Words your sons need to hear

Last week I was in San Diego attending an event and met a man there named Jimmy. We work for the same organization, but in different parts of the country, and that day we were serving side by side on an outreach project to feed the homeless. As we talked about our lives and backgrounds, Jimmy told me his story. It goes like this:

Jimmy Badillo

Jimmy Badillo

When his mother became pregnant with him, his father tried to cause a miscarriage. He didn’t want another child and soon enough, Jimmy would know it. As a young boy born in the Bronx and raised on the Lower East Side, Jimmy would wander the streets on his own. It seemed like no one noticed or cared. His parents soon separated and he lived with his father and basically raised himself.

Without proper supervision it wasn’t hard for Jimmy to drop out of school. As he grew older and reckless his father gave him an ultimatum, “Join the Army or you cannot live in my home.” He joined the Army but still felt empty. After his discharge in 1982, he avoided his problems, first by using drugs, then by dealing them. He married and had three boys, which resulted in increased drug activity as his way to provide financially for his family. Of course he was eventually caught, and under the state’s then-strict drug laws, he was sentenced to 15-30 years. He had lost his family and his freedom.

While he was in prison, his sister and brother-in-law became believers. They started going to church and the people in the church began praying for Jimmy. Jimmy behaved while he was in prison, and when the drug laws were slightly modified in early 2005, he sought early release. Influenced by his sister he prayed, “God, if you allow me to leave here, I’ll serve you.” Jimmy is quick to say he didn’t really know what that meant, but God answered his prayer and he was released on Monday, May 2, 2005, after serving just 3½ years.

As he was telling me his story, I noticed a tattoo on his arm and asked him about it. He related another life-changing event that happened during his prison stint. His dad passed away. “In Loving Memory of Jimmy Badillo Jr. RIP.” Jimmy had gotten it after hearing the news of his dad’s death. It cost him two packs of cigarettes, he said. He teared up when he told me how he lives with regret that his dad died only knowing that his son was in prison. He told me how he hurts whenever he thinks about about how his dad never got to see the person he has become.

I found it interesting to talk to a grown man, a thick, strong man, who served time in a tough prison, who lived and sold drugs on the streets of New York, a man who knew his dad didn’t want him when he found out his wife was pregnant and who tried to end his life while he was still developing in his mother’s womb. But here he was, still wanting validation from his dad. He wanted – no, he needed – to hear the words, “I’m proud of you son. You have become a man. You have done good things with your life.”

I wasn’t sure if Jimmy had ever heard these words before and as I sat at my layover in Phoenix headed back home on a Thursday afternoon I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to email these words to Jimmy:

“I know your dad is proud of who you have become and if he were still on this earth you would hear him say, ‘I am so proud of you son,’ just as your Heavenly Father is saying the same thing about you. You’re a good man and God is going to use you in mighty ways, just as He already has in touching the lives of countless individuals. You have impacted people in ways you will not know until you get to Heaven but it will be tens of thousands. Keep up the good work. I’m proud of you too!”

Several years before meeting Jimmy, I had a similar conversation with a gentleman in his late fifties who had previously been homeless but was now working at a soup kitchen at a church in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the course of our conversation he confided, “Last year I heard for the first time someone say they were proud of me. Those words had never been spoken to me before but to hear that meant so much.”

Dads, if you have sons, they need to hear often how proud you are of them. They need to know you believe in them, that you believe they have what it takes to be a man, that they are important and you can see specific things in their lives that are unique to them. And when I say “often,” I’m talking about every day. They won’t get tired of hearing it. Look at it this way – would you ever get tired of your boss acknowledging the work you did and how much it helped the company out? If he said something positive to you every single workday, would you grow weary of hearing it and ask him to stop? I know I wouldn’t. And neither will your son grow tired of hearing these words from you.

But wait, there’s more! Not only do your sons need to hear this, but God has allowed your path to cross with the paths those of other men who have not heard these words spoken to them. God wants you to be His voice, His hands and feet, to encourage, inspire, and speak words of life to others. When the Spirit prompts you, listen and obey what He wants you to say and who He wants you to say it to. You can have a profound impact on someone’s life by saying a few small words they need to hear.

Thomas Davis: All-around champion

Thomas Davis daughterSuper Bowl week has to be an especially meaningful one for Carolina Panthers’ linebacker Thomas Davis. In every way the week’s events give reflection of the kind of man he is, on and off the field. Today — Super Bowl Sunday — he will start at outside linebacker in this year’s championship game, which is almost a miracle in itself. More on that later.

But Davis was also the guest of honor at another of the week’s most-celebrated events: the Super Bowl Breakfast, hosted by Athletes in Action, the sister ministry of FamilyLife. It’s not just a religious event, but is the occasion for the NFL to honor the one player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.

Last year the recipient was Peyton Manning, who will quarterback the opposing Denver Broncos in this year’s Super Bowl. This year it is Thomas Davis. And the award this year has even greater significance.  It is the 50th anniversary since the trophy’s namesake led his team to victory in the first-ever Super Bowl in 1967.

