Let’s Get Lost

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Let’s Get Lost

(Prepare to start your own adventure)

     We just returned from a trip to Germany to see our son and daughter-in-law and 4 beautiful grandkids. We spent most of our time with them, but still had some time to rent a car and roam around a bit on our own. It is so beautiful in Germany (and France where we stayed a few days in an airbnb). If you have a chance to go, do it.

We love to take pictures of our travels, and I found this metal lunch box (pic above) in a store with the “Let’s Get Lost” title.   I thought, This captures my feeling exactly about travel and exploring and adventure. If you never want to get lost, stay at home. But if you want to travel and explore new places, then get comfortable with getting lost from time to time.

Toward the end of our trip, we were in small town in France, and there was a really neat hike outside of town that went up to a ruined castle (built in the 1100’s). We were armed with our Rick Steve’s travel book on France (the bible of travel) and were walking to the starting point. We happened to run into a sweet older French woman who asked if we were hiking up to the castle and then showed where to go to catch the trail. To make a long story short, after hiking a couple of miles, we realized that we were on the wrong trail. We practically ran down the trail, pulled out the guidebook, confirmed it with someone else, found the right trail, and eventually made it up to a spectacular castle with fantastic views.

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Where did we go wrong? We didn’t follow the guidebook, and we listened to the wrong person. Even though we got onto the wrong trail and were “lost” for a while, the first trail was still pretty and we knew enough to recover and find the right trail.

That’s the thing about traveling. You will get lost. You will take the wrong road. People will honk at you (as they did when I happened to drive down a one-way road). If you’re in a foreign country, you will have to encounter all sorts of strange things: how do you order from a menu with a strange language? How do you pay for parking? How do you read the road signs? How do you find a bathroom? (Hint – most place in Europe call them WC – water closet.)

But if you’re not afraid of getting lost, hear is what you will find – new roads, new food, new adventures, beautiful views and so much more. You will meet some neat, friendly people, you will learn about the regions you visit, and you will grow.

And if (actually when) you get lost, don’t worry. You will figure it out. You will find the water closets and learn how to read a menu. Getting lost is a part of life. You can avoid it by never going anywhere, but oh, you will miss so much. By the way, stay with the guidebook and don’t listen to the kindly old lady.

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A Suggested Bookshelf

 

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A Suggested Bookshelf

Read early and often, and impart this habit to your kids.

Ben Sasse

     Here is a suggested bookshelf of key books (see my last blog post – https://jimedd71.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/whats-on-your-bookshelf/) that have influenced me and hopefully, will get you started on your very own bookshelf. (Books are in no particular order.) I know I have left off some classics, but feel free to comment and add your own key books. Many of these can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, or bought on Amazon, especially the used book section.

