Second chance manhood



When we launched the Stepping Up video series a few years ago, we had no idea of the huge impact it would make on men in homeless shelters and in prisons. Many of these men grew up not knowing what it meant to be a man, and they found themselves in hard places as adults.

BarbedWireCloudsThat’s the reason Stepping Up is making such an impact on these guys. For the first time in their lives, they’re getting a road map to manhood, and the results will make a difference for the generation coming after them.

We recently received a letter from Lynden, who’s serving time at a federal low security facility in the Northeast. Lynden gets it. Not only are the Stepping Up principles changing his life, they’re getting him excited about helping other men change their legacies. This is something to get excited about. Please pray for Lynden and men like him who are Stepping Up!

Dear Mr. Rainey, 

I’ve just completed the Stepping Up course here at [the correctional facility]. I found the course to be very helpful in showing me the extreme importance of having men in our lives to provide us with real-life examples of how life should be done. It also caused me to “look back” on my own life at how I was failed by the men in my life and, in turn, how I failed to provide the real-life example for my step-son.

I have great remorse about my actions as a father and step-father and now I am seeing the fruits of my own failures. My step-son, now 19, dropped out of high school and now has a pregnant girlfriend. they are having the baby and will be getting married, but I can see that my lack of leadership is a direct contribution to his situation. I sure would like to have that opportunity back, but we get one shot to get it right. I’m not saying that I would have to be perfect, just a good father that makes mostly good decisions.

I made many more poor decisions than good ones. I turned my back on God and embraced atheism for four years. My step-son wants no contact with me and he has no older males in his life. I fear for him. He is not saved and was raised in a semi-active LDS home.

While I know there are no “do-overs” in life, I look ahead to what the Lord has in store for me. I’m blooming where I’m planted through demonstration and proclamation of Jesus Christ. While I find it somewhat difficult to apply the principles of mentorship here in prison, I take the content of the Stepping Up course and try to apply it to my life.

My vision for the future is to start a post-prison re-entry program. The name will be 491 More Second Chances. The ministry will help men through apprenticeship and journeyman programs in construction. plumbing, electrical, renewal energy, HVAC, food service, welding, machining, and carpentry.

My first wife and I plan to remarry and pursue this endeavor together with Christ at the focal point. We want to provide free counseling and support groups for the men and their families. We’re looking to reconnect these men to their families, themselves, and most importantly, to introduce them to the King of Kings.

We both know this will be a huge task, but with God all things are possible. We’ve got a plan and we’re excited to see how the Lord is going to lay out the path before us. I’ve done too much “self-service” and I’m now serving the Lord in my life. I wish I would have known how awesome it is to be an obedient, honest and trustworthy man of God years ago… but I didn’t. I do now and I’m not looking back, now that my hands are firmly holding to the Gospel plow!

Thank you for Stepping Up and FamilyLife.

In His Love & Service,

Lynden

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Letter used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read, “Stepping Up As a Prison Ministry,”  about how Stepping Up is changing lost lives and legacies.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWatch how Stepping Up impacted men at another correctional facility in this  blog post, “Stepping Up As a Prison Ministry.”  

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistMore kids and young men today are experiencing “Father Hunger.” How can you satisfy your kids’ need?

STEPPass - 10-point checklistYou can host Stepping Up as a prison ministry in your area. Or you can help others get one started.

Deflating your ego



FootballsDeflatedJeffKemp
Few quarterbacks have dominated the NFL like Tom Brady. In his 13 full seasons, he has led the New England Patriots to four Super Bowl titles.  What he may lack in raw talent, he makes up for in hard work. He watches lots of game film and pays attention to detail on and off the field, which is a common character quality of someone who performs at the highest level like he does.

But now the reputation of the reigning Super Bowl MVP is tarnished, with the league recently announcing that he will be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season for participating in the deflating of footballs in the first half of the AFC championship game.

Breaking the rules, as the NFL has claimed, may not have been the most damaging thing Tom Brady did. He may not have even been suspended if he had admitted early on to his involvement (whatever that was) and apologized to the league for his indiscretion.  Instead he allowed his agent to speak for him and deny even knowing of a scandal.

But after spending months reviewing the evidence surrounding the “DeflateGate” scandal, the NFL found enough in text messages to confidently say that Brady was involved in some way. And now public opinion has turned against him, with about 70 percent of avid football fans believing Brady cheated.

Let’s face it: if you don’t take the blame for your own mistakes (as small or as big as they may be) other people will spend their time, effort, and energy putting the blame on you. I learned that lesson in my last year with the Seattle Seahawks and gained a great appreciation for the importance of accepting responsibility. Even though I wasn’t involved in a cheating scandal or at the center of some controversy, the incident did involve my integrity.

I was the starting quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks and we had just suffered a 20-13 loss in an important game with Kansas City. In press interviews after the game, rather than own up to my shortcomings, I chose to play the optimist. “We’re going to do better next week; we’re going to turn the corner and go forward.”

