Parenting Posts

Being a Parent

If you have children, you have a high-intensity, high-risk, high-reward discipleship environment right at home with the little ones God has entrusted to you.[1] As a parent, you have live-in disciples who are going to become just like you – whether you like it or not. Sometimes I watch my kids when they start misbehaving and wonder where they picked that up. Then I look in the mirror and realize they learned that from me!

When it comes to discipling kids, parents need to recognize the priority of their role in this regard.[2] The Scriptures teach us that parents should be the hub of discipleship in the life of a child. At the breakfast table, when driving the kids to soccer practice, when making their lunches, when they’re getting ready for school, parents should take point on the spiritual development of their children.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that outsources. We hire out services and assume that by paying the professionals we are taking advantage of their expertise, and thus receiving a better product. So we hire a mechanic, hire an electrician and hire a pastor. But God does not care about your ability to change your oil or rewire a GFI plug. He is, however, very interested in your investment into the spiritual life of the children He has entrusted to you. Children are a gift from the Lord[3] that He has graciously placed in your care. We are to train and discipline our children that they might be more like Jesus.[4] We cannot outsource this responsibility.

So invest in the spiritual life of your child. Share with them what you are reading. Pray for them. Show them what God is teaching you in His Word. Help them come to understand the gospel (grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone). Model for them faithfulness to your spouse. Attend church regularly as a practical discipline of experiencing community together. Let them see you living in relationships with others who hold you accountable and support you in your walk with the Lord. Invest your time in the things of God and help them reorient their lives toward others as well.

These are all powerful deposits that are made into the life of a child. You don’t need to have the answers, but you need to help them see Christ in you. That is your responsibility. That is being a parent.

[1] Psalm 78:1-8
[2] Deuteronomy 6:6-9
[3] Psalm 127:3
[4] Psalm 22:6

Living With Intentionality

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Recently I had the privilege of doing my friend Harold Penner’s memorial service. H.P. was a church planter, a pastor at heart, a businessman, and he was a founding advisor of The Well. We built a relationship when I was a college pastor, and I started talking about this church I really felt like I needed to start. I shared a lot of the vision with him, and he really became a Jethro figure to me – a mentor, a sage and a guy who just believed in me.

The week before the first service at The Well, I remember thinking, “Holy smokes. Next week is our first service. This is dumb. This is not a good idea.” My wife was pregnant with Peyton at the time, and Harold was the guy who believed in me and the vision for The Well. He kept admonishing me, “You can do this. God is with you. Go for it!”

Harold was a very unique man. He was godly, full of joy and wisdom, and he had a mischievous way about him. He was probably the finest man I’ve ever met. He loved life and people, and was serious about his relationship with Jesus. His capacity for people was beyond reach; he had such a crazy love for folks.

He was also very intentional about what he did. Most people live for the moment. They simply take what life gives them and then seize the day. H.P. was different. He not only had the capacity to choose joy in the moment but he could snap moments together with intentionality. He moved very strategically. He invested with intent. He planned with the next several steps in mind. And this intentionality shaped those he influenced. Whether it was his business, which he was wildly successful at, or his kids, his grandkids, or his wife, he was intentional.

Having the opportunity to do his memorial service was a highlight of my ministry. It was a powerful reminder of the results of a life lived on purpose. Scanning the crowd I saw the men and women he had influenced. They were there to pay their respects, but they were also a testimony of his influence.

It made me rethink my life. What am I doing to influence others? What steps am I taking today to help point someone toward Christ? Am I setting up strategic opportunities to invest in people and help them live out their calling – with intentionality?

I want to make sure I’m making strategic investments into my marriage. I want to set a plan for my kids and work with them, as they become solid women of God. I want to lead The Well on purpose, making strategic moves and taking intentional risks to better create a culture of influence.

It also made me consider the various seasons of life that are represented in our context and how we could all move toward a more intentional life:

  • Singles: What would it look like for you to develop a theology of relationship of the right type of person? What would be different if you strategically invested your time and energy into becoming that type of person yourself?
  • Marrieds: How could your marriage look different if you strategically invested in your most important relationship? How would your time look different? What rites of passage or marked moments could you capture with your spouse? How could you make intentional deposits into their life?
  • Parents: Children are a gift from the Lord. How could you intentionally steward that gift? What steps could you take to breathe life into your kids? How could you strategically help them grow and develop into men and women of God? What schedule changes could you make to free up your time to be present with them? What would it look like to put away the devices (phones, iPads, computers, TVs) and strategically invest in the lives of your children? We are responsible to steward their growth and development, and we cannot outsource their spiritual growth.

