Dear world, I’m really tired of being ashamed
The truth is I’ve lived with it for most of my life. Oh there are moments when it doesn’t hurt as much, but that doesn’t change the fact that shame is always there.
The crazy thing is I have no real reason to be ashamed
- I work hard
- I’m constantly looking for other ways to help others
- I respond to stress in a positive way 
- And I’ve committed my life to sharing the Gospel with people in another culture
So why am I so ashamed when I fall asleep at night? Simply because my life isn’t like everybody elses
see we have created a culture through media (tv, movies) and our friends that describes in detail what a person should be like.
- You should be married and have children
- Have a full time job
- A healthy social life
- And incredibly busy schedule that has absolutely no free time
Here’s the thing…my life isn’t like that
- I’m in my late thirties and single
- As a Missionary I don’t have a regular nine to five job since all of my time is focused on ministry (I do work incredibly hard, but not in a regular job)
- To be honest I’m kind of an introvert so the social life isn’t too strong
- And being on my own means actually having free time every once in a while
So without even thinking about it I become kind of ashamed and reclusive sometimes.
But not anymore
Because I realized our cultures emphasis on being just like eveyone else focuses my mind only on the things I CAN’T do. Instead of the awesome things that I CAN do.
- I am a personal tutor to children with special needs
- A comedic actor
- A entertainer 
- A Ghost Story teller
- An invaluable source of tech help 
- A marathon runner
- A silly uncle
Sadly there are many people out there like me who don’t fit into the idea of what people should be like, but we tend to hide our uniqueness 
Which makes me wonder…what would happen if all us decided to embrace our uniqueness instead of trying to hide it?
Look I understand there is a need for growth and development. But I’m done being embarrassed just because I am different than everyone else.
Because there is only one of me
And that’s alright as far as I’m concerned
Every Tuesday afternoon I’m involved with an after-school Bible program at a local school for first and second graders. I am aware this is a worst nightmare for some people, but I actually enjoy it .
What I don’t necessarily enjoy is bringing structure to the group.
Structure is the process of getting a group of young people under control using a reward or consequences system .
This usually takes time since some children don’t have a concept of consequences when doing the wrong thing, but after a few weeks they start to understand.
This year has been a lot harder since our group has twenty-four first and second graders in a very small room 
Being in this situation has reminded me that many of us (myself included) don’t really know how to teach children structure without using physical discipline . So today I want to share some ideas on how to do it.
With that in mind here are some things that DON’T bring structure:
- Yelling at the child (it just confuses them)
- Embarrassing the child (James you have been doing the wrong thing all class!)
- Threatening the child (if you don’t stop I will)
- Any kind of touching (includes putting a hand on their shoulder)
While not perfect, here is an idea of the step by step process we are using in our after-school Bible program
Step One: Create a clear understanding of rules at the beginning (for us it’s if you get three warnings you don’t get any candy) and remind children during the class time.
A good practice is allowing the children to tell you the rules (what happens if Mr. John gets three warnings?)
Step Two: If a student is disobeying give them a verbal warning in a very calm voice by name (James that’s one). This can also be an opportunity to remind them of what will happen if they get two more warnings.
While this can embarrass the child, doing it in a calm voice and in a very short sentence makes it less difficult for them
Step Three: Second warning involves moving their chair to another area of the room. Teacher sits with the child (making sure to look them right in the eyes), explains why they are there, and reminds them of what will happen if they continue to disobey
Editors note: Child is allowed to return their chair to a different spot after five minutes
Step Four: If child continues to disobey they are given a final verbal reprimand in a very calm voice (okay james that’s three). It isn’t necessary to explain what that means because he knows he won’t get candy.
Step Five: If child loses their candy two weeks in a row, then they aren’t allowed to sit with their friends. Instead the teacher or worker will choose a seat for them .
This kind of a system does involve a lot of work. I am pretty much the muscle (okay you can stop laughing now) during our whole Bible program. But it’s absolutely necessary…because children don’t understand the “If I do bad things then there will be consequences” concept.
