Saturday, June 28, 2014

Train Up A Child: Sabbath

The most important status symbol in America has nothing to do with the number in one's bank account, the size of one's home, the cost of one's car, or the location of one's vacation.

The most important status symbol in America is the busyness of one's calendar.
We love to talk about our hectic schedules with a grimace on our face and pride in our hearts. 

Holly and I want to do what we can so that our kids won't worship at the "Altar of the Full Calendar."

And one of the ways we are waging war against the god of busyness is through the spiritual practice of Sabbath. Now, on first hearing, you might think we are a Jewish family. What kind of Christian, legalistic family would bind themselves to Sabbath?

But for us, Sabbath isn't an oppressive commandment. It is a countercultural, subversive practice that reminds us we are not the most important people in the world. It forces us to face the fact that the world goes on fine without us. Sabbath reminds me that God ran the world just fine before I entered the world and he can still make it work without me each Friday.

Sabbath first emerged as the Israelites were leaving Egypt after over 400 years of slavery. It was one of the original Ten Commandments God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. 

It wasn't meant as an oppressive command. It was one of God's ten ways to rehumanize Israelites. They had become like animals in Egypt. They worked all the time. They made bricks. They did their best to keep up with quotas. There was no rest. 

But as God sought to prepare the Israelites for the Promised Land, it was vital that he give them a rhythm of life that was sustainable. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Who are we to think we are better than his 6 to 1 ratio? 

Fridays are my day off. And in this season of life prior to having kids in elementary school, we have found a rhythm of rest once a week that works well for us. It is not an oppressive day that we dread. 

Each Friday, we ask the question "What is that we can do day that will bring us life and connect with God and one another?" And our answer determines our schedule. 

It differs from week to week. 
Some Fridays we rest at home. 
Some Fridays we play games. 
Some Fridays we fly kites and teach our kids about the Holy Spirit through the wind.
Some Fridays we swim with friends.
Some Fridays we go to the zoo. 
Some Fridays we experience God in obvious ways.
Some Fridays we the name of God is rarely spoken.
Some Fridays our family gets along.
Some Fridays our family fights.

It's not always miraculous, but it is always needed. 

This schedule works in this season of life for our family. In the years to come, our commitment to Sabbath will likely change. It is not a legalistic burden. It is a life-giving rhythm that is as much a part of our life as the air that we breathe. 

We practice Sabbath because we believe rest is one of the most countercultural habits we can develop. 
We practice Sabbath because we are not animals or machines.
We practice Sabbath because we want our kids to know we are different from the rest of the world.

And we would encourage your family to consider this practice for your family as well.

What spiritual practices are you intentionally developing in your family?

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Real Sports Hero: Tony Gwynn

This past Monday, the world lost a real sports hero.

His name was Tony Gwynn.

But to be honest, I didn't realize how big of a sports hero Tony Gwynn was until it was too late.

When I was 4years old, my family moved from Abilene, Texas to San Diego, California. And soon after our move, we started becoming San Diego Padres fans. We had partial season tickets right behind home plate on the second deck of Jack Murphy Stadium for the impossible price of $7.50 a ticket. Try finding that deal today.

Tony Gwynn started out as a 2-sport athlete. On the same day in 1981, Tony was drafted by the San Diego Padres and the San Diego Clippers, the basketball franchise that would soon leave for Los Angeles.

Gwynn's physique looked a bit different in the brown and gold than it looked near the end of his career, but his physical appearance late in his career defied his athleticism. He knew how to hit the baseball.
Yet, I have to confess I never owned a Tony Gwynn jersey. I was more excited about the 2 or 3 year signees that "did their time" in San Diego before hitting the jackpot in a larger market. I wanted the autographs of guys like Roberto Alomar, Benito Santiago, Fred McGriff, and Gary Sheffield.

But Tony was the guy who stayed in San Diego all of his career. He spent 20 seasons on the Padres, a team that went to the playoffs three times in the two decades Gwynn was with the team. He was "Mr. Padre" and he earned that nickname by being loyal to a fault.

It's embarrassing to admit he was not my sports hero growing up. In an era that featured big contracts, big markets, big home run totals, and big steroid bills, Tony Gwynn was never appreciated.

There was nothing marketable about Tony Gwynn. He was never sponsored by Gatorade or Reebok. Michael Jordan wasn't concerned about Tony taking his coveted hero status at Nike.

But, man, could he hit a baseball.

Here are some stats that stand out in his 20 seasons:
-Batting Titles: 8 (More than anyone other than Ty Cobb & Honus Wagner)
-All-Star Teams: 15
-Gold Gloves: 5
-Silver Sluggers: 7
-Career Batting Average: .338
-Career Hits: 3,141
-Lowest Batting Avg. in the 19 complete seasons he played: .309
-Most strikeouts in a season: 40
-Struck out 434 times in his career. That's once in every 21 at-bats!
-Stats against Greg Maddux: 107 Plate Appearances, .415 Batting Avg., 0 Strikeouts
-Only player since 1928 to have 300 career steals and a career batting average of at least .338

My two greatest heroes over the past 2 decades have been Tiger Woods and LeBron James. They have everything Tony Gwynn didn't. They've won major championships. They look the part. They're marketable. They're cocky. One wears red every Sunday and the other wears Red every game he's played after "The Decision."

