POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

The Double Pain of a Sports Injury

Over the past week our family has been hurting a bit. Our oldest, Kayla, a.k.a. Kayla Joy, a.k.a Joy, a.k.a. baby duck suffered a devastating injury on the football pitch. After a feet first tackle by the opposing goal keeper she was left with a tibial-fibular fracture and a level of physical trauma that was quite shocking. With the excellent work of a top surgeon along with a fantastic titanium nail from Smith and Nephew, the team has put our girl back together again. Though the road to full recovery is long, we are now taking the first steps in that journey.

First steps and back on our feet  

First steps and back on our feet  

The injury has me thinking about and meditating on the nature of pain. And a pain in two kinds. First and most obvious is the physical pain of having you leg bones crunched in the storm of a violent collision. We have good meds for that in 2016 but the physical pain is still a shocking and present reality. Furthermore, as bone breaks go, the larger the bone the more painful when it breaks. The femur is supposedly #1 (do follow that link if you need a laugh) and the tibia is a close #2. It's hard to watch someone you love go through such things.

Yet there is a pain of a second kind that rapidly descends upon an athlete in the aftermath of injury. It arrives upon the tracks of loss and uncertainty.

Loss

Many high level athletes have literally played their sport almost their entire lives. Though only 14, our Kayla has literally played the game of football/soccer in an organized fashion for two thirds of her life. If you add in kicking balls around from a very young age, soccer had been a part of her story as long as she has literal memories. When a leg breaks part of your story breaks of suddenly as well. The regular training sessions, the games, the travel, the tournaments and the constant presence of teammates all comes to a sudden and grinding halt. It's almost as if part of you is suddenly gone. The loss is painful and the physical pain that lingers reminds you of the loss. It's no wonder that when a player is seriously injured that teammates rally to that player. The empathy and understanding of what is lost is grasped  by all. And as an aside, thank you to the coaches, teammates and supportive leadership of FC Copa Academy in this time. 

Uncertainty

Along with the quick realization of loss another fear visits the soul. The doubt and uncertainty about the future. Life is suddenly changed. You cannot walk on your own.  Sleeping is difficult and you have to get to the bathroom over and over and over again. With such sudden change you also begin to ask the questions: Can I come back from this? How long will it take? Will I be my old self? Will I come back better? What about my future dreams for the game? Are those in jeopardy? Who am I, really, apart from these things that I do? The spectre of uncertainty does not wait to visit the soul. That deranged spirit just lands upon you without delay. It brings a certain aching to the heart. 

My wife and I, both former athletes, also feel these emotions and psychological difficulties vicariously because we have walked in these shoes. The memory of losing my final year of collegiate wrestling to a labrum tear in my shoulder comes rushing back even now. As parents, watching the physical pain and knowing the turmoil inside my girl just breaks the fatherly heart a bit. 

The Christian athlete faces all of these issues and perhaps some theological questions related to providence and the sovereignty of God. Yet the Christian athlete, like my daughter have many great benefits.

  • She has the great benefit of the constant grace and care of a good, good Father.
  • She has a present help in the time of trouble and a strength to face fear. (Psalm 46).
  • She has the great Helper (John 14:25-27) and High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) walking with her in deepest times of need. 
  • She has the church family encouraging her along the way (John 13:34,35; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11),
  • She has presence of God ever with her to strengthen her heart (Isaiah 43:1-11; John 16:33; Hebrews 13:20,21) and
  • She has the knowledge and contentment that "we can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13. Here it can appropriately applied to sport)

As I wrote earlier, youth sports is a great place of need for mission and the gospel; it is also a great arena for sanctification and life change. Even, no especially, in the seasons of double pain. 

Love you Joy! With you #everystepoftheway  

 

Youth Sports - Part 2

Good morning friends. Yesterday I posted an article about engagement with youth sports. That essay was edited by my brilliant 14-year-old daughter who is a great writer in her own right. 

Later yesterday afternoon that same sweet girl suffered a crushing injury on the soccer field snapping both her tibia and her fibula in her lower right leg.

This too has taught us much about God, his kindness and some terrible pain and utter sadness. Yesterday as we rode in the ambulance she asked me to read her the Psalms so her heart would be drawn to the Lord and her heart at peace in the midst of the pain and the crazy. I read to her the 63rd Psalm: 

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

- Psalm 63:1-8

My little girl is a beautiful soul. Today we will have some reconstructive surgery where a rod will be placed into her tibia. Please pray for us in the days ahead and all of those who surround us…church, family and our soccer community. We are all praying that the Lord would use everything to express his grace and glory to many. 

Love in Christ, for the Monaghan Home Team

Reid  

Books I enjoyed in 2015

The Bible says that of "the making of many books there is no end and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecclesiastes 12:12) In other words, there are many words not worth reading. Certainly the words of the wise and the Words of God are the guides of life and there are many books not worth the bits and bytes they are produced in. Yet there are some good ones to read. Here are a few of the books where I found some joy this past year.

The Bible

I've been reading and teaching in a few main biblical texts in the most of 2015

My continued love of history and creative Non Fiction dominated my audiobook reading again this year and continues to be my favorite genre of music to listen to ;-). The following were fantastic reads in 2015. All my car, exercise and yard work time is occupied with these sorts of friends...and a few podcasts.

In terms of explicitly Christian market books I enjoyed the following...

Power of Change in 2016

Friends, 

As many of you may be aware, Kasey and I will be transitioning with our family out of New Jersey in the summer of 2016. We thank the Lord for all he has used us for in the Garden State and the Northeast during the last seven or so years. You can read the letter we shared with our church to catch you up to date here. We are thankful for our Jacob's Well  family and are so looking forward to all they will do in service of our King in New Jersey. We are thankful to continue to serve and remain connected with both Jacob's Well and The Acts 29 Network in fruitful partnership for many years to come.

As we look towards the future there are some changes coming to Power of Change. Beginning in 1996 Power of Change (POC) was the name of our newsletter to our supporters of our ministry with Athletes in Action. POC then became the domain and name of our web site when powerofchange.org rolled out. It morphed into a blog format and will soon undergo its most significant change yet. Power of Change will be birthed as a ministry to impact and influence the coming generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Over the first half of 2016 we will be working on incorporating and relocating our family to Blacksburg, VA which was our home from 1998-2004. We will base our ministry there as we move forward in God's calling. It is our hope to serve in some specific ways in the years ahead should God give grace.  Blacksburg is a university town which is home to Virginia Tech and will also allow me to base close to family as I serve broadly in ministry. 

