Always Remember - Memorial Day 2020

No post today! I'm taking the day to spend and enjoy time with family.

As you enjoy the day spending time with your family, let's not forget to remember all of the brave men and women who gave their life for our country.

I'll return to regular posting this Wednesday!


Ears Not Jeers

If I'm honest, quarantine really hasn't been all that difficult for our family.

We’ve been able to continue working and taking short excursions out to parks and the beach. Steven Furtick talked about a new normal. And I’m on board for that. I don’t want to go back to what normal was. Crazy kid schedules. Dinners on the go. Family-less time - meaning - while we were with each other, we were so preoccupied with other things that is wasn’t really quality time. This time in quarantine has really done something powerful…

It has brought us wholly back together.

This time in quarantine has also put a spotlight on an area we need to grow as a family as well.

Kindness.

There have been more times than I care to admit where I’ve had to redirect our kids’ words to each other or one of us because of their angry tone or flat out rude words. I can redirect calmly and collectedly for a period of time. But there’s a point that I hit where enough is enough and my tone and words reflect what I’m trying to correct in my kids. One evening in my “lighter moods” I redirected my kids’ rude and mean words to each other with a new saying… “Ears not jeers,” I said to one of them. You see, one of our kids thought he/she heard the other say something rude. So, out of revenge, that child said something rude back.

I had heard exactly what the first child had said. It was in fact, kind and encouraging. So because the second child heard wrong and said something rude back, I created a new saying…

“Ears not jeers.”

I come up with “sayings” a lot. They just seem to fly out of my mouth from nowhere. And this one seemed fitting. “Ears not jeers.”

A few days had come and gone. Kids were rude and mean again and again. “Man,” I thought, “This is just so discouraging. They keep not loving each other well.” For a parent, one of the most discouraging things is to witness their children not loving each other well… to be mean and rude to each other. To me, it just hurts to see that play out. At the time, I didn’t know what else to do. We had verbally corrected them. Grounded them from devices. Made them do an afternoon’s worth of chores. Early bedtimes. We even… get this… we even made them spend the night in each other’s rooms. Alternating nights, one would sleep in their bed while the other would sleep on the floor in a sleeping bed (I thought that was pretty funny). But still, more arguing. More fighting. More rudeness. More being unkind to each other.

Then it hit me.

Their behavior had become a habit.

Habits are routine. Habits happen over and over. Habits are easy. Habits are just what happens.

Their behavior had become a habit which had become normal.

And to break their habit, we had to replace that habitual behavior with something else… with a new habit. You see, it wasn’t enough to simply tell them to stop. It wasn’t enough to simply take something away that they knew they would get back eventually.

No. To break this habit meant that they needed to replace it with something else.

But what were we going to help them with to replace the habit?

Their habit, being unkind to their sibling, is ultimately a heart issue… HAM

It starts in their Heart which translates to their Attitude which then transponds out through their Mouth.

And in my opinion and experience, the thing that pierces and changes a person’s heart the most is the Bible. So one evening I told Jami that we needed to sit down and talk as a family. After dinner, we all stayed at the dinner table and Jami told the kids that we needed to talk about our attitudes. And I started to talk… my words to the kids as I looked at them in their eyes…

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being kind all the time. I’m sorry for being frustrated as I’ve tried to correct you guys when you’ve been unkind. That’s not right. And I’m sorry.”

I didn’t notice it, but later, Jami told me that Carter’s mouth dropped and he shifted in his chair to listen. She said that she could see him physically open up to hear what I had to say. Had I not opened by apologizing the conversation and their behavior in the following days might have been different. What I said after, might have gone in one ear and out the other. Sometimes as parents, we need to initiate the apology. For me, a lot of times, I get caught up and focused on correcting their behavior… and rightly so. But there are times where it’s right and appropriate to own up to the mistakes we’ve made. That night was the right night for me. The kids didn’t expect it and I believe God used it to soften their hearts.

That wasn’t the end of the conversation. I then took my phone and went to the Bible app and read James 1:19-20... check it out:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

“Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” “Ears not Jeers…” Get it? The kids laughed when I said that after reading the verse.

It wasn’t enough for me to apologize. It wasn’t enough to simply have an after dinner discussion. Remember, this behavior, the words from their mouths, came from their attitudes which originated from their hearts. It had become a habit. So I wanted to replace it with something else. Not only did I read the verse, I let them know that we were going to memorize it.

God’s word is the replacement. Memorizing God’s word is the replacement for their habit. Being quick to listen. And slow to speak. And slow to anger. Memorizing James 1:19-20 and really letting that live within our hearts and minds is the exact right replacement for their habit... for our habit.

For the last week, we’ve been intentional about memorizing that verse. And I know it’s working. The rudeness and unkindness have been melting away. Will they be perfect? No. No one is. Will they be unkind again? Probably. But I want that to be the exception.

So now, when I say “Ears not jeers,” the kids are reminded of James 1:19-20.

Be quick to listen. Be slow to speak. Be slow to become angry. Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.


A Week of Summer Hell

I hate running.

No. Let me rephrase that. I like the idea of running. But I don’t like the actual act of it. I will only run when I need an immediate mental challenge to overcome. I’m weird. I know that. There have been times in my life where I’ve needed an immediate mental challenge… so I ask myself, “I wonder if I can run seven miles?” For someone who runs long distances on a regular basis, this may not be that big of a feat. For someone who has never ran a mile in their life, seven miles would probably be impossible. For me, it’s not an impossible task. But I don’t run on a regular basis. Actually, I don’t really run at all unless I need that immediate mental challenge to overcome. I did though, run all four years in high school. But that almost didn’t happen.

