Making Time That Matters With Those Who Matter Most

What matters most to you? I’m guessing that you are about to tell me to change the wording to, “WHO matters most to you.” The things that matter most to us are not things. It’s people. It’s the people we love. It’s the people who love us. My Top 3 goes like this: God, family, then friends. Even though my priorities are set for life, everything and everyone under the Top 3 challenge the Top 3 for position.

These challengers may not necessarily be bad things. Work isn’t a bad thing. You have to work. If the people you love depend on you to provide for them, then work is a necessary thing. At least I have to. Hobbies aren’t necessarily and usually aren’t bad. Many hobbies are refreshing and fulfilling. Relationships and even business ideas are birthed out of our recreational activities.

Even noble endeavors can try to find ways to displace your Top 3. I’ve been attending the same local church for over 25 years. I discovered that volunteering is an investment into not only other people, but expresses a faith-life that journeys in something that is much larger than me as an individual.  Still, this endeavor shouldn’t take over my Top 3. It shouldn’t take over yours.

How do you protect your Top 3? I don’t subscribe in the idea of a fixed “balanced life.” There are seasons when we all juggle a little or a lot more than the usual.  Also, life is full of unexpected turns and detours. Even with all of the surprises, how do you manage to spend time and attention to the relationships that matter?

I believe that one of the things you must do is to make time. Even if that means to put times down on a calendar (that you commit to) then that it is what you must do. I’ve been guilty of telling my friends, “Yeah, let’s catch that game soon.” SOON can end up being weeks, month, and even years. I can tell my kids that we will catch a movie when “things aren’t so crazy.” If I don’t set a date, then it isn’t going to happen.

If you can make your appointments with a God you cannot see, how faithful will you be to be consistent with spending time with your loved ones who you can see. That Day Runner thing wasn’t working for me years ago. Thank God, my calendar fits in my pocket. Even my years-old phone allows me to make an appointment by talking to it. I have no excuses. I can make excuses, but they aren’t valid; not with those who matter most.

What does your calendar look like over this week? What does it look like today? Are you making time that matters most with those who matter the most to you? Chime in. Be heard.

How much should you plan your child’s future?

What should the extent of your role be in shaping your child’s future? I know that debate has always existed about picking your child’s profession and even their eventual spouse. Let me share some biblical perspective in response to my own questions to express what I think should be part of the foundation of your parenting.

I’m just trying to figure out my own life! Don’t they just figure things out? Do I have to actually specifically plan for my children?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 NLT.

Sounds like a no-brainer. I think most parents have dreams and hopes for their kids even before they are still in the womb. God has specific plans for us. Parents should have actual plans for their children’s future. Part of your own personal plans for your future include plans for your children.

To what extent should I plan?

“Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.” ~Psalm 127:4 NLT.

You have been given the authority by God to choose the direction of your children the same way a warrior points an arrow towards its target. Start by choosing the direction. Even though higher education is changing rapidly nowadays, I am planning for my children to get as much education as possible after high school to give them a number of options in life to find their own career path. 

Where do I point my arrow?

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” ~Proverbs 22:6 NIV.

You decide where to point your arrow. My opinion is to start with God’s way as outlined in the Bible. That may sound too broad or ambiguous, but for those who consistently read the Bible know that the ways of the Lord are very clear and defined. I believe that the words in the Bible are not just mere words and wise sayings. Yes, in a practical sense, the Bible is the manual for living.  More than that, Scriptures are words from the Almighty Himself. His words supernaturally give life to those who find it. Start your children off the way they should go.

What if I choose the wrong direction?

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” ~Proverbs 16:9 NKJV.

The list of decisions you make seem endless. School? Which school? Should I pay for private education? College? And what about dating? When? Sports? Dance? Music? Friends?  You make the plans. Don’t get stuck at every fork in the road. God will shape your decisions when you make them. Are you willing to let Him? Pray. Pray a lot. Pray for your children. Pray with your children. They have desires and talents. It’s your job to find out what those are dreams and gifting are and help guide them with the decisions. Ask them. Watch them. I have twin daughters. Their big brother played soccer for years and was good at it. I thought that it would make sense for my daughters to play soccer too. The girls hated soccer. They lasted one season.  Now one does ballet while the other does MMA. My adult son works in his art department at work designing their web. It started over ten years ago when he asked for an notebook and pencils to draw.

What about the money? How much money?

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” ~ Proverbs 13:22 NKJV.