We are currently in the midst of work to brand, incorporate, file for 501c3 status and build the proper systems to support the ministry. We are also praying and dreaming about how the Lord may use us in days ahead.  Check on the branding work my good friend Weylon Smith has already completed for us. Pretty sweet.

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Colors and Application

Colors and Application

We are also quite exhausted as we finish up our 20th year of full time ministry together. We need to rest and refresh a bit and that is one of our objectives for late 2016 as we get things moving with Power of Change. Much more to come in terms of details and vision for sure but we are thankful for God's grace, humbled by his call and looking forward to the journey ahead. The power of change lies with the power of God and we are still hung up on he who is the truth and his Kingdom that is to come. 

If you are interested in being on our mailing list, supporting the work and keeping in touch, drop us a note here and I'll add you to the email list.

Much love and grace in Christ

Reid, on behalf of the Monaghan Home Team

 

Walking with the Little Ones - Parenting in the Toddler Years Part 3 - Presence

Part 3 - Presence

Photo by Photodisc/Photodisc / Getty Images

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we’ve taken a look at why both “discipline” and “instruction” are essential to leading little ones. At a young age discipline needs to be established so that children understand boundaries, basic household rules and the order of good authority that God has placed in the home. We don’t discipline to punish, we discipline to shape, guide and create an environment for discipleship. When our homes have order, not fear or a punitive culture, the possibility to teach and instruct becomes a wonderful opportunity.

At the start of this series we used an acronym to make it memorable DTPL (G) – which pretty much means nothing other than Discipline, Teaching, Presence and Love (Grace). In Part 3 I want us to look at the third letter, P, which stands for “presence.”

In the Bible we find God revealed to us as “Father” and us his daughters and sons by faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit forms the fellowship of the church which is one big family of families with God himself being our head and leader. One of the things we find in both the Old and New Testaments, and throughout church history, is that God is present with his people. Consider this short smattering of verses to simply serve as a small illustration of the massive biblical theme of the presence of God:

Old Testament

  • God with our first parents in the garden (Genesis 1-2)
  • Sin as separation from God (Genesis 3)
  • Pillar of Fire, Cloud – God with and leading his people (Exodus 13, 14)
  • The ancient tabernacle – the presence of God among the people in the camp (Exodus 26)
  • Moses’ confidence was only if the presence of God went with the people (Exodus 33:12-16)
  • Promise of presence – I will be their God, they shall be my people (Ezekiel 37:15-28)
  • The Temple – where God’s presence dwelled (2 Chronicles 5)

New Testament

  • Jesus was called Emmanuel – God with us (Matthew 1)
  • The Word became Flesh – The Son of God dwelling/tabernacling with humanity as one of us (John 1:1-3, 14)
  • Jesus the New Temple (Mark 11)
  • The Church as a place of presence (Ephesians 2:11-22, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
  • The Communion Table as a place of presence and fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:14-22, Revelation 3:20)
  • He is with us in his mission (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:4, 5)
  • The Kingdom of Heaven – The dwelling place of God in man (Revelation 21:3)

The promises of God are that he will be with us!!! His presence leads us, His presence assures us, His presence shows us love and grace, His presence guides us, His presence disciplines us, His presence convicts us and His presence allows us to trust his heart when we don’t understand our present circumstances.

I say all this to make one central point about parenting. The Fatherhood of God is an up close and personal reality for the believer. Parenting should be an up close, personal reality for families with kids.

Our kids need to know their Mom and Dad as they are discipled and taught. Parents should desire to win the hearts of their children when they are young, not lose them because we are always scurrying around for anything and everything. What I want to say next I want to say clearly but gently. Our culture has also bought into a stupid idea that if we can get “quality time” together then our families will be close, connected and fruitful. The problem is in our definition. The truth is that quality time IS quantity time. To know their Mommy and Daddy, children need to be with you and not simply for half an hour a week. If your kids don’t know your hearts, you will not have quality “forced quick time” with them. In fact, without time given to your kids, they will not want to be with you. As they get older, they will find better things to do than “quality time” with ole Mom and Dad. Fathers, be with your kids often and intentionally from the time they are young. I have two kids who are now in middle school and we are very close. Why? Because we have been since day one. I’ve made sure that I’m around for them.

We live in a world where we must work and work hard in the hustle and bustle of the east coast. Moms and Dads both are running hard and fast to juggle work, kids activities, schooling options and serving others in ministry and mission. Finding time to listen to kids, be into what they are into, to give focus to their faces and not to our phones is a huge challenge. DO IT! Without presence our voices grow small, our kids’ opinions of us weaken and our opportunity to be guides who give wisdom are diminished over time. A few quick ideas to close.

Finding a Place with Your Kids

Expose them to your Loves – when your kids are young do things that you love with them. Expose them to your heart, your hobbies and the quirkiness of what is uniquely you. It’s no coincidence that our kids like sports, reading books, audiobooks, country music (wife did that), marvel comic universe (not DC haters but it is superior), asking questions, sci-fi and fantasy movies.

Follow their Loves Fully – Your kids will take up interests of their own that you never cared for or wouldn’t choose yourself. Follow those interests any way. Play with LEGOS, ponies, trains named Thomas and cuties from the littlest pet shop. Read about dinosaurs and clone wars and talk about whether Yoda can really beat Vader. Listen to the musical instruments, listen to stories about fish caught with Grandpa and hear about the books you wouldn’t read and delight in their delight in these things. You might even learn to love something you previously hated…like soccer. ;-)

Listen, Listen, Listen – My daughters have more words than I could ever imagine. I’m there to listen to anything and everything. Yes, it takes patience and focus and sometimes it’s just hard for the old man to keep up, but I want to hear what’s going on with the kiddos. My son wants to talk about what dinosaur is the toughest and who would win in T-Rex vs Raptor fights. I’m in – I’m in to listen. This does mean putting down the phone and unplugging from work and social media to hear the hearts of your kids. If you are present, you can listen.

Do Stuff with them – We go to practices, school plays, movies, meals out together and all sorts of activities. Just this summer I’ve ridden roller coasters until I’m green with one and laid around and chilled with another just to spend some time together.

Apologize and Repent – Kids need to know you are sorry when you mess up and see your own repentance and faith in life. If you are distracted, working too much, ignoring your kids and simply there but not there with them…apologize, repent, do different. I’ve found that husbands and wives can help one another in seeing that one or the other needs time with the kids or a particular kid. You are not perfect, you’ll have your face in the phone too much. Just own it and move forward together. 