The Bart Starr award has been given annually since 1989, and has included such outstanding athletes and men as Steve Largent, Reggie White, Mike Singletary, Jackie Slater, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green, Curt Warner, Aeneas Williams, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning.

It’s not a one-time honor for Davis, who also received the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last season. In his acceptance speech, he challenged his fellow NFL players to use their fame and fortune to give to others.

“Let’s take charge … Let’s step up and be a village of guys that make a difference to change this world. We’re well-compensated for what we do. Let’s show these kids how much we care about them. Let’s give the media something positive to talk about instead of always bashing our league.”

Coming up from humble beginnings

Thomas Davis grew up in the humblest of beginnings in the Wiregrass region of southwest Georgia, just a couple of hours from where Bart Starr was raised. Unlike Starr, poverty was a way of life for Davis, his sister, and their single mom. There were times, he recalled, they didn’t even have running water or electricity. His mom did her best to meet their needs, but it was barely enough to cover the essentials and no more.

Davis remembers a couple Christmases waking up with anticipation, only to find no present. In his young mind, he reasoned that maybe it was because he was bad and that the reason she was having such a hard time making ends meet was because he and his sister were too difficult. As he was able, he would pick pecans and peas, bale hay, anything to earn money to help the family stay afloat. That memory of struggling for survival and significance would be the impetus for what he would do for others if he ever had the means.

Sports was his chance. He lettered in baseball and track, but he was a standout in football. Because his high school was so small, he got little notice from college football programs and received only one scholarship offer. But at the University of Georgia under coach Mark Richt he proved to be one of the best players to ever come out of the state, earning All-American honors at linebacker and a number 14 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

From the top to the bottom and back

Thomas Davis PanthersGoing from poverty to riches went to Thomas’ head for the first three years of his career, as he revealed in an excellent interview with Sports Spectrum magazine. He could have and do almost anything he wanted, and he did. And, like Solomon, he found it to be meaningless.

It was during this time that the spiritual seeds sown by Coach Richt at Georgia, an outspoken Christian, began to take root in Thomas, and he became more aware of the grace of God in his life. It was also at that same time that he met his wife Kelly and he began to look outward to meet her needs and the needs of others. He got involved as a volunteer in a program that offered free heart screenings to underprivileged children and through that, Thomas discovered that he had a rare heart condition that could end his NFL career. Although it ended up not being as serious as first thought, the process of facing his immortality and the imminent loss of his career created in him a greater reliance on God and caused him to further take inventory of his life.

Thomas recognizes now that God was preparing him for what was to come. Until the heart scare, he had never had an injury or a threat to missing a game.

Then eight weeks into the 2009 season, playing on the Superdome turf against the Saints, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He had surgery to repair the knee and missed the rest of the season.

Early in summer training camp the next year, in 2010, just after successfully rehabbing his injury he tore the same ACL in the same knee in a fluke, non-contact accident. This time he would miss the entire 2010 season, but he would have plenty of time to properly rehab the knee this time.

Finally, in 2011 he was back to full function for the season opener — his first regular season game in 22 months. But the very next week at Green Bay a teammate’s leg slammed against his knee — the same knee — and tore the same ACL for a third time in less than two years.

In the doctor’s office the next morning, the team trainer remembers that Thomas was crying and shaking his head, saying, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard.”

Thomas recalls the soul-searching few days that followed.

“My wife and I talked about it, and the team chaplain … and they just asked me, ‘Do you really feel like you’re done with the game of football? Are you, in your heart, totally 100 percent sure that you don’t want to play again?’ And the answer to that question was ‘No.’”

The following Monday, according to the trainer, Thomas came into his office and said “We’re breaking history. We’re going for records. We’re doing it again.”

Indeed it would be history. No NFL player had ever come back from three ACL tears, much less to perform at the level Thomas does. He has become the Panthers’ all-time leading tackler, and every year since his return from the knee injuries has recorded more than 100 tackles.

But then two weeks ago in the NFC championship game, Thomas was making his 105th tackle of the season when he suffered a serious break to the ulna bone in his forearm. Initially, his mind went back to the ACL injuries, resigning himself to the fact that he would have to sit out the dream game of his life in two weeks. Under the same circumstances, most athletes probably would have. But this was Thomas Davis, who is no stranger to rehabbing injuries.  The doctors were willing to take the chance and so was Thomas. The morning after the game, he was in surgery to repair it, and Sunday he’ll start with a metal plate and several screws,  protected by a specially designed cast on his arm.

After all, what’s the chance that a broken arm will stop you when you’ve come back from so many desperate situations before, and when you have a chance to help your team win a Super Bowl trophy for the first time?

Offering others a hand up

Thomas Davis playgroundSince their marriage in 2008, Thomas and Kelly created and have continued to expand their own charity. The mission of the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation  is built on the principles of educating, empowering, and defending students in developing essential life and social skills that will help them rise above circumstances to become leaders in the next generation.  Both Thomas and Kelly are intimately involved in every aspect of the organization’s work. The couple has personally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a playground in his hometown of Shellman, Georgia, and to provide for the material needs of underprivileged children across the nation. And every Christmas, they provide presents to children to show them unconditional love.


