Stepping Up as couples



I’ve led small groups in my home and in church for years, but the response from a group of ladies actually took me by surprise

The Stepping Up 10-week video series is geared toward men, challenging them to be all God desires them to be as husbands and fathers. I was a little more than halfway through leading my third group of men through the study when I heard the voice of a woman in one of the sessions.

stepping up as couples

Chuck and Melissa Douglas

“It must be hard to be a man today.”

That sentence validated what I suspect so many men feel in our culture, and I wanted my wife to hear it. Melissa is very supportive, but she was not involved with the details of my leading this study. After all, this was my thing with the guys, not something for the ladies.

That is until we talked that evening.

I told her that I really wanted her to understand not only how the series was challenging me as a husband and father, but how most of the struggles that we men face are really common to all of us. That is when she suggested that we go through the study together with other couples.

Navigating the masculine landscape from a woman’s perspective

Most of the more than 100,000 who have done Stepping Up, have been men participating in either a small group or at weekend event setting for men. Still, we took the study to our couples small group at church with a question: “Can a wife learn anything from attending a video-based Bible study geared toward her husband?” In other words, would it work to do a study where we were stepping up as couples? After just the first session we had our answer: a resounding “Yes!”

Rebecca Jarrard, one of those ladies, commented, “Women need to be clear on the pressures their husbands face daily so they can understand and encourage them in ways that most fulfill their biblical roles as wives.” For Rebecca, attending the Stepping Up small group was a “peek inside the male mind.” The study helped her understand God’s perspective on the subject of masculinity, not the kind the world offers, but the biblical kind of masculinity for which God designed men.

Another friend and classmate, Chrissy Batson, thought that attending the study as a couple was a great idea. She did not shy away when she heard the study was originally geared toward men and contains mostly male-oriented subject matter. “That doesn’t scare me,” she said. “I’m always interested in my husband’s perspective, even if it’s not easy to hear.”

Coming into the study, she felt she was doing a pretty good job of understanding her husband, but also recognized her failures. She wanted to be more proactive in setting her husband up to be the leader in their home that they both wanted him to be.

Counter-cultural – in a good way

A surprise in presenting the study for couples was how the material applied to our daughters. Each of the women commented on their eagerness to understand real biblical masculinity—not just as a way to make them better mothers to their sons, but also to be better equipped to talk to their daughters about what “Mr. Right” really looks like.

Each couple who participated in the study agreed that they don’t want to just talk about real biblical manhood in their homes—they want to model it. They acknowledged that little exists in the current culture which resembles manhood and family leadership the way God intended. In the course of the study, a few of the ladies commented on ways that society is working against them and their children in their quest for building a family based on God’s design. Stepping Up helped them understand how important it is for husbands and wives to be proactive in teaching their children time-tested biblical principles that apply to every member of the family. They also came to understand how important it is to work together as a team to fulfill God’s purposes for their families.

The benefit of a wife…stepping up

Of course, we husbands are reaping a benefit as well. Several of the men expressed genuine eagerness for their wives to hear the same things they would have heard in a Stepping Up series for just men. One of the husbands said having his wife on the same page as he works to achieve his goals for manhood is invaluable.

“Knowing that she understands and empathizes with my struggles is deeply comforting. I know I’m not alone, but I have my best cheerleader at my side. Each of our wives wants the best for us as men, and their investment in this study proves their sincerity.”

Rebecca’s husband, Ken, put it this way, “We’ve always been partners, but now she understands how she completes me like never before. After 22 years of marriage my wife is beginning to understand the male mind in new ways—our struggles and challenges. What a benefit to my sons!”

The perspective of a group facilitator

Experiencing Stepping Up as a couple has given my Melissa a deeper understanding of how to come alongside me as I seek to pass along a biblical legacy to my boys. She is regularly encouraging me to live out the commitments I’ve made to my family. Rebecca and Chrissy are doing the same thing for their husbands.

As a group facilitator, I had a sense that the Stepping Up material would be valuable to the couples. But I really wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming response of our wives and the insightful discussion they contributed to the study. What is even more important is the sense of unity all the couples have gained by attending the Stepping Up series together.

One wife expressed it best when she said that going through the workbook study with her husband made them feel like they are part of a team.

A winning team.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPSeekTruthYou have just finished reading Stepping Up as couples post from the Stepping Up blog for men.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPthinkHave you and your wife ever talked about what it means to be a man? What would that conversation look like?

