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Summer Family Project Ideas

Hmm… I came across this intriguing post from a blog entitled True Woman (interesting reading I do, eh?!). It has to do with summer time projects that families can do with some of the freedom they have in the summer. I thought the article was worth sharing. You can read the post below or go to its original location here:

I’ve noticed a strange look on the faces of my friends with school-aged kids lately. It’s a look I see about the end of May every year. It’s one part delight and two parts panic, and I think I know the source—school’s out for summer! For many moms, that means having all of their children home all of the time.

Many families I know take the summer fun approach. They fill their days with trips to the pool, excursions to the lake, and movies in the afternoon. I’m all for fun summers. I love to take my boys swimming, cool off with red popsicles, and stay up late enough to catch lightning bugs in old mason jars.

But, I think summer also offers a unique opportunity to do ministry together as a family. A whole lot of free time offers a whole lot of opportunities to reach out to others and minister side by side. If your kids can get a taste of the value of serving like Jesus did, they’ll be learning an important lesson.

So, here’s a starter list of family summer ministry ideas:

Help with Vacation Bible School
Many churches host VBS during the summer. Instead of just sending your kids off to attend, grab your pre pre-teens and teens and get involved yourself with serving. If your church doesn’t have a VBS, look for ways to serve in another church, or launch a one-day VBS for a few kids in your neighborhood.

Plan a local short-term missions trip
You don’t have to be a missionary to take a missions trip. Simply think of a group of people who have a need, and find a way to meet that need while sharing the love of Jesus. You can go for a day, a weekend, or a week. Here are a few missions trips my family have done:

  • Clean up a playground in a low-income housing area, and then offer a free hot meal to the residents (hot dogs and chips work great!).
  • Find an area of your state that has been impacted by a natural disaster, and get plugged in with a relief organization such as the Red Cross or Samaritan’s Purse.
  • Ask your pastor for a list of widows or shut-ins, and call and offer to do lawn work for free during the hottest days of summer.
  • Call that same list of widows and shut-ins and offer to bring them fresh produce from your garden. They likely don’t have the oomph to garden themselves, but would love to share in the bounty of your back yard.
  • Call your local pregnancy care center and offer to come and sort supplies for moms in need.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities are endless!

Serve lemonade
Encourage your children to set up a lemonade stand to raise funds for people in need. Even young children will enjoy creating and decorating a lemonade stand, making lemonade and treats, and collecting money from “customers.” (I would recommend calling friends and neighbors and encouraging them to stop by). Then, give your child a few options of organizations and let them go with you to deliver their hard-earned money.

Adopt a family
Not every momma gets to stay at home with her kids in the summer. This can be especially true for single moms. That means some kids are left to fend for themselves while their parents work. If you know a family in this situation, offer to take the kids during the day for the summer, and be sure to specify that you don’t expect any payment in return. Will it be a sacrifice? You betcha! But God’s Word urges us to look after each other in practical ways like this. Be intentional about looking for a family that you can help by being generous with your time.

Chalk up some blessings
Grab the sidewalk chalk and hop in the car to visit people in need of an extra boost. Write an encouraging message in chalk on their sidewalk or front stoop, or write out a verse that is applicable or encouraging. Taking the time to give an encouraging word can go a long way . . . doing so in bright colored chalk is even better!

Summers provide a unique opportunity for families who have the time and flexibility to break free from routine. Using that window to serve others in Jesus’ name is one of the  best uses of your family’s time. Any other ideas? How can your family minister together this summer?

via True Woman


Outsourcing Our Children’s Spiritual Development?

Yesterday in church, Matt Jones shared about his role as a parent in the lives of his children. Specifically, Matt was alluding to his job (along with his wife, Cara) as the chief source of spiritual development for his children. While he appreciates the role of the church (particularly its programs), he does not “outsource” his primary role to the church. In other words, he doesn’t leave how his kids are going to turn out spiritually up to the church Sunday School program and mid-week gathering time. Matt said these church programs are great collaborative efforts to subsidize (not replace) what he and Cara are doing as parents with their kids.

Kudos to Matt and Cara Jones for starting this conversation in our church community. I really appreciate it.

I came across a blog post the other day that went right along with what Matt talked about:

I have outsourced my child’s swimming development.

You see, I’m just not an expert on the subject. I haven’t studied swim theory and I am completely unfamiliar with what it takes to learn how to become a swimmer even to the most basic of levels… which I would assume is ‘not drowning’.

So – I am comfortable with giving away control of my child’s swimming ability to a professional. In fact it seems to be working; my firstborn no longer screams when he observes large bodies of water and is slowly heading towards the aforementioned ‘not drowning’ level of swimming ability.

