Tuesday, May 21, 2013

PARENTS: Widen the Circle: 1a

Widen the Circle: 1a (of Godly Influence over my children)

We have all heard, "it takes a village" to raise a family. Well, there are parts of that phrase I believe, obviously, but other parts I disagree with. I would better state my intentions as a Christian Father over 5 children of different ages, stages and personalities that, "it takes the right village" to raise a family, in the right way. Therefore, we look at the topic of Widen the Circle. 

In this post I want to share a few basic ideas that can lead to a great "widen the circle" effort. When sharing with parents about my own kids, I am careful  not to take the credit and to make it known that many people had a hand in building the children and teens we now see before us. Just tonight, while walking through the my least favorite Wal Mart we ran into an amazing lady who tutors my youngest son in kindergarten. Mrs. H, is a wonderful lady, with her own parenting questions and struggles, but also with a mountain of grace and love, and professional skills that she spends on my son every week. My little guy, Elias, has challenges that make learning difficult, he is blind in one eye and legally blind in the other. Mrs. H made every effort to help him learn and loved him like a mother, she is forever part of the "Circle" that influenced Eli to succeed. NOTE: The wrong tutor, with the wrong attitude, wrong skills or wrong heart, would have been the wrong part of our circle. This leads me the topics for the day. 

Widen the Circle: BY PRAYER (hear and do what God says)
Widen the Circle: BY BUILDING YOUR TEAM (relational triangle)
Widen the Circle: BY JOINING FAITH BASED SMALL GROUPS (the right village) 


Widen the Circle: BY PRAYER (hear and do what God says)

There are no suggestions, ideas, insights, tools, tricks or formulas I can give that work better than prayer. There are assumptions around this idea, I understand that. Matthew 21:13 tells us, "It is written....My house will be called a house of prayer...." So, why not jump on board with Jesus and make your house a house of prayer, but before you get started, let's be honest about these assumptions.....

This assumes we have a relationship with Christ. 
This assumes we have the conviction to pray regularly. 
This assumes we have the faith to believe those prayers. 
This assumes we have the tenacity to keep praying.  
This assumes we are the kind of parent who knows how to pray to begin with. 

So, can THIS "Widen the Circle" strategy go wrong in your home or mine, you bet. It's like shooting free throws. Most people can hit one or two, maybe even three in a row, but few have the experience, skill and confidence to hit more than that, consistently, predictably. 

Prayer is like this for most of us. We pray a few times, but rarely pray it through until we can "step to the line" so to speak, and hit the shot most of the time. So, what's the problem......Well, when we are shooting free throws, there is no real problem. But, when you are talking about effective prayer that causes real results in the lives of our kids, missing the shot can be a huge problem. 


PRAYER = Philippians 1:9 "And this is my prayer, that (My Children's) love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that (My Children) may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God." 

Let me get on my soapbox for a few minutes
Doctors go to 8+ years of school, do a residency and get cutting edge training before sticking a scalpel to someone's chest, he does not "think" he knows what he is doing, he "knows" that he knows what he is doing. 

Airline Pilots put in hundreds of hours of flight time, without 200 passengers on board, in order to perfect take offs and landings. By the time the people climb aboard, the pilot "knows" that he knows what he is doing. 

Why is it that parents, me included, when faced with the sobering responsibility of raising kids, will sometimes just shoot from the hip. We take what is the most precious gift God has ever given us, our kids, and "try" to be good parents. I find this troubling, very troubling, so, for me and for you, let this challenge ring loud in our hearts....PRAY, LISTEN, PRAY, OBEY AND PRAY AGAIN, then PRAY SOME MORE.  

Pray over them for protection. 
Pray over them for wisdom. 
Pray over the friendships they make. 
Pray over the teachers and coaches they will have. 
Pray over the habits and hobbies they will invest into. 
Pray over their eyes, ears and words. 
Pray over their heart and choices. 

PRAYER = Psalm 112:2 "Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed." 

Soapbox dismounted

ACTION ITEM: If your child's birthday is April 6th, set a reminder to pray for that child every month on the 6th. Fast breakfast and lunch, write prayer scriptures on a 3x5 card or make a prayer scripture note on your smart-phone and take 15-30 minutes to pray for them instead of eating. On that day, try to really consider what is going on in their life, who they hang around with, how school and sports are going, etc...and listen to anything God might want you to change. 

REMINDER: You are the parent, you are called by God to say Yes and No, to make good choices for your child, not to do what your child says they want to do. Pray with Compassion, Pray with Faith, and just Pray......when you hear God about how to "Widen the Circle" of Godly influence over your children, follow that voice, not the voice of popular culture, status or fun. 

This leads us to our next blog entry regarding the next foundational idea about how to "Widen the Circle" - Building Your Team......next time...

PRAYER = Psalm 17:6 "I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer."

