What Every Dad Ought to Know About Being Their Kids' Hero

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Special Father’s Day Devotion


You’re a great dad– or at least trying. 
Great! 
Now it’s time to begin thinking about upping your game, by setting your sights on the real prize: Winning Your Children’s “World’s Greatest Dad” Award OR AT LEAST the title of “Hero.” 
But what does it take to become our kids’ champion?
It’s probably not what you think.  Oh sure, “things” are nice. 
Kids always enjoy stuff, after all. … Another pair of Vans shoes.  A new A&F t-shirt.  The latest and greatest mobile phone. 
But then what?  What do we do after our kid’s survival (aka “hygiene”) needs are secured?  Easy.
Kids are Relatively Easy to Please
Most kids are surprisingly easy to please– much easier than other people in our lives (you know who I’m talking about!).  Kids, first and foremost, want YOU; not stuff you give them.  Now, that doesn’t mean that our kids don’t have moments of weakness.  They are, of course, susceptible to the occasional materialistic binge.  That’s understood.  But, when it all comes down to it, our kids want to believe– and to know with certainty– that we love them unconditionally.
And to them, unconditional love means having your time.  Relax– not “all” of it.  Nobody said that.  But SOME of it.  That’s reasonable, yes?   As someone rightly said, “Love” is spelled “T-I-M-E.”  So giving OURSELVES to our kids is the quickest way to be coronated as the Official “King” of Your Castle.  And failing to give time to our kids is a great way to slowly fall from the pedestal of paternal glory into irrelevant ignobility.  (Don’t know what ignobility is? Well, it ain’t good).
Read: “Distraction Free” Time
So kids want some of our time.  And they want it undistracted from whatever it is that distracts us.
You know, like… your preoccupation with work.  Or griping about cutthroat fast food drive-through workers and slow baristas.  Or that phone of yours. 
Now, I’m “as OR more” hyper-connected to technology as anybody.  But there are boundaries.  Like going to dinner tonight without my phone, so I could focus on my family. The fact is, we need these types of boundaries. We have to remember that Technology is a “Little G-god” that can command all of our thinking and time.  Not because we’re bad people, but because we need a distraction from the crushing weight of, you know, running the world– or whatever we do. 
The key to giving our kids “time” isn’t taking them to Dairy Queen and buying them a giant Dilly Bar to occupy their mouths, so we don’t have to talk to them about their day.  Sorry– just trying to keep it real.
So, to summarize, kids (wives, anyone?) want “focused-only-on-them” time; distraction free.  If you can do that, you’re half-way to Goal Line Glory, where you can spike the Father’s Day football for winning the day.
But then what?  Or, better, HOW exactly should we spend this distraction-free time with our kids?
Ahh.  Good question.
That’s a question I was discussing with a trusted friend just today.  A friend who, by the way, has had an ongoing and significant influence on the way I am building this ministry.

The Sure-Fire Way to Clinch Your Kid’s “Hero” Title

First, as I said, let’s assume that basic  survival/called “hygiene needs” are already met.  Now, if not, then let’s make that happen.  Without essentials being met, kids become insecure.  That that insecurity leads to fear.  Unresolved fear leads to bitterness and the embrace of someone or something who promises to provide the security that we can’t or won’t.  Don’t let that happen.
But on to the central issue here: Becoming Our Kid’s or Kids’ (for all you English majors out there) Hero.
I believe that there are 3 things better than mere material things (“stuff”) that will utterly excite and fascinate the imagination of your kids and draw them infinitely closer to you.  Here they are:

    1. Provide Memorable Experiences

Experiences can produce memories, but for life-changing experiences and riveting and unforgettable experiences, you’ll need to do more than just “show up.”  I suggest planning for memory-making… Otherwise the experience alone (and whatever happens to happen, planned or not) can dictate the content of the memory.
So my advice is to begin by creating a meaningful experience.  And what, exactly, constitutes this type of experience?
First, create an experience that is novel-different/utterly unique OR at least a different version of something familiar.
Second, make that novel experience multi-sensory.  Making experiences multi-sensory means deliberately thinking about how you can include the five senses.

