My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving


I have updated this post from a couple years ago.

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I would totally recommend you try this at home as a tradition in your family.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. Our two amazing sons – and daughter-in-law. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate) age 27 and 24 – are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously. God keeps using them for His glory in ways I never imagined. Jeremy’s wife Mary – if I had raised a daughter – or picked a wife for my son – I would have wanted a Mary.

4. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years – but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

5. Kingdom opportunities. Wow! This year has been incredible. I love to invest in others and I never thought I’d get to the point where I have to say no more than I get to say yes to the opportunities God is bringing my way. Amazing! I am a living example of God’s grace – that He can take dust and produce something He can use – and I’m humbled by this truth more every year.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families – with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night – who aren’t our friends because of our positions or for information or any other reason other than to be our friends. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. After three years, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. Our staff are our friends. I love being around people I truly enjoy, who believe in me as I believe in them. We’ve made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year – some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run – and walk – and feel well enough to work – and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted the city as home quickly. I wear a lot of Kentucky blue. It’s our mission field, and, I believe, this is what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. We are here to serve! What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. This truth makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright – because He is my light. (Cheesy – maybe – but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually – but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me – thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

Recharging – Critical Advice for Today’s Leaders

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a guest post by Jeremie Kubicek – co-founder of GiANT Worldwide – a global company dedicated to leadership transformation through intentional apprenticeship. Jeremie has a new book, which I believe can be helpful for all leaders – maybe especially in the church.


I was taught the importance of hard work from a very young age. Growing up in Oklahoma, I learned from the state’s large agricultural industry that individuals literally, reap what they sow—those diligent to their craft that work hard and place high emphasis on quality, would yield the best crop.

I also learned the importance of this in church. As Christians, we are to work diligently in all we do, not for our own glory but for God’s. Colossians 3:17 says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

We see this work ethic in Jesus’ ministry, as he works faithfully at all times to share the Gospel. He even challenged us to work similarly. John 9:4 says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

But what I didn’t learn early on was the importance of rest, taking a break, recharging and strolling with God. For so long, I heard verses like 1 Timothy 5:8, which advocates the importance of providing for one’s family, and thought my responsibilities as a Christian, husband, father and businessman stopped there.

I was wrong. Many 80-hour workweeks later, I began to realize I had personally accomplished a lot, but not what God wanted me to accomplish.

We know God rested for a day in Genesis after creating the world, and He encourages us to do the same. And Jesus later modeled the critical act of rest. The Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray,” frequently after large events in his ministry.” In Matthew, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert away from the busyness of everyday work to spend time and grow with God. We see him refuel in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare for his next few days of “work.”

I was convicted; although we are called to work hard, we are also called to recharge hard.

Early on, I learned that resting and recharging do not always mean sleeping. Although sleep is a big part of the process, coherent recharge is, too. We are all wired differently and for this reason, each of us must find the way to rest and recharge that best fits our unique makeup.

For introverts, this might include relaxing activities such as reading and meditation or more active things like exercise, gardening, cooking or woodworking.

While these may also enliven extroverts, more social activities such as discussing ideas with a mentor, spending time with family and friends or attending concerts or movies may be just want they need to help them wind down.

At the end of the day, it isn’t the form of rest that is important but the intentional inclusion of it in your day. So take a cue from our God and Savior and find a moment to recharge today.

Check out “5 Gears,” for additional help in balancing life, work and rest.

7 Ways to Help Children Deal with Fear


Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night — and all throughout the day. We talk about it at the dinner table. And, as fun and engaging as it can be, we can thank social media for keeping us constantly informed of all the bad things happening in our world.

Evil is rampant — and, because of this – fear is rampant.

And, it doesn’t impact only us.

Our children are not immune from fear. In an Information Age — they know what we know, filtered, of course, with their childlike mind.

Violence even happens in school — in malls — in churches — places children go regularly.

Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. We should never diminish a child’s fear or the impact the news of the day is having on them. It may be totally irrational fear – something you know is completely impossible — but it’s very real to them.

How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions to help children deal with fear:

Don’t assume their thoughts

Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened they don’t know about it or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid — even a recent time.

