Archives For Lessons from my Children

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I have been thinking about my boys a lot lately. As a father I feel the pressure of leading my family spiritually, financially, and emotionally and many times the weight is almost too much to bear. Yet, God has given me these sons for a reason and it is incumbent upon me to raise them to the best of my God-given ability. I wanted to give you some things I believe sons need to experience with their fathers. They come in no particular order…

  • A son needs to hear from his dad those three words: “I love you” often.
  • Sons need to experience camping with their dads.
  • A son needs to hear from his dad, “You are a man!”
  • Sons need to hear stories about their father’s broken past.
  • A son needs to hear his dad cry.
  • Sons need to hear his father pray.
  • A son needs to watch his father show affection to his mother.
  • Sons need to sit down with their fathers and work on a budget.
  • A son needs to hear his father rejoice when the son does something amazing!
  • Sons need genuine criticism that points not to perfection but to become a better person.
  • A son needs to do mission work alongside his father.
  • Sons need to exercise with their dads if at all possible. ‘
  • A son needs to work alongside his dad.
  • Sons need to hear about what happens when we die and why we die.
  • A son needs to attend church with his father.
  • Sons need to be there when their fathers defend them when they are wrongfully accused.
  • A son needs to hear his father ask for his forgiveness.
  • Sons need to be able to cry in their father’s arms…
  • A son needs to be able to hug and even kiss his dad, no matter what the age is.
  • Sons need to be taught the basic skills of life like driving, working, and planting a garden.
  • A son needs to learn how to treat a woman from his father.
  • Sons need to watch their fathers wrestle in conflict and come out victorious.
  • A son needs to see his dad on his knees, when the father is not victorious.
  • Sons need to know that everything is going to be all right.
  • A son needs to hear Scripture read often and applied in daily life.
  • Sons need to hear sex talks (not just one) from their dads
  • A son needs their dad to interpret life in this world
  • Most of all, a son needs to look at a father and think, “I love that man. How great is the one who created him.”

What would you add?


I may be the only one who experiences this but our pre-church service routine on Sunday mornings is similar to battlefield scenarios in war situations. There are strategies to do just about everything that needs to get done. One of the following seems to happen to at least one of our children on Sunday mornings:

  • Pop-Tarts are smeared on their clothes
  • One of the girls takes a bow out of their hair (I know…first world issues)
  • Screaming
  • Stomping
  • Yelling
  • Arguing
  • Falling asleep in the three mile stretch from home to church building
  • Forgetting a child at home…just kidding

Church services should at the least be something the family looks forward to. Church services should be something every family needs to start their week. So why do we lose it so much? Why does it seem we drag our kids (and ourselves) to the building only to pretend to be excited to be there but secretly longing for the bed, TV or a combination of the two? There is probably not an easy answer to those difficult questions but I have a few suggestions for you to make the most out of your Sundays…

#1 Start early

This may seem like a no-brainer to most but start early. Wake-up with plenty of time to get things done. For you list-makers, start with the most important thing and then work your way down. It’s hard to start early which leads me to the next suggestion….

#2 Go to bed at a decent time Saturday night

You can’t always do it and I admire those of you who go to sleep at 2am and still come to services. Seriously, go to bed at a decent time to make the most out of Sunday. If you need energy to work, exercise or play you also need energy to worship.

#3 Husbands, help out.

The little things count men. I have been horrible at this and the reason why Sunday mornings are chaotic in our family is that I have not contributed like I should. So I try to get things done on Fridays so I don’t have to go into the office Sunday morning. If I do go into the office on Sunday morning it is at the last minute, only when I have helped get the kiddos dressed, fed and on their way. Help out husbands!

#4 Go out to breakfast as a family once in a while…

That would require you to execute numbers 1-2 but if you wake-up early enough then try to mix things up. Take them to Waffle House, Shoney’s, McDonald’s, Panera Bread or to the local diner. Mix things up and add some flavor into your routine.

