When you’re in the middle of it and you’re not going to make it

When you’re in the middle of tough, rocky days, you don’t think they’ll ever end.

Just like in the middle of a potentially heated conversation — you don’t know how to keep it from getting worse, you’re SO tempted to say just one more thing, and you’re not going to make it without things boiling over.

So I’m digging a post hole and it’s not going well. Until it does. Here’s a reminder of what we all know, but so easily forget, about tough days and heated conversations . . .

And I’d love for you to leave a comment and share what you think  . . .

You rock? Yeah right. Or do you? Yes and here’s why.

If you have doubts about yourself – doubts about your abilities, and doubts that you’re the kind of person who can help your family connect and get along – this is for you.

the quality of all

You may not think you’re up to it, but you are. Here’s why.

You’re up to it because you rock. But the reason why you rock is probably not what you think.

You don’t rock because you rock. You rock because of who you are. Getting the who-you-are thing straight is the beginning of feeling better, and helping your family relationships.

Like me, you don’t feel like you rock. We know we come up short. We wonder if we’ve got what it takes, and the way we decide if we’ve got what it takes is we compare ourselves to others.

We compare ourselves to other people but that’s impossible because we’re incapable of seeing others the way we see ourself.

But we do it anyway!

And it’s the same for every other person. They all do it too.

It’s easy to compare our insides with everyone else’s outsides. That’s all we’ve got. It’s easy for them to do that with us, too. That’s all they’ve got.

I don’t think we should do that.

You compare yourself to others to try to nail down your identity, but there’s not much nailing in that. All that comparing changes day-to-day, which means your identity can change daily. You can go your whole life never knowing who your are.

You really only make sense when you start at the beginning, and the beginning starts with God.

1. You are a created thing

You didn’t make yourself up. You’re not your own idea.

Your maker knows how he made you. He knows your strengths, your weaknesses, your pace, your abilities, your potential, your limits. Did you ever think that maybe he did it on purpose? All of it?

He knows the level of your ability to deal with life by depending on yourself (your natural ability), and depending on him (your supernatural ability). Did you ever think that he limited your natural ability so he could make up the difference?

2. Your life is being engineered

He engineered placing you in your family, with those parents and siblings, or without any of them. And he engineered your school and friends and job and marriage, or the lack of them. He’s overseen, or permitted, all your experiences and circumstances.

He created time, and how it moves, and how much there is. Weeks, days, hours, and minutes are the same for everyone. He knows what’s available to you today for any moment, for any project, for your life. He knows every interruption and glitch.

3. You have an assignment

You may not know exactly what that assignment is. You may only know looking back later. Or you may have a vision, a calling, a sense of mission that you sense right now. We’re all different.

He knows the assignment he’s given you and what it’s for. He knows everything involved and needed to do it. He knows it’s YOUR assignment, and he gave it fully aware of you and your limitations and the time available.

And oh yeah — he loves you more than you love yourself.

Now that IS pretty rockin. But only because of the awesomeness of your creator, engineer, assigner, and lover.

And it doesn’t have anything to do with what’s on the inside or outside of anyone else.

One assignment he’s for sure given you is the role of allowing him to be a positive influence in your family through you.

The quality of your family relationships are not your responsibility. Being God’s access to your family, so that he can influence those relationships, is.

And he’s already done everything that needs to be done for you to be his access. All you need to do is believe it, and let him. You’ve got what it takes when you’ve got Him.

So, how are you feeling right now?


You might also read Everybody carries a pee cup and This isn’t about being skinny. They might be about you. They’re definitely about me.

Hi, I’m Gary


In 1985 my wife’s husband was 34 years old, an alcoholic who drank 3 quarts of beer a day, fell asleep on the floor every night at 7 pm, no college degreee, no training or skills, no ambition, no motivation. He was lost, apart from God, unemployed half the time, drove an old Chevy Vega with a driver side door that flew open every time you made a right turn, never seemed to get around to fixing it. He drank behind her back and lied about it and she learned she couldn’t trust him.

