A Letter to Our Supporters

For those of you who have supported us financially over the past 12 months, please head over to my Mission: Allendale blog to read a Thank You Letter.

Have a great Leap Day!

Focus Your Kids on Worship

God's ultimate goal is not for you or your child to be happy. God's goal is for you to worship Him. He'll even bring about hardships as a wake-up call for us (see Amos 4:6-13).

When my child has either an enjoyable or distressing experience, that is an opportunity to worship. But as a natural creature, he usually misses that (as do we). He focuses on the physical experience, and misses the spiritual. He must know and remember that the physical, emotional, and spiritual realms are directly connected.

As parents, we must work to continually remind our children that their lives are an intersection of the physical, emotional, and spiritual worlds. You can do this by remembering the sequence: circumstances - emotions - worship.
  1. Circumstances.  A child's life will be full of ups and downs. The ups include: good grades, meaningful friendships, success in sports, praise on good looks, having money, etc. The downs include: poor grades, unkind peers, perceived lack of talent, stress over appearance, lack of wealth, etc. These are a part of life and must not be casually dismissed. Additionally, as you disciple your children, don't make it your primary goal to create more good experiences, or minimize the bad.
  2. Emotions.  Good circumstances (such as listed above) lead to a child feeling happy and fulfilled. Bad things lead to sadness, fear, or anger. Many parents stop at this level, thinking that once you get passed the physical level, then you are able to get to the crux of the issue. But don't stop at engaging your child's emotional reality; help your child understand his or her spiritual reality.
  3. Worship.  Beyond the child's physical and emotional experiences, you must get her to understand and engage her spiritual reality. She is a child created in God's image, and she is intended to worship Him. So, when good things happen in a child's life, she will usually feel happiness; in those situations, remind her to praise the One who has blessed her. And when a child sins and fails to trust in God and God's will, she should feel sad. But don't let her remain there; that is the opportunity to remind her to repent of her sin. Praise and repentance are forms of worship.
In summary, there are some common mistakes that parents make in this process:
  • Focusing on the circumstances of your child's life. There is more to life than the physical reality. 
  • Focusing at the emotional level. Don't stop at this level either. Life is more than physical truths and emotional responses to those truths. (Even demons have emotional responses -- James 2:19.)
  • Trying to jump straight to worship. This mistake may not be as obvious. In an effort to be spiritual leaders for our kids, we often ignore the physical and emotional realities. But worship is most meaningful in the context of your life's situations. 

The next time something good or bad happens in your child's life, and he feels happy or sad about it, be sure to help direct him towards a heart of worship.

(Note, I want to be clear that the purpose of this post is regarding personal worship, not corporate worship. I do think that corporate worship is important, so I've written about responding to my child who didn't want to go to church services. But in this case, I want to address getting to a heart and life of worship.)

Recommend Links:

**image courtesy of lusi via rgbstock.com

Medieval Times

Our kids have been studying the Middle Ages in school. A couple of months ago, Joanna mentioned that maybe we could go to Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach at some point. She had been when she was younger, and knew that our children would enjoy it.

We found a good weekend, and planned our trip. It was well worth the trip (4 hours from Allendale).

Here are some of the highlights:
  1. There was a promotion that gave us 2 free kids' tickets. Score.
  2. We had hotel points for a free night. Score again.
  3. Tons of great food (soup, bread, half a chicken, rib, pastry). I ate 2 meals, and if we had a way to keep leftovers, we would have.
  4. Not sure why they only had caffeinated drinks and water. Where's the Sierra Mist for the kids? Oh, well. We were on vacation; bring the kids a Pepsi!
  5. No utensils. My kids always love eating with their fingers, against our wishes. This was their dream come true!
  6. I didn't like how they seemed to constantly get more and more money out of you -- photo op ($15), "dungeon" tour ($10), cheap sword toys ($8), etc. But, it's a business.
  7. Great show with lots of action. Besides the fighting, they had entertainment like a trained falcon.
  8. We were assigned to cheer for the yellow knight, and encouraged to boo the "evil" (according to the storyline) green knight.
  9. Not only were the fight scenes well-choreographed, but I was impressed with their skills on a horse. You ever try to hit a 3-inch ring with a 10 foot lance, while galloping on a horse? Me neither, but I'm sure it can't be easy.
  10. One of my favorite parts was when it was all over, and we got to meet the cast. Besides taking pictures, we asked them a lot of questions about their job. They all seemed to love their jobs. One guy was the electrician for when that building was constructed, and now he's been working for Medieval Times for 17 years. Other guys did the same, starting as a squire with no combat or horseback riding, and working their way up to becoming knights.
This last point led to some good conversation with our kids about enjoying your job, and being willing to be flexible with what God might have for you.

