Category Archives: Parenting

Grandma, Blessing, and My Children

One of my earliest memories of spirituality practiced comes from my Grandma Mary.  Before my family would leave for a trip she would bless my brother and I in Spanish.

When she said the blessing she would first trace a small cross on my forehead, my mouth, and then give me the sign of the cross that Catholics normal do to themselves; forehead, chest and each shoulder. I would then have to kiss the hand that she was blessing me with. I remember my parents blessing me as well as my aunts and uncles.

So, here’s the blessing.

Por la Senal de la Santa Cruz de nuestro enimigos libranos Senor, Dios nuestro. En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y  del Spiritu Santu.

Here it is in English

By the sign of the holy cross deliver us from our enemies Lord, our God. In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessing is a tradition that I have done with my children.

When I put my children to bed I trace the cross on their forehead and say, “Remember that you are beloved child of God.”  I then ask my children to bless me.  My youngest usually traces two crosses on my forehead and says says, “You are a beloved daddy of God.” My old traces one cross and says, “I love you daddy.”  These are blessings I carry with me to bed.

Andy Root writes about prayer, “Prayer forces us to see others as persons; it unleashes the metal claw of individualism to see personhood.” I would say that this goes for blessing as well.

Blessing forces me to see my children not as objects but as subjects. It forces me to recognize their personhood.  During the day when have I sinned against my children, I must apologize to them before I can bless them. I must acknowledge that I acted out of line. I have to acknowledge that the sacred space between us has been violated. I have to acknowledge it and restore it before I bless them.  And, then, we are able to share that sacred space again in a blessing.

Even if you are not spiritual or religious, it might be a good idea to bless your children. Tell them that they matter each night, not only to you, but to the divine, and the universe.





Filed under Ministry Reflections, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized, Youth Ministry

Great Expectations

2015 was not the best year for me.  Major life changes disrupted the norms of daily connectivity.  Relationships changed.  Life Changed.  I am beginning to truly understanding, deep within my bones, that my life is not turning out like I expected it to. Maybe I’m not in control like I thought I could be?

So, now that life is not turning out like I thought, what do I do now?  My first goal of the new year is to try and be present to God, myself. and my children. Not necessarily in the particular order. I’m going to work on mindfulness.  So, how does that work?  I’ll let you know at the end of the year.  But the first is trying not to plan too much or to worry about the future.

I’m starting to have some more time on my hands only having my children half-time, so I thought that I might pick up blogging again. We’ll see if this lasts.

I do like to take something on for the New Year. Something fun.  This year I have decided that I want to take on making a few cocktails. The first will be an Old Fashioned. I think I’ll also make a Martini, Gin & Tonic, and a Manhattan. We’ll see how it goes.

All of that to say, I still have hope, faith, and believe in love. I am hope full about the future. I have great expectations about what life will bring.


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Our Table is a Place of Peace

Boys will naturally turn anything into a weapon. Enrique and I knew that this occur naturally and thought that we were not really going to be buying guns or weapons for them.  This of course turned out to not be the case.  They now have arsenals that would make most militias proud.

Well, our two boys have great imaginations and like to play  fight/fight…most of the day.  They will take their Nerf swords and Nerf guns and chase each other through the house.  They will put themselves in wrestling moves that defy physics. They are just active little guys.

I have only one rule about their fighting and horseplay. No weapons on or around the table. I believe our table is a place of peace and hospitality. All are welcome there. When we sit a the table it shall be a place of peace and safety.  No one is to strike another.  Sometimes one will try to keep a gun on their lap and I make them put it on the couch.  I say, “No weapons at the table. Our table is a place of peace.”

I hope that our ideas of an open table extends to other parts of their life. I hope that they grow up with a deeper understanding of our table being a place of peace.

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Sticky Faith: Your Default Setting

I read some harsh words today in Sticky FaithThey were both Law and Gospel to me.  It’s something that I know I should do, but have a really hard time with it, especially toward my children.  So, here is the quote:

When our kids go through rough spots, whether it is because of circumstances beyond their control or the choices they make, their greatest need from us is gentle stability and compassion. Regardless of the offense, whether getting a D or getting arrested, underneath the rhetoric and even outright outbursts, your child is not doing this to get at you.  Even the most egregious of situations, remember that they are, at the core, suffering, and they need you to care. As Jesus cares for all of us in all we go through, so we too are dispensers of his grace. -Kara Powell & Chap Clark

Its hard for me to default with compassion because in the moment the anger and frustration that are coursing through my body are very real. It’s hard to default with compassion when I just react instead of trying to understand.

