Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and increase influence

Not Enough Time? Do it Together!

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been feeling a real tension between my work life, home life, spiritual life, physical life (i.e. – excercise), and personal life.  Who has time to nurture all these things?  Who can meet each one’s demands at the end of the day?

This a great, simple article, “The Easy Way to Double Your Fun with Your Kids” by Jon Acuff that reminds us that relationships and parenting don’t have to be that complicated.  Sometimes there is incredible power in just doing normal things together.

I don’t like to run, but I do like my pants fitting.

In order to enjoy that second thing I have to do more of that first thing.

A few times a week I go running, but sometimes my schedule gets really busy. Balancing my career, my family and my faith, sometimes feels like a juggling act.

I have two daughters, age 9 and 11, and a beautiful wife I’ve been married to for close to 14 years. I also have a new book that comes out this spring, you should order it right here, and a speaking schedule that takes me across the country.

I don’t have big swaths of free time in my calendar and need to be really smart about the ways I spend my hours. One trick I’ve had a lot of success with this year is simply inviting my kids into the things I am doing, like running.

My daughters are old enough to ride their bikes with me while I run. Instead of jogging by myself or listening to a podcast, for the last two months I’ve been running with one of my daughters. They take turns going with me so that it becomes a 30-minute midweek date with Daddy.

It’s amazing how much they’ll talk to me during the run. Something about the fresh air, the exercise, and the fun of riding a bike opens up a lot of conversation.

As parents, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to balance it all. What if this week you looked at your calendar and simply said, “What do I need to do that I could invite my kids into?” I needed to run, so I invited my kids. I turned “me time” into “we time” and was blown away by what a simple tweak could do.

Do your kids want to go sit and wait while you get an oil change this week? Maybe not, but they might if it meant you brought a board game they’ve been wanting to play.

Double the fun you get to have with your kids by inviting them to be part of your day.

So, what’s one thing that you can invite your son or daughter to do with you this week?


Hope this is encouraging.  If you’ve got a great idea to do together with your child, post it in the comments.
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Choose Your Own Adventure

“The dominant ideology of our culture is committed to continuity, and success, and to the avoidance of pain, hurt and loss.  The dominant culture is also resistant to genuine newness and real surprise.  It is curious, but true, that surprise is as unwelcome as is loss and our culture is organized to prevent the experience of both”

— Walter Brueggemann

Recently my daughter shared something in the car that made me realize we were moving through some big changes in our life, but more importantly we were making the transition.  Change in life is inevitable.  Change happens and comes in many forms.  But what I realized in the car that day was that it’s the transitions in life that matter most.  Or another way to say this, transition is how we react, process and grow through that change.


I have an idol of comfort.  I realize that a lot of my frustration in life often comes with a disruption of my comfort.  As the quote of above would suggest, this idol of comfort causes me to seek to avoid both pain and surprise.  Even though pain and surprise are always opportunities for growth and newness.

How about you?  What are your reactions to disruptions of comfort or normalcy in your life?

No one likes the disorientation that change can bring.  But if change is inevitable, the better option is, not avoidance, but leaning into the change.



I’ll never forget a man I met and worked with several years ago.  When I met him his cancer had been in remission for 8 years.  As he told me the stories of his life, it was obvious that his battle with cancer had changed everything.  After cancer, his perspective on life changed.  How he spent his time changed.  What he valued in life changed.  He was so refreshing to be around because he would share wisdom and perspective that oozed joy and hope.

Cancer is a terrible disruption and disorientation and no one wants to “welcome” it as a surprise in their life.  But as his cancer came back and he had to battle it all over again, I watched a man embrace the challenge knowing that this disruption — which was messing with his comfort and his ideal, normal life — had the possibility to bring new orientations and surprises that were worth the pain and potential loss.

