April mat chats all on making honesty a part of your story

Make it YOUR story

Honesty isn’t just a trait that we choose to put on once in a while. Rather, it’s a way of being that we choose to make part of our story.

Using a story

In April we focused on story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf with our youngest students. We readily see that being honest or not follows us around and affects our relationships. The only way we keep the trust of those around us is if we are honest in ALL things. 

Extracting the answers

With the older students during the month of April, we tried to pull ideas from them. Starting with what honesty means, through qualities of an honest person, to what they might choose to do in specific situations. We tried to get them to really interract with the idea of honesty and what it means to them. 

Sometimes we can be numb to ideas that we hear frequently. Hopefully the older kids were sparked into considering ideas longer than just during the mat chat!

Writing your own story

When we spend time thinking about tough questions, we are writing our story.  It can be so easy to just float along, going through the motions of all of the daily tasks we perform.  But that doesn’t give us much control over what happens in our story.

If you think of the storyline of your life as a road, you want to make sure the road you’re on is going where you want it to go. A road goes somewhere; takes you somewhere if you follow it. When you turn off the road, you’re not going to get to where you were going. 

It’s important to understand that you’re always writing your story, whether you’re aware of it or not. Our job is to try to get our students to be more aware of what story they are writing. 

Yes, but karate?

You might be thinking “how does karate help?”.  When you focus really hard on learning which hand goes where and when it turns and switches with the other hand, you are writing a story that includes a perfectly performed move with the bo. When you don’t focus and just stand and move however you want, you don’t end up with a story at all. Or you end up with a bad story that’s hard to follow.

The struggle is ok

The story doesn’t have to be completed right away! The plot twists make it more interesting and in the end more satisfying! The important thing is to keep working towards the original story.

What does this have to do with honesty?!?

Whether you’re learning a new kata, or developing a lifestyle, it’s the constant dedication to the story, or the road, that’s important. Just because you tell the truth once does not make you an honest person. The reverse is true: just because you lie once does not make you a dishonest person. 

In writing your story you want the thread to be consistent. (Oh no – another metaphor! No, I won’t pull that one!)

The final word

Encourage your child to consider how he incorporates honesty in the story he’s writing. Encourage your older child to journal. There’s no better way to see the progress in our story than by writing it down! 

 

 

Karate develops skills for life!

Karate makes everything better.

No matter what the activity!

The character traits of discipline and self-control are foundational to almost all other things in life.

Whether we are pursuing a sport, music, or just want to be a better mom or dad, karate helps us be better at everything!

I want to introduce you to three sisters who have been with us for a while. The strength training, coordination, and persistence they developed in karate has led to their success in three quite different areas.

We all have unique areas to excel in!

Being disciplined on the karate floor leads to discipline on the dance floor. Strengthening the core that we need for self-defense leads to that same strong core that serves in ballet.

The benefits of karate for sports might seem obvious. Sure, there are many similar traits needed for both, but it’s the ones you might not think of that lead to excelling beyond the average.

The focus and concentration needed for karate helps one persevere when tackling other hard to learn skills that don’t come naturally. Is it really natural to be able to catch a flying ball in a little net at the end of a stick?

And the memorization of kata, bunkai, and Japanese, translates to an easier time memorizing lines needed in a play.

Karate develops skills for life!

And what about being able to listen to coaches, directors, instructors and follow directions well? 

You can’t exactly slide through karate class without putting in effort. You learn that if you put in the effort, you get to reap the rewards. Sometimes that’s learned the hard way: you also learn that when you don’t put in the effort you don’t get the reward!

How about the courage needed to audition for the play, or try out for the team? And what about dealing with the inevitable failures that life will send? Life can feel (and be) awfully unfair at times. Karate is a safe place to experience unfairness and learn to overcome and even thrive anyway.

We’ve been focusing on humility for a month now. Karate is a good instructor of humility because it is so hard. We’ve learned that without humility you don’t learn, you don’t grow, and you don’t even love.

Thank you for allowing us to a part of your lives!

We are grateful to all the wonderful families that have shared their precious children with us, even if only for a season. It is an honor to watch them grow into the unique individuals that God has created each one of them to be!

 

 

 

Does being humble mean thinking less of yourself?

