True leadership to aspire to



Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

On Saturday nights before NFL games, most teams watch a bit of film of their opponent to sharpen their minds for the next day. My 49ers coach, Bill Walsh, added a twist: he showed a highlight clip of our team the game before that week, so long as we won or competed admirably. On a big run by the running back, Bill would narrate the play, giving special emphasis to a key block.

“Gentlemen, look at our left guard Guy McIntyre. Watch his footwork and his speed pulling across the formation to lay out, with his head on the correct side of that linebacker that he blocks. This is perfection. It’s a great effort by a great San Francisco 49er. I look forward to seeing you men play at this level tomorrow.”

Man! How do you think Guy felt after that? How did we as buddies feel? How much would you want to be the guy to make the plays that made the highlight film the next week?

Bill had a way of lifting our view of ourselves from average to elite, from athlete to intellectual, from winner to champion. This is the kind of true leadership I aspire to, and so can you.

To husbands, dads, managers, and Little League coaches: make a mental highlight reel; describe the character, the effort, the kindness, or the sacrifice of someone on your team. You can help someone face their blitz, reach their heart, and fill their tank.

©2015. Adapted from Facing Your Blitz weekly video encouragement, and from the book, Facing the Blitz, by Jeff Kemp.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “True leadership to aspire to” by Jeff Kemp on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistGet these devotional encouragements weekly in video format from Jeff Kemp’s Facing Your Blitz Youtube page.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistFor more encouragement on turning trials into triumphs, get Jeff’s book, Facing the Blitz, from the FamilyLife online store.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistEvery day this week, text, email or speak to your your wife, child or friend about a thing they’ve done well.

One action that touches a wife’s core needs



CouplePrayingThroughout our 30 years of marriage, I haven’t prayed regularly or consistently with my wife Ellie. But some recent difficult situations have caused us to diligently seek God together through prayer.

I believe in the power of prayer, but I’ve never really been passionate about it.  Of course I know that God invites us to come to Him with our burdens, and to ask Him to supply our needs and even to fulfill our deep desires.

But the way Ellie looks at prayer — especially praying together as a couple — has always seemed different. It’s more urgent. More important. More deep-seated. It had never really clicked why praying with me was so important to her until I came across an article recently about four things a woman needs from her husband. Essentially it’s:

  • Having ongoing, meaningful engagement
  • Experiencing physical, emotional, and spiritual protection
  • Enjoying quality and quantity time together, and
  • Knowing he values her for who she is and can be

As I read through the list, it struck me that all four of my wife’s core needs are met when I pray with her.

When you pray together, you’re meaningfully engaged in conversation with God. You are submitting to God’s authority, trusting him for mutual protection. Together, you’re engaging at a deeper level than just everyday conversation, sharing the personal and deep things in your lives. And as you pray to God for your wife, you show her that you value who she is and that you believe God has even better things in store for her life.

There’s a whole lot more I could say about what prayer can do for a marriage relationship. But I think the hard sell for most men is just getting started. While we husbands may find it natural to take the lead with our wives in many areas, prayer is not likely one of them. There are reasons for this. First, we know that we are less comfortable than our wives when it comes to vocalizing things that are more personal in nature. Second, most men are often less spiritually minded than their wives. Third, prayer is an act of submission, and that’s often foreign ground for a man, who knows he’s being depended on to lead, provide, and protect.

If you don’t pray regularly as a couple, you’re not alone. In fact, when we surveyed couples at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, only eight percent prayed together regularly. And these are people who are at the conference because they’re serious about their marriage.

FamilyLife wants to help you take your marriage to the next level by helping you make prayer a natural part of your relationship. That’s why we created the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. It’s a simple tool to help you start a habit of taking five minutes a day joining hands, bowing heads, and praying together as husband and wife. Watch the video to learn more.

Each day, we’ll send you by email or text message some guidance on how to pray for a specific area of your marriage and life, including suggested prompts for husband and wife.

Daily topics will include setting priorities, overcoming obstacles, building greater trust and teamwork, growing in thankfulness, increasing your intimacy, and many more. We’ll also include suggested articles, broadcasts and resources to help you grow in many of these areas.

All you have to do is sign up. Then each day throughout the month of September, you’ll receive a daily prayer prompt from FamilyLife. By the time October rolls around, if you’ve been faithful, we’re betting that you see how natural it’s become to pray together, and how much closer you’ve become as a couple.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “One action that touches a wife’s core needs” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDennis Rainey calls prayer “One Simple Habit That Will Transform Your Marriage.” Read his and Barbara’s story.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistSign up today for the Oneness Prayer Challenge that starts in September, and ask your wife to sign up too.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post or link to the Oneness Prayer Challenge with at least one other husband you know

A husband nourishes and cherishes



Nourish and cherish your wifeHusbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:28-31).

Nourishing your wife

When the Apostle Paul challenges men to “nourish” their wives, he uses a unique word. In fact, the word for nourish, ektrepho, is only found one other place in the Bible. A few verses later, Paul tells men not to exasperate their children but to “bring them up” (ektrepho) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (see Ephesians 6:4).

So, is a husband to “bring up” his wife? Does that mean he should treat her as one of the children? The answer, in a special sense, is yes. But he is not to think of his wife as a child. Nor is he to relate to her as a child. She is his partner. She does not need to be brought to maturity the way a child does. But the Bible is teaching here that a husband is responsible for his wife’s ongoing spiritual, mental, and emotional growth. She is in his care, and he is to shepherd her.