He was incredibly thankful for the lessons cancer taught him and the 8 years of life with a new orientation that cancer made possible.  He was loving his wife and kids better, giving his time to walk alongside young people and help them make sense of the world, he was driving a motorcycle across the US, he was noticing the beauty in life all around him, he was skiing areas that you had to helicopter in to get access to, and he was filled with joy and hope and the mystery of what can happen when we embrace change.

This man could have easily shrinked away and become bitter in the face of his diagnosis, but he embraced the pain and surprise and emerged thankful for newness of life.


In the last 6 months, our family has sold our home, been “homeless” for two months, moved into a new home, had a baby, and started a kid in kindergarten.  Significant change, but the question is have we transitioned?

After we got back in the car from the “meet the teacher” night, I asked my daughter, –“You’ve been through a lot lately, has it been hard or fun?”

Umm…It’s been in the middle of hard and fun.  But…

New house – check!
New baby – check
And now I have started Kindergarten – check!

She has been through the change, but now she is making the transition.


How have you recently experienced change in your life?  Have you leaned into this change and what has been it’s effects on your life?

Are you shrinking back from the change and therefore neglecting the opportunity to grow and embrace surprise and newness?

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Back to the Grind! A Way to Leverage the Hectic Life of a Parent

One of the reasons I love summer is the opportunity for relationship and quality time as a family.  As the window on summer closes and the school year grind is gearing up, I’ve been thinking about ways to keep a focus on relationships in the midst of the busyness of a school year.  And let’s be honest…

We are busy people.  We have a lot going on.

It’s not just the adults that are busy.  Many kids today are just as busy.  My greatest fear, as a parent, 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 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….  It gives you a way to think thru your day (maybe in ways you’ve never thought about before) and see that you have many opportunities to come alongside your son or daughter and influence, love, shape, and nurture.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.49.03 PM

There are times in the day that can be leveraged for relationship.  Can you imagine the last time in a day you were able to establish values, interpret life, build intimacy, and instill purpose???

Meal time, drive time, bed time, morning time are all great opportunities to parent and influence your child.

Here’s the deal:  it’s not that you are going to have to give an impressive speech at each one of these moments everyday.  That’s simply not realistic!  However, the cumulative effect over time of you leveraging these moments (with different levels of success) over the course of a child’s life will shape that life!

This chart 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?)

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!

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?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sending Kids to Summer Camp? Here’s How to Debrief

Who doesn’t love summer camp?!?

Camp was a staple of my summer as a youth and I always looked forward to a spending a week at camp.  It was a place God showed up in significant ways and it always provided growth in my social/physical/spiritual life as a teen. There was one part of summer camp I always dreaded though…

It wasn’t the fear of going alone without a friend…

or being away from home…

or communal bathrooms…

It was the car ride home and the 20 questions I knew my mom was dying to pepper me with.

As soon as we started driving home, they would come flying at me…”How was this?  Who was that?  What was your favorite?  Did you remember this?  What did you learn?  Did I see you talking to that girl?”  I would answer one, maybe two and then shut down.  I didn’t have it in me and I didn’t know what to say in some cases.  It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about camp or share my experiences, I just wasn’t ready yet.

If you read this blog, you know that I love the folks over at Orange ( and they have put together a camp conversation guide that I want to share with you.  It’s broken down into what to say NOW, what to say LATER, and what NOT to say.

What to say NOW:

The truth is your student may not be ready to talk a lot their first day back.  Do you best to keep it simple.  If they offer more and want to share, go for it, but don’t be offended if they don’t.  Ask a question or two and then let them be!

  1. What was one fun thing you did?
  2. What was the best part of your week?
  3. Who is one person you got to know better?

What to say LATER:

They may be more ready to chat after a day or two, but they still may not be able to put their experience into words.  They’re still processing – trying to figure out how to bring what they learned there back to their normal, everyday life.  Specific questions may help get better answers.

  1. What is one thing that surprised you about the week?
  2. What is one thing you learned about God, yourself, or others this week?
  3. Is there anything you decided to do differently because of what you experienced at camp?