Lastly, you need financial resources for your children’s future. You’re providing now, but go beyond the current needs. God says to leave and inheritance to your children, and it  should extend to the grandchildren. That requires planning.

I won’t be picking out my children’s spouses nor their career paths, but I can help them get meet their goals.

I appreciate your thoughts and comments below. Happy planning!

 

Balance? What Balance?

Do you know how many articles, blogs, books, videos, sermons exist on the internet just by searching the words, “balancing life?” I don’t know the number, but the list seems endless. I’m sure it seems that way because a lot of people feel like their lives are not in balance. I won’t claim to have mastered any kind of balance in my life. I believe it is one of the constant tensions in life that will always exist. (By the way, I believe tension is necessary in life, and it’s not always a bad thing.) We can pour massive amounts of time and energy into organizing our lives in a disciplined manner, and there comes along an event that can upend that balance.

Instead of getting hung up on the concept of what “balance” looks like, simplify it by prioritizing the people that are most important to you. I say “people” because people should be at the top of your list. It should be the people that you LOVE who should be at the top of your list. If I LOVE God, then He should be the top priority of my time and attention. If I LOVE my wife, then she should get a whole lot of my time and attention. If I LOVE my kids, then they should get a whole lot of my time and attention. If I LOVE my relatives…. If I LOVE my friends…. This list can extend far, but that’s where priorities help.

You should also make time to do the things that you LOVE. Those are the interests that you enjoy doing. That could be a simple as reading books. It can be extensive like collecting rare objects. Pursuing these interests take the edge off the roughness of life and fills the soul tank. However, the things that you love shouldn’t take away the time and attention that belongs to the people you LOVE.

There’s a 4-letter word that gets in the way of the endeavors we love, and that’s W-O-R-K. If you have a job or career that you don’t love, then shift your perspective to encourage yourself. Your work gives you the opportunities to do the things that you love.

One more thought. Be generous with your time and resources to help others. Volunteer at your church or the hospital. Be a coach on your child’s soccer team. You get the idea. Investing your time and resources to help others is not just a noble thing. It makes your soul rich.

Balance can’t be all the aspects of your life weighing the same amount to keep the scales level. Some aspects are more important than others. Some aspects weigh more than others. Some aspects should.

What are those priorities in your life? Chime in! Your comments are welcomed and hope you are enjoying a productive week!

How to help your children be happy (Without happiness being the goal)


“I just want my children to be happy.” How many times have we heard someone say that? There is an innate desire in our souls to want our children to be well and well-off. However, should happiness be the goal? Should it be one of the many goals in life? My answer to that question is no. Instead of the state of happiness being the goal of life, the goal should be living a life larger than self. Happiness becomes the natural result of living a life beyond taking care of one’s needs and wants. How do we get our kids to have that perspective?

Last Christmas, my daughter saw a sign in a store that advertised a Christmas project asking folks to donate small gifts to be delivered to children around the world. My daughter wanted to do it, so I told her that she had to do this with her own money. She participated in the charity. I remember the look of satisfaction on her face when we dropped off the shoebox filled with toys and stationary at the distribution center. That moment was a reminder for me to raise my children to have the perspective of living beyond taking care of their needs and wants. How can we help our children find satisfaction in their journey? It is not as simple as having a Top 3, but here are a 3 thoughts to get this discussion going.

God needs to be in the conversation. There’s a constant conversation happening in that space between our ears. That conversation changes when God is invited into the discussion. Teach your kids to read the Bible and pray. Why not just pray? God’s voice will never contradict what He already said in His Word. When God is in the conversation, then self-centered thoughts change to a perspective that looks to others. Any sense of entitlement will be challenged by God’s voice Who says, “What about your family?” and “What about your friends?” and “What about your neighbor?” Think about the Golden Rule. It is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. One of the rewards is the “happiness” that results from living this principle. God takes this relationship beyond happiness. God becomes the source of joy that is not dependent on circumstance. Could our children be at that place? Could we adults be at that place?

Get relationships right. People will disappoint you. You parents disappointed you, and you will disappoint your children. Your children will be let down. Also, they will have their shares of disappointing others. It is important to teach your children to be at peace with people as much as possible. Bitterness has a way of destroying our lives when we let relationships go awry. Some things are beyond our control, but we all have the choice of holding onto grudges or choosing to forgive. Can your children experience the joy of having positive relationships?