As parents and rightly so, we want to open up our children’s worlds as wide as possible and allow them to experience life to the full. My children will study science at school but may not become scientists; maths, but may not become mathematicians. So I am comfortable allowing many of these skills to be developed by teachers far more capable than me (especially maths ☺).

At this point in his short life, it is highly unlikely that child No.1 will become a professional swimming athlete. His parents simply don’t have it in them to generate the kind of passion for swimming that he would need to succeed in that arena. But on the off-chance that he develops a passion for and wants to pursue a career in professional sports then I’m confident my attitude will completely change and I’ll become far more involved in the training and discipline that it will take to pursue that dream.

Far above any academic or physical achievement that my children can attain is my desire for them to have an Olympic-sized faith. I desire to have kids who can stand up to the culture of this present age and live in such a way that they demand the attention of the world. I want my children to have the kind of faith that moves mountains and stands strong against any trial or tribulation that they will face; to grow up in a way that identifies them as a living, breathing ambassador of Christ on earth.

As parents, we tend to take quite a structured view of the education of our children. Emphasis is placed on testing and exams because we are led to believe that these processes indicate or lead to success. Here in Australia this culminates with the HSC (Higher School Certificate) in the last year of High School; the mental and psychological equivalent of David facing Goliath for many kids.

So where is the structure for my son’s spiritual development? Where is the passion to see my boy become an expert in his field, a champion in his arena?

This will take more than a ‘one hour a week’ soccer practice. I need to commit fully to this process because although not every child will become an athletic champion, every child can become a spiritual champion.

We may never get up at 5:30am to take our children to swimming practice in the local pool, but what is the equivalent for your child’s spiritual journey? Let that question drive you to your knees in prayer to seek God and ask His help to engage the hearts and minds of your children as you train them in the way that they should go.

Every child is different and every child’s spiritual journey requires us to listen to the Holy Spirit closely as we strive to raise children who love God and love people.

At Hillsong church most of our families do not attend every week, in fact on average they attend once a month. Can you think of any other area in life where 25% was good enough for success? They are missing out on 75% of the training and teaching that we as a church work hard to give the children we have been entrusted with.

Don’t think for one minute I am being religious about this – I am not suggesting attendance to keep up appearances. The reality is that your child will be at Church a maximum of 70 hours this year (if you attend each week), but they will attend school for maybe 1,500 hours and STILL apparently need homework to complete their learning.

Attending church every week will not guarantee your child grows up to be a spiritual champion, but it’s a pretty good start. Deuteronomy 6 places the primary spiritual responsibility for your children on you as a parent. But we as the church occupy a unique position in the life of your family – one that cannot be replaced with clubs and teams. This is the house of God, a gathering of the saints together and an absolute essential in the lifestyle of a Christian family.

So be careful not to prioritise the preparation of your children for a future that may never eventuate. Instead, give your life to establish a legacy for your children and your children’s children.

You cannot outsource your child’s spiritual development.

David Wakerley

The Thermostat

There are two important and influential devices in every home. Whoever controls these devices wields great power and influence. They have the potential to bring great joy and excitement as well as tension and discord.

The second important and influential device in the home is the thermostat. In contrast to the remote control, no one can have the thermostat—it’s attached to the wall. Results of the thermostat being changed aren’t realized until later. Are you cold? A quick fix is to grab a blanket or put some warm socks or cozy slippers on. It’s interesting, though, just grabbing a blanket or slippers for yourself will not help anyone else in the house (who might be cold) get warm. The thermostat has the ability to warm everyone up in the home.

I live in the Upper Midwest so it’s more appropriate for me to talk about getting heat into our homes. For those of you who live in the south, it would be more appropriate to speak in terms of cooling and taking clothes off (although you can only take so many clothes off)!

By implication, whoever sets the thermostat is setting the temperature for the environment of the home. In other words, whatever the temperature is set at, the environment adjusts to the temperature of the room.

I am speaking in obvious terms, but think in relation to setting the tone of your family. What does the environment of your home feel like? Is it positive (warm) or negative (cold)? Is there tension or freedom? Do your children walk on eggshells around you (parents) or do they have the freedom to make a mistake and be gently guided to understand how NOT to make those mistakes again? Does your home exude love and laughter? Or does your home environment radiate judgment and apathy? Do your kids smile because they have something to smile about? Or do your kids mope around the house because their families don’t do many activities or play with them?

What does the spiritual environment of your home look like? Do you read your Bible and pray? Or does the word of God collect dust on a shelf and petitions to God remain unasked?

Who sets the tone of your home? Who adjusts the temperature as needed? Or does no one care about the thermostat, leaving each individual to work out their own environmental conditions?

