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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In a couple of weeks, I’m going to start one of my favorite annual activities:

teaching Art History to high schoolers.

I have done it enough now that I know a lot of the questions they are going to ask.

One question that is a perennial favorite, one that is inevitably asked is, “Why is this guy famous?”

Maybe it’s a challenge to me, like why am I making them learn this. Maybe it’s a challenge to the world, like “What did you see in this painting, because I sure don’t see it.”

But mostly, what students are not seeing is that fame or success is never a quick process. The artist doesn’t just wake up, decide to paint, and is suddenly a famous painter. Even in the 1700s, people had plenty of things to do, rather than pay attention to some nobody with a paintbrush.

What students don’t see is that Jackson Pollock didn’t start out dripping paint on canvas. The guy could paint. He was classically trained. So was Picasso. These guys try lots of different things before they strike on the thing that the world says, that is worth something. The image of sudden success is almost always an illusion. The same is true today. The people who suddenly pop up on the radar, go viral, or become “overnight” sensations have usually been doing their thing, unnoticed, for a long long time.

That is a hard thing to come to terms with. I think most of us want to be successful. Very few of us are prepared for just how much time and energy that success might take. Students are excited to graduate high school, barely comprehending that they have four to eight more years of school, before they launch their careers and have to start at the ground level. Heck, students walk into my classroom, wanting to make great art, but they don’t have the patience to work on their fundamentals. They want to be great, now, in the space of an hour. Those kinds of expectations always lead to disappointment.

Even today, my teaching life is busy. And that busyness doesn’t cultivate patience in me. I want to get done now, rather than enjoy the process.


If there is one thing we can teach our children, our students this year, it’s to savor the process. It’s going to be years before our vision will match our results. It’s going to be a lifetime before we have really made it. 

And that’s okay. We don’t have to be famous artists, writers or leaders in order to make it.