Parenting Advice from our Founding Fathers

Happy July 4th! Some words of wisdom from those who came before us:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” – George Washington

“Among the strange things of this world, nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer.” – John Jay

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine


Found It

Josiah became the 16th King of Judah following the split after Solomon’s reign at the ripe old age of 8. It was said about him that “He did right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways his father David did, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” If you lived under the rule of one of the Kings of Judah you had a 50-50 chance at getting one who would qualify as having “good” character. In fact, Josiah was the last one of these good character kings before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem four kings later.

When Josiah was 24 he ordered that all the money that had been given to the Temple be entrusted to men so that they could make repairs. While construction was happening, Hilkiah the high priest said, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.”

It’s easy to either glance over this sentence as not a big deal or perhaps you congratulate Hilkiah in your mind on his lucky find, but one thing to take away from this verse is: the Book of the Law should never have been lost! This is the same book that’s referred to in Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” It should have been at the center of everything the Jewish people did. They should have been reading from it daily and meditating on it daily. How does the most important thing to your city and people get lost and then need to be found?

What this verse really does is serves as a good warning for my own walk with the Lord and for me as a dad. The people didn’t lose the Book overnight. One of the priest didn’t set it down somewhere and then forgot where he put it. My guess is that overtime they slowly stopped reading from it and after a few years or after a generation past, it was all together forgotten about.

Before I throw stones at the generation that stopped following the Book of the Law, if I don’t make it a point to stay in the Word and make sure my family is being fed spiritually, it won’t take long before it will be completely lost to the next generation. It’s so important that we do with the Bible what Deuteronomy 11 says:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

There are a lot of things that compete for our time and attention. We must make certain we don’t neglect spending time in God’s Word, modeling it to our children and helping them grow in their personal walks with Jesus. If we begin to get lax in this area it won’t be long before God’s Word will get lost in our lives and in the lives of our family.

The Mountains Are Calling…

…and I must go.  ~ John Muir


Last Wednesday I was attending some meetings in Colorado Springs that I was asked to be a part of. Because the meeting started at 8 am I had to fly out of Austin on Tuesday. I could have taken a flight that arrived Tuesday night but the mountains were calling so I took a flight Tuesday morning that had me arriving in Denver at 7 am, which afforded me a full day of hiking in the Rocky Mountains.

On the flight out, it wasn’t even 6 am yet, by pure chance the guy next to me has a screen shot of his cat on his phone, which catches the attention of the guy in the window seat. He proceeds to take out his phone and the two of them start sharing pictures and stories of their cats. Yes, their cats. Window guy shared about the time he spilled the cat food and how his cat looked at him and how funny it was. Middle row guy kept going on about how cute his cat was. I’ve never seen two guys try to one-up each other by trading cat stories, but it happened. Window guy said his cat played fetch with him and middle seat guy said he was training his cat to open the kitchen cabinet doors. For what reason I don’t know, but that’s what he said he was doing.

And it wasn’t like these were retired guys with nothing better to do than teach their cats life skills . Both of them where in their late 20’s. Window guy also tried to be cool by adding in the mother of all curse words into every sentence. Even if throwing down the f-bomb for no reason was a cool thing to do, you already disqualified yourself  for Cool Guy of the Year because a) you have more than just a few pictures of your cat on your phone and b) you made up lies about the talent level of your cat in an attempt to be Mr. Cool.

When we landed I confiscated both their man cards. They of course cried like little children, which was to be expected.

Later that afternoon I was sitting on a rock looking out over the valley below and the thought came to me, God did not put into the heart of a man a longing to train cats. God put adventure, exploration, boldness, quest, a mission, into the heart of a man. And these desires will never be satisfied by training your cat to play fetch.