It wasn’t until later in the week that I realized the damage that I had done. Eugene Robinson, a great friend and teammate, came up to me and told me privately, “Dude, a bunch of the coaches and defensive guys are questioning whether you’re a stand-up guy or an excuse maker. They don’t think you’re owning up to your responsibility for that loss.”

Their criticism wasn’t aimed at my skills or performance, but at who I am—my character. As I wrote in my book, Facing the Blitz:

They thought that, in my optimism, I’d left the blame with the team instead of taking my part in it. Not only had I contributed to the loss, it seemed I wasn’t being an accountable and trustworthy leader.

I felt misread and misjudged. I decided to talk privately to a couple of the defensive coaches who reportedly held these concerns. I told them I was my own worst critic and knew I’d fallen way short of what we needed to win. I knew I’d played a major role in our loss. … My team wanted to hear that I understood my role in our loss. My play wasn’t the only reason we lost, but they needed to see that, first, I got it, and second, I was willing to take the heat, not simply leave it with my teammates and coaches.

The bottom-line issue isn’t the results of your actions as much as what it says about your character. Whether it’s me playing down my part in a loss or Tom Brady refusing to admit even an awareness of the team fudging on league rules, the ends still don’t justify the means.

Another NFL great quarterback recently weighed in on the “DeflateGate” controversy. Brett Favre believes that even if Tom Brady broke the rules it wasn’t really cheating because it didn’t affect the outcome of the game. He was just doing what everyone else does—trying to get a competitive edge.

A common philosophy in the world, and in the world of professional sports is, “If you’re not getting caught every once in a while, you’re not working hard enough.” It’s ironic that someone as good as Brady would feel a need to do something that has so little impact on the outcome of the game to gain a competitive advantage.

Deflating your ego

Maybe an even bigger issue is what happens when you make it to the top of the heap, or the top of the league. You begin to believe the hype that everything depends on you. You may even begin to see yourself as a special case. You then justify actions that for most everyday people would be indefensible.

American society invites a pride and hubris in its successful people, and that is reflected in how Tom Brady and his agent have continued to oppose the NFL investigation. Pride and hubris aren’t attractive to the public. Pride lets you think you can do things differently because you think you are special. It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re in the spotlight and when you’re trying to keep up expectations as the being the best. But Scripture brings us back to reality:

“Pride comes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.”—Proverbs 16:18

“Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”—2 Timothy 2:5

But then there’s another scriptural reminder than keeps us from pointing the finger too much at others.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”—Galatians 6:1

My teammate Eugene Robinson helped me to open my eyes and see the impact of my actions. Issues like “DeflateGate” help us check our own character to see if we are cutting corners, cheating, or taking ethical shortcuts. And it’s a great opportunity to teach our kids valuable lessons about integrity and humility.

The ONE thing to improve your marriage



This post originally appeared on the All In blog, by Square 1 Ministries.

FranklViktorOn September 25,  1942, Jewish physician Victor Frankl, his wife and parents were deported to the Nazi Theresienstadt Ghetto. Two years later Frankl and his wife Tilly were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed. He was moved to Kaufering, a Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau concentration camp, where he arrived on October 25, 1944. There he was to spend five months working as a slave laborer. In March 1945, he was offered a move to the so-called rest-camp, Türkheim, also affiliated with Dachau. He decided to go to Türkheim, where he worked as a physician until April 27, 1945, when Frankl was liberated by the Americans.

Meanwhile, his wife Tilly was transferred from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died. Frankl’s mother Elsa was killed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and his brother Walter died working in a mining operation that was part of Auschwitz.

How does anyone survive such an ordeal? When asked this same question years after his imprisonment, Frankl replied –

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

How do any of us survive hard times? What about hard times in our marriage? For many of us, including myself, we just stuff our feelings deep inside our soul and hope for the best. For others, they can’t/won’t tolerate hard times, so they leave. They try to avoid them by running away.

What if we practiced the secret that Frankl and countless others have relied upon to get them through – adjusting our attitude. Do you want to know what God says is the secret to not only surviving hard times, but enjoying a marriage relationship like it was intended to be enjoyed? Sure you do …

“Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.” Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus chose to humble himself and become a servant. Even when we didn’t deserve it (and still don’t) or appreciate it. He volunteered; he initiated; he sacrificed himself on behalf of his bride.

What about you? What about me? Is that our attitude when it comes to loving (verb) our bride? Are we ready to lay our lives down, to humble ourselves, to sacrifice anything, all for our bride … for our marriage? And all without ever demanding anything in return or any performance from our wife?

Well, that is what the Bible clearly says is the key … having the same attitude as Jesus. Remember Victor Frankl – no one else is responsible for your attitude; no one else can take it away. We (you and me) are responsible for ours. Is it like Christ’s?

Willing to die …

Rob

© 2015 by Rob Thorpe. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “The ONE thing to improve your marriage” by guest blogger Rob Thorpe of Square 1 Ministries.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat do you do when you get resistance or unfair treatment from your wife: act in kind, or respond with kindness?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Dave Harvey’s confession, “Why Do I Act Like I Don’t Love My Wife?”  on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistListen to Gary Thomas talk about turn the tables on the purpose for marriage on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.

