Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Saying Sorry

I can’t remember the conversation beforehand but I do remember that I was in trouble—lots of trouble. I had said something insensitive and was not doing well formulating an apology.

My wife and I laid side by side, sharing the same darkness and the same doona, in silence. I knew it was my turn to say something. Something helpful.

What should I say?

Thoughts were racing through my mind. I remember feeling very disappointed in myself for mistreating my wife. I felt like a bad person.

The words I had said were been very hurtful. As had my attempt at an apology thus far. I hadn’t meant to say what I had said and I was sorry. But I couldn’t figure out the best way to say that.

Finally I decided to simply say, “I’m sorry.” But as I spoke, I thought, sometimes I am such a useless person. So, my planned words and my unplanned thought combined to fill the dark void with, “I’m a sorry person.”

Great, I thought, I’ve done it again. That didn’t help at all.

Then I heard something unexpected from the other side of the bed. It started as a sniffle, turned into a giggle and then became convulsions of laughter. When my wife was finally able to catch her breath, she said, “Truer words have never been spoken.” Then she went back into hysterics and I joined her in tears of laughter and relief.

There is something very healing about a good laugh. It has the power to turn bitter tears into sweet ones. The tissue box was still being used but for a very different reason.

My wife and I now have a new technique for disarming potential setbacks in our relationship that involve me blurting and her hurting. Upon hearing me say something bordering on insensitive she says, “You know, you’re a sorry person.” And I gingerly step across my freshly dropped eggshells, wrap my arms around her and say, “Yes. More sorry than I can say. I love you.”


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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Little Happy

 When I was a boy, I had a little dog named Happy. She was so little, I had to sit down to pat her.

Happy loved to play games – hopping, jumping, running, licking your face kind of games. Happy waited for me at the front window every day when I came home from school. And every night, Happy slept on a pillow above my pillow. I loved Happy.

But, while I was at school Happy had a bad habit. Happy liked chasing the neighbours chickens. And sometimes, she would catch a chicken. And when that happened, the neighbour became very upset because little Happy could cause a fair bit of damage to a little chicken. And she did, too often.

So, my mum helped me put an advertisement in the local paper telling everyone that Happy needed a home with someone who had lots of love to give to a little dog and who didn’t have chickens. A few days later a big motorhome drove into our driveway and an elderly couple came to the door and asked if they could meet Happy. Of course, they loved her. And Happy loved them, too. They told me they were traveling around America and would give Happy lots of love and many wonderful experiences.

I cried as I watched little Happy leave in that big motorhome. I loved her and didn’t want to lose her. But, I knew things would be better for her if she wasn’t near chickens and was with people who could spend all day with her.

A few weeks later, I got a postcard from Happy! On the front of the card was a picture of Happy somewhere in America and on the back was a letter all about what Happy had been doing and seeing. Every few weeks, I got another postcard and another story about Happy. She was having fun, getting lots of love and not killing chickens. Which, I knew was for the best. And I was happy for Happy.

Learning to see the positive in a negative situation is called being resilient. And I ‘m grateful to my Mum and Dad for helping me find a good solution for me and my little dog Happy.



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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Startwarmers: Starting Great Meetings

Every good meeting starts with an interactive activity. 
Why? Because people need their focus captured so they can refocus it on the matter at hand.

But, why have a good meeting when you can have a great one?

Those first moments need not be wasted playing games or doing embarrassing activities. 
Instead, you can use those first few minutes to strengthen your group.
Rather than starting with an 'icebreaker' start with a 'heartwarmer'. 

Let's call them "startwarmers"

Here's what I mean...

Community comes through shared story. 
We are created by the communities in which we participate. Therefore, to strengthen a community the people in that community need to share their stories. 

To get to know someone, you need to learn about their communities - from big to small: National, religious, sport/clubs, workplace, extended family, immediate family, partner, internal (me, myself and I).

Principle: When developing a startwarmer, use a positive approach. Teaching a value by focusing on the negative reinforces the negative. Find the positive angle and promote growth by focusing on the positive value.

Prepare:
1. Choose what value you want to explore, and formulate a one sentence 'punchline'
2. Decide which community level (big to small list above) is best to probe for this value
3. Frame a question that would get yourself talking
4. Create or find a short intro story/joke on the theme (personal is best)

Perform:
1. Tell a brief introductory story/joke introducing the 'startwarmer' question.
2. Break big group into small groups and discuss question
3. Regroup, ask for highlights from groups
4. Wrap up with your one sentence 'punchline' for the activity

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Example value & questions:

Honesty 
Classroom: What is the most honest thing a student has said to you?