#5 Keep things in perspective

Most of our chaos on Sunday mornings are not real problems. They are real in the sense that your teenager does not want to go to services, your hair-dryer broke, that outfit makes you look fat and you forgot to put gas in the tank. Those are real issues but in the grand scheme of things they are not real issues. Most of us get to choose to go to services or to stay home. You can always stay home. Nobody is forcing you to go. If you feel like you “have” to go to services and your family hates it then now is the time to start questioning your motives. Keep things in perspective and try not to let the little problems be “big problems.”

Last night my wife prayed with Madelyn and shared with me the words. It was perfect. It was unique. I loved it. Here are the words….

Dear God, Thank you for mommy, for daddy, for Kaleb, for Amelia, for Samuel, In Jesus name, Amen… Lollipop!

You read that right. She said Lollipop immediately following Amen. Where that came from we may never know. It was weird. Heather laughed! I laughed hysterically. I didn’t go in after her and correct her about how to pray and that it was irreverent for her to say that. I thought it was amazing.

If she wants to tell God about a lollipop I think God wants to know. If she wants to talk to God about grapes, dragons and dichotomous leaves then let her do so. I want prayer for Madelyn and all my other kids to be as natural as breathing.

Blessed be GOD— he heard me praying. He proved he’s on my side; I’ve thrown my lot in with him. Now I’m jumping for joy, and shouting and singing my thanks to him (Psalm 28:6-7 The Message)

Dear God, help me pray naturally and honestly like Maddie. She is amazing. Thanks for the lesson. In Jesus Name, Amen….


On August 16, 2010 I wrote a post entitled, “Letting Go and Letting Love,” where I talked about my experience dropping Kaleb off at school for the first time. Today I dropped Amelia and Madelyn off for their first day of school and I must say that I was not ready for the wave of emotions that I experienced. Yesterday it seemed like I was praying over Amelia while she was in the NICU at Vanderbilt Children’s and now she is in Kindergarten of all things. Yesterday it seemed like I was up all night because Maddie could not go to sleep unless her mother held her and now she is in Pre-Kindergarten of all things. I don’t think life will get easier in the sense that letting my kids go will be a rudimentary task. One does not need to go far to hear stories that would make risk management professionals cringe and yet that is something every parent is charged to do. We are asked to let go.

I do not want to be that Helicopter parent who hovers around my kids assessing everything they can and cannot do. The hardest part of parenting (in my limited experience) is letting my flesh and blood experience the pain and brokenness that comes with life. How will my daughters ever understand trust if they do not experience the loss of it? How will my daughters ever understand true friendships if they do not experience the pain of losing friends?  Moments like today further the reality that God is omniscient (knows all things), omnipotent (all-powerful) and omni-present (he is everywhere). Meaning, God is sovereign (Psalm 139).

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36).

I had a God-moment in the truck this morning. Before we got in the truck I was miserable. I was crying in the shower, crying eat my breakfast and crying taking pictures. As I was driving in the truck I turned the radio on and the song, “Here I am to Worship,” started playing. I lost it. You see, ever since Maddie could sing (or even talk) that has been her favorite song. When we would have devotionals she used to request the song this way in her fast high-pitched voice: “Daddy, I wanna sing Here my mam to warship.” As the song unfolded I knew that this moment was a time given to me by God to worship and praise him. So I did.

I sang. I cried. I praised God. All three kids said the Mackenzie motto: “Have fun, be respectful, change the world and glorify God.”

I kissed them good-bye.

I let go…

and I let God.

Father protect my girls and my son from all sorts of evil. Be with other mothers and fathers who are kissing their children good-bye. We commit our children to you once again and understand our helplessness without you. I praise you God for my wife Heather who has, for the most part, carried the torch in preparing our children for this day. I do not deserve such a precious gift and I thank you for her. God I am also thankful for Krisle and my children’s three capable teachers: Shelby Rushing, Sarah Fowler and Jill Reeves. You have revealed to me your workmanship in how skillful, caring and endearing they are to my kids and so many others. Father protect them as they teach and give them the endurance and strength they need to lead these kids in wisdom and in knowledge. Be with Samuel as he is now without siblings for a season. Which is probably the way he likes it God!  Help him to grow in wisdom and stature and in your favor. Most of all Father, I give you praise for being the ruler of all and the controller of all. You reign. Glory to the highest, you reign. Let all creation testify…you reign. Thank you for worship this morning and thank you for leading my family when I cannot. I love you God. Amen. 

