Tag Archives: family

Quick Review: The 3 Big Questions For A Frantic Family

I read Patrick Lencioni’s The 3 Big Questions For a Frantic Family over the past couple of months in different sittings.  In short – it’s a strategic planning book for families, which sounds horrible and boring. But it’s not. If you didn’t know, I’m a strategic planning professor right now – but that doesn’t mean it’s a niche book.

What I like about this book, like a lot of Lencioni’s leadership fables is there is a simplicity that makes organization and leadership doable, sustainable, and worthwhile. It’s a great book not because it’s sophisticated, but because it’s simple in its strategy for helping parents take greater ownership in stewarding their family in line with their sense of purpose and values.

The 3 questions are basically?

  1.  What makes our family unique?

    This is a simple way of doing value and identity work. It’s important to get a working understanding of what your family is about and what you’re committed to. So this is a “vision and values” type of question but it’s framed simply.

  2.  What is our top priority right now (rallying cry)?

    This is a simple and family version of the rally cry/thematic goal Lencioni unpacks in Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars. But this is one of the most helpful things and I actually have utilized this concept in trying to lead our family.  Right now our family rallying cry is, “To increase our family capacity and live with more joy and peace in a challenging city.”  It’s a 2-6 month big picture goal that you can make significant progress towards that’s crucial for your family vision and values.  A part of this is establishing some objectives and measurements to help you know you are going the right direction. He talks about defining objectives and standard objectives. Standard objectives are the more ongoing categories of life.

  3.   How will we talk about these questions and help them stay alive?

This is a plan for communication and accountability.

So in some ways, it’s not rocket science. Lencioni does a good job illustrating that parents fail to exercise the same common sense and skills they might know in their work in the context of their family lives.  He’s not advocating people lose the family vibe, but to just take the organizational leadership skills crucial to parenthood a little more seriously for the sake of more robust and value driven lives.

Go to tablegroup.com and download a 4-page summary as well as a worksheet you can use if you want to do some planning and prioritization for yourself or your family.

I’ve noticed that while many families may make some specific choices for the sake of values, most do not really plan intentionally in light of their true or desired values. We all save for vacations, but few are planning for family connection and intimacy. That’s where value driven planning can make a huge difference.

 

Quick Review: Families Where Grace is in Place

One of the most timely books I’ve read in a while is Families Where Grace Is In Place by Jeff VanVonderen.  I enjoy VanVonderen. Quite a while ago I was deeply ministered to by his book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse in a season where I was observing a lot of spiritually abusive dynamics and tactics in some of my environments. This book on grace in the family was just as refreshing and significant.

I’ve read a few books in the last few years related to marriage and family and this has vaulted to the top for me I think so far. Some of it may be timeliness in that we are under a year from having teens in our household, but it’s more that VanVonderen grounds an approach to marriage and parenting…and really all developmental relationships in the foundational truths of the gospel and the need for grace for true change to take place.

Today there are so many ways Christians especially rationalize their legalism, shaming, and performance approach to parenting, leadership, and any exercise of authority roles. This book shines a spotlight on what does not pass the grace test and what truly reflects leadership under the Lordship of Christ. It’s convicting and even painful at points as the book fosters self-evaluation according to shame or grace-based approaches in relationships. But it offers hope and life that is grounded not in methods or control, but in love and the life of Christ as the source of all life and all authentic change.

The author uses a couple acronyms that are helpful – C.U.R.S.E. and T.I.R.E.D. to capture the reality of parenting and exercise of authority in relationships that reflect the core patterns of sin in Genesis 3. You can read the book to do a deeper dive on those – but it’s well worth it 🙂

As I’ve been researching more and more stuff related to shame, the more I’m convinced we need to ground everything we do in authentic, grace-based relationships in which the truth is allowed to do its work to heal and restore rather than harm, hurt, put down, or belittle. But sadly that is not the case for many marriages, families, and churches. This is what we are trying to prioritize in our development right now as parents and it’s been life and hope giving as well as healing in some regards as well.

 

A Virtue Family Oral History of Game 7 of the World Series

It’s been a couple months, but there are times I’m still nervous. I’m still in disbelief it actually happened. But the Cubs winning the World Series is one of my great life moments.  One of my earliest memories of my grandfather is him taking us to Wrigley Field in the early 80’s, before lights were installed. I remember the Cubs were playing the Dodgers when the Dodgers had players like Mike Marshall and Fernando Valenzuela. It’s the first baseball park memory I have.

Both of my grandfathers lived and died in Illinois without seeing a Cubs World Series Championship. My dad, born in 1950, had not seen it. I’m in my 40’s and it’s been a rough go. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get over Bartman and the 2003 experience.  2007 and 2008 were stuff that leads to learned helplessness.