Now, we think of nourishment in physical terms. We provide nourishment for someone when we give him healthy food to eat. The word ektrepho carries that same meaning. But Paul expands on the idea. A man should not only nourish his wife by being a provider who makes sure there is healthy food for her to eat, but he should also nourish her soul. For his children, he nourishes them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. He knows that man does not live by bread alone.

The old Puritan preachers knew this well. They would remind men that failure to provide for the physical needs of their families made them worse than the pagans (see 1 Timothy 5:8). But what good does it do, they would ask, if we care for their bodies but neglect their souls? Should we work diligently to satisfy their material and physical needs in this life, and to take no regard for their souls, which will live forever?

Paul reminds husbands that we are quick to satisfy our own need for nourishment. We rarely neglect our own bodies. Our care for our wife’s needs should be just as acute. We are to labor to provide nourishment for her body, and we are to strive to provide nourishment for her soul.

Cherishing your wife

But a wife is not only to be nourished; she is also to be cherished. One again Paul uses a unique word, thalpo. It shows up only one other time in the New Testament, in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. There, he reminds his readers that he and his fellow missionaries had “proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

A husband, then, is to tenderly care for his wife in the same way that a mother gently and tenderly cares for a new baby. As a father of five, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to observe the special bond that grows between a mother and her child. After each child was born, I would watch as Mary Ann spent hours caring for our new son or daughter. She could sit for what seemed like forever to me, stroking his hair with her hand, talking to him, reacting to every coo or every facial gesture the baby would make. Even in the middle of the night, when the child had awakened her from a few precious hours of rest, she would gently care for, nurse, and talk to her baby. Her regular routines were interrupted, but it didn’t matter. Nothing would get in the way of caring for the new little life in our home.

That’s what it looks like to cherish someone. The word literally means “to soften or warm with body heat.” It means we make another person our priority relationship. We cherish our wives by providing them with a warm, safe, secure environment, where they will never doubt our love, our care, and our commitment.

Think of it this way. If I were to ask you to name your most cherished possession — the one you’d run into the house to save in a fire — you would begin to mentally sort through the things you own. You would quickly eliminate the things that are easily replaceable. If you can buy the same item at Wal-Mart for under $10, it’s not likely to appear on your cherished possession list.

You would slowly begin to narrow the list down to a few items. All of them would either be very expensive or even irreplaceable. There would also very likely be some kind of emotional attachment to the items on your list — something that tied them to a special time or a special person in your life. If you were finally able to narrow the list down to a single item, it would very likely be something you alone would find valuable. Your cherished possessions would be a unique part of your life.

That list of valued possessions gives us a taste of what it means to cherish our wife. She is highly valued. She is our priority. She is cared for. We ought to regularly reflect back to her how cherished she is.

It’s in the small stuff

Many husbands express their love for their wives with a big event. A cruise. A trip to Europe. Expensive jewelry or gifts. We know how to go all out with the spectacular displays of love. The real question for us? Can we sacrifice to do the little things that show our wives that we cherish them day after day?

The big events all play a part in expressing our affection for our wives. But unless we are doing the little things that say “I cherish you” every day, the big events ring hollow. A wife will come to resent the diamond bracelets or the dresses, if that’s all there is. She will see them as an attempt to buy her affection. Cherishing a wife, and letting her know she is cherished, requires constant expressions of love and devotion.

Pastor Tommy Nelson from Denton Church in Denton, Texas has gained notoriety in the Dallas area for a series of messages he gave to a singles Bible study, taken from the Song of Solomon. During an interview on the FamilyLife Today radio program, Tommy described romance as a marriage discipline. A husband may have some natural abilities or instincts in that direction, he said. During courtship, these natural instincts flow freely. But in marriage we have to refine our instincts and abilities through regular romance workouts. We can’t rely on our spontaneous romantic urges to communicate our devotion for our wives.

He’s right. I need to let my wife know that I cherish her, and I need to find ways to do it regularly and creatively. They don’t need to be expensive or extravagant. They simply need to be genuine and regular.

A great example

One night several years ago, after Mary Ann had gone to bed, I took a notepad and a pen and sat down at the kitchen table to write her a series of short, one-line love notes. Each one said something very simple: “I’m glad you’re my wife,” or “I love you very much,” or “I still find you wildly attractive.” Once the notes were written, I went to work. I placed them strategically all over the house. One was in a spot where she would see it the next day. Another was tucked away in her Bible. A third was put in a recipe file in the kitchen. And so on.

For the next few weeks and months, the notes continued to pop up in unexpected places — glove compartments, mailboxes, hidden in the fine china. That one night of note writing sent its message for weeks to come. In fact, the one in the recipe file is still where I put it, more than a decade ago — not because Mary Ann hasn’t found it, but because she has left it right where I put it!

A husband nourishes his wife by caring for her physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. He shows her that he cherishes her when he makes her a priority and regularly expresses his affection, his devotion, and his commitment to her.

Caring for our own flesh

The Bible reminds us as husbands that we ought to care for our wives as we care for our own flesh. The reason? She is! We have entered into a “one-flesh” relationship with her. Charles Hodge put it this way:

“It is just as unnatural for a man to hate his wife as it would be for him to hate himself or his own body. A man may have a body that does not altogether suit him. He may wish it were handsomer, healthier, stronger, or more active. Still it is his body, it is himself; and he nourisheth it and cherisheth it as tenderly as though it were the best and loveliest man ever had. So a man may have a wife whom he could wish to be better, or more beautiful, or more agreeable; still she is his wife, and by the constitution of nature and ordinance of God, a part of himself. In neglecting or ill-using her he violates the laws of nature as well as the law of God. … If a husband and wife are one flesh, the husband must love his wife, ‘for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it.'”

