An Empty House = An Emotional Night

It’s been an incredible few days. Cheryl and I returned tonight from Florida where our oldest son Jeremy married Mary, his high school sweetheart. They are a beautiful couple. The beach wedding was wonderful, they wrote their own vows, and God was glorified (I’ll share more about this later). I performed the ceremony and our youngest son Nate was best man. I only choked up once…or twice…maybe three times…but was able to get through the ceremony. It was an incredible experience.

On the ride back from Florida, we stopped in Atlanta to drop off Nate who was catching a flight to Europe, where he is studying this summer. He will study the life of Paul from 1 Corinthians, Systematic Theology and the Reformation, in the countries of Italy, Germany and Switzerland. How cool is that? I walked him in, saw that he made it through security, then we began our journey again.

Cheryl was melancholy, but honestly, I was excited. We would truly be alone this week and she and I love our time together. This is such a great time in our marriage.

Cheryl’s mother and my mother went with us to Florida, so there was plenty of conversation in the car. :) The ride passed quickly. We pulled into the driveway of our recently purchased “empty nester” condo, I walked in the door, and…well…I started to cry. I can’t explain it, but suddenly the reality of two of our bedrooms being empty…perhaps forever…just overwhelmed me for a moment.

It’s been a great weekend…and the past couple years with Nate being in Chicago and Jeremy transitioning out has taught me that this season is going to be okay…it really is. I love my life and I love my wife. That’s a great feeling!

For tonight though…I may still shed a tear…

Where are you at in the parenting cycle? Tell me about your kids!

4 Commitments We’ll Make as Grandparents

Extended family in living room smiling

This is a premature post. My boys will probably balk at it, but I’ll be honest. I’m a people watcher. That’s especially true when I’m out of town where I don’t know anyone.

This is written while in Florida to perform my oldest son’s wedding. He and his soon-to-be wife have been together for many years, so we feel she’s already part of the family. They say they want to enjoy life together a few years, but we know they both love children, so, even though we would encourage them to take their time, we suspect they’ll have children within the first few years of marriage.

That means most likely we’ll someday be grandparents and it has made me more conscious of what it will be like at that stage of life. Cheryl and I talk about it often.

Today I saw a family out with a grandmother. It was a beautiful family. The kids seemed well-behaved. The parents seemed attentive. The only problem, in my opinion, was an over-bearing, controlling grandmother. Every time the children did anything she corrected them. She consistently over-ruled the parents with the children. She didn’t appear as a loving grandmother, but rather as a family friend who grew impatient with the couple’s children.

I’ve already told my boys, but I feel I need to tell you for accountability purposes. Here are 4 commitments Cheryl and I hope to make as grandparents:

When parents are near, we’ll be silent – In the ideal setting, grandparents should have raised their children to be adults. Their daily parenting task is done and they shouldn’t try to take that role from their children who are now parents.

We’ll be there for the parents – Parenting is hard work. A parent needs all the support he or she can receive. We’ll be in the parent’s corner as grandparents.

We’ll support the parents – Not only will we support the parents, when we’re grandparents, we’ll step away and let the parent’s model for parenting prevail. Hopefully the mark we hoped to make on our children will carry forward, but it will be their job, not ours, to be the parents. (Granted, if there was a severe problem, we’d step in, but if it’s a matter of preference in parenting, we’ll be silent.)

We’ll compete for grandparents of the year – Let’s face it. I’m competitive. This will be one more place I hope to succeed. Hey, it worked for parenting…at least I think it did…why not for grandparenting?

It’s going to be fun being a grandparent.

Are you a grandparent? What would you add to my list?

Are you a parent dealing with grandparents? What would you add?

Have you witnessed, or experienced, over-bearing grandparenting? What would you add?

Advising Younger Parents

I have traveled a fair amount the last few weeks and I’ve been thankful for the opportunities to speak at various conferences and events. When I’m on the road, I’m more of a people observer than normal. I learn a lot about me by watching others.

For example, one night recently I sat at an outdoor concert observing the family in this picture. I hope they don’t mind being the subject of this post. If they are in a witness protection program, I apologize. What I have to say about them, however, is all good stuff. What a happy family! The parents played, wrestled, loved, and cuddled with their two little boys. I especially enjoyed the part of the oldest boy tackling the dad. Sometimes he didn’t know what was coming! I loved watching the surprise attack!

