Serving and caring until the end



From the doorway, Roy quietly watched his darling wife standing in front of the cook stove. She wasn’t one for fancy recipes, but to Roy, everything she cooked was “good eatin’.”

Sophie breaded a pork chop and gently placed it in the frying pan as she had done so many times before. Roy could remember well the first meals she cooked as a newlywed almost 60 years before. The tears welled up in his weathered, hardened eyes, not only from the fond memories of the past, but also from his present grief.

OldCoupleHandsHoldYou see, every 10-15 minutes Sophie would start another meal, forgetting she had already begun one. In addition to the pork chops, there was a chicken stewing on the back burner, and a pot roast in the oven. She was growing more and more forgetful.

Months earlier Roy noticed that Sophie would wander into a room to dust, forgetting she had just finished dusting moments before. More than once he caught her doing laundry and making their bed with fresh laundered sheets for the second time in one day. She was making several entrees for lunch and dinner—and now she had three going at once.

Sophie turned from the stove with all burners going, walked into the living room, and picked up her needlepoint to work. Roy knew that she would forget the dinner and burn the food, so without mention he adjusted the heat and finished each part of the dinner in time. Sophie continued to work on the needlepoint, pausing for long moments to vacantly stare.

No One Knew

Roy realized it was time to act. He fixed things around the house to protect his wife, putting in hidden switches on the stove, turning down the temperature on the water heater to prevent burns in the bathtub, and removing plug-in appliances to keep Sophie from hurting herself.

To the people around them, life looked pretty normal as they attended worship, went shopping, and even visited others for special occasions. Everyone knew Sophie was a bit forgetful, but no one knew to what extent. They said it was “cute” how Roy and Sophie were never separate, always together … “such sweet love.” But little did they know the depths of the love they observed.

It wasn’t easy for Roy to watch over Sophie, help her dress, oversee her cooking, and be with her at all times. But he willingly served, thinking often of the hymn, “I need Thee, O, I need thee. Every hour I need Thee …”

It wasn’t until one Saturday morning in early April that the family and the neighbors finally learned of the depths of Roy’s committed love.

In a mid-morning phone call, Sophie told her friend Lena, “Roy won’t wake up. I’ve been waiting for him for breakfast. He is still sleeping, and I can’t wake him.”

Lena responded quickly and kindly, “Sophie, I want you to sit in your chair by the phone, and then I want you to hang up so I can call your sister. Can you do that and promise not to move until I get there?” Sophie, obedient in her confusion, waited for Lena and her sister to arrive.

When they entered the house, they found my grandfather, Rudolph “Roy” Walter, in bed under the covers wearing a peaceful expression in sound eternal sleep. The doctor said, “His heart just wore out.”

My grandmother had no idea what had happened; Sophie had no concept of death or life. At the viewing, she observed her husband lying in the wheat-colored coffin. Touching his hand she said, “Roy’s cold; maybe we should cover him.”

It wasn’t until the family had to care for Sophie, that they truly understood for the first time how much Roy cared for her. Sophie needed help at every moment, and Roy had been willing to give it.

Roy died happy, knowing he loved his wife the only way he knew how— serving and caring for her, “until death do you part.” He knew that love is more than romance; it is constant, determined, serving, and uncomplaining.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

 

Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey



This is the final post in a three-part series about “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” The second post, “Man up to Christian Grey and Fifty Shades,” offered ideas about what you can do to reflect real manhood: Be a man of integrity, love your wife unconditionally, and show your daughters their strength. This post picks up that list with four more suggestions.

4. Raise men of honor.

The way a young man treats a young woman tells her what he thinks of her, and even feeds into how she thinks of herself. We need to remind our sons to value young ladies like we value their mom and treat them with the same honor and deference. The same axiom I mentioned earlier works in reverse: “Be a gentleman; get a lady.”

We also need to remind sons that they need to take responsibility for the self-discipline of the relationship. Just because of how we’re designed, we men are more likely to be the pursuers in a relationship. We will advance as far as we are allowed, and even push the boundaries to find out how solid they are.

As dads, we endeavor to raise our sons to be men of honor and integrity. And our desire is that they date young women with high moral standards as well. But we know that, as romance and hormones blossom, the tendency is for those physical boundaries to get mushy. In generations past, a young woman might put on the brakes if the passion got too high. Today, though, young women are just as likely as young men to be the aggressors.

We need to remind our sons (and the guys who date our daughters) to not let the passion rise to those hard-to-stop points, even if their dates seem to be giving the go-ahead. When things have settled down, she’s likely to appreciate him taking the leadership, and more trusting that he’s watching out for her.

5. Warn the women in your life about pornography.

At one time, porn use among married men wasn’t something “polite” women brought up. In recent years, women have bravely begun to speak up about how it hurts them and makes them feel inferior to the sex objects on the pages of magazines and computers. But at the same time, strangely, pornography has become more accepted among women.

Men who have battled porn addiction should be the first to speak up to warn and protect women.  We know firsthand how pornography lures us with the promise of sexual fulfillment and release, but it eventually dominates our thinking. Advances in neuroscience have confirmed what we already knew from experience: the more we give ourselves to porn, the more our brains are trained to want more of it, more often, and more graphic. Eventually, we’re more drawn to the instant fulfillment of a sexual fantasy than to work through a real relationship with a real woman.

