Dealing with high schoolers every day, I find that they often have something in common…

It is a drive, a yearning…

A hope to find themselves.

It’s hard to truly find yourself in high school. Your world is still confined to a small group of other teenagers, and a handful of teachers.

After leaving high school, most teenagers will eagerly head off to college, to continue their quest for self. They will no longer be chained by parents or a dusty old hometown.

I remember that quest. I remember how many of my peers changed their outward appearance over a summer, or moved to a new town, or did something else in an effort to define themselves.

The thing is, the problems we had back home often find us in a new town.

And changing our outward appearance doesn’t make us feel much differently.

The key to finding ourselves, I have found, is as Socrates told us…

To find ourselves, we have to think for ourselves.

Think about any great quest we read in a novel or watch in a movie. The character may face outward hazards. He may have nearly insurmountable odds. But oftentimes, the greatest triumph is actually in himself.

There is a lot of pressure to never find ourselves, because there are forces in our world to persuade us not to think for ourselves.

We tell our kids about peer pressure. We want them to be independent. But then, we adults do the same thing.

We collectively foam at the mouth for a politician’s promises. We willingly let ourselves be duped by advertisements. We follow gurus and guides for every decision we have to make. We buy into a version of “The American Dream” that doesn’t really work because it never makes us happy.

find yourself

Adults, if we are going to set an example for our children, we have to think for ourselves. We have to be willing to go against the grain.

We have to be willing to step out of the boat.

Or even live out of step with our culture.

We don’t have to move to a new city. We don’t even have to get a tattoo or dye our hair.

We just have to start by thinking, and the rest will follow.

What’s in a name?

Last week, while walking with my family around the neighborhood, we passed by the elementary school, with a yard sign out front. A church was renting the space on Sunday.

“Oasis of Love Family Church.”IMG_0384

I kind of cringed at the name while I snapped a picture. For one, “Oasis of Love” sounds kind of funny. If I moved to Nevada and opened a brothel, I might call it “Oasis of Love.”

But even more so, I cringed at the second part of the name, “Family Church.”

There were lots of things this church could’ve done. They could have used just the word “church.” They might have paired it with the word “community.” They may have called their church a “worship center.”

But of all the choices they had, they used those specific words. And in so doing, they illustrated what many of our churches are guilty of, a guilt that I thought about while I walked home with my new little family…

…Our churches have made an idol out of family.

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Life is full of first days.

This week, most of our kids will have another first day of school, if they haven’t already.

And there is a reason that many schools put the first day of school in the middle of the week. First days are hard. 

I remember being especially nervous for my first day of fourth grade. I don’t know why. It just seemed like a new tier in life and I wasn’t sure I was prepared, though I was always an enthusiastic student. But I distinctly remember about halfway through the day, looking around my new classroom, the place where I would spend my days for the next nine months and believing that things were going to be okay.

And they were okay. I had a wonderful teacher and a great year.

What I have realized as a teacher is that first days are hard on our end too. I’ve had around 27 or so first days of school over my lifetime, as a student and a teacher. The teachers are nervous too. Most of us showed up before in-service to get ready.

The thing about first days is they don’t stop. There are first days of school, first days on the new baseball team, and more general first days, like first days in a new town, first dates, first days of marriage, first days on the job, first days of parenthood, first days of retirement.

I doubt that first days ever stop being a little intimidating. But first days of school are a great time to help our children grow in something…


It does take bravery to get on that school bus for the first time. It takes bravery to walk into a room with a stranger, to sit by new people and have no idea what the next year is going to look like.

But you and I all know something…It’s all going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay. Our kids will come home with smiles on their faces. They will have realized the same thing. It’s going to be okay. Their bravery paid off.


It might be the most enduring lesson we can give our children.

Bravery might be the quality that takes them furthest in life…even after fourth grade.


Read: “Building Sets” and “Crappy Building Sets”

When did we decide that blocks were for boys?

This week, you might be aware, that Target announced that it would soon be ridding its toy departments of gender specific signage and colors. Signs that read “building sets” and “girls’ building sets” will be henceforth eliminated.

There have been a lot of praises heaped on Target…and a lot of criticism. A lot of people who think Target has “caved to the PC crowd.” Plenty of people on Facebook claimed that they would be boycotting the store. Some parents even complained that Target was contributing to the “gender confusion” of children or trying “to turn them gay.”

At first, I really thought the move was unnecessary at best and silly at worst.

But the more I’ve thought about it, and the world I want my boy to grow up in, the more I think that it’s the right move.

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Today, I’m heading back to school.

In another week, the kids will show up, and until they do, teachers around the country will try to get ready. We will clean and decorate classrooms. We will make nametags. We will hang posters. If kids have elaborate first-day-of-school rituals, then teachers, even more so.

I have been having first days of school, practically my entire life, and really the excitement never stops. I know parents are excited to get the kids back in school. But my excitement is different. It’s not a relief that the summer is finally over. As teachers, we have the unique perspective of a fresh start every year. I think I’m actually more excited about this school year than I have been in the last couple of years.

As a teacher, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to teach my students. I think about the lessons I want to give my high schoolers and the projects I want to do with my younger kids. I think about the Art Show in the Spring.

But what I really spend time thinking about, what actually keeps me from sleeping the night before the first day of school, is thinking about how I’m going to teach the really important stuff to the kids.

How am I going to show them my passion for teaching and learning?

How am I going to show them my passion for them?

How am I going to share my heart with them?

I have had a lot of teachers. But the ones I remember the most weren’t the ones who got through the curriculum with time to spare in the Spring. They aren’t the teachers who let us watch movies on Fridays.

The teachers I remember most were the ones who took chances to share their hearts with us as students. They told us what was really important. Some of those moments were probably carefully planned. Some of them were spontaneous.

The thing is, you don’t have to be a teacher to give that to a child. We all have ways we can invest in the children around us. Not everyone is called to teach vocationally. But all of us can teach.


All it takes is an open and honest heart.

When I was in college, I watched many of my youth group friends leave their faith behind.leaving+the+church

As I grew up through my twenties, I realized that I had lived through what had become a massive statistic. It turns out that most kids raised in American Christian churches drop their faith by college graduation.

Plenty of leaders, thinkers and writers have pontificated over this statistic. Most of them look at the “millennial” generation from afar, decades separating them from the people they claim to analyze.

But now that I’m a parent, this is no longer a remote or abstract exercise in analytics. It’s terrifying.

As a parent, I want my child to embrace my most personal and deeply held beliefs. I cannot imagine what it will do to my wife and I if he should reject the faith we are trying to teach him.

And yet, the numbers aren’t good. The odds are stacked against us. It seems that we will more than likely fail.

But I think I know how to beat the odds. Because I think I finally have an answer to why our kids, raised in church-going homes, have largely discarded their faith.

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