Three More Lessons from Shovelling!

The start of our shovelling job
The end of our shovelling job

Yes, it snowed again. A lot. Not only that, but since the forecast was also calling for ice pellets and rain, we needed to shovel before the snow in the driveway became ice!

So out went Eli and I again.

To honour the occasion, here are three more lessons from shovelling!

First, if there’s something you need to do but don’t want to do, putting it off might only make it harder to do. If we hadn’t gotten out when we did, the ice pellets and change of temperature would have made the snow a lot harder to shovel.

Second, doing something you didn’t really want to do in the first place gives you satisfaction at a job well done. I actually debated between shovelling and waiting for the person who often plows for us. Of course, I didn’t want to make that trudge to the end of the driveway, but I’m really glad I did.

Third, doing what might otherwise be a toilsome job can be a chance to spend time with someone you care about. In my case, shovelling was an opportunity to do something with one of my sons. Eli told me that today was a good day. And when I asked why, he said because we got all that shovelling done. Then I commented that most of the time people wouldn’t say shovelling snow made their day better. But then he replied, “I got to hang out with you.” Cue happy Dad moment.

I should also reiterate that my other son Henry shovelled the end of the driveway later in the day after the plow did our street. The snow was much more densely packed and harder to shovel. When it seemed to be proving something of a challenge, I grabbed my gloves and jacket and went out again. Together, we got it done.

And as far as the above lessons go, I’m sure you can easily find ways to apply them to your own life—with or without a shovel.

Screens, Safety, and Being a Parent in a Media-Saturated Age

Sometimes I long for the days when our homes had not only one TV, but a big, bulky, and, let’s face it, immovable one.

You know what I mean. I’m talking about those CRT (cathode ray tube, for those interested) TVs that were basically large pieces of furniture.

Why do I occasionally long for such times? Or perhaps the time when we didn’t have streaming services and could mindfully curate our kids’ DVD collection?

I’ll answer with a number: 8.

That is, in our home there are 3 smartphones, three laptops, one smart TV, and a Nintendo Switch Lite. Eight screens being used by five people. Eight devices on our WiFi network. Eight windows into the surrounding world that give us unfettered access to news, opinions, hours of TV shows and movies, games, and, if we’re not careful, quite profoundly inappropriate content including but not limited to pornography.

I bring this up because when I was a kid my mother had a much easier job of monitoring my media consumption. Indeed, I remember begging to stay up until after one more commercial break. Those were the days of scheduled rather than streaming TV shows. Looking back on the concern people had about the violence on an 80s show like The A-Team, the word quaint comes to mind.

As a parent, it’s a complicated venture, trying to discipline, guide, and monitor your kids’ screen time. Everything you can try has its drawbacks and limitations, whether it’s the Circle, Canopy, Covenant Eyes, or old fashioned “parental” commands. Unless you simply choose to unplug altogether, which is an increasingly unrealistic option in our hyper-connected, online world.

For our part, we’ve cancelled Netflix until later in the summer. We’ve cancelled our subscription to Disney+, so it won’t renew next month. Helpful as that is, it doesn’t solve all the issues we have as parents. There’s still the mindless rabbit hole of YouTube for our kids to fall into. Don’t get me started on our boys’ favourite YouTubers.

The truth is, no software or app, no matter how efficient and effective it is, can be the silver bullet to protecting your kids when they’re online. Pornogaphy is an obvious culprit, but the fact is there are other kinds of objectionable content. This even includes children’s content, which is now often being used to push and even indoctrinate kids into ideas contrary to a biblical worldview. These days this usually involves issues of sexuality and gender identity. It means that we have an episode of Blues Clues featuring an animated Drag Queen singing a song about a Pride Parade. This means that as a parent I no longer have the luxury of assuming, for example, that all of the children’s programs and movies on Disney+ are good for my kids. But does this mean I shouldn’t subscribe to Disney+ at all?

Perhaps we need another way of thinking about it. See, as a parent, even if I choose not to subscribe to Disney+ or other streaming services, I still can’t guarantee my kids’ safety. I can no more protect them from bad ideas and false narratives than I can from all physical dangers or illnesses. As much as I might like to do so. Unless I’m going to do everything in my power to keep my kids in some kind of cultural and social bubble, they are inevitably going to be exposed to stuff that can hurt and confuse and lead them astray.

So maybe my job isn’t to keep my kids safe from everything objectionable but to teach them to be wise, to be good, to be discerning, and to teach them to think biblically. Because eventually I want them to be wise enough to make sound decisions on their own. Yes, I can teach my kids why (and not just that) pornography is evil, but since I can’t prevent them from ever being exposed to it or tempted by it, I want to position them as much as I can to make smart, life-giving choices. Yes, I can do my best to pass on my biblical worldview, and live out my faith as genuinely as I can, but they’ll still have classmates, friends, neighbours, and eventually co-workers who have a very different understanding of the world. And so they need to learn how to adjudicate between competing narratives.

