Sowing seeds in the souls of men



As men, we can see how many seeds are in an apple, but only God knows the number of apples in an apple seed. And only God knows the full impact that Stepping Up has made through one solitary homeless shelter in the Southeast.

Last spring, Jim Reece, the CEO of The Atlanta Mission, became convicted that he was spiritually shepherding the lives of hundreds and thousands of homeless men and women, but was not doing a good job with two men who married his daughters. So he challenged them to go through the Stepping Up 10-week men’s study with him.

RaineySUBlackBackground

The impact was so strong that he began talking to his staff about taking them and some of the men from The Atlanta Mission (one of the largest in the country) through the series. At least 125 men attended, and nearly all of them completed all 10 sessions. Jim indicated that for some of these men, this is the first thing they’ve ever finished in their entire lives. So they wanted to make a big deal of the graduation ceremony. They had a catered meal for 150 men before the ceremony. Then they heard in person from three of the men who had been speaking to them through the video series for the past 10 weeks—Paul Holderfield, Jr., Crawford Lorrits, and me.

I spoke for about 25 minutes about the first three steps of the manhood journey: boyhood, adolescence, and manhood. Then I asked Crawford to come up and speak to the men for 10 minutes about the mentoring step. Then I asked Brother Paul to come up and speak about how his dad was a patriarch and how these men should aspire to the patriarch step. What a great way to challenge men. Both Crawford and Brother Paul were in rare form and the men gave both of them standing ovations!

The Atlanta Mission created a Stepping Up Graduation Certificate, signed and displayed in a nice oak frame. We then had each man to come up to receive his recognition. There were cheers, handshakes, high fives, hugs, and words from Crawford, Brother Paul and me of how proud we were of each man.

We met men who shared incredible stories.

  • One man said his dad has been in jail his whole life and that he never met him until he was 25. His mom would go get high on drugs and leave him and his siblings for weeks. He was six at the time.
  • Another man could hardly wait to go home for Christmas.  It was the first time he had accomplished something that he had received a certificate for, and he was going to give it to his mom as a gift, because he knew she would be proud of it.
  • A father with four sons, whose wife died 12 years ago, said he’s trying to be the dad they never had.
  • Man after man told how he was separated from his wife and children by his poor choices and determined to get his wife and family back. For each one, this was the step of responsibility they were determined to make after completing the series.
  • Some men had no wife, no children, no living relatives. No family. These men understood after going through the series that they had no person they were responsible for, and they wanted to change that.
  • A dad with four daughters felt he needed to interview his daughter’s date.

I could go on, but one last one.

If you’ve seen the tenth Stepping Up video session, you may recall how Brother Paul shared the story of his father, who as a young fireman was unwilling to shake a black man’s hand. He then talked about his father’s subsequent conversion, his life change and then how God used him to touch thousands of African-American boys, young men and men. It’s a great story of redemption.

Well, one of the staff members for The Mission watched that session and, pierced by the Holy Spirit, recognized that his family was just like that–filled with racism.  He repented and confessed his sin of bigotry.

Jim Reece tells me that the men haven’t stopped talking about how honored they felt that night. And I certainly felt honored to read the following in an email I received from him:

“As I look over my six years here, this night was one of the highlights of that time. To watch men who had captured a new vision of what God could do through them is so powerful.  know how hard you fight for the family, know that Stepping Up is impacting families, not just well families but broken families, families with a chance for a new start with men who really want to be a different man.”

Whether it’s at Wrightsville Prison in Arkansas, or at The Atlanta Mission, men are men.  Broken.  Selfish.  Needing redemption that can only be found in our Savior. Regardless of their station in life, men want to discover and be the man, husband, father, and grandfather  that God created them to be.

The Father has been sowing seeds lately in soil most people have passed off as barren. Only He knows the full extent of the apple harvest yet to come.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Sowing seeds in the souls of men” on FamilyLife’s Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistCan you think of any man who may not be stepping up because he needs someone to show him how?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIf you’re a dad, are you “Defining the Search for Manhood” for your son? Dennis Rainey talks about it on FamilyLife Today

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFind a group of men you can walk with you through the 10-week Stepping Up small group video series.

Desperate househusbands



Does helping with housework help your sex life?

