Cincinnati Bengals Playground


As a dad of 3 kids and a Kids and Family Pastor of a medium sized children’s ministry – I love playgrounds.  They are either free or cheap.  It gets kids and families outdoors.  They help improve balance, hand/eye coordination, motor skills, etc.  Kids nap better once they play hard on a playground.

This spring and summer I’m checking out playgrounds around Cincinnati.  I thought we’d start with a unique experience:  the playground the Marvin Lewis Community Fund, Cincinnati Bengals, and the United Way built in Cincy!

Name:  Hometown Huddle

Cost:  FREE

Age Appropriate:  Something for all ages including young teens

Water:  Seasonal outdoor pool (may have fee)

Where:  Ryan Memorial Sports Complex and is located at 3324 Meyer Pl, Cincinnati, OH 45211

What I LOVED:  The equipment is brand new and unique.  The obstacle course is age appropriate for 13 and above, but my preschoolers loved it too.  The turf on part of the playground is great for kids to fall on and not get hurt.  The gate around the playground is terrific because I never worried about my kids leaving the area.  The Play60 logo and Bengals themed areas make for good pictures.

NOT my favorite parts:  This playground is not easy to find.  Make sure you use a GPS.  The area around this playground probably isn’t the safest in Cincinnati.  I wouldn’t recommend going by yourself or at night, but overall I felt like it was safe enough.

Overall:  We stayed for about an hour.  We probably would have stayed another 30 minutes if a thunderstorm wasn’t coming through the area.  It was fun and I’m glad we checked it out, but I probably would not go back.  Too far away to frequent and my kids love other playgrounds just as much.  If my kids were older and loved football – I’d would make this a 2-3 times a year trip.  A young football fan will LOVE it way more than my kids.

Orange Conference 2017 Review

So many good messages throughout the day.  No one can possibly remember them all.  These quotes, thoughts, and websites stood out to me.  I know Jud Wilhite, Ryan Leak, and Andy Stanley all gave me a lot to think and pray about in my life.

Busy is the enemy of neighborly – Doug Fields

Instead of seeing busyness as a badge of honor, maybe we should see it as a sign of brokeness – Doug Fields

Something powerful happens when the neighbor who isn’t for the church realizes that the church is still for them – Jeff Henderson

Not the pace of ministry, but the weight of ministry that hurts – Judd Wilhite

Ask ‘how can I pray for you” – Ryan Leak

Jesus doesn’t want your help, he wants your heart – Bob Goff

equip leaders to be great where they are, not at the church – Ryan Leak

People brought others to the marketplace, weddings, and other non church places to meet Jesus – Ryan Leak

Only 8% of Jesus’ miracles happened in the synagogue – Ryan Leak

To reach outsiders, you have to go outside – Ryan Leak

You can download great preaching, you can’t download mentoring – Kara Powell

You can’t dismiss people and be in love with God – Andy Stanley

When considering your volunteer strategy remember that Clarity + Empowerment + Appreciation = Longevity

Create beautiful spaces – it tells people you were expecting them – Reggie Joiner

God never answers the question “How close can I get to sin without sinning” – Andy Stanley

You can’t be right with Jesus and wrong with others – Andy Stanley

If were not careful we will orient children toward keeping God happy  rather than loving people – Andy Stanley

What does love require of you – Andy Stanley

If you give the devil a foothold, he will turn it into a stronghold – Jud Wilhite

Want to know your community?  Government already did the job for you – – Kara Powell

I will forgive and take the high road – Jud Wilhite – Mike Foster (love this idea)



Christmas Hope at Waffle House


I share this not to brag about what we did, but an idea to bless others.

I grew up with one of my parents typically leaving on Christmas day to go work.  My dad would work afternoons/nights at a local hotel as a desk clerk.  My mom had a few jobs that required her to work the holiday.  Our normal Christmas was to open presents and then go to a restaurant for lunch.  My big Christmas meal was spent at Shoneys, IHOP, Chinese, or another local place that would be opened for the holiday.  When we lived a good amount of restaurants were opened on Christmas.

I often felt bad for the waitress or waiters that we had on that day.  They had to leave their family to come wait a table at Shoneys.  That never seemed fair to me.