I think the takeaway from Harold’s life is to do life on purpose. Let’s be intentional and strategic, knowing that when we plan we must plan in pencil because God still has the authority to change whatever plans we’ve worked so diligently to create. But at least we’ve planned something. If you draw that bull’s eye on the wall, it gives you a target to move toward versus doing nothing and seeing what happens. Let’s not just accidentally do life. Let’s be intentional and steward well what God has given us.

Princesses & Hard Workers

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One of the dilemmas I have as a father of two girls is recognizing the tension between “you are my little princess” and “you get your butt out there and pull some weeds.” As princess as I want them to be, I don’t want them to be afraid to break a nail.

From the text, we know Ruth gleaned in the fields.[1] We know the P31 woman worked with her hands and made her arms strong.[2] Most of these women were shepherdesses. They were out in the field carrying sticks, throwing rocks, fighting off bears, stepping in sheep dung. That’s what they did. And a callous or two can be a beautiful and a very attractive thing.

I want to feed my girls’ sense of value and of knowing their beauty is on the inside. I work doubly hard and am very intentional to affirm them not for their external beauty, even though my oldest is a knockout and my youngest is close behind.

I’ll say, “Hey, can I tell you what’s beautiful about you? When you’re obedient to Mama, when you speak kindly to people, when you’re humble.” I’m affirming the inside because I know they will pursue what I affirm. If I keep talking about how pretty they are, I’m feeding the monster and I’m not going to do that. Culture is already feeding that, so I try to balance it out.

They don’t need to buy into what the world says. They can be beautiful and that’s okay. God gifts beauty to some people. Great! But what they need to know is that beauty is not merely what’s on the outside. That’s why Peter says, Don’t let your beauty merely be these things, the external braiding of hair, wearing of gold jewelry, putting on dresses.[3] It’s okay to do those things, but that shouldn’t be the focus. I want my girls to know their beauty is and should be something deeper, part of who they are. And I want to make sure I affirm that in them.

 

[1] Ruth 2:3

[2] Proverbs 31:13,17

[3] 1 Peter 3:3

Training Your Child to Leave

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From their birth until they’re about one year, as their dad, you are pretty pointless, especially if your child is breastfeeding. At least that’s how I felt. You can change diapers and that’s about it. But then your role begins to shift. As your child grows, you and your wife become a team of disciplinarians. You’re teaching your child to obey authority. The hope, of course, is that if they learn to obey your authority, then they will learn to submit to a heavenly authority.

Now that my girls are getting older my role is shifting again. Peyton, my oldest, doesn’t need me like she used to. She doesn’t need me to make her lunch in the morning, because she can do that. She doesn’t need me to wake her up in the morning for school, because she can do that. She doesn’t need a disciplinarian; what she needs is a coach. I encourage her. I direct her. But it’s very different than what it used to be. Though there are still parental boundaries, I’m not micromanaging like I used to. I’m still actively involved in directing her path, but in a very different way.

As parents, our roles are constantly changing. They need to change, because we’re training our children to leave. They aren’t ours to begin with; they are ours to steward and train up.

Sooner than I’d like, my role will shift again. My daughters will need less coaching and I’ll become a mentor who is there if and when they need me – likely one of many mentors in their lives that serve as a go-to when necessary. But they will be driving their lives, they will be the ones making decisions and I have to get them ready for that.

My Greatest Desire as a Father

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Growing up as a dude who was a bit of a relational addict – who always had a girlfriend – and now having been in ministry on the counseling end of things, I know that very few girls grow up without some sort of a father-wound. And typically, it shows itself in unhealthy ways: a need for attention, for affection, for approval, a distorted view of self, an insecurity of body image, a desire for male affirmation. And all of these things can, in many ways, be traced back to a father-wound.

My greatest desire as a dad is to raise two girls without a father-wound.

AFFIRM

My affirmation of them is internal not merely external. I have two very beautiful daughters, but seldom will I compliment them on their looks. Why? Because that’s not the most important thing. I’ll say I appreciate your work ethic or I love you for who you are on the inside. I let them know that their beauty comes from the inside not from the outside.