Regardless of what stage of life you are in, you need to find time to get alone in the outdoors. This could be hiking, fishing, biking, whatever it is, your soul needs it. John Eldridge says, “The Sacred Romance calls to us through experiences and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure. This longing is the most powerful part of any human personality. It fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive.” For me, this happens in the outdoors. I feel closest to God when I stand on top of a mountain, or walk in the middle of a forest and listen to the trees, or sit beside a flowing stream. Nothing matches the nearness I feel with God than in those times.

You might need to get creative to make it happen and it might take sacrifice on your part and probably on the part of others (like your wife and kids), but it’s worth it and you need it. I’m not able to randomly head out to Colorado whenever I want to, but in the past year I’ve had two meetings there and have made sure I’ve created space to enjoy time in the mountains as part of both those trips. It feeds your soul like nothing else can…so get out there!








From Boyhood to Manhood

In the middle of the Brazilian Amazon lives the Satere-Mawe tribe. To become a man in the Satere-Mawe, a boy must stick his hands in a pair of gloves woven with bullet ants and withstand their stings for 10 minutes without making a noise.

According to the Schmidt Sting Index, the bullet ant has the most painful sting in the ant world. It’s described as “waves of throbbing, all consuming pain” that continues for over 24 hours.

And that’s just from one ant. Imagine slipping on a glove full.

To make the gloves, the tribesmen knock out the bullet ants with a natural sedative, and while the ants are docile, the elders proceed to make this manhood making device by weaving the ants into gloves made of leaves with the ants’ stingers facing inwards.

When the ants regain consciousness, the boy puts the gloves on and faces 10 minutes of manhood initiation. The abundant amount of venom the boy gets during his ‘Manhood in a Mitten’ ceremony will temporarily paralyze his arms and leaves him shaking uncontrollably for days.

According to the people, it’s a test of endurance and fortitude that’s necessary to be an effective warrior for the tribe.

Watch it in action:

A few months ago I was in a men’s Bible study and the question was asked, “When did you know you were a man?” Out of the 10 guys in the room, nobody had a good answer from when they crossed the threshold from boyhood to manhood. If someone were to ask you that question, how would you respond?

Would it be when your voice began to crack?

Kissed a girl for the first time?

Got into a fist fight?

That time you stuck your hands into those gloves filled with angry ants?

As a result of our society’s lack of defining when a boy becomes a man, we’re seeing a generation of men still being boys and the results of that are, and will continue to be, devastating for everyone.

There are a lot of cultures that understand the importance of putting a stake in the ground for a young man to know when he’s crossing over. Having just returned from Israel and seeing it first hand, one of those is the Jewish community and their bar Mitzvah celebration.

Reaching the age of bar Mitzvah (13 years old) signifies becoming a full-fledged member of the Jewish community with the responsibilities that come with it. These include moral responsibility for own actions, eligibility to be called to read from the Torah, possession of personal property, may be legally married according to Jewish law, must follow the 613 laws of the Torah and may testify as a witness in a Beth Din (Rabbinical court) case.

When a boy turns 13 and has his bar Mitzvah, it’s a big deal. After the celebration, it leaves no doubt that the young boy has transitioned into a young man. We were at the Western Wall (also known as the Weeping Wall) when we saw one of these ceremonies commenced. It starts with the boy being ushered in with music and dancing. He was then led to the wall where the scrolls are kept in a special container. He then removes a scroll, which has a portion of the Old Testament written on it, and for the first time, he reads aloud in public from the Torah.




This ceremony solidifies in the mind of the boy that he has now changed over into manhood.

My oldest son turned 11 on Monday. I’m thinking this gives me two more years to be coming up with an idea for a ceremony, a defining moment, something that communicates to him that he is making the conversion from boyhood to manhood.

If you have an older son whom you’ve never officially initiated into manhood, you still should do it. Every son, no matter how old or how much “success” they’ve had or how much confidence we think they own, needs to hear from his father that he is a man. I recently watched this point come to life in this interview with Michael Phelps that shows just how important a dad is, even to someone who from a world’s perspective has it all together.

