100 Questions – How can I become a better resource to my adult kids?

This is part of my 100 question challenge. If you’re not familiar then I’d encourage you to stop and read why I’m trying to answer my 100 questions in 2019 here.

First, I thought about ways that my wife and I have already been a good resource:

  1. We taught them to be debt free except for their house.
  2. We made them pay for half of their first car. Whatever they saved we matched.
  3. We had a rule that nothing good happens after 10 pm. So there was no just hanging out after 10 pm. without a reason and permission. This was not as appreciated as I thought it should be! 🙂
  4. We taught them to give 10% of their income to the church.
  5. We taught them that church attendance and serving are uber important. You’ll never regret either.
  6. Being polite will go a long ways with others.
  7. Have a great work ethic.
  8. Paid for their college – undergraduate. One daughter went to grad school but on her dime!

But all that happened before they were adults – and it paid off! But, as part of my 100 question challenge I wondered how I might continue to be a resource for them and their husbands now that they are adults and married… So the search began…

Psychology Today noted in a post that you need to be careful about not becoming a codependent parent… How can you tell if you’re a codependent parent? Here are 3 red flags according to Psychologytoday.com:

“Psychology Today’s Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, who has written about the topic several times, says the question of whether you are a codependent parent is a topic that sparks heated debates. The three red flags he says you should look for are: (1) shouldering debt for an adult son or daughter caught up in a pattern on non-productivity, (2) their habit of borrowing money from you because they can’t sustain consistent employment, and (3) disrespect is the rule and not the exception to it, but you use the excuse that your grown kid has “problems” — giving you the leeway to let them off the hook. In the real world you would never permit another grown adult to treat you similarly.” You can read the rest of the article here, if you think you might be a codependent parent. Or in denial….

Sounds like a great answer but it was only the beginning… After doing a lot of “Googling” I realized there wasn’t a ton of info dealing with being a positive resource for your adult children. Most were related to dealing with problem adult children. Well, that ‘s what we’re trying to avoid – right?

So I decided to go with my gut. My wife and I seemed to have had a pretty good start at preparing them for life, so I began to think, and here are a few things that I came up with.

  1. Create an atmosphere where they can come for opinions but understand they are adults and capable of making their own final decisions. Even if it’s not the one I would’ve made.
  2. Help them in understanding the importance of financial investments early in their careers. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, was once credited with this conversation: When asked what his secrets of financial success, replied, I lived to be old and compounding interest! Teach them about compounding interest.
  3. Even Einstein is rumored to have weighed in with this statement : Albert EinsteinCompound interest. Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.
  4. Encourage them to live within their means and resist the temptation of competing with the “Jones'”
  5. We have always encouraged “weekly date nights” and family vacations and continue to encourage them to do so.
  6. Always have insurance on the important stuff in your life.
  7. Always be in the process of learning something new. You’ll never regret it.

Well these are just the start of ways that I hope to be a better resource for my kids.

If you have one you’d like to share then please do so in the comments.

100 Question Challenge

So another “life experiment” begins… If you’re not familiar, I periodically try something new in my life as an experiment – just to test myself to see how things shake out. This time it’s more of a mental experiment.

So let’s tee this one up before moving forward… I once read that over time, as adults we lose our curiosity. As small children we seem to be curious about everything. We are constantly asking questions – “What is this? How is that made? What does that taste like? What does that mean? How are babies made? Who is Santa? Where did God come from? Why can’t I wear that? Etc…” Insert your own childhood question – we all had one, or 1,000!

But over time we seem to lose the curiosity of those questions that once mesmerized us, and engulfed our lives. Some of those questions we simply figured out, while recently…. Recently I was challenged with this thought – somehow as we grow older we seem to lose our curiosity. We no longer ask the questions thus we fail to seek answers…

So, recently I decided to take a 100 question challenge. The book I was reading challenged my curiosity again. The challenge was to write 100 questions in one sitting about ANYTHING you were curious about. So I did!

I will be posting those questions and answers as another life experiment. Some may be incredible boring while others will be things you’ve also considered but never sought answers. I will mostly reference other material while providing my own commentary.