Michael Oher: Something to prove in Super Bowl 50

Michael Oher: Something to prove

Michael Oher got to prove his worth this year against the team that traded him to the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers. (Getty Images)

One of the backstories of Super Bowl 50 is the ongoing rags-to-riches story of Michael Oher. The outstanding left tackle for the Carolina Panthers will be working for his second championship ring in seven years.

Michael Oher has something to prove.

He always has something to prove.

Many have seen the 2009 movie The Blind Side, about a destitute Memphis black kid who was all but living on the street until he was taken in by a wealthy white family from across town. That kid, Michael Oher, went on to become a highly-recruited high school lineman and an All-American at Ole Miss, and was selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

Most people love the movie, but Michael Oher is not one of them. Based on the Michael Lewis book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, it focuses primarily on the Tuohy family, who adopted Michael and who continue to have a powerful presence in his life. In fact, they will be together in San Francisco for the Super Bowl.

But, as Michael puts it, the movie is what you’d expect from Hollywood, with a lot of overtly fictional elements. Then there is Michael’s book, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond, which I just finished reading. While the movie characterized Michael as an unintelligent and unambitious young man who had to be taught the game of football, the truth is that he was already focused on sports and rising above his surroundings when he was walking the streets of Memphis. The Tuohy family just gave him opportunities he would have otherwise never had.

In his book, he gives a little perspective on the balance between opportunity and success.

Michael Oher has something to prove“When I was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens, I knew I had done the impossible. I hadn’t just beat the odds; I had blown them out of the water. But the story isn’t just about arriving at the pros. My goal had never been just to get the offer, or to sign the contract, or to get the paycheck. I wanted to do something, to know that I was working each day to do something with my potential, pushing myself to make sure that I was always giving my all. Making it to the pros wasn’t the finish line for me. The world is full of people who got their big shot and then never did anything with it. It had come too far to just let being drafted be the end of my story.”

From the start of his book, two things stand out that show that Michael was serious about his future: First, he was determined to rise above the options he was given as a child. Second, he knew the importance of surrounding yourself with people who watch out for you, and he realized the need to commit to them as well.

He knew that he could have become a bodyguard for one of the two local gangs and made a name and lots of money for himself.  But that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted out, and at an early age he realized that sports would be his ticket. His big goal was to get a scholarship for a junior college and get an education so he could get a job that would take him out of the neighborhoods where everyone was stuck and life was just a matter of survival. READ MORE »

Carolina’s Greg Olsen: MVP of hurting hearts

Greg OlsenCarolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen arrived at the hotel in San Jose this past weekend, preparing for the game of his career.

He unpacks his bags, and there lies Touchdown Bear, his traveling companion for every game of the past two seasons (watch the video). It’s a stuffed animal, custom-designed by his three children, and a reminder to him that the Super Bowl is not the most important thing in his life. It’s also a constant reflection that this game is not the biggest challenge he’s faced. This is not the first time he’s had everything on the line, or teamed up with others to face a formidable foe.

Three years ago, Greg and his wife Kara watched as an ultrasound revealed that they were pregnant with two children, one normal, and one with a medical condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Simply put, TJ would be born with half a heart. Fortunately for them, Greg’s generous NFL salary allowed them to seek out and receive the best care for their son, who would have died without aggressive medical intervention.

TJ would go through three successive surgeries to rebuild his heart, and his parents would provide very specialized and intense care for their son. For Greg, the pressure to perform was almost more than he could bear when they brought TJ home from the hospital after his first surgery.  “His care was going to be so specific and so important that if I did not give him the exact calorie per ounce, he was going to die. In my mind, that’s what I thought. If I couldn’t even make his formula right, how was I going to do wound care on his scar, how were we going to do his medicine?”

That’s sure a lot more pressure than he’s going to face on the field Sunday.

Since that time, TJ has had his two other operations and is doing well for a child with HLHS. The Olsens are thankful for each day they have with TJ and their other two children, because most kids with HLHS don’t make it to age five, even with the surgeries. And as they experienced the heartache as parents of HLHS babies, they’ve developed a passion for helping other moms and dads who have fewer resources than Greg and Kara. They sought out a way to level the playing field a bit for families.

Through The HEARTest Yard initiative, they help provide medical care, counseling, and encouragement for parents of HLHS babies through Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Greg’s and Kara’s compassion earned him a nomination by the Panther’s organization for the 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Efforts to help others have earned him recognition off the field as well as on.

Annie Lane picture AHA submissionMy co-worker Tracy admits that she doesn’t follow football much, but she knows about Greg Olsen. That’s because she and husband Matt are going through their own anguishing struggle with their daughter Annie, whose heart is failing after her second HLHS surgery. Tracy remembers what it’s like to get the diagnosis.

“One day, you’re a regular family who’s never heard of a baby having half of a heart. The next day, you’re the family whose baby is being diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening heart defect,” she says.

And Matt relates to Greg’s frustration about how alone and helpless it can make you feel. “It’s not like you can just call up your buddy and he can relate. Or talk to your brother who went through that last week. Or even turn to your pastor, because, well, no one else has heard of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome either.”

