Three Things I Wished Someone Had Told Me

Posted by Brady Boyd

I’ve been a pastor for two decades now, and while most every profession requires a little on-the-job training, there are a few things I wish somebody would have told me before I got started so that I didn’t have to learn them the hard way.

Such as: I’ll always be tempted to measure my success by my church’s attendance numbers. Or, the best thing I can do for my congregation is to quit comparing myself to other pastors and simply be me. Or, I will only be given as much spiritual authority as the amount of spiritual authority I’m willing to submit to. Or, my brain will always feel like scrambled eggs on Sunday afternoon. Or, while it’s true that sheep bites can’t kill me, the general congregational gnawing every pastor is made to withstand will make life miserable a few (very long) days each year.

As it relates to being a person governed not by busyness but by healthy rhythms, not by chaos but by an inner sense of calm, here are three things I also wish I would have known.

1. Rest is opposed

During the early days of my marriage, when I was running too fast and pushing too hard, I found it difficult to “come down.” I feared the loneliness and boredom I knew rest would usher in, so I kept upping my RPMs, with fingers crossed I’d avoid a crash. But we can’t stay up forever; we always have to come down. And because I refused to slow myself in a healthy manner, I was forced to walk a treacherous path. Mine was paved with Internet porn. From a place of deep humility, I’ve shared with my congregation how challenging it was to untangle myself from the grip of pornography across the span of several years in my twenties, but by God’s grace, I did get free.

For years, I looked back on that stretch of sinfulness with disbelief; how could I stoop to that level? I was in ministry. I was supposedly living for God. I adored and admired my wife. And yet, still, I’d find myself sitting in front of a computer screen, long after Pam had gone to bed, staring at stuff I had no business staring at, regretting the minutes even as they ticked by.

Things make more sense to me now. When we don’t say yes to God’s form of rest, we will say yes to a fraudulence instead — porn or gin, drugs or gambling, idle chatter or extravagant spending — all in the name of “unwinding.” It’s all proof that real rest is opposed, and that rest without God is anything but restful in the end.

2. Ruthlessness is required

Living rhythmically may sound like a breezy proposition, but to execute it well, we have to stand our ground. About 18 months ago, I called together the senior-most leaders of New Life Church. These are the men and women who report directly to me, the ones who oversee every ministry within our church. Typically I’m a big fan of delegation, of giving away all the control I don’t actually need. But for more than three years’ time, I’d asked to be part of decisions I normally wouldn’t need to weigh in on; a founding-pastor scandal, a fatal shooting on campus, and a fast and furious financial downturn demanded that I did.

When that three-year period came to a close the stress level let up, which would have been terrific news, except that I missed the cue that we had clawed our way out of the woods. My senior staff kept bringing me what I now instinctively knew were junior-level questions, and my frustration level rose by the day. Unwittingly, I’d neglected to inform them that we had shifted from “crisis mode” to “normal, everyday mode,” and all of us were suffering mightily as a result. They were trying to include me in their minutia, and I was expending precious energy fending off their incessant requests. A guy could die from being needed this much! I called a meeting for the purpose of informing them that if they preferred a pastor who was alive, then they would resume handling their own affairs. To which they said, “Um, all due respect, Pastor Brady, but you created this madness you now despise.”

They were right, and all of us knew it. We shared a good laugh, re-upped our commitment to saner processes, and moved forward toward brighter days. But not before the lesson lodged in my heart: yes, crises often causes temporary chaos, but we’ll kill ourselves from perpetual crisis mode. Every day can’t be a fire drill. We’ve got to fight to keep life sweet and sane.

3. The reward is the presence of God

Once I began taking rest and rhythm seriously in my life, I think I expected a marching band to materialize, blowing horns and celebrating my great success. “Way to go, Pastor Brady, for being a Sabbath-keeper! You’re officially holy and righteous and good!” I never would have admitted it publicly, but privately I hoped for some shiny angel to appear, to deliver the divine prize package I’d so dutifully earned.

The shiny angel never showed up.

What did show up was intimacy with God. Still today, the more I practice restfulness of mind and spirit, the more I experience the presence of God.

We observe the sacrament of communion nearly every weekend at New Life Church, and one thing I always notice is that it’s hard to hustle through the wine and the bread. It’s nearly impossible to still the soul when the body is still rushing around. And that’s a very good thing. We need to stop. We need to savor. We need to consider God’s presence with us there. That presence is the reward for rest, and it’s better than any marching band. In his presence is his power, and in his power is victory in the end — over all that tries to entangle us, over life’s chaos and madness and pain.

