education through a bachelors degree should be paid for. However, credit card companies target young adults because they know if they can get them in a cycle of debt, they will keep them there for a long time. Great parents give their kids a firm understanding of the real costs of living, helping them to understand budgeting and money management. Even more helpful would be teaching them to invest. My first job offered a company matching 401(k). I had no idea what that was, and turned down the opportunity to begin early. How I wish I hadn’t, 22 years later. Again, buying a house early means the possibility of a paid off mortgage in your early 40ies.

I’m not getting any kickback (though I’m open to it 🙂 ) But start here with Dave Ramsey’s stuff. 

  1. Great parents teach their kids about relationships

My first week of college, my new roommate latched on to a young lady. Merely a couple days later, I heard him on the phone trying to manipulate her.

“Maybe you don’t love me as much as I love you!” I remember him crooning over the phone.

Three days later? Even my 18 year old self knew that was pure manipulation. Yet the girl let this creep hang around.

Great parents teach their kids how to recognize manipulators, how to deal with difficult people, and how to extricate themselves from unhealthy relationships. Good girls don’t fall for bad guys because they like bad guys, but because bad guys know how to manipulate good girls. They same works the other way around. Start here. 

  1. Great parents teach their kids self-discipline.

I was amazed during my years in college at how many of my fellow students slept in and had to drop out because they stayed up late every night playing video games, and then didn’t make it to class. I used to joke that my dad would kill me if I lost my scholarship for bad grades. I’m sure he wouldn’t have done so, but I also know that self-discipline was something that many young people have never had to have. Helicopter parents have scheduled their lives to the minute. At the first moment of freedom, young people who have led an overly scheduled life can fall apart.

On very practical area is eating habits. I, like many people, grew up in a home where salad was on the menu every night. My mother worked hard at providing good, nutritious meals. What I, like most others my age, failed to get was the whole idea of portion control. Cafeteria food is not only not as nutritious, but it is also abundant. The “freshman 15” reflects someone who has not had to make self-discipline choices until away from his/her parents.

This is particularly true for many who were student athletes in high school. Competitive athletics means, by necessity, consuming volumes of calories. That reduced demand in young adulthood leads many of loose their way. I know I did. 🙂

Here, in random order, are things you can help your young adult figure out.

1. How to buy stock in a company.

2. How to save money on cars.

3. How to use a hammer.

4. How to rewire an electrical socket.

5. How to shop for a mortgage, and pay off a mortgage in 7 years.

6. How to make wise eating choices.

7. Sleeping in is not an adult habit.

8. How to break up with a girl/boy.

9. How to do a job interview.

10. A practical skill (carpentry, masonry, electrical work, plumbing). These alone will save thousands and thousands of dollars.

11. How to make a 5 year financial plan.

What other things do you think parents could help kids with to better prepare them for life as an adult?

 

3 things my son lost with his disability

Recently, our son began needing a wheelchair. It’s a journey thousands face.

In this process, we’ve received lots of love and support from friends and family. Yet at the end of the day, we often feel like people don’t know what to do with Joshua because of his disability. Here are three things we’ve noticed that he has lost. Continue reading 3 things my son lost with his disability

Jesus and the Naughty List

Jesus Vs Santa

My 4 year old was worried about the naughty list. Her, shall we say, “impulse control” is sometimes missing. After one little altercation in the car on the way to church, her little voice piped from the back row of the minivan.

“Will I not get any presents for Christmas?”

The frustrated father in me wanted to tell her, “That’s right, little miss! You better straighten up and watch yourself!”

But somewhere from deep within another voice broke through my parental frustration.

“Honey, mommy and daddy will get you gifts whether you are good or not.”

Her shock was apparent “ What?”

“Honey, Jesus died for us, despite of that fact that we were very much on the naughty list. It’s called grace. You get what you don’t deserve.

Honey, mommy and daddy give you gifts because we love you, not because you are naughty or nice.”

I’ve often wondered how to teach my children the concept of grace. I think I stumbled onto something that day.