Sex Begins in the Kitchen, Dr. Kevin Lehman’s 1981 book, tells men that a wife’s responsiveness in the bedroom at night is the cumulative effect of the attention she receives during the day with things like conversation and helping with housework.

desperate househusbands

from Homemaker’s Encyclopedia, 1954

Research has actually seemed to confirm that very notion. In 2008, the University of Kentucky found that “the happier a wife is with her husband’s participation in housework, the more sex she has with him.” The research was done for the book by Neil Chethik, VoiceMale, and was the first to officially link housework with sex.

But hold everything!

Last year, a broader study seemed to contradict the idea that when a man does more housework, it meant more sex. “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” actually found that husbands who did more of what are usually considered women’s work had less sex than more.

Are the study findings contradictory? Is one set of research findings flawed? I don’t think so. I believe it just shows what’s really in play here.

The 2008 Kentucky study had to do with a wife’s satisfaction with the amount of chores her husband did, while the more recent study tried to equate the amount of chores with the amount of sex.

The 2008 study revealed that a husband doesn’t necessarily have to do half the housework, just enough that his wife feels supported and appreciated. The 2013 study found husbands who consistently reported more sex were those whose contribution included the more manly tasks like yard work and taking out the trash versus the more womanly tasks of cooking and cleaning.

Marriage involves cooperation and complementarity. A man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father each offer something unique to the family that benefits the others. But it isn’t just about doing what comes natural and intuitively.

We husbands need to be reminded that wives want to be both appreciated and desired. A woman wants the home to be a pleasant place and often approaches chores with that as the end goal. A husband who recognizes this and joins with his wife in that common purpose earns her appreciation.

What she doesn’t appreciate is a man who takes it easy while she’s taking on more responsibility than she feel she can handle. Not only does shouldering all the work make her resentful, it also tires her out and makes her less energized for intimacy. Men are wired to compartmentalize parts of their lives like sex and work, but women process things much more holistically.

Here’s a funny story that illustrates this. It’s from a psychotherapist writing about the 2013 study findings in the New York Times, and comparing them to her own experience counseling couples.

A couple under her therapy had been working on making their marriage more egalitarian. Things were going very well, but the husband noticed that they were having less intimacy. He wondered aloud in their session if she no longer found him attractive. She assured him that she did, especially when he came in from working out at the gym and she could see his muscles when he got undressed to take a shower.

He then reminded her that the very same scenario had happened the day before, but that rather than desiring intimacy, she criticized him for throwing his clothes on the floor. She saw his point, but it didn’t change the way she felt.

As men, we have a hard time understanding these type of seeming inconsistencies in women. We desperate househusbands think that because we treat our wives with honor and chip in around the house without being asked or nagged, our wives should appreciate us back with intimacy. In fact, one of the theories about the recent findings was that the men who did the most around the house may have reported the lowest satisfaction with the amount of sex because they were expecting more sex for their contribution.

However long you’ve been married to the woman in your life, you probably have come to realize that there are some things about her (maybe even most things) that you’ll never understand. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that of all the admonitions Scripture has for husbands, being sensitive to our wives makes the short list.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life... - 1 Peter 3:7a, ESV

Being understanding doesn’t mean being able to make sense of everything your wife says and does but anticipating her needs and putting her first above all people, including yourself. Scripture also challenges wives to be sensitive to their husbands’ need for connection through sexual intimacy, but that’s not the focus of this blog or the audience we’re speaking to. The truth is that both my wife and I need to selflessly offer our bodies and their lives to each other, but the only one who I have control over is myself, so I’ll work on that.

When we treat our wives with the honor they deserve as joint heirs of the grace of life, when we love them sacrificially as Christ loves the church, they’re more likely to take notice of that grace and are more likely to feel the security to offer themselves to us unconditionally.

The NFL and safer, stronger homes



KempScottKATV

Second-generation NFL players Freddie Scott II and Jeff Kemp get to the heart of domestic violence issues. Click the photo to go to the TV interview.

Recently, a couple of Stepping Up blog contributors (who happen to both be second-generation NFL players) were together at FamilyLife for a TV interview to give their perspectives on the NFL and its recent domestic violence issues.

While most every other voice you’re hearing blasts the league for the rampant problems among players and how poorly it’s handling the issue, these two former NFL players have a different take. A much more positive one.

