All posts by Glen Gaugh

Husband | Dad | Christian | Social Worker | Family Life Coach

Of Slings and Stones- What Are You Aiming For?

Pre-thought: The Doom-loop- we go around and around with one another, setting an ideal for ourselves and never looking up to God, so we become satisfied with ourselves and begin to excuse ourselves for not living up to God’s ideal. How do you get trapped in the doom-loop? Topics, people, scenarios to avoid?

Here we go…

My son Elisha and I watched a documentary on Native Americans in West Tennessee, and we were discussing the hunting methods they used. I told him we needed to learn how to hunt with a slingshot in case we need an emergency way to hunt for food (we’re always talking about things like that.) He said we should use a sling like in the Bible. “Here’s what we do- we find a sheep farmer, and we ask him to let us live with his sheep…” “Why would we do that,” I asked, even as my mind had already gone where he was leading to. “That’s what David did!”

The mind of a child associated a certain skill with a person. We often ask “how” when the question should be “who.” Who is the best? Who demonstrates the ideal? If you want to be the best stone slinger, you seek out the best stone slinger and you do what he does.

The Bible doesn’t detail David’s education and training in stone slinging. David must have developed his ideal skill set in the mountains and fields, alone, with the sheep of his father. He probably had a child-like, single focused obsession with making the stone hit the chosen target, the way we used to shoot up a tin can with a BB gun until there was nothing left of it. I can hear his mother calling him inside more than once, because he was still slinging stones even when he was at home. “Stop slinging stones, David! Come inside! Get ready for dinner! Do your chores!” Maybe his father Jesse smiled and said, “Ease up, mom. Let the boy alone. He’s showing off for his brothers. Boys do stuff like that.” David’s mother may have even said, “He should be paying attention to other things. What will he ever amount to by slinging stones?”

David had learned the value of experimentation- trial and error, making minute corrections to his aim, his technique, and his equipment. David knew the value of choosing the right ammunition. He knew how to evaluate what we call ballistic coefficient today. He evaluated the way the shape and size of a stone affected its trajectory through the air, and how to choose for maximum distance and impact. How do I know? The Bible says he went down to the brook and chose 5 smooth stones. He didn’t pick up the soft, crumbly, irregular rocks of the mountainside. He chose the dense, well-worn, smooth and aerodynamic stones of the brook. And he chose 5 of them- one is never enough. Amen?

At some point he was able to employ his new skill against an actual threat, and he won. He walked down into the valley with the confidence of practiced skill. Some have said that David could have slung the stone in the opposite direction and God would have still caused it to kill the giant. I don’t believe it. That demeans the work and practice that David put into developing his defensive capabilities and hints that David could have been haphazard, unintentional, not diligent, and even negligent, and that God would have still used Him. First of all, that kind of slothful person would never have brought themselves to challenge the giant in the first place. Second of all, God seeks those who aspire to the ideal.

Slinging stones was not the only way in which David sought to be ideal.

David had been anointed by the time he squared off against Goliath. Samuel sought him out and called him in from the sheep herd to pour oil on him. He wasn’t the obvious choice. But he must have been ideal in God’s eyes. God didn’t make an off-the-wall choice just to make a point- I can turn a nobody into somebody. He saw what David did at times when no one else could see him, because he wasn’t able to come home on the Sabbath. He was unclean from handling dead animals so he couldn’t offer a sacrifice. But he worshipped anyway. He developed his skills. He wrote and sang his songs for an audience of God and sheep. He developed the love for Jehovah that led him to be so angry in the face of a giant who offered certain death to anyone who took him up on his challenge.

God did not make David fit the anointing that day. God had already chosen one who exemplified the ideal even though no one else knew about it. He conferred the anointing on a worthy and willing vessel.

But we fear the ideal because it makes us feel inadequate. We will sooner go to a friend who will make us feel secure in our inadequacies than to go to a teacher or mentor who will show us a way to greater strength, health, wealth, and fulfillment. Why? Because God loves me just the way I am? Because who has the right to judge me for the actions I’ve taken that led me to here and now?

We shun the ideal because we have failed to live up to it, or at lest failed to live up to some version of it. We run to man rather than to God, so we have a failed version of the ideal.