Debrief Life in the Moments God Supplies – There are moments in life where God gives time with the little ones to debrief, teach and exhort and encourage. After an emotional disappointment, after a disagreement with a sibling or another kid, after they’ve been told no about something, before a game or heading home from first day in school. There are precious moments that are teachable.

Being present with your kids early and often in life means that you have been through the ups and downs of the world of KIDdom so that you are a trusted and wise voice. Later on your little ones will hit many life transitions. They will go to school, hit puberty, transitions to middle, high school and college, deal with the drama of “dating”, choosing a spouse and maybe having their own kids. If you’ve been present in the game from the start you’ll have the potential of a relationship with them through it.

When my oldest hit her teen years we had a very clear re-definition of our relationship. I told her my role is shifting to being a guide as she makes more and more of her own choices. We have watched a lot of Bear Grylls’ Man vs Wild over the years so I gave her this metaphor. Life is like Bear hanging on a tree limb going down a white water rapid filled river. Because he is wise he knows the water flow that shows a boulder is under the surface or where deep swirling undertow currents reside. Life is like heading down that river. I’m just going to point things out to you as you are making your way. There’s a big rock coming up, watch out for that swirling eddy! You will make choices, I’m here to help as a guide who loves you. Trust my voice, I will trust yours. Let’s do this.

Be present my friends. God is here for us. He has placed us here for the little ones. Love them well.

Part four will focus on the L(G) or the Love/Grace function. The most important parenting principles of all. Until next time…stay in the game with your kids.

Walking with the Little Ones - Parenting in the Toddler Years Part 2 - Teaching

I earlier began a discussion of walking with little ones in the years between toddling and beginning more formal schooling in the flow and setting of your choosing. I gave our discussion a little structure by giving it a cool acronym to make it memorable DTPL(G) – which pretty much means nothing other than Discipline, Teaching, Presence and Love (Grace).

Photo by Andreas Rodriguez/iStock / Getty Images

The first focus was given to setting up a structure of discipline in the lives of our families so that kids learn to listen to right authority and respond well to their parents. That essay can be found here on the blog as well.

The reasons we discipline are many but the one of the main reasons isn’t so little people do the random commands of what big people say. Discipline allows proper respect and honor for God and one another so that we might follow his purposes as a family. Disciplined kids are actually teachable kids and one of the clear mandates parents have is to be good teachers of their children.

Much can be said on the role of teaching and the wheres and whys our instruction. Some of what I’m sharing here I’ve taught and shared in other contexts. For my purposes here I want to focus on the biblical call to teach our kids and then learning to do that in a rhythm that connects to our culture and the age of our kids.

The Biblical Call

It is a great shame today that teaching and education is unhinged from ultimate reality and the fountain of true knowledge. Truth can be taught about all manner of subjects without it being connected to God. We do not want our kids to think that knowledge and learning are disconnected from God and faith in Christ. With our kids I’ve prayed and worked towards the following goals in teaching them things.

  1. I want them to be humble in all their learning
  2. I want them to love truth and the process of learning
  3. I want them to understand that they have been given minds to honor and glorify Father, Son and Holy Spirit and serve for the good of other human beings.

So with my kids we have used a phrase, derived from Biblical truth, to posture ourselves in a life for learning. The phrase is simple and a bit over the top but I’ve done this with my kids very early in the toddler years once basic language abilities have formed. The phrase is: The Bifurcation of Knowledge. It’s a goofy big word sort of phrase but I hope you will see why this is a foundational starting point for us teaching our kids. It flows forth from a passage in the Old Testament law:

Deuteronomy 29:29 - The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Knowing this passage of Scripture gives us great humility. It shows us that we are finite, we do not know and cannot know all that God knows. Yet it also gives great hope that knowledge is possible and attainable and that extreme skepticism about learning is unwarranted. We must believe that all learning is not a wasted spinning of the brain. Humility and awe for God and a love for learning; this is the goal. It is my prayer that my kids have the idea of learning very much connected to God who created them to do just that.

For parents, the Scriptures teach us our responsibility to be teachers in Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6. These passages give clarity to this calling upon our lives. We will look at these in turn.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

As God was giving his law through Moses, he was calling his people to a certain way of life as a unique covenant community. This text begins with what is known as the Shema, which is Hebrew for “Hear!” It means, listen up, pay attention, what I’m about to command you is of big time importance. What follows the call to hear is a central truth about God and what Jesus would call the greatest commandment (See Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). Truth about God: the Lord is one. The greatest command: love God with all that you are. It is in this context that the community is challenged in the way it should impart the commands of God to their children.

[4] “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Parents have the unique, God-given charge to teach the truth diligently to their children. In the course of daily life, the Word of God should be taught by parents to their kids. To do something diligently means to be steady at it, giving focused energy towards the task. God’s people are to be teachers in family as the family engages gospel life and mission together. The locus of this teaching is quite literally, “everywhere.” This text tells us to talk of the Word of God while sitting in the house, walk by the way, when you lie down and when rise in the morning. The Word of God should dwell in us constantly and be a part of the environment in which we live. To rewrite this for a contemporary setting we might say we should talk of the Word when we chill at the house, walk to the park, work out, drive to practices, at bed time and at the breakfast table.

At this point some of you will think this means to set up a classroom setting for you to lecture the kiddos on the things of God at certain points every day. I think what we need to stress is that the teaching of the gospel should happen regularly, in the day to day flow of your life. God gives opportunities to teach as we live with him, have our steps ordered by him and pass through this life with him. We’ll talk more practical at the end of this post but I want you to “HEAR” the call of God – love him first, then teach his truth and his ways to your kids.

Ephesians 6:1-4

The New Testament re-articulates this ancient command and has particular instruction for the relationships in a Christian household. The children and parents are both instructed and a specific, and very important, command is given to the Father. Ephesians chapter six begins as follows:

[6:1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. [2] “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), [3] “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” [4] Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV

This passage is actually the second expansion on an earlier command given in Ephesians 5:18-21. We are to be filled with the Spirit by addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, by giving thanks and by submitting to one another in reverence for Jesus. This aspect of submitting to one another is unpacked in the realm of three household relationships: husbands/wives, parents/children and masters/servants. The harmony and duty of various members of the household are in view. Children are to obey their parents. This is only fitting and it is part of the Ten Commandments. Mom and Dad should be honored as the children follow God. In this context Fathers are also called to a specific role – to raise their kids in the discipline and instruction of God. Even servants and masters had their roles changed and shaped by the gospel.

