Random thoughts on Life, Leadership, & Messy Spirituality


Dads – You Need To “Date” Your Daughters

The feedback & response we have been getting from yesterday’s kick-off of our “PARENTHOOD” teaching series at Eagle Pointe church has been off the charts! It has been amazing & humbling to see God working in SO MANY lives & families. During yesterday’s part 1 message I spoke about how too many men in our society today have abdicated their God-given roles in their homes. Continuing with that idea, here is a post I did a while back which I thought needed to be rolled out again – MAKE TIME to read this…

Dads – You Need To “Date” Your Daughters

Many of you know that I am a HUGE proponents of “date nights”. Date nights are the only way Gina & I “get on the same page” in our lives, marriage, kids, home, ministry, etc. They are invaluable to the health of our marriage relationship! But I’ll save that idea for another posting. BTW: We have another “Great Date Experience” coming up this Saturday at Eagle Pointe. I’ll post more about that on Thursday.

Today I want to talk about the importance of Dads “dating” their daughters. Dads – you have a tremendous God-given opportunity in the life of your family – & especially your daughters.

I’ve taken Brianna (now 13 yrs old) on a date once a week since she was an infant. It used to be Wendy’s for a frosty, then when we moved to ATL it became Bruster’s for an ice cream cone – somehow ice cream is usually involved in these ‘dates’. For the last 3 years it has been Chik-Fil-a every Friday morning before school. (There are VERY few exceptions to this – except for REAL emergencies I don’t schedule anything that will conflict) Again, I’ve been doing this since she was an infant and, if she will let me, I plan on doing it until Jesus takes me off of this planet! (BTW: I now do this with Emma & A.J. sometimes it’s out to eat, running errands, etc – but for today’s purpose I’ll focus mostly on Brianna)

2 main reasons why I do this…

#1 Reason – Besides Jesus, I want to be the number one influencer in my daughter’s life. I want her to feel like she can talk with me about ANYTHING (even though I know there are times she will choose not to)! And believe me, because of the openness of our relationship we have talked about things that I NEVER would have dreamed I would be discussing with my little girl! As awkward & uncomfortable as some of those discussions have been – THANK YOU GOD – that she felt comfortable enough to come to me rather than a friend or kid at school.

I want for her to feel connected, loved and special to me… and the ONLY way I can do that is by investing as much time into her as I can RIGHT NOW! I want her to reach her older teenage years and be able to look back and see that I’ve always been there & desired to spend quality time with her… and no matter how crazy/hectic our lives were I always MADE time to spend with just her.

Here’s another thought – having done marriage/family counseling & having been a youth pastor for many years, I know how fragile the female, especially young female psyche is. Young girls NEED a strong male figure in their life who is providing unconditional love & acceptance, who is building up their self-esteem & confidence, & who is giving them physical attention & appropriate affection. They need it! They yearn for it! They crave it!

Listen – there is not a woman or young woman on the planet who does not battle daily with insecurity – because of the crap our society has been feeding them since they were little. And the God-given opportunity & responsibility we have as dads is – we can build up their self-esteem & their self-worth like no one else can. We can help them see themselves as the wonderful original masterpiece that God created them to be. That way when our world – our society – our media – & their peers tell them that they’re not good enough – talented enough – smart enough – or pretty enough – they won’t be as prone to listen. (Please re-read that last paragraph & let it soak in)

And guess what? If we as dads are not meeting those needs & providing that in their lives – they’ll go find another male figure who will – & trust me – you WILL NOT like who they find!

#2 Reason – I want to serve my wife. Listen – being a full time mom is exhausting!!! I personally do not understand how single moms do it! Being full-time mom is exhausting! They are always tired… ALWAYS! Their job never ends, they don’t get to punch a clock and go home! They hardly ever have time to themselves. They hardly ever get to sleep in. They hardly ever have any time to relax. SO…early on I decided that I would do “date day/night” with Brianna not only for my daughter… but also for my Gina. I want her to have time to sleep in… take a nap… relax… read… scrapbook… go to the gym… WHATEVER she wants to do!

