The Easiest Way To Get Knocked Down

I am only a casual observer of boxing, but it is easy to make some basic observations about the sport.  Some of the greats like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard were quick on their feet and always on their toes.  Often their opponents found themselves knocked back on their heels against the ropes being punished with blow after blow.   When you are knocked back on your heels it is hard to escape an attack and easy to get knocked down.

What happens when we move away from our vision, mission, and goals and become reactionary in everything that we do?  A few examples…

  • An organization with a clear mission leaves the path of accomplishment to chase after the latest accusation, crisis, or controversy.  Leading by crisis is not a sustainable path.  When all energies are poured into responding to the latest controversy, the leadership produces fatigue, factions, and failure within the organization.
  • A family fails to set goals or expectations and finds themselves in a morass of complacency and failure.  Parents aren’t given the option of leading their family, they are given the responsibility to be strong, pro-active leaders.  Even the youngest of families can have goals, standards, and expectations.
  • An individual is paralyzed by fear and motivated only by eminent failure.  With no goals or motivation they surrender to laziness, unmet potential, and quite often will tear others down in an attempt to bring them to their level.

encourageThis all sounds pretty negative, especially coming from a guy who is by nature an optimist and strives to seek out the best in others.  I believe we are seeing in our society the fruits of our hyper-informed culture.  A few illustration that parallel the above points…

  • The church has a clear mission – Matthew 28:19-20 – “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Pretty simple right?  Everything we do is supposed to be focused on reaching out and making disciples.  Does the command of Jesus sound like we are supposed to be on ‘offense’ or ‘defense’?  I don’t know about you, but with Jesus’ assurance that He is with me ALWAYS I am motivated to push past the follies of this world and accomplish the ONE thing He commanded me to do.  A church that is fully accomplishing the goal that Christ set forth most likely won’t have the energy for much of the foolishness we see today.  Being absorbed in a hyper-informed culture distracts the church from the primary mission and leaves us chasing after the latest thing that catches our attention.
  • I’m probably not the only person who observes families when I am out and about.  Last night we took our girls out to dinner to celebrate an accomplishment of our older daughter.  There were two other families within glancing view of our table.  Every time I looked at their table I saw mom on a phone, dad on a phone, and kids on a device.  Before the meal came, during the meal, and as they were leaving, both families were plugged into whatever was on their device instead of each other.  There are times we need to be on a device, but all the time?  As the Dad of young children I recognize it is exhausting work at times but the work of parenting is an essential one.  A question to parents… what information, communication, or game are you looking at on your phone that is more important than your children?  I can’t even predict the problems we are heaping up for our young families when we place a premium on being connected to a device instead of our children.
  • “Failure to launch” is a relatively new phrase that has been coined for young people who just can’t seem to get out on their own and start life on their own.  Have you thought about this transition from their perspective?  We are in a new era of communication and information where young adults are constantly connected to the best of what their peers are up to.  It is easy to look at Instragram, Twitter, or Facebook and see the best of what others have to offer and feel inadequate and incapable.  As the brain of a young adult enters the critical maturation stage, they are surrounded by a cyclone of information that many seem to have trouble piercing through.  High school and college students, as well as young adults, are perhaps the group that is most easily knocked down because it is a challenge to establish a footing in the first place.

Our two-year old falls down and gets up countless times throughout the day.  She can be walking right along and with no trouble in sight…boom…. she is down on the ground.  I can accidentally brush up against her and down she goes.  If your body had doubled in height in the last year you’d probably be a bit wobbly too.  But we are there to pick her up, give her a hug, and help her learn if there is a lesson to be learned. (Such as the danger of dancing on tables that was taught this morning.)  I don’t expect her to have these problems for long because she is learning and adapting.  But new challenges will arise and we will be there to love and help facilitate learning.

