One Small Thing: 10 Mindful Minutes

Doing nothing is hard work.

My goal this month was to spend 10 minutes each day doing nothing. I got the idea from this video:

No doubt, this goal has been my toughest one all year. I did well with it the first week of the month, but that probably had something to do with the fact I was on vacation at the beach. But for most of the month, I failed. Royally.

I struggle to slow down, to Take a Rest. It's not just a physical thing, but my brain has a hard time disconnecting. I fall asleep thinking about things, and wake up thinking about other things. And guess what I do all the time in between? Think.

If there was any decision I made that has helped me disconnect, it was to disable email notifications on my phone. (Thanks for the tip, Tim Challies.) It sounds simple enough, and you may not think it has a big impact. After all, I still can check my email on my phone, and still do if I have a few minutes here and there throughout my day.

But now I control my email, instead of allowing my email to control me. It's hard to explain, but this has allowed me to disconnect mentally, and it feels like a burden has been lifted.

July Small Thing: Run a "Marathon"

No, I will not run an official marathon. I will run a total of 26 miles this month.

Sure, you exercise people may laugh at me, but I hate jogging, and I haven't run 26 miles in a month in 18 years. And I will be doing this in the middle of a busy month (between camps and football practice), and in the middle of a hot month in Allendale, SC.

How about you? How are your goals coming along?


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Sermon Series: Parenting by Design

Before the summer, Grace Church did a 4-week series called Parenting by Design. The purpose was to explain how God has designed the idea of equipping the next generation for His own glorification. You can find helpful resources on their website, some of which I highlight in this week-by-week outline.

Week 1: Parenting for the Kingdom

If you are like me, you want to create and follow a method to trust in, instead of trusting in Christ. Psalm 127 identifies a common struggle: Dependence on God versus Self-Reliance. As I go through life, I need to continually ask myself, "Who do I believe is in control?"

And as this sermon clip explains, parenting is basically a leadership issue: 

Week 2:  Establishing Authority 

This phase of parenting is from when the child is born up until age 6. During this phase, the parent must define reality for the child. The child should have a limited amount of freedoms, and freedoms are only gained with demonstrated responsibility. You can watch this clip for a further explanation:

It is crucial for the child to begin to learn self-mastery and obedience. Those same skills will be foundational to everything that will occur when he is an adolescent, teenager, and adult.

Week 3:  Developing Responsibility

As the child enters into this phase, which should end around the time he or she becomes a teenager, the child begins to carry more weight. It's easy to think that our children are doing great and are successful, but this may be because they don't have enough responsibility. "Not carrying a burden carries the illusion of strength. . . . Carrying a responsibility is the constant reminder of my need for strength."

Of course, it is our role as parents (and leaders) to help our children to develop responsibility. The "easy" route is to do things ourselves, instead of letting them learn. If you struggle with this concept, watch this clip:

Week 4:  Facilitating Independence  

During this final phase, we parents must begin to launch our children from our homes. As Proverbs 22:6 counsels us, there is a common direction that our children need to be headed in (glorifying God), but the precise trajectory is different for each one.

In this season, we need to think about three key concepts:
  1. Self-Awareness.  Teenagers need to be discovering who they are and how God has created them.
  2. Theology and Language for a few key areas. Namely, Sex, Gender, and Work.
  3. Weaknesses.  Don't prop up your children, or they will fail and fall into despair. We must give them real time feedback on their weak areas.

For more resources -- such as the full sermon videos and podcasts --  check out this Teaching page, and this Parenting page.  

Half-Birthdays Are a Whole Lot of Fun


Our youngest child, Sender, was born early in the morning on December 23, 2006. He was 5 days early.

Knowing that he would not have many (or any) birthday parties so close to Christmas, we decided that we would celebrate his half-birthday, 6 months earlier (or later) -- on every June 23. We would have a party on or around his half-birthday, and we would buy him a present then, instead of on his real birthday.

On Sunday, Sender will be 6-and-a-half. When we lived in Greenville, we used his half-birthday as an excuse to have a pool party with friends. But in Allendale, we've been busy all three summers so far with camps, so now even his half-birthday gets minimized.

But don't worry about Sender. He is having a blast living here. He has found his niche as an entertainer (as I wrote here and here).

