March 23, 2012

Down Syndrome Perspectives


For those of you not in the Down Syndrome club, you may not connect with this video as much as others may.  But I just spent 4 minutes crying (real tears) watching this video while on a business trip.  Something has to be incredibly meaningful to get me that stirred up and having and loving a DS child with my wife has been one of the most incredible blessings in our lives thus far.  I hope you enjoy it.

October 29, 2011

Who'se Your Jethro?

"When Jethro saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, "What are you really trying to accomplish here?  Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?" Jethro the Midianite

Feedback is a gift.

Moses was in a fix, after 40 years in the desert simply looking after sheep and his own family he found himself leading hundreds of thousands of people.  Talk about rapid change, he had no idea what God was getting him into.  I imagine at first Moses thought, "God just wants me to get my people out of Egypt, I won't actually need to be in charge of these folks"; ahhh...nope, he was stuck with these people.

Moses had been in the desert with the children of Israel for a short period of time when his father-in-law Jethro visited.  After a short while there, Jethro challenged his son-in-law with the above observation.  From a business standpoint Jethro was the bibles' first management consultant to be engaged with a large organization. Moses had an organizational management problem, he basically did everything of consequence. 

Here's how Jethro helped Moses and the new "Israelite organization".
  • Delegation - Prior to Jethro, Moses handled all decisions.  again, Jethro's wisdom in action..."They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you...you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace."
  • Clarity of Communication - He put job descriptions in place for Moses' leadership team; "they (Moses' newly appointed leaders) should always be available to solve the people's common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you.  Let the leaders decided the the smaller matters themselves."
  • Character Counts - He defined the character qualties for the leadership team; "...select capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes."
  • Span of Control - Jethro defined..."He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty and ten."
  • Leadership Development - Jethro knew that in order to really possess a land, Moses needed to develop strong leaders and this could only be accomplished by giving capable people responsibility and letting them execute their jobs.
Why did this strike me? 

Here's why; Moses had spent time in intimacy with God but God hadn't shared these management principles with Moses directly, why?  My theory is that God wanted to use Jethro.  Jethro had relational equity built-up with Moses.  Moses trusted Jethro after years of working for him in the desert.  God wanted Moses to know other leaders could give him strategic input to his cause.  Jethro had not been a slave in Egypt but a priest of Midian and shepard (small business owner).  Unfortunately, yet understandably, slaves often find themselves simply thinking survivial thoughts, not strategic ones.

So here's my personal take-away;

Feedback is a gift.  Find a Jethro and here are a few questions you could ask him (or her) to help prime your feedback pump

  1. So what's it really like to live with me?
  2. If you could change one thing about how I related to you what would it be?
  3. Is there anything I could do to be a better ______ (husband, father, son, brother, employee, etc)?
Thanks for visiting.


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August 7, 2011

Grandpa Dug A Well...And Found A Legacy

In 1905 a young, barely 19 year old Norwegian boy stepped off of a ship with hundreds of other immigrants to Ellis Island in New York's busy harbor, eyes wide and bright.  Born in 1886 to humble surroundings in Arendal Norway, Ole had heard of the freedom and riches of America since he was a young boy, how someone with no family wealth or station had the opportunity to work hard and enjoy the fruit of his labor.

By 1912 Ole had met a Norwegian girl from Arendal named Andora at a local Lutheran church, they married and began a family.  Years earlier with the help of other family that had immigrated prior to him, he started work as a carpenter and worked at one of the many shipyards that dotted the harbors of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

My mom is the littlest girl in this picture
By 1926 Ole had several daughters and began building a small cottage in Hopewell Junction New York in the Hudson River Valley area, also know as Fishkill.  By now you've figured out that Ole is my grandfather and while I wasn't born until some forty years later in the 1960's, I began enjoying his mountain home soon after I was born.  I can only imagine that in his heart and grandma's they longed for the mountain terrain that they had known in Norway, especially during the crowded and hot Brooklyn summers.  It's not uncommon even now in Norway for families to have a second small home in the mountains that they visit in the summertime. 
Then
My earliest memories begin in the summers with grandpa and grandma and my family.  At that time, we used an outhouse for a bathroom and a well for drinking water.  In fact, one of the first things grandpa did once he decided to build on this land was to dig for water, as I'm sure was common in that day, since a clean and dependable water source was crucial when considering building a home.  Our days were filled with playing in the woods, burning the trash (my favorite chore) and picking fresh berries for grandma to can or to make some delicious pie or pudding.