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPembraceAsk your wife what she and your children need you to be as a man? Tell her what she does that empowers you.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPPassItOnBe part of the Stepping Up 10-week series study with other men, or even with couples.

- – -

stepping up as couplesChuck Douglas earned a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A former police officer, Chuck authored a study in the Homebuilder Couple Series, Protecting Your First Responder Marriage. Chuck enjoys spending time outdoors with his family hunting and fishing near their home in the North Georgia mountains. He and his wife Melissa have been married for 22 years and have been on staff with FamilyLife since 2001. They have four children.

 

5 things that make her happy



If research showed you that there were five little things you could do to turn a marriage around or to keep a marriage strong and that they were easy and free, what would you do?

Well, here’s your chance.

5 things that make her happyShaunti Feldhahn spent years interviewing couples to find the ones who had the happiest marriages. Her purpose was to ask them their secrets, and pass them along to others. The research in her recent book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, is thorough and her findings are a game-changer.

She took the five most common actions of the happiest couples and compiled them in a list she calls the Fantastic Five (for him and for her). So, guys, when it comes to your wife, here are the five things that make her happy?

The Fantastic Five for Her OR How to Make Her Happy
  1. Take her by the hand.
  2. Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
  3. Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee when you’re sitting next to her (especially when you’re in public).
  4. Sincerely tell her she’s beautiful.
  5. Pull yourself out of a funk.

Yep, that’s it. Believe it or not, when Shaunti asked wives, between 72-82 percent said these five actions deeply pleased them. That’s not just the happy wives, but all wives. Even two-thirds of the wives in struggling marriages strongly agreed these are the things that make her happy.

In addition to the five actions that seem to be common attractions to all women, Shaunti encourages each man to understand that there are also unique actions that speak specifically to his wife. Knowing and being able to speak your wife’s love language is a huge step toward understanding this. Maybe she likes to receive gifts, or likes your undivided attention. She may like you to do little things for her, or speak words of encouragement. Or maybe it’s your touch that does it for her.

Whatever the case, the initiative you take is almost as important as the action itself. It says to your wife that you truly care about her. That’s great comfort and security for her.

So why don’t you make her happy and try them out? What do you have to lose besides a stale marriage?

. . .

Oh, you’re probably wondering what five things she found that a wife does that pleases her husband most. Here they are.

The Fantastic Five for Him
  1. She notices your effort and sincerely thanks you for it.
  2. She says “You did a great job at __________.”
  3. She mentions in front of others something you did well.
  4. She shows that she desires you sexually, and you please her sexually
  5. She makes it clear to you that you make her happy.

I’d encourage you to get this book, or any of Shaunti’s books. They’re quick reads, and chock full of well-researched, but very practical advice.

make her happyYou’ve just completed reading the article, 5 things that make her happy, on the Stepping Up men’s blog.

Shaunti Feldhahn details more Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages on the FamilyLife Today radio program

STEPembrace

Pick one of the Fantastic Five to help you build up your wife. Next week, pick a different one and work on that.

STEPpassShare this blog post and the FamilyLife Today broadcasts with your wife so you can work on your Fantastic Fives together.

How are you rubbing against time?



rubbing against time - it's just rainIt’s been raining off and on here for the last several days. Yesterday when I got home from work I had to run back out to the store so I took my two boys with me. We parked and I took my four year old’s hand to go inside. He pulled me all across the parking lot row we were on so he could walk through every puddle that was available. He got his shoes, socks and feet soaking wet. And was happy as he could be.

When we got home, I wanted to go for a run even though I knew there was a good chance of getting rained on. My nine year old wanted to ride his bike with me so we struck out for the jogging trail by our house. He proceeds to ride his bike through every puddle on the paved trail and through every mud hole he could find on the side of the trail. Starting from the back of his head going all the way down to the heels of his shoes he was covered in either water or mud. And now he too was happy as he could be.

As dinner was cooking the two of them were on the trampoline and the rains came down and began to flood the earth. It was a downpour. I stepped onto our deck to see the boys completely soaked, jumping up and down, grinning ear to ear, and between his screams of joy I heard my four year old say to his brother, “This is awesome!”