If you have a son who is still at home and young enough for this type of ceremony, let me encourage you to begin researching and planning on what you might do to help your son know he is passing from boyhood to manhood. Here are a few places you can begin to get ideas:

Passport 2 Identity:

Manhood Journey:

Raising a Modern Day Knight:

Robert Lewis is the author of Raising a Modern Day Knight but also has this series with Focus on the Family:

Do some research of your own and find something that works with your personality and your son’s personality. It doesn’t have to follow one specific set of guidelines. But do something! Giving your son this line in the sand experience will do more to build his confidence as he heads into manhood than anything else you can do for him.

That Stuff Can Wait


On Wednesday my dad turned 72 so I swung by his house that morning and we went to the golf course. I know this isn’t about me, but it was a par 72 course and I successfully shot his age.

On just 14 holes.

This week has been busier for me than most. My wife and I leave for Israel this coming Monday and as the point person on this trip for the 36 other travelers, it’s taken on a life of its own. Mix in everything you try to get done with work and around the house before you’re gone for 10 days and, well, this whole week I’ve felt like I’ve had more to do than I can get done.

Playing golf with my dad is one of my favorite things to do. Living in the same city for the first time in 15 years affords us the opportunity to play golf together every month or so. However, I know these opportunities and moments to spend with him on the golf course will come to an end way before I’m ready for them to. Because of that, unless it’s completely out of my control, I never want to pass up a chance to go play golf with him. Work and things to do around the house will be there that evening, and the next day, and the following day. That stuff can wait.

I’m definitely not advocating slacking at work. When I work, I work hard. But I also want to keep the right perspective on life and take full advantage of the most important things. If, for some awful reason, that was the last time I was able to play golf with my dad, I would have no regrets. If I had turned down this opportunity so I could get a few more hours of work in, I’d live with remorse the rest of my life and always be longing to get just one more round in with him.

John Eldridge wrote, “The most revealing aspect of anyone’s character is how he handles people. The way a person handles others is the acid test of his true nature. How is Jesus with people? What’s he like to be around?”

Reading through the four gospels, Jesus’ time in ministry was constantly interrupted by people. Wherever he went he would undoubtedly be interrupted by someone who sought something from him. And of course he would stop what he was doing and minister to the person. As someone who is highly task driven, pausing for personal interaction has never been a strength of mine. But if I want to be like Christ I have to not only allow, but also welcome, those times where I need to stop what I’m doing and invest in the person who is needing my attention, whether it’s my wife, kids, parents, neighbor, friend, whomever.

Relationships are what matter. Don’t let work or your house to-do list or a tv show or your favorite sports team playing on tv, keep you from engaging with and spending time with the most important people in your life.

Harry Chapin wrote a song in 1974 that drives this point home. Here are a few lyrics:

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and there were bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away.

When my son turned ten just the other day
Said, “Thanks for the ball, dad, come on and let’s play
Can you teach me to throw?” I said, “Not today
I got a lot to do” he said, “That’s okay”.

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and he said with a smile:

“What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later
Can I have them please?”

Well, I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time”
“You see, my new job’s a hassle and the kid’s got the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

Trust me, that stuff can wait.


As it Was Meant to Be

Alex Souza

“Our lives are photo albums — each little plastic sleeve holds a moment and memory that stands alone in its unique break away from the routine. To whatever end we chase in our daily lives, it’s inescapable that we should all fall into these ruts of life, days going by without notice, following the regime that we build ourselves into. There is most surely comfort in routine, but as humans we need those markers along the path behind us, proof to ourselves that we were there, outside our walls of comfort, truly living in and loving the world as it was meant to be.”  ~ Max Lowe

Are You Praying?

It’s been said, “History is in the hands of those who pray.”