The same thing is beginning to happen to women. Many are becoming obsessed with pornography and erotica and the fulfillment it offers. They become trapped in a world of fantasy where they attempt to meet emotional and sexual needs with a fantasy man. They may not be as attracted as much to the visual stimulation as men are, but they do notice the beautiful, sexy women in porn and imagine those women as themselves, the objects of desire.

With the power of the smartphone, young women have discovered they have the ability to create their own porn in the form of nude selfies and videos. They do it to connect to a love interest or to get noticed. With all the increase in women’s use of porn, the bottom line is that they seem to be willing to put up with objectification and debasement in order to find a way to be desired and fulfilled.

6. Be open with your wife about romance and intimacy.

Many married women defending the book often say it has improved their sex life. Certainly a film like Fifty Shades that blends heavy doses of romance and flesh can’t help but awaken many women’s sexual desires. It’s the same reasoning a man might give for watching pornography with his wife—to jump-start their sex life. But that’s trying to create a reality based on fantasy.

There is a much healthier way to jump-start romance and intimacy in your marriage. It’s called communication. Open, honest conversations about intimacy and sexual fulfillment keep romance and passion alive through years of marriage.

Talk honestly about how each of you assess your love life, frequency, likes, dislikes and wishes. Maybe you can start with some simple questions that you answer together.

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our intimacy?
  • What things that I do make you feel most wanted and fulfilled?
  • What would you change about our love life?

God has designed marriage as the place to enjoy a lifetime of intimacy between “the wife of your youth” and her “beloved” (Proverbs 5:18-19; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Song of Solomon 7:6-10). Talk and explore together how to get out of the intimacy rut and together create a more fulfilling sex life. Not sure what’s okay and what’s not (especially in light of all the junk passed off in Fifty Shades of Grey)? Here are some helpful guidelines borrowed from Marriage Today:

  • Is it forbidden in Scripture?
  • Does it violate your conscience?
  • Does it violate your wife, or is it against her conscience or will?
  • Is it physically safe or might it cause health risks?
  • Does it treat your wife in a disrespectful way or damage your relationship?
7. Understand submission God’s way.

What is presented in Fifty Shades of Grey is being called submission, but it’s actually subjugation. Subjugation is defined as “defeating or gaining control of a person for their obedience.” Submission is when a person voluntarily places themselves under the authority and guidance of another.

The Bible teaches women to submit to the God-given leadership of their husbands in the same way that Christ submitted to the will of God the Father. But here’s a reminder, guys: God doesn’t command a husband to remind his wife to submit. Instead He calls the husband to unconditionally love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave his entire life for her. Subjugation is the furthest thing from God’s design in the marriage relationship. Our wives are His gift to us as our completers, and we are God’s gift to them as shields of protection.

Out of reverence to Christ, both husband and wife are to put their personal desires aside to serve each other (Ephesians 5:21). That brings out the best in a man and a woman. It brings us together in mutual trust and fulfills the deepest longings of our souls.

When you rely on God’s word to guide you on how a man should treat a woman, it’s easier to see black and white. Thankfully, a real Christian doesn’t have to muddle through fifty shades of grey.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“7 Things to Remember About Sex” is one great way you and your wife can start a discussion about your sexual desires.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistTwo broadcasts, “Fifty Shades of Deception” and “Longings of a Woman’s Heart” point women to what’s really at stake.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistLet women see a better example of manhood by passing “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” along to your male friends.

Man up to Christian Grey, Fifty Shades



This is the second of three posts on what a real man should do with Fifty Shades of Grey.

On Valentine’s weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey dominated the box offices with $85 million in ticket sales, even though the movie was almost universally panned. In my first post, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?,” I expressed concern that the main character, Christian Grey, is a pathetic role model for true manhood. Rather than respect and care for an innocent and vulnerable Anastasia Steele, he subjects her to sexual abuse and degradation to fulfill the warped desires left from his own childhood sexual abuse.

Sure, Christian Grey is a fictional character, but his influence on the culture (through Fifty Shades of Grey) is troubling. Have women lowered their standards for men so far that Christian Grey is the object of desire? Reportedly, the books and movie have a heavy following among 25-55 year old women.  But it’s also reaching our young daughters. According to IMDB (Internet Movie Database), the movie drew the highest reviews by far from girls under 18.

And just in case you’re wondering, a Barna survey found that women who identify themselves as Christians are reading the books at the same rate as the general public. It’s captivating women everywhere.

That should concern any self-respecting man.

For decades, the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women in the media has been a problem. A majority of all young women today have been exposed to pornography before age 14. As they are encountering sexual material at younger and younger ages, we appear to be reaching critical mass.

In years past, that exposure would be met with disgust. But now it’s being embraced in our culture. About half of young adult women now consider viewing pornography as an acceptable way of expressing their sexuality. One in three visitors to online porn sites are now women, and one in five women use the Internet weekly for sexual purposes.

These are our wives and our daughters who are being affected. So, as a godly man, what do you do?

1. Be a man of integrity.

Women are looking for a man to admire, not just someone to buy them off and beat any sense of high standards out of them. As a husband, you need to make it your goal to treat your wife as your greatest earthly priority. As a father, you model for both your sons and your daughters not just what real manhood is all about, but the value of women.

