My Sobering Experience in Juvenile Court

handcuffed_teenboy1What an experience today!  Nate, our 17-year-old son (soon to be 18), had a minor traffic ticket for failure to yield to a yellow light and had to appear in juvenile court.  We went to court and paid the ticket several months ago. I posted a blog about the first experience. Read it HERE. Today we had to reappear to prove he had been to traffic school.  After 3 hours of waiting (attorneys get to go first), they saw our case, which took no more than 2 minutes, and we were on our way.

As frustrated as I was at waiting (I kept thinking my time is just as valuable as those attorneys), I am still processing whether God had us there for so long for more reasons than just to teach me patience.  While we waited we were able to see a side of culture and life than Nate and I seldom see.  Honestly we see more of the good stories of parenting than we do the bad ones.  My heart has not been able to release the pain and sorrow we saw today in juvenile court.

Here’s a small recap:

  • Three children taken from their parents and sent to a detention center…one in handcuffs.
  • One 16-year-old boy had been living at home by himself while his dad traveled.  He was sent to live in state custody…starting tonight!
  • One mother pleading with the court for relief from the enormous court costs her child is costing her.
  • One family ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution for an accident the teenage son had just after their insurance was canceled.
  • Several sets of grandparents raising grandchildren out of control.
  • Teenagers making bombs.
  • Teenagers doing drugs.
  • Teenagers involved in burglary.
  • One child in court for having brass knuckles at school.
  • One parent who said she could no longer accept responsibility for her child.
  • Teenagers who back-talked the judge and their parents in court.  (Imagine what these kids do in the classroom.)
  • Parents who back-talked the judge.  (Guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

I must say the judge did an admirable job of counseling these teens and was firm, but fair.  I wouldn’t want her job everyday.  I have joked with my son about him being my juvenile delinquent, but I was reminded today how blessed I am with two very good boys and how vitally important the role of the parent is today.  I was also reminded how desperately we need to train parents to raise children who respect authority and know the difference in right and wrong.  I was finally reminded that there are good parents in the system who have out of control children through no fault of their own.  All of it though broke my heart.

Has there ever been a time that society needs the church more than today?  Does this kind of thing upset you as much as it has me?  What can be done about it?

Please pray for our youth today.

Reflections From a Father of a High School Graduate

nateIf you have read my blog for long then you know that I have two great boys of whom I am extremely proud.  They are so incredibly different, but both special in their own way.

Today is graduation for our youngest son Nate.  His name was once Nathaniel, but I am trying to adjust and honor his new identity.  Nate is the entertainer child in our home. He’s fiercely independent, yet at the same time cares very much what I think and for my opinion.  Nate has been planning his future since he was about 3 years old, so we fully expect great things from him. You can read his blog at or follow him on Twitter at

Here are the quick thoughts and memories going through my mind about Nate today:

When Nate was a newborn I would come home from work and let him sleep on my chest every night.  Those days passed so fast.

When Nate was 8 months old he gave up drinking from a bottle. He wanted a cup.  His mom stressed, the doctor said he would be fine, but this was one of our first clues that he would chart his own course in life.

One time after a large storm I was cleaning up our front yard.  Nate was about 2 years old and loved his shiny red boots.  I saw him pouncing through the water in a ditch.  When I scolded him he said, “Daddy, I’m Peter and I’m walking on the water.”  I decided to let him pounce.

Nate was never a child that liked to snuggle or be held much.  Sad to admit but I used to enjoy times he was sick so he would let me hold him.

Nate played Superman with his red boots and a red robe for a couple years.  Every night I would hold the belt to the robe and let him run around me with his “super powers” until he would pass out from exhaustion.

At 3 years old Nate became the neighborhood backyard preacher standing on a tree stump behind our house.

Nate was a great young athlete.  We threw the baseball and football thousands of times.  It is when we had our best conversations.

Putting Nate to bed at night was always a long experience.  My goal and his expectation was that I would make him laugh and we laughed a lot.