Billy Ramsdell

Monday, May 20, 2013

F I X E R: Connecting Generations


My youngest son, Elias, tells people sometimes that his dad is a FIXER. He has learned at 6 years old, that things break and fall apart. His bicycle, his scooter and the minivan we carry him to school in, all break at times. In turn, he has learned not to whine or cry, but to ask Dad to fix-it. He delights in knowing that I can fix it and uses me as his default at this point. A reality that I find both wonderful and troubling at times.

I mean, do I really want to fix that old busted toy that keeps getting left in the driveway? Not really!  But, the little dude just knows that Dad can fix it, so I have a reputation to protect. 

Recently he watched big brother and Dad fix the ductwork to the dryer. We got into the attic, on the roof, and in the laundry room, it was pretty involved. He was very impressed that we got onto the roof and just assumed we knew what we were doing. In the garage I am putting a playhouse together, using tools and wood. He sees that as fixing. Over the weekend we planted flowers, mowed, killed weeds and cleaned our deck, he sees all that "working with your hands" as fixing, so he asked questions and sometimes helps out. 

This week my father, Billy Sr., is coming into town to celebrate the high school graduation of my oldest daughter. Elias doesn't really know him, so last night I spent time connecting the dots. Connecting the generations can sometimes be difficult when time, space and culture separate families. So, I talked to him about the things my father taught me to do when I was young. Eli remembers learning to ride a bike and watching me fish or work on the car. So, I used those things to connect the generations. 

I told Eli that Pekaw was my Dad, and that he was the one who taught me to be a FIXER. Now I had his attention. He asked 20 questions and found a place in his mind, a box, to put my Dad in. He values the FIXER skills, so he seemed impressed by the teaching my Dad must have done to help me learn how to be such a good FIXER. Now, I hope my dad can live up to his expectations, I'm gonna ask him to help me fix several things while he is in town and........
......Eli will be watching. 


It's just past the middle of May. Kids are getting out of school, summer is approaching, you are busy. While are you busy, take a minute to consider this phrase, it is my personal purpose statement for parenting. Simply, it reads......

Bringing Faith Home.....Passing Faith On....

Bringing Faith Home.....this means my faith is part of my everyday life. I become who God wants me to become before I tell my kids what God wants them to become. I live it, before I teach it. This is not a perfect exercise, but a focus of purpose every day. To live my faith out, in all aspects of home life, right there for my wife and kids to see. 

Passing Faith On......this means I do more than privately love Jesus. It means I take all God has done and is doing in my life and I purposefully, actively and intentionally pass it on, in real life context, to each and every one of my kiddos. I will talk about the how from time to time, but for now, be reminded of this vision and keep it before you at all times. 

I am firm believer in resourcing yourself as a parent. Get all the tools, weapons, knowledge, friends, opinions, advice and help you can get, then pray a lot and work hard. Below are two very important books to read, fast and easy, but important nonetheless. 

The first one from Josh McDowell helps us to understand the condition of the society our kids are being raised in. I believe it is imperative to our survival and success as a parent to have some idea what we are up against when bringing kids into this world. These days parents don't let their kids get dirty, we make them take medicines, vitamins and stay away from soda, but we sometimes forget those things are NOT what will steal, kill and destroy the destiny our kids should spend a vibrant, joyful life realizing. So, take some notes, get your highlighter ready. Josh pulls no punches and gets to the point in this short but poignant little book. 

The second is by George Barna. It is also short, full of lots of one liners and nuggets wisdom. His research is profound, but the most profound to me was the facts about real success in parenting and discipleship compared to the regular opinions of many parents and church workers. I want to see kids become Spiritual Champions, so I use this book to help understand how to move my kids from being followers to leaders. Let me know what you think. 

BEGIN A 3D GROUP. The 3D is a play on words in two directions. First, it means a group of parents that see things in 3D, meaning, real life. Don't get together with parents to read a book and discuss it like you are discussing a book. Get together with other parents to discuss those crazy moments in your parenting adventure when life seems to jump off the screen and really get you. Be real, talk about reality, pray about reality and do life in 3D. Secondly, make your group a process of 3D. 

Discovery, Discussion & Discipleship. 

When Jesus walked from place to place with his disciples, he used this process. He used everyday events and encounters to stop, lead the group in discovery, making them observe and ask questions. He then led to a step of discussion by being rhetorical and conversational. Always he led them in the process of discipleship by teaching and demonstrating. When you gather with other parents, don't be DRIVEN, that is the D that kills groups. Having strict rules or expectations of high level performance is unrealistic. Don't Drive everyone to become perfect parents overnight. Rather, be real and share your adventure, successes and failures, opinions and observations. Let people Discover, Discuss and then be a Disciple and make Disciples with the truth and encouragement they receive. 

Comment here and let me know what you think about any of the 3 suggestions. Email me if you have confidential questions, prayer requests or comments. 

Idea One:     Book by Josh McDowell
Idea Two:     Book by George Barna
Idea Three:   3 D Parenting Small Group