The word here for discipline is paideia. It refers to the holistic training and education of children in a systematic way, correcting and teaching them in the fear of the Lord. It involves verbal teaching, modeling and correction. Combined with the word instruction, it is clear that Fathers are to exhort their kids to learn the ways of God and to be responsible for their holistic education. Whether this means home school, Christian school, private school or utilizing public school will be left to conscience of the reader but it does mean that Dad is responsible before God. You cannot outsource this responsibility though church, schools and other families can be instrumental in the process. You must take the lead here men and you will answer to God for it. It’s also a great privilege to shape these little lives.

Practical Challenges

One of the central things we must embrace about being parents is the constant responsibility for others. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 7 that a married man has concerns of a worldly nature as he must provide for his wife and her concerns. This includes the needs of the family. We must embrace and rejoice in this responsibility and not punk out on it. We have other concerns than job and your entertainments. Embrace family life and responsibility. Additionally, the needs of the office and the church will always be calling out to you. People will want to own your schedule and ask you to meet with them at all hours and at their convenience. Our culture has also bought into a stupid idea that if we can get “quality time” together then our families will be close, connected and fruitful. The problem is in our definition. The truth is that quality time IS quantity time. To know their Mom and Dad, children need to be with you and not simply for half an hour a week. If your kids don’t know your heart, you will not have quality “forced quick time” with them. In fact, without time given to your kids, they may not want to be with you. As they get older, they will find better things to do than “quality time” with Mom and Dad. Parents give time to be with your kids often and intentionally from the time they are young.

My oldest is a teenager now and we are still close. Why? Because we have been since day one. I’ve made sure that I’m around for them. What follows are few things we’ve put into practice to make sure of this and to follow God’s command to bring them up in the gospel.

Home Team Practices

What I want to give you here are a few things we have done as a family that have helped us disciple and train our kids in the gospel. Additionally, they have helped my kids know me well in the midst of the bustle of work, church and other activities.

Win 2 out of 3

In our contemporary life and culture there are three great times when you have an opportunity to invest in your family spiritually and relationally: morning, dinner hour, and bed time. I encourage you to try to “win 2 of 3” each day. For some, morning breakfast is a great time to connect to pray, read and discuss Scripture. For others the dinner hour works much better. Additionally, bed time is a sacred moment for young children in connecting with them. For my family, dinner and bed time work well for us while the morning can be a chaotic rush to school. Nevertheless we have found praying in the mornings a helpful way to start our day if we wrangle in the chaos.

We work hard to connect at dinner and we put our kids to bed almost every night. You can see the doc I’ve put together on family worship if you want more but the following are descriptions of things we have done to connect with our kids.

  • Morning Prayer – before leaving the house, we hold hands and sing a short song based on Lamentations 3:23, 24 and I pray for the family as we head into the day.
  • Family Prayer – we usually do this at dinner time...not every night but often. Each person in our family will share something positive they are thankful for as well as something hard/difficult/negative/suffering oriented. Then in response to 1 Thessalonians 5 and the command to give thanks in all things, we thank God for all of the stuff we wrote down. The good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Dinner discussions – we have used books by Starr Meade, topics from science, theology, etc. just to talk about things of substance at the dinner table. I love our kids to ask questions so we go with it.
  • Bed time creativity – I tell stories at night and try to engage the kid’s imagination and moral development. My two oldest (my daughters) also like to ask questions at bed time as they milk trying to stay up late. I go along for a bit because the discussions are usually quite rich.

Form a flow (a culture)

I’m a firm believe that the daily rhythms of the home form a flow or a culture. This perhaps shapes our kids more than anything. They will see how Mom and Dad relate, how you respond to your sins and the sins of others and what you do with your time when you are home. Here are a few things that shape the flow of our family.

To shape our culture I have a rotation of Daddy Dates and Buddy Days (for my son) with my kids. I regularly take them to do things. Whether it’s going to a park, out to eat, to a movie, to walk around the mall, or special birthday trips just do things with them. My kids know “who is up next in the rotation.” I forget so they tell me who is up next. They are also thinking creatively about what they want to do with Dad. They know they are important to us as we give them time.

As kids grow they find various interests and things they are into. As this happens, we work to get into their world and help out with their projects. We have coached soccer and go to countless soccer games (I was not a soccer person growing up...in fact...hated it). We have built and played with Legos and tried to “transform” robots into trucks many times failing badly. My wife and I have done school projects volcanoes, worms, computers, the Civil War and even helped one kid start on online business to make money for charity. We help with homework and watch kids do cartwheels and try to do handstands. The constant call of “Mom, Dad watch me, Daddy, Mommy watch” can become overwhelming, but we always try to pause and give attention to a little princess or a budding ninja. We want them to have our attention so that we trust one another. After all, those little girls will seek attention elsewhere if their Dad and Mom never has their eye on them. The young idiot teenage boys are coming! As a Dad, I’m going to be there first.

Finally, we try to repent of sin and confess it with our kids. When I get impatient or harsh with them I apologize. When I am negative or unnecessarily critical of something I repent. I want the kids to know we need Jesus and the gospel and that we are Christian believers. Living a life of repentance and faith before watching little eyes is one of the best sermons you will ever give.

Conclusion

Teaching kids is constant and believe or not there are times they don’t listen or seem interested ;-). Yet stay in the game of teaching about life and faith in God with your kids. Don’t trade your life as a parent for a bowl of busy porridge. Be present, sacrifice selfishness and receive the blessings of God that come with being a Mom or a Dad. It’s worth it in the end.

Walking with the Little Ones - Parenting in the Toddler Years - Part 1 - Discipline

One of the great joys that Kasey and I have in our lives is being the parents of Kylene, Tommy and Kayla Monaghan. God has used them to teach us both so much and they add so much joy, and frustration at times, to our lives. As a mentor told me long ago, parenting is a quite the ride...sort of like a roller coaster, high highs which are sometimes followed by low lows. What we have learned is that if you focus well when your kids are young you can give them a life trajectory that flowers into something pretty cool. The following are a few quick tips that we learned parenting our kiddos through the young years – toddler to school age.

I’ve given it a cool acronym to make it memorable DTPL (G) – which pretty much means nothing other than Discipline, Teaching, Presence, and Love (Grace). Today we will only cover Discipline, but will likely roll these out over time here or on the JWell blog as I tend to get a little long winded at times. Also, I’m speaking for Kasey and me when I use the pronoun “we.”

Discipline

The Scriptures are pretty clear that parents are to bring their kids up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Too many times we might think of discipline as punishment but we need to see it differently. The right use of discipline helps a child to focus their energies into patterns of life that unleash true freedom, create a learning environment in the home, and a family where people both love and respect one another. It really is for everyone’s good that we discipline our kids.

