12Jan
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Letters to my kids – part one (Jackson)

I love the idea of writing letters to my kids. I know that they can’t read yet, but I’m able to express my thoughts, prayers, and desires for them now in a way that, when they are older, they can look back on and understand. I hope that they will grasp that, as they’ve grown, I’ve been praying for them and wanting the absolute best for them.

When Jackson was a newborn baby, I wrote him a pretty long letter while sitting in his nursery. I posted that here a few years ago, on his 1st birthday. A few months ago, I wrote Jackson another letter. It was part of an exercise that I was challenged to do – to write a letter to someone I love, communicating my hopes and desires for them, if I wasn’t here in person to do it. I wrote a letter that day to Jackson. A couple days later, I wrote another letter to my daughter, Mila. Jackson’s letter is below, and I’ll share Mila’s letter in part two of “Letters to my kids.”

Before I share the letter though, I want to explain that what you’ll read below is personal. It’s written to my son, and written from the perspective that I have as his dad, right now in this season. I know that I will learn and discover a lot as he grows and as I mature as a parent, but I also know that my desires for him are rooted in God’s desires for him, and so my prayers for him are centered around these truths. Also, I want you to know that my sharing of this is for two reasons – 1st, I know he doesn’t read this site, but someday he might. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if I’ll be here to share this with him. I don’t know if, when he’s old enough, I’ll have the ability or opportunity to share this with him. Placing this letter here is one possible way for it to be accessible years later, regardless of those future circumstances. 2nd, this exercise was incredibly powerful for me. It caused me to deepen my prayer time for my children, and caused me to examine who I am as a dad – the desires for my kids, the goals I have in mind, and the steps that I want to take to lead them there. Though this letter is for Jackson, I hope it’s contents might cause you to consider what your letter would be like to the person you’d want to write it to.

 

Here’s the letter:

 

Jackson,

My son, at three years old you’re a bit too young to understand all of what I am writing to you. However, the things that I want you to know and remember from this letter don’t expire, and so I hope that as you grow and do have an ability to take in these words, that they will be received as I intend them to be – filled with love, with hope, and with anticipation of the incredible man that God is going to shape you into.

Son, there is so much that I want to share with you and encourage you in as you grow and mature, and by God’s grace I hope to be able to walk with you through each stage of that early process. Above all, and regardless of circumstance, I want you to know that I love you as much as any human can love another. I am already proud of the little boy that you are and am filled with excitement for the man that you will be. You are one of my greatest blessings. But I also want you to know that, as much as I love you, God loves you infinitely more. Though I was there the second you were born, God knew you before I did, because He formed you and was the initiator of your very life. I pray every day that as you grow, you will choose to follow Him and learn, as I have, that He is faithful, trustworthy, and good. If you focus your life on Jesus and let everything fall into place behind Him, you will discover a life worth living and one that counts for something.

I hope to have the chance to share many experiences with you, including many great conversations about life, and I pray that those conversations will be words that are backed up by action. Among many, these are some areas where I hope to influence you:

Faith
As I’ve already said above, God loves you. I pray that you will grow to trust and follow Him, and that my example as a follower of Jesus Christ will encourage you to do the same.

Character
Be a man of strong character. Determine to have integrity in all you do and be trustworthy in all your interactions. Value this above any possession or opportunity to get ahead.

Work Ethic
Be a man that is willing to put in the effort. Don’t allow the minimum to become your standard, but strive to excel not only because of reward but because it is what is needed. In this, you will be able to be counted on and trusted in whatever you put your hand to.

Love
Be a man who truly loves and understands what love looks like. Never stop loving your mom or your sister. Treat women with respect, and honor God in all of your interactions with them. Don’t given in to temptation or allow the world to define how you look at or treat them. Your mom and I began our love relationship as friends, and that friendship is the foundation on which the rest is built. Your opportunity for love will come, so don’t rush it.

Be You
God has made you, and God will continue to shape and mold you. Be open to that process, and don’t succumb to the pressure of being molded by your peers or society in general. Never pretend to be someone you’re not. You have no reason to, because God made you to be unique and incredible. Embrace that identity and live a life of authenticity.

 

Jackson, I pray that I will have decades of life ahead in order to teach you these and many other things. But whether God has given me decades or weeks to walk beside you, He will always walk beside you. Trust Him and follow Him with all your heart.

 

Love,
Your dad

 

 

Who would you write your letter to? What would it say?