A commitment to love our wives involves not only proactive, self-sacrificing love, but also the responsibility of being an agent of sanctification in our wives’ lives. The goal of our love is to see our wives become more like Christ. I must be ready to die to self as I cleanse her, nourish her, and cherish her. This is no job for some mushy, romantic, hormone-crazed, self-absorbed man. Only real men need apply. Are you up to the challenge?

Excerpted from Bob Lepine’s book The Christian Husband, Bethany House Publishers. Copyright © 1999 by Bob Lepine. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “A husband nourishes and cherishes,” by Bob Lepine on the Stepping Up blog for men. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistNourishing and cherishing means continuing to pursue. Justin Buzzard tells how to Date Your Wife on FamilyLife Today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIn “30 Ways to Love Your Lover,” Dennis Rainey reveals ways to cherish and affirm your wife through words and actions.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistStormie Omartian shares “10 Things a Husband Can Say When His Wife Feels Overwhelmed or Frustrated.”

Dads, speak words of life into your children



MatterhornI’ve always been a little jealous of King Solomon. When he took over as King of Israel from his father David, God appeared to him in a dream and invited Solomon to “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Hoping one day this happens to me, I’ve begun compiling a list of things I’d like and am currently ranking them in order of what I want most. Because of my love of the outdoors, right now owning the country of Switzerland is at the top.

Back to the story – you probably know how Solomon answers. He asks God for wisdom to lead the nation. God was pleased with this response and gave Solomon the understanding and discretion he asked for. Plus the answer was so good he also got everything else he didn’t ask for: wealth, long life, the death of his enemies, etc.

There is no exact age given for when Solomon took over for his dad, but most scholars agree he was in his middle to late teens. How many teenagers do you know are given a blank check for anything they want and they cash it in for wisdom? But that’s exactly what he did.

I’ve often wondered how Solomon knew to ask for wisdom and recently I found my answer! In 1 Chronicles 22:12, David is close to death and calls his son Solomon to his bedside and speaks this over him, “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding [a.k.a. wisdom] when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.” David did not pray for his son to have wealth, long life or reprieve from his enemies. He prayed that he would have wisdom. And when Solomon was given a chance to ask for whatever he wanted, he knew what what was most important because of the words his dad had spoken over him and so he asked for wisdom. I wonder what Solomon would have asked for had David not put this in his heart by praying it over him?

This does serve as a great reminder to us dads to speak words of life and meaning into each of our kids. Solomon even said so himself when he wrote Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” And then again in Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Speak words of life you want to see in your children

I don’t believe we as fathers fully grasp the amount of life-changing power – for either good or devastation – that we possess when it comes to speaking into the lives of our kids. But we are the most powerful force and with that comes great responsibility and accountability. We must be intentional to speak words of encouragement and empowerment into our kids and we have to be intentional in controlling our tongues so we do not speak destructive words of death that haunt them for their entire life.

One thing I’m in the process of doing, and would encourage you to do as well, is to come up with five to seven words that are character traits you see in your child or are trusting God to give your child. For example, with one of my sons, the words I’ve come up with so far are: Strong, Courageous, Industrious and Loyal. I’m letting these words simmer for a few weeks as I pray over each of my four kids, asking God to give me the right words for each one. I’ll then take those words and create some type of poster and hang the words in their bedrooms. By doing this, every day they will be reminded of what I see in them and who God created them to be.

I may never own Switzerland, but if my kids grow up with their identity in Christ set and secure, I’ll take that over the Swiss Alps any day!

The Good News Bears



Good News Bears

Unlikely successes – The 1970 Branding Chute team with my manager dad (top left), my pitcher brother (bottom right), me in the catcher’s gear, and the rest of us below average champions.

I love athletics and I’m competitive by nature. From my early childhood to today, I have participated in sports, whether it’s been organized baseball as a boy or playing rugby in college, or just recreational activities like golf in my college years to Ultimate Frisbee and bowling today in my 50s. And when I haven’t played, I’ve watched or written about athletics as a sports writer and editor.

But truth be told, I’ve never been a good athlete. I play for the love of sports, and the enjoyment of the competition and camaraderie. So even when everyone around me is more skilled, or younger, or better, I still feel like I belong, in part, because of a lesson I learned from my dad at an early age, and from my Heavenly Father as an adult.

My first year in Little League in Jackson, Mississippi, was a disaster. I had a hardcore coach bent on leading his team to the league championship. He practiced us hard twice a week. I remember after one game when we kept getting thrown out at the bases, our coach scheduled a two-hour practice doing nothing but sliding. I came home with a huge strawberry from upper hip to mid-thigh.

That’s where the story starts with my dad.

Unlike me, my dad was a natural athlete. He was a starter on his high school football team until a shredded knee ended his career. Still, he fought through pain and continued to play league basketball and especially softball well into his 70s. But he always loved the game more than the competition.

After my two-hour sliding practice incident, I think my dad determined that his sons and all boys my age should learn to love the game rather than be miserable in winning. He also thought the Little League draft system (where coaches take turns picking the best players until they got down to the non-athletes like me) was overkill for 9- to 10-year-old boys.

