Categories
family

I need my kids in worship with me

First he glared at me. Then he puffed, “I hate church. I don’t want to go.

When we told Paul, my 10 year old, that the regular parts of kids ministry were taking the day off and church would have family worship on Sunday, Paul protested.

Stupid. Boring. I hate this, I hate you, I hate church, I hate…

Categories
family

Two Years of The Joy Machine

Jackson McLane - 2 Years Old Today
JT in his favorite spot doing his favorite thing, eating!

Jackson Turns Two Today

Here’s 10 things about our toddler that I wish I could bottle up and save forever.

Categories
family Photo Travel

Back From the Brink

I just turned on my computer for the first time in 7 days. 

It still feels a bit funky. My fingers are stretching to familiar places but typing feels totally odd. Yesterday, I woke up to cuddle a freezing Jackson back to sleep. Today, he woke up in his crib to a warm bowl of oatmeal and a morning full of Curious George & Elmo.

The McLane Family is 500 miles from our little June Lake camp site, 8,600 feet above sea level and a million miles from yesterday.

I spent a week intentionally disconnected from my day-to-day life. I turned off my email, signed out of Facebook, never opened Wunderlist or even had the thought, “I should write that down.” For the first time I can remember I even let the blog go fallow for a week.

It felt good to rest.

When I wrote my last post I was on the brink. I was past tired. I was exhausted. I don’t know what comes after exhaustion but I was pretty much there. It’s not so much that the exhaustion was hurting my work as it was that it was hurting to work. Day-by-day the grind was like a bruise that kept getting punched. Even embracing a more regular Sabbath wasn’t helping. I needed real rest.

After a week of hiking, exploring, playing, laughing, star-gazing, and fishing… I feel better and found rest for the first time in a long time.

It had been a few years since I really shut it down for 6 consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s my insecurity, the desperate feeling we had to turn it around at my old gig, or what… but I do know shutting it down was the right thing and something I need to do more often. (I have 3 weeks of vacation planned for the remainder of 2012.)

Rush-free Play

As we drove home yesterday, Kristen and I kept joking about the fact that we all still liked one another. Camping brought us closer together. As we left June Lake we were all a bit sad it had ended. I think all of us had embraced a little fantasy that it didn’t have to end… that we could just head to the grocery store and restock for another week. (And hit the showers to clean up!)

I think that’s a sign of a good vacation, that you leave wanting a little bit more and having fully entertained the option of never going home.

Each day was filled with a slowventure where we made breakfast together, cleaned up camp, and went somewhere to explore. We had a simple lunch of PB&J or fruit, cheese, and crackers. Somehow we managed to make it home in time to make dinner and have a camp fire before bed. (Did you know marshmallows are a food group while camping? I think each of the kids ate their weight in marshmallow!)

Together, we saw some of Earth’s greatest treasures. Yosemite denies description. Photos cannot capture awe. The giant sequoias, the Valley, the Tunnel View, the Merced River, Tuolumne Meadows, the Tioga Road, even The Mobile… all are happy places.

We spent 2 days not catching a single fish but smiling the whole time. We went up and down mountains. And we played in lots and lots of streams.

I loved watching Megan and Paul get lost in ancient forms of play. They made bow & arrows and pretended to hunt chipmunks. They wandered in the woods collecting stuff. They stared deeply into the starry abyss. They played with fire.

And they were rarely bored.

It’ll probably take me a few weeks to really unpack my vacation. But all I know is that I need more of that more often!

 

Categories
Church Leadership

How much is “enough?”

I go to church on Friday night, volunteer in the high school ministry on Sunday morning, and help lead a high school small group on Wednesday night.

That is enough. When I hear an announcement for something else I could do, or somewhere else they need help, or even something else I would really enjoy doing– I have learned to resist. I am doing enough at church. (If I’m being honest, I’m actually doing one thing too much.)

Hierarchy of serving

I know this is hard for my friends who work in churches. They have spots to fill and they feel like a failure if they can’t fill them. But there is a very real hierarchy of service we all need to bend our lives around.

  1. Serve your family, however that is defined for you. In my life, my kids are in their primary years of faith formation. The Shema dangles inches above my head. There is no mistaking it. My primary ministry right now is my kids, it needs to be my kids, and relying on the church– even expecting them to cater to my kids– is on the edge of sinful selfishness.
  2. Serve your neighbors, there is no other way to love them as yourselves. Jesus’ words couldn’t be more simple. Love God with everything you’ve got, love your neighbor as yourself.
  3. Serve your church, it’s a good thing. The New Testament talks a lot about community life, and Paul talks several times about the various roles of people in the body of Christ. And we certainly get a lot of joy out of serving the greater needs of the church.