  1. The Bible (obviously). It helps to have a good reading plan, alternating between the Old and New Testament and wisdom books.
  2. The Invitation, by Eugene Peterson. (Contemporary, one-page summaries of every book in the Bible.
  3. All the Places to Go, by John Ortberg. (How to know and follow God’s leading.)
  4. The Art of Divine Contentment, by Thomas Watson, 1653. Tremendous book that has survived for over 350 years.
  5. 9 Things You Simply Must Do (to succeed in love and life), by Henry Cloud. Wise, profound principles of life.
  6. The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway. Inspiring, true story of missions (China); a modern-day Apostle Paul.
  7. Night, by Elie Wiesel, 1958. True story of one who survived the Holocaust.
  8. The Way of the Wolf, by Martin Bell. A collection of sermons, disguised as stories. One chapter, “Barrington Bunny” is something we read to our children every Christmas Eve.
  9. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis. The most widely read book of Christian devotions for over 500 years.
  10. Your God is Too Small, by J.B. Phillips.   Classic book that brings God out of the pages of the Bible into our world.
  11. Sovereign Grace, by D.L. Moody. Another classic; simple understanding of grace.
  12. The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, by Hannah Whitall Smith.   A Quaker’s guide to how to live with happiness, right now.
  13. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell has written several books, so don’t stop with only one. You will learn and grow.
  14. Christian Counter-Culture, by John R.W. Stott. The message of the Sermon on the Mount. Fantastic book and writer.
  15. The Way of the Wild at Heart, by John Eldridge. How to understand boys and their journey to adult-hood. Built around the life of David.
  16. Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. How to pursue the godly “disciplines” that lead to spiritual growth.
  17. Parents in Pain, by John White. A book of comfort and counsel, to keep on parenting even in the midst of pain.
  18. Between Parent and Teenager, by Dr. Haim G. Ginott. I found my mother’s signature is in this book, and realized that she bought this when I was a teenager. Thanks mom.
  19. As For Me and My House, by Walter Wangerin. One of the best books I have read on marriage.
  20. The Magnificent Defeat, by Frederick Buechner. Full of imaginative devotions. This is just one of his books; read them all.
  21. My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. Another powerful book of Christian devotions. Gives a fresh perspective of God’s word.
  22. Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. A man who survived the holocaust and showed us how to truly live.
  23. How Now Shall We Live, by Chuck Colson. Goes beyond salvation to understand biblical faith as an entire worldview.
  24. Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Classic business book that also applies to life. Why do some companies make the leap…and others don’t? Answers here.
  25. A Religious History of the American People, by Sidney Ahlstrom. A saga of our (American) diverse religious history. Detailed, but readable.
  26. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel Brown. An irresistible true story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable account of how nine working-class boys from America showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.
  27. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. Another true story of courage and redemption in World War 2. Better than the movie.
  28. Seabiscuit, also by Laura Hillenbrand. Another true, inspiring story of redemption, for an owner, trainer and jockey.
  29. In The Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larsen. True, gripping account of a family living in Berlin in the 1930’s. Shows the rise of Hitler and the Nazi’s.
  30. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. True account of an Oxford professor who was an atheist and became a Christian. (C.S. Lewis is arguably the greatest Christian author of our time, and all his books are must-reads.)
  31. Chronicles of Narnia, also by C.S. Lewis. Tremendous book series of Christian allegory to read to children. Our kids now read these to their kids.
  32. Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. Another classic allegory of the Christian journey to the “Celestial City.”
  33. Little House on the Prairie (series), by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Fantastic series to read to your children – love, family, perseverance, adventure.
  34. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Compelling story of small southern town and strong single-parent dad. Easily one of the best novels ever.
  35. The Black Widow, by Daniel Silva. This is just one of a fiction thriller series that is based on current events. Gabriel Allon is an Israeli agent, whose cover is an art restorer. Page turners.

Happy reading, and feel free to comment on books that have made an impact in your life.

 

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What’s On Your bookshelf?

 

Mother helping daughter read book in library

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

(No. 5 in “Character-Building Habits)

The failure to read good books…both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency – the belief that the here and now is all there is.

Alan Bloom – The Closing of the American Mind

     “What books do you want your kids to have read by the time they leave home?” This was one of the compelling questions that came out of the book I have been reading – The Vanishing American Adult, by Ben Sasse. Do we even care, as parents, what our kids are reading? We only have them a few years, so what are the good influences we want to expose to our kids, so they can become resilient, literate and thoughtful individuals (not adult-sized kids). And how do we model this as parents?

Tragically, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American now reads only nineteen minutes per day. And our kids are reading far less than that. One might point out that our kids are reading a lot on the screen and social media. This could be true in terms of shear minutes, but the quality is lacking (who cares what Julie bought at the mall), not to mention the dubious (“fake”) news that we are bombarded with. In fact, our proliferation of devices – iPhones and tablets – are a distraction. Here’s another quote from the book – “The main problem behind our insufficient deep reading is a frenzied pace and boundless digital distractions. But we have passively let the potential for reading quantity undermine the habit of repeatedly reading quality – or returning again and again to a small number of important texts until they are shaping our family’s shared grammar and vocabulary.”

So what can we do as parents? After all, it’s up to us. First, we must model it. We must also be intentional and select a list of books that are meaningful and influential in shaping our kids on the road to becoming adults. We can set limits on “screen time” and train them to sit and read for 45 – 60 minutes at a time (deep reading). We can talk about what we’re reading at dinnertime. We can start early, by reading to our kids long before they can read. The goal is to be hooked by their late teens or early twenties.

I grew up in a time with three channels (not counting PBS) and no smart phones. I did a lot of playing, bike riding and touch football. But I also spent a lot of time in the city library. I especially liked the biographies of famous Americans, like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt, and, the books were free. I even the read the Encyclopedia at home. (Which we now call “Google.”) I would sit on the porch on a summer day and soak in the stories of heroes (like Sergeant York) and other great men and women.

I will share my own list of books at a later date, but let me end with the story of arguably our greatest president – Abraham Lincoln. This man who gave us the Gettysburg Address, was born into poverty and didn’t go to high school or college, and only apprenticed his way into a law practice.   So what was the difference? His mother. The seeds of his great speeches and writings were planted by his and his mother’s childhood reading. For example, he knew both the substance and the cadence of the Bible (KJV) backward and forward because as a boy his mother had spent so many evenings by the fire reading it aloud to him.

