Category Archives: family

Back from vacation

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My wife and I returned from a week-long trip to the mountains of East TN, an early celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary this October. She found a quiet, remote B&B called Whitestone Country Inn for us online and we booked the Oriole Suite.

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This isn’t the first time we’ve gone on a vacation together on our own, but I’m fairly certain this was the longest time away – 5 nights / 6 days. The kids are old enough now that they can pretty much take care of themselves.

My plans for the trip were simple: relax, enjoy some uninterrupted time with my wife, get some reading done, and maybe eat something yummy along the way. She had a longer list of things to accomplish.

Fortunately, we both got what we wanted out of our trip.

It got me thinking. I’ve been reading a lot about different generations, particularly Millenials, and how they’re reshaping travel, technology, the workplace. Multiple surveys have shown a shift in how generations approach ‘vacations’. Millenials tend to favor ‘the experience’ vacations – Iceland to see the northern lights, Hamilton on Broadway, kayaking down the Rockies or golfing with some celebrities. And it’s not just Millenials. There are plenty of Gen Xers or even Boomers that want the experience vacation as well.

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But for me, a Generation X, father of 7, husband for 20 years, I’ve come to enjoy simpler pleasures. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about going completely granola and ditching all the technology and modern conveniences we have today. But there’s something beautiful and peaceful about taking more than a couple days or a weekend with your wife to someplace remote, away from alarm clocks and schedules, and just enjoying each other’s company.

I was able to jump into full-on relaxation mode the minute we had unpacked. But my wife, who is normally very driven and focused, took at least 3 days to completely let it all go. But when she did, it was magical.

We even ventured into Knoxville for a day and had a fantastic time on a private foodie tour of some hidden gems in the big city. If you’re ever visiting, I would definitely recommend reaching out to Paula and taking one of her Knoxville Food Tours. But at the end of the day, we went back into the mountains and enjoyed the quiet of the hills once again.

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Eventually, it came time to go home to our children. We took the scenic road home over the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive is incredible. We were up in the clouds overlooking some of the most amazing views of God’s creation.

We’ve been incredibly blessed for 20 years together and, Lord willing, we will have many more to come. The experience we enjoy has less to do with the where and the what but with whom we spend it.

Happy anniversary, my love.

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My kind of vacation

For the second year in row, our dear friends from Texas (AJ, Laura,and #8) drove all the way to our home in South Carolina to spend a few days of their vacation with us and to celebrate our Independence Day together, blowing stuff up and eating lots of yummy food.  We laughed, shared memories and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Somehow this year, we started talking about Meyers-Briggs personality types and my brother-from-another-mother pointed out a simple description of the difference between Introverts and Extroverts.  I, being an Introvert, lose energy with prolonged exposure to people, even beloved friends.  He, being an Extrovert, replenishs his energy supply from being around people.

So, when I wake up in the morning, my batteries are fully charged because I’ve had a nice long break away from people (well, except for my beloved wife).  AJ wakes up depleted and needs company fast in order to recharge.  Basically, my brother is a vampire feeding off of people like me.  ūüėā

Thing is that I love being around my friends and family, but I don’t really have this burning need to DO stuff.  I just love knowing they are near.  I do, however, need a plan or some milestones for the day – like what we’re going to eat or if I need to drive anyone anywhere or if we need supplies, etc.  Guess if you are a father of seven, much of this stems from necessity.

At one point during our weekend, I think a circuit just snapped in my head and I made a mess of the festivities, getting short with my wife and embarrassing myself in front of my friends because “I just needed to know the details of the plan!“. 

Sigh, thankfully my wife and our friends love me too much to hold a grudge when I get stupid.

Have you ever seen Weird Science?  There’s this scene where Gary and Wyatt are hosting this huge, rocking party and where are they?  Hiding out in the bedroom, taking some consolation that everyone else seems to be having a good time.  I can totally relate to them.  ūüėĀ

But here’s how thoughtful and wise God is.  In all my quirks and oddities, my wife is the glue that keeps it all together for me.  She, being an Extrovert, can graciously host dozens of our friends at our home without batting an eye.

Well, the Fourth came and I was super excited.  I had a stock pile of fireworks all planned out.  And then, our friends brought even more!  They brought food, children, and most importantly, themselves.

I was a little nervous because of the rain in the forecast, but it cleared up just in time for the show.  God is good! 

