Top 10 Books of 2017

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Chesterton once remarked that “there is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.” This past year I have found myself floating back and forth between these two categories so the book choices below reflect that (study and leisure).

A couple of disclaimers first:

*The majority of the books I read this year revolved around leadership, church strategy, and family ministry…specifically parenting. This list reflects that.

*These books are not in order by preference. They take on many different styles so I choose not to rank or compare apples and oranges.

*Most of these books are faith based books written by authors with a Christian worldview. However some of them (and others I read this year) are not. Several of these books are thoughtful accounts of history, leadership lessons, and practical life hacks. They will be profitably read through the lens of an intelligent Christian worldview, though the books themselves are often not written from such a worldview. To quote Al Mohler, “The world needs more careful Christian readers, who can read honestly, reflectively, thoughtfully, eagerly, and well.”

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. This was a re-read for me. I read it in 2010 but went through it again in anticipation of the movie 12 being released this year detailing the stories of these men.  Horse Soldiers is the dramatic true story account of the small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and battled the Taliban. The author is an amazing story teller and he brings to life each character.  Easy and captivating read.

The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Sex, Marriage, & Redemption by Matt Chandler. Matt begins the book by stating up front the goal of marriage: “God’s plan is for a man and woman in the bond of the marriage covenant to have their souls – not just their bodies – become one.” Matt bases the majority of his book on his research and study of the book Song of Solomon from Scripture however he provides plenty of real life authentic examples. Highly recommended for engaged and all married couples.  Read it together!

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. I love reading books on productivity and Matt’s book is one of the best I have read. He begins by focusing on how productivity is not just getting things done but getting the right things done. He then covers practical ways for you to overcome time killers like procrastination, interruptions, and the myth of multi-tasking. Great insight and real-world solutions all framed within the context of the Gospel.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks. From strategy to tactics, Ricks pours through thousands of pages of documents to provide one of the most authoritative accounts of our military’s experience in Iraq. He provides an honest but not overly critical analysis of political and military leadership and their failure to see the blooming insurgency that began in 2004. He covers the heroes and those who could have performed better. If you are a military history fan, this is for you! On another note – if you have never read Rick’s book Making the Corps, you should buy it today!

Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror by Joseph Wheelan. My favorite portion of American History is the Revolutionary War period through the early 1800’s. I make a commitment to read one book that covers that era each year. This year it was Wheelan’s work. Recommended by a friend, Jefferson’s War covers America’s first encounter with terrorism, the Barbary Pirates. Jefferson, typically a pacifist, decides that peace with these terrorists, and maybe more importantly, respect from Europe, could only be accomplished through war, thus began America’s first war on a foreign soil.

The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. If you have noticed the last few years, there seems to always be a Heath brothers book on my list and this year is no different. The Power of Moments is actually probably my favorite book from these men. It tells the simple but powerful story of how certain experiences in your life have extraordinary impact. Not only do they analyze the impact that moments have on our life, but argue that these moments are not always left to chance…they can be created.  Highly recommended for parents and leaders!

Jesus on Leadership: Timeless Wisdom on Servant Leadership by C. Gene Wilkes. This book was given to me as a gift by my Pastor. I have read numerous books on leadership and thought this would be just another one….I was wrong. In a simple way, Wilkes not only provides practical leadership tools with devotions but inspiration as well! Recommended for leaders at all levels.

The Gospel According to Paul by John MacArthur. MacArthur does a great job of exploring one of the key contributors to the New Testament. I honestly thought there was not much fresh material that could be provided on the Apostle Paul however MacArthur proved me wrong. By focusing on key passages that Paul penned concerning the gospel message, MacArthur (known to be a master expositor) tackles key questions such as What is the Gospel? What are the essentials? How are we to proclaim it? This book will certainly enrich your faith and strengthen your understanding of the Gospel message.