Relationships
Family: What's the best thing your family has done together in the past month?

Compassion
Open Community: What is the most meaningful act of compassion you've ever witnessed?

Resilience
Immediate family: What is the bravest thing one of your children (or siblings) has done?

Humour
Personal: Tell a story about something silly you did that actually made things better.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Words We Use


My first dog wagged her tail a lot, ran in a bouncing sideways sort of way and loved to lick my little face. So I named her Happy.

My second dog was born with no bones in one of his legs. As a puppy, he did some pretty funny somersaults learning to run. I named him Hop-a-long.

My children’s first cat was an orange mutt of a cat who never quite learned how to use a litterbox. We named him Nugget.

The names we give our pets tell people what we think of them.
And so do the names we give each other.

And they tell us something about ourselves.

How do you tell someone that you love them? With words.
How do you tell someone that you hate them? With words.

So, how important are the words we choose?

I am the words I believe about myself.
And I believe what I hear the most.
First from others, then from myself.

Even the subtlest of words shape us.

“Why did you do that? Sometimes you are so stupid!” 
                          vs
“That was stupid thing to do. That’s not like you!”

“That dress makes you look gorgeous!”
                          vs
“What a dress! You are so gorgeous!”

It may not seem like much of a difference but every word leads somewhere.

What do you want your children to believe about themselves?
Then tell them with your words.

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Power of Forgiveness

Arriving home from primary school, I ran into my mother’s bedroom, climbed onto her bed and rested my little head on her tummy. I hugged her tight and said, “Mum, I don’t want you to die.”

“Die?” my mum said, “Why would you say that?”

“Because you’re in bed a lot.” I said, “At school today, my teacher said that when people get old they stay in bed a lot and then they die.”

“I’m not going to die, sweetie. Mummy’s just got a sore tummy.”

….

 “Let me tell you why most of you are here tonight,” the speaker said to the crowd. “If you are experience headaches, muscle stiffness, extreme tiredness, internal infections, bowel trouble, stomach pains, ulcers – you have been hurt by someone.“

My mother sat up and stared at the man on the stage. “All of these things and many others are ways our body tells us we are hurting.”

Then the speaker slowed his pace and said, “What I’m going to say next is going to make some of you angry but it is true. If you want to be well, if you want to be healthy again, you need to forgive the person who hurt you.”

My mother felt tears trickling down her cheeks. How could she ever forgive her father for what he’d done? She had held those painful memories for years. Forgiving him seemed impossible.

“Forgiveness is your way of handing back the suffering; back to the person who should be bearing its weight.” The man continued, “The emotional pain you feel should be carried by the person who caused that pain, not you. Forgive them and let them take ownership of their personal brokenness. It’s not yours, it’s theirs. You deserve peace and healing.”

It took some time. Months. Finally my mum was able to visit her father and tell him she forgave him.

And, amazingly, once she let go of the hatred and the pain, she began to heal. The ulcers, the headaches and the other health issues she had been suffering faded away as she healed – heart, mind and soul.

There is power in forgiveness.


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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Aisle Seven

A Compassionate Theology: Sabbath

My Son Michael spent a week in June doing work experience at the nearest Coles to our home. He was there from 8AM until 4:30PM each day for a week. He said he spent a lot of time “facing up” aisles ensuring the products on display were pulled forward, faced outward and lined up with the other items. He also said he worked with a manager, another work experience student and a few employees.

I couldn’t help wondering about the many conversations and experiences that Michael may have had that week. I lost myself imagining how one of his mornings may have played out.

Working his way down the confectionery aisle, Michael touched up one display after the next. It was a slow and tedious process but he enjoyed looking back down the aisle and seeing the tidy results of his handiwork. He also enjoyed the occasional customers who came into the aisle to choose a favourite treat.

There were the teenagers who came in at the beginning of his shift. Laughing and pushing each other around, they selected chocolate bars and energy drinks to fuel their day of study, sport and socialising. Michael was sure he knew a couple of them from his high school but he stayed focused on his task. When they left, he noticed they’d made quite a mess but he knew it would look good once he got to that end of the aisle.