Here’s a final thought from Ben Sasse: Imagine you are Aristotle…and you’ve just landed a job tutoring Alexander, who will eventually be known as “The Great” and conquer lands from Greece to northern Africa to the Middle East and across much of Asia. What does Alexander need to know? Who does he need to be? What does he need to read?

     Parents, we have this same high calling – to raise a ruler.

Children are the future, but we are the present.

– Adam Carolla

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Travel to See

 

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S EUROPEAN VACATION, Jason Lively, Dana Hill, Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, 1985

Travel to See

(4th Character-Building Habit)

Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! Let’s go.  Chevy Chase, European Vacation

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Mark Twain

     If you’ve been following these last few weeks, I’m writing posts in reference to a book I’m reading – The Vanishing American Adult, by Ben Sasse (US Senator from Nebraska). The best part about the book is Ben and his wife’s desire to instill character-building habits in their kids, habits that “give them a fighting chance to become productive adults.”

Reviewing, here are the first 3 character-building habits:

  1. Overcome peer culture. Break free from your exclusive group and learn about life from others who have walked the trail.
  2. Develop a work ethic.  Don’t protect them from hard work.  Sweat is OK.
  3. Embrace limited consumption.  Consumption isn’t the key to      happiness; production is.

So here is the 4th habit – Travel to See. Here are some key points:

  • Travel to experience the difference between “need” and “want.” (What’s it like to subsist.)
  • Learn how to travel and to travel light. (Pick up an eighteen-pound backpack and go.)
  • To understand your own culture better, it is essential to experience other cultures so that you can look back at yours.
  • There’s a big difference between travel and tourism. (Travel with a purpose to learn and grow, not to just check off the block of tourist sites.)
  • Travel to see, not just sightsee. (Everyone is in a hurry to see, without looking. OK kids – that is the Grand Canyon. Let’s go.)

Do you remember your first formative travel experiences? Do you remember the first time you saw the ocean or the mountains? Here is what I mean. I grew up in Oklahoma (and now have returned after a career of jumping around the globe). I don’t think I ever left the state until I was around 12, and then we took the iconic road trip to southern California. It was my parents, I and my sister Christy, and my grandmother. We were all together in a car with no AC. Actually, we had some type of plug-in water cooler that fit under the dashboard. It was my job to fill up the bucket with ice from the motel, which would keep us somewhat cool until about 9 am.

Here are a jumble of memories that I can readily pull up: seeing my very first Baskin-Robins ice cream store in El Paso; (after carefully looking over their 31 flavors, my sister and I got chocolate and vanilla); driving on I-10 through Yuma (don’t know why dad chose the hottest route); my dad almost getting into a fight with a guy in Yuma who had scared my grandmother; and finally crossing the mountains into southern California, and the temperature dropped from 115 degrees to around 75. It was like the whole state was air-conditioned.

And this is what we did and saw – Disneyland; Knott’s Berry Farm; California Angels baseball game; our first tacos; Hollywood; the beach and Pacific Ocean (just red lakes in OK). I don’t know how much my dad spent, but it was worth every penny. Yes, we did the tourist things, but it mainly opened a door to the world.

So I entered the military, and after a career of over 28 years, we lived overseas for 7 years, lived in 8 states, made 17 major home moves, and lived in 24 homes altogether. We have served in short-term missions in England, Thailand and China. I did a survey of our 3 sons and their families, and we have either lived in or visited around 47 countries.

One vivid memory was a 1990 trip our family took to Berlin and driving through what was then East Germany. We were stationed at a military post in West Germany at the time, and I remember it was like traveling from living color to black and white. We drove through Checkpoint Charlie. We were able to walk right up to the Berlin Wall and chip off some pieces (it would finally come down a few weeks later.) Our kids saw soldiers walking around with guns. They saw Soviet soldiers checking our car. It was a transformative experience.

In 2014, I was fortunate to take a couple of months off for a sabbatical. During a portion of that time, we did a road trip and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) along the Pacific Ocean in California. Each day, we wrote in journal about our experiences. We wrote in 4 headings: God, New, Fun, and Wow. I have written about this experience in an earlier blog, https://jimedd71.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/gnfw/ but one thing that stood out was all the chance conversations we had with people, which gave us some opportunities to share our faith as well as listen to their stories and show care. Kind of reminds me of Jesus’ words to the disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” We can do this intentionally (like in planned mission trips) or “as you go wherever”, be my ambassador.

Traveling to see changes your eyes, and you’re never the same.  Parents, help your kids discover, learn, grow and experience history and their world.