My wife lived with this man in a 900 sf house with lots of arguing, mostly because he was clueless on how to be married or raise kids. He had vowed to himself not to have children until he ‘figured out how to be an adult’ but he never did and here they were, two daughters 11 and 8. (If you don’t already know them, the 11 year old was Myquillyn, and the 8 year old was Emily.)

This was normal for a long time.

This was my wife’s life.

I was the husband.

That’s how our family started, and how it went for the first 12 years or so of our marriage. No one had any reason to believe anything would ever change.

It changed.

It changed not overnight but over time.

Today our marriage majors on grace and patience and caring more for the other person than for ourselves. Most of our arguments are over giving the other person their wayyes, we argue over sacrificing for each other. We’re absolute best friends, and trust dominates and creates an inviting vibe in our home. Disagreements are brief and hardly an inch deep. We share a rich connection as a family between our daughters, their husbands, and their kids. And people seem to notice.

I love it, and that may be  good place to start: how do you feel about your family?

Wish I could say “Here’s how we did it! Follow these steps!” But it’s not that kind of thing. I don’t know exactly how we got here.

It’s more of a “Here’s what we do now” kind of thing. And I CAN describe that.

It turns out, humans don’t use explanations to make change happen. They change, and then try to explain it.

~ Seth Godin

I can share the attitudes we embrace now, and what the behavior looks like that is consistent with those attitudes. I can show you how a family like ours thinks and feels, and how we mess up, and I can try to help you connect the dots of that with your family. Maybe you’ll see something that fits for a family like yours.

I believe if my family can get here with the start we had, then your family can get somewhere unimaginably good, too.

You can get there no matter where you are now. And if you’re at a good place now, well, we want it to keep getting better, right? I sure do.

I believe – and this is important – that your attitudes and expectations shape your family. Change your attitudes and expectations, and your family changes.

Positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experiences of the world

~ Sam Harris

I believe small steps lead to big changes over time.

I believe by perseverance the snail reached the ark.

I believe you can make hay in a season, but growing an oak takes years, and your family is an oak.

I believe everything in your world fits and is connected, even when it doesn’t make sense. You, your family, God, your hopes and dreams, all your challenges and disappointments.  The more you see how they fit together, the better your family relationships get. This place here is designed to help you and your family relationships to keep getting better over time.

And I believe one person – one human person – you – CAN make a difference.

I’ll do my best to help you make that difference.

You have hope, but hope is more than waiting and wishing. Hope involves you. You can’t wait for the right circumstances. You can’t wait for others to change and see the light. Hope means a different future – a future you can’t make happen, but a future that won’t happen without your contribution. Contributions like patience and not giving up. Refusing to keep score. Putting high expectations on yourself, not others.

This is not a parenting place, but it covers parenting.

It’s not a marriage place, but it covers marriage.

This is a place to help your whole family get along better

A place to help you make a difference and feel better about your family.

Your whole family is that group of relatives that you think most about – your spouse, kids, your brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. All those in-laws and out-laws.

Whatever relatives are your greatest source of pleasure, pain, and concern, and who you want good for, that’s your family and this place is for you.

You could probably figure most of this out on your own by trial and error like me, but why make the same mistakes and take 20 years like I did?

It will still take time, just not as much. So this is a place where you’ll get the benefit of our experience and what we’ve learned, and you can start your journey to better family relationships way farther along than we were when we started. Or if you’re already in a great place, you can keep going from good to even better. And you can start right now.

If you’re not a subscriber, scroll up on the right, or down at the bottom of this post. You’ll get a free guide to help you do a simple, fun family thing we’ve done for years, to help your family connect and get along.

As a subscriber, you get a quick email reminder whenever I write something new here. In general that might be once a week, but there are seasons of more or less.

For encouragement right now, pick something from below. Each is shorter than this article – if you read them all it might take you 15 minutes:

Stop doing this and every relationship you have will improve

You can’t change your family but you can woo their hearts

The Mr. Rogers method for beautiful calm in your family

For the estranged, hardly talking family

Why wooing the heart wins

Please read this

And oh yeah,

Four things my wife needs to remember I can’t do (and that your man can’t do either)

The safest place on earth

post secret dog

One of the most popular blogs in the world posts anonymous confessions from people sending postcards sharing secrets they’ve never told anyone.