As I’ve gotten older I realized that most of those folks needed those hours.  Many are getting the best tips they do all year long during those holiday hours.  Almost all are getting paid time and a half or even double time for those hours.  It is true that those businesses are making good money, but by staying open they are helping their employees not miss a significant portion of income that month.  It is also true that none of them want to work Christmas but most of them need to work Christmas.

About three weeks ago I was thinking of my holiday experiences and all those waiters and waitresses.  I knew I wanted to communicate to my kids how blessed they are that their dad and mom doesn’t have to leave to work at a job.  I  wanted them to know that we are blessed to be a blessing.

I asked Jennifer what she thought of going to Waffle House and giving our waitress a gift. I told her what I wanted to communicate to our kids and the opportunity to bless someone that was working on Christmas.  She loved the idea.

After opening gifts we loaded up the kids and headed to Waffle House.  It was total chaos.  The busiest I’ve ever seen a Waffle House and we’ve been during busy times!  They seated us quickly and we ordered our food.

We had my older daughter give the waitress a Christmas card with my business card and a $20 bill.  My wife started talking to her about her Christmas.  She has 3 kids and is expecting another in the next few months.  She was able to get the lunch shift so she could celebrate Christmas with her young kids early this morning.

My kids were crazy so I was thankful that we gave her a card with money and we tipped too!  It was a good experience and gave meaning to our meal.  My hope is that this also encouraged our waitress as she served today.  We try to treat others as we would want to be treated.  If I were giving up time with my kids on Christmas to work at Waffle House, I’d hope someone would bless me with good tips and cards.

Teaching Kids By Giving Presents


I love this time of year.  Peppermint Mochas, claymation classic cartoons, pretty lights, and decorating a tree.  Almost all of us are doing something family oriented and trying to slow down for a few days to enjoy time with family.  One of the best things about Christmas is the opportunity it gives for family discipleship and missions.

At Connect we are doing a missions endeavor called Project Joy.  We’ve helping 9 families from Amelia, Ohio by providing Christmas presents and food for them.  We want each child to receive 4 presents on Christmas Day – something to wear, something to read, something they need, and something they want.  We want each family to receive a food box and a couple of grocery gift cards to help during this season.  In addition to that we are collecting movie passes and gift cards for these families to provide a family night out for them.

We divided up the needs and listed them on ornaments.  If someone just wanted to do a movie gift card – take that ornament.  If they wanted to provide an outfit for a kindergarten girl – there is an ornament for that as well.  Our hope was that this would allow everyone to take part in Project Joy.

Jennifer and I took 3 ornaments because we have 3 kids.  Normally I would take ornaments that are close in age to my kids, but we decided to take the ones that might be more difficult for others to do.  We want our kids to enjoy this and help meet the greatest needs that we can.  There is balance.

We took our family to Wal-Mart last night to shop.  I talked to them about why we were doing what we were doing.  I wanted my oldest daughter to understand that there are kids that wouldn’t receive a Christmas present if we didn’t help.  We have been given so much and we need to help others that are struggling this season.

We started by shopping for a book for a little girl.  We took our kids to the book isle and explained again this is not for them, but for a girl that is similar to their age.  Options are a kid’s enemy.  Too many options mean they can’t make a decision.  We narrowed it down to a couple of books and allowed her to pick.  Then we went shopping for clothing and shoes for the next kids.

When we left it was time for dinner.  We went to a restaurant and took the ornaments in with us.  These ornaments are made to decorate and the restaurant had crayons.  Our kids were able to color the ornaments while we waited on our food.  This was another opportunity to talk to them about our gift.

Our plan is to put the 3 ornaments on our tree.  These ornaments are a reminder of the three kids that we provided for this holiday season.  We are going to pray for these kids each night during our family devotional.

My hope is that this reminds our children that there are many kids in our community in need of food, shelter, etc.  We/They need to step up and help those in our area.  We are increasing their knowledge and understanding of poverty, but also planting seeds of prayer, generosity, and kindness in their lives.  Plus it is a lot of family fun!

