Blog

Leadership, Lists, parenting

It would be an honor: 4 qualities to implement in our lives

Recently, Carissa and I had a proud parenting moment.  We attended the induction ceremony for the local chapter of the National Honor Society to watch our oldest daughter, Julie, be inducted.  It was both an exciting and proud moment for us as parents.

Julie had been downplaying the event and was even surprised that all her siblings and grandparents were going to be attending.  I appreciate that for her the hard work that she was accustomed to was not something out of the ordinary.  It was just something she did.  For her, she didn’t believe it to be anything big to be celebrated.  We tried to encourage her with the idea that it was unique and a big accomplishment.  If it wasn’t, there would be a lot more people with the opportunity to be inducted.

On the night of the ceremony, obviously, the highlight was seeing Julie walk across the stage.  There were also a lot of boring parts to the ceremony as well when people read what they were required to read and gave their required speeches.  I did however find myself enjoying the lighting of the candles.  There were four candles in particular that were lit, and each represented a pillar of the National Honor Society:  Scholarship, Character, Leadership, and Service.

Each of these qualities are the things that make up the National Honor Society and its members.  These are the things that they look for when considering who’s in and who’s not each year.  And as I thought about these, it got me thinking that these are qualities we should all be seeking after.

  1. Scholarship

Academics.  Learning.  Knowledge.  We should all be curious and wanting to learn more.  Never get to a point where your mind stops growing.  When I was coaching, we used to say we wanted players who were coachable.  I believe that applies here.  We as people need to be willing to accept teaching when it comes our way and have a desire to seek it out.  We are always on a journey and will never completely “arrive.”

  1. Character

The great coach John Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”  Our character is the real us.  It’s living with integrity and standing for what’s right.  This is done whether people see it or not.  I believe there is a greater calling to this from our Creator, but at the very least this is being a decent human-being.

  1. Leadership

Leadership expert John C. Maxwell has told us that leadership is influence.  With that, we can see that leadership could go in a lot of directions.  We can influence people for the positive or the negative.  Sometimes we downplay leadership and may make comments that we are not leaders, but the truth is, we are all leaders in one way or another.  The reason is that we all have influence of some form.  Since we are all leaders, we should strive to be the best leaders possible.  We should seek to have positive influence on those around us.

  1. Service

Service is about lending a hand.  It’s about reaching out to others to offer yourself in one way or another.  No matter who we are or where we find ourselves in life, we can all use a hand from time to time.  As people, we were designed for relationships; we were designed for community.  When we are in community, if we keep our eyes open, it doesn’t take long before we see opportunities to serve.

 

Maybe Julie was onto something by downplaying this.  These are qualities that anyone can possess, and really all of us should possess.  I still believe this to be something worth celebrating since this was a big accomplishment.  For the rest of us though, if we are to make these qualities a part of who we are, it will take some intentionality.

 

What steps are you currently taking to grow in these areas?  What steps could you take to start growing in these areas?

Advertisements
Daily Life, Uncategorized

Beauty: the keyhole to eternity

“Beauty will save the world.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot.

I’ve heard that saying many times.  Perhaps quoted in art museums.  On t-shirts.  But whether you believe beauty can save the world or not, beauty does have the unique ability to pull back the curtain of our cares and worries and leave us fully exposed to one moment in time when our souls resonate with eternity.  Perhaps you’ve stood on a mountain top or stood by the ocean and experienced such a moment.  The ancient Celts called those “thin places.”

Beauty-the keyhole to eternity

On Monday night this week, I was driving to a friend’s home to drop off some homemade nurturing food as she is re-cooperating from surgery.  As I drove up 15 N, a drive I make on a regular basis, beauty pulled back the curtain, and for a moment I caught a glimpse of eternity.

The sun was glistening on the trees on the mountains. Those trees had been drenched all day in rain,  but the sun had finally come out.  The lengthening shadows intersected the rays of sunshine, leaving the mountains looking marbled.  The clouds that remained from a day of storms shone rosy gold in ethereal tones.  My heart actually physically ached from the beauty, and a sob caught in my throat.  This moment was gift to me from my loving Heavenly Father, and I was acutely aware.

