Making Christmas Special for Your Family

December is a unique, special month.

There are parties to attend, gifts to buy, cards to send, food to make and eat, and memories to be made. Kids will be off from school, parents will be off from work, Christmas specials will be on TV.

If you plan ahead as a parent, you can make December a special month.

Here are some ideas:

Listen to Christmas music. I’m not a big fan of Christmas music. If you know me, this isn’t news. However, starting at Thanksgiving we listen to it almost non-stop until Christmas. Why? It is a good tradition. The songs are about Jesus, and my kids love music. I look for Christmas music we like and create a playlist that I load onto all of our iPods and iPads so we can listen to it wherever we are. The kids listen to Christmas music as they go to sleep. This helps to change the mood of the month and communicates that this time of year is different. It has its own music.

Take your kids on a special daddy date. Go to a park, go to Starbucks to get a treat and play a game or whatever they decide (within reason). In December I like to do something special. Usually on that daddy date I’ll take them to the store to pick out a present for their siblings. My hope is they will learn generosity and thinking of others as we talk about why we give gifts to others.

Record Christmas specials and watch them together. Kids love Christmas specials. At least my kids do. So, record them and watch them together.

The tree. Whether you go out and cut down your tree, buy one or have a fake one (like we do here in AZ), make putting up the tree special. Build it up, plan it, make your own ornaments, tell stories about the ornaments you are putting up, and listen to Christmas music while doing it.

Do a special outing as a family. Some families go caroling or sledding. Some shop on Black Friday together. One of our traditions is to go eat at the Ethiopian restaurant (one of our sons is Ethiopian) and then go look at Christmas lights.

Eat special (and bad for you) food. I’m a health nut about what I eat. At the holidays I ease off the gas pedal on that. Eat an extra dessert. Have the same thing each year to create a tradition. At our house on Christmas Eve, we make cream of crab soup and have chocolate fondue for dessert. We don’t make it any other time, so it is extra special.

Read a special book together. This year we are working our way through Lord of the Rings. We are taking extra time this month to read through it, and it is sparking some great discussions about who God is, who Jesus is, what humans are like and why we need Jesus, and who we are like in the story. Communicating the gospel to our kids doesn’t have to be difficult, and we can use books and movies to do so.

Make hot chocolate. You don’t make hot chocolate a whole lot any other time of the year. This is when you do it, and it feels extra special because of that. Load it up with marshmallows and whipped cream.

Celebrate Advent. This year our family is using a daily devotional, Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. So far it is great.

Give your wife a break. Our church closes its offices between Christmas and New Year’s so our staff slows down and has a break (and there’s a good chance you’ll have some days off or work not quite as hard). During this time I am able to give Katie some downtime to get out without the kids, take an extra coffee date with a girlfriend, or take a nap. This is a great time for you to serve your spouse. You might also pick a time in the month of December for her to sit at Starbucks alone, get her nails done, or send her and some friends to dinner.

Slow down and be together. Years from now your kids will remember very little about life as a child, but they will remember if you were there. So will you. Don’t miss it. Work isn’t that important. That party isn’t that important. Shopping for one more thing isn’t that important if it keeps you from being with those you love. I’ve been reminded recently by the illnesses of close friends of the brevity of life. If your kids ask you to snuggle or lie down with them, do it. One day they won’t ask.

Finding the Easy ‘Yes!’ in Parenting & Leadership

If you’re a parent, let me guess what your child’s first word was.


I know, you aren’t a bad parent.

You wish it was yes, Momma or Dadda. And maybe it was. But more than likely it was no, or maybe mine.

As your kids get older and they ask for things, a bike, a video game, to stay up, you get very good at saying no. It is easy. You just want some down time. You want your kids to stop bothering you.

I get it.

The same thing happens in leadership.

Someone walks into your office or grabs you after a service and says, “Why don’t we do ____?” Or, “What if we tried _____ as a church?”

And your first reaction is, “No.”

It might be a good answer. It might even be the right answer.

But what if you could find the easy, “Yes!”

I’ll give you an example.

What if your child comes to you and asks, “Can I have a piece of gum?”

You might be thinking, “Why? Why do you have to bother me?” You’re on your email, working on dinner, cleaning the bathroom, any number of things. So you reflexively say, “No, leave me alone.” Your child walks away mad or stomps or gets angry and cries.

What if you took the easy ‘yes’?