Next was the American tourist who made a bee-line for the licorice. After selecting a bag of dark straps and another of Allsorts, the man spoke to Michael, as Americans are prone to do. “I can’t get enough of these Allsorts,” He said with a huge smile. Thrusting the bag into Michael’s face, he continued, “They’re like little squares of happiness!” Michael smiled, agreeing and stepped aside to let the man hurry about his day.

Then there was the young mum pushing the pram. She had explored the Push Pops, trying to find the right one for her little guy. She showed him colour after colour until he finally choose one. She walked down the aisle quickly grabbing a Mars bar for herself as she went past. The boy in the pram held out his hand knocking each bag that passed near him. One fell on the floor without his mother’s notice. After they left the aisle, Michael quickly replaced the bag on the correct hook.

When Michael reached the boxed chocolates, a young man carrying an armful of roses approached. He scanned the boxes for a while and the said, probably to himself, “What would she like? Maybe a truffle box.” Michael knew something about women and chocolate, “My Mum loves the Seashells. Maybe you could try those.” Almost startled, the man looked at Michael and said, “Thanks for that! You know what? I’ll take a box of truffles and the Seashells. She’s worth it!” Mikey helped him get both boxes in his free hand and watched as he left the aisle.

Almost finished with the confectionery aisle, Michael saw an elderly couple coming toward him. The man reached out taking a bag of Jaffas off the rack. He turned and held them out to his wife, “Remember these, love?” Her face blushed and Michael looked away, realising he had been staring. “It’s okay, sonny,” the woman said. “He bought Jaffas on our first date in 1958. He took me to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And that’s what our hands were when we’d both reach into the bag at the same time. Until, in a fit of bravery, this young man firmly grabbed my hand and said, ‘I think it’d be best for both of us if I just held onto this!’” They both broke into fits of laughter at the story. “Now put those back, you goose,” she said, “our dentures can’t tolerate them, and you know it!”

At the end of his lunch break, the manager directed Michael to a trolley holding a few boxes. "These need to be stocked in aisle seven."

“The confectionery aisle,” Michael said.

“Yes, good memory!” His manager said, “You must like lollies!”

“There’s a lot more than lollies on aisle seven,” Michael said. “There’s people having fun, falling in love and reliving old stories.”

The manager looked Michael up and down. “Whatever are you talking about?”

“Aisle Seven,” Michael said, with a smirk. “You should spend more time there.”

“Perhaps I should!” His manager laughed, “After years of working here, it’s just the number that’s important to me.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

For All of Us

Like all of us, I’ve noticed the terrible things happening around the world due to racism, politics and religious fundamentalism.

As I watch the racial turmoil in my homeland – the USA – and see vitriol, murder and division caused by the many shades of grey that consider themselves black and white; I see one thing.
As I watch refugees drowning in stateless seas and stranded on islands of (in)convenience; I see one thing.
As I watch people of faith myopically claiming they’re right while others are left for dead; I see one thing.

The one thing I see is me.
Rather than us.
I see the breakdown of community, the fragmenting of family, the loneliness of each of us.

When was the last time you attended a gathering for the sake of the many?
When was the last time you sat in a circle facing those you love?
When was the last time you smiled at a stranger?

So, I’m going to make a commitment – and I invite you to join me – to celebrate the other.

Take a group to a local footy game. Eat lunch with family. Laugh at a child’s joke.
Go to a place where everyone is singing and join the song.
Tell someone pushing a pram how beautiful their baby is.
Buy something at the market made by the person sitting behind the table.
Tell your kids you love them. Then say it again. And again.
Until they laugh. Until they feel the joy they are to you.

Community is the best form of humanity – until it closes its eyes, doors, borders and hearts.
Then it’s the worst.

So, let’s build the world up. Make it stronger. Together, all of us.


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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dog Attack!

A few years ago, while sitting in a booth representing a company, a young man approached me and said, “Hey Dave, my name is Matt. Can I tell you a story?”

I love a good story, so of course I said, “Yes, please!”

“You came to our church a couple of years ago,” Matt said. “You told the story of The BMW Driver and I remember thinking I could never be like that guy. I get mad easily.”

Matt played rugby and was accustomed to taking his anger out quickly and fiercely. Looking at Matt, who stood nearly 2 metres tall and was built like a brick wall, I cringed at the thought of being on the other team.