At this moment, Matt and Tracy are waiting to hear from Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, which did Annie’s first two surgeries. They’re hoping the facility can come up with a course of action to care for Annie as she waits for her third operation. In the meantime, all they can do is wait and pray. But they’re thankful that others are raising awareness of families like theirs. Tracy, a fellow writer, forwarded her thoughts to me the other day.

“Having someone like Olsen to look to is encouraging. He’s a regular guy who is loving his family well. A regular guy who had the courage to choose life in the face of a life-threatening diagnosis. A regular guy who is giving hope to other families who face this same terrifying condition.

“Heart families around the world are grateful for the awareness he’s providing because the more we know, the less afraid we have to be. The more we see that a scary diagnosis can still lead to a healthy, vibrant childhood, the more courage we have to advocate for the life of any and every baby. Olsen shares the reality that the grief is real, the challenges are real, but the value of his child’s life is real too. Those hospital-bound days fighting for TJ’s life were worth it. Whatever fight you’re in is worth it, too.”

Greg Olsen has fought to be, arguably, the best tight end in the NFL. But he admitted in an interview last year that he’s not the toughest person in his home.

“I wish I was as tough as TJ. If I was as tough as him, I’d be in good shape. What he’s gone through in his first eight months of life is more than any of us has gone through in a lifetime. Two open heart surgeries, the countless medications, the exams. He’s been through it all, and he just bounces back.”

TJ’s suffering has made Olsen tougher and more sensitive. It’s given him not just resolve, but also perspective. In the grand scheme of things, Sunday’s Super Bowl is not a life-or-death thing for Greg Olsen. In fact, I’m sure that if he has an outstanding performance, wins the big game and gets a huge bonus on top of his $22.5 million dollar contract, he wouldn’t think twice about trading it all away for TJ.

Learn the latest on Annie’s current situation, and follow the heart of HLHS parents through Tracy’s blog, Heart for Annie.


And after that?


This blog post by Todd Nagel recently appeared in the Noah Gets A Nail Gun blog. 
As the story goes, a boat was docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the local fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. “Not very long” answered the fisherman.

But then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American. The local villager explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?

I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing a few songs. I have a full life.

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the revenue you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plant and maybe even open your own plant.

You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.

How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

And after that?” replied the fisherman.

Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big you can go public, start selling stocks and make millions!

Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the fisherman.

After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandkids, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and playing the guitar with your friends!

I’m liking the question, “And after that?”

Our lives have gotten out of balance. At the dawn of the introduction of technology there were dreams of a 30 hour work week, or even 20 hour work week, with more time at home with our spouse and kids, more time to relax and enjoy life. But just the opposite has happened. There is no more 9-5 work day. When are you not “at work” when you are tethered to your smartphone? Even on vacation you’ve probably spent an hour or two (each day) answering email. The line between work-home has become blurred. And just so you know, like Paul told Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” If I’m throwing stones I’m throwing them in the air and letting them hit me in the head! I’m guilty of all the above.

The bottom line is it comes down to having balance. Run everything through the “And after that” grid. Sure, you could work an additional 10 hours a week and make more money, “And after that”?

Somewhere along the line we believed the lie that we needed bigger, newer, nicer, more. In our attempt to achieve those things we have lost what’s vastly more important than material things…relationships.

paintingI’m certainly not advocating a lazy work ethic. I’m currently in the process of painting my two-story house. Besides the roof and windows, everything else requires me to slap some paint on it. I love a good project but this one is pushing it a little. If you’ve never painted the exterior of a house, trust me, it’s not the easiest task to undertake. I’m a firm believer in if I have the physical ability and brain power to do something, I’m not going to pay someone to do it for me. But more on that another time.

All that to say, as Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, “Whatever your hands find you to do, do it with all your might.” Work hard but have balance. The relationship with your wife, kids, parents, friends, all those far outweigh making a little extra income. This may require you to make some tough financial decisions but nobody looks back at the end of their life and regrets not working more. It’s always “I wish I spent more time with my wife, kids, etc.” As you are faced with opportunities to make a little more money even though it will require longer work days, ask yourself, “And after that?”

Carson Palmer’s highlight reel

This weekend, Carson Palmer will lead his Arizona Cardinals against the Carolina Panthers for the right to represent the NFC in the 50th Super Bowl. It’s an unfulfilled dream of his 12-year NFL career.

“I don’t want to be done, watching football on Sundays, and saying I never got a chance to play in the Super Bowl,” Palmer said in a 2014 interview with USA Today. “That lingers, heavily. Not that that’s going to make me the man that I am or the father or the husband. That’s not going to define me. But I want to experience that. I want to experience a run — a chance where you just get hot and you hit the playoffs and you make one of those runs, those magical (runs). However long it lasts, I want to be able to experience that.”

Palmer has had one of those runs, one of those hot streaks during the 2015 season, despite ending the previous year rehabbing a re-torn ACL. So in a way, this season is already reaching a goal. But it’s not the ultimate goal.

In the middle of that quote from the 2014 USA Today interview, you can see that football is not at the center of who Carson Palmer is as a man. That is made even more clear in a current Dove Men+Care commercial making the rounds on TV and the Internet. Consider it Carson Palmer’s real highlight reel.