Making a mother’s day



Maybe the last thing you’d expect to see in a blog for men is a post about Mother’s Day. That’s the precise reason I decided to write about it.

It’s not that the day’s not important, it’s just that it’s not something that shows up prominently on our radar screens as men. For most guys, whether boys or adults, Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that just seems to sneak up on us.

For me, that was especially true one year when I was in my early teens. The thought had crossed my mind once or twice that Mother’s Day was coming up. I really did appreciate my mom and had a great relationship with her. But in this particular year, if I had any thought of getting my mom something for Mother’s Day, it was a fleeting one.

So when I woke up one Sunday morning and realized it was Mother’s Day, it was too late. I felt incredibly guilty, but it was about to get worse. Normally, my dad was a gentle, non-confrontational man, but when he found out that I hadn’t thought enough to honor my mom for Mother’s Day, he really got mad at me. How could I forget the woman who did so much for me every day, who rarely thought of herself, and who never forgot me on special holidays like my birthday and Christmas?

He was still on his tirade when I stormed out of the house, half mad at him for coming down so hard on me and half mad at myself for being an ungrateful son. But my dad’s talk did accomplish one thing—it  stirred me to action.

For the next 30 minutes, in my tear-filled, angry stomp through the neighborhood, I stopped at every house with a garden and snuck away with the prettiest flowers!  I was determined to show my dad that I wasn’t a thoughtless son, and to convince my mom that I cared enough to only give the very best.

After I had composed myself emotionally (and picked enough flowers to fill my hands), I returned home and presented the bouquet to my mom with sincere apologies for my thoughtlessness. I could tell that my dad wanted to give me lecture number two (this one about stealing from the neighbors), but instead settled for an incredulous, quiet chuckle at my creatively desperate remedy.

I think Dad and I each learned something that day. I’ve never forgotten another Mother’s Day. And until I was an adult with my own kids, he never neglected to remind me a couple of weeks out that Mother’s Day was coming, and that he knew that I genuinely wanted to honor Mom.

I’ve tried to carry on that tradition with my seven children, reminding them when the calendar flipped over to May and even suggesting things that Ellie might appreciate. Of course, there have been years where they forgot, or have given half-hearted gifts that indicated that they might as well have. I just remind myself that I’ve been there.

I tell my story to remind you that the calendar is flipping tomorrow. Whether you only have your mom to honor or whether you have children of your own who need to honor their mom, here are some ideas to take the lead and show your appreciation for the selfless woman/women in your life.

Mother's DayThink about what speaks love to your mother or your wife.

Presents. It could be a flower arrangement, a live flowering plant, a box of chocolates, or something to nice to wear. Just knowing that her children took the time to pick out something just for her will make her feel honored. Even better, have them make her something. Maybe frame each child’s favorite photo with mom like we did.

Encouraging words. It’s one thing to pick out a greeting card for Mother’s Day. It’s quite another for Mom to hear or to read her children’s own words about what she means to them. Write them. Speak them. If you’re not near your mom, plan a phone call that’s off the clock. Just let her enjoy the conversation without being in a hurry to get off. If you really want to go all out, give mom a tribute—a nicely written letter, suitable for framing, that she can pull out months or years from now when she’s having an especially difficult day and needs a little reminder that her efforts have been worth it.

Physical touch. Young mothers spend much of their day getting pulled and tugged by their little brood. What if mom just had a day where her little ones could snuggle in her lap for a book, or to watch a movie together. For teens, maybe it means giving mom that unexpected hug that she so often deserves but so rarely gets. Or maybe she’d appreciate a massage, a manicure, or pedicure.

Acts of serving. Moms are always doing for others: cooking, cleaning, washing, shuttling, nurturing. This is a day where kids call pull out all the stops and do for mom what she’s always doing for them.  If they’re old enough, maybe they could cook the meals that day, including a special meal to honor Mom—maybe even breakfast in bed. Or they might custom-make mom a book of coupons for chores she normally does. Like washing the dishes or clothes, or anything else she always does without complaining, even though she may hate to do it.

Devoted time. If she could, mom would love to disconnect from the daily responsibilities and just spend time talking, or enjoying a relaxing day together. What does she like to do? Spend time outdoors? Have a picnic? Window shop or spend time at a coffee shop? Find out some things she likes to do, and make a day of it, being sure that the relationship is what gets priority.

Husbands, this can be your day to shine (in the eyes of your wife and your children). Think creatively. It’s your responsibility to remind your children that their mom matters (to them and to you), and just how blessed you are as a family to have her.

Set the tone for the day. Enable your children to honor their mom, whether that means taking them to the store to pick out gifts, helping them put their appreciation into written words, or doing all the heavy lifting around the house so that mom can just have that relaxing, uninterrupted time with her children.

For blended families, you as a man can play an important part. Mother’s Day can be awkward when the woman living with your children isn’t their biological mom. Still, she does a lot for them, and deserves appreciation. Help your children think outside their own feelings to recognize hers and the selfless things she does for them. If you’re the step, it’s a great day to step aside and let your children focus their love and attention on their mother.