For where I am at in my life, with three young kids and two fledgling small businesses, that leaves me with just a handful of non-work, non-running-around-like-a-chicken-with-my-head-cut-off hours to serve. For the sake of simplicity we’ll say that is 10 hours per week.

Within the hierarchy of serving for my stage of life that looks like this.

  1. Family – 70%
  2. Neighbors – 20%
  3. Church – 10%

When I try to do more at church… it’s not like I get more than 10 hours per week. It’s that other areas of my life lose those hours. I sleep less, I rest less, I go to my kids school less, I lean on the fence talking to my neighbors less. And it means that less of what I need to get done, gets done.

It’s OK to tell your church leaders the truth. If you are doing enough and it wouldn’t be wise to take on more… don’t. (And don’t feel guilty about saying no.) There is no shame in doing enough! [Which is why it’s called, “Enough.”]

And if you’re a church leader with spots to fill and no one seems to have the time to fill them, kill some things guilt-free. I know that sounds harsh, but if you’re people are already doing enough… why try to burn them out? Maybe this will even lead you to re-evaluate the priority what you’re doing?

The Disconnect

Here’s an observation from going from a church staff person to a volunteer lay leader. There’s a big assumption differentiation. As a paid staffer I constantly had this feeling that people were on the sidelines and largely uninvolved. “If only I could get them in the game, this church could really do some big things for the Kingdom.” But sitting on the other side of that coin I see the opposite to be largely true. People are very, very involved in stuff at the church and lots of other places. They are exhausted! They are doing too much. It’s not so much that they aren’t doing things for the Kingdom. It’s that their definition of Kingdom is bigger than your church.

Categories
family

Christmas happiness

The five McLane’s had a very simple Christmas day. 

  • Everyone slept in so we didn’t get out of bed until about 7. A huge treat!
  • As excited as the kids were to open presents they were polite and orderly about the whole thing.
  • It took Jackson exactly one gift to figure out what this was all about. He loved opening gifts!
  • Christmas was pretty low-key from a gift perspective. We’ve gone from extreme to extreme in our house. Sometimes we’ve given them only 1 gift and other years we’ve gotten them lots of gifts. This year, we gave them each a few and they seemed quite pleased. There were some things off of their lists and some surprises.
  • Speaking of gifts. While I’m a noted C.S. Lewis-hater, my kids now have a full set of the Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Megan and Paul’s “big gift” is a day trip with mom or dad. Megan is going whale watching with Kristen and I’m taking Paul out on the ocean for a day of fishing.
  • Jackson’s big red tractor was a big hit. Several times during the day we saw JT crawl over to the tractor and talk to it.
  • Kristen made a huge feast! Ham and all the fixings. My favorite.
  • For the second year in a row, we channeled our inner Brit and started Christmas dinner with crackers. We all felt quite royal eating our feast with our crowns on. (Yes, mine was pink… quite lovely.)
  • Our house rotation continues. This summer we converted our living room to an office and our dining room into a living room. Well, yesterday was our first family meal in the kitchen around the table. We even did highs/lows while we ate. Look at us– real parents!
  • Megan, Paul, and I had epic battles throughout the day with our fake nerf guns. Why is it that the cheapest gifts (stocking stuffers) end up being the most fun?
  • With Christmas on Sunday it feels like we got ripped off a day. Kristen is off from work today. But I have three projects due this week so I’m off to the office later this morning. (A website, a curriculum, and first steps on a book project)

A Fiscally Responsible Christmas

For the last several years Kristen and I have kept a pretty tight Christmas budget. With all the commercialization of Christmas we take great pride to see December as a month to continue our savings/budget goals. It makes me smile to know we can enjoy Christmas and continue our goals at the same time. Take that Madison Avenue! 

Categories
family

Todayland

The other day I was sitting at my desk working on a project that commanded my full attention. Fully engaged, I barely acknowledged that Kristen handed me Jackson (6 months old) so she could work on lunch. So, for about 15 minutes, I’m left holding him on my lap with one hand while I’m trying to type and navigate to check on my project with the other.

As the minutes go by Jackson is gets annoyed. He’s very active. His legs were banging against mine. He was grabbing my arm. He was pulling on cords and anything he could get his hands on. I could feel his drool running over my arm and dripping on my leg.

