The Power of Routines


A week a bit ago, we ended up cancelling our services because of the bad weather, and the forecast of freezing rain. What this meant was that I was up much earlier than the rest of my family, looking at the forecast, and talking with my team and other churches, in order to make the best decision.

So, when my kids came down, I was already on my second cup of coffee. And when I told them that we had a snow day and we weren’t going to church, they all promptly started crying…

Hudson cried, “Dad, I want to learn about Jesus!” To which I assured him I could teach him about Jesus, but he said I wasn’t as good as his teacher (never mind that I teach people about Jesus for a living).

Asher cried, “Dad, my craft! I won’t make my craft!” To which I assured him I could do a craft with him, but he also said I wasn’t as good as his teacher.

And, Eden? Well, when I asked her, she was just crying because the other two were.

Now, in some ways, I know this story sounds like a made-up pastor’s story. You know, the kind that embellishes the spiritual connections of the family of the pastor. But, let me be up-front about something:

My kids are normal kids, and my family is a normal family.

We are not the rock-star, spiritual all-star family who have quiet, daily devotions with long prayers. We are a regular family who struggles, just like everyone else.

I share this story to point out, not the amazingness of my family, but rather the power of tradition, rituals and rhythms. Because, what gets repeated often gets missed. What I think this little anomaly of a story demonstrates is how good rhythms, rituals and traditions are missed when they don’t happen.

That’s what happened on Sunday. My kids missed our normal routine. They missed our regular rhythm. Because, routines, rhythms and rituals create huge impact over the long-term.

So, my question is this: What routines, rhythms or rituals do you have in your family? Which ones really matter? Which ones should you add?

Because, we tend to have family traditions around things like Christmas, holidays and Easter. But, what about weekly habits that draw your family closer? Is church a habit? What about Friday night game/movie night as a family? Or, saying one thing you love about your child or spouse each night before bed?

I write all this because very early on Sunday, I was reminded about the power of routines, and how they build good things within us. So, take some time to make sure you are intentionally creating the right ones.

Creating Space for Change

hospitality blog

I think that hospitality is probably the most undervalued, but necessary gifts in the Christian world. Hospitality is to create inviting spaces where people feel safe, welcome and loved. And, there is nothing more needed in our current world than safe places for relationships to be created and cultivated.

Henri Nouwen writes: “Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”

I think this is so true, and that’s what we can be doing in our world – creating safe spaces for conversation and connection; creating loving spaces for relationships and motivation; creating holy spaces for God to do the work of transformation.

So, do want to do something holy, beautiful and life-changing? Why not invite someone over, create a safe place and just see what happens.

Happiness in Life’s Everyday Moments

happiness blog.png“For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15:15

Who could disagree with that? That when we are happy, life is great – a continual feast, full and vibrant. The struggle is in finding a happy heart. The struggle is in maintaining a happy heart.

Our culture seems to impress upon us that the way to find happiness is to do great things, achieve fame or success, or to pursue anything of that nature. In essence, happiness is equated to really big moments, mountain-top experiences and big highs.

The writer of Proverbs, though, has a different take. For him, happiness isn’t always found in the big moments, but often in the regular ones, such as a word of encouragement (Proverbs 12:25), some good news (Proverbs 15:30), a smile (Proverbs 15:30) or laughter (Proverbs 17:22).

The point being, we look for happiness in the big moments, but it’s often found in the everyday moments.

And, what is interesting is that social psychology is teaching us the exact same thing. Author, Ron Friedman, puts it this way: “Small, frequent pleasures can keep us happy longer than large, infrequent ones.” Not only is that true, it’s biblical.

So, today, rather than just seeking happiness in the large, giant things, seek to find it in the small and frequent things, such as a good cup of coffee, a smile from a friend, relaxing with your kids or whatever else it may be.

Because, it will not only be good for your soul, it’ll make your life a continual feast.

Are We Looking?

are we looking.png 

If we’re honest, at certain times in our lives God can be difficult to find. If you’ve walked with Jesus long enough, there seems to be these seasons when God is either difficult to find, elusive or seemingly absent.

There are a lot of complexities and facets to this reality and feeling. There are a lot of potential reasons and points to consider when you are in this place. And, while I don’t want to offer a simplistic or one-size-fits all explanation for this reality, a new reason why God might be difficult to find did occur to me the other day. It happened as I played hide-and-seek, with my kids.

The truth is this, when I play hide-and-seek with my kids, I hide to be found. I don’t want to win; I want them to enjoy the search, to seek, to feel joy when they’ve found me and to celebrate when they discover me.

Then it hit me, does God sometimes “hide” for this same reason? That we might search for Him? That we might find Him? That we might be stirred to action?

This thought occurred to me as I stuffed my big 6 foot 4 inch body into a cupboard and desperately hoped my kids would find me, as it was incredibly uncomfortable. And, the longer they took, the louder I got yelling, “Over here, Asher, Eden, Hudson!!”

I wonder, does God ever do this? Remove Himself so that we might seek Him? Call out to us so that we might find him? Intrigue us, draw us and ask us to move toward Him?