And if your children’s mom is not in the home, make sure that this day is one where they can connect with her, to honor her as mother, regardless of your current feelings or situation. If their mom has passed away, it’s a perfect time to remember together and honor the impact she made during the time she was with you.

Part of being a man is putting aside yourself for others, particularly those who most care about (and are most dependent on) you. Mother’s Day is one day a year where you can exercise your God-given role by going all in for others.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post by Scott Williams, “Making a mother’s day,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” – Proverbs 31:28

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistWhether you have good or bad ones, “Putting Your Parents in Proper Perspective” is important for you both.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFor tips on how to honor your mom (or your kids’ mom), read “4 Practical Ways to Honor Your Parents.”

Same old argument again



What happened was silly.  I was downstairs and opened a bill.  Since my wife handles our bills, I ran upstairs to discuss it with her.  I bounded into the room where she was engrossed on the computer.  She was re-watching a 600+ slide show of wedding photos to find a particular photo.  I interrupted her and when she waved me off, I did not take the clue and told her we could handle this quickly.

JeffStacyKempUnfortunately, I ignored and flustered her, causing her to lose her place and end the slide show.  She was upset and told me so.

I justified myself.

She reiterated her disappointment.

I weakly said, “Sorry.”

She explained how she felt, and the inconvenience I’d caused.

I said, “Don’t freak out.”

Things got worse. Duh!

The conflict was growing and I stood there defending myself in my heart, looking blandly at her, while thinking about how often we have this stupid disagreement.  Finally I zipped my lip and went downstairs.

When I sat in my chair I thought, That is about the 1,948th time we’ve had that exchange.

I began a conversation with God that went something like this.

God, why does that happen so much?  I meant well, but then I offended her, then I hurt her, then I made it worse.

The thought God gave me in return was this:  Jeff, you’re more upset that you had the conflict than you are that you inconvenienced her.  And you’re more upset that you had the conflict than that you hurt her feelings by defending yourself and showing no real empathy. You always want her to adjust and accept you. You ask for less of these instances of offense and conflict, but you should be asking Me to help you change. You need to want to not hurt her more than you want to not feel bad that you messed up.

Wow … That led to a very introspective and intense prayer time, and a decision.  I aimed to change so that I could be a better apologizer, be less defensive, and truly be more interested in Stacy’s feelings than my own.

I went upstairs, got down on a knee next to her, and told her I was wrong to not apologize fully at first.  I was wrong not to want to hear from her how I had inconvenienced her.  I was wrong to defend myself.  I did not care for her feelings well, and I want to.

I concluded with four things:  “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Will you please forgive me?  I want to change.”

Stacy teared up in a good way and swiftly loved me back with her forgiveness, her own apology, and a hug.

Adapted by permission from Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials Into Triumphs, Copyright © 2015 by Jeff Kemp, Bethany House Publishers.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished Jeff Kemp’s post “Same old argument again” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to Jeff Kemp on FamilyLife Today as he talks about “Marriage Under the Shadow of the NFL.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistVisit the Facing the Blitz website to download a chapter from Jeff’s book, or order a copy of the book for yourself.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistInvest in your wife and your marriage by attending a Weekend to Remember getaway.  Learn about events near you.

Giving your daughter away



I have three daughters.  This summer, I have the rare privilege of giving two of them away in marriage. But who am I giving them to?

BrideFatherAisleEver since my girls were little, I knew that there would probably come a time in the life of each daughter where I would walk her down the aisle during a wedding ceremony and give her away to another man—one to whom I would pass my mantle of authority and protection over my precious girl. I knew I would want to know whether I was entrusting her to good hands.

In the case of both my daughters getting married this year, the future husbands came to me to ask my permission and blessing on the union. The requests they made were heartfelt and honest, the assurances, genuine.

I gave my blessing to both young men on this major transition in my daughters’ lives, and mine. And I took the opportunity to give some godly advice and share my experience from 30 years with my wife Ellie that marriage is worth it, but that it’s not easy. But to be perfectly honest, for me, the transition of my daughters to a new home and new family won’t be all that earth shaking. I will still see them regularly. Their surroundings, their standard of living, their comforts will pretty well remain the same, and our relationship will continue.

As we dads raise our little girls through childhood to adulthood, we try to make sure that our daughters will be be safe and happy, and we do what we can to help them to experience their fullest potential that God designed for them. But what if I was in different shoes? What if the transition for me (or them) wouldn’t be easy? What if the request for my daughters’ hands was like the one John Hasseltine recieved?

Some 200 years earlier, Adoniram Judson was committing his life to bringing the gospel of Christ to the people of India, and wanted Hasseltine’s daughter Ann to become his wife, to accompany him in his endeavor. Here’s the letter this dad received:

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this for the sake of Him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

Now that is giving your daughter away. Knowing that walking her down the aisle might be the last time I ever saw her would give me pause. Is my daughter fully committed to this man and the life that he has to offer? Am I entrusting my little girl into trustworthy hands?