Of course not, but sometimes that’s the way we look at humility. 

Does that mean we stop learning and growing? 

Of course not!

I want to share the recent mat chats we’ve been having with the kids at the karate school.

Last week’s mat chat:

We often say awareness is the first step to making any changes. Being more focused on others starts with being aware of others. What’s going on around us? Can we get any sense of how those around us are feeling? It just takes getting used to NOTICING! Notice your surroundings, notice the people around you, and notice how they are acting, and whether you can tell what they are feeling.

The best way to reach out to someone who is sad, for example, is to say something kind BEFORE they even tell you they are sad.(Most people WON’T tell you!)  If someone seems angry, is there anything you might do to help? It might be to just ask if they’re all right; asking if there’s anything you can do for them can make a difference in how they feel. How does it make you feel when someone asks if there is anything they can do for you? Does it make  you feel good to be noticed? You want to make OTHERS feel noticed and cared for.

That’s part of what it means to be humble – to notice others and to care about them.

This week: you are enough!

We’ve talked about a lot of ways to be humble.

Being a good listener, being curious about someone in order to get to know them better, noticing  and caring about those around us; these are all traits of a humble person.

We’ve found out that these same things apply to “how to love people”. Being humble and loving others is pretty much the same thing.

What we haven’t talked about yet is loving yourself. In order to be able to love others well, we have to love ourselves. That comes from knowing who we are. When we know who we are we don’t have to listen to the messages of the world.

The world says: never enough. Not thin enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough, you don’t have enough friends, you don’t have enough toys, you don’t have good enough grades…. It goes on and on.

But when you KNOW who you are, you can ignore all those messages and KNOW that you are ENOUGH. That doesn’t mean we don’t do our best to learn and grow, but it means we can have confidence that we’re on the right track and all the gifts we’ve been given are ENOUGH.

So please don’t mistake being humble for being LESS THAN. There is no benefit to thinking LESS of yourself, or by putting yourself down. You can always love others without putting them ABOVE you, or yourself LESS THAN them.

Where do you get your identity from?

How do you know who you are? The people closest to you can tell you that. They send you messages all the time. Who do your parents say you are? They probably tell you wonderful things about you, but you think they’re just saying that because they love you. If your mom tells you that you’re smart and capable, just because she loves you doesn’t negate what she’s told you!

We believe each and every one of you are a beloved child of God. You are special and created by God for a purpose. You can always claim your identity from God. You are wonderfully and fearfully made. And he is closer to you than anyone!

But even if you’re not ready to trust God, you can find out from the people who love you most, who you are. Just don’t let the lies of the world that say “you’re not enough” define you.

 

 

Emulating the most humble man who lived

Yes, it’s Jesus. If that’s offensive, I’m giving fair warning so you can stop reading now.

Was Jesus the most humble man to ever live?

The most humble man who lived? Isn’t that a bit unfair, given that he was actually God? A good answer comes from blogger Matt Perman:

“The truth of Jesus’s humanity is just as important to hold to as the truth of his deity. The apostle John teaches how denying that Jesus is man is of the spirit of the antichrist (1 John 4:22 John 7). Jesus’s humanity is displayed in the fact that he was born as a baby from a human mother (Luke 2:7Galatians 4:4), that he became weary (John 4:6), thirsty (John 19:28), and hungry (Matthew 4:2), and that he experienced the full range of human emotions such as marvel (Matthew 8:10) and sorrow (John 11:35). He lived on earth just as we do.”

So why do I say he was the most humble man to live? We’ve been talking about humility as putting others first. Caring more about others than yourself. While he lived and taught, he was always teaching and healing, regardless of what others thought and said. His concern was for the person right in front of him, no matter what the conventions of the time said about that same person. 

And of course, as we are getting ready to celebrate on Good Friday, he went through excrutiating pain and suffering, all for us. 

So, yes, I think it’s fair to say he was the most humble man to live.

What’s a convenant?

Before Jesus came into the picture, God had already made two different covenants. The first was with Abraham and it was one way. No matter what Abraham did, God would make him a nation and bless the world through him. 

Later, to develop a nation that would be light in a dark world, he made a covenant with the whole nation, through Moses. This was convenant which laid out all the rules and told the people: if you obey the rules, I will bless you; if you don’t obey the rules, you will be punished.