Now, I certainly don’t want to downplay what you are going through or to dismiss any of your current realities, especially if you’re in a season when God seems absent. This isn’t saying that anytime God seems difficult to find, this is what going on, but perhaps, maybe God hides simply to be found.

The question is then: Are we looking?

The Main Thing


Earlier this year, after we got up one morning, Asher asked me, “Daddy, is it school day?” I said, “No Asher, it’s church day!” And, immediately he ran around yelling “YEAH!! Thank you Daddy! It’s church day, Hudson!”

Then I asked him why he loves church so much and he said, “My class, Dad. We talk about Jesus. I love my class.”

Now, I know right off the bat that this seems like a made-up pastor’s story or that our kids are wonderfully spiritual. But, just so you know, our kids are just like your kids – not perfect. In fact, one day when we had a family over, Asher came to supper without any pants on and then yelled through grace. So, perfect we are not.

So, I mention this story not because my kids are spiritual superstars (they are just kids), but because of what Asher said. He said he loves going to church because of Jesus and, for me, this matters so much.

Because, there is a temptation in church ministry to just get people to want to come to church, regardless of why they come. But, what I truly believe is this: What you draw someone with is what you draw someone to. While it is certainly easier to draw people to church with others things, I just don’t think it’s better. Because what you draw them with is what you draw them to.

This is so important in our current culture because it’s easy to fall into the temptation of catering to consumerism – to get used to whatever is “relevant” or “cool” to get people to church, hoping that once we get people there, we can convince them of Jesus. But that switch rarely happens, and is mostly actively resisted. Because, as I’ve said, what we draw them with is what we draw them to.

So, what made me excited about Asher’s comment? He didn’t mention the amazing fun songs (which we have), the great community (which we have) or the playground (which we have). He mentioned Jesus.

While I’m certainly not against great extras in church, I am cautious that our extras don’t ever overshadow Jesus. Because, for me, Jesus is simply the main thing. Asher reminded me of that. In church, Jesus is the main thing. Certainly not the only thing, but He should always be the main thing.

Changing Directions During Lent

changing direction blog.pngI’ve recently been convicted of something in my life by God and it’s this: I’m often tempted to use God for godly outcomes. And, here is what I mean by that…

I have noticed a consistent temptation, and even posture, of me using my relationship with God to ensure godly or good outcomes. And, that last part is important. I’m not seeking to use God for bad outcomes – sinful things – but rather for good and holy things – Kingdom things. And, here is what that might look like in the practical, tangible ways I’ve noticed in my life…

1. I spend time in prayer to ensure my preaching is good, but not to connect with God.

2. I serve to see God’s Kingdom grow, but not to find God in the serving.

3. I fast, but do it to ensure that a new project goes well, rather than as a way to sacrifice and focus on God.

4. I rely on God when I need Him, but rely on my gifting and skill at other times.

Do you see how subtle the shift is in practical, but real life ways? And, do you also see how dangerous it can be? Because prayer, serving and reliance can quietly shift from God to the ourselves or the good things God calls us to do. But, the truth is, as soon as the focus shifts from God to ourselves, we’ve lost the point.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way, “Along the way, the primacy of God and His work gives way ever so slightly to the primacy of our work in God’s Kingdom. We begin to think of ways to use God in what we’re doing. The shift is barely perceptible… We continue to believe the identical truth. We continue pursuing good goals. It usually takes a long time for the significance of the shift to show up. But, when it does, it turns out that we have not so much been worshipping God as enlisting Him as our trusted and valuable assistant.”

That last sentence is what stopped me in my tracks and caused me to really reflect on my motives, not just my actions.

And so, I write all this because this is the season of Lent – a season when we are to take a hard and reflective look at our lives, and reveal any subtle shifts that have happened. Because, they can happen and they can be hard to notice, but they need to be revealed and repented of. And, I use that word in the proper way – repentance is not about feeling bad, but about changing direction. We need to repent of our tendency to use God, and move toward worshipping, loving and appreciating Him.

So, I write this because, my bet is, I’m not alone in this temptation. But, becoming aware of it is the first step to changing it. And, it’s something worth changing. It’s subtle. It’s a small shift. But, it can change everything.

“I’m Not Going to be Scared”


