Archives For Family

Life is full of pain. It’s inevitable (Jesus Himself promised it). Some inflicted by others. Some the result of bad choices. Some the result of random tragedy. Some the unavoidable product of living in a broken world.

Since pain is a clear certainty, my prayer is that God would never let me waste it.

The last few years have been a season of pruning. For those of you not familiar with botany or its scriptural analogy to our lives, that simply means a cutting away of dead or overgrown branches so that the healthy and desired fruit can continue to grow and flourish. These seasons are necessary, but they’re in no way enjoyable.

As we pursue God, the byproduct isn’t always warm fuzzies. In fact, when we begin to place God in His proper place in our lives, the immediate fallout is usually the painful exposure of countless “false gods” we didn’t even know we’d been trusting in for so long. The destruction of these idols is the most loving thing God could ever walk us through. It’s also feels similar to root canal without novocaine.

From a job and friendships that had become my identity, to placing my hope in the stability and strength of family (oh, didn’t I tell you, these idols can be made of beautiful things, too), to the classic belief that money is the source of my security. One by one over the past few years, God has shown me the futility of my misplaced trust, as these good things I had made into supreme things crumbled under the weight of what they were never intended to be.

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And now God has another imposter in His sights. A unique one of sorts:

I want my kids to trust in me.

I didn’t say trust me. I said trust in me.

As a father, I want the absolute best for my kids. This is a beautiful, God-given instinct to provide and protect, to pave the way and become a life-long source of wisdom and help. But I’m realizing my limits, and it’s terrifying to me. They need things I don’t know if I can provide. They’re asking questions I don’t know how to answer. They’re beginning to have problems I can’t solve. So I lose sleep. I stare at the ceiling. I battle anxiety.

I want to be their go-to. I want to be their source. I want to be…their idol.

And God shines a light on the next effigy in my trophy case.

“You want them to trust in you. I want you to teach them to TRUST IN ME.”

My role as an earthly father is to reflect and point to the Heavenly Father, but sometimes I try to usurp the leading role for myself like I’m starring in the next Marvel movie. I’m not their savior. I’m here to put their hands in His hands. I’m here to lead them to Jesus. And that means telling them how much I need Him, too. That means showing them how the Gospel destroys my idols, including my desire to become one of theirs.

I can’t be my kids’ Source. But I can ask them to trust me as I teach them to trust in Jesus.

Are Things As Bad AsThey Seem?

A few months ago we started opening every staff meeting at our company by sharing “wins.” Big wins, small wins, it doesn’t really matter. Just something positive and encouraging to set the tone for our time together.

Surprisingly, this proved to be much more difficult than I expected. Even when prompted for the positive, our conversations just seemed to instinctively divert back toward something that was not working properly and needed to be fixed.

Identifying a problem was natural. Celebrating a win was hard work.

But we determined to contend for the good things first. Once we’ve properly celebrated, then we can focus on the difficulties with a sense of healthy perspective. The world isn’t actually collapsing in around us. There are good things happening. We are making progress. We just proved it!

It’s subtly changed my outlook on things and (I think) the overall tone of our times together. Which got me thinking…

What if we made that same pact with each other when it came to sharing our thoughts on social media?

If our newscasts replaced “it bleeds it leads” with opening storylines of beauty, hope, and restoration.

If dinner conversations with the family always kicked off with the day’s successes?

Life’s tough, and the world is a scary place. There are endless challenges to meet and gut-wrenching problems to solve. But I wonder how much worse things seem simply because we’ve forgotten how to celebrate?

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

‭‭—Philippians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭MSG‬‬

The Danger of Raising a

I was the good kid.

I’m not bragging, just stating more of a bland fact. Ask my parents. Ask my childhood friends. By all means I wasn’t perfect, but I was naturally wired to figure out what was expected of me and to do my best to stick to that plan. I didn’t like having authority figures upset with me (from my folks, to my teachers, to God himself), so I did what I could to keep them all happy and on my team. It was a solid approach to childhood and adolescence that worked well. I recommend it.

Then I became a parent.

I figured I’d raise good kids, too. Respectful, straight-A, piano-playing self-starters that methodically chipped away at all life’s expectations until they stood perfectly on their own two feet. And for the most part, we were on that track. I’ve got good kids.

Until my son hit the 5th grade, that is.

Fifth grade offers a whole new level of independence at my kids’ school, and my only son has spent the first few months of this new freedom exploring the wonders of mischief more than the accolades of rule-keeping. Let’s just say most of the meetings we’ve had (yes meetings plural) with his guidance counselor this fall have assured us that, while his heart is in the right place, his grasp of self-control….well, it really isn’t.

Which is really confusing for this “good kid” father. I mean, the good kids are celebrated, cheered, written about, given awards and paraded in front of others as examples of the way things ought to be. Who wouldn’t want to be a “good kid?” And the parents of good kids are admired as heroes (this kind of multigenerational virtue is good kid become good parent heaven). They don’t spend time on the phone apologizing to other kids’ parents for derogatory lunchtime insults (a fictional story I, uh, obviously made up, you know, just to make my point…yeah).

But…

There’s a inherent danger in being a good kid and raising a good kid, and that’s this:

The kids we celebrate as “good christian kids” aren’t necessarily that way because they’ve been captured by the Gospel, they’re just the ones most naturally bent toward moralism and rule keeping. And because they’re naturally “good,” they often don’t even see their need for a Savior. Therein lies the danger.

All of us need a Savior.