Now
My family and I recently visited the cottage lovingly updated and beautifully kept by my cousin and his wife.  They've raised their children there and are enjoying semi-retirement.  I hadn't been there in nearly 20 years and afterward my mind began to wander.

I wondered whether grandpa had ever thought while digging that well that generations to follow would be enjoying his home years later.  I wondered if he viewed his life generationally, if they ever comprehended the men and women that would be born through he and grandma.  I wondered if he realized that with six daughters he would have eighteen grandchildren and over forty great grandchildren.  I suspect they did, since my sister said that once grandma had told her that she had prayed for her grandchildren before they were born.  Grandpa and grandma weren't fancy, but rather simple, God-loving Lutherans, he a craftsman carpenter, she a homemaker and before that a cleaning maid for the wealthier women of New York City.  Yet, through their simplicity and steadfastness they remained married for over sixty years and produced a legacy of faithfulness to the God.  Subsequently, through their lives and marriage they passed down to their lineage a devotion to faith and marriage that, has seemed to anchor the 25 plus marriages that were to proceed them.  I haven't deciphered exactly what the source of their stability was that flowed from these two, but I have suspected that their Christian faith, a strong community of believers and simple living were significant contributors.

These are some of Ole & Andora's grandchildren and great grandchildren through his 6th and youngest daughter my mom (center).
I stand grateful that I was down stream from these two.  I can't begin to recount the many blessings that I enjoy because of what they sowed into their children and grandchildren. 

I heard recently that when God wants to make a mushroom he waits 6 hours but when he wants to make a oak tree he waits 60 years.  God plus time makes beautiful things.
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June 24, 2011

Passage - Calling Young Men to Manhood

Christian & Ben
The last month two of my son's have had significant milestones that we've enjoyed memorializing in special ways.

First, my second son Ben graduated from High School in late May.  We began planning a home party and barbecue but he grew uncomfortable with that idea and instead asked for a small dinner with some men  and young guys that have been a part of his life.  I organized this group of men and I asked them to consider bringing advice and wisdom for Ben.  We gathered at a nice resturant and began to enjoy a meal.  While we ate, many of the older guys shared stories from their college days, usually highlighting something they would have done differently or a fun memory.

my older sons

I spoke about Christian and then I spoke to him
My third son Christian turned 13 in April and I organized a camping trip to Hanging Rock State Park in June.  There were a few other sons of dads who were turning 13 or 14 so we invited about 6 other families along. At this ceremony, held the second night, I shared with Christian three things; Why I love him, Why I'm proud of him and Why I know he has what it takes to be a man.  It's important for a boy (and a man) to have these life-long questions settled in his heart and it's such a blessing to hear them from the most important man in your life, dad.  It's been my tradition to plan a special passage ceremony for my son's at the ages of 13, 18 and prior to their wedding week (though none have made it that far yet).  Also, around the age of 15, I take my sons to an incredibly special father-son, week long adventure in Jackson Hole Wyoming called Christ in the Tetons.

These moments of calling my sons up to manhood have been some of the most precious moments of my life.  The older ones have gone from being my little buddies, then crazy teenagers and now, so gratefully, my close friends and allies.  All of us too often simply let life happen without recognizing the transitions that are happening around us, like a boy becoming a man.  While I still make huge mistakes with my young men and am still learning much, I encourage you to be intentional and strategic during this time in your sons life.

p.s. for those who are real adventurous or who live "down under", checkout my good friend's organization Fathering Adventures in Australia.

p.s.s. also a great resource in understanding the boyhood to manhood journey is Robert Lewis' classic book Raising a Modern Day Knight

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April 27, 2011

Advice To A Young Man

Here's a recent note I wrote to my young nephew Josh who just joined the Army this week.  My wonderful sister and her husband had a going away party for him.  Since we were unable to be with them and knowing him from the time he was a young boy, I penned the following letter to him;

Dear Joshua,


The big day is nearing. Here a just a few thoughts for you to take with you.

1.  You will be tempted to quit, likely more than once. Don't.

2.  You will be tempted to do some things that wouldn't want anyone(especially your mother) to know. Don't.

3.  You will be tempted to think that God has stopped caring about you. Don't.

1. a) Know that much of life (thereby any sort of success) is just "showing-up" and getting the unglamourous things done, every day, the same way, without fail...not really fun. They are boring strokes that often times you think they mean nothing. They mean something - sometimes they mean EVERTHING. And anyone who has achieved anything finds a way to find glory in the mundane.


2. a)  Life is a test. We often fail the tests, but then (because of His love) God takes us through the class again. He never promotes to the next level until we pass the class we're in. You will be tested and tested and tested alot. You will be tempted to sin....alot.  If you think you can resist by yourself, you will learn that you are wrong...alot. The Christian life is a sport...a team sport, it is very dangerous to play by yourself.  Immediately, find a church, bible study, fellowship (you get the idea) to attend...alot, and stay with them.


3. a) You've been taught all of your life that God has a unique and special destiny for you life. Your name means "Yahweh will save".  In fact, your namesake (Joshua) 3,000 years ago had the guts, to enter dangerous territory for God's glory to secure his destiny. When the crowd would not go along with he and Caleb's plan, he stood against them, imploring them to take God at His word. But they were cowards and didn't want to believe God for His promises, they preferred to live safe, small and earthy lives. Live-up to your namestake - Joshua!

We love you, we're proud of you and know that you will make a great and courageous soldier. You are always welcome in our home.


April 22, 2011

Speaking Well Of Your Spouse

I have really come to admire Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishing and his website/blog at www.michaelhyatt.com.   Here is a recent post of his that hit the mark and challenged me, so and I wanted to share it with others.

Why Speaking Well Of Your Spouse Is So Important.

Enjoy,

April 17, 2011

The Best Gift Dad Can Give His Child

There are many things we seek to give our children, food, clothing, an education, a home, love and protection from danger to name a few.  For dads however, we tend to get more intently focused on providing the money for all of the above needs figuring out how to get ahead in life and working-out the details of funding the family and all their pursuits.  But, THE most important thing we can support is the thing which most often gets sacrificed at the alter of the above list - your wife.

Our wives are the heartbeat of the homes, it seems as if the climate of the home has a direct link to their current emotional state.  If mom is happy and and enjoying the rhythms of life, then the home is nearly heaven on earth.  If mom is distressed about life, family, herself, etc. then everyone is impacted. 


Enjoying some rare boating time
 Considering this I've written down a few things I feel help my wife stay in rhythm more frequently.

Regular Devotional Time - first things first, lay the big rocks down then the small rocks can fit.  Enjoying a regular devotional time (usually in the mornings) is my wife's greatest mental and emotional health treatment.  My role in this is to help make this time quiet and peaceful (to the extent possible), making sure the children know they they are only allowed to read and not play while she's in her zone.

Exercise Time - my wife really enjoys having a fitness regime.  Clearly this is healthy for her body, but the endorphins released in her body lift her mind also.  I help in this by tag-teaming childcare and staying tuned-in if she's off her schedule, helping her get back on track.

Learn Her Love Language - If you want to go to Germany you would likely learn some German.  Relationships have a language also and while I'm still figuring this out after 21 years of marriage, I know practicing her language (which I think are "words of affirmation" & "quality time") is important.  So I'll simply recommend the book to you, the website is here - 5 Love Languages.

Be Strategic versus Reactive - Your marriage is the greatest investment of time, treasure and talent that you will make in your lifetime.  Some guys spend way more time researching the best mutual funds for their money than they will ever spend reading books on marriage or attending a marriage seminar, of course until it's too late. 

No doubt, the only way I picked up on most of this is by making big mistakes or learning from others mistakes.  No guy ever "arrives" at any of the above, it's a continual journey fraught with setbacks and detours but well it's worth the investment. 
Add your thoughts below...

April 9, 2011

The Top 5 Things My Dad Did Right

In our hyper-self-centered world the focus on our childhood's can often be on what we would have done differently or what we lacked growing-up.  No doubt, there's been some pretty bad stories I've heard about fathers, but I'd like to focus this post on the top things my dad did well in raising his 5 children.

dad & me
5. He married-up! Mom was and is beautiful and talented.  A wonderful pianist, servant-doer and administrator.  Versus the typical husband and wife roles, he might have been more heart and her a little more head, because without her little would have gotten done.  Yet, in my view they truly complemented each other.  It also was a gift, given today's environment, that they stayed married.

4. Despite working for decades in the rough and tumble world of the NYC construction trade, he was a lover. There was no natural reason he should have been the kind of man he was, he took alot of guff growing up in NYC his entire life.  Yet, he loved people and was a natural encourager.

3. He initiated spiritual discussions. He was famous for opening a talk with 'isn't it amazing...' and then would go on about some quality about God or being a Christian.