The message of Christmas is that we were all on the naughty list. We were all destined to get far worse than a lump of coal. Yet born in a manager that morning was a gift we did not deserve, the greatest gift of all.

We were all on the naughty list

Now I just have to get them to be nice some other way.

Never trust a white man with blue eyes, a FORD, or a skinny cook.

skinny-cookIn college, I had a friend come to me and apologize because he thought I had feelings for the girl he liked.

He obviously wasn’t feeling really positive towards me at that time, but we were going to have to work together so he was the bigger man and came to clear the air between us.

His experience was that he had said “hi” to me in the hallway at school and I hadn’t responded. I have no recollection of that encounter.

And the girl?

I wasn’t interested in her, I was pursuing 2 other girls at the time, while secretly holding out for a third. (I married that 3rd girl, BTW, and he married the girl he liked.)

My friend Jim Feriera taught us to ask

“What are the learning opportunities here?”

In every situation, good or bad, we can always ask that question. I wrote a previous blogpost that became a chapter called “you might as well learn from it” in my new book on amazon (shameless self promoting plug)

Consider for example, your buddy comes over and says:

“You know what that experience taught me? You can never trust a skinny cook.”

“Well, my experience taught me you can never trust a man, a woman, a guy with blue eyes, or a car from Ford.”

Our list goes on.

Except that our experience was not evaluated. The lesson we walked away with was total garbage. Experience is not the last word on truth. 

My friend’s experience went through the wrong filter and came out double expresso and not a single latte. Our filters are pain, lack of understanding, predispositions, etc. We often see what we expect to see, and “learn” what we actually want to believe.

How then do we learn from experiences?

Evaluate. Write it down. Then, go the next step and process that evaluation with other people.

Because maybe…

You can’t trust a skinny cook because you always eat at cheap restaurants. It’s not the cook, it’s the restaurant.

You can’t trust a man, because you keep dating losers.

You can’t trust a woman because you want every woman to be like your momma.

You can trust a guy with blue eyes. I have blue eyes, and you trust me, right?

And well, maybe you’re right about the Ford. Never trust a Ford.

But you won’t know if your evaluations are correct until you process them with others. A counselor. A pastor. A group of emotionally solid friends (you have at least 2 of those, right?)

What are the learning possibilities here? Just make sure that you don’t learn the wrong thing.

 

3 Conversations to have to save your marriage while on your honeymoon

Honeymoon conversations

Honeymoon Couple
Its your honeymoon. Your perfect day just finished. The cake was great, the best man didn’t drop the ring, and you are now on the beach, after the perfect first night. Suddenly you realize. The wedding is over, now we have to be married? How do we do this?

note: If you aren’t married, file this one away for the week after the honeymoon.

I’ve been married 17 years now. It was NOT only yesterday that Tahnya and I said our hopeful “I dos.” Though marriage is not nearly in as much danger as the forecasters have said (the divorce rate is much lower than forecast), broken wedding vows are everywhere.

I can’t turn off selfishness with a post, though I’ve tried.
I can’t heal broken history, thought I’ve tried.

But here are 3 conversations that I wish Tahnya and I had learned to have, and had repeatedly through the years. These are based on my own experience and some small input from friends. Continue reading 3 Conversations to have to save your marriage while on your honeymoon

The Ice Bucket Challenge, Part 2: What it feels like to die.

Since my first article, the Ice Bucket Challenge has continued unabated. Sure, there are the concerns voiced by the Catholics and the Baptists. Concerns that I echo. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and if someone is going to die for someone else, it should be their choice.

But I want to return to THE POINT.

My first article was about people with ALS for once feeling like people care. But there is one extra “bit” that we are missing.

My friend Neal and his brother posted this poignant video. You see, they lost their brother a little over a year ago to ALS. The point that so many people are missing about the Ice Bucket Challenge is the ice. The sudden shock to your system that causes that momentary feeling of breathlessness. Of suffocating. Continue reading The Ice Bucket Challenge, Part 2: What it feels like to die.