As parents and authority figures, we love moralism and rule keeping, and that’s perfectly understandable. Good morals and respect for authority are quality virtues that should be praised. But let’s not forget that the prodigal son had an older brother who thought he’d earned the love of his father with his “good kid” behavior, yet completely missed his need for the gift of grace. It can take good kids a lot longer to realize what a mess they really are. Being blinded by my goodness is not, well, good.

Here’s the deal:

My “push the limits” son needs Jesus.

This “good kid” father needs Jesus.

Let’s make sure we celebrate the right thing in our lives and in our kids’ lives. Point them toward Christ, and He will make them good. Truly good. He’s the only one that can.

RememberingToBeThankful

I never wanted to be the guy who lived vicariously through his kids, but suffice it to say, it happens. I was (rightfully) cut from my 7th grade basketball team (strangely enough, there wasn’t much demand for a slow white kid who couldn’t jump), so when my oldest daughter made the JV squad her freshman year of High School, I at least felt my Hoosier DNA had been mildly vindicated.

We’ve watched her blossom the last two years, not just as a player, but as a person. And the whole family has been so grateful for every unexpected opportunity:

Making the freshman team. Cheesy grin.

Those first JV minutes. Wide-eyed wonderment.

Her first points. Wow! How cool is that? She made the stat sheet!

And the thankfulness scale just kept tipping:

Dressing varsity. What an incredible opportunity!

A few varsity cleanup minutes at the end of a few games. Can you believe it? Our daughter is playing varsity high school basketball!

Making an impact on the court. Who is this girl? I’m so proud of her.

And then two weeks ago she came home with the craziest news of all:

“Um, dad. Coach said I’m starting Tuesday night,” she tried to mute her glee. “Ok, goodnight!” As she ran up the stairs, I couldn’t believe the metamorphosis we were seeing. Steady, faithful Emma, lacking in the years of playing experience many of the other girls had, was reaping the benefit of showing up, working hard, and giving it her all every time she stepped on the court. We were so grateful.

Two nights later, her mom and I pushed back tears of thankfulness as we watched her run through the tunnel formed by her teammates as the starters names were announced over the loudspeaker.

And then something strange happened inside me when I wasn’t even looking. 

Two games later she was back to the bench. “Coach said this team is really tall and we need more height on the post.” She wasn’t phased in the least, but I was.

My dad gene faked it. “That’s ok, kiddo. Every player matters to the team. It’s not about starting.”

( Inside though, my flesh was singing a different story. Why? She played so solid. What did she do to get moved back to the bench? Did she not play as well as I thought she did? What happened?).

In one short moment, my instincts shredded the long list of things we had been so grateful for for so long. My overwhelming sense of gratitude had become an ugly sense of entitlement. I forgot what I used to be thankful for.

Thank God for conviction of the Holy Spirit. If my kids only realized how many of the inspiring speeches I manage to concoct for them are really just God smacking me around. Somewhere inside, I found this truth:

“Every minute you get on the basketball court is a gift. If you play starting minutes, be grateful. If you come off the bench, be grateful. If you play 20 minutes of prime time, be grateful. If you get 3 garbage minutes when the game is already decided, be grateful. The posture of your heart is what matters. We deserve nothing. We’re grateful for everything. The most important characteristic you can carry in life is a spirit of thankfulness.”

I don’t know about you, but I am quick to forget the things I used to be thankful for. Gifts subtly transform into expectations when I’m not even paying attention. And when my focus shifts from thankful to entitled, I lose so much of the beauty in this life. I become completely obviously to the things that used to breed wonder and joy, and I set a course for disaster.

This Thanksgiving, what if we took some time to remember the things we used to be thankful for and let them overwhelm us with gratitude once again?

My 13 year old is a drama queen. Yes, in the typical way drama oozes from an adolescent girl, but also in the strictest sense of the term. She loves acting, singing, the stage, all things thespian.

This summer, she attended a week-long drama camp and won the lead role in the end-of-the-week mini-production of Willy Wonka. There’s nothing like seeing your baby girl dressed in a purple velvet suit singing The Candy Man as grade school Oompa Loompa’s dance around her with glee. It was a proud moment, and we watched her stand up a little straighter and walk with a bit more confidence as she received accolades from her camp directors, fellow students, and the audience full of camera-happy parents.

There’s nothing like that first awakening of “hey, I’m pretty good at this, and other people are noticing.” Those are powerful, identity-shaping moments that can change us forever.

In beautiful and in dangerous ways.

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It hit me watching everyone’s favorite summer-time TV show, “America’s Got Talent” last week with the fam. An unknown performer steps nervously to the stage and wows the celebrity judges with a jaw-dropping presentation. The crowd erupts in wild applause and (cue the emotional music) the overwhelmed performer breaks down weeping beneath the mass approval.

It’s great television.

I think part of the reason we love it so much is because we all long for it so much. The way we view ourselves is shaped by how we are viewed by others, by their approval of our talents and abilities. Our identity is in the accolades, and the accolades are in our performance. But performance is a vicious taskmaster.

The truth is, our identity has been secured by the performance of Another. All the standing o’s are already ours because Jesus Christ took the stage on our behalf. And he crushed it (I mean seriously, best performance in a historical drama of all time). And because of what Jesus did, God’s applause is already raining down on you today. The approval you long for you already have when you put your faith in Him. Let that ovation overwhelm you to tears.

Because of Christ, our life performance becomes an act of love, not a frantic search for identity. The stage is yours, but the performance is already done. Find your rest and your identity in His thunderous applause today. He’s ready to give it to you (free of charge).