What happens when there are a lot of rules?

Yep, that’s right. We break them. We find loopholes. Somehow, the more rules there are the more tempted we are to work around them.

Andy Stanley shares that he basically narrowed down the rules for his kids to two: honor your mother, and don’t lie. Those two rules pretty much covered everything. (He and his wife Sandra also had the goal that teaching their children was all about maintaining relationships. You can watch a wonderful talk given by them on parenting here.)

So, how does this help us emulate Jesus?

Jesus brought a whole new covenant. He gave himself FOR us. The new covenant signaled a new relational agreement with God. The new arrangement completed and ended the old covenant. It replaced much of what had been in place. Jesus came to fulfill all the law and the prophets.

People were expecting him to do something for the nation of Isreal. But he came to do something for YOU. And for me. And for the whole world.

What were the new terms of the new covenant? Jesus distilled all of the laws and prophets down to ONE law! 

John 13: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Can you imagine how transformational this would be if everyone just focused on this one command that Jesus gave us? 

THIS is how we emulate Jesus. 

THIS is how we are known as Jesus followers.

Is it easy? No, of course not. But it IS simple. If you love God, your love for God is best demonstrated by how well you love others. Will we ever be able to do that well? Maybe not. But is IS something to keep striving towards. 

Finishing out our month of looking at humility, it seemed only appropriate to look to the one who was most humble, and how to follow him. It wasn’t planned this way, but God is good, and had us finish this topic as we’re getting ready to celebrate Easter!

(I want to remind everyone that the karate school will be closed Good Friday, March 30, through Easter Monday, April 2.)

 

 

Can Humility Be Developed?

It might be helpful to look at some of the underlying habits that help to create a humble person. We CAN develop habits! We all know they can be good or bad, and it would be a whole other post to discuss how we can develop GOOD habits. (In fact, there WAS a whole other post – check out our May 2017 post!)

We’re going to be sharing with kids during mat chat what habits will help them to become humble. 

Is HUMILITY good?

First they have to WANT to become humble! We need to clear up some common misconceptions about humility. It’s NOT being weak or passive or allowing people to walk all over us. And it’s NOT being insecure, afraid to speak up when something needs to be said. 

Being humble is quite the opposite. When you know WHO you are, and you KNOW the power you have, you can stand strong no matter what others may think. Humble people choose to use their power for OTHERS instead of boosting themselves, or boasting of themselves.

Habits that develop humility

We encourage all of our students to be good listeners.  It’s a challenge for the 3-6 year old set to just stand still long enough to listen to instructions! But really, for all of us, it can be challenging to put our own thoughts and motives aside to really LISTEN when someone is talking. 

One way to foster good listening is to develop CURIOSITY! We can learn so much just from listening to other people. We are all a lot more alike than we are different; if we just listened to each other we would discover that!

Always learning, being curious, is another habit that leads to humility.  The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t have all the answers.

People who are AWARE of their surroundings, of the people around them, and especially of how those people are feeling, are often humble people. When we are aware of what everyone else is going through, we realize what we’re going through isn’t so bad. Being aware of others helps to grow our empathy, which also leads to humility.

Develop the habit of standing up and speaking truth. Sometimes it seems so much easier to just keep our mouth closed and try not to get involved. But when we see a train wreck about to happen, it’s important to speak up! Humble people are not afraid of what others may think. They are strong and confident so they can use their power wisely.

Sounds like a good thing to be, huh? So these habits of being a good listener,  always learning, being aware of what’s happening around you, and speaking truth, are great habits to start working on!

We’ll go over some other good habits next week!

 

 

March Focus – Humility

Humility is the perfect theme to follow our month on Love. For truly, without humility, you can’t love. If we are self-focused, we can’t be other-focused. And love is nothing, if not other-focused. C.S. Lewis said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” We can easily become turned inward but when we are humble, we are turned outward.

Humility is the foundation for everything we do here at Warriors of Grace. That is not to say that we are good at it yet! We struggle with our own egos, our own pride. But we recognize that it’s the most important thing for us to be consciously working on.  As in all things, awareness is the first step towards change. If you don’t know something is broken you can’t even begin to fix it!