The week was a huge success.  We had such a good time with our friends.  I didn’t have to drive cross country and enjoyed the comforts of home.  We blew up a ton of explosives.  AND, no police showed up!  (We’ve got a cranky neighbor that complains to them anytime we’re out in our yard after 9 pm).  

I am so thankful for all of you in my life.  Thanks for the best vacation an INTJ can ask for.

A Father’s Birthday Wish Come True

Today’s my birthday.  Not a big deal for me, but I have a wife and 7 children, so it’s impossible not to celebrate.  But I was given one of the best presents I could ask for yesterday.

My 2nd daughter, Eva, turns 16 in 2 days.  She’s very thoughtful and kind, friendly to most strangers, and has a heart especially for disabled children.  Sometimes, I forget how much she’s grown.  Below is one of her writing assignments for her Christian Growth class.

When I read this, I was immediately reassured that we are doing something right, homeschooling our children, raising them in God’s Word, and teaching them how to express not just their thoughts but more importantly, their convictions of faith.  This is no longer her parents speaking and teaching.  This is her faith and life she’s chosen to follow.


Committing to pray without ceasing

‚ÄúPray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you‚ÄĚ Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy gave this command to the church in Thessalonica. (1Thessalonians 5:17-18) Why was this command so important, and is it still just as important? They, and other believers, were suffering imprisonment and persecution for their faith and spreading the Gospel message. Though the Thessalonians could not be with them in other countries, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy all knew they could be through prayer. The same goes for us; this command is for all believers today in this dying world, and will continue to be.

Committing to pray every day is important. It‚Äôs an appointment with God in prayer every day, for us to praise and thank Him, and intercede for others. It will take you a little bit of experimenting to find the best plan for you, but there are a couple of steps that you can take that might help you ease into it.  

1. Verbally declare your commitment.

You don’t have to announce with a megaphone in a town square, but it’s important to remind yourself (aloud) that you have to, and are going to have that time set aside today. Just like any other meeting, it’s important to be on time. Why should we strive to be on time for every appointment of our day, except for our appointment with God?

2. Fight all interruptions fiercely.

There will be times when Satan will try to slip little disturbances in the way of your appointments, but don‚Äôt let him! He knows that prayer is our greatest means of defense against his plans, and you should too! 

3. Develop a practical prayer plan.

Find the best time to have as your prayer time, and how long you have to pray. I enjoy basing my prayer plan on Dick Eastmans’ Scripturally-based Hour of Prayer, but again, it takes a little experimenting and practice to find what best suits you. I recommend setting aside at least one hour a day to pray when you first start out. You may find yourself at a loss of words at first, but this will give you time to fully enjoy having this appointment with God and God alone. After some time, you may find yourself wanting more than an hour a day! (You don’t have to pray for a whole hour straight; you could divide your prayer time throughout your day. Just remember to be consistent in your timing.)

4. Recognize the importance of your daily hour
 

Romans 10:13-14 says, ‚ÄĚFor ‚ÄėWhoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.‚Äô How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?‚ÄĚ Our prayers for our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, for the lost, for our leaders, and countries, make a difference. Even when you don‚Äôt know exactly what it is you‚Äôre praying for, ‚ÄúHis (the LORD) ears are open to their (the righteous) cry‚ÄĚ (Psalm 34:15)

Let us be ‚Äúworthy of the calling‚ÄĚ (2Thessalonians 1:11-12)! ‚ÄúFor we are God‚Äôs fellow workers‚Ķ‚ÄĚ (1Corinthians 3:9) Let us work together to expand God‚Äôs Kingdom, and see other souls saved! Although we may lack opportunity throughout the day, there is always an opportunity to intercede for a lost soul in prayer. There is always an opportunity to pray for a friend, family member, stranger, etc. Let us take hold of this freedom and privilege to pray for others, and ‚Äúpray without ceasing!‚ÄĚ 

 

How Healthy Is Your Local Church?

Been having a few discussions about healthy assemblies, so I thought it would be a good idea to capture some thoughts. ¬†Depending on your denomination, the group of Christians that form a local body might go by a few different names – the Church, the body of Christ, the local assembly, the brethren. ¬†My family and I have attended countless denominations over the years, so I’m not writing to split hairs over which is right. ¬†Yes, I’ve gone through several studies of the greek word –¬†ekkl√©sia. ¬†For the purpose of this post, I will use the names interchangeably.