Get money and possessions right. I tell my kids that it is perfectly fine to have a ton of money and enjoy nice things… as long as those things don’t have them. Acquiring money and things should not be life’s goal. The ancient Egyptians would mummify their royalty and encase them in gold and the finest things. They believed their riches would go with them to the afterlife. Centuries later, tomb raiders took the treasures that somehow didn’t make the transfer to the afterlife. A person’s well-being includes having a healthy perspective of money and things. I remember witnessing a young boy give his prize and rare Pokemon card to a new friend. The boy was just as happy if not happier than the new friend who received his gift. After all, it is better to give than to receive. Don’t you agree? Can your children get that perspective? Is that perspective in line with yours?

I am trying to keep this list limited to 3, but should there be more? Your comments are appreciated.

What do you want your kids to know about money?

This is part 2 about our kids and money. After writing part 1, I was compelled to dust off a money-managing book by Dave Ramsey and continue reading what I started years ago. I remembered seeing his daughter Rachel Cruze speak at a conference. The conference wasn’t about money, but in her session she did speak about kids a money. My note-taking wasn’t stellar that day, but here are Rachel’s points in CAPITALS with my kid-talk thoughts in italics.

BE GIVERS. God doesn’t need my money, but I trust in Him. Side note: I just realized our American currency still says, “In God We Trust.” Tithing at church is a trust thing. It’s a heart issue. As if God is reprimanding folks when they get to heaven for tithing. (He isn’t.) Giving to charity is a heart thing. My most generous friends have this dynamics working in their lives where they just always have, so they always give. I think it’s the other way around, and that’s how God made this world work. 

MONEY COMES FROM WORK. Don’t just give your children things. Teach them the relationship between work and money early in their lives. I’m imagining making my toddler pick up his dirty diapers for cash for fishy crackers at this very moment. I want my kids to shake off  the current label on this generation being “Entitled.” I want them to understand the rewards of diligent work. 

THE BORROWER IS THE SLAVE TO THE LENDER. Debt. That’s my four-letter word. For me, it’s taken decades to finally stop trying to be the exception to the rule. I’ve been a slave far too long. I don’t want my children to go down the same path. 

One my friends, Phil commented on my last post that his daughter has categories for her money: tithing, charity, and fun money. Once again, another proponent of teaching our children to be intentional with their finances. Thanks Phil!

Here’s the link to Rachel Cruze and her section on Kids and Money https://www.rachelcruze.com/topics/category/kids-and-money

Your turn. Chime in. Share your thoughts, and let’s keep this conversation going. Have a great weekend! And by the way, I didn’t impulse buy a few of those wresting masks, but I wanted to.

What do you want your children to know about money?

One of the pastors at my church preached on what the Bible says about personal finances. As each main point dropped like bombs on top of me, I sunk down in my chair realizing how much I need to grow in this area. My wife read my mind at that very moment. As soon as the pastor offered a budgeting workshop to the congregation, my wife registered both of us for the class before the preacher could ask for an “Amen.”

I thought about my children and asked myself the question that I now ask you, “What do you want your children to know about money?” I will list at least 3 thoughts that I believe in and if I haven’t been practicing what I preach, then it starts today. Let’s see if this list sticks after the budget seminar. Here’s what I have for now. This is what I want my kids to know about money.

1. If you can’t afford it, then you really can’t afford it. I think that I have had to learn and re-learn this lesson at least a thousand times. I guess it’s because I have to make this is a proven saying. I remember getting my first credit card from the table in front of the college bookstore. The year was 1986, and I was making $3 and some change per hour at Gemco 20 hours a week. Once I was approved, I made some trips to Disneyland. I also purchased a car stereo and some clothes. It didn’t take me long before I maxed out the credit card in a span of 4 weeks. I want my children to know that much discipline is needed with credit. I want them to know that if you can’t afford it, then you really can’t afford it until you save up for it or decide that it’s not an item or experience you’re not willing to pay for.

2. Have intentions with your money. Who’s guilty of that self-talk, “If I had more money, I’d help out so-an-so,” or “I’d give to that charity if I had money to give.” Me. I’ve said that. I want my children to know that they don’t have to aimlessly spend their money on whatever makes them feel happy. One of my favorite Jewish Proverbs says that a generous soul shall be made rich. I believe that your money should go beyond yourself and the four walls of your home. Helping those in need should be part of their intentions with money.