As individuals we were created with amazing potential.  DadisLearning.com is all about the idea of life-long learning in every aspect of life.  Learning keeps us moving forward toward the goal we have set.  Families and organizations are also called to keep their focus on the end goal.  We have all seen the result when focus is lost and we chase after things that don’t matter…we get knocked down.  Let us make sure we are focused together on the goals that are set before us.  We should also be encouraged to love on another in the face of the challenging struggles we all face.

Philippians 2 is an amazingly appropriate passage for this post.  It is the subject matter of Dinnertime Devotionals 37.  If you don’t look at the devotionals I encourage you to at least read the passage – Dinnertime Devotionals 37

Family Traditions

This post isn’t about the Hank Williams Jr. honky tonk anthem “Family Traditions” although I will mention it a bit later.  Today’s short post is a reminder to myself about the influence and importance of family…

family shelterLast night a group from our church went to a senior living center to sing some hymns with the residents.  We arrived 10 minutes early and found a good number of folks already waiting in the chapel area where we would be singing.  As we opened the hymnals and began singing, it was obvious that those who had gathered loved to sing.  There were so many good and strong voices, especially among the male bass part.

I was so impressed with the singing that I had to ask the residents where they had learned about singing.  A woman quickly volunteered the answer, “From my family.”  She talked about how her parents, aunts, and uncles all enjoyed singing and how they would sing together at every chance they had.  Several others in the crowd volunteered similar answers so I asked for a show of hands from those who had been influenced in their singing by their family.  Over half of the hands in the group went up.  The influence of family was undeniable in the room last night as some of the best singers were those who had raised their hands.

Many times over my years in ministry I have heard people talk about the hymns their mother, father, grandmothers, etc would sing as they worked around the house.  The gentle influence of a mother singing hymns in the kitchen while doing the important work of the home lives on in the hearts and minds of so many.

I imagine there is no neutral ground in the lessons that we teach our children in the home.  I have yet to speak with an adult who feels that their family was neither of good or bad influence in their life.  Hank Williams Jr. had one of his biggest hits with the song “Family Traditions” that details the list of vices he struggled with, just like his father.  More than likely the song wasn’t fully based in reality but the thought still applies…  When your kids say they’re just carrying on an old family tradition, what will they be doing?

Hopefully one of your family traditions is spending some time every day talking about God and praying together.  The Dinnertime Devotionals series was started to encourage that effort.  Here is Dinnertime Devotionals 36

The Power of Positive Prevails

Over the course of the last week I was reminded of the power of positive influence that I can have.  We all have the choice to either reflect God’s light of love to a dark world or to reflect the qualities of this lost world that we live in.  Let me share my two reminders with you then speak a bit about why I choose the power of positive:

Last week our family had the great opportunity to spend some time together on one of our annual excursions.  Every year we make a pilgrimage to the other side of the metroplex for the State Fair of Texas.  Our daughter’s school had a day off and I took a day off from work to spend some quality time with my young family.  We always have a great time, and thanks to my thrifty wife it doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg.

The photo I posted on Facebook.

The photo I posted on Facebook.

I posted a favorite photo from the day on Facebook to share something fun and positive on that powerful social media platform.  The photo of our family with Big Tex received a normal number of ‘likes’ and comments from friends and relatives who have a special interest in our family  But here is why I bring all this up… the next day a young man left this comment – “There’s a face I have never seen not smiling! Miss ya Jon”  This young man attended another church in the area and we would see each other from time to time at various youth events.  He now lives out of state, is married, and living the adult life.  Have you ever thought about how greeting everyone with a sincere smile can make a lasting impression?  I am thankful to my Dad who taught (and still teaches) me the importance of a solid handshake, sincere smile, and genuine interest in everyone I meet.

The second reminder…  My wife and I were blessed to be able to attend the CALLED conference that was hosted by a local church this past weekend.  It was a time of encouragement and education with some excellent speakers and teachers.  I was sitting in a session when I was asked to share some of the things I have been writing about on this blog and through the Dinnertime Devotionals series.  I appreciated the offer to talk about DadisLearning.com but was humbled to hear others in the room talk about how they have been using the Dinnertime Devotionals series and some of my posts with their own families and congregations.  How cool is that?!?