Pastor and author Robert Lewis defines an authentic man:

  • He rejects passivity. He doesn’t allow the enemy to distract him from reflecting the image of his Creator God, and caring for the woman and the world that have been entrusted to him.
  • He accepts responsibility. He recognizes that his wife and children are dependent on him, and he seeks to correct his mistakes rather than make others continue to suffer in the wake of his bad choices.
  • He leads courageously. He doesn’t force women to step in to fill the vacuum of leadership left by passive men. But he also recognizes that his leadership is a position of voluntary submission to Christ, who voluntarily submits Himself to the Father.
  • He expects God’s greater reward. He recognizes that Christ didn’t give in to the temptations of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), but submitted his own desires to those of the Father so that he could redeem His bride, the church (Philippians 2:5-11).
2. Love the one you’re with.

Your wife should be the object of your desire. She longs to see in your words and actions that you are always seeking the best for her. Rather than expecting her to sign a contract listing your demands, remind her that you have made a covenant to cherish and care for her, and to love her as much as you love your own body (Ephesians 5:29).

weaker vesselScripture tells us (1 Peter 3:7) to live with our wives in an understanding way (be considerate), as a weaker vessel. That’s not a cut-down but a comparison; a compliment. I think of it as delicate vs. durable; Ellie’s demitasse china cup and saucer vs. my gunmetal grey travel mug. My wife is strong and capable (she would have made a great pioneer woman). Yet I know Ellie is created to be a responder, nurturer and empathizer. She flourishes when I treat her with honor and respect. And God reminds me that His receptivity to me is tied to how receptive I am to my wife. Strength and submission aside, we husbands need to remember that we are equal to our wives before God, as joint heirs of His grace. We need to become lifelong students of extending that grace to each other.

3. Show your daughters their strength.

Too many girls and young women today don’t realize the power they have to set the expectations in a relationship. In our sexualized culture, they are led to believe that their only real worth is as sensual creatures. They expect that by gratifying the natural desires of a man, he will come to desire her. The truth is that a woman who holds high standards for herself and the man she cares about will call him up from his basic instincts to his true calling as leader, protector, lover.

A young girl needs to know that she’s loved—by her Heavenly father and her earthly father. We daddies need to remind our daughters of their intrinsic worth to us, and especially their value to the God who created them, who knows them intimately, and who loves them unconditionally. The more they accept this, the more likely they will be to look for a man who recognizes and respects their value.

And often it’s the little things they do that begin to bring out the best in a guy. One of the things I’ve told my three girls through the years has been “Be a lady; expect a gentleman.”  Wait for him to open the door, to pull out her chair, to call for a date. Sure, she can do all those things, but in waiting, she’s offering him an opportunity to step up and to show her he values her.

If there’s a positive message in Fifty Shades of Grey it’s this: A man will give honor to a woman when she raises the bar and expects to be treated as a unique creation and not just an object of desire.

The final post in this three-part series will continue the suggestions about what you can do to challenge the image of Christian Grey  by being a real man. We’ll cover raising sons, warning women about the dangers of porn, developing intimacy with your wife, and understanding submission from God’s perspective.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to challenge Christian Grey and Fifty Shades” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead the original post in this series, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” and come back next week for the conclusion. 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRobert Lewis and William Hendricks share “What Every Husband Needs to Know” about ministering to his wife.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistA daughter is stronger when she has a relationship with her dad. Read “How to Really Know Your Daughter.” 

 

What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?



During the Christmas holidays, my 17-year-old son and I were settling into our theater seats to enjoy a movie we’d been looking forward to for some time–Unbroken.  That’s when we were assaulted by the preview for Fifty Shades of Grey.

50ShadesBoth of us found it disturbing. In fact, even after I’d finished watching Unbroken, the scenes that stayed in my mind weren’t of Louis Zamperini’s cruel treatment at the hands of “The Bird” in the Japanese prisoner of war camp, but the preview images from the “Red Room of Pain.”

In case you’re not familiar, Fifty Shades of Grey is based on one of the best selling books of all time. The movie bills itself as a romance between powerfully-attractive young billionaire Christian Grey and a naïve, not-so-self-assured college senior, Anastasia Steele. Without meaning to, she catches his attention when she’s interviewing him for the school newspaper, and he begins to do everything in his power (and he has a lot of it) to make her the object of his desires … desires which have been grotesquely mangled by being sexually abused at a young age.

Fifty Shades of Grey is pornography. No one denies it. But relatively few are opposing it. The Motion Picture Association of America developed its current rating system to help parents make decisions about which movies their children should see. Yet they gave Fifty Shades of Grey an R rating (“Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking young children with them.”) rather than NC-17 (“Clearly adult. Children not permitted.”). Considering  the popularity of the books, and how the movie got the same R rating as one-third  of the other films released, it’s no surprise that advance ticket sales have set all-time records on Fandango.

What is surprising is who is viewing the film and reading the book—and why in the world they even would. Many refer to the book as “mommy porn” because of its wild popularity among adult women. And ticket sales are briskest in the typically-conservative deep south.

Romance novels have always been a staple of women’s reading. But Fifty Shades of Grey goes beyond romance to erotica, which is essentially porn for women. As much as 20 percent of the two-hour film is sex scenes—as much screen time as all Hollywood films from 2014 … combined.

And the film isn’t just sex. It’s abuse. Proponents of the film try to argue that BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) is fine if it’s between consenting adults. But Ana repeatedly tells Mr. Grey (after each time he does his thing with her) that she doesn’t appreciate it. She’s constantly in tears about it. She tries to leave him, only to have him stalk her and emotionally manipulate her into staying. He demands control of her life to the point of prescribing her exercise and diet, choosing her wardrobe, and having a doctor examine her and put her on the pill.

