Parenting as Character Building 2.0

I wrote about parenting as character building a couple days ago. Since then I’ve reflected more on this and I’ve been thinking about the work of character building as the work of shaping a heart.

The backdrop for this idea is Reggie McNeal’s book, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders. God’s work in people is a “work of heart.” A leader’s job is also a work of heart. And a parent’s job is a work of heart as well. The primary responsibility of parents is to develop the character of their children!

The Scriptures challenge parents (Proverbs 22.6):

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Parents must do their best to shape the heart(s) of their child(ren). David was a man whose heart was shaped well. God said about David:

I have found David … a man after my own heart.

There are no guarantees in life. Even after you’ve done all the heart-shaping work you can do (and no one does it perfectly), still the child must choose his/her own path. The possibilities are a bit scary, but they’re also exciting!

Thankfully, parents are not alone in this heart-shaping work. This work is ultimately God’s work. On that note, Deuteronomy 6.4-9 offers some great advice for parents!

We plan to do some more thinking, especially on the core practices of this heart-shaping work (perhaps starting with the core practices in Deuteronomy 6). In the meantime, what practices have you found helpful in shaping your child’s heart/character?

Parenting as Character Building 1.0

As we’ve talked with many people over the last year about our adoption process, we’ve received two primary responses: 1) excitement about the prospect of an addition to our family, and 2) certainty that our lives are going to be turned upside down. 🙂

Well, with our adoption process nearing the end, much of our attention now turns toward preparing for parenthood. As we do so, we are committed to developing strong character in the little person God entrusts us with. Parenting is heart-shaping work!

I’m sure one of our most important challenges will be maintaining this focus on character building. With all of the distractions available today (media, sports, music, hobbies, etc., none of which are bad in and of themselves, necessarily, and all of which can be part of character building), we hope to do our best to keep the main thing (i.e. building strong character) the main thing.

Parenting is a form of leadership. Whereas a primary responsibility of Christ-following leaders is building Christ-like character in others, parents are also entrusted with the responsibility of developing character in their child/children. We trust that God will help us to build strong character in Baby Willis (yes, we’re still working on a new name!).

We’re beginning to collect helpful online parenting resources. If you have a good resource to suggest, or if you have some personal advice you’ve learned along the way, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

[Click here to read Parenting as Character Building 2.0]

First Baby Shower

God certainly has perfect timing. We received our referral on a Tuesday, while at Asbury. Wednesday we went to visit with Randy’s family in TN. Upon arrival one of the first questions was, “What’s your theme?” We had no theme. We had decided not to do any preparations for a nursery until we had our referral.

So while in TN we went shopping for a theme. As the question became recurrent from Randy’s stepmother, we figured something was up … and sure enough, the Saturday after our referral, Randy’s family gave us our first baby shower and Pooh and Friends was the theme of the evening!

It was great having pictures of our little one for the occasion. Randy hooked his computer up to the big screen TV and we had a slideshow with the six pictures we had received just the day before playing throughout the evening.

As we loaded up the car for our return trip, we realized that it was a sign of things to come. Our lives are going to change in a big way and it has already started as we packed a box of diapers, a bag of baby clothes, crib bedding, a portable crib and more. All we needed was a car seat with our very own little one nestled in the back seat!

Dissertation Topics

A little about our dissertations.

So far in our doctor of ministry / dissertation journeys we have not said a whole lot about our specific topics. However, we just noticed that Asbury’s current proposal’s page now lists our dissertation proposal topics:

Joleen: The Integrated Small Group: Bible Study, Community, Ministry, and Mission

Randy: Leadership Communication: The Relationship Between Communication and the Shaping of a Missional Culture

We’ll say more about these topics in the days to come, but once we return from vacation in a couple days, we will jump back into work on our dissertations for what will hopefully be the home stretch!

“The Ultimate Gift”

Don’t just live a life, leave a legacy!

Awhile back, we watched The Ultimate Gift (official movie/movement website). We watched it again while visiting family in Tennessee earlier this week. It’s a great movie with the tag line, “A life experience becomes a gift.” The movie is based on Jim Stovall’s book, The Ultimate Gift.

The movie begins with the death of Red Stevens (James Garner), a wealthy businessman. One of his family members, Jason Stevens, expects (as does the rest of the family) a big inheritance. Instead, his grandfather recorded several video vignettes during his final days, which become a crash course on life for Jason. Red states …

So I want to give you a gift—a series of gifts leading up to, well, I wanna call it “the ultimate gift.” Now, you fail in any way, it’s over. You get nothing.

During one of his recorded speeches, Red says …

Our lives should be lived not avoiding problems but welcoming them as challenges that will strengthen us so that we can be victorious in the future.

That’s a great statement!

If you watch The Ultimate Gift on DVD, be sure to watch the beginning of the credits at the end of the movie for a recap of the “gifts,” which include:

The gifts of …

  • Work
  • Money
  • Friends
  • Learning
  • Problems (You don’t begin to live until you lose everything, Red.)
  • Family
  • Laughter
  • Dreams
  • Giving
  • Gratitude
  • A day
  • Love

The music in this movie, composed by Mark McKenzie is good. Our favorite is “Something Changed” by Sara Groves. The song is about life transformation. The chorus says …

And I cannot make it. And I cannot fake it. And I can’t afford it. But it’s mine.

The song, which appears on Sara’s 2005 Add to the Beauty CD, proclaims that life change is God’s work — you can’t make it, fake it, or earn it, it’s a gift from God to all who will receive it.

Since the movie we’ve become very interested in Sara’s music! We especially love her latest single (from her upcoming CD, “Tell Me What You Know” called “When the Saints,” an inspirational song for people who want to change the world).

One of the movie’s sponsors, Once Upon a Family, has put together a kit to help families put the message of the movie into practice. As we prepare for parenthood, we’re thinking about things like legacy and developing strong character in children. This movie certainly comes at the right time for us!

The movie reminded us of Leonard Sweet’s book, SoulSalsa, especially the chapter called, “Bounce Your Last Check.” You can read extensive portions of the book at Google Books (scroll down to page 52 to read a portion of this chapter). In the book, which you’ll find in our list of recommend books for leaders, Sweet says, “Soul artists receive good things gratefully and give it all away in the end.”

We strongly recommend “The Ultimate Gift.” Even more importantly, this is a movie that needs to be more than simply watched and enjoyed, it needs to be internalized and put into practice.

May God help us all to leave a legacy!