“Hudson why are my arms so long?”

Today I want to talk a little bit about a picture my son Hudson drew. Because it’s really meaningful to me, but also revealing of something to me too. Here it is:

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He drew this during his quiet time, came and gave it to me, and said, “Daddy that’s a picture of you and me hugging.” Melt your heart type of stuff as a dad.

But it got me thinking – when did we stop doing this?

When did we grow out of doing this?

We so often take the closest relationships to us for granted, rather than cherishing them. That’s what Hudson was doing. He was trying to show me that our relationship matters to him. He was trying to show me that he loves me. He was trying to show me that he thinks about me and appreciates  me. When did we stop doing that for others?

So often our tendency is to neglect or take for granted those closest to us. We don’t send thank you notes to our spouses, but we do to our employees. We don’t send flowers to our parents, but we do to our friends or new potential clients. What I’m saying is that somewhere along the way we maybe have lost something that kids seem to intrinsically know. That relationships are to be appreciated. Appreciated through gifts, cards, thoughts, actions, flowers, and of course, drawings with long arms and hockey stick feet.

So my challenge for all of us is this: to learn from the kids around you and appreciate your closest relationships – and here is the key – make sure they know it. Do something special today for them and appreciate them.

Because sometimes a little thing, like a drawing during quiet time, can just make your day.

The Power of Habit

page_1Habit matters, and we all have them. The question is do we have good habits or bad ones?

And this was really shown to me a few nights ago.

If I can be honest, I’m not a perfect parent or even pastor. And this story will show that.

We came home late from something, I was tired and trying to get the boys to bed. This just seemed like a hassle, and I just wanted to zone out with Netflix for an hour before we went to bed. But the boys were busy and running, and finally it seemed like we were ready for bed, and I put them in bed.

And that’s why Asher (my 2 year old), started yelling “Bible…Bible…Bible”

Each night we read the Bible together, and we’ve got this good one with kids stories and it’s really good. But on this night I did not want to read the Bible (I know a bad thing for a pastor to say), I wanted to watch Netflix, and I wanted to rest.

So I said, “Not tonight Asher…tomorrow”. At which point both boys started loudly protesting (read – yelling) saying, “But we always read the Bible, no dad we need to read it, Dad just one story”

Do you see the power of habit?

Habits are things that you’ve invested in over time, so that when you don’t want to do the healthy and good thing (reading the Bible) that it feels weird when you don’t do them. That you notice and feel it when you skip a rhythm.

Because we’ve read the Bible so often (on nights when I’m not burnt out), when I didn’t want to do the right action (sit and read and talk with my boys), the habit forced me into the right decision.

This is why habits matter – they force us to make the right decision even when we don’t want to.

So here is my question: what good habits do you have? What unhealthy ones do you have? What good habits should you be starting? Because we all have them, good or bad. I think the challenge is for us to start simple but good habits that make a difference long-term. Some of the ones I think of are eating together, are praying together, reading together, or whatever. The point is that we all have rhythms that our lives play out too. I just think it’s worth to every now and then examine those rhythms and make sure they are the rhythms we want to learn.

And habits work best when they involve others, even little kids with words that remind you to make the best decisions, even when you’re tired.

Mirrors, Kids, and How They Pick Up Your Habits ~ Good and Bad

1376728_89968538Krista and I have started working out for the past couple of weeks in the mornings. My guess is that by the time you read this, we might be done though. Who knows how long we’ll keep it up.

The point though of this post isn’t on working out, or anything like that. It’s actually on habits, kids, and faith.

What I’ve noticed is that as we work out each morning, Hudson will often come quietly downstairs and do the exercises with us. He now talks about exercising, the importance of being healthy, and wanting to exercise. He now tries to do sit ups, in which his legs seem to go everywhere and is really funny.

The reason I mention all this is because we have never once talked to Hudson about working out, encouraged him to work out, or even shown him how to work out. Hudson has picked up all of this, just through watching and following.

The reason this stuck out to me is this: what else is he picking up from us without us realizing it? Is he picking up bad habits from us when we’re grumpy? Is he picking up good habits about being caring and friendly? And most importantly – is our faith so active and regular in our lives that he is picking that up too? That’s the real question that I’ve been thinking about.

Is our practice of following Jesus so explicit, regular, and everyday that our kids are picking it up naturally? Are they developing the habits and practices of faith because we are practicing them, just like Hudson is picking up exercising without any explicit mention of it?