Sense 1: Engage their Hearing or sound.  Try playing fave songs-radio or relying on the diverse sounds from the place or event or experience.

Sense 2: Engage their Sight or vision.  Think about visually -stimulating visuals, views, or perspectives.  Example: instead of just going to dinner, wait on a seat with a view of the vineyard (disclaimer: stock art, not my bottle of wine) or on the top floor, in the kitchen itself like at Buca de Peppo, or in the private dining room like the Pope Room, or wherever.

Sense 3: Engage their Sense of Taste.  Enhance the memory with a drink, food, or meal.  For example, a trip down to Balboa Island in Newport Beach isn’t complete without the added memory of a frozen banana. There’s about a million ways to enhance the experience in nearly any situation.

Sense 4: Engage their Sense of Smell.  Smell is perhaps the strongest sense and provides powerful memories.  It can be highlighted or remembered.  Imagine retelling the story where you say, “Kids, do you remember the overpowering salty smell of the foaming waves on our trip to La Jolla Beach on the afternoon we searched for new sea shells to decorate your bathroom?

Sense 5: Engage their Sense of Touch.  To touch is to experience and to know.  There is something about the tactile nature of things and the impression they make on us.

Sixth Sense: Then seal the deal and make it memorable with cheap or expensive, but most importantly “meaningful”  keepsakes, tokens, whatnots, photos, or photo albums (like chatbooks), or by adding meaningful discussions, prayers of remembrance, and so on.

You’ll find that a little planning can make it really unforgettable… Then your kids have tons of memories, all good, all shiny and polished, and experiences with you that can’t be forgotten… And those reduce the impact of material things– which (often though maybe not always) will be viewed as little more than useless trinkets when compared to these amazing experiences you provide your kids.

2. Spiritual Wisdom and Godly Advice

Add to those things providing your kids with “spiritual wisdom” or godly life advice.  Kids want AND need your wisdom.  You have experienced more life than they have.  You, of all people, can give your kids loving direction.  That doesn’t mean overdoing it.  Kids have a certain tolerance level for sage advice, even ours.  So it’s important to give life advice and wisdom to our kids, along with an open door and our encouragement to discuss “things that matter” to them at any time. One thing I’ve said over the years, particularly the last 11 years since my mom passed away, is that I wish I’d gotten more advice. It’s not so much that I didn’t figure some things out along the way, but experience is a cruel teacher. Life’s touch is not as soft as a loving mom’s or dad’s advice. For that reason, I give my own sons advice. And mostly I think they appreciate it and take it for what it is. Our kids need that, whether or not we think they need (or want) it. And they often do!

3. Inject Experiences With Adventure and Play

Finally, deliberately work to make events with your kids to be fun and ‘times of play,’ mingled with adventure.  If you do this, you’ll always win with your kids.


Make It Happen

We all want to be great dads.  We want to win the day.  That is a title that is earned.  And we can rightly take the Throne of our Family Fiefdom if we’ll give our kids and families these important things: memorable experiences, wisdom, and adventure.
Give these, all wrapped up in T.I.M.E., and you’ll quickly become their hero.  That’s something all the material things in the world can’t compete against.
Make Plans Now to Make This Father’s Day a special time with your amazing kids– and they’ll celebrate you as their amazing dad!


Happy Father’s Day, Dads!