Gina has told me many times that me making Brianna & now our other 2 kids a priority – communicates to her that I love her AND our family. (Now, me taking our 4 yr old wild man A.J. out gives Gina time to relax & restore her sanity) And guess what guys??? A happy, relaxed, & sane wife is a good thing for EVERYBODY!

Some helpful tips for Daddy Date Time:

#1 – You have to intentionally MAKE time to do this Dads – we don’t “accidentally spends time with our kids!” Schedule it on your calendar like you would any other very important meeting.

#2 – Be patient! It may be awkward at first. Whether they’re 3, 8, 12, 16 – if you’re not used to really “talking” with each other it will take a while to open up the lines of communication & find your groove. Invest the time now to figure out how to communicate with them, rather than when they’re older & are facing a crisis.

#3 – Don’t allow interruptions! When Brianna, Emma, or A.J. and I are out spending time together I do not allow myself to be pulled into a conversation with other people – EVER! Let me be very clear… I work hard to protect this time with my kids. I do not EVER want them to feel second place to the church (that is how most pastor’s kids wind up resenting the church!) Now, I’m always polite & say “Hi” to people – but I do not allow others to take time away that I’ve dedicated to my kids!

#4 – The Cell phone is off-limits! Unless I KNOW that it is an emergency I won’t answer the phone. (BTW: How did humanity survive all those years without cell phones?) It kills me to see parents sitting in a restaurant with their kid & talking on a cell phone with someone else. THAT IS NOT SPENDING TIME WITH YOUR KID! Guess what? Whoever calls you can actually survive a couple of hours until you call back.

That’s just some of the things I’ve learned after 13 yrs of trial & error figuring out how to do this. I’ve also had some great coaches like Dan Southerland, & Terry & Brenda Mashburn. I am nowhere near the perfect dad. Most days I’m just trying not to screw up. Don’t miss this! Here is the hierarchy of priorities God wants each of us to have in our lives. For me it is #1 – God, #2 – Gina’s husband, #3 – dad to my 3 kids, #4 – lead pastor of Eagle Pointe Church, & #5 – everything else… IN THAT ORDER. It is a fight to keep those things in order… but one I am willing to fight so that when I leave this planet one day – those who knew me the best would love (and miss) me the most.

Dads… don’t waste those early years with your kids… Carpe Diem!!!

*** Some parts/ideas borrowed from Bob Barnes, Dan Southerland, & Perry Noble


“Parenthood” Series Kick-off

This Sunday 9:30 & 11:00AM at Eagle Pointe we will kick-off an exciting new teaching/sermon series called “Parenthood“.

Parenting is the most difficult, rewarding, exasperating, fulfilling, challenging & wonderful job you will ever undertake! However, raising kids can leave even the most confident of parents scratching their heads. Especially in this crazy world & society we live in today. So, whether you’re confident or struggling, this series will help your family & your parenting.

Coming from a psychology/child psychology background – this will be a very practical – insightful – helpful – & biblically based series. Even if you don’t have kids at home – you need to be here! Grandparents – aunts – uncles – mentors – teachers – those who hope to have kids some day – & anyone who influences young lives in some way will greatly benefit from this series. Also, most all the principles we will talk about are applicable to just about any relationship in our lives.

I believe God wants to equip & re-equip many of us as parents & influencers of kids over the coming weeks. I really believe if you’ll come for each part of this series – if you’ll come hungry – God will show up & teach you.
We all need help with this & I hope you’ll come – AND  I hope you’ll reach out to other parents/imfluencers & bring them as well. Check out my Facebook & our Eagle Pointe Facebook page for invites & videos you can use/share to invite your friends.

Trust me! This series is going to radically change your home, family & parenting!

Post-Easter Note From Pastor Howard

I’m STILL overwhelmed, amazed and thankful for all that took place in our Easter services… here are a few things I want to say to you all…

#1 – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you who accepted our “One Invite Changed My Life” Challenge & went out of your way to bring people to 1 of our Easter celebrations.  We saw God move in a HUGE way! We had our highest attendance ever with over 700 people coming through our doors. We had 34 people commit their lives to Christ & many people commit to get baptized at our BBQ & Baptisms on May 5.  GO GOD & Go Eagle Pointe! YOU ALL ROCK!!!

