Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Genius for Genius

It’s a good thing you don’t have to pass an aptitude test to become a dad. No question, I’d have failed. Over the years, I’ve relied on the great advice of some really passionate and gifted parenting teachers. For instance, Jim Dobson once said, “You’ve got to make sure that every one of your children excels at something— doesn’t matter what it is. You must be certain that your child knows the one thing they do better than anything else.”

I thought about that a lot during a season that one of our kids really struggled with math. For her, nothing about numbers came easily. As the assignments became more difficult her frustration grew. No matter what we tried, we found no answers. She seemed to have a block.

Then, I remembered Dobson’s advice, and I knew I needed a new approach. I sat down with our daughter and we had a heart to heart.

“You know,” I said. “I understand math is hard for you. It’s just not your thing.” And then I looked her in the eyes. “Here’s the deal. You have your own gift. You see things—visually speaking—in a way that no one else does. You view life through your own unique lens. You take the most amazing pictures. So, big deal if you don’t become a math major in college. Who cares if you don’t become a research scientist? God has given you a gift that can’t be measured on tests. You won’t find it on the SAT.

“I’m telling you the truth.  No one else can take pictures like you can.”

Our little discussion didn’t end her math struggle. But some things did change. In her eyes, I saw a little glimmer of confidence growing. I found that I worried less about how her battle with numbers would end. Now, so many years later, I see the fruit of that pep-talk.

You can see it too. These days, our math-challenged, but visually-gifted daughter works as a professional photographer in Virginia. Check out her work:

I’m grateful for Dobson’s advice.  As parents, we must develop a genius for discovering the genius in our own kids. Once you spot it, you must help them see it and develop it. Hone it. Reward it. That special skill will give them resilience during the inevitable struggles of life.

How about you? Have you had a child of unusual genius? How did you help them discover that genius? Or, do you still struggle with the ways you fall short? Are you discouraged with your own deficiencies? Perhaps you need to discover your own genius; allow yourself to be good—really good— at one thing. Let all other disappointments take a back seat. Your view of the world just might change. Drop us a comment and share your experience!

Dr. Greg Sutherland
(with Bette Nordberg)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lessons In the Rain

Not everything I learn comes from a book. Sometimes, my Dad, the God of the Universe, breaks in on my day and teaches me something that I desperately need to learn.

It happened last month.

I was supposed to attend a big event in the Sea Tac area. Dentists from all over the Northwest had converged on one hotel for what was expected to be a heated and controversial meeting. By the time I arrived, the parking lot was jammed. Every slot was full. It seemed the only way to get inside was to pull into the back of a long line and wait for valet parking. As rain pounded on my windshield, I found myself growing more and more frustrated. The line didn’t move. With every swipe of the wiper blades, my emotional blood pressure rose. No valet to be seen.

I was going to be late.

Just then, I heard it. That small, but unmistakable Voice. “QUIT GRUMBLING,” it said. “BE THANKFUL.”

I took a deep breath. As I let it out, I gave thanks for the car, for protection from the rain, for the windshield wipers. I started giving thanks out of obedience. But, as I obeyed, my attitude changed. My outlook improved. My patience grew.

And just then, a valet popped into view and tapped on my driver’s side window. “Sir, if you’ll pull to the right,” he said, “I’ll get you out of this long line of cars.” He pointed. I started the car and pulled into the front of a new line, where he took my keys. Moments later, I found myself standing on the sidewalk outside the building. Not late.

Mine was one of those divine attitude adjustments that our Heavenly Father is so famous for. And, I think, because I responded, he blessed me with a miraculous provision. (Of course it doesn’t always happen that way).

The Bible says, “In everything give thanks.” But sometimes, when it’s raining, and I’m late, and there is no place to park, I need my Dad to remind me to obey. And when he does, when He crashes in on my every day world, He teaches me a lesson I won’t soon forget.

How about you? Had any lessons from God lately? 

