Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and help increase your influence

Joy and Forgiveness

Here’s a quick practical thought that will apply to every relationship in your life.  Mainly because every relationship has conflict.

This thought is currently being put into practice daily, if not hourly, in my house.  Our strong-willed child has turned parenting into a battle of wills and each day the battle rages on (a little exaggeration there, but not much).  Right now, parenting feels more like breaking a wild horse than anything else.

This thought has been providing perspective and bringing clarity to what is truly important.  It’s helping me not only “train a child in the way they should go” (read into that – constant, tiresome discipline), but also fight for my child’s heart.  It reminds me this isn’t a battle of wills to win, but a fight for relationship.

So, here it is:

“Fun validates forgiveness because you can’t play with someone you haven’t forgiven.”

–Reggie Joiner

Some of you are underwhelmed.  I get that.  But I think this has profound implications.  Reggie goes on to say, “Parents should go do something fun as a way to show forgiveness.”  Many of you get this intuitively.  In fact, kids do this everyday with their friends – “I’m sorry.  It’s ok.  Let’s go play” and off they run.

As parents and adults, we sometimes don’t turn that corner as quickly as our kids do, but they have something to teach us here.

In the heat of the moment, after a showdown with my daughter, I gather myself and go to her to offer forgiveness.  That alone is powerful and often neglected.  But to follow that up with joy and play, does several things –

1.  Speaks to identity (you are loved and I still enjoy you)
2.  Pursues relationship over other options (compliance, authority, etc…)
3.  Validates the discipline.  (The discipline was necessary and done in love.  Forgiveness followed by fun/Joy proves that.)

The list could go on.

I’m talking about a child here, but you can apply this principle to any relationship.

How do you see this principle affecting your relationships? 

Is this just a helpful reminder?  Or do you have some habits in conflict that need to change and this is a great starting point? 

What would this look like to practice with your spouse or a family member?

Let’s make joy and forgiveness staples in our home.  So go ahead, make something fun happen today!


Don’t Give In!

“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”  Acts 5:20

Consider this your pre-game speech for a incredible 2015!

Ill admit, I’m somewhat half-hearted when it comes to New Years Resolutions.   I enjoy the process of reflecting and dreaming about a new way of doing things.   Or developing new habits that fall in line with my values and hopes for myself, my family and my ministry.  It’s just when it comes to implementing them…

I complete about half the list…halfway.

The Resistance

Awhile back I read a book by Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.  Steven is an author and couldn’t get a second look at his work for a long time.  He kept preserving and eventually got published (The Legend of Bagger Vance) and is currently enjoying a great career.  He wrote The War of Art as a part of a series of non-fiction about the process of doing creative work.  In the book, he writes extensively about something he calls the Resistance.  He spends page after page defining the Resistance and it’s a fascinating read.

To sum it up, anytime you have the desire to do something of value for yourself, your family or others, the Resistance is present and working to sabotage your efforts.  As I look back on my life or even the most recent day, it’s not hard to see this idea at work.  (I know realize that I every time I desire to go to the gym, it’s not just a hilarious internal dialogue, it’s the Resistance that I’m talking to!)

Did you know:

  • January 17th is the thought to be the most common day to ditch your new year’s resolutions.
  • Most surveys reveal that only 8 – 12% actually succeed in their resolutions.

I wonder why we are so quick to give up?

The Offer is Life!

I find these principles at work in my walk with Christ.  Why do I find it so awkward to pray with my wife at times?  Why can’t I just get out of bed 30 minutes earlier than usual?  This would allow time to be still before my kids wake up and the speeding train of my day takes off.  Why do I often have dreams of what God might do with my life or my family only to find that today looks a lot like yesterday?  I’m sure you have your share of questions here as well.  It’s no wonder Jesus paired these two statements together.

“The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”  John 10:10

Make no mistake, Jesus’ offer is a life that is unique, full, and fulfilling!  But let’s not be naive, that life is opposed!

Quite frankly, I’m tired of giving in to the Resistance (the Thief) and my prayer is that 2015 is a year marked by my trust of God.  That may sound simple, but in my life, I find it’s often a subtle lack of trust in God that derails the transformative work God is doing in my heart and life.  The offer of Jesus is life to the full and it is an offer for today as much as it is for the future.