I think that if you are a parent, grandparent, or have friends who are parents this is an important question. Do you/we have regular habits that demonstrate the importance of faith to our lives? Are we praying at meals – because it forms habits? Are we praying at bed-time and being grateful to God? Do our kids or grandkids ever catch us reading the Bible? Do we make a habit of church?

The point I want us to think through is this: if someone were watching our lives, would they start to pick up natural and good habits about following Jesus? Because what I am learning more everyday is that little people are always watching, and following our lead. So it is important to make sure we are leading them in the right direction.

Delivering Movies and Doing It Right

10562975_10154540150185643_1634620271199633372_nMy kids aren’t perfect…by any means. Just come spend a day with us, and you’ll see. Actually, just come spend an hour and you’ll probably see that. We’re not perfect parents by any means. We love our kids, and do our best – but sometimes it doesn’t seem to work. Asher and Hudson fight, Asher refuses to eat and screams, Hudson refuses to share and throws his toys, or like any parents the kids have a meltdown in a grocery store.

I have a theory that if our kids are going to meltdown and lose it…there is always someone else around to see it.

But all that aside, sometimes my boys get it right. And when they do it absolutely makes all the timeouts, all the talks, all the time spent with them just so worth it.

The other day our neighbor was sick, like really sick with a fever so he couldn’t play with Hudson. So we went back home, and Hudson disappeared for 30-45 minutes. He was quiet up in his room…too quiet. This is normally when we’d go and and discover that he painted his room, or he painted his brother or something.

But instead, what we discovered was he was making cards, getting his favorite toys together, and his favorite movies into a bag. And he came and said that all of this was for his neighbor friend. I asked him why he did this and he said, “Because Daddy, when people are sick we help them. That’s what you said right? Did I do it right daddy?”

And of course your heart breaks a little bit with happiness, and you say “Of course you did it right – let’s go give it to him”

So I write all this to say one thing. No ones perfect, and there are moments when we fail and screw up as parents. But there are also beautiful moments where they grow, get it, and so surprise you that it just makes it all worth it.

Hudson and His Church Antics, and Church Love

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Today we were talking about Jesus as Hudson and I drove to daycare. At one point Hudson just blurts out “Daddy I really love Jesus, because I love going to church.” For Hudson the connection he has with our church, has positively influenced his connection with Jesus. And I know for many people out there, the church hasn’t been helpful with people connecting with Jesus. For some they like Jesus, but not the church. But that’s why I love my church so much, because it is showing and helping Hudson to fall in love with the Jesus I know.

So my first thought to Hudson’s little statement was this. Thank you. Thank you to all those in our church who continue to pour into our kids. Thank you for all those who welcome kids and make them feel safe and supported. Thank you for all those who continue to love not only my sons but all those around you.

  • Thank you that when he runs down the aisle yelling that he has to pee, you smile and say “run fast little guy”.
  • Thank you for how when we were potty training, and at the front of the church he pulled down his pants to show off his new “big boy” underwear – you all cheered.
  • Thank you for how you watch my boys on Sundays so I can connect with others, and I always know he is safe and cared for.
  • And yes last but not least, I will even say thank you to all of you (which is most of you) who love to give my boys as many cookies and treats as possible before we go home. Because your generosity has Hudson hooked on church, and Jesus.

So thank you. And for all of you who don’t go to my church, thank you if you do the same in your community. If you welcome and care and reach out. Because those little actions, high fives, and hugs change lives. I know they’ve changed Hudson’s and because of that – they are changing mine too. Thank you.

Parenting in the Modern Age

I was reading about C.S. Lewis and came across this quote from his wife Joy.

She writes this:

“Provoke not your children to wrath” (Eph 6:4) Easily said; but how are we to avoid it? Strife between old and young seems inevitable. Today the world changes fast and inconceivably fast; in pastoral and agricultural times, what a man knew was of use to his son, but in the industrial age Father’s knowledge is out of date before the son is half grown up…Our problem, then, pending the reconstruction of the world, is to reconstruct our own lives so that we give our children as much warmth and attention and time and teaching as the present world will allow…and let us remind the innumerable Americas who don’t seem to know it that begetting and rearing a family are far more real and rewarding than making and spending money.”

All I can say is that this stopped me and made me think. I also think I’m going to stop blogging for today and go and play and be with my boys…

Father’s Day, Failures, and a New Future

321418_10152829471805643_695467691_nSunday is a special Sunday: it’s Father’s Day. I know this isn’t an easy day for everyone. If, like me, you’ve lost a father it can be tough. If you never really had a father, had a difficult father, or you desperately want to be a father but it hasn’t happened – I know all of these things can make Sunday difficult. Yet I also know for many of us Sunday can be a celebration. So recognizing all the complexity on Sunday I want to explore an odd topic: my failures.

