“It’s Like My Parents Used To Tell Me…”

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I only had one black eye, and I never raised a fist to get it!

“If I’d Only Known…” #3

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.  – Proverbs 1:8-9

I think back to my time as a teenager, and it probably was not that different from any other teen’s experiences today.  I’m learning things, doing more things, being given more responsibility, trying to figure out who I am going to be, working on being my own person, but in the middle of all of that there is a problem.  I still have people telling me what to do, my actions are questioned, and advice I might not want to hear is being thrust upon me.  Any teens reading this?  Am I remembering right?  I thought so.

It is a time of life that inherently involves struggle.  Some people say it is the “time for rebellion”, but I think that is an excuse for not addressing the issues properly.  The point of parenting is to get your kids to think and do for themselves so you don’t have to think and do for them.  Equip them for the world they will face so you will not need to keep doing it.  The thing is, in the midst of the process of creating people who think for themselves, a problem arises – THEY THINK FOR THEMSELVES!

There were struggles in my teen years as I watched my parents seemingly losing touch with the reality of life and how it should be handled by one such as myself.  I did not think they were losing their minds, but they did seem to be refusing to grow as I was, and it was just making it more difficult for us to connect.  I didn’t think they were hearing me, and many times they spoke in dialects that confused my ears as well.

There were times we connected on things and I was able to understand what they were saying, but there were many times that I took what I considered to be the best path because their words just made no sense to me.  I heard them, I remembered them, but I didn’t understand them.  I just filed them away in hopes that one day they might make sense.

Well, one day it happened.  There is an amazing thing that happens in the life of a man. Around the age of 23-25, his parents miraculously become smarter!  Their advice can once more be trusted and sought out as valid for application in life!  I know it sounds odd that two people who have had such a slide in mental faculties throughout their child’s teenage years can once again be trusted as being a resource for wisdom, but it is true!

The reality, of course, is that all of the things they taught me through those “hard years” just finally started to make sense in my head.  All of those platitudes of wisdom now had weight and meaning and were beginning to serve as the building blocks of how I would live my life.  I now understood the dialect and could understand not only the meanings of the words, but also the heart that had been behind them.  The result was that the same phrases that caused such frustration were now comforting to me, and served me as guides in different situations.

I am now the father of two of those “teenage” beings.  I see the look of confusion in their faces sometimes as I speak to them, and I know that they are experiencing the same thing I did when I was their age.  I see their frustration with me, and I know I feel it at times as well.  I recognize it is part of the process.  They are great kids, and I am very thankful of them.  They have made the hard job of parenting easier than I deserve.

I find myself saying some of the same things my parents said to me “back in the day.”  Those bits of wisdom, those phrases, those pieces of instruction are a part of who I am now.  They have shaped my foundation for living.  Relentless Living means I cannot consider myself complete because of them though.  There is more to do, and my relationship with God is necessary for that to happen.  I want to give my kids even more to help them as they grow.

My hope is that one day (by my calculations it will be in around 7-9 years) they will come to the same conclusion that I came to with my parents.  I was loved enough to be watched and instructed.  My prayer is that they will understand that and that they will remember what they learned and go on to do all the bigger and better things they hope to accomplish.  Then one day they can say,

“It’s like my Dad used to say…”

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Sometimes You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

card-catalog-drawers-jeremy-woodhouseIf I’d Only Known… #2

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, – Proverbs 1:5

I’m going to date myself a little bit here. How many people even know what this is a picture of? Here’s a hint: You used to find them in a public building that housed shelves and shelves of books. Answer: A card catalog. They held all the information you needed to find any book in the library on any given topic by any given author. There were variations in how they were structured, but in the end they were all the same in one respect. The card catalog was a simple system that helped millions of kids write term papers. I should know. I was one of them.

I remember going into the library with an idea in my head on what I wanted to write about and no idea where to get the information I needed. A librarian would come over and take me to that huge cabinet of drawers filled with thousands of cards and before too long I had a list of books, authors, and shelf locations that would take me the second stage of the library visit – the hunt for books.

Often when I was looking for my resources I would only have a general idea of what I was writing about, and usually that idea gave me more than enough of the information I thought I needed on the topic, but when I would start digging through the catalog, something happened. I found out that there were things I didn’t know that I didn’t know! The longer I spent in the topical cards, the more books I found that would help me write a paper far more informative than anything I would have been able to do on my own. The card catalog and the librarian acted as facilitators to get me to the understanding that I was looking for.

About 10 years ago, I started to realize that I had some things I needed to learn regarding my walk with Christ. I went to some people that should have been able to help me, but they had their own idea of what I was looking for and decided to try and take me down a similar, but different road. I wasn’t precisely sure what I was looking for, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was “looking in the wrong card catalog.”

Over the next couple of years, I bounced through several books, listened to a lot of teaching on the radio, and began to develop a dependence on the Bible for finding things out. I was finding a ton of information, more than I knew what to do with, and before long I came to the conclusion that I knew a lot of stuff, but what I really needed to understand was that there were things I didn’t know that I needed to know.