- Because they experience discipline done in anger, or without a clear explanation of WHY they are disciplined
- Their parents promise of discipline often aren’t followed through. Editors note: Just so we are clear I am not blaming the parents for this structure problem. Creating an understanding of it takes lots of extra time and energy, which unfortunately few of us have. In reality there is often a need for individuals outside the parents (school teacher, family member) to help children understand these concepts.
- Discipline seems to come out of nowhere (not really, but there needs to be a system that REMINDS the child of the coming consequences)
- And it’s very easy to show love and give a child a reward even when they don’t deserve it
There is of course a place for physical discipline when dealing with children. But it’s hugely important we first create a system that teaches them right from wrong…and if they freely choose to do the wrong thing there will be consequences
- The Lord has blessed me with a love for helping young children, and an ability to connect with them ↩
- For instance if your good you get candy (reward) but if you aren’t then you don’t get candy (consequence) ↩
- It’s been three weeks and they are STARTING to get it ↩
- Trust me I am a proponent of physical disicipline (my parents are also big fans) but there are instances where we can’t use it. So it’s important for us to understand how to bring structure without any physical action ↩
- Often the problem is the people they sit with laughing at everything a child does ↩
Last Saturday I ran with a friend who recently completed the New York City Marathon (and instantly became my hero). As you can imagine we spent a lot of time talking about her experience, and one thing she said stuck in my mind.
According to her the first eighteen miles “just flew by”
Just so you know, that isn’t the normal response
I remember what she said while having lunch with friends yesterday. One of them told me about a couple who decided to run a marathon, and had a very different experience.
Around mile eighteen she started vomiting heavily and it took her about an hour to get started again
Hearing two very different stories during the same weekend had a strong effect on me. Personally I expect myself to be somewhere in the middle 
Obviously there is a big difference between running strong and puking your brains out, but the question is what makes that difference.
The answer is quite simple…practicing running longer distances
See for the last eighteen weeks my training group has met at 6:15 Saturday morning (usually) for the groups long run.
How long a run you may ask? Well let me put it this way, just on Saturdays we ran around 253 miles combined.
Oh wait it gets better…
In the month of October my Saturday runs looked like this:
- Eighteen miles
- Fourteen miles (including every hill in Winston Salem)
- Twenty miles
- Twenty-Two miles
If you multiply all of our Saturday miles by the average time it takes to run one (and divide by sixty) you come up with about forty-two hours spent just running on Saturdays.
The reason why people don’t run marathons (or get in shape) isn’t because we are all just incredibly lazy. It’s because of the huge committment required .
That’s why it’s easy to approach something like fitness and think “you know I could probably get by with doing less”
Don’t do it
You will find yourself puking on the side of the road instead of finishing strong.
It’s far better to count the cost, make a conscious decision about whether or not you can do this, and follow through to the end.
I was talking with my brother (who is also running the marathon) on Saturday and he encouraged me to “just enjoy the race.”
And as crazy as it may sound…I think I will
This week I made a drastic change that will not only affect my ministry, put personal life, and help the return to Australia. It’s something that’s needed to be done for a long time but I kept putting it off. This week that finally came to a stop.
What is this huge decision?
No more buying snacks
Over the years I’ve developed a habit of buying cheap snacks during the day costing one or two dollars. It began with 59-cent donuts at Walmart, but has since grown to include fruit pies, potato chips, and goldfish among other things
Most people stop buying these kinds of snacks because they are unhealthy but that isn’t necessarily my problem. You would be amazed at how much junk food a person can eat while training for a marathon .
The change came as I looked at my expenses for the month of October and was shocked how many fit into the “junk food” category. Those transactions showed just how much power snacks had over me.
The problem with cheap junk food is you don’t really think about buying it because they are only a few dollars. However it’s surprising how quickly those two-dollar expenses can add up
Please don’t think I’m against junk food (trust me I am a huge fan). However more than ever before it’s important for us to be careful with our money .