And the past few months in particular, he's experienced a whole lot of fun. He has learned to read really proficiently. He played baseball (coach's pitch); and would it surprise you to know that all the kids and parents like him and cheer for him?

Here are some videos of more fun by Sender:

Singing his own made-up remix version of Salkehatchie Stew (which he loved being in):

Singing and drumming "Happy Birthday" for me:

Riding his bike (a process which only took him a couple of weeks to master):

Have a Happy Half-Birthday, Sender!

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Recommended: The Case for Faith -- Student Edition

Based on the recommendation of the student ministry of Grace Church, we bought a copy of The Case for Faith -- Student Edition for our daughter to read over the summer. Actually, I'm proud to say that Hannah saved and earned the money to buy the book herself.

The staff and leaders in that ministry had been noticing that many of the students were asking questions about faith, salvation, and other doctrinal matters. In order to challenge and encourage them in their faith, the staff is suggesting that the students read this book this summer.

In this book, author Lee Strobel helps answer some common objections to the Christian faith, objections that many teenagers have heard from friends and the culture, or will probably hear in the near future.

Throughout the summer, the students will meet together and discuss with leaders. However, since we are a good 3 hours away, she and I will read and discuss this book ourselves.

If you have a preteen or a teenager, I highly recommend you read this book with them. Only six chapters long, you could finish this book in an hour or two, or stretch it out to read over a 4-6 weeks. Hannah and I will read a chapter or two at a time, and then go on a "mini-date" to discuss.

Looking forward to this opportunity to help my daughter grow in her faith and her walk with God! Be sure to buy your copy, too.

Edit: This was one of the Top Books I Read in 2013

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What Dads Need to Tell and Do with Their Children

Dads -- Do you know what you are getting for Father's Day? Will it be another tie, or some cheap cologne? How about a card, or a coupon for 100 kisses (I'll take the latter, please).

Whether you get a gift or not, know that the most important thing about being a Dad isn't what you get, but what you give. Of course, part of this giving is physical provision, which is why we get up and go to work each day.

However, don't forget that another primary role is to teach. Our kids have so much to learn about life, and God gave them the gift of a father to teach them.

In that respect, check out these articles that give you some ideas of what you teach and do for your children.

5 Things Every Son Needs to Hear From His Dad 
  1. You are loved.
  2. I'm proud of you.
  3. You're not a slacker, you're a soldier.
  4. Hard work is a gift, not a curse.
  5. You are gifted, but you are not God.
5 Things Every Daughter Needs to Hear From Her Dad
  1. You are beautiful and you are loved.
  2. Your mother is beautiful and she is loved.
  3. You belong to God and were created for His glory. 
  4. You are forgiven. 
  5. You are accepted.  
Dads, Daughters, and Valentine's Day.  I know -- it's not Valentine's Day. But Ed Sweeny gives a great reminder that we must be intentional with our daughters all year long, not just on February 14. "What if our daughters grew up with the general understanding that men were imperfect, yet purposeful, in the way they loved and chased after the women in their lives?"

The Importance of Roughhousing With Your Kids.  You can read the post, or you can watch this video below. Better yet, do both. You need to roughhouse with your kids, because:
  1. It boosts your kid's resilience.
  2. It makes your kids smarter. 
  3. It builds social intelligence. 
  4. It teaches your kids morality.
  5. It gets your kids physically active.  
  6. It builds the father-child bond. 

Related Links:

Letters of Love

My kids hate writing. No, check that. My kids hate being told what to write about. They love writing when they decide when, how much, and on what topic. For example, they have created magazines, complete with ads, interviews, jokes, and puzzles. (you can buy a color copy for a buck or so).

Hannah even has a blog: Hannah's Brain: a jumbled mess of creativity (and other awesome stuff).

The final school assignment (by their beautiful and hard-working teacher) for Hannah and Elijah was to write a research paper. Simple enough, we thought.

It. Took. Forever. And ever. I think one of them is still working on it.

Anyway, you can imagine their level of distress when I made them write a three-page letter to each other. Why? I'm glad you asked . . . .

We had just gotten back from vacation, and they were struggling to adjust back to normal life. Struggle is an understatement, since they used name-calling, angry tones, and even hitting.

They're no angels, but I was caught off-guard. After all, since they are home-schooled, they're always with each other. I wouldn't have thought that they'd be suddenly at each others' throats. But maybe they had too much of each other for a week.

