Being Missional on Black Friday and Christmas

My safe bet of the year: The holiday season will fly by. 

We'll rush around, and we'll strain to fit in all the errands, shopping, and visiting we want to do. And come January, we'll wonder how the holidays zoomed past us.

I'm definitely putting myself in this same category. So, I want to encourage you (and myself) to slow down and be intentional this season, from Thanksgiving to Black Friday to Christmas (and if you are in the Espinosa family, you also have 3 birthdays and an anniversary to thrown in there).

Want to join me? Here are some articles that have me thinking along these lines, and I hope they'll inspire you, too.

When Black Friday Becomes a Mission
Among Christian circles, you either feel like bashing Black Friday or joining in the fun. Jon Bloom gives us a better option: redeem it by approaching it with a God-centered mindset. Particularly, he encourages us to:
  1. Make it generous. "Loving generosity is a beautiful thing, and God loves it if it is fueled by faith." 
  2. Make it restrained.  First give to the poor, and do not go into debt.
  3. Make it about Jesus.  "Make Black Friday about more than shopping. Make it a kingdom mission." And I love this idea, "Bless the harried cashier."  

The Christmas Conundrum
The general standard my wife and I have followed is an idea we got from the couple that did our premarital counseling: Buy each of the children one small, personal gift, and then buy a bigger thing for them all to enjoy. As our children have gotten older, we've altered "the big thing" to be an experience that we all get to enjoy, such as some sort of mini-vacation (this was an idea from another mentor years ago).

Along these lines, Jen Hatmaker wrote a long post, in which she explains (among other things) five categories of gifts their children receive. It's another idea worth your consideration:
  1. Something you want
  2. Something you need
  3. Something to wear 
  4. Something to read
  5. Something to give 

3 Gifts to Give Your Kids This Christmas  
Not the same type of gifts I've just been talking about. John Murchison reminds of these very important things that our children really need:
  1. The gift of yourself 
  2. The gift of giving  
  3. The gift of knowing God
Above all else, will you give your children these gifts over the next month?


What We Get Wrong About Gift Giving    
Challenging words from Dorothy Greco:
"I was confronted with the reality that I did sometimes buy gifts for the wrong reasons. As any of you who are parents or caregivers know, raising kids has a tendency to uncover our insecurities. . . . Without being aware of it, I bought to assuage my fear and feelings of inadequacy."  

And for good measure, a couple of articles from this blog along these same lines:

**image courtesy of TACLUDA via rgbstock.com

Salvation: Not Automatic


As a (former) scientist, I like to think about problems and opportunities in terms of proven formulas. I want to know that if I do A and B and C, then Z will always happen.

But you know that life doesn't go like that. Life is complicated, and there are very few entitlements.

You're not any different as a parent. You'd like some guarantees for your children -- health, happiness, success, and (most of all) salvation.

Unfortunately we are not entitled to any of these. Check out my guest post on Family Matters, to read more on Not Automatic. And please share your questions and thoughts!


Related Links:

Parenting Resources


A quick compilation of some great parenting articles I've come across recently. You may not have time to read all, so pick a couple that seem to interest you the most.


A Prayer for the Parent's Soul
Thoughts on Psalm 143, from Jonathan Parnell. "Parenting is inescapably the work of waiting. But here, in this place of uncertainty, through this prayer, we remember the clear picture of God’s love in the cross and victory of Jesus."

Manvotional: General Douglas MacArthur's Prayer for His Son
Short, sweet, and inspiring.

5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline      
If you had a choice between following my blog and Tim Challies, pick the latter. Here's some parenting wisdom he gleaned from a book he's read.

Be Ready to Answer Your Kids Questions About the Bible   
Jon Bloom gives simple and thorough explanations to some apologetics-related questions. Then, you can read about when my son asked, "How do we know that Jesus is real?"  

Three Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship
And another self-promoting plug for my own blog, you may want to check out What If My Child Doesn't Want to Go to Church? (Yes, we've struggled with this issue in our family, too.)

What Lead You to Become an Atheist? Some Surprising Answers
Not a strictly parenting article, but one that parents need to consider as they think about their own church attendance and membership. To sum it up: having your child go to church is not enough!!!

Why Repentance Must Be Central to Your Ministry    
Again, not strictly about parenting, but a great reminder that every ministry or work we have (including discipling our children) must start with our repentance. Click on the link above, just watch it below:




Did you recently come across any helpful parenting resources? Let us know in the comments.

Preparing for Thanksgiving


Here are some articles which can equip you to better lead your family this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, Thanksfeeling, and the Glory of God   
A great reminder that we need to be continually driven by faith and repentance.
"Authentic heart-feelings are not in our control. We can’t make ourselves feel thankfulness. If our hearts are not moved by God’s goodness, we are ungrateful. Thankfeelings are a work of grace."

The True Story of Thanksgiving
Don't just focus on a single-day event. The ultimate story is about Creation - Sin - Redemption - Worship.


Puritans and Pilgrims
If you want to focus on more recent history, here's a great article. By no means were the Puritans and Pilgrims perfect. But I appreciate their over-arching sense of purpose:

"The Puritan vision of the Pilgrims saw the rule of Jesus Christ as extending over all aspects of culture. Nothing was considered secular, but rather everything from work to leisure was sacred and to be done unto the Lord."