I don’t bring up these two examples to ‘puff’ myself up or to brag.  I bring them up because they are just two examples of the power of positive in my life.  It is good to be surrounded by sincere, hard-working, loving folks who have dedicated themselves to reflecting God’s love…no matter what.  Through their words and actions they seek to encourage fellow Christians and others to come along with them as they strive to get to heaven.  I am thankful for all the ‘encouragers’ I have in my life and I am thankful that I can be an encouragement to others.

Like everyone, I have my detractors, who are welcome to their opinion.  I have found that most who criticize are simply looking to elicit a reaction.  Over time I have learned that arguing with some of these folks is like arguing with our 2 year-old.  If she has made her mind up that the sky is pink and the clouds are made of cat fur, there is no convincing her otherwise.  It is better to smile and move along.

I have been learning more and more how the power of positive keeps one in control.  When we feel that we must constantly react to the latest controversy, we are drawn away from our game plan.  A reactionary stance keeps you on a weak footing where it is easy to get knocked down.  This is true for individuals and organizations.  We must have a plan, stay focused on it, and keep heading down the path that leads to our goal.

power of positiveAppreciate honest criticism and those who offer it.  Appreciate those who reflect God’s light of love and hope into your life.  Embrace children and their purity, energy, and creativity.  Study, pray, and meditate often so that you can be the light to those you know and to those who you don’t even realize you are reaching.  The power of positive always prevails.

Ever wondered where the power of positive comes from?  It comes from God’s Word.  This life is temporary but leads to a lasting home of peace and joy.  The Dinnertime Devotionals series is my effort to help my family and yours as we strive together to teach our children about God and His overwhelming love.  I hope you use and enjoy Dinnertime Devotionals 35.

The Long Lasting Influence of a Teacher

Last week I came home from the office and was excitedly greeted by our first grader as she popped up on our couch with big eyes.  She immediately prompted me with, “Guess what Daddy?!?”  A bit concerned with this unusual level of enthusiasm I cautiously replied, “What….?”

“I had lunch with your sixth grade teacher today!”

That was pretty exciting and unexpected news.  We run into Mrs. S (my 6th grade teacher) every once in a while since she is a vendor at the antique mall where we are set up.  (In fact, I still see my 1st, 2nd, and 5th grade teachers often.)  Mrs. S volunteers at the school to read with the kids and then joins them for lunch in the cafeteria.  Our daughter was so excited to read with, and eat lunch with Mrs. S since she was one of her Daddy’s teachers.

great teacherMrs. S let our daughter in on the elementary teacher’s secret.  She knew without a doubt that this was our child not because of her last name or because we bump into each other once or twice a year, but because of her eyes.  Elementary teachers who love and engage their students always remember the eyes.  They spend so many hours looking at those eyes, watching them to insure that there is understanding and comprehension.  Years later, many teachers can pick out the eyes of their students when they have become adults.

Lifelong educators have a love for teaching children that never goes away.  I come from a family of teachers (Mom, Dad, Sister, Mother-in-Law) and can see their joy in teaching our children and instilling a love for learning in them.  I have fond memories of teachers throughout my education from elementary all the way through working on my graduate degree.  The educators who stand out in my mind had a unique love for teaching and an intense interest in their students.

Of course all education does not take place at a school.  I am a teacher in the work that I have taken on as a minister.  I remember with great fondness many of the Bible school teachers I had as a child who were all volunteers, many of them professional teachers who also loved reaching children with a message of God’s love.  I appreciate and give thanks for their heart-felt efforts.

Many times the only things we hear about teachers is the occasional news report about a teacher who brought trouble upon themselves.  Or we read posts on Facebook, many of which are inaccurate or false, about the changes taking place in the educational system.  Sure there are problems, but there are a lot of amazing educators who are making a positive lifelong impact on their students.