The truth is, your daughter is never yours in the first place. She belongs to God. He has entrusted her to you for a short time to nurture, to protect, to instruct, to prepare, to launch into the world. At some point in her life, He brings you to a point of giving your daughter away to some other man to offer her love, protection, and a common mission.

Hopefully, we as earthly fathers have taught our daughters through word and example about the Heavenly Father who loves them far more than we ever could, protects them far better than we ever could, and has life plans far more exciting and fulfilling than any we could create for our daughters. Hopefully she will choose a husband who knows the same Heavenly Father and wants to embark on a life of adventure with him to know all that God wants to do for them and through them.

For John Hasseltine, he only saw his daughter Ann two weeks after the wedding. She and Adoniram left for India, but God had different plans. They ended up serving in Burma, where Ann lived only 15 difficult years before dying of smallpox. But her legacy remains. She and her husband translated the Bible into Burmese (Ann translated Jonah and Daniel into Burmese, as well as the gospel of Matthew into Thai). Ann’s letters back to America encouraged many stateside Christians to invest their lives and money into overseas missions.

I don’t know how John Hasseltine felt, but I would have been so pleased to have given my daughter away to Adoniram, and given her back to God.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Giving your daughter away” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog for men. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to Ariel Allison talk about “The Influence of a Father” in a daughter’s life on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIt’s never too early (or late) to pray for the man your daughter will marry, or the woman your son will marry.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPreparing for Marriage will help your engaged children build on a firm foundation with their future spouse.

More than a national championship coach



EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, another college basketball season is in the books. With Duke celebrating the national championship with their win over Wisconsin, it seems like an appropriate time to remember back to a man who was synonymous with national championships. 

Long-time UCLA coach John Wooden was interviewed on the FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast more than a decade ago. For Dennis Rainey, it was more than just an opportunity to interview a basketball legend and a childhood idol. It was also an opportunity to talk to a man with a championship legacy in his personal life.

WoodenNetOne of my heroes growing up was John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood.” He won 10 national championships at UCLA and is considered the greatest basketball coach of all time.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Coach Wooden a few years ago for a series of broadcasts on FamilyLife Today.   The only thing that betrayed his age was a cane that he used to balance himself. Everything else about Coach was sharp and steady. His daughter sat in on the taping of those broadcasts and said later it was one of her favorite interviews because my co-host and I didn’t just “talk to Daddy about basketball.”

Before I get to the essence of that interview, I have to share with you what happened at the end of our time together. Coach Wooden had a way of making you feel like he really liked you … at least that’s how I felt as we wrapped things up. He signed his book and handed it to me. Being a basketball player who played on scholarship at a small junior college team during the “Wooden Era,” I smiled and handed it back to him and said to him, “Coach, you don’t know this about me but I still have the school record in high school when I scored 44 points. Why don’t you just write in the front of the book, ‘Dennis, you could’ve played for me at UCLA!’” He got a sly grin on his face and took the book back.

I watched as he smiled and scratched out a few words and closed the cover. He looked up and handed me the book and said with an even bigger grin, “Dennis, I’m a man of integrity.” After I thanked him and said goodbye I sneaked a peak at what Coach had written to me. 

Thank you Dennis,
Since I never initiated contact for an out-of-state player, why didn’t you contact me?
John Wooden
8/12/2002

After more than 3,000 interviews, my time with Coach remains one of my great favorites.

The story of Joshua Wooden

After John Wooden died earlier this month at the age of 99, a chorus of tributes arose from former players and writers. It’s hard to think of a sports figure more admired.

Few of the tributes mentioned Wooden’s father, Joshua Wooden, and that’s the story I’d like to tell. When you read about Joshua Wooden, you realize that lessons taught during childhood can reverberate far into the future.

Joshua raised four sons on a small Indiana farm in the early part of the twentieth century. Life on a farm was not easy in those days—there was no electricity or running water, and the family had to grow most of what they ate. To keep his boys warm on cold winter nights, Joshua would heat bricks on the family’s potbelly stove, wrap them in blankets, and place them at the foot of their beds.

From the beginning, Joshua knew he was not just raising boys but also building men. The boys could play, but only after they had done their chores for the day. You can imagine that on a farm with no electricity or running water, where the family grew most of what they ate, there was plenty of work for four growing boys to do!

Joshua was a strong man—“strong enough to bend a thick iron bar with his bare hands,” one of his sons wrote—but also gentle. Each night, by the light of a coal-oil lamp, he would read to his family from the Scriptures, and he also read classic books and poetry.

He believed in building character, and continually emphasized the importance of making right choices. Two of his favorite phrases that he taught his sons were:

  • “Never lie, never cheat, and never steal.”
  • “Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t alibi.”

When his third son, John, graduated from eighth grade in his small country school, Joshua gave him a card and said, “Son, try to live up to this.” On one side was a verse that read:

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

On the other side was a seven-point creed that read:

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

John kept that card in his wallet for decades until it fell apart. Eighty years after receiving it, he still knew the words by heart.

Joshua lost his farm during the Depression and wasn’t able to pay for his sons’ college education. But all four of them graduated from college with English degrees. Every son but John became a school administrator. John became a teacher of another sort: a basketball coach.

