Parenting: Giving Added Value to a Child’s Christmas

He who would make children happy must do for them and do with them, rather than merely give to them. He must give himself with his gifts, and thus imitate and illustrate, in a degree, the love of Him who gave Himself to us, our needs, and who, with all that He gives us, holds out an expectation of some better thing in store for us: of that which passeth knowledge and understanding, but which shall fully satisfy our hopes and longings when at last we have it in possession.
-H Clay Trumbull

Rustic Christmas wreath on old weathered door with Christmas lights in a snow storm.
Rustic Christmas wreath on old weathered door with Christmas lights in a snow storm.

 

The story told in this chapter on Christmas was a story of anticipation. Children gathered round swelling stockings with suggestive outlines. Threads strung throughout the home for children to follow creating moments bursting with suspense as they race to see what mystery awaits them at their journey’s end. What cherished memories such experiences create.

This week I asked Jamie if she remembered what she was gifted last Christmas. She did better than I. I could hardly recall a thing. As we reflected on Christmases past the memories were not of things to hold in our hands but of things to hold in our hearts. I realized then that my focus had been just off. A bit or the whole way wrong, I am not yet sure I know. Nonetheless, too material for certain. The spirit of a gift given is undoubtedly a wonderful thing; focused on the other, a habit to exercise the wondrous joy of coming out of self. Still, something was missing or quite the opposite rather: something had been perverted along the way and was now in excess.

This Christmas we have set out to reverse the reality that the value placed on each gift amidst the abundance thereof is greatly diminished. To replace the abundance of things to hold in hand with an abundance of things to hold dear in our hearts as cherished memories. To replace the money leaving our account with self leaving our soul. We thought to ourselves what if we simply gave one gift? How could it not then be special? We are going to try to head this way, uncertain that the outcome will align with the longing for the cherished, but one thing is present already, anticipation is building.

Merry Christmas and may God bless you with the fruit of the Spirit, when we are less and He is more, shone through to all you enjoy His celebration with this year. May your Christmas abound in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and temperance. Amen.

 

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciate

Good Friends: Simplicity

True friends know, accept, love, serve, and celebrate one another.
-Bill Hybles

True Friends

There is nothing quite like spending time and doing life alongside true friends. It is fun. It is rewarding. It is fulfilling. It is truly a blessing. But more, in Bill Hybles opinion it leads to a simple life. King Solomon gives this advice in Proverbs 13:20

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

People influence your life. People rub off. Bill Hybles suggest in his devotional simplify that your friends are a large factor to living a simple life. Have you ever been around someone who always seems to have a negative outlook? They seem to bring with them a cloud of drama wherever they go. I am a big proponent of positive thinking. Paul instructs us in Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Seek out friends who display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Hang out with them. Your life will get much simpler.

Are you a true friend? Are you taking the time to get to know people and focusing on how you can help them? Are you a positive person who brings good to others? In my estimation often the very best way to find a true friend or an awesome mate or a great business partner is to work hard on becoming one. Look to yourself and get to work, if you are anything like me you will find plenty to work on.

 

-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

 

Codex for Entreprenuership

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
-King Solomon

entrepreneurship codex from Proverbs 24:27

Before anyone talked about nailing it then scaling it. Before Mr. Collins’ bullets and cannon balls. Before Mr. Blank had an epiphany and started developing customers and before Mr. Reis coined the phrase lean startup that now dominates high growth venture philosophy; King Solomon laid down the codex to entrepreneurship in Proverbs 24:27:

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.

All these books are fantastic. And as I read through them I could not help but thinking how lucky I was for the opportunity. They had so much truth in them. This is why I was not surprised to see this verse in proverbs backing up the core principle of these great thoughts on entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is setting out against the uncertain. Gaining understanding is the first step. Is this problem worth solving? Do people really have it? Do they care enough about it to switch and pay to solve it? Does this solution we have solve it in a meaningful way? Can we produce this solution? Can we produce it again? And again? Now that we are past the basic stuff, what is the riskiest assumption we are making? Lets try to turn that uncertainty into certainty too. Oh and do not forget we need to do this in a way that turns uncertainty into certainty with the least amount of resources possible. And this brings us to our first principle from Proverbs 24:27:

Prepare thy work without,

Why? Why not just throw a lot of with at it, a lot of resources? Let us think about it this way. If entrepreneurship is setting out against the uncertain let us equate this to driving a car in the fog. The obvious thing to do here is to not go faster than you can stop before what you see comes to pass. It makes sense, right? Jumping in the Mustang and throwing some rocket fuel in the tank to see if she can take it and what she can do will not help things. Entrepreneurship is the same way; a lot of money; a lot of resources expended too early can lead to some costly mistakes. Costly meaning of course too costly, that is; otherwise avoidable. These core assumptions previously mentioned (all the questions above that need to be answered before we speed up), most of them can be answered without actually starting a business. Prepare thine work without.