#2 – I want to encourage all of you who invited someone to Easter & they did not show… or maybe you brought someone who is far from God & they did not respond to the Gospel.  DO NOT GIVE UP ON THEM!  Remember, God was patient with you… and He wants us to be patient with others. As you’ve heard me say – God never gave up on me – so I CANNOT give up on others.  Just keep praying for them & inviting them!

#3 – I did this on twitter & facebook Sunday afternoon… but I wanted to say it here as well —  “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU” to ALL of our volunteers who sacrificed their time, energy, & effort to make sure that so many people were welcomed, cared for & had a great experience when they arrived at Eagle Pointe on Easter Sunday. God has blessed us with the greatest volunteer army on the planet! You all are making a huge difference & I thank God for you all every day! Keep up the amazing work!

#4 –  The people you brought with you to Easter (RE-INVITE THEM) and the people who you invited but didn’t make it on Easter… Invite again & GET THEM HERE THIS SUNDAY!  We’re going to officially kick-off this “Parenthood” series & this Sunday we’re talking about how to build a secure foundation in our kids so they will have self-confidence & self-esteem in this crazy, mixed up world we live in! In fact, I challenge you to view each Sunday as a “One Invite Changed My Life” Challenge. This series WILL ROCK your family & your parenting. Even if you don’t have kids in your home or don’t have kids yet – you WILL get A LOT out of this series!

#5THANK YOU to so many of you who helped blow-up Facebook by sharing invites & videos to “Easter at Eagle Pointe”! It worked!!! (BTW: Here’s a GRAPHIC to show what happened with our Eagle Pointe Facebook page because of you all) It’s all about “branding” & “name-recognition”. Most of these people are not ready to give Jesus & His church a try yet – but when they are we want them to think about us!

#6 – LET’S KEEP IT UP! I challenged all of our Eagle Pointe family to Pray & Fast, Expect, Invite-Invite-Invite, Fire Up Your Facebook, & Serve/Do Whatever It Takes leading up to Easter. However, these are things that we as Disciples should be doing every week – right? So, let’s keep doing these things! We have graphics, videos, etc on My Facebook page & our Eagle Pointe Facebook page for you to use to share/invite friends to our “Parenthood” series (which officially kicks off this Sunday).  Let’s do this & allow God to use us to help change lives, families & eternities!

Eagle Pointe’rs – Thanks for being who you are! A bunch of messed up, reckless, throwing caution to the wind, disciples & followers of Jesus! I love & appreciate you all!

Serve the World Christmas 2011 – Part 5

I just wanted to add 1 last thought to this “Serve the World Christmas” series I’ve been doing all week. If you missed “Serve the World: Christmas Offering – Part 1,  Part 2,  Part 3 & Part 4” please go back read them to better understand this post in context.

One thing that has been very popular the last 2 years has been our “Serve the World Christmas Gift Certificates“. This is a great way to “Spend Less & Give More”. It’s a great way to cut back on the consumerism & materialism of Christmas & help keep the focus of Christmas on what it should really be all about. Again, Loving God, Loving Others, & Serving the World!

Rather than buying more stuff and/or more things that we really do not NEED – I encourage you to give our “Serve the World Christmas Gift Certificates” to your family & friends this year. You can make a donation in someone’s name & let them know that you were thinking of them this Christmas. And rather than giving them something they really didn’t need, a donation was made in their name to provide provide food, immunizations, medical care, mosquito nets, Bibles, & the love of Jesus Christ in parts of the world where the average family lives on less than $2 a day. As well, this gift will help fund local mission work with Children’s homes, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelter, community service days (Faith in Actions), & benevolence assisting struggling families with financial needs & counseling.

These “Serve the World Christmas Gift Certificates” are available in our Cafe’ at Eagle Pointe, as well you can email our office to request the gift certificates.