One of the reasons I would have liked playing for Coach Wooden was that he was more than a national championship coach. He was a teacher of character. He built men, not just players. He was a friend and mentor to his players. He called them to step up.

He developed what he called the “Pyramid of Success,” which he taught his players every year. Looking at this pyramid today, with its building blocks of industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, cooperation, loyalty, etc., you can’t help but realize that this is a man whose entire outlook on life came from the influence of his father.

Lifelong lessons

John Wooden’s desire to influence others remained strong for another 35 years after he retired in 1975. Many of his former players called him regularly to seek his advice on everything from raising children to coaching to battling cancer.

One of those players, John Vallely, recently said, “The interesting thing about playing for Coach was not necessarily the championships, but what he taught us about living life was far more important. I just recall the importance of the Pyramid of Success and the characteristics. What he taught us were lifelong lessons. So much of what he was teaching really had a parable of how you live your life.”

Let me close with one more choice verse Joshua gave to John, this time when the Coach’s son was born in 1936:

A careful man I must be;
A little fellow follows me.
I know I dare not go astray;
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.
He thinks that I am good and fine;
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
This little chap who follows me.
I must be careful as I go;
Through summer sun and winter snow.
Because I am building, for the years to be;
This little chap who follows me.

I can picture the Wooden household on those cold Indiana nights, when Joshua would read from the Bible to his family. He had no idea what influence he would have far beyond his death—all he knew was that he was raising sons to become men.

What a father.  What a son.  What a legacy.

Copyright © 2010 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Dennis Rainey’s post “More than a national championship coach” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“True Success: A Personal Visit with John Wooden” is a FamilyLife Today interview with the Wizard of Westwood.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistStepping Up’s John Majors is “Leaving a Legacy to Pass On to His Children.” If you don’t have a legacy to pass on, start one.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass along character to your sons. Listen to Bill Bennett talk about “The Book of Man” on FamilyLife Today.

Daddy daughter and God



This post first appeared on the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog last summer. With pool weather right around the corner, start making plans to do what the author did: get the book, get together with other guys, and learn to be better daddies to your daughters.

I recently started discussing the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters with a group of guys in my neighborhood. We gather around the pool one night a week and talk through two chapters at a time while our kids play in the background. It works out great since many of us are already there closing down the swimming hole many summer nights, and this is one way to be intentional with some of that time.

daddy daughterThe sub-title of the book is “Ten secrets every father should know.” It’s pretty straightforward: ten secrets, ten chapters. Easy reading that you can work through quickly. A perfect setup for group discussion. We began with the first two chapters, titled, “You Are the Most Important Man in Her Life,” and “She Needs a Hero.” There was a fascinating section in chapter one that has shaped the interactions with my daughter over the last few days:

Fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for a daughter’s life. … I have watched daughters talk to fathers. When you come in the room, they change. Everything about them changes: their eyes, their mouths, their gestures, their body language. Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They might take their mothers for granted, but not you. They light up – or they cry. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They hope for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration – or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.

When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence. If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both. Boyfriends, brothers, even husbands can’t shape her character the way you do. You will influence her entire life because she gives you an authority she gives no other man.

Wow. Talk about intimidating. No pressure here. As I’ve watched my daughter, I’ve thought about these words and wondered how I was shaping her life and how she perceived me. What would I unconsciously impart to her? What ways would I mark her as distinctly different from her peers?

The same day I read this paragraph, a friend shared with me that he is positive his wife would not have given him the time of day if it were not for her dad. She meant her dad was an untrustworthy individual, and my friend, though full of his own self-acknowledged challenges as a young man, was someone she could trust. She saw that he was honest. Even brutally so at times. And so she was drawn to him.

I see this at play with my wife, though in the opposite way. Her father was her biggest cheerleader, constantly sang her praises, made sure she knew she could do anything a boy could and anything she wanted to. Run a chainsaw, drive a tractor, mend a mangled barbed-wire fence, get an engineering degree. He believed in her. And she benefited from that in tremendous ways. She is one of the hardest working people I know. When she says she’s going to do something, look out. You can guarantee it will be done. He profoundly shaped who she is today. She would not be the same person without his influence.

The Daddy Daughter Connection

Fathers will leave a mark on their daughters. This is a scary reality at one level. But the other observation for me, related to this reality, is how much of our lives has been shaped by so many different influences to the point that there are many things we do, many decisions we make, that we have relatively little control over. Your immediate reaction to any circumstance is likely a complex mixture of responses that have been formed in you over the years, some of which you are not even aware. Some come from your parents, some your peers, some the books you read, your emotions, your experiences, your beliefs on religion, politics, nature, philosophy, and food. Even the smells that passively waft to your nostrils trigger a complex array of emotions and memories at the most unexpected moments. And then there is your own sin nature and sinful decisions. And boy do the stains from these ever linger.