I started to wonder what’s happened to us men and our childlike joy of jumping in puddles, riding through mud and playing in the rain? At what point in life did we start becoming averse to such things instead of looking forward to them? When did we start looking at the weather and then concern ourselves with packing an umbrella? Or when did we decide not to do something like go for a hike or go watch a game because we were afraid it might rain? Better yet, when was the last time it started raining and you grabbed your kids and spent 30 minutes playing in it with them?

One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. While I don’t agree with all his theology, I love his writing style and he often throws out some good, thought provoking comments. In one of his books he writes, “A man’s senses are either sharpened or dulled by the way he rubs against time.” How are you rubbing against time these days? Are you being dulled by long hours of work? Are you dulling yourself by always being on your phone checking email, scores, or Pinterest? (If you answered yes to Pinterest you need intervention. Immediately.) Not only are you dulling yourself, you’re dulling your relationships with those around you. Perhaps it’s time for you to change your work life and phone habits. And  in place of those, reclaim that boyhood, carefree, “enjoy the little things in life” attitude. You’ll be amazed at how much freedom and fun there is when you do this. I promise you’ll love it and so will your kids!

You just finished reading the Stepping Up blog post, How are you rubbing against time?

For a jump start on how to engage with your children, read 10 Ideas: Creating Quality Time with Your Kids.

STEPembrace

What do you plan to do to put aside your activities and ask your kids what they want you to do with them?

STEPpassShare one of these two articles with your wife or a fellow father. Help each other to be more involved in your children’s world.

What it means to be a man



The following post first appeared on Breakpoint Commentary radio broadcast on June 11, 2014, and the transcript on Breakpoint.org.

Two of my recent BreakPoint commentaries—the ones about the Epic Fatherhood initiative and film critic Ann Hornaday’s linking the shootings in Santa Barbara to the stories Hollywood tells us—would appear to be unrelated.

But looking back on them, I find that this isn’t true. Both touch on the same subject: what it means to be a man.

That’s obvious in the case of the one on Epic Fatherhood. But when Hornaday wonders about the possible cultural impact of “outsized frat-boy fantasies” and men being “raised on a steady diet” of comedies” featuring “schubbly arrested adolescents,” she’s also talking about manhood.

7MenGraphicWhen I was working on my book, “7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness,” I thought about the way that our culture has depicted men, specifically fathers, over the past half-century or so.

It’s hard to believe today, but one of the iconic television shows of the 1950s was actually called “Father Knows Best.” And believe it or not, the title was not ironic! Jim Anderson, played by Robert Young, really did know best. He was kind, patient, generous and firm when he needed to be.

As the saying goes, that was then and this is, well, not then.

Arguably the defining phrase of what’s been called “the long 1960s,” which ran from approximately 1967 to 1980, was “question authority.” As I wrote in “7 Men,” since that time we’ve adopted the idea that no one is really in a position to declare that something is right or wrong. Authority figures and role models have taken a major hit in this process.
Perhaps no one more than dear old dad. Jim Anderson of “Father Knows Best” was replaced by Archie Bunker, a loud-mouthed bigot, followed by Homer Simpson, a buffoon. Both of them are lovable and fun to watch, but not role models.

Now this lack of male role models in popular culture is tragic for many reasons, one of which is that being a father is an essential part of what it means to be a man. That’s not the same thing as saying that you can’t be a man unless you’re a father—three of the seven men I profiled in “7 Men”—George Washington, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Pope John Paul II—did not have children.

But that did not make them any less fathers to the people in their lives. In his biography of John Paul II, “Witness to Hope,” George Weigel chronicled how the then-Karol Wojtyla functioned as a father-figure to a group of younger people in his native Krakow.

Likewise, Washington was definitely a father-figure to his men. So much so that he was able to defuse a possible mutiny by unpaid Continental Army veterans, simply through appealing to their shared sacrifices.

And that is the essence of fatherhood and manhood: service and sacrifice. They are what enable a man to avoid the false choices of on the one hand “macho” domineering and on the other hand the emasculation that denies the differences between the sexes. The men I wrote about in “7 Men” “seemed to know that at the heart of what it is to be a man is that idea of being selfless, of putting your greatest strength at God’s disposal . . . of giving what is yours in the service of others.”

We’re extremely unlikely to get the role models we need from mass culture. That makes it especially incumbent on us Christian fathers and men to be those role models, starting at home.

MetaxasMug2
Eric Metaxas is a Christian biographer of, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” and “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to end Slavery.” He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. and currently is co-host of BreakPoint, a daily radio commentary launched by Eric’s mentor Chuck Colson.