I love being a husband and I love being a dad. I struggle at times with both but I would not trade it for a second because I love it!!! I also love it when people ask how many kids I have because their response is the same no matter how many times I get asked. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Person:  So do you have kids?

Me:  I sure do.

Person: How many?

Me: Four…Kaleb…

Person (Interrupting): YOU HAVE FOUR KIDS?!?!?!?

Me: Ummm…yeah.

Person: How close are they?

Me: Kaleb is 6, Amelia is 5, Madelyn is almost 4 and Samuel is 2.

Person (Laughing in disbelief): Sheesh, you’re crazy.

Depending on who they are they follow up with an elbow in my arm saying, “You know what causes that right?” Har…har!

People are shocked when they hear that my wife and I have four kids and at first I thought it to be comical but now I am starting to wonder if we are on an island alone somewhere in the Pacific. The trend now is to wait until you are older to get married and even more to have kids. If you do have kids then the maximum is two, maybe three if it is an accident. My wife and I certainly avoided the trend as we were married at 22 and 21 respectively and we had Samuel, our youngest, by the time we were 29 and 28 which means our youngest will graduate high-school when we are 47 and 46. Sounds good to me!

I don’t get it though as to why people wait. From a financial perspective I can understand why one would not have four kids (it is tough) but other than that why wait? Even if Heather and I waited three years to start having kids we still would not be in a better financial situation than when we started.

I love being a dad of four kids who are four and a half years apart. I love how close they are and how much they love playing with each other. I love how they grow up with each other and learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. I love how I get to have four vastly different prayers each night before they go to bed. I love how we take up a whole pew at church and I love the reaction when people see our four blonde-haired blue-eyed kids walk in a line like a bunch of ducks.

I love it. I am not saying I am better than people who are not married or who only have one or two kids (I do think I am but I am biased so that does not mean it is true) only that I am in a position to do what I can with who God has placed in my life. I have heard it said that God only places the difficult situations to people who can bear it and while that is not always the case, I think it is true for Heather and I as we are an excellent team and we can handle it.

So next time you are amazed at the fact that I have four kids just know that I am amazed that people wouldn’t want these four kids. I am amazed that people would wait for something as magnificent as being a father. I am amazed that people would wait for something as spectacular as marriage.  Why wait? We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

God thank you for my wife and for my four beautiful children. 

Blinded by the Light

November 7, 2011 — Leave a comment

Kaleb, my oldest son, was playing soccer early Saturday morning and for some reason he just was not going after the ball and playing as hard as I thought he should (of course ;)).  So I walked over to ask him if everything was OK and he told me something that made me think.  He said, “Everything’s fine dad I just can’t see.”  I chuckled a little because the nature of sports means you have to be able to see but at this time of the year, on this particular morning, it was difficult.  It was eight o’clock in the morning and there was a fair bit of dew still on the grass.  Kaleb’s team played facing the sun so it was very difficult to see where he was going and the reflection of the dew made it particularly distracting.

It’s hard spiritually went you can’t see isn’t it?  It’s hard especially when the other team seems to be able to see perfectly fine yet you are distracted and even blinded by difficult circumstances.  David penned these words in difficult times:

“Save me, God!  I am about to drown.  I am sinking deep in the mud, and my feet are slipping.  I am about to be swept under by a mighty flood.  I am worn out from crying, and my throat is dry. I have waited for you till my eyes are blurred” (Psalm 69:1-3; Contemporary English Version).

So how does one become able to focus in such difficult circumstances.  For Kaleb, all he needed were some sunglasses.  The sunglasses wouldn’t have taken away the fact that the bright light still existed but it would have made it a little more tolerable.  A relationship with God does not mitigate our pain but it does make us long for something better.  David closes the Psalm with hope much like you and I close our lives…with hope:

30 I will praise God in a song
and will honor him by giving thanks.
31 That will please the Lord more than offering him cattle,
more than sacrificing a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 Poor people will see this and be glad.
Be encouraged, you who worship God.
33 The Lord listens to those in need
and does not look down on captives.  (69:30-33; New Century Version).

