What to do when you’re BUSTED

Christian Parenting

We’ve all seen the signs. “NY or BUST!” “England or BUST!”…”Ethiopia or BUST!”

That last one is the sign I was holding last Thursday when I had to make the difficult decision to postpone our trip to Ethiopia a few more months. Yep! That’s right… I’ve been BUSTED!

To make a very long story short here’s basically what happened last week.

First of all you must know that this decision was not made out of fear. It wasn’t made out of fear of the Ebola Virus. It wasn’t made out of fear of others reactions to our team upon returning. And it certainly wasn’t made out of the fear of the uncertain future.

This decision was made thoughtfully and prayerfully. I can honestly say that this was the very first decision in my life that I actually anguished over. Here’s what happened and our response:

A little over a week ago, a nurse carrying the Ebola Virus traveled though Cleveland and Akron visiting friends and family. In response to her visiting friends and family, Kent State (30 minutes aways from Fellowship) closed part of their campus as a response to possible contact. The next day, 2 schools in Solon (5 miles away from Fellowship) closed as a response to possible contact. Later that afternoon 2 other schools in Chagrin made national news as they closed as well.  Immediately, area Schools began issuing email blast stating their possible response if an outbreak occurs and then to top it all off, a member of our team needs to pull away from the trip.

Our community began to move into crisis mode. Whether or not it was justified, our community has become keenly sensitive to the potential dangers.

Ultimately what led to the decision was answering one simple question: What is the purpose of the trip?

From the very early stages of development, the purpose of this trip was to draw our church together in a clear direction and partnership in ministry in Ethiopia with Horizon International.  Due to circumstances out of our control,(Community reaction to Ebola) the best opportunity to move the church towards this goal shifted from this vision trip in October to a trip this coming Spring. Although the team of 4 (3 pastors and 1 lay leader) is still willing to go, it has become abundant clear that God is leading us to postpone the trip until many more people can join us on the trip both physically as well though prayer and excitement. If our team was go ahead and go to Ethiopia, it would need to be quietly and discretely… which is exactly the opposite of what we want for this trip.

This decision was made only after seeking counsel from many people both here in Cleveland as well as from our partners in  Africa.

If you know me well, you understand my disappointment.

I love Ethiopia. It has become like a 2nd home to my wife and I. Not returning as expected was very difficult. With that being said, I want to offer some words of encouragement to you. These are the same words of encouragement that was given to me by Jonathan Morton, the Director of International Ministries at One Mission Society (OMS) and a good friend.

When it comes to the tough decisions you need to remember that it’s not your job to make a decision. It’s your jobs to seek God and discover 3 things:

God’s Will – what does He want us to do

God’s Timing – when does He want us to act

God’s Way – how does He want us to act

So here’s how we did this:

Pastor Chris, my Lead Pastor, and I begin to talk and pray about possible options

We spoke with:

All team members and Pastors

An experienced Elder who possesses both wisdom as well as a passion for Africa

The Horizon International Go-Team leader in South Africa (who was joining us in Ethiopia)

I also spoke with several ministry peers from around the country.

Most importantly, Chris and I spend Thursday night fasting, praying, and searching scriptures for Gods leading.

After all of this, the next morning, we came together and made a very clear decision to postpone the trip until Spring 2015.

We sought God’s Will, His Timing, and His Way and He showed it to us.

It was a tough decision, but I’m thankful that it wasn’t mine.

When you’re convinced that God wants you to do something, go somewhere, or act a certain way it’s s important to take the time first to seek God’s will, God’s timing, and God’s Way.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.” -Proverbs 3:5-6


Please continue to pray as we’re currently making plans for our next upcoming trip next March/April.

Navigating Parental Peer Pressure

Christian Parenting

Photo Credit: Curtis Cronn via Compfight cc

Your pre-teen is asked to go to the movies on a “group date” and you feel uncomfortable with it… but you know every other parent (who happen to be your friends) seem to be fine with it. What do you do?

Every year there seems to be a new strategy for overcoming peer pressure. When I grew up it was “Just say No!” Now it’s something like “Make a Difference” and “Stand Out”. Why is it that this always make sense to us when we’re talking with our kids, but when it comes to our own lives as parents we struggle.

Peer pressure is real…and it’s really tough on parents. Don’t believe me? Just take a walk through the mall and watch parents as they sheepishly following their kids from store to store shaking the heads is disapproval …and yet carrying armloads of bags filled with over-prices, under fabricated clothes that resemble something worn by Madonna. (Side note: when did parents become cool with Madonna?) Anyway, the point is simple and we all know it: we feel pressure to conform to other parents every day. So how do we handle situations where our gut is saying one thing and our mouth wants to say something else?

Here’s 5 things that should help

What’s the Purpose?

If you know me at all you know that I’m all about helping our kids have a purpose for their lives bigger than themselves. The very first line of defense in fighting parental peer pressure is to know whether or not this activity is even something you should be considering. I’ve been floored with the number of times I’ve spoken with parents about whether or not they should allow their 16 year old to drink or smoke marijuana. (You think I’m kidding, but I’m not!) Their line of reasoning? “Well they’re going to do it anyway, at least if they do it in my house I can make sure their safe and not driving or anything stupid like that.”