7 keys to redeem your marriage



Michele Weiner-Davis, nicknamed “The Divorce Buster,” is a marriage enthusiast, a passionate optimist, and an author who understands hope for marriage.  At sixteen, she was shocked and shattered to see her parents’ divorce.  She decided that no matter what, she would work to make her own marriage work, avoid divorce at all costs, and give her children the gift of growing up with both their parents. A while back, I spoke with Michele for an hour on the phone.  Afterward, I read her book, The Divorce Remedy, in one sitting. I was excited about what I learned for my marriage, and am passionate about bringing her brand of solution-oriented wisdom and action-based advice to hungry, hurting, and desperately broken couples. The following are some nuggets of truth I gleaned from our conversation as well as The Divorce Remedy on how to redeem your marriage.

1. Realize that divorce is a trap

Fifty percent of divorces happen in the first seven years of marriage because people don’t know what to expect. Young couples must be taught that conflict, angry emotions, and frustrating differences exist in all relationships. This doesn’t mean their marriage is broken, their spouse is flawed, or they made a mistake. Entertaining the option of divorce steals your ability to best relate and improve in your marriage.

2. Look out for the walk-away wife syndrome

Two-thirds of divorces are filed by women.  Early in marriage, women are the usual caretakers of the relationship, frequently checking to see if the relationship is close, connected, and warm.  When it is lacking, they press for more closeness. Instead, men hear it as nagging, which causes them to withdraw. Next, women try to get their husband’s attention by complaining about all areas of life, which are impacted by loneliness—lack of understanding or connection. Instead of having a positive effect, men feel disrespected and recoil. Negative patterns continue until a woman gives up and thinks she’ll be happier without him or with another person. The husband notes less friction and assumes things are better, or just fine. Eventually, she drops the bomb.  “I want out.” He is devastated and shocked and says, “I had no idea you were this unhappy.” This seals the coffin as she concludes he has always been clueless and uncaring. The tragic thing is that this is the point when the husband is now desperate and motivated to work on and rebuild their marriage. But the walkaway wife has closed the door on the way out.

3. Seek solutions before explanations

Most therapy is premised on a long process of introspective journey into the “causes” of your problems stemming from your background.  Wiener-Davis practices Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy.  This immediately sets goals and helps couples determine concrete steps to heal and grow and redeem your marriage.  The emphasis is on changed behavior that each spouse can implement immediately. (The intense exceptions are physical abuse, dangerous addictions, and constant infidelity. However, these represent less than 10-15 percent of marital problems.)

4. Don’t assume the worst of your spouse

Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. In assuming the negative, we behave in self-defeating, relationship-damaging ways. We turn inward, get selfish, react, accuse, refuse, and withhold respect or love.  Does this work for us? Give your spouse permission to be flawed. After all, we are flawed, as well.  Isn’t that how God works with us?

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? –Romans 2:3-4

Grace works. We need to receive it and to give it. It softens consciences—theirs and ours.

5. Change your marriage by changing yourself

Even if the other spouse has a foot out the door, there is opportunity to turn it around. Don’t insist that two must be working on the relationship at the same time. One person can make big changes in behavior to change the relationship and redeem your marriage.

6. Stop doing things that don’t work or that make the situation worse

You’ve heard the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing, but expecting different results.” Stop doing what is not working. A committed spouse may actually be driving the other person away. If you know how to push your spouse’s buttons to get a negative response, you have proof that you can learn to push their positive-response buttons and impact the relationship. Ending the unfruitful cycle of “more-of-the-same behavior” is the next key to success in healing and improving your marriage.

7. Recognize that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself

Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.  Letting go of resentment helps your spouse, but it also frees you to be your best self, not a depressed, bitter victim. It does not depend on forgetting, just refusing to keep reminding. Decide right now. Stop blaming. Forgive. Make peace. You will be a better person and good effects will ripple toward others. No matter the condition of your marriage, desperate or strong, you will gain from her wisdom on divorce busting and marriage strengthening. Weiner-Davis’ message and resources will be a practical injection of hope into situations that seem hopeless. Finally, the wisdom of counseling is only part of the equation when you want to improve your life and redeem your marriage. Getting the focus off your spouse is a start. More central to the matter is seeking depth in our relationship with God and His power to enable us to behave in the best manner.  And that starts by humbly learning from the Creator of our marriage and recognizing the true enemy of it.

