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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,


Acts 2:38

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How to be a Good Dad Pt.2

In part 2 of this series- to be a good dad, turn your heart toward your children.

The Fight Isn’t Mine

[2Ch 20:15, 17 KJV] 15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle [is] not yours, but God’s. … 17 Ye shall not [need] to fight in this [battle]: set yourselves, stand ye [still], and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD [will be] with you.

The Lord chooses the enemy. He chooses the battlefield. He chooses the timing. He has chosen everything and has left nothing to chance. He expects us to know His will and to do it, nothing more, nothing less.

I felt strongly in the Lord to run for public office in 2016. I fought with it for months before deciding to go for it. I consulted with my wife and others about whether it was the right thing to do. We all agreed. We still agree that it was the right thing to have done, even though we lost the election. When it is God’s will, you never lose.

This election season came around, and I had the same struggle as before. I was back and forth, up and down. I talked it over, over and over again, with my wife and others I trusted. I had more encouragement to go for it this time than I did before. But I never could find peace in running another race at this time. God chooses the battles, the enemy, the battlefield, and the timing.

This is not the battle to fight right now. I am discouraged at the state of our young people, of the church, and of our nation. There is a lot to be done. There is another battle to be fought right now.

This is not the enemy. Before David fought a giant, he fought a lion and a bear. Our enemy is not flesh and blood, but spiritual principalities, and powers, and darkness in high places. It isn’t the time to face a political opponent right now. There are enemies for each of us to face, so ask, “Lord, should I go up against this enemy now?”

This is not the battlefield. There are a number of skirmishes to be won. I can’t connect the role of being an elected representative to any of them right now. There are public and civic duties I know I must fulfill, but not as a politician.

That doesn’t mean there will not be a time for that. Timing is everything, and God knows His timing for each of us. Each seed sprouts in its own time, and I have no doubt about the seeds that have been sown as I have obeyed God each step of the way. They will have their time.

I remember a few years ago, at a time when I was discouraged, the Lord spoke to me as He did to Moses, and said, “What is in your hand?” What do you already have a hold on that you can use to get ahead, make a difference, use in ministry, fight a battle? It is still the question to be answered. It is time to take inventory and decide what do I have that can do the greatest good right now. Not just temporary good, but eternal good.

How to Give Compliments Effectively!

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What Can Family Coaching Do For You? Part 1

Busting through the status quo is tough to do, but I have experienced it several times. If I can do it, so can you.

It would be possible for me to be one of the most complacent people ever. I even verge on lazy sometimes. These traits have shown up in a couple of ways.

First, there have been times when I knew I could “do better,” but I couldn’t (wouldn’t) raise a finger to make it so. If you and I were talking (let’s make this happen) and you found yourself in the boat, I would have to help you confront the reality that laziness will get you nowhere. I wouldn’t feel bad about it one bit; I had to learn that lesson.

Secondly, I piled up stuff (responsibilities, job/volunteer titles, goal lists), stuff that presented the illusion of progress or fulfillment. One time, I was so stressed under the load I had taken on myself I had to visit a counselor on campus. It would have been one thing if all the stuff was bringing me value; this was not the case. It was just a bunch of stuff I thought I had to do to make something worthwhile happen.

Let me be your family life coach for a minute- which things in your pile belong to you and which things need to be given back to someone else? Maybe just dropped altogether?

To say yes, you first have to say no to some things. So take inventory.

• What expectations are you fulfilling that belong to someone else? Far from telling you to ditch people, I’m saying it will help you and others you love if you would mark some expectations “return to sender.” Have an honest conversation.
• What expectations have passed their expiration date? Time change, people change, goals change. Few goals and roles remain unchanged forever and always. More honest conversation may be necessary, but the biggest conversation might need to take place within yourself.
• What do you find in your pile that you should fully own and be accountable for? If the pile is thinning out a lot by the time you get to these things, then I guarantee that whatever is left has been fighting for time and attention that the rest of the stuff has competed for. This may be where you locate the limitations you have experienced in personal relationships, parenting, self-care, and health and wellness.

Getting down to the essentials will help you allocate time and energy to new behaviors and activities that will actually move you forward.

This is how family life coaching can help you- decide what you want, how you can get it, and how to take the most important people with you. Most importantly, coaching will help you face the realities preventing you from achieving your next steps in life.

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