Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and help increase your influence

Glorified Taxi Cabs

Not sure how we got here, but in our world being “busy” has become a badge of honor.  We are busy people.  We have a lot going on.  And for some strange reason we get a sense of importance from our frantic lives.  The busier we are, the more important we feel.

It’s not just the adults that are busy.  Many kids today are just as busy.  My greatest fear as a young parent watching parents in the stages ahead of me, is becoming nothing more than a taxi cab!  As if my only role in life is carting them around to school, sports, friends, and wherever else they think they need to go.

As we come to the end of summer and gear up for the busyness of the fall, I wanted to share something that I’ve found very helpful.   It’s a chart from the book, Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide….  Basically, it gives you a way to think thru your crazy day and see (maybe in ways you’ve never thought about before) that you have so many opportunities to come alongside your son or daughter and influence, love, shape, and nurture.


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Meal time, drive time, bed time, morning time are all great opportunities to parent and influence your child.  Times that are a part of everyday, but maybe haven’t been seen as an option for meaningful moments.  How does thinking about each part of the day having certain roles and goals change the way you approach your day?

Going back to my greatest fear, if I follow the ideas here, drive time now because a time to covet and cherish.  Drive time now becomes an opportunity to debrief the day and discuss life together. Drive time is now a moment, in the midst of the chaos that is our lives, where my daughters are stuck with me and have no where to go!  (Of course, today we battle the constant connection to the screen, so it’s not quite the captive audience we desire, but nonetheless…you’re in the same space together!) 

SIDENOTE:  I wrote about an idea for redeeming the dreaded carpool that fits with this here:

I’ve heard many parents express a desire to have more influence in their kid’s life.  When asked why they think they don’t, there is a host of reasons, but time is usually in the mix.  That’s why I love this chart!  It helps put certain times that can be easily overlooked into perspective.  It helps us think through how we can still find places to influence and parent in the middle of our shuffling around.  It reminds us to slow down and be intentional.  It might even encourage you to try to create some new habits with your kids so you have the times listed above (Anyone getting their kids to sit at the table with them for dinner these days?)

Have you ever thought about your day this way? 

How can you take one of these ideas and implement into your routine today?

Which role of the of four listed above do you most often play?   Which do you neglect?

Summer is almost over and the school year is upon us.  I hope this is a practical tool that you can use to be the parent you want to be to your kids!

I would love to hear your thoughts!


The 7:1Ratio and the Power of Words

At a conference recently, Jeff Henderson, pastor of a church in Georgia, was speaking on the power of encouragement.  He cited a study from the Gottman Institute where research found that:

For every 1 comment of encouragement we receive, there are 7 comments of criticism.

So, on average you and I hear 7 comments of criticism with only 1 positive comment in the mix.  It’s no wonder we are often down on ourselves.  Now, mix in in adolescence where students are striving to figure who they are and where they fit in and the 7:1 ratio is exaggerated.

According to Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages, from ages 6 to 12 kids are in the “Industry vs. Inferiority” stage.  This is a time of incredible growth in skills and competency.  There is also a social dynamic and students who struggle during this time will have feelings of social incompetence and potentially low self-esteem.  From ages 12 to 18, this moves to a stage of “Identity vs. Role Confusion”.  Here the student is working hard internally to answer questions of identity and “fitting in”.  Basically, kids are incredibly impressionable during these two stages of growth and words of encouragement or criticism have the potential to carry a lot of weight.

I remember sitting outside during one of our youth trips a few years ago and witnessing a youth pastor call over a student and share with them the positive attributes he had seen in him that day.  It reminded me to speak encouragement out loud to the students I was around.  It reminded me of the incredible power of words and the ways words had impacted my life in the past.  I remember as young high school student, I got a note in class one day.  It was from a friend of my youth pastor who came in town often to lead events and retreats for us.  We had met last time he was in town and the note simply read, “Kyle, I’m so glad to be back in town and I’m really looking forward to seeing you tonight.  See you soon, Curt.”  That’s it!!  It meant the world.

I was noticed.  I was known.  I was worthy of his time.

I can’t tell you how many times a student has left their Bible or journal lying around and as we try to discover whose it is, we thumb through it and a letter similar to this from a parent or youth worker is tucked away in the pages.  That’s why I always encourage our leaders and interns to be old fashioned!  Write a hand written letter once or twice a year to encourage a student.  Words, written or spoken, have power.  Hey, maybe you should try it too!  Go ahead – be old fashioned!  Your kids won’t see it coming.