For more reading on this topic, consider my newest book, Addicted to Busy.

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Working Well

Posted by Brady Boyd

The discussions that have surfaced since the release of my new book, Addicted to Busy, have spanned from encouragement to some confusion. Most people understand after reading the book that I was not calling for a cessation of our labors. In fact, I have emphatically preached the opposite. We are not forsaking our responsibilities when we rest, it is for the sake of our responsibilities that we rest. Nowhere in the book was I advocating for less productivity. What I’m discovering in this journey is that for every person that does not know how to rest, just as many have never been taught a strong work ethic.

How do we work well and rest well simultaneously? The book covers the “rest well” part, so let’s discuss what it means to be industrious, to sweat, to grind and stand out at the place of our employment.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer, or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Proverbs 6

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23

 

1. Show up on time

One of the most respectful things we can do is honor people’s time. It is rude to be habitually late. “On time” means arriving, ready to work, five minutes early, by the way.

 

2. Suggest solutions rather than point to problems

Every healthy boss I know wants people around them who are problem solvers. Promotions always chase these people down and favor follows them wherever they go. Leaders lead people toward solutions. Leaders are proactive, anticipating problems and solving them long before they surface and scar the organization.

 

3. Be positive

I call these EBI people. This could be “even better, if …”.  These are people who believe the best, speak the best and end up being the best. We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our attitudes. People who are full of faith and hope for the future usually get what they expect.

 

4. Play nice 

“His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart.” Psalm 55:21

People who build bridges go further than those who blow up relationships.  People of peace are blessed but those who are always looking for trouble will find it. The Holy Spirit does his best work in unity among people who choose to forgive and encourage one another. Playing nice means we use our words to heal others, not shame others. Life and death is in the power of our tongue, and people of peace measure what they say, never reckless with language.

 

 5. Promote others 

It has been my goal the past 20 years to work myself out of every job I have been given. I want to raise up my replacement, equip them to run past me and then cheer them on when they do. This is the Jesus way of leading. He spent three years with a group of leaders and saw potential in them that no one else could imagine. He left them with huge responsibilities and all the resources they would need to succeed and they did!

 

What have you learned about work that has served you well as an adult? If you lead people, what qualities do you look for when promotions and raises are being awarded?

 

 

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The Miracle Story of New Life

Posted by Brady Boyd

This past week, Pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark was certainly one of the most high profile local church leaders of the past decade and his resignation from the church he founded left another big scar on the American evangelical landscape. I’m writing neither to defend nor decry the actions of Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church. I was not involved in any of the decisions that led to his resignation and I do not know any of the leaders who remain at the church. However, I do believe both Mark and Mars Hill can have a very hopeful future.

In August of 2007, I became the Senior Pastor of New Life Church after the founding pastor resigned. The church was devastated and many people felt the best days of NLC were behind them. In the past several years, other local churches have lost their high profile pastors and some of those congregations are still struggling while others have found sure footing and and are moving forward with healing and new vision for ministry.

I am no expert on church transitions, but I am experienced. When New Life was experiencing its trauma and sudden change, a passage of scripture from Psalm 137 was really helpful to me as I led the church.

Psalms 137:1 NIV

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

 

From this one verse, I learned three vital lessons.

1.     Admit there is a new reality.

“By the rivers of Babylon”

We are not in Jerusalem anymore and when we return to Jerusalem, it will never be the same. This was the lament of a people that had been captured and led away from their homeland. Everything changed overnight. When people suddenly lose their pastor, it seems everything in the church changes forever and nothing will ever be the same. As a leader, we must admit they are right; it will never be the same and that is ok. Change is difficult enough for some people when all the conditions are favorable, but traumatic, sudden change can be super painful. Do not ignore the pain.

 

2.     Take time to mourn

“we sat and wept”

Staying busy keeps us occupied, but it does not allow for mourning or grieving, therefore, any church going through a painful transition must slow down and permit people to mourn. There has been a loss, so people need permission to cry, to reflect and to receive extensive counseling if necessary. Do not skip this step because pain that’s not allowed to heal will resurface until it does heal. Hurt people hurt people, but healed people can help people.