SNUGGLE

I’m very intentional to snuggle with my girls every day. We snuggle in some way. I’ll tell them, I don’t care how big you are, this lap is always yours. You’re always welcome here. This is always a safe place. I want them to see that there can be affirmation and affection that’s non-sexual.

SPEAK WOMAN

I try to do what is almost impossible for men to do – and that’s to speak woman. I don’t speak woman naturally. I don’t understand the language. But I recognize that my little girls are little women, and they’re emotionally charged.

And they have more words than I do. Oftentimes, those words are covered in tears. I have to learn how to listen with my face, and let them see my eyes, and say, how does that make you feel? I have to filter through the emotion to get the root issue. Peyton was crying in bed one night, and I said, “Sweetie, what’s up? Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know.”

I realize there will be hormonal power surges in their life and they will not know how to process them. So I need to be patient with them in those moments.

WATCH THE PRINCESS MOVIES

We’re into My Little Pony. I can tell you all the fairy names; I know all the princesses. We’ve seen Frozen 14 times. I watch the princess movies. Not because I’m into them, but because I want them to know I’m interested in what they’re interested in. I enjoy watching things with them because it helps me see their world. It’s really important for a daughter to want to sit on a daddy’s lap and watch something that he wouldn’t watch alone.

BE INVOLVED

My daughter is playing volleyball right now. She needs my approval – bad. I can’t believe how bad she needs it. She’ll get a point and who does she look for? Me. She messes up. Who does she look for? Me. In between each game, who does she want to talk to? Me. Now Momma is there, but Momma is always affirming her and she knows that. There’s something about the affirmation she needs from her dad.

So I breathe life into them. And I practice with them. And I encourage them. I realize my involvement in their lives will show them what a man ought to be.

DATE YOUR DAUGHTER

Go for walks and hold her hand while she still wants you to. Take her to dinner. Open the door. Pull out the chair. Why? Because one day she is going to date a boy, and she is going to compare that boy to everything you did. So if you threw down a couple too many beers, got annoyed because she got in the way of the football game you were watching, and spent all your time on your fantasy teams…

Then she’s going to go find a man who drinks too much beer, is annoyed with her, and spends too much time on his fantasy teams.

EXPLAIN THE “F” WORD

“Where did you come up with that?” I asked.

“It was written on the playground.”

I had a choice to make. Do I brush off the issue or do I deal with it? I explained the term. This is what it means, this is what it’s about, and this is why people say it – and that’s why we’ll never say it in our house.

Dad needs to be safe, a safe place for them to come and be honest about what they’re feeling. You don’t ever have to ask a friend, you don’t ever have to look on the internet, you don’t ever have to try and find someone else to answer it. Whether appropriate or not, you can come to me and I will answer any question you ever have.

UNDERSTAND SHE COMES SECOND

They need to see you love your wife. My kids know they’re second.

People will ask, how does that affirm them? Shouldn’t they feel like the most important thing? No. That’s a spoiled brat. They need to know they’re important but Mommy is more important. If they ever talk back to my wife, I’ll say, you don’t ever speak to my wife like that. It’s not that they don’t speak to their mother like that. She is their mother – but she was my wife first.

If they whine about date night, I tell them, I loved her first, and long after you’re gone, she and I are going to be together. So this relationship is the most important relationship in this world for me. And if that means I sacrifice time with you to get time with her, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

BE THE SPIRITUAL LEADER

Does that mean you need to teach your kids the Bible? Not necessarily. But they need to see you in your Bible. Now every night before Peyton goes to bed, she reads her Bible, and she asks me questions. And we talk about what I’m learning. I read this and I was convicted… I read that and I was encouraged…

MAKE HOME SAFE

I’ll let them see Jen and me being affectionate. I’ll kiss Jen in the kitchen, and they’re like, that’s gross. But they’re giggling about it, which means they’re happy about it. They try to get in between us and I say, get outta here. Point is: Mom and Dad are going to be okay.

We don’t always conflict in front of our kids, but we’re not afraid to talk things through in front of them either. I want them to know we’re working things through just like they will have to. But they never have to worry about the safety of our home. We don’t mention divorce. They know I’ll never leave Jen. The cycle of dysfunction stops here.

So when my girls get married, God willing, Jen and I will be there – hopefully passing on the healthy things we want them to replicate in their homes.