10 Things I Want My Boys to Know

  1. God loves you. I am going to do my best to model this for you.  With every fiber of my being I am going to try and act loving no matter what, but even when I don’t I want you to know that God loves you.  You see, God and I are on the same team when it comes to loving you.  No matter what you do or who you are, we love you.  We love you so much that we want to have a relationship with you that helps you grow into a better person, but even if you reject us, we will still love you.  
  2. Dream Big Dreams and Work Hard.  You can do great things.  However, doing great things starts with dreaming big dreams.  So dream big, make big plans, aspire to greatness.  You can do it.  You can be great because there is a simple secret: you can do big things if you are willing to work hard.  Greatness comes by the grace of God and the sweat of your brow, so set your eyes on the sky and work day and night until you are in the clouds!
  3. Sports are Fun Games.  I hope you enjoy sports and being part of a team.  If you want to play, I hope you play with all your might, but even more I want you to know that they are not more important than friends, family, school, work, and God.  In the grand scheme of things they are relatively unimportant, and are not worth sacrificing what IS important.  Which leads me to the next thing.
  4. You Should Fight Big Fights.  While your peers are busy spending their emotions on video games, football, and television, I want you to discover the fights worth fighting.  I want you to get angry about slavery.  I want you to rise up for the poor.  I want you to shout for the victims of injustice.  I am going to do my best to help you find and fight the fights that are really worth your heart and passion.
  5. We are Called to Defend the Poor and Oppressed.  God loves everyone, and has a special place in his heart for those who are poor and oppressed.  I don't want you to ignore them or pretend they don’t exist.  I don’t want you to turn a blind eye to the big issues like homelessness or bullying.  Some people do not have a voice or power, and God wants us to give them our power and voice.
  6. Take Time to Enjoy the Beautiful. I want so much for you to enjoy beautiful things: people, printings and music.  Oh yes, music.  I want you to like it all from Mumford and Sons, Nirvana and Guns and Roses to James Taylor, The Doors and the Beatles. From Norah Jones, Harry Connick Jr., and Frank to George Gershwin, Thomas Luis DeVictoria, and Mozart.   I want you to lose yourself in the work of Michelangelo, Raphael and Monet and have your imagination captured by  Surrat, Picasso and Klee.
  7. Women are Worthy of Respect and Honor.  One of the most beautiful things in creation is a woman.  I want you to see that their beauty comes not from their skin or their clothes but from the image of God within them.  They are incredible comrades and brilliant partners.  Because of all that and because they are human like you, they are worthy of respect and honor.  I want women to feel they are better for having been around you and desire to one day meet someone like you to marry.
  8. Friends Alter your Direction. Don’t fool yourself.  Your friends will help determine where you go and how you act.  They will influence what you think is good and what you treat as funny.  I do not want your friends to choose you.  I do not want you to just hang out with the first person who is nice to you.  I want you to surround yourself with people who are headed where you want to go.
  9. Honesty works.  Your world is filled with lies and people who use half-truths to manipulate others.  But what they don’t know is that everyone, deep down, desires the truth.  Proverbs says that “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips."  When you offer anyone a loving truth, they are better for it and will almost always thank you in the end.  
  10. Be You.  There will be no end of people who try to define you, place you on their path and confine your soul in their box of what they thing you “should” be.  There will be a constant stream of people wanting you to march to the beat of their drum, but you don’t have to.  God created you as a unique, precious gift to this world and being anyone else is depriving us all of the wonder that is you.  So, let go of people pleasing, let go of the need to be like everyone else and be you.  Whoever that is, however that changes, be you.

Question for the Comments:  What is your list?  What would you add?

>>>Read More: Navigating the Career Family Tightrope

Why Children Ask Why and Shout NO

Mad baby passy medium.jpeg

I am helping my daughter get ready a couple mornings ago  and when I give my her the clothes that she is supposed to wear, she says, “No, I want to wear my ballerina dress.”  And here I figured that after playing my role moments earlier in her pretend story, exactly as my three year old directed, would have won me the privilege of a “Yes sir” when it came to outfit choice.  I was wrong.