Limit their exposure

You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember children process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance than their time with you.

Ask them questions

You may think children are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots. Getting them to talk about what they are afraid of can help them learn to better rationalize and seek comfort and assurance from you.

Assure them they are safe

Let children know they are safe. Don’t lie to them or give them false assurance, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare — very rare. Remind them you will do anything to protect them. Show them ways you’ve already provided for their safety. Let them help you lock the doors at night. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live a normal life as much as possible

As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm around them

Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Discuss the world events – and especially your fears of them – outside of their listening ears. Let the home be their “safe place”. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. Renew your commitment to each other. Children often get their faith through parents.

Read them Scripture

Children need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word of God, which will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often. Help them memorize some. (When our boys were young we played Scripture music appropriate for their age. Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in Your Heart series was great for this. You can find them online.)

What else would you share with parents?

Why I Don’t Always Give People an Answer – Even When They Come to Me for Answers

multicultural mentor

I have a theory I practice often.

I’ve been using it for many years — as a leader, father, a friend, and a pastor. It’s not always what people come looking to me for, but I think it’s the best practice.

I don’t always give people answers.

  • As a pastor, people come to me for answers.
  • As a dad, my boys come to me for answers.
  • As a friend, people come to me for answers.
  • As a leader of a team, people come to me for answers.

In either case, I don’t always give people answers.

I don’t try to solve their problems for them.

I know that seems hard to understand – maybe even cruel of me. 

Now, if there is a clear Biblical answer for their problem or issue, I give it to them – as I understand it. I’m talking about the issues more difficult to discern. Things such as career choice decisions, the calling in life decisions, who to marry, how to respond to a marriage conflict, etc. — the unwritten answer type decisions.

For those type issues, I probably have an opinion, but I almost never “have” the answer.


I help people discover a paradigm through which to make the decision.

  • I become an objective listener.
  • I help them see all sides of the issue.
  • I share Scriptures whigh may speak to both sides of the decision.
  • I serve as an outside voice.
  • I connect them with people who have experienced similar issues.
  • I may diagram the problem, as I hear it, so they can see the issue on paper.
  • I help them learn to pray and listen to God.

And then I release them to make a decision.

Here is my reasoning…

If I solve the problem:

  • I’m just another opinion — and I may be wrong.
  • They’ll resent me if it proves to be a wrong decision.
  • They may never take ownership of the issue.
  • They’ll likely do what they want anyway.
  • They won’t learn the valuable skills of listening to the voice of God.
  • They won’t learn from experience.
  • They will only need someone to give them the answer next time.

My advice:

Don’t always have an answer.

Help people form a paradigm through which to to solve their problems or make decisions.

Leaders, parents, friends – ideally you want people to develop healthy decision-making skills. You want them to gain independence and be able to stand on their own. If you’re always making the decisions for them they will never they will never become all they can be individually.

Are you too quick to have an answer sometimes?

Olive Tree Parenting – Growing Children of Character

Smiling little boy digging in vegetables garden

Every time I write about parenting, people email me asking for more. I understand.

Parenting is hard work.

Most people who follow my ministry closely know this is one area of my life I have taken very serious. One specific desire Cheryl and I had in raising our boys was encouraging them to love Christ and display His character. It’s great to teach our children how to play sports or to do well in school, and I think we should, but our greatest goal should be to help them be people who aspire to have good character – specifically the character of Christ.

Recognizing the Bible is a great guide to do this, I once developed a model for parenting called Olive Tree Parenting.

This model is based upon a couple verses of Scripture.

Psalm 128:3 says, “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.”
Psalm 144:12 says, “Our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants.”

Here are a few facts I’ve read about olive trees:

  • They were a symbol of peace and happiness to Hebrews.
  • It takes some varieties 8-10 years to even bear fruit.
  • It takes 20-50 years for an olive tree to be mature and really productive.
  • No one knows for sure how long they grow, but estimate is at least 300-600 years, with some estimates up to 2000 years.
  • When the tree trunk of an olive tree dies new sprouts come out keeping the tree alive.
  • Olive trees are evergreens.