Please pray about cutting back on the “stuff” of Christmas – give your best gift to Jesus this Christmas – & help us truly “Serve the World” in Jesus’ name in 2012!  In addition to giving on Sunday mornings at Eagle Pointe – you can also give generously towards this effort by GIVING ONLINE.

Lastly, I hope & pray that you will help us make this a Christmas to remember!

Serve the World Christmas 2011 – Part 4

Happy Thanksgiving! I know most of us are very busy with family & cooking – but I thought it was worth a try to get this post out right before “Black Friday”. I pray you will help spread the word about what I’ve been sharing this week in this 4 part series.

If you missed “Serve the World: Christmas Offering – Part 1,  Part 2,  & Part 3” please go back read them to better understand this post in context.

I propose that we “DO” Christmas different this year. Rather than buying into the frantic, crazy, stressful, non-stop month of parties, shopping, & trying to make sure that our friends, families, & kids have lots of “stuff” to do & presents to open – let’s just SLOW DOWN! RELAX! And ENJOY what this season is really about. As my daughter Brianna says, “Christmas is about 3 things: 1) Celebrating Jesus, 2) Spending time with family, & 3) Helping those in need!” DANG! I love that girl! THAT pretty much sums it up!

BTW: That’s a lot of what our December message series “Let It Be… Christmas” is all about! We’re using the Beatles to talk about what Christmas is really all about & how God wants to use us to show that He & we care for our families, neighbors, those in need, & our world. (Also, check out our “Let It Be…Christmas promo video here). Don’t miss this series kicking off this Sunday Nov. 27th. It will run each Sunday in December & on Christmas Eve.

This “Serve the World: Christmas Offering” is ALL about Brianna’s #3 – Helping those in need. I ask that you join us in helping in providing food, immunizations, medical care, mosquito nets, Bibles, & the love of Jesus Christ in parts of the world where the average family lives on less than $2 a day.

For the month of December please pray about & consider making a special donation to this offering, which we pray will fund our mission work in Haiti & the Phillipines for 2012. Please help us provide food, immunizations, medical care, mosquito nets, Bibles, & the love of Jesus Christ in parts of the world where the average family lives on less than $2 a day. As well, this offering will fund the local mission work with Children’s homes, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelter, community service days (Faith in Actions), & benevolence assisting struggling families with financial needs & counseling. Our goal is to raise $30,000. (This is above & beyond the approx. $30,000 it takes to run our church & preschool each month) This is also a rather modest amount considering the incredible amount of work we do with this amount of money.

Please join us in praying that God will FAR surpass our goal! Please pray about cutting back on the “stuff” of Christmas – give your best gift to Jesus this Christmas – & help us truly “Serve the World” in Jesus’ name in 2012!  In addition to giving on Sunday mornings at Eagle Pointe – you can also give generously towards this effort by GIVING ONLINE.

Lastly, I hope & pray that you will help us make this a Christmas to remember!

Can Someone Please Slow Down This Ride?

Normally I use this blog to post about leadership, ministry/church related issues, local & global mission work, etc. However, today this post is very personal.

I woke up this morning wondering – “Where in the heck did the last 13 years go???” 13 years ago I stood in a hospital holding my newborn baby girl, and there was no man-tears about it, I cried like a baby at the sight of the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on. (Umm – sorry my beautiful wife – I mean next to you of course) It was truly a life-changing experience – to hold this fragile new life in my hands & realize that God had just given me one the most precious gifts in all of life.

And I was gone! Completely, utterly, head over heals in love with my little girl. I remember the first word she ever uttered – “da-da”. I remember her first wobbly steps across the living room floor. I remember her first day of school & teaching her to ride a bike. I remember putting her on a school bus for the first time & tearing up as my baby rode off. (I also remember thinking that if anything happened to my baby, I would dismember the bus driver) I remember daddy/daughter dances. I remember times she was scared & she’d take off running to daddy. She knew her daddy would protect her.

My wife, Gina, used to say that just couldn’t believe how such a little girl could have such a big man wrapped around her little finger. I am guilty as charged!

I remember playing Pretty, Pretty, Princess & my little girl putting necklaces, earrings, & make-up on me. I remember taking her to Disney World for her 5th birthday while she was in full-blown princess mode. It cost a small fortune, but that didn’t matter because this was for my little princess.