But how do we turn all this uncertainty into certainty without starting a business? How will we know if the widget will fix the problem and if we can build it at a price that allows us to build more and so on and so on, without actually building the widget and trying selling it? This leads us to our second principle:

and make it fit for thyself in the field;

Mr. Blank is famous for the saying “get out of the building.” And this is a fantastic example of how an entrepreneur needs to shift from planning (identify those core questions) to interacting with customers. The idea is simple. Figure out the next riskiest question, that is; we think this is true but if this came back false this plan will not work, then go and interact with customers in a way that allows you to learn from them if it is in fact true or false. Search lean startup, minimum viable product, or best yet at this stage minimum viable experiment to learn more about exactly how to do this. The idea here again is simple:

  1. create a plan
  2. identify its riskiest assumption
  3. go test that assumption, with the least amount of resources possible
    1. if true, back to step two with next riskiest assumption
    2. if false, back to step one and create a new plan

Build, measure, learn, rinse, repeat until you have everything tested, as Mr. Ries would say, until you have a product-market fit, as Mr. Blank would say, until it fits in the field, as King Solomon would say. Then what? On to the next principle:

and afterwards build thine house.

Only after you have followed this codex for entrepreneurship should you spend the resources to build the business, the product, the service. This is where so many entrepreneurs think it all starts and that is scary. We can not forget all the hard work with next to nothing; no investors, no partnerships, no customers, why perhaps no one else at all for the first stent. Entrepreneurs often have to prove out a lot of these assumptions before they can even attract their first team member. Until then you are just another person with an idea, which is great mind you. And we can not forget all the prepare our work without and the making it fit for ourselves in the field and just run out and ask for money, I do not think this is good for anyone.

I am of the belief that entrepreneurship has wonderful potential when it is done the right way. I am also of the believe that God is the creator and created us in His image that we might go on creating. We are always creating. Entrepreneurs are always creating. They receive an idea and start out creating. God willing; creating wonderful products that make our lives better, creating wonderful services that make our lives better, creating wonderful jobs that make our lives better and on and on. Praise God for giving us the codex to reduce our risk in creating new things for our fellow!

 

-A takeaway from a study in Proverbs

-A takeaway from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

-A takeaway from Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank

-A takeaway from Running Lean by Ash Maurya

-A takeaway from Great By Choice by Jim Collins

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Theological Virtues: Faith

“[Faith] is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
-C.S. Lewis

Faith

I have for some time now felt a sense of faith being: doing what you say you will do. That is, a man is faithful if he does what he says he will. He is faithful to his word. All along, at the same time, I felt there was much more to it. After a study on this virtue I think there is.

Still I think my former understanding holds true. A man who says he will so and so and does not, I’ve found is often a case of circumstances. “You see I would not have said I would have such and such if I knew that business about the thing was just round the corner.” Some are more tolerant of circumstances than others, more determined, and so we say they are more faithful or reliant than others.

I heard Zig Ziglar tell a story that paints the picture well I think in Born to Win. The story goes like this. There was a young sailor on a ship out at sea and some weather set on rather quickly. He was directed to hurry up the mast and see to something. Taking something in perhaps before the wind blew harder for too long and damaged something I suppose. The sea had begun to toss and turn as the young sailor made his way up the mast. Looking on an old sailor noticed this young man start to sway and lose his balance. His head looking side to side and his gaze being displaced with each crash of a wave. Just before the young sailor fell, the old sailor shouted, “Look up!”. And upon looking up and setting his sights on his destination the young sailor instantly regained his balance and quite possibly saved his life.

I believe each of us need to steady our gaze as the waves of life crash in to our world. I believe this steadies us. Sets us up. Stations us as something others can lean on and depend on. Produces in us something that we ourselves need to survive the circumstances.

As Christians I believe we are called to hold to our beliefs no matter the circumstances. Not in a stubborn way, but in a consistent way. A dependable way. You see, I think the reason most tend not to prefer the man who says one thing and does another is because we can not depend on him. He fails us. And I believe that this very lack of predictability, this lack of faithfulness, is what makes it difficult for them to relate to others. How do you relate to someone whose beliefs change with the wind? How do you relate to someone who is not sound in who they are? I have come to believe you are forced to take them as they are that day and make the best of it. The issue here being that the relation is very shallow. And I do not mean, diabolical or self seeking, I mean not very meaningful. The soil is shallow, there is just not much there to work with, to relate to. After all think about it, how do you relate to someone you do not know?