Anyway, the point of this post is to discuss the health of your assembly. ¬†How do you know if your congregation is new, growing, stable, declining, or even dead? ¬†If you are visiting a church or looking for a new place to join in fellowship, one tell-tale sign is to observe the spread of generations represented. ¬†Now, I’m not talking about “age diversity” like it’s some goal to manufacture artificially. ¬†

What I’m referring to is whether you have large clusters of certain generations. ¬†Does your assembly look like an old folks’ home? ¬†Are your pews filled with mostly young couples or singles without any children? ¬†Do you appear to cater to families with mostly toddlers? ¬†I’ve even seen some mega-churches purposefully divide their congregations into these groups. ¬†The older, ‘traditional’ worship crowd may meet at 8:30 am while the ‘modern’, younger Christians meet at 11. ¬† ¬†

So why even bring up age or generations? ¬†What does that have to do with a healthy church? ¬†Everything. ¬†Look at Paul’s letter to Titus.

Titus 2:1-8 (NKJV)

Qualities of a Sound Church

2¬†But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:¬†2¬†that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience;¬†3¬†the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things‚ÄĒ¬†4¬†that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,¬†5¬†to be¬†discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.

(The bold emphasis was obviously added by me.)¬† Look at what Paul is describing. ¬†The church is all about the older generations teaching, admonishing, and living out “a pattern of good works” to become examples for younger generations to follow. ¬†The younger generations, in turn, should revere and learn from the older, wiser generations. ¬†

Think about how our society behaves today. ¬†How often do you hear the young praise the wisdom of elders? ¬†Are you more likely to see the young dismiss, disrespect, and mock their elders? ¬†How often do you see older generations complain about how spoiled and entitled millennials are? (I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this.) ¬†By contrast, when was the last time you heard a parent or elderly person tell the younger “Follow me, as I follow Christ.“? ¬†How many of these older generations can claim they are living examples of “integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech” — in other words, that they live out lives worthy of reverence?¬†

There’s a blatant lie that the secular world has come to embrace, and it has even permeated the Church. ¬†It’s the idolatry of ME and ME TIME. ¬†There’s a notion that we work hard for some 30-50 years of our lives and when we get to a certain age, it’s time to coast and enjoy the fruits of our labor. ¬†No more kids to worry about or responsibilities other than fulfilling our own desires. ¬†We save up for retirement and when we get there, it’s endless days of golfing, mimosas, and gossiping at the Club. ¬†That or popping E.D. pills to bathe outside in a tub on a hill (not sure why these always seem to be together).

If this is what I’m working toward, someone please kill me now and put me out of my misery. ¬†

At the fall of man,¬†Genesis 3:17-19, God does not tell Adam that he only works until he grows old. ¬†The curse to labor is for “all the days of your life” and “till you return to the ground“. ¬†Now, as we age, we might not be able to do the same job or physical/mental labor that we had done in our youth. ¬†But clearly, Paul instructs the older men and women to actively participate, even LEAD, in the matters of the church. ¬†Think about how perfectly planned this is. ¬†When you are young, you almost never had enough time or energy. ¬†When you are older and wiser, you now have ample time to share your experience and wisdom. ¬†

There’s something beautiful about a local assembly of Christians where the older, experienced ladies are helping young ladies, new mothers, or even struggling single mothers “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, [and] obedient to their own husbands”. ¬†Likewise,¬†when older men are preaching the Word, discipling the younger men to someday take up the roles of leadership in the home and the assembly, this is God’s design for how to build the Church.

To be sure, these principals of building the Church begin in the home. ¬†Husbands and Wives have their own responsibilities for raising up godly children, teaching them the Bible, and earning the respect of their young ones. ¬†The Church has a function to support and encourage Men and Women in their homes. ¬†It can never replace a Mothers’ and Fathers’ responsibilities.