On Sunday I want to be open and honest and share with you how I have failed as a father, and what that has taught me about God and relationships in general. I’ve only been a father for 3 short years, and 6 months with 2, but even in three years you can falter and fail even with the best intentions.

I know it’s an odd place to start with failures, but if you’re at all like me I learn so much more from my failures than sometimes my successes. And as I’ve faltered as a father my boys have been teaching me so much about God, myself, and all my relationships. So this is what I really want to take a look at on Sunday because failing doesn’t bother me. Not learning from my failures bothers me. I will make mistakes, and mess up – that’s life and parenting. But my hope is always to grow and change. So on Sunday we’ll open up some of my failures so that together we might all learn some important biblical principles around attention, affirmation, and owning our reactions.

Of course I’ll be sharing stories, of my boys painting the carpets and stories from Jesus. So I hope you can join us. But before we get there why not spend sometime and think through what failures have you really learned from? How have you changed? And most importantly, are there people you can share these lessons with so that we might all grow together?

Listening with Your Eyes

Here is an old story:

397378_10151635582662040_814112548_nA little girl came home from the school with a drawing she’d made in class. She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner.

“Mom guess what”, she squealed waving her drawing.

Her mother never looked up. “What” she said, tending to the pots.

“Guess what!”, the child repeated waving the drawing.

“What” the mother said tending to the plates.

“Mom you’re not listening”

“Sweetie yes I am” – said the mother.

“Mom”, the child said, “You’re not listening with your eyes”.

I think this is true for us in today’s age more than ever. So many of us when we are listening to one another we no longer listen with our eyes. We don’t deeply show our attention, our empathy, and our connection to the people we are listening to. We check our phones, check the clock, check our surroundings, but aren’t checking in with the person we are actually talking with.

I know I am as guilty as most. I’m tempted when my phone buzzes to check that text. I’m tempted to just quick check Twitter. I’m tempted to look at the clock. None of these things are bad, but all of these things communicate that the person you are talking with isn’t your top priority. In essence I’m tempted to not listen with my eyes, and then not with my heart either.

And here is why this matters, because my bet is that if someone has influenced and changed you in a deep way ~ they were a good listener. My bet is they made you a priority. My guess is they showed that you mattered by giving you their undivided attention. But having someone’s undivided attention is so rare these days, but that’s why it’s so valuable, counter-cultural, and transformational. How often you do you think your kids have someone completely rapt attention in the day? How often does your co-worker have someone truly interested in them and not just waiting for their turn to speak? How often does your neighbor have someone who isn’t rushing by but listening with their heart and eyes?

My point is that deep listening, with our hearts and eyes, is special because it is both so rare and transformative. And if we want to be people who bless, share life, change communities, and reveal Jesus’ love it will start with how we listen. It will start by putting aside our agendas, our phones, our distractions and saying to our kids, family, friends, and neighbors you matter to me with what’s going on in your life. Because that is the model of Jesus. We always have his attention, and it’s always undivided. So why not try giving that gift to someone today.

Go to Timeout Daddy!

941103_10152862084975643_260761294_nWe have a three year old, which also means that we have a timeout spot. For us it’s the stairs. This has been helpful because pretty much every place we go has stairs.

Everybody’s different, but for us we use timeouts to help Hudson make right choices. Some people use timeout’s for punishment but we want it to be a corrective. So the general rule is he able to come off timeout whenever he is ready to say sorry, eat his supper, or do whatever it is he was supposed to in the first place. This is important to us because then Hudson still has some control, and if he makes the right choice right away he can get out of timeout quickly. There isn’t a set punishment time, instead he sits there as long as it takes to make the right choice. Because we want our kids to make the right choices. What is funny is that our kids also want us to make the right choices.

So the other day I’m in a bad mood. I’m grumpy. I’m complaining, and not being “happy”. So you know what Hudson does? He puts me in timeout.

He says, “Daddy no whining, you go to timeout. When you happy you come off and say sorry and we play. Okay!”

My little boy is no longer just learning the right choices, but expecting them from others. This is a really good thing, although I did have to spend sometime in timeout.

What I’m learning if I’m to be a good father is that it’s a lot about consistency. Consistently living what I’m asking. Consistently living up to my own expectations I set for my boys. In essence I need to model what I am trying to teach, and practice what I preach.