And though most of us do a great job of evaluating larger expenses, it’s easy to overlook that sixty-cent donut (or how many of them we buy in a month).
In the end I want my money to be invested in things that really matter
- Like sharing the Gospel of Christ with others
- Ministering the needs of families who are financially struggling
- Offering services for free that people would normally pay for
- And helping those in foreign Countries who don’t have what we enjoy
In order to do this things like junk food have to go
- The cherry pies
- The Pepsi
- The Chips
- The Crackers
- And yes even the donuts
It will be a sacrifice but I think that I’ll live.
My day usually ends with me lying in bed watching Netflix at around 9:30. Now there’s nothing wrong with watching some television after a long day, however starting tonight I’m going to start doing things much differently.
Instead of lying in bed and just watching a show I will watch it actively sitting in a chair or on the couch trying to discover the worldview it is teaching
This change in philosophy came from reading a book called “Meaning At The Movies” by Grant Horner.
What makes this book interesting is Mr. Horner doesn’t spend time focusing on the kind of movies we shouldn’t watch, but instead challenges individuals to discern what they are watching .
The point is that while half-asleep in my bed I’m definitey not actively discerning anything  instead I am just a passive consumer.
Mr. Horner points out that instead of being consumers Christians should be the best cultural critics…sadly most of (myself included) just crash in front of the tv.
”Christians should be the very best film viewers—the very best cultural critics, in fact—because we have the potential capability to discern truth from error and also to understand the real purpose of enjoyment of human creativity, which is to glorify God by practicing discernment ”
Okay so how can we become discerning viewers of television or movies? Here are a few ideas.
- Watch it in a place where you will not fall asleep 
- If possible watch it on a mobile device like a phone or tablet, since this allows you to focus directly on the program
- If you are watching it on a tv make sure mobile devices aren’t used during the program 
- Watching something that can be paused is useful because it allows you to stop and ask yourself questions.
- Watching a tv season from beginning to end helps because you see the complete storyline (the directors view of what the world should be like)
- And of course if something is teaching a wrong worldview then don’t watch it
It can be confusing trying to find a worldview in programs so let me share Horner’s definition of one.
“Who believes what about what and why?”
**Put another way; what do they believe about the world, and what is their reason for it?
*Of course this may not be incredibly clear, however the important thing is the we become a generation of people who think seriously about what the worldviews our minds consume.
- the subtitle is “becoming a discerning viewer” ↩
- asking what the media teaches me and why ↩
- Horner, Grant (2010–06–15). Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer (p. 64). Crossway. Kindle Edition. ↩
- sitting in a chair or around others ↩
- I’m very guilty of playing games on the iPad while the tv is on ↩
- Horner, Grant (2010–06–15). Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer (p. 61). Crossway. Kindle Edition. ↩
I’m normally a pretty happy person so it takes lot to get me down. However when I do get depressed it reaches pretty intense levels (we are talking jelly beans, pepsi, french fries, and way too much Netflix.)
I went through a couple of these phases last week (which hasn’t happened in a while) because my return to Australia continues to be delayed.
Please understand this frustration isn’t directed towards Immigration because they are just doing their job. What breaks my heart is not being able to help the people of Australia who have become so precious to me
More than anything else though depression comes from the fact that I cannot fix the problem
Many people (men especially) embrace the role of dealing with or “fixing” their own problems. While part of this is pride, it mostly comes from the natural desire for independence (taking care of things on our own).
Eventually though we are going to run into a problem that cannot be fixed. And what we do then truly defines us.
Obviously discouragement and frustration in situations like this are natural…the problem is when thats your ONLY response
I mean seriously watching Greys Anatomy on Netflix only helps so much
just kidding…I prefer Gilmore Girls
Though painful those depressing experiences help us understand reality (in my case returning to Australia is going to take a while). The good news is this allows us to find things that we CAN FIX instead of trying to fix problems outside of our control.