So the next year he volunteered to coach. He told the league that they could give him whatever players the other coaches didn’t want, just as long as he could coach my brother and me. Until that year, I had been assigned the two typical positions for players of my ability: outfield and bench. But my brother was a pretty good (although sometimes wild) pitcher, so my dad decided to teach me how to play behind the plate. He was a catcher himself, and with his patient teaching, I picked up the position pretty well.

The other guys on our team were a mixture of skill levels, from not bad to awful, but everyone got equal playing time under my dad and the other coaches. Those three men decided that it was more important to instill in each boy a love of the game and a sense of belonging to the team than playing the game just to win.

I experienced the downside of that level playing field approach. I was developing into a pretty good catcher, and could even pick off a guy stealing second. But when an awful teammate was covering the bag, I found it hard to throw down.

I remember after one game, my dad praised my choice not to throw to second base, because the runner probably would have ended up at third or home after the inevitable error. But the next piece of advice he threw me was a curve ball I wasn’t expecting but needed to hear. He told me that it was important for me to trust my teammates and to let them have the opportunity to come through in the clutch. He reminded me that I was more confident behind the plate because I was getting the opportunity to prove myself to myself. I needed to give other players that chance as well.

That mentality of trust began to change the guys on our team. We worked with each other to improve. We had faith in each other. We celebrated each other’s great plays, and offered encouragement and coaching to the other guys when they blew it.

Individually, we were average at best. But as a team we became unstoppable and finished the season at the top of the league with a 10-1-1 record. Call us the Good News Bears, I guess.

A lot of the stars from the other teams went on to play high school ball, maybe even college. As for the guys on our team, I don’t know if any of us ended up playing more than one more season of baseball, but I’m sure the lessons we learned that year carried through life.

I see it played out in Scripture as well. There’s one particular passage that, whenever I read it, I think about our 1970 Little League team.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31

When God wanted to humble the Philistine’s Goliath, he used the young shepherd boy, David. When he wanted to defeat the massive army of Midian, he chose a timid Gideon to lead a team of just 300 men. When he wanted to deliver the message to Egypt’s Pharoah to free His people from slavery, he used the stuttering, downcast fugitive Moses.

Nearly two decades after my Little League experience, I learned the same lesson from another perspective. My wife and I had felt a calling to take the gospel to remote, unreached people groups. As I went through Bible school training, I found that I was good at Bible study, teaching, and language learning. I saw a few other students like me, and I was confident we would be the ones who would end up on the mission field, translating the Word of God and helping establish a self-sustaining local church. Then there were the other students, who weren’t exceptionally gifted in any of those areas. I wasn’t even sure they’d be able to hold down a minimum wage job, much less get out of  Bible school and onto the mission field.

But it was their humility and lack of gifting that God was wanting to use.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Now, more than 20 years after Bible school, only one of the talented students is still on the mission field. The ones who made it long-term were the “weak” ones, the “untalented” ones. They persevered, not in their strength, but in God’s. They surmounted overwhelming odds of living in tribal locations not by their own prowess, but in mutual dependence of other missionaries who also understood their weakness and God’s strength.

So to the strong, I challenge you to look to the One who’s stronger. You will eventually max out your potential, but His is limitless. To the weak, don’t underestimate your potential, or the potential of the other weaklings around you, especially when God is at work in you. Build each other up, challenge each other up, and see what God can do with a team of guys who range from awful to not so bad.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Scott Williams’ post, “The Good News Bears,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAre there certain things you don’t try because you aren’t good at them? Remember to make His strength yours.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistAll Pro Dad can help you teach your children valuable lifetime lessons as they participate in youth sports.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistRead Larry Fowler’s article, “Shaping Your Child’s Destiny,” and help YOUR kids see God’s plan for their lives.

How to make the family meal the norm



This is the final post of two about how to combat electronic isolation and bring the family together by making the dinner table a priority. “Capturing the elusive family meal” made the case for how pivotal the meal can be in strengthening family relationships. This post gives you suggestions on how to ease into family meals without a lot of hassle.

Mind your manners

The social graces used to be a part of everyone’s education. Today many children have no clue about proper table etiquette or why it even matters. In our house the dinner table is Manners 101. Occasionally we get objections, especially from the older children, about how the rules are old fashioned or too restrictive. That’s often a great opportunity to remind them that manners are not so much about rules as they are about showing consideration for others.

From time to time, though, I’m the one who needs the reminder that manners aren’t just about rules. Sometimes in my desire to teach my children good behavior, I’ve found myself so overbearing in my correction that the atmosphere at the meal becomes unpleasant. What is supposed to be an enjoyable time can become anything but. These interactions at the dinner table give everyone, even us adults, a chance to grow and show grace.

The dinner table is an opportunity to remind each person that he or she is a valued member of the family, and that the actions of one person can affect everyone in the family. It assures children that they belong to a group of people who genuinely care for them.

Setting your family table
Recent family fun at our dinner table.

Recent family fun at our dinner table.

After nearly 30 years of gathering daily for meals, Ellie and I are convinced that we’ve truly benefited by making the family table a priority. Maybe you agree in principle, but you can’t see how you will ever get past all the obstacles to make the family meal a regular part of your schedule. Maybe you feel you don’t have time to do the cooking. Maybe dinner is the worst time of the day when it comes to family schedules. Maybe having meals together is such a foreign idea you don’t know where to start.

Here are a few tips that may set you on your way to making your dining room one of the most special rooms in the house.

Enlist the family’s help. Kids can help shop, prepare the food, set the table, serve the drinks and food, and clean up after the meal. In our home, we have assigned responsibilities that rotate every week. Dads, you need to make it a priority to come home from work on time.