To My Sons: Lessons for the Wild Adventure Called Life by Bear Grylls. Recommend by friend and fellow dad (and extreme adventurer Omar Garcia), this book is super short but packs a punch. The book is basically Bear’s practical wisdom and proverbs to his three boys. It makes for easy table or car conversation with the kids and more importantly serves as a great reminder to dads on the importance of intentionally teaching life lessons.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. I heard about this book from a friend and picked it up at an airport. Mary Roach is known for diving into weird science and this time she jumps right into military science. She investigates everything from preparing for war to battling communicable sickness in combat. Warning – this book is graphic at times (research on amputees) and when interviewing combat veterans you can count on some profanity. Regardless, Roach provides a humorous but thorough look at both the institution of military science and the ones who use it.


What about you? What are some of your favorite books of 2017.

Mission Trip Moment

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Every mission trip has that “moment.”

It takes different forms for each of us and arrives at different times – but the “moment” occurs.

A moment that leaves you speechless.

A moment that leaves you heart broken.

A moment that rocks you.

Today I went with one of our groups to visit a family that is supported by our ministry partner, Tesoros de Dios. On our visit, we met this family.  As you can see in the picture, Guadalupe is holding her daughter Maria.

And although I can spend considerable time talking about the numerous health issues for Maria – that is not what caused the “moment” for me today.

You see Guadalupe is not Maria’s biological mom. Her “real” mom abandoned her at the hospital (with broken arms, legs, and pelvis) when she was about a year old.  I guess she couldn’t handle the medical issues her special needs daughter had. Guadalupe found her at the hospital and has raised her as her own daughter ever since…over 7 years now.

Why would she do this? Why would she alter the course of her own life to pick up a special needs baby that had in essence been thrown in the trash.

Why? Because that’s what love requires.

You see when we encounter something that breaks our heart we can either ignore it or do something.

Love requires us to act. And when we do it will cost us.

It will cost us money.

It will cost us time.

It will cost us convenience.

Ultimately it will cost us some life….

The problem with this is that we are by nature life preservers. We don’t like giving these things up.  However when we decide to move in the direction of what breaks our heart, we have to let go of the things we are trying to preserve.

What does love require of us? The answer, some of our life……

Guadalupe has given her life for a little girl that will never even be able to say “Mommy, I love you.”


Because that’s what loved required.

Valentine’s Day Challenge

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Best-Valentine-Gifts-3Valentine’s Day – the annual celebration of love and commercialism – hits us again tomorrow, and many of us will spend the coming days scrambling to find perfect gifts for our significant others.

According to a USA Today article I scanned earlier this week, the top 5 Valentine’s Day 5 gifts are:

  • Cards
  • Candy
  • Flowers
  • Jewelry
  • Gift Cards

These are all great gifts. But this year I want to challenge you to add something to the box of chocolates or new pair of socks you buy your spouse. I want to challenge you to take 10 days…a simple week and a half…and give your spouse the gift of a blessing.

10 days where you intentionally speak and write words of encouragement to them.

10 days where you praise at least one thing you appreciate about them.

10 days where you point out things about his or her character that you love.

10 days where you point out the contributions they make to your family.

10 days where you praise their talents and gifts.

10 days where you simply attach value to the person you love most.

You know during my military career there were times where I got an award, or medal, or even a welcomed pat on the back. These were all great and appreciated however no gift or no person can encourage me like Liz. Her words, her actions, and her belief in me are needed more than any other earthly accolade. She has the power to diffuse stress and literally give me energy.

Proverbs 16:24 reminds us that “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” So this Valentine’s Day I challenge you take 10 days and speak life into your spouse!  Drop me a note and let me know how it goes!

Top 10 Books of 2016

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10K. Chesterton once remarked that “there is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.” This past year I have found myself floating back and forth between these two categories so the book choices below reflect that (study and leisure).

A couple of disclaimers first:

*The majority of the books I read this year revolved around leadership, church strategy, and family ministry…specifically parenting. This list reflects that.

*These books are not in order by preference. They take on many different styles so I choose not to rank or compare apples and oranges.

*Most of these books are faith based books written by authors with a Christian worldview. However some of them (and others I read this year) are not. Several of these books are thoughtful accounts of history, leadership lessons, and practical life hacks. They will be profitably read through the lens of an intelligent Christian worldview, though the books themselves are often not written from such a worldview. To quote Al Mohler, “The world needs more careful Christian readers, who can read honestly, reflectively, thoughtfully, eagerly, and well.”