One Step Further

I was listening to an interview with Craig Groeschel recently and he takes this a step further.  Craig has 6 kids and has really sought to understand the unique personalities of each of his kids.  In the the interview he says, “I was there, so I know they came from their mother and I think I’m the dad, but man – they are different!”  Craig through prayer and observation seeks to uncover each of his kids main insecurities and comes up with a phrase to speak to each one of them.  He speaks this over and over throughout their life.

Each one is different.  Each one is unique.  Each one is intentional.

He said this wasn’t easy to figure out and is even harder with introverts, but can you imagine the power of these words spoken over time to a place of great vulnerability!  Our friends at Orange will tell you that “Words over time can impact someone’s direction in life”.  It’s so true!  (Check out a quick article from Orange on this topic here:

What a gift to give to your kids!  I’ve been thinking about this for my own kids since I heard it and I haven’t quite figured out the phrase I want to use, but nonetheless it has made me more aware of the words I speak to my kids.  Am I speaking and giving weight to their insecurities or counteracting them with words of life?  I‘m sad to say, I’m much better at the first one.

Unspoken Love Isn’t What We Think It Is

I think we all agree words have power.  We all have phrases (positive or negative) we have heard throughout our life that we replay in our heads.  These are constant reminders of words spoken to us that have consequences on past and present.

But here is something I think we all struggle with.  We’ve heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words” and have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  It’s true if your actions don’t match your words – actions win.  However…well, this might help, here is a fight I have with my wife from time to time:

“What do you mean you want to know that I love you” I say, “Here’s the 15 ways I’ve loved you in the last 3 days.”  My wife responds, “I don’t feel loved by those things.  You’re missing the point.”

While my wife appreciates everything I’ve done for her, she wants to hear my voice.  She wants me to stop what I’m doing (actions that I think show my love, but are really just part of life together) and look her in the eyes and tell her what she means to me.  She wants my words.

I think this happens in families all the time.  I imagine many parents feel like they are showering their kids in love, while their kids are just waiting for a moment to hear how special they are.  This disconnect is common in most homes with the busyness of life, school, work, sports, activities, etc. – we DO a lot for each other.  However, if we don’t stop, look each other in the eye, and speak words of life, I’m not sure that the message gets through – at least not with the weight we might hope in a world where 7:1 is the ratio.

Let’s Get Practical

Jeff Henderson, the guy from the beginning of this whole thing, mentioned in his presentation that he is so convinced by this that he writes his wife and kids a note of encouragement every week.  Every week! To which I reply, “Easy buddy.  You’re making me look bad and that’s not even realistic!”  However, in case you want to start with an every week venture or every month or every year or heck, just make it easy and write one note today and see where it goes – he provided some great note prompts to give someone “drops of encouragement”.  Here they are:

  • I remember when…
  • I have noticed…
  • I hope you know…
  • I’m really glad…
  • I’ve been thinking…

 “A generous person will prosper;  whoever refreshes others will be refreshed”  — Proverbs 11:25

Take these and use them up!  Refresh someone today and find yourself refreshed in return.  I can’t tell how much I would like to flip that ratio around in my family – 7:1 where words that build up and construct win the day.  How can you speak life to your spouse or kids today?  What are you waiting for…give it a shot!


(P.S. – If you want to explore the “words over time” idea along with other great “over time” concepts, the people at Orange have a great read you can find here: Playing for Keeps/Losing Your Marbles)




“I Have Nothing to Wear”

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

Or maybe we feel we have what it takes, but we’ve just lost the ability to get through to our kids.  Our influence isn’t what it used to be.

Or maybe we have grand desires but the time to invest in our kids or our family is incredibly hard to come by.  There is just simply too much going on.

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!”

I imagine as my daughters grow older I will have many moments where I survey the situation and go, “I have nothing to wear” – I have no idea how to respond to this situation or to how to decide the best course of action in this moment.  I remember feeling this way when they were first born.  I remember feeling this way last week.  I’m positive I will feel this way in the future.  That being said, I also think this whole thing is overblown.  Were my parents perfect…not a chance.  Were your parents…I doubt it.  The reality is kids do not need a perfect parent.  I think kids actually need a broken parent.

