Category Archives: family
Love Completely Without Complete Understanding
Christmas is a time to remember Christmases past, and Christmases when loved ones were still with us.
I have been without my brother who passed away tragically at age 42 in 2000. Six months later my codependent Italian mamma died of lung cancer. I actually think she died of a broken heart at the tragic loss of her youngest.
Then in 2009, my dad passed away of natural causes, often reminding me that even though life had been hard, that ‘la vita e bella’–life is beautiful.
I never fully imunderstood my brother and the direction he chose to follow that inevitably led to an untimely death, nor my mamma who felt that she could never let my brother face consequences of his choices.
In all our lives we have people we can love completely although we may not have fully understood them.
In the movie, A River Run’s Through It, a dad, also preacher, is speaking at his son’s funeral, who suffered an untimely death due to a reckless life. In this end the father gives us all hope.
Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.
What are you building Dad, Mom?
One of the ongoing challenges that I have and those I coach have is keeping perspective on what they are actually becoming and accomplishing. And especially in the arena of parenting.
It’s so easy to let the details of any day or any responsibility that has become routine, drag you down into the lands of Futility and Boredom and yes, Frustration.
On one of the early days of raising 3 boys under 10 in the 1980s, I was reading Gordon Macdonald’s The Effective Father.
Like many dads, I was really having a hard time managing my own life well, doing exceptional work at my career, and oh ya, raising three boys. Truth be told, I was raising my blood pressure more than raising my boys.
In Macdonald’s book he shared the parable of 3 ancient masons which was a parenting vision breakthrough for me. Over the last 40 years of marriage and parenting, I am still building, forever trying to keep a ‘cathedral’ view of my calling.
“A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.
”A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”
”A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!”
Boom! I had a huge epiphany that day which I immediately applied to my calling as a dad.
Three dads, three different attitudes, all fulfilling the same role.
I am not just raising nice little boys, I am raising boys who will someday take their place in the world and be responsible, compassionate, visionaries and catalysts in their respective spheres. Having this vision of ‘I am building a cathedral’ has continued to inspire me to never lose sight of the big picture.
As you look at your various roles and responsibilities, especially if you are a mom or dad, how do you see your role?
What would you say you’re building?
Here’s my ‘cathedrals’ in early years and later.
And then with their ‘cathedrals’, our grandchildren. My ‘cathedrals’ are older now and it’s their turn to keep clear on the big picture of what they’re ultimately building.
Advent Creates Anticipation for More Reality
On this second Sunday of Advent, waiting expectantly for the Babe in the Manger to show up mysteriously and gently into my life and the lives of my family and friends, I am encouraged by my favourite spiritual life guide, the late Fr Henri Nouwen.
Unlike many believers today who have capitulated to the secularizing of The Christian faith, I choose with Fr Henri to believe there is more than trying to make heaven on earth. There is another Reality I and millions of others long for as did Fr Henri and others who have departed this life.
Call me naive, call me a fool, call me whatever you want but I long for More than this life gives.
You On this second weekend of Advent I choose with Fr Henri to claim my identity as one of God’s beloved sons, and live fully today with a view to meeting Jesus face2face someday, and sharing the story of how my life and His worked themselves out over however long I am blessed to live.
Quoting Fr Henri on life after this life—
Even though I often give in to the many fears and warnings of my world, I still believe deeply that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger event that stretches out far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death. I think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilirating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell the story of what I have learned.’†
An Endangered Virtue–Respect for One Another
For any community to function there must be rules. Yes. Rules. We like to think we can function without them but unfortunately it seems to me the ‘rule of respecting one another’ is no longer, if it ever was, humans’ default in challenging relationship situations.
While at the Venice, Florida YMCA today I saw this photo.
What it said to me was that for our ‘Y’ to work exceptionally, we must all own these 8 rules.
As I read these I thought these would have been good for recent presidential election.
In a sermon a few weeks ago pastor Bill Hybels highlighted 10 rules he wanted to see restored in his community and our world.
In their community 1000s of people are engaging over these ’10 rules’ for treating each other with respect.