God grant us the grace to fight through the Resistance and trust you more!


Seeking the Perfect Picture

Does it mean that we are bad parents, if we can’t get that perfect Christmas card picture?

Not a chance, but if your family is like mine, this can be a frustrating experience.  Our girls sense it coming and immediately rebel.  I’ll admit, as a husband, I need to do a better job of making it happen.  If I’m honest I rebel a bit as well.  Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking –

The perfect picture isn’t an accurate representation of who we are!

I worry sometimes that the church holds up perfect pictures (aka that Christmas cards where everyone is smiling and pretty and behaved and…) and say to families, “This is it!  This is what it should look like!”  I greatly appreciate the words of Reggie Joiner and hope they encourage you as well,

“God doesn’t use perfect pictures.  God uses broken people.  God’s desire is to work through every family to bring redemption and restoration.  It’s not about better pictures, it’s about a bigger story.  Family is a platform God uses to demonstrate His story of redemption”

This Christmas season, don’t worry about living up to a perfect picture, just lean into the messy joy of being family.  Lean in  and engage much like our Creator did through sending his son to walk among the messy joy of humanity.  Your brokenness and God’s activity in the middle of it are part of grand story God is unfolding.  Your family is perfect for this task!

I hope you all got the perfect picture for your card this year!  I really do.  But also remember that where there’s a gap between the picture and reality, Emmanuel (God with us) is there to fill it with grace and redemption.

Praying for rest, joy, relationship, and a nearness of God’s presence for your family this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!


For a little extra encouragement, here is an excerpt from a post that has been the most popular on this blog.  You can read the full post here:  “I Have Nothing To Wear”


There is a temptation as parents to think we haven’t got what it takes.

The truth is you have everything you need to be successful as a parent!  Still, many of us don’t feel this is true in our daily lives.  We are like the person staring blankly into a closet full of clothes and proclaiming, “I have nothing wear!”

Being the Broken Parent a Kid Needs

We are all broken – you, your kids, your parents, your spouse.  The best thing for our kids is for us to own up to this fact.

When we own up to our brokenness we give our kids a front row seat to God’s activity in our lives.  Our kids don’t need to see us be perfect to be the kind of human beings we want them to grow up to be…They need to see God’s redemptive activity in our lives taking what’s broken and making it new.

So let’s make this simple.  You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to measure up to whatever comparisons are out there.  You simply need to be willing to grow – to be the person God is calling you to be.  It looks more like surrender than striving.  It’s a matter of being willing to engage more than being an expert.  I love this quote from Brene Brown,

“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”

Forget what you know about parenting, who are you becoming?  How are you engaging the world around you?  How are you growing and seeking relationship?

“Faith is caught more than it is taught” is an absolutely true saying.  Let’s give our kids a front row seat to God taking us, broken people, and accomplishing great things that we could never do on our own.  The world has a way of getting us searching – thinking that we need what we are already have!  But, I promise you this…You have everything you need to be a great parent!!  Now, just lean in, engage and watch God do what He does best!

Fighting your Instincts

Of course we need to protect our kids, but Dr. Kelly Flanagan shows us the main thing we need to protect our kids from is ourselves!  In a recent article he asks,

“What if the thing we really need to protect our children from is our own protectiveness?”

As a youth pastor, I often have a front row seat to well-meaning parents going to the extremes to make sure their kids are “ok”.  I understand every situation is different and perceptions can be misleading, but if we are not careful our protective instincts can actually hinder our child’s growth.

Our goal as parents, simply put, is to prepare our kids for adulthood.  Sometimes that means that we have to withhold our protective instincts for the sake of their growth as a person.  If you look around and pay attention to what’s being written, you will notice we might have a problem.  This is highlighted by a quick Google search of “college students and parents” –

“How Helicopter Parents are Ruining College Students” – Washington Post

“Snowplow Parents Overly Involved in College Student Lives” – Boston Globe

“College Students and Their Helicopter Parents:  A Recipe for Stress” – Huffington Post

These articles were sandwiched in between articles written by universities offering “Tips to Parents” to help them let go.  Essentially, these articles are begging parents to let their kids be responsible for their own life, grades, time, etc.  In other words, let them be adults, make mistakes, take responsibility…grow!