It was a fun weekend, and we recommend other families take a trip to Medieval Times.

Related Links:

    Communication and Ministry

    As you may recall, I've done some writing for the Kidmin1124 blog. Though I haven't written as much as I've wanted to, I've enjoyed the opportunity to get some of my ministry thoughts out there to help other church leaders.

    Here are the latest two articles I've written:
    To see the full list of the articles I've written for this blog, click here.


    Recently, Sender spent a morning at a friend's house in Greenville. The mom sent me these funny Sender-ism sayings from the day:
    Upon seeing the folded down "stow & go" seats in the van: "Hey! That looks like a dance floor!!" And yes, they did.

    Jumping out of front seat van window Dukes of Hazard style, yelling "waaaaahoooooo!!"

    His comment on the peanut butter & jelly sandwich I served for lunch: "Um, did you not know I don't really like peanut butter?"
    Me: "Well, your mom told me you eat pretty much anything..." 
    S: "Well, 'pretty much' "..... (i think if he knew how to use "air bunnies" quotations he would have)

    Playing with the girls' dollhouse, asking my daughter, "Where's the potty? They need a boy's potty and a girl's one. They can't use the same ones. We need two. Do you have two potties?"

    Glad he was a blast to our friends. He brings such joy to our lives, too!

    Explaining Forever to Children

    Grace Church (Greenville, SC) recently completed a wonderful teaching series on heaven and eternity, called Forever. Of course, since we live in Allendale, we stayed up to date with the teaching via the church's YouTube channel.

    While this teaching was aimed at adults, there were a number of principles that can be gleaned from it, for parents to teach their children. Here are 9 key points that children should be taught:
    1. "Eternal" means having no beginning and no end. God is eternal.
    2. Heaven is a real place, that will exist for eternity (forever).
    3. This world is not our final destination, but is intended to prepare us for spending forever with Jesus. 
    4. All of creation, and all people, eagerly desire for this fallen world to be redeemed (Romans 8:18-23).
    5. Everyone will die one day, and will stand before God to be judged.
    6. We cannot do enough good deeds to earn our way to heaven. The only way to heaven is faith in what Jesus has done for us (Revelation 20:11-12).
    7. In heaven, there will be no pain or suffering.
    8. One day, God will do away with this world, and create a new heavens and new earth (Revelation 20-22).
    9. How we think of eternity will affect how we live today.
    Here is the first sermon in this series. You can watch it here, and then follow the link to the YouTube Channel to see the rest of the sermons.

    Anything else you can add to this list? What else should we be teaching our kids about eternity and heaven?

    If I Didn't Have You

    In time for Valentine's Day, here's great video. This is what happens when logic meets love.

    Try these lines . . .
    "The affection simply grows over time, like 
    a flower,
    or a mushroom,
    or a guinea pig,
    or a vine,
    or a sponge,
    or bigotry.
    Or a banana."

    And . . .
    "I think you're special, but you fall within a bell curve."

    Is the Bible Just a Roadmap for Life?

    Especially as we are training children, we often reduce the Bible to stories that put us as the main character. Watch this video, for an example of how this is done with the account of David and Goliath, and to see a better perspective.

    The Bible is God's story -- about Himself, and about His redemptive plan and works. As we disciple our children, let us remember to keep God (and God's Son Jesus) as the center of what we teach them.

    For more about this project (and the curricula being offered for children, students, and adults), see The Gospel Project.

    You can also check out my list of Recommended Children's Bibles.

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    Signs of Autism

    Due to a combination of factors (see this old post about the HOPE Relay), we have a special place in our hearts for families who have children with special needs. With family members, friends, and our church, we want to love and support those parents and children.

    We have had the opportunity to communicate our heart (and proclaim God's love) in these situations, not just to those families affected, but to others as well. In particular, I enjoyed the conversation I had with my son last year, as I was able to explain autism to him, on a level he could understand.

    Sometimes, engaging families who have children with special needs is easy, especially when they let you know about the situation. But what do you do when the child exhibits autistic tendencies, but you don't know if he has been diagnosed? (This situation will be touchier in the future, since a New Autism Definition Could Exclude Many.)

    I have been involved in a number of situations like this, whether in our church or with the after school program. Sometimes, these children have a diagnosis (like those with ADHD and Emotional Self-Control issues). Other times, we suspected that there was something not being caught by parents, doctors, and/or the school. We want to come alongside the family, and give them the support they need.