Immediately, my mind flashed to the story from The Last Battle when the children enter the stable door and find themselves in a more Narnian Narnia than the one they just left.  And they realize that they must go “further up and further in,” for each ring of Narnian mountains leads to another even more Narnian Narnia.  A picture of eternity.

Eternity is written on our hearts and beauty is a keyhole to that place where we know we were made for more than this world.

Holidays, Uncategorized

To everything there is a season: Sukkot 2017

To everything there is a season…

Untitled Design (1)We are in the midst of Sukkot, what Christians might know better from their Sunday school lessons as The Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths.  God gives the directions for celebrating in Leviticus 23.

39 “‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of Sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of Sabbath rest. 40 On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’”

Leviticus 23: 39-43

Sukkot is both a reflection on the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert before they entered the Promised Land as well as a festival of thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest (and in the desert culture of ancient Israel, also a prayer for rain!).  Sukkot is celebrated just five days following Yom Kippur which follows 10 days after Rosh Hashanah.  This time of year is full of celebrations!  And of the three holidays, Sukkot is considered to be the most joyful and often includes loud singing and dancing (we haven’t done this part yet, but I think a family dance party is overdue!).

Traditionally, to celebrate Sukkot, families build temporary shelters to eat in, to study in, to even sleep in.  We are really terrible at building things:  we put up a pop-up canopy.  For any readers who have actually built a sukkah , you have my admiration. We moved a table onto the deck and we have been eating outside.

Our first evening we had roast beef with fall veggies and for dessert we had caramel apples that I’ve been hoarding since the Great Frederick Fair.  All the children (except Julie who is injured and on crutches right now) helped prepare the table for dinner.  Raegan especially enjoyed getting out the nice dishes and setting a proper table (I confess, I use paper plates FAR too often—mostly because our dish washer is broken).   “Mommy I love a fancy table!”

Last night, I was ready to just use paper plates, but Raegan insisted on setting a nicer table.  I’m glad I have my girl to keep me on track!  She’s absolutely right of course:  celebrations need our full attention.  So we used real plates to eat our rice and stir-fried veggies with popsicles for desert.

Each night we’ve read a chapter from Ecclesiastes (which is traditionally read during this week).  Night one we read chapter 1, and night 2 we read chapter 3.  Jay couldn’t resist singing the first part of the chapter to the well-known melody, Turn, Turn, Turn.

My favorite part of our celebration so far was when we saw the stars come out during dinner (we have to eat late since Jay works until 7), and I wondered out loud if the Israelites who lived in tents ever saw the stars and wondered if the promise had been fulfilled.  Jay asked the kids what I meant by that.  Listening to Caedmon talk about God’s promise to Abraham that the Israelites would be as the sands of the sea, and knowing that in Romans 9 we see the grafting in of the Gentiles into that promise, my heart was full.

 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
    and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”

Romans 9:24-25

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you enjoy the season of fall, we invite you to join in the celebration of Sukkot.  Put up a tent or a canopy and eat outside (or just eat a picnic outside!). Have a family dance party.  Read Ecclesiastes this week.  Or just soak in the bounty of the season and give thanks to the One who provides, Jehovah Jireh.

Holidays, Lists, Uncategorized

When “why” is silent

Why? Why? Why?

Do you ever want to know why?

Right now why is on my mind?   Why?  Well, I think I have an idea at least in this moment, but a lot of times we want to know why and we don’t have an answer.

Simon Sinek, the leadership author, tells us what to do in his famous book, Start with Why?  The title says it all.  We need to start with why.  Now of course, he’s referring to leadership, since one must start with why in order to solidify their mission.  But is this any different in our personal lives?  We often want to start with why.

I like to know why on just about anything.  I’m not content to know what something does.  I want to know why it does what it does.  When I find the why, I can make sense of it.  I can understand it.

On Oct 4, the Jewish celebration of Sukkot begins.  This is the celebration sometimes known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths.  It takes place at the end of the harvest season and is meant to be a time to be thankful for God’s provision and protection as He brought the people out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness.  They lived in tents or booths during that time, hence the name.  The celebration is also meant to be a time to be thankful for God’s supply as the harvest has come to a close.