We denigrate the ideal because many in this room and in our world have never seen anyone around them aspire to the ideal.

Beauty shames the ugly. Strength shames the weak. Death shames the living- and the Ideal shames us all. Thus we fear it, resent it- even hate it. What are we to do about that? Abandon all ideals of beauty, health, brilliance, and strength? That’s not a good solution. That would merely insure that we would feel ashamed, all the time- and that we would even more justly deserve it.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

When I first read this quote from Dr. Peterson, I instantly thought of marriage and the family. When we celebrate Father’s Day, we are celebrating God’s ideal for marriage and family, at least when we celebrate it here at Beech Bluff. Out in the world it may just be a commercialized observance that sells cards and gifts for the men who contributed to you procreation. Or for the less cynical, a time to appreciate the love and influence a man (not necessarily the biological father). Increasingly, you don’t have to celebrate the influence of a man on father’s day in the world, because anyone can be a father regardless of gender and in fact, men have really messed up a lot of people’s lives.

[Eph 5:25 KJV] 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

[Eph 6:4 KJV] 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Biblical ideals. They aren’t just aspirational, they’re obtainable.

But none of us comes to God as the ideal.

Many of us come to God with advantages and privileges- I came from a loving, intact family, was raised in a Pentecostal pew, and had academic promise that led to thousands of dollars in scholarships. The problem is our tendency, my tendency, to “waste good.” To give up the initiative, as General Colin Powell would say. Like the hare in the fable, we lounge when we should charge ahead, and give up ground to the tortoise.

Early advantages may have predictive value, but they don’t insure that a person will be happy, safe, secure, prosperous, or saved. Advantages early in life or marriage are not signs that a person has already obtained to the ideal. Advantages are tests to see if individuals will still come to God humbly and submit to a higher ideal.

What about you who have not come from a position of advantage? A whole lot is said today about the affects of fatherlessness, divorce, exposure to abuse and trauma, alcoholism and drug abuse, and the way these conditions impact a person’s future. I have no need to offer up statistics on these things. The common knowledge is enough to demonstrate that if you have experienced these things and more, life is more difficult in a lot of ways.

Here is the troubling thing. In the world today, in society as well as in the church, we tend to lean on the affects of these conditions as a crutch, or worse, wear them as a badge of honor. Tattoos honor awful circumstances and memorialize the pain of a disadvantaged existence. We develop relationships, friendly or romantic, that continue to remind us, on purpose, of the pain we have been through, and we do things to ourselves that have been done to us in the name of “This is just how life is- I can take it. I can make it. I’m a survivor.”

Communities or cliques or whatever you want to call it, we become a part of them and a part of this endless cycle, a doom-loop, of like-minded thinking and acting that idolizes the suffering and keeps it going in our lives, keeps us re-doing all the same routines that will never lift us out of our suffering. The ideals God has set in place for marriage, parenthood, productive living, ministering to our fellow man, are written off as too difficult or even as destructive, because the ideal seems to exclude people “like us.” The ideal sets the bar too high.

[Psa 121:1 KJV] 1 [[A Song of degrees.]] I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

Christ is the God of the ideal. He doesn’t lock up His will for our lives behind a door and grant admission to only a few. It’s our own sense of guilt and shame that keeps us from reaching for God’s ideal.

He doesn’t set up the ideal as a way to look around an judge one another for our failings and faults. If we would look to the ideal God has set up for us instead of looking around, judging other or ourselves, then we would all move forward together. If we could stop looking at one another as haves and have nots based on the advantages or disadvantages we each appear to have, we would have more joy and move more quickly toward God’s will for each of us.

We certainly can’t hate those who are striving for the ideal, or hate the ideal itself. That only insures shared misery.

[1Jo 2:12-17 KJV] 12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

Overcoming the doom-loop and striving for the ideal means acting in your own best interests, fighting a good fight, and keeping priorities right. this is important in every stage of life.

What do you need to be doing? Where are you heading? Is it the best direction for you? Seek first God’s kingdom…

Acts 2:38,

Glen

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Fathers Gone Before

Memorial Day provoked this. God bless our fallen fathers.

Our fathers have gone before us.
They have gone places we’ll never go, hoping we would never have to go there ourselves.
Our fathers have gone the extra mile to insure we have a clear path pointing to peaks they only ever imagined scaling.