Being the Broken Parent a Kid Needs

Here’s what I mean by that.  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.  There was a church in Houston that I loved to attend.  One of the things they did every service was to remind each other that they were broken and in need of a savior and of each other.  This confession often opened people up to let down their guard and truly enter into community and relationship.

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, but they do need to see us admit our mistakes, own our weaknesses, seek relationship, submit to God, and GROW!  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!



Volunteering Your Way to a Meaningful Conversation

I imagine there are times when you wish you could just have one meaningful conversation with your son or daughter.  The kind of conversation where you feel like you are making headway on the things that matter most in life.  I also imagine they are hard to come by sometimes.  It can feel like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, especially as they get older.

I just got back from spending a week in San Antonio serving with Blueprint Ministries.  Blueprint works with homeowners in the city to help make their homes “warmer, safer, drier”.  Notice that “aesthetically pleasing” wasn’t on the list, hence the middle school labor force we were allowed to bring.  Not that the kids didn’t work hard to make their work look great for these wonderful people.  We had 4 teams doing all kinds of projects – roofing, flooring, drywall, installing cabinets, and more!  It was an incredible trip and there were rewarded after 4 days of hard work with roller coasters at Six Flags!

One of my favorite things about this trip is the conversations that happen.  We are in someone’s home from a different part of town than most of us live.  Often the homeowner’s are there with us and the students get a chance to form relationships with them and see their daily life up close and personal.  Students get to see their disposition as well as their possessions.  Conversations about life, happiness, wealth, stuff, relationships, and family are discussed almost everyday!

If you are looking for an opportunity to have a significant conversation with your kids, volunteering together is a great way to accomplish this goal.  Here are three reasons volunteering together can lead to significant conversations:

  • In volunteering you are often put in a situation that is outside of your norm.  Contrast has a way of bringing about clarity.  One of the most common quotes on our trip was, “I just was able to see how much I have and how much I take for granted.  They didn’t have near the stuff I have, but they were so happy and full of joy.”  Conversations of gratitude and how to live with a thankful attitude happen naturally.  More importantly, conversations about what truly brings joy in life can bring great perspective to a teenager in the midst of the world of adolescence.
  • In volunteering you are allowed to do something outside of yourself and it often feels like you’ve stumbled upon the right way to live.  I hate to admit it, but much of my day is spent worrying about myself and my needs.  When we can get outside of this, often life opens up and you realize the joy found in giving yourself away.  Our speaker for the week said, “you were hardwired to give and love sacrificially.  It’s how God created you.  That’s why this feels so good.”  Not much of the world is telling your son or daughter to live this way.  Volunteering together gives you this opportunity.
  • In volunteering you are in it together and there is mutual discovery taking place.  Here’s the best part, most likely you are learning and processing life just as much as they are!  Your kids will have a front row seat watching you learn and grow and process and open yourself up.  What a gift!  Instead of being in a situation where you might be tempted to lecture from your vast knowledge and life understanding, you are put in a place where you can mutually discover what matters most in life and process your experience together!

I’m sure many of you have already experienced this, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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As a youth pastor, I love summer.  Students are out of school and we get to make the most of our time together with adventures around town, mission trips, and one day getaways.  Students are visibly more carefree without the weight of school and schedules on their shoulders.  It’s a time of relationship and community.  It’s a time when students make new friends and spend significant time with old friends.  Summer is a time of new experiences (often life-changing) and creating memories.  What’s not to love about summer?!?

It’s been the same experience for my family.  My wife and I are becoming more aware that the time we have with our young kids at home (something that we sometimes forget is a blessing) is going to continue to change as they grow and spend more time in school.  We have great desires for making the most of this summer.  Some of which we have accomplished and others that are still hoping to be realized.

While we are at the midpoint of summer, there is still some time left to make the most of our summer days while the kids are out of school. What were/are your family goals for the summer? Have you been able to make them happpen?

If you feel like summer hasn’t quite been what you hoped, there is still plenty of time to rally the troops and make some meaningful memories!

Here’s a great article entitled, “The Best Family Summer Ever: Ideas to Help Families Connect Before Summer Slips Away.”

Another idea, in case you missed it in the article, has to do with a “bucket list”.  Our family created a summer bucket list at the beginning of summer and have been checking off a few things here and there. Ours was simply a list on a piece of paper, but in the world of pintrest you can always find someone who is taking it to the next level. Here’s a great idea for a list that is a visual reminder and experience for the family –

It’s not to late to put a little effort in making this a summer to remember!


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