10 Habits to Break (and NOT live by) :: routine.

Antarctic-Plateau We live in circles and lines defined more and better each day in routines, in habits.  The habits we tolerate shape our pace through life and weave together the perspective in which we gaze out at the world alive around us.  In similar fashion, we fail to perceive or even recognize the panorama of what could be when we become hemmed in by habits.

If we always return home the same way everyday, we may never become aware of a shortcut, a better way home.

There comes a time when ascent flattens and pace slows to life less than extraordinary.  In youth, we excitedly run with risk absent of consequence as we pursue dreams unhinged to plausibility.  Call it youthful exuberance or recklessness, but there is an invigorating vitality in running through each day with a hunger for more and a thirst for tomorrow.  As a result, we grow exponentially in youth, not because of the mere pace of our going, but our openness to new experiences and investigative curiosity in all surrounding us.  Naturally, we slow in our lean into adulthood as we take on responsibility and schedules.  The pace of yesteryear cannot be maintained in the same way as we draw circles of priority and lines of direction.  

But plateauing should never be our resigned position; learning and experiences are necessary to our growth and development as professionals, parents, spouses and friends.

When each day fades into undisturbed routine and the rush of wind pushing against our face as we pursue life more calms to barely whispering breeze in our halted stance, we reach stasis - the point where things will be as they will be and dreams are excused as insubordinate and unwise fantasies.  In our circles and lines, we drown in deadlines, goals and schedules and the panoramic disappears leaving only what’s immediately in front of us.

For me, walking outside the lines of routine holds high priority and considered an absolute necessity to continual growth.

Across the board, I violate lines appropriated safe by responsibility.  This is how I escape routine reigning as sacred in my life.  My violations are subtle, but transformative to how I value life and what really matters.  As an example, my schedule isn’t allowed as much value as what I’m actually doing.  So if one part of my schedule requires more time to do it well, the schedule bows to the activity.  Common within my scheduled writing time are moments when the words don’t fit together like they should in order to give proper voice to what I’m writing - in other words, writer’s block.  Instead of moving on for the sake of sticking to the schedule, I push through the block and closer to mastery.

Even more important than writing and routines, family holds a much higher regard.  Just last night, I sat up an hour later than my oldest’s regular bedtime to hear her heart and set right insecurities festering within her emotions.

I believe we develop far deeper and much more stable in our pursuit of life in moments outside the lines rather than holding to patterns and routines boasting safety.  And I believe God invites us to run outside the lines and deems it befitting of His immeasurably sufficient, unconcerned with safe grace alive in each of our days.  Sacred and safe routines are means of preservation and reek of a me-centric attitude void of God’s leading as primary.  Regularly, I remind myself that God rarely seems to be concerned with safe, but instead provokes curiosity and ideas of ahead within us.  Consider the apostle Paul’s positioning of God in Ephesians chapter 3:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

In every opportunity, may we reach outside the lines to grasp life well strengthened by a power alive and at work within us, and may we resign routine a lesser priority unable to threatened what really matters.

*(image: Ross Anderson)

A Deeper Family :: tipping the scale.

The day never holds enough minutes and moments. It never seems enough; the effort given, the time split, the little sacrifices made here and there, the want for more quality time, all feel like sand slipping through fingers.


It always moves faster than we think in the moment.  One day we are holding a tiny newborn nearly too nervous to even move with them in arm.  The next we find ourselves chasing them as they pedal their bike down the sidewalk and reviewing rules when readying them for sleepovers at friends’ houses.  And before we have time to be fully ready, they will be driving themselves around, shaving their faces or their legs, or both and be talking of college, career, dreams or even marriage.

Time doesn’t wait, not for you to learn how to get parenting and family right nor for you to grow unselfish enough to see or catch up to opportunities fleeting.  Like sand sliding through the skinny of an hour glass, time is constantly going.  And so are the days with it.

I had this terrible thought recently.  I only have about 8 years until my oldest daughter moves into the world off to college or work, chasing dreams and meeting love.

Continue reading my new post at A Deeper Family...

be parenting.

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“What does kindness mean?”

My question hung in air between us for a bit as they knew exactly why I was asking.  Most nights seem to require at least a quick emotional melt down right before bedtime.  With consistency, it’s as if my announcement that bedtime has once again arrived is received by their ears much differently than my rather practical intent.  The message somehow jumbled and transmitted to their brain, “hurry up, fight, argue, instigate, you’ve only got a few minutes left in this day!”  