I truly appreciate the teachers and administrators that work and sacrifice to make a difference.  Little things, like the principal of our daughter’s elementary school remembering her name on the first day of school amid hundreds of young faces.  Big things, like the continued interest and involvement of lifelong educators.  New things, like some of my friends who are helping to usher in new methods of teaching and online educational tools.

In a world where educators are often under appreciated, constrained by bureaucrats who have never taught a class, and consistently under-funded…I would like to say “THANK YOU!”  Thank you for the impact you have made (and continue to make) on my life.  Thank you for your work with my children.  Thank you for keeping the grand tradition of education alive and thriving.

Transitioning to our Dinnertime Devotional series…  Never forget that parents can be the most powerful educators.  Parents teach in the things that they do and don’t do.  A parent is a better ‘youth minister’ than I could ever be to their child and that is why we are working to equip parents with tools to help in the job of teaching and ministering to their family.  Dinnertime Devotionals 34 continues with our family study in the book of Ephesians – Dinnertime Devotionals 34

Do You Value Your Time?

In the past week I have spent a fairly large amount of money TWICE for the purpose of saving time and effort.  Let me ask you a question – Do you know what your time is worth?

time is moneyClearerThinking.org has an interactive tool that walks through a series of questions that will paint a fairly clear picture of the value of your work and free time.  (I have mentioned this tool in a previous post.)  It is good to know what your time is worth in the office and the value you assign to your free time.

A lot of the examples on the site deal with saving money:

  • Is it logical to drive 9 minutes further to save $2 on a tank of gas?  If your free time is worth $30 an hour you would lose value (($30/60 min) * 9 min = $4.50) while trying to save money.  Of course, your personal hobby might be saving money and it brings you great joy…factor that in.
  • When researching an item, looking for a deal, or trying to save money…keep in mind the value of your time.  Is it worth spending 3 hours (3 hours x $30 per hour = $90 of value) to research the best $20 alarm clock on the market?

I have found several instances in our home life where we are actually spending more money than we are saving.  Printing a coupon in color on our home printer can cost about $0.20 to $0.30 in paper and ink.  If the coupon is for $0.50 we have just reduced the value by half.  Factor in the time it took to find and print the coupon and you might be in the negative once perceived value is included.  Another factor is the number of coupons that get printed and don’t get used.  It is very easy to do some very illogical things in an effort to save a buck.

I mentioned two expenditures I made in the past week to save time/effort.  Let’s examine those:

In my side business of buying and selling, I scored a huge deal a few weeks ago.  I was able to purchase some flat filing cabinets (for blueprints and maps) from a local municipality.  Each 5-drawer unit is 52″w x 42″d x 18″h and weighs 300lbs.  The lot in the auction was for 10 units….that is 3,000lbs.  List price for each of the cabinets (per the manufacturer) is $2,757 per 5-drawer unit.   I paid 1.3% of what they are worth at auction.  My plan was to donate two of the units to our church for the new teacher workroom and then take the rest and sell them, BUT hauling them would be a factor.

Due to the size of the cabinets I would need to rent a truck ($100) and get some paid and unpaid volunteers to help with the effort ($100).  Plus I would be lifting the cabinets, hauling two of them upstairs at our church building, and offloading the others at my storage area.  It was a ‘no-brainer’ to get some quotes from moving companies.  I contacted three companies and they were all in the same ballpark of pricing $250 to $275.  The additional $50 to $75 to hire professionals fell well within my range of perceived value for my time, and that didn’t even factor in the potential for injury to myself or those working with me.

The movers were FAST!  The entire job took just over two hours and the units were moved to the various locations without any damage.  I suspect that I will be able to sell the remaining units for 20-25% of the list value which will more than cover the auction and moving costs, plus leave a solid profit for the venture.