How does karate fit in?

Karate does a great job at keeping one humble. Not only is it difficult to master, but every time you think you have acquired a skill, you realize that there is still more to it – more to learn about that one single skill! The details are tremendous and never seem to stop coming.

Being humble is not about lacking in confidence, or lacking in strength to stand and defend yourself or someone else. It is more of an attitude of openness; knowing that you might be wrong and being prepared to switch course if necessary. Even when defending yourself, staying humble is important to ensure what you are defending is truth.

One of our human traits is to attach strongly to an idea or a position without necessarily hearing all the facts. The strength of our convictions can be a wonderful thing. But if we want to remain on the side of truth, we must remain humble and stay open to hearing other perspectives and learning new facts as they come to light.

Love is patient, Love is kind

Before we leave the month of February with it’s natural theme of love, I wanted to remind us all of the verses many of us have heard recited at weddings:

The Wedding Verses

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.                                                               1 Corinthians 13:4-7 niv

It’s all pretty much there: how we should behave towards others; what to watch out for in ourselves; the ideal to which we strive.

But before those familiar lines are ones that are even more powerful. Verses 1-3 in the same chapter let us know in no uncertain terms that whatever great accomplishments we do on this earth, no matter how many people we may have helped in this life, if it is not done in love, then it is worthless. 

It’s a matter of the heart. What’s in your heart? That’s what matters in every thing we do.

Love is kind

How do we do everything in love?

Once we open our heart to the person standing next to us, we see them just as human as us. We can recognize their frailties as well as their beauty. One on one I think we humans do a pretty good job of “keeping our love on”. 

It’s as groups that we get into trouble. As soon as we put someone in a group, we make assumptions that may or may not be true. And unfortunately a lot of the media today tries to put us in groups.  Maybe it’s always been so, but it seems much more intentional today. And we do it ourselves: when we look for information or media that supports our views we are less likely to hear differing views.

See the individual rather than the group 

The trick is to see each and every person as a uniquely made, God-loved, co-inhabitant of this beautiful planet. Of course we can’t process individually all 7.6 billion inhabitants. But we can acknowledge each individual that comes into our field of vision, and we can choose to love those that come within space that is near to us. 

We can be patient with the person in front of us that is having a hard time juggling the kids and the wallet in order to check out in the grocery store. We can be kind to the tired and frustrated employee with whom we are doing business.  We can honor our neighbors by reaching out in friendship and honest curiosity to get to know them better. 

One on one we are much more prone to love.  In addition to all the things above that love does not do could be added: love does not put people in groups but instead sees each individual.

 

 

The Most Important Conversation to have with your kids (or grandkids)

I sent out information about the Gen Z: Faith Summit that started on the February 19. This morning I watched the opening remarks by the CEO and co-founder of AXIS, David Eaton. The summit involves over 30 teachers, thought leaders, authors and pastors sharing their thoughts on how best to help raise up the next generation. They focus on the areas of sexuality, technology, and growing up.

George Lucas, during his Academy Award acceptance, said: “I’ve always tried to be aware of what I say in my films because all of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices.” We know that kids today are bombarded with all kinds of media messages in very loud voices. How do we counter these voices?

What is AXIS?

AXIS was formed by a few millenials in response to their seeing so many teens who were on fire for Christ at one time in their lives, walk away from their faith. The statistics are brutal. The forecast is even worse. These young people have set out on a mission to help all those who are in the lives of youth be able to communicate well. Parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches often come from a completely different world than the youth they are interacting with. They need translators to be able to communicate. AXIS translates the culture and encourages the leverage of conversation.

What is the summit?

For the first three days of each interview, they are available online for free. I encourage you to take a look at the line up and watch one that calls out to you.  If you have the time, you could watch them all for free. After the three days, if you still want to have access, you can buy an access pass which supports the amazing work that AXIS is doing to help parents connect with their kids in a meaningful way.

George Lucas, continuing, said: “But we will never match the power of the teacher who is able to whisper in a student’s ear”. 

You have the power to counter the loud voices your child or grandchild is hearing.

What is the most important conversation?

It’s one that lasts a lifetime! Equip yourself to begin and continue to learn how to keep the conversation going. The videos offered during this summit provide ample conversation starters.