Trying to keep our kids 100% safe from all the erroneous, misleading, and, ultimately, unbiblical opinions, narratives, and worldviews out there is a fool’s errand. Maybe it always has been. Only now thanks to the internet our increasingly secular and even pagan culture is simply that much more accessible and that much more challenging for parents to manage. For my part, I confess that I have not done (and probably won’t be able to do) this perfectly. I know well the frustrations of all the parents out there when it comes to dealing with kids and screen time.

Since this is the case, it seems to me that even if we take certain protective measures to keep our kids away from specific kinds of media content, we still have the responsibility of teaching them how to navigate with biblical wisdom whatever it is they do encounter on their screens. And whether the screen in question is a tube-style TV permanently planted on a living room floor or a smartphone we take with us wherever we go, maybe this should have been our approach all along. Perhaps the point was never to keep our kids safe, but to prepare them for a world often inimical to the Christian faith by teaching them to be biblically wise curators of the media content that comes their way.

From Father to Son

You might not guess by looking at me, but I’m not someone who relishes physical labour.

So this week when it became unmistakenly clear that I could no longer avoid mowing my lawn, I knew what I had to do. I would have to get rid of several van loads of bagged redeemable bottles and cans that were in my backyard shed. The connection? Well, there were a lot of bags of bottles and cans, and the lawn mower was at the back of the shed.

In other words, mowing the lawn meant having to clean out the shed.

Yay. Like I said, not always a fan of such tasks.

But then something occurred to me, something which should have been obvious to me but at first wasn’t. I would ask one of my twin 12 year old sons to help me. I could have asked both for help, but one was working on school stuff. So I asked my son Eli if he would help me take several van loads of bagged bottles and cans to a local redemption centre and a couple of other donation spots.

And he did. Not only that, but he was enthusiastic about it. It took us nearly two hours but eventually our shed was free of bottles and cans. Then the next day, Eli also helped me to clean the rest of the shed. And today he helped me mow part of the lawn for the first time. I supervised closely.

Having sons is a pretty good deal for a Dad.

With Eli’s help, all of this yardwork not only took considerably less time but was a much more pleasant experience. I got stuff done and spent time with one of my boys.

As I was supervising his lawn mowing, it occurred to me that I had never had a father show me how to do these things. I never had a Dad to teach me how to use a lawn mower. Or to teach me anything and to spend time with me. But now I get to do that with my sons. Tomorrow I’m going to show my other son, Henry, how to use the lawn mower.

Makes me think: what is it like for them to have a father do these sorts of things with them? I mean, Eli actually enjoyed mowing the lawn. He takes pride in a job well done. He likes learning to do new things. What I do as a father is what, in part, shapes him into a young man. And now that he’s 12 years old, it’s clear that he is edging more and more towards young man and away from the little boy of the last, well, several years. It’s actually kind of amazing to see.

And I find myelf asking: what else are my sons learning from me that I’m not even aware of? What signals am I sending them about what it means to be a father and a husband? What am I teaching them about manhood? Truth is, I’m not exactly a typical guy’s guy, the sort that’s good with cars, tools, and repair jobs. If something is wrong with our plumbing, I don’t grab a wrench. I call a plumber. Incidentally, my wife would be more inclined to grab the wrench.

Being a father means passing things on to your children. But it’s more than passing on the skills of manual labour. What kind of men do I want my sons to become? Not only would it great for them to be handy around the house, but it’s more important for them to become honest, hardworking, and compassionate. I’m more interested in teaching them how to have healthy relationships. It’s about passing on character. It’s about spiritual formation. Someday they will be out in the world, working, making their way, interacting with neighbours and friends–and will perhaps start families of their own. I want them to be men worthy of respect, men of integrity who love the Lord and who seek to love those around them.

I hope and pray that somehow I am passing this on already.

In the meantime, I’m glad they can help mow the lawn.

Now, on the lighter side, here’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that loosely relates to this post.

My Story Part 17: Fatherhood

Sometimes even if I can’t recall all the details of a dream, I can remember the way the dream made me feel. And years ago I had a dream in which I had a little boy, a son–I was a father! I don’t remember much else, whether in the dream I was also married or even whether I had adopted him or was his biological dad. But I woke up that day with a deep sense of joy and longing. Like I had experienced something wonderful but that was now slipping away.

When I had that dream, I was single. I could only imagine experiencing fatherhood. It felt a world away. But it was only a few years later when I was standing in a delivery room as my wife was giving birth to our firstborn, our daughter. That moment is etched in my memory. It was October 7, 2004, 11:42pm. Our little girl emerged into the world eyes wide open, curious and beautiful, changing our lives forever.

That was more than 16 years ago now. Less than 5 years after her arrival, our twin sons came along; and ever since our family life has been filled with ups, downs, unexpected twists and turns, tears and laughter.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What’s truly amazing is how different our kids are from one another. Each has their own beautiful uniqueness that has stamped itself on our hearts. Watching them grow, learn, deal with life, and learning as parents how to navigate it with them, is indeed the highest calling I have ever had. Not that I always do this well or am a fount of wisdom in every moment. Even they have seen me make mistakes. But what a joy and privilege it continues to be to have these young souls in my life.