Nate has always taken the longest showers of anyone in the house.  My most used line, “Hurry up Nathaniel!”

Our house has been filled with the sound of music the last few years listening to Nate bang keys on a keyboard or pick a guitar searching for the perfect note.  He has become an incredibly well-rounded self-taught musician.

Nate is a natural leader.  He needs projects and responsibility. When he has a task he performs beyond expectations.  Nate has been instrumental in so many different areas within our church plant.

Nate has had an incredible experience in high school and from everything we have been told did an exceptional job as student body president.

Nate is more than a son. He’s a great friend.  He has taught me so much about life just as his brother Jeremy has.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for the blessing of being his dad.

How To Honor Your Pastor’s Wife

One of the toughest jobs in the church is that of being a pastor’s wife.  No doubt I have one of the best in Cheryl.  (I would say the best, but I have a co-pastor and he has an excellent one also!)  Cheryl has a full-time professional job, is an excellent mom and wife, but the demands on her as my wife are often overwhelming. Still she handles it with grace and a smile.

I want to help you know how to honor and protect your pastor’s wife.  Here I am not talking on behalf of Cheryl. She would never ask for this and frankly we are in the best church environment I have ever experienced as far as the way our staff and spouses are treated.  I know, however, because of my work with pastors outside of Grace that many pastor’s wives are facing burnout, a sense of loneliness, and often struggle even to come to church.

If you want to treat your pastor’s wife well:  (These may work equally well for the husband of a pastor or minister, but I can only speak from my perspective.)

  • Do not put too many expectations on the pastor’s wife.  She cannot be everywhere, at everything and know everyone’s name and family situation and still carry out her role in the home.
  • Do not expect her to take your side on an issue opposing her husband.  She will protect him as you would your spouse.
  • Protect the pastor’s wife from gossip.  She does not need to know the “prayer concerns” that are really just a way of spreading rumors.
  • Let her have a husband and enjoy her family time.  The pastor is pulled in many directions.  If you can limit your demands on his schedule to his normal working hours it will help the pastor’s wife have a family life also.
  • Include her without placing demands or expectations on her.  The pastor’s wife is often one of the loneliest women in the church.  She rarely knows whom to trust and often is excluded from times that are just for fun.
  • Never repeat what she says.  If the pastor’s wife happens to share information with you about the church or her personal life, keep it to yourself.  There will be temptation to share her words as “juicy news”, but you will honor her by remaining silent.
  • If your church really wants to honor the pastor’s wife, find ways to give her time away with her husband and/or family.  That is probably what she needs the most.
  • Pray for your pastor’s wife and family daily.

Feel free to give a shout-out to your pastor’s wife here on this post and share ways you can honor your pastor’s wife.  If you are a pastor or pastor’s wife, I would love to hear your thoughts.

An Example of Simple, Child-Like Faith

pugHave you ever had a family pet?  If so, you probably know the emotion of losing one or the thoughts of what would happen if you did.  We can get very attached to our animals.

Recently some friends of ours 12-year-old dog was lost in their neighborhood. The dog has numerous health problems, so they naturally assumed the worst. They were obviously upset about it and asked us to pray.  Thankfully a few days later they found their pug.  I wanted to share the story of how their 3-year-old son reacted to the dog’s disappearance and the example he is for us of a child-like faith.

Here is an excerpt from my friend’s email (I inserted some parenthesis explanations so you can follow along):

First, let me start by saying that God has shown me what an unwavering faith can do.  On Sunday, when we lost Lucy (the dog), Steve and I were sad.  I was careful not to cry in front of Aiden (their son) because I did not want him getting overly upset but he knew we were sad.  He told Steve and I, “not to worry, Jesus would take care of Lucy.”  Sweet and true, but I wasn’t sure if he really knew what he was saying. Then on Monday morning Steve was on the computer and I heard Aiden tell him, “Jesus will bring Lucy home,”, to which we answered, ”I hope so.”  That night as we were going to bed and Aiden was saying his prayers he said, ”Jesus, thank you for bring Lucy home”, not will you, not please do, but thank you.