I kept bouncing my legs and trying to hold him close in hopes that he’d settle down so I could carry on.

That’s when it hit me. I looked at him, he was literally slapping me in the face to get my attention, my baby boy is way more important than that file. (Or that email, or even that phone call.) So I pushed my work aside, picked him up with two hands– and got on the floor with him to give him my full attention.

For the next 10 minutes he beamed with a huge toothless grin. He showed me his toys. He showed me how he’s trying to learn to crawl. How could I have missed this to begin with?

I have a tendency to get lost in planning, dreaming, and strategizing about the future. So much so that I struggle to live in the present. Sometimes I’m so focused on looking forward that the present tends to sneak up on me. It’s like waking up from a dream and realizing that you’ve overslept. It’s shocking and guilt inducing in the same moment. And just like oversleeping you try to laugh it off but you know it’s a big deal at the same time.

I’ve learned that this is one of my strengths. But it’s also one of my weaknesses. My mind naturally thinks about Tomorrowland to the detriment of Todayland.

Tomorrow is important. But not as important as today. 

Categories
Culture

Place your bet

Photo by @ Alex via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A few months ago I went to Las Vegas with my father-in-law for 24 hours. There are at least 4 things hilarious with that statement, right?

He was running a marathon and needed someone to drive with him from San Diego to Las Vegas and back. I went since it’d be nice to catch-up along the way as well as have lunch with my mom, who lives a mile from the Strip.

Since my mom lives there… I have been to Vegas at least 10 times. Normally, I like to people watch late at night. The joke has always been that I’m down $11 in slots lifetime and I’m mad about it. I’ve never really been into the games.

What I learned from 6 hours on the Strip

Unlike my normal late-night-people-watching, this trip had me up very early, checked out of my hotel, and walking the Strip by breakfast. With more than 6 hours to kill I wandered through a few casinos filled with old people playing slots and a bunch of dealers standing at empty tables.

Along the way I stopped at a Starbucks. As I sipped my mocha I entertained myself by watching a few scattered games here and there. In truth, like a lot of Christians, I feel really out of place on a casino floor. More because I don’t know what to do than that I don’t feel like I could enjoy it.

At one casino there was a small crowd around the crap table. It was a morning clinic explaining how the game worked. Perfect… I could kill an hour, learn something, and its free.

Here’s an observation from that clinic: There is a time to place bets. But once the time has passed it is too late for placing bets. You are either in the game or you are out. The shooter rolls 7 or 11 on his first roll, everyone with a bet on the line instantly doubles their money. If you think about it, every form of gambling has that same timeline. A time to place bets. A time when betting is closed. And a moment when a winner is declared. Cards, slots, horses, lottery, etc.

When you are playing in the game you have a claim at the table. You can win or you can lose. Your heart beats faster and adreneline pumps. The dealers chatter with you. And the cocktail waitress is happy to bring you a bottle of water or whatever you’d like on the house.

When you aren’t in the game you have no claim to the table. You can’t lose but you can’t win either. You’re on the sidelines as an observer. No pitter-patter of your heart. The dealers might not acknowledge you. And fat chance in getting a free drink from the waitress if you aren’t in the game. You’re just another tourist.

Gambling in Vegas is a lot like life outside of Vegas

It feels like people are so afraid of losing that they just refuse to place a bet at all.

  • College – Where do I want to go? What do I want to study?
  • Marriage and family– Is this the right person? What if it’s the wrong person? Should we have kids? If so, when?
  • Vocation – What do I want to do when I grow up? What if I don’t like it?
  • Location – Where do I want to live?

People aren’t shy about their shock with Kristen and I because we placed bets on all four of those categories early in life and have continued to “improve our hand” over the years.

The flip side, experience has taught: In order to win you have to place a bet in the game. And the window for placing a bet is limited. When the time comes to place a bet I already know I want to be in the game because sitting on the sidelines is too boring for me. There are risks and rewards… but I always know I want to be in the game.

Life’s winners and losers are in the game. But those who hold on, never placing a bet, will never know what winning feels like because they are too afraid to accept the risk of losing. And that, my friends, is losing every time.

Categories
Christian Living family

Helping our kids love church, again

The reason I hate church is that you pay attention to everyone else there but us.” ~ Megan, age 7

Those words rattled my soul. I’d rather have gotten cold-cocked by Mike Tyson in a bar fight than heard those words. That’s when I knew that things had to drastically change in how both how I related to my family and serving the church.