Paul, in Romans 7:15, hits this head on when he says, “… I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Ever feel that way? Why? Paul continues … “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who did it, but sin that dwells within me”(v 19-20). Yes there are many influences at work which shape your reactions and choices, one of which is the root of sin that has been at work in your heart your entire life. But there is hope, as Paul proclaims, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

You do have a choice about how to live your life, it’s just not always the easiest to choose against those habitual attitudes that have been hard wired in your heart over time. And the hope is not in trying harder, but leaning on the proper source of power.

Tim Keller in his book Center Church says this:

Imagine you’re in an orchestra and you begin to play, but the sound is horrific because the instruments are out of tune. The problem can’t be fixed by simply tuning them to each other. It won’t help for each person to get in tune to the person next to her because each person will be tuning to something different. No, they will all need to be tuned properly to one source of pitch. Often we go about trying to tune ourselves to the sound of everything else in our lives. We often her this described as “getting balance.” But the questions that need to be asked are these: “Balanced to what?” “Tuned to what?” The gospel does not begin by tuning us in relation to our particular problems and surroundings; it first re-tunes us to God.

Let’s bring this full circle shall we? Back to the starting theme of this post: Parenting daughters. The bottom line is to make sure your heart is tuned to the gospel every day. No doubt the task of parenting a daughter (or son for that matter) is daunting. But so is keeping the law and trying to be good on your own strength. The task is beyond you, but let that reality produce comfort rather than fear. Find your comfort in the strength of Christ, who will provide the measure of courage you need to fulfill the task ahead of you.

Although summer is not yet in full swing, it’s not too early to pick up the book and gather with a group of dads and discuss how you can be intentional in your efforts to parent your daughter. Some say it takes a village to raise a child, but at the very least it takes a pool to gather the men who make up that village who will raise that child.

© 2014 Noah Gets a Nailgun. All rights reserved.

John MajorsJohn Majors is the most interesting dad in the world to his daughter and two sons, and is pretty interesting to Julie, his wife of 14 years. As a key creator of the Stepping Up material, one of John’s greatest interests is to see men equipped with tools for leading their families well.

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading John Majors’ post “Daddy daughter and God” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDr. Meg Meeker talks about Strengthening the Father Bond and Providing Boundaries  on FamilyLife Today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIf you want to know “How to Really Know Your Daughter,” read Greg Wright’s article about daddy-daughter dates.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPick up Dr. Meg Meeker’s book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters and start building intentionally in the life of your daughters.

 

Facing the Blitz



You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can always control how you respond.

Some of life’s toughest challenges present the opportunity to gain some of life’s biggest victories. It’s often a matter of mindset.

Consider the blitz. It’s perhaps any defense’s most effective weapon. But by putting all their effort in pressuring the quarterback, they leave open the receivers to the possibility of the offense making a great play.

That’s the experience of Stepping Up’s own Jeff Kemp. An 11-year veteran of the NFL, Jeff, as a quarterback, dreaded the blitz, but he welcomed the opportunity it provided to make the big play. As he’s made that application to life, he has seen that some of the enemy’s biggest efforts to discourage and defeat, reveal even bigger opportunities to trust God more and to see him bless in ways that are beyond anything we can ask or imagine.

Jeff has taken those years of experience on the football field and decades of experience in life and put them inside the covers of a book, Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs, available Tuesday, March 24. Check out what Jeff has to say in this video, and in the introduction to his book.

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I wouldn’t have guessed that my experience handling blitzes on and off the field would provide me with many of the most powerful lessons of my life. And I certainly didn’t expect it to make the difference between a life of meaning and one of despair. But that’s been my reality—and probably yours too. Isn’t life, for all of us, about facing blitzes?

If you’ll take a long-term perspective, if you’re willing to change, and if you adopt an others-centered approach to everyday living, then life’s problems, attacks, and trials will serve to grow you. They will grow your humility, your honesty, your relationships, your faith, and your joy. They will open up your eyes to the pain that others are feeling because of their blitzes and help you be a better team player and support person for them. These are all good things that can come out of your blitzes.

You’ll learn that overcoming is not about bouncing back so much as bouncing UP. No matter how near or how far you are from your blitz, this is not a book about the past. It’s about the present and future. This is a message about recovering, about coming back from, about transforming—and then getting better and going further than you ever dreamed possible.

But to do all that, you’ll need the courage to embrace three simple principles—strategies, if you will—which are as easy to understand as they are difficult to follow:

  1. Take a long-term view.
  2. Be willing to change.
  3. Reach out to others.

Before you dive into understanding and trying to employ the three strategies for facing, and beating, a blitz, you’ll need to understand why some people are better at it than others, and why for other people these requirements don’t make any sense. It all has to do with how we see ourselves, the world, and life in general. How well you master these strategies will depend on how you answer these questions:

  1. Do you see life as an individual sport or a team sport?
  2. Do you look at the world from the standpoint of a consumer or an investor?
  3. What is your power source for living, loving, and overcoming trials?