Our fathers have gone before us, to work or to war, hoping we would have better options than they.
Wear and tear doesn’t begin to describe the effect their sacrifices have taken on them. But would they mean as much or be remembered as long without their scars?
Do their scars draw out our gratitude?

Some fathers have gone before their time, or at least before we wanted them to.
Death, where is your sting? You’re swallowed up in victory.
The godly dead have their reward, and the legacy of a father lives on in each of us.

How to Grow When Life Isn’t Ideal

Jordan B. Peterson writes in his book 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote to Chaos that “The ideal shames us all.” Rule 2 is “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping,” and he draws attention to the way we as humans tend to degrade ourselves as not worthy of help, whether we realize it or not. He goes back to the Genesis account in the Bible and the shame that developed after the first humans’ eyes were opened. They discovered their nudity and felt shame, which led to their undeserving posture in the presence of God.

God presented the ideal, and they could not bring themselves to stand in His presence. We do the same thing, not only toward God but toward anyone who represents the ideal to us. Those who are stronger, faster, better looking, smarter, higher achieving, or have a higher level of authority. Shame leads us to feel anger about the ideal set before us by such people, and then we are able to reject the ideal itself.

More simply, if you’ve ever heard…

  • if you want to be rich, hang out with rich people,
  • or if you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people,
  • or if you want to strengthen your marriage, find a couple with a strong marriage to be around,

… then you have been encouraged to surround yourself with the ideal. People in such conditions of strength or success do the things it takes to be that way. You can observe and ask questions, learning to pattern your life, business, or athletic training to theirs.

We aren’t geared that way. In fact, in the world we live in, we are more often encouraged to find pride in our deficiencies. Having a string of failed relationships is regarded as having lived life, regardless of the carnage that may be left behind. Comfort is found in being around people whose struggles are worse than yours, so you don’t feel so bad about your own. Life hardly ever produces the ideal, and certainly not on its own.

We have to garner enough acceptance for ourselves to move forward, but remain hungry for better things in life.

Peterson says, “What are we to do about that? Abandon all ideals of beauty, health, brilliance, and strength? That’s not a good solution. That would merely ensure that we would feel ashamed, all the time- and that we would more justly deserve it.”

I think about marriage and family in particular because that is a high concern for me. The biblical ideal is one man and one woman, for life, who bear and raise their biological children to adulthood. The world is full of life situations that have not risen to that ideal. It is an ideal that is spiritually, practically, morally, and societally significant, but it is actively rejected. It would not be so easily rejected if one could observe the carnage that results from a child not knowing his or her father, a man who felt justified in leaving through whatever sleight occurred because he had no committed connection to the mother of his children. Often it occurs through divorce, and one parent or the other chooses to move on with their lives in a new family. Resentment builds as visitation tapers off. Neither side can understand it when mental health symptoms result, maybe even to the point of cutting or contemplating suicide.

The ideal isn’t to blame. On the other hand, the reality of your condition doesn’t have to become the worst case scenario. The ideal should still be an aspiration for us all, even if it takes a lot more work, and even if it isn’t reached in this generation. But reaching the ideal requires embracing it, seeking it out, and course correcting in order to aim for it constantly.

Every positive condition or situation in life is based on fulfilling an ideal. Don’t reject it or run from it. Embrace it for your sake and the sake of others.

Book a free 30 minute consultation with me– I want to be your family life coach.

One Way to Talk About Diversity on the Way to School with your Kids

Trips to school take a surprisingly serious tone sometimes.

On the ride a couple of days ago, the subject of ethnicity came up. The boys had been reading a book on the countries of the world and we had talked about it a little bit. Once we got into the car, with the conversation still trailing on, I mentioned the ethnicity common of a certain country; which one I don’t remember. So the natural question was, “Dad, what is ethnicity?”

I learned more about the distinctions between race, ethnicity, and nationality in high school through a curriculum for a mentoring program I helped begin than I ever have since, even in my college days. Race, with its focus on common physical traits people share, has often done more harm than good as a concept since becoming a system of classification in the 19th century. Ethnicity, with more nuance including cultural differences, languages, and other regional factors that contribute to a person, is much more helpful. Our ethnic origin tends to be a lens through which we think of ourselves, thus a way we like to be recognized and thought of by others.