3. Who’s the boss? I want my children to determine that they are in charge of their money. They aren’t slaves to their money. I don’t agree with the popular saying that money is root of all evil. That is not what they Bible says. Money is good or bad. 1 Timothy  6:10 explains that it is the LOVE of money that sets us in the wrong direction. Our attitude towards money and how we use it is the heart issue that rich people, poor people, and everyone in the middle has to figure out. I want my children to be excellent stewards of their finances.

Money is such a big thing in our lives. It shouldn’t be the biggest thing. It definitely shouldn’t be the one thing that consumes our thoughts. That spot belongs to God. It even says so on our bills and coins. I should get one of those custom printed on my VISA to remind myself.

What are your thoughts? What do you want your children to know about money?

Using Training Wheels

I don’t know too many kids who picked up a bike for the first time and just started riding it. Actually, I don’t know any kid who has done that. This child in the picture, just like many children, was taught by his parents. His mastery of this skill happened in stages. This bicycle had training wheels first. This boy learned to ride a bike with the help of training wheels before he learned to balance and pedal his bicycle without them.

When his father removed the training wheels, this boy may have fallen off of his bike a few times after losing his balance. He may have needed his mother to push him to give him enough momentum to keep moving forward. Now that he’s riding his bike without training wheels, he will never need them or want them again.

Shouldn’t we use the training wheel method to teach our children other skills in life? You know; those skills that aren’t athletic in nature but are necessary life skills. Have you showed them how to navigate their relationships and the ups and downs of life? They will need a guiding hand and even a push. Eventually, you remove the training wheels and let them ride on their own.

Will they fall down? Yes. Help them back up. You might have to encourage them to try again. They can’t be using training wheels forever.

Your children need training. Are you a committed trainer? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Encouraging Words

I was in bed that day with the flu a few years back. I’m guessing that you all know how that feels. I don’t remember how long I was sleeping, but when I woke I found 2 notes that my twins placed next to my pillow. At that moment, I started feeling better. I don’t know if somehow my antibodies were encouraged to start kicking the bacteria in my body, but I know that their encouraging notes lifted up my soul and adjusted my attitude to bring me steps closer to a full recovery.

Many of us experienced the power of words in this past presidential election. The rhetoric was negative. (When is it not?) The name calling and mud-slinging continues on and instead of uniting a nation has further divided it. You don’t even have to leave home or bed nowadays to get bombarded with negative words. All you have to do is turn on the TV or look at your connected world from the convenience of your phone.

Think about your children. Growing up can be a cruel experience at times. Because our connected world is bombarding our children like we have never experienced before, we should make it our highest priority to make our home the true “safe” place.

Parents, we should be always building our children up. When you first held your child do you remember the dreams you had for him? Do you remember what you promised her? Your words are what steers your child towards his hopeful future. You won’t be able to shield your her from the negative words that will come her way, but you can help her overcome malicious words do tear down. Show them they also have responsibility over their own words.

It starts with you. Your child listens to your conversations about your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your in-laws, your boss, your coworkers, your neighbors, etc. How do your speak to your child? What do you tell him about himself? What do you say when she needs to be corrected about her attitude? When he is asking for acknowledgement about something he has accomplished how do you respond?

I say that the majority of your words towards your children should be with intentions to build and heal. I can think of Jewish Proverbs that comment on the power of words. Proverbs 12:6 (NLT) says, “The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.” Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

After looking at the picture of these cards, I’m challenged to go beyond the daily conversations I have with my kids and going to send cards to them. Encouraging me kids via text messages are many times timely and convenient. Yet, nothing beats a card sent via air mail. Do you remember the last time, other than Christmas and the local real estate agent, when you received a greeting card in the mail? How did that make you feel?

 

 

The journey is not alone

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”~Ernest Hemingway

Many of you will agree that the journey is what counts the most. This is a consistent theme, yet I can still get so consumed with the destination that I forget that it is what happens in the process that makes me who I am.

When I took this picture of a young man walking his mother to a wedding ceremony, I was reminded that we don’t do this journey alone. People’s journeys and destinies are tied to mine. The ones most affected by my journey are the ones I lead, that is, my family.  I set the direction. I set the pace. I define the boundaries. I speak the dreams. I share the victories and the disappointments.

Many parents have dreams for their children to become a wildly successful lives as adults. Let’s not forget that it’s the process that happens on the way to the destination that makes the child become who he is.

Remind everyone on the journey with you that it really is the journey that matters, in the end.