But nothing made me wonder about my choice of sports heroes until I heard about Tony's death on Monday.

Because Tony's greatest statistic isn't any of those mentioned above.

What was his greatest statistic?

World Series Championships: 0

He was loyal. He was unassuming. He played in a lousy baseball stadium where ESPN's cameras rarely visited. He could hit the baseball, but he never threw a fist pump. It wasn't about him. It was about the Padres.

But even the Padres he didn't take that seriously.

I don't remember the year, but I remember the scene vividly. My family was at Spring Training watching the Padres over Spring Break. My brother, Clark, and I couldn't have been 10 years old yet. We were looking for autographs from the usual suspects: McGriff and Sheffield. I think Rickey Henderson was in camp that year.

But as we were looking for the stars, Tony Gwynn walked right in front of us. I missed my opportunity, but Clark ran up to Tony unprepared, without a ball or baseball card to sign. All Clark had was an Atlanta Braves baseball hat.

With a sheepish look, Clark offered his hat and his pen to Tony for a signature. And I can still remember the high-pitched question Tony threw back at my brother..."Atlanta Braves????"

But he signed the hat anyway.

That was Tony Gwynn. Quiet...unassuming...without fanfare...humble.

We don't know how to pick out the real sports heroes anymore. We root for whoever Nike tells us to.

But if there was any game I would go back to if I had the chance, it would be the night of Tony Gwynn's 2,000th hit. We were there that night. But somehow I don't remember the moment. I remember Gary Sheffield's home run in the second deck. I remember Fred McGriff's 450+ ft. blast to right. I don't remember Tony's 2,000th.

And if I had it to do over again, I'd have bought that #19 jersey and worn it to every Padre game I could.

Rest in peace "Mr. Padre." RIP Tony Gwynn.
Great Tribute to Tony Gwynn by Keith Olberman:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Train Up A Child: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." 
-Proverbs 22:6

I've entitled the blog series "Train Up A Child." It comes from one of the most abused passages in all of Scripture. But I think the passage deserves reclaiming.

Many Bible teachers have used this passage to promise parents..."If you parent your kids in the correct way, you have a foolproof way of ensuring your kids grow up as followers of Jesus." And because of that interpretation, countless parents have been engulfed in decades unneeded guilt. They believe they are to blame for their kids' troubles.

But Proverbs 22:6 isn't always true.

Proverbs is made up of hundreds of generally true statements. They are proverbial statements that are true much of the time, but they are far from foolproof statements without exceptions.

Proverbs should be used as positive teachings to be used in our lives.
Proverbs should not be used as negative teachings to be used to abuse people.

For example...
"Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him." -Proverbs 26:4

That seems straightforward. read the next verse.

"Answer a fool according to his folly, 
or he will be wise in his own eyes." -Proverbs 26:5

So, which is it? Should we answer a fool according to his folly or not?

Well, it depends on the situation.

These are not foolproof promises. They are wise statements that fit some situations and don't fit other situations.

But back to Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child..." Just because there are circumstances where Proverbs 22:6 isn't true, doesn't mean we should disregard the verse in our parenting.

One of the ways we are trying to raise our kids to follow Jesus is by "smoking what we sell." Or another way to say it is, "Actions speak louder than words."

Preachers' kids (PKs) have a certain kind of reputation. We get the questions a lot. "So, your kids are PKs, huh? Better watch out for those kids."

One of the reasons PKs have gotten that reputation is because PKs often see two different pictures of the preacher. There's "Stage Preacher" and there's "Dad." "Stage preacher" has a smile on his face, knows how to make small talk, and talks a good game when it comes to following Jesus. But sometimes "Dad" doesn't live as radical a life as he preaches. And that cognitive dissonance is difficult for children to sort through.

The most important thing a parent can do to give one's kids a head-start on their spiritual journey is to live an authentic life of faith in front of them every day. It's not enough to have a devotional and prayer time each night and attend church weekly. Our kids will only see how important faith is if it makes a difference in our lives. Actions speak so much louder than words.

We love to think our words are the most powerful way we express our beliefs. Wrong!

The surest way to know what we believe is by looking at our actions.

We act out of our deepest beliefs about the world.

For example, many people would say that they value saving for retirement. But statistics show that far fewer people are putting money away for retirement. So, what does one truly believe? Our actions reveal our beliefs.

Many people can talk about their belief in the importance they place on physical health. Yet, very few people make a habit of eating well and exercising regularly. Our actions are a better indicator of our beliefs than our words.

I love how Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount. He tells a story about two men. One is wise the other is foolish. How can you tell the difference between the wise and foolish man?

Jesus says, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man...But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man..." (Matthew 7:24a, 26a)

The difference between wisdom and foolishness isn't one's IQ or level of education. The difference isn't what one claims to believe. The difference has to do with action. Are you practicing the way of Jesus or just giving lip service to it?