While most of us as human beings care about the remote control (usually because it’s of more immediate concern), we should equally care about the type of environment or culture we are raising our children in. We don’t realize environmental issues until it’s too late: why does my teenager want nothing to do with me? Well, it may be the fact that they are a teenager and don’t want anything to do with adults, but perhaps it has more to do with the fact that you as a Mom or Dad (Uncle, Aunt, or even Grandparent) did not take time to develop and nurture a relationship with them when they were younger. At least make the fact that they don’t want anything to do with you not about your lack of relationship, rather your continual pursuit of an active relationship with them.

Don’t let environment issues surprise you. Adjust and care for your environment right now.

Setting the tone of your home is one way to use the thermostat principle well. Perhaps thinking in terms of a community of homes (a city, town, or suburb) or a community of faith (churches and small groups) is an appropriate application of caring for the thermostat. What does the culture of community feel like? Are people supportive and encouraging or are people individualistic and rude? Are you welcoming? Or do you slam the door in people’s faces? Do we welcome tourists in Hayward, WI because they need a break from their hectic, city-based lives? Or do we want to “shoot them because it’s tourist season”? Are we open to new people visiting our faith community? Or are we a closed group?

What is the temperature of your community? And, more importantly, who are you (as community members) letting control the temperature of your community?

Thanks to Steve DeNeff for the inspiration for these two metaphors!

Spelling Your Name

My daughter, Sari, is almost 4 years-old. I can’t believe how fast time flies! It seems like only yesterday that Amanda and I were childless and living the kidless life! My how things have changed!

Sari is a pretty smart young girl. Our daycare ladies tell us often how amazed they are at her mental progress and prowess (I’m sure they tell all the parents that, right?). Sari has been able to recognize her name for a while now, but it has been a recent phenomenon that she is able to spell and craft her name (like in the picture above).

In honor of her upcoming birthday and this milestone in her life, I thought I would dedicate today’s blog post to my oldest daughter, Sari. I’m proud to be your dad!

Discipline | What vs. Why

Sam Luce wrote a great post on the “why” of discipline versus the “what” of discipline. You can read the post here or below:

I don’t want to go down the road of what type of disciple you should do for your kids because every kid is different and every family is different. What I would like to talk about is the principles that every family no matter how old your kids are should practice. In my short 36 years on earth working with parents and then making similar mistakes with my own kids, one of the most common and most frequent mistakes parents make is asking “What did my kid do rather than Why did my kid do that.”

In every discipline situation we are forced to ask both of these questions. The question that is easier to ask is “What happened?” Asking what happened is appropriate but to really deal with the problem we have to ask “Why.” The classic story everyone has heard their pastor use as a sermon illustration (I’m not even sure it really happened) about the boy who was standing up on his chair in church. The father goes up to the boy and tells him to sit down the boy refuses the father says sit now or you will get a spanking, the boy relents glaring at his father the whole time. The boy sits down the father thanks him the boy responds by saying “I may be sitting on the outside, but I’m standing on the inside.” That is a classic example of “what” not “why.”

For all of us teaching our kids how to act is much easier than teaching them how to live. One of the things I am committed to as a pastor and a father is to teach my kids and the kids in our church how the power of the gospel changes us from the inside out. The gospel is about life transformation not behavior modification. As a parent having your kids do what you say is only the first step to leading them down a path to live the gospel. Whatever your rules are in your home it doesn’t matter, whatever your method of correction for wrong behavior it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you and your spouse commit to raising your kids asking Why did you break that lamp, why did you lie to me, rather than what did you just do.

When we correct our kids solely on what they have done we often send a message that what you did embarrassed me or made me angry. When you correct kids based on their attitude you give them tools to live a life focused not on acting or being a perfect person but you teach them that without God’s help we are hopeless, helpless and miserable. An example of this would be you call your son over he refuses to come you go to him grab his arm to talk to him he pulls away and knocks over your favorite lamp. You get angry discipline your son for knocking over the lamp. In doing that you send two signals. 1. Things matter more than he does 2. You want him to act a certain way. The result is not a repaired relationship of your son to you or your son to his Heavenly Father and most of all you rob your son of experience the grace of repentance and forgiveness. In exchange you teach him how to wear a mask and act like the very people who knew the law but could not recognize the Savior.

When you train kids to change their attitude with God’s help their behavior will change as a result of the consistent work of the grace of God in their life.

“Cast Your Cares” Seeds Family Worship (video)

I came across this music video a couple of months ago and have been playing/listening to it in the background before and after ministry events. It’s a really catchy tune and I love that it is a verse! I haven’t looked in to what else they offer, but this would be a neat way to connect memorizing Scripture with worship time. It would also be great music to have in the home as well!

Seeds Family Worship website

Macie’s Birthday Celebration #1 (video)

Macie Lynn was born 2 years ago. And she knows it! It’s her birthday!

Earlier this week, Amanda wanted to practice on Macie’s cake. She was experimenting with fondant. I think it turned out pretty cool.