 

3.     Remember the past

“we remembered Zion”

Talk about the past and recall the great times, the “remember when” moments. When we can honor the pastor who departed, we should.  This is healthy and necessary, even if the former pastor did something terrible that warranted his departure. Obviously, not all the details can be shared publicly because we want those who were hurt to have private space for healing. However, there are wise and honoring ways to have public conversations that give the congregation permission to talk and find healing. Celebrate past wins sincerely and learn honestly from the broken history.

In those dark days at New Life, following a scandal, we felt the sun would never shine again on our congregation. But it did! Today, our church is opening Dream Centers to care for the poorest in our city, planting new congregations, baptizing new believers, training hundreds in our leadership academy, supporting mission’s work in over 30 countries, and writing songs that are sung by churches everywhere. New Life Church is a miracle story.

Tough times are inevitable for all churches and the valley of despair can appear permanent, but our story is proof that dark days are not forever. When David wrote the 23rd Psalm, he realized that God had not abandoned him when all seemed lost and that was reason enough to dream again. Let’s pray for Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll and other churches who are in the valley right now. Let’s pray for grace, healing, unity and redemption. We know this is possible for them because we have seen this miracle firsthand. We have been given much grace and we surely want grace for others.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me …” Psalm 23:4 NIV

 

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Are We Addicted to Busy?

Posted by Brady Boyd

Five years into my marriage, my wife met me at the door with her bags packed.

I should have seen it coming. I had packed my life with jobs and positions and commitments out of my deep-seated need to be needed. I was too busy, and the gentle, calm woman I’d married five years prior had decided she would rather be single than be married and do life all alone.

“Pam,” I said, my voice low and my words slow, “if you will stay here tonight—if you will agree not to leave tonight—I will walk in tomorrow and resign.” The red rims around her eyes told me she’d been crying all afternoon. “No, you won’t,” she challenged. “You won’t.” I asked for 24 hours, to prove that I’d make good on my plan. And by that time the following day, I had resigned every last role.

That was one of the first times I realized I have a problem: I’m addicted to being busy.

And it’s not just me. Every problem I see, in every person I know, ultimately is a problem of moving too fast for too long in too many aspects of life. Every problem. And I’m a pastor, so I see a lot of problems.

We think if we can keep going, keep busy, keep plowing ahead, our conscience won’t have time to catch us because—ha, ha!—we’ll already be long gone.

We think if we can keep going, keep busy, keep plowing ahead, our conscience won’t have time to catch us because—ha, ha!—we’ll already be long gone. And the reality is this approach actually works. But only for a time. “Life is like the breath,” writes Brother David Steindl-Rast. “We must be able to live in an easy rhythm between give and take. If we cannot learn to live and breathe in this rhythm, we will place ourselves in grave danger.” Maybe even the literal grave.

Because it’s easy for me to chase after the tempting buzz of busy living, I’ve learned to recognize the signs that my addiction has kicked in again. If you lean toward over-scheduled and under-rested, consider these danger signs of a busyness addiction:

You Feel Like You’re in Your Glory When You’re Busiest.

This really should be the first clue that something is amiss. You see, I like how success feels. I don’t want to unplug. I don’t want to relax. The last thing I crave is rest. I’m a recovering speed-and-wild-success junkie who never wants to come down, and to allow any semblance of white space is to cause the undesirable effects of withdrawal.

You’re More Fascinated With Gadgets Than With God.

I got to work a few days ago and realized I’d left my phone at home. The all-out search that proved futile and the ensuing overwhelming angst I experienced were significant. I think I was more distraught than if I’d misplaced one of my children. How am I going to get through this day without my phone? I thought.

A different kind of call was coming in, even as I searched for the device. It was a call from God: “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” Of course I didn’t pick up.

God tried again: “Lay your burdens down, child. Walk with me, and your walk will be burden-free.” To which I didn’t respond. Again.

God stays the course: “I want you to be fascinated not with trinkets, but with me.” Still, no response.

Ever-patient, ever-persistent, God went for it a fourth time: “Slow down. Look up. Linger here with me.”

It was then I thought I heard something. Wait. Was that the voice of God?

But then, I hear a subtle ding from my phone, which had been in my laptop bag the entire time. The ding was alerting me to a text message that had just arrived. My thumb couldn’t help itself—it was itching to swipe. As I reached for my phone, all attention focused on that new text, I simultaneously scored one for the enemy of my soul.