The second expenditure is a bit more difficult to quantify.  As a guy, I like tools.  I have a storage cabinet and workbench that are full of them.  Some of the more unique tools only get used a few times a year.  But as most of us have found out, having the right tool can save a TON of time and frustration.

I have been a minister for over a decade and have never invested in any real Bible software.  I have always been the type to think, “If I can’t dig it out of the Bible or do the research, then I don’t need it.”  That attitude is akin to trying to break the bolt loose on a mower blade with a crow bar and a socket wrench when I have an impact hammer readily available.  (Sorry if that illustration was lost on you…I change a lot of mower blades.)  I bit the bullet and invested my own money in what has proven to be some really amazing Bible study software.

So far I am not realizing any time savings with the software because I am still learning and exploring all the features it has to offer.  But I can tell you that the quality of my lessons, etc. has already increased as I have ready access to a vast library of commentaries, texts, and word studies.  No longer do I have to grab books from the library in my office or down the hall.  At the click of the button I have the same or similar resources available.  I estimate the time savings to be at least 8-10 hours per month, which easily justifies the expense.  Factor in the increased quality of my work, and you have a great value.

Final thoughts – Obviously this value estimation tool isn’t flawless.  If you are retired or a stay at home parent then it probably won’t work for you.  No matter your situation, it is good to think logically about what our time is worth, what we do in the name of saving money, and if there are tools or professional services that would be a good investment.  It is always good to ask – Do you value your time?

Will They Miss You?

I don’t have to travel away from my family often, which I am thankful for.  But when I do have to be away it is good to come home to a family that has missed me.  My wife always let’s me know how much she appreciates me and misses me while I am gone.  Our young children also let me know I have been missed when I see their eyes get big with excitement when they see I have returned.

miss youYears in ministry have taught me that this isn’t the case for everyone.  Some family members and friends are happy to see you go.  Hurtful words, errant priorities, and failure to be responsible can make someone a frustration to be around.  I am reminded of an odd graveside service that I conducted for an older woman.  The small number of people at the service recounted tales of the mean things the deceased had said to them.  The feeling of those gathered wasn’t sadness or malice, instead it was pity.

When I walk our oldest daughter to school in the mornings, I always say 3 things to her:

  1. Is it going to be a good day today?
  2. Are you going to be a good girl today and help others?
  3. Daddy loves you very much.

I ask the first two questions with the purpose of reminding our sweet young girl about the importance of attitude.  When we set our minds to having a good day, there is little that anyone or anything can do to spoil that.  Annoying or bad things might happen but we take them in stride when we are committed to a positive attitude.

The second question is geared towards the attitude that God would want us to have.  When we strive to help others and be kind, we reflect the love of God.  How can you have a bad day when you are bringing joy to others.  Some of the unhappiest people I know are self absorbed.

A quick aside – On our plane flight to Orlando last week, three people sitting near my co-worker and I were quite vocal about their dislike of the screeching children on the plane.  What do you expect on a flight that is headed to one of the biggest resort destinations in the world?  I guess they forgot that they were once children, or how their kids behaved when tired (it was a 6am flight.)  Those folks condemned themselves to having a horrible flight over a minor issue that the rest of us chose to ignore.  They forgot the abundant life we have in being able to sit in a padded seat in an air conditioned machine that will whiz us to distant places in just a few hours.  Amazing!

The final reminder I ALWAYS give our daughter is a reminder of my love.  Little girls need the love and attention of their fathers.  The conference I attended last week vividly reminded me of the need that girls have for the attention and affection that they can only get from their father.  I make sure my child is reminded daily of my love for her.

I want to be missed when I’m gone.  People miss you because you add value to their life.  We should strive to give to others, from the simple tasks that are done as part of the work of the family to the affection that can only come from you.  It is good to be missed and it is a pleasant reminder that we are on the right track with the things we are doing and saying.