The same thing happens as a leader

Someone comes and says, “What if we tried _____?” Instead of shooting it down, what if you said, “Run with it”?

Do you need to guard the vision?


Do you need to vet ideas?


But more happens when we go for the easy ‘yes’.

Why we Get Angry at God (Jonah 4)

We get angry at God for a lot of different reasons.

We get angry when something happens we deem unfair. We get angry when something happens that we don’t think should happen. We also get angry when God moves slower than we’d like, moves different than we’d like.

Ultimately we get angry at God because we aren’t God and he doesn’t act like us.

There is a fascinating conversation between Jonah and God in Jonah 4 about Jonah’s anger towards God. Why is Jonah angry? Because God did exactly what Jonah expected God to do. Jonah knew that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Jonah 4:3) He knew that God would relent from destroying Nineveh, and that is why he is angry at God.

To me, what is amazing about the conversation is that God doesn’t get angry at Jonah. He doesn’t scold Jonah. He simply asks, “Do you do well to be angry?” In other words, are you angry for the right reasons? Is your anger adding anything to your life, to your faith, to your world?

I remember a conversation that Katie and I had 11 years ago. We were sitting up at 3am talking in our bedroom. This was one of those life defining conversations. It was raw, emotional and hard for me to hear. My sin, my stubbornness and pride had gotten us into a hard spot as a couple and in my career. I was running from God’s call to plant a church, and Katie called me on it. God was moving to bring me to where I needed to be. Dan Allender said, “When we hear the call to go and we run in the opposite direction, God has a way of having us thrown off the boat, swallowed by a large fish, and spit onto the shore where we are to serve (and be). God allows us to run and yet to know that He will arrive at our place of flight before we arrive, so He can direct our steps again.”

That’s where I was.

I was angry. Why wouldn’t God make it easier? Why did God have to send people into my life that were difficult, that left painful wounds in my life? Why didn’t he stop that?

At this point in my life, I don’t have all the answers to those questions, but I have some of them.

Like Jonah, we have good reasons to be angry. At least we are convinced they’re good reasons. And they might be good. Jonah felt Nineveh deserved justice, not mercy. They were a brutal people. How could God forgive them? Was their repentance legitimate and real? Was it fake to get mercy?

We’ve been there in relationships. We’ve been there in life. You might be there right now.

If you are, let God ask you the question he asked Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry? What is your anger adding to your life?”

To the places in your life, in your heart that you are angry with God and at God, what is your anger adding? Take family relationships. Many of us have broken family relationships that have caused us enormous scars. We are hurt, we are angry, we are isolated. Many of us have a right to be angry. But what is our anger adding? Is it causing good in your life to be angry?

With your kids, your job, your finances, what is your anger adding? What good is it doing?

Most of the time the answer is no, it is not adding anything. It is not doing any good. Most of the time, we allow people to take up space in our heart who couldn’t care less about us.

Notice, Jonah is angry but God is slow to anger.

Remember: We get angry at God because we aren’t God and God doesn’t act like us.

Like Jonah, we get mad at God because he doesn’t do what we would do or act the way we want him to.

Like Jonah, we know the words God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, but in our hearts we don’t trust those words, and we don’t embrace those words or celebrate them and what they mean.

God won’t let Jonah go and he won’t let Jonah off the hook. He wants Jonah’s heart. He doesn’t just want him to stop being angry, he wants to get to the root of why he is mad. So God appoints a plant, a worm and a scorching wind. We are being told that God can use all the good, the bad and the hard for our good. God wants Jonah’s heart and will use whatever means necessary to get it.

God wants your heart and will use whatever means necessary to get it.

This is important, so I don’t want you to miss this.

What you get angry about is important. What you are angry at God for right now is important.

Because when we get angry, we know we are on to something. We know we have hit on something that matters, something we need to dig into. Whenever you are angry, you must stop and ask why and what is happening in that moment, because your anger is revealing something you must face, you must deal with. It is important to you, and it is important to the state of your heart.

That is the invitation God is giving to Jonah and to us as the book of Jonah ends.

What are you angry at? Is that a good thing to be angry at?

7 Ideas to Help Your Kids Grow Spiritually

How do you help your kids grow spiritually?

As our kids have gotten older, this is a question Katie and I get on a regular basis. It is one we’ve gotten right in certain seasons, and in others we’ve wandered around lost. Sometimes things that we do work really well, and other times they fall apart.