18 Christmas Experiences for Families

  1.  Zoo Lights – I’m pumped about this one.
  2. Advent Calendar – I never did this a a child.  In fact, I think I was in my mid-20s before I’d even heard of Advent.  A daily way for you to talk to your children about Christmas. Some of these calendars are very religious and others are Barbie and Cinderella.
  3. Bass Pro – one thing we always do as a family is see Santa at Bass Pro Shop.  Why?  Because it’s FREE.  Santa pics cost a fortune.
  4. Gingerbread House Making – You can buy a kit or do one at your local library.
  5. Lowe’s Build and Grow Or Home Depot – make a FREE ornament with your kids at Lowes or a Gingerbread Candy Dish at Lowe’s.
  6. Reindog Parade – My kids love dog parades at the holiday time.
  7. Coney Island Nights of Light
  8. Go ice skating as family.
  9. Get in your PJs and watch a few holiday classics on Freeform or YouTube
  10. Check out the Cincinnati Circus at Newport Levee
  11. Take your kids shopping for a child that is in need.  Let them pick out the present and talk to them about giving.
  12. Check out a parade in town this weekend.
  13. Go find some Tacky Lights
  14. Check out a Christmas play at a church
  15. Do a 5k as a family
  16. Scuba Santa at the Aquarium
  17. See the trains at EnterTRAINment Junction
  18. Get a new board game and play it as a family

YouTube Christmas: Church videos

I love having YouTube during the holiday season.  So many Christmas classics that I can watch with my family for FREE.  Normally I make one post with videos that families might enjoy, but there are so many I decided to divide my list into two.  Here are videos that were done by churches and Christian organizations.  These are good for a few laughs this season.  Enjoy!

Christmas in Bevelton – I was at North Point when we did this.  One of my favorites.

iPhone Band – Seems super old now but fun for kids.

Santa Went Down to Georgia – Several of these folks do the Orange Conference. So talented.

One Day More – 2012 Les Miserables spoof

Christmas According to Kids – Southland Christian Church

ReTooning The Nativity – this is helpful to explain what the nativity really looked like

Kid History – Another kid version of the Christmas story

The Living Nativity – Skit Guys

Camel Falls into crowd at Church – So glad I don’t have to work with live animals on Christmas plays

Toy Pianos – some kids will love this


My Tennessee Mountain Home


As I look at pictures of my hometown in flames it is overwhelming to consider the needs of those people.  One of the sweetest families that I know lost their business to this fire.  Many people don’t even know if their home is still standing because the threat of fire is on going.  What do we do?  How do we respond?  Where do we start?

Andy Stanley once said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all”  That statement has been huge in my life in trying to help people.  I can’t provide meals, electricity, and clothing for 15,000 displaced people, but I could help one or two families.

There are a ton of families in need it should be easy to find one to help.  So what’s next?

I lost everything to a house fire when I was 19 years old.  The only clothes that I had was work out stuff that was in the trunk of my car.  I can easily provide you with a list of needs for those that have just lost everything.  Here is the list:  EVERYTHING

People need food, clothing, water, shelter, etc.  I know that many restaurants and businesses are stepping up now, but that is only meeting the needs of today.  Tomorrow is coming and those offers are going to dramatically decrease.  Find a family and help them buy clothing.  Give gift cards to Walmart and Kroger.  Loan out your extra car so the family has transportation to talk with insurance companies and doctors.  The needs are everything and they are everywhere.

Matthew 7:12 says ““So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  If you lost everything you’d wish people would help you.  Think about how you would want to be treated and what your family would need.  It is by God’s grace that you aren’t the one in need.

Bring over gift cards.  Provide a ride to work.  Help them find a new job.  Have their family over to dinner to help everyone process what is going on in town.
For those of us not living in East Tennessee what can we do other than donate to charities.  The number one thing you could do is take your Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge vacation in 2016/2017.  The short term impact of this fire is obviously huge.  It is the long term impact that is equally concerning.  Considering the economy of Sevier County is built on tourism this fire could cost more jobs because of people choosing to not vacation in the mountains.  Most of what you enjoy doing on your vacation is untouched.  I will be there next week staying in a hotel, eating almost every meal out with family, and doing some of the family fun stuff with my kids.  We were scheduled to celebrate Christmas with my family and we are going even though I have no idea what to expect.  So many jobs depend on other families doing the same.

Do for one what you wish you could do for all.  Not just a philosophy of giving for this moment, but for every moment and in every community.