Not just secrets, but confessions of fears, hopes, regrets, and desires.

Some are funny. Some are frightening. Some are heartbreaking, embarrassing, painful, silly, and repulsive.

People also occasionally send objects that represent their secrets. The most common: rings and razor blades. Heartbreak and shame. Here, you take it.

If you had a secret or hidden dilemma or embarrassment, and you felt the need to share, why wouldn’t you just tell someone? Tell a friend or family member. Tell a pastor or accountability partner. Or why have secrets at all?

post secret aYour life is filled with people willing to listen.

And it’s easy to get their undivided attention. Just say, “I have something I need to tell you but you have to promise not to tell anyone.” Or start to tell them something and then stop and say, “Oh never mind, I probably shouldn’t say that.” Do either of these things and they will be utterly curious and attentive and push you to share.

So what’s the appeal of doing it publicly and anonymously?

And what’s the appeal of reading the secrets and pain of people you’ll never meet?

post secret b

You keep quiet because opening the door to the real you is dangerous. Those who go through the door could be shocked at what they find. They could reject and shame you. You feel shame just knowing someone might reject you. Plus, seeing what’s inside could hurt people you care about.

Rejection and shame and hurting people is scary.

Yet deep down we want to connect and be known.

When we read the secrets of others we don’t feel so alone. Everybody experiences some kind of pain, regret, heartbreak, confusion, shame. Thank God I’m not the only one. But it’s still hard to believe. It doesn’t really count until someone you love engages the real you that you’re hiding.

post secret c

Hiding is the short term easy way. You avoid the risk of rejection, shame, and embarrassment. And you avoid the risk of hurting or disappointing someone you love.

But you also avoid doing anything about the thing you’re hiding. Since no one who matters knows, you can leave things as they are (as long as you can stand the pain). You stay in the painful hiding place. This isn’t good for people.

What IS good for people is experiencing this:

“I love you no matter what. I accept you despite that thing you want to hide. You can’t shock me or drive me away. I’m here to stay.” The dangerous place transforms into a safe place.

post secret collage6

The safest place on earth is not the PostSecret website. It may be safe but it’s a neutered safety. You won’t experience judgment and rejection there, but you also won’t receive the true love and acceptance you’re hungry for.

Your family is designed to be the safest place on earth

Yes, it can be the scariest place: rejection from a stranger is way easier than rejection from someone you love.

But it can also be the awesomest place: acceptance and grace for the real you from someone you love is powerful and liberating.

You family is designed to be a place of honest vulnerability without rejection. Disagreements without anger. Foolish mistakes without embarrassment. Failure without shame.

The place where they know you best yet love you most.

An encouraging place to launch, and a soft place to crash-land.

Even if you feel your family is far from a safe place, you can make your corner safe. Be unshockable, but be shockingly graceful. Show that you believe this family place is safe by being vulnerable yourself. Grace and vulnerability are contagious.

post secret collage5

For you and for those you love, your family is designed to be the safest place on earth. Commit to cooperate in your corner with the one who designed it that way, and he’ll move heaven and earth to make it true.


Are you digging deep to find hope in your home, your family, or your soul, no matter how things appear? Hope*ologie might be for you. Find out HERE.

The hardest thing to say to a family member

I was wrong

The hardest thing for you to say to a family member is probably not:

“Isn’t this fun!”

“Please pass the beets.”

“Yes, I took out the garbage.”

When something is fun, or lighthearted, or informational, or you get credit, it’s easy to say it.

As unpleasant as it is, it’s also probably not hard to say:

“I can’t believe you said that!”

“You NEVER give me credit for anything!”

“I hate you!”

Those things can come out naturally, without trying. No thinking or effort required. They burst out driven by your emotions. You have to work to NOT say them.

You might find it harder to say:

“You are soooo good at that!”

“I need you.”

“You make my life better.”

Why is it easier to say something in anger than it is to say something that builds someone up? This is where we get a clue to a nasty default built into us: judging others and demanding justice of others comes naturally. We’re born selfish and judgmental. No child needs to be taught to say “mine!” or “no fair!”

Your hardest thing to say would be different from mine. But whatever it is, I’ll bet it requires humility.