…“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. –James 4:6-8

When two people—or even one—humbly recognize their need for God’s strength to successfully navigate the tricky world of personal intimacy, that relationship becomes different. We are made to depend upon and draw from the infinite power of the One who created us for intimacy with Himself and continues to redeem us from ourselves and for relationships.

NextStepsRedeemingYourMarriage

 

The manly art of the handshake



This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Handshake Statue

The handshake – almost as old as stone

Over the last year or so I’ve become discouraged at the decline of the firm, manly handshake. During the time at church where you turn around and greet those around you, I know there’s a 50/50 chance the guy I’m about to shake hands with will have a lighter grip than my grandmother. And as I’ve had to interact with other boys my son’s age, I’m noticing very few of them know how to properly do this simple, but very important act. Someone once said about making an impression, “three hours of interaction with a stranger is automatically created by the physical touch of that initial handshake.”

For me personally, if I shake your hand and all you give me in return is a dainty little squeeze back, or even worst, you only offer me four fingers to shake, my entire perception of you changes in an instant. I don’t have a study to back it up but I’m telling you, you lose respect from people if after they shake your hand they are left feeling like they just grasped a wet noodle.

You also don’t want to be the guy others never want to shake hands with again because they were bruised from you squeezing to hard. If you hear cracking when you shake someone’s hand then you’re doing it too hard. However, I would opt for the vice grip handshake any day over the wet noodle handshake. At least I know you’re a man. You may have a Napoleon complex but it’s still better than the other alternative.

In all seriousness, it is important to own a good handshake and then pass it on to your son. Not sure why its happening, but we have begun to neglect teaching our kids the finer points of human interaction like the handshake. This one act can convey dignity, confidence and respect. Or it can communicate you have none of these things.

The handshake also speaks to our physical maturity - which is a mark of manhood. Obviously men come in different shapes and sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical power, but common to all men is a natural strength and confidence that is given to us by God. He created us to be strong, masculine individuals. The handshake is a great way we demonstrate control over our God given strength – not giving a bone-crusher handshake and not giving a limp-fish handshake. By doing it properly, we display our innate masculine design.

Steps to a good handshake:

    • keep the fingers together with the thumb up and open
    • slide your hand into the other person’s so that each person’s web of skin between thumb and forefingers touches the other’s
    • is firm, but not bone-crushing
    • lasts about 3 seconds
    • may be “pumped” once or twice from the elbow
    • is released after the shake, even if the introduction continues
    • includes good eye contact with the other person

My nine year old and I have practiced his handshake over the last several months. I first sat down and explained to him why a good handshake was important and then we worked on it together. Every so often I’ll walk up to him and hold out my hand to see if he still has it– which he does. He’s also been complimented on having a good handshake by other men and when I circle back with him about that and tell him how proud I am, his chest swells a little and he gets this smile across his face because he knows he’s becoming a man.

Part of our jobs as dads is to teach these kinds of things to our sons. There are a lot of small life lessons like this that are extremely valuable and we need to be instructing our sons in them. Don’t not engage with your boys because you think it’s not worth talking about or just assume he’ll get if figured out. Big or small, press into them with your son and be his teacher.

And to learn about the proper way to give a high-five check out this video.

The cost paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence



Our last post detailed the convictions and courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This post showed the price many of them paid for the courage of their convictions.

signers of the declaration independence hallTheir courage and sacrifice

Strong convictions often bring about strong consequences, especially when they oppose someone addicted to power. The British military had already been acting as though it was above the law; now it would be all out war. Citizens who didn’t support the king would see suffering. They could expect to be imprisoned and have their property confiscated.

And those who led the effort to step up and break away from King George would especially face serious consequences: not just the vengeance of the British throne, but their unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom came at high personal price. Consider the fate of a number of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

George Walton of Georgia was wounded and captured in 1778 leading his state’s militia in the defense of his hometown of Savannah.

30-year old Thomas Heyward, Jr. of South Carolina signed the declaration at the great displeasure of his father, who was sympathetic to the king and told Thomas he would likely hang for the act. The two men resolved their differences before the elder Heyward died the next year. Two years later, Thomas, along with fellow South Carolina signers Edward Rutledge and Arthur Middleton, were taken prisoner in the siege of Charleston and held nearly a year to the war’s end.

