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Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Leave a Church

In 2007, my fiancé and I almost left the church I had been a part of for two years.  I was happy there, but we had just gotten engaged, and we figured we might be better off if we just started over at a new church.

In retrospect, we weren’t very thoughtful about the whole thing at all – actually, we were pretty much just feeling our way through the decision.  And I think a lot of people who leave churches do that, because emotions are oftentimes the clearest things in our minds when we’re making these decisions. Read more

A Lesson in Parenting from the Awful Lady at the DMV

Recently, I had the unfortunate occasion to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles in Washington, D.C., to get my driver’s license.  I went late on a Friday afternoon, hoping to avoid a long wait.  I was almost successful.

There was a line when I walked in – of course, it wasn’t a line to actually get your driver’s license though.  It was a line to get a number that would then put you in line for a driver’s license.

After making it through phase one of the process, I took my number, sat down in what looked like an airport terminal, and waited as the automated voice called out number after number.  Boredom led to playing with my phone for a while, which eventually led to needing to go to the bathroom.  I should have known better.

When I came out of the bathroom, I looked at the electronic sign over one of the desks and saw that my number had been called, so I walked up, laid my application on the desk, and said, “Hi, that’s my number.”

The woman barely looked up and flatly said, “You didn’t come when you were called.  You have to get back in line.”

“Ma’am, my number is right up there, and I’m standing in front of you,” I said.  “I was just in the bathroom for about a minute.”

“You have to be here when your number is called,” she said.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.  “Does that mean I’m next in line?”

“No.  You have to go get in line and get another number and wait to be called again,” she said, after which she began chatting with a coworker.

No Mercy

I was flabbergasted, and when I finally made it back through the line again, I told the next clerk what had happened.  She blankly stared at me like I had just told her that the woman wouldn’t let me borrow her hairbrush.

“I mean, how do you just do that to another person?” I asked.

“I don’t know the circumstances – maybe she had a good reason – but the rules are the rules,” she replied, at which point I gave up hope that I was communicating with live human beings.

When I left the DMV with my sour-faced photo ID, I was simmering with a toxic combination of anger and discouragement.  I mean, what the first clerk did was incredibly rude, but it would have been a little easier to bear if she hadn’t been so callous about it.  No explanation, no sympathy, no regard for me as another person – it was almost like she took pleasure in shrugging me off.

As I walked away, I thought, That woman has had a lot of practice at being a horrible civil servant.  Lord knows how many years, how many annoying customers it took before she turned into the awful DMV employee she is today.

Provoking Good Things

After I thought about it, I realized that I could easily become the same kind of person to my children.  Because unfortunately for them, a great deal of my job as a dad involves enforcing rules and declining to give them things that they want.

“Daddy, I want to sit in the front seat of the car.”


“Daddy, I want to eat ice cream for dinner.”


“Daddy, I want to sleep in you and Mommy’s bed.”

Absolutely not.

Before I know it, I’m not only saying no, I’m saying it indifferently, and I’m saying it when it’s not even necessary.  My daughter wants the red cup instead of the yellow one; my other daughter wants me to hold her hand while she uses the bathroom; both of them want to change into their leotards – all of these requests I have brusquely denied for no good reason and with no explanation.  I’d better be careful.

The Scripture says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4); and “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col. 3:21).  Like I said, part of my job is to tell them no, but if I develop a habit of doing it in such a way that it needlessly provokes anger and discouragement, I’m afraid I’m going to reap what I sow; and one day, when they’re older, I’ll discover that I’ve raised daughters who needlessly and reflexively resist me as well.

I don’t want that.  I want to teach my children that while they do not always get what they want, they will be treated with basic dignity when I tell them no – especially if hearing no involves discipline.  And hopefully, if I do so, they will come to trust the voice of correction, rather than avoiding the discouragement and anger that rises up when their dad does his best impersonation of the mean lady at the DMV.

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One Way to Stop an Argument with Your Spouse

The other night, I was on my way out the door to go to a church men’s group, and I told my wife I didn’t know how to get there.  She gave me directions to the house, which was located in another part of D.C.  I repeated the directions back to her, and then I got in the car and drove away.  But then one block later, I realized I didn’t have my cell phone with me. Read more

You Never Know What Will Happen When You Say Thanks

Four and a half years ago, someone gave my newborn daughter a paperback book called Let it Snow.  I’ve probably read it several hundred times since then, in part because we had another child who loved the book as much as my oldest daughter. Read more

A Tornado Did Not Rip Through Washington, D.C., Last Week

Last week, the wind tore through my neighborhood in northwest D.C., taking down a large limb behind my house and damaging a power line.  It wasn’t anything close to a tornado, but if it had been, I have no doubt that some well-meaning preacher would’ve gone on national television the next day to explain why it happened. Read more

What My Daughter Said When I Asked How She Felt

My youngest daughter, who is three, is affectionate, smart, and perceptive – but at the same time, she’s a major handful sometimes.  She’s getting better, but over the course of her three years of life, she has been known to do things like . . .  Read more

So You Got Robbed at Church – Now What?

On Sunday, I was taking my daughters downstairs to their Sunday School class when I passed a couple of women on their way up to the sanctuary.  One of the two women was looking down; the other was holding her arm and whispering into her ear.

It seemed odd to me, but I was most concerned that the visitors feel comfortable; and I just assumed that the woman looking down had a disability or something.  She didn’t. Read more

How God Told Me to Go to Law School

It was my senior year of college, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life. So I began asking for advice from trusted mentors, and one suggested that I go to law school. Although I initially balked at the idea, after I did some research, law seemed like a good fit for me — I had a knack for writing, analysis and oral argument (just ask my mother). But the problem was that I had originally planned to become a missionary after college, so I felt uneasy with the idea of pursuing a career that would bring worldly success. Read more

Eating Just Got Really Spiritual for Me

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’m a fast eater.  Regardless of whether it’s a garden salad or a filet mignon, once I get my hands on my utensils, I start cutting, sticking, and scooping up food at a steady pace.  I politely shove it into my mouth and swallow, and then I either move onto the next bite or start multitasking.  Read more

I Let Go of Fear, My Daughter Sees Angels

The other night at bedtime, I was about to pray for my youngest daughter, but I stopped myself. Read more


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