Your answers to these questions will reveal your lenses.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post, “Facing the Blitz,” on FamilyLife’s blog for men, Stepping Up.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRandy Alcorn helps us sort through “How God Uses Suffering for His Glory” and for our ultimate good.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistVisit the Facing the Blitz website to download a chapter excerpt from Jeff’s book, or order a copy of the book for yourself.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistEncourage other men who may be facing life’s blitz by sharing a link to this blog post or the book’s official website.

Tell your kids about sex God’s way



Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the official blog of pureHOPE, a ministry that seeks to share Christian solutions to a world characterized by sexual exploitation and brokenness. This post is specifically for dads and how to tell your kids about sex God’s way.

As I write this post, the cold and blustery conditions outside remind me of one of the most memorable and precious times I’ve had as a father. It was 15 years ago when my now 22-year-old son was 7. We were living in Springfield, Missouri in a house that sat perched on a hill with a long driveway leading up to it. Twelve inches of snow had fallen the night before preceded by rain, leaving a thick layer of ice underneath the snow.

Our job that day, and for the two days after that, was to clear our driveway. Schools and businesses were closed so we had a rare and unique opportunity to hang out together for hours. I felt this was the perfect time to introduce my son to the wonderful and mysterious subject of sex. My own father had neglected to have these types of conversations with me and I was determined to take this initiative with my kids; not a one-time talk, but rather, an on-going dialogue for the rest of their lives. So, as we embarked on the long and tiring task of clearing that driveway, I began to unfold the story, the wonder, and the biology of sex to my son.

I explained to Him that God speaks about sex positively and frequently from Genesis to Revelation beginning with our creation as sexual beings (Gen. 1:27), and that God blessed the sexual union between a husband and wife from the outset (Gen. 1:28; 2:24). At pureHOPE, we sum up the meaning of sex as “The Four Ps” which may help guide your conversations. I would also encourage you to study these and other verses related to sexuality.

  • SongSol7Pleasure – Yes, we need to inform our kids that God intended sex to be pleasurable (Song of Sol. 7:6-10).
  • Procreation – God blessed the sexual union of a husband and wife and instructed them to be fruitful and increase in number (Gen. 1:28).
  • Protection – Ongoing sexual intimacy between a husband and wife strengthens their relationship and guards against temptations outside of the marriage (1 Cor. 7:3-5).
  • Proclamation – Fidelity in marriage proclaims the faithfulness and steadfast love of Jesus for His Church (Eph. 5:25-32). The story of sex is ultimately the story of God’s love for His people.

It is always fascinating to me as I tell that story of my conversation with my 7-year-old the reactions that I get. Some are appalled that I would start so young. Others, as if to acknowledge their identification with my story of not having had these conversations with their dads, affirm that they wish someone had talked to them that early.

I do not claim to know the best age for you to begin having these conversations with your kids, I just know that too many of us either wait too long to start or never start at all. So, I would like to suggest some helpful tips to inspire you to jump into this topic:

  1. Be Proactive. Ask yourself this question: “When does our culture begin talking to our kids about sex?” Sex education is happening today with my kids and with your kids. We can either make the choice to join in on the conversation or let the culture do all the talking.
  2. Be Intentional. These conversations rarely just happen. These conversations are rarely comfortable. We must make a plan and be willing to engage with our kids purposefully when it comes to their sexuality and God’s “better story” of sex.
  3. Be Available. We need to become our kids’ go-to person when it comes to questions about sex. Kids are curious and they will get the answers they are looking for – would you rather be that person or leave it to their friends, the media, or Hollywood? Let your kids know that they can always ask you any question, that they will never be in trouble for asking you questions, and that you will always be honest with them.
  4. Be Vulnerable. So many dads hesitate to talk with their kids about this issue because of shame or guilt over their own past sexual mistakes. Many dads fear this question from their kids: “How did you do, Dad?” It has been helpful to share with my kids that I made some mistakes. There are some things that I did that were wrong and led to consequences and pain in my life that I want to help them avoid. I also serve a Redeemer, who forgives me and restores me. Our love for our kids motivates us to guide them to learn from our mistakes and to let them know that if and when they make mistakes that God is a God of forgiveness and grace and that he redeems and restores! 1 John 3:3 tells us that He (Jesus) is the one who is purifying us. If we have a relationship with Him then it is He who will make us pure.
  5. Be Persuasive. Our culture tells a story of sex to our kids. It is estimated that our kids are subjected to 14,000 sexualized messages every year from various media sources. Our culture is loud and persuasive when it comes to telling it’s story. We must counter that story with God’s better story: His story of sex.

Dads, be encouraged! You have what it takes because God has given us His Holy Spirit who will help us have these conversations. You have the better story to tell. Tell it loudly, tell it often and tell it with confidence. We need this generation to embrace God’s story of sex and it will only happen if we step up and engage our kids in these conversations.

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

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Tell your kids about sex God’s way,” by guest blogger Dan Martin of pureHOPE ministry.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWould you say that your influence in your child’s life in this area has been sufficient to counter the world’s message?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead how one parent decided to handle this delicate topic on FamilyLife.com: “It Was Time for ‘The Talk.'”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistLay a good groundwork for your pre-teen or adolescent child by getting away for a Passport2Purity getaway weekend.

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