10Jan
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Why I love family traditions

I LOVE FAMILY TRADITIONS. I know I’m wired with a particular inclination toward them, but I honestly wish them for every family. I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile now, and have been trying to figure out how I can share how much I love the joy and fun that comes out of these traditions without sounding like I’m prescribing our specific traditions. Not everyone wants to trek out into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree. I get that, and it’s totally fine. An artificial Christmas tree can be as much a family tradition as a real one. The action doesn’t matter as much as the emotion that is prompted. There is so much goodness wrapped up in having family traditions, and they are the catalyst for so many memories! They create a sense of nostalgia, anticipation, consistency, and change from year to year.

We have several traditions that we keep – some that started generations before us, and some that we started on our own. These traditions are activities that we typically do as a family each year, in the same location, the same season, and the same way. They aren’t rigid or done begrudgingly though – anything like that, we would stop. I think family traditions that you keep should be something you really look forward to, and have the potential of lasting to the next generation.

 

OUR TRADITIONS

Below are many of the traditions that we have in our family – they don’t have to be yours. This isn’t a list of things every family should do. For us, these are exciting and fun. For others, they may not be. My point isn’t that you should hold these traditions, but that I think all families benefit from things that they do together and get excited about. Read More »

7Jan
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The reset after craziness

By far the most hectic time of year for me is the lead up to Christmas. It slowly starts to ramp up in summer, but I really start to feel it in late October to early November. We put a lot of effort into the Christmas season at our church, and the closer we get, the more of my time, energy, and focus is pulled toward those efforts. In December, it also means longer days and stranger hours. But, it’s actually one of my favorite seasons – not only at home with all of our fun traditions and family time, but at work as well. I get to be a part of something so big, so creative, and so full of potential and newness, that it’s invigorating.

In the wake of this season, though, I’m often left with less-than-tidyness in several areas of my life. My office becomes just a bit more cluttered – I spend less time in there during the end of that season and more time all over the building, and so my desk became more of a drop off point than an efficient and tidy spot for processing work. My email inbox became filled with a lot of flagged messages – flagged when I told several of them I’d get back to them after the performances were over. Even my house was a bit less neat than I’d like it, mostly because of all those late nights, strange hours, and hurriedness of the season which left Leslie to fend for herself with the kids. Couple that with all of the craziness of Christmas and the influx of presents, extra cooking, and everything else, and  it got a bit crazy. A reset was needed.

I’m so thankful that every year I have about a week off from work between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It is a welcomed pause after a busy time, and I was really looking forward to purposefully resting and resetting during that time.

I hit the reset in several ways during that week off – some physically and mentally restful, some spiritual, and some practical, with an eye on the season ahead.

Read More »

17Nov
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Feeling distant?

The past couple months, I’ve had conversations with a few people who each said they feel like God is really far away, or is just so silent in their lives. The reasons for why varied from person to person – some were saying they felt like that on a particular day. They had come to church and just couldn’t engage – it all felt forced and as if they were just going through the motions. Others said they had felt that way for a very long time and were struggling with understanding why.

These conversations prompted me to dig into my own notes from previous seasons. I’ve had times where I have felt very distant from God – I spent time reading, praying, singing in corporate worship, but in those seasons it sometimes felt empty and maybe even forced. It was a really awful feeling. Feeling distant can be scary and confusing. It can lead to questions about your faith, guilt from even asking those questions, and a pressure to get it fixed.

In thinking about this, I had some takeaways that helped me as I walked through those seasons – some truths to remember: Read More »

11Nov
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Lessons from falling off a roof

I’m about to tell you a story from the other day – a totally bozo move that I made. And you don’t need to feel compelled to inform me of how stupid, dangerous, or absent-minded it was. I know. You also don’t need to remind me of how thankful I should be that it wasn’t more serious. I know…really, I know.

I’m aware of how dumb what I’m about to tell you was and how thankful I should be that it didn’t end up worse. But there is a point in sharing the story (I hope), so here it goes:

On Friday, I spent the afternoon “winterizing” the house. We have a bunch of older windows upstairs that let in a bunch of air, and in the winter that can feel drafty and cold. We had planned to replace a few of them this year, but money and time were both prioritized elsewhere, so I once again found myself at the hardware store buying the “window insulator kit” and borrowing my wife’s hair dryer to seal up the house. These things take longer than you would think! You have to take off the curtains, clean off the window, apply two-sided tape all the way around, evenly place plastic over the window, heat shrink the plastic, and then cut off the excess – ok, it doesn’t sound difficult, but trust me when I say it’s pretty time-consuming to do a bunch of these. When I got to the oldest, most beat-up window in the house, I remembered that last winter, the storm window wouldn’t shut completely and snow had gotten in between the storm and main windows. I had decided that I needed to seal up that gap somehow, and so I went to the hardware store. Read More »

9Nov
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I Will Go Before You

 

These last few days, I have been reminded of the comfort and confidence that I have in knowing that God goes before me.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut 31:8 )

God tells us that He goes before us. He knows the road ahead and how each step we take will impact our lives. He knows the struggles and difficulties we will face. He knows the joys and excitements that we will experience. He will go before us.