Set reasonable goals. If you’re not eating together at all, start off with one or two simple meals, then gradually increase the number of meals and how elaborate they are. Set a goal for the number of meals you want to eat each week as a family and require everyone to be there. Children, especially the older ones, may resist at first. After a while, though, children actually become the greatest advocates for spending time around the dinner table.

Minimize your time in the kitchen. If you’re spending hours preparing and cleaning up for a 15-minute meal, chances are you’ll give up on family meals before very long. Enlist all your servants like the microwave, crock-pot, and pressure cooker. When you fix meals, prepare double or triple portions, then freeze or refrigerate for later meals.

To focus on each other, you need to ban the electronics. Turn off the television and computer, and don’t answer the phone.

Focus on being together rather than creating a full course meal. If you have to, serve heat-and-eat foods and just add a pre-mixed salad for health and to dress up the meal. You can bet that King Solomon saw his share of elaborate feasts, yet he declared, “Better a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17).

Create some memorable meals. Every once in a while, you might want to make it really special. A fancy meal is a great way to focus on manners, and a special treat for the girls. It helps emphasize the holy nature of family gatherings. Candles, flowers, and the nice tableware add a special touch.

Make the family table an outreach for friends. If your children are of dating/courting age, it’s a good opportunity to get to know their special friends, a girlfriend or boyfriend. It also lets that person better understand your child within the context of his or her family, as they see the interaction with their siblings and parents.

Think of discussion topics ahead of time. A verse of Scripture, the latest news, a new joke. I recently got each family member to jot down their favorite color, flower, food, etc. on a piece of paper. I collected them and read them aloud while everyone tried to guess the family member.

Find ways to make it positive. Reward a child’s good behavior with an extra serving of dessert or the privilege of planning an upcoming menu.

However you choose to organize your family meals, make them a special part of who you are as a family. You can bet that in years to come, your children will look back at those daily times as some of the most influential moments in their lives. Who knows? In a generation, they may be sitting down with their children, creating special moments of their own.

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to make the family meal the norm” on the Stepping Up men’s blog. Don’t forget part 1.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAs leader of your home, what will you do to help your family connect in this digital and individualistic age? 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistJust Add Family is a fun resource from FamilyLife designed to connect family members and build memories.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare these articles with a friend. If you have encouraging insights on family meals, share them with us.

Capturing the elusive family meal



Does it seem like meaningful daily interaction in your family is getting more and more rare? Busy schedules and personal electronics tend to do that.

The other day, I was lamenting how much scarcer our family time has gotten in recent years. Then I remembered an article I had written a decade earlier about the importance of family time, and especially the family dinner table. When I found it and re-read it, it seemed so timely and helpful, so I’ve decided to revive it here on Stepping Up in two posts. The first makes the case for making the effort. The second will give some tips for making family time at the dinner table the new norm around your house.

Recently, one of our teenage children invited a friend over for dinner. For us it was a typical meal around the dinner table. For him, it was a unique experience. He told us that both his parents work long hours, and his family of four only eats together for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. He didn’t seem to mind squeezing in to an already crowded table of eight. In fact, he remarked more than once how great it was.

My wife, Ellie, and I both grew up in families where mealtime was family time, so early in our marriage we decided to continue the tradition. With only two of our seven children still living at home, it has become more difficult than ever to keep family meals a priority. But we know it’s worth the effort, especially in this age of frenetic schedules. Esteemed universities and scholarly journals agree—study after study shows the nutritional, social, emotional, and spiritual benefits of the family dinner table. For example, children who eat regularly with their family:

  • have fewer behavior problems in school and are significantly less likely to get involved with drugs, alcohol, and early sexual behavior;
  • are significantly more likely to have a healthy balanced diet and less likely to be overweight;
  • are likely to have higher test scores relative to the amount of time spent with family;
  • have higher communication skills and greater vocabulary;
  • teenage girls are particularly less likely to suffer from depression or attempt suicide, and less prone to develop eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Unfortunately, few families are enjoying this important part of life. Recent research suggests that between 10 and 40 percent of children never or seldom eat together with their family. On average a family shares only 3-5 meals together a week, and even that average drops considerably as children become teens.

Living in the real world

50s Dinner TableThe cohesive family unit of 50 years ago is fast becoming ancient history. Today, each family member is more individualistic and isolated from the others in the family. Dad (and often, Mom) goes off to work and spends at least eight hours with other adults. Children spend the large portion of the day in class and most of the interactions they do have are strictly with those their own age.

The dinner table offers the opportunity to bring adults, teens, and younger children together to share their individual experiences of the day. It becomes the place where life issues are raised, discussed, and resolved. Rather than each family member continuing to drift into his or her own individual world, the interaction during mealtime strengthens family bonds and enriches the daily experience of life.

Throughout Scripture, when the word table is used, it often connotes more than just the piece of furniture where the food is served. It is often a place of special honor, acceptance, care, and fellowship. The cup and bread that we share in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we often refer to as the Lord’s Table. In Psalm 23:5, King David declares to God, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” We see numerous passages where close associates of a king are referred to as those who ate at his table (2 Samuel 9:11; 1 Kings 18:19; Luke 22:27-30).

In the book of Deuteronomy, God commands parents to teach their children throughout the routine activities of the day (6:4-7; 11:18-20). Children learn best not in the school classroom, but in the classroom of life. At the Williams dinner table, often someone will bring up a current event topic and others will chime in with their perspectives. While the conversation is usually between the teens and adults, our younger children take it all in and learn things that wouldn’t have otherwise entered their minds.