For me personally this means becoming a positive role-model to children (young men especially) who need guidance and help
It’s amazing what doors open up when you start focusing on things you can do.
In the last month I have begun.
1. Mentoring a High School Senior
2. Giving personal tutoring to kindergarteneres and first-traders
4. Getting involved in a reading help program
5. Helping in an after school program with twenty-four first graders
6. Starting a fitness program for elementary age children
7. Training for a reading program with inmates in a local prison
8. And will soon start one on one computer tutoring
Is this what I want do for the rest of my life? No of course not.
I still wake up every morning wishing I was in Australia
And go to bed every night dreaming of my return
But until that day comes my heart will actively pursue doors opened by God instead of trying to force ones the He has closed for the time being.
So when facing a problem that can’t be fixed do yourself a favor;
- Put down the jelly beans
- Pour that pepsi down the drain
- Turn off Netflix (unless it’s Gilmore Girls)
- And find the ways that you can help others
I’m not promising that everything will suddenly become perfect…but it will ensure when that opportunity does come, you will be ready for it.
In late July I began a Marathon training program with serious concerns about wehther or not I could run ten-miles. In October I ended up running 149 miles total.
What made the difference?
- A training plan that gradually worked it’s way up to longer runs
- Proper nutrition
- Self-confidence that grew as I acheived goals
- But more than anything else it was my training partners
Till about a year ago I would always run or train on my own just because it was more convenient. However I’ve since made the commitment to never run alone (or as little as possible).
Because running with partners keeps you going on the hard days.
There are experiences in training that will make a person want to give up or quit . And if your training on your own (like I was) then the motivation to keep going must come FROM YOURSELF.
Obviously this resulted in lots of training runs ending early.
That’s why having training partners who can give encouragement along the way is so awesome.
Last Saturday was a particularly hard run for me  and to be quite honest my mind was telling me to give up about half-way through. Thankfully that’s when my partners started giving encouragement and telling jokes to take my mind off of the pain.
Runs like that are reminders we need more than just determination when facing challenges. Because our determination can only take us so far
In that moment when you really want to give up there must be a motivation “outside of yourself” that comes from trusted friends.
In twelve days I will finish the Richmond Marathon, something that would never be accomplished without my faithful running partners.
- Who slowed me down when I was going too fast
- Who encouraged me when I was going too slow
- Who confronted me when I missed a training run
- Who listened to all my corny jokes, and sang disney songs to make me laugh
- Who used logic to motivate me (fn)
- Who always gave me a high-five and good job when we were finished
- And more than anything else kept me going when I wanted to give up
Thanks for reminding me it’s not about how strong you are, but whether or not there are people to help in your weak moments.
On a table in my family room there is a bowl filled with about fifty fun-size candy bars, and it makes me very sad.
Part of this is because around foty-six of those candy bars will be consumed by family members. We will give out four or five to trick or treaters if we are lucky
The real sadness though comes from the fact that Haloween is no longer awesome.
I can remember as a child dressing up every year and two-hours later coming home with huge bags of candy . And while the treats were great, the truly awesome part was just being able to be a kid.
Editors Note: I realize Halloween is a very polarizing subject so let me clarify that I’m referring here to the childhood experience of trick or treating, and don’t agree with everything associated with the holiday.
Unfortunately it’s not safe to go out trick or treating any more.
Sure this has been replaced by some fun things like fall festivals, parties at home, trunk or treats, or visits to the local pumpkin patch.
But part of me wishes that kids today could experience the same Halloween I did without parents worrying for thier safety.
While helping a kindergartener with some reading Wednesday we started talking about Halloween.
He excitedly described his costume to me, but then explained with a bit of sadness that he wasn’t allowed to go trick or treating .
While this is the right decision I mourn over the fact that children aren’t able to experience many of the things I did as a kid.
Because we live in a broken world.
Thankfully it’s still possible to be a kid on Halloween  but sometimes we need to take a moment and mourn the small things lost.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have forty-six candy bars to eat