This is when I knew that Aiden believed what he was asking and I was amazed and wanted to so badly to believe with him.  I must even admit that part of me was worried that he would be disappointed. He never wavered, he was sure, so I figured I would join him.  If he believed that strongly and was that convicted, I would go along with him.  I started agreeing with him and praying like he prayed, but I must admit I still had that piece of me that was a tad doubtful.  I even prayed that God would use this to help teach Aiden how powerful faith is.  Today when Aiden saw Lucy, he didn’t seem really surprised, as a matter of fact he said, “I told you Jesus was taking care of Lucy.”

Anyway, I learned so much on faith from a 3 year old this week and what I pray is that God will teach me how to be more like my son and help me to be a mother that builds that faith in this child, not let life destroy it.

What a great picture of a child-like faith!  I agree with my friend.  I want a faith like Aiden’s faith!

It reminds me how much I have learned from my own children.  What have your children taught you about God and faith?

10 Steps to Raising Generous Children, Part 3

generous2This is the third in a three part series addressing the issue of raising generous children. To read the first two posts go to my blog HERE and HERE.

7. Model healthy personal choices between needs and wants.

I think we teach our children to value the need more than the want by first modeling it for them. We cannot ask children to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. Children are smarter than that. Today’s generation is far more interested in truth and integrity than earlier generations. This generation despises hypocrisy. If children see parents saying one thing and doing another, they will reject that as being truth. We need to model and teach our children the proper concepts concerning money; ultimately that we are to be responsible with what God has allowed us to have. Children need to see their parents giving sacrificially of their time and resources. Volunteering at a soup kitchen may be a better activity for an upcoming special occasion than opening a bunch of gifts.

8. Keep children properly grounded in a material world.

Children need to know that the universe does not revolve around them. Our world as their parents may revolve around them, but the rest of the world thinks otherwise. Children need to have created times in their life where they have to wait for something they want. Teach and model for children a life that puts others needs and wants ahead of their own.

9. Don’t give children everything; even if you can afford it.

If children are encouraged by example to have a love of money…a love of stuff…chances are they will never have enough possessions in this world to be satisfied. Plant within them a love of God, a love of people and a love of life and they will want to bless others; and the joy of their life will be much greater. Regardless of how wealthy a family is children should not be so “privileged” that there are no longer any items on their “want” list. When this happens the child has a hard time developing a heart of giving, because they are often too consumed with acquiring more “stuff”.

We have to model simple living sometimes for our children. IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO TO YOUR CHILD! In fact, that may sometimes be the exact thing we need to say. Every trip to the mall should not produce a new toy!  (Okay, I know number 9 hurts!)

10. Teach and model a love for God above everything in life.

Perhaps the greatest thing a parent can do to help children succeed in life is to help them desire the things of God more than the things of this world. That is God’s heart for us as His children and it is the heart He desires for us to pass on to the children He’s placed in our homes.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions on this aspect of parenting, please leave comment on this post.

10 Steps to Raising Generous Children, Part 2

Yesterday I began this series on how to raise generous children.  Read yesterday’s post HERE.  Today I continue those principles.

3.    Provide needs. Bless with wants.

It is important that parents consider their system of meeting needs verses wants.  Consider this question: Which gets more attention in your home?  Does having the latest technology in a TV take a bigger role than teaching children to be good citizens and to generously love others?  If so, that may not be the best plan for parenting.  Sometimes we set children up for success or failure in life by how we treat them in this whole area of providing for their needs and their wants and by what we give the most attention.

4.    Help children make wise choices with their own money.

One of the primary reasons children should have access to their own money is so they can learn the value of it.  My children are always more careful spending “their” money than they are spending mine.  Talk with them about how they should spend their allowance, birthday, or even money they have earned on their own.  They ultimately should give some to God, save some, and spend some for things they need or want (based on the system you have for meeting these in your home.)