So maybe it’s a good moment today to simply take a second and ask yourself, “Do you need to go to timeout?” Is there something you expect of others that you aren’t doing? Are you making the right choices you ask other people to make?

Because trust me its so much better when we say we’re sorry, act the right way, and get back to playing…

How a Community Can Launch its Kids

8402_10200932844870242_211848675_nOn Sunday I shared with you three things I think are key in raising and launching kids from our faith community.

The first key I shared was alignment. This is simply where our values line up with our actions. Kids pick out incongruity and hypocrisy like little magnets. We need to ensure that if we are going to have any influence that our values line up with our actions. So often we end up asking our youth and kids to value something we don’t practice. So to ensure this doesn’t happen I challenged everyone to ask this question often: are we living what we are asking? So are we living with grace? Are we living with integrity? If we want our kids to grow up serving, caring, reaching out, and changing lives – it needs to start in our lives.

The second key I gave was ownership. There is currently a move to deeper and deeper outsourcing. You can outsource your marital fights online now. The trouble is that as you outsource things you are giving responsibility to another party or group. And in the case of our youth, they matter too much to ever outsource their development to the school system, social workers, daycares, or even to our local youth pastors. These things are all good and valuable as supports and professionals; but supports and professionals are never a substitute for engaged parents and caring communities. So we need to own our personal responsibility in raising the kids entrusted to our care. Therefore, each Christian needs to ask “how can I contribute to launching our kids well?” What can you do to ensure the next generation thrives and succeeds? Can you be a mentor, can you give your time, your resources, your care and love? If we are to launch our kids well we need to own our responsibly in raising and launching.

And the last key to launching our kids well was that we need each other. The truth is that the world teaches our kids that living for money, self-satisfaction, or happiness is important and fulfilling. Unfortunately this isn’t the gospel. The gospel is that living for others, and living for something worth dying for is the reason to live. Stanley Hauerwas puts it this way: What we do when we educate kids to be happy and self-fulfilled is to absolutely ruin them. Parents should say to their kids “what you want out of life is not happiness but to be part of a worthy adventure, you want to have something worth dying for”.

And this is why we need each other. We need a faith community that practices and demonstrates what this type of life looks like. We need new role models, and heroes. We need everyday ordinary people who follow Jesus in the reality of their lives. We need each other. So I ended with encouraging each person to share their story of why they find following Jesus compelling, how they are doing it, and what they are learning. Because if we are ever going to be a counter-culture to the world of fame, wealth, and self-interest, we will need to share our stories.

So those were three keys: aligning our lives with Jesus, owning our responsibility, and working as a community. There are surely others, and things you might add. But I think it’s a pretty good start. But if you were to add anything what would it be? Because this is a conversation worth having…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Launching the next generation requires: alignment, ownerships, and togetherness.

Take Aways…

  • We have all been influenced by parenting for good or bad
  • If you are a Christian you are a parent – modeling, and living an example for the kids around you
  • Christians, single and married, are parents. “Parent” names an office of the Christian community that everyone in the community is expected faithfully to fulfill. Stanley Hauerwas
  • Three Keys to Parenting: Alignment, Ownership, and Each Other
  • Alignment: Having our values line up with our actions
  • Are we living what we are asking?
  • Our youth need role models…they need you
  • Ownership: Taking responsibility rather than outsourcing
  • Our kids matter too much to give our responsibility to raise them away
  • Each Other: To create a community that makes faith real
  • What we do when we educate kids to be happy and self-fulfilled is to absolutely ruin them. Parents should say to their kids “what you want out of life is not happiness but to be part of a worthy adventure you want to have something worth dying for”. Stanley Hauerwas
  • Application:
    • Am I living what I’m asking?
    • How can I contribute?
    • Share your story

Adult / Group Discussion Questions What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What was your life growing up with your parents? What about your parents “parenting style” would you like to use or leave behind? What other keys do you think there are to launching our next generation well? In what areas are you “living what your asking”? In what areas aren’t you? How can you contribute to raising and launching this generation well? Who can you share your story with?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and sit down with your kids and talk to them about today’s message. Share with them how you want to live with alignment and if they notice you saying things your not practicing to talk with you so that you can change. Talk to them about the models and examples of faith in the church, and why following Jesus matters for you. Lastly ask them how you can help them – how you can contribute to launching them well. Ask what they need and how you can help.

Challenge for this Week: Walk with alignment, choose to contribute, and share your story with someone.