In the meantime consider the challenge yourself. Write 100 questions in one sitting and inspire your curiosity once again.

Consider leaving one of your 100 questions in the comments.

Spiritual Formation Part Seven – Fasting

As I write this, Christmas is fast approaching. Christmas brings with it a lot of traditions. One of those traditions is FOOD. And we tend to eat a lot of it. No diets are started in December by any sane person – just my opinion! Many devise creative ways to rationalize the quantities we’ll devour.

So I’ve chosen the spiritual discipline that my be the most despised but perhaps one of the best – Fasting! Fasting is the spiritual discipline of limiting food intake as a way to focus on Christ. Ever been hungry and deprived yourself of food? You will  get focused quickly. But due to our addiction to eating we may neglect this powerful spiritual formation tool of fasting. As we continue to explore this discipline it’s important to note that if for any reason you feel you need to see a doctor before trying this then by all means do so.

Now before you freak out and think I’m suggesting that you starve yourself, just stick with me. What many are unaware of is that there are many different forms of fasting.

Regular Fast – Refrain from food but still drink liquids. You pick the duration but be careful if you choose an extended period.

Partial Fast – Refrain from certain foods and still drink liquids. Shorter in duration.

Intermittent Fast – This one is probably my favorite. It seems to work for me. This, as the name states is, well, intermittent. For instance, skip lunch and supper and break the fast with breakfast. Or skip and entire day but break the fast the next day with breakfast or lunch. Experiment with what works best for you.Click here to read a recent Harvard Medical School article on Intermittent Fasting.

Goggle search for even more fasting possibilities.

But food isn’t the only item you can fast from. You choose what might work for you. You can even try fasting from these: Cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, News, Fast food, Favorite T.V. series, etc…

Whatever you choose to do, remember the goal as one definition stated is:

a. Fasting is when we voluntarily choose to sacrifice something of value for the purpose of seeking God with more intensity. b. Usually it’s food because for most people food is the most difficult thing to give up.

Again, choose a spiritual discipline that works for you. But don’t let the harder ones scare you away. They can all be hard to start with. But with a little practice the harder ones could become the best spiritual formation tool for your spiritual growth. Remember , it’s a discipline!

Deathbed Clarity as a Way of Life

In my opinion, most people would say that life should be about what really matters. As I was reading something Tim Urban wrote I was challenged with something he calls his Epitaph Test. He notes “When he finds himself with an opportunity, I ask myself whether I’d be happy if my epitaph had something to  do  with this project. If the answer is a clear no, it probably means it’s not actually very important to me.” He notes, that while as morbid as it is, it’s a great way to cut through the noise.

He says for his “Social life “yes” list, a similar test could be called the Deathbed Test.” This test focuses on the studies related to what people on their deathbed regretted most with their life.

We all know the one thing that never makes the list is, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.” We can all insert something else other than “office”.

As a minister I have been beside many deathbeds. But the one thing I’ve never heard is, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time in church.” You’ll never regret time spent in church with family and friends.

Life is short. Enjoy it more by getting engaged in your church. Not just on Sunday but in other ways too.

That’s something I don’t think you’ll ever regret.

Something I hope you’ll think about.

Spiritual Formation Part Six – Spiritual Burnout

Whenever we talk about  spiritual formation it’s wise to address spiritual burnout and what to do with it…

I was reminded of this as I read about Cary Nieuwhof’s well known burnout described in  his latest book,  Didn’t See It Coming – Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.

He had some thoughtful insights on how to come back from burnout that I thought I’d share in random soundbite fashion.

  1. “Because God seems silent doesn’t mean he’s absent.”
  2. “I never gave myself permission to  quit my faith.”
  3. “I just kept reading Scripture, praying, and trusting even on bad days.”
  4. “Lean in and lean hard. (on God) Even if you feel nothing.”
  5. “Eventually the feeling of intimacy returned.”
  6. “Just because you can’t feel  God’s love doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.”
  7. “So don’t give up.

