Archives For Madelyn

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. 

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.

So it has been almost a month since my last post and since I used Facebook and I must say that I actually feel great. I activated Facebook and discovered I had missed some things but overall I really was ok. I am not sure how mug facebooking I will do but it will not be nearly as much as I used to. I will blog a lot but that is because it is a part of my spiritual formation and a way to connect to others.

Today is a special day because my daughter Madelyn turns 3. In many ways Madelyn has been the forgotten child as Kaleb is the first boy, Amelia is the first girl and Samuel is our baby. As a parent you want to think you are impartial but sometimes we just forget about the important things and unfortunately sometimes that is Madelyn. Of all the kids Madelyn was the one who least liked me until she was a year old. She wanted mommy to hold her and many times she would ball her eyes out until mom picked her up. Things change though and now that girl is wrapped around my finger and she is so amazing. Every time I cook dinner she says “thank you daddy!” She is the first to give me a hug when I come home. I could go on and on. I want to thank God for blessing this world with Madelyn and truly being a joy to so many.

Then there is Bin Laden. U.S. forces shot and killed him in a raid of a compound in Pakistan. I have witheld my opinion because even now I struggle with it. Ezekiel 18 is clear in that God does not rejoice in people dying and Jesus was clear when he said that those who kill by the sword will die by the sword (Matt. 26:52). Also there is the certainty that God is one who is just and surely bin Laden and his cohorts have killed thousands even post 9/11. Yet, we juxtapose a man dying by the same tactics he employed (kill with the sword and die by it) with the command by Jesus to turn our cheek (Matt. 6:38-42) and love our enemies (Matt. 6:43-48). Keep in mind Jesus said those things in the context of those who desired revenge. Yet, was the killing of bin Laden part of the purposes of God and not man? We may never know the answer. Perhaps we need to mourn his death as we mourn anyone who dies in habitual sin and pray that we go about the work of righting wrongs on earth as a part of what God does in heaven.

What bothered me tremendously were the drunken celebrations of people on the streets which, by the way, was painfully reminiscent of the celebrations over there when 9/11 occurred. That was unacceptable and probably fueled the view that America is filled with a bunch of drunken gun-slinging cowboys who care nothing more than to dominate the world. I mourn for that as well.

That is about as political as I will ever get. I plan on finishing my review of Bell’s book and then a series on youth ministry.

Deo gratias


Sometimes it is difficult being a dad as the pressures of providing, leading and discipling sometimes make it a hard act to juggle.  I am writing curriculum for our teenage boys on Wednesday night and came across this poem and it absolutely encouraged me.  As an avid fan of poetry the words spoke to me as if I were engulfed in Scripture itself.  Happy reading dads, daughters, sons and wives.

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.

…Edgar A. Guest


I should be in Song of Songs right now finishing my posts but in the Song the man is so enamored with the woman’s beauty even though the woman, by that culture’s standards, was not beautiful (see Song 1:6).  I was at the Titans’s game last night and there were a lot of beautiful women there yet a lot of those women were wearing tight, revealing clothing.  Not to mention the cheerleaders who put their bodies on show with the shake of a hip and a flip of the hair making most of the inebriated male population in the stadium whistle and scream.  I pondered about all of this last night and this morning and wondered what I would teach my daughters about growing up as godly women.  Society is against them and the numbers are unfortunate:

“One survey found that by age thirteen, 53 percent of American girls are unhappy with their bodies and by age seventeen 78 percent are dissatisfied.”  Vicky Courtney, 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter, p. 18. 

I will never forget a teenage girl who was in my office who struggled with cutting and she had such a distorted/horrible self-image.  All I could do at the time was weep.  So I have compiled a list (again I hate lists but it seems they are unavoidable) that is not all-inclusive but if you are a woman these should help. 

  1. Relationships matter.  It is important that you choose someone who is godly, and compliments you and treats you like you are the most amazing person in the world.  But…
  2. Relationships are not the end-all.  Life is not about having a boy and you are not incomplete if you are not married, dating, talking or whatever it’s called when you are boyfriend/girlfriend.  Could you accept being single for the rest of your life?  If not, then you may not be ready to date someone. 
  3. Nobody has the right to be sexual with you and you do not have the right to be sexual with others…until you are married.  Don’t kid yourself when you say, “He’s the one,” and then you go sleep with him.  When he whispers in your ear, “I love you and I think we should do this,” what he means is, “I am lusting after you and I cannot control myself.”  Do you really want a man who cannot control himself sexually?  If your man does not respect your wishes then leave him.  If he really “loves” you then he will respect you.  MAKE SURE HE RESPECTS YOU!!!  Sex is great and is worth the wait.  I should have another rhyme to that but I don’t 🙂
  4. You are not the sum total of your parts. If you look at all of the magazines you will see that most of them portray women who are so skinny and curvy that you wonder if they were robots created by high-tech machines.  I love Heather so much because she is so confident in who she is and how she looks.  She does not wear a lot of make-up (maybe some eye-liner and maschera) which is just the way I like it.  I actually think her freckles (and freckles in general) are cute.  I see some teenage girls who look like their face has been touched up by a body shop detailer.  It looks so fake.  I am not against people using a little make-up to make them feel better about themselves but people who cake it on to look unnatural (as opposed to accentuating the natural) seems to me that they hiding something.  God created you uniquely and while you may not accept that right now I want you to know that you are beautiful just the way you are.  So what you do not have curves like ____________ or your hair is not as shiny as ___________ or you don’t have long legs like ________________?  Who cares?  You are beautiful just the way you are. 
  5. Be proud of who you are!  You know what is attractive more than anything?  Confidence.  A man loves a woman who is confident in who she is and whose she is.  Confidence does not mean arrogance.  Love God and do not be ashamed of it.  If you enjoy listening to Simon and Garfunkel while sitting down in a field of flowers then do it.  If you have peace while walking alongside of a river that comes down from the mountains then walk there.  Be who you are not what society thinks you should be or what some man wants you to be. 