Our kids need to see how our faith makes a difference in our lives. Our kids need to know how important God is to us. They see us in our most difficult moments. Our reactions let them know our level of sincerity in our relationship with God.

From the beginning, Holly and I wanted to train up our kids to follow Jesus.

What we didn't know was that the most important training didn't happen in our discipline plan, mealtime prayers, or bedtime devotional time. The most important training of our kids occurs when we decide whether or not we will train as apprentices of Jesus every day when the sun comes up.

How are you training (your kids)?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Train Up A Child

As Holly and I started having kids, we realized the huge spiritual task that was ahead of us.

Holly and I started our family almost 5 years ago. I can still remember the feeling I had when I held Maddox in my arms for the first time. I felt a huge weight on my shoulders. I was also holding a bundle of potential in my hands.

We would be the first people to paint on our kids' blank slates a picture of who God is. Any dysfunctional views of God they might hold one day would likely originate in the early years of parenting we would provide for our kids.

We were excited. Holly was a natural mother. I was an awkward, unnatural father. But we have three of them and fortunately all three are still living.

As Maddox grew older, we began to realize the importance of intentionally forming our kids to be faithful followers of Jesus. And we continue to experiment and learn ways to do just that.

Today, we have three kids.

Maddox is 4.

Addison is 3.

Brooklyn is almost 6 weeks old.

If you're anything like us, you long for the day when your children will proclaim Jesus as Lord and commit to live their lives for God and his kingdom. We want them to see faith as a daring journey rather than a boring list of rules to follow. We want them to do extreme things for Jesus that will make us uncomfortable.

How do you raise kids in this world to live for Jesus?

I've heard it said that nobody with kids in the house should ever give advice to other parents.

And I agree. But with that warning in place, I hope to provide some space on this tiny corner of the internet for a conversation about raising children who follow Jesus in this culture.

Over the next few weeks, I will write a series of posts describing a few things Holly and I are doing to raise our kids to love and follow Jesus. It's not a comprehensive list. It's a list that grows and changes day-by-day. Perhaps a few things will be worth adding to your repertoire. And I hope you'll engage the conversation and add to our list as well.

Let's start the conversation with a question: If you have a mission statement as parents for raising your kids, what is it? If not, decide on one and post it in the comments section. 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Closing One Chapter, Opening a New Chapter

In 2008, Holly and I packed our bags and left Abilene, Texas with our sights set on a call from God to Denver, Colorado. I was 24-years old and the Littleton Church of Christ offered me a job to come and preach for them.
But today, that chapter of our story has come to an end. 

I have accepted a job as the preacher at the Greenville Oaks Church of Christ in Allen, Texas. 

And today, I understand better than ever before the adjective "bittersweet." 

It was very difficult to announce our resignation at Littleton this morning. After all, these are people we have come to know and love deeply. They have seen me grow from an extremely young preacher to a young preacher. The people of Littleton have become our family away from family. Our relationships are battle-tested. We have laughed and bled together for the sake of God's mission.

At the same time, we are very excited about what God is doing among his people in Allen, Texas at the Greenville Oaks Church of Christ. While our relationships are not yet fully-developed there, we anticipate building life-long friendships with a church situated to do audacious things for the sake of God's kingdom in Collin County.


But if becoming a father of three has taught me anything over the past few years, it is that our capacity to love expands as a family grows larger. 

When Holly and I had our second child, Addison, I wondered how I could love her as much as my first-born son, Maddox. But as our family expanded, my newfound love for Addison did not necessitate loving Maddox any less. No! Our hearts expanded and our capacity to love grew again when Brooklyn entered the world a few weeks ago.

We know God called us to Colorado. These have been special years. We will always look back fondly on our time at Littleton. Just look at the changes to our family over the past six years. 
Few young preachers can claim the support of a first congregation like I can. Far too many of my friends who entered ministry after leaving Abilene Christian University have already left full-time ministry. Churches have a way of recommissioning ministers as insurance agents (no offense to the insurance agents of the world). Ministry is hard. And many churches don't make it any easier. 

These past six years have been full of challenges (as in every church). And those challenges have grown me in ways all of the successes in the world never could have. But those challenges would have destroyed me had it not been for an incredible group of elders who encouraged me on Mondays when they should have critiqued me. Our growing family would have faced challenges alone had it not been for the many "family members" who loved on our kids, blessed my wife, and took us in on holidays. And I would have ditched preaching and gone to "law school" had it not been for mentors, preachers, and staff members who helped "extremely young Collin" become "young Collin."

A chapter has closed and tears flowed today. I wish the Littleton Church of Christ nothing but the best in the days ahead because a new chapter is about to begin for you!

And for the Packers, a new era is about to begin.

There's a new chapter about to be written. And we couldn't be more excited to begin our journey with the congregation, elders, and staff at the Greenville Oaks Church of Christ in Allen. 

Greenville Oaks, get your pens out. God has a script that is larger than our imaginations can dream.