Do you see any parallels there in raising children – or your desires for them in life?

I firmly believe we are more likely to get out of life what we actually aim for, so our goal became to raise children to be adults that bear righteous fruit for generations. We began to think strategically how to develop Biblical characteristics of fruit in our two boys.

The Bible also gives us some clear indication of what righteous fruit looks like.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Here are some suggestions to encourage each of these fruits to grow:

Love is the first fruit mentioned and perhaps the most important. Jesus said “love” was the greatest command for us all. I don’t believe we can teach our child to love. We must model it for them.

Here are some actions you can take, however, to instill this fruit in their heart.

  • Ask your children questions about their life. Get to know your child and what they are thinking.
  • Do everything in love — even discipline. (They will know when you are not acting in love. You will too.)
  • Discipline. Don’t neglect discipline in “the name of love”. Discipline should actually be an indication you love them enough to train them to do the right thing.
  • Watch how you treat other groups of people — including other races and ethnic groups.
  • Watch your child’s attitude — always recognize attitudes over actions (1 Sam. 16:24) and respond accordingly.
  • Love your children’s friends.
  • Be kind to your neighbors, friends and family. They are watching.
  • Get involved in church and community not out of compulsion, but because you love other people.

The goal of producing joy is not to make your children happy – even though most parents rightly want that for their children. The Bible makes a distinction between joy and happiness. (Psalm 68:3)

Here are some actions you can take to instill the fruit of joy in your child’s heart:

  • Don’t reward everything. Life should not be a big celebration. Life shouldn’t revolve around the next big event.
  • Have a sense of humor. Have fun parenting. Let them see you enjoying life.
  • Be positive. Children can’t take the pressure and stress of life that an adult has to handle.
  • Allow your children to enjoy life at the age they are – without trying to make them someone they are not.
  • Life is difficult and there will be trials, but let your children see you use trials as something you learn from and have faith during; trusting that God will work all things for good.
  • Remind yourself Scripture says to “be joyful always”. Model it for them.

Peace is a foundation for other great character traits you will want your children to have. The Bible says we can have peace that is there regardless of the storms of life. I know many adults who would like this kind of peace themselves. You would certainly want it for your children.

Here are some actions you can take to model peace for your children:

  • Pray for your children daily in their presence. This shows them the importance of prayer and relying on God for daily strength.
  • Teach them to pray. Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Help your children understand they can talk with God anytime. They will catch on quickly. Faith comes much easier when built as a child.
  • Let them see you read your Bible regularly. Truth can ground us when we are afraid or stressed.
  • Talk about your faith. Peace is found in a relationship and they need to see that modeled for them.
  • Remain cool in stressful situations – as best as you can. It’s okay that they see you emotional, but they should quickly see you display a peace that surpasses understanding.

This is a tough one for me, because it is one of my weak points, but it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit God has encouraged us to have. And, our children need it greatly.

Here are some actions to help your children have this trait:

    • Let them see you waiting patiently. (If my boys or my wife reads this they will be wondering when they will see this in me. Still, I have had to wait for many big picture things in my life many times. I’ve attempted to do so patiently.)
    • Make children wait sometimes. Yes, I said it. Children shouldn’t get everything right away and they certainly shouldn’t be able to demand it with temper-tantrums or tears. One statistic I read says that children today get 90% of everything they want, yet as adults they will get less than 25%. We are setting them up for failure when we give them everything.
    • Don’t be a complainer. Do everything without complaining or arguing.(Phil 2:14)
    • Don’t let your children think they are the center of the universe. They are not – actually God is. Encourage them, but don’t crown them kings.

Kindness could be defined as “genuine friendliness, helpfulness and generosity”.

Here are some ways to instill kindness in your children:

  • Be a giver and not a taker. Let your children see you giving to others regularly.
  • Never let children see you being unkind to the cashier or waitress.
  • Know your neighbors and actually have concern for them.
  • Never allow degrading comments to be made to other family members.
  • Care for the hurting people of the world.
  • Be a regular giver/servant at church and in the community.

Jesus said “well done good and faithful servant” and “a good tree produces good fruit”. This is the opposite of bad. (Makes sense, huh?)