We did a preemptive candle lighting and Happy Birthday song to break Macie in and get her ready for her big day.


My wife, Amanda, loves doing projects. So much so that when the girls hear the word “projects” they start salivating or foaming at the mouth. They jump for joy at the sound of projects.

The other day when I came home from church, Sari greeted me and showed me the project they had done that day with leaves. I show my excitement by taking a picture of their wonderful creation (it was bright so Sari wore my sunglasses!)

Embrace Life (video)

Who would have ever thought that an ad for wearing your seatbelt could be so beautiful, cinematic and stir so many emotions?

I have been really enjoying the blog over @ iblogo lately. I really appreciate their content and ideas and the thoughts they generate and questions they ask. The two guys, Mark and Kelly, tackle technology and church together and think critically and productively about it.

source YouTube


Last night I had to put Macie in time out for some reason. While I was putting her in her crib, Sari said something that Amanda told me when I returned to the kitchen:

“I don’t like Daddy, he likes to put things in time-out.”

“I better eat something…”

The other day we were driving in the car somewhere and Sari starts complaining about needing to eat something because she was hungry. We informed her that we didn’t have anything at the moment, to which she replied:

“I better eat something or I’ll be dead.”

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.

The link above does a fantastic job of talking about apathetic faith and passing that apathy down to our kids by the things we do (and don’t do).

Simplicity and Complexity

I’ve been reflecting on my life lately… well not lately, I reflect all the time! I’m an external processor, which means when I’m in conversation with people, they don’t receive any canned, or pre-planned answers or thoughts, they get raw and uncensored Jeremy (well…kind of censored!).

When people have asked me how I am doing my answer has been this: “My life has grown incredibly simple.”

Before I was married, life was complex for me. I remember juggling all kinds of things in college, things 3 or 4 people would consider doing separately, but not together. I was an RA in the older men’s dorms, taught SS and helped with middle school youth group every week, met consistently with 5 or 6 different groups for 5-6 different things, engrossed in conversations during all 3 meals in the cafeteria, and sought out professors who I wanted to learn from. I remember thinking, I hope “regular” life is less busy, hectic and complicated. I was assured it was.

Then I got a ministry job and got married. Both of these two monumental changes in my life simplified the complex a little. My job forced me to focus on a few things, vocationally, instead of a plethora of other things. Working with children and middle school students preclude me, typically, from engaging with college students, seeking out professors, or contributing to many different groups at once. Marriage has simplified things in the sense that my relationships are more focused and intentional. Friendships change and relationship postures change when you get married. Regular life was being shaped and realized.

Then along came these things called kids! Interesting how easily they came along without much discussion. Amanda and I waited for about 3 years before we had our first, then less than 2 years after Sari, along came Macie. I tell you what: the complexity of life really simplifies when you are really tired from an all-nighter that you didn’t choose because they are throwing up or fussy and restless all night! Extraneous things in life tend to get neglected more out of survival than anything. Raising kids has forced me to really simplify the other things. It’s funny, but we tend to gravitate toward couples with children close to our kids’ age. This isn’t discriminatory on our part, more another means of survival and thirst for “adult” connection!

In the path of simplicity, however, is a paradox. You see, while I say on one hand that my life has really been simplified, the parody/paradox here is that WITHIN the simplicity, is a world of complexity. Confusing? You bet! Try to figure out why a 3 year-old girl is crying and throwing a fit. Try to discern what a 1 year-old girl wants as she is learning to talk and it all sounds like…huh? Try to figure out why they wake up at night fussing, or fight when sister is playing with a toy the other isn’t playing with, or why in the next moment they can be incredibly cute and obedient. Sometimes this stuff happens all at the same time!

Simplicity of focus, complexity of issues and problems and special moments within that focus… ah, the recipe of life. I haven’t read the book on the graphic above… I googled “simplicity” and “complexity” and that was a top image link. “Simplexity” I kind of like that word. No matter the content of that book, that word epitomizes my life right now.

Sari pokes fun @ Christmas

When I was driving the girls to the airport yesterday for their flight to Spokane, Sari asked about Christmas time: “When is Christmas?”

“Not for another 3 months, Sari.”

“But I want Christmas now!” she tells us.

“Nothing we can do, honey. We’ll make sure you don’t miss it when it comes.”

She’s quiet for a few seconds, then she tells us: “I want presents from the fat man @ Christmas!”

We laughed for a while!

The Walleye

On the way home from my Grandma’s 80th birthday party, Sari had to go to the bathroom.  We stopped at this gas station off of I-35.  As we pulled in to this place the girls yelled: “Look at the fish, daddy!”  For a second I thought we were in Hayward already, but then I remembered we were still about 2 hours away!

After we went to the bathroom, I took the girls over to the fish and we checked it out.  By the way, it was a model of the walleye that Paul Bunyan caught!