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Jamie Johnson
12 January 2010

Maxims

As my wife and I raise our children, we find ourselves communicating some core values to them, values that find their ways into maxims. And the values are worthy to be shared with you. This brings me to the first and most foundational of our values:

Absolute Truth both exists and is foundational.

We live in a postmodern and relativistic culture which denies the existence of absolute truth. I wrote in 2008 in Discourses: Relativism & Absolutes the following to challenge the postmodern notion that all is relative:

" If ‘All is relative’ is true, then even the statement ‘All is relative’ is relative and it cannot stand. If ‘All is relative’ is true, even the syntax governing this sentence makes it meaningless and even the letters making words would be meaningless as well since this might be a word or sentence to some and not to others and there is no overarching absolute to determine it as such. So, we know from logic and experience that the statement ‘All is relative’ is false. Therefore, to find the truth, we must negate the statement, which yields ‘All is not relative’ or better stated as ‘Some is relative,’ which is true. If one considers the true statement ‘Some is relative,’ then this implies also that absolute truth exists. Ultimately, absolute says, ‘one way.’ This also implies some is absolute (since ‘All is absolute’ is illogical, also, just based on mere observation). … If Jesus is not the only way to God, then why did He claim to be? Was He a liar? Was He a lunatic? Or was He Lord? Also, if He is not the only way to God, then why did He bother dying on the cross (and even predicting it)? "

I then quoted C.S. Lewis to draw the conclusion the Jesus is Lord:

"… A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. …"

Here is the fundamental value of all: Some things are absolute, the ultimate absolute truth being God and how He is described in the Bible and manifested in the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that the only Way for sinful man (all of us) to be reconciled to God the Father is in Jesus Christ alone by the work of the Holy Spirit. That is the foundational value of our family and our aim is for it to be foundational to the other core values.

Enjoy the additional core values I see emerging in my family as they are described in the following paragraphs. Some of these values are borrowed from others but have been adopted and sometimes adapted for our family.

You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.

This one actually came from my daughter's first dance instructor. It applied to which item the dancer picked to play music with or move with. We have found this to be useful when it comes to gifts, food, opportunities, and much more. Really, this is about living a life of gratitude. In October 2008, I wrote What Do You Expect?, where I mentioned this idea of gratitude in reflecting on Dan Allender's book Leading with a Limp:

"Allender tells a story of a boy who nonchalantly ripped open gift after gift during his birthday party and how he was thankless the entire time while continuously demanding more presents. Allender then adds, ‘If we expect a gift -- such as a birthday present -- then we may be pleasantly surprised, but we seldom experience awe’ (p. 147). Inappropriate expectations sap the gratitude and awe and freedom -- the life -- out of relationship. Expectations, coming out of selfish motives, are contrary to those ideals. Awe is described by Allender as ‘other-centered’ (p. 147). True freedom and gratitude are likewise. … What do you expect? What do you desire? And as you ask each question, are you grounded enough to be disappointed at times? And whether or not your desires are met, are you living in gratitude and freedom?"

Clearly this value is foundational not only to a life of gratitude, but setting appropriate expectations/goals and preferences/desires and not treating one as the other.

Be mindful of others.

In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi often says, "Be mindful of your thoughts." This is good advice, but this approach can become too introspective. There is something to be said regarding others. This applies to how your behavior impacts others, considering others' feelings, or simply not bumping into people in Walmart because you are not paying attention. And even more importantly, it is a challenge to the self-absorption I write about in One Side Clyde. In the article All About Me? by Tricia Goyer, she makes the case that self-absorption is harmful for children, families, and teams. In Ephesians 4:29, we are called to speak "only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen." I am challenged with that one for sure when I am tempted with a complaining attitude or faced with a trial.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Not only are we to speak in a way that is mindful of those listening, but we are to speak with integrity. We live in a culture lacking commitment and follow-through. It drives me crazy when someone says, "Hey, we've been wanting to have you out to dinner" or "We ought to get together sometime" and the phone never rings and the invitation never comes. It would have been better had they said nothing at all. Or it's like the common, "How are you?" someone says as a greeting as he quickly passes you by. A good challenge is to use that only if you want to stop and really listen to people tell you how they are doing. Earlier today, I mentioned getting together with a friend for lunch in the near future and I followed up with an e-mail this afternoon. I meant what I said when I mentioned doing lunch. It wasn't just a fluffy, "Hey, we ought to do lunch sometime." Rather, it was "Lord-willing, we are indeed going to do lunch sometime. I will contact you because I value our friendship." Okay, I didn't say all of that, but guess what? I confirmed it on my calendar this afternoon.