A wise parent not only monitors the conversation at the table but looks for ways to direct it. Often seeing how siblings act and react toward each other at the table can be a cue to parents to teach the importance of honor, acceptance, and graciousness. Sharing wisdom that comes from a verse of Scripture or from a life experience becomes a natural part of the conversation as we face new experiences or address issues that are hampering family unity. With all family members there at one time, we as parents have a captive audience for revealing that God is still guiding us in our own maturing process.

Read the second post, “How to make the family meal the norm,” which will give you some tips on how to ease into family meals without a lot of hassle.

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Capturing the elusive family meal” on the Stepping Up men’s blog. Don’t forget part 2.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAs leader of your home, what will you do to help your family connect in this digital  and individualistic age? 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistAlso consider connecting in the car with “10 Ideas for Non-Digital Family Fun on Road Trips.” 

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSit down with your wife to figure out how you can build a strong family table without putting extra pressure on her.

50 ways to increase your wife’s worth



EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s more out of place: a post to men on a blog for women, or a post by a woman on a blog for men? This blog post from a friend of mine originally appeared on Stepping Up’s sister blog, Mom Life Today. But the advice she gives is clearly aimed at men. As I read over it recently, I couldn’t resist sharing it with the readers of this blog. One of the best ways to increase your wife’s worth (in her eyes and yours) is to treat her as worthy.

An old story told from the island of Kiniwata relates the account of a man known as Johnny Lingo. The youngest and strongest man from the island, Johnny shocked the islanders by paying the father of his bride not the traditional two to three cows for his wife, or even the four to five cows for an exceptional wife. For Sarita, he paid eight. No one could understand:

“It would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow.”

Eight cows!? The entire island laughed at the audacity.

Curious about the story, writer Patricia McGerr visited Johnny’s home. She was fascinated by what she describes as the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen. She wrote about this in a Woman’s Day article,   “Johnny Lingo and the Eight Cow Wife”: “The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right.”

When McGerr later pressed Johnny Lingo for his reasoning, he explains, “Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands … I wanted an eight-cow wife.”

Now, for obvious reasons, please do not immediately tell your beloved, “Hon, you’re an eight-cow wife.” But remember that, at least in part, a man’s impact may be measured in the joy and character of the people closest to him.

The way that a man sees his wife, the way he cherishes her, has a lasting effect on her beauty within and without. How does your wife feel about you and your relationship to her? How do you want your children to remember your acts of love for their mother?

Here are 50 ideas to get you started toward inspiring an eight-cow wife.