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I really enjoyed this book! What makes this one so good? I think it has to do with superior story-telling, and then practical and clearly understandable real-world-of-business transferable principles. Within each chapter there are three subsections. The first identifies a leadership lesson learned through the authors’ U.S. Navy SEAL combat or training experience. The second subsection explains that leadership principle. The third section then applies it to the business world. A compelling narrative with powerful instruction and direct application, Extreme Ownership challenges leaders everywhere to lead and win. An easy read worth checking out.

Relentless Parenting: The Crucial Pursuit of Your Teen’s Heart. Brian and Angela Haynes. Liz and I are less than a year away from having a teenager in the house. Although I have read numerous books the last few years on parenting, I appreciate one dedicated to the challenge of parenting teens specifically. Because I personally know Brian (and currently serve at a church that still holds strong to his goal of equipping parents to be the primary faith trainer in their home) when I heard he and his bride had released a new book I ordered it right away. Like Brian’s other books, you are reminded that the ultimate goal of parenting is to pass on a legacy of faith. Brian and Angela lead the way in discussing such topics as: words of power not pain, building identity, learning to listen, setting healthy boundaries, and the importance of home. What I appreciated the most was the powerful reminder, “Every day is important in this journey. Most days in your life are ordinary, normal, and even mundane to a degree. It is precisely in the typical days of life that we do our best relentless parenting.

The Ultimate Guys’ Body Book: Not So Stupid Questions About Your Body. Dr. Walt Larimore. Do you have boys? Are they between the ages of 9-11? Well guess what – that is the primary age for you to start preparing yourself and them for the “talk.” As we all know, the “talk” is not a talk…it is a conversation that continues.  This book helped me and my older son walk this path together.  I bought two copies and we read it together. I read a few other books on this topic and can share my thoughts on them as well.  Just let me know. I look forward to sharing this book with my younger son soon.

Silent Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. Timothy Eagan. Eagan continues his prizewinning work by telling the riveting story behind the most famous photographs in Native American History – and the brilliant man who captures them, Edward Curtis. At 32, Curtis set out West to capture on film our continent’s original inhabitants before they disappeared…along the way he created the most definitive archive of the American Indian. Eagan not only does a great job of capturing the account of the American Indian, but he brilliantly shares the extreme personal cost of Curtis’ outsized personal ambition.

Habits of Grace. David Mathis. David makes a compelling case for the importance of spiritual disciplines in our life. Focusing on the disciplines of: hearing God’s voice (the Word), having His ear (prayer), and belonging to His body (fellowship), David reminds us that the final joy in any Christian discipline or practice is “the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus as Lord.” As David shares, when all is said and done, our hope is not to be a skilled Bible-reader, practiced pray-er, or faithful church goer, but to increase in knowing and loving Jesus more each day. A good book to start the New Year with.

American Creation. Joseph J. Ellis.  Ellis is one of my favorite American Historian Authors.  If you have never read Ellis, I highly recommend him.  He is a master story teller.  His Pulitzer Prize winning book Founding Brothers is one of my top 5 books of all time.  In American Creation, Ellis continues his examination of the last quarter of the 18th century….perhaps the most politically creative era in American history.  He spends most of the book focusing on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison; specifically analyzing their successes and failures. Overall it is a fairly easy read that will give you a greater appreciation of the “human nature” of the Founding Fathers without tearing them down.

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. Paul David Tripp. If you are like me (and most parents) we often feel the pressure to do everything right and raise “good” children.  During this hustle and bustle we often lose sight of our ultimate purpose as parents.  Outlining 14 principles centered on the Gospel, Tripp’s latest book shows us that we need more than the latest parenting strategy or list of techniques. Rather, we need the rescuing grace of God – grace that has the power to shape how we view everything we do as parents.  The chapters on Calling and Identity were truly powerful.

Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and in Your Own Backyard. Johnnie Moore. This book was probably the most difficult to read…not because of how it was written but because of what it addresses…a Christian genocide at the hands of Islamic extremists. He shares never before told stories of horror alongside stories of hope. Moore also does a great job of not only presenting the facts of these acts but the demand that we take action. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”

Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow. Carey Nieuwhof. If you are a leader in any church you should read this. Carey encourages us to have some difficult conversations. Throughout the book, Carey gives us permission to think big, reminds us to ask God boldly, and challenges us to believe that the best really is yet to come. I love Carey’s heart and passion for the local church. He believes and understands that growth in churches isn’t for the sake of popularity but for the sake of the Gospel.  —  I’m also a fan of Carey on his other media mediums. Carey writes one of the most widely read Christian leadership blogs today and hosts The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast, on which he interviews today’s best Christian leaders. Carey is the author of Leading Change Without Losing It and co-author of Parenting Beyond Your Capacity.

Bobby’s Homecoming Adventure. Lenny and Kisha Moore. This book was written for all military families who are navigating the all-too-familiar deployment season. Many times, a deployment can be most difficult on children who do not understand politics, just war ethics, or military contracts. They only understand that mommy or daddy is not home. The unknown can cause fear or worry to creep into a child’s life and rob them of their joy. Lenny and Kisha aim to give parents a resource to help them teach their children how to trust God in the uncertain times. Liz and I would have loved to have such a resource during my deployments.

What about you? What are some of your favorite books of 2016?


A 9/11 Moment in 1983

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Thirty-three years have passed since the largest non-nuclear explosion since World War II took the lives of 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. At about 6:20 in the morning on October 23, 1983, a yellow Mercedes truck charged through the barbed-wire fence around the American compound in Beirut and plowed past two guard stations. It drove straight into the barracks and exploded.  beruit

Eyewitnesses said that the force of the blast caused the entire building to float up above the ground for a moment before it pancaked down in a cloud of pulverized concrete and human remains. That day was the largest single-day loss of life of Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Americans were shocked at the devastation, but at the time few grasped the significance of the deadly bombing. It marked the emergence of a deadly new form of terrorism never seen on this scale. For those who served or joined soon thereafter, this was their generation’s 9/11 moment…a call to service in the midst of a terror attack.

Almost all of the 241 deceased service members were from Camp Lejeune, NC.  241 dads, husbands, and friends from one town gone in an instant…the impact was devastating to the small military town of Jacksonville, NC.  Imagine what it would do to your community to lose that many of your men in one moment.

Beirut_Memorial_1Today, near the entrance to Camp Johnson, a subsidiary base of Camp Lejeune, a memorial wall is nestled among the Carolina pines. The Beirut Memorial Wall, completed on Oct. 23, 1986, bears a list of those Americans who died in Lebanon. Only four words are inscribed on the Wall: “They Came in Peace.”

The Marines lost at Beirut are also remembered in another way. Soon after the attack, a middle school class in Jacksonville decided to raise money for a memorial for the Marines. The money they raised was used to purchase 241 trees.trees

For over a decade on my way to work, I would drive down Highway 24 (Lejeune Blvd) into the main entrance of Camp Lejeune. What makes this drive different is the center lane. It is lined with the 241 Bradford Pear Trees purchased by local students….one for each man lost.

What many don’t know is that on the other side of the world there is a matching set of trees. In 1992, the director of the Haifa, Israel USO coordinated the creation of a memorial park that included 241 olive trees.  The trees lead to an overpass on Mount Carmel looking toward Beirut.

Col. Charles Dallachie, who was a survivor of the Beirut Bombing once wrote, “For Marines, great victories, great defeats and great sacrifices are never forgotten, but are remembered with battle streamers attached to unit colors. Unfortunately, there are no battle streamers to remember the ultimate sacrifice made in 1983 by Marines, sailors and soldiers in Beirut, Lebanon.”

He is correct, for the Marines lost at Beirut there are no battle streamers…there are only trees.

Family Core Values

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COREVALUESThis month at my church is Milestone Month.  As part of this family ministry focus, Liz and I get to lead a class with new parents.  In this class we discuss a list of topics ranging from “Remember Forevers” to basic household boundaries.  We will also spend a portion of this class helping families develop a list of Family Core Values.