As they went to leave, I felt led to say something to them. I told them I had enjoyed watching them, that I could tell they were good parents, to keep up the good work, and to never take these moments for granted, as tiring as the days can be.

They seemed to appreciate my comments, or perhaps they are just kind to old people who stalk them, but I know from experience that one day they’ll most likely have the same emotions I have when I see a young family enjoying life together.

They’ll think:

  • It passed so quickly…
  • Where did the time go?
  • I would love to experience those moments one more time…
  • We should tell younger couples to enjoy it while they can….
  • You don’t get those moments back….

Or stuff like that…

Share with me, what stage are you at in the parenting days?

What advice would you give to parents with younger children?

Friday Discussion: Non-Negotiables in Parenting

Recently I was reposted my parenting model I’ve called “Grace Parenting”. You can read the article HERE.

One of the principles in my model is to Major on the Majors, Not on the Minors and I stated that there are certain non-negotiables I think a parent should enforce in their parenting. A reader commented on the post, asking, “What are the non-negotiables?”

Great question! For my family, these were mostly Biblical characteristics I wanted my boys to possess as adults, things most people would agree are a part of having a good, moral character.

Things such as:

  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Love

Each of these are what I consider non-negotiable. There is never an appropriate time not to be honest, not to respect, or not to love.

Obviously, you can’t mandate that your children possess these qualities in their heart…you can make them love someone. I believe you can and should address their actions in these areas and they are issues which were handled more strictly in my parenting. I also know you can mandate that children see each of these characteristics modeled for them by the parent.

Those are some of my non-negotiables…though not an exhaustive list…

For this discussion, do you agree with this principle?

What would you add as a non-negotiable characteristic to implement, teach, and even enforce in parenting?

How did you or do you teach these virtues in your home?

Let’s talk parenting!

10 Commandments: Significance for Today

Have you ever been curious about the 10 Commandments, specifically how we can implement them into our life today? A couple years ago, I wrote a series about each one. I’m a grace guy…if you read this blog much you know that. We are not under the law, but under grace. There are great Biblical principles, however, that these commandments have for us to live better lives today.

Here’s a repost of all of them together…just click on the link:

Ten Commandment Number One

Ten Commandment Number Two

Ten Commandment Number Three

Ten Commandment Number Four

Ten Commandment Number Five

Ten Commandment Number Six

Ten Commandment Number Seven

Ten Commandment Number Eight

Ten Commandment Number Nine

Ten Commandment Number Ten


Which is the hardest for you to keep? Be honest!

What would you add as ways we violate these commandments today or how they have meaning for us still, even in the days of grace?

The Best 3 Things I Taught My Sons

I watched my oldest son make a life decision recently and it confirmed how proud I am of my two boys. He wrestled through it with wisdom and landed on, what I believe, was the best answer to his situation.

The title of this post may be misleading, because I don’t know if I taught wisdom to my boys or if they just saw me seek it and so it became a part of their life to pursue it, but either way, I’m glad they gained the practice.

Here are three things my boys have that I wouldn’t trade anything for:

The love of wisdom – My boys love to learn. They continue, into their 20’s, to seek wisdom from me and others.

The learning of wisdom – My boys not only listen to the wisdom of others, they seek it out from their own experience. They seem to realize that wisdom comes best through the experiences of life….good and bad…so they continue to learn from the decisions they make.

The living of wisdom – I have to be honest, my boys are two of the wisest young men I know. They truly take wisdom and apply it to their life, making wiser choices as they grow in wisdom.

I’m addicted to growing in wisdom. I’m so proud my boys seem to have inherited the practice.

Let’s talk wisdom.

Answer these questions:

Do you love, learn, and live wisdom as much as you can?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how wise are you these days? (Be honest with your assessment.)

Who is the wisest living person you know?

How to Discipline a Child

This is a picture friends sent me recently. This couple from our small group have no parents here, so we’ve adopted them and their son Luke. Luke is holding a copy of my devotional book. (You can actually see it HERE.)  It looks like Luke is in trouble to me. Poor Luke. That’ll teach ’em. Give him a copy of my book and seat him in the corner. He must have really been bad! Ha! (Or perhaps they were trying to put him to sleep…) Either way…what a cruel way to treat a child…Make him or her read devotionals written by me.