  1. HeartCarvedTreeBe a student of her. Where do her passions, gifting, and abilities lie? What energizes her? When does she lose track of time because she’s enjoying herself so much? What weights does she bear? (Can you learn incredible things about this woman that even she doesn’t know?)
  2. Ask God for special wisdom in understanding your wife and in loving her well (James 1:5-6).
  3. Make a list of 30 things that you love and/or appreciate about her. Write them on separate sticky notes, and leave one somewhere in the house every day for an entire month.
  4. For what ministry has God created your wife in order to build up His people? Give her time and energy to pursue it.
  5. Take care of the kids for a day so that she can have a personal spiritual retreat to recharge.
  6. Listen to her sincerely: Observe her words, body language, and circumstances in order to compassionately understand her. Make eye contact with her, and ask thoughtful questions, like “How did that affect you?” or basic who/what/where/when/why/how questions.
  7. If she’s got a budding hobby or one that’s been neglected, purchase something small but high-quality that she would enjoy: quality paintbrushes, a beautiful journal, photo software, a top-notch cooking knife, new gloves, athletic equipment (ahem … only if she loves athletics), a well-recommended book on her hobby. Include a note: Just because I love the way you’re made.
  8. Pray with her, and for her, on a regular basis. Consider making it a regular item in your schedule, such as before you leave for work or go to bed.
  9. Compile a CD with songs that specifically encourage things you love about her. Let her know that you intentionally chose these for her and about her.
  10. When circumstances, conversation, or even movies or songs bring up an area in which she excels, lean over and whisper, “You know, you do that so well. I love how you use ___ to bless the people around you.”
  11. Identify the “life-suckers” in her life. What saps her energy? Consider the points of friction that she often faces in her daily routines. Prayerfully ask God to help you see not only what weighs on her, but also how you could help her.   Initiate conversation to compassionately find solutions with her. Ask, “What could be done to make that less painful (or less difficult)?”
  12. Gently encourage your children to thank her for different ways she serves them: When they have clean laundry, when she serves dinner, when she drops them off at school. (Make sure you’re modeling consistent gratitude for little things, too.)
  13. Identify your wife’s “love language” — what makes her feel loved and valued. Is it words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch, quality time, or acts of service? She may have more than one. Become fluent in each of her “languages.”
  14. What pleasures in your life do you enjoy that your wife isn’t able to enjoy? She might not be into fishing like you are, for example, but maybe she’d like her own version of alone time. Like you, she might be honored by accolades for her projects well-done, a chance to finish a conversation, or sleeping in on a Saturday.
  15. Allow your wife to set your standard of beauty, and make it clear to her that she is secure: Your eyes are only for her. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or pastor and accountability websites like x3watch.com to develop monogamous eyes that come from a monogamous heart … and a husband she can trust. Security gives way to confidence.
  16. Talk through your budget together with her. Make sure you both have the resources you need to care for your family well. If you primarily manage the budget, ask her to make at least one change before finalizing it. Esteem wise financial decisions she’s made.
  17. Be a student of her body. Ask her, both while you’re in bed and at a completely separate private time, how you can please her sexually and make her feel secure and beautiful. Seek tenderly to understand her past and how it affects her in the bedroom. Be prepared to humbly accept what she says, embracing her without defensiveness.
  18. Gently protect her. Lovingly help her set boundaries with her time, energy, resources, and relationships (kids and mothers-in-law included).
  19. Give her a massage — one that doesn’t lead to sex, unless she’s clear that making love is what she would enjoy most.
  20. Send her an e-mail. Example: “Praying for you today. Thanks for being so courageous in ___.”
  21. Give her one night on a regular basis to do something she loves. Occasionally surprise her with an afternoon “off” so she can do something fun or just be alone.
  22. Consistently mention ways you see her growing to be more like Christ.
  23. Ask her about her “bucket list” — the top things she’d like to do in her lifetime.
  24. Give her a book or audio CD to learn about something she loves doing.
  25. Text her on a stressful day. Example: “REMINDER: I BELIEVE IN U.”
  26. Leave a message on her voicemail: “Thanks for serving our family every day. You are so good at ___.”
  27. Be proactive about doing something together that she really enjoys. Make a date, get her excited, and share her enthusiasm!
  28. Ask her, “If there were one thing I could do to love you better, to really cherish you — and you knew I would listen — what would it be?” Be prepared to follow through.
  29. Tell her areas she’s gifted in. Don’t stretch the truth: Be honest so she can trust you.
  30. Talk with her about setting aside a small part of the budget to pursue the unique ways God has designed her (including her gifts, abilities, and passions) — through education or through sheer enjoyment.
  31. Post on her Facebook wall: “I love being your husband. You still take my breath away.”
  32. Have your children write her notes or letters about what they love about her as a mom.
  33. Ask, “If I could do one thing that would really empower you and inspire you, what would it be?” Listen and follow through.
  34. As you think of them, remind her of specific times when she has made an impact in the lives of others. “Hey, I was thinking the other day about all the times you’ve invested in all those kids who come over here. You do such a good job making people feel welcomed and loved on.” “I don’t think I could count all the meals you’ve brought to people who are sick. You are wonderful at seeing people’s needs and giving of yourself to them.”
  35. Do something fun and unexpected together. Here are a few ideas: play paintball, laser tag, or sand volleyball; organize a picnic and bring the books you’re reading; take photos of each other; play a pickup game of a sport together; go to a drive-in movie, bringing popcorn and her favorite candy (let her initiate any physical advances for this one).
  36. Think about a way you’ve been hurting her or annoying her. Maybe there are ways you’re not “seeing” her — not stepping into her world to understand what it’s like to be her, with all of the things she cares about (see 1 Peter 3:7). Apologize, and work hard at showing true change.
  37. Find a mutually enjoyable activity you like doing together on a regular basis, even if it’s working outside together or playing the Wii together after the kids are in bed.
  38. Create a fun, life-giving atmosphere when you come home.
  39. Design a date night that will help her to de-stress and have fun. (Dare I suggest ballroom dancing lessons?)
  40. What’s difficult about her life right now? Pray for her endurance, and encourage her specifically. Galatians 6:9 is a great start for both. Think, What can I do to ease the load she’s carrying today?
  41. Organize or clean something of yours that you know she finds messy.
  42. Talk with her about her fears — both deep and insignificant. Over time, lead her as you work together to replace those fears with faith in God as expressed in His Word.
  43. Send a snail-mail love note to her at home, affirming all she does for your family.
  44. Think of something on her to-do list that she finds overwhelming or for which she doesn’t have much time. Talk with her (respectfully and gently) about the possibility of having it hired out (maybe you could pay a responsible high school student to log a few hours on housework). Communicate clearly that it’s not because you find her incompetent, but that you want to free her up from a burden.
  45. If your wife likes to dress nicely, go with her to shop for clothes in which she feels confident and looks fantastic.
  46. Be an advocate for her rest. Gently help her to evaluate and set limits on her to-do list, reminding her that she loves others best when she takes time to replenish.
  47. Let her overhear you speaking well of her on the phone — among friends, to your kids, in public places, and to your mother. Tenderly but firmly keep family members from speaking disrespectfully to her or about her.
  48. In her area of weakness, pray about how to subtly, gently step in and help her.
  49. Request, “I’d like you to think about something for me. I’d like you to tell me one area in which you want to challenge me, but you wonder if I will listen and if I’ll receive it well. If you’ll do that, I commit to listen to you without getting defensive or somehow punishing you for telling me.”
  50. If and when she messes up, respond with the kind of grace, compassion, and mercy that God gives us. Respond in a way that communicates, You’re safe with me — and I’m not going to rehash your failures. This is a secure place for you to grow … and I love the journey with you.

One final note: Maybe you are a man who initiates many kindnesses to your wife and you don’t receive much respect or kindness in return. May you be gently, compassionately encouraged: Giving without mutual gain puts you in good company — the company of Jesus. May God give you significant grace as you pray for your wife and encounter the nitty-gritty, everyday battles against resentment and, in many cases, injustice. Our God is the God who sees (Genesis 21:15-21).