Dr. Greg Sutherland,
(with Bette Nordberg)

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Matter of Sacrifice

In last week’s blog, Dr. Sutherland wrote about Getting to No, where he confessed that once in a while, the best parents have to say no to opportunities that might be good—even godly. Great parents, he believed, sharpen their focus, and let go of the things that would distract them from their parenting mission.

Dr. Ethan Larson had his own “ah-ha” moment with this principle. It happened while he was still in dental school.

Ethan always loved motorcycles. He grew up riding bikes, and as a sophomore in college, he found and purchased a used BMW F-650. “It was a great bike, designed for comfort, and safe cruising,” he admits. “It wouldn’t go very fast without shuddering. That kept me from doing stupid things on it. I loved that bike.”

Ethan shipped the bike to Tennessee, and enjoyed it while he finished school. Then, he married Dolly and they had their first child. Soon after, Ethan was accepted into dental school.

“We knew we wanted to have more children and that it would probably happen while we were still in school. Money was tight in those days, and I hoped to start a business to support my growing family," he explained. "I had the idea for a dental lab, but I knew I’d need a garage for all the equipment. As we thought about it, it looked like a good time to buy a house.”

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math; the proceeds from selling the bike would make a big dent in their down payment for a house. Ethan had a choice. It wasn’t really about selling the bike. It was about choosing what was best for his family. It was about self-sacrifice.

Ethan chose for his new family.

Not long after he decided to sell, a man from their church came over to check out the bike. He rode it and loved it. As Ethan watched him ride the bike away, he recognized the moment. There goes my old life. I’ve gone from being a single man to a father.

At Smiles by Sutherland, we see that kind of sacrifice all the time. Parents sacrifice to make new smiles happen for their children. Whether they give up their time to drive to appointments, or their finances to cover the costs, or their own toys so that they can do what is best for their children, we see devoted parents sacrifice every day.

That kind of sacrifice is inspiring to all of us who know the rigors of parenting. Though kids may roll their eyes, we know the truth.

Here’s to the dedicated SBS parents who give so generously of themselves so that their kids can flourish!

Dr. Ethan Larson, (with Bette Nordberg)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Getting to NO!

In a previous blog, I’ve admitted that one of my strongest parenting principles was trying, in as many cases as possible, to say, “YES” to my kids.

Today, I’m going to tell you how important it is to learn to say, “No.”

I’ll warn you: Saying no isn’t as easy as it seems. I had a tough one, not long ago. On a recent Monday night, as I finished my teaching session for Bible Study Fellowship, one of the men came up and asked for my help. At the time, I was exhausted but jazzed, happy with the lecture. As I turned to face this stranger. I could tell, from his posture, his eyes, and his voice, he needed help.

He said he needed help with prayer. But I sensed that he needed more.

As always, I started by asking a few questions. His answers revealed more than he realized. He was in trouble. Deep trouble. He needed more than advice. He needed a friend. A coach. Someone who could guide him through a difficult season in his life. If I had the chance, I knew that I could be that guide.

Everything in me wanted to help this struggling soul.

I’d no more than considered this thought, when the weight of all of my obligations came rushing through my mind. My business. My teaching study. My wife. My family. My coaching obligations. My new associate. My church.

In that instant, I realized that my plate was already full. If I took on this important opportunity, I’d have to let something else slide. And in a moment, I knew that this was not my assignment. I’d have to let it go.

I told myself, “no.”

I didn’t abandon my new friend. I made arrangements to get qualified help for him. I made certain that he was not alone. That someone would walk with him through the tough times. But to myself, I said no.

That interaction provided an important lesson for me. Not every need is God’s Will for my life. After all, if I met every need, what assignments are left for others? I will continue to pray for my friend. I’ll check up on him occasionally. And that will have to be enough.

Sometimes, the hardest “no” is the one we tell ourselves.

How about you? Have you told yourself no lately? Can you tell us about it?

Dr. Greg Sutherland,
(with Bette Nordberg)