Here are some suggestions to instill goodness in your children:

  • Reward good acts towards others.
  • Give extra praise to your children for doing good things. (This can be done verbally and doesn’t always mean buying something.)
  • Never let them see their parents argue and fight.
  • Demand respect always. They don’t always have to agree, but they should always have to respect.
  • Always declare truthfulness. Never let them see you telling lies; even “little white lies”.
  • Teach prompt obedience. Don’t let them “think about” obeying you. This is especially true for younger children.

Children will be as faithful as you are, so in order to see them grow into faithful individuals you will have to model it for them.

Here are some action steps to help the process:

  • Be faithful early in their life to what you want them committed to later in life. If you want them to go to church as adults then take them faithfully as children.
  • If you commit to doing something then do it. Let your Yes be yes and your No be no.
  • Be an anchor in their life in whom they can always depend upon.
  • Be faithful in all relationships. They are watching.
  • Be consistent. If it is morally wrong today — it is tomorrow.
  • Let them know they can depend on you to do what you said you would do for and with them.
  • Let them find you in your devotion and quiet time on a consistent basis.

The word means “not harsh”. It doesn’t mean to be a “mealy mouse” and it doesn’t mean to avoid discipline. It means to be gentle — even in your anger. In John 2, when Jesus went into temple to drive out the money-changers, He first made a whip. It was a definite and determined response, but it was “gently” planned.

Here are some steps you can take to instill this character trait in your children:

  • Grant forgiveness easily. Don’t hold grudges against those who have wronged you.
  • Don’t let your children fear coming to you about anything, because of the way you may react.
  • Get down to the children’s level when trying to explain something or in the way you respond to them.
  • Always be available to talk with your children.
  • Talk gently to your spouse.
  • When there is a disagreement in public, such as in a restaurant, it is okay to protect your interests, but it should always be done with gentleness and respect for the other person. There is never an excuse to be rude or obnoxious.

The opposite here is being undisciplined. This is an important trait, because it affects all the others.

Here are some action steps to help build self-control into your children:

  • Don’t allow temper tantrums. “Expressing themselves” is not an excuse for unruliness.
  • Learn personal disciplines and model them — things such as daily Bible reading, exercise and tithing.
  • Know sin has consequences and teach this principle to your children. (Unfortunately you may have to model it also.)
  • Use appropriate discipline for each child. All children are different.
  • Determine the motive behind the action before disciplining your children.
  • Provide appropriate tests for them as they mature to see if they can handle a situation. As they get older grant them more and more trust.

There is a final step in the Olive Tree Parenting Model. You must teach your children to abide!

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If our children can learn this skill all these others will become and remain a part of who they are. They will learn this best as they see you doing so.

I’m praying for your parenting.

I need to remind you that this is a “model” – and I wasn’t perfect at doing this. Some I did better than others. The fact is, however, we seldom hit a target we aren’t aiming for – so make this your goal and you will find it easier to achieve than with no plan at all.

10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife


This post is written to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but the spouse of the pastor may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before — I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

Three years ago we ventured out –  again – this time into church revitalization. Church planting was hard – God allowed us to be part of 2 plants – and this would prove to be our toughest assignment. And, there have been many in our years together. Some days, especially early when change seemed rapid, Cheryl came home in tears many Sundays because people took the emotions of change out on her instead of me. (I’ve never understood that cowardly move, but it happens.) 

Yet, God’s been faithful and Cheryl has been faithful. And, for the overwhelming portion of people the church has been faithful. I couldn’t have done what I’ve been called to do without all of them. 

But, second only to God, Cheryl deserves my applauds. Not that she’d ever expect it. That’s one of the reasons she’s so great – she just faithfully loves and serves others – but because it’s right for me to honor her. And, I have this public opportunity, so here goes. 

Cheryl, here are 10 “Thank you’s” to the pastor’s wife:

Thank you for following me where God leads me — without complaining, or resisting, or refusing to move even though life was very comfortable where we were and the future looked very uncertain where we were going. Truth is, you are usually ready to walk by faith before I am. What a blessing!

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encouragement and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it is wonderful! Even if you think I’m doing wrong your message to others is one of support.