“God saw all that he had made and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).  Don’t you know that includes you?  

This post is dedicated to the most beautiful woman in the world (Heather) who has also given me two gorgeous girls (Amelia and Madelyn).  I love you girls so much. 


We have had a puppy wandering in our yard (looks like a chocolate lab puppy) and it belongs to one of the neighbors.  It seemed like a nice puppy but Madelyn would scream if it got close or if it were to come to our back door.  When I say scream I mean she would throw a fit uncontrollably when the dog got close to her.  I could not understand why because Madelyn loves the dog at Heather’s parents’ house but this dog seemed to make her feel incredibly uncomfortable.  I yelled at Madelyn because of her impatience and her silliness with this dog.  I sent her to her room.  I was wrong. 

Yesterday I fired up the charcoals on the grill and then I had to make preparations in our kitchen to make the other food while the charcoals heated.  Kaleb and Amelia wanted to play outside on our neighbor’s swing set which is really on the edge of our grass in the backyard so I thought it was ok since our kitchen window allows me to see them playing.  I normally do not do this because I do not like my kids to be out on their own but I thought that if it were just a couple of minutes I would return outside to the grill.  All it takes is a couple of seconds I guess. 

I had put the mixed vegetables in the pot and the rice in the microwavable pampered chef bowl when Kaleb came in to the house and said, “Daddy, that dog is biting Amelia.”  At that time I couldn’t hear Amelia so might heart sunk and I peered out the kitchen window and sure enough the dog had Amelia’s shirt and was ripping it from her as she was screaming.  I dropped what was in my hand and said, “O my gosh!”  I ran out of the door and on my back porch there is a set of stairs at the side but where the dog and Amelia were positioned it would have taken longer to get to her.  I hurdled the porch ledge and made a b-line for the dog.  The dog made eye-contact with me and immediately let go of Amelia.  I knew Amelia was ok because the dog just had her shirt and had not bitten her from what I saw so I gave chase to the dog.  It was a fast little thing but just before I caught it I heard it whining in fear but that did not stop me so I was going to grab the dog but all I could think about was my daughter.  So I let him go.   

Was she ok?  

I looked back and she was in Heather’s arms crying in fear at the thought that she was confronted like this.  I lowered my head and prayed to God thanking Him for sustaining my daughter.  I embraced my daughter in the kitchen as she put her arms around my neck.  I glanced down and she had holes in her shirt from the dog but not a scratch was on her.  The dog was probably just playing around but it carried it too far.  Amelia put too much trust in the dog and the dog took advantage of that.  Sure it was just a puppy but a puppy that does not learn to restrain itself then grows into a massive dog that does not learn to restrain itself.  What happens then?

I felt like I failed as a father as I had my little “fairy elf princess” in my arms and I started to cry a little.  But…I looked over and saw my brave, courageous little 4-year-old son who was standing in the kitchen looking at me.  Ever since Amelia was born I have told Kaleb that his job is to protect his sister and to make sure that if something were to happen to daddy then he would have to take care of them.   When he hits Amelia or Madelyn we have the same conversation about his job being to protect and honor his sisters. 

He did that.  He didn’t fight the dog himself but he did what I have told him to and ran and told me what was happening.  In the kitchen I got down on one knee in the kitchen looked Kaleb in the eye and told him how proud I was of him.  I told him how brave he was and that what he did was the most courageous thing I have ever seen. 

I have failed many times as a father and will continue to do so but at that moment I thought to myself that it was here where I got it right.  While I was hugging Kaleb Heather looked at me and said, “Maybe Madelyn had a feeling about this dog where she knew he was bad news.”  I am not big into “feelings” or superstitious thoughts but I wonder if there is something there that is beyond explanation.  I told Kaleb that if daddy is not around and if a dog is attacking Amelia he has my permission to kick the dog until it lets Amelia go. 

I was out in the backyard and Kaleb and Amelia came out and I heard Kaleb telling Amelia: “Milya (what Kaleb calls Amelia) if that dog comes around and bites you I’m going to put my shoes on and I am going to kick it.  Do you want to kick it with me?”  I thought that was cute.  We don’t have a lot of God moments like that in our lives but last night was both scary and spiritual. 

Thanks God.

Here is my shot at poetry…

Your smile makes my heart sing out,

            My face melts, when cry and when you pout. 

You are so smart and perceptive at such a young age,

            Recognizing animals, colors, numbers in books as I turn each page. 

Just like your dad you don’t like to wait,

            Being told to sit down is something you hate!

But what gets me the most are those crystal blue eyes,

            That pierce through my soul and cut me down to size.

Maddie you are only two and can strike a resounding pose,

            Your beauty and presence are fairer than a rose. 

God blessed me this day some two years ago,

            It was God’s providence of this I now know. 

I want you to understand that on this day to me God did employ,

            My beautiful daughter, my heart, my love, my Madelyn Joy!

I love you Madelyn!   Happy Birthday!  From Daddy!