Richard Stockton of New Jersey had his home overrun by the British invasion. He managed to get his family to safety, but he was captured, specifically because he signed the Declaration of Independence. He remained imprisoned for years, the last half year of which he nearly starved and froze to death. In battered health, he was released and returned to his home to find that all his furniture, crops and livestock were taken or destroyed, and his library—one of the colony’s best—was burned.

John Witherspoon of New Jersey, an active clergyman and president of the College of New Jersey (later to become Princeton), shut down and evacuated the school when British troops invaded the area. He spent most of the rest of his life rebuilding the college. Witherspoon also lost his son James in the battle of Germantown.

Thomas McKean of Delaware led an army the day after signing the Declaration to help George Washington in the defense of New York City and narrowly escaped with his life from cannon fire. In the next year he was on the run from the British, having to move his family five times.

John Hart of New Jersey was also pursued by the British. His property was invaded and looted. Two of his young children fled to relatives’ homes nearby, and Hart himself took refuge where he could in the surrounding woods and in nearby caves. He returned to his home a few months later, and a few years later he offered the fields surrounding his property as an encampment of Washington and 12,000 troops.

Lewis Morris of New York lost almost all of his property and wealth in the war, much of it within just two months of signing the Declaration of Independence. He served as a brigadier general during the war and spent nearly all his post-war days working to rebuild his property and farmlands. His frail wife was imprisoned by the British and never recovered her health.

Philip Livingston of New York was forced from residence to residence by the British armies. His first two homes became a British barracks and hospital, and the other two homes were burned to the ground. As well as the properties he lost to the enemy, he sold several others to support the colonial war effort, and died suddenly in 1778 before he could rebuild.

Lyman Hall, on the advice of General Washington, took his wife and son and fled his Georgia home for Connecticut, where he remained for two years until the war’s end. He returned to his property in Georgia, but he had lost most of what he had.

Carter Braxton of Virginia invested a large amount of his wealth in the revolutionary effort, as well as the shipping and privateering industry, which furnished the war effort with supplies. The debt that he incurred forced him to leave his estate and move to a smaller home.

Robert Morris of Pennsylvania surpassed all when it came to putting up his personal fortunes to support the war effort. Before any country or major bank was willing to extend credit to the fledgling United States, Morris was there. The $10,000 that he loaned the new government supplied Washington’s desperate troops, who went on to defeat the British at Trenton. Like Braxton, he also supported the shipping industry that delivered provisions to the soldiers and citizens. Morris never recovered his pre-war wealth, but his investment helped turn the tide of war in favor of the Americans and helped established the United States as a nation.

signers of the declaration documentThe legacy of their actions

These were just a fourth of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. While others may not have sacrificed as much as these, each risked his personal safety, integrity and possessions to stand for freedom from tyranny and oppose the unlawful British rule.

Despite their admirable actions, these men were not without their character flaws. Several were slaveowners. Massachusetts’ Elbridge Gerry has his name forever linked to the unethical process of gerrymandering. Benjamin Rush, the father of American medicine, was a gossip and was even caught forging an anonymous letter seeking to undermine George Washington’s leadership of the continental army. Benjamin Franklin was a playboy and given to deception.

But at a crucial moment in history, these men were willing to step up and sacrifice their personal comforts for the good of their countrymen. Like John Adams, each had doubts about the wisdom of breaking free from England and the prospects of their success. But they were committed to the ideals of equality and responsible government. It’s doubtful any of them could have imagined that the nation they birthed would still celebrate 238 years later, with fireworks and feasts.

But like Adams, they would almost certainly approve.

Next Steps

1.  Read Dennis Rainey’s article, “What Robs Men of Courage?”

2. In Rainey’s book on manhood, he combines stories about courage with a strong challenge for men to step in their families.  Order Stepping Up.

3. FamilyLife’s Stepping Up website features a blog and helpful information about our exciting Stepping Up video series.

The courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence



When you think of the Fourth of July, what words come to mind?

signers of the declaration flagHoliday? Grilling? Fireworks?

But 238 years ago, it was a different three words.

Conviction. Courage. Sacrifice.

On July 4, 1776, 56 men met in Philadelphia to pass a resolution declaring their independence from England. It was anything but a picnic. What they did that day at Independence Hall would cost them greatly in the years to come. But it paved the way for a radical new way of thinking about government that would change the course of human history.