    Here are some principles that have helped us as we came alongside these families:
    1. Pray. Realize that these families need wisdom, peace, and strength that can only come from the Lord.
    2. Don't diagnose. The last thing a parent wants to hear (especially from a non-professional like me) is, "Does your child have autism or something?" (Yes, I know a church children's leader who said this to a parent, in a public situation.)
    3. Don't generalize. Talk in specific behavioral actions, instead of descriptions. Don't say things like, "He is very wild, and has bad behavior." Explain specific concerns.
    4. Offer support. Instead of giving your opinion of what the parent should do, ask, "What can I do to help you and your child?" Put the burden on yourself.
    5. Sympathize. While you may not be able to truly empathize, try to understand the stress that the family may be under.
    I also encourage you to check out this three-part series from The Inclusive Church. In these posts, Amy Fenton Lee answers the question, "What do you do when a child shows signs of autism?"
    1. Part 1.  Common Questions.
    2. Part 2.  Approach with Caution.
    3. Part 3.  Principles for the Approach.
     image courtesy of BLW Photography via flickr

    What's the Hardest Part about Being a Parent?

    Snuggles are one of the BEST parts
     Recently, I asked my kids two questions:
    1. "What do you think is the hardest part about being a Dad?"
    2. "What do you think is the hardest part about being a Mom?"
    Here's what they said:
    1. Hardest part about being a Dad =
      • "Getting up with crying babies in the middle of the night." 
      • "Balancing it all -- work, family, everything. Juggling." (Giving Elijah credit for this one)
      • "Dealing with kids who play rough and are crazy."
    2. Hardest part about being a Mom =
      • "Getting up with crying babies in the middle of the night." (Much more accurate for Mom than Dad)
      • "When the kids throw tantrums."
      • "When the kids are wild and need discipline."
    What about you? What do you think is the hardest part about being a Mom or Dad? Even better, what do your kids say is the hardest part?

    Let me know your (and your kids') thoughts in the comments.

    Related Link:

    Take a Rest

    We all need rest. God commanded Israel to "remember the Sabbath" (Exodus 20:8). As we read through the Torah (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) and the rest of OT, we see that a key part of the Sabbath was not working, not striving to get things done. Hard for a "Type A" personality like me, and many of you.

    But a Sabbath rest is not just about doing nothing. Rest is about trusting God with all those things on our to-do lists. Rest is about being able to sit back and give God glory for all that He has done. I think that's what God did on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). The Lord was setting a model of what it looks like to be satisfied in His own creative, redemptive, and sovereign work.

    I'm not good at this. I struggle to lead my family in Living Out the Sabbath. I'm not good at being intentional in my own Sabbath rests.Which all is the equivalent of saying, "I'm not intentional to worship God."

    Rest doesn't just happen. Rest is a purposeful activity. Even more, rest is an attitude of the heart.

    In 2008, less than 2 years into my job as Pastor of Children & Families, Joanna and I were able to go on a week-long pastors retreat, sponsored by the Pastors Retreat Network. It wasn't a pastors conference, with an agenda of speakers and break-out sessions. The purpose was to rest in God.

    It was just what I needed for personal refreshment and for spiritual rejuvenation. With the time difference (Central time) and me being a natural early-riser, I was awake by 5 AM with no alarm clock. I usually had about 2 hours by myself -- with coffee, fruit, my Bible, my journal, a book, and a pen. Two solid hours of silence, 2 hours with God. I never had a week like that before, and haven't since.

    I'm looking forward to an upcoming leadership retreat with our church. It won't be pure rest, as we will have teaching and break-outs. But it will have times of rest and times of community, both of which will restore life to my soul.

    As parents, we need intentional times of Sabbath rests. We rightly pour ourselves out, but we need to regularly be filled back up by the Spirit of God.

    When is the last time you had an purposeful and meaningful time of rest? If it's been too long (as it has with me), be sure to plan one in the next few months.

    Related Links:  
    image courtesy of xlibber via flickr

      Favorite Tweets for January

      You may wonder how I determine my top tweets of the month. It's a complex formula based on the Dow Jones index, averaged daily temperature, number of re-tweets, and how many pieces of fried chicken I've eaten in the past 60 days.
      1. In south FL, traffic laws (speed, solid lines, turn signals, etc) are more like suggestions.
      2. I survived my first day of high school.
      3. Watching Facing the Giants for the first time. If the acting & script doesn't get significantly better, off it goes.
      4. "Jesus is not going to force you to be a disciple. It's your choice." Larry Sizemore, Fairfax Baptist Church
      5. My wife hates it when I pick up hitchhikers in , so I won't tell her what I just did.
      6. First lab: 15 students, 6 Bunsen burners, 0 injuries.
      7. "The greatest need we have is not to DO things, but to BELIEVE things." Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest) 
      8. My evening with my son: pizza, high school bball, drinking hot cocoa, watching baptism testimonies from   
      Do you have a favorite?