The top five thoughts this week (week 1 of June 2015)

the-thinker-1I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in preparation for turning 40! One of the things I’ve been giving considerable thought to is the idea of mental strength. I give a lot of energy and thought to the development of physical strength. Research shows that the brain is much like a muscle… it can develop with use and atrophy because of a lack of use!

I don’t want a strong back and a weak mind, so I’m developing an exercise routine for my mind that includes learning something new on a regular basis. I don’t want to be the middle-aged man who’s best thoughts have already been thought!

To be proactive and growing mentally, I commit a lot of time reading and meditating on new thoughts, or old ideas that I have not implemented well. I’m going to begin blogging, largely for my sake, but you’re welcome to read along, the thoughts that I’ve spent the most time pondering.

So with no further ado… here are the thoughts that have taken up the most space in my mind this week!

The important stuff requires daily attention.

Over the last several months I have been working on a plan that answers “How” I am going to achieve the things I want in my life. (I wrote a bit about it here).

I’ve spent hours putting the details on paper. During the course of thinking and writing it occurred to me…

The most important things I want to achieve will all require daily attention!

Think about it…

You don’t have great relationships just because you wake up one day and say, “I want to be a great husband, dad, friend, etc.” It requires daily attention.

Same thing is true of finances, health, wisdom, etc.

The most important things will all require daily attention!

Second thought…

To be a great dad I must be an expert on my children… each one of them.

I must have a Ph.D in each child. That includes being fluent in each child’s love language, and being adept and flexible in how I encourage, teach, and, discipline each child!

This requires daily attention and a willingness to make adjustments as they evolve!

It also means I need to say “No” to a lot of things that would compete for the time I would give to this cause.

Third thought…

The most important thing in my life is people.

Recently I celebrated my birthday. The best gift I received was the time I spent with my friends! Seriously, a new pair of pants, a new book, etc., all of which I love, are great, but next year I’ll have outgrown or read them. What will never go away is the memory of joy and deep love I felt as I hugged my friends.

As I mature, I am realizing that including friends in the rhythm of my life is critical to creating a beat I can dance to for a long time!

Fourth thought…

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

This is a big one… especially as a parent of strong children! I’m realizing that it’s possible to “win the battle but lose the war” on this one.

I can get louder and more severe here because I’m bigger. I can make them be quiet and do what I say… and in the process create an angry heart in my child.

I’m learning to slow down and quiet down and in the process resolve issues that end with children with happy hearts doing good things.

Fifth thought…

Wise people can become wiser still. The key is in exploration and humility. (See Proverbs 1:5-6)

One of my life desires is to be a wise man. I love the fact that wisdom is not a static state. It is an ever expanding state reserved for those who are humble and willing to continue exploring.

One of the best ways to do this is to interact with wise people (e.g. wisdom literature, etc.)… which means I probably need to spend less and less time with the buffoonery that happens on much of social media! Yes, I do have Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, but I realize that every time I spend time in those venues, I am choosing NOT to spend time in other venues (e.g. coffee with a wise friend, a book, etc.).

Now here’s the thing…

I’ve got a lot of work to do… but the first step in changing your life is changing your thinking!

So by simply processing these thoughts I’m setting my self up for some positive changes… starting today!

How about you? What have you been thinking about lately?

HOW to make a change in your life

Many times I’ve said something like this to myself…

“I’m going to change                               .” Or,

“I’ll never do                                   again.” Or,

“I’m going to                                  “.

I meant it when I said it… but after a few weeks I realized… I didn’t do it!

Most of the time the reason I didn’t do it was because I did not answer this question…

“How?”

How am I going to change? How am I going to stop? How am I going to start?

An idea without a plan is a miscarriage waiting to happen.

If you REALLY want to change something in your life… answer this question…

“How?”

When you begin thinking “how” let me encourage you to think “daily.” This wisdom from John C. Maxwell tells us why…

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. That means developing great habits. […] Ultimately, people do not decide their future; they decide their habits and their habits decide their future.”

What would happen in your life if you decided to do something different for the next 30 days?

  • Eat no sweets
  • Exercise daily
  • No Facebook
  • 30 minutes per day focused on your child
  • 10 minutes of prayer
  • Read a chapter a day in a book
  • Spend 10 minutes per day organizing your garage

How different would your life look after 30 days?!