It’s not that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were against celebration. In fact, two days earlier, when 12 of the colonies had ratified the document, one of its architects penned a letter to his wife, predicting that the Second of July would be celebrated every year thereafter.

The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.

Four days later, the Liberty Bell rang out to summon the people to the first public reading of the document. As the words were read, there were great shouts of affirmation, and great celebration to follow. A year later, Congress would authorize the use of fireworks as an appropriate means of celebrating the birth of a new nation.

But amidst his feelings of enthusiasm, John Adams’ words above also reflected a somber tone that was common to all who signed the Declaration of Independence. In doing so, they knew they were inviting a declaration of war by England. They knew that, as traitors, they were essentially forfeiting all their possessions to the crown. Essentially, in signing the document, they were putting bounties on their own heads.

signers of the declaration document

The Declaration of Independence (click to read)

Their convictions

But in spite of the obvious cost, they considered the impact their actions would have for the people of America. They understood from Scripture that government is a sacred trust given by God to protect the inherent rights of people created in His image. Their new document stood toe-to-toe against the prevailing governmental idea of the day—the divine right of kings, which held that, when the one on the throne spoke, it was the voice of God speaking.

The Declaration of Independence contended that King George was abusing his God-given power as leader of England and the American colonies. It was their responsibility as decent men, they stated in their document, to challenge him on this for the sake of his subjects. Benjamin Franklin himself recommended a national motto in defense of their actions.

“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

They listed King George’s offenses against the people and against his office – 27 of them. The signers of the Declaration maintained that their continued efforts to bring their grievances before the king and his appointed  leaders had been met with indifference, if not oppression. They had no other recourse, they stated in the document, but to declare their independence from the tyrant who represented neither them nor the God who entrusted him with his position of leadership. They rejected his authority because King George had rejected His authority.

Their courage and sacrifice

Strong convictions often bring about strong consequences, especially when they oppose someone addicted to power. The British military had already been acting as though it was above the law; now it would be all out war. Citizens who didn’t support the king would see suffering. They could expect to be imprisoned and have their property confiscated.

And those who led the effort to step up and break away from King George would especially face serious consequences: not just the vengeance of the British throne, but their unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom came at high personal price.

Thursday’s post will detail the personal costs paid by 13 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Freedom isn’t cheap, and it certainly wasn’t for these men.

Has the excitement worn off?



This post originally appeared on SwayzeWaters.com. Swayze is kicker/punter for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL), who start their regular season tonight.

not normalAbout a week after I reported for training camp in Toronto this past season, I got all dressed up and went downtown for a big ceremony to celebrate our previous season.

All of my teammates, coaches, front office staff and management were decked out in the finest of suites. The venue was elegant and decorated in double blue. A photographer was on hand to catch all of the action. This was the night we had all been waiting on. We had already won the 100th Grey Cup just six months previous but tonight was the night we got our rings.

We had a full course meal. Medium rare steaks. We were able to sit back and take a little break from the grueling hours of training camp that we were in the middle of that month. They brought the lights down and showed a video of one of our captains talking about the ring, how it was designed, what it symbolized, etc. Then they brought them out on trays. They set them on our tables in front of us with our names on the outside of the box.

I can still remember this perfectly. A room full of grown men looking around at each other with childlike grins wondering what would be in the box. What design did they go with? Yellow or white gold? No telling what all was running through the minds that were in that room. I was excited. Ecstatic. I was a champion and was about to have the ring to prove it.

They then counted down for us to see the rings… 3….2….1….. boxes sprung open all around the room and guys began laughing and talking. Everyone just sat there smiling and looking at the shiny gold and sparkling diamonds. All 139 of them… This was no ordinary ring. “This ring cost someone a lot of money,” I remember thinking to myself. I slipped the ring on my finger and began taking pictures of it … taking pictures with my teammates. I couldn’t wait to show everyone the pictures and tell them about it! As quick as I could I was posting, tweeting, emailing and texting. Even facetiming (I don’t think thats a word)! I was excited! This was no ordinary day.. and this was certainly no ordinary ring. I had to tell people!

Fast forward to today…. I brought this same ring with me to a school the other morning where I was speaking at an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) huddle. I have done this numerous times since that night I received it. I have brought it to signings, churches, school, etc. Hundreds of people, both young and old have posed for pictures with it and tried it on. Most of whom don’t even know about the CFL or the Argonauts. But its BIG, its SHINY and it symbolizes victory. People love it!