Even in the simplest examples, we teach this to our kids. If our kids mention that they want carrots, then they will get carrots. They can't change their minds. We want them to mean what they say and say what they mean even in the small stuff. This teaches integrity. No more pizzazz or hollow sales pitches, but the real deal! Really mean it. Take responsibility for what you say and be committed to do all you can to see it through.

Take Initiative - If you see something that needs to be done, then do it.

This comes straight from the mind of Kirk Weisler and his Dog Poop Initiative. I read the book a couple of years ago. It tells a story about some kids on a ball field and there is dog poop on the field. People point it out, warn others to avoid it, and complain about it. Yet, the dog poop just sits there. However, one father takes the dog poop initiative and cleans up the poop and throws it away, modeling a very valuable lesson to his son who plays ball on the field.

If there is trash laying on the floor, throw it away. If you see a dirty dish, put it in the dishwasher. If you make a mess, clean it up. Last night, I walked into our bedroom and saw a basket of laundry on the bed. I knew my wife had done laundry that day and was planning to eventually get to it. However, I saw it. So, I folded the laundry and put it away. I took the dog poop initiative, though I should really call that one the fold laundry initiative as no dog poop was involved.

Don't think about what you can get from someone, but how you can minister to someone.

The prior value is key to ministering to another. Folding the laundry ministered to my wife. When my kids clean up their messes without being asked, it ministers to me. In his book, The Marriage Builder, Dr. Larry Crabb mentions that often marriages are two ticks on a dog, except there is no dog. He writes that often persons come into relationships to see what they can get out of the other person. He challenges the reader instead to approach the relationship with the attitude of "How can I be filled with Christ so that I can overflow and minister to this person?" Clearly, setting appropriate expectations and healthy desires as well as being mindful of others and taking initiative are related here. I am not to do something "nice" for my wife, expecting something in return. That is manipulation. Rather, I am to look to God that He may overflow in me to minister to her. If she's doing likewise, great! I will entrust her to God. If not, then I still will entrust her to God.

Keep short accounts - apologize and forgive.

This is one not only for the kids to use when one of them has hurt one of the others. Like the other values, it is one for the parents, too. Ephesians 4:26 states, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" which is another way of saying, "Keep short accounts." This does not mean you deny the associated emotion from the event, but as Dr. Fred DiBlasio mentions, forgiveness is a choice to not take revenge on the perpetrator. We have to say, "I'm sorry. I was wrong." And then substantiate it with our actions. This is not the anemic apologies we see from celebrities and politicians who get caught, which say, "I'm sorry if you were offended." Rather, it is "I am sorry. I was wrong. You have every right to be offended." And then it is the responsibility of the recipient of the apology to reject taking revenge on the person. Romans 12:19 quotes Deuteronomy 32:35: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord."

R.A.L.E..

I recently read Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis. He mentions a four-part definition of a man, which is one who:

  1. Rejects passivity
  2. Accepts responsibility
  3. Leads courageously
  4. Expects God's rewards
I keep this in mind with an acronym: R.A.L.E. And while these are written for men, there is value for women in them. If I can teach my sons these and also live them out, then I can teach my daughter what type of man to look for. I can minister better to my wife and children. My wife is better at decision making than I am, but she encourages me to make the decisions as the leader in our home. This encourages my accepting responsibility and leading courageously. She makes me a better man with such encouragement. And in living things out as God intended, I can expect God's rewards. I also see how the values of R.A.L.E. support other values above. If I am to look to God and the Bible as absolute truth, then I can expect God's rewards and be empowered by His Spirit to reject passivity, accept responsibility, and lead courageously. If I am to live a life of gratitude, then this will involve accepting responsibility for how I set expectations and formulate desires. If I am to be mindful of others, say what I mean and mean what I say, take initiative, and minister to my wife and children, then I must reject passivity, accept responsibility, and lead courageously in a culture that is self-absorbed. If I am to keep short accounts and both apologize and forgive, then that means I will reject passivity, accept responsibility, and lead courageously. And yes, I can expect God's rewards. However, that is not the motive for following these maxims. The motive is to live for God.


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