One of the traditions during this festival is to read the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.  Now back to the why.  There does not seem to be a consensus as to why Ecclesiastes is read.  People have written about this tradition but there does not seem to be a common agreement as to why this is done or where this part of the tradition comes from.

Why this tradition is done is really a small matter, but here’s what I know, and I’m sure you know as well.  In life, we don’t always get an answer when we ask why.  Sometimes things take place and we immediately ask why, yet no answer is returned.  Why did they get sick?  Why does life have to hurt so much sometimes?  Why did that tragedy happen?

Recently a tragedy took place in Las Vegas.  We ask why.  Silence.  In those moments what do we cling to?  There is no why to help us make sense of it.  It’s in times like this that it is helpful to cling to what we do know.

So with Sukkot about to begin, let me offer four thoughts from Ecclesiastes for times of uncertainty:

  1. Life is seasonal.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven:

The beauty of a season is that it changes.  Things don’t stay the same.  Tragedy does not last.  It hurts and is often not understood in the moment, but it will pass.  Times of joy will return.  Everything has a season.

  1. Life is broken.

Ecclesiastes 7:29

Only see this: I have discovered that God made people upright, but they pursued many schemes.

How is it that evil seems to rule at times?  Why does God allow some things to happen when He has the power to stop it?  There might be ways to explain that, but one thing is sure.  The brokenness of this world was not the original creation.  The world is not as it was meant to be.  God, however, is in the business of making all things new.

  1. Life is meaningful.

Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13

So remember your Creator in the days of your youth:

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.

Ecclesiastes gets a reputation as being a negative book because the writer continues to state throughout that all is vanity.  Vanity actually has the idea of disappearing.  Life is here for a moment and then it is gone.  The conclusion though is not that life is meaningless, but that a true, meaningful, and purposeful life is tied to the Creator.

  1. Life is judged.

Ecclesiastes 12:14

For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

God is on His throne, and as the one on the throne, He is the one who judges.  God sees the evil and tragedy of this world.  Evil may have its season, but God ultimately will judge.  Evil does not go unanswered.

I hope you find these Sukkot thoughts encouraging.  We are looking forward to experiencing this celebration.  On Friday, Carissa will bring a review of our experience on the first two nights.

Holidays, Uncategorized

Playing catch-up: How many holidays in one post?

It’s not your imagination if you’re thinking what in the world happened to Seeking Shalom.  This blog just completely disappeared off the map.  To our readers, I apologize for two weeks of silence.  I have been struggling with auto-immune issues and trying to stay afloat in my grad school responsibilities and Jay has been busy preaching and helping to care for our family.  And in the past two weeks, two major Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have taken place.  Here’s how we marked them.

21752055_1669650933106994_7724084159888008732_n

Rosh Hashanah (September 19-20)

Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the Jewish new year.  It is a time of new beginnings.  It’s traditional to serve apples and honey to celebrate the sweetness of the new year.

For our family, our kids were out of school for the day, and I was feeling rough.  I had a paper due for school and the last thing I wanted to think about was more work to celebrate.  And my oldest child made plans to go to the Fair with her friends.  I was definitely not feeling festive.

But I had talked to my kids about the fact that we were going to celebrate…so I decided to make at least a little effort.  Avaril and I headed off to Wegman’s to buy some food.  We found exactly what we were looking for:  apples, challah, pomegranates (also traditional), fish, and broccoli (her choice).  We also bought a roasted chicken for the non-fish eaters in our house.  With our bounty in hand we headed home to prepare a feast (ish).  Although originally, I had intended to attempt a honey cake, my energy level was not up to trying a new recipe, so I settle for making an apple crisp.  I made oven roasted potatoes, fish (seasoned with garlic and dill,  which Jay and Avaril promptly added Old Bay to—what can I say, we’re Maryland folk!), and broccoli.   It was fun to tell the kids why the Challah looked different and to explain the round shape was to mark the completion of the year’s cycle.  Jay even ate honey on his challah to experience the honey tradition.  And we attempted to blow our shofar– it’s a lot more difficult than it looks, and out of everyone in the house, Raegan is the best!