YouTube Preview Image

“As a professional quarterback, there’s so much pressure and so much on your shoulders. When you come home, you just get to be dad and shut it off. I go to work as a football player, but I was put on this earth to be a father.

highlight reelThat final quote from the commercial makes it pretty clear that football is not at the center of his life. Actually, though, neither is his family. In an 2011 interview with Sports Spectrum, he revealed that his faith in Christ is at the core of his identity as a good man, husband, and father. He also talked about the influence of strong Christian mentors, like former longtime QB Jon Kitna.

Truth is, Palmer is not the only quarterback who claims Christ to lead his team to the NFL playoff’s this year. In fact, of the 12 teams that made it, at least half were led to the playoffs by those who profess Christ. Some may have a stronger testimony than others, but here are some of the notable ones:

And it’s not just the quarterbacks who are emerging as believers and good men. Many high-profile players are speaking out about their faith and their families. It’s great to see Dove and other companies holding these men up as examples through a highlight reel of what really matters in their lives. Hopefully during the playoffs and Super Bowl, we’ll see more great commercials like the one featuring Carson Palmer.

Watch your words around your kids

ChildwParentsArguingBackgroundThe nation’s longest-running study on child mental health offers a nugget of wisdom for parents: watch your words because your arguments will affect your children well into their adult years.

The Simmons Longitudinal Study has followed 300 one-time kindergartners from Quincy, Massachusetts, well into their adult years. The study, detailed in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found, among other things, that:

15-year-olds exposed to their parents’ verbal battles, or involved in family arguments, were more likely to be functioning poorly at age 30 than other people in the study who did not live in increasingly fight-filled homes.

The children exposed to family fighting were two to three times more likely to be unemployed, suffer from major depression, or abuse alcohol or other drugs by age 30. They also were more likely to struggle in personal relationships, but that was evident to a somewhat lesser degree.

Many child advocates may see this as a reason to champion immediate divorce rather than face a bad home environment. But a Boston Globe article that detailed the study, highlighted something entirely different: redirecting communication in a positive way.

“You almost have to give a prescription to parents who are fighting not to fight in front of their kids,” said Joseph Powers, a family therapist at McLean Hospital.

Arguments don’t have to descend into verbal abuse, experts say. The solution is to make the arguments constructive, or, failing that, to swiftly repair the damage of heated words. When ruptures do occur, saying sorry right away can heal the harm.

“There are stresses in the life of a family,” Powers said. “But families also have the capacity to repair that, to come to the person and say, ‘I just blew it, I’m very sorry, and can we do this another way?'”

When people share so much life and space with each other as couples and families do, there will be opportunities to grow through disagreements. Children and teens are often “caught in the crossfire” as the article suggests. Depending on the child, they may withdraw or go on the offensive, or side with one parent or the other. Those arguments may grow into resentment and bitterness, which lead to isolation and deep wounds. This is a prime time for parents to model godly behavior in the way they deal with conflict.

For some ideas on how to deal with disagreements in your marriage and to give your children a healthy model for resolving conflict, check out these articles from FamilyLife.com:

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Scott Williams’ post, “Watch your words around the kids,” on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistShould Children See Parents Argue? Dennis and Barbara Rainey provide guidance in a Q&A on this touchy issue.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn “6 Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage” in this practical article by Dennis Rainey.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTeaching Children How to Resolve Conflict prepares them for marriage. Read Dennis and Barbara’s Q&A.


4 things daughters need from dad

News flash: parenting is demanding work.  Always has been, always will be.

Part of the reason it’s difficult is that the moment that tiny person appears, we suddenly no longer come first in our self-centered little world.  This precious bundle of burping, crying, sleepless joy now comes first.

4 things daughters needAs dads, it can be a challenge to know how to nurture these adorable beings overflowing with feisty, fragile femininity.  Many of us are still dealing with our own wounds from childhood while fighting every day just to protect our manliness in a world that seems hell-bent on attacking every corner of our hearts.

And it’s hard enough to deal with testosterone, a fairly familiar and predictable substance; now we’re expected to deal skillfully with this utterly foreign material called estrogen? Just the thought of it can be emotionally exhausting, especially for someone like me who usually just wants to be left alone to retreat into a dark, silent man cave at the end of the day.

Yet that is our calling, and these precious warrior princesses deserve nothing less than everything God has purposed for them to receive from their daddies.  And no, I’m not talking about pink bikes, ballet lessons, and Frozen-themed parties.  I’m talking about four things that our daughters need from their earthly fathers to know, deep down in their souls, that they are truly cherished and beloved.

The best part?  These four things don’t require complicated strategies or hours-long time blocks.  They can be done in small doses in everyday moments.

4 Things Daughters Need From Their Dads
1. Time

Sounds simple.  But in our digitally distracted, turbocharged lives, time is the scarcest of resources.  How much of it we do (or do not) give to our daughters speaks volumes to them about their value in our eyes.

And here’s something I’ve been learning about time: we can’t fracture it, splice it, dice it, or multitask it if we want it to be quality.  We’re either all in or all out from our children’s perspective.

