Introducing lent to the kids

Kristen and I decided to introduce lent to our church hating, Awana loving kids.

Our kids aren’t game for anything. I get jealous when I go to my friends house and their kids would walk across the desert for a glass of water just because mom or dad said it’d be fun and meaningful. My kids are the exact opposite. I pitch going to Sea World on a Saturday and they glibly respond, “OK. I guess. There isn’t any good TV on today anyway.

Knowing that– we still had this crazy idea of bringing our kids into our observance of lent.

Here’s how I did it.

Jelly beans. Yup, jelly beans.

On Sunday, I made a secret trip to Rite Aid and came back with a big 2 pound bag of fresh, delicious Brach’s jelly beans.

Then I waited for them to be in a good mood. A good & hungry mood, that is. After school on Monday was perfect. Both of them were chipper when I picked them up from school (rarity) and yesterday’s lunch at school must have been especially nasty because they were starving for snack.

On the way home I got them thinking. “Hey, have you ever heard of lent? Not lint like on your clothes… lent, the 40 days before Easter.

That got them thinking a little and asking questions about lent. By the time we pulled into the driveway they were curious and I had dropped hints that mom and dad wanted to talk about a lent challenge and that it had a reward on Easter Sunday.

Mom had hot buttery popcorn waiting for them. They grabbed a handful and started to munch. I interrupted them, “Hey, why don’t you guys go to the bathroom and stuff and come back. We’ll have a snack and talk about lent.

My jaw dropped. They were into it!

They came back into the kitchen and sat around our little island. That’s when I brought out the jelly beans. Their eyes got huge! They didn’t see that coming.

Hook, line, and sinker… let’s reel them in.

After that we talked about what lent is, why people observe it, why its important to sacrifice something important to us in preparation for Easter, etc.

The whole time we’re chatting they are munching on popcorn & jelly beans. The treats were the oil that is lubricating this conversation! This was reinforcing the kinesthetic learning in lent while talking about why lent was a connection between our 40 days of sacrifice and Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.

Mom and dad are each going to give up something important to them for lent. We’d really like you guys to think about giving up something important, too. It’ll be a great way for you to prepare your heart for Easter.” Then we talked about silly things to give up, like foods we don’t like or impossible things to give up like peeing or breathing. And we asked them if they thought other kids at school were going to give something up for lent. They didn’t know… so we asked them to ask around, because a lot of kids give up things for lent.

We ended our talk with a simple challenge. “Let’s talk tomorrow about what you want to give up. We aren’t going to tell you what  you should or shouldn’t give up. So think hard about it. Each of us will give up something different. And the only one who is really going to know if you’ve cheated is you. (And God) Lent starts on Wednesday.

I know this is a simple thing. 5 minutes. But for us, not having a lot of success at introducing Jesus into our family beyond praying for meals occasionally and going to church, this was a big success. Totally worth celebrating! And totally building our confidence.

Parenting + spiritual formation? Yes, we can do this!

Update: Click here for free, downloadable lent signs for your house

Church Leadership family management

You need clarity and focus

Paul’s teacher has been on us for a few months to get his eyes checked out. She’d tell us, “He squints to see the board” or “He says he has to sit up front. I think he needs glasses.

I assumed, just like his big sister, that he’d need glasses eventually. Everyone in my family wears glasses. It’s an inevitability for McLane’s.

Until recently, he never complained about not being able to see well. When we asked him to read a sign or move back from the TV he’d just roll his eyes. In truth, there are a number of behavior issues we are dealing with, so we thought this stubbornness about sitting near the TV was just part of his personality.

It all made sense when I took him to Lenscrafters on Saturday. He was very excited and talkative about the appointment. As we waited for the doctor to see him, he was a nervous kind of chipper that we rarely see.

Then he did the pre-screening. He seemed to instantly shut down. There were four machines with simple tasks. In each of them he was excited to do it. But in each of them when the doctor asked him questions he just didn’t answer.

Uh oh, this isn’t going well.” I sent Kristen a text.

When the pre-screening was over I asked him why he didn’t answer any of the questions. “She was trying to trick me. I never saw anything like she was saying I should. I’m not going to answer and get an answer wrong, I only like correct answers.

That’s when I started to worry. It hit me. It’s not that he wasn’t trying. It’s that he had just failed all four of the pre-screening tests. Had we somehow missed something all along? Does my son have a vision problem?

My mind raced to connect the dots.

Then we went into the big room. The one with the hydraulic chair and big eyeglass contraption. The chair was on one wall and the chart with all the letters was on the other.