My oldest son will sometimes become so tired at night that he starts to act especially aggressive toward anything moving.  He will yell, scream, and be mean to anyone in his path, especially when his extra ordinary requests are not going to be met.

I have also met his attitude not with compassion, but with frustration and equally, if not more, aggressive tones of voice. Recently, I have been trying to meet his aggressiveness with compassion. I don’t always remember.  Instead of letting him be distant and distraught, I have sought to bring him closer, holding him tightly, letting him know that I love him and that he is tired. I’ve tried to meet his aggressiveness with compassion and found that is actually what he needed. He needed to know that while he was out of control, I had him and would love him, no matter what  I wish I remembered to do that all the time.  If my children will embody the faith I practice, I want one of the fruits to be compassion.

So, what’s your default setting?

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Parenting as a Spiritual Discipline: Worship and Children with Differing Needs

During thanksgiving I had a hankering for some BBQ and Phil’s BBQ in Santee was the place to go. We met some friends that we hadn’t seen in a while and they brought their child who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, specifically, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).
This child did a great job in the loud restaurant. He wore headphones the whole time to help with noise and spent his time occupied with Star Wars Legos. Every once and a while he stopped and we fist bumped. That’s how I roll. These parents needed to bring there son, because he won’t stay with anyone else, we convinced our children to stay home, as they were tired and whiny. I thought it would be a better experience for all of us if they just spent time with their Noni and Papi.

Toward the end of our time together I asked them if they had a congregation they were worshiping with. What they told me was an interesting perspective that I have not had to think about.

If they go to a church where the worship is loud (i.e. Praise Band), then the noise could greatly disturb their son. If they go to a church that is more traditionally liturgical, then the times of quite could turn into large outbursts for whatever reason. Both types of churches brought potential risks.

This particular child needs to be with his mom. He is not able to go to the nursery or even be handled by his father, without mom being close at hand. If they go to a cry room there is a potentially volatile situation because there are more kids freaking out, potentially causing this child to also freak out.

Most of the time they opt to just not attend worship because of the potential mine fields for their child.

Being a pastor, I asked what could churches do to accommodate children with differing needs. Their response was this, “Be OK with a loud child in church.” It’s that simple.

Often we don’t know why a child is loud in church. But, it’s important that both parents and child are there. We need to make room for children, all children, to be in worship.


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Q & A with Pastor Wesley Telyea


Pastor Wes over at Caught by Christ had a great piece called Kids in the pews… YES! YES! YES!

I had 3 follow up questions to his piece and so we started an email conversation. Please consider frequenting his blog. He is a voice of Lutheranism that I appreciate.

1. Given that you believe children should be in the pews during worship, is there anything that we can do to create a worship space that is more conducive to children being in worship? If you could dream big, what would that space look like? What symbols would be important to have children focus on?

First, thanks for featuring me, and engaging me in this conversation.  I think this is a very important conversation and one that often gets overlooked for what I would consider to be the “latest and greatest fad.”
Now onto your question, you ask a good one.  If we want kids to stay in worship, then of course we need to create spaces that are kid friendly.  Where I am currently serving at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue, WA we do this in a number of ways, many of which were mentioned by your brother in his excellent blog post.  In that post your brother mentioned that a welcome for kids should be included in every worship bulletin, an announcement should be made regarding the congregations stance towards kids at the beginning of worship, people should be encouraged to bring kids into the worship space and trained to do so, an activity space in the nave could be provided for kids and parents, and my personal favorite worship bags can be given to families.  I think all these ways create a space that is conducive for kids in worship, and we do many of these at Saint Andrew’s.
What I would want to add to this list actually has nothing to do with the worship space, but in my mind is critically important.  A congregation that wants kids in worship has to have a ministry model that is conducive for kids and families.  If the basic model of ministry isn’t conducive for kids and families then it doesn’t matter what kind of worship space you have, or how friendly it is kids will not be welcome.  In other words, you could have the most kids friendly worship space in the world, but if your basic ministry model isn’t kid friendly then all that work on a worship space is for not.
At Saint Andrew’s our ministry model is one of circles inside of circles inside of more circles.  In the center we start with the cross of Christ.  It is our conviction that we must always keep our eyes on Christ (Heb. 12:2), and so even when we think about the core of our ministry we begin with where God has first looked upon us in favor.  The next layer is all about the people.  Romans 16 comes to my mind whenever I think about this layer because Paul was a deeply relational apostle, and so once your ministry is rooted in the clear preaching and teaching of Christ then you have to move to how this effects the people for whom this message was proclaimed.   The third layer in our model is entitled: process.  Process is important, but not more important than the cross or people.  I mean for crying aloud even the disciples had a process to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26), so we should too.  Finally, the last layer is about the institution.
If you reflect with me for a moment on this model what I hope you see is how it clearly shows our values and their order of importance.  Another way to chart would be like this:
This model affects our worship, because it up front states for everyone that we do not let the institution or process get in the way of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to the people.  This model, in my mind, is the biggest game changer in creating kid friendly worship space.