Thank you being a safe place to share — even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong. And, guts to tell me when I’m wrong.

Thank you for believing in me — even when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion – you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable. I’m always amazed how you’d rather spend time with me than anyone. I know people in your life far more “fun” than me.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that has meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry, which I can’t sense. This is why I have you help me interview people. It’s why you have protected me from people who don’t have my best interest at heart. I feel safer with you around.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need. And, you fill it completely and consistently.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here!

Better yet, also send her/him a card!

7 Random Suggestions for Younger Leaders

Team in the office. Asian businesswoman standing in the foreground smiling, her team of co-workers in the background

I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime.

I also love sharing some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

If you can learn and practice some of what I’ve learned early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Please know these are intended to help – not hurt or discourage. I believe in you.

Here are 7 random pieces of advice I give young leaders.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes

It helps you remember to write it down, but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people this is what you are doing.

Respect your elders

The fact is you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will help ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet

This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it

You may never use a resume again in today’s work world. It’s all about knowing someone or knowing someone who knows someone. But, the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared. (Also keep your LinkedIn account up-to-date. Future employers will look.)

Never burn a bridge

You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise. Leave well always. Always honor your past.

Be an encourager

Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection made

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. Always value networking. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness

Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience challenges them. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions.

Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?

An Important Parenting Concept: Especially for Parents of Young Children


I have a theory about parenting. It’s a reality which only came to me when my boys were nearly grown I had observed it for years — we practiced it — but I only formulated my thoughts around the concept in the teenage years of our parenting. 

Here’s the observation.

Many parents try to control less when children are younger and more when they are older.

My theory.

Successful parenting should be the opposite. Control early. Less control later.

I’ll admit. It’s my most “controversial” theory. How dare I suggest we ever control a child! Barbaric. Dictatorial. Borderline child abuse. Let children be who they are designed to be.

I’ve heard all that and more when I submit this theory. And, I’m all for letting children explore, be unique, be themselves. I’d even encourage it.

But, here’s my contention. When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue. Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting. I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap” or “They won’t obey me”.  I see it at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just didn’t want to go today.” 

The fact is you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to. You can. You are stronger, bigger, scarier, and smarter than them. You may not feel you are – the little ones can be intimidating– but you are. And, I’m not trying to be funny. I certainly am not advocating abuse. Of course not. I advocate love above all. 

But, I do think it’s important – even Biblical – to train a child in the way they should go. And, the time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young. It may be the only time. You can make decisions for them they don’t have enough life experience yet to make for themselves. You can teach them it’s not okay to throw a temper tantrum. You can.  And you can decide where they go and don’t go based on what’s best for them. You can help steer their actions – ultimately their heart – towards thing you know, because of your life experience – are best for them.

That’s what parents do. We raise children – children who will one day be adults.

Here’s the deal and why this matters so much and actually how this whole concept even developed.

Something happens when a child enters their late elementary and middle school years. Our children naturally begin to resist authority. And, if we have this parenting thing backwards what do we do? We attempt to control them even more. 

How does that work for a teenager? It doesn’t.

They have more freedom in their schedules. They are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than they were as toddlers. They can even pretend to comply and yet do their own thing when parents are nowhere around. The biggest problem with trying to control children into their teenage years is they can completely rebel against our authority. Have you ever known that to be true of a high school or college student?

Many parents release early then try to control later. It doesn’t work. They hang out with the wrong kids. They wear the wrong clothes. They aren’t making wise decisions. The older they get the harder it is to control. At some point your parenting moves from more control to more influence. The key is to control early, things which need controlling – things like heart and character issues – then be able to release gradually as they get older and as they mature.

If you don’t do anything else in your time with your children, help them to know you love them unconditionally. That’s most important. But know you don’t accomplish this by giving into their every wish when they are young. You do it by lovingly guiding them in the right direction through discipline and correction when they are very young. When your children are older, when they need your wisdom perhaps even more, they will continue to seek your input into their life if a trust relationship has been developed. 