Paul, there are no wrong answers. This isn’t an eye test. We’re just seeing how we can help you see better. Is that OK?” He shook his head affirmatively.

She explained what all of the instruments were in the room– so he wouldn’t be surprised by anything. (My heart was pumping a million miles per hour!)

Paul, can you tell me if you see any letter on the wall right in front of you?

Letters? All I see is a white wall.”

She pulled a pen from her pocket and held it about 2 feet from his face.

Can you read the letters on this pen?

Of course I can, duh!” He was starting to have fun.

Within a few minutes she started dialing her contraption to discover the right lenses which would help Paul.

She flashed the first set in front of his face.

Ha! Ha! Now I see the poster on the wall. You weren’t tricking me.

On and on this went. Within a few minutes he was able to read the smallest letters on the chart with ease. First with one eye, then the other.

Finally, she made some measurements and pulled out two lenses from desk. Just as she was putting them in front of his eyes she said, “OK Paul, tell me what you can see now?

His face lit up. He quickly started looking around the room. “Wow! I can see everything.”

A smile was plastered on his face like one I’d rarely seen.

I beamed at his discovery.

The doctor turned to me and said, “Your son is profoundly nearsighted. But he doesn’t have a vision problem. He has a clarity and focus problem. Glasses are going to change everything.

That was a lightbulb moment for me. My mind started to race at all the times I’d taken him to sporting events or movies and he’d turned to me and said, “Can we leave? This is boring.” Or all of the blank stares when we pointed out historic sites. Or why he burned through quarter after quarter looking at New York City through those big binoculars. Or why he hated playing catch with me in the backyard. Or why riding his bike had always seemed so scary. On and on– the dots began to connect.

How many of the behavior problems that we pull our hair out over are tied to this one simple thing… He couldn’t see?

We will soon find out.

The hour between ordering his glasses and picking them up might have been the longest 60 minutes of his life. We wondered the mall aimlessly. And about every 2 minutes he’d ask… “How much longer?

Finally, the time came and the lab technician called his name. As he put the glasses on his face and the technician made adjustments to the frames, I could see his eyes shooting all over. He was reading and discovering everything in the room. It was a brand new world!

As we left the store he grabbed my arm. “Dad, look at those clouds!

What the moral of the story?

There’s a lot of talk in leadership circles about having strong vision. But vision without clarity and focus on purpose will lead you, your organization, and your teams to become near-sighted.

It’s one thing to have big vision. It’s another thing to back that up with clarity and focus.


Poll: Does Paul look like Harry Potter?


Conversation with Stoney

Last night, Stoney decided he wanted to go for a walk. I stood in the living room, talking to Kristen, and Stoney sat next to me with those eyes.

If you have a dog you know the eyes.

The only problem? A strong winter storm had rolled in. While it was sunny, clear, and in the 70s on Monday. It was dreary, raining, and about 50 by Friday night.

Here’s how the scene played out, real life conversation recorded for you:

Adam [staring at the dog, his eyes bright and tail waging] – What? What do you want?

Stoney [Sitting politely at his owners feet, gazing up at his beloved inquisitive face] – I want to go for a walk. Take me for a walk. [Eyebrows up] Please?

Adam [hearing the rain beat against the roof] Dude, it’s raining. You don’t really want to go out there. You just think you want to go, but it’s pouring and cold outside.

Stoney [ambivalent to the news, tail wagging] OMG. You just said “outside!” Outside is like my favorite word! I can’t wait! Thank you for understanding me, master. You are totally awesome!

Adam [walking to the blinds and opening them, convinced that if the dog saw that it was raining, that his dog/friend would not really want to go for a walk] Seriously. Stoney, look outside. Its pouring. If we went out there we’d get soaked. We can’t go for a walk in the rain.

Stoney [his excitement has built to a frenzy. This is shaping up to be an amazing evening] I know, that’s OUTSIDE, where you just said we were going. Holy crap… did you say WALK too? Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. [prancing and licking his lips, he can’t stand still he is so excited] You said outside and walk. This is the BEST DAY EVER! YES!

Adam [looking at his wife, full of disbelief at what is happening, then looks back at his dog] No. Really. We can’t go for a walk. It’s raining. Sorry buddy.

Stoney [his head sinks down for a moment of sadness] Are you kidding me? I sat in this house all day waiting for you to come home. You haven’t been home all week and I haven’t really cared. I just thought it’d be a good time for us to reconnect a little. The pecking order is going to change in like 3 days. You’ll bring home that baby and you’ll have even less time for me. So I just thought… I know it’s raining. But that doesn’t bother me. I’m a labrador retriever. My coat is wicks moisture away from my skin and keeps me warm during a fall duck hunt. Wet is in my DNA. It’s hard wired as exciting. And you… you bought a $100 rain jacket… even though you live somewhere that only rains like 10 days a year. I knew you didn’t love me. It’s all just words. You are full of excuses. Jerk.

