Category Archives: Personal

The Power of One Word

I have to go to work today.

I remember when I was in seminary back in the 80’s.  I worked at Glendale Federal Savings on Brand Blvd. in Glendale.  I was a “Customer Service Representative,” more commonly known as a “teller.”  I remember thinking what a consummate waste of time I thought it was because I was preparing for work that was much more substantive, that is, pastoral ministry.  I told myself:  “I could be studying the  Bible right now, but no, I have to be here listening to people complain about their money.”

Fast forward ten years, now I am working in ministry, and guess what?  I found myself still complaining about my lot:  “I have to go to work today.”  I was now in the idyllic future place of doing what I “wanted” to do, but one word caused me to move back to the bank.  This realization made me change one word and with that one word change my outlook not only on work, but every day I was alive.

I get to go to work today.

Just that one word change has the power to change my attitude, energy level, motivation and happiness.  One word pushes me up or drags me down.  Change one word.

Every day is a good day.  Every day is given to me from God.  Every day I get to….you fill in the blank.

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Immigrant Song

Today marked the anniversary of my parents arrival in the United States as immigrants.   Their journey started 4 days earlier in Tehran, where they got on a Red Cross Cargo plane and flew to Cairo, Rome, London, Ireland somewhere, Iceland, Greenland and finally NYC. The leg from Iceland to Greenland took 9 hours, from Greenland to NYC took 6. Two train rides (NYC-Chi; Chi-LA) and six days later they arrived in LA.

My Dad was 24, Mom 23, Kathy 1.

While peppering my parents with questions about the trip, we asked Pop about all the jobs he held…here is what he had to say:

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Father Reflections on Departure, Adventure, Parenting

Well, it has begun. Caleb leaves for London today.  Joe leaves for Westmont on the 26th. Couldn’t be more excited for both of them. Curious about the future, and my emotional response to their leaving. A sort of final departure.

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When did it all happen.  It wasn’t long ago that I was standing in the third base coaching box yelling at Caleb or skimming with Joe at Oceanside.  They grow up, and that is a marvelous thing.  Here are some father reflections.

Enjoy your kids at every stage. Like everything else in life moments and events are fleeting.  What seemed once interminable  (soccer season for instance) I now miss.  I remember when we first had kids and I made this commitment to enjoy my kids at every stage.  It was all new with Tim (our first-born) and we were involved in a young marrieds Bible study.  Some of us had kids, some didn’t.  I can still see my friends face as he agreed with his wife’s words:

“I can’t wait till she is out of diapers.”

I had an ah-ha moment.  I was not yet tired of diapers, we were brand new and it was all an adventure.  But I remember thinking – “that isn’t a good attitude.”  Now trust me, I was glad to see dy-dee diapers go, but the stage of life was precious, and you should grab and enjoy the moment…even the diaper years and even more the junior high years.

Challenge your kids to do great things. Parent out of risk and not fear.  This is a great confidence booster.  In challenging your children to aspire you indirectly communicate that you believe in them and that they can accomplish big things.  When you discourage your children from risky behavior you indirectly communicate that they can’t handle life and big things, that they are not trustworthy or skilled, that they are incapable.  I tried to replace phrases like “be careful” with “have fun” or “remember to watch out for the little guy” or even “be smart.”  Remember at 4 and 5, riding a bike was risky.  How did we handle that?  We spent time training and teaching how to do that risky behavior.  Translate that to every stage in life and the activities that go along with those increased stages.

Say yes. I find that the default response that comes from fear and selfishness is the word “no”.  We use it too much. Can friends come over?  NO Can we go…? NO Can I stay up late? NO Can we light the cat’s tail on fire? NO Think of all the questions that your children ask you.  There are a ton, they ask for everything!  Say YES as much as you can.  If it isn’t unbiblical, immoral, unethical or illegal – find a way to say yes. This nurtures a sense of adventure in your kids.  This tells them that there are good things to do and to want to do.  This tells them that you want to help them to enjoy life.  When you say no repeatedly, your children become lethargic, lazy and unmotivated.  This chases them into adulthood.  Trust me, yes is cheaper than no in the long run, see two paragraphs down…

Don’t make your kids do stupid things to learn obvious lessons.    Sixteen year olds don’t need cars and they don’t need jobs (unless of course, like our friends the Buchanan’s, cars were part of the “yes of life” – they loved to drive, work, race and destroy cars. I am not picking on cars, just the obsession that owning a car at sixteen is a rite of passage for everyone).  Let them use your car, and just suck it up and buy the gas.  A sixteen year old doesn’t learn squat working at McDonalds to pay for insurance.  Please don’t let me see your kid swinging a sign for KayBee homes on the corner in the scorching sun on a Sunday afternoon for a measlee couple of bucks.  Most of you to whom this practice appeals have already taught your children the value of work and money through your everyday life at home.  Working at fast food for minimum wage is over-rated as a means of teaching a work ethic, and pales in comparison to the context of the home to teach these lessons.  There are so many healthy and wonderful opportunities available to children between 16-18 that to put them to work at Taco Bell sounds like torture, it should be illegal. Don’t sell your kids short.