Little exception to this every evening phenomena.  Someone is bound to lose the race up the stairway.  No fewer than three times a week does one of them rush upstairs to lock the bathroom door leaving the other two pounding hard demanding in.

Some times tears happen, too.  Actually crying is relatively normal and at times, a rather dominant expressed emotional response.  Perhaps if someone uninvitingly rearranged the dolls I had taken 5 minutes out of my schedule free day to set up at a tea party in my room, I’d crumble into tears and pieces too.  Or maybe if my little sister didn’t really understand the pretend scenario that I instantly created, details lacking and changing, I’d take it deeply to heart and fall apart.  “You just don’t get it, Dad.”  My thought, “thank God I don’t get it.”  We’d be a fiery mess of emotion and tears if I did get what they get.

Maybe it would be weird if at least one of the girls didn’t have a good cry at some point in every day.  What amazes is how quickly those tears can dry.  They dry fastest when they get what they want.

I love my daughters and am utterly committed to loving them just as completely as I know how and can learn to.  But even with the assistance of my mom interpreting their often indiscernible emotion code, I’m lost in those little moments when tears fall quickly and emotions blare out.  I’m just not that emotional of a person.  Especially when I look at the array of quick emotions they can shift through.

I know that they love each other, too.  Siblings fight and argue as a natural part of establishing who they are and working through life as they grow into it.  As a man, I imagine it might be easier to break up a physical squabble between boys.  But I don’t have boys.  I am fathering three girls who only have a dad.  I’m learning how to relate and find my pace with them in these emotional times.

So back to our bedtime question, “What does kindness mean?”

“” “...nice.” “...happy.”  (One guess at who this last response belonged to.)

“All good answers, girls, but not fully right.”

“Awwww!” said the one who answered ‘happy’ as she rolled around on the bed only half invested in the question.

“Kindness means being kind.”

One of the most important things to me as a father is teaching my daughters not simply about life, but precisely how to live it.  I want them to be thought of as kind because they are kind in the way they act and treat others.

Rightly connecting the information with behavior and action is the key that unlocks them.  Otherwise, I reduce myself only to an authoritative voice.  A parent’s place and opportunity in the child’s life is not merely authoritative, but more so as teacher and guide.

If I want them to be, I must be.

“So what can you do tomorrow to be kind to someone?  Pick someone, one person, who you will be specifically kind to?”

Their little responses were as seedlings opening up in the soil of their growing hearts.  Learning to live, to be, in little ways.  That defines and validates parenting for me.

down the trail.

[gallery link="file" columns="5"] Same mistake ...again.

Words, emotions, actions, all lit by the heat of the moment.  Right there.  Right in front of us both.  Regrets pile high once dust settles and calm returns.

Losing sight of who they can be and how to get there with them easily falls victim to all busy schedules, sticky details and chunky events of life unfolding. She lied again.  Again.  

Didn’t she learn from the last time I punished her and raised my voice emphatically?  Apparently, what I say does not matter enough to direct her to making the right choices.

What else would be the cause? She doesn’t respect me anymore.

Standing there looking back at me lying again.  In her eyes rest a distance.  I’m not getting through to her.  Control her every more and response.

“Stand up straight when I am talking to you!”  “Don’t you walk away from me!”  “Sit still, right there.”

In the immediate, I am blinded.  Nothing behind or ahead hold value, only now right there in the heat of the moment.  And there I lose touch with her.  That is the reason a distance rests in her eyes standing there looking back at me.  We stand apart in two different locations, a gap ever widening.

As a single dad and only parent to my three little daughters, I have become much more insecure.  With all of my heart, I only want them to grow healthy and robustly from little girls to young ladies secure in who they are and into loving and wise mature women set on a purposeful course in life.  The fear of not getting them there tangles and trips me.  The fear is now.  It is all I see.  And that is precisely the problem.  I react quickly and out of context losing sight of my ultimate desire.  In quick reactionary parenting, I am just being bounced between little details isolated and void of the overall beauty and full potential holding instead of seeing those little details as not isolated but parts of the whole and opportunities to get her there.