Establishing Right Authority

There are a few important principles of discipline we’ve maintained with each of our children which have helped the culture of our home. First, our kids never get to disobey their parents. The scriptures teach “children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” and they are to “honor their mother and father” (Ephesians 6:1,2, Exodus 20:12). I want to restate this. Our children NEVER get to disobey their parents. Do they? Of course they do. They are kids. They never “get to” without discipline. Now I’m not talking about parents acting like arbitrary rule-setting dictators and just making kids obey their every wish. What I am saying is that when I ask my kids to do X they should do it. If not, then there is direct disciplinary action. As kids get older they learn to reason, discuss and ask questions. We never discourage that. Here I’m talking about the toddling years. They need to learn to respect their parents and do what they say. They also need to accept a clear “no” answer without continuing to badger Mom or Dad.

So in summary:

  • Direct defiance and disobedience – always discipline right away
  • Not accepting “no” for an answer – always discipline right away
  • When they clearly break one of your household rules or do something wrong – always discipline (maybe not always right away – smile). We’ll share more on this below in establishing household flow.

This may sound exhausting and constant and guess what. It is. Yet it yields a harvest in the home where children respect authority. This respect builds toward a future where reason- ing, questions and dialogue with kids can take place.

Establishing Gospel Rhythms

The other important aspect of discipline in the home is not simply practicing punitive discipline, but gospel rhythms in our discipline. Kids should understand what it means to apologize, repent, and be explained the nature of what they did wrong. When they sin they should apologize specifically and be forgiven specifically. This requires patience in us as parents to not simply get angry and punish kids. It requires us to discipline them, in order to teach them, forgive them, and love them like crazy.

Establishing your Household Flow

Finally, you need to be clear about rules in your house. Obviously breaking commandments and sins against God are not good. The law, specifically the Ten Commandments, can be used as a teacher and good summary with kids. Even then, teach them why lying, stealing, killing etc are wrong. Usually our dishonoring of God or people made in his image is at the root. In addition to biblical truth, there are also “household rules” that you will establish for your family. What things are toys, what are not? Learning not to run sprints on top of the furniture? Or if that is cool in your home, that it may not be cool in public or the homes of a friend?

Loving discipline will help young kids know good boundaries and allow them the freedom to flourish. A young kid that grows up without respect for authority will have trouble in school, on the job, and can lead to even worse realities for them. Furthermore, a young kid that learns how to adapt to authority and appropri- ately interact with it will go a long way in this world. Yet most importantly we want our kids to learn to respect God, follow his ways, and understand his love and forgiveness when we sin. Your kids can learn all of this at home through consistent discipline over time in the toddler years.

One last thing. If you get on this when they are young and don’t bend or waver, their lives will be much easier to lovingly lead as they get older. If you think a two year old is terrible, wait until you have an undisciplined, disrespectful twelve-year-old. As John Witherspoon, the 6th President of Princeton, once wrote: “There is not a more disgusting sight than the impotent rage of a parent who has no authority” (Letters on the Education of Children, and on Marriage).

No kids are perfect; we should not expect this in any way. We should not expect our parenting to be of a flawless heavenly character either. Yet we can have courage to discipline, courage to follow through, and courage to love our kids in this way. There is a harvest from this effort that is indeed a good thing. As Hebrews 12:9-11 teaches us:

[9] Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? [10] For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. [11] For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline also must be accompanied by teaching/instruction, your presence in your kids lives, and extra loads of love topped with grace. We will take up those topics in the future together.

Also see the following sermons in the series “The Home Team

A New Mind

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This essay first appeared in the June 2014 Edition of Well Thought, the journal of the Jacob's Well community. 

Do people really change their minds about things in life? Maybe someone will convert from a PC to a Mac or from an Android phone to an iPhone but what about the really important things? The things that shape our view of the world? It is anecdotally true that people can get very set in their ways by a certain age, yet there is always the possibility for shaping new ways of thinking about life and reality.

As a young university student studying physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I underwent this sort of change. I was raised in a family where my father was an Irish Catholic agnostic. Church did not really play a big role in my life, so when I went to UNC on a wrestling scholarship I was not in any way “looking for God.”

As I began to ask some of the bigger questions in life, things really began to change for me. It very much started as a spiritual conversion. I sensed, in a very profound way, that although I was not looking for God, God was in a way coming to find me. I realized that I was beginning to see and to think differently about all of life. Something very strange happened; I actually wanted to read books. Don’t get me wrong, I was vice president of my high school’s National Honor Society and was in the top five percent of my class. I just liked scientific equations much more than literature. 

I will never forget when a Christian philosopher came to our campus to speak about the existence of God. He was a man who had two PhD’s, one in theology and one in philosophy, both at secular universities in Europe. I was intrigued. Yet it was something he said that night in a private Q&A with a smaller group of students that shook me profoundly. He said to develop a new mind you had to begin to think differently by allowing new ideas and new paradigms into your world. Then he said “as a student at a secular university, this might mean you have to read double.” 

As a Division I athlete with in a very vigorous course of study, I did not have extra time, so I cannot say this was an encouraging thing to hear at first. What he meant, however, stuck with me. I needed to learn to think and see the world as a follower of Jesus, because his way is different than the world around us. I not only needed to do my assigned reading for school, but I needed to read the Scriptures and Christian thinkers to have a different mind about things. So I stepped away from pursuing only position, power and possessions and began to renew my mind in light of the teachings of Jesus. I needed to see the world and my academic pursuits as a Christian. 

CS Lewis, the eminent literary scholar and author said it this way: 

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. i

During that season of my life I began to love new things, think about new things and make new choices that took my life in a different direction. My love for math and science was expanded by a desire to learn some of the more philosophical things about life. I graduated with a knowledge of science and letters but from a point of view that had been, well, changed. 

Most importantly, I saw something in my own story that I have since witnessed numerous times in others over the last two decades. God changes people when they think they cannot change themselves. This is, after all, the work of renewal that only God does in the hearts of human beings. He brings life and newness to us and we build upon these things with the renewal of our own minds. An early Christian leader wrote succinctly:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.ii

If you think it’s time for a change take a look at Jesus of Nazareth, read his teachings, his life, death and resurrection in the Gospels.iii  Then see where the path might lead. You may just find some newness in your own story as you read of His. 

 

Notes 

i. CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory, “Is Theology Poetry”, 1944, p92.

ii. Selection from Romans 12:2 NIV84.

iii. I recommend beginning with the gospel according to Mark or John. Both good places to begin. 

For it was Jesus...