5 Simple Ways to Have a Missional Thanksgiving
From Seth McBee and the Verge Network:
  1. Write down and share what you are thankful for.
  2. Play football in your neighborhood. 
  3. Include someone else in your dinner. 
  4. Party. Celebrate. 
  5. Help others, but don't rely on what you think needs to be done. Ask them. "Think partnership, not merely benevolence."

"Are They Pilgrims?"
A personal favorite, because it's about my daughter.


Thanksgiving Devotional
You can sign up for this free devotional from Paul Tripp.


Do you have any other resources to share? Let us know in the comments.

Should I Speak Up or Stay Silent?

Here's a question I received from a mom:

"I drive 6 middle school kids to school every morning. I am constantly shocked at the conversation but am struggling with how involved to get. I know I can't lecture them on everything and still have an impact but how much do I let slide? Also do I compromise on music choices?  

I want to be a part of these kids lives but am just a "mom" in their eyes and probably a lame mom at that."

Here is my response:

You mean like when I coached football, and I would drive football players home after practice, and some of them would talk about the girls they were having sex with? (I hope your conversations aren't exactly the same!)

I don't know what I should have done. And every time I had this conversation in my head, 
"Should I say something? I know they are wrong in their thinking and actions, causing damage to themselves and others. But I want them to be able to freely talk about these things to and around me. But then again, would I want them talking about my daughter like that? That’s sickening! I don’t think they even want other guys to talk about their own sisters in that way. I need to say something, but I don’t need to preach at them. So, what should I say?”
But when I did respond, I didn't always give the same answer.
  • Sometimes I just listened
  • Sometimes, I would say something funny and pick on them to deflect and lighten ("If that girl had any sense, she'd stay away from you.") 
  • Sometimes I would gently steer the direction of the conversation, without preaching too much. For example, I would ask if they wanted to be married someday, and then we'd talk about what being a good husband looks like.
  • Sometimes I'd tell about my own experiences -- the good things I've done and the mistakes I've made. 
I think this last one is what got their attention the most. And sometimes I would risk and share something that would be "lame" in their eyes, like me not having sex until I was married. The guys were shocked.
  
I also talked a lot about how I was loyal and faithful to my wife, and that they have a chance to practice loyalty and commitment now. Honestly, I never knew how much they were taking it in.
Until I heard this conversation on the practice field.

I hope your group of middle schoolers isn't having the same conversation. But maybe your responses should be the same: 
  • sometimes listen
  • sometimes joke
  • sometimes gently steer (best by asking questions), 
  • and sometimes give a testimony of your own life (positive and negative examples)

That was my response. What advice would you have given? Let us know in the comments. 


Do you have any parenting or ministry related questions? Please email me or contact me in some other way. 


**image courtesy of laura00 via freeimages.com


New Skill: Closing the Book


My goal for this year was to learn a new skill by practicing it for 20 hours over 8 weeks. It seemed so doable.

I've been slipping over the past few months. I barely applied any time to learning computer programming, or improving my Bible memory (I still do a little each morning, but I wanted to do more). I haven't solved a Rubik's cube in months, and probably forgot most of the algorithmns. I don't practice my Spanish or ukulele nearly as much as I'd like.

Note:  You can get a link to the posts about each of these goals at the bottom of this post.

Of course, I have been quite busy (wait -- I don't want to use that, because who isn't busy?). Let's just say that I've had very little free time lately. With working three jobs, I am definitely stretched to the point of dependence, (and that's a good thing).

Last November, I wrote a book. Well, I had finished most of it by the end of the month, and completed it by early January. I even gave you a sneak peak of the first chapter.

I've been revising the book through the year, and I even started collecting ideas and writings for a second book. (I've outlined and began a third book in my head, but it doesn't do you much good there, does it?)

If I can get some down time this month (a boy can dream . . .), I want to apply some major work to my book(s). I know that's a vague goal, which is bad.

So let's do this . . . I will work on my book(s) for 10 hours this month.

Boom. Let's roll.

Favorite Tweets from October

I hope you get a monster amount of candy for Halloween. Or just because it's Friday. Whatever reason you need.

Here's another treat for you -- some of my favorite tweets that you may have missed this past month.


From Others:

@FallonTonightA Russian group nominated Putin for a Nobel Peace Prize. "I'm all about peace," Putin said. "Piece of Ukraine, piece of Poland…"

@Jonnie_W:  Just met in an elevator, and I got flustered. Hope he knows my Love Language® is sweaty palms. 

@BurkParsonsIn his sermon on the mount Jesus demanded perfect righteous of us, in his death on the mount he fulfilled it for us.

@JoeWaters_GVL "Childhood poverty gets biologically embedded." - Dr Gorski 

@JamieTheVWM:  Maybe we should stop saying "Jesus loves you." and start saying "I love you. Jesus taught me how."  

@TheFatherEffect:  Your kids learn about grace by watching you give it to others.  


From Me:

To boost young brains, get kids to .

Definitely a good sign --> "As overtesting outcry grows, leaders pull back on standardized tests."

Another reason why should be the first to go to Mars!

Will this video inspire students to go into -related careers? is beautiful!!   

A little encouragement for the football coaches at Greenville High.