What NOT to say:

Camp often feels sacred to a student.  It may be because they felt closer to God or maybe they became closer to friends and felt accepted.  Either way, your student will feel far less likely to talk if they feel you don’t understand or don’t approve.  Do you best to keep your tone positive.   Avoid these phrases:

  1. Did you learn anything this week?
  2. It sounds like all you guys did is goof off.
  3. You’re sure not acting like you learned anything.

Did I dread my mom’s 20 questions?  Yep.  That being said, I’m incredibly thankful she was engaged and willing to enter into my world.  I am thankful she cared enough to ask.  I’m thankful she wasn’t silent about the spiritual life and wanted to encourage my growth and development there.

So, don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be offended if they don’t share much.  They may not be ready yet, but you can always revisit a day or two later or even a few days later.  Hope this helps!


Stories, Movies and Real Life

It must be summer, because I’ve actually seen a movie recently.  As a parent of young kids, that doesn’t happen that often.  There’s been a lot written on the power of story and more to come.  But I want to focus on how you might leverage going to the movies this summer into a time to learn more about your son or daughter.

We’ve all noticed how a good movie or book can draw and offer you something unique.

Something big.

Something more.

A good story has the ability to make you feel connected to something bigger than yourself and the routine of your everyday life.  A good story allows us to both escape reality and capture it at the same time.

This is true for adults and for our students.  I can recall watching Lord of the Rings and thinking I just stumbled upon the meaning of life – friendship, struggle, perseverance, good vs. evil, adventure…as I sat in the theater, I knew there was more to life than what my daily experience tells me.  I also knew in that moment, I was wired to live a great story, I just needed to get busy doing it!

In stories we find a piece of ourselves—we find something to identify with that makes us feel like we can know ourselves a little bit better.

An excerpt from a 2012 Psychology Today article pinpoints exactly what this looks like for teenagers (to read the full article, go to

Psychologists such as Dan McAdams (The Stories We Live By) argue that identity is inherently narrative. Fundamental questions such as “Who am I?” are answered through the stories we [speak] out about ourselves. Stories about our struggles, our triumphs, our loves, and our hates combine into the sum total of our sense of self. For most people, these identity stories really emerge in adolescence. Certainly younger children tell stories, but their stories tend to be loose and episodic. In adolescence, people start trying to tell stories that put all the pieces of what they do and think together into a more or less coherent whole.

One of the things I was doing in early adolescence was reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It immersed me in a strange world that only vaguely mirrored my own, yet the archetypal motifs of the quest, wisdom, heroism, and evil were instantly familiar. Tolkien transformed these motifs into a series of tales that idealized friendship, loyalty, endurance, sacrifice and compassion, and these themes were woven into my identity.

Books, movies, music, television shows—the things of culture—matter to students, because they identify a piece of themselves in the stories being told. They feel connected to something bigger while simultaneously discovering something more about themselves. And we, as parents, have the potential to tap into that—not only to learn about our students, but teach them a bit about ourselves as well. When we learn about the stories that matter to them and share our own stories, we grow in understanding and this gives us amazing relational leverage.

So, here’s two opportunities for you to connect with your student around this idea of story and identity. You can choose whichever one feels the most comfortable for you, or find time to do both.

Option A: Find out from your student what their favorite movie is and then sit down and watch it together. Before or after the movie, take some time to talk about some of the themes that were present (good versus evil, brokenness and redemption, good choices versus bad choices, etc.) and then ask your student why they like that particular movie. What connects with them the most? What do they feel when they watch it?  The goal is to simply have a dialogue with your student to discover more about who they are and give them a chance to share their favorite story with you.

Option B: Just as learning about oneself through stories is an important process of adolescence, so is learning about the story of your parents. Take some time to share your own story with your son or daughter. When did you first discover how much God loved you? When did you make a decision to follow Jesus? Who or what played a role in that decision? Share about your faith journey so that your student can begin to understand your story as an important part of their own.

Consider this your excuse to enjoy a movie this summer!


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