Growing Old

November 1, 2011 — 2 Comments

I have taken my life for granted and now that I am growing old I wonder if I have missed the boat.  Growing old feels like crap.  That’s about as explicit as I get on this blog but I couldn’t be anymore honest with you.  I hear people tell me about how they would never change their lives for a second and that growing old is the best thing in the world.  I wonder if they are delusional because growing old is no fun especially when your balding, when you cholesterol goes up, your blood pressure sky rockets, bills pour in, your weight fluctuates more than the stock market and the pressures of providing for a family becomes almost too much to bear.  I used to not have to worry about things like this.  I used to be able to eat pizza and not wake up in the middle of the night with acid reflux that would burn through Teflon.  I used to be able to go out to the movies and not have to worry about the ramifications of the seven dollars I was spending.  I used to be able to pay seven dollars to watch the movie.  I used to be able to get more than five to six hours of sleep at night without a one year old impaling me with his Yeti-sized feet.  I used to be able to brush my hair….back when used to have hair.  I used to be able to go on vacations and stay out late at night but now I go on vacations and it seems a little like work and less like fun.  I used to know what I was doing in my life but now I haven’t the fainest clue.  I used to be certain God was directing my paths but now I often wonder.  I used to think that there were no problems in this world that could not be fixed but now I find myself praying that we find a solution to just one problem.  I used to be able to slow down and enjoy the day for it was but now I feel like just another rat in the race to keep the machine moving.

God knew what he was doing when he gave man time.  Time has a way of slowly giving man perspective in increments of acts made to garner him humility.  I feel a little like the Preacher in Ecclesiastes when he said, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecc. 3:11).  Growing old stinks and accepting this lot from God is not an easy one.


Growing old I can see that it’s not about me anyways.  While it is painful at times and it hurts I get to see new possibilities each day.  With my wife and kids I see the new challenges that I am presented with and I find purpose in my family.  I love where I am at right now it’s just tough to reconcile since it is so drastically different than where I thought I would be.  You have all these dreams and aspirations growing up and when they are shattered either because they were unrealistic or because life throws curves at you it still hurts.  I thought by now I would be playing shortstop for the Atlanta Braves and now I can barely throw a softball to first base.  As I am writing this the leaves outside on a maple tree are a brilliant yellow as if the sun’s rays begin from the leaves themselves.  I am listening to some great music and I am doing what I want to do in life right at this moment.

Things are ok.  Growing old stinks…but it won’t always be this way.

Thank you perspective…it’s been a long time.

You’re growing so quickly that I can’t keep pace,

sometimes I wish God would slow down this race,

stopping the world from spinning and ceasing all movement in space.

But all I can do is jump-on to this boat called life,

watching the world throw difficulties at you and strife,

sad times, hard times and pain that cuts you with a knife.

Be a man son.  Put on your armored vest.

Always try hard, smile, glorify God and do your very best.

The joy of this world depends on you son, so please help if you can.

I have one wish for you Kaleb, and that’s to be a man!


We were so proud when we brought you home for the first time,

we held you tightly, letting you go seemed a crime,

but it was always a joy as our first child was prime.

Now that you can talk, read a little and help out we expect too much out of you,

forgetting you are just a boy wanting to live life in full view,

but to tell you the truth, all of our expectations you continue to outdo.

Be a man son.  Put on your armored vest.

Always try hard, smile, glorify God and do your very best.

The joy of this world depends on you son, so please help if you can.

I have one wish for you Kaleb, and that’s to be a man!


So I want you to know, as God is my witness from above,

that to you your mother and I do love,

and will always be there no matter how hard you push and shove.

I am proud of you my son today is your day,

God has given me six years from which I wish to convey,

that no matter what happens to me, you or your mom…our love for you will never decay.

Be a man son.  Put on your armored vest.

Always try hard, smile, glorify God and do your very best.

The joy of this world depends on you son, so please help if you can.

