Train Up a Child

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I don’t know what you hear when you read this verse (or hear someone using it to tell you how to raise your child), but this is what I hear: “Raise your kid right. Teach him all the rules about how to live a Godly life and how to treat other people and when he is old, he will live that way. Train him to be a Godly man, and he won’t go down the wrong path. Whatever you teach him or forget to teach him, will determine how he will live and if he will be a productive member of society.”

Well..I hear something like that anyway. However, this is NOT what the Scripture says. I’m not going to debate all the ins and outs of what I hear, but I do want to point out what the verse actually says. Charles F Boyd says:

“The phrase ‘in the way he should go’ does not refer to some prescribed path that every person should follow. In the Hebrew language, the phrase is better rendered, ‘according to his way.’ And the Hebrew word for ‘way’ is derek, which literally means ‘bent’ and refers to a unique inner design or direction.” 

This verse is not about rules and a path, but about a relationship with my children. It means I’ve got to learn how God made them – their spiritual gifts, their skills/abilities, their passions/heart. I need to work at God’s side. God designed my children a certain way for His specific purposes and my role is to watch them closely, to recognize God’s handiwork, and then to join Him to strengthen and grow those gifts within them. I need to pay attention to the people in their lives and the opportunities that God presents to them. All of these things can be pieces to discovering God’s will for their lives. In order to “train them up in the way they should go,” I’m going to have to know something about the way they should go. Building close relationships is my best chance at getting that part right.

In the world we live in, it’s clear that people are able to accomplish more when they operate in the their strengths. That’s what this verse is about: finding our kids “strengths” (spiritual gifts) and then training them to develop those gifts to their full potential.

Magic Hugs

KesleighI was just playing around the other day with Kesleigh and was trying to convince her that my hugs were magic. I explained that if she hugged me, she’d be able to fly like Tinkerbell. My hugs are better than pixie dust. I’m not sure she was buying it.

Truth is: It’s her hugs that have the power to make a big daddy soar through the air like Tinkerbell. I lied about the power of my hugs as an excuse to get some of hers. (I’m a sinful man.) Her hugs and snuggles can redefine my entire day. My stress dissolves in her embrace. She has the ability to bring light into the darkness that runs around in my head. I’m so grateful for the joy that she is and the ways that Jesus uses her to touch me. I’m grateful for her magic hugs.

Prayer: LORD, Thank you for Kesleigh. She is such a precious gift and You’ve used her to help make me into a different man. I’m not sure why you entrusted her to me, but I’m very grateful. Please continue to grow our relationship. Help me to be the father that you have called me to be. Use me and my bumbling to lead her to You. Give me wisdom to guide her into the life You have prepared for her and help me to see the specific things she needs in order to be equipped for whatever comes her way. Hold each of us in Your hands and hold tight when we’re tempted to run away from You. You are our true father who has already given much more than magic hugs. Thank you! AMEN.

Learning Repentance

repent signMiranda and I have been working on teaching our children about repentance quite a bit lately. We never really use that word, but we’re trying to lay a foundation which will make it easy to understand as they grow older. Our practice is to teach them a few things to say when they have hurt someone:

1) I’m sorry. (Stop behavior)
2) I won’t do it again. (Turn around behaviorally)
3) Will you forgive me? (Restore relationship)

After listening to a sermon from Rob Morris (Love146) I’m considering adding another element. He reminded me of the Biblical accounts where the repentant sinner’s first action was to “right” the wrong he was involved in and to even go beyond “right” to make it better.

Remember Zacchaeus, the tax collector who gave back four times everything he had taken? (Lk 19:1-10)

Or when the rich young ruler went away greived because he could not bring himself to help the poor. (Mk 10:17-22)

In Luke 3:10-14, John the Baptist is preaching a baptism of repentance and when asked “What shall we do?” He tells them to give to the poor and to treat others fairly.

Evidently, our repentance should impact the poor and oppressed.

