Category Archives: Gordon College

Don’t be a snowplow parent

As parents, we often want to protect our children from hardship. We want to spare them from pain and difficulty. We don’t want them to go through what we did. However, instead of helping our children, we may be hindering their growth. That is the conclusion of an article in Sports Illustrated entitled, The Rise of the Snowplow Sports Parents.”

The author of the article explains the term, snowplow parenting.

The phenomenon also reflects what’s happening in the rest of society, says psychologist Madeline Levine, an expert on the topic. “It used to be helicopter parenting,” she says. “And now it is snowplow parenting, which is much more active: It means you are doing something to smooth the way for the child. It’s not just that you’re hypervigilant—it’s that you are actually getting rid of those bumps, which robs kids of the necessary experience of learning and failing.”

Towards the end of the article, hockey agent Allain Roy realized he was not doing his son any favors by being overly involved in trying to advance him in sports.

Two years ago, hockey agent Allain Roy was flying home with his teenage son after spending several thousand dollars to take him to a weekend baseball showcase to improve his chances of getting a college scholarship. He started wondering, Is this worth the investment? How much is too much involvement? He started typing out his thoughts into a post for his agency’s blog, writing, “As we rush to fix every little blemish in our kids’ lives and try to influence their way to success, we cause more irreparable damage than we know.”

In contrast to that, I remember a statement I heard some years ago when Carol and I were helping our youngest daughter, Caitlin, get settled into the dorms at Gordon College. During one of the sessions for parents, Dr. Judson & Mrs. Jan Carlberg shared some words of encouragement. Jan Carlberg used the phrase, “Struggle is a holy word.”

As parents, our desire is to smooth out the path for our children. We want to shield them from pain. When a child calls home to say they are not getting along with their college roommate, we want to storm the administration to demand a change. When that same child says they are unhappy after the first week of school and wonder if they made the right decision to go away to college, we want to jump in the car or on a plane and bring them home forthwith. Yet, when we do that, we often stunt our children’s growth because we don’t allow them to struggle.

Jan reminded us that God uses trials as a catalyst to help us grow. As James 1:2-4 says in The Message, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so that you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Struggle is part of God’s strategy to help us and our children grow to maturity. Avoid the temptation to be a helicopter and/or and a snowplow parent. Struggle is a holy word.


Base camp

For the third summer in a row, our youngest daughter is working for La Vida, the outdoor education program of Gordon College. This year, we were able to visit La Vida’s base camp, near Lake Clear in upstate New York. It allowed us to meet some of the staff and view the region that has meant so much to Caitlin over the years. Although it was a rainy day, we still enjoyed the beauty of the area.

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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Gordon College, La Vida, Photos


Gordon College Commencement

Today we celebrated Caitlin’s graduation from Gordon College. It was a beautiful, sunny day for this festive occasion.


Commencement weekend at Gordon College

May 18-19, 2012 saw us in Wenham, MA, for our youngest daughter’s commencement from Gordon College. The family gathered from Seattle, WA; Los Angeles, CA; and Wenham, MA; for the happy occasion. It was a great time of celebration. The first event was the Baccalaureate service on Friday night followed by dinner at Legal Seafoods.



Maintaining a personal touch during a search process

As a pastor, I’ve sat on both sides of the search process on various occasions. I’ve been the searcher as well as the searchee. I’ve experienced searches done well and some done poorly. I’ve been complimented and/or criticized of the same. As a result, I appreciate when a church communicates well and demonstrates a personal touch during what can be an impersonal process.

This past week, one of the churches I applied to sent me a note with a curious, yet perceptive question. They wanted to know if I was coming to Boston next week for my daughter’s college graduation. If so, could we meet face to face? While they weren’t necessarily near Boston, their location in western Massachusetts was much closer to Boston than our home in Seattle.

Their question revealed several things to me:

  • One is that they paid attention not just to me, but also to my family. They weren’t merely concerned with my education and experience. They also noticed where my children were and what they were doing.
  • A second observation is that they went the extra mile in doing their homework. Not only did they notice my youngest daughter is a senior at Gordon College, they must have gone to Gordon’s website to find out when the commencement ceremony was.
  • A third observation is that the search committee shows flexibility and can adapt. They were willing to skip ahead a few steps and take advantage of our travel schedule. (In contrast, I interviewed with a church several years ago who was very rigid in maintaining their process. Despite the fact that I only lived 20 miles from the church, they insisted on a phone interview because that’s what they did with all their candidates.)