Christian Grey is no real man in any sense of the word.  A real man respects and honors a woman’s body and emotions; he doesn’t abuse and manipulate her. But author E.L. James has somehow made Grey the desire of 100 million women. She cleverly plays to women’s innate longings to be sought after, to live a more fulfilling existence and to rescue a broken man. In doing so, she gets women to excuse abusive behavior and to ignore countless warning signs on a fool’s road to romance.

Reading through two very lengthy, very detailed synopses of the first book (I refuse to read the book itself), I was continually struck by how much Mr. Grey’s behavior was the very picture of everything we tell women to run away from to avoid abuse. How many times have we listened incredulously to real-world horror stories of women who endure years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from boyfriends and husbands, yet can’t bring themselves to leave. Yet here we are with a book series and movie that draws women into that same warped, powerless thinking—“I’m not worth it. He can’t help it. What will happen to him if I leave?”

It’s not just naive adult women who are getting drawn in by Fifty Shades of Grey. The book has found itself in the hands of myriads of teen girls who are quite impressionable and undiscerning as they embark on their quest for love and passion. And with the release of the movie (and subsequent DVD and home-streaming option) a lot of girls and guys will be sneaking their ideas of love and intimacy from this movie.

In other words, the media’s influence has the potential for creating a lot more Christian Greys, and giving girls the idea that they should put up with them. But rather than allow the media culture to create a false impression of what it means to be a strong man, we should step up to be the true strong men who treat women with respect and teach our daughters and sons to expect the same standard.

So what can we do to make that happen?

We need to model and talk about the proper values of leading and submitting, and the proper view of romance and intimacy with our wives, our daughters, our sons. The next post, “Man up to Christian Grey, Fifty Shades,” will look at some thoughts on how that can happen.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “What’s a Real Man do with Fifty Shades?” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead  more concerns about the book and movie in the article “Fifty Shades of Caution”  and the reader responses to it.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead about another movie that opened Valentine’s weekend: “An ‘Old Fashioned’ Alternative to ‘Fifty Shades’.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTwo broadcasts, “Fifty Shades of Deception” and “Longings of a Woman’s Heart” point women to what’s really at stake.

Stepping Up in space



Stepping Up in space

Barry “Butch” Wilmore aboard the International Space Station (Photo by NASA)

Barry “Butch” Wilmore is captain of the International Space Station, where he’s spending several months conducting experiments, doing repairs, and increasing the capabilities of the station.

One of the other interesting things Wilmore did was to finish a personal study of the Stepping Up men’s material, which he found to be both empowering and challenging in his personal life. 

Wilmore recently talked with FamilyLife Today hosts Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine about his time in the space station, focusing mostly on spiritual matters, like his mentoring ministry, his role as a father and daily experiencing the awesome creation of his Heavenly Father. 

This is an excerpt of the transcript from the February 6 broadcast. Click the link, “Life Aboard the Space Station,” If you want to hear the entire broadcast. 

Dennis Rainey: Captain Wilmore, you have done a number of deployments in your service for the Navy. You have any coaching for dads who travel a lot?  Maybe, they don’t go to outer space, but they’re gone three or four days a week or a good number of days throughout the month—any coaching for them about caring for their wives and their children in the midst of that?

Barry Wilmore: I think the thing that I would say from my standpoint—and what I’ve tried to do myself—is always think about biblical principles—you know, raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and teach them God’s Word.

That’s what I do with my daughters, and that’s what my wife and I do together.

I think a big part of that is preparing, especially when the children are younger—I’ve got a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old. We did a great deal of preparation for this separation time—discussing it and talking about it. My number one message to my daughters, and I even say it when I call them now, is: “Help Mommy.” We also—my wife homeschools—so, the follow-up slogan to that is: “Help your teacher. The principal may be out of town for a while, but he’s coming back!”  [Laughter]

Dennis: So, that’s a setup. Do you want to say anything to those girls of yours?—any words from Daddy to a daughter?  I know you get to talk to them too, but here is a chance to both brag on them and exhort them with a few hundred thousand, if not a million, listeners across the country.

Barry: Yes, both of my daughters are taking piano lessons—my youngest just started. I want you to know, girls—Darren and Logan—Daddy loves—loves—to hear you play the piano. I thank you when you practice, and I thank you when you play over the phone so I can even hear you from here—so, thank you for that. I want you to know that Daddy is very proud of both of you. And I also want you to know that the slogan is the same in this message too: “Help Mommy / help your teacher.”  [Laughter]

Dennis: Well said by a dad. Way to go!  Is there a question you’d like to be asked that’s a favorite question for you to answer?

Barry: I think, you know, it’s less about me / more about my Lord is where I would try to orient any question: “What drives you?”—maybe. What really, truly drives me is my desire to live according to what the Lord has laid out in His Word that we should do—

—and to glorify Him—and that’s the main driver. So, that would be the question: “What drives you?” and that’s the answer.

Stepping Up in space

Astronauts Terry Virts and Butch Willmore from the US, and Samantha Christoforetti of Italy. (Photo by NASA)

Bob Lepine: You have time in your schedule to include spiritual disciplines and to keep your spiritual self in shape, right?

Barry: Absolutely; yes, sir.