Here’s the hardest thing for me to say to a family member. Yours might be something like it:

“You were right. I was wrong.”

More and more with my wife Brenda, I seem to be wrong. I’m getting really good at it. Shouldn’t I be getting better and better at being right? Maybe I am, but I guess she’s getting better at being right faster than I am.

Being wrong gets your attention. The more convinced you were that the other person was wrong, the harder it is to backtrack. Backtracking is not fun. The more you backtrack, the more sensitive you are to overconfidence. Sensitivity to overconfidence is good.

“I’m sorry” is much easier for me to say than

“You were right. I was wrong.”

Both parts together are the kicker. You de-exalt yourself while exalting the other one over you. This goes against everything built into you at birth.

But it goes WITH everything put into you through your faith in Jesus.

In humility count others more significant than yourselves – Philippians 2.3

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble – James 4.6

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted – Luke 18.14

Being right is fun. Being humble is godly.

What’s the hardest thing for you to say to a family member?


Are you digging deep to find hope in your home, your family, or your soul, no matter how things appear? Hope*ologie might be for you. Find out HERE.

No one asked me this question but I’ll answer it anyway

proverbs 17.9

Whenever I do an interview on the radio with someone sharing advice, I try to ask them one bottom-line question as a simple take-away for people.

For example, the other day I asked John Fuller from Focus on the Family, “What is one thing that would make the biggest or quickest difference in parenting – one attitude or thing parents could do?”

He didn’t pause a second: “Give up control.” He said our kids have a thing called free will which will destroy all your expectations of control. Amen to that, right? What a great answer that helps with more than just parenting; it helps with your expectations for all your family relationships.

Since I’m always the one asking the questions of others, I thought I’d ask myself a question for a change — that bottom-line question with the simple take-away. So here’s the question:

What one thing is the biggest obstacle to family harmony?

The one single change that could have the biggest effect on a family’s ability to get along?

My answer: “Bitterness. Which comes from keeping score.”

When we see the news story about the family member who attacked another family member over a TV show or macaroni and cheese, we all know it’s not about the show or the mac cheese. It’s about everything that’s happened before that. It all adds up to a fight over mac cheese.

It adds up because we keep score. And we wouldn’t keep score if we didn’t think we were winning. If I think I’m more offensive than you, that you’re more right than me, I’m not going to keep score. I only track offenses against me.

Whoever covers over an offense seeks love – Proverbs 17.9

If I think you owe me more than I owe you, I feel resentment towards you. I don’t want to call it a grudge, but that’s what it is. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder. But I handle it like a Christian, which means be nice on the outside, and feel like I’m sacrificing because I don’t overtly pay you back what I think you deserve.

I pay you back COvertly. My heart is cool towards you. I suspect a negative motive in most everything you do and say. I don’t trust you. I never ask you a personal or caring question. And here’s the worst part that I will NEVER admit – being so offended and bugged by you feels a little sweet, in a strange perverted way. It’s kind of nice to be owed.

The Big Blind Spot

I can’t possibly comprehend that you feel the same towards me. The bitterness, the chip on your shoulder, the cool heart, the martyrship of smiling on the outside, the sweetness of being owed big time – goes both ways?

That is outrageous and maddening to me. That makes it even more offensive. How dare you think it’s me! Sure I hold some blame, but nothing like you.

No way. Ridiculous.

And you think the same thing.

And thus you have tormented marriages, families, and extended family relationships.

In humility count others more significant than yourselves – Philippians 2.3

Families are the easiest place for this to happen. The opportunities to be offended and misunderstood are endless. The impact of endless offenses and misunderstandings leads to tension and bitterness. Marriages, parenting, in-laws, and grandparents end up living in this tension and bitterness.

If what I’ve described here is you, there’s hope. The fact that families are the easiest place for dysfunction to happen means families are also the easiest place for grace and love to happen – those opportunities are also daily and endless.

Here’s what ‘grace wins’ families do

Grace wins families are families characterized more by harmony and unity than by bitterness and anger. Bitterness and anger happen – but they don’t dominate.

Grace wins families begin with grace-filled individuals. Or maybe just one individual.