 

 

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Consume Less

 

Decluttering

Consume Less

Consumption isn’t the key to happiness.

     Here’s a quote from a recent article from Breakpoint by Eric Metaxas – “Clutter Gone Wild” –

One of the biggest bestsellers in recent years is the little book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo. Over six million copies have been sold—which means an awful lot of us seem to have trouble dealing with our junk.

But did you ever consider that piles of clutter may affect your spiritual life?

Americans, it seems, are overwhelmed by their stuff. For instance, their garages are so full of junk there’s no room for a car. Papers pile up on counter tops. Clothing—much of it unworn for years—explodes out of our closets. And you become absolutely certain that the kids’ toys are somehow secretly breeding—especially when you stab your bare foot on a Lego or trip over a Batman action figure. http://breakpoint.org/2017/07/breakpoint-clutter-gone-wild/

Ouch. So here is the third character-building habit that Ben Sasse, (from his book –The Vanishing American Adult, wants to instill in his kids – Resist Consumption. I call this the Stuffitis Disease. Or it’s cousin, Afluenza. When I was young, there didn’t seem to be as much stuff. Most of us had one TV (black and white), with 3 or 4 channels.   We had one car. We had small homes with either a carport or maybe a one-car garage. They were just beginning to build malls. We didn’t have “exploding closets.”  Now we have so much stuff, we need to rent garages to store it.a6db249aca3433f9c4989d0d947bf9b8--simple-living-declutter

Now I’m not saying that the homes and cars we have now are bad. But are we breathing the air of a culture that has transformed what used to be “wants” into “needs?” And principally, what is this doing to our kids? How does this work if we want to teach our kids the values of self-denial and deferred gratification?

America, for better or worse, is a consumer’s paradise. And we can have just about anything we want, instantly. We can pull out our cell phone, book a flight to Paris, rent a car and a hotel, and reserve dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower during a commercial break of “Breaking Bad.” As someone named Anonymous once said – “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to keep up with people we don’t even know.”

Sasse tells us how we got here (to this consumer-driven culture), and how we can keep our kids disentangle from this ever-growing river of stuff. Here are just a few tips:

  • Go out and camp every so often, to experience what mild deprivation is like. (It makes them appreciate their home even more.)
  • Take 14 days and do this – write down what you buy, how much you spend, and how much “screen time” do you pack in during a day? How much is going to junk food and stuff you don’t need?
  • Talk to your kids about all the commercials they see on TV and how they are made to create needs. (In effect, we’re drawing back the curtain.)
  • Show them some other, more positive ways to spend (or save) their money.
  • Start giving away stuff and share with the needy. (Seriously, if you haven’t worn something in two years, why are you still keeping it?)
  • Learn to travel light by going on a trip and carrying only one roll-on bag.
  • Next time you need clothes, why not find some decent, clean clothes in a thrift store?

The key is to know and teach that our desires can be brought under control. We are not powerless to the forces of culture. It is actually possible to live light, to live with less, to give to others, and be extremely happy.

Next week, we will look at the fourth character-building habit – Travel with a purpose.

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Sweat is OK

 

 

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Sweat is OK

(Part 2 of Character-Building Habits)

I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident…They came by work. Thomas Edison

Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. Teddy Roosevelt

So much of modern American life seems to be about finding more efficient ways of shirking responsibilities. Ben Sasse

     What were your first seven jobs? This was a question that began trending on Twitter last summer (2016). The idea was to find out how (or if) you ever developed a work ethic. I will share my first seven jobs at the end of this blog, but I invite everyone to remember back and reply with your first seven jobs. Most of my first jobs involved a lot of sweat. Maybe yours did too, and guess what, a good dose of sweat will not kill your son or daughter. It might even help them develop the second character-building habit from Ben Sasse’s excellent book – The Vanishing American Adult.

The character-building habit that Sasse wants to instill in his kids is a healthy work ethic.   The call is to “embrace work pain.” Work can be painful; it can be sweaty; it can be dirty; it can be tough. But it can be good, and can help grow our kids into responsible, contributing, creative adults. The problem is, too many of us parents want to protect our kids from hard work.

As you think about your first seven jobs, what did you learn? One thing I learned was the value of money.   For example, as I decided whether or not to buy that record album that I just had to have, I had to ask myself, “Did I sweat for three hours just to buy this record?” But here are some other things that I learned – discipline to get up in the morning, the joy of learning a new skill, creativity, contribution, the value of suffering, the good feeling of helping someone, self-restraint and delayed gratification, the joy of receiving a paycheck, (and the awareness that a chunk of it went back to the government), and the satisfaction of knowing I made a difference.