Here are seven ideas for you as a parent to help your kids grow spiritually:

1. Model your spiritual life to them. The reality of anything related to parenting is that you pass on what you do. If you want to pass anything on to your kids spiritually, you must model it for them. They will watch you for 18+ years. They will see you read your Bible (or not), how often you pray and what your prayers contain (so much is taught in this), how often you attend church and how important spiritual things are to you.

2. Involve them in a church. Just like the first one, they will often do what you do. So do what you’d like to see them do.

What if they don’t like church? Many parents will talk about how their kids don’t like to attend church, attend a worship service or something else. Many times I’ll hear parents say, “I don’t want to force spiritual things onto my kids.” This is often from a place of fear as a parent because you don’t know what to do, but also the fear that your kids will reject it and want nothing to do with Christianity. The problem with this is that we don’t apply this to anything else. We force our kids to do math, learn a language, eat broccoli, turn off their electronics and take a nap, often when they hate every moment of it.

If you don’t involve them in a church, when do you think they will learn that? If they don’t understand an aspect of a worship service, explain it to them. If you don’t know what to tell them, do some research together.

I think it’s important as often as possible for kids and students to be involved in small groups, serving in a church and attending the worship service in a church. Is every kid different? Yes. Should you force your kids to do something they dislike? Sometimes.

Our kids take out the trash and dislike it, but they still do it. I don’t think they’ll be scarred as adults because of that.

3. Read the Bible together. Part of why kids dislike church is they don’t understand the relevance of the Bible and the things that happen at church. It is something their parents do, apart from them. So do it with them.

I know this is difficult, and they don’t always want to sit still, but doing something is better than nothing.

For our family, we’ve tried things like the Jesus Storybook Bible when the kids were younger to using a catechism now so we have a question each week we are working through as a family. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something.

4. Read books to them. One of the things you can do is read books to your kids and discuss the spiritual themes in them. Whenever we watch a movie, we always talk about how it is like the one true story we see in Scripture. What are the themes and how do those themes influence us?

5. Listen to their questions. This might be one of the most overlooked aspects of your kids’ spiritual life because it is out of your control as a parent and doesn’t come on a schedule. But your kids have questions, and when they ask them, engage them. Don’t shoo them away or scold them for asking a question. If they are skeptical or have doubts, talk with them.

This is an incredibly powerful message you are sending them as their parent. You are telling them it is okay to ask questions, to wonder about something, to be unsure.

If you don’t know the answer, tell them and then study it together.

Ask them why they are curious about that. This engages their life. Is it in a book, a show, from a friend? This is an important window into their world.

6. Interact with their friends and talk with your kids about how to pick friends. Don’t sit on the sidelines when it comes to their friends.

You have an enormous impact on their spiritual lives, but so do their friends. Be involved in that.

7. Pray for them. If you’re a follower of Jesus you know this, but it is easy to overlook the power in it.

If you aren’t praying for your kids, who do you think is?

Pray for them. Pray with them. Ask them what you can pray for, even if they say nothing, which will often happen as they get older.

Are these sure fire ways to make sure your kids grow spiritually? No.

There isn’t a sure fire answer to almost anything in parenting, but parenting is about involvement and trying and faith. Lots of it.

How to Love Your Family

Let’s be honest about families. They are incredible. They bring us love, joy and a ton of great memories.

They can also be difficult, painful, hurtful and wreck our lives (at least a portion of them).

We often underestimate the impact that our families have on our lives and the kind of people we become.

Who we become has a lot to do with where we came from, who we grew up with and what that house and family were like. The person we marry has an enormous impact on our lives and what they are like.

As we think about being a follower of Jesus, loving our family doesn’t often come into our thinking. We hear Jesus say we are to love our neighbor, so we look around us to figure out who to love. Yet, our family members are our neighbors, too. This is one of the biggest missed opportunities to show the love of God and impact lives.

In Colossians 3:18 – 21, the apostle Paul lays out what a family is supposed to be like, what a husband and wife do and what children are to be like. But before he gets there, he lays the foundation in verses 1 – 17 of what a family does and what is the environment of a family. While similar to the list in 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous love chapter), this is a little different.

If we are to love families (and we are), how do we do that?

Paul tells us by giving us a list (so buckle up for all you list people!):

Who are defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness or gentleness and patience.