“I sell books door to door,” Matt continued. “One door burst open and a huge dog jumped out. It sunk its teeth into my arm, which I had raised to save myself.” Matt pulled up his sleeve, revealing long angry scars on his forearm. “And it raked its claws down my leg, gouging me through my jeans. I heard a boy screaming at the dog and saw him pulling on the dog’s collar. I was so angry!”

“Then something really weird happened,” Matt said. “My eyes met the boy’s eyes. I saw fear and terror on his face. My mind cleared and I had one thought: ‘I want to be the BMW Driver.’ And, Dave, it worked! I stopped worrying about myself and helped the boy wrestle the dog into the back yard. We called the ambulance and talked while we waited. The dog belonged to the boy’s recently deceased uncle. It was all they had left of his dad’s brother.”

Matt shook his head. “I still don’t understand what happened. That story about the BMW Driver just popped back in my mind and took over. I became just like him.”

And that, my friends, is the power of story.

Keep changing the world, one story at a time!

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Kingdom of God - Group Study Guide

Icebreaker
What is your favourite place you have ever lived? Why?
What is your favourite person you have ever worked for? Why?
Reign VS Realm – Which best describes the Kingdom of God, for you:
              God’s Realm – the best place to live
              God’s Reign – the best leader to follow
When it comes to spiritual things, are you more interested in the Kingdom or the King?
 - What difference does this make in the way you live your life?
Where is God’s Kingdom? Luke 17:20-21
 - What is Jesus saying about the Kingdom of God, to these Pharisees?
 - How are you challenged by these words of Jesus?

Group Time
Let’s spend some time in groups looking at what happens when the Kingdom of God is in our midst.

From Dothan to Samaria – 2 Kings 6:8-23
Q. What was the purpose of the journey in this story?
Q. What impact do you think it had on the target audience?
Q. What does this story teach us about God’s Kingdom?
Q. How does this story show the Kingdom of God in our midst?

From Jerusalem to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-35
Q. What was the purpose of the journey in this story?
Q. What impact do you think it had on the target audience?
Q. What does this story teach us about God’s Kingdom?
Q. How does this story show the Kingdom of God in our midst?

From Jesus to Every Town – Luke 10:1-12
Q. What was the purpose of the journey in this story?
Q. What impact do you think it had on the target audience?
Q. What does this story teach us about God’s Kingdom?
Q. How does this story show the Kingdom of God in our midst?

Review
Have each group report, telling their story and their answers.
What similarities exist in all three stories?
  - a journey, a search, a meal, a blindness, a revealing, a blessing… etc…
What can we learn about the Kingdom of God in our midst from these stories?

Conclusion
Even though it is clear that Jesus taught His Kingdom was a present reality (Luke 11:20, Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:21) what did He say about His Kingdom when confronted by a ruler from this world?  - John 18:36
Why is it so important to understand the difference between the Kingdom of this world and the Jesus’ Kingdom? How does it help us focus our attention?
What did a thief teach us about the journey from the kingdom of this world into the Kingdom of God? Luke 23:42-43

Ultimately, Jesus’ Kingdom is the only thing worth investing in. Daniel 7:13-14
How does this passage give you purpose and hope?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The BMW Driver

Driving with my family, I reached down to adjust the radio.

My wife’s scream brought my eyes back to the road. It happened so quickly and yet took forever. The car in front of me was at a complete stop. I braked, swerved and smashed my Daihatsu Charade into the back-end of a very nice BMW.

It was only then, looking above the BMW, that I saw the red light.

Staring across the front of my crumpled car, I followed the bruised BMW to the side of the road. My three kids were crying in the back. My wife was beside herself beside me. And I was terrified of the angry tirade I was about to receive from the other driver.

Instead, the BMW driver walked to my wife’s window and asked if she was ok. She said she was. Then he looked into the back and asked the kids. They nodded. Then he looked across at me and said, almost serenely, “We should swap details so our insurance companies can sort this out.”

We did.

And I spent the rest of the day thinking, How did he do that and how can I become like him?

Our children learn from us and how we react to things. The BMW driver has been a repeated story in our home. When we encounter things that happen to us – things that just aren’t fair – How can we be like the BMW driver?

*Note: This story took place years ago.
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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Thankful Juice

Somehow, our Friday night family mealtimes had turned into whinge-sessions. The kids were complaining about school, each-other and everything else. It had to stop!