He is always working ahead of where we are, preparing the road ahead.

In many areas of what I do, I’m thinking and planning many months into the future. One of the pitfalls in this is the constant temptation to focus on the “what ifs” of the future. “What if that goes wrong?” “What if we don’t do this?” “What if that doesn’t come through?” As we launched our third campus at The Chapel this past month, I definitely felt the pressure of “what if.” There were so many potential issues to tackle, and any one of them could cause serious issues to the plan.

But God reminded me over and over that He goes before us. God had initiated the work, and He was paving the way, even if it looked rough from where I was currently standing. Read More »

6Nov
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How does your default impact others?

In an earlier post, I was sharing some thoughts about how self-awareness leads to self-control. A lack of self-awareness keeps us from being able to identify issues that need to be changed, and a lot of times, those issues center around what I would call our “defaults.”

All of us have defaults – actions and behaviors that we revert to without thinking. Defaults … things we do when we we’re lacking discipline. If we’re wired to have a “short fuse” then we’ll lose our temper and spout off if we haven’t kept our heart and mind in check. If we’re wired to worry, we’ll let our thoughts spin out of control until it physically makes us ill. We go to our defaults in the absence of self-control. These defaults shouldn’t be entirely static, as we hope and trust that God is growing and maturing us. But each of us have some not-so-great defaults that we slide into when we’re not practicing self-control.

When we’re not self-aware and not disciplined, these defaults become a huge factor in how we impact those around us:

Kem Meyer who wrote a book called “Less Clutter, Less Noise” said in that book “Your life bears a message of hope and redemption. But, before people in your world encounter your message, they encounter you.” How we are perceived, how we choose to interact, and how we carry ourselves with our nonverbals – they shape the environment around us and people’s experience with us way more than what we want to be known for.

A famous philosopher once said “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” I guess it might be a stretch to call the movie character Captain Jack Sparrow a famous philosopher, but the quote is an interesting one. “The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” Read More »

6Nov

Self-Awareness

Self-control is not a very prevalent trait in our society. We see the lack of it in the news we read and, sometimes, in people we know. A psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania actually surveyed over 2 million people, asking them to rank their own strengths. Self-control was among 24 other strengths on the list, and self-control was ranked dead last on average in that survey result. Not only is it obviously absent in others, but many people realize it’s absence in themselves.

The Bible tells us that, for those of us who are disciples of Jesus, self-control is included in the fruit of the Spirit. You may be familiar with this passage, but have you ever considered what the inclusion of self-control means for us?

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Doesn’t self-control seem out of place on this list? Everything else seems possible to be divinely implanted in us – when we have the Spirit in us, we will be people of love, joy, peace, etc. But SELF-control? It’s a really interesting one in the mix. The passage doesn’t say “faithfulness, gentleness, God-controlled…” it says self. It’s a reminder that God wants us to be actively participating in the process of sanctification. He will place that ability in us to demonstrate self-control, but we have a role to play in cooperation with Him. Read More »

3Nov

Trust and unity

As of this month, I have served on staff at The Chapel in Buffalo, NY for 14 years. And in 14 years, I have seen God do amazing things – literally incredible activity in the Western New York region. I’ve also seen incredible work done to the team and culture that make up the staff team at The Chapel. The healthy culture and strong team dynamic overall can, no doubt, be credited in part to the amazing leadership we have at this church. They have been sensitive to what God has wanted to do within this team, and He has purposefully and actively shaped the staff team of this church in order to prepare and equip us for the work He is wanting to do through us. He’s led us through several new seasons, filled with a lot of change.

Change is a force that can test a team’s health in ways that might not be expected. Change reveals the cracks and pinch points like few other forces can. It always seems to be that just when things settle into a rhythm and we finally feel comfortable with one another and how we’re doing things, that change comes along and rocks the boat. It’s good, healthy change most times. But nonetheless, change that presents learning curves to how we interact with one another. And the way we interact with one another affects us greatly.

Of all the things that I’ve seen as valuable for a team to hold onto, two words surface as incredibly important – TRUST and UNITY.  Read More »

31Oct

The Flintstones!

“Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones. They’re the modern stone age family. “

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This is year #3 for our Halloween fun and lasting memories. For Jackson’s first year, he was Batman, complete with a tricked out Batmobile. Check that out here. Last year we get the whole gang together – Jackson, his sister Mila, and cousins Noah and Finn – and did up the Mario Bros theme. Check that out here.

Well, we’re not stopping in the memory-making department and so this year we set out to create the Flintstones! Read More »

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