One of the saddest images to me is one I see at the playground: the checked-out parent, eyes down on the smartphone, trailing their toddler around the park, texting between swing pushes.  That’s not presence.  That’s not attention.  That’s not being all in.  And it’s easy to fall into; trust me, I get it.  It’s one of the reasons my wife and I created three “no phone zones” as parents: the dinner table, the playroom floor, and the playground.

And if your daughter’s love language is quality time, this becomes even more important.  The other weekend, my four-year-old wanted to play dolls, so we sat on the floor and played with the dollhouse for thirty minutes.  The next morning, before she even came downstairs, she yelled to me, “Daddy, can we play dolls again?”  It’s not so much that she wanted to play dolls — it’s that she wanted to feel more of daddy’s love.  I’m just glad I had ears to hear in that moment what she was really asking me for.

They say kids spell love “T-I-M-E.”  Dads, let’s give it to our daughters.  Let’s be present, so they can truly believe that there is a Heavenly Father Who is their strength and “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

2. Talk

Words matter.  In fact, words are power.  God created the cosmos through words.  Similarly, as fathers we are continuously shaping our daughters through our words.  Positive, affirming words are, in a very real way, infusing our girls with power and strength.

Conversely, harsh, negative words and criticism are sucking strength right out of them and bruising them in profound ways.  And an absence of communication altogether can be just as harmful. A cruel, cynical, sexually violent world is waiting to step into that void.

Let’s secure the perimeter of our daughters’ hearts by talking about their uniqueness, our love for them, and God’s delight in them continually (as in, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

And, by the way, tell stories. Talk about your childhood.  Talk about Grandpa in the war.  Talk about the day your daughter was born.  Research has shown that kids who hear stories from their parents are more resilient and confident as they go out in the world.  Tell them your stories, so that they can understand their own vital role in the beautiful narrative God is crafting around them.

3. Touch

As far as I can tell, the answer to the question, “What is my oldest daughter’s love language?” is … all of them.

Without a doubt, though, physical touch ranks highly.  When I hold her gently and tickle her arms and back, I can describe it only as her melting in my lap.  All of the anxious energy seems to dissipate as she goes limp in peaceful repose.

That’s what appropriate and loving physical touch can do.  Oxytocin is the hormone released when humans engage in loving, gentle touch, like hugging, kissing, holding hands. It’s sometimes called “the bonding hormone.”  It truly binds us together, and a lack of it, like a lack of affirming words, can create a void that inhibits trusting, intimate relationships throughout life.

Research has even shown that the more healthy touch that kids experience from their parents, the more uncomfortable any unwanted touch from others feels to them.  In a world that is daily trying to molest our kids, mentally and physically, holding our daughters’ hands and hugging them in our arms is, in a very real way, protecting them from harm.

What better way to model for them their Heavenly Father, who gathers his children “in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11)?

4. Tenderness

All three of these needs — time, talk, and touch — require the common element of tenderness.  In some ways, this is the hardest thing for me as a father.  It seems every day there are moments where I simply am not tender — I was too harsh, too terse, too indifferent.  Sometimes it’s my speech. Sometimes it’s just because I’m tired.  But that’s what love ultimately is: dying to my own needs and desires and putting those of my daughters first.

Often, I’m not as tender as I should be because I forget how delicate their hearts are.  You’d think after fifteen years of marriage I’d be cognizant every moment that no matter how tough, independent, and formidable my wife and daughters may be externally, internally their feminine soul will respond only to tenderness from me (see Hosea 2:14).

But, I forget.  I make mistakes.  I blow it.  Maybe you do too. And even though we’re imperfect, we serve a redeeming Father Who is perfect, and He gives us grace to give our daughters more time, more talk, more touch, and more tenderness tomorrow.

Ultimately, that’s the most important thing, because just like us, they’ll blow it too.  As I learned at the roller-skating rink the other week, they will fall down, often, and our job is to help them up tenderly, tell them they can do it, and hold their hands as we take baby steps forward together.  And if an afternoon roller-skating is in any way an accurate metaphor for life, I can promise you that the bruises and scrapes will be far outweighed by the joy and delight we’ll experience … hand-in-hand with our daughters.

@2015 by pureHOPE. Used with permission

BoucheMugNoel Bouché serves as the president of pureHOPE. His passionate focus is to inspire and equip followers of Jesus to pursue a world free of sexual exploitation and brokenness through personal transformation and community collaboration. He holds a law degree from The University of Texas, and an undergraduate degree from South Dakota State University, where he was quarterback. Noel and Vanessa live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area with their two daughters.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “4 things daughters need from dad,” by guest blogger Noel Bouché of pureHOPE.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistIf you have a daughter, which of the 4 do you do the best? Which can use the most work? Focus on that today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDr. Meg Meeker helps dads improve the bond with their daughters on this 3-part broad-cast on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistDan Bolin gives 10 great ideas on “How to be Your Daughter’s Daddy.” Try some out in your home this week.

3 steps to create a family tech plan

Editor’s Note: This post by Dan Martin originally appeared on the official blog of pureHOPE, an organization whose aim is to inspire and equip followers of Christ to flourish in this sexually exploitative age and lead their families and communities to do the same.