God started all this with the very first man, as he told Adam to watch over and cultivate the Garden of Eden. And one of his first tasks was naming the animals. Talk about pressure and creativity! There’s a lot more to this story, but the point is that God, our Father, wanted his kids to know how to work. Or as King Solomon said, “To rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.” If you think about it, God could have just given everything to us – homes, food, clothes, cars, and smart phones. But that wouldn’t have been good for us. Nor is it good for our kids.

We do our kids a disservice when we give them everything they want. We end up molding them to be soft and entitled. Here is how Sasse puts it:

Work is not necessarily about a job – about assignments that come with paychecks – but more fundamentally that we are built to be creators. Our work and our lives are an answer…to a calling.

He goes on to say: The word “vocation” comes from the Latin vox, meaning “voice” – as in something God “calls” you to do. Something is revealed about a person’s character when they explain their understanding and ethic of work.  

A new Christian once asked Martin Luther about how he could best serve the Lord. He was thinking that he should quit his job and become a monk. But Luther replied, “What do you do now?” “I’m a cobbler. I make shoes,” the man answered. “Then make great shoes,” Luther replied, “and sell them at a fair price – to the glory of God.”

So here are my first seven jobs:

  • Paperboy
  • Men’s store clerk
  • Crawled under houses to dig trenches and kill termites (thanks dad)
  • Forklift driver (for 2 summers)
  • Warehouse worker in plywood business
  • Wood shop worker
  • Intelligence officer in the Air Force

See you next week with the third character-building habit – embrace limited consumption.

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Character-Building Habits

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CHARACTER-BUILDING HABITS

It’s not by strength or speed or swiftness of body that great deeds are done, but by wisdom, character, and sober judgment. These qualities…grow richer as time passes.

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

     As I write this, we’re hearing heartbreaking news from Chicago. Over the 4th of July weekend, over 100 people were shot, and at least 15 have died. Pray for the families of those who lost loved ones. But also pray for our country, as it seems to be unraveling. We have lots of questions, but seemingly few answers. But here is one answer. Maybe we need to get back to the basics and start teaching our kids how to be responsible adults.

As I wrote about in my last post, I’ve been reading a book that my oldest son gave me – The Vanishing American Adult, by Ben Sasse, a US Senator from Nebraska. This book is a must-read if you’re a parent, grandparent, or just anyone who has a pulse and loves this country. This groundbreaking book provides tangible answers on how to teach our kids to become responsible adults and men and women of character. After laying out the problem – distracted, drifting, indulged, and passive teens, he presents a solution and framework, built about instilling five character-building habits.  I wonder if we’re reaping the consequences of a generation that is woefully unprepared to be adults?

So here are his five character-building habits:

  1. Overcome peer culture.  Break free from your exclusive group and learn about life from others who have walked the trail.

 

  1. Develop a work ethic.  Don’t protect them from hard work.  Sweat is OK.

 

  1. Embrace limited consumption.  Consumption isn’t the key to happiness; production is.

 

  1. Travel to experience the difference between “need” and want.”  Acquiring more stuff doesn’t bring happiness.

 

  1. Learn how to read and decide what to read.  There is a difference in knowing how to read and how to read well.  Unplug and read.

I’m going to write a post on each one of these character-building habits, but let’s explore the first one now. So here is what he means by overcoming peer culture – …our emerging adults are cut off from older generations and the reality of human frailty. They’re limited in a culture created by their peers. Consequently, they don’t appreciate the joys of birth and growth and the tragedy of pain and decline. We isolate them into groupings of people their own age, and shield them from those who have lived through a tough life, yet learned to overcome, face adversity, and even succeed.

We need to expose our kids to an older generation, of people who know how to truly love, who know how to redeem our limited time on earth by purposeful living, and who know how to die well.

Do your kids know about history? Have they been around people who have fought in a war or experienced loss and hardship? When I was in seminary in Abilene, Texas, our neighbors, Wendall and Betty Broom, had been life-long missionaries and were now back in America, teaching at the university. Wendall’s dad, lived with them. I’ve long forgotten his given name, but we all just called him “Pappy.” As we got to know Pappy, we learned that he had fought in the First World War. I remember my son Nathan talking to Pappy and Pappy letting him wear his army helmet. Our kids still remember him and his stories. They knew a man who actually fought in World War I, and who knew men who fought in the Civil War.

So the point of this first habit (and there’s much more about it in the book) is to help our kids travel between generations and expose them to those who have traveled a long time down this path called life.  If you want your kids to be responsible adults, find ways to get them next to older adults.

More to come next week.

Jim

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