And even though it was not the lavish affair that my Pinterest boards may have lauded, I was certainly glad that we had made the effort to celebrate (at least a little).

Yom Kippur (September 30)

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.  It is the day of atonement.  Adults fast from sundown to sundown and repent of their sins.

I’ll be honest.  I worked on 2 projects for my classes that were each 20% of my grade that were due.  I spent all day sitting in the office typing and running out to the living room to attend to my youngest daughter, Raegan, who was sick with a fever.

Jay had a budget meeting for our church association in the morning, and then Caed and Avaril had football games in the afternoon.

Holy day of reflective thoughts?  Not so much.  Did I fast?   No, I didn’t.  But the beautiful thing about this is, I don’t have to do any of those things to earn approval from God. My redeemer, Jesus Christ, has bought the payment for my sin with his blood.  Although, I think it is always appropriate for self-reflection and repentance before the Holy God of Israel (Search me O God and know my heart!), I do not need to do anything more than to place my faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Thre is nothing I can do to make God

Even though our year of Jewish festivals has gotten off to a less than auspicious beginning, I’m excited about Sukkot which starts this week.  Watch for upcoming posts coming on Wednesday!

 

 

Lists

Five Tips To Surviving Your Spouse Being Away

Surviving

Carissa is at Liberty University this week taking another class as she works towards her master’s degree in counseling.  This isn’t the first time she taken a class like this, and as a result, I’ve had some practice at parenting when she is away.  The truth is, just because mom is away doesn’t mean the craziness of life ceases.  School and other activities do not stop.  We have to feed our kids because that is considered socially acceptable. Wink. Wink.  They still need  to take baths at night and get up in the morning.  It got me thinking about how I survive when she is gone.  Let me offer five tips that have worked for me.  You may find them helpful as well.

  1. Be flexible.

If you are like most people, your life is extremely busy, and we are no different.  When one of us is out of town, it is obviously more challenging to control the chaos of the week’s activities.  Like you, we have a certain way we like to manage our household.  There’s a bedtime, a dinnertime, a bath-time, etc.  Combine that with the fact that your day job doesn’t disappear just because your spouse is gone.  I have found that flexibility is key.  Allow yourself the space to veer off schedule if need be.  It may not be exactly how things are normally run, but your kids will survive and so will you.

  1. Make it fun.

I have to admit that sometimes I can be the stereotype of the dad who can let things get out of control when mom is out of town.  I’ve found though that making things fun is beneficial to all involved.  It takes some stress off of you as the parent.  It helps the kids to not miss mom as much.  It also may allow you to connect with the kids a little more than normal. Go out to eat. Have a family-movie-night.  Do dinner and a movie.  Play games together.  Notice I mentioned several things about eating.  That’s because one of the easiest ways to make it fun is making sure you have food that your kids enjoy.  Don’t make it difficult on yourself by fixing the veggies that they need to eat but don’t want to.  You can save that for another time.  You’ll thank me later.

  1. Give yourself some grace.

Go easy on yourself and allow some grace if you fall short of your expectations.  Sure, you didn’t get everything done that you wanted to.  You didn’t get to work on that project.  Maybe you had dinner later than planned, or the kids went to bed a little late.  That’s ok.  You are not a failure.  Things happen.  Plus, I’m sure your kids won’t complain about staying up late.

  1. Do not deflect frustration.

Early this week, I had a frustrating day at my job with the healthcare company.  From the beginning of the day I was on a trajectory that didn’t get any better as the day went on.  I work out of our house, and as I was closing up for the day, I could hear two of my kids fighting in the living room.  It was obvious that the evening was going to be a challenge after having the day I had just experienced.  We all have challenging days and frustrations, but keep in mind kids are kids.  As easy as it may be, we need to fight the urge to deflect our frustrations onto them.  For me that meant saying a prayer before I left my office and later doing a FaceTime with Carissa.  It could also mean taking a deep breath or going for a quick walk.

  1. Be Considerate.

What I’m getting at here is just making sure that your spouse doesn’t come home to more work than when she left.  This means cleaning up the house.  Don’t leave a pile of dishes in the kitchen or things all over the living-room.  It may mean catching up on the laundry and vacuuming if need be.  Get the kids involved.  It’s a team-effort, and everyone has a part.  This is merely being considerate.  If your spouse has been away for school or away for some other reason, she will be tired when she gets home but will appreciate the opportunity to recover from the trip without having to worry about getting the house back together.

