Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2 Things Kids Really Want From Their Parents...

I married my high school sweetheart (we met in ceramics class #best.class.ever.), and  9 years ago, we moved back to our hometown to raise our kids...

We were intentional about moving back home to be by our family and raise our kids...we described it as choosing a location over a vocation (we literally moved back with no job...we were young-ish and had a dream).  We've tried to be intentional as well about how we raise our kids.  After 20 years of being involved in youth ministry having countless conversations with yutes and parents, we know that kids won't accidentally grow up with healthy habits in their lives and we also know that we live in a broken world that is doing everything it can to create unhealthy habits in them ( that tells my daughters they aren't right unless they look a certain way, or little league sports that tell my sons they aren't valuable unless they perform well...or peer pressure, selfish desires and more...) so even if we create the healthiest environment we can in our home, there is still a chance one day that they won't grow up to "follow the yellow brick road." (sorry to get that song stuck in your head). :D 

Because of our life stage, we interact with a ton of peeps who are navigating the same rat maze we are in; parents (married and single) who are working hard, who literally have minutes to go from work to shuttling their kids to practice/activities (if they don't have carpool to help), only to rush home and make dinner (and by "make" I mean, pick up Subway), scarf down said "made dinner" only to go back and pick up kids and their friends from previous drop-offs, get home, make lunches for the next day (lunches are made typically in September...Oct-June is mostly hot lunch), do bedtime routines (and by routine I mean...ensuing kid madness of a scene that is equivalent to herding cats in an open field with no fences) and now it's 9:24pm...and parents are asked to "connect".

I have been having so many conversations lately with parents who are becoming increasingly disconnected with their spouses and rising tensions with their kids...and we wonder why. 

I guess I'm writing this to say...What if there was another way?!  What if in the midst of the crazy, we figure out ways to stay connected with our spouses and/or kids...because here's the deal, the two things our kids really want from us might be shocking!!

Last summer I read an interview of Ellen Galinsky, President of Families and Work Institute and author of "Ask the Children." who was reporting on interviews she had with over 1000 children (ages 8-18)...when kids were asked what they wanted most from their parents, the kids said (drum-roll please)...For parents to be;

1. Less Stressed
2. Less Tired want their parents to be less stressed and less tired.  Is there space in your life to become less stressed and less tired?  How can you create that space?

Maybe instead of living a life we hoped never to create, we could take a collective deep breath, talk with our kids and/or spouses, have a family game night, go for a walk together, play at the park, laugh together...and maybe learn to start saying "No."  Because as the saying goes, the more you say yes to things (activities, sports, committees, etc...) the more you are actually saying no to the things that matter most (family time, dinners around a table, etc...).  

Do you have a date with your spouse on the calendar this week? This month? When is your next family vacation planned? (I don't mean tropical vacation...maybe just a drive in the car with your family to the beach?) or maybe even tonight...SKIP PRACTICE, and take a walk or bike ride and get some ice cream together.  Don't worry, missing one practice or rehearsal isn't going to take away the full-ride scholarship you so long for your child to receive nor will it lead to her rejection of entrance to Julliard.

Slow down and stop the crazy! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

4 Reasons Why Little League Baseball Tells Us More About Adults Than The Kids It Is Meant For... kids are at the stage of life that is all things sports and activities.  I used to be, I am "Hannah's Dad" or "Cooper's Dad"...and the truth is, I love it.  I love watching my kids play sports or go to ballet performances and I love being introduced to parents at said games as the aforementioned. But the last couple of years have brought a whole new level of "enjoying" these events...yep, that's right.  I'm talking about little league baseball.

My kids play all sorts of sports (football, basketball, soccer, golf, and ballet a sport?), they love it...some of my kids just love to be out there with their friends and some of them love to compete.  In the hundreds of hours we've spent on bleachers and sidelines I've never witnessed intensity like I have from little league baseball and it's not from the kid's desire to's because of the parents.

Here are a 4 reasons why;

1. The bleachers and field are arranged in such a way that you are literally a few feet from your opposing teams families/ can hear every word they say.  Every.'s not like I'm across the field from you. Yep, that's right dad who yells to his son on the pitcher's mound, "This kid ain't nothing...outfielder's scoot in! Strike him out!"  That kid  at the plate you are passive aggressively exasperating...yeah, that's my nephew...he's a good kid, and he's 9 years old, not David Ortiz.  You sound like a member of Cobra Kai from Karate Kid yelling, "Put him in a body bag Johnny!"  Just stop sound like an idiot!  

2. You are putting more pressure on your kids than they can handle...they hear are a few feet away.  Your son know's he has two strikes and no balls (you yelling at him actually makes him feel like he has no balls of his own either.)  He can hear you say "Come on!", "Seriously!", "Be a man!", "Are you kidding me!"...It's almost like his next swing of the bat echoes in eternity.  It doesn't! In fact, your son is more interested at this point in what the post game snack will be then the score.  Get over yourself...please. 