The next Friday, I made a special drink – mixed fruit juice with fizzy lemonade – in a large jug and placed it in the middle of the table. “This,” I said, “is thankful juice.” I began filling their glasses. “You cannot have your first sip until you say something from this week that made you happy – something you are thankful for.”

The kids loved the game and the next Friday they asked if we could have thankful juice again.

It became a family ritual.

One busy Friday, I left the glasses off the table and hoped it would go unnoticed.

“WHERE’S THE THANKFUL JUICE?!?!” my grade 3 daughter asked in dismay. I explained I had forgotten to buy any and was sorry. She stood and told her grade 6 brother to follow her. As they went into the kitchen, I heard her say, “You get the glasses and I’ll get the thankful juice.”

When they returned to the table, glasses were placed in front of each family member. Then a jug of water was placed in the middle of the table, “This is our thankful juice, tonight.” And it was.

Once thankfulness is part of our lives, we don’t let go of it easily.

Gratitude does great things for our self-esteem, our relationships and our general health.

Create a thankfulness tradition in your family, today!


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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Master Teacher

A Discussion about Jesus


Icebreaker Discussion Question:
Do you have a favourite teacher from your school days? What makes this teacher memorable?

Beatitudes 
Read Matthew 5:3-10
Which beatitude is your favourite? Why?
How would you reword it to be understandable to people today?
Read 7T 269.6

Golden Rule Story
Confucius – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) – Hillel – Jesus
Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets. Matt 7:12

What must I do to be Saved
Read Luke 10:25-29 (the Law and the Prophets!)

Discussion Question
In all the people that you have lived next door to, do you have a favourite neighbour?
What makes this neighbour memorable?

Read Luke 10:30-37 - Good Samaritan Story
“The one who showed him mercy…”
He wore it on his wrist, but was it in his heart?

Conclusion

My Dad likes to say that a dentist is the only person who can put his hands in your mouth and empty your wallet.

Jesus is similar. He looks for where you are open and goes through there into your heart. He used whatever sense was available. If people were watching, he went through visual displays like miracles. If people were hungry, he provided food. If people were outcasts, he went in through touch. If people were listening, he told them stories. Jesus reached in through the five senses and changed the hearts of his listeners.

This was Jesus’ greatest ability as a teacher:
Through a meaningful question, He could turn a teacher into a student.
Through an act of mercy, He could take learning from the head to the heart.
Through a well-crafted story, He could turn Law in to Love.
He did it then and He does it now.

This is why Jesus is the Master Teacher!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Tummy Hurts


While setting up our campsite in Tasmania with our 5, 6 and 8 year old, the middle child wandered up to me and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

Like a good parent, I knelt down, looked him in the eye and said, “Are you hungry?” He nodded and I gave him a banana.

After finishing the Banana, he came to me again and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

“Are you thirsty?” I asked. He considered his answer and then said yes. I gave him a bottle of water.

Finally, probably more than an hour since his first complaint, he came back to me and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

I said, “I’ve given you food and a drink. What is making your tummy hurt?”

He lifted his shirt, revealing a huge patch of angry red scratches.

“What happened?” I asked in amazement.

“I slid down a rock.”

Now, when someone tells me about their hurts, I start with more questions, until I understand what they mean by, “My tummy hurts.” Quick solutions fade quickly. Careful questions lead to greater understanding and true healing.

Ask more questions.

Listen well.


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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Can you hear me?


Like every relationship, great parenting is all about communication. The great communicator’s goal isn’t to get ideas out of their head, but to get their ideas into the heads of their listener.

To get my idea into your head, in a way you understand, I need you to actually hear me. And for that to happen, I need to speak in your language, your world and your way. As a parent, this is important.

Here are some practical steps:

1. Listen. What does your child love to talk about? When do they talk most? Where do they like to be? How do they communicate?
Examples: Imaginative play, drawing, TV shows, YouTube channels, gaming, storytelling.

2. Reflect. Ask them about what you’ve seen. Verify your observations.
Example: “You seem to have super-powers, what are they? What is your super-hero name?”

3. Plan. Create an activity/story-time in their world heading toward the point you want them to hear.

4. Speak. Tell a story or play along with them, integrating the learning message.
Example: A message about cleaning your room while building a house in Minecraft.
Example: A message about speaking kindly while playing super-heroes.

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.