You see, in my previous organization, we had a list of 3 core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. As Marine leaders, we consistently led numerous discussions on how these values were lived out and demonstrated by individual Marines and collectively as a warfighting organization. More importantly, we were expected to model them on a daily basis.

Realizing the importance of core values in my “job” solidified the need for my family to define our own set of values. A few years ago, after much prayer and discussion, we came up with five.

Our Core Values are:

Prayer with Expectation

Truth with Compassion

Scripture with Application

Generosity without Reciprocation

Leadership with Humility

(*I’ll save future blog posts to describe each one and why they are important to us*)

The purpose behind defining your family core values is not to have something nice to put in a frame or hang on the fridge, but a clear list of values that drive your decision making and provide focus for how you “do life.” To paraphrase author and leadership consultant Will Mancini, core values are the shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths. Simply put, they should be a constant reminder of what is important to your family.

When you don’t know or you haven’t clearly defined your values, you end up drifting along in life. Instead of basing your decisions on an internal compass, you make choices based on circumstances and social pressures. Conversely, when your family’s core values are clearly defined the benefits are numerous:

  • Provides a framework to make individual and family decisions
  • Helps ensure unity
  • Makes life simpler because it frees you to say “no” to certain things and “yes” to better things
  • Most of all: core values allow you to do more of what you do best!

Your family already has a certain set of core values….maybe you just haven’t clearly defined them yet. They are underneath the surface of your daily activities. Your role as a leader in your home is to pull them above of the waterline. The more your family knows about itself, the better it’s able to deal with life. Trust me… there’s something about actually writing down your values that makes you more committed to living them out!

Day One Report: What Breaks Your Heart?

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Day One: July 11th / 8:45pm local time.

Today was our first day of service.

After a brief night’s sleep we were up and at it first thing this morning.
Our teams worked at all three sites. From helping special need families to serving women rescued from human trafficking, our students did amazing today.

day one picParents – your kids amaze me!! What excites me most about them is their attitude! As we mentioned yesterday, our theme for this week is “It’s not about me!” And our students are beginning to identify with it. We have no A/C, no warm water, limited food options, but our team smiles and continues to serve. Their hard work is inspiring!

This evening after dinner we reviewed our day. A few students shared what they have learned. A common theme was how love bridges every gap…even race, culture, and language.

After our stories we sang a few worship songs. I then informed our group that I was going to ask them 3 questions this week.

3 questions to help us reflect on our experience here.

3 questions to write down and ponder when we return to Katy.

3 questions to truly seek to find an answer to.

Tonight was the first question.

I simply asked our group, “What breaks your heart?”

We read from Nehemiah and discussed how he wept at learning about the conditions of Jerusalem. How his heart was broken and how he was determined to take action.  We discussed how that throughout scripture devotion to God is measured in terms of devotion to others.

I reminded our students that people were constantly amazed at who Jesus spent time with and the people he chose to serve. You see in these people’s mind there was God and then there was an order, a hierarchy based upon ascribed value. However Jesus reminds us that we were all made in the image of God. There is no order, there is no first class or second class there are just people for whom He died.

Tomorrow our groups will rotate and head to a new site. There they will learn new things and serve new people. Pray for those we will serve. That they would see Jesus and His love by our actions.

I then I challenge you to ask yourself, when you look around this – world what breaks your heart?

Happy Birthday America: Now Read This Letter From Your Founding Father

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founding-fathers7July 4th, 1776.  More than a date on a calendar.  It celebrates the boldness of an idea.  It celebrates the boldness of a movement.  It celebrates the boldness of free and independent men.

Quite often during this time of year, we reflect on our Nation’s Founding Fathers and ponder their service and sacrifice….well maybe we used to. We might mention names like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Henry, Hamilton and many others in the American History Hall of Fame.

Have you ever wished you could ask them what they think of us now? Have you ever wondered what advice they would give us in our present circumstances?