Adam [noticing the instant and deep sorrow of his friends body language. The words were a jab with a knife, but the body language twisted the knife to maximize damage to internal organs] You don’t seem to care that it’s raining outside, do you? And I did buy that jacket. And you really are made to be wet and cold and not really get cold. [checking Kristen’s face, it’s smiling as she sees Adam’s heart break for his friend.] I guess we could go.

Stoney [gives a little wiggle to his eyebrow. It’s a give away that his act of playing the abused dog worked] Did you say OUTSIDE and GO? Yes! Yes! Yes! I knew you wanted to take me for a walk. What are we waiting for? [cue: tail wagging]

Adam [searching his closet for his rain jacket and a change of socks] OK, let’s go for a walk.

[End of scene]


Awana, I wanna apologize

O, Awana.

How I’ve hated ye all of these years. I’ve hated your uniforms. I’ve hated the cult-like dedication adults seem to latch onto you, especially at budget time.  I’ve hated how you eat up more volunteers than any other ministry. I’ve hated that parents seem to think their newly adolescent children would rather carry books and earn badges instead of drinking soda, singing songs, and listening to my expertly crafted Bible talks. And I’ve hated your reward-based curriculum. Did I mention I hated your uniforms?

I hated you until you worked for my family.

Awana, I wanna apologize. I was wrong about you. You’ve brought about three good things in my family that I want to tell you about.
  1. Free date night. Let’s be honest. The fact that you have a ton of adults willing to watch my kids for two hours (for free!) on a Wednesday night is amazing. There’s a lot of people trying to tell me that I’m a bad parent because I want to drop my kids off. They have mantras like, “No drop-offs. Stay with your kids.” Do those people actually HAVE KIDS? And do those people know how hard it is to find a good babysitter at a price a brother can afford? I’m just sayin… I get two hours of unrestricted time with Kristen a week. Bam!
  2. Bible smackdown. OK, so this isn’t technically part of your program. But it has become a fun Wednesday night tradition in the McLane household. My kids love to wrestle. And I love to defeat them. Now when we wrestle before Awana starts we use their weekly Awana verse  as their way to get out of a pin. I’ll put Paul into a full nelson and to get out of it he goes, “Romans 3:23! For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!” And I say, “That’s right.” Which is McLane for amen.
  3. Learning to love Jesus one piece of candy at a time. As a lover of the Bible, a lover of theology, and a lover of human behavior… I have to admit that bribing children to memorize Scripture in exchange for candy and badges makes me cringe. After all, grace is free right? A relationship with Jesus costs more than a piece of candy, right? As an adult, I’ve wrestled with my children developing a conditional relationship with God where we exchange rewards for knowledge. But I have to tell you… it works! My kids hate church. But they love candy. If running around playing games, memorizing Bible verses, and wearing a silly costume means they are going to earn three pieces of candy and positively associate a life with Jesus with something yummy, I guess I’m for it. I wanted to hate you but you are so developmentally appropriate for my kids in this stage in life that I can’t.

In closing. I just want to say that I’m thankful for Awana on Wednesday nights. And I’m doubly thankful that it’s not at my church so I’m not getting asked to help.

Apologetically yours,




According to Tripit, my travel tally for 2011 looks like this:

Trips 3
Days 18
Distance 9,959 mi
Cities 18
Countries 1

That’s as of February 2nd.

And it doesn’t include all of the cities I’ve been to… just the places I’ve spent the night.

The first 33 days of 2011 have been a total whirlwind. This was something I did intentionally to try to get as much done before the baby arrives so I won’t have any pressure to go anywhere. Anyone who knows me knows that I push myself 10 times harder than anyone could possibly push myself.

33 days into 2011. 18 days on the road. 15 days at home.

Yesterday, waiting for my bags in San Diego I habitually popped open Tripit, my app and travel companion. (Because it always tells me where to go and what to do next.)

It said, “No trips planned. Want to add one?


I hit the home button and shoved my phone in my pocket.

Symbolically, I’ve hit the home button for the next few months. My hope is to not have to travel for work for a while. I have no need to leave San Diego County until mid-April. And I don’t think I’ll spend a night away from my family until May. That’s plenty of time to regain footing in our family routines and work hard to bond as a family of five instead of a family of four. (2-3 more weeks!)