While we don’t know yet if God is leading us to serve him there, the relationship seems to be starting off on the right foot.

During interviews like this, I am reminded of the words sung by Kermit the frog in “The Rainbow Connection” in The Muppet Movie—“There’s not a word yet; for old friends who’ve just met; part heaven, part space; have I found my place?”

It should be an interesting meeting. We’ll see what God does and how he leads.


The view from the couch

They say that pets and their owners begin to resemble each other. I don’t know who “they” are, but if “they” are right, I’ve got a problem on my hands. I might begin to resemble Mittens, the cat we inherited from my mother.


I’m not worried that I will become fat, lazy, and sleep 22 hours a day. I probably should be since we both live sedentary lives. I’m not concerned that I might become crotchety in my old age and voice my displeasure by barking at the birds, cats, and people who encroach on my space and time like Mittens does now.  No, my biggest fear is that I will be content to live vicariously through other people.

You see, Mittens’ favorite place to occupy is the couch. She perches on the top of the sofa and stares out the window at the birds, cars, people, squirrels, and whatever else happens to pass in front of her. She occasionally “barks” at the birds and squirrels, but in general, she is content to watch life pass her by.

I make this observation after spending several hours at the airport over the past few weeks. I have been picking my children up from and sending them off to their latest adventure.

Our youngest child, Caitlin, arrived home from Gordon College and was only here long enough to recover from having her wisdom teeth removed. As she put it, she spent the time in “a drug-induced coma, oblivious to the world around her.” ;-} Now she is off on her latest adventure, serving as a Sherpa at the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

Our middle child, Amanda, completed her third year at Biola University, and came home to recharge her batteries and see her sister. She will depart in a few weeks for Africa, where she will spend six weeks in a business/missions internship with Enterprise International, an arm of CRM.

Our oldest child, Jonathan, has one semester left at Biola University before graduation and then possibly, grad school. Jon opted to stay in L.A. for the summer where he is doing dorm repair at Biola.

So I feel a bit like Mittens, watching my children come and go and have all kinds of adventures. On the one hand, I am excited for them. They will see God work in and through them in new ways this summer. On the other hand, I am jealous of them. I want to have some adventures of my own!


Giving your kids the freedom to leave home

As a parent, you raise your children to be independent. You encourage them to take risks. You pray that they will follow God’s leading. And yet when they walk out the door and do just that, you don’t know whether or not to cheer or to cry. You are excited to see what God is doing in their lives, but you are sad because you won’t see or talk to them every day.

I know these emotions and mixed feelings first hand. All three of our children have chosen to go away to college. My wife and I jokingly told them that if they went away, they had to pick interesting places where we could visit them. ;-} Two attend Biola University in Southern California and one attends Gordon College near Boston, MA.

That was all well and good. They could be gone for a few months, knowing that they would be home for holidays and summer months. But now they each announced they would not be coming home for the summer. Jonathan has applied to work on Biola’s campus this summer. Amanda is going to Africa for six weeks on a business/missions internship with Enterprise International, a division of CRM – Church Resource Ministries. Caitlin will spend the summer in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, serving as part of the staff of the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education.  

I would be less than honest if I did not admit that I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am excited to see what God is doing in their lives. They are making wise decisions. They will gain valuable experience which will help them in their future careers. They will each grow in tremendous ways this summer. They will be stretched and enriched. They will have to depend on God in new ways. They will have stories to tell. The problem is, I don’t get to go with them. I have to experience it vicariously by reading their blogs, seeing their pictures, and hearing their stories.


One of the best things my parents ever did for me was give me permission to leave home and follow God’s direction. They didn’t lay down the law and say I had to be within a 2-hour drive. They didn’t heap on the guilt for taking their grandchildren to another state. They encouraged me, prayed for me, and rejoiced in what God was doing in my life. As it turned out, in the 28+ years Carol and I have been married, only 2 of those years were spent near family. The rest of the time we were in the center of God’s will, just in different geographic locations than our parents and siblings.

Now, Carol and I have the opportunity to return the favor by giving our children the same freedom and encouragement to follow God wherever he may lead.

My good friend and former colleague, Tim Jack, heartily recommends that parents ruin their families by exposing their kids to God’s call on their lives.  But when you do, you also have to give them the freedom to follow that call, even if it leads them away from home.