Bob: So, what are you doing in space—I know you have an opportunity to read your Bible, and you mentioned reviewing messages from church. Anything else that you are doing to just stay connected to Christ?

Barry: The Lord gave me something a few years ago that I have been continuing. It wasn’t something I set out to do—it just kind of happened—and that is that I started sending out a devotion to just a couple of people daily / every single day. Over the years, the Lord grew that distribution list. I don’t know how many people are on it now—I haven’t counted—it’s probably 70 or so different emails that I send out.

So, I do that every day—preparing the devotion to send out to those 70 individuals.

Also, I have it posted on my friends and family website. So that, right there, is something that the Lord has given me to keep me in His Word, and keep me studying, and keep me growing—and for that, I am grateful.

Dennis: I just want our listeners to think about where Butch is right now because he’s looking at how this verse is really spelled out—Psalm 8.

Stepping Up in space 3

The Aurora over the US and Canada. (Photo by NASA/Butch Willmore)

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. You have set Your glory above the heavens!  When I look at the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; what is man, that You are mindful of him and the son of man that You care for him?

Yet, you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor!  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands and have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and the beasts of the fields, and the birds of the heaven, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Barry: I can tell you from this vantage point, “majestic,” indeed—praise Him.

Bob: Butch, let me ask you one more question. How often does the sun come up during the day, and how often does it go down during the day for you?

Barry: Oh, there is another blessing!  The sunrises and sunsets here are just amazing. The Space Station—the whole station for about six to ten seconds turns completely orange as it goes through—as the light passes through the atmosphere. It kind of acts as a prism and separates the colors. I get 16 of those a day—fantastic!

Bob: So, is it almost bedtime for you now?

Barry: It actually—it is. I’m going to grab me a quick little bite to eat; and then, I’m going to hit the rack. [Laughter]

Dennis: Well, Butch, thanks for joining us on FamilyLife Today. Just want you to know it’s no excuse that you can’t listen to the broadcast up there. You should have figured that out in advance, but we’ll forgive you for that; okay?

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou finished reading the post “Stepping Up in space” in the Stepping Up men’s blog from FamilyLife.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat do you picture as you read the words of Psalm 8 about God’s creation and the special place He has given you?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to Barry Wilmore on FamilyLife Today from the February 6 broadcast and the December 22 broadcast.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistWho could you get to join you to go through Stepping Up as a small group? Pray about it, then go for launch.

Guiding kids to maturity



As I read through Scripture, there are some passages that just grab my attention and make me think. Often those passages involve lists. There are probably dozens of these in the New Testament alone, and I’m sure you’ll recognize a few, like

guiding kidsI guess it’s a guy thing. We like action, and there’s something about a list that encourages action, that breaks down a project into more manageable tasks. Some of those list passages offer a set of filters for working through a situation. Like in I Thessalonians 5:14 (NASB):

“And we urge you, brothers,
admonish the unruly,
encourage the fainthearted,
help the weak,
be patient with everyone.”

That list has always intrigued me. I had always assumed it gave instruction on dealing with difficult people, but until recently I never really dug into it. So I decided to devote several of my morning quiet times to the passage, delving into the meaning of the words, understanding the four challenges within the larger context of the passage and meditating on what the verse looks like applied in my own life.

The big picture

Right off, I saw that the four-item list was actually three specific challenges and one overarching one. The Apostle Paul points out that there are three different types of behaviors you can expect to encounter when you’re dealing with people, and how you can properly respond to them when they come up. As I studied, I was sure that understanding the passage would help me recognize situations where I could put the principles to use as I dealt with people throughout the day. But where would they show up, and how would I know it when they did?

Eventually it hit me square in the face. I’ve actually been encountering the situations and dealing with them almost every day for years … in my own home. The reason I’d missed the wisdom of this verse is because it’s listed in reverse order of how I had learned it as a dad.

My wife Ellie and I have raised seven children to adolescence and beyond.  When our first was born, I was struck by how helpless he was. He was dependent on us for everything. As he grew and acquired skills and experience, I had to encourage him that he was able to do more than he realized he could. He just needed to apply what he’d learned to the life situations he was encountering.

And as he reached the teen years and started choosing his own way in the world, I had to constantly convince him that there’s a big difference between learning and knowledge, between facts and experience. And I had to admonish him that life was not just about him, but just as much about using what he’s learned in order to relate to those around him.

As each of our seven children grew in wisdom and stature, their personalities may have been different, but the principles were always the same. They needed to learn the basics, apply them to their own lives, then learn to use them in their dealings with others. And they needed someone along the way to help them navigate that path to maturity.

Epiphany! I had been doing I Thessalonians 5:14 in the everyday process of being a father; I just didn’t realize it. That understanding and experience made the whole verse and passage come alive.

Help the weak

The Greek word for weak means lacking the strength due to immaturity or inability. Whether they’re newborn babies, brand new coworkers or new believers, people come into situations where they know absolutely nothing. They’ll be confused. They’ll make mistakes. You could chide them or tell them to keep trying, but their greatest need is for someone to teach them … patiently.

The Greek word for help doesn’t just refer to using your ability to meet someone’s weakness. It implies that you put aside your own interests for theirs. As I was holding my first granddaughter the other day, I reminded myself that she couldn’t do anything for herself, including communicate what she needed. When she wailed, I had to work extra hard to understand her need, then meet it the best I could. That meant putting up with the crying and fussiness, because it wasn’t about me, but about her.