Last night, as I was talking to Megan and getting her ready for bed, I said, “It’s really nice to be home. Did mommy tell you that I won’t be going anywhere until after your birthday?

The smile said it all.

I’m grounded. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Christian Living Church Leadership

5 Steps to Finding Family in Your Community

Divorce. Single parenthood. Extended singlehood. Living away from home. Broken relationships. Loneliness.

None of these are surprises. None of these are ideal. All of them are our reality and bond.

All of them are (by design) normative in the body of Christ. (James Dobson’s ideals are great. But they aren’t our reality.) We are a people tied together primarily by our brokenness. The church is the only institution on the planet where everyone is on the same playing field. We are all sinners. We all admit that left to our own devices we’d screw it up so we have a desperate need for a community that can help us screw it up less. That’s our bond as believers. We need each other because we are busted.

And yet– sadly, working in a church is one of the loneliest jobs in America.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Without sounding like a 5-step program too much– here are 5 hard steps you can take to find community (and, ultimately contentment) while working on staff at any church.

Step One

Admit you aren’t perfect, can’t be perfect, and are lonely. No really. It starts with a healthy understanding of who you are and your lot in life. One of my frustrations with making pastors look like celebrities is that too many pastors start to believe that their poop doesn’t stink. (Conversely, to aspire to be a “great pastor” you have to pretend that you fell from heaven onto a community and you have no needs and you somehow embody a perfection that you really aren’t.)

You aren’t bulletproof. You need friends. You need accountability. You need people your own age in your life. Admit it.

Step two

Find people your own age. This one makes people’s head tilt 10 degrees to the side when I say it. “My youth group is like my family.” No, they aren’t. They are adolescents and you are an adult. Not only is it really unhealthy for your long-term health for you to consider the youth group your family because they graduate and go to college– it’s creepy for an adult to depend on a bunch of students to be his family. Creepy with a capital C.

Find people within 10 years of yourself. (On average) Honestly, common interests are cool but not really primary.

Note that I’m being careful to say that you don’t need to find this in your church. It’s great if it can happen there. But I’ve worked at smallish churches my whole life and I know that there might actually not be a group of adults in your age range. But every community has people your age. You might just have to do something outside of your church. Join a softball team or a golf league or something going on with people your own age and go there. (Just don’t go dancing, that leads to sex.)

Step three

It’s better when you aren’t in charge. I don’t know why… but for us the magic mojo of our finding family/community in San Diego has been that I’m not in charge. The joke has been, “we’re just the hosts.

I think the truth is that we, as pastors, like to be in charge a little too much. We want to set the agenda. We want to be the center of attention. We want to be the expert. We love it when everyone looks to us. In short, we have a validation problem. We hide behind the persona and expectation because we like it and feed off of it.

But you will never feel like part of a community if you are walking around thinking that you are the man on the white horse who has come to save the town from itself. All you are really doing is walking around with a false view of yourself and leaving yourself on a very lonely island. (And I know too many pastors readily fired who have made themselves entirely expendable at their church by living on a very long island.)

Step four

Develop inter-dependency. A false presentation of who we really are (see above) leads us to think we don’t really need to depend on our community of friends. (And elevating our need to develop dependencies on our work. Raise your hand if you’re a work-aholic.)

It’s OK to be a pastor and have needs that you have to depend on others for. It’s OK to admit that in the safety of your community. In fact, what you will discover is that once you level the playing field and admit that you need to depend on people– you’ll actually be a seen as a much stronger leader. This goes beyond just depending on people to do stuff for you. This means that you’ll need to join and participate in being part of a family as an equal. You know, be a servant to your friends and allow them to reciprocate. Just as you need to lean on other they need to be able to lean on you.

The question being answered by every single person over and over again about you (and behind your back) as a pastor is, “Is that person for real?” When you become part of a community of people (aka– a family) that really knows you, where you can just be Adam and not Pastor Adam, then those people will help answer that question in a way you’d like it answered. “Yeah, Adam is a legit guy. He and Kristen have their struggles, but they are just like anyone else.” That’s a whole lot better than, “All I really know about him is what he’s preached. He keeps to himself.

Step five

Relax, you’re with family. The goal is simple. You know you’ve arrived when you’re just a dude (or dudette) with a job. (And people aren’t saying, “I’m in the pastors group.“)  It will hit you when you get there.