Hopefully this  will help you now  or in the future.

Leave a comment if you’ve ever been spiritually burned out and how you made the comeback.

Spiritual Formation Part Five – Solitude?

Hopefully you’ve already digested the 4 posts  that precede this…  If  not I’d encourage you to  dig into those first then return… Start here.

So let’s dig into the spiritual discipline of solitude.

As I write  this I’m home alone on a holiday, in which I am off work,  but my wife is not. The rain is  creating a mesmerizing melody outside my study where I often write.

So it seemed to me in the stillness of my day, with the rain coming down, while I’m home alone, that I should begin with Solitude.

In these times finding solitude can be quite challenging.  Just finding a space where there are no people can be a challenge and when  we do… cell phones, Email, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest… You get it – right?

So solitude must be intentional.

Years ago I used to lead spiritual retreats in Gatlinburg, Tn. As part of the retreat I would ask the participants to follow me on a short hike up Rainbow Falls trail. Once we hiked a few minutes I’d ask that everyone to put away their phones and watches. We were about to practice solitude.  I would then ask them  to continue up the trial and each peel off wherever they’d like, and practice solitude and silence while never looking at their watches or phones. I would never tell them how long they’d be  sitting in the forest alone.

I would usually go 45 minutes to 1 hour. This is somewhat extreme if you’ve never done it. At the end of our  time we would come back together and discuss everyone’s experiences. Of course they varied…. Some thought it was never going to end while others thought the time had  been much shorter. But all agreed that they benefited from the practice.

But we all know the odds of anyone practicing it once they returned home was slim. That’s the frustration with the disciplines. Life happens. That’s why we must practice them just as one would learning how to play the piano or guitar. The disciplines require training as one would to run a 5k or play any sport. It must be intentional! You must work at them.

Then there is the personality factor. Introvert or extrovert. Oddly enough I think both struggle with silence and solitude but in different ways.  It’s hard….

So, let’s dig into the actual practice.

At its most hard core level I think it’s being alone in silence thinking about God and perhaps other spiritual  things. It’s also about listening. So you’ll want a balance. When we remove many external factors that compete for our time we’ll be surprised how it stills our being and our heart.

At another level, solitude could take on many forms and accomplish the above… Being at home alone. Hiking on a trail. And for the really hard core you can try a silent retreat by yourself at a national park for a day or more.

At a lesser level of solitude you could combine it with just a day alone at your home with your normal cleaning activities, minus Youtube, the computer, your phone,etc…

Remember it’s about solitude and silence.

It’s not a one size fits all. What  works for one person may not work for you. I’d suggest you start slowly – remember it requires discipline, training  and practice with all of the spiritual  disciplines. Maybe try practicing this discipline for 15 minutes a few times a week.  See how  it  goes. See if you don’t feel spiritually refreshed. Mess around with times and locations. Just see if it works for you.

When all is said  and done, we need to remember why we call these disciplines. They aren’t always easy. Also remember that this  one may not be your cup  of tea for your spiritual  formation. But be sure you give it its due before abandoning it, as I have found this  to be one  of my favorites – and I’m an extrovert.

Ultimately you must be intentional if you want to grow spiritually. It doesn’t happen on its own and no one  can do it for you.

If you’d like to know 8 benefits to  solitude and silence click here.

Now go out and be alone, and be silent while you’re at it! You never know what God may do while you’re there!

10 Ways to Become a Happier Person

We all know people who seem to be happy about 99% of the time – right? Surely they can’t be as happy as they seem. Well maybe and maybe not…

But what it they know something you don’t? What if they know that happiness is a choice.  That, within itself doesn’t solve anything. But what if they know it’s not just about  the choice but it’s the execution that matters?

For me it’s all about a morning routine. I try to do things that will set my day and mood up for success.  Here is a sample of my routine…

  1. I begin with prayer before getting out of bed. I give that day to Christ.
  2. I make my bed – just a discipline thing that I teach and practice.
  3. I get my coffee going.
  4. Then I read for about an hour or so – some days a little more, others a little less.
  5. Then I exercise – powerlifting or running.
  6. Morning prayer.
  7. Check my calendar.
  8. Create a  “to do” list of my day.
  9. Head to work.
  10. Try to help someone laugh at least once every day.