These words should define every family, every marriage and every parent.

Compassion: For the perfectionist who gets mad because family members mess up and don’t pull their weight. Don’t correct them; show compassion. Maybe there’s a good reason they dropped the ball.

This is looking out for the people around you. Do they have what they need?

As I shared in a recent sermon, being holy means that we are to imitate, to image God. What kind of grace and compassion does he show?

Kindness: There is no place for smugness, superiority, anger, malice or contempt in the heart of a Christian and their relationships. No place.

Kindness is caring about the feelings and desires of others.

Humility: Humility is putting the other person or other family members first. Not getting your way. Not always being right.

Humility allows us to serve others without worrying about getting noticed.

One of the biggest areas of fighting in families centers on: I think I do more than you, and you need to start pulling your weight. I think I should get thanked more than I do, noticed more than I do.

That’s not humility and has no place.

Yes, discuss who will do what in a family, but you should not be fighting over who does what chore and who does more in a family. That’s sin. That’s pride. That’s arrogance.

Gentleness: Meekness or gentleness makes allowances for others. This is grace giving in relationships. This is knowing you will be let down and sinned against and yet giving grace.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have consequences or confront something, but give grace.

In your speech, are you gentle? Do your spouse or kids fear when you open your mouth? Do they fear your presence?

These are words, silences, sighs, eye rolls, your presence.

Here’s a great question to ask on a regular basis: What is it like to be on the other side of me?

Let me give you this challenge. Ask someone close to you today that question.

We underestimate the power of our presence in people’s lives.

Patience: Toe tapping, standing at the front door asking if they’re ready yet. Wanting people to hurry up and get their act together, pick a major, stick with a job, stop being so flighty.

That’s not patience.

Patience says, “I’ll wait. I have time to talk even though all I want you to do right now is go to sleep.”

When our relationships are defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness or gentleness and patience, things change. People change. Our hearts soften to those around us, and their hearts have the chance to soften towards ours.

Think about one relationship you have, a close one. Which of these could you apply today that would bring change to that relationship? Not drastic change, although that would be nice. But change. A small step towards each other.

Why Loving Your Family is So Hard

Let’s be honest about families. They are incredible. They bring us love, joy and a ton of great memories.

They can also be difficult, painful, hurtful and wreck our lives (at least a portion of them).

We often underestimate the impact that our families have on our lives and the kind of people we become.

Who we become has a lot to do with where we came from, who we grew up with and what that house and family were like. The person we marry has an enormous impact on our lives and what they are like.

As we think about being a follower of Jesus, loving our family doesn’t often come into our thinking. We hear Jesus say we are to love our neighbor, so we look around us to figure out who to love. Yet, our family members are our neighbors, too. This is one of the biggest missed opportunities to show the love of God and impact lives.

In Colossians 3:18 – 21, the apostle Paul lays out what a family is supposed to be like, what a husband and wife do and what children are to be like. But before he gets there, he lays the foundation in verses 1 – 17 of what a family does and what is the environment of a family. While similar to the list in 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous love chapter), this is a little different.

Before getting there, let me ask you a question: Who is the hardest person in your family to love?

As Paul tells us how to love and live, he does so by comparing two kinds of people: those who are dead in their sin (not followers of Jesus) and those who have been brought into new life in Christ.

This takes away our excuse about loving difficult people, because Paul shows us that through Jesus we have been loved. And we are difficult to love. Apart from God’s grace, we are broken and sinful.

In light of that, Paul tells us what should be true of our relationships and what should not be true of our relationships.

First, the negative side (what shouldn’t be true):

Sexual Immorality: He starts with sexual immorality, impurity, lust and evil desires. Sexual desire is hardwired into us as humans, but because we are sinful we distort our sexual desire.

Whenever the phrase sexual immorality is used in the NT, it is a junk drawer word. It means anything outside of God’s design for sex within the confines of marriage.

Why? Is God trying to ruin our fun?

He knows that when we distort sex and sexual desire we end up hurt and broken. In dating relationships that become sexual, the couple simply feels closer than they actually are, and that covers up issues that should be dealt with.

Greed: Greed refers to the belief that everything, including people, exists for your own personal purposes. Do you see how that would be destructive in a family?

We so easily fall into thinking that our family, spouse and kids are there for our benefit, our pleasure, to build us up and to make us feel good.