Scared.pngIf you are a young parent (or have been one), you might know this experience… Your child has a bad dream and crawls into your bed, and you get no sleep because the amount of kicking they do in their sleep is, well, unreal. We’ve had that experience with Hudson and now, as he’s grown older, we’re having it with Asher.
A few nights ago, Asher ran into our room and said, “I scared.” And, he climbed into our bed to snuggle, which usually means we let him fall asleep and then one of us gets so tired with the lack of sleep (whoever he is kneeing in the back!), we get out of bed and take him back to bed.
But, on this night, something different happened. We prayed with him about how Jesus takes away his fear, and Asher looked at us and said, “I not going be scared” and ran off to his room. By the time we got to his room to tuck him in, he was already under the covers and asleep.
It got me to thinking, what if I acted like that? What if when fear grips my heart and mind, I decide to trust so deeply in Jesus that I move forward saying, “I not going be scared.”
Because Jesus is clear that perfect love casts out fear. That fear comes from the enemy. That fear is not part of His plan for us. In fact, fear cuts down the future that God has for us.
So, I write this all as an encouragement and a challenge. The next time fear grips you, pray about it and maybe try to be a little like Asher. Say, “I not going be scared” and move forward into what Jesus has for you.
Because no matter what our fears are – monsters in the dark, bad dreams, debt, difficulty, divorce, death – Jesus’ love is greater than all our fears. So, we can trust in Him. And, these days, I’m trying to be a little more like Asher when I get scared by saying that because of Jesus, “I not going be scared.”

Love Your Stage

I’m not going to lie, I was tired on Christmas Eve. After being part of five really wonderful Christmas Eve services, I was pretty spent. I got home and wanted to spend some quite time with Krista, but we got to bed late after getting ready for the morning. And, to be quite honest, the morning came much too soon.
Our kids were bouncing and ready for Christmas well before the sun was up. And so I dragged myself out of bed and tried to make coffee, while kids ran around yelling, “It’s Christmas!!” (and the boys quite literally dragged Eden out of bed while she was still sleeping).
As this happened, I looked out our main bay windows and saw no other lights on, on our street (that being because everyone on our street is 30 years older or more). But something hit me at that moment, while I was briefly jealous of everyone sleeping in – I’m in a stage that won’t last forever. And, so are you.

The truth is, having kids run around yelling and getting so excited about Christmas is a beautiful stage. When Asher opened his stocking, he screamed and yelled, “Dad, you got me Paw Patrol socks! I love socks! You’re the best daddy!”
This stage of loving socks as gifts will not always last.
I write this all as a reminder to myself, as much as hopefully you, to appreciate and love the stage you are in. Because each stage of life has beauty in it. Each stage of life has things to appreciate. And, each stage of life changes as time goes on.
So, whatever stage you might be in today and whatever place you may find yourself, may you appreciate all that you have – even if that means getting up very very early. 🙂

Confident Humility

confidenthumility2Today, I want to talk about the paradox between confidence and humility. If you’re a parent, you know that you want your kids to grow up with confidence, but not too much, so that they become arrogant. You want your kids to grow in humility, but also to stand up for themselves and what they believe. So, there is this little paradox, at times, between these two values, because we need both.

So, how do you resolve or think about this?

Well, I recently read a little line by a blogger that I thought made the point really well. Glennon Doyle Melton writes this: “I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.”

And, I think that’s right on.

We can be confident and secure because we are all made in the image of God, and He loves each of us. We can have a secure identity in Christ and, when we come to know Him, we are made new in Him. So, we can be confident and secure in Him.

But, we can also be humble because God loves everyone else too. He is our Father and we are all made in His image. Everyone has intrinsic value because God created everyone and died for everyone.

So, the point today is that we can be confident because of what Jesus did for us. We can also be humble because He didn’t just do it for us, but for everyone else too.

We can be both confident and humble because of Jesus. And, I think that’s a good thing.

Taking the Next Step

next-stepToday, I want to talk a little bit about your leadership. That’s right, your leadership, because I bet you have some…and maybe more than you think. It might be at work, in church, in the community, or even in your family (because if you’re a parent, you’re a leader).

So, I want to talk about leadership, not because I’m a great leader, but because I’m learning about what being a great leader is about and, in many ways, it’s actually about risking what you have for the future. Let me unpack that.

As a leader, the greatest and hardest kind of fear to overcome is risking what you have for what could be. In many ways, it’s easier to launch something from scratch, than to risk losing what you have for an uncertain future. So, what often happens is people settle – they accept the status quo, and they don’t push forward and rock the boat because it’s easier to accept what you have than to risk it for something even greater.

But, I write all this because I believe you shouldn’t settle and you should push forward. I believe that in whatever area you are leading, settling isn’t the right response. I actually believe that what you will regret is not so much failing, but rather not trying. And, I know it can be hard to risk what you have for the future – to rock the boat a bit or make some real life changes. I just believe it’s worth it.

Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • I think it’s worth the risk to push for an amazing marriage by really serving and sacrificing for the other person, than to settle for just getting by.
  • I think it’s worth the risk to really seek to lead your family spiritually, than to settle for hope that going to church will be enough.
  • I think it’s really worth the risk of cutting down your work hours in order to invest in your kids.
  • I think it’s really worth the risk to try a new initiative in order to move forward in your business or ministry, even if you might not make it.

Because, the truth is, we often listen to fear that continually says, “What if you lose what you have?” I would rather have you listen to hope that says, “What if you do make it? What if that change does work? What if it’s really worth it?

Because, I sincerely believe that the best decisions come not from listening to fear, but to hope. And, I believe you are probably leading in some place, so what if you listen to hope and really take a leap of faith? Because, all I know, is that settling has never led to a life full of meaning, and I think that’s what we are after.