Prayer changes things. The passionate prayers of a righteous person accomplish more than we can comprehend, according to James 5:16. The word passionate, or fervent for those of you who read the King James Version, comes from the Greek word deisis, which means an earnest, heartfelt, sincere prayer. It’s coming to God on the most serious terms, strongly asking Him to move and to meet a specific need.

Sorry , don’t know what happened there. Sometimes I slip into the Greek language without warning. I’m better now.

As Will Davis, Jr. says, “History is in the hands of those who pray. If people don’t pray, history defaults to those who don’t love God.”

Think about this. You can influence history for your wife, for your kids, for yourself, for others, for our nation, simply by praying. What an opportunity!

As believers, prayer is the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal. With all the evil Satan is unleashing we have to be covering our families. Prayers like, “Help Johnny have a fun day at school” are fine, but it’s the deisis prayers we are after…the earnestly going to God prayers that they need to be covered in. We’re in the middle of an epic war. We need to pray like a soldier who’s about to land in the middle of the gun battle. I doubt his prayer is “God, allow me to have a fun day.” You can imagine how passionate his prayer would be as he drops into the heart of the battle and hears the crackling of gunfire and the bullets whizzing by his head. That’s the mindset we need when praying for ourselves and families.

If you need a little jump start, here are some things I pray for my four kids and their future spouses:

That they would be protected from any type of sexual harm – violence done against them by an adult, from a curious friend, from an aggressive boyfriend or girlfriend – when they start dating (and thankfully they’re not there yet), from hearing anything sexually explicit from friends and from pornography. I pray they would remain pure until their wedding day and come into that moment free from any scars or hurt.

I pray Luke 2:52 over them which says Jesus grew in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and man. There’s not much greater than having the favor of God on you. I want my kids to know God in that way and be in a place where they can receive His favor on their lives.

I also pray they would have the same spirit of wisdom in them that Solomon had in him (1 Kings 3:9). I want them to have understanding and knowledge of the Bible and use that to point people to Jesus.

King David had a heart that was sold out to God. He desired a deep, intimate relationship with Him. I pray my kids would also have a heart that longs to know God and the things of God.

I then pray they would have strength and courage (Joshua 1). They are going to need both of these things to get through every day.

There are other things I pray for them. I also like to find verses and pray God’s Word over them. When you combine passionate prayers with the Word of God it’s even more wildly powerful.

If you’ve not been a dad who prays very often or very passionately over his kids, let me encourage you to start right now and make it your top priority each day. Don’t let your kids walk out of your house without having shielded them in prayer. As Jesus said to the 72 disciples as they returned after having gone out “I saw Satan fall like lighting from heaven. I have given you authority over all the power of the Enemy.” This is what prayer will do.

Be a history maker through prayer…pray passionately for your wife, kids, your marriage and family. And that’s just the beginning! Pray for friends, neighbors, people you work with, people you don’t really like, and pray for our nation. Our world needs men willing to answer the call to be prayer warriors. I hope you will join the fight!

Guard Your Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart.” Proverbs 4:23

Did I read that right? There’s nothing more important in life to guard and look after than my heart? After reading it in four different translations I realized, why yes, I did read it correctly. The second half of that verse explains why: because everything you do flows from your heart. If your heart gets damaged, polluted or tainted, everything that flows out will have hints of this contamination.

As dads and husbands we have the responsibility to not only guard our own hearts, but we must protect the hearts of our children and the heart our wife.

Guarding Your Own heart

Sometimes we need to guard our hearts against sin – lust, greed, anger, power, (insert a sin of your choice). Guard against sin by confessing it, being accountable to others and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Other times we need to guard it against the Enemy in the form of lies we believe about ourselves or lies others have told us – “I’m not good enough”, “I’m worthless”, “I’ll never amount to anything”.  Be on the alert, your enemy the Devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He’ll do this through telling us lies that we end up believing about ourselves.