Freddie Scott is actually working with NFL teams, players, and the players union to address issues like these, how to avoid them, and how to create a new paradigm for players who grew up in unstable homes. Jeff Kemp contends that the disciplines that the NFL teaches to its players to make them great performers and teammates are the very disciplines that make for strong fathers, husbands and men, creating safer, stronger homes.

Listen to the interview by clicking the photo or link above. Also, check out some additional footage from the interview that weren’t part of the final broadcast.

By the way, just after Jeff and Freddie did this interview, they were in FamilyLife’s video studio to talk extensively about the subject. Our video team is working on editing those clips and we’ll pass them along to you as they become available.

Ferguson: Feeling. Thinking. Hoping.



Courage combines compassion with truth, self-examination with social justice, concern for others with a fearlessness to stand strong no matter what others may think. Benjamin Watson shows a desire to get to the root of what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. His heartfelt response shows his ability to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The problems start with the sinful heart of us humans. The solution centers on the sacrificial death, forgiveness and overcoming life of Jesus.

PHOTO COURTESTY OF Ben Liebenberg/NFL

PHOTO COURTESTY OF Ben Liebenberg/NFL

By Benjamin Watson

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Lucky or thankful



Lincoln1863I remember a few years ago, as our family awaited the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television, we heard a public official talk about how lucky we are to be from such a great nation. Part of his activities today, he said, including serving Thanksgiving dinner to those whom “God has dealt a bad hand.”

Lucky or thankful? The smile of fate, or the blessings of God?

What a far cry from the proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln back in 1863, recognizing God as the giver of all things. Lincoln’s proclamation was the first in an unbroken string of presidential Thanksgiving proclamations that lasts until today. His words bears repeating, and heeding.

Have a grateful Thanksgiving Day!

THANKSGIVING DAY 1863 by ABRAHAM LINCOLN
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

– A PROCLAMATION

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore if, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

3 things I know about my wife



Last week I had lunch with a new friend, Rob Thorpe, who spends his spare time running a ministry called All In Marriage.  Hearing his heart and the wisdom of years of ministry to marriages (including his own), I had to share his most recent blog post with the Stepping Up audience. It’s a great reminder to all us husbands, no matter how long we’ve been married.

3 things I know about my wifeWhen you’ve known someone for most of your life, you get to know them quite well. My wife and I have known each other since we were about 14 years old. We dated off and on from middle school through college and got married the summer after college.

Spending that much time with another person is a mixed blessing for sure. You know them better than anyone. The good stuff and the not-so-good stuff. What I want you to know are three things that, sadly to admit, took me far too long to recognize and appreciate about her.

1. She is God’s daughter

As a fellow Christian, my wife has also been adopted into God’s family and is a precious daughter of His. He personally hand-crafted her in her mother’s womb (Psalm 139), knows every hair on her head (Matthew 10), and loves her enough to send His son to die on her behalf. He created her on purpose and has a wonderful plan for her life.

2. She was created specifically for me

Since the very first marriage (Genesis 2), God declared that it is “not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”. God handcrafted Eve for Adam. Out of all the women on the planet, He handcrafted a wife specifically for me also. He knew I would need help and so He created a “helper” with the exact specifications needed to partner with me in this lifetime. How awesome is that?

3. She is a sinner

Like her husband. We are both addicts. We are addicted (by birth) to ourselves. Neither of us has it all together and neither of us will ever be able to be a selfless spouse who loves with unconditional love. Our sin nature automatically defaults to “me” each morning of our lives, and we must remain desperate for God’s direct intervention and help if we are ever to make our marriage work. Each of us, with God’s grace, must extend truckloads of grace and forgiveness to the other and constantly remember that our spouse was never intended to make us happy or meet all of our needs….. that is God’s job.

I wish I had realized and appreciated these things about my wife much earlier in our marriage, but I am thankful to be able to share them with other couples these days as we mentor and teach on marriage. I want to believe that our marriage would have been even richer/fuller than it has been and that I would have been a much better husband along the way.

Surely I would have treated her with much more honor and respect if I had truly comprehended that I was marrying one of God’s daughters and He was watching to see how I was treating her.

Surely I would have never been tempted by other women (real or imaginary) had I fully appreciated that God made her specifically for me, to help me, to partner with me, and to impact the world around us – for His glory.