5.    Consider the “big picture” of your child’s life.

As a parent, we are the primary molder of our children’s chooser of things in life.
Their desires in life will be greatly shaped by the life they live in our home. I heard a statistic recently that children today get 90% of everything they want in life. That doesn’t seem like the statistic for most of our adult want lists, does it?  Somewhere children are going to face a stark reality crash as they reach adulthood. We have all heard the Hollywood stories of children of privilege who got everything they wanted in life, but who cannot seem to stay out of trouble as adults.  They have no real sense of direction; no set of values to guide them, because they got everything they wanted in life, but nothing that they really needed!

6.    Spend more time, energy and attention meeting needs than wants.

At Christmas time, birthdays, and other special occasions we ask children what they “want”.  There is nothing wrong with that, but most of the time we already know what they need.  We don’t have to ask them if they need to be honest people.  We don’t have to ask them if they need to have character, love others or be generous. We do not need to ask them if they need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We know they need those things.

We need to ask ourselves if we are spending as much time and energy helping them get what they need as we are trying to buy them what they want.   Providing wants is more fun sometimes, but we must be willing to sacrifice in order to give them what they need.  It’s much more fun to give them wants, but it is much more valuable to give them needs.

I will share more principles in tomorrow’s post. Please feel free to add your own suggestions along the way or ask questions or comments as a comment to each post.

10 Steps to Raising Generous Children, Part 1

world in child's handsI’ve had conflict most of my life between what I think I want and what I really need.  Most people share this conflict with me.  That conflict also appears in our children as well. We don’t have to teach them to struggle with determining between wants and needs, because they will do this naturally and, if not, they will learn it from us.  As parents we are the primary shapers of our children’s attitudes towards money, things, and desires.  Our children will either be “givers” or “takers” in society and that will be greatly influenced by the life they live in our home. How do we raise generous children?  How do we help our children (and ultimately ourselves) be people who genuinely enjoy giving to others as the Bible commands us to do?

(When I write about this subject it is important to understand that I’m writing out of good and bad experiences I have had as a dad.  I like to put things in lists to make them easy to understand.  In a similar post I wrote about How to Raise Godly Children.)

Over the next few posts I will share ten tips which are things I have tried to practice in my own home.  It has been amazing to watch as my boys, ages 17 and 20, have developed generous hearts towards others.

1.    Have fun and be generous parents.  (Within reason, of course.)

The story is told of Jesus and the disciples attending a wedding.  The party had been going for a while when something tragic happened.  They ran out of wine.  That was serious business to the host of the party.  It was a cultural “no-no”; a huge embarrassment to run out of food or wine. Jesus took some big barrels of water and turned them into the best wine the people had that night. The people were surprised and said that normally people put the best wine out first and saved the cheap wine for the later part of the party.  The Bible says that was the very first miracle Jesus ever did.  As culturally important as weddings were in those days, it still sounds like God met a want, rather than a need.

It is very clear that God is not trying to keep us from having what we want or from having fun in life.  God is not opposed to blessing us with things we want, but may not even need.  We should not be afraid to do the same with our children.  If we can afford to, and if our children are living within the boundaries set for our home, we should not be afraid to give them gifts they simply want, but may not even need.  (I thought I would start with an easy one first.)

2.    Help children understand the difference between a need and a want.

As much as God wants to bless us with wants, if we study the Bible, God seems far more interested in helping fulfill our needs than He does in giving us everything we want.  In fact, God never promises to provide our want list, yet He does promise to meet all our needs. (Philippians 4:19)  Granted there are some that take verses out of context and teach that God gives us everything we ask for, but that doesn’t line up with the rest of Scripture in my opinion.  The problem from a Biblical perspective is that we have a messed up system of determining need verses want.  That thing inside us that chooses good over evil, better or best, need verses wants; is broken.  Adam and Eve entered a perfect world.  They could have had anything they “wanted” except for one tree and yet that was the tree they chose to eat from.  (We shouldn’t be too surprised at their decision, because we make choices like that every day.)  That sin of rebellion brought about the world in which we live where there are actually things that are harmful for us, yet, because we are in a messed up world, we often want most the things that are not the best for us and we certainly have a hard time determining the difference between a need and a want.