So the last couple of years have been an amazing run. Like many others did with loved ones, when the Cubs beat the Dodgers to advance to the World Series I thought of that game with my Grandfather back in the early 80’s.

But I almost missed it. I almost didn’t watch Game 7.

Because I live in Manila, the majority of MLB Playoff Games started at 8am my time. And it so happens I spent most of October in PhD intensives starting at….8am.  It was a month of confliction, but I was getting used to not watching. In fact, Game 7 took place on a work day so I was planning, for some odd reason, to head to campus like normal. (What was I thinking?)  But that’s when fate stepped in…or God’s sovereignty…or sheer dumb luck stepped in.

My wife hit a tree.  Pulling out of our driveway she backed into a tree and shattered the rear-view window of our van. T minus 90 minutes until game time.  This is the mighty oak of a tree that did such great damage to our car.

Pulling out of our driveway she backed into a tree and shattered the rear-view window of our van. T minus 90 minutes until game time.  This is the mighty oak of a tree that did such great damage to our car.

This is the mighty oak of a tree that did such great damage to our car.

But it was raining, our kids needed to get to school, and our other car was coded. For those not in Manila, the system to help the traffic problem is that every car is banned from the road for one day out of the week. So we were in a bind – we couldn’t drive the coded car and we couldn’t drive the van without a rear window in the rain.

So we gave up and decided to let the kids stay home, while we balanced watching Game 7 with getting our rear window fixed.  Through the Filipino network – a friend of a friend of the guy raking leaves next store, we got a lead on a place that could do the window and my wife graciously offered to take the car in so that we could watch the game.

The game begins.  I felt sick to my stomach. But Fowler’s lead-off homer helped my nerves.

A few innings later, Kris Bryant scored on an improbably tag-up on a short fly ball.  I yelled something incoherent with intense excitement. My 9-year-old son looks at me, who only knew a few years of Cubs futility before this says to me, “Wow Dad. I’ve never seen you that emotional and excited.”

After the Javy Baez homer in the 5th, I start to let me myself dream a bit and it’s a party in the house. At this point, the van window is fixed and fully restored $100 later. Now our whole family is watching the game.

In the bottom of the 5th, the umpire makes an egregious call on a Kyle Hendricks strikeout pitch and prolongs the inning. I start to fume and bark at the umpire.  My six-year-old daughter looks at me with a disapproving look. This sets the stage for the pitching change and wild pitch and Cleveland scoring a couple runs. I start to feel sick again.

But in the 6th David Ross homers and all is well again and Lester starts mowing down hitters.  Things are looking good again and I’m starting to trip out that this might actually happen.  Then the 8th inning. That awful 8th inning.

Just prior to the Davis gut punch home run, my kids were sensing my excitement and decided to treat me to an early celebration. Bless their hearts. They don’t know about Bartman or Durham or all the other kicks to the groin Cubs fans have endured, leaving us to behave like battered dogs during these moments. My kids were all set to surprise me with full on head to toe Cubs gear, ready to kick off the celebration when – Rajai Davis ties it up with a 2 run home run. I go to my dark place and tell the kids anxiously – “Not now. Not now.  This is bad and they may not win!” My kids are confused. I feel like I’m starting to look at the very gates of hell.

But then, because we’re in Manila – the internet starts going out.  I struggle to watch the bottom of the ninth and rain delay because the stream has to buffer so long. We watch one minute and then wait two minutes, which adds to the agony of the experience.  I thank God for the rain delay but have hope because Schwarber leads off the 10th and he is Babe ruth reincarnated.

Because of the internet delays, I go dark on social media and we watch the 10th. I’m yelling, screaming, and talking at the television like a mad man.  My youngest daughter is disturbed and uncomfortable with the tension in the room – scared by the cheers coming with each hit and play.  She cries “Too loud! Too loud!” But I find out a couple weeks later than somewhere in this period of time she prayed to God that the Cubs would win...probably out of concern for her father’s well being.

The internet speeds up a bit and the Zobrist hit sends us into a frenzy, followed by Montero’s insurance RBI. I’m a nervous wreck that Carl Edwards Jr. is going to try to close the game, all 80 lbs of him. The Indians score and I start to feel sick again. One out away. So close, but so far.

But the internet stops. I have to re-set the router as there is a pitching change being made with the tying run on base. We’re back to internet buffering. My wife is looking at her phone and making a weird look.

The internet gives us just enough to watch the final out and celebration. I realize my wife was sneaking a peak online and got the news a few minutes before we got to watch it. Fortunately, she kept it a secret.

Then my family gave me an authentic Ryne Sandberg jersey (my favorite player as a kid) they found for 10$ at a local mall (God Bless the Philippines!).

And I haven’t been able to stop watching highlights and replays and bad youtube montages since.