A few months ago while racing down a single track path through a wide open prairie on my mountain bike, I severely misjudged a turn.  Over the handle bars and through the air I tumbled landing squarely on my head and sliding through the dirt and dry grass on my back.  In the adrenaline rush, I popped right back up to my feet.  Everything blurry and spinning.  My stomach tightened and knees weakened as I reached for the ground both signs of a concussion.  After a couple minutes, I climbed back on my bike, cracked helmet and bleeding, for three more miles to finish the course.  The wreck and the injuries incurred were my doing.  One of the most dangerous things to do while mountain biking is to look down right over your handle bars.  In doing so, you miss what is right ahead.  The path is only right there, but there is so much ahead.  And you need to see the whole path ahead to anticipate response.  Turns, logs laying in path, roots, creeks, switch backs, hills and more all ahead on the course.

The danger of looking only right at the moment is to get lost in the immediacy of details unfolding and forget all ahead.  Life holds only immediate value.  Preoccupied and controlled by the moment only, you are left to only reacting.  Life is about much more than flinching, wincing and reacting.  So is parenting.

When I stare into the moment and lose sight of who she can be and will be, all ahead fades into the distant forever.  Both of us sink into a moment rushing, emotions running high and now bleeds like forever.  In this way exactly, parenting shares a parallel with mountain biking.  Life intersecting life.  Truth pedaling and parenting.  In both, eyes must lift out of moments heated and sticky and stay fixed ahead.

I am learning to securely parent my three little daughters in looking down the trail, anticipating response and proactively participating rather than waiting to react in moments and details.

God in context.

I went away alone for a four day writing weekend to make progress on finishing my book, the first one that I’m writing.  60,000 words or so all dripping with life, mine.  A view fixed from my eyes at life all around and life all within.  Memories resurface bringing great comfort and pain and irreplaceable joy and sadness still.  These words piece together only fragments of my life still unfolding like tiny picture scenes positioned carefully to make a bigger picture standing at a distance.  And what you begin to notice more than anything else is God.  In everything.

My brother died at age eight.  Me being five, I didn’t really get it.  God.  Finding God through fear in high school.  My hero dad leaving my mom in the slowest, clumsiest way, God.  Off to college lost and drifting, God.  Meeting the one who would become the one and the joy and finding involved, God.  Defying my odds and yet somehow landing where I always thought I would in ministry as a pastor.  God.  Family.  God.  The birth and acceptance of the three greatest treasures in my life.  God.  Learning to be a father.  God.  Leaving all to pursue the thinnest of dreams together as a family.  God.  The death of my wife.  God.  Life collapsing.  God.  Holding my daughters breaking in the dust settling.  God.  Awakening to a new day.  God.  Finding new life.  God.  Writing.  God.  Epilogue to Prologue, ending to (re)beginning, in the most precise redemptive strokes and causing all to meaningfully making sense.  God.

Below is an excerpt from a chapter that I am writing.  It is not finished.  Maybe it never truly will be.  As of now, the chapter is tentatively entitled, “A Crumbling Wall”.  In writing this chapter, I have a specific vision and imagery guiding the words and their piece together.  A wall battered down, eroded by life and circumstance, especially loss and grief, and how these served to rebuild and reform faith and trust stronger and more solid than before.

There was a street performer that I would see most times I visited the French Quarter as a kid.  For some reason, he made me think about God.  He was a mime in the character of a robot.  His movements were odd, mechanical, precise and a bit predictable.  Even in the sweltering heat and heavy summer air, he dressed in a full suit painted silver from head to toe.  As both natives and tourists passed him by, he never broke character.  It may have been his commitment to character or his quirky, precise gestures that caused me to think of God.  Then again, it could have been his silence and distance from people moving closely all about him and the way in which his actions and movements were cause for attention, but not direct interaction.  And of course, maybe it was the brilliance of his silver skin, suit and hat, that glowed and stood out in the unbelievable heat and humidity of the New Orleans day and how it never affected him that reminded me of God and what I perceived him to be.

Many people are enchanted by God and the thought that He is out there somewhere, somehow holding it all together and keeping the world from tilting too far out of control.  Comfortable with the distance yet calling to somewhere in the sky when in need.  Some are disillusioned by him and his perceived and felt inactivity in broken and horrific parts of their lives.  God exists exactly within the context of your life.  It is in the awakening to God as you are, just where you are, that you find him.  Or more precisely put, God finds you.


The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own,t and his own peoplet did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  (John 1:9-13)