As frustrating as this is, I try and take heart in knowing that she is in the stage of her life  when she is trying to assert control over her world.  She is trying to take initiative and tell her own story. It’s all part of a widely-accepted theory about how children develop mentally and socially.  It is as beautiful as it is simple.

For the first year and a half, all that we need to do as parents is pick our children up when they cry, feed them when they’re hungry, and give them clean diapers when they need them.  During that time, all they are trying to figure out about the world is whether or not they can trust it, and it’s a good thing because the sleep deprivation most people experience zaps any amount of extra brain cycles available for higher level thinking!

During the second stage (up until about three) children are trying to develop a sense of autonomy.  This is why my 2 year old says NO! even when he wants something because he is discovering that he is his own person.  He doesn’t have to like the things I say he likes, and doesn’t have to eat a piece of cake when I give it to him.  They are beginning to exercise control over themselves which is why most children potty train during this time.

My daughter is in the next stage (that goes through age five) that deals with developing initiative and asserting control over other things.  his expresses itself in wanting to make decisions about clothing and making up stories (sometimes elaborate) that they may repeat over and over again as they begin to figure out the world through stories.

Why does this matter?  When I can remember exactly what they are capable of and how they are developing it really helps me empathize with whatever odd behavior they are presenting and helps me figure out how to respond appropriately.

This all ties into spirituality.  How can we help our children develop spiritually during these early stages?  They key is matching spiritual practices with their moment of development.  It is the heart of the four-week curriculum I developed called Baby Steps.

I am teaching a webinar for the General Board of Discipleship on May 22 on all of this information and giving away the Baby Steps curriculum.  You should register here for the webinar.

Navigating the Career-Family Tightrope (Dad Edition)

Surprise!  You are going to be a dad (again)!  To be honest, I never really thought that I would end up as the guy with four kids (fourth one is on the way) in six years.  I knew I would be a dad, and wanted to be a great one, but had an entirely different idea of how that was going to play out in my head. 

Here I am: minister, father, writer, husband (not in that order), and here I am trying to decide how to rock all of them knowing that it’s not really possible.  So, I look for some article or magazine or something, but the funny thing is that most of the parenting stuff out there is for moms.  I am far from qualified to give parenting advice, but I am going to spend a couple words here (and in the future) sharing struggles.  And, if I find anything great, I'll share a resource or two.  

“I wish I had spent more time with my family.” That is the refrain I have heard over and over again from older men when I ask them what they wish they did differently when they were younger.  Before I had kids, I thought: easy.  When I get there all I need t do is make boundaries and be a good dad.

Not that simple.  A pastor friend of mine, Danny Doss, said that there is a tragic irony in that the same moment you are required, and have the most opportunity, to develop your career is the same moment you are raising your children in the early years.  Hit the nail on the head.  

I have these two deep longings for success within me: professional and familial.  I am on this balance beam with them on either side, and I am constantly falling off.  If I’m honest, my drive to provide for my family gives me the logic in my head that allows me to fall off more often on the side of career.  But it’s odd because I feel a twinge of guilt whichever I chose.  The only thing I have gotten relatively good at is not allowing guilt, fear or confusion to paralyze me.  

Thank God I have a grace-filled wife who loves me and supports call. She is the anchor of our family.  She is brilliant and loving and beyond patient.  I look at her day-to-day and shudder to think how it all would end up if the roles were switched.  

Right or wrong, the way we end up navigating all of this is through our relationship.

Somehow through the fatigue and narcoleptic television watching, we communicate.  We ask questions and help each other hold it together when one or the other feels like falling apart.  Sometimes, we even remember to pray.  Though it looks like a mess, it feels like a plan and we come out together on the other side which is an outcome with which I am usually comfortable.

So there it is.  Imperfect, relationship-based tightrope navigation.  If I said any more, I would be making it up to sound like there was a real method beyond loving each other and God. 

Time to go read the T-ball coach's manual before quiet-rest time ends (I believe nap-time is a fiction made up by someone to sell books).