What’s exciting, yet humbling, is that we have a glimpse of their advice to us. You see in the spring of 1777, almost a year after the formal signing of the Declaration of Independence and still over six years away from the Treaty of Paris that would end the Revolutionary War and recognize the sovereignty of our nation, John Adams penned a simple letter to his wife Abigail. In this letter, our future 2nd President sends us a message.  Although short it is quite powerful.  Here is his message to us.

Posterity! (That’s us – future generations that he can never imagine – future Americans!) You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.

Read it again, it’s worth it.

So what are we supposed to do with this Freedom? What does he mean by “make good use of it?” I believe we can do a few of things  (among many) to make good use of this freedom.

I believe we can strive to do what’s just, not what we can simply justify.

I believe we can strive to do what’s responsible, not what’s permissible.

And lastly, I think as we examine ourselves and the actions of those we elect, we can remember that these individual rights we enjoy assume an individual accountability…..to our fellow man and to our God.

Happy Birthday America!



Pursuing Your Calling

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“For every man has a mission to perform in this world which his talents precisely fit him; and having found this mission, he must throw in to it all the energies of his being, seeking its accomplishment, not his own glory.”

Fourteen years ago today, on April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman was killed by gunfire while on patrol in a rugged area of eastern Afghanistan. The unfortunate death of this young man occurred in Southeastern Afghanistan in Operation Mountain Storm—a subset effort of the larger Operation Enduring Freedom designed to weaken al-Qaeda forces and the Taliban government. If you don’t know who Pat is let me quickly introduce you to this soldier.

Patrick Daniel Tillman was born the oldest of three brothers in San Jose, California. He played linebacker for Arizona State University, where during his senior year he was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. In 1998, Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. He became the team’s starting safety as well as one of its most popular players. In 2000, he broke the team record for tackles with 224. In May 2002, Tillman turned down a three-year, multi-million-dollar deal with the Cardinals and instead, prompted by the events of 9/11, joined the Army along with his brother Kevin, a minor-league baseball player. The Tillman brothers were assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington, and did tours in Iraq in 2003, followed by Afghanistan the next year.

In today’s world of instant gratification and selfishness, it might not make sense for a man to leave a profession that pays him about $1.2 million a year for a new career that pays about $20,000 a year. However, it makes complete sense when you understand who Tillman was.

Here is a man that was defined by words like loyalty, honor, passion, courage, strength and nobility. He was a low-key guy.  By the time Tillman enlisted in the Army in 2002, after four years in the NFL, he understood how the media worked. Still, he decided not to talk to any of them about his decision to enlist. When Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis asked Tillman how he was going to announce leaving the NFL for the service. Tillman’s reply was: “I’m not. You are.”

What is interesting with the Pat Tillman story is the two narratives that typically accompany it.

The first and probably the most popular theme presented assumes that fame and money is the highest mark of success and happiness; therefore we then refer to Pat’s detachment from it as the “ultimate sacrifice.”

The other narratives assumes Pat was naïve for trading the riches of a professional football career to chase Osama bin Laden.

Both are wrong….

I think the narrative that should follow Pat Tillman should simply communicate the story of a man following his calling…his purpose. The money, the fame, even the military service are all secondary to this point!  As his former head coach said, “Pat Tillman represented all that was good in sports. He knew his purpose in life and proudly walked away from a career in football to follow his calling.”

To most of America, Tillman is symbol of patriotism.

To others, he is a hero for choosing service over wealth.

To me he is a man who followed his heart….and it led him from the football fields of Arizona to the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

Pat Tillman discovered his calling, his purpose, his mission and he was willing to risk and sacrifice everything for it. Do you pursue your calling with the same energy?

Top 10 Tips For Raising Boys

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Dear Parents of Boys:  This is a picture of my family.  A Dad, a Mom, and two pretty cool boys.  We have been doing this “raising boys” thing for almost 12 years.  familyAlthough I could probably list you a hundred lessons I have learned on this journey so far, here are my “Top 10 Tips for Raising Young Men”….. for today….I’m sure these two creatures will do something this weekend to cause me to update this list Monday morning but – hey – that’s part of the excitement!