Me with my Sons on a Special Recent Trip

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Secret Sin: The Unspoken Danger of Living in a "Fishbowl" (Blog)

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Secret Sin: The Unspoken Danger of Living in a "Fishbowl"


Secret Sin: How to Understand and Avoid It

One of the most tricky and insidious forms of disobedience is Secret Sin. Secret sin “happens” because of all kinds of reasons, but they seem to be rooted in either raging against living in a fish bowl of maintaining a life of perfection OR the simple desire for living with unaccountable personal autonomy (to do whatever we want) without suffering the ramifications of our decisions.
Most of the time secret sin tempts us because we feel as if we’re living in a fishbowl– a life where we live with ‘glass houses’ and everybody knows our business and scrutinizes our lives to the nth degree. That can be too much to take, especially when we live for people’s approval instead of seeking the authenticity of living for the Lord and Him alone.
Let’s face it, certain types of behaviors are not tolerated in society– nor by conscience. So people learn to cover their tracks by being crafty. This leads to the issue of secret sin.
Secret Sin Can Contaminate Us in Part and as a Whole
Though sin cannot be completely contained—since it, in truth, corrupts our entire beings—at the same time, humans have the ability to partition our hearts. When we want to hide our sin from being exposed, we partition our lives—like a house, where certain interior rooms have no doors and complete access is given, but other rooms have locked doors where those rooms’ contents are hidden. Humans are like that—we sometimes lock certain areas of our hearts from God and others, and allow ourselves unfettered freedom in those areas—areas that Satan exploits by concentrating certain areas of our lives with targeted contamination.

Secret Sin Causes us to Compartmentalize Bad Behavior

Sin creates psychological disorder. It affects us at a very deep and profound level. It disfigures our souls. It corrupts our minds. But we have the ability to be or pretend to be good and upright in certain areas of our character. So certain parts of us seem upright, while allowing other areas of our character to be corrupted.
There are times that certain areas of our lives seem untouched by sin, and that it destroys other areas of our personality entirely. We’ve seen this all our lives. Think of the many news stories where someone is the greatest neighbor in the world— but is found out to be a sadist and sociopath.
Secret Sin Makes Integrity Impossible
There’s the sad story of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a man who had dozens of bodies buried in the crawl space under his home. This same man has photos with him and the wife of President Jimmy Carter together. He was able to keep it together and seem like a pleasant person while “part” of his life was cordoned off, while the other part contained this monster.
He regressed into a wonderfully kind person who dressed up like a clown and, by all accounts, entertained children at birthday parties and, as far as we know, never harmed a child. But that same man was demonized toward young men. He victimized 33 people in all, while being known as a public do-gooder.
That’s an extreme example, but it’s a common thing for people to have areas of secret sin, where our lives are allowed to be out of control—areas that Satan uses to corrupt us.
So as people, we sin—and can become enslaved to sin. But the problem is that sin never does, nor can it, satisfy. Because only God can fill the deepest needs of human beings.
Sin Predictably Fails to Bring Lasting Satisfaction
At last, sin fails to bring lasting satisfaction. Sin has lots of effects. It harms us and besets us. We should do everything we can to avoid it.


Watch the Video Version of this Post

The Danger of Secret Sin (Video Blog)

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Secret Sin: How to Understand and Avoid It

One of the most tricky and insidious forms of disobedience is Secret Sin. Secret sin “happens” because of all kinds of reasons, but they seem to be rooted in either raging against living in a fish bowl of maintaining a life of perfection OR the simple desire for living with unaccountable personal autonomy (to do whatever we want) without suffering the ramifications of our decisions.
Most of the time secret sin tempts us because we feel as if we’re living in a fishbowl– a life where we live with ‘glass houses’ and everybody knows our business and scrutinizes our lives to the nth degree. That can be too much to take, especially when we live for people’s approval instead of seeking the authenticity of living for the Lord and Him alone.
In this video, we’ll learn more about this problem– and how to rethink our lives and move more fully into a life of spiritual authenticity and personal impact.


Watch the Video

What Does It Mean To Become a Christian?

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What does it mean to be a Christian
Photo Courtesy Foxrosser, Flickr

What Does It Mean to Become a Christian?