Ok… that’s just plain dumb. What do you know? Drugs are illegal and bad. It’s a no brainer. But what about a movie? “Whatcha going to see?” Generally, a lot of pressure can be relieved right away if you had a personal conviction on the kinds of movies you’re kids are going to watch and which ones they’e not.

How do I set these boundaries for my kids? Simple, we want our kids to be “Owned by God”. We value things like Integrity, Grace and Wise Choices (we actually have 12 core values as a family). If this movie pulls us away from our goal or values… it’s a No Go!

Gripped in Fear of the World Around Them

Christian Parenting

I just heard there was another case of the Ebola virus and this time it’s in Washington. No doubt this will send many people into a tailspin. We’ve already seen the messages on Facebook that are telling us that this is why we shouldn’t let people into our country and why we shouldn’t go there to help. After watching so many different conversations take place about things like Ebola, I think it’s about time somebody talked to these parents and help them step back from the ledge.

So what’s a parent supposed to do when they find themselves gripped in fear of the world around them?

Let me suggest four things that I think every parent should do:

Slow Down

This is one of my number one suggestion to anyone who’s carried away by their emotions. If you’re angry – slow situation down… breathe deeply… give your brain a chance to catch up. If you’re crying uncontrollably – slow everything down… breathe deeply… give your brain a chance to catch up.

If your gripped with fear? Guess what? Slow the situation down. This means quit reading 100 articles a day about your fear… maybe read just 1. Give your brain a chance to catch up with all the information. Remember that there’s always two sides to every story. Remove yourself from the circumstance. Go for a run, watch a comedy, spend time with friends. Just do something to slow it all down.

* it’s amazing to me how many times a little “self-talk” and common sense can defuse our emotions.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Evaluate Your Priorities

Whenever our fear is about the unknown nature of the future it’s always a good idea to take a step back and evaluate your priorities and values. What really matters? What’s the most important thing? When fear begins to creep in it’s crucial that you have an understanding of what really matters. This will allow you to keep the “main thing the main thing” in your family.

Another Sick Day!

Christian Parenting

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc

My oldest daughter is home sick today. It’s the third day in a row. As she went to bed last night (feeling a little bit better) she told me she hoped she’d be able to get to school tomorrow morning. Naturally, as a parent, I told her that she would.

I was wrong.

The coughing started again about 5:00am this morning. It was followed by an occasional moan and finally a bright light as the door to my bedroom opened up revealing a shadowy character slightly resembling my daughter acting out the part of Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

“I’m feeling terrible again!”

“No kidding! Go back to bed”

(One thing I know about my daughter is this: When she says she’s sick… she’s sick!)

However, this situation reminded me of the time when I was sick from school for 13 days my 6th or 7th grade year.

Confession: I wasn’t sick all 13 days. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I was only sick 1 or 2 of them.

For nearly two weeks I had the same routine:

Wake up…


Get a washcloth and run it under hot water…

Put the wash cloth on my head…

Put the thermometer on the light bulb (being careful to not raise my temp. to 108+.

Go back to bed.

Watch *MTV music videos all day until people came home from School/work.

(*if you’re a teenager reading this you need to know that back in the day- MTV actually played music videos instead of reality TV shows)

Rinse and repeat. Day after day until my parents caught on and I had to go back to school.

3 Random Lessons I Now Know as a Parent Having Grown Up “sick”

Random Lesson #1 Know Your Kid

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m sure my mom and dad were well aware of my real “condition” of hating school. They knew that as an 6th or 7th grader I was going to pull things like this. For all I know, they had their hidden cameras up and running the whole time. I have an older brother who would pull similar tricks each year. My sister on the other hand… she’d never miss school. Like my daughter, if she said she was sick she was sick. As a parent of six kids, I’m often reminded that it is so important that I understand that each of my children are different. Each one is uniquely gifted and each one has individual needs. It’s my job as a parent to know my kids. Know their dreams, desires, fears, and needs. I need to appreciate this about them and be sure I parent them individually.

Rebuild – Framing it with Strong Values

Christian Parenting

Framing gives our homes their unique shape. When Aime and I moved back to Ohio, we looked at a ton of houses. One house didn’t have enough rooms, one house had enough rooms…they were just too small. One house was weird shaped and finally we found OUR home. It was just … US. It just fit us.

So let’s ask the question: What makes our family different? 

A few years ago, Aime and I sat down and had a great talk about just that. You see, although we both loved the homes we grew up in and loved our childhood, there were several things we determined we wanted to do differently. We call these our Family Values. We started to  ask questions like what do we want these kids to look like in 18 years? What’s our goal? What kinds of memories do we want these kids to have about their childhood. We decided to place the end goal out there and really shoot for it. Stephen Covey calls it “keeping the end in mind”.

You can check a couple of ours out (HERE) and (HERE).