And you won’t be healthy in a community until you find a group of people who look at you as such. My goal every time our community group (our real family in San Diego) gets together is to shut up and listen. Literally, that’s what I’m telling myself over and over again as I prepare for Monday night. “Shut up Adam, no one cares.” But these people really do care about Kristen and Adam– the family that hosts us on Monday nights. That’s how I know we’ve arrived.

This is more important than any job you are doing

Everything you do as a pastor depends on your health emotionally and spiritually. If you don’t have this, stop everything! Your ministry will not succeed until it flows out of a healthy life.

The simple reality is that you need a place to just be instead of being the pastor. And I think I’ve shocked people when we sit across the table for coffee and I tell them this has to become their #1 priority.

Yes, I’ve even told people they need to stop being a pastor if they can’t make this happen.

It’s that important.

hmm... thoughts

Living la vida simple

I think Ricky Martin had it wrong. While living la vida loca (the crazy life) looks attractive to the bored, I prefer to set my sights on living la vida simple. (the simple life)

As crazy as things seem, feel, or appear– I do live a pretty simple life. A life that is satisfying in its simple pleasures.

Weekends give glimpses into these pleasures.

  • Near agenda-less. There are things to do, but it’s far from the frantic pace of Monday – Friday.
  • Sleeping in. (That means until 6:30, pretty lame, but that’s as late as I can sleep.)
  • Going to the farmers market and discovering new smells and flavors. (Our kids suddenly love pomegranates)
  • Sharing the intimacy of talking about nothing with Kristen over a cup of tea.
  • Watering, weeding, and pruning in the garden.
  • Spending way too much time observing your cat hunting or the hummingbirds feeding.
  • Lounging in our pajamas well past 9 am.
  • Staying up late to watch a movie.
  • Walking around Costco to pick up a couple things, but mostly to score samples.
  • Taking the dog for a walk.
  • Cutting the grass. (Which feels weird to do in November, but our grass just started growing.)
  • Debating when the citrus will ripen so we can start gorging on mandarins.
  • Wrestling, chasing, and teasing the kids.

It’s funny, isn’t it?

Ironic to be exact.

I struggle to find satisfaction even in these things which are completely satisfying in and of themselves.

And I remind myself:

Life isn’t perfect. Compare the simplicity of these things against the weight of the life I deserve.

Now things start to feel perfectly satisfactory to me.


SDSU beats Air Force

When I decided to buy season tickets to San Diego State I have to admit that I did it on a whim. In 2008, they were horrible. But they got a new coach and I figured that for less than $100 per seat, I couldn’t lose.

My hope has always been that my kids would learn to love football the same way I learned to love football… on Saturday’s with dad at the stadium. Last season was a bit rough. The only thing the kids liked about the games was spending some time with me and our trip to Rite Aid to load up on candy to take to the game. This year, with the team noticeably better, they’ve started to get into it a tad more.

Last night was a huge win for the program. But it was also a huge win for Paul becoming a football fan. For a big chunk of the last five minutes of the game Paul stood on the back of the seat in the row in front of us, shoulder to shoulder with me, screaming “Defense! Let’s go Aztecs! Defense! Oooooo!” (And stuff like that.)

When we scored, he joined in the chorus of high fives. When we recovered the onside kick, he shouted YES!

It was a cool bonding time for us.

Here’s a couple of videos I took on my phone from the beginning. (I’ve got kind of a meme going)

National Anthem (Ahem, that’s not me singing, that’s the guys in front of me)

Football team taking the field

The video above is from They are local sports nuts who have created a name for themselves by doing a local sports blog. I had a similar idea to do this in Romeo but never got around to it. Kudos to them for creating something out of nothing.

family Film

Date night with the kids

Kristen hosted a girls night for the ladies of our community group. So Paul, Megan, and I disappeared and went to see Toy Story 3.

One thing I haven’t adjusted to about Southern California living is how expensive the movies are. I still grimace at paying $11.50 for an adult and $8.50 for a child when in Michigan it was a whole lot less. And a lot of the major theaters don’t even have matinees! Seriously, what is up with that?

To express my inner-cheapskate, we went to Rite-Aid in our neighborhood and bought movie snacks to eat on the way to Fashion Valley Mall. By the time we got to the movies we were hopped up on sugar and ready for the flick.

As for the movie– it was great. I don’t know how they managed to keep both the Toy Story (and Shrek) franchises going so strong. The plots and the quality of animation just keeps getting better.

I don’t think the movie was the point of the night any more than loading everyone up on sugar. It was just nice to get a few hours to relax and laugh with my kids.

I relish that.

In other news. A new round of college guys are moving in across the street. With school at SDSU about to kick off another year, people watching is back!