Yet, even though I am their father, their Dad, Papa, Daddy, I can’t control them or determine how their lives will go in the years ahead. Not that I want to do this. But don’t all parents want to help their kids avoid pitfalls and struggles, to ensure their greatest possible happiness in this life? Yet, they will have to make choices, sometimes hard ones. Our kids will make poor choices. And we will have to watch. They will have to take what we’ve been able to give them as parents and figure out how to navigate the waters they find themselves sailing.

No wonder parenting is a bittersweet joy, one tinged with sadness and unfulfilled longing. Because even now I can look back and wish some things had been different for them. I wish my daughter never had to deal with mental health issues. I wish all of them still had both of their grandmothers around. I wish that one of our sons and our daughter didn’t have some of the difficulties they do in getting along more consistently. I wish they didn’t have to experience disappointment, rejection, fear, and pain.

Of course, now is the time when I ponder the parallels between me being a Dad and what it must be like for our heavenly Father. He sees our individual uniqueness and beauty. He sees our failings and brokenness. Seeing all of this, his love for us exceeds every conceivable boundary. And he longs for us to know this love, to rest in this love, to find in his love peace, solace, comfort, and joy. When we fall short, he remains there. His love for us is undeterred by our straying hearts and lives. He waits to embrace us once again. We are always welcome home.

I want to be this kind of father for my children.

Not having had a father growing up, not having known father love during my most formative years, I repeatedly, frequently, insistently, and annoyingly tell each of my kids I love them. All. The. Time. I want my love for them to be bedrock in a world where there’s so little upon which they can rely. And I want, more than anything, for my love to point them, to open their hearts and lives up, to the love of their heavenly Father. Where I fail them, he will not. When I cannot protect them, he can be their refuge and strength. And when I am no longer a part of their lives because I have gone on to my eternal rest, he will still be with them. There’s nothing I want more for them than to know this love, to receive it, and to live and die being held by it.

Much like in that dream years ago, being a father brings me great joy. There are moments when I almost can’t believe how blessed I am. I look at my kids and I feel wonder. Indeed, what strange, wondrous creatures they are! Surely, this is an imperfect joy, one which includes its measure of sadness and longing, but for all that fills me with a gladness I thought I would never know.

Except perhaps in a dream.


“I wanna hold you close but never hold you back, just like the banks to the river

And if you ever feel like you are not enough, I’m gonna break all your mirrors

I wanna be there when the darkness closes in to make the truth a little clearer

I wanna hold you close but never hold you back, I’ll be the banks for your river.”

Need To Breathe, “Banks”

So today I was listening to the most recent Need to Breathe album, Out of Body, and I got to the song, “Banks.” And when I heard the words of the chorus, my heart broke and I found myself crying.

So, yes, real men cry.

Let’s get that out of the way.

I don’t know why I had such a powerful emotional response right away. But then it hit me. Hard.

Isn’t it funny and profound how a simple song can do that?

We all have someone in our lives that we love more than words can say, and when this person is hurting we hurt too.

For me, these words are about how I feel for my 16 year old teenage daughter. For you, they may resonate deeply because of a spouse or friend. Only you know.

I guess what it comes down to is that at different points in our lives, we both need “banks” for ourselves and to be “banks” for someone else. Being in either situation pretty much is what life is often about.

Just wanted to share that.


I have three children; a daughter who is 9 and twin boys who are 5. Having kids is an incredible gift, and I can’t imagine life without them. The laughter alone that they bring into our lives creates the kind of joy we can experience even when life isn’t going well. I can’t even describe how their laughter makes me feel other than to say it lightens the load of life, puts a smile on my face, and gives me a little glimpse of eternity.

Being a parent is possibly the hardest job on the planet. Maybe so. Certainly it involves frustrations, heartaches, and exhaustion. It’s a 24/7 calling, and doesn’t end, from what I hear, even once your kids have grown. The responsibility of parenting is enormous. Even the most resilient adult will have their energy, patience, priorities, and wisdom continually tested.

Yet, one of the amazing things about being a parent is the experience of wonder. By this I mean the amazement and delight of watching your kids. Watching them grow, learn, laugh, play, and, to put it simply, be kids, is one of the most profound joys I have come to know.

Children are easily ignored in our culture, often because we regard childhood as a stage on the way to adulthood. In themselves, we think, they have nothing to offer or contribute. In fact, children are very nearly sheer need. Our job is to take care of them until they are independent or, in our minds, completely human. But childhood in itself is insignificant.

If that’s true, then I hardly think I’d experience such joy when just watching my twin boys playing together. Or while playing a game with my daughter. What I love about watching them play is how utterly useless such time is — neither they nor I are accomplishing anything remotely practical. And that’s ok. Not everything we do has to be about completing a task. It can be only about that moment, a moment which is all about relationship, the deepening of intimate connections.

And when it comes to kids, at least in my experience, those moments are also about recognizing the gift of life, and that we needn’t take it all so seriously. Lord help us, we’re often too serious for our own good. That’s why I am grateful for my kids who, when they’re climbing all over me, graciously free me to enjoy them for who they are. They free me for wonder.