Don’t miss out on our ongoing study of Ephesians in Dinnertime Devotionals 33

 

A Time For Renewal

Last week I was chatting with some of the other buyers during the lunch break at the live auction I attend in Fort Worth.  Several of the ‘regulars’ own large used office furniture stores in the metroplex and as far away as Nebraska.  In particular I was chatting with a guy that is about my age who has been in the resale business for 5 years and hasn’t taken a vacation in all that time.

There is no question that the used office furniture business is competitive and fast-paced, just like many other industries.  But not taking time off can kill your health and sanity, and your business along with it.  I’m the type of person that REALLY likes to stay busy so this is something I have to try and remind myself about often.

The Bible speaks about rest and renewal A LOT!  In the Old Testament, Exodus and Leviticus are filled with examples and COMMANDS to rest, renew, and reflect.  A few that come to mind are:

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Leviticus 25:4 “But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”

Personal rest, rest for workers, renewal for the animals used in labor, and even renewal for the land (crop rotation) are all spoken off in the various commandments founds in these two books.  Even though this old law isn’t binding on New Testament Christians it is a healthy pattern and reminder for all of us.

All of this is on my mind because I am headed to a ministry conference for the rest of the week.  I am in my 11th year of ministry and have only attended 1 conference in all that time.  I am really looking forward to meeting some new people, spending time with folks I know from the DFW area, and being encouraged and equipped to better minister to the congregation I work with.

busy familyWhat kinds of things do you do to renew?  Obviously it doesn’t have to be a grand event or occasion.  There are lots of little things we can do along the way.  I believe we are sometimes too hard on ourselves.  Recently my wife and I were talking about all the negative blog posts that have been written about mom’s tinkering on their cell phones at the park while the kids are playing.  No one would say anything about a mom who is reading a book at the park while their children are playing.  If a mom wants to take a moment to enjoy a game, chat, or read on their cell phone while the kids play…more power to them!  Being a mom is an exhausting job.

You might have a favorite show you enjoy watching, or a book you like to read, or a prayer journal you are working through.  There are any number of things that people might do to take a moment to rest, relax, and renew.  The key is to take that moment.  You might also take a look around.  See someone who is busier than you are?  Give them a hand!  Perhaps you see your spouse running themselves into the ground, head home from work a bit early and lend an extra hand.  We all could use a little help!

Another thing you should make time for is Bible study with your family.  It doesn’t have to be any big deal.  I will often work our conversation into dinnertime, which is why I started writing dinnertime devotionals.  I have heard from several of you who use these outlines each week and I appreciate your good efforts – Dinnertime Devotionals 32.

The Heart of a Child

My wife has been on crutches long enough that it threw our entire family off when we saw her on just one crutch or with no crutches.  The first day of the transition to one crutch my wife was home with our 2-year-old.  Our youngest girl followed Mommy around all day carrying her other “crunch” saying, “Mommy you forgot your crunch!”  Other times she would find Mommy in the kitchen and push her rolling stool towards her and say so sweetly, “Mommy sit down.”

photo 1

Little children love to help! Never forget that we were created to do good – Ephesians 2:10.

Little kids have HUGE hearts and want to help out however they can.  The concern of our 2-year-old was evident when she tried to make sure that her Mommy was taken care of.  Our 7-year-old has been equally as attentive and has also incorporated the injury into her role play.  The other day we found her in a chair, leg propped up, ice bag on leg and play crutches at her side.

As sweet as they are to their Mama they can sure get testy which each other.  The littlest disagreement can send the 2-year-old into a screeching fit against her older sister.  The same children who only moments earlier had been so sweet to their Mom are now having a screeching fit over a doll or some other toy.

My wife and I are constantly thanking the children for their sweet attitude and then correcting them when disagreements arise.  This is commonplace for most homes but there is an interesting parallel between the heart of a child and the behavior of adults.

As adults we can do amazingly kind and compassionate things for each other.  From small acts of kindness to loving sacrifice, we reflect the love of God to our family, neighbors, church, and friends.  But catch us in the wrong place or time and you might possibly see a different side of us, just like a child.  An example…

How many times have you seen adults bicker on Facebook or other online interactive sites?  People who in real life are good and kind will sometimes say things online that they would never say in ‘real life.’  The buffer of cyberspace transforms us into a child with no obvious discernment in the words we are typing.  Seeing grown men and women bicker over religion, politics, or current issues and call each other idiots, trash, etc. is highly disappointing behavior.  Through their repeated encounters with various people, some seem to take great joy in bullying or baiting others to stoop to their level of foolishness.

Our youngest on her own "crunches" following Mommy around.

Our youngest on her own “crunches” following Mommy around.

We would all do well to seek out the example of the heart of a child.  Bask in the warm glow of the love they give.  Observe their quarrels and make sure we don’t appear to be acting in the same manner.  And forgive.  Our girls can be screeching at each other and after some correction and a hug they go off and enjoy an afternoon of playing peacefully.  Adults could work for a long time to capture that attitude of forgiveness when mistakes are made.  (Our preacher gave an excellent lesson on this topic on Sunday evening.  Give it a listen – “How Blessed Are Forgivers“  See what you miss when you don’t go to church in the evening :) )

If online confrontation is an issue for you, here are some suggestions that I have employed that seem to help:

  • Not everything needs a response.  Some folks are just trying to start a fight, so don’t given them any fuel.  Their fire will eventually die out or they will move on to another topic.  My parents always told me the best way to stop a bully is to ignore them.  This is true in most cases.
  • It is OK to ‘unfriend’ or ‘unfollow’ people.  If the stuff they put up online bugs you then unfriend them.  Hard feelings can also be avoided by simply remaining their friend but unsubscribing from any posts or material they put up.
  • If you find yourself constantly entangled in “debates” with people, perhaps you need someone who will filter your responses.  Bounce your ideas off someone before posting them to avoid unnecessary quarrels.  A lot of time and energy is wasted in pointless arguments online.
  • Some people really enjoy online arguments and view them as no big deal, others feel very wounded by the words.  Make sure you recognize your own feelings and those of the other people you are engaging.
  • Consider how you would feel if your children saw your comments.  I don’t have teenagers, but a time is coming soon when my kids will see what I comment on, like, share, etc.
  • Keep it positive.  I enjoy time on social media sharing encouraging words, family updates, neat ideas, and useful info.  I use tools like SocialFixer to filter out posts about various topics I don’t care to see.  Keep your posts positive and use online tools to filter out things you prefer not to see.
  • Take a break.  Real life and Facebook are two very different things.  I enjoy taking the occasional break from social media to focus my energy where it is supposed to be.

And something that is always good…spend time in the Word!  I continue the Dinnertime Devotionals series with the second installment of our study in Ephesians – Dinnertime Devotionals 31

Live Within Your Means: A Reminder From Life

Life tends to teach us lessons and remind us of things along the way, if we are paying attention.  Back at the end of June my wife wound up fracturing the upper portion of her tibia while playing with the kids.  The details aren’t important, but as a nurse working two 12-hour floor shifts a week, she has been unable to be at work all throughout the summer and probably for another month or two.  A few observations we have made…

Benefits Sure Help

piggy bank parachuteWhile health and insurance benefits shouldn’t be fully trusted, they sure help when things go wrong.  Working part-time as a nurse my wife definitely provides stability for our young family with the benefits her job provides.  The doctor and rehab fees associated with this injury have taken less out of our pocket than the average car payment.  The short-term disability insurance provided by her employer only provides 60% compensation as opposed to the 100% coverage it used to provide.  Those living paycheck to paycheck might be devastated by a 40% reduction in pay combined with medical bills and other associated costs, but this isn’t a big deal when you try to live within your means.