One individual – you – who realizes you might be wrong. You don’t insist on fairness, even on the inside in attitude. You refuse to keep score. You notice your own offenses more than others. You know by experience the negative consequences of a quick, loud response, and so you practice patient, quiet responses.

Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience – Colossians 3.12

You’d rather give in when you’re right than win when you’re wrong.

You’d rather trust a person’s motives when you shouldn’t, than not trust their motives when you should.

You’re confident that giving grace is contagious in a family, and your confidence and grace spreads.

You trust that this one thing – in humility refusing to keep score – kills the seed of bitterness and creates a growing garden of grace in your family.

And you’re grateful that today is another day to nurture that garden.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it – Mark Twain

Who’s the non-scorekeeper in your family?

How to walk down the sidewalk of love

walk this way~

This is the sidewalk of gratitude, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and love. Smooth, a few turns, nice view, calm.

It is NOT to be the sidewalk of grumbling, blame, arguing, selfishness, and anger. All broken and cracked, turning your ankle; might as well walk in the grass.

You walk this way the same way you walk any other way

There are no buttons or secret passwords or six steps to get there.

You look down the sidewalk, turn the way you look, take a step, and start walking.

When I walk Delly down this sidewalk there are lots of stops, distractions, and poop. Normal stuff for a dog walk. But we keep going, together. Poop is part of it.

Lift your eyes from the poop.

Standing in any one spot, right now, before I walk much on this sidewalk, I look around and see that even though I’m not where I want to be, this spot here is not so bad. It might even be pleasant.

I appreciate this view right here in whatever way I can.

You can’t live all in the future and miss this decent view.

And you can’t live all in the past and present, believing this is all there is with no hope that things can be better as you walk.

You don’t walk alone

As people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears – John Locke

Your family is with you, since you can’t help influencing them. Your walk may be slow if they don’t understand or appreciate this sidewalk yet, but you can lead, just a step ahead. Who doesn’t like grace and patience and encouragement? By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.

And the Lord is with you – if you’re with him on this sidewalk that he made, and if you let him lead.

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness – Psalm 26.3

What’s the view from your sidewalk right now?

Now do this

johnny cash to do list

If you like plans, steps, and lists, this is for you. You’re probably saying, “finally.”

Let’s say you’ve read the last three posts. You’re doing your best to accept your family right where they are, and you accept your role to model what you want to see in your family. You see the value and power of attention and curiosity. You want to cooperate with God in what he’s up to in your family, and you’re even a bit excited to think of yourself as God’s access to your family

Now you’re ready to do something. You’re ready because there is now a much greater chance that what you’ll do is not your own idea, but God’s idea of what is good for your family.

But how do you know WHAT to do? You could just copy Johnny Cash’s to do list above. Or you can go through a little exercise that takes where we’ve been, runs it through a funnel, and spits specific actions for your family out the other end. It’s just one imperfect idea, but it’s the beginning of being purposeful.

1. Create a ‘My Family Dream List’

Your family is that combination of relatives that engage your heart and mind the most. From husband,wife, parents, kids, and siblings, to grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and beyond. Whichever ones you have hopes and dreams for.

So dream like you’re the all-powerful master of your family universe. Get all your hopes and desires out there. Don’t yet consider any obstacles or restrictions or negative thinking or reactions of others.

What do you want to see in your family? How do you want your family to relate to each other? Include personal qualities and attitudes you think are important. Include behavior. Include ‘stop doing’ and ‘start doing.’ Include anything you want for your family.

Write everything down. It’s your dream list, so dream. No one else will see it. Leave some space around each item since you’ll write more later.

Take whatever time you need to think about it. It will be worth it. You can stop when you feel like you’ve got 90% of it down.

Now look over your list. Can you have a clear conscience that your desires for your family are also in the best interest of your family? Mark off anything that seems selfish on your part.

What you now have is your heartbeat for what you feel is best. These are your hopes and dreams for your family. Have you ever seen this all in one place before? How does it feel?

2. Now think of obstacles

The fun just ended.

For each item on your list, think of things that are preventing fulfillment. Distance. Money. Attitudes. Health. Time. Opportunity. “The past.” Think of all the reasons why that part of the dream isn’t true or can’t come true.