TeenCellphoneFor the last five years I have had the unique privilege of speaking to and hearing from parents all over the country. The question I am asked most by parents is how to handle all of the tech gadgets invading their kids’ lives and what I would recommend as a dad who has raised three teenagers in the digital age.

Finding the balance between face-to-face and digital connection is the key.  As the Apostle John said: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” – 2 John 1:12

What John understood was that technology (his being paper and ink) was a substitute for something better: face-to-face interaction and connection.  John, and all of the writers of the New Testament, mastered the art of balancing these two connecting opportunities.  Just like them, we ought to seek a healthy combination of both.

Here is a three-fold strategy for managing technology in your home:

First, we are to protect our kids. 

Protection involves several layers in today’s wired environment.  A comprehensive protection plan involves activating parental controls on all digital devices, browsers, specific social media sites and apps.  Also important to this endeavor is protecting at the router level.  This will help with devices that are brought into our homes by friends of our children who might not have parental controls activated.

Filtering and/or monitoring (aka internet accountability) are also important parts of a comprehensive protection plan.  Our family has used Covenant Eyes for both filtering and monitoring for several years and we have found it to be a wonderful piece of our overall protection plan.  We used filtering when our kids were young and moved to monitoring when they got a bit older.

I also recommend that technology be used only in common areas in the home, i.e., no technology in bedrooms. Besides the obvious risk of kids viewing porn is the fact that cyber bullying has become all too common in the digital age and a 24/7 occurrence.

Second, we are to equip our kids to thrive in a digital world. 

If all we do is protect our kids … we will fail to equip them.  A home strategy should involve lots of equipping when it comes to technology.  I would much rather send an equipped child into the world than a protected one. Equipping means that our homes become incubators for healthy learning, healthy growth, healthy correcting and healthy dialogue about the impact and influence of technology. If we want them to make good decisions when they leave the security of our homes, they need to understand why prudent tech use is so important to their spiritual and emotional well-being.

Third and (in my opinion) most important, we need to model wise and healthy technology use for our kids.  

It remains true that observational learning is the primary way our kids develop understanding and learn behavior.  It also remains true that parents are the primary influence in their kids’ lives.  Not peers, not media, not celebrities … parents!  If we desire for our kids to use technology wisely, then we must model this behavior in our own lives, in our own homes.  Here are a few things I recommend doing as a family and yes, parents, you need to set the example here!

  1. Create a Tech Basket – a place in the home where all technology is placed at a specified time each evening in order to protect valuable family time. We have a rule that family meal times are also tech-free!
  2. Tech Sabbath – This could be a night or a weekend of complete rest from technology. Our family loves to go camping together, which provides time to reconnect with each other and disconnect from technology.
  3. Model Good Tech Use – As parents we also need to have our own Internet activity monitored in order to model good technology health to our kids.  When my oldest son left home for college, he received a laptop as a graduation gift.  I will never forget him bringing me his laptop prior to moving out and asking me,  “Dad, will you install that program (Covenant Eyes) you have on your laptop?”  One question to ask yourself: are you modeling the type of behavior you want to see in your kids?

A three-fold strategy involving protection, equipping, and modeling is our best bet as parents to help our children thrive when it comes to living in this digital age.

© 2015 by pureHOPE. Used with permission.

MartinDanMugDan Martin serves as Parenting Associate at pureHOPE, developing ministry activities and resources to equip parents to raise kids in the sexualized culture around us. He is also the Adult Ministry Pastor at the Chase Oaks Church Fairview Campus. Dan and Kathie have been married for 24 years and live in Lucas, TX; they are recent empty-nesters with three college-aged children. 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “3 steps to create a family tech plan,” by guest blogger Dan Martin of pureHOPE ministry.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHow are you doing in protecting, equipping, and modeling good digital behavior with your children?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGet more guidance on managing “Screens and Teens” from Dr. Kathy Koch on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGet with your spouse to develop a family tech plan, using resources like pureHOPE and Covenant Eyes.

Shady planes and shipwrecks

MoldovianPropIn the spring of 2001 I was doing work on a Jesus Film blitz in Eastern Europe and traveled to four countries during a 12-day span. One of the places I found myself in was a small country called Moldova. After completing the assignment, my traveling companion and I boarded our plane to fly over to Ukraine. The airline of our choice was the country’s flagship carrier out of the capital city of Chisnau, (yeah, it sounds just like it’s spelled) called Moldovian Air. To give you an idea of the size of the country, airport, and national airline, today Moldovian Air boasts one plane in its fleet. But when I flew Moldovian 15 years ago they had three planes, so they were pretty big-time back in the day.

The little engine that couldn’t.

We took off around 7:30 in the morning and about 15 minutes into the 90-minute flight the one flight attendant began serving breakfast and everyone was settling in. Five minutes later it got really quiet. The kind of quiet you don’t want when flying 20,000 feet above the ground. Curious as to the lack of noise, I looked to my left and saw the propeller wasn’t moving. Quickly I looked over to my right and was thankful to see the propeller on that side of the aircraft was still actually moving.

