Are You “Built to Last”?

I come from a legacy of carpenters. If there’s one thing my dad and older brother taught me, it was the skill of wielding a power tool. So when my sons came along, I naturally wanted to put that skill to use in building something special for them. I’ll never forget the day a lumber truck pulled up to our house, dumping a huge load of 2×6’s into our driveway. Staring at that stack of lumber, I remember thinking, “Now I’m committed. There’s nowhere to park the car, so I’d better get busy with building this thing!”

Coincidentally, my mom and dad were visiting from South Carolina at the time, so I had some extra expertise from dad in the initial stages of the project. Sawing, drilling, fitting, attaching, nailing, and some intense back pain were all a part of the next few Saturdays. At the time, my 3 sons were all under 5 years old, so foremost on my mind was constructing something that would be both safe and fun for years to come. 

By the time it was finished, the Kinley boys had a swing set (complete with a double-facing swing), cargo ladder, rope swing, playhouse/fort and sandbox. We would spend countless hours playing together out in the backyard, having fun and bonding together. Sometimes we caught them playing naked in the sandbox (hey, they’re boys!). And of course, we proudly flew a skull and crossbones pirate flag from the top. 

clayton 2Covered in cardboard for a Pirate B-Day Party.

That was 1993.

I loved that house, even though we only lived there 2 years. God called us to move out of state, and we left White Oak Lane (and the pirate fort playground) behind.

Then last year, one Saturday my wife and I were checking out some estate sales in our area and noticed there was one on White Oak Lane. Turns out it was our old house. Even though we had spent a relatively short time there, some concrete memories flooded my mind as I walked through the one story, ranch style home. The long hallway where I wrestled and played football with the boys. The front yard where early t-ball skills were honed. The sunken playroom where we wrestled and watched movies together. The tiny TV room where we religiously watched “Rescue 911” every Tuesday night after dinner. The corner of my bedroom where my oldest climbed into my lap one evening and asked me how to get a new heart to replace his sinful one. Those mental videos still play in my mind with vivid, ultra high resolution.

A lot of lasting memories were forged in a short time.

On a whim, I decided to check out the back yard to see what it looked like. Sadly, the previous owners had let the grass die, but to my surprise, the old wooden playground was still standing! 20 years later and looking weathered and worn from sun and neglect, it remained just as solid as it was back when 3 little Kinley boys climbed on it and swung like monkeys from its swings, ropes and rafters. I insisted on a picture to document my awesome building prowess.

Built to LastStill standing!

I didn’t know it at the time, but my sons would turn out to be 3 of the most awesome men I’ve ever known. Like the old treehouse fort, I think when you build something with quality, it tends to stand the test of time.

Noah built something, too. By faith. And his project would need to stand up against a fierce storm. It would have to last on the turbulent, open sea for over a year. A lot depended on the quality of its construction. It was built well.

And it lasted.

Are you building the kind of life, the kind of family, that is solid? Are you putting in the time? Are you doing the daily, important things necessary to ensure that what you’re constructing will endure through many storms. And are you doing it alone, or are you allowing your Father to give you what you need all along the way?

The Psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1)

Together, I believe you and He can make something awesome. Today.

For more on how you can build a daily, solid lifestyle of faith, pick up a copy of As It Was in the Days of Noah HERE.


Getting the Most Out of Your Church

I didn’t grow up in church.

The better part of my childhood and adolescence was spent sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Up until my salvation, I was (what we now label) “unchurched”. But when I became a Christian, all that changed. I quickly went from “unchurched” to “uber-churched” in a heartbeat. As a 16-year old baby believer, I was up at the church several times a week – Sunday mornings, Sunday afternoons and nights, Wednesday nights, and even dropping by the church during the week just to see what was going on.

I was a church junkie.

I didnt’ set out to be one. It just kind of happened all by itself. I mean, I had this insatiable craving for truth, and the church had a butt-load of activities, meetings, programs and ministries to meet that hunger. On top of that, I (and the awesome 16-year old friend who had led me to Christ) started a Tuesday night Bible study for our Christian and non-Christian friends. That was in addition to the Wednesday morning 7am Bible study we attended at a crosstown youth pastor’s home, along with regular early morning prayer gatherings with Christian friends from my high school.

To be honest, I simply didn’t know any better. I thought every christian should be as involved and committed as I was. Looking back, all that activity actually served me well. I was SO hungry that no amount of gatherings or number of books could keep me full (I read over 50 books the first year after my salvation experience).

In college I was forced to be a bit more selective and strategic about my schedule. Classes and homework helped me focus on my purpose for being at college without neglecting my spiritual life. I cut down to two Bible studies a week and church on Sunday (sounds like someone trying to quit smoking!)

In grad school (seminary), I was in class 7-8 hours a say, then afterwards reading, studying and writing another 5 hours after dinner each night and working 3 jobs in the in-between time and the weekends. Church was limited to Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights (where Bev and I led a jr high Bible study in our home). This went on for 4 years.

For the next 17 years, I served as a pastor in two different church. Needless to say, I was very busy with “church”. Then Bev and I reached a point where we decided to walk away from all that “activity” so we could focus on what was really important in ministry. We left with zero regrets, knowing we had never placed church or ministry before our family and my commitment to our boys.

The church I now pastor meets one time a week.


I know. Weird, right?

Don’t get me wrong. I do lead a men’s discipleship group on wednesday nights and and a long-distance Skype discipleship on Tuesdays. I am “busy”, but just with the really important things a guy like me should be doing. Philosophically, we believe the church shouldn’t gobble up your time like some Jabba the Hut monster. It’s never satisfied, but always wants more of you.