All this is to say, I need to find some ways to help my kids see that repentance is more than my three step lesson. It should have legs on it and actions tied to it. Repentance should impact everyone around us.

Maybe we should add the question: “How can I make it better?” (Restore/Improve situation)

Lord, guide us to model repentance for our children. Lead us to the strategies that will help us to encounter You – to be confronted by sin, and to recognize that our behaviors hinder our relationship with You. Forgive us. Restore us unto You. Change us. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to choose new behaviors and walk different roads and lead us to improve the situations that we have caused in our sin. AMEN.

Valentine’s Dance

I watched her giggling across the room as she danced. The flashing lights sparkled in her eyes which lit up as she noticed me watching her. Her smile expanded even wider. She floated across the dance floor and threw her arms open to me saying “Hold me daddy!” We danced. Well….I danced and her feet dangled a few feet above the dance floor. It was an incredible night and I’m so grateful that I took the time to ask her out.

valentineKesleigh is 3, almost 4, and I had asked her to go with me about a week before the big event. As her father, it’s my goal to love her like God loves her. I know I’ll never do that well, but it’s my responsibility to be an earthly representation of Him to her. That’s HUGE! I’ve got to do all I can and pray that God will use my even feeble efforts to reveal Himself to her.

I also wanted to make a special effort that night to let her see how a man should treat her. I know it’s early, but I want her to grow up knowing what to look for in a husband. I got dressed up for her – that may very well be the biggest expression of my love. I opened the door for her and was courteous. I bought her dinner (Yes it was McDonalds, but that’ll change as she gets older) and held her hand as we walked into the ballroom. I proudly introduced her to the people around us and waited patiently as she picked out candy for her snack. I asked her to dance with me and even embarrassed myself a bit for her entertainment. I laughed with her as I tried to teach her a few dances – Chicken Dance, YMCA, 2 Step, etc. I tried to serve her in every capacity and when the time was right….in the middle of a slow dance, I spoke to her gently and tried to explain how much she meant to me. I know she’s only three, but she truly seemed to grasp the significance of the moment and before I even finished talking, she looked directly in my eyes, and said, “I love you daddy.” as she wrapped her little arms around my neck. She just held me for the rest of the song. It was magical. The rest of the evening she wouldn’t leave my side. Even when I tried to get her to dance with her friends, she only wanted to be with me.

This is my prayer – that Kesleigh would grasp the significance of God’s love for her and that she would never want to be out of His presence again. LORD, may it be so.

P.S. – If you ask her what the best part of the evening was, she won’t mention any of these events. All she’s gonna talk about is the “Candy Bar” and how she was able to go back as many times as she wanted.

Kasen’s First Day of BMX

We had a great time today at the Beltway 8 BMX track! The people at the track were great hosts and led us through the whole process. Some of the riders were very helpful to Kasen and the other little guys while they were on the track as well.

Kasen loved his first experience as a BMX racer. He even fell down once and got up to race the next time – made daddy very proud. As a dad, I’m learning so much about what it means to love – and how much God must love me. I take so much joy in watching my kids. It doesn’t matter too much what they’re doing – I just love watching them learn, and grow, and experience new things. I love watching them succeed and even watching them overcome obstacles when they fail. It’s so much fun watching who they are becoming.

I’m recognizing how great God’s love must be for me in all of this too. If I can love my kids in this way, I figure God’s love must be even better. Maybe it I shouldn’t stress so much about “what” I’m doing and focus more on “who” I’m becoming? Maybe that’s more what God is interested in too?

Anyway, here’s the video: You can see all of it – the good, the bad, the wipeout. . . everything. Miranda pointed out that I say “buddy” an awful lot too.

Small Prayers

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been praying for a job. I prayed that prayer for so long and with such desperation that I quit praying for smaller things. I was focused. I knew that God would provide, but as often as I was reminded of my situation, I prayed for it. And in the end, God proved Himself once again to be faithful as our provider.