Technology is not a bad thing in itself, but when we’re more tuned into our iPhone alerts than to our Creator, it’s a problem.

Your Favorite Compliment Has Become, “Wow. You’re Always so Busy.”

Behind the” I’m-so-busy-it-would-blow-your-mind” conversations is the motivation for all my busyness. I have a theory on this, which is that busyness is our means to impress. If I’m busy, then I’m important, and if I’m important, then you’ll be impressed. That’s the reason I spend so much time being busy: to impress you, so perhaps I’ll feel like I matter. Impression management becomes a full-time job, and it’s exhausting.

You Don’t Have Time for the Ones You Love.

These days, years after that day of packed bags at the door, I don’t let things get that far. But still there are times when I can see in my wife’s weary gaze that I’ve been pushing and driving too hard. It’s the worst warning sign of all, I think, the one that says, “You’re hurting the ones you most love.”

Consider this: God is not merely a peaceful person; God, in fact, is peace.

For some people, it takes a world-rocking tragedy or the loss of everything they hold dear in order to finally learn how to slow down, to tend to their souls, to rest—it takes some sort of death. I hope that won’t be true for you. I’m determined it won’t be true for me. I’m resolving instead to go down a different path, a path paved with rest and peace.

Consider this: God is not merely a peaceful person; God, in fact, is peace. When you and I sit in God’s presence, we’re sitting in the presence of peace. And when we sit there—actually stay there, quiet, still—we come away breathing differently. We come away with steadied souls. From there, astoundingly, we can become people of peace. We can become more like God.

This is why God’s invitation is so profound, the invitation to come to Him to find our rest: He can actually deliver on what He promises, something the world never will be able to do.

I want this type of restfulness. I want to say yes to this.

We slow down—to rest, to contemplate, to lollygag with God—because slow can pay serious dividends, for our bodies, for our minds, for our souls.

 

Want more? My new book Addicted to Busy is now available along with small group study guides and a 12-day Addicted to Busy Challenge.

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Practice the Jesus Pace

Posted by Brady Boyd

Read below for another example of the email devotionals you will receive from me if you sign up for the 12-Day Addicted to Busy Challenge.  To get these short and encouraging emails for 12 days, sign up here.

 

We can learn a lot about how to pace ourselves if we look at how Jesus paced himself. In this step, we’ll look at a few simple ways to live at the Jesus Pace tomorrow:

  • The Jesus Pace is rhythmic. Take a look at your schedule for tomorrow, keeping in mind Jesus’s propensity to engage, engage, engage, and then withdraw. In the course of tomorrow’s plans, where will you withdraw and allow yourself to rest? Go ahead and block the time or times now. Decide when you will withdraw, and then tomorrow, commit to doing just that.
  • The Jesus Pace is relational. Specific quiet times alone with God are great, but even greater is a constant flow of communication over the course of a given day. Just for tomorrow, see if you can’t raise your awareness of his presence and his power, and then chat with him as you go about your day. Tell him what’s on your heart as you walk from one meeting into the next. Ask him for discernment as you engage in conversation with a friend or associate. Practice chatting with God all throughout the day, and see if the interactions don’t work wonders for your spirit by the time you lay your head down that night.
  • The Jesus Pace is resolute. As you walk through tomorrow’s agenda, insist on choosing peace. When your toddler is throwing a tantrum, take a deep breath and simply choose peace. When your boss is demanding an impossible deadline, simply choose peace. When there is traffic and construction and the guy behind you is laying on his horn, choose peace. When the annoying family member calls or the needy friend texts, take a step back from the situation and determine in your heart to choose peace. Say the words aloud if that helps you: “I. Choose. Peace.” But whatever you do, make peace your choice.

 

Get ready: once you’ve practiced the Jesus pace for a day, you will want to do it more often.

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Breaking Busy – Step One

Posted by Brady Boyd

This is the first devotional I am sending to anyone who signs up for the 12-Day Addicted to Busy Challenge. You will get a similar email every day encouraging you to embrace the rhythms of life modeled by Jesus. If you want to sign up, click here.

We are all spread too thin, taking on more than we can handle, trying to do so much—almost as if we are afraid that if we were to take a moment of rest, we might discover that all our busyness is covering up an essential lack in our lives.