What’s your love language?

Thanks to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, we’ve all become more familiar with how we best receive and give love.

I don’t think it’s too soon to start recognizing what makes you feel most loved. We’re talking with the kids this week during mat chat about the five love languages.

Relationships are hard and communication is difficult under the best of circumstances. But when two people are speaking two different languages and they don’t even know it, it’s even more challenging!

The sooner we realize which language is most effective for ourselves, the better off we are. Add to that, discovering which language is most effective for those we love, and we’ve got a much better likelihood of communicating well, and loving well.

We talk a lot about how love is an action, and that what we DO is what matters more than how we FEEL. But we want to make sure that what we DO is received by the other as LOVE.

A brief summary of the five love languages:

I’m hoping this idea is not new and I’m only refreshing your memory. To learn more, check out the book. Or even take a quiz online to help you discover what your love language is. 

Here’s the simple explanation we are sharing with the kids:

Some people, like Kuma bear, like to give and receive gifts. That’s how they show love and receiving a gift it’s what makes them feel loved.  (Receiving Gifts)

Some people feel more loved when someone says something really nice to them and makes them feel special and valued.  Likewise some people show their love by telling the beloved how important they are to them, and pointing out all the things they love about them. (Words of Affirmation)

For some, the most important way to show love is to DO things for someone. To help them do something they’re having a hard time with, or just do a task that you know they need done. As a surprise and without being asked! That’s a great way to show love! (Acts of Service)

We all need touch – to be held or hugged. But for some people touch is their primary love language.. Whether it’s a pat on the head, holding hands, or a kiss on the cheek – these touches are ways to show love. (Physical Touch)

Do you feel loved when you’re simply hanging out with mom and dad? Maybe playing games, or going for a walk together? For some people just spending time together is the best way to show love. (Quality Time)

It can be helpful to learn which of these ways of showing love actually make you feel most loved. And it can be very helpful to learn how the people you love feel most loved. That way we can help others to love us well, and we can love others well – by “speaking their love language”.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

If anyone remembers the old song What’s love got to do with it? you may remember that it ends with the line “who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

Sometimes it can be hard to talk about love, precisely because we are all broken and we too often fail to love well. Rather than focus on the emotion, as most songs do, we are going to talk of the action of love this month.

Love is what we do and how we act towards others. It has to do with our outlook on life, on others, on the world. And especially on our outlook on God.

God Is Love

If God IS love, how to do we bring that reality into the world? And if God IS love, how do we reconcile all of the brokeness, pain and suffering in the world?

The last question I mention here only because it came up during mat chat this week. It’s a big question that deserves its own post for the answer. Let me just briefly answer that we live in a broken world.  Not only IS God love, but he LOVES us. And any good lover does not force himself on his beloved. 

Therefore he gave us free will. We always have a choice. Will we behave in a loving way – will be bless others? Or will we contribute more pain and suffering in the world?

Does God love us?

In trying to help children understand God’s love, we gave them the example of how they feel about something they created. They might want to protect their creation and get angry if someone tries to destroy it.

Certainly parents have a glimpse of the love God has for us. I think parenting especially gives us a window to help us understand God. When we set boundaries for our children for their own protection, we are imitating how God has set boundaries for us for our protection. We can compare the freedom we give our children as they play and learn, as long as they stay within the boundaries we have set to the freedom God has given us. And when we are desperate for the welfare of our child, that can help us to understand how God feels about each of his children.

What is love?

The more important part of love is what we DO. Love is a verb!

We can say we love our brother, but are we kind to him?

We can say we love our parents, but do we do what they ask us to do? Right away? With a good attitude?

We can say we love our friend, but are we willing to play what they want to play instead of what we want to play?

For the youngest children we can help them understand that love needs to be an action by talking about pets. If we love our pets, we need to take care of them.

These are the kinds of things we want the kids to think about this month while we focus on love. Yes, love is a feeling, but the actions we take that show our love are really far more important than our feelings. Especially in our current social climate, we want to help kids focus more on what we do than how we feel!

What’s love got to do with it?

Are you wondering why we would even be talking about love in karate? The simple answer is – it has everything to do with everything! Love is what guides us in everything we do!