Guard your heart against these lies by re-programming your mind with the truth from scripture about who you really are:

I will not be condemned by God (Romans 8:1)

I have been accepted by Christ (Romans 15:7)

In Jesus I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Whatever area you are attacked in with lies from Satan: find a scripture, write it down where it is easily accessible, and when those lies come repeat that verse.


Guard Your Children’s Hearts

Society and culture are not easy on kids. They are constantly inundated with how they should look, how they should talk, what they have to do to fit in. One of our roles as dads is to help guard their hearts. And if our heart is the most important thing we can guard, then it stands to reason that their hearts need to be guarded just as much. I can think of two ways we need to do this:

First, guard your child’s heart by not breaking it. It’s easy to get frustrated and say something that, while maybe not intentionally trying to harm them, could end up damaging their hearts: “How could you not figure that out”, “Why can’t you do better at school”, “How is that so difficult to understand”. What we are telling them is: “You’re stupid”, “You’re worthless”, “You don’t have what it takes”. Be careful with the words that leave your mouth when talking to your kids. Instead of guarding their hearts you could be destroying them.

Second, your kids are going to hear all sorts of messages from every direction that are not going to be uplifting. Tell your kids daily how proud you are of them, how much you love them, how great they are. Tell your sons they have what it takes to be a man and your daughters that they are beautiful. If they receive these messages from you constantly, it will act as a shield around their hearts when the arrows of this world fly in to take them out. If they know what their dad thinks of them and if they know who they are in Christ, they can much more easily handle the lies hurled their way.


Guard Your Wife’s Heart

The lies we are fed about what we should look like, what things we should have and what kind of lifestyle we need to be living takes the biggest toll on our wives. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, HGTV, and a hundred other sources, makes our wives feel incompetent, unworthy, unloved, and un-beautiful. There is always another woman who has a nicer house, nicer decorations, nicer body, better behaved kids, more play dates, and it goes on and on.

You can guard your wife’s heart by constantly affirming her. Just as your kids need to hear from you how proud you are of them and how much you love them, your wife needs to hear you say she’s beautiful, what a great job she does with the kids, how much you appreciate the work she does around the house, how much you love her…Look for things to affirm her in and look for creative ways to tell her. This type of encouragement will go a long way in beating back the lies she tells herself when she compares what she does and what she looks like to others.

Make her a priority. Simply stated, put her needs ahead of your own.

Don’t criticize or compare. Just like you can damage your child’s heart, you can do serious damage to your wife’s if you say things like, “I wish you could be more like this person”, “Why can’t you get anything done around the house”, “You certainly don’t look like you did when we got married”. All bad. All dangerous. And all damaging to her heart. You can’t guard her heart if you are destroying it.


At times it can be exhausting and feels hard enough just to protect our own hearts, much less have to guard our wife’s and kid’s heart too. Well, you’re the man and you have to do it. No excuses and no let up. Everything we do, and everything they do, flows from the heart. None of us can live in the fullness of who we were created to be if our hearts are damaged. It’s your responsibility as a husband and father. Protect your own, nurture your wife’s and send your kids out into the world with an intact heart.

Get the Hook in the Water

Fly-fishermanIf you ever go fishing with someone who does it regularly their bound to tell you at some point, “You can’t catch a fish if your hook isn’t in the water.” I’m not a rocket scientist or an avid fishermen, although I wish I were one – an avid fisherman that is, not a rocket scientist, but I have enough common sense to figure that one out on my own. But thanks for the heads-up.