I have one wish for you Kaleb, and that’s to be a man!

On July 31, 2011 I celebrated my 7th full year of youth ministry at Main Street in Springfield, Tennessee.  Seven quick lessons about my/our journey:

  1. Learn to say “no” – All ministers struggle with this as we want to do so much for people in the name of God.  We take on projects, speaking engagements, weddings, committees,  meetings, and a host of other things while our spiritual formation, family and our personal lives turn to shamble.  I read somewhere that every time you say “yes” to something you are always saying “no” to something else.
  2. Try to look for the big picture – A lot can happen in a youth ministry in a short time but also nothing can happen for a long time.  There are different seasons in youth ministry so staying focused and having an idea of what the big picture is will keep you from being distracted by a lot of the little things.
  3. Don’t get too full of yourself – I have blogged about this several times but no matter how great the youth minister is there is going to be something he is not good at and that is going to be painfully obvious to you and everyone else.  Learn to laugh at yourself and do it often letting others in on your laughter.  Have a ton of fun.  Go to Waffle House at 3am.  Laugh when one of your youth group guys goes through a wall at a hotel.  Laugh when a youth group girl passes gas on the bus and blames it on you as everyone writhes in agony at the smell.  Laugh when a youth group guy pronounces from the pulpit the word “Yahweh” as “Yah-hee” and instead of “wiles of the devil” he says, “willies of the devil.”  Learn to laugh and laugh often.
  4. Delegate and Empower – I am horrible at this.  I would rather do things on my own and wear myself out than asking someone to help.  The result…it almost burned me out of ministry completely.  Have a team of people who are your core leaders in the youth ministry who could lead the activities if you were gone.  Speaking of being gone…
  5. Try a slice of humility – This goes along with number three above but we need more humble servants who are John 13 ministers.  In youth ministry we get stepped on (clean the bus, babysit my kids, do the impossible), we get made fun of (second class ministers), we have impossible expectations placed on us by men who have not the slightest clue about youth ministry or teenagers for that matter, we are underpaid, we are overworked, we are extremely talented (cleaning the bus, writing the bulletin, etc.) and we are criticized by 40-60 people who “know” more about youth ministry than we do.  All of that happens to most youth ministers and all I can think about is this verse from Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  Some criticism needs to be addressed some people just need to be talked to in a reproved manner but sometimes we need to realize that we are simply humble agents of Christ suffering affliction to do something we love to do.
  6. Invest in people, not programs – It’s not uncommon for me to change programs in our ministry and I am currently in the process of completely revamping the youth group. One thing that I have not changed is getting to know people, investing in their lives and letting them know how much I love them.  I tell youth group kids that “I love them.”  Some of them are a little creeped-out about it but some of them respond with tears as if they have never heard someone tell them those three words and mean it.  I love them.  I love the parents and I let them know that I am here to come alongside of them.  This is important for when that youth group person is struggling with a situation at college or they have made by decisions in their life they come to me without reservation because they know, if anything else, I will at the very minimum love them.
  7. Don’t lose your soul – Youth ministry is tough.  It has been the most difficult seven years of my life.  I have watched people leave the church and never come back.  I have watched friends lose friends.  I have watched families become broken.  I have watched people who I thought would be soldiers of Christ become servants of idols.  But..I have watched visitors get baptized.  I have watched total reconstruction of lives based on Scripture.  I have watched youth group people find jobs based on their calling and I have seen many good things done in the name of Kingdom.  Friends, don’t lose your soul.  Keep your eyes focused, hang in there and love as you too have been loved.