Every time I volunteered somewhere or went to a meeting it lead to fights with the kids. “You don’t love us you only love stuff at church!

Their anger lead to my tears.

Here’s what I wrote last October in a post, “When your kids hate church“:

Yesterday, I sat in the car with a child who refused to participate. Not all Sunday’s are like that. But sometimes the feet literally stop moving and the tears start flowing. It’s hard to look in your child’s eyes and see them tearfully say “please don’t make me go,” and then force them to go.

I can’t stomach it. That is, clearly, not the type of relational connection I want my children to have with Jesus.

Read the rest

That post lead to an impossible number of conversations with friends in ministry. By sharing my pain and acknowledging that one of my darkest fears had become my reality I connected with others who serve in full-time ministry and find themselves in similar situations.

Of all of those conversations I had a single phrase spoken stuck out to me. Paraphrasing what she said, I’ve probably added to it: (not accusing just thinking out loud)

“I wonder if you’ve laid your children on the alter of your own ideals and put them into impossible situations? They go to a school you have chosen for them which meets all of your ideals for living in the city, they go to a church you have chosen for them meeting the ideals for you living in the city. They walk a mile in your shoes every day and never get a break.”

Dear Jesus, this was true. It cut past the niceties right to the bone.

So we made some changes. Kristen and I have worked on it. And, on our road to recovery, we have seen some moments when our kids love Jesus and His church. Last night was one of those moments as Paul brought his Bible and a little devotional thing from church to do as a bedtime activity with mom. That totally made me cry!

Some other waypoints on this path have included…

  • Praying with and for our kids.
  • Inviting them in to freely sit in on stuff we are doing and to ask questions. Usually, this has been Megan.
  • Putting our family as the priority over our beloved community group when Jackson was born. (We’ll rejoin them this Fall)
  • Being joyful as we made a transition from one congregation to another, in part, based on their feedback.
  • Experiencing Lent together seemed like a turning point. (Kinesthetic learning is perfect for them)
  • Awana, as much as I’ve lamented about it for years as a leader, has been a gift to them as they’ve gotten more familiar with the Bible and how to use it. (A free date night each week for mom/dad has been good for our marriage as a bi-product!)
  • Moments with each kid when they said, “Daddy, remember when you were in charge of that stuff at church? I liked it when you did that. It would be fun for you to do that again. You were good at it. I miss that.
  • Eagerly signing up and bugging us about details of summer fun camp.

Like any hurt or injury it’s a long process. The quote above is from 2008– we’ve been at this for 1/3 of her life. We haven’t arrived and we still have some very difficult things to work through. And I don’t know if they will ever love the Bride of Christ like I do. But I’m happy to see progress.

It brings me deep joy to begin to see how Jesus is bridging the gap and building a relationship with my children in a way that isn’t forced, coerced, or built on expectations from mom or dad.

O, what a day that will be!

Categories
family

Like Father, Like Daughter

Kristen found this in Megan’s room the other day. Megan loves to draw and create things. Her origami creations are worthy of an Etsy shop.

When we turned over the last page and saw her marketing twist about going to MeganMcLane.com… we just roared with laughter. She truly is her father’s child.

Categories
hmm... thoughts

The weekend ahead

I’m looking forward to a fun and crazy next 5 days.

We’re going to Disneyland!

We might be the only family in Southern California who has never been to Disneyland. And that’s all Megan wanted for her 10th birthday. So today, after school, we are going up to do just that. We’ll be in Anaheim tonight through Sunday. I’ve actually never done anything at a Disney park, either. So we’re all pretty amped up about it and a little nervous, too.

Sunday morning, I’m getting up at the butt crack of dawn to leave Disneyland and come back down to La Mesa to teach at Encounter. My talk is called, “So I’ve been thinking about how to be good news in my neighborhood.” It’ll be all about unleashing your creativity to be good news. (I’ll post the notes in the free section.) After church, I’m back to Anaheim to hop in the pool and then drive everyone home.

Monday afternoon through Tuesday, I’m off to Chicago to help out my friend Andrew Marin. He’s working with a publisher to produce some training materials for his smash hit book, Love is an Orientation. Actually, I’m not 1000% sure what my role is in that. But I know that I’ll be speaking into the youth ministry portion of the content, helping youth workers practically minister to adolescents in matters of sexual orientation.

I’d appreciate your prayers for this whirlwind 5-days.