It’s exactly what Jesus did for me. “For while we were still helpless (weak), at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5).  As He put aside His desires for a helpless sinner, I need to do the same for the weak in my life.

Encourage the fainthearted

The heart is the seat of the soul. The French word for heart is where we get our word “courage.”  Those who are fainthearted are dealing with a heart that’s too small for the task.

With seven kids, you can imagine that their personalities are quite different. For some of ours, faintheartedness looked like despondency. To others, it looked like impatience, or maybe even frustration. Whether it was because they were unsure of themselves or unsure of the situation facing them, they needed someone there to bolster their hearts—to en-courage them. They needed someone to believe in them, to say, “You can do it.” And they needed to know that I would be there with them on the other side to say “I knew you could!”

But encouraging is not just being a cheerleader. It’s coming alongside to give wisdom, to help the person understand the reason for the faintheartedness and to do the right things at the right time. Again, like with the weak, this requires you to put away self for the sake of others.

If there was any question that this passage directly applied to fatherhood, it was put to rest as I read what Paul had said to the Thessalonians just a few chapters before.

“Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). READ MORE »

Super Bowl MVP: Dad



Just about everyone gets a little excited about the Super Bowl. Even the people who aren’t football fans probably look forward to the halftime show or the creative and entertaining commercials. They’re more interested in the side show than the final score or the MVP.

If this year’s commercials are any indication, there’s already a winner for this year’s Super Bowl MVP: Dad.

This year there are three commercials that will probably touch everybody, man, woman, or child. That’s because they’re about dads, and the fact is that either you are a dad, have a dad, or have a dad-hole you’re looking to fill. The commercials for Toyota, Nissan and Dove pluck all those heart strings.

Dove Men + Care: “Real Strength

This commercial’s been out on the web for a while (it went viral last Father’s Day with 12 million views), but the exposure it will get during the Super Bowl will likely make it a commercial that everybody remembers.

It’s simply a succession of two dozen clips of kids and young adults in everyday life. A swimming pool, a high chair, a wedding. No one says more than one word, but that one word is powerful. Dada. Daddy. Dad.

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The commercial’s text asks a simple question and offers a simple but profound answer:

What makes a man stronger?

Showing that he cares.

Dove’s reminder is that a dad’s strength is his involvement in the lives of his children, from their earliest years to the time they start their own families.

The commercial concludes by inviting dads to share how caring makes them stronger at #RealStrength

Nissan: “With Dad”

Like Dove, Nissan has already been around the internet with its “With Dad” campaign, but they’re keeping their Super Bowl commercial under wraps until the big game. Over the past several months, Nissan has repeated the mantra, “Everything’s better with dad.” It’s a campaign by Nissan’s chief marketing officer Fred Diaz, acknowledging something that every parent in America knows: it’s hard to strike a good balance between work and family, but it’s important to do it.

You probably remember Diaz’s contribution to the 2013 Super Bowl, with his tribute to farmers, with audio narration from Paul Harvey. If that’s any indication of the quality and impact we can expect, the commercial’s sure to be one of the viewer favorites this year. Until then, all we have to go on is this 10-second teaser.

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As for the football connection, you can check out a series of features Nissan did on the NFL Matthews family by searching #withdad on YouTube.

Toyota Camry: “To Be a Dad”

This commercial focuses on the reality of fatherhood, featuring real life stories from dads and their kids. Some are NFL players. Others are just regular Joes. The commercial begins with a simple question:

Is being a good dad something you learn, or a choice you make?

More than a feel-good piece about, say, ginormous horses and fluffy puppies, “To Be a Dad” focuses on how “one bold choice leads to another.” Whether they had a good father or not, these men share about how they are trying to be that good dad, and you can see how they are passing that legacy down to their own children.

At the end of the piece, viewers are invited to become participants by tweeting about their own father. The piece ends with this message:

Honor your dad.
Tweet us photos of him using #OneBoldChoice
to join our big game celebration.

Check out the extended length commercial here.

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As you can see, the commercial is inspiring in many ways.

  • We see men we respect on the field being men we can respect in real life.
  • We see men who started life with a void who are now determined not to let their children know that feeling.
  • We see children talk about how their dads inspire them.
  • We see dads who are humbled and gratified at the impact they’re having on their kids.

We also see some of the damage that’s in the process of being healed. Damage caused to grown men when they were little boys by fathers who weren’t present or who were emotionally detached. These men feel like they don’t have a template to follow and are left to make it up as they go, essentially trying to become everything they didn’t have as they were growing up.

Thankfully, we all have a Heavenly Father whose deep desire is to know us and have us experience all His best for our lives. And thankfully, He’s given us an instruction book that teaches us how to father, not out of our woundedness, but out of His wisdom and love.

My hope is that these commercials will raise the conversation around fatherhood. Hopefully it will spark stronger connection between dads and their kids, and will bring together those men who grew up without dads and those who were far more blessed, all around the conversation about what it means To Be a Dad.

Will you take the MANuary Challenge?



Even though January is over in a couple of days, MANuary is every month.

In case you’ve missed it, The MANuary Challenge is a call to invest in the lives of others by starting a men’s group centered on the Stepping Up Small Group Video Series. If you’ve been waiting in vain for someone in your church or your circle of friends to bring together fellow men for camaraderie and building into each others’ lives, that might just mean that you are the man God’s looking to.

Our challenge to you is to invest in other men because godly, courageous men mean stronger homes and a stronger nation. Start by recruiting at least 10 guys and take them to higher ground with the Stepping Up Small Group Video Series. This groundbreaking study combines engaging video content with biblical truth and insightful, expert teaching. And over 98 percent of hosts would recommend Stepping Up!* Check out the compelling content in this teaser.

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The Stepping Up Video Series is designed to be completed in a group setting. The 10 sessions feature over 20 top experts on manhood including Dennis Rainey, Matt Chandler, Bill Bennett, Tony Dungy, Robert Lewis, Voddie Baucham, Stu Weber, James MacDonald, Joshua Harris, Eric Metaxas, and Crawford Loritts. But the real fruit of this study is the personal application and the time spent with other men.

Session titles are:

  1. A Call to Courage/What Robs a Man of Courage
  2. The Five Steps (Part One: Boyhood/Adolescence)
  3. The Five Steps (Part Two: Manhood/Mentor/Patriarch)
  4. The Power to Step Up
  5. Am I Stepping Up? Part One: Stand Firm
  6. Am I Stepping Up? Part Two: Men Take Initiative
  7. Am I Stepping Up? Part Three: Men Engage with Wisdom and Grace
  8. Am I Stepping Up? Part Four: Men Plan ahead and Provide
  9. Having a Vision for Your Marriage and Family
  10. Having a Vision for Your World

Each session is designed to take about one hour to complete. Video sessions average 25 to 30 minutes and small-group discussion times average 30 minutes. Hosts will need a leader kit, and each guest will need a video series workbook.

Now is the time. Time for men to be intentional. Time for men to rely on God. Time for men to challenge other men. The new year is a new opportunity to help men step up. Men want leadership, and they’re looking for someone like you to call them up to godly manhood. Are you ready to raise the standard?

Here are some free resources to get started with the challenge, including a MANuary Challenge commitment form to remind you of your decision and a free Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood ebook download.

If you’re considering leading a Stepping Up Video Series or hosting a Stepping Up one-day event, our starter packs offer the best value. Leader kits are bundled with workbooks for greater discounts, like the Video Series Starter Pack for 10 guys (plus leader)

You may not feel like you can get 10 guys to start the series with you. Or you may believe that 10 is thinking too small. We have starter packs for five guys as well as 25 or more. You can purchase other Stepping Up series and event resources via our online store. Our advisors are standing by to answer any questions you may have. Email us at SteppingUp@FamilyLife.com or call us at 1-800-358-6329.

If you’d like to take the next step, you can preview session one of the Stepping Up Video Series here.

Every man has a task for which he is uniquely suited. You may have already discovered this—or maybe not. Our charge to you is this: Press into the battle, fill your lungs with smoke from the front lines, and finish strong. Be prepared to shine when presented with your finest hour.

Let’s make 2015 an epic year for manhood!

Five God-given roles as men



“It’s your turn to take out the trash this week.”

“I washed the dishes yesterday, remember?”

“You should pay the bills. I have too much on my plate.”

Household arguments like these are common to marriage. They might seem like no big deal, but they are rooted in something profound: a man’s role in the home, the church, and society.

When a man lives up to his role, life-giving things start to happen. Children are not abused, and they grow up feeling secure and safe. Teen pregnancy rates go down. Drug sales and drug use plummet. Young people avoid jail. Divorces are avoided, and the tragedy of teen suicide loosens its grip on our young people. I firmly believe that every family and societal problem can get better when a man knows how to fulfill his role and takes action.

During the NFL season, teams spend Fridays completing their on-field preparation. They know that the adrenaline-filled, high­ stakes physical battle is just two days away. That’s why a good Friday practice is vital. However, for NFL players, the most important preparation comes on Saturday morning and evening. And this preparation is more mental than physical. Players and their position coaches gather to review video footage of their opponents and hold the last practice, known as a “walk-thru.”

The walk-thru and video reviews have a sole purpose: to ensure players are absolutely clear about their game-day roles on offense, defense, and special teams. A player who doesn’t understand his role is a liability to his teammates. He might even cost his team the game and lose his job on the roster.

In the NFL, a mistake is sometimes called “a blown assignment.”  A running back fails to block a blitzing linebacker. A safety lets a receiver get behind him.

In life, we men cannot afford to blow our assignments. It’s not merely a team that is counting on us; it’s all of society.

What are our assignments, our roles as men? I can sum them up in five words:  praise, protection, provision, proclamation, and presentation.

Let’s look at each one in detail.

Praise

Praise is more than words. Praise is a man’s heartfelt response to the God who created him. It’s his first and most fundamental role in life—to offer God unabashed applause for who He is and what He’s done.

Even long-time Christians underestimate the importance of praise. But the man who strives to let praise flow from his life to God’s throne is poised to fulfill God’s destiny for his life. He will achieve this destiny because his life is based on an authentic relationship with his Boss and King.

I understand that vocal and visible expressions of praise are tough for men. Why? Maybe it’s a male-pride issue. Or a fear of truly releasing our emotions.

On the other hand, have you ever seen a bunch of guys cheering for their favorite sports team? We jump to our feet. We lift our hands. We shout until we’re hoarse—all for mortal men who have done nothing substantial for us. They did not get us our jobs. They didn’t heal our sick or injured bodies. And, most likely, they haven’t given us wisdom to live by. The truth is, men do understand praise, but our praise is often misdirected.