My encouragement, especially to the parents of younger children, is to instill the values you have for your children when they are very young, while you can still have control, then move to less control and more protection of their hearts through their teenage years. If you have trained them well and they know you love them, then they will continue to honor your influence over them later in life.

For more parenting tips, check out the parenting category of this blog.

10 Great Prayers for Every Marriage

Bride and groom holding his hands

Dear Lord, grow our love for You daily.

Dear Lord, help us to love each other unconditionally.

Dear Lord, allow us to respect one another in an empowering way.

Dear Lord, teach us how to complete each other, building us into one unit You design.

Dear Lord, rid our hearts from grudges or bitterness towards one another, teaching us to forgive readily and extend grace continually.

Dear Lord, let us encourage each other to achieve the dreams you give us individually and jointly.

Dear Lord, keep us humble, placing each other’s needs ahead of our own.

Dear Lord, guard our hearts from selfishness and self-centered desires.

Dear Lord, protect our marriage from the destruction of outside influences.

Dear Lord, make our commitment deeper than our emotions, stronger than the seasons of change and the trials which will come our way.

3 Easy Parenting Principles We Used and Saw Amazing Results

Happy children playing with toy laptop at home

I am frequently asked what we did or didn’t do as parents. I am amazed God has allowed us to raise the two young men we have. In their mid-twenties they are far better men than I was at their age. They love Jesus. They work hard and provide for themselves. They love others well. What a blessing!

It’s all grace.

But, there were a few principles we practiced consistently.

Here are 3 easy parenting principles all parents should consider:

Be intentional

Parenting is hard work. Don’t try it without a plan. It’s amazing how we tend to plan for everything in life, but seldom for our parenting. I know men and women who have a plan to improve their golf game, but nothing to help them grow as a father or mother. Parents who plan great social events but have no plan to instill values in their children – they simply react to life as it happens. Some parents scramble to make their children happy, making sure they are in every activity available, but never stop to think what kind of character they want their children to have as adults and what is going to best help them get there. 

If you want to be a great parent, you must be intentional about the role. You must have an overall goal and plan for your parenting. This includes an individual plan for each child. They are each different and require unique discipline, interaction and approaches to parenting. It means deciding in advance what the character and values you are going for and thinking through – intentionally – ways to develop them. 

At the beginning of each new year, we discussed each boy and came up with a shared goal for each one and talked through ways we could better mold their character in the coming year. We thought about character traits should as honesty, integrity and kindness. It made us limit some of their activities so we could spend quality time with them and make sure they were in the right programs (yes church was one) and around the right people influences.  

Shape the heart

The Bible is clear we should “Above all else guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) I believe in firm discipline. I also believe in extending much grace. More than anything, however, the parent should learn to know, protect and shape the heart of their child. It is the heart, which will ultimately determine the decisions and directions the child eventually makes in life.

I learned great lessons from older friends and things they did which tended to push their children away rather than draw them closer. I always wanted to have a heart connection to our boys. That doesn’t mean giving them everything. Ephesians 6 commands us not to exasperate our children. We exasperate when we have needless rules, when our homes lack grace, or we give them everything but never helping them develop discipline and structure for their life. 

We taught our boys biblical principles. We shared with them our own struggles. We built deep connections with them. Again, this required time to develop. We ate most dinner meals together and never turned down an opportunity to throw and catch a ball. 

Enjoy the ride

Children are children for a very short time. Enjoy those days. The diaper days turn into the diploma days quickly. Be a fun parent – balancing love with discipline. Laughing with your children will help relieve the stress of your life and theirs and keep them wanting to be close to you well into the difficult teen and early adult years.

Let their friends know yours is a welcoming home – where love abounds always. You may not allow everything, but the door should always be open for a child to return. Children can’t handle all the stress of the adult world. We didn’t hide problems from our boys but we did help them believe God was in control, they could trust Him and us and enjoy being a child. 

We played games and made up songs and laughed until it hurt sometimes. We loved seeing our boys enjoy life and grace in our home. 

For my complete parenting philosophy see THIS POST or read other parenting posts HERE.

Which of these do you most need to improve upon as a parent?

(Speaking of principles, be sure to read my disclaimer post about them by clicking HERE.)