However, now that my prayers aren’t as desperate, my prayer life has changed. I got out of the habit of praying for smaller things, cause I had one really big thing to pray about. It’s not that I didn’t believe God could do something about those smaller things, it’s just that I had different priorities. I wasn’t sweating the small stuff ’cause the BIG thing was overwhelming me.

As a result, I don’t find myself praying for the smaller things now either – I almost feel guilty doing so. I mean, I know other people in desperate situations too. How can I spend time praying for a better parking space or for there to be one more sausage biscuit in the fridge when I get up in the morning? When there are so many real issues, these things seem so trivial. But here’s what I’m discovering – well. . . discovering again: If I’m not praying for the little things, and I don’t have a BIG thing, then I’m simply not praying at all. And if I’m not praying at all, then I’m not growing closer to the LORD. Maybe these little prayers help me stay close to Him. Maybe they keep me grounded and remind me that He is ALWAYS present. He is Consistently Emmanuel – Always with me.

If I’m praying small prayers, ‘it’s cause I believe God is in control of everything and that He wants to be involved in the details of it all. I love when my kids ask me to help them put their shoes on or brush their teeth. Why wouldn’t God love to help us (His children) with our little things? Of course He would. He loves us. If He’s anything like me, not only does He enjoy helping, but He also feels honored to help. Maybe our asking Him to help us with the small things is another form of worship. If He is honored and glorified in it, then that sounds like worship to me.

Prayer: LORD, help me to prayer smaller prayers. I’m great at BIG desperate prayers, but need help when it comes to small things. You are always God – always sovereign – always concerned about Your kids. Teach me to come to You as a child and to honor You by praying crazy little prayers. AMEN.

Kasen’s 3rd Birthday!

It’s hard to believe that Kasen is turning 3. My role as a husband and father has been the most rewarding I’ve ever experienced and I look forward to many more in the future. Although we already had his party (this weekend), his REAL birthday is today so I thought I’d post this video. I love that boy!!!

Why the Grass Makin’ Noise?

Kasen & Daddy slept in the Tent

Our family took a quick trip to McKinney Falls with some friends this past weekend and Kasen (my 2 and a half year old) and I slept in a tent one night. We had a great conversation as we settled down for the night. Here’s how it went:

Daddy: Kasen, you know who loves you??
Kasen: Yeah.
Daddy: Who?
Kasen: Daddy does.
Daddy: You know who else loves you?
Kasen: Mommy.
Daddy: You know who else?
Kasen: Kasen.
Daddy: You love yourself??
Kasen: Yeah. (laughing)
Daddy: and Kesleigh loves you too.

We continued through the rest of the family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

Daddy: And do you know who loves you more than anybody else? Jesus.
Kasen: Why he love me?
Daddy: Cause you’re his little boy just like you’re daddy’s little boy.
Kasen: Where is Jesus?
Daddy: He’s right here.
Kasen: No he’s not. (laughing)
Daddy: Yeah, he’s right here. You just can’t see him.
Kasen: He in tent?
Daddy: Yeah.
Kasen: Why He in tent?
Daddy: Cause He loves you and wants to be with you. He likes being with you.
Kasen: I’m sittin’ on Jesus.
Daddy: You’re sittin’ on Jesus?
Kasen: Yeah (giggling)

pause…

Kasen: Why the grass makin’ noise?
Daddy: Those are crickets. They’re makin’ noise ’cause they’re happy.
Kasen: Why they makin’ noise?
Daddy: ‘Cause God took care of them today. They’re trying to tell Jesus how much they love Him.
Kasen: I make noise for Jesus too.
Then he let out a big scream. Aaahhh!!
We laughed together.

I’m so glad that I’m able to have these kinds of conversations with my son. I look forward to the future as he is able to grow in his understanding of God and our conversations grow deeper. I pray that he remains inquisitive. I pray that he also keeps “sittin’ on Jesus” and “makin’ noise for Jesus.”