Through a series of events, I met a man that I would soon call my pastor, then my mentor or “rabbi”, and now my friend. Through his kind, but probing questions, he brought me to the conclusion that while I did know a lot, what I didn’t know was what to do with what I knew. It was that point of application that would eventually bring some real life change out in me.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of Relentless Living for me. By being willing to realize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I was able to learn so much more. It taught me to listen to people, enter their pain, and encourage them through hard times. It has allowed me to make better friends, and see growth in my personal life.

If you want to avoid having a lot of “If I only…” moments, start living a Relentless Life! Look for people who can help you with the things you are trying to learn. Find that person that seems to be so proficient in your area of interest and start a relationship with them. You will find that when a person is passionate about something, they are happy to teach it – especially to someone they see shares that passion!

The only way I will ever be able to repay my “rabbi” for all the help he has given me is to take his passion for growing believers that he fanned to a flame in my life and do the same with others. The best part of it is that as I do it, I am always learning something that I didn’t know I didn’t know! It is a mutually beneficial relationship, and as the “rabbi” is so fond of saying, “Tomas, my boy, it is all about relationships!”

I know that now!

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“You’re Not As Smart As You Think You Are!”

Criminal-Minds-Season-7-Episode-11-22-1a14If I’d Only Known… #1

To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, – Proverbs 1:2

“You’re not as smart as you think you are!”  Honestly, if I had gotten nickel every time I heard that as a 13-18 year old I would have…well, probably nothing more than a regret that I had lost a lot of nickels.  I heard it a lot, and I never believed a word of it.  Frankly, it didn’t make sense.  I was a great student – had gotten pretty much straight A’s since Kindergarten.  I was a valued employee that was always given extra responsibility at work because I “made things happen.”  I even had people tell me all the time that I had a smart mouth! (OK, that might not be the best defense…)  Whether it was my parents, my teachers, or the random adults I came across that spoke those words to me, I always seemed to turn a deaf ear to them.

My mind was like a sponge growing up, and I learned all sorts of stuff.  Trivia was like a drug for me, and the more I knew about something the better.  I would read books on trivia, memorize the Trivial Pursuit card decks, and browse dictionaries and encyclopedias just to increase my knowledge. (Notice that there was no mention of electronic media. No Google back then.  We had to actually know things! *said in a curmudgeonly voice*) I wanted to be that smartest person in the room.

What I did know was impressive, but looking back now, I see that I was deficient.  I knew a lot, but I didn’t have any experience in handling that knowledge, and not a clue with what to do with it.  I also had a little too much pride to realize I needed help with that.  Looking back, I wish I had only known that knowledge is where things start.  You need knowledge to get the ball rolling.  there is an old saying, “That guy not only doesn’t know anything, he doesn’t even suspect anything.”  There is a process, and here is how I see that process working:

  1. Knowledge – A collection of facts.  Purely data that you are capable of retaining.  It requires nothing more than a place to store it. You can use a brain, or you can write it down and keep it in a folder.  At this point you aren’t doing anything with it anyway.
  2. Understanding – You begin to see that the data you have might be useful in certain circumstances.  You might not know what to do with it, but you can see it has some type of potential if you can just get the pieces put together the right way.  Understanding is  a bridge that takes you from knowledge to wisdom.
  3. Wisdom – Practical application of knowledge.  This is taking what you know and applying it to a situation to achieve a result.  It might not always succeed, but it is using what you know in a constructive way.
  4. Insight – Personally I think this one is a God-given thing.  Insight is being able to draw wisdom intuitively out of something you read or see and use it to teach or help someone else. (This is my definition, anyway.  Webster may have something else to say about it.)

It has taken the last 20 or so years to get a better understanding of how smart I was back then.  There were things I needed to learn, and I probably missed some great opportunities to gain wisdom at an earlier age.  Look back at your own life before you throw any stones though.  This is a common affliction among the young.  At some point most people will grow out of it though.

I wish I had known the importance of looking deeper when I was younger.  At some point I started to need to not only know more, but I needed to know what to do with it.  Once I realized there was more to it than just being smart, the journey really began.

Relentless Living is not being willing to stay put.  My wife and I joked yesterday with our friends about how much easier it would be to live a Sedentary Life or a Stagnant Life, but there is no growth there.  If I’m going to be Relentless in my life and in my pursuit of God, then I need to be willing to admit I don’t know everything.  I need to try an understand what is going on in my life and then do something with what I know, all while asking God for the insight needed.  After all, He knows the answers!

I hope that today I can say that I am as smart as I think I am.  I know now that there are a lot of things I don’t know!  I have a better understanding of myself, my abilities, my personality, and my sphere of influence.  I make mistakes, but I learn from them now rather than blame someone else.  I still want to learn, but not to hold knowledge.  I want the things I learn to be useful in helping others.  It’s a process, and when I have a set-back I can now look back and see that things are getting better.  God is working in me – Relentlessly

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