Or maybe they're selfish sinners, just like they're parents, and we need to continually train them in obedience to the Lord.

I came home from work, and Joanna filled me in. I know that they love each other, but they just need to remember and consider that love. So, I told them to write each other a letter, confessing what they did, explaining why it was wrong, describing what they should have done and will do next time, and also saying good things about the other person (I really wanted to end it on a positive note).

When I told them all that, and explained that it had to be three pages long, you thought I slapped them across the face (no, wait; that's what they did to each other). Tears rolled down.

I got them! "You see," I explained, "You feel bad because of your consequence. You should feel that bad -- or worse -- for hitting and treating your brother/sister unkindly!" How long this assignment took was up to them, but they would have no playing until it was done.

What a great way to start the summer, right?

They both went right to work after a little more guidance from us (after all, even though they sinned, they need to know we're still on their side). Joanna suggested they find Bible verses that apply, and include that in their letters.

How did it turn out? Once again, I'm glad you asked.

It. Was. Great.

The kids finished and handed each other their letters. And they let us read them. Our eyes teared up reading them. Here are some excerpts:
"I'm sorry for hitting you hard. It is wrong because you should never hit anybody. I was feeling angry and just could not control myself."
"In Proverbs 19:11 it says, 'Sensible people control their temper, they earn respect by overlooking wrong.' Next time I will be a sensible person and ignore what you said."
"I really enjoy when you play with me. You are very funny and tell good jokes. You are creative and are very good at crafts."
"I love to do all kinds of things with you. You are funny, silly, and smart, all made into one person. You are fun to play legos [sic] with."
"I sometimes think everyone is against me. I will try not to do that any more, because I know you will always, deep down, love me. . . . And remember this: I will always love you."
"If I had to pick an animal to describe you, I would pick a dog. You are energetic and loyal."
"You love God and I love you for this."
"We spend a lot of time together. Do you know why? Because we have true love for one another."

OK, besides one of them calling the other a "dog," isn't that just touching? And they've been so much better together since them. (Then again, I'm out of town for a few days, so it may be going all to pieces while I'm gone.)

So, the next time your kids are at each other, maybe they need a love letter to remind them of the gift of siblings.

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Discipleship Should Be Intentional

This video from Verge is talking about discipleship in the church, but I think it also applies to discipleship of your own children.

So, what does this look like? Well, the applications are plentiful, but don't start approaching this issue from the question, "What should we do?"

The key point, as this speaker points out, is that we must change our mindset. Making disciples of our children is not about additional things to do (devotions, activities, social groups, etc). Discipleship should be a part of the natural and intentional rhythm of our lives.

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Favorite Tweets for May

My boys made me this for my birthday.
Big events in the month of May:
  1. Start of spring practice for football
  2. "May the 4th" (Be With You)
  3. My birthday
  4. Cooter Fest  
  5. Mother's Day
  6. Memorial Day
Of course, lots of other great things happening, and great thoughts being shared. Here are some of top Tweets from the past month.

From Others:

@BackRowBaptistKirk Cameron: "You don't believe in the Bible? Let me quote the Bible to change your mind."

@DaveFerguson“Being a Christan is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

@JoshElsom May the 4th be with you!

@GraceChurchSC:  Parenting is about plain and simple - an intimate and challenging kind, but it is about training, decision making and movement. 

@FirstWorldPainsI want to be skinny, but I love food too much.

@FailedAtheistHaving human rights means having human responsibilities in respect to those moral rights  

@PaulTrippIn grace God leads you through what is hard so by that same grace he can soften your heart.

@Joseph_Berry:  Lightning McTurtle winning its heat in the 2013 Allendale Cooterfest

@JimGaffigan:  You know God only had one child because he considered Sunday a day of rest. 

@Lecrae:  Better to have a small role in God's story than to cast yourself as the lead in your own fiction. 


From Myself:

Had a dream last night that I was running the 400m hurdles again, & got 6th place. I'm not even a good athlete in my dreams!

Got to witness a historic moment in : 2 black teenagers baptized at Allendale Baptist Church.

God loves & shows justice to orphans, widows, & foreigners. So, His followers must do the same. (see Deut. 10:18-19)

is moving up in the snack selection.

Congrats to the High School Band, chosen to play in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, & the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2013!!!