You may have never thought about morning routines assisting  in your happiness, but I think it’s uber  important. Just Google “importance  of morning routines” and see what highly successful people have to say about them. You may be surprised at how many list making your bed an important part of their day.

But there are more traditional options as  well. But again, in my opinion it all starts with the morning routine. But for the traditionalists that may have found themselves here…

Here are  some suggestions from Psychology Today…

  1.  Be with others who make you smile.
  2. Hold on to your values.
  3. Accept the good.
  4. Imagine the best.
  5. Do things you love.
  6. Find purpose.
  7. Listen to your heart.
  8. Push yourself, not others.
  9. Be open to change.
  10. Bask in the simple pleasures.

If you’re interested in the specifics of these 10 then click here.

Remember, happiness is a choice, only you can control how you feel.

Share your routine, or the most  important part in the comments.

Hope you have a HAPPY day!

Spiritual Formation Part Four

So you actually made it to part 4! If you’re new to this series, know that there are 3 other posts preceding this! Of course you already know that. But if you haven’t, go read  those short posts now.

Today will be the last post for the “set up” of what will follow. Thus far we’ve been building a foundation for your spiritual formation journey.

So let’s begin with the heart! Heart? Yup! It’s crucial in understanding  spiritual  formation – in my opinion, your mileage may vary.

Today we’ll lean heavily on Henri Nouwen (again, I may not subscribe to all his teachings…). In the book Spiritual Formation – Following the Movements of The Spirit, he says  this:

“Spiritual Formation, I have come to believe, is not  about steps or stages on the way to perfection.  It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in it’s many forms that reunite us  with God, each other, and our truest selves.”

So if  you’ve ever wondered why scripture talks so much about the heart – you were spot on in questioning. The heart in scripture played a much different role to early followers than we do today.

I think Nouwen captures this thought well when he states:

“The word heart is used here in its full biblical meaning of that place where body, soul, and spirit come together as one.”

Followed by:

“But the word heart in Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies.”

Perhaps this is why the heart is mentioned so much when God is encouraging us to focus on Him. Maybe that’s why we’re told to guard our heart. It’s important.

So our journey into spiritual formation will be one of head and heart.

If you want to go REALLY deep into a word study on the heart in scripture then check it out here.

As we move along, know that there are no hierarchical steps to take when it comes to spiritual formation. So when we begin to discuss the spiritual disciplines, view them as tools in your spiritual formation toolbox. While all will be helpful, some may work better for you than others. But also understand those that are hard may be the ones you’ll eventually come to love – if you practice it long enough to embrace it. So as we move forward, you may want to reconsider some you’ve tried in the  past but discarded. If you’ve never practiced any, it’s OK! I’ll soon be teaching you!

OK, I know I’ve probably left you in a fog but stay with me as move forward. The road we’re about to travel could become a game changer, one that you’ll embrace for a lifetime – stay tuned!

Spiritual Formation Part Three

So you found your way to part 3 – that’s good! I hope that means you’ve read part one and two. If not I want  to encourage you to  do that now.

As we continue our journey together we’ll explore various ways to grow spiritually through an intentional spiritual formation path.

Years ago I  had the opportunity to hike in the Smoky Mountains, specifically Mt. Laconte. I always chose the Rainbow Falls trail head as my starting point. In reality I could have chosen a multitude of  trails as they all went to the Lodge which as my chosen destination.  The same can be said with spiritual formation. There are many ways to grow spiritually and not all will resonate with you – at first. Some practices will be foreign to you, other will old friends while some will  be those that frustrated you so much in the  past that you’ve written  them off!