An Easter Poem by Kylene Monaghan

An Easter Poem by Kylene Monaghan

He died to save us
With undying trust
He has risen again
To forgive us our sin

Three days it took
Until they looked,
And the stone was rolled away

The angel there,
In no despair,
Cried out to them
For they were grim

"He lies not within
For your king is risen."

They were glad,
And no longer sad,
For the stone was rolled away

They went away,
Yet one stayed,
She was not certain
And she searched for him

There was nothing there
For the tomb was bear
She then went out
And looked about

She heard his voice,
And soon rejoiced...

For it was Jesus, the messiah.

A Treasured Box

A Fable by Kylene J. Monaghan and Reid S. Monaghan

Once upon a time there lived a small boy with his poor family. He lived near the woods and he loved nature. On a daily basis he would travel to the woods and think. He would think about his life and all the goings on in it. His mother was kind as was his father. They lived in a tiny lodge and had only one neighbor.

Their neighbor, above them on the hilltop, however, was very rich. She had two snobby children, a boy and a girl. Each day Jacob, the poor little boy, would walk up to their house and ask if they would come to play in his special hideout in the woods. Every day they would reject him and rudely slam the door in his face.

One day they said they would like to go. He took them to his hidden hideout where all his prized possessions were kept. He asked them if they would like some snacks. They said they wanted some. So Jacob hurriedly ran off and gathered a little snack for them. You must remember that he was a very small boy and could not run very fast.

While he was away, the two rich children took a treasured box of the boy’s belongings and stole away with it back to their house.  When Jacob returned, he dropped the snacks in astonishment. He had been robbed! The rich kids were hoping Jacob would be sad and hurt by the loss of his things.

When Jacob went home, he was indeed sad. Then something happened. He saw his mother’s face and he cried. His father came and listened to the story. In their kindness and love for one another, Jacob almost forgot that the kids had stolen from him. He realized what a kind family he had and how much they meant to him.

Around the same time, the rich children opened the box expecting to find some wonderful treasures to add to their own. What did they find? A collection of pictures Jacob had saved of his family throughout his life and a few rag dolls from when he was a baby. At this moment the kids heard their Mom and Dad screaming at one another in a big fight. The kids threw Jacob’s things on the ground seeing them as worthless. “What junk! Dumb little, poor kid!” they said.

And Jacob, went to bed a little richer that night.

Looking back on 2012

A short lists of highlights and photos from the Monaghans as God brought this year to pass by his providence. We pray his richest grace upon you in 2013 and hope this trip around the sun provides many opportunities to live for the glory of God, the good of others and to extend the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those around your. Click the image below to load up a pdf file with our short year in review ;-)

Love this photo

A friend of mine took this shot and was gracious enough to allow me to use as an illustration in a recent message on redemption from the book of Exodus.

A text message that made Dad smile

I just got a text message from my daughter who turns 11 on Sept 27th. It brought a smile and a tear to the eye today.

Said Daughter: Daddy, is this appropriate for me? I saw on the biography section on ur shelf. It looks all right but I wanted to ask u

Said Daddy: Ooooo, I have not read that one but you have a thumbs up from me - you just have to share with Dada a bit as you read!

Said Daughter: Ok! YAY!!! :-)

A Man and His Kids

Transient

My friend and theology student Garrett Ventry has a blog series running on a Man and Church Planting covering things like finances, being a Dad, marriage etc.  His blog is flowing over here.  I wrote a deal on being a Dad and included it here for those who read the POCBlog.

Being and Church Planter and a Dad

Family. A simple word and a complex reality in our modern world. The identity of a family has been redefined, challenged and many times maligned in our culture. Furthermore, there are far too many men and women sacrificing their families on the altars of money, work and personal achievement. Pastors have not been immune to this. Church planters in particular face an incredible strain in planting the gospel and forming new missional communities. Finances are many times short, leaders in great need and the church planter often overworked and exhausted. Many times a church planter’s wife and children see husband and Daddy less and less as he works hard for God in the fields of ministry. Brothers, this should not be.

Many great leaders from church history considered a man’s family his “first flock” to disciple and lead in the mission and ministry of God. The family is to be a place of worship, a place of instruction and the locus where one begins to work his gifts and discover his calling.  JI Packer in his book “The Question for Godliness, The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life” recounts that worship should be “public, in the local church; domestic in the family; private in the closet” (Packer 255). The family should be a place of worship and the church planter who works hard in the mission and leads nothing of spiritual vitality in the home is AWOL even as he “plants churches.”  The gospel should be planted by God in the heart of a man, by that man in his family and as an outflow…into his community. The qualifications for church leaders actually includes the way a man manages his household and leads his children in the gospel (see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). Furthermore a man’s family is a gift from God to be enjoyed, nurtured and cherished. There is a domestic life and reality that holds deep blessing if embraced in the proper posture and mindset before God.

In this post I am going to do a few simple things.  First, I am going to share a short challenge from the Scriptures as to our responsibility to our kids in general. Second, I want to share practically the challenges that planting churches holds for this calling. Third, I will share a few practices that we have employed as a family in the planting of Jacob’s Well together. Finally, I will conclude with a few thoughts about the blessings of planting and gospel ministry as a family.  So we begin with the Words of God.

The Biblical Call

In a moment we will get to the clear teaching of the Bible in the great “chapter sixes” of the Old and New Testament in regards to fathering children.  Before we get there I want to bring a challenge of responsibility to the forefront. In his first letter to Timothy, the early Christian leader Paul brings this clear exhortation:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1 Timothy 5:8

The context for this passage is the care of widows, those who were financially vulnerable in a society. The Scriptures are clear that we are to provide for our relatives and those who are members of our household. The household in the ancient world would have been more expansive than the nuclear family of parents/kids but it certainly included one’s own children. As a church planter we have a responsibility before God to provide for our families. The immediate context is for the daily needs of your crew – food, clothing, shelter.  This means a church planter needs to work hard to provide financially in our modern context. Working a job or raising funds to cover your salary must be the responsibility of the man planting a church. Church planting isn’t going to make anyone rich (at least I hope not), but you don’t want your wife and kids to always be thinking they will have no food because “Dad is planting a church and we are more than broke.” Men, provide for your families.

In addition to material provision the discipleship and nurture of kids is part of our calling as gospel men and fathers.  Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 give clarity to this calling upon our lives.  We will look at these in turn.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

As God was giving his law through Moses, he was calling his people to a certain way of life as a unique covenant community. The text above begins with what is known as the Shema, which is Hebrew for “Hear!” It means, listen up, pay attention, what I’m about to command you is of big time importance. What follows the call to hear is a central truth about God and what Jesus would call the greatest commandment (See Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). Truth about God: the Lord is one.  The greatest command: love God with all that you are. It is in this context that the community is challenged in the way it should impart the commands of God to their children.