      The Christian life, and Christianity is general, is largely misunderstood in American and perhaps other cultures. There are many reasons, I’m sure, but I’m certain that part of it is because of caricatures assigned to it by non-adherents, and it is also due to the failure of many who profess Christ to articulate their faith with clarity AND TO LIVE their faith with integrity.

So I’m ask the question… What is the Christian life?

I am a Christian. That means I believe in Jesus Christ.

I follow Christ. I am wrapping my life and existence around the teachings of Jesus.

The Christian life is first and foremost about individual people who, in the warp and woof of life, have walked down the winnowing path of human existence and—through any number of experiences and events—come to a point in their thinking, where they realized that all was not well.

It happens in so many ways.  This realization leads a person to a point where they feel drawn to God in an increasingly tangible way, and become more and more open to the possibility and—ultimately, the reality, that Jesus Christ is a living reality—an existential BEING who is capable of and interested in cultivating a relationship with each of us, and specifically ME—or, YOU, as the case may be.
And at some point, that person acknowledges the reality of God, and the truth of Christ, and commits his or her life to Jesus by surrendering to His authority.

This type of belief is sometimes called “saving faith.”It is called “Salvation” by Christians, because one is QUOTE, saved, from himself—saved from the ramifications of his or her decisions and actions that wounded their relationship to God and that violated God’s authority.

This belief is associated with a recognition of the fact that things in our lives didn’t go the way they ought to have gone—that we failed to be all we were created to be—that we often violated our consciences to recklessly pursue desires and directions that were fundamentally and diametrically opposed to that which is good. And this pursuit of vice ended up causing us to violate others, ourselves and most importantly, the God who created us in His image. And for that reason, because we have an obligation to him as our Maker—just as a child might be obligated to recognize the authority of his parent or parents, we must answer to Him for our disobedience and our loss or, perhaps better, the forfeiture of virtue.

This acknowledgment is essentially the recognition that, though we are persons of value, we are nonetheless soiled— that is, we are contaminated… and that the contamination we suffer and bear is the outcome of our own doing. We must recognize that, left unattended, that corruption will ultimately result in our undoing.

So a person in this condition calls out to God, silently or audibly—it matters not, and in the sanctuary of their hearts, their innermost beings, they admit to God that they are estranged from a right and harmonious and peaceful relationship with him—and that the reason for this is our own personal rebellion— something that could and should be rightly called “sin” meaning, disobedience toward God.

This disobedience was against God and we know that is the case because we understand and FEEL guilty and culpable for violating our conscience and, wittingly or unwittingly, have also violated the standards God articulated in his love letter to humanity—which is what the Holy Bible actually is.

So the Holy Bible provides us with the written standard of what God desires and expects, and what is required for us to live in harmony with him… and, incidentally, with others.

So the attitude of a person wanting to repair his relationship with God confesses this reality of sin and the resultant loss of inner peace and asks God to forgive him or her. What this means is that, such a person feels sorrow, contrition, regret, disappointment and even guilt for past thoughts, attitudes, and actions, and then ASKS FOR and receives forgiveness from God.. and this then INITIATES a relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ. And such a person considers Jesus his only hope for abundant living now and eternal life now and later.

And what that means is that a person who desires to be reconciled with God and to patch up his or her relationship with God and to enter into a real and actual relationship with the God of the Universe invites the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ into his life and then begins a new life—ONE that seeks to cultivate a relationship with God.

That is what it means to become a Christian—being reconciled to God by Faith Alone through Christ Alone.