We look to them to complete us, to fix us. We look to them to complete them, to fix them.

Think about it like this: Most people love that they aren’t alone instead of loving the other person in the relationship. This is a crucial question to ask: Do you love your spouse, kids, parents? Or do you love not being alone?

The answer to that will determine how you treat them.

Don’t believe me? The next one he lists is in so many relationships.

Anger: We reserve so much anger for those who are closest to us. We will say things to them that we wouldn’t even say in the comfort of Facebook. We are brutal to our family sometimes.

Anger refers to a chronic feeling, not simply outbursts of rage.

It is an attitude, a contempt you feel towards someone.

This happens when we feel and act superior to someone close to us. We put them down. We tell them they are too emotional, too stupid, too needy.

This is when we pull away to get our way, to get what we want.

You might say, “But I’m not emotional. I’m a non-feeler.”

Do you know one of the reasons non-feelers get angry? To avoid being vulnerable. This is why we get up from a conversation, slam a door, storm out, fold our arms and shake our heads. We do this so we don’t have to engage a feeling, and it is dangerous.

Here’s a way it shows up in a family: When one person feels like they do all the work and the other person (spouse or child) doesn’t pull their weight. You work so much and they don’t do as much as you think they should.

Being judgmental and critical. We do this with family members more than anyone else. Why? Because they are stuck with us.

How does wrath, malice and anger show up in families? Through resentment and bitterness.

Words: The last thing Paul talks about is our speech, our words.

It is interesting how much the New Testament talks about our words.

We say the worst things to the people closest to us.

Words carry enormous power in our lives.

We don’t normally tell another person we hate them or never want to see them again. We rarely tell our friends, “I’m afraid I’m going to be stuck with you. You’re too emotional. You’re too controlling.”

Yet, we say those things all the time to our kids and our spouse.

He ends with, don’t lie to each other. Be truthful.

Do you see any of these things in your heart? In any relationships you have?

So, what do you do? My next post will unpack how to love your family and those closest to you.

Family Devotions, Train Wrecks, Praying as a Couple & the Grace to Move Forward

If you’re a man and attend church, you’ve heard a pastor say, “You need to be leading your family spiritually.” Yet many men struggle with this. I know I do.

On a regular basis I’ll sit with a man and he’ll ask me, “How do I lead my wife spiritually? When I’ve tried, I’ve been terrible at it. How do I start?”

Family devotions sound incredibly intimidating and scary for many men. Most men look at their spiritual lives and that of their wife and think, “She’s more spiritual than I am. She’s smarter than I am. She’s more mature spiritually than I am.” There’s a good chance that if you are like most couples, she is.

Now, before giving some ideas, let me say up front that this is hard. Devotions for many couples and families are train wrecks. Kids don’t sit still, they go on tangents, it feels stale or simply feels like you aren’t moving forward at all. The picture of the couple who rises at 5am, drinks coffee and reads their Bibles together while holding hands is not reality for many people. Kids who sit still and listen is also not a reality. (I have four boys, and keeping them in their seats for anything can be monumental.)

Here are a few ideas:

1. Do something. Most couples and families suffer because they don’t do anything. Just do something. You’ll see in a minute that trying different ideas might be a good idea, but simply do something. Even if it is asking, “What is God teaching you right now? Where have you seen God at work recently?”

2. Find what works for you. What works for one family and couple may or may not work for you.

When Katie and I got married, we probably got at least 10 couple’s devotionals for our wedding. We read through many of them, laughed at many of the ridiculous questions they asked and then handed them off to another couple (sorry if you got one). They just didn’t work for us. Neither did rising at 5am to drink coffee and read together. These work for many couples, and that’s great.

Whatever you do, find what works for you as a couple.

For Katie and me, we don’t do couple’s devotions. We often don’t read the same parts of the Bible at the same time or even the same books. We sometimes do, but we often talk about what God is teaching us. We’ll listen to a podcast together, or I’ll find things she should listen to or books she should read.

For us, our spiritual journey together is often debriefing. This keeps us on the same page and keeps us growing together.

3. Decide doing something consistently (even if mediocre) is better than doing something inconsistently that is incredible. More than likely, especially when it comes to family devotions, it will feel mediocre at best and a train wreck at worst. Don’t quit.

Have the long view on this.