1. Give solid boundaries. We are a house of grace, in fact it is one of our family core values, but know this – boys need structure. They need someone to tell them when they’ve gone too far in how they talk to mom or each other. They need someone who will counsel them and hold them accountable.  Don’t let the phrase “Boys will be boys” be an easy excuse for not setting boundaries.

2.  If you want to discuss something serious, don’t just sit there, do something. A counselor friend of mine shared that in her years of counseling boys and girls in a school setting, a frustrating thing kept happening: while the girls easily opened up and would talk face-to-face in her office, the boys often clammed up and shut down. But as soon as they began doing something, for example, shooting baskets outside on the basketball court, or playing a card game in the office, the same boys miraculously opened up about anything and everything. I have certainly noticed this with my boys. I recently had “the talk” with my oldest son (by the way – it is not a talk – if done right it is a conversation that continues for months and years, but that is for a future blog post) and noticed that he opened up and asked the most questions when we were fishing or playing basketball.  If something serious needs to be discussed with your young man, try broaching the subject during a walk or a game he likes to play. You may be amazed at the ease of his words in between turns of a game of Horse.

3. Offer wisdom more than solutions.  Liz and I try to help our boys form a paradigm for finding an answer, rather than give them the answer. Being an independent, critical thinker is going to benefit them for life. We want our boys to be able to find their own way while still understanding the wisdom that comes from experience.

4.  Love their friends. Liz has took the lead on this one before we even had kids! We want our boys to know their friends are always welcome in our house. We want our house to be a safe place where other kids can feel loved. From the fridge to the pantry to the toys in the playroom, our boys know they are free to share them all.

Back yard pull5 . Let them explore. One of the scariest aspects of raising boys is their tendency to risk life and limb for no good reason. Boys are risk-takers. They wrestle and bounce balls that break lamps and pee places you never thought someone would pee. They’ll jump off something and you’ll likely end up in the emergency room a time or two. This is part of exploring and discovering. A good friend of mine has 3 boys…his family built a mini rock climbing wall in one of the bedrooms. He and his wife are supporting their boys’ needs to explore and test their courage in the safety of their own home. Exploring helps our young men grow in courage and in faith and in the ability to be a man. Of course there’s a line they should not go beyond, and guess what, as the parent, you get to draw that line (see tip #1).

6. Avoid impossible demands. Be absolutely sure that your son is capable of delivering what you require. Impossible demands result in unresolvable conflict. Adjust their responsibilities and your delegation to them as they grow.  Asking something of them that they cannot do brings inevitable damage to your relationship.

7. Boys adore their moms….celebrate this! Liz would probably agree that both my boys are “Daddy’s Boys.” I think just based on the fact we are the only 3 dudes in the house – we have a strong and consistent connection. However I love and celebrate how they adore their mom. From helping her cook to snuggling on the couch, when I see these moments I celebrate them.  She will always be their first love….and for that I am grateful!

Drew football pic8. Find ways for them to compete. On a certain part of our church campus we have a long hall way . Every week I smile as I see young boys racing their dad or friend down the corridor. They can’t help it!  Find ways to help your boy compete.  Teach him to win and lose with character. The key with this one is to make sure they know your love for them is in no way tied to their performance!

9.  Make God part of your family rhythm. We have some special china dishes we received on our wedding day. They sit beautifully in a china cabinet and are used during special, rare moments. However this set of dishes have missed a lot over the life of our family.  It has missed laughter, stories, jokes, and even a few tears.  If you asked my two boys if they want the china as an inheritance they would probably both say no.  They realize the china dishes are important but they don’t hold much meaning.  Don’t allow your boys to say God was important but He just didn’t come out much in the daily rhythm of life.

10. Know your role! Your role is not to impress your son with your ability to parent. Your role is to impress your boy with the love and nature of God. The fact is – you have more potential to impact your son than anyone else.  Reflecting the image of God in your home is the best way to impact your child!

Don’t worry parents – I know that boy’s antics and sheer physicality are bound to try our patience and sometimes even bring us to the brink of exhaustion. But thus far, I have found that having boys has been one of the greatest joys in life.