Don’t punish your kids by restricting them from positive contexts and activities.  We have a great youth ministry at the church. Kids find it to be a safe, fun, challenging place.  They need that sort of healthy context.  Don’t threaten your kids with the loss of healthy activities  (like church or a good youth group, other healthy times with significant relationships) when they misbehave.  Instead, make your children accomplish something as a result of their misbehavior.  Give them an extra job around the house, or fine them.  Challenge them to a service project in exchange for time in prison (restriction).  The prison system doesn’t work in society, it doesn’t work for your teen.  Find a new and creative response to the mistakes and rebellion in your teen.  (By the way, much of the rebellion you are experiencing with your teen has to do with the “NO” philosophy that you thought was such a good idea to begin with.  Now that they are old enough, they are ignoring your NO and doing what they want, ouch).

Celebrate your children, especially when they grow up.  Parenting is about training and releasing.  We are preparing our kids to venture out into the wild wild world and to enjoy it.  I want my kids to experience the best that life has to offer – so I am excited that as Caleb begins his Junior year at Westmont College he doesn’t go to Santa Barbara but leaves for England Semester today for four months,  an off-campus program with 25 other Westmont students and two professors (Dr. Paul Delaney and  Dr. Jody Allen Randolph).

I am excited that Joe registered for his first semester at Westmont and and that his Facebook status today reads:

Tremper Longman III for Old Testament!!! oh yeah baby!!!”

I am anxious to meet his football playing roommate from Idaho and hope they get along.  We will tromp him up to Santa Barbara on the 25th to experience Parent’s Orientation for the fourth time.

Believe me, I am nervous at the same time. The same dad jitters I experienced when they were pitching and hitting magnified.  I want them to do well, meet good people, be safe, have fun, avoid pain.  We push fear aside, smile and bless them on their way.

God bless you boys.

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More Boys News…

Check out CNN to read about Westmont College Spring Break Ministry in Mexico called Potter’s Clay.  This yearly trip started when I was a Westmont Student in the 70’s (ouch) and this year two of my sons went down.  Caleb headed up the sports team and Levi was heading up the transportation team.  Now we have a houseful of people as many of the leadership team is crashing in Nuevo to recover before heading back to Santa Barbara.  Check out the video and print stories that CNN did on travel to Mexico where Westmont students were highlighted.

Cudos to college students who brave the warnings to head down to Mexico to serve others while the traditional “spring break” crowd stayed home out of fear.  Proud of my kids….

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Shoe-less Joe

My youngest son’s name is Joseph.  He is my favorite.  I say that because it bugs people who don’t believe that it is appropriate to admit that at times you like one of your kids more than the others.  It’s not that I don’t love my other boys (Tim, Levi, or Caleb), its just that right now Joe is home, young and not married or otherwise reminding me that I’m old.  He also costs me less than the middle two who are breaking the bank because they want to go to Westmont College instead of Mt. San Jacinto Junior College.  Go figure.  Soon Joe will leave me as well for the hallowed halls of Westmont and my favorite son will be determined by which of the four makes me laugh harder or just plain gives me money.  But for now, its Joe.

Joe has gone shoe-less for the past 8 months.  Initially his parents were mildly amused/annoyed. The bottom of his shoes would be black from his travels and he would track it into the house where he colored our carpet a darker shade than we liked right beneath his favorite spot on the couch.  Other parents would comment about our irresponsible parenting and lack of enforcement of a time honored parenting principle.  He would play guitar on the worship team  at church, barefoot.  Some people didn’t get the Moses moment.  Many people told us it wasn’t good for him, that he would get some horrible disease.   It wasn’t until at least 4 months into the “project” that I finally got wind of the reason that Joe was going barefoot.

You can read about it here. Now you know why he is my current favorite.

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Levi to Tanzania

There goes Levi down the walkway at LAX.  This photo was taken by Kristin because when your kids grow up their girlfriends drive them to the airport instead of you.  At least I didn’t have to get up at 4 and drive through LA traffic in the rain to get him there, thanks Kristin.

Brings back memories of my trip to Israel my senior year at Westmont.  Levi is a junior at Westmont and is spending this Spring Semester abroad in Tanzania with a group of students from the Christian College Consortium.  Most of the students accompanying him are from Houghton College.

His flight yesterday started at LAX in the morning, he flew to Minneapolis then Amsterdam and finally to Dar Es Salaam, hopefully arriving there at around noon today.

The joys of parenting…

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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Not the greatest photo, I only carry an Iphone when I ride and it is not a good camera, but this is a bald eagle at Lake Perris on New Years Morning.  Honest. The picture makes it look like we were further away than we actually were.  This tree is right on the bike trail, so we were only about 20 feet from this bird.  Looked like a youngster, an absolutely beautiful creature.  Makes me proud to have a bald spot.   What a great way to start the new year!

Around the bend from the eagle we spotted a red tail hawk and an osprey.  The San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge is just east of Lake Perris and is located on the Pacific Flyway so an impressive amount of birdwatching can be done here.  Who knew?

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