2.  Is there anything about our liturgy that you like, or would change, that is aware of the developmental stage children are in? Faith does come by hearing, so what are we doing for children to make sure that they are actually hearing that God is for them?

I love our liturgy!  One of the critiques I often hear regarding the weakness of biblical Lutheran worship is that it’s not kid friendly.  I call BS on that one.  The fact that our liturgy is basically the same week after week is its greatest strength, because kids learn though repetition.  I never really understood this strength until recently when I asked my two and half year old son to say grace and he belted out the Kyrie yelling, “Lord, have mercy.”  It was shocking to my wife and I, because not only did he know the words, but he knew the tune that we had been using in church!  Not to mention my wife and I were surprised because neither of us go around the house chanting, so the only possible place he would have picked that up at during Sunday morning worship.

3.  How would you create a culture within your congregation of including children in worship on Sunday Morning?  What does your congregation currently practice?

Well of course the first way you create a culture of including kids in worship on Sunday morning is by using a model of ministry that already includes them.  If you have to create a culture specifically for Sunday morning then I think you are fighting a losing battle, because people will be function using one “culture” Monday through Saturday and then another on Sunday.  That doesn’t work.  I think including kids is a 7 day a week kind of thing.
With that said some of the tangible steps we take at Saint Andrew’s is to have kids be acolytes and crucifiers every Sunday.  We also have some of our high schooler’s and college age kids rotate in as assisting ministers.  We include kids as readers… and funny enough they are often are best readers because they spend time preparing!  So in that sense the kids are a good example to our adults.  Finally we have worship bags that we provide for kids during worship.
Another thing that helps at Saint Andrew’s is that because our model of ministry is so kid friendly, as well as cross and people focused and not institution and process focused, we simply attract a lot of families.  This means I have a responsibility in worship to engage the kids.  One of the things I do to engage the kids is to ask a lot of questions during the children’s sermon and let them feel comfortable responding with crazy answers.  For example just this last Sunday as I was about to pray at the end of the children’s sermon and one of the kids started to pray.  Rather than stopping them I had them lead the prayer.  That meant I took off my microphone and gave it to the child.  This made for a profound moment in worship.  Most people are to nervous to read in worship… this kids free styled a prayer!  Had I not engaged this child I would have done two dangerous things.  First, I would have made the child feel guilty for doing what all people should do at church… pray.  Second, I would have stifled this kids joy, and so the next time he might not have felt welcome.
When we are creating a culture for kids in worship we have to remember Jesus words in Matthew 19:14, “Let the children come to me.”  These words are not spiritual, they are a command this means we cannot be a stumbling block (Romans 14:13, 1 Corinthians 8:9).  Especially to kids.

Again, Pastor Wes, thank you for your time and responding thoughtfully to my questions.

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Follow up Questions to “The Spiritual Discipline of Parenting: Children in Church.”

My most recent blog post The Spiritual Disciple of Parenting: Children in Church led my friend and colleague, Pastor Wes Telyea, to ask some great follow up questions. You can find my responses on his blog by clicking  Caught By Christ. 

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The Spiritual Discipline of Parenting: Children in Church

I have a friend over at Caught By Christ who wrote a good article on having your kids in the pews.  I commend this article to you and have some additional reflections.

I am a big believer of children being in church. This is shocking I know. But, I am also very cognizant of when my children are being very loud in worship.  Other children could be just as loud as mine and I don’t notice it very much. But, if it’s my children, I start trying to get my wife’s attention. After I’ve gotten it I give her the look to have her try and calm them down. I understand why people with children don’t take their kids to worship. Their noise level may jump exponentially for minor reasons.

