Strong Start: Family, Future, and Marbles

marbles-1421822-1279x1699[GUEST POST: Andrew Epp ~ Family Pastor]

On Sunday we continued in our series on starting 2016 strong, and specifically in the area of our families. During the sermon we journeyed with a family via video and watched their baby grow up and eventually move out, showing us that there are different phases in life and we need to make sure we don’t miss them.

If you missed it you can find the video’s and the presentation here:

Here are the 5 questions we looked into on Sunday:

  • How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?
  • Who do I want my child to become?
  • How am I fighting for the heart of my child?
  • How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?
  • Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

Here are some of the main points that we discussed on Sunday:

Parenting priorities

  • What matters more than anything is that my kids have an authentic relationship with God.
  • My wife and I are not the only adult influences my children need.
  • My children need to know that I will never stop fighting for a right relationship with them.
  • My relationship with God and with my wife affects my children more than I realize.
  • Just being together can never substitute for interacting together in a meaningful way.

No one has more potential to influence your child than you.

  • You are the primary influence in the life of your child.
  • Teachers, pastors and coaches will never have as much potential to influence a child’s character, self-esteem, perspectives, or faith as a parent does.
  • That teacher pastor or coach will have influence that is temporary, your influence as a parent will be permanent.
  • Your relationship gives you the potential to influence in ways that others cannot.

You are not the only influence your children need.

  • tap into other influences that also have the potential to impact your children’s future.
  • You can leave your children alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them proactively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.

Two combined influences will make a greater impact than just two influences.

If they work together they can potentially make a greater impact than if they work alone.  

The 5 questions at the beginning of the page are focused around 5 values come from the book Parenting beyond your capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Value 1) Parenting Values Widen the Circle

  • Invite others to invest in your children, so that your sons and daughters have other voices that help shape and determine the direction of their lives.
  • The time will come when your child needs another trusted adult who would give them a safe place to wrestle with difficult issues.
  • The church has huge potential to provide community for children. Research tell us that teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives were more likely to keep attending church and that the more adults the better.
  • This community gives them a sense of belonging and significance.
  • It allows mentors to DO ministry with the child and serve with them.
  • Widen this circle as early as possible before children need them so that they will be there when they need them.

Key Question: How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?

Value 2) Imagine the End

  • Focus your energy and effort on the issues that matter most and will make a lasting impact.
  • It is more important to leave a legacy of faith rather than an inheritance of wealth.
  • Moses said everything I have said and everything I will say hinges on one essential truth: our God is God. Everything is really about Him.
  • A child’s relationship with God is more important than their relationship with parents. That they would pursue a relationship with God as their highest priority.

Key Question: What do I want my child to become?

Value 3) Fight for the Heart

  • Create a culture of unconditional love in your home to fuel the emotional and moral health of your children.
  • Sometimes it is easy to win an argument and force the right behaviour, but lose the heart in the process.
  • Don’t fight with your children, fight for
  • One of the greatest gifts parents can give to their children is simply to prove that they can be trusted over the long haul.
  • Key Question: How am I fighting for the heart of my child

Create a Rhythm

  • Tap into the power of quality moments together, and build a sense of purpose through your everyday experiences.
  • Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.
  • Much of daily life consists of repeated patterns of waking up, eating, going out and going to bed.
  • Deut 6 talks about impressing faith as we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up. Consider the following ideas:
    • Eating meals together is an optimal times to have a focussed discussion. Use a variety of discussion starters, games and activities, before, during or after a meal. Make it natural and fun.
    • Walking or travelling together provides a great opportunity for informal dialogue in a nonthreatening environment.
    • Tucking children into bed can be a great time to have an intimate conversation and listen to the heart of your child.
    • Getting up in the morning provides a blank page for the family to start fresh relationally. Just a few encouraging words carefully spoken or written can give your children a sense of value and instil purpose.

Key Question: How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?

Value 5) Make It Personal

  • Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.
  • When it comes to spiritual and character formation, your journey impacts them deeply. If you want it to be in them, it needs to be in you.
  • Let kids see your struggles. They need to see your authenticity and hear your transparency.
  • We are not expert parents before we start, but we learn as we go and we make spiritual growth a priority.
  • Find a community of friends who you to talk to and learn from.
  • Strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Don’t underestimate the importance of a child seeing a mother and a father engaged in friendship and interacting in an affectionate way.
  •  Key Question: Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

 

Broken Little Hearts, and Bruised Kidneys

11407280_10155868352175643_5698444874264892180_nI’m totally biased, but I think my kids are great. Like I mean so are yours, but well mine are…well let’s just leave that there J

But even my totally amazing kids, occasionally drive me nuts, and do really wrong and dumb things.

The other day I was wrestling with our closest friend’s son, and all of sudden my oldest Hudson wants to “rescue” him. So while I’m not looking on the floor, he gets a running start and kicks me as hard as he can in my side. A perfect kidney shot.

Now I must say that my soccer coaching skills for how to kick have really payed off because that one little kick from a 5 year old hurt, like hold back tears, don’t say anything, take time to recover hurt.

Here’s the thing though – when he knew he hurt me, like really hurt me, he knew he did something wrong, he knew he did something bad. But I turned after regaining some strength and wanted to make sure he knew how wrong it was. I said, “You don’t ever do that again”. And my wife, Krista came and then took Hudson to bed.

I came in a little while later, after I was feeling better and I walked into the room and I had a choice.

I could remind Hudson of how deeply he failed me, and how we don’t kick friends – or anyone for that matter. I could have sat down and said how that wasn’t a wise choice. I could have focused in on the “wrong” and how he “broke the law” of our household. I could reinforce judging his wrong, or I could focus on healing his little heart.