On the other hand, you really need to avoid being “that Christian” who shows up at church 1-2x a month, or only when it’s convenient for you. Sorry to break the news to you, but if that’s you, you’re stranded on the highway of growth, and you will go to your grave with many regrets.

So why not just instead make the time you do spend together (at church) meaningful and actually worth the investment of your time?

In other words, the church can be a means to a greater end for you. I told my men’s group this week to “use the church” and our study group as a tool to help them accomplish their life objectives. Instead of becoming a “church-slave”, turn the tables and use what the church offers to assist you in reaching your life goals of bringing honor to God by making disciples.

But doesn’t this feed into a “consumer” mentality? Not at all. Doing this better equips them to serve and give to those in the church and in the world.

This is the key to church NEVER becoming an obligation or a burden. After you’ve trimmed down to what’s really necessary and wise in terms of your involvement in your awesome church’s activities, programs and ministries, decide to PARTAKE of what you truly need SO THAT you can more effectively GROW and GIVE to others.

Make sense?

Sure, you may need some time to “detox”, but in the end doing this will save you from burnout and from becoming a “church junkie” It may also make your church a bit more attractive to your friends who need a spiritual family.

So, what’s in your toolbox?

Parenting and the Long Goodbye

There’s a Norman Rockwell painting that’s especially meaningful to me. It’s called “Breaking Home Ties”, and was discovered years ago hidden behind a wall in Rockwell’s Vermont home. In it, Rockwall depicts a dad’s final moments with his son before he leaves home. The father and son sit on the running board of an old 1930’s truck. The dad is obviously a farmer, dressed in well-worn jeans, a wrinkled denim shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and black boots. His sun-baked hands clutch two hats – one his old, dusty field hat and the other, a newer one he holds for his son. A homemade cigarette dangles from his mouth. His hair has grayed around the temples. On his face are crevices carved from age and years of hard work. He’s leaning over, waiting for the sound of a train whistle, a sound that will signal the lump to form in his throat. There’s a slight hint of worry on his brow. Or perhaps he’s just thinking about what he’s going to say to his boy when the conductor shouts . . . All aboard! Then comes that moment when he looks his son squarely in the eyes and says his goodbye.

The boy, on the other hand, is sitting erect and in excited expectation. His brows are raised as he peers down the road in anticipation of the train that is soon to arrive. He’s dressed for the journey in his “Sunday suit”, complete with crooked tie. Cradled gently in his hands is a lunch wrapped in paper, no doubt prepared one last time by a loving and thoughtful mom. And I bet there’s a note slipped inside. His bags are all packed, complete with a college pennant sticker already stuck on the side of his suitcase. On top of that suitcase sit 3 books, portraying his enthusiasm to dive into college life. On his knee rests the head of the family dog, a loyal collie with a forlorn look in his eyes. But the boy is ready, eager for what lies ahead and for what life has in store for him.

This dad looks like he’s at the end of a long journey. He’s given it all he had. Now together, he and his son sit in silence. Not a word spoken between them. One reflecting. The other anticipating. One remembering. The other waiting. The time for speeches has long since passed. Appropriately named by Rockwell, those Home Ties are indeed in the process of being broken in this scene. It’s time.

Time to let go.

Yesterday morning, my alarm clock jump-started me out of the netherworld at 4:45am. It was time to take my middle son, Stuart to the airport. He’s spending the next year teaching English at a private school in South Korea. A recent Double-Major, Cum Laude graduate of the Honors College at the University of Arkansas, I have every confidence Stuart will succeed in this endeavor, though he’ll no doubt face some challenges along the way.Norman-Rockwell-Breaking-Home-Ties

Having officially “let go” of our sons when they went off to college, my wife and I received a bonus blessing when Stuart came home following graduation for several months to help me with some editing and research. So this morning’s bleary-eyed goodbye at the airport was a kind of “second releasing” of our son, not into acedamia this time, but into a cross-cultural work experience. But at 23, he’s a capable man and can take care of himself.

I don’t usually get emotional at such farewells. It typically hits me later on, like when I pass by a vacant bedroom, or glance at a picture hanging in the hallway. But those tears are the no regret variety. Emotion springing from a place of deep contentment and gratitude.Stuart Airport-1

Those eminent theologians, The Rolling Stones, once wrote, “Time waits for no man, and it wont wait for me”. That’s not just classic Rock and Roll or good theology. It’s practical wisdom, too. Time does indeed march on. Relentlessly. Like a soldier on a mission. Time has a job to do, a destiny to fulfill. Racing towards ultimate extinction in eternity, it cannot be slowed or stopped, only measured, harnessed, redeemed and used. Solomon said there is a “time for everything . . . a time to plant and a time to uproot”.[1] I’m not convinced history’s wisest man was talking about parenting, but I’m pretty sure he would agree that there is also a time for parents to let go. It’s a time when a mom and dad’s grip on their child loosens, relinquishing the strong guidance and direct influence they once had. That day may seem light years away for some, but it will inevitably come. And sooner than you realize. Parents, it’s your job to prepare your child, and yourself, for that day. Even today is one tick of life’s clock closer to the time when you’ll close that long episode of your parent/child relationship. An end to an unforgettable era and a transition to a new chapter of life.[2]

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

[2] Parts of this blog post were excerpted from A Dad-Sized Challenge – Building a Lifechanging Relationship with Your Son by Jeff Kinley

Time Waits for No One, by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards