Father forgive them



This post originally appeared in the DadPad blog.

I had lunch this week with Dave, a friend of mine and father of three adult children.  The topic of this blog came up so I asked, “What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a dad?”  Dave’s answer was profoundly succinct, “Expect less, love more.”

father forgive

As I reflected upon his advice, I remembered Jesus’ prayer on the cross, “ Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Now that’s expecting less and loving more!

Then it hit me.  When it came to my kids—and many of my other relationships—I bought into another similar sounding message: “Expect more, pay less.”  It’s the slogan of Target Corporation and it’s been heavily advertised into my heart.

It’s too easy to expect more of my children, particularly as they grow into young adults.  And I want to pay less too.  I’d like the sacrifices I’ve made as a dad to be paid back or, at least, to cost me less.  The “expect more, pay less” combination applied to relationships, however is lethal. Expectation of others without personal cost is demandingness.  Ironically, it’s a childish attitude.

When my teenagers take off with their friends, leaving chores undone, do I really expect that they would put their parent’s desires above their own?  I say to myself, Father forgive them for they know not what they do.  When they come home later than we wanted to stay up waiting for them, can I admit I did the same at their age?  Father forgive them for they know not what they do. When their forgetfulness means more work for me, can I realistically expect a heartfelt appreciation for the schedule overhaul I just engineered?  Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

And when my Father looks down on my ungrateful, demanding spirit, wanting my way, my agenda, my comfort, in my time, can I hear Him say, “I forgive you, for you know not what you do?”

SOUND OFF:  What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned as a dad?

LearyGatesMugLeary Gates is a corporate and personal venture coach. He leads a management consulting firm and a coaching ministry, both based in Minneapolis. Leary is also the President of the National Coalition of Ministries to Men, the largest discipleship equipping coalition on the planet. He is co-host of the Reinventure Me podcast and blogs regularly at learygates.com. But his greatest honor is being the husband to Anna and father to four grown children.

A character cheat sheet



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

CarverEdwardsWooden

We talk often on this blog about leaving a legacy. Honestly, that can feel pretty daunting, esoteric, and enigmatic. And if that isn’t clear enough, you might feel obfuscated by such pleonastic redundancies.

No doubt “Leaving a Legacy” is a big task. But where does one start? Leaving a legacy is simply the daily living out of your core convictions. More than likely, the people you admire were good at living out what they believed in very small ways, day after day, moment by moment. They were consistent, stable, and a person of integrity. They could be counted on to do the right thing at the right moment.

But here is the challenge of living that way: To live out your core convictions, you have to know your core convictions. Steven Covey says you have to “begin with the end in mind.” He isn’t talking about reserving funeral plots and picking out caskets, but knowing where you want to go before you leave the driveway. Most men struggle to live consistently because they have a moving target. They are not even sure who they want to be. So you have to start by identifying these convictions and dwelling on them regularly. And since nothing is manlier than a solid shortcut, after identifying your core convictions, your operating principles for life, you should jot these down on a 3X5 card.

Ok, I already hear the objections. “Hey… if they are ‘core convictions’ shouldn’t you be able to remember them without writing them down?” Good word. In theory they should always be at the front of your mind, but in reality, we often behave differently than we know we should. Usually more base interests like food, sex, sports, and Shiny Object With Flashing Buttons move to the front of my mind, pushing aside all other thought or reason. In these moments, a short list serves as a great reminder of what I convinced myself of in a saner moment. Because we all suffer from temporary insanity at times, and having a crib sheet will help you through those character tests.

Not only is this decidedly manly, but a few prominent manly men have led the way with their examples.

Carver’s 8 Cardinal Virtues

Famous American scientist, botanist, educator, inventor, former slave, and all around renaissance man (dubbed the “Black Leonardo” by Time Magazine) George Washington Carver had his own list, what he called his “8 Cardinal Virtues”:

  1. Be clean both inside and outside.
  2. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  3. Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  4. Win without bragging.
  5. Always be considerate of women, children and old people.
  6. Be too brave to lie.
  7. Be too generous to cheat.
  8. Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.
John Wooden’s 7 Point Creed

The famous basketball coach from UCLA, the “Wizard of Westwood” (anyone with a nickname involving the word “wizard” must be manly) holds the record for most NCAA championships by any coach by a long shot (10 championships in 12 years, 7 of those in a row). Wooden was given a seven point creed to follow by his father. Seven points and seven championships in a row. Coincidence? I think not.

On one side of the card was a poem from Henry Van Dyke, and on the other side was the list his father developed. First the poem:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was the seven-point creed:

Be true to yourself
Help others
Make friendship a fine art
Drink deeply from good books
Make each day your masterpiece
Build a shelter against a rainy day
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

Even into his 90’s, Wooden could rattle off both sides of the card from memory. No doubt these items had a profound influence on shaping his character and life.

What was the power in these lists? They were short. Which means memorable. Yes, some over achievers like Jonathan Edwards went for the long ball, weighing in with a whopping 70 resolutions, but there is definitely power in brevity.

So what is your list of ‘Core Convictions’ or ‘Cardinal Virtues?’

If you had to write down what guides you on the back of a 3×5 card, what would be your list? We’d love to see your list – leave it in the comments below. Try to keep it under eight. Shoot for seven if you coach basketball. Just in case.

And consider writing these down and handing them over to your kids on their 16th birthday or before. You’re giving them a character cheat sheet, because in this case, cheaters really do win.

Honoring and encouraging your wife



A while back, my wife Merry was with a group of young mothers, and she was struck by how many did not feel valued. They were in the daily grind of parenting, dealing with all the challenges of raising young children. Yes, they often felt fulfilled, but they also felt dry and stretched and frazzled. They wondered if their efforts would pay off.
Merry said one of the big problems was, “They were receiving hardly any encouragement from their husbands.” They felt their husbands didn’t understand what they were doing, and they felt unappreciated.

Our culture doesn’t offer a lot of encouragement to mothers. In contrast, I recently found the transcript of a wonderful 1905 speech by President Theodore Roosevelt. Speaking to the National Congress of Mothers, he said:

No piled-up wealth, no splendor of material growth, no brilliance of artistic development, will permanently avail any people unless its home life is healthy …

No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night …

The woman who is a good wife, a good mother, is entitled to our respect as is no one else …

Encouraging your wife

As I read Roosevelt’s remarks, I wondered, When was the last time a President said something like this? If our culture doesn’t uphold wives and mothers with words like these, then it’s up to us husbands.

1 Peter 3:7 tells me to live with my wife “in an understanding way” and to “grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” As I’ve applied this verse to my life, I have realized I need to understand Merry’s world—the pressures and problems she is facing, her successes and her struggles. And I need to honor her for what she is doing well as a wife and mom.

One way I honored Merry was writing an article as a tribute to her when our daughters, Bethany and Missy, were 7 and 4. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her, and I wanted to remind her of how God was using her. So I thought I’d share part of what I wrote because these are the things we need to be telling our wives:

Like any other mother, it’s easy for Merry to grow discouraged during the day-to-day grind of fixing meals and settling arguments and playing games and reading stories and running errands. So often I’ve heard her say, “I’m tired of being a mother,” or, “I feel like I’ve been yelling at these kids all day long!”

But the reality is that she’s not just meeting physical needs. Even when she doesn’t realize it, she’s spending her days building character. She’s raising two little girls who, I hope, will grow up to be much like her.

From Merry, our daughters learn that there is a right and wrong, and that those who do wrong are punished.

They learn that God is real, that He is a personal God with whom we can communicate.

They learn that the Bible is truly the Word of God, able to speak to us today.

When she makes a mistake and blames them for something they didn’t do, and realizes it, they learn that a mother can be humble enough to ask their forgiveness.

When she takes them to the library to check out some books, and then returns home to read to them, they discover the excitement and importance of reading.

When they see Merry give me a hug and kiss as I walk into the house at the end of a work day, they see how a wife loves and honors her husband.

They watch as Merry reaches out to neighbors and friends. They go with her when Merry takes food to a sick friend. They learn about mercy and compassion.

When Merry gives them responsibilities around the house, they (grudgingly and slowly) learn about perseverance and doing a job right.

Bethany and Missy learn to tell the truth, because their mother doesn’t lie to them or tolerate lies from them.

They learn that many of the things the world says are important (such as acquiring money and possessions, and gaining power) are actually temporal and meaningless.

Of course, our two girls don’t realize that their mom is teaching them all these things. They are two human beings who will eventually make their own choices about their lives. But our hope is in the truth revealed in Proverbs 22:6, that if we “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Chances are that Bethany and Missy will have much of Merry in them when they go off to college and find jobs and raise their own families. If that’s true, then I think that Merry will have succeeded in the most important job she’ll ever have.

Boy, reading these words reminds me that I married pretty well! I think I need to encourage and honor her like this more often.

Copyright © by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter from FamilyLife.

Parenting and anger



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

A few weeks back I was volunteering at my kid’s school as part of the Watch Dog program. I was in the cafeteria reading with four 1st graders when I heard the assistant principal down the hall ripping apart this seven-year-old girl. I have no idea what the girl had done but whatever it was, it must have been really bad. I’m pretty sure I would have either cried or wet my pants had the assistant principal talked to me like that and I’m 37.

Parenting and anger
parenting and anger

“Kids, if you don’t obey so I can have some peace and quiet, someone’s fixin’ to get this dropped on them.”

The very next day I was reading in James where he says in 1:20, “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” The verse came alive in several new ways when I read it. First, when I get angry and yell at my kids, it is not going to produce in them a heart that wants to be righteous. My anger might cause them to obey what I’m wanting done but it’s not addressing the heart. Their disobedience is the symptom of something deeper and my anger is only addressing the symptom, not the root. In order to get to their heart, I need to approach it in love, kindness, and care for them. Paul says in Romans 2:4 that its God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. We would do well to follow the same example.

Another nugget I took from this is that while the girl might behave now, she’s not doing it out of respect or love for her authorities but rather out of fear. And because it’s being done out of fear, she will not have any type of growing relationship with that person. The same is true for us. If our kids only obey because they fear us, we won’t have the relationship with them that they need or that we want.

As I see it, as our kids get older our role in their lives changes. If done right, as your child gets into their teen years, you should become more of a mentor to them. And from there that should morph into a friendship and someone they can seek counsel from. If we’ve not built the relationship with them from an early age on, this isn’t going to happen. We destroy the foundation of the friendship when we yell and get angry at our kids. Think about it for a second, if a buddy of yours is constantly getting mad and screaming at you, how long are you going to stay his friend?

I personally need to do a better job with how I talk to my kids when I get upset at them. I need to address the heart behind their actions. I need to think long term about how I’m building (or destroying) the foundations of my relationship with each of my kids. I also need to check my heart and see where my anger is coming from. James again comes through for us in his first two verses of chapter 4:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

What part of my attitude is because I’m not getting what I want? I want my kids to go to bed so I can watch a TV show so I yell at them to go lay down. Or I’m mad because I wanted to go do something on a Saturday but I instead need to be home watching them. My anger is because I’m not getting what I want.

I don’t doubt that what I saw at the school was what I look like when I get mad at my kids. It was helpful to see what my anger looks like toward them and I know I can take from that experience to become a better dad, and I hope you can too.

Todd NagelTodd Nagel is a 36 year old man who has been a husband to Sarah for 11 years and a dad to four kids, two girls and two boys, ages 9 – 3. He loves outdoors and especially like to hike, mountain bike, kayak and golf, but doesn’t have a ton of time or money to do much of those things (see info about having a wife and four kids). Todd has been with a ministry called Cru for 14 years and has a desire to see men grow spiritually and lead their families well.

Thanks for commitment and love



In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.).  If you want some guidance to do one yourself, check out The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents, or link above to purchase the book. In the meantime, here’s the tribute one man did for his mom, or you can read our last post by a man who wrote a tribute his dad.

Tribute to Eileen Butler from her son, Dempsey:

In 1955 providence was giving you an unexpected addition to your ideal sized family of four. You left Florida for your hometown of Boston, so at least one of your kids could be a damn Yankee like you. After nine long months I was born, in the sweltering July heat. You did all that with Dad on deployment. Thanks for commitment and love.

For me, our kitchen was the most secure place in our house… the busiest place in the house and always the neatest. I remember coming downstairs on Taylor Avenue to the smell of ‘beggs and acon’ in the frying pan. You always tried to send Trudy, Gayle and me on our ways with a hot breakfast and a brown bag lunch (I always hoped for Fritos). It’s the place where you and I frequently reviewed the days events with Chips Ahoy and milk. When you worked the 3-11 shift at Circle Terrace, you made sure I still had snacks! In the summertime there was always a pitcher of presweetened and lemoned iced tea in the fridge…a welcome sight when I’d come home on a hot August day in Alexandria.

You were so generous with your hospitality and love… always having a spare bed and enough food for the lost Midshipman or Naval Aviator who showed up, even at dinnertime. You’d smile and serve them, but we knew the lesson…if we ever showed up at someone else’s home at meal time and you’d give us what for.

Between graduate school and the Vietnam War, Dad was gone a lot from mid-60s until we moved to Annapolis in 1972. I didn’t know the difficulties you faced raising us while Dad was deployed. Nor did I imagine the stress you were under with all that responsibility and having to deal with the possibility that Dad might not come home. But I was never worried that you didn’t love us or that you wouldn’t be able to find a way to take care of us.

You loved us too much to use Dad’s absence as an excuse for us not being good kids and growing up to be responsible adults. While I really missed Dad too, I also liked being your snuggle buddy under the electric blanket on those quiet nights on Kobe Drive. Remember when all of us would sit down to listen to the 2-inch reel to reel tapes Dad send us from WESTPAC? I recall the emotion in your voice when you told us how, while on a stopover on your way to Hong Kong to see Dad during a break from Yankee Station, you heard that a D. Butler had been shot down over North Vietnam. It was sometime before you knew it wasn’t Dad. It was your faith and trust in God that got you through that time.

I never doubted your strong faith in God. Without it, I don’t know how my life would have turned out. You made sure I attended all those catechism classes and became an altar boy with Father O’Connor when the mass was still said in Latin. (Thanks!) God works in strange ways though. My faith today is much stronger because of what I begrudgingly learned about the basics of a Christian’s faith in classes at St. Edward’s and St. Rita’s.

I always knew you were proud of me, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. That pride you exuded and the love that you showed to me then, has given me the confidence and encouragement to strive for success. I remember visiting you once in Carmel when you took me to lunch at the Beach and Tennis Club. You must have known everyone in the place…and you made sure you introduced your son, the Navy Lieutenant, to each of them…including the busboy. I’m not sure we got around to eating that day.

You taught me responsibility, the value of hard work, compassion, loyalty to friends and family and the value of saving for the future. I’ve also learned what a great MOM you were. The advice, books, seminars and tapes on parenting today weren’t around in the 1950s. You did what your folks did, the best you could. Dads worked, moms stayed home to raise and train the kids. Now there’s some eternal wisdom. Thanks for placing your nursing career on the back burner when we were young. You knew your skills would slip, but you made it clear your priority was at home with us. Being a parent for the last seven years has given me a keen appreciation for the task you faced with Dad gone so much meeting his responsibilities. You did a great job. I’m proud to be Eileen Butler’s son.

Thanks, Mom. I LOVE YOU.

Dempsey

I am who I am because of you



In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.).  If you want some guidance to do one yourself, check out The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents, or link above to purchase the book. In the meantime, here’s what one man did.

Tribute to Alan Nagel from his son, Todd: 

Dad,

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for blessing me with a dad like you. There are so many memories that flood my mind and so many godly qualities that I see in you that I desire for my own life, but there are two things that have impacted me the most:

The first one I remember is how I would come downstairs in the morning before school and see you in your chair having your quiet time or on your knees praying. How many boys get to see that? Not many. That is one of my earliest childhood memories and you continue it to this day. I know that has been used in my life to help shape my walk with the Lord.

The second is this: Always hearing how proud you are of me and how much you love me. Those words have enabled me to expand my borders because I always knew there was someone who believed in me.

There are so many other memories with you…fishing, catching passes from you in the backyard as I wore out the grass from running back and forth, throwing the baseball, kicking the soccer ball around, playing basketball, tennis, and golf. Some of my favorite memories are from the golf course.

Although you traveled a lot, I still knew we were a priority and I won’t forget how we would run down the ramp at the terminal gate and jump on you. And then we would get our “present” that consisted of the candy you had bought during your last layover!

When you were in town, which was the majority of the time, you did always make it a point to be at my sporting events. Thank you for being there to watch me play Little League baseball, basketball and flag football. Then you were there to watch me run cross-country, play soccer, and tennis in high school. And then you made a few trips to watch me play tennis in college. A lot of guys never had their dad there to watch them play, but I did and it meant a lot. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

I also remember our family trips snow skiing, to the farm, trips to the beach, Colorado, and the countless other places we’ve been. One trip that stands out in my mind is when we went snow skiing in Switzerland. That’s one of my favorites! Thank you for the sacrifices you made to make those trips happen.

It’s because of you that I am where I am today. You have engrained many character qualities in me by your patient, insightful, and wise instruction. You taught me how to control my emotions in sports (which has definitely carried over into the real world!), the importance of quality work, to do my best at whatever I’m doing, and how to persevere.

I have had the privilege of being around many incredible Christian leaders, but I have not found one that I think more highly of, respect more as a person or leader, or would rather have as a father, mentor, and friend than you. I am so proud to call you my dad!

There are so many character qualities that I admire about you. Your wisdom, consistency, endurance, patience, sound judgment, inner strength, integrity, knowledge, understanding, self-control, your “get the job done” attitude, doing what is right no matter what the cost, and how you see everything in light of eternity. It is neat to see your natural leadership come through in every situation. You are one of the rare people who live out their Christian faith in every aspect of their life. You always have an encouraging word and a motivating spirit. You have laid a foundation in my life that will take me to heights I never would have been able to reach otherwise.

I am truly blessed beyond what I could ever have hoped for or imagined when it comes to having a dad. Thanks Dad for everything!

Your Son,

Todd

Copyright © 2004 by Todd Nagel. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The Forgotten Commandment



The Forgotten CommandmentHow do you, as an adult, express honor to your parents? Even if it has been a difficult relationship—even if you’ve been estranged—what’s your responsibility to obey and to keep the fifth commandment?

“Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God has given you.”

FamilyLife has released a revised 20th anniversary edition of a book created to help you honor your parents by writing a living tribute to them. The Forgotten Commandment (previously titled The Tribute and the Promise, and The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents) will be in the warehouse this week.

Last week, FamilyLife Today devoted two radio broadcasts to tributes guests have made to their parents. You can listen to the entire broadcasts here, but we’ve included some excerpts.

Medley of Tributes, Part 1 – Featuring Bill McCartney,  Crawford Loritts, Alex Kendrick, Andrew (son of Luis) Palau, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jani (daughter of Ray and Anne) Ortlund, and Vicky Case.

Medley of Tributes, Part 2 – Robert Lewis, Max Lucado, R.V. Brown, and Sharon Jaynes.

Filmmaker Alex Kendrick to his father, Larry:

“I don’t ever and have never wanted to be anybody else’s son. I’m proud of my dad, Larry Kendrick. You are a gift to me—for teaching me to love God—for demonstrating that yourself. . . I learned that from you. So, every book that we have written and every movie that we have made would not have been made had you not taught us to walk with the Lord. Thank you, Dad. I’m proud of you, and I love you.”

Former prodigal Andrew Palau, to his world evangelist father, Luis and his mother, Pat:

“Dad and Mom, I love you. I am so grateful that you never gave up on me. I just thank you for persevering through the difficult days— for having the boldness and the love for me to take me for the walk, and to plant that seed, and help me to know the truth that God did love me, and that He had a plan for me, and that He had made a sacrifice on my behalf. I thank you for writing the letters that you wrote to keep that at my attention.”

Evangelist R.V. Brown to his father, Daddy Fish:

“I want to just tell you what an awesome leader you were.  With no education, Dad, you taught me. You educated me how to love—Dad, thank you for teaching me to farm, to take care of the people, and share whatever I have with all the people. Dad, I’m the kind of man I am today because of who you are, Dad. Thank you for loving Mama. Thank you for the leadership and authority in which you raised us. Thank you for the discipline. Most of all, Father, I want to thank you for that hug, and that kiss, and that rub on my little round head, and saying, ‘You’re going to be okay, son.’ Dad, I love you.”

Men’s Fraternity creator Robert Lewis, to his parents, Thomas and Billie:

“Thanks, Daddy, for saying, “I’m sorry,” when you wrongfully hit me in anger one day. You don’t remember the incident, I know; but I do. It’s deep inside me now, and it comes back to me every time I need to say those words to my children and my wife. Seeing that day in my mind makes that humbling process easier.

I owe you both a thousand ‘Thank Yous.’ 

I guess, if I were offered one wish, it would be for one crisp fall evening, with the smell of burning leaves, and the Bearcat game in the air. I would be outside enjoying the bliss of youthful innocence. Mom, you would be frying those oysters; and Daddy, you would be calling out for my pet dog, Toddy. So here’s to my imperfect family—one that fell short in many respects, but one whose love makes the shortcomings easy to forget. Here’s to the family that never had it all together—but one just perfect enough for me.”

If you haven’t written a tribute to your parents, we’d encourage you to do it while you still can.

If you’ve given your parents a tribute that you’d like to share with the readers of Stepping Up, we’d love to hear about it. Whether it’s something you’ve written or recorded on audio or video, just Contact Us here.

You are the most interesting man in their world



This blog post first appeared in the Noah Gets a Nail Gun.

You’ve seen the commercials for the most interesting man in the world – he starts the morning saving endangered alpine birds, followed by a dominant performance at the international polo competition in Dagestan, then wrapping up the evening mending flaws in the theory of relativity over a cup of an exotic beverage he brewed the night before from seal scrotums, polar bear teeth and arctic ice. Quite a list of accomplishments for any one lifetime, yet just an average day when you are… the most interesting man in the world.

If the characterization wasn’t so over the top, I’d find my man card status threatened by the mere existence of such a person. But you don’t have to drink Dos Ickies to be found interesting. You don’t even have to be the most interesting man in the world. A much more attainable goal is to become The Most Interesting Dad to Your Kids. How do you do this? Start with pursuing things you find interesting.

Robert Lewis, author and founder of Men’s Fraternity, talks about the importance of a man having something to look forward to everyday. A man needs productive interests in his life, things that make him a better man. Too many guys in their 30s, when work gets hot and heavy and the kids get smelly and sticky, they give up all the activities that they found fun and interesting in their 20s. They pour their life into their job, come limping home to try to make it through one more night just barely enduring the kids, hopefully not checking out too long or blowing up too often, and then falling into bed in yard work clothes with one thigh hanging off the mattress, too exhausted to shower away the grass clippings. All merely to wake up and repeat the cycle again tomorrow. What joy. And by the time the weekend comes along, little league and dance parties consume any remaining energy. The only rest seen in a given week is their ritual seven minutes on the office toilet. Even that gets interrupted by the guy in the next stall calling his mom to wish her a happy birthday.

But as Robert Lewis said, it is important to do something with your life that is interesting, even if only to you, something that gives you energy and makes you look forward to the next day. Even if you think you don’t have the time. You must come to believe that it really is worth the time. Why? For you own sanity, for the sanity of your wife and kids, for opportunities to sharpen and be sharpened by other men.

FlyFishingFor your own sanity

Before we had kids I did a fair amount of fly fishing. At the time I had a friend who said two very important things to me, he said “I’ve explained to my wife that fly-fishing is cheaper and more entertaining than counseling.” Meaning, if he didn’t have some outlet he would probably go insane. He also said, “And if I ever get bored of fishing, I can just stop and fiddle with my gear.” Meaning, half of the fun of the sport for him is the acquiring of and learning how to use the gear. There was an artistry and cathartic aspect to just getting ready to fly fish that was interesting in and of itself. The tying of the flies, the practicing of the cast, the community and friendships that developed, all of this gave him joy. He didn’t have to be on the river to be enjoying the sport. But more than anything he understood that he needed this outlet to keep from going crazy. He had to have something like this in his life to keep him healthy.

I’ve seen a number of guys lately who are able to sustain the maddening pace of work/kids with no other outlets for a few years, mostly because the allure of their job keeps them going, but once they reach the pinnacle or plateau of their career, they look back down the hill and think “I shaved my face for this?” They’ve not fostered any part of their personal life and have thus become very un-interesting to almost everyone, including themselves.

Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” It’s interesting that we still know very little about the deepest parts of the ocean. We’ve been x thousands of miles away to the moon and explored the outer limits of the solar system, but can’t go seven miles down into the water. The pressure is so intense at that depth that if you were to inadvertently pluck a nose hair, your brains might shoot through the exposed follicle. Actually, people can’t even go to those depths, only unmanned vehicles.

But no worries, because this verse isn’t referring to the ocean (and none of us are that deep anyway), as an ancient Hebrew person couldn’t afford a full SCUBA system. And without oxygen and neoprene, it’s hard to get deeper than a dozen feet.

The Hebrew word for “draw it out” refers to the act of getting water out of a well, of drawing up a bucket. And it comes from a word describing, “lowness as a state or goal.” Remember the cartoons where the well bucket would drop and send the rope spinning, causing the crank handle to do a Mike Tyson on some pour soul’s face? The bucket drops in a hurry. In fact, the natural state of the bucket is lowness – is to settle in to the bottom of the well and stay there. But when you’re low – whether you meant to get there or not, you’ve got to draw it up. When tempted to vegetate, you’ve got to pull up the bucket!

I know a guy who hates his job. I mean HATES it. I felt sorry for him for the first year or so, but now I don’t want to hear about it any more. I don’t ever ask him about it. Because if he still hates his job, it’s his own fault. Only he can make that change. He has to find something interesting. But that’s no easy task. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things a man can do. It takes intentional, hard work to get to the heart of a man. But a man of understanding, or, for our purposes, an “interesting” man, will draw it out.

For the sanity of your family

When I was a kid, my dad often amazed me. He seemed to be the strongest, fastest, smartest person I had ever met. There was nothing he seemingly couldn’t do.

Denial the key to happy marriage?



Last week, I sat in on broadcast taping FamilyLife Today radio broadcast. Shaunti Feldhahn was discussing her latest book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. I’m in the process of reading through the book and plan to write some blog posts about it as it relates to men.

happy marriage

Photo by Bill Branson

The book is the result of her surveying and interviewing about 1,000 couples, looking to find common denominators to marriage success. One of the findings that caught my attention was the idea of assuming the best of a spouse.

Feldhahn found out that more than 95 percent of couples who identified themselves as highly happy said they know their spouse still cares about them, even in the midst of an argument. For those who called themselves mostly happy, it was still 87 percent. By contrast under 60 percent of struggling couples felt that way about their spouse.

This wasn’t the first time I’d run into this phenomenon.

I keep my eye on research about marriage and family issues. Several years ago, I ran across a study that piqued my interest. The finding was that perception, and not reality, is the source of marital bliss. 

Researchers from Northwestern University surveyed 77 married couples and 92 dating couples about their relationship. Or their perception of it. The article I had read in LiveScience took a very jaded view of the researchers’ findings, but acknowledged the same conclusions as in Feldhahn’s new book.

As self-interested, self-absorbed creatures, our own thoughts, feelings, needs and goals come first, and that sometimes means fooling ourselves into thinking we are the center of other people’s thoughts, feelings, needs and goals when, in fact, they are mired in their own business.

But should we be disillusioned by our own illusions? Maybe not. Happy marriages might just be those in which both partners uphold a very nice projection of each other, even when things aren’t so great. And this makes sense. Happiness is a state of mind, and if denial paints a partner better than they really are, the relationship is bound to be satisfying, as long as no one is slapped in the face with reality.

This perception is not so much about denial as it is about being charitable and gracious to a spouse. And this revelation is nothing new. One of the best-known Bible passages, even cited by non-believers, comes from the 13th chapter of the Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In it he lists seven things that love is and eight that it isn’t.

Love IS:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Truthful
  • Protective
  • Trusting
  • Hopeful
  • Persevering

Love ISN’T

  • Envious
  • Boastful
  • Proud
  • Rude
  • Self-Seeking
  • Easily Angered
  • A Score-Keeper
  • Glad About Evil

Any guy who’s been married more than a few days knows the difference between the first list and second comes down to willful choice. There will be times when you feel your wife’s actions deserve a snide remark, but what she needs is to be shown love and forbearance.

I’ve come to realize that the best way to avoid the low road is to run everything through the filter of Philippians 4:8, which challenges us to look exclusively at the other person in the best possible light.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right,whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

So, actually, seeking the best in the one you’ve seen fit to commit your life to is not denial of the truth… it’s the recognition of it.

What makes a leader?



In creating the Stepping Up men’s video series, FamilyLife interviewed men in the New Orleans French Quarter, asking the following question:

“What makes a leader?”
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Some of the guys in the video were on target with their answers, others were a bit off. Below, we’ve pulled some quotes, not from just any guy on the street, but from some men who have been intentional about their leadership.

. . .

“If you look in Ephesians, Chapter 5, and you look at the list of qualifications, really, for a husband—you look at this picture of what it means to be a Christ-like leader—basically, to lead a wife as Christ leads the church. You find that the picture is not just about a guy who pounds his chest and, “Me man; you woman—me speak; you do.” He’s to lead in love. He’s to lead in the Word. He’s to lead in righteousness. He’s to lead in selflessness, and he is to lead in intimacy.

“Most guys don’t understand servant-leadership from that perspective. So, it’s very important that when we talk about the way a husband is supposed to lead, we don’t just take the culture’s definition of leadership and superimpose that on the Scriptures. We have to get into the Word of God to determine what biblical leadership in the home looks like; and then look for an individual who understands that, as opposed to just the cultural norm.”

- Voddie Baucham, from Discovering Biblical Leadership – FamilyLife Today radio broadcast

“The statue is of William Leftwich. It is a statue of a man, with one arm pointed to his left—his rifle is in that arm—his body is clearly running in the direction of his outstretched rifle. His right arm is crooked; and it is beckoning those who, although unseen, are behind him. His head is pointed back at them. You can tell he’s yelling something. Below that statue, it says simply, “Follow me!”

“And that, I think, is a phenomenal picture of leadership. It is: “If you want to know where to go, watch me. Follow me because I will be doing what I ask you to do, and I will be leading the way toward a mission that is worthy of being accomplished.” This man, ultimately, died in Viet Nam because he went on every rescue mission for the Reconnaissance Marines that he sent out. One day, on the rescue mission of the men he commanded, his helicopter was shot down and he died. He was doing exactly what he asked his men to do. When he said, “Follow me!” they listened.”

- Donovan Campbell, author of The Leader’s Code, from Characteristics of a Leader, FamilyLife Today radio broadcast

“Two words—serve and lead—may seem like a contradiction, but they are inseparable according to Scripture. While the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:23 that “the husband is the head of the wife,” he quickly puts to rest any notions that this leadership allows any form of selfish male dominance. He completes the sentence with “as Christ also is the head of the church.” Then the passage goes on to say that husbands should love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25).

“This paints a picture of leadership that is contrary to how the world views it. A man is called to be a servant-leader—to take responsibility for his wife and children and to put their needs ahead of his own. He is called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love—the type of love we see in God toward his children.”

- Dennis Rainey, What Robs Men of Courage?