For decades, one alarming by-product of ignoring God’s design for building healthy homes and churches I’ve watched is the fallout rate. ¬†Many churches have children that have grown up in the same assembly for most of their lives. ¬†And yet, when they reach adulthood, not only do these children never return to the assembly of their youth, but they stop attending a church altogether. ¬†

It’s amazing to me when local assemblies dedicate so much effort for preaching the gospel all over the world to complete strangers when we are failing to make disciples of Christ in our own homes. ¬†What better opportunity for fertile soil will you have in your lifetime than to plant the seeds of faith in your own children? ¬†Now I’m not saying missionary work isn’t important or Biblical. ¬†Even Christ said “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” ¬†

Still,¬†the truth is that the health of our local assemblies hinges greatly on whether we are following God’s design rather than the latest marketing trend report. ¬†The work of the body of Christ never ends, as even the Lord said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” – John 9:4. ¬†Each part of the body has a critical role to play in order to build and maintain a healthy, thriving church. ¬†Let us focus on our calling, in our given season of life, to serve one another for His glory.

Prepare Your Children For Adulthood

Are we getting our money’s worth with public education? ¬†Take a good look around you.¬†¬†When you are going to work, shopping at the grocery, driving in your car, hiring a plumber, calling Customer Service, making a deposit at your bank, going out to the movies, dining at a restaurant —¬†do you believe, based on the interactions you have every day, that we are getting progressively smarter as a society or are we going in the other direction? ¬†Has Idiocracy finally achieved prophetic, documentary status?

I look around and I see grown adults who can’t form complete sentences. ¬†I see men and women writing business communications at a 7th-grade level. ¬†I see people who handle money or work with numbers all day and yet can’t do simple arithmetic without the use of their phone or calculator. ¬†Logic and persuasive debate are completely foreign to most adults. ¬†Thanks to the Universities of¬†Safe Spaces, we don’t teach young adults to disagree anymore, and we certainly don’t teach them to defend any unpopular positions they might have based on their convictions and logical reasoning. ¬†I see parents who haven’t the slightest clue of how to shop for groceries, buy and own a home, create and stay on a budget, or balance a checkbook. ¬†Is it any wonder they are totally incompetent when it comes to preparing their children for the real world?

I suspect many professional educators feel it’s their job to produce little Renaissance men and women, to enlighten and ignite their curiosities, and to send them off into the world filled with knowledge for the betterment of humankind. ¬†Even the folks at Learn Liberty seem to embrace this¬†notion¬†—¬†

And it is the examined life that both George and West view as the purpose of a liberal-arts education. Its goal, that is, is to encourage critical reflection on the biggest questions; to lead us into an intellectual engagement that fulfills our nature as thinking beings; to help us achieve self-mastery; to enlarge our souls. It is, of course, possible to pursue these goals without going to college, but institutions of higher education are (or should be) dedicated to them in a special way.

¬†What does that even mean? ¬†I hear things like “an examined life” and “well-rounded students” and I immediately think of someone that’s not an expert (or even above average) at anything. ¬†Instead, they’re basically treading water like everyone else¬†in the same cesspool of mediocrity and general, useless, regurgitated information.

We need to change how we view the purpose of education. ¬†Every student does not have the same need. ¬†How many of us had to suffer through years of a foreign language even though we knew we’d never use it? ¬†How many of us struggled needlessly through biology, chemistry or physics when we had absolutely no aspirations to go into the physical sciences? ¬†Has anyone that’s not an engineer or scientist used the Pythagorean theorem, calculated a 2nd derivative, or used Ohm’s Law lately?

Instead of the one-size-fits-all approach to education, would it not make more sense for parents and teachers to help our children develop essential life skills, relevant training geared toward a career and eventually adulthood?

I firmly believe, through personal experience, that college isn’t for everyone. ¬†In fact, I would argue that most people don’t need a high school or college degree. ¬†Parents, however, will insist on sending their children to college because they’ve been taught you need a degree in order to be successful and happy. ¬†There’s a nice, short essay written by Jeffrey Tucker entitled “Ditch College, Get a Real Skill, Live a Good Life” which shares many of my thoughts on education and work.

As I had written in¬†my last post, my wife and I comply with compulsory education requirements for our children because I don’t want them taken away from us. ¬†My plan for them post-compulsory education is simple. ¬†These are some guidelines and rules I’ve shared with our firstborn as she prepares to graduate from high school in the spring:

As long as you live in my house, you will work or you will go to school. ¬†Or both. ¬†There’s no sitting around waiting for the perfect job to just fall in your lap. ¬†If you are going to attend school, it should be to prepare for a specific career.