1. See People As Image-Bearers.
Every person who crosses your path bears the image of God. We have never locked eyes with someone for whom this is not true. All people matter to God. Furthermore, there is no person on earth for whom Christ didn’t die.
2. Differ without Demonizing.
Respectful people learn how to hold differences well. We must train ourselves to respect others while disagreeing rather than devaluing, diminishing, or demonizing them.
3. Believe the Best.
It is simple to judge people before ever meeting them. However, we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13:7, among other things, to believe the best of everyone. This requires an open mind and one without cynicism.
4. Don’t Interrupt or Dominate.
Respectful people genuinely want to hear the opinions and feelings of others and demonstrate this by listening rather than controlling the conversation. They are curious to know how others think so they might be sharpened themselves.
5. No Incendiary Words.
Those who show respect are very careful in choosing their words. Proverbs 15:1 states: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words make tempers flare.” It is the wise and respectful person who takes stock and decides to use words that will adequately reflect who they want to be. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us: “Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth but only words that build up others.” Respectful people only use words that build up others, even when writing in the context of social media where it may be easy to be careless with words.
6. Courteous to Everyone.
Respectful people are kind and inordinately courteous to others. They demonstrate kindness in seemingly little ways like opening doors for others and noticing people that might otherwise be overlooked.
7. No Stereotyping.
A stereotype diminishes the value of a person by categorizing them, rather than valuing their God-given uniqueness. Learning to respect others means to absolutely refuse to stereotype a person or people group.
When we have wronged another person, the right thing to do is to apologize. Respect is demonstrated when we apologize quickly because we recognize the other person, as a fellow image-bearer that we have slighted or harmed.
9. Form Opinions Carefully.
Respectful people practice the discipline of considering many viewpoints as they form opinions. They also prayerfully revisit an issue and consider changing their mind when new information becomes available.
10.Prompt and Faithful.
Those who respect others show up on time and do what they say they’re going to do. If someone is late, the message given to others is: I am more important than you. Honoring others’ time and following through with what you promised to do is a tangible way of respecting others.
Stages of Marriage
The day after Valentine’s I got reflecting on nearly 40 years of marriage, sitting in our local Starbuck’s. I was reminded that marriage goes through many stages, but three stand out to me. I have been through the first two, and on occasion slip back, but strive for stage 3.
Thanks to some old sermon notes from Rick Warren, these were the ‘high points’.
The happy honeymoon stage–characterized by intensity, idealism, indulgence, infatuation, and yes, ignorance😁
The party’s over stage is characterized by dullness, disagreements, defensiveness, disapproval, and alas disappointment
The maturing love stage is beautifully characterized by tenderness, respect and responsibility, understanding, security, trust and raw honesty, and of course lots of fun.
Oh for more of 3 and less of 1 and 2 stages.
“This is what love is”
I woke up this morning thinking about one of my favourite romantic love stories called Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001), starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. Although Cage plays a lousy Italian, the story is still well told. And the scenery is breathtaking and the people so winsome.
There’s a beautiful scene in the movie when Pelagia’s (Cruz) is being ‘coached’ by her physician father Iannis about what love really is. She is torn between two loves, a local greek fellow who has gone off to war, and now this mandolin playing and singing Italian soldier, Corelli.
Here’s the dialogue that I think so well sums up the potency of real love by her father.
Iannis: When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day. It is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. No… don’t blush. I am telling you some truths. For that is just being in love; which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But it is!
After I posted this a friend of mine, Josette Pappadakis, who is actually married to a Greek fellow, wrote the following about ‘what love really is’.
So between Corelli and Josette’s hubby, we have a great example of practical love.
Over to Josette, who a couple of weeks ago broke a bone and disabled her for a few weeks.
Being married 50 years I can attest to all of the above. True test of love come when you fall and break a bone and you have your husband helping uncomplainingly to shower and dress you. Even putting your socks on and serving me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tucking me in bed at night with a smile and a kiss. That is true love! I am so blessed. Thank God this is a temporary situation and I am beginning to do more little things for myself each day.