[4] “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Parents have the unique, God-given charge to teach the truth diligently to their children. In the course of daily life, the Word of God should be taught by parents to their kids. To do something diligently means to be steady at it, giving focused energy towards the task. God’s people are to be teachers in family as the family engages gospel life and mission together.  The locus of this teaching is quite literally, “everywhere.” The text tells us to talk of the Word of God while sitting in the house, walk by the way, when you lie down and when rise in the morning. The Word of God should dwell in us constantly and be a part of the environment in which we live.  To rewrite this for a contemporary setting we might say we should talk of the Word when we chill at the house, walk to the park, work out, drive to football practice, at bed time and at the breakfast table.

At this point some of you will think this means to set up a classroom setting for you to lecture the kiddos on the things of God at certain points every day. I think what we need to stress is that the teaching of the gospel should happen regularly, in the day to day flow of your life. God gives opportunities to teach as we live with him, have our steps ordered by him and pass through this life with him. We’ll talk more practical at the end of this post but I want you to “HEAR” the call of God – love him first, then teach is truth and his ways to your kids.

Ephesians 6:1-4

The New Testament re-articulates this ancient command and has particular instruction for the relationships in a Christian household. The children and parents are both instructed and a specific, and very important, command is given to the Father.  Ephesians chapter six begins as follows:

[6:1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. [2] “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), [3] “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” [4] Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV

This passage is actually the second expansion on an earlier command given in Ephesians 5:18-21. We are to be filled with the Spirit by addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, by giving thanks and by submitting to one another in reverence for Jesus. This aspect of submitting to one another is unpacked in the realm of three household relationships: husbands/wives, parents/children and masters/slaves. The harmony and duty of various members of the household are in view. Children are to obey their parents. This is only fitting and it is part of the Ten Commandments. Mom and Dad should be honored as children follow God. In this context Fathers are also called to a specific role – to raise their kids in the discipline and instruction of God.

The word here for discipline is paideia. It refers to the holistic training and education of children in a systematic way, correcting and teaching them in the fear of the Lord. It involves verbal teaching, modeling and correction. Combined with the word instruction, it is clear that Fathers are to exhort their kids to learn the ways of God and to be responsible for their holistic education. Whether this means home school, Christian school, private school or utilizing public school will be left to conscience of the reader but it does mean that Dad is responsible before God. You cannot outsource this responsibility though church, schools and other families may be instrumental in the process. You must take the lead here men and you will answer to God for it. It’s also a great privilege to shape these little lives.

Practical Challenges

One of the central things men must embrace about being a husband and father is the constant responsibility for others. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 7 that a married man has concerns of a worldly nature as he must provide for his wife and her concerns. This includes the needs of the family. You must embrace and rejoice in this responsibility and not punk out on it. You have other concerns than church planting or “your ministry.”  Embrace family life and responsibility. I say this as you will be tempted to care for “the things of God” to the neglect of your family. Never a good move.

Church planting is time consuming. It involves building relationships with lost people, training leaders, discipling converts and immature Christians, building administrative systems, building teams, training elders, leading staff, etc etc. The work is never really finished and you can literally work around the clock and disappear on your family.  Don’t be a jerk and do that.

Additionally, the needs of the church will always be calling out to you. People will want to own your schedule and ask you to meet with them at all hours and at their convenience. Church people will also ask you to start ministries for them, give them programs to consume and not blink if you are out every night of the week.  People won’t think twice about the effect all this may have on your family; but you should. I like to say to people that I’m not here to “dance for them.” I don’t dance. I refuse to give away the time my kids need from me. Sorry, I brought them into this church planting war and we will go out together. You, church complainer? I’m not so sure about you. My kids need to know their Daddy, I want to win their hearts when they are young not lose them because I’m always scurrying around at the command of people in the church.

Our culture has also bought into a stupid idea that if we can get “quality time” together then our families will be close, connected and fruitful.  The problem is in our definition. The truth is that quality time IS quantity time. To know their Daddy, children need to be with you and not simply for half an hour a week. If your kids don’t know your heart, you will not have quality “forced quick time” with them. In fact, without time given to your kids, they will not want to be with you. As they get older, they will find better things to do than “quality time” with Dad. Men, be with your kids often and intentionally from the time they are young. My oldest just hit puberty and we are close. Why? Because we have been since day one. I’ve made sure that I’m around for them. What follows are few things I’ve put into practice to make sure of this and to follow God’s command to bring them up in the gospel.

Home Team Practices

What I want to give you here are a few things we have done as a family that have helped us disciple and train our kids in the gospel. Additionally, they have helped my kids know me well in the midst of the bustle of church planting. Just as an FYI my kids are currently 11, almost 9 and 6 years old and our church plant turns three this fall.

Win 2 out of 3

In our contemporary life and culture there are three great times when you have an opportunity to invest in your family spiritually and relationally: morning, dinner hour, and bed time. I encourage myself and the men I lead to try to “win 2 of 3” each day. For some, morning breakfast is a great time to connect to pray, read and discuss Scripture. For others the dinner hour works much better. Additionally, bed time is a sacred moment for young children in connecting with them. For my family, dinner and bed time work well for us while the morning can be a chaotic rush to school. Nevertheless we have found praying in the mornings a helpful way to start our day if we wrangle in the chaos. We work hard to connect at dinner and we put our kids to bed almost every night. You can see the doc I’ve put together on family worship if you want more but the following are descriptions of things I have done to connect with my kids.

  • Morning Prayer – before leaving the house, we hold hands and sing a short song based on Lamentations 3:23, 24 and I pray for the family as we head into the day.
  • Family Prayer – we usually do this at dinner time…not every night but often. Each person in our family will share something positive they are thankful for as well as something hard/difficult/negative/suffering oriented. Then in response to 1 Thessalonians 5 and the command to give thanks in all things, we thank God for all of the stuff we wrote down. The good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Dinner discussions – we have used books by Starr Meade, topics from science, theology, etc just to talk about things of substance at the dinner table. I love our kids to ask questions so we go with it.
  • Bed time creativity – I tell stories at night and try to engage the kid’s imagination and moral development. My two oldest (my daughters) also like to ask questions at bed time as they milk trying to stay up late. I go along for a bit because the discussions are usually quite rich. Right now we are discussing the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.  It’s awesome.