Pad Your Landing

It isn’t a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ life events will trip you up.  Illness, injury, and other issues can pop up at any point and without ‘padding’ the financial effects of these incidents can become long-term.  (Obviously catastrophic illness or events will stay with you long-term in many ways.)  Let me give you an example…

I live in the great state of Texas!  I love this state but do take issue with a few things, like the unregulated payday loan industry.  In the last few years, these ‘vultures’ of the loan industry have popped up everywhere.  The industry preys upon people who probably don’t understand precisely what they are signing up for.  Payday loans literally have your paycheck spent before you even get it.  With interest rates as high as 650%APR  it is hard to ever recover from this poor financial decision.

Most experts would advise having an emergency fund for injury, major repairs, or other tough events that arise in life.  The average suggestions is around $6,000.  That number is a lot easier to attain before the events of life trip you up.

Thrifty vs Minimalism

Allow me a quick aside that runs parallel to this topic…

One of the best ways to live within your means is to be careful with your money, but is there a difference between being thrifty and living a minimalistic lifestyle?  My wife and I were talking about this topic the other night…exciting, I know.  It seems that minimalism is becoming a goal for the wealthy while being thrifty is relegated to the working class.  Minimalism seems to be focused more on the visual, mental clarity, and simplicity, rather than saving money.

An example, a minimalist, in order to cut down on paperwork and clutter in the files might buy a $400 NeatDesk digital filing system and digitize all those paper receipts and files.  But does a $400 scanner fit into the profile of someone who is classified as thrifty?  I guess that answer depends on who you ask.

The point, no matter how you think of yourself – minimalist, thrifty, penny pinching tyrant – stop and think about what are you doing and if it helps you to truly reach the goals you are striving for.  (You do have measurable goals right?)  Look to previous generations for examples of true thrift – no cable, economical and reliable cars, dedicated times for financial chores, modest homes…the list could go on and on.

Final Thought

We have been blessed with the ability to handle an injury and loss of income with little to no impact on our family.  The outcome could have been much different if a few variables were changed.  I encourage you to really think about how well you have planned for the challenges of life, and set honest goals that will help your family be prepared.

A Lasting Impression

The pot holders that Bonnie made for our family.

The pot-holders that Bonnie made for our family.

The other evening I was preparing a meal for our family and was struck by the memory of a kind Christian woman I knew.  When I reached into a kitchen drawer and pulled out the pot-holders that Bonnie had made for us, memories of a kind and caring woman immediately came back to me.  I know there are hundreds of people who have Bonnie’s pot-holders in their homes and that is a testament to a woman with a kind heart who loved to share and give as she could.

In my adventuress buying and selling items, I often wind up digging through things that were very special to people at one point.  For one reason or another they get separated from these items.  I recently purchased a Bible from the mid-1800s that had an extensive family history in it and a rose pressed into the pages.  When I look through items like these I always think about the impact these things must have had and am curious about how they slipped away.

It seems that all through life, even what we consider to be small actions and words can leave a lasting impression.  The words we speak to our spouse and our children can impact them deeply and even change the entire course of their life for good or bad.  Co-workers, friends, and even acquaintances can carry a lasting memory of something we did or said.  We may never know the full impact of our words and actions.

My Dad told me of an event that apparently cut me deep as a child, but I don’t really recall.  As a kid I used to love drawing and doodling.  One day I came home from school and told my parents that the art teacher had said I wasn’t very good at art.  My Dad said I pretty much stopped doodling from that point forward and he was always disappointed that the teacher would have said something like that.

I am thankful for reminders, like the pot holders and the lessons I have learned and continue to learn.  When I am having a bad day or I’m frustrated it is MOST important to watch my words and actions.  Grand memories for my children, friends, and others don’t involve lavish gifts but simple, heartfelt expressions of love whether they be words, actions, or personal gifts.  I am thankful for Bonnie and her heartfelt gift and her constant reminder of the impact we can have on people.

Speaking of reminders of love that leave a lasting impression…  Here is Dinnertime Devotionals 30 that kicks off a study of Ephesians for your family.