My #1’s for 2016
I find these few days just before and after New Year’s Eve slightly stressful. So much internal self imposed pressure to get my goals nailed down. I actually dread the process.
Don’t get me wrong. Setting goals you want to pursue and attain is a great exercise, but, ‘should’ing’ on yourself to do goals because you SHOULD is killing to one’s psyche. I do enjoy getting a cup of tea, sitting on my couch with my friend called Moleskin and writing away as I did today.
The feeling of ‘should’ing’ was alleviated by enlisting Brian Tracy’s “identify your #1 thing exercise’ exercise. This is something I enjoy. For me it’s always about the journey not just the result. I need to ‘enjoy’ goal setting, or ‘start and stop’ process. I can’t dread it or my creativity shuts down.
So here goes…..
- What’s the #1 thing I could start doing today, that if I did it consistently, would have the most positive impact in my life? (Then do it.)
- What’s the #1 thing I could stop doing right now, that, if I stopped doing would have the greatest positive impact on my life? (Then quit doing it.)
My # 1’s to start doing:
- Minimum 15 minute ‘chair time’ alone with God, reflecting, meditating, journaling, praying.
- Daily check in time with my best friend Rosetta, my wife.
- Be a positive influence on my adult kids and their kids on their terms.
- Keep sharpening my coaching capacity and competence with my mentor coach and joining CAM.
- Coach men to be life givers in their relational and work world’s.
- Keep focused on being an above average encourager and people builder.
- Keep growing margin financially, emotionally, and physically.
- Be ruthless with managing my weight and getting to 192Ibs
My # 1’s to stop doing include:
- Stop complaining and stop speaking critically of others when they aren’t around.
- Stop eating ‘fatty, crappy’ food and avoid starch like the plaque.
- Stop focusing on what I can’t do and focus on what I CAN do in regards to advancing my coaching practice.
And that’s it for now.
I plan to take football coach Jim Harbaugh to heart–to attack each day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
God helping me, I will!!
Summer Time and the Livin’ is Supposed to Be Easy
When I wrote this, I was on the eve of leaving for our annual family vacation.
While getting ready my wife asked me, “So, are you going to be working while we’re in Southampton or are you going to be able to rest?” She went on to add, “You won’t have any coach appointments next week, will you? I hope not.”
Actually, I did have a couple of things I had planned to respond to while away. Yet, after reflecting on her question, I called those people and rescheduled.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to totally disconnect from work-mode. Mind you, when I do finally disconnect, I love it. However, it takes me awhile.
The ancient Greeks had a saying that I remember when I am resisting rest…
“You will break the bow if you keep it always bent.”
We all need time away from work to relax and recover.
The late Tim Hansel wrote in his classic “When I Relax I Feel Guilty,”
“When work becomes a person’s all consuming interest, even if the work is good and necessary, it is idolatry.”
Strong words, but words worth taking to heart.
How can we keep our work from becoming a form of idolatry in our lives?
I suspect that as part of our Mavericks’ community, you are not a slouch! I also suspect that while you work hard, you also know that you are to “rest” – really rest. You know that honouring the Sabbath is to be part of who you are as a leader. You desire that to be the case, and yet, if you are like many I know, this may feel far from reality.
Here are a few thoughts to help inspire you to give yourself permission to do some deliberate leisure – to find some rest!.
The word ‘leisure’, from its Latin roots is ‘licere’ – which means ‘to be permitted’. If we are ever going to install leisure into the hard drives of our lives, we must give ourselves permission to do so.
For me, it includes taking care of myself in what I call my RPMS…
I have 3 practices that help me ensure my RPMS is in a solid place:
- Divert daily
- Withdraw weekly
- Abandon annually
Everyone achieves relaxation and leisure in different ways. What relaxes me might give you a tension headache and visa versa!
For me it involves regular downtimes—releasing the bent bow – putting limits on my work schedule and getting away for regular weekends.
Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, it’s informative to look at the Hebrew idea of Sabbath. The way the Hebrews understood the concept of ‘Sabbath’ was that the Creator had built into our physical makeup a need—even a requirement—for a day each week for rest, play, reflection, worship, and change of pace.