In an eternal sense, at least, an actual need goes beyond just enjoyment for today or even just for me.  For something to fall into the category of need, according to the Bible, it would need to provide some lasting value to society or at least to my own character.  We can even ask ourselves, does this “thing” benefit someone more than just me?  Does it add value to someone’s life or to my own character?  For a thing to be a true need in this context it almost becomes something that money cannot buy.

It is understandable why it is difficult to raise children who understand the difference between a need and a want and are generous people when we as parents struggle with the same issues.

I will share more principles in tomorrow’s post. Please feel free to add your own suggestions along the way or ask questions or comments as a comment to each post.

Why divorce is so prevalent? What can be done about it?

A journalism student at Ohio University, Ty Komjati, asked to interview me for a story he was writing on the state of marriage and divorce.  I decided to share my answers here:

Question: A recent survey by the US Census Bureau showed approximately 40% of marriages end in divorce.  Why do you think this is happening?

I think there are many reasons in our society contributing to this number, but the main problems I see are:

  • There is a great lack of knowledge about marriage and how two very different people relate to each other.  (This has always been a problem, but is more noticeable today when combined with the other problems.)  My boys received more instruction learning to drive than most people receive prior to marriage.
  • There are fewer really solid marriages displayed for us to watch these days, whether from Hollywood or even in the church.
  • The cultural acceptance of divorce has grown.
  • The laws allowing divorce have loosened.  It is much easier these days to walk away.
  • Generally speaking, people are less loyal to anything these days.

Question: What needs to happen to reverse this growth?

Here are a few of my suggestions, of course I can only speak on behalf of the church:

  • Couples getting married need sound premarital counseling.  Churches rarely offer much of anything, yet they complain the most about the problem.
  • Churches need to teach about healthy marriages, dealing with real issues.  Typically the ideal marriage is displayed, and there should be an example to aim for, but we shouldn’t sugarcoat real life.  Most marriages will struggle at times, even the pastor’s marriage.
  • We need mentoring inside the church.  Couples with healthy marriages should reach out and mentor young married couples, especially through the early years.
  • We need to de-stigmatize the fact that marriages struggle.  Every marriage has struggles and needs help at some point. Sadly in many churches it is sometimes easier to divorce and walk away than for a couple to admit they need help.

A good marriage is worth the effort and it is possible to have a marriage that works.  How would you have answered these questions?

20 Reasons I Love My Momma…

This year, instead of another card that someone else wrote, I decided to make my own Happy Mother’s Day tribute.  My mother is one of the greatest women I know.  I am blessed to have her for a mother.   She is the picture of a Proverbs 31 woman. She is strong, hard working, loving, and kind.  Here are 20 random things I love about my Momma:

  • I love you momma because you always care for others more than yourself.
  • I love you momma because you forgive easily.
  • I love you momma because you never stop loving those you love.
  • I love you momma because you smell nice.
  • I love you momma because you look for the best in people.
  • I love you momma because you are the greatest cooks I know.
  • I love you momma because you have shaped my life for good.
  • I love you momma because you have seen many trials in life but have an unwavering faith.
  • I love you momma because you support me in whatever I do.
  • I love you momma because you refuse to give up on those you love.
  • I love you momma because you laugh at all our corny jokes.
  • I love you momma because you pray for your children daily.
  • I love you momma because you are resilient to the struggles of life.
  • I love you momma because you open your home to others.
  • I love you momma because you are still trying to learn more about God.
  • I love you momma because you hurt for the hurting.
  • I love you momma because you encourage me to excel.
  • I love you momma because you allow your children to pick on you (sometimes too much).
  • I love you momma because you always choose relationships over material things of life.
  • I love you momma because you love everyone.

Happy Mother’s Day Momma!  The fact is, I love you just because you are my Momma!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers.  Most of us would be far less the people we are today without your unwavering love, devotion, and influence.