I remember her first soccer practice & how nervous she was about playing with other kids who had played longer than she had. She was afraid she wouldn’t be good enough & that they might laugh at her. I remember kneeling down, giving her a reassuring hug, & then looking in her eyes & telling her that she could do anything she set her mind to – that she was more than good enough – & to go kick some butt! And with that she was off!

I remember coaching her soccer team for a few years & the rides to & from practices where we would talk about everything – life, school, her fears, God & even lots of girl/hormonal/development stuff that I REALLY wish she would have talked to her mom about. And while it was extremely awkward to talk about these things with my little girl, I tried to never let her see it.  Because I was also thanking God that our relationship was such that she felt comfortable talking to me about this stuff.

I could go on & on & on & on… but I think you catch the drift here. Well, on Sunday my little princess turns… (not sure I can actually type this)… she turns 13!!! Ummm, excuse me, but where exactly did my 5 year old little girl go?  13 years cannot possibly have gone by already! And besides mourning a childhood that is passing by —- I’m not so sure I’m ready to let her be a teenager. Really? Not yet! Not so soon! Come on God! Can’t we slow this ride down and give me a few more years?

Tonight we’re having a big party with 20-something of her friends & honestly, I’m not sure I’m ready for this. I sit with a lump in my throat & my eyes watering as I write this. (Must be my allergies!)

But let me tell you – she is one amazing young lady! God truly reached down & touched this girl — Gina & I cannot take much credit for how incredible she has turned out so far. She loves Jesus, church, ministry, & missions. She’s got straight A’s in school & is a pretty darn good soccer player. And she could be a role model for most adults when it comes to maturity, compassion, & heart for God & ministry.

I’ll also tell you that I am SO grateful for some mentors God placed in my life years ago who challenged me to find a healthy balance between ministry/career & family. (My hot-blooded Italian wife also helps keep me in check!). I’ve been criticized that I am not more “available” to people. (ie. Tues & Thurs evenings & part of Saturday are soccer time with my Bri-Girl; I don’t answer my phone at dinner time or when I’m spending time with my family; etc.) I’ve been told that our church could be much “bigger” (ministry speak for a successful church).

But here’s the reality, & this applies to any of our careers —- we’ve got lots of years & lots of opportunities to build our churches, companies, careers, etc. But please don’t miss this – we only have a very small window & one shot with our kids!!! So, I’ll take the flak & criticism – but I WILL NOT blow my one shot with my kids!

So, Happy Birthday to my beautiful, amazing, smart, & talented daughter Brianna! You Rock! You are truly a gift from God & I am so incredibly proud of you!

Oh yeah – God, any chance on that slowing the ride down thing?

“Warrior” Series Wrap-Up & Covenant Ceremony

This Sunday we will wrap up our “Warrior” teaching series in a very special & powerful way. In addition to teaching about “The Passionate Warrior” we will be having a “Covenant Ceremony” at the end of this coming Sunday’s message time.

This has already been an amazing series that God has used to bring marriages & families back together; to have men & women understand & embrace God’s call on their lives; & to help people see that there is a battle being waged for our families, churches, communities, & world. (If you have missed any of the series, please go to our Eagle Pointe Channel & watch)

Our Warrior Covenant Ceremony will be along the lines of what you may have seen in the recent movie “Courageous”. I am going to challenge the men of our church to step up & live out the values we have talked about in this series & to be the Warriors God has created them to be. Men, if you feel ready & willing to accept the challenge please join us this Sunday at Eagle Pointe & plan to participate in this ceremony. Guys, you don’t have to wear suits – but I do encourage you to dress nice this Sunday.

Below is a copy of the covenant we are challenging the men to make between themselves & God; between themselves & their family; & between themselves & their church family. We will present copies of this covenant to each man who takes part in the ceremony & I hope that you will sign it, have 2 friends/accountability partners witness it, frame it, & hang it on a wall in your home as a daily reminder.

Again, this will be a very special & powerful time that I strongly encourage you to not miss.