This is where your family dreams face reality. Even if the obstacle isn’t real and is just in someone’s head or is a misunderstanding, it counts if it interferes with the dream. Adding all this up could get depressing so play some upbeat music, snarf a favorite snack, and don’t do this part late at night.

Take your time. Don’t think of how to overcome the obstacles, just define them.

3. Go through your list and mark the items you have most influence over

Which parts of your dreams for your family can you realistically influence and how much can you influence it? This is where you balance the blunt reality of obstacles with realistic hope for overcoming those obstacles.

If your dream is for your husband to be more appreciated at work, your influence on that is probably limited. Same with your dream for your parents to stop hoarding.

But you probably can have tremendous influence if your dream is for brothers and sisters at home to get along better.

The people who influence us most are those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly – Oswald Chambers

If your dream is for your grown kids living on the other side of the country to move to your city, your influence is probably limited.

But if your dream is for those same kids to feel love, acceptance, and more of a family connection, you can potentially contribute greatly to that.

You might give a score to your potential influence. ‘One’ or ‘two’ or ‘three’ or something for each dream item. Or stars. Mark them some way so that you can tell at a glance where you can most make a difference.

4. Now pick one goal where you can make the biggest difference right now

Look through your dream list, at the obstacles, and at the items marked where you have the most influence. Which of these would make the biggest difference in your family right now, even with just a little progress?

Pick a goal that’s easy and that has the best chance of some success. Don’t make it big and difficult – keep it simple so you can see some progress and get some momentum.

5. Get creative and think of ten little practical things to do for that goal

Call it your Itty Bitty list. No big ideas or you’ll stress over them or procrastinate or talk yourself out of it. Small. Easy. Positive. Non-attention-getting.

It could be a favor you do for someone. Or an attitude that you model.

For example, for once you don’t let a certain something bug you like it usually does. Or you don’t raise your voice. You let someone go first or have the biggest or you let them win. You don’t argue. You smile.

Maybe a ‘just thinking of you’ text or phone call with no other agenda. Or a brief encouraging word about someone’s attitude or behavior or appearance. Something meaningful enough to feel, but so small that no one really notices. You know, itty bitty.

6. Do one of those things every day for three weeks

Each day decide which thing to do from your Itty Bitty list. Of course you can do more than one thing if you want. Just keep it simple.

Try this and see what you notice after three weeks. Are you encouraged? Has anything changed, just a little? Has anyone noticed anything? Have you moved an inch closer to the goal you picked?

Once you’ve tried this for three weeks, you can go back to #4 and pick a different goal and make another Itty Bitty list of ten little practical things for that goal. Maybe you’d also try more than one goal at a time. But when you first start, keep it simple and small.

What questions, suggestions, or encouragement for others do you have?

Find the hidden treasure buried in your family

by tim van de vall

Here’s how to find the hidden treasure buried in your family:

1. Walk into your bathroom.

2. Look in the mirror.

Your family’s hidden treasure is you. Well, actually your presence. There’s a subtle difference between you and your presence.

Your presence is God’s access to your family

You and me ourselves have proven pretty feeble change agents in our families, wouldn’t you say? What good have you caused by the power of your will and personality and wisdom alone? For me, not much.

Ahhh, but God’s presence through us goes places we can’t touch, places we don’t even know exist. Sure he can do that all by himself without you. But he created families as a place for us to influence each other while cooperating with him.

You . . . your family . . . you IN your family . . .

No accident.

I know what you’re thinking: “Aren’t there some other big strong grownups in this family that should model and cooperate with God too?” Oh yes. But right now it starts with you. And you’re enough to start with.

During our daughters’ Compassion child sponsorship trip last week, it was clear everyone assumed the difference one child could make in a family:

While changed circumstances sometimes change people, changed people always change circumstances.

One changed child eventually changes a family. A changed family will influence change in its church. Enough changed churches will transform a community. Changed communities change regions. Changed regions will in time change entire nations

– Wes Stafford

Do you believe that?

Because if big changes in a family can start with one little kid, what kind of changes can start with one big strong grownup actively cooperating with God?