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The Green-Eyed Monster: How to Get Rid of Envy and Entitlement

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Green eyed Monster
picture provided by thomashawk, Flickr

 
Envy. Entitlement. Those are two words I hate.
That isn’t to say I haven’t ever practiced those vices. But I really do hate them.
Envy is, of course, inward turmoil stimulated by a heart that cannot celebrate another’s good fortune. It involves wanting what another has. Jealousy, envy’s evil twin and hellacious handmaiden, involves personal resentment toward the one in question. Whereas an envious person wants what another has, jealousy [at least] simply doesn’t want the other person to have it.
Clearly, both usually go together: The envious person sometimes, if not usually, becomes jealous. The results of envy-jealousy includes the dropping of one’s countenance toward the fortunate (or blessed) person, then self-justifying (and sometimes-irrational) frustration which often deteriorates into further ungodly manifestations.
Self contamination
If I can take a bunny trail here— let me share a word about those ungodly manifestations. It seems to me that jealousy-envy often contaminates and/or wounds both the perpetrator and its victim(s). What I mean is that, once envy erodes into jealousy, it is not unusual for the jealous person to be contaminated by seething anger, internal rage, and finally contempt. Sometimes these emotions are accompanied by abuse and violence– verbal, physical, or both. As a result, the jealous person often ends up suffering a sense of guilt, personal condemnation, self-loathing, and, at worse, despair.
And if that were not enough, the victim of jealous envy also suffers, wittingly or not.
But this post is not only about envy; it’s also about entitlement. But I mentioned both because envy is often accompanied by entitlement. But entitlement can also be an “independent vice.” So entitlement doesn’t require the presence of envy though, like women who go to public restrooms in groups, they often appear together.
So, what of “entitlement?”
Entitlement is a perspective… a mentality. It usually manifests itself as an assumption that one DESERVES something– an expectation of a perceived (or moral) right. Now keep in mind that there ARE legitimate entitlements. But those are not my concern, nor are they the topic of this post. Rather, I am concerned about the general and pervasive “entitlement mentality” that hangs like a dark cloud over many people, including certain sections of the American populous. And just as “groups” of people develop entitlement mentalities, individuals do it as well. Those who do so consider it an outrage that they sometimes must “do without” or otherwise should actually “do something”– rather than doing nothing but having an expectation of receiving something nevertheless.
All this serves as a long introduction to the central idea of this post: The Elimination of Envy and Entitlement.
In the past, I assumed several things… Things like:

  1. BLESSINGS SPOIL PEOPLE
  2. MATERIAL NICETIES STIMULATE THE BASE INSTINCTS OF OUR HUMANITY AND DRIVE ENVY INTO PEOPLE
  3. THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN MUCH ALWAYS DEVELOP AN ENTITLEMENT MENTALITY THAT SPOILS THEM, AND FINALLY…
  4. BLESSINGS PRODUCE ENTITLEMENT IN THE PERSON WHO RECEIVES THEM AND ENVY IN THOSE WHO DO NOT.

 
But I no longer think those things.
Oh, sure, we’ve SEEN EXAMPLES of those ideas– but I have come to believe that no cause-effect relationship exists between blessing and entitlement or envy.
 I remember when my elder son, Dakota, turned 11. For his birthday he got this insanely great gift that virtually no child his age has. To boot, Dakota enjoys a life foreign to my own early years. He (and his brother Christian) is, in many ways, a child of plenty. He has never known “need.” He would hardly even understand the concept of “want.” And yet, the enormous blessings he enjoys are (a) not “expected” by him, nor (b) have these opportunities and experiences soiled or spoiled him. Dakota is genuinely thankful and grateful. And though all the results aren’t in– his life and demeanor has shown me that envy, entitlement, and blessing CAN BE mutually exclusive.
So what makes the difference?
I believe that envy and entitlement are eliminated from blessed people when those people possess character.
Character (or its absence) is, I believe, the single arbiter of envy and entitlement mentalities. With character, those bad character qualities are not present. Without character, those vices breed, mutate, and multiply.
So now, instead of withholding “good” from my child/children, I feel the freedom to bless them liberally. And rather than spending all my energies regretting my generosity and battling their growing envy and entitlement, I work on ensuring that they are developing character. I think that’s the way God intended it to be, and it helps me enjoy being a generous father– just as my Heavenly Father is.

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