Taking care of your body is as much a spiritual discipline as is prayer, singing and Bible study. God wants you to rest. Rest your body and, in the process, recharge your mind, spirit and relationships.
The Apostle Paul says:
“God helping you, take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering” Romans 12:1 (MSG).
When you take care of your body, you worship God. It’s never too late to begin this important journey in your life.
If you need permission, look to our Saviour Jesus. He knew about the rhythms of rest and work. He invites us, as He did His disciples, to come away with Him and rest. In essence He was saying,
“If you don’t come apart, you will come apart”.
“The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. Mark 6:30-31 (MSG)
Waking Up Your Marriage with Relational Vitamin C’s
I first heard the concept of Vitamin C’s for couples by therapist Luke De Sadeleer. His list included the following Vitamin C’s-
-Caring, Change, Communication, Connection, Conflict, Creativity and Commitment.
Then I read another list of C’s from Pastor Rick Warren, that included a spiritual emphasis as well as psychological.
In June my wife and I celebrate 39 years of marriage. A wedding anniversary wakes us up to the past and also helps us to reflect on what we’re becoming as a couple.
In my marriage and marriage coaching I have discovered the importance of encouraging couples to daily take their daily dose of the 6 “Vitamin C’s” for a healthy and thriving marriage. I take these every day.
Wake up your marriage through communication.
Every day make time to talk with each other not to each other.
“It’s impossible to overemphasize the immense needs that humans have to be really listened to, taken seriously, and understood.” Paul Tournier
Wake up your marriage through consideration.
St Paul advises us to “Show your love by being helpful to each other.”
Consideration energizes a marriage. Consideration means paying attention to what your partner says, being thoughtful and showing common courtesies.
Wake up your marriage through compromise.
St Paul wrote, ‘Love does not demand its own way.”
Consider these facts of life:
1) You will have conflict in your marriage.
2) There are some issues you will never agree on.
3) Compromise is the evidence of real love.
Wake up your marriage through courtship.
Be each other’s best friends. It’s easy to leave your spouse, but it’s really hard to leave your best friend, so work hard at being best friends for the rest of your life. Date frequently.
Wake up your marriage through commitment.
Commitment says you are all in. Commitment says you will work through the problems and not seek solace from anyone else. God spoke concerning the vows of marriage through the prophet Malachi 2:16 “Make sure that you do not break your promise to be faithful to your mate.”
Wake up your marriage through an ongoing encounter with Jesus Christ.
I believe the most powerful C is a relationship with Christ as a couple.
As you make Christ the centre of your life together you will have the ability to accomplish the other five. It’s your individual relationship with Jesus that will give you the power and wisdom to practice the other Cs.
I have discovered after 39 years of marriage to the same woman that the grass is not greener on the other side, the grass is greenest where you water it.
So to wake up your marriage, start watering it.
Post 2014 Christmas Encouragement
We all long for Christmas to stay longer, maybe even forever, don’t we?There is something so special and magical and mystical about Christmas. Maybe that’s because Christmas isn’t primarily about ‘something’ but about ‘Someone’. This year I had a revelation like never before. Being Italian, family–la familia–is everything, but what struck me is that as great as family is, Christmas is NOT family, Christmas is the contagious presence of the person Jesus. And it is He who makes our family functions meaningful, purposeful and happy.
I heard the following summary of the beauty of the Christmas season by Father Cedric Pisegno, that gave me just the boost I need to go through the next year with courage, confidence, hope and love.
It is the Christmas Season:
This Christmas many think, “What difference does Emmanuel make?”
For us believers, “What a difference Emmanuel makes!”
We celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
Since God is with us, he makes all the difference in the world!
Because he is with me, I can:
Grieve well. Face the future. Let go of the past. Deal with difficult people. Live with peace. Have hope. Be strong. Face my challenges. Live with purpose and meaning. Forgive and live. Be spiritual. Love myself. Live with Passion. Realize my potential. Change, grow and become. Make a difference. Be reborn. Love others.
Emmanuel is born. The world will never be the same. We need time to embrace this truth and let it change us.