Let me insert a bias disclaimer in my writing and approach to spiritual formation… I believe there is  only one way to God the father and that is through his Son, Jesus the Christ. I believe in a triune God – God the  Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit – three in one.  So to try to read anything else into this series would be in error. Nor do I subscribe to all of any author’s body of work or thoughts that I may quote. I see many authors thoughts and body of work like an old school album or CD. There are usually several excellent songs in between some that you just don’t care for. So as I encourage you to read with this in mind – agree or disagree. Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

While there are many historical ways to spiritual formation, traditionally it has been approached through spiritual disciplines. That’s the approach I will take for the most part throughout this series.

Those disciplines vary  from person to person.

Henri Nouwen really parked on 5 -Reflection, Lectio Divina, Silence, Community, and Service.

Richard Foster has these:

The Inward Disciplines – Meditation, Prayer, Fasting and Study.

The Outward Disciplines – Simplicity, Solitude, Submission and Service.

The Corporate Disciplines – Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration.

Spiritual formation will become all about habits. It’s about becoming disciplined. As Nathan Foster says, “It’s hard to remember that seeing the results from our habits takes time. Lot’s of time. We don’t gain 50 pounds or learn to  smoke two packs a day overnight. Growing fruit takes time.”

In my next post we’ll explore the importance of the heart in spiritual formation and the importance of the “heart” in the bible. The heart was once viewed in a very different way than it’s viewed today. We’ll then explore the spiritual discipline of prayer and a method of prayer that  many have never heard of.

Until then, here is what you need to do. Try setting a time that you pray each day. You choose when that happens  but stick to that time. Pray about anything, just stick to that time. We’re on our way!

Until  next  time…

Spiritual Formation Part Two

So where are you on your spiritual formation journey? Are you just exploring? Are you in process and interested in knowing more? Have you tried it before and became frustrated? Are you serious? Are you willing to put in the time?

Are you sure what it actually means?

A cursory Google search will render multiple ideas on what spiritual formation is and looks like… So I want to express my biases on how this series will proceed… I will approach this topic with a heavy slant from a Wesleyan tradition, as I am Methodist. In addition to that, I also approach my spirituality from a more conservative slant. So as we proceed, agree or disagree with this series or parts of it, because the Wesleyan tradition is big on tolerance. Take what’s useful and feel free to question and explore further what you believe is not.

In this post I will provide a working definition of spiritual formation so that we can all work from the same blueprint.  I will approach this in a systematic way through scripture, personal experiences, thoughts from John Wesley in the Wesleyan tradition, and  other authors and theologians.

So let’s begin with Wesley’s Quadrilateral…The late, Albert Outler of SMU coined the term” Wesley’s Quadrilateral.” The 4 components of the Quadrilateral consist of, Reason, Experience, Tradition and Scripture. I remember these as “RETS”. In Methodist circles we approach these in this order:

  1. Scripture – we always go to God’s word first to see what it has to say.
  2. Tradition – we value the early church traditions that consisted of many councils throughout history that debated Christian doctrines. So we believe that if something has withstood the test of time through these councils, then they should carry some weight. It’s not  the end all of end all’s but certainly must be considered.
  3. and 4. Reason and Experience – We believe that God gave us a mind that we have the ability to reason – think. So we’re open to, “what do you think about this?” We are also big on, “what has been you experience?” Your live experiences also have value.

With that in mind, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 provides a good foundation for what spiritual formation can be:

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 The Voice

17 By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. 18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

As we progress in our journey we’ll consider spiritual formation as the process of becoming more like Christ – lives transformed into something better than the life we started with.

Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the The Two Halves of Life, notes that Scott Peck once told him…”…he felt most Western people were just spiritually lazy. And when we’re lazy, we stay on the path we already are.”  While studying under Roberta Bondi, at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, she once said, “the hardest part of prayer is just showing up.” which she echoed  in her book, To Love as God Loves.

So as we move forward on this journey, know that the hardest part of spiritual formation may be just showing up!

In future posts we’ll be exploring prayer, the spiritual disciplines, monastic asceticism, christian perfection, and so much more! When all is said and done I hope to have  given you the tools to help you transform your life into something more like Christ’s life, no matter what spectrum you may be presently on in your journey. Or as scripture states, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

Stay tuned…