Hudson felt terrible at hurting me. I could reinforce how much he hurt me, and how disappointed I was in him. Or I could teach him about love, grace, forgiveness, and healing a little hurt heart.

Because here is the thing: when we’ve been wronged we really want the other person to either suffer for it, or show deep understanding of how they  hurt us. But we always go overboard. We force the issue too long and too much. And the law, guilt, and judgment doesn’t change anyone. It sets a standard, but is not a motivator for transformation. Only grace and forgiveness are.

And so one look at my son showed me this was not the time to press the law and guilt more. This was the time for love and forgiveness. So I gave him a big hug, and he squeezed me so hard and I said I forgave him. He broke down and said how sorry he was, and I assured him that no matter what I’ll always forgive him and love.

So he went to sleep with a healed relationship, reconciled connection with me, rather than a deep feeling of not living up to my expectations and guilt. And I think that small difference makes all the difference.

Relationships are meant to be mended, not guilted into change. Relationships are meant to be reconciled, not broken under law. Relationships are to be healed through forgiveness, not through demanding judgment.

So the next time you have a chance to show judgment or grace and healing, stop for a moment, and think about your choice. Because there is always a choice to show forgiveness, or holding onto judgment. And sometimes that little choice is the difference between someone going to bed with a sore heart, or healed heart.

And of course I went to bed with a sore back, but my heart was happy with Hudson.

Why We Need Words and Actions

11136617_10206457512023468_6356891879295745781_nSo as we were driving to church one day, just Hudson and me, I said to him. “Hudson, Daddy loves you”. And Hudson had this funny little response, “He said Daaadddy (in that long drawn out way) you always say that!” And I said, “I know that buddy, I just don’t ever want you to forget that or doubt that.”

And he said, “Don’t worry Daddy, I know you love me because you wrestle with me, read with me, play Lego with me, we sit together and watch TV, you ride my bike with me, and play with me. I know you love me because we do all that together all the time”.

And that just made my day.

But I wanted to share it for a specific reason, what Hudson’s response reminded me of.  And it’s this: Actions confirm words.

And here’s what that means for me. It is important to say I love you, but it is so much more important to say it and show it.

For Hudson, he doesn’t doubt that he is loved, because he hears it and sees it. The consistency of Krista and I saying it and trying to show it as best we can, gives him security and confidence that he is loved.

And this is my larger point in writing this today. Are there people that you need to show love to today? Are there actions that you need to take to confirm what’s in your heart?

Hudson’s response actually made me think about those closest to me. Would Krista be able to rhyme off a list like that right away? What about Asher, or my neighbors, or my mom or whomever?

My point is: are there people that we love, that we need to confirm it with our actions? Because love isn’t love unless it’s acting, moving, and being put into practice. So today put love into practice and confirm at least for someone, that they are loved.

“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:

11011097_10155314245870328_5885636940752658802_n

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.

I’d Rather Have Moments Not Hours or Days

10527813_10154423790180643_4129971613227994834_nI was listening to music the other day, and I heard this one line that really spoke to me. It just stopped me as so true. I’ve listened to this song multiple times, but for the first time I heard it. The line was this:

Give me moments, just give me moments, not hours or days.

And here is what I think that line means and why it matters. Life is not made up of hours or days lived, but moments experienced. Moments and memories give life depth, not just hours and days. And we have many little clichéd sayings that pick up on this theme (i.e. life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by every moment that takes your breath away) The problem with clichés is that they are actually true, but are so true and familiar that they’ve lost their meaning. We forget they are true, we skip over them even though we know they matter.

We all know a deep moment with your spouse, your kid, or with God matters deeply.  But we often settle for hours and days spent in the same space with our spouse, kids, or God rather than moments actually with them.

So here is my challenge for you just today, have a moment today.

– Have a moment with your kids.

– Have a moment with your spouse.

– Have a moment with God

– Have a moment with friends

Why not focus on finding a moment that matters today. Because that line is true, we need moments not just hours or days. Moments that matter and last.

I found this picture from the summer of me and Hudson. That’s a moment I’ll remember for a long time. So why not focus on making some of those memories and  moments today, because in the end that’s what matters and lasts.

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.

My Son the “Soccer Star”

I want to share something that’s kind-of-personal. I don’t think my son Hudson will ever be a soccer star like I hope. I mean maybe a miracle might happen, but it just doesn’t seem to be in Hudson. And here is why: he’s too compassionate.

Hudson doesn’t have that competitive edge that leads to real greatness in sport. Hudson is more likely to be found on the soccer field giving the ball to the opposing team (“here you have it – let’s share”), singing songs of encouragement while running around the players (“Go blue lighting!”), or upset that the team isn’t sharing back with the ball (“But daddy sharing is good!”).

So all of this leads me to believe that a future of soccer stardom may not be in his future.

But is this a bad thing? He might not have competiveness, but he has compassion. He might not have intensity, but he has generosity. He might not have that sports edge, but he loves to encourage.

All I mean by all of this is that kids are different, and each are shaped in a unique way. The point is to find ways for their uniqueness and special gifts to shine forth. For some that’s in competitive sports, and intense playing. For Hudson it’s not so much, at least right now.

But what Hudson is good at is coaching. Because that’s what he is doing right now.  He is teaching our second child Asher to play soccer. He is encouraging him, sharing with him, and playing great with him.

So he might not be a soccer star, but he might be a star coach. The point is we all have unique gifts; let’s not lament what’s not there, but encourage what is.

And on the plus side Asher has a competitive streak. He just tackled Hudson and took the ball, so who knows we still might have a soccer star in the family 🙂