MoldovianMealNoticing how the flight attendant didn’t miss a beat and continued to serve breakfast and pass out Moldovian Air chocolate bars, I thought maybe they save fuel by only running one engine once they got to cruising altitude so perhaps this is normal. Everything else I’d encountered in the former Soviet Union was backwards so why not fly with just one engine? The other thought I had was that she knew we were going to crash and that we might as well go out with a full stomach of airplane food and the taste of chocolate in our mouths.

Fast forward 30 minutes and a new pair of pants, we made it back to Chisnau where the runway was lined with all three of the city’s fire trucks and both ambulances. After using the entire runway to finally come to a stop we were safely back on solid ground. When we stepped off the plane I noticed the entire left side of the aircraft was covered in oil, which meant the aircraft had blown an engine.

The other plane I flew on that made it only because of my prayers.

After being placed in a temporary holding room they put us on board one of their other two remaining aircraft to get us to our destination. My seat was next to the exit door and when I sat down I noticed the door was half open and we were getting close to taking off. I thought surely someone will come check to make sure the door was closed but that never happened so I took matters into my own hands and sealed the door shut myself. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing” and for the duration of the second flight while sitting next to what I figured was a faulty exit door that was going to blow open any minute and suck me out of my seat and into the great wide open, I was fully obedient to that biblical command.

After disembarking the first aircraft with the bum engine I found a corner in our holding room, put myself in a fetal position and sucked my thumb. The second to last thing I wanted to do was get on another airplane. The very last thing I wanted to do was stay in Moldova. Facing those two choices I opted for the plane ride. Then I had to close the emergency exit door and began to rethink if I had made the right choice. But here I am today so you can relax knowing how the story ended.

Recently I was reading in 2 Corinthians 11 where Paul talks about all the perils he faced. One of the threats he mentions is “dangers at sea.” The Greek word he uses is “kindunos,” which means extremely dangerous. Paul knew it was extremely dangerous to travel by sea and could write with a high level of authority on this topic seeing how he was shipwrecked three times. I had a hard enough time getting back on a plane and I wasn’t even in an actual crash. Plus my one ordeal was only 30 minutes of actual flying time without an engine. Luke’s account of one of the three shipwrecks that Paul was part of goes like this:

“The ship was caught by the storm … and we took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day [day two of being in the storm] they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for MANY days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Not the actual boat Paul was on.

Last night I happened to catch the last 20 minutes of the movie, The Perfect Storm, a movie about the boat Andrea Gail being caught by two huge storms that converged together and then on top of them. The boat and all the crew were lost at sea but the movie depicts what it would have been like as the waves overtook the boat and ultimately took their lives. I couldn’t help but think this was what it would have been like for Paul, Luke, and the others that were traveling.

Having had the above-mentioned airplane experience I can understand why someone who has been in an actual plane crash would be hesitant to get back on one. I could also understand if, after his first shipwreck, Paul never got on a boat again. Certainly after a second voyage that turned into a swim, one could undoubtedly sympathize with Paul if he never got back on a sea vessel. Then a third time?! I’d have to start thinking I was the problem if every time I got on a boat it went down. And if I were a friend of Paul’s I certainly wouldn’t get on a boat with the fella. “Sure I’ll travel with you Paul. You know what, why don’t you take the one that leaves tomorrow, I need to wash my sheep’s hair and I’ll catch one a little later.”

In a devotion written by Rick Renner he says,

“I’m sure these devilish attacks at sea were designed to put such a fear of sailing in Paul that he would never get back on another ship. But if Paul was going to get to the various places where God had called him to minster, he had no choice. Therefore, he didn’t allow these occurrences to determine whether or not he obeyed God. Even if it meant he had to get back on another ship and sail through dangerous waters again, he’d do it, if that was required of him, in order to successfully fulfill his God-given assignment in life.”

He goes on to say, “It takes guts to do the will of God. You have to be totally convinced of what God has told you, or the devil will throw enough blockades in your way to make you turn around and permanently go back home.”

Life is challenging. Job, marriage, parenting, it takes work to be determined to see it through to the end. I feel like I’ve been shipwrecked a few times in life and also recognize I need to do a better job of jumping back on board the ship after I get tossed. I want to demonstrate to my wife and kids that I’m committed to God’s call on my life, committed to my marriage and committed to raising my two daughters and two sons in a godly way.

There’s only one way to live and that’s to go all in. And the only way I know to do that is to have complete reliance on God. We’ll be hit by waves and want to give up at times, but if, like Paul, we stay true to the end, we’ll also be able to say like he did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV) I can hear Paul yelling encouragement to us, “Keeping battling. It’s worth it!”

This post first appeared in the Noah Gets A Nailgun blog, © 2015. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Todd Nagel’s guest post, “Shady planes and shipwrecks,” on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistThe difficulties endured because of her husband’s martyrdom led Elizabeth Elliot to spiritual maturity.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGod Has Not Forgotten You is a 31-day devotional for handling the shady planes and shipwrecks of life.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTell fellow men, dads, and husbands about the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog. John and Todd post excellent stuff.

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