2. He prayed for us. I remember him putting me to bed nearly every night. Telling me stories and intimately praying with and for me.  None of that "now I lay me down to sleep" stuff for him, he prayed from his heart. Many times also I remember his heavy tradesman's hand on my forehead praying for me early in the morning before he left for work.

1. The best thing my dad did that made him a great dad was, he lived for God.  He wasn't perfect - far from it (like me!). Yet, despite his faults, his heart beat for serving Christ. He loved the bible, serving others and leading others in song. All of his children have similar hearts.

"Poppy" 20 years ago with grand daughter Lynea"
 Reflecting on my list, you don't see anything having to do with houses, car's or paying for private school or high-end colleges, often things that dads are prone to obesses over.  A good reminder that a successful dad is not required to be winner on the corporate ladder.

Thanks for being a good dad. Thanks for encouraging a dad. Thanks for raising good, future dads.


For a little more on my dad and mom's story see my post called Home.

April 5, 2011

No, Is A Holy Word



Over the years I've taught my family a phrase that now get's repeated to me often, 

"No...is a holy word." 

Enjoying a "Dad versus Wild" Outing
With a large family there are MANY opportunities to do alot of things, often alot of  "good" things.  In fact, I often think I've earned a masters degree in logistics or decision analysis with this bunch.  But anyone with a family or a business understands that when you say "yes" to something, you're are likely, often times without knowing it, saying "no" to something else.  

My other thought here is, as Jim Collins says in his book Good TO Great, "Good is the enemy of great".  He suggests for instance that, we don't have great families because we've settled for good families or we don't have great relationships because we somewhere decided to settle for good relationships, we don't have great churches because we have good churches.  Good is your enemy of great. 


When we settle for good we've left something wonderful that will never be discovered, left unwrapped, possibly forever.  When we say no to things that may not pertain to our focus area or family calling it leaves our brain/soul space or weekly schedule open to that which makes us come alive, possibly that which we were born to do, be, become.  Besides, who says that every stitch of time needs to be filled with activity?  In fact, for some people their constant activity is likely a sign of other troubles.


From another angle, my wife's wonderful saying, which often pertains to our children is; "Everyone needs their daily dose of vitamin NO.  I like this, it helps them know, that despite how much we love them, hug them and would storm hell with a water pistol for them...life is not about them and the world does not revolve around them.


So what kind of things do you say no to that brings life to your family?






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April 3, 2011

How Mom Can Make Her Husband A Better Dad

I was thinking today of a few ways that my wife has helped me be a better dad. While not an exhaustive list of all the things she's done to help me, here are a few thoughts;
  1. We pray for the children each day during our prayer time.  This has evolved over 20+ years of marriage, but my wife doesn't guilt me if we don't pray on a particular day, she simply makes herself available and encourages me.
  2. Give dad good books to read with your kids during bed time.  Many times my wife will give us a good book or series to read such as "Little House".  Bed time can be such a valuable time for a dad to reconnect with his children through reading and other bedtime rituals (praying, singing, hugging, back scratching, etc.)
  3. Don't over-burden your husband when he first comes home with whatever is broken, bills that have arrived, etc.  Give him space and an opportunity to connect with you and the kids on a personal level before adding to his "ever-growing, never ending to-do list". 
  4. Defer to and show respect to dad in front of your kids.  After we go out to eat or ice cream or coming home from vacation, my wife will often say to our children in a fun way,... "Let's say thanks to daddy!, he worked hard to get this for us".  While I certainly am not looking for thanks (cause I love to provide for my family), this touches me down deep and teaches our kids to appreciate the things we enjoy.
  5. Help your husband with his schedule.  My wife is good about communicating to me about our family schedule, sports matches, recitals, etc. this helps me be strategic with my time and get to the events that will be more important to my kids.
  6. Pray for your husband to be the father God wants him to be be.  This method is far more productive than any brow-beating will ever yield.  Some men are not naturally relational and it can take time for God's to soften a guys heart toward his kids.  My wife uses "The Power of a Praying Wife" to pray for me daily.
  7. Notice when your husband does fathering well.  Tell him how good it was that he did or said something, encourage (put courage into) him.  When he hears your affirmation (a few hugs wouldn't hurt either at this point) it will all come together for him.
Mom's, you're critical to the practical care and emotional nourishment of your children, but dad's define and his time and words bring weight and wings to a child's life that no other person's can.

What other ways can mom's help dad's become better fathers?