But God never meant for us to be so busy. God desires for us peace. God desires rest.

The first step to breaking your addiction to busy:

Acknowledging unhealthy rhythms

Even the healthiest and holiest people have some rhythms that don’t serve them well.

Maybe you chronically sign up for more than your soul’s capacity will allow. Perhaps you need to be needed. Maybe you consistently neglect to carve out time to spend with God each day, or you “come down” from a workweek in a less-than-stellar way.

Think about your own life—your own daily ebbs and flows. What rhythms aren’t serving you well? Which could stand to be adjusted or altogether removed?

What to do:

On a sheet of paper or in your journal, jot down the unhealthy rhythms that come to mind. Don’t worry yet with how to change them; we’ll deal with that later. For now, simply get them down in writing so that they’re top of mind as we walk through this together.

 

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How to Take a Day Off

Posted by Brady Boyd

Let’s be honest, most of us do not know how to take a day off without feeling guilty, restless or insecure. As a young pastor, I seldom chilled for a entire day and it almost cost me my marriage, my health and my ministry. Today, I am better at it. Here are some thoughts and suggestions to help all of us unplug and regularly recharge our lives.

1. Use social media just to be social, or avoid it altogether.

2. Go on a date with your spouse, or do something fun with a great friend.

3. Go outside and take a walk or just sit awhile in the sun. The sun recharges our bodies with vitamin D, which protects against a host of health problems.

4. Unless it’s family or one of your close friends, do not answer your phone. Voicemail is a great screening tool.

5. Don’t drink cheap coffee and eat a donut. With sprinkles.

6. Talk about anything but work stuff. Note to pastors – church stuff is work stuff.

7. Wear clothes you would never wear to work. I have an awful set of t-shirts I wear on my day off. Instagram photos will follow as proof.

8. Laugh often. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh.

9. Spend time reading something that will stir your imagination.

10. Hit yourself on the kneecap with a hammer each time you read an email from work. After a couple of emails, you will be forced to lie down and rest.

11. Spend some time completely alone. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. We should too.

Want more on this topic of rest, sabbath and sustainable rhythms? My new book, Addicted to Busy has just released. It is an encouraging and empowering read for anyone struggling to find solace in a chaotic world.

What do you like to do on a day off? Leave me a comment.

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Reflections from a Summer Sabbatical

Posted by Brady Boyd

My family and I have just returned from a summer sabbatical, thanks to the generosity of my church and its leadership. We traveled, spent time with some family, took long walks together, went on bike rides, slept late, stayed up late, went to bed early, read some books, watched some movies, did some chores around the house and disconnected from work and school. It was one of the best summers of our lives. So, what did I learn from my time away?

1. I really like my family

Ok, I really loved them before the sabbatical, but the fact that we still spoke to one another after a road trip to Florida and back was proof positive that love can survive anything. I will not do that again, but I’m grateful for the six days of driving America’s freeways that produced mostly laughs along the way. The sound of our own wheels did not drive us crazy. In fact, we really enjoyed one another’s company, even when mom and dad belted out 80′s tunes from the radio.

2. I really like my church

The hardest part of the sabbatical was being away from New Life, even though I watched online most Sundays. Being with the tribe of New Lifers is really important to our family and Sundays felt a bit hollow without the hugs and prayers of our congregation. I needed the break from teaching and preaching so my mind could rest and recharge, but I missed that holy moment each Sunday when the crowd becomes a worshipping family and singing prayers lift the rafters. I missed coming to the Lord’s Table together.

3. I really like my team

Most of my friends are people that serve with me at the church. I spent some great time with long-time friends from Texas, lingered with my family in Louisiana and hung out with some pastor friends, but I really missed the day-to-day interaction that only happens with the people who are alongside me in the trenches of local church ministry. Today, I re-entered the routine of coffee and conversations with my cadre. It felt right again. It felt like home, again.

This Sunday, I return to the church I love, teaching the people I admire, in a city and state I adore. It took a summer sabbatical to remind me that I’m right where I need to be, belonging to a family and church that likes one another.

 

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The Gift of a Sabbatical

Posted by Brady Boyd

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16

This is one of my favorite Scriptures describing the leadership rhythms of Jesus. In the middle of a busy and hectic season of healing the sick, preaching to the multitudes and mentoring his core leaders, Jesus would simply disappear. His followers would frantically search for him, only to find him alone, praying, and restoring his own soul. He was putting on his own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.