Do you ever parent when your spouse is away?  What has worked for you?

 

Lists

Making time for who’s important

Untitled Design

365 days in a year, twelve months in a year, 30 days in a month, 7 days in a week, 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute.  We are all given the same amount of time in any given day, week, month, or year.  We all have the same opportunities to make choices that reflect our values.  Research on regret shows that at the end of a person’s life, they don’t regret business or investment decisions, rather, they regret not spending enough time with those that they loved.   I am determined that I don’t want that to be my regret.  I’d like to offer you four ways to make time for who’s important to you.

  1.  Schedule time.   Plan a regular date night with your spouse.  Keep a standing coffee date with a friend.  Make one night of the week your regular family night.  Many of us Americans allow our calendars to fill up with a plethora of activities, and we leave out spending time with those that we love.  We can’t just expect that our friendships, our marriages, and our relationships with our children will magically be perfect.  We need to set our intent to nurture the relationships that are important to us.
  2. Be fully present.  “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,”  Simone Weil.  Give the person you love the gift of your full and undivided attention.  Cell phones don’t belong at the dinner table- #unpopularopinions.   A couple of years ago, I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone while having a conversation with my youngest daughter, Raegan, who was five at the time.  “Mommy, I want you to see me,” she said, placing her chubby little hands on each cheek and turning my face away from my phone and facing her own.  “That’s better!”  Raegan knows what we as adults have somehow forgotten, if we want to know and be known, we need to have our full attention on each other.
  3. Prioritize.  Our calendars reflect our priorities.  If our priority is a calm and peaceful life, not every day can have 20 after-school enrichment activities.  We can’t do everything, which leads me to my next point.
  4. Say no.  Now at the risk of every school, church, synagogue, and non-profit sending me angry e-mails and leaving comments, I still say we need to learn to say no.  Is it good to volunteer your time to these organizations?  Absolutely, yes.  But not to the detriment of spending time with those you love (although, I suppose you could volunteer together!).  I ignored this rule earlier this summer, and I ended up being very burnt out emotionally.  Lesson learned!

What are your favorite ways to make time for those that you love?  Leave them in the comments!

 

Uncategorized

In the beginning…

When this idea entered my head a few months ago, I at first dismissed it at completely insane.  Follow Jewish traditions and customs and holidays for a year?  Why would a Christian pastor’s family decide to do this?  Surely there is no need.  Why make life more complicated than it already is?  Why do I need to add something else to my already full and overflowing plate?  What value does practicing Judaism hold for a Christian family?  Hasn’t the law already been fulfilled perfectly in the person of Jesus?

Maybe a little back story will help fill in some of those blanks.  I began to practice Shabbat regularly after a trip to Colorado with Soulation, where I was introduced to the Christian practice of Shabbat.  What I discovered in my pursuit is that taking a day out of the week to recharge and to rest gives me unbelievable purpose throughout the rest of the week to accomplish the tasks set before me.  I discovered the sweetness of building a palace in time to experience a deeper, fuller relationship with God and to have space to hear my own thoughts.  And it left me wanting more.  I wanted to experience God through the process that he gave his chosen people more than 4000 years ago.  I want to gain a deeper, hand-on understanding of the pictures of himself that God has woven into Jewish festivals and Jewish life.

15873138_10212150483058531_838126654617870821_n
Our candles lit for a recent Shabbat.

So the more I thought about my insane idea, the more it just made sense.  So we will be floundering through this year.  I don’t speak Hebrew.  Or read it.  We are incredibly busy and there will probably be times when we don’t get to celebrate a holiday in its full glory.  Our celebrations will be new and unrefined and maybe even awkward, instead of the comfortable familiarity that holidays are normally imbued with.  But my hope is that my faith will be deepened.  My expectation is that my family will enjoy the adventure.  And my prayer is that we will find the shalom that so often eludes this busy American family. Our adventure begins at sundown on September 20.  Won’t you join us and follow our progress?