What made me think of this was when I was reading the story in Matthew 17 of Peter being confronted by the religious leaders trying to stir stuff up by asking him if Jesus pays the temple tax. Short story made even shorter, Jesus replies in verse 27, “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the sea and cast a hook. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Couple of quick observations and how we can apply it as husbands and dads:

First, there could have been just enough money in the fish’s mouth for Jesus to pay his taxes but he took care of Peter’s needs as well. In the same way, Jesus doesn’t leave us high and dry. He has made every provision for us to be godly husbands and godly dads. We don’t have to blindly wander through this maze of marriage and parenting. He’s made available to us everything we need – 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Second, Jesus provided the money but Peter had to do the work of going fishing for it. If Jesus could make money show up in a fish’s mouth then he certainly could have pulled it out of from behind Peter’s ear. Jesus provided but Peter had to do the work. Imagine if Peter walked away from Jesus going, “Awesome deal there, my taxes are paid! Guess I’ll go catch a little afternoon siesta.” Had Peter not done the work to get his fishing gear, make his way down to the sea and then cast a line in the water, the tax would not have been paid. What he needed was there for him but he had to do the work to get it. In the same way, we have at our disposal all that we need to love our wife well and raise our kids in a God-honoring way. It’s all there in front of us but we have to put forth the effort to learn it and apply it. Knowing it’s there isn’t enough. We have to work, and sometimes grind it out, to take full advantage of what’s been given to us.

And lastly, when we follow Jesus and obey what he tells us to do, life will be full of amazing moments. Jesus told Peter to throw a hook in the water and the first fish he caught would have money in it’s mouth. Have you ever caught a fish with money inside it? I’d be more apt to spend time fishing if I knew there were gold coins inside the fish I was going to catch.  But that had to be a cool moment for Peter when it all went down like Jesus said it would.

Put yourself in Peter’s shoes and imagine yourself meandering down to the shoreline with your fishing gear, throwing your line in and assuming, hoping, wondering if the fish will actually have in its mouth what Jesus said it would. Also notice that Jesus said the first fish he caught would have money but he never told Peter it would be on the first cast. Peter could have been fishing for several hours before that first fish hopped aboard his hook. Sometimes we need to be patient knowing God will fulfill his promises to us. But when that moment happens and you experience the faithfulness and fullness of God, there’s not a better feeling in the world, just as I’m sure Peter had one of those once-in-a-lifetime feelings as he pulled the fish in and pulled the money out.

You have what it takes to be a great husband and dad! God has given us His Word to live by and there are other great resources at our disposal to teach us how to live the abundant life in our marriage and parenting. It’s all right there for the taking but you have to do the work to bring it into your heart and mind. And once you do, you will realize it was well worth the time and effort to go fishing for it.

Nice Save Dad

dad saving kid

Found this gem a few days ago. It was taken at a MLB spring baseball game on Sunday. Couple observations:

This boy was close to having a mouth full of teeth replaced with a mouth full of wood.

Another great reason why people shouldn’t be on cell phones during live events, especially a baseball game when someone is up to bat.

The dad’s forearms are bigger than mine.

The kid had no idea his face was inches away from being rearranged.

This dad is doing what he’s supposed to be doing: Protecting his family.

I’ll give credit to the guy in the front row. He may have just been trying to get out of the way but he’s looking like he was actually trying to stop the bat. Maybe the camera caught him just at the right time looking like he was trying to stop it, but everyone else is ducking for cover…self preservation. But not Dad! He’s paying attention, he sees danger, and instead of ducking out of the way himself and letting Jr. take the barrel of the bat in the mandible, he jumps into action, blocks the speeding death stick and saves his son from who knows what kind of injuries.

This is what we’re suppose to do as dads! We protect our families. We need to be on the look out for danger – both physical and spiritual dangers. We need to be ready at a moment’s notice to step in front and take the flying object so our wife and kids don’t get hit.

Don’t be afraid to do something unpopular with your kids if you sense it’s not in their best interest. There’s a lot of evil lurking in our world today and it’s our job to stay connected to the Holy Spirit so that our radars are up at all times to alert us of danger. They may not understand why you’re throwing your arm in their face but you could be saving them from taking a bat between the eyes. They’ll look back and appreciate what you’ve done.

As a dad – Stand strong, be alert and be ready at a moment’s notice to defend.

Here’s a quick news story about “The Save” if you have an extra two minutes!