To help you get started I’d encourage you to check out habitforge.com. This is a free service that will e-mail you every day for 30 days with a reminder to do the thing you need to do to make the changes you want!

Want to change?

Answer the question “How”? and do that “How” daily for 30 days (use Habitforge.com to help remind you).

So what do you want to change? I’d love to hear from you!

The most important person you can care for is…

YOU.

This may sound wrong to you… especially if you’ve grown up within the context of the church, but wait… let me make the case.

In the world of nonprofits (e.g. church, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, etc.) we are regularly called to “give yourself.”

“Give yourself” is great advice if “yourself” is valuable.

Seriously, we both know people who’s presence could not be considered a gift! In fact, after a bit of time with them, you might even consider “gifting” them to another organization!

What I’ve found is that the best gift I can give to my God, wife, children, church, clients, friends, etc. is a happy, healthy, alert self; and that requires that I engage in intentional, regular self-care.

The other day I read a quote from Parker Palmer that gets right to the heart of this matter…

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

Think about it…

  • Are you a better parent when you are tired or rested?
  • Do you work better when you are angry or happy?
  • Do you think more clearly when you are hungry or full?

You get the point, right? When YOU are taken care of, you show up and perform at a higher level… and THAT’S a gift worth giving!

Here’s the thing about “self-care”, if you don’t do it… no one will.

No one is going to make you eat right, get enough rest, exercise, pray, be creative, etc. You must do these things for yourself. If you don’t create space in your life for these things… they won’t get done.

Your spouse, kids, boss, friends aren’t going to create space for you to do these things, because they are all trying to get some space in your life too! You have to care for yourself!

And when you care for yourself, the people around you get a better YOU!

Think about it, is it better to be open 24/7 but offer sub-par service or is it preferable to be open 40 hours a week and offer high value service, friendship, love, insight, etc.?

I think we agree on this one….

I encourage you to do this… stop. Take some time to think about and plan the next 30 days of your life. As you create that plan carve out some time to do “self-care” and then watch what happens to your relationships as you begin adding true value to the people you serve/love.

A hug

dad and lexington

This moment was unplanned. We didn’t know anyone was watching… much less taking pictures…but I’m sure glad they were, and I’m sure glad they caught it on camera.

In this moment there is so much love, peace, acceptance, security… all expressed with a hug.

Hugs like this don’t come every day… big, full, eyes-closed hugs. Children with autism don’t always express this big emotion… so when it comes… you savor it. I am.

 

Family pics

Last Sunday we had some family pics taken. As I looked over them I realized a few things:

  • God was really nice to me when He sent Sherri my way. I love her more today than I did seventeen years ago!
  • We have six diverse, beautiful, and talented daughters. The responsibility that comes with being “Dad” to all of these princess warriors is off the chart. I am reminded that prayer must be a part of my daily routine.
  • I hope my girls marry a man that loves them as much as I love their mom. And I hope they are even half the women their mom is.

OK, enough chest beating about my lovely ladies… Here are some pics for my journal and my friends.

paul and sherri

girls silly girls

family
paul and sherri kissing

If you’re going to date my daughter you’ll need to do these three things

I am the father of six daughters.

I am teaching my daughters that there are three “must have” characteristics for the men they date. I am teaching them so well that the other day when I started down the list, one of my girls said, “I know! I know!” and then she finished the list!

Wanna know the list? Here it is:

#1 He has to honor God.

I want for any man that dates my daughter to realize that he’s not the final word on any matter. I want him to believe that there is someone bigger, smarter, richer, and more powerful than he. I want him to live with the humility that comes with this awareness. I want him also to live with the confidence that comes with knowing that God is around him.

A man that lives with an awareness of the presence of a powerful person will be a good man to/for my girls.

#2 He has to have a job. 

Son, my daughter is not your mamma who works so you can stay home and play video games. You get your bum off the couch and get a job. Make some money. Build something. Sell something. Organize something.

You set your own alarm clock and don’t make her beg you to get out of bed in the morning to go to work.

You take the initiative to go to bed early enough so that you get a good night’s sleep so that you can be a productive member of our society.