My kids have learned the idea that everyone is different, and that is great. We can learn from others, and we must respect others and treat others well no matter what. Anyone may also have bad intentions and show negative actions, even intentionally harmful actions, regardless of their physical characteristics or where they are from. Anyone may be wrong, and anyone may be right.

We are all created by God and we are equal before Him- precious in his sight. He created us uniquely with advantages and disadvantages, sometimes inherited, sometimes hard-earned, and sometimes acquired in spite of what we would have chosen for ourselves.

It just so happens that this day was awards day for my oldest, and we were thrilled with all of his accolades. But I knew there were many children in that gym who received not one single certificate, that in a decade or so would be coming into their own, and in 20 years would be making a huge difference that will have been affected not one bit by the number of awards they received or did not receive. Many were black, white, poor, obese, disadvantaged by lack of parents and involvement in the foster care system.

I want to live in a society that rewards merit based on hard work, which applies the individual uniqueness and talents of each individual to something worthwhile. I believe I do. I remember a country where differences were celebrated but there was a common recognition and appreciation for the opportunities that were available then and are available now. I remember a lecture at University of Tennessee at Martin by Elaine Chao in around 2000 who contended that decades of affirmative action had ultimately not set any minority group ahead in spite of the work on their behalf in college admissions offices across the country. She would not get to express those views on a college campus today, 18 years later.

I saw seniors of various ethnicities demonstrate high achievement at my nephew’s high school graduation just last night. I don’t know if any received any kind of preference or prejudice when it came to what they earned or were not allowed to earn. I do know that the real challenge of life lies ahead of each and every one of them, and success will be found in how they handle the pressures, stresses, and even the unfairness that will come their way.

I’m afraid that for all the talk of equality and fairness, the message of opportunity and responsibility is going to be lost on our kids. Society is too busy either shaming them or propping them up in ways that are not sustainable. There is something for everyone to do ,a purpose for each and every life. It’s a God-given purpose. It isn’t always about making a lot of money, or gathering a lot of materials things. Even if your family has never had a college graduate, purpose is not about being the first to graduate from college. Purpose is not about taking everything that everyone tries to give you, especially in a society that keeps trying to give a way “free” things, like college. Purpose is not about fairness, and it isn’t about victimhood, unless it is about the redemption part of being a victim.

Purpose is about taking the disadvantages- the wrongs, inequities, injuries, self-inflicted wounds, betrayals, misunderstandings- and the blessings, and going forward with it all. How are you going to go forward?

One quote I heard from a particular math teacher a couple of times during the graduation said, “I wish you good luck- I hope you don’t need it. I hope you get exactly what you deserve.”

I’m glad my children had the chance to achieve and to witness the achievements of others. Most of all, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to talk to them on the way to school, and that when the opportunity came, I did it.

My Recent Parenting Fail

I had an instant parenting fail the other day.

The boys wanted me to get out the go-cart. It’s a moody old engine attached to a single drive wheel that drives three other wheels attached to a metal roll cage. I was asked over and over again, “Let me ride the go-cart” until I was finally able to go outside and crank it up.

It took several tries to get the engine cranked, and even then, it would go only so far before dying. I would chase it down and crank it back up, after which it would go a few feet more then die again. My youngest hasn’t developed the finesse with his gas foot to feather it and keep the engine running. I encourage hi to stick with it, because the engine would eventually warm up and run better without dying. But it did not take long before he lost interest. So I asked his brother if he wanted to try it. He go ton and had basically the same problem, but as an older child, I tried to coach him more about how to operate the pedal and keep it running. He lasted even less time than his younger brother did.

The message they needed was on being patient. The message I gave was an excellent one in losing patience. I called little brother over from across the yard because I wanted him to hear the message too. “Don’t ask me to get this thing out anymore if you aren’t going to actually ride it!” After that, I cranked it and rode it around with all the driving skill I have developed over the years of operating moody tractors, lawn mowers, ATVs, and old pickup trucks.

This message was pound and clear- lack of patience will be met with less patience, and the result should be more patience. Not going to happen.