Thank you Main Street for putting up with me and teaching me about ministry.  I dedicate this blog to seven sets of people in ascending order of importance:

  • Elders – thank you for sticking with me and for supporting me spiritually, mentally, and fiscally.  You have given me raises, bonuses, a van, health coverage, freedom to make good and bad decisions but most of all your encouragment.  Thank you.
  • Parents and Friends – I love all of you.  I know I am not perfect and I know I have done things wrong from time-to-time but you have supported me.  I love you all.
  • Joe and Linda – you are my “daily bread” when a minister does not want to go to the office you make it enjoyable.  Thanks for being a great team.
  • Youth Group Members Past and Present – Words cannot describe how thankful I am for you.  You have made the journey worth it.  Thanks for taking Jesus seriously and for doing radical things.  I love you all more than you know.
  • Kaleb, Amelia, Madelyn and Samuel – Kids you make me so proud.  You are my most important youth group and I want to thank you for making daddy laugh on those tough days and for keeping me going when I didn’t want to go anymore.  I love you so much and as long as I have air to breathe I will serve you with a passion unrivaled in this world.
  • Heather – What can I say?  You are perfect in every way.  Not only am I married to a hot wife but you are also so intelligent and understanding.  Your care for me exceeds the proverb wife in Proverbs 31.  You are a servant and the fuel to my fire.  I love you.
  • God – You have allowed a wretched, hypocritical, inconsistent, unorganized, lazy and unlovable person like me to be called a follower of Christ.  Thank you for your grace, for your daily assurance, for your providence, for your discipline, for your correction. for your providence and for your glorious return.  I love you!

Dear Spouses and Families,

It is with an emotional heart that I write this post for now I am speaking not only to the families of youth ministers abroad but I am also speaking to my own.  I want to start off by saying a big “thank you” for your sacrifice.  I know there are times when you must be at wit’s end because we have not been at home to help with the dishes, laundry and giving the kids their bath.  I know there are times in the summer when all you get is a kiss on the cheek each morning and you don’t see our face for another week.  I know there are times when we bring our emotional baggage from the ministry home (and we swore we wouldn’t do that) and our first target is our wives and our children.  I know our fuses are short and the demands placed on us by so many different individuals keeps us on edge.  I know that this is not what you signed up for when you agreed to marry us.  I also know, children, that you did not have a choice in any of this either.  I also know that there are times when it appears we invest more physically, emotionally and spiritually into the lives of teenagers instead of the lives of our own families.

For all of this and more that is sure to come we ask that you, our wives, husbands and children please, in the name of Lord, forgive us.  We apologize for doing that which we know we should not do and not doing that which we know we should do (Romans 7 of course).  I could make excuses (it even looks like it above) and give you a sob story at how tough youth ministry is but there are no excuses for not doing what is right.  We have three things to offer you for our unacceptable behavior: 1) Confession – We admit we have sinned; 2) Request for forgiveness and 3) a request for your help to alter our mindset to avoid future mistakes.

If I were to say something by way of a request that would be, first of all,  to help us.  Please become our partners in ministry and help alleviate some of the demands by working alongside of us.  No you do not get paid for this but perhaps I can talk to the elders and work that out and we can work together for the long haul.  That also means our children will have to grow up serving in the ministry in some capacity but I believe this is partly what the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-6 asks us to do.  So please become our partners in this ministry.     

Secondly, I ask that you communicate with us if we are doing too much and the family is starting to suffer.  Of course, we should be slowing down anyways and listening to our families but some of us are addicted to ministry (more on that in the next post) and it has become an idol so we need you to, like a minor prophet, confront us of our calamity and pronounce judgment on us.  If ministry is tearing apart our family then we need you to communicate that to us and if you cannot be a “minister’s wife” then we will do something else.  God has brought us this far and I can guarantee you he will not fail us if we do the right thing.  Please just communicate to us.

Deo gratias

This post is dedicated to my wife Heather Mackenzie who is absolutely amazing in every sense of the word.  Let me tell you about her.  She birthed four beautiful kids in five years.  In that time she watches four other kids every day to supplement our income.  She brings our kids to all of the MAJOR activities in the youth group.  She volunteers occasionally for my son’s school.

She teaches class at Sunday School.  She cleans the house, does the laundry and all of this while putting up with me for a husband.  The fact of all of this is that she doesthis without complaining.  A lot of people whine about how hard their lives are and how busy they are and how they do not have time to even relax yet Heather does all of this without complaining.  Some people who say they “married-up” are just trying to be nice but when I say I married-up you have no idea how true that statement is.  You will not find a person who exemplifies Proverbs 31:29 better than Heather.