Our homes and our churches need men who will lead the way when it comes to cheering the mighty works of God.

In too many churches now, the women praise ecstatically, while the men sit uncomfortably, waiting for the worship service to end. And the children take note: “Daddy doesn’t like church.”

What has happened? In short, the devil has deceived men and convinced us to shut down emotionally in God’s presence. But David, a great king and a man’s man, danced before the Lord and committed to proclaim His goodness among the people.

Men, if David can do it, we can too. The world is waiting for us to applaud God in the public square, in our homes, and in the house of God. When men offer praise to God, everyone takes note. We are the tone setters in our culture. Like it or not, what we do, everybody does. So, “Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15 NKJV).

Protection

When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, his job was to keep watch and to protect everything entrusted to him from the devil’s deception. Adam’s role back then is a man’s role now. We need to protect our “garden” from the deceptions, dark acts, and destructive works of the devil. Your personal garden is wherever God has assigned you to live, work, and play. The people who inhabit your garden, especially the women and children entrusted to your leadership, are your responsibility to protect.

Don’t be like many men in our culture who, like Adam, have shunned the call to protect. Instead, they have become vultures, preying on those who need their strength. Some men have even demanded that the women and children protect them! Something is desperately wrong with this picture.

Bullying in our culture and around the globe is a problem growing with exponential fervor. Typically, kids who bully were unprotected by their own fathers. They act out with resentment toward their peers or toward those who appear weak to them. A society in which men drop the ball of protection is a society of aggression, crime, and hate. But when we men use our God-given power to protect, we can turn the tide and bring the sense of safety everybody needs—the bullies and the bullied.

Provision

I’ve seen too many men in our culture, especially during the recent economic downturn, curl up in the fetal position and suck on their vocational thumbs. I’m tired of hearing men from church complain, “There aren’t any good jobs out there. No one’s hiring.”

If no one’s hiring, create your own job! READ MORE »

That thing you do (when conflict occurs)



This blog post appeared on The Crucible Project blog and is used with permission.

She’s upset … again. And I don’t have a clue about why.

Six years of dating followed by 26 years of marriage and I still don’t have her figured out.

After working with struggling couples for years, I know that I am not alone. Sometimes, the “relationship problem” is a surprise to us men. Other times, we know exactly what we did to cause it.

In my experience restoring relationships — and in my personal marriage experience — I have observed four patterns of reacting to relationship problems we engage in that actually hurt more than they help. They seem “good” because they keep us from feeling or dealing with the issue. But that temporary relief fades quickly when the issue recurs. And these always end up getting in the way of having the relationship our hearts’ desire:

  • Talking about it to others rather than talking to her to about it. When we talk about it to others and they take our side (such as friends) then it further galvanizes our position and vilifies her, widening the gap of misunderstanding.
  • Hiding what you truly think and feel about it from her. Emotions do not just go away. We damage the relationship when we “power up” and tell her off. When we hide, repress and deny, our emotions end up coming out sideways.
  • Withdrawing to your man cave, work commitments or other stress-relieving hobbies. We assume incorrectly that if we avoid her, the issue will go away. In reality, the issue remains unresolved, only to pop up unexpectedly another day.
  • Refusing to see your contribution to the problems in the relationship. We deny responsibility by blaming and making excuses.

The difference between couples who make long-term relationships work and those who do not is what they do when conflict occurs. I believe men are especially empowered to make the first move to resolve conflict (1 Peter 3:7). Men of integrity step into that power by taking responsibility to engage the problem head on with the following action steps.

  • Invite God in through prayer.
  • Focus on your long-term desire to have a trusting, deeply-connected loving relationship.
  • Make room in your schedules for an uninterrupted period of time to have the conversation.
  • Help her share the “movie playing” in her head about the situation until she is fully heard. Give her “full body” attention focused on understanding what it is that she is saying regardless of whether you are in agreement.
  • Check to see if you heard correctly by mirroring what she shared back to her. “What I hear you saying is…”
  • Share the “movie playing” in your head about the situation in a way that she can hear you. Own and speak your truth, including your feelings and judgments about the situation by using “I” statements.
  • Take full and complete responsibility for all the ways you contributed to the problem … even if it was unintentional. Offering an apology for your part is powerful.
  • Commit to action. Ask what she wants or needs in the future. Ask for what you want from her in the future. Make temporary commitments in an attempt to build the long-term relationship you desire.

In my quest for being a man of integrity in my marriage — and in strengthening relationships — I am always searching for what works.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “That thing you do (when conflict occurs)” on the FamilyLife Stepping Up men’s blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat helps you resolve these relationship conflicts when they occur? What from this post could help the next time?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear Tim and Joy Downs talk about the source of marital conflict in the “Seven Conflicts of Marriage” broadcast series.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post with another husband. Better yet, practice the principles with your wife the next time you fight.

RoyWootenMug

Roy Wooten is the Executive Director of Shield Bearer Counseling Centers in Houston. Roy and his wife Devra wrote The Secrets to Lifetime Love: Speaking and Hearing Truth. Roy also has been a longtime Houston-area leader of The Crucible Project, a not-for-profit Christian organization committed to create a world of men who live with integrity, grace and courage, fulfilling their God-given purpose. Follow Roy at LifeTogetherForever.com.

 

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