Form a flow (a culture)

I’m a firm believe that the daily rhythms of the home form a flow or a culture. This perhaps shapes our kids more than anything. They will see how you relate to their Mom, how you respond to your sins and the sins of others and what you do with your time when you are home. Here are a few things that shape the flow of our family.

To shape our culture I have a rotation of Daddy Dates and Buddy Days (for my son) with my kids. I regularly take them to do things. Whether it’s going to a park, out to eat, to a movie, to walk around the mall, or special birthday trips my kids always know “who is up next in the rotation.” I forget so they always tell me who is up next. They are also thinking creatively about what they want to do with Dad. They know they are important to me as I give them my time.

As my kids grow they find various interests and things they are into. As this happens, I work to get into their world and help out with their projects.  I have coached soccer and go to countless soccer games (I was not a soccer person growing up…in fact…hated it). I have played with Legos and tried to “transform” robots into trucks many times failing badly. My wife and I have done school projects volcanoes, worms, computers, the Civil War and I even helped one kid start on online business selling bookmarks to make money for charity. I help with homework and I watch kids do cartwheels and try to do handstands. The constant call of “Daddy watch me, Daddy watch” can become really annoying, but I always try to pause and give attention my attention to a little princess or a budding ninja. I want them to have my attention so that we trust one another.  After all, those little girls will seek attention elsewhere if their Daddy never has their eye on them. The young idiot teenage boys are coming! I’m going to be there first.

Finally, I try to repent of my sin and confess it with my kids. When I get impatient or harsh with them I apologize. When I am negative or unnecessarily critical of something I repent. I want the kids to know I need Jesus and the gospel and that I am a Christian believer. Living a life of repentance and faith before watching little eyes is one of the best sermons you will ever give.

Conclusion

In 2008 our family was preparing to leave a large church in the south which had a wonderful children’s ministry. Each classroom was multimedia equipped, the teachers had full costumes and the rooms looked like sets from a Hollywood movie production. It was awesome.  I mean, really…awesome. We had over a thousand kids in a safe, godly, well run children’s ministry. It really was sweet in every way.

After we moved to New Jersey to begin planting Jacob’s Well, my kids sat in living room floors with two other kids for six months and with just a handful of kids for over a year. They were taught mainly by young single men who didn’t really know how to teach children. They were blessed beyond belief.  One of the greatest blessings of my kids’ lives has been to grow up among church planting. They have seen people get saved and God’s church bearing fruit. They have watched ten people turn into hundreds and they have been with their Daddy every step of the way.

My children are growing up among church planting.  I am working hard to have them grow up with their Daddy around as well. There are times that I work too much, or am gone more than I like but I refuse to allow church planting to rob me of the joys of ministering to my kids. They only get to call one guy their Dad and I’m going to be on that wall for them with all my might while I have still have breath.

Jesus taught us that to be the greatest in the kingdom is to be a servant of all. He taught us that to find one’s life we must lose it for his sake. I can think of no better way for a Dad to live out this calling than by serving his kids. Yes golf, movies, power tools, going to the gym and drinks with your buddies are fun…but none of them can snuggle, giggle, laugh, cry and hug your neck like your kids. Sniff. Sniff.

Don’t trade your life as a Dad for a bowl of busy porridge men. Be present, sacrifice selfishness and receive the blessings of God that come with being a father. You will have no regrets in the end.

Evolve the Blog

I've never considered myself much of a "blogger" in the sociological sense. I don't obey the rules that make a blog great (post all the time, write short posts, focus the content, develop an audience, don't do anything else but be a blogger) and hence my blog is average at best. I do try to write substantial and thoughtful stuff in this world and I usually throw it up here.  So the ole Power of Change continues onward...it began as a Notepad coded site in 1996, morphed into several designs over the years, switched to a blogger blog in 2004, moved over to Movable Type for a while, then to Squarespace 5 a few years back. You can see pics and more on that here.

Today, Squarespace 6 gave me impetus to play around again and do a new design. It is simple, scales dynamically to mobile/tablets and was fun putting together.  I've added back some content I developed during my campus ministry years for all the friends who ask for those from time to time.  The graphic design is a bit aged on those but I think the content still helpful...and to be honest, with some of the design work I've seen in churches there is still stuff out there that looks worse.

The blogging about whatever shall continue by God's grace - mostly on random theological, personal, technological and philosophical stuff that crosses the mind and needs to get out somewhere.  Blessings guys.

What might God say to the IRON MAN?

Confession: I loved comic books growing up. Not simply an awareness of them but collecting them, bagging them, boarding them, knowing their value in various conditions, reading various strength levels and super powers in Marvel Universe almanacs etc. Not sure how that happened but I still have a box of them in my attic. I think I enjoyed them because they develop interesting characters; characters you follow and watch develop over many issues and many years. In light of this I have been a full supporter of the comicbookization of Hollywood.  Seeing the Marvel Universe come to the big screens has been more than a little fun for me.  Not sure if my old favorites Powerman and Iron Fist are ever going to make it to the 3D screen, but who knows.

I say all of this to comment briefly on a scene from Marvel’s new movie The Avengers.  Now, before you judge this film, you should see it.  Sometimes a movie everyone likes is good and everyone likes it because it is good. That is for my film snob friends reading.  I saw the Avengers twice in its opening weekend. Why? For the children of course. I had to see it with my wife on Friday (my day off) to grasp why it had its PG-13 rating to decide whether my daughters could see the film.  After we determined the girls could go, Sunday night we hit the show on a Daddy date.  Tommy would be freaked out and afraid of the Hulk so he is not seeing it any time soon.

One scene that got quite a bit of traction in the trailer and is important to two of the main characters flows as follows.  For Avengers newbies, Tony Stark is Iron Man and Steve Rogers is Captain America.  Stark is a spooky smart guy who has invented some killer high tech weaponry and has a history of womanizing. Rogers is a super soldier from the early 20th century who got frozen in ice. His values are old school. Here is the short dialogue:

  • Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?
  • Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
  • Steve Rogers: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you

So after thinking for a moment about this intense exchange between super heroes, I paused and asked what God might have to say to the IRON MAN:

  • Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them. Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 ESV
  • And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 ESV
  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 ESV
  • “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 ESV

Is there something deeper that Captain America is getting at? Is there something bigger, more important going on in life that our “external suit”, our abilities, what we have and do? Jesus asked the following questions and I think asking them today would be good for you:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?

One of the great story-lines in the Avengers film is what takes place in the relationship between Cap and Iron Man…this dialogue isn’t the end of it so I recommend the movie to watch the rest of that story unfold.