This isn’t a fatal error, and it took no time before things were back to normal, but it caused me to think about how inconsistent our actions and words can be as parents. There are days that are full of such inconsistencies. We often work against ourselves to the detriment of not only long-term development for our children, but also to the detriment of our immediate peace and desired results. I deal with it all the time in clients’ families but rarely recognize when I have that problem in my own life and relationships.

I’m thankful that times like this one can teach me lessons and hopefully help me to avoid the same mistake twice. The truth is painful but it can drive tremendous change, sometimes with only small adjustments to how we approach each other in life.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Love y’all,

Glen

Acts 2:38

Book me here for a free family life coaching consultation.

Responsibility and Accountability- What Can Family Life Coaching Do For You? Part 2

Responsibility and accountability are heavy things. They are intrinsically good and yet universally avoided. It’s our nature to be who we want to be and do what we want to do. There is a whole lifestyle and philosophy of life built around the “feels good-do it” mentality.

Everything changes when we start a family, except for our desire to accuse or excuse whenever we get hammered by life and all the responsibility it brings our way.

Strong start to an article that’s supposed to make you want to book a session with me, right? Let me apply how family coaching can help and see what you think.

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First off, family coaching is instant accountability. Coaching is a funnel. It’s wide open at the start, but it narrows down based on the decisions you make and the goals you want to achieve. Once we get a plan in place and cover some essential areas of responsibility within the coaching relationship, then it’s all about minor course corrections that help you stick to your goals.

My first encounter with coaching was life coaching that was provided by my employer. Prioritizing my life was a huge need, and the discussion over and over again was this- what do you have to let go of in order to pic up this goal? Where do you want to be and what do you have to do to get there? I wanted to write a book. It was a mission (it still is). But I had all these “mini-missions” as my coach put it, pulling me left and right of course from achieving my goal. I’m still tempted by mini-missions that fulfill an immediate gratification in my life without getting me closer to my stated desired goal.

You know what else gives instant gratification? Yelling, accusing, blaming, and excusing. I see it all the time. We do it toward people we love and care about, and it actually sets us back from achieving what we all want. Parents and children (minor and grown alike) act in a way that seeks instant gratification without acknowledging that everyone can have the things they need and want in life. In fact, more often than not, I actually hear from people within families that only want the immediate instant relief from whatever is bothering them, with little to no thought about the long term and what it takes to get there.

Secondly, family coaching helps with the difficult business of ferreting out the responsibility each has to the other within the family. It’s about more than just getting along together. Counseling can help you learn to cope with what you can’t change. Coaching helps you leverage the things you can change. Interestingly, the things you can change always fall within your sphere of responsibility, and no one else’s. Family coaching is for those who are ready to change.

Practical steps for the week. Pay attention to these-

  • In what ways am I accusing others for my inability to achieve a goal I really want? Pay attention to “you” or “he/she” language, and “always/never” language. These are great indicators of blame, whether you’re saying it out loud or in your head.

 

  • In what ways am I excusing myself (letting myself off the hook) for the things that keep me from my goals? Think about the instant gratification activities that seem so important and fulfilling now, but they are distracting you from your goals, or worse, easing the pain of actually trying to to something that you know is much bigger and more significant than what you are doing now.

 

  • How can I bring my family closer to me in all of this? They are important. If you can stop accusing and excusing, then you are on-track to attract their support in whatever you are ready to do. Reciprocate that with their goals and desires. It may be a matter of timing- we can’t all have everything all at once, but together everyone achieves more. Don’t unite to complain about the bad stuff, unite to take advantage of the good stuff and make a real plan to go where you want to go together.

Did you know that if life in more fulfilling personally and within your personal relationships, your work life will improve? Your productivity can be better? I haven’t written a book yet, but the lessons I took from life coaching that I have applied to approaching missions with my family beside me, working with me, have helped my do so much more with my limited time and resources than I ever thought I could do before. Each of us need a number of unique relationships in order to succeed in our missions. A coach may be just the one you need right now.

Book me for a free 30-minute consultation at www.tenntalk.org/glen-gaugh. Let’s talk about how family life coaching can be of value to you.

How to be a Good Dad, part 3

 

My weekly video for Tennessee Advocacy Talk coaching- let me be your family life coach. Free consultation- tenntalk.org/glen-gaugh.