Christians can not be this way. Our faith in what we believe can not change with the waves of life. Though we do not know every detail of the future we should at least know that our brothers and sisters in Christ will hold fast to their beliefs. That we also, can be depended upon to have the same view of life tomorrow as today. Not that we will always do the right thing we know right, that is another matter altogether, but that our beliefs remain. This is faith. This is what is at the foundation of deep and meaningful relation to another. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring for another but knowing how they will think about it and look at it and approach it. This can be related to. Search your deepest most meaningful relationships and you will find this. You will find faith in the other.

But faith in what? For a Christian? Christ, of course. Knowing that what He said He would do, He will. Knowing that the words of the Bible are true. Knowing that those that have not come to pass yet will. Knowing that God is who He says He is and always will be. I have come to believe that this is the cornerstone of the eternal relationship with God that we all seek.

Wrapping up this study on the Christian virtues; Faith: an unfailing knowing. Hope: a desire to fulfill. Charity: an unconditional love. This verse cries out to me like never before.

“What a person desires is unfailing love”
Proverbs 19:22a

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from Born to Win by Zig Ziglar

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

The Ten Commandments for Relating to Others

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

-Psalm 119:33-35

Sunrise at Mount Sinai in Egypt

When God gave Moses the ten commandments why did He give them by way of two tablets instead one? Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests the ten commandments were given on two tablets instead one because the two tablets relate to one other.  He suggests the ten commandments are actually five principles, each principle with two applications to make ten. The first tablet, commandments one through five relate to our creator, which includes our parents. The second tablet, commandments six through ten speak to how we are to relate to our peers.  For example, commandments one and six speak to the first principle, where commandment one applies the first principle to our creator and commandment six applies to our peers.  Interesting.

 

The first principle, Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests is:  Others have the right to exist.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe.  There are others who exist.  Their right to exist is real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from.  Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the source of power of the second tablets strength lies in the truth of the first tablet.

 

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the old testament, when God’s chosen people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution.  God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships.  It is not good for man to be alone.

 

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their possessions.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing.  People own things that are theirs and you can not take them. God’s name is his just as your neighbors news paper is theirs.

 

The fourth principle: Others property includes their reputation.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Just as we are called to uphold our peers reputation by not lying about them we are called to uphold God’s reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day holy.  It does not say ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’ It says ‘to keep it holy.’ The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation. This is what keeps the Sabbath holy. This is a signal to the world that we belong to God and that God is the Creator.  God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

 

The fifth principle: Our rights have limits

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Covet is like envy.  I do not want you to have it.  I do not want you to be better than me.  I do not want you to be above me.  Coveting is stepping out of our boundaries with our peers and not honoring our parents is stepping out of our boundaries with those placed above us by God.  Others will be above us in our life and we need to respect that, more we need to see its beauty, and flourish in their protection and love for us.

 

In summary, Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the ten commandments are actually five principles with two examples each. One for how we relate to those above us and one for how we relate to those beside us:

  1. I am not the center of the universe, others exist and have a right to,
  2. among those others there is one other that has a unique and special relationship with me,
  3. all other people have a right to their property, and I am not to violate it,
  4. these other people also have reputations which are a most important form of their property not to be overlooked, and
  5. we are to accept and have joy in the place God has us.

 

 

-A takeaway from The Ten Commandments by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Forgiveness and Trust: Simplicity

To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

-Frederick Buechner

 forgiveness and trust: simplicity

 

Forgiveness: to let go: to let leave: to move on. Enough. Unresolved issues take up space. In his book, Crucial Conversations, Joseph Grenny argues that if you do not talk it out you will act it out. Passive aggressiveness. Acting it out, I believe, breaks down trust. A most useful characteristic. Trust speeds up. It bears time. Freeing us from needless worry about the distant future and distant past that we may focus on now and on eternity.

Acting it out creates more negative. Negative that slows and takes up more and more. That becomes harder and harder to forgive. That eventually break relationships. I believe margin works the other way round. If you have it, the hour conversation to talk it out now can be had. Which leads to more margin. Margin begets margin.

I have come to believe that if we lack margin now we can insert forgiveness and trust to set things on the right course.

 

-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

-A takeaway from Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny

-A takeaway from Mansfield’s book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Building Goodness: Simplicity

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.”

-King Solomon

Farmer Hand Touching Wheat Ears

Words build up.  Words tear down.  We create simplicity with our words.  We create drama with our words.  The things we say matter.  Each day, each interaction we have a choice to bless people with simplicity or burden them with unnecessary drag.  Our attitude is most critical to building a culture of simplicity in our community and organizations. Are you a culture builder or a culture buster?

What if at the end of a work day when you left to head home you could say “Today I persevered for my fellow, I blessed everyone with my words.  Today I built up the culture I belong to. Never tearing it down with even the slightest unnecessary burden or negativity.  I never criticized, condemned or complained”  How satisfying that day would be. How fulfilled we would feel.

 

-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.