Just for fun…caption this photo for me…

Receiving Undeserved Love: Ecuador Day 3

If you’ve been following my blog this week, I’m in Ecuador with a group of pastors on behalf of Compassion International.

We were blown away today as we entered a village in the mountains of Ecuador. It took an hour to drive the curvy dirt road, our bus got stuck, and we walked a short distance to the village. Upon rounding a corner, we saw a crowd waiting for us. Hundreds of children from the village had formed a receiving line where they gave us a rose (Ecuador is famous for their roses) and a homemade card welcoming us to their village. It was slightly overwhelming.

Have you ever received an overwhelming undeserved show of affection?

I was reminded that I receive that kind of love everyday from God!

I can’t help but share this picture. This little boy warmed my heart (as did many others). I’m not sure he knew how cute he is!

Day 2 of Compassion Ecuador Trip

Day 2 of visiting Compassion Projects in Ecuador was my favorite so far, and it happened because of one little boy. He’s one of the boys in this picture. When I went to take his picture he asked if his “best friends” could be in the picture too. I loved that!

Anyway, this little boy was asked what he liked best about Compassion International sponsorship program and he said, “God blessed me with the opportunity to meet my sponsors.” Wow! That’s the part about Compassion I like the best! It’s an open book. Today I saw the records…I saw the documents…I saw the paperworks side…but more than that…I saw the kids who many people sponsor. If you sponsor a child with Compassion International, you can make a visit to that child…and they feel “blessed by God” when you do.

By the way, if you do sponsor a child, send them pictures and letters. I did learn that children absolutely love hearing from their sponsors. This boy, for example, knew that his sponsors had two daughters who got married this year. He knew their names. He was celebrating with them! The children who receive letters really do get to know and love their sponsors.

I’m not paid by Compassion or even asked to write this blog post, but let me be honest. If you want to impact children around the world, change lives and communities one child at a time, consider sponsoring a child today. You can do that HERE. It is estimated that every child sponsors has an impact on 30 other people in their family and community. Amazing return for your investment!

Have you sponsored a child through Compassion? Tell me about it.

Connecting with our Community…Partnering with our Schools

I love the passion Grace Community Church has to impact our community. Our people serve their community throughout the year. The largest project, and the one that draws the most attention, is our annual Operation Serve held each fall where hundreds of volunteers serve in a one (sometimes two) day blitz of community needs. I’ve written about it several times before HERE. This past year over 1,300 people logged some 10,000 hours of service to our community meeting all kinds of practical needs.

Well, another project is stirring interest. Our community, like many others nationwide, have experienced struggles adequately funding school systems.  How can a church respond in times like these?

Introducing Operation Serve School Edition.

April 9th we hope to have hundreds of people volunteering in all 35 schools in our public school district. Operations Serve School Edition invites the community to participate with our church in landscaping, painting, cleaning, and completing other things the school needs done, but the budget simply can’t provide. The schools are compiling lists now and materials are being acquired.

To accomplish such a large task, we are also partnering with 5 Star Radio Group. They are providing publicity to recruit volunteers and providing tremendous moral support the day of the event with live remotes.

It’s catching on already. What we are finding is that whether a person attends church or not, they have an interest in educating children. Here are a few articles already talking about Operation Serve School Edition:

Besides the fact that we meet in a school…actually two schools…and doing a church our size and age would be very difficult without this partnership with our school system, it makes sense to invest in our schools this way because:

We love our schools. Our church and community are blessed with teachers, administrators and support staff who love the children and youth of our community. They are helping to build the future of our community. They need our support.

We love our community. Our church exists because the community exists. Everyone in our community may not all come to our church, but all our church lives among this community. We want to do anything we can do to support the community in which we live.

We love families. Families are a large part of who we are at Grace and the bulk of families in our community attend public schools.

We love God and others. We are called to be in the world, meeting real needs where we find them. That’s the example of Jesus.

Come join us in Operation Serve School Edition. If you live in the area, you can sign up HERE.

What are some creative ways you’re seeing churches connect with their community these days?