It Will Not Produce the Results You Desire

As parents we need to protect our young kids from the danger of an ill-advised jump off the coffee table.  As they grow older though, there are some things that we can’t protect them from and that’s where we get into trouble.  Providing physical safety as a parent is necessary.  The instinct to want to protect our kids is as natural as waking up.  However, there comes a point where we have to fight this instinct.  Dr. Flanagan writes,

“We’ve got their physical safety on lockdown.

So what do we do next with our protective instinct?

We try to perfect our children because, deep down, we believe perfection is protection…If we are flawless, we leave no chinks in the armor. The more perfect we are, the more likely we are to come out on top in the game of social comparison. If our kids are perfect, we hope it will protect them from peer rejection, poor self-esteem, disappointments in life, and the pain of being human.”

We know the realities of this world.  We know what is out there waiting for them.  But as a follower of Jesus, I also trust the words found in the book of Philippians.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Part of that completion is the journey through successes, failures, pain, joy, bad decisions, and making the right, hard decisions.  Here’s what I know for sure:  my protection cannot produce the results I ultimately desire.  At some point, I have to trust the Author of this life, my child’s life, to do his work.  During that time, I have to fight my instincts.


To read Dr. Flanagan’s full article click here (the last section might be worth printing out and putting on your fridge!):  Why We Need to Protect Our Kids From Us

Shaped By Scripture

As a father of two daugthers, I’ll admit I got real close to getting emotional in my office as I read this Q&A with Jim Burns and the Fuller Youth Institute (luckily for my co-worker’s sake, I held it together).  He answers 3 simple questions about parenting, but his second answer is that one that got me.  Check it out:

‘What verse of scripture has most shaped your parenting?’

I’m not sure we had one favorite verse for the entire time we were raising our kids, but three scriptures come to mind: “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” (Prov. 22:6) We claimed this verse as a promise, especially in the tougher times. As our girls reached the teenage years, they all took a turn away from what we had hoped and expected. Our goal was that by the time they became young adults, we would have taught them how to find their “Mission, Mate, and Master.” This doesn’t mean that they would have it all together, but that we at least helped them learn a biblical view in all three of those areas. Today we are reaping those rewards, but it sure wasn’t easy during the tougher times.

The second scripture is “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be written upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.” (Deut. 6:4,5) This scripture is called the shema, a Hebrew word meaning “to listen,” and it actually is the plan and purpose for the Hebrew people. It’s the most often-quoted scripture in the entire Bible because it has been recited every morning and evening in every Orthodox Jewish home since the time of Moses. I can imagine Mary holding the baby Jesus in her arms reciting these words to him. What this scripture taught Cathy and me is that we are called to live our faith out to the best we can, and then in a healthy way “impress” or pass it on to our children. We came up with a Sunday night fun night that included games, fun food, and a short spiritual formation time. Our kids didn’t mind, as long as it was a positive environment with fun food!

We also kept a nightly quick prayer time at each of the girls’ bedside. I got in the habit of placing the sign of the cross on their foreheads. One time when one of my adult daughters was going through a tough time, I asked her if I could pray for her. When I was finished praying she took my hand and had me put the sign of the cross on her forehead. I had no idea all those years that this experience meant anything to her.

The third verse is, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov. 4:23) Neither Cathy nor I were raised in Christian homes. No one ever taught us how to “guard our hearts.” We believed it was very important that we taught our kids (through both words and action) how to have healthy relationships by guarding their hearts as well as learning to guard their hearts in their faith.

You might have guessed, it was the third paragraph that snuck up on me.  I can only hope I have that kind of relationship with my daugthers when they are older.  There is so much in his answer that is worthy of emulating.  Personally, I’m stealing quite a few ideas from Jim.  I’m sure he won’t mind if you do as well.

In our family, my wife has started a great tradition of speaking truth and purpose over our kids each day.  Every day they engage in a call and response.  My wife will say to them, “Remember, love God, love others, and…” to which they respond “do great things!”  As we read the biblical story, we realize that simply put our everyday calling is to love God and love others.  In the process of doing that, we trust that God will do great things through our simple, obedient love.  It’s my prayer that as we speak these words of Scripture over our kids, it will be a foundation for them as they grow.

What about you?  What scripture passages have most influenced your parenting?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

To read the answers to the other two questions (they are both shorter than this one and worth reading), check it out here.

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