Copyright ©2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in MomLife Today.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “50 ways to increase your wife’s worth” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistMuch of what your wife thinks of herself is tied to how she thinks you feel about her. Do you regularly make her feel valued?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistFor more encouragement and inspiration, read Bob Lepine’s article “Nourishing and Cherishing Your Wife.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistChoose just one thing from the list to do today. Then choose another for tomorrow or another day this week, and so on.

11 great Father’s Day commercials



It seems like with each passing year, holidays become more commercialized: Christmas, Valentines, even Mother’s Day. But not so much Father’s Day.

Until now.

This post is nothing but commercials about being a dad. The great thing is that they’re not overtly selling anything … except the value of fatherhood.

If you’re a dad, look them over and be reminded how important you’re role is. If you still have you’re dad around, let him know what he means to you while you still can (I wish I still could).

Our encouragement to you: Build up the dad in your life by sharing this post (or the individual videos) with him. And encourage other dads by sharing the post via social media.

But most of all, have a (not-so-commercialized) happy Father’s Day.

 

Father’s Day Re-Do – Toyota Camry (Father’s Day 2015)

Let’s make Father’s Day mean something. The best thing you do for your dad is to let him know that you notice and value all the things he’s done for you through the years.

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My Daddy, My Hero – Toyota Verso

Little kids might have a slightly inflated view of their dads, but the things you’re doing for them every day really are heroic.

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My Bold Dad – Toyota Camry

Fatherhood is about being there to protect, to teach, to love … and to let go.

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First fatherhood moments  – Dove Men+Care

Unscripted moments from home videos of real-life men finding out they’re going to be dads.

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With Dad – Nissan (Super Bowl 2015)

Even when you’re not physically able to be there, keep your heart connected to your children. Their hearts want to connect with you.

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Dad’s Sixth Sense – Hyundai Genesis

We fathers may not always be in tune with emotions, but we seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to protecting our children.

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Father-Daughter (driving) – Subaru

Making the transition from protecting to releasing your child in the adult world comes quickly. And sometimes the lines get blurred.

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“Gift” (old homemade dad’s coupons book) – Publix

It’s not just the thought that counts. I still have a few of these stashed away. You never know when they’ll come in handy.  :-)

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Origami Birds Father-Daughter – Wrigley’s Extra gum

Your day-to-day fathering may seem like meaningless scraps sometimes, but they’re collecting in the lives of your children.

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Caring Makes a Man Stronger – Dove Men+Care (Super Bowl 2015)

The name “Dad” says a lot of things, as you can hear in the expressions of these children. One word, so many meanings.

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How to Dad – Peanut Butter Cheerios

Being a dad is an awesome privilege and responsibility. And it’s fun. In case you’re new to the role, this commercial is a primer on “How to Dad”

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Honor Dad for who he is, not what he isn’t



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Hey dads. I want to honor you. And I want to encourage you to honor your father.  Imperfect, good or bad, we all need to honor our dads, and we all need to grow as fathers.

KempJeffJackScoreboardMy dad, Jack Kemp, was a really good dad; he had some phenomenal traits. But he had some gaps, too. The good part of my dad was that he was a great hugger and kisser, he always told us he loved us. He wrote us notes all the time, he affirmed our identity. And he gave us great vision for life and was always encouraging us.

He wasn’t so good—in fact he wasn’t good at all—when it came to talking to me about the intimate things of sex and temptation. He wasn’t that good at admitting his faults; he didn’t really apologize well, particularly to my mom. And he didn’t know how to do anything around the house, or at least he didn’t help out much around the house. But, still, I honor my dad and I got so much from him.

And you know what? I have my strong and weak points as a father, too.

I’m good at some parts of fathering but not so good at remembering things. I’m not that good in some areas of listening, because I keep interrupting my kids too much. I’m intentional, but I’m overboard sometimes. But I always want to learn to be a better dad.

Get started. Honor dad. Be an honorable dad.

Honor your dad, and be the best dad you can be. For some of you that may be hard. Maybe you feel like you failed as a father, or maybe you had a father who failed you in so many ways.

Dads, I want to thank and encourage you. Don’t beat yourself up over the past. Decide to do your best from this day forward. Try this game plan. First, realize that your imperfect dad probably did the best he could with what he had. Set yourself free and forgive Him.

Next, remember you have a perfect heavenly father, who’s love for you is so radical and unconditional that He sacrificed His perfect Son to pay the death penalty that you and I deserve. Accept that love. Now, start the healing with your dad if he’s alive. Ignore your dad’s faults and initiate an apology to him. Don’t expect any apology in return. Next, apologize to your kids for where you have fallen short or missed the mark as a their dad.

Maybe you haven’t been present or been engaged. Maybe you haven’t been transparent or honest with them. Maybe you haven’t hugged and said “I love you” much.

Maybe you haven’t given the boundaries and training and protection your sons or daughters needed. Tell them your faults. Tell them your love. Start to do your best, today. You are the best dad in the world to your child…from this day forward.

Here’s my encouragement and my challenge: Be the best dad you can be; honor your own father and forgive him in any area where he wasn’t perfect.  And let’s keep growing as dads and make this thing about fatherhood not just a one-day celebration on the third Sunday in June, but a 365-day-a-year thing.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Honor Dad for what he is… not what he isn’t” on the Stepping Up men’s blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“How Can You Honor Your Parents When You Feel They Don’t Deserve It?” Read this article from FamilyLife.com

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear how Freddie Scott II, another NFL son, chose to honor his father and become “The Dad I Wish I Had.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGet together with some guys, your teen or older son and go through Stepping Up, The Call to Courageous Manhood

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