Also, and don’t miss this, kids catch more than you think. I am continually surprised at what my kids catch, pick up and remember. That conversation you think they slept through (and if you have teenagers they may have slept through it), they may have picked up 30% of it.

So, build on that.

4. Give some grace. Regardless, give yourself, your kids and your spouse some grace.

One of the things Katie will often encourage women when it comes to this topic is to be okay with your husband fumbling his way through this. Most husbands (even pastors) are not very good at leading their families spiritually. They have a picture in their mind of what it should look like (but it rarely gets there). They feel like they are failing their wife, boring their kids and failing God. They also feel guilt because they should be doing this and doing it better than they are.

So give grace. Celebrate doing something. When it was a train wreck, say it was a nice train wreck. We survived. Our kids heard the gospel and we tried. And we’ll try again tomorrow.

The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: Loneliness

If you talk to any pastor or his wife and ask them about friends, more than likely you will get a sad, longing look. Many pastors and their wives are lonely. They have been betrayed, hurt, and left out.

As I’ve been sharing the weights and joys (Preaching God’s word every weekYou can’t change peopleGod’s call on your lifeSeeing life changePeople under you are counting on youGod using youWhat God thinks of you and Communicating God’s word) of being a pastor, the loneliness a pastor and his wife experience can be unique to this role.

Weight #5: Loneliness

Why is this true? Because you are a part of the community you are leading, and it is hard for you and for them to change hats. When you are the pastor, you are always the pastor. People always see you this way. You always see them as someone you lead, care for and shepherd.

This is kind of the culmination of the previous four. I think one of the biggest weights that many pastors carry is the weight of loneliness. What we do is not a job, it is a calling. I heard someone once say, “If you want a job, go get one; this one gets you.”

As pastors, not only do we carry the weight of a job (bills, staff, expectations, workload, church happening every week), but we also carry the confidentiality that comes with it; knowing the truth in many situations but not being able to share it.

Much of what a pastor does is in the context of being alone. While pastors are learning how to include other leaders in vision and preaching, which is important, and pastors are also releasing power and responsibility to other leaders so that others help to carry the load, which is also good, the reality is, the pastor still carries much of the weight of the church. The pastor and his family are often the ones attacked by those in the church, outside the church and Satan.

This was not clear to me before becoming a lead pastor. For me, spiritual warfare and attacks from people were there but not something that happened a lot. In my house, you can always tell when it is Saturday night as Satan seems to do whatever he can to throw off my rhythm, put a wedge in between Katie and me, and do what he can to keep our kids from sleeping. I grew up in a church environment that believed in spiritual warfare and demons but didn’t give a lot of credence to it. While the other end of the spectrum sees a demon behind every door, spiritual warfare for me growing up was left more to what Satan did to tempt you. When we lower spiritual warfare, we also lower the need for the power of God. It is possible, though, to fixate too much on spiritual warfare and attacks, to see a demon around every corner, and for that to become the focus of our lives. There is a balance that is needed.

The reality of this is that it is lonely. One person gets up in front of their church and opens God’s Word [add link]. It is weighty, there is a lot riding on it, God is working in people’s lives and eternity is literally at stake. That is weighty and often lonely.

When people attack the pastor, where do they turn? When the pastor is weighed down by things, where do they turn? What about the pastor’s spouse? This is often the most difficult position in the entire church. They see what is said about their spouse, they hear it, they feel the pain, they see the sleepless nights, the exhaustion, and are often unsure of what to do.

For Katie and me, we’ve developed some things that help.

  • Retreat day. Once a month I do a spiritual retreat day. This is a time for God to refresh me, speak and listen. I go with my Bible, a journal and some worship music, and that’s it.
  • Sabbath. I cannot say enough about how important it is to set aside one day a week to just stop. Even though it is all over the Bible, Christians everywhere, especially pastors, pretend that it is a suggestion.
  • Meet with a counselor or spiritual director. I can always tell when it is time. (Scratch that. Katie can always tell when it is time.) My pastoral counselor or spiritual director helps in discerning where God is moving, what He is saying and how to sort through the last month and the feelings that go with life. This is important because pastors are good at doing this for others but not for themselves.
  • Have people praying for you. Katie and I have people in our church and outside of our church praying for different things. This is huge and often overlooked.
  • Be low key on Saturday. Since church is on Sunday, we try to make Saturday night fun and low key. We don’t have any intense, serious conversations, we avoid stressful situations and do something fun and relaxing. And get some sleep!
  • Have friends. Get some men around you who understand. Too many pastors are walking it alone. Get some people who understand the weight of it, let them encourage you, lift you up in prayer and just generally be there.