Be the grownup cooperating with God

Don’t default to the common, “Well I tried and they just won’t change” or “Things can’t change because _____ (fill in the blank with your favorite reason). You’re better than that. God is bigger than that. You just haven’t seen how, yet.

Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge – Colossians 2.3

Christ in you, the hope of glory – Colossians 1.27

And if he is in you, where are those treasures? In you. And where are you? In your family.

That person in your bathroom mirror is God’s access to your family to influence them towards the things he has in mind.

Fortunately, since the things are in his mind, then the burden is on him to make it happen. You get the privilege of cooperating with God and watching what he does.

Put your family, your role, and the results, in God’s hands and lighten up

Realize the great power that comes from a peaceful attitude of trust. Find moments to give genuine attention knowing it’s an act of love and an act of curiosity about what God is up to in each family member.

These are the first attitudes and acts of a person cooperating with God, no matter what family you’re in. This is the beginning of modeling for your family. And these are things that can become contagious.

Then after a bit of peace and trust, attention and curiosity, you begin to notice more specific things God is up to in your family and you get more ideas for little ways to cooperate.

Next week: let’s start to see some of those small specific ways to cooperate with God.

When have you seen an attitude  become contagious?

Some family math: curiosity + attention = ?


You start with a desire for your family to be headed in a good direction. Well that’s easy, we all want that!

Then you do a tough internal thing: you accept your family unconditionally, and accept your role to influence them on purpose. Hmm, even without them accepting the same thing? Well, OK, but yes that is tough.

What’s next? Something you can do a little bit of every single day.

Let’s say you and I are talking. I look you in the eye and sincerely ask a few insightful questions about something you did, why you did it, how it made you feel, and what you wanted to see happen. I listen and ask a question and listen some more. You do most of the talking.

You can tell if my questions and curiosity are driven by duty, or by my own self-interest, or to catch you at something, or to gather gossip. You can tell if I’m trying to get credit for seeming interested.

And you can tell if I’m curious because I really am interested in you, and because I think my curiosity is going to be satisfied by discovering something worthy from you. When someone does this with me I feel honored. I feel they care. I feel I must be valuable. And I remember who it was that made me feel that way.

Be curious and sincerely care, listen without pushing or having an agenda, do it consistently in the little moments, and your family will feel honored and valuable, too. They’ll feel loved. And they’ll remember who made them feel that way.

Curiosity + attention = love

When you feel honored, valuable, and loved, what happens? You calm down. Your self-protective exterior gets soft. You lose the urgency to win and prove yourself and be right. You feel a bit generous and unselfish.

How does a calm, soft, generous, unselfish family sound to you? Genuine curiosity and attentiveness move you in that direction, moment by moment.

No, most of the time you don’t sit down with family members and give each other your undivided attention in a conversation. It’s a good idea and sometimes you do it, but family life is usually as-you-go. Many little moments add up.

What does your attention and curiosity lead you to discover? What do you see when your curiosity is satisfied?

You see inside a soul. You learn who they are and how they feel and why they do and think what they do. You hear their heartbeat.

Curiosity + attention = vision

The vision is NOT your vision for that person. It’s a vision that’s already present apart from you. You can’t see the whole thing, but you get hints from the heartbeat that you hear in the soul. You get a clue that something is going on, and if you stay curious and attentive you begin to gather dots to connect.

This is a privileged place. God is up to something in this person that he created, and you’re getting a little peak at what he’s up to. When this person is a family member and you love them, an awesome honor presents itself: the honor of cooperating with God in what he’s doing in someone you love.

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out – Proverbs 20.5

Here’s where the ground can get loose. You don’t know everything that’s going on, and you can easily mix in your own ideas and desires with what you think you see. This cooperation needs to be done with humility, since we all hardly know what God is up to even in our own selves.

A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way? – Proverbs 20.24

We all need help understanding our way. Wouldn’t you love to have someone who cared enough to commit to cooperating with what God is doing in you? Your family would love to have the same thing – and they do: you.

Now if only we knew how to do that cooperating. We’ll talk about that next Monday.

When was the last time you felt loved by someone giving you attention and sincere curiosity?