As I think about this I have to remind myself that worship is not all about me and my children.  This is my selfish desire to think that somehow my children will have such an impact on what is going on in worship, that it will somehow throw off what God is doing.  It seems to me that this might turn out to be a good spiritual discipline.  By having my children being formed in church I am giving them access them to God’s Word and Sacrament, which many don’t have. When they start to make noise and I want them to go to the nursery, I must stop and remember I am upholding my baptismal promises for them, they have to be there.  I am taking them to worship and it’s not about me or my children. Worship is a messy event.  When my children are loud I have to let go and realize that my children, or I, have not become the center of attention.  So here is the spiritual discipline: take your children to church and when they are noisy remember that this worship is centered on God, people won’t focus on you, and rely once again on God. People are generally very kind to parents with children.

Live with the messiness of worship, loud children and all.  It helps me to remember that I and my children are not the center of the universe, even though it could feel that way when their fighting over a hymnal.


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Dealing with Death

Today is All Hallow’s Eve and with all the skeletons lining the yards of homes I can’t help but think about death.  My mind wanders to how I will experience with my children the death of those that we love, because if there is one thing I know, we all die.

Some have a the sensation of fleeing the scene of a loved ones impending death.  I have seen this a lot over the years.  The usual rationalization is, “I want to remember them the way they were,”  or, “I don’t want to see them that way.”  My problem with this response is the “I” portion.  Someone’s death is not about you, it’s about the dying person. They way you remember someone is up to you, but until they die, they still have personhood, and can probably hear you.  Don’t cut the relationship off prematurely because you are uncomfortable.
I have seen this rational extend to children.  Parents don’t want their children to see the family member in a poor state.  So, they block their children from seeing the loved one, or they don’t them go to the funeral, with the best interest of the child in mind.  The rational is usually that they want their child to remember the loved one as they were, not as they are now.  I don’t really buy this rational. I think it’s more about discomfort then protecting a child’s memory.

I have also seen people skipping the part of loss and pain and going right into hope in Christ’s resurrection and hope for life with God.  We tell children that their loved one is better off in heaven and miss the part where they won’t be coming over to play anymore.

We are a culture that do not know how to deal with death.  I propose that we just confront our own discomfort, name it, and work through it.  Talk to our children openly about it when the time comes.  They won’t have the world shattering existential crises you are imagining. Be honest about missing the person, the pain of loss that you feel, it will hopefully help your own children own their feelings later on in life.  Hopefully they won’t be retreating when your dying, with a lame excuse like, “I want to remember you the way you were.”

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Taking Parenting Personally

How do you parent?  I am assuming that your parenting choices are the result of deeply held values, what works best for your child, and probably how you were raised.  You might belong to a community or have friends that raises their children in a similar manner or an online support group.  You might have read some books and have some deep reasoning for how and why you parent the way you do. How do you feel about the Furber Method or Attachment parenting? Very different styles here. Do you spank? Do you think spanking is abhorrent?

Now, what happens when you meet and talk to someone that parent’s differently than you?  How do you react to them telling you that the way they parent is the exact opposite of the way you parent?  

My brother and I are pretty different in the way we parent our children.  Jeremy is very into routines and we are not. A few months ago we were have this conversation about parenting and I noticed that I was getting offended at the way he parents.  After further reflection it was because it was as if the way he parents was judgement on the way I parent.  Now, you could say that this is just sibling rivalry, but we are mature enough to process the conversations that we have. So I asked him how he was feeling about our conversation. It turns out he was also taking it very personally.

I have also noticed that when I talk to most people about parenting, there seems to be some tension.  It is as if the way I parent is a judgment on their parenting choices. Maybe it is a judgment?  I mean after all I have chosen to raise my children in a certain way because I think that is how to facilitate making thoughtful and mature adults.  But then, most of our choices could be seen as judgments against other peoples choices. This really is no way to live.

So I want to propose some rules on how to talk with others about parenting.

1. Listen.
2. Ask questions.
3. Don’t judge.
4. Only talk about your own parenting choices.  Don’t talk about others “poor” choices. That is probably a good rule of life too. It’s not nice to bash others.
5. Don’t take is personally when someones parenting choices contradict yours.
6. Be nice and respectful.
7. Be aware of how you are feeling when you are talking about parenting.

It seems that these are just good rules of conversation in general.

How has your experience been talking to others about parenting?

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