I.CAN’T.GET.ENOUGH.

But I still feel nervous thinking about it because there’s part of me that has a hard time believing it happened.

So it was a stressful, gut-wrenching, exhilarating experience that is a life highlight, given I got to experience it with my family. It was especially fun to go through the playoff journey with Colin because he’s really gotten into the Cubs in the last year or two.

And it was all because my wife backed into a tiny, but powerful tree.

 

 

Pre-School Theology: Game 7 Prayers

This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

My daughter, who is in kindergarten now, believes she helped the Cubs win Game 7 of this year’s world series and thus, their first world series since 1908.

While stuck in typical Manila traffic last week on the way home from the kid’s school, she started this conversation.

“Dad. After that other team tied the game, I prayed that the Cubs would win. And then God answered my prayer and the Cubs won.”

My favorite part of this was that we really had had no Cubs related conversation or interaction in the previous week. It was something she wanted me to know.

I would love to know what her motivation was for praying for the Cubs and for letting me know God answered her prayer. Did she do it because she saw her father in an unusually vulnerable and rabid moment and it worried her?  Was it because she knew it was a big deal and important to at least her father and brother?  Something in her wanted a happy ending for the people she cares about so she prayed.

I loved the moment and it was fun to connect over the Cubs. But a great reminder that we need to ground our prayer life on solid theological footing.

Putting aside the fact that God is in fact a Cubs fan 😛 , I decided not to bring up the high likelihood that she had a 6-year-old counterpart in Cleveland praying the exact same thing for the Cleveland Indians.  What about her?

During the World Series I heard a record amount of animistic language from people on all sorts of teams praying to ancestors, former players, God, and who knows what else – attributing everything from good luck to timeline rainfall to the goodwill of long lost relatives and God’s partiality.   I was shocked at how much animism was alive and well in the western sporting domain!

But for now – I’m glad my daughter feels like she had a part in a great moment for me and our family.  In time, we’ll have to break the news that God probably doesn’t care much about our sports teams.

Though if God did care about sports teams, I’m still pretty sure He would care most about the Cubs.   😛

 

Pre-School Theology: Origin Story of A Vegetarian

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

We have a kid who is a picky eater.  Like way picky and it drives us crazy.  He’s essentially vegetarian, maybe even vegan in practice. We’ve tried many a things to expand his range, but sometimes it’s hard to see change when deep values are at work.  Here’s a recent conversation that surfaces my son’s theology of food.

Me:  “Colin, don’t you want to start eating meat to get more protein and build muscle?”

IMG_4254Colin: “There’s other ways to get protein.  I don’t want to eat animals.”

Me:  “I think you should try to see what types of meat you could eat, maybe you’ll like different kinds and we can cook it more often.”

Colin: “I just don’t want to eat animals.  I mean, God made the animals.  I love animals.  I really love nature.”

Me: “Well you eat chicken nuggets, so you do eat meat sometimes!”

Colin:  “Dad, chicken nuggets aren’t real chicken. Everyone knows that!”

Me:  “Well it’s close enough.  How can I get you to try more meat?”

Colin: “I just don’t want to eat animals.  I want to have them as my pets.”

Me:  “Is the taste of meat or is it the idea that you are eating animals really the hard thing for you?  I really want to know.”

Colin:  “Well, it’s both really.  I don’t like the taste, but I don’t like thinking I’m eating an animal.   I mean…..how do you know the meat you are eating isn’t the animal’s butt?”

There you have it…true confessions of an 8 year old vegetarian 😀

We all have our motivations and values.  Change is hard!

1 Day 3 Kids 3 Ways of Affection

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Our family is in a bit of transition, and we have been it seems for about 2 1/2 years now!  But recently we made a move to a different part of the city so our kids could make the move to a new school as part of our continued journey here in Manila.  This past week was a rude awakening as we were all up about 5am every day and because of traffic here there were days I didn’t even get to see my kids at night.

That’s what made Friday night such a relief – to make it through our first big week with our new schedule and everyone having their own world’s after a couple years of being together a lot.  But we missed each other and I couldn’t wait to be with my kids this weekend.  And I was encouraged that the three of them missed me too and the ways they expressed it enhanced my appreciation for their uniqueness.  So let me share the 3 different and unique ways my kids expressed affection for me that reflects their own unique personalities.

First, my oldest daughter Morgan (10) wanted to share everything she did at school. She wanted me to know what she did and what she has to do. She wanted me to know the types of things she enjoyed doing and the things she didn’t enjoy doing. (Probable ISTJ on the MBTI!) She connects a lot through talking and interacting about what she does, though I’m glad I got a “Dad, I really missed you this week” from her too!