Over the last year the excitement has worn off for me. I’ve seen it so many times and taken so many pictures with it that it has become normal. When I take it out of its box to show others I don’t get as excited as I did that night in Toronto last year. This ring that I was so happy and eager to show the world just a year ago has become normal to me now. I’ve gotten used to it. (I’m ready to win another one!)

Has your excitement worn off ?

I told some kids about this the other morning …. If we are not careful, this is exactly what we will do with the gospel. We will take the son of God, who is far more valuable and beautiful than any ring man could make, and somehow in our twisted way of thinking and being we will make him ‘normal.’ We will hear the gospel and not respond. We will feel called to action and reason why we shouldn’t follow through. We will hear the Easter story about Jesus Christ stepping in and giving his life for ours; covering our sins with his perfect blood–reconciling us with our Holy God–then rising from the dead, and defeating sin and death. We will hear all of this and not get excited.

How is that possible?

How can we hear this story and not get excited? How can we see God’s perfect love for us on the cross and not tell people? This is not just a normal story. This is not just a normal man. Lets get excited (every day). Lets tell people (all people)!

This is way better than a ring!

SwyzeWatersSwayze Waters is a Christian, family man, and athlete, in that order. He and Kendal have been married since 2011, and he’s been playing pro football since 2009. Swayze is beginning his third year as a kicker/punter with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, the 2012 Grey Cup champions.

Five generations of fathering



This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Five generations of fatheringThis is a picture of five generations of Nagels that I keep at my office. Moving left to right is my great-great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, father and on the far right is the one guy not in a coat and tie – me. The verse on the framed picture is from Proverbs 17:6b.

“The glory of a son is his father.”

I’ve been blessed with a strong Christian heritage and am at a point where I’m understanding how valuable this is and have become more and more grateful for it.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

The generations before me have kept His commandments and have passed them on to the next generation. Now it’s mine turn.

Maybe you have a similar spiritual lineage. Or it could be you’re a first generation Christian. Either way, as a dad, you now have the responsibility to teach your kids about God. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” (5-9)

Five generations of examples

Instead of giving you a list of church answers of things to do with your kids like have family devotions, pray before bed, love your wife, go to church, etc. I want to give you one thing that impacted me as a young boy watching my dad and two things that go hand in hand that I’ve picked up along the way:

  • One of my earliest childhood memories is coming into the living room and seeing my dad either reading his Bible or on his knees praying. He didn’t start his day reading the paper or figuring out what was on his work to do list, he started it by connecting with God. There’s something powerful and contagious about seeing your dad in God’s Word. I want to pass this along to my kids too.
  • I’ve got an impressive list of things I’ve done wrong as a dad. My kids know I’m not perfect, but they also know I’ll ask forgiveness when I need to. They were driving me absolutely crazy earlier today while I was in the midst of unsuccessfully trying to fix a minor issue on an appliance and in my frustration I said some things to one of my kids that were not called for. Once the dust settled I took the child off to the side, told them what I did was wrong, didn’t make excuses, and asked them for forgiveness. Your kids know it when you mess up and they know it when you blame others, make excuses or just flat our refuse to admit you were wrong and say you were sorry. I know people like that and honestly I want nothing to do with them. You don’t want your kids feeling that way about you. Admit when you made a mistake. Your kids will forgive you and they’ll love you even more for doing it.
  • On the other side of that coin, I always want to be quick to forgive my kids when they ask me for forgiveness. Their view of God as Father is going to be most impacted by me, their earthly father. I don’t ever want them to think their heavenly Father won’t forgive them and that means I need to immediately accept their apology and not bring up their past infractions time and again. I have a child who continues to do the same things over and over and when they ask for forgiveness my flesh wants to respond in anger by saying something like, “I know you aren’t really sorry because you keep doing this. Until I actually see you make an effort to stop acting this way I’m not interested in hearing your apology.” Obviously this type of response will have serious affects on how they view God’s forgiveness and in that moment I have to say a quick prayer telling God how I’m feeling and ask Him to enable me to respond in a way that reflects His nature and not my flesh.

I realize this is just scratching the surface of things we can do as dads to help pass on a godly legacy to our kids. What are some things you learned from your dad, or have done as a dad yourself, to pass on the faith to your kids?

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