3. Your yelling is perhaps one of the reasons your son is making errors...want your son to make less errors?  Here's an idea...shut up.  Check out!  Pretend you are 8 and you have friends...but you aren't sure if your friends like you for you or because you can do things (like catch, hit, make a play).  Now pretend everything you do in life at your age is to receive affirmation for positive things you do.  Yeah...that's an 8 year old.  When they make mistakes on the field...they know it and they aren't taking it lightly, so lay off a yelling at your son for making such an error is only going to make him more anxious the next time the ball comes his way...and then you know what happens?  Pretty soon, he may not even want to play anymore...the pressure isn't worth it.

4. Lastly...can we stop yelling at the Umpire?  It's little league people...can you start coming with the expectation that the ump is umping (is that a word?) in little league because he/she is not a good ump?  Here's a crazy secret...umps who are good typically don't ump little league.  Are they nice...absolutely!  Are they trying their bet!  But if they were'd probably see them at a higher level with a little more at stake...when you yell at "Blue" doesn't bode well as an example for your kids to follow.

I'm grateful for little league is so fun watching these little peeps have fun, laugh, learn from adversity...but parents, come's little league, you aren't going to lose your house if your son strikes out or makes an error.  Maybe instead of yelling you can just say, "Great job son/daughter...I love watching you play!!"

Monday, May 5, 2014

"God is in control" and other Christian cuss words...

For the past 20 years, I had the privilege of working (on staff and as a volunteer) with an incredible organization called, Young Life.  I have had countless conversations with kids and adults through those years around the idea that there might be a God, who cares, who loves, who redeems, who wants a relationship with the humanity God created...I didn't grow up in the church, and had very few questions about this God.

In fact the year I began my journey of faith was a great year...I was crowned homecoming king at my high school, started dating my future wife (marriage is easy, just read my other post, "The night I wanted to divorce my wife and why 4 years later, I'm so glad I didn't!") #enteremoticonhere, and my peers voted me "Most Romantic" (I borrowed Brian Fontana's Sex Panther cologne...which 60% of the time works everytime) #moreanchormanquotes AND I was even voted "Best Smile".  Life was good...on the outside.

On the inside I was a mess (and mostly still am)...but it was in and through my (continual) understanding of who this God was and is that I began to put the pieces together of what life is really about...I discovered life that is really life.

One of the hardest things about having a relationship with God is reconciling the age old question, "If God is good and all come there is so much evil in the world?" (in theology, this is called "Theodicy").

To those of you reading this (now that you have made it past my reminiscent narcissism) who don't "believe in God" or aren't quite sure what you believe...I want to apologize on behalf of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Christians who have said phrases to you like "God is in control", "There is a reason for everything...", an attempt to comfort you, but in reality felt more like they were cussing at you or that they had just raked their nails on the proverbial chalkboard.

What they are trying to say to you when they say "God is in control" is..."I care about you, I love you...and I don't know why you are going through this, but I think I know someone who does."  

This side of the holocausts of history, 9/11, sex trafficking around the globe and other like is hard to make sense of a benevolent God who is seemingly anything but, "in control".

I wish Theology was neat and tidy...but the truth is, it's quite messy.  Karl Barth said that all Theology is "broken thought".  My seminary President told my incoming classmates and I that in the reception of our graduate degrees we will realize not only do we not have all of the answers, but we won't even know all of the questions.  Does this make God any less God?

I don't think so, I think it makes me and us, less God...and that is a good thing.

What I do know is that we live in a broken world, a world that was not God's original intent...when I start there, it at least gives me a few footholds to brace myself upon when I think about the tragedies I've faced in my own life (ie...child of divorced parents, death of my best friend in 7th grade, and even just 2 years ago as my dad was murdered...beaten to death) or look around at the constant cruelty in our world.

I wanted to write this post for a couple reasons...

  • I wanted to apologize to those of you who have been frustrated with statements about God that seem to reduce your experiences of pain to fatalistic philosophic statements instead of REAL, and DEEP grief.

  • I also wanted to write this to ask; Can we (the church) stop positing such statements in the midst of people's pain like a "mic drop" at an Eminem concert? The certainty of said "mic drop" can come across in a way that is anything but helpful.  I'll never forget the time someone belittled my dad's murder by comparing it to their own experience of grief.  Maybe start with saying, "I am so sorry...I love you" and then in the silence of your presence through the weeks and years ahead, maybe...just maybe you'll see the fingerprints of what God is or might be doing?

As a pastor...I truly believe in a God of loving grace who is absolutely in control.  But this "control" that we profess on God's behalf, is an understanding that leads to peace and hope, and frees us from anxiety or fear, not a certainty that God is maneuvering the world like a cosmic be careful how you use that phrase, "God is in Control".

For in the words of the great theologian, Inigo Montoyo..."I do not think it means what you think it means."