Next up is our middle child, our 7 year old son Colin. He is a probable ENFP on the MBTI if that means anything to you, but if not – here’s how he expressed himself to me while we were hanging out on the couch Friday night. He said, “Dad, if I were a squirrel I would just crawl up right on your shoulder and get super cozy and let my big fluffy tail hang down your arm and I would be so warm and comfy.”  He communicates a little different than our oldest daughter 🙂

And finally our 4 year old Kaelyn who just started pre-school. She doesn’t quite have the same vocabulary, but I got a deep and hearty “Daddy, I love you.” I say deep and hearty because she has a deep and hearty voice!  But she also offered, “Daddy, will you sit next to me at dinner?” I don’t quite  have a beat on my youngest’s personality type, but I know that getting invited to sit next to her at dinner is a big deal so I was excited to sit in the place of honor!

I love my kids. I am grateful that they love me and I love the unique ways they show it. It reminded me that we all show care and affection in different ways and it’s important to recognize what is meaningful to others even when on the surface it doesn’t connect right away with our preferences.

 

Pre-School Theology: The Hand of Blessing

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

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A while back we were coming out of church and our four year old daughter started an interesting conversation about her Sunday School experience this way,

“One of the teachers was leaving or something and we all prayed for her and they made us hold our hand up pointed towards her for a really long time and it hurt my arm because it was so long!”

But it turns out all our kids were together during this experience and they had a lot to say about it.  My son (7) added as only a true Star Wars fan could,

“It’s true. It was really long.  Why do they have us hold up our arms?  It looked like everyone was trying to use the force on her.”

Our oldest agreed with that assessment wholeheartedly and added that it also looked like the pose that the Iron Man statues from the Avengers are in at the mall (see above).

This was an entertaining conversation about “the hand of blessing.”  The Scriptures contain the idea of the laying on of hands as a means of blessing.  But logistics sometimes prevent that and instead of getting up close and personal, we just raise a stretched out hand in that direction of the blessing.  It’s a practical, yet engaged means of having the whole community participate in the conveying of a certain blessing upon someone or a group of people.

I don’t mind it. But funny how my kids interpret what’s going on when they aren’t used to seeing those types of things.

They have adopted it now though.  When I’m icing my knees after basketball, it’s not uncommon for my son to randomly extend his hand towards me while trying to keep a straight face.  I asked him the first time what he was doing.  He said, “I’m doing that hand prayer thing!”  And there’s been a couple moments at dinner where I humorously get the “hand of blessing” from all 3 of my kids if it’s clear I’m really stressed.  I’m glad my kids have a sense of humor 🙂

And now I can’t look at Iron Man the same anymore either.

 

The Fork in the Road

When was the last time you had a huge decision you needed to make where you felt like a lot was at stake either way?

That’s kind of where our family has been the last many months – trying to discern God’s will for us in this next season of our lives, leadership, and ministry. Do we continue to live, serve, and work in a different part of the world or do we return home to much that is familiar?

Last month my oldest daughter, in a moment of honest inquiry, asked me, “Dad – how do you know what the right decision is?”  She elaborated by asking, “What if we stay and I end up wishing we went home?  And what if we go home and I wished we had stayed?”

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I loved the moment as a parent to connect with my daughter over what feels like a massive fork in the road with a lot at stake.  There was some anxiety, but really it was an honest wrestling over potential grieving and of the fear of making the wrong decision – of enduring feared consequences and facing loss.

But the reality is our daughter mirrored the question both my wife and I have been wrestling with for some time – how do we know? And what happens if end up wishing we had made a different decision?

We have plenty of perspective and training as it relates to making decisions or discovering God’s will, but when there’s a lot at stake there’s still the lingering pressure to “get it right.”

But the reality is we’ll never know the alternative universe in which we live a life as if we made a different decision.  Part of walking by faith is not just trusting in God for the best decision moving forward, but it’s trusting in God’s sovereignty and goodness in every step of the journey after the decision. There’s a freedom in that despite the gravity of the decision making and in this decision process of ours it’s that freedom and confidence we want our kids to experience and know.

We don’t yet know definitively what the Lord has for us, but as a family it’s been a formational journey together developing trust and confidence in a good and sovereign God.

Back – Just in Time for the New Year!

Ok – it’s been a while!

Since my last post, I moved along with my family to Quezon City (Metro Manila) in the Philippines and have gone through somewhat of a vocational shift in becoming a Professor of Leadership Studies at the International Graduate School of Leadership in Manila.  It’s been a wild experience and I’ll begin posting more now that we are more settled and have a little more capacity.

In the meantime, you can check out some of the highlights of what our family has been up to in this video slideshow we put together for our family, friends, and ministry partners this Christmas.

Virtue Manila Xmas 2013 from Brian Virtue on Vimeo.