Are You Giving Your Kids the Right Life?


If you ask any parent, “What do you want for your kids?”, eventually you will hear, “I want them to have the life I never had.” They may not sound like that, but parents want their kids to have everything. Yes, we want them to be smart, courteous, have character, show kindness and generosity, but we want them to have it all.

Does every parent want that?


If that’s not you, thanks for reading and you can scroll to the next blog.

But let me ask this question: Are you giving your kids the right life?

Many parents, in an effort to make sure their kids have every opportunity, get the best schooling, play on sports teams and have opportunities for future advancement, go to extreme measures. Parents work long hours or multiple jobs so that they can have the money to pay for all those activities. They run kids from one team, one program, one practice to the next. They push and push so that kids are getting less sleep and growing up faster.

Then you throw this in with what the parents think their kids want for the rest of their lives.

Let me give you an example.

I overheard someone recently talking about their kids and how much both parents were working. This parent said, “My kids are starting to complain that my wife and I aren’t around enough for them because we work too much.” Someone in the group asked, “What did you say?” The parent looked at the group and said, “I told them, ‘You want nice things, don’t you? You want to go on nice vacations and live in the house we have and do the things we do, don’t you?'”

If you can picture the scene, you can imagine the awkward silence that followed.

The answer to that question, if this child answered honestly, would probably be, “Not really.”

I walked away sad for this family but also convicted by this question: Am I giving my kids the life they want, the life they need or the life I think they should have?

It’s a convicting question.

Often I give my kids the life I want them to have. The life that reflects well on me. The life that feels easier or less stressful as a parent.

Not always, but it is easy to fall into.

This is one reason that Katie and I created a family mission statement a few years ago. I detailed the process we went through and what ours is in my book Breathing Room: Stressing Less and Living More.

The problem for parents is, in the hustle and bustle of life, we don’t know the kind of kids we are raising. We have never asked ourselves, “What is the goal of parenting? What will our kids be like when they leave our house?”

Without clarifying that, we end up giving our kids the life everyone else is going for.

But what if that isn’t the life you want for your kids or the life they need?

How to Have Energy for Your Spouse When Your Kids Exhaust You


All parents run into this. They want to spend time with their kids. They want to spend time with their spouse. They want to have friends, hobbies and a life. Yet when you have kids, you find yourself exhausted at the end of the day.

Katie and I often get asked how to have energy for your spouse at the end of the day when your kids exhaust you. Here are some of our thoughts:

1. Evaluate your schedule. Why are you tired? Why do you feel like you and your spouse don’t have enough time with each other? How many activities are you running your kids to? Often the reason that you are too tired for your spouse is because of the season you are in; other times it is simply your fault. Many times we don’t put our spouse in our schedule. I realize how unromantic that sounds, but I say this all the time: You have all the time to do everything you want to do. And that includes time with your spouse. If you want to have time to be with them, put it in your calendar. Date nights don’t just happen. Conversations don’t just happen.

2. Decide ahead of time what the night will look like. At some point in the day, Katie and I will have a conversation in person, on the phone or over text that goes like this: “What do you want tonight to look like?”

This helps to set clear expectations for the night. Do you need time to talk, time alone, to watch TV, be quiet, take a walk? Is your spouse in the mood for sex? Having those conversations ahead of time helps to keep feelings from getting hurt.

The other side of this is that it helps you both to prepare. If you are tired but your spouse wants to talk or have sex, knowing that ahead of time helps you gear up for the evening.

3. Communicate to your kids your expectations for them. In the same way that you and your spouse need to be on the same page, you and your kids need to be on the same page. Your kids need to know that time as a couple is the most important thing in your family. Remember, one day your kids will move out, so your marriage matters more than your relationship with your kids. Make sure they know what the expectations are for the evening. This will take time, but it is crucial. One of the ways you create security for your kids is by communicating the security of your marriage.

4. Remove barriers. There are a lot of barriers to deepening your marriage relationship; some of them are ones you create, and others are ones that just happen. Many of the barriers that keep a couple from connecting has to do with electronics. I know some families put their phones in a basket at night or have a no electronics policy at dinner. Get rid of the things that are keeping you from connecting as a couple.