It’s important we pay careful attention to the lifestyle Jesus modeled, and that is why sabbaticals are a part of our ethos here at New Life. Every full-time employee receives this gift every seven years and we encourage them to take advantage. We believe these times are critical for the health of our team and for our congregation.

This Summer, it’s my turn for a much needed sabbatical. I will be gone for several weeks, but the congregation will be led during my time away by the strong team God has given us. I truly believe this will be the most fruitful Summer in our church’s history.

The elders and I have been planning for this extended time away for months now, with three primary goals.

1. Rest

I’m grateful that I am not wrestling with burnout as I enter this sabbatical. In fact, I am more energized and encouraged than ever. My family and I have strived to follow the principles of rest, solitude, and Sabbath for many years now. In fact, I talk about these life-giving principles in my new book, Addicted to Busy, which releases when I return later this Summer. However, I’m sure I have underestimated the physical, emotional and mental toll these past seven years have taken on my family. I know I need to rest, and so I will.

2. Reflect

A lot has happened in the past seven years, both in the church and within my family. I do not want to miss anything God is showing me, so I need to pause, reflect, and journal all my thoughts from these amazing and challenging years. I want to have unhurried conversations with Pam, my wife of almost 25 years, and with my two teenagers, who are racing toward adulthood. I will also spend some much needed time with our church Overseers, mentors and close friends to get their wise perspectives.

3. Recharge

The last goal is to simply recharge my batteries for the days, years and decades ahead. New Life is growing and healthy. Our team is amazing and the best days for our congregation are still in front of us. I want to be re-energized to serve alongside all of you with a renewed spiritual vitality. I want to sharpen my spiritual disciplines, lose some middle-aged weight, eat better and exercise regularly so I can finish this race as strong as I started.

Thank you for giving me this gift of a sabbatical and I promise to steward this time well. You are a great tribe of people and we love you very much. Have a blessed Summer and may God be present in your rest, too.

 

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I’m the Dad of Teenagers and They are Awesome

Posted by Brady Boyd

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it, will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21

It seemed the moment I became a dad, well meaning people warned me of a turbulent time that lay ahead. Pam and I would introduce our wobbly toddlers to people and inevitably they would say something like this, “Enjoy them now, because one day they will be teenagers.” With a plethora of proof, these older adults would raise the flag of impending doom for the seven-year period that was ahead for our two kiddos.

Pam and I never believed them, though. We started telling ourselves that our teenagers were going to be a great joy to us just as they were when we took them home from the hospital after adopting them both. These harbingers of gloom apparently forgot that babies and toddlers were challenging in their own right. Late night feedings, exploding diapers, vomit on carpet, and tantrums at Wal-Mart could not be the best of times, right?

So, we inched toward the ‘terrible teen” years with guarded hope that we were right and the negative parenting prophets were wrong. We were right. Our two teens did not transform into sub-human droids of destruction when they turned 13. Puberty was not the apocalypse, after all.

Now, before you dismiss me as the pastor painting his kids as perfect, allow me to digress. Our kids are normal and they are teenagers, which is indeed, possible. Our kids test the boundaries of our rules, like your kids. Our kids would rather gorge on junk food than healthier options, like your kids. Our kids do not like early morning school routines, like most other kids. Our kids have spiritual questions and even doubts, like most other kids.

Pam and I could write volumes on what we have learned NOT to do as parents, but one thing we have done well is not believe that our teenagers would be problems without solutions. Every stage of parenting is a challenge that requires more prayer than we think, more wisdom than we can muster, and tons of patience. We have leaned into godly mentors as often as possible and we have certainly paid attention to what our kids watch and listen to in the public media.

We have worked diligently at guarding their innocence, guided them toward life -giving relationships and helped them to see the wonder of the local church, not just its brokenness. We have also realized that our kids will have to make their own choices and some of them may not be best. It is not easy to put your kids into situations where their critical thinking is tested. It is much easier to calibrate robots and send them off into an uncertain world with pre-programmed software.

I wish parenting teens was that simple. Instead, it is a lot like skydiving. We have one chance to get it right and we sure hope it works out. What we speak about our kids before ever leaving the tarmac will go a long way, though, in deciding if there is a safe landing in our future. Speak life now over your toddlers, and when they are teens, they may actually give life back to you.

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