You see, when I was growing up, my parents required that I play a fall and spring sport. I never really asked them why. I guess they were trying to take up my time to help keep me out of trouble. But that’s just a guess, and I don’t know how good of a guess it is. In any case, for me, football was out. (That’s a different story I’ll tell at a later date.) So instead of football, I chose to go out for cross country. Now I say “go out for” like there were some sort of cuts. Let’s be honest, there weren’t enough idiots like me who actually joined the cross country team.

So the summer before my freshman year at Riley High School (R. I. L. E. Y. Go Riley), I walked into the school “ready” for the first practice. The actual cross country meets were 3.1 miles in distance. What I learned real quick was that the cross country practices were five or six miles Monday through Friday during the summer. And the only time we ran less, was the day before a meet. The easy day, as the coach called it, was 3.1 miles. This presented a bit of a problem… right away. The farthest distance I had ran before that summer day was 270 feet… in other words, in baseball terms… that’s a triple. More likely for me, I would typically only run between 90 and 180 feet… a single or double. So, you can imagine what ran through my mind that first day.

Not gonna lie here. It sucked.

S. U. C. K. E. D.

That first day I barely ran a mile. Then I walked. When I saw coach, I picked it back up and again. Then, when he disappeared, I would walk again. Then, when he drove to the next check point, I would run again when he came into my view. You see, we didn’t practice on a track. We ran neighborhood’s on the South Side of South Bend, Indiana. So the coach had set up check points so that he could make sure that we weren’t getting lost along the six mile course.

I did this on Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. And Friday. It was super clear that I wasn’t giving my best effort. I actually didn’t really want to even be there. Give me a bat and a glove and a baseball, and I’ll give my all. But ask me to run six miles… forget that. But I was fulfilling what my parents were asking me to do… be in a fall sport.

The summer practice ended on Friday and I walked home. Finally, the week of hell had ended and I was ready for the weekend to rest up. What I didn’t know, was that as I was walking home, my cross country coach was on the phone ratting me out to my dad.

When I got home, my dad called me out onto the front porch. I can still remember where we sat on the front porch. My dad asked me how cross country practice was going. “Uh. um. It’s going good. Um, well. Ya, it’s good.” Clearly that wasn’t the truth and my dad knew that. And, he let me know that the coach had called… BUSTED. My dad told me that the coach had called because I wasn’t giving my best effort, that I was walking too much. He said that the coach knows I could do better and actually be a good runner if I would only give it my best effort… or at least a better effort.

I’m sure I whined and complained about how hard it was to run in the summer heat… back in those days, like football, we had “two-a-day” practices. Instead of getting mad, my dad simply said, “If you give it your best at cross country, I’ll quit smoking. And if I pick up a cigarette, you can quit.”

What!? Deal. I said “deal” so quick. I mean, it was a no-brainer. There wasn’t a chance that I wasn’t winning this bet. Even if it took a month, I was in. I knew that I’d be quitting cross country sooner than later.

That discussion and deal took place in the summer of 1990. My dad hasn’t smoked since.

The joke was on me. I finished my freshman season of cross country. In fact, I lettered. Then, I finished my sophomore, junior and senior season of cross country. I lettered all four years and ran 3.1 in under 17 minutes and 30 seconds.

You see, my dad knew I could do just that if I gave my best effort. He believed the best in me. He made a sacrifice… he gave something up to help me eventually see the best in myself. Now, what he gave up helped him as well. I’m sure he’s healthier today than if he would still be smoking. But nonetheless, he made a sacrifice.

My dad could have gotten angry and given up on me. Instead, he believed in me and gave me a challenge and made a sacrifice to push me forward.

Parents, my challenge to you is this… what can you give up… no, what do you need to give up to help your child(ren) believe and see the best in themselves? What can you do today, that will help push them to be a better person now and into their life later?


Marked by Cheetos

When Morgan was little, she loved Cheetos.

And by love, I mean LOOOOVVVVEEEDDD Cheetos. When she ate them, she got the orange flavoring all over her hands. Anything she touched she left Cheeto hand prints everywhere… the fridge, the counter, table, walls…

She LOVED Cheetos. She loved them so much that she got them all over - all over her hands, all over her face, and all over anything she touched.

She loved them that much. She couldn’t help it. The Cheetos marked her, and in turn, whatever she touched she left their mark.

The same thing happens to each of us. Sure, I may not be covered in Cheetos, but there are things that I allow to mark me everyday. And the things I allow to mark me, in turn, leave their mark wherever I go and whoever I come in contact with…

My kids

My spouse

My friends

People I run into that I don’t even know

So the question is...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

It's easy to get wrapped up in the mess that's tossed at us...

The crap at work.

The anger we experience.

The families we see falling apart.

The hurt we encounter everyday.

But the question remains...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

You see, when my little MoMo ate her Cheetos, she dove in with both hands. And when she came out on the other side, she was marked. Whatever she had on her hands before was covered up by the cheesiness of the Cheetos.

I don't know what you've got going on in your life. But I know what I face each day. And I know I have a choice. Because more times than I care to admit, I allow things I hate to mark me. And in turn, they leave their mark on everything and everyone I come in contact with. So I have to ask myself daily...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

The answer I want to walk away with is...

Jesus.

He's the only One who can cover up the crap at work, the burden of witnessing families imploding, the anger I experience and give, and the hurt I encounter and see each day… in the news and real life. And when He makes His mark on me, in turn whatever I touch, His mark will be left wherever I go.

And so I dive in with both hands... Because I want to be marked by Jesus - and in turn, leave His mark everywhere I go.

So the question remains...

What are you allowing to mark your life?