Most high school and college graduates are woefully unprepared to enter the workplace.  They lack experience and useful skills in the real world.  The reason is that our high schools and colleges are not training students for work.  They are teaching them to pass exams.

The majority of young people, that actually get a part-time job while going to school, think it’s all about the money. ¬†They might start at McDonald’s or somewhere else in Retail. ¬†They get excited about earning a paycheck. ¬†Pretty soon, they realize that the work is very difficult, the hours are long, you end up working holidays and weekends, and in the end, the money isn’t all that great. ¬†So what do they do? ¬†They quit. ¬†This is the biggest career mistake most young people make.

When you have no experience, no transferable job skills, when you¬†are competing potentially against a hundred¬†other people just like you (except that maybe some of them have college degrees), when Leftists keep pushing for higher minimum wage, destroying entry-level jobs for inexperienced, young people — your spoon-fed, entitled world which you’ve been suckling since Kindergarten will eventually come crashing into reality.

But there’s hope if you look at your job as an opportunity to fill in the missing gaps.

Forget the paycheck. ¬†Focus on the things you can learn from your job — skills that will separate you from your competition. ¬†It’s not just about having the head knowledge to do simple tasks, but it has everything to do with PROVING you can and have done these things.

  • Can you operate a cash register, credit card machine, order entry system?
  • Do you know how to balance your drawer?
  • Do you know how to greet, listen to, and assist customers in person? ¬†On the phone? Over the internet?
  • Have you proven to your manager that you can show up ON TIME to work, day in and day out, for weeks, months, or YEARS?
  • Do you know how to deal with unpleasant or even angry customers?

Eventually, if you prove yourself trustworthy with the little things, your manager might actually give you more important jobs to fulfill.  Maybe you will manage other people.  Maybe you will be in charge of a department or a sales group.

  • Can you train and lead a team of subordinates?
  • Can you be trusted to open the store? ¬†Close up? ¬†Make the night deposits?
  • Have you handled ordering supplies, working with vendors, or creating invoices?
  • Have you made accounts receivables calls? ¬†What was your success ratio?

These are all highly sought-after skills in the workplace. ¬†For many employers, a resume showing a history of consistent, proven execution of these skills is a lot more useful than a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy or 18th Century Scandinavian History.

The other important consideration is just to find out what kinds of careers are out there. ¬†How many young people aspire to own a coffee shop or little boutique store or an internet business and have NEVER WORKED IN ONE before?!? ¬†Or even spoken to someone that’s successfully doing that exact job? ¬†

If you want to own a business someday, what do you know about finding a space? ¬†Negotiating a lease? ¬†Getting the necessary licenses or permits (because the State will confiscate your property and throw you in jail if you don’t)? ¬†Are you going to hire employees? ¬†Do you have the slightest CLUE as to what regulations and requirements are involved in hiring help? ¬†Do you know how to file business taxes or keep accounting records?

Do you know how much liquid capital you require?  How long do you anticipate it will be before you are profitable?  Can you read or prepare financial statements?  Do you know who your customers are and where to find them?  

Finally, when it comes to college, there are legitimate careers that require a degree.  Do you know that many large companies offer free or partial college tuition reimbursement?  In other words, why shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a college education in hopes that you might someday get a job related to your studies when you can start working at a company, gain critical experience and a salary, and then have your company send you to college or graduate school on their dime?

My daughter has been thinking about owning her own business someday.  Because of that, we encouraged her to find a job,  ANY JOB, at a business owned by an individual or family.  I even encouraged her to offer to work for free on the condition that the owners would teach her EVERYTHING they know about starting, managing, and growing a successful business.

And sure enough, God provided and answered our prayers. ¬†Our neighbors and dear friends own a successful, family-owned, business and were looking to hire additional help. ¬†We talked with them and before you knew it, they hired our daughter part-time. ¬†And she’s been thrilled to work for them ever since, as she’s written in her blog.¬†

I have no idea how long she will be there or if she will someday go to college. ¬†But I can guarantee her time is better spent right now learning invaluable, practical skills in the real world instead of running off to college, taking on debt, and¬†searching aimlessly to attain the “examined life” shielded from any semblance of reality. ¬†

Parents, think long and hard before you send your children off to college just because it’s what you might have done or it’s what everyone else is doing. ¬†There are many free resources online to broaden your minds. ¬†Instead, give your children a hunger to learn life skills to have success wherever they may go.