Friday, October 25, 2013

18 Levels of Golf

My son, Maddox, thinks there are 18 levels of golf.

When you complete Level 1, you go to Level 2. And obviously Level 18 is the hardest level. I don't correct Maddox because there are certain things he says that are too cute to correct. For example, when he says "I want to go to Ah-dive Gah-den," Holly and I smirk at one another and drive directly there because we know there's a day coming when he'll want to go to Olive Garden and that's not near as cute.

His 18-level golf idea is an interesting theory I believe he developed playing video games on his various game systems. That's the way the world of video games works. You complete Level 1 and move to Level 2. That's how games work.

Every time we go to do something fun as a family, Maddox wants to know if he's winning. It doesn't matter if we're bowling, playing Wii, or picking out pumpkins. The boy wants to know if he's winning.

Everything's a competition!

And as a parent, we have larger things we want Maddox to learn in competition. Competition isn't so much a chance to win at something. It's a chance to learn life lessons without the high stakes of the severe consequences that will be on the line later in his life. And most often, losing will bring the greatest life lesson. Which makes we wonder why we push so hard to place our kids on the best sports teams. A 5-year old soccer championship trophy won't sit on Maddox's shelf when he goes off to college. It'll be bad enough if he chooses to wear his High School letter jacket during his first year at his university. He won't take his trophies with him, but he will take his lessons with him.

But as I listen to Maddox's language, it's hard to be critical of him. Because 4-year olds don't come up with these kinds of theories on their own. They learn to be competitive somewhere.

And that's the most difficult part about hearing his competitive language...18 levels of golf. I'm guessing he learned it watching me. He hangs on to every word I say after every shot on the golf course. He hears me in anguish on Sunday afternoons when my Fantasy Football team isn't putting a "W" on the board. He hears my frustration when I can't pass Level 254 on Candy Crush.

And I wonder what he hears in the backseat in my lament on Sunday afternoon when the attendance totals were down.

And it won't take Maddox long to make the computation in his own brain. 4-year olds are better at math than you would suspect.

(My level of success at school & on athletic fields = My parents' love for me)

And that's a deadly equation.

After a soccer or baseball game, most kids just have to check their parents Facebook pages to determine what their parents thought about their performance. If there's a post about how many goals they scored, things are good. If there's no post about a "W," then you must not have done enough.

You can say all day, "It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game," but actions speak louder than words.

I'm excited to enjoy many hours on the golf course with Maddox. I'm excited to celebrate his first birdie with him. I'll be his biggest fan.

But at this point, what I want to hear most from Maddox is: "Dad, do you want to go and play 18 holes with me today."

Because they're not levels. They're holes.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Blessing Ranch Covenant Group

Last week, I spent several days in Livermore, CO at Blessing Ranch. Since 1992, Blessing Ranch has been a place where thousands of pastors and their wives have retreated to receive the best Pastor Care available in the country.

Yes, I said Pastor Care, not Pastoral Care. Many people throughout the world have received care from their pastors, but Blessing Ranch is focused on giving care to pastors and their families. Dr. John Walker and his team have a fantastic reputation for reviving the ministries of many pastors over the years.

Recently, Alan Ahlgrim, former Senior Pastor of Rocky Mountain Christian Church, began organizing Covenant Groups for pastors at Blessing Ranch. That was the purpose of my visit. I spent several days with 2 Senior Pastors and Dr. Ahlgrim.

My experience was nothing short of life-changing. 

There are many conferences out there that focus on professional development. I've attended many of those events. But nowhere else, has my soul been cared for like it was last week at Blessing Ranch.

Whether you realize it or not, your pastor is probably the loneliest person in your church. Our calling is to minister to people, but often we lack meaningful, deep, and transparent relationships. We know how to talk about the importance of community, but many of us lack true community. And that is recipe for disaster.

Don't get me wrong. I've been surrounded by caring, spiritual, and wise people for the past 10 years. I also have mentors who regularly speak into my life. I'm blessed in my relationships.

But in the past 5 years, no conference, event, or group has nourished my soul and clarified my calling like my Covenant Group last week at Blessing Ranch. There I found a rare combination of intentional soul-care, Sabbath, a helpful mentor, caring peers, and vulnerable dialogue with people who are choosing to do life together for the next few years and beyond.

I am returning to my ministry more assured of my calling, more committed to loving my people, and more clear about my identity as a child of God.

I look forward to future times with my Covenant Group.

If you would like more information about a Covenant Group at Blessing Ranch, check out the website at And if you'd like to talk more with me about it, feel free to e-mail me at