Risk in the Blood

I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a risk taker. I love adventure. I love the adrenaline of not knowing. I love exploring. I love whitewater rafting, snow skiing, scuba diving, etc. I love the top of the roller coaster where you’re about to experience something, but you’re not quite sure how it’s gonna turn out. It’s these moments, where I truly believe I’m exercising my faith the most.

When I first decided to leave home to start a youth ministry job…When I decided to try and raise $20,000 for a student mission trip…When I knelt down to ask Miranda to marry me…When I step into the unknown…I believe those are the moments where my faith is being stretched. And I also want my life to be an expression of my faith in Jesus Christ. Even in the most uncomfortable and insecure moments, I hope my life reflects the undercurrent of trust in Jesus that somehow (by His power and grace) courses through my veins. Because of Him, I enjoy risk. Even when I’m doubtful, I still feel more alive when I’m risking something. (That’s when I’ve got to walk more closely to Jesus.)

I have also always said that I want my kids to learn to take chances – not stupid risks of course. But I want them to know Jesus personally, and I know that the life He calls them to, is one of risk. If you read the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30), it’s clear that Jesus Himself equates faithfulness with risk. I pray that my children will risk everything for the glory and name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I want to be an example to them. By the way, if Jesus motivates your risk, it’s no risk at all.

My in-laws, Mike and Patti Mathews, are a bit of a different story. I don’t really think of them as “risk-takers.” Mike plans everything. He actually puts “Brush my teeth” on a “to do” list. By making the list, he’s making sure that all his bases are covered. He’s “playing it safe” by trying to be prepared for everything. Mike and Patti have gone on vacation to the same beach for the last 20 years and Patti has never gotten wet above her knees. (Well, she probably has been rained on.) Patti talks about Kasen, our 2yr old, breaking his neck when he jumps off the couch. I don’t know the real answer to this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that Mike and Patti had never been on a roller coaster in their lives. These are all examples of a “play-it-safe” sort of outlook on life.

Mike Snorkeling

But wait. . . Mike and Patti ARE RISK-TAKERS!!! We just got back from a Hawaiian vacation. In spite of their fear, Mike and Patti both got in the water during our snorkeling excursion. Although he had never been in water deeper than 5ft, Mike jumped into a cove where the water was close to 40ft deep. The terror in his eyes was evident, but he actually ended up loving it. And check this out…Mike and Patti both went ziplining through the treetops of Hawaii! I’ll never forget the sound of Patti’s voice as she stood 70ft in the air at the edge of the first line contemplating whether she could do it or not. They both faced their fears.

Patti Ziplining

They were scared for sure. But COURAGE is NOT the ABSENCE of FEAR! It’s ACTION IN SPITE of FEAR!!

As I look a little closer at their lives, I realize they’ve been risk-takers all along. They both gave their lives to Christ. That’s not a risk, but it certainly feels like one when you’re taking that first step into a new life. They both gave up a “safe” career in order to go to seminary. And my experiences in watching how Mike leads/disciples people, it’s clear that he encourages and lovingly pushes people to take more risks as they follow Jesus. Who knew??? Mike, the play-it-safe list maker, is also a risk taker!!

GOOD NEWS!! I want my children to be risk-takers and now I realize they’ve got “RISK in the BLOOD” from both sides of the family!!

(PS – Mike and Patti, I’m sorry for misjudging you.)

Traveling Circus

Last night Miranda and I took the kids to a traveling circus. It wasn’t really something we planned, but we heard about it (and heard it was cheap) and decided we’d check it out. It was great! We got to sit about 10 feet from the center ring. The elephants walked between us and the ring. Kasen and I also rode an elephant. Miranda says I looked really out of place. That’s OK – I’m amazed at the things I find myself doing for my children. Thought I’d put up a few pics. (Not sure how it happened, but we didn’t get even one picture with Miranda and Kesleigh.)
elephant smKasen smelephant 2 smelephant 3 smdogs smHighwire smmotorcycle smJPG