If times are tough financially, you be the first out the door to get a second job. She may choose to have a career, and I support her in this fully, but son… your job is to have a job so you can care for that lady beside you.

And by the way… don’t expect her to be driving you around and buying you stuff while you’re dating. She’s neither your bank account nor your personal transportation service. I’m teaching her to hate debt and laziness. Know where I’m going with this?

#3 He has to take responsibility for himself and the family he creates.

Son, my girl wants a husband… not a son. I expect that you’ll take responsibility for yourself. Don’t make her be your mom. You know what I mean… cleaning up after you, calling in sick for you, getting the family to church because you won’t help or go, making sure the oil is changed in the car… you get the point.

I don’t want my daughter calling me asking me to do what you should be doing. By then I’ll have raised my family. Now it’ll be your turn to raise yours.

I’ll pray for you and help you as far as I can… but I can’t/won’t assume your role. You are her man… and if I have to be then there’s no use in you being around anymore. Know what I mean?

Last thoughts:

OK, I know I’ve got a few years before my daughters are dating/marrying so I might mellow out a bit in terms of how I express myself on these matters, but I don’t see myself changing the matters themselves.

I’m training my daughters to expect these things in man, so if you don’t do/have these things… you’ll probably not date my daughters…ever. And they’re pretty ones so you’re going to want to! My suggestion? Do these things! Not only will be you an eligible suitor but you’ll be a better man too!

How to help your child eat healthy

FatDad and SonChildhood obesity… you don’t have to be a “rocket scientist” to see it’s an issue. A quick stroll through Wal-Mart or the local public school will be proof enough.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) says that “in 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.” (for more facts from CDC on this topic click here).

As a parent I want my children to be healthy in every arena (spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental). I believe that physical health is a key indicator of all other levels of health for this reason… your body is like a car, it takes you wherever you go.

Think about this, if you are sick how alert are you mentally? If you are tired, how alive are you spiritually? If you are hungry, how aware are you relationally?

Before we go on a trip we fill up the tank with gas, check the oil, and make sure the DVD players are working for the kids! We take care of the car!

So why don’t we do the same for our bodies? And more particularly why don’t we do this for our children?

The CDC report I mentioned earlier states that:

The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.

They point to a number of influencers, but the first influencer in their list is family. Family, as in most things, blazes the path for the way the children will eat…which is a primary function of “caring for the car.”

I have been reading Andrew Weil’s book Eating Well for Optimum Health. While he is a bit more “hippy” in his approach to eating than I am, he has packed a ton of good information into this book.

Towards the end of the book he says something that inspired this whole post… something I have to record for myself and that you might find helpful too. It has to do with helping our children discover the joy and knowledge of healthy eating habits. Read? Here it is:

“Buying and preparing your own food also gives you the chance to influence the health of your whole family for the better. Creating family traditions of healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do for your children, whose food preferences will form early in life and who will be subjected to tremendous pressure from peers and advertising groups to make unhealthy choices.

eating healthyInvolve children in food preparation whenever they show interest; talk with them about food; and help them understand that healthy eating is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, that will make them strong, energetic, and attractive. Teach them that even small changes in their diet can make big differences.”

 

As I read the CDC report and thought about what Dr. Weil has written a few things occurred to me:

  • How I eat will be how my children eat. Therefore I should eat healthy.
  • How my children eat will determine much of their overall wellness. Therefore I should place an emphasis on healthy eating.
  • Eating healthy can actually be fun when I engage my children in the process.
  • There are LOTS of voices calling my children to make unhealthy food choices which will have severe consequences (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically). Therefore I need to be intentional, insistent and creative now in my effort to make healthy eating a preferred way of living for them.

Dad, Mom… we’ve got a great opportunity here to influence our children to eat well, and in doing so influence WAY MORE than just they way they look! Eating well vitalizes their spiritual, relational, emotional, and mental well-being and sets them up for a good and successful life. It’s not everything… but it sure is one thing you can do to help your children get a “leg up” on life! I strongly encourage you to think deeply about this and even begin making some small changes in your kitchen today!

BTW, I’ve written a couple of other posts on this topic:

I’d love to hear from you about this topic! What is the hardest part of helping your children eat healthy? What are you doing now that is working that you can share with the rest of us?