Surely I would have been much quicker to apologize, to forgive and to give grace to my fellow sinner instead of somehow thinking she was the problem. Surely we would have prayed together more, said I’m sorry quicker, and battled our real enemy together, instead of pointing fingers.

Wouldn’t I have?

Will you – now that you know?

Thankful,
Rob

© 2014 by Rob Thorpe. All rights reserved.

ThorpeMugRob Thorpe is the founder and director of All In Marriage, a marriage mentoring and equipping ministry. He is also a frequent men’s and marriage conference speaker. Follow Rob on Twitter and subscriber to his blog at http://www.square1ministries.com.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “3 things I know about my wife,” by guest poster Rob Thorpe on the Stepping Up blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDo you take your wife for granted? Listen to “Where Self-Centeredness and Marriage Collide” on FamilyLife Today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn about “Nourishing and Cherishing Your Wife”  from Bob Lepine, author of The Christian Husband.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistWhat are three things you appreciate about your wife? In the next three days, tell her those things.

Grandfathering: A dad do-over



I walked into the living room, looked into the sweet eyes of my daughter Shannon, and instantly she began to cry.

She seemed overcome with fear and her eyes gazed at the floor while tears streaked her cheeks. Through sobs, she said, “Dad, I’m pregnant.”

My wife Cathy sat beside me as Shannon’s sobs broke my heavy silence. I sat there bewildered as the waterfall of thoughts rushed through my head. My daughter had recently graduated high school and was beginning her walk into adulthood.

Travel weary, I had just returned from training in Denver, after recently being appointed as Promise Keepers’ regional director for the Northwest. I was just 44 years old, and a pregnant teenager was not part of my five-year plan.

Thankfully, my heavenly Father quieted my inner turmoil and not a word of my initial thoughts were breathed. In a still small voice He spoke to my sprit: “Tell Shannon what I have told you time after time. This is part of my plan for her life and I am with her. This child will usher in the beginning of a new and rewarding life for you and Cathy.”

I must have been quiet for an extended time, because Cathy shook me out of my bewilderment when she said, “Say something!” I expressed to Shannon our commitment to be there for her and her baby. I told her, “There was a God in heaven who loved her unconditionally and there was a dad on earth who did too.”

God was right! It began a journey of grandfathering that changed my life. I have to admit that I was a preoccupied father. I struggled with my own insecurities, seeking to please others, and I often lost sight of those people in my life that really mattered most. I often allowed the “whats” in my life to determine my identity and significance. This affected how I related with the “whos” in my life – my wife and children and now grandchildren. In many ways, through my grandchildren, I got a “do-over” and a fresh start.

grandfathering

Photo by Tina Vanderlaan

Shannon gave birth to our first grandchild, Gabrielle, who we affectionately call “Gabby.” She is now 19 years old, going on 25, and working her way through college.

God allowed Cathy and me to become part of a moment in their destinies. That moment in 1994 could have gone quite differently. I realize now that God was testing me. He already knew what he was going to do. He was giving me a fresh start; He was giving me a do-over.

Shannon would get a do-over too. She married a wonderful man who adopted Gabby, and they gave me four more grandchildren. My younger son, Doug, found a beautiful lady and gave me two more. God has blessed me with a full quiver. My God, my wife of 43 years, my two kids and my seven grandchildren are the loves of my life. Apart from God and them I am nothing.

Family is the true expression of the heart of the Father.

I have determined in my heart and spirit, with the help of God Almighty that I will live a life that will leave a legacy, one that will echo now and for eternity.

Whether you’re a grandparent or not, you too can leave a legacy in the lives of those who matter most to you. Today can be the beginning of the rest of your life.

Maybe you can identify with me; you also need a do-over. I want to stir up and call out of every grandfather (and anyone else who is reading) the belief that they can make a difference, that they can leave a legacy through grandfathering.

We should not fear failure. We should fear that we would spend our lives succeeding at what really does not matter.

Imagine the possibilities!

ErricksonDanMugDr. Dan Erickson is the author of “Grandfathering: Live to Leave a Legacy,” and leads People Matter Ministries. He is a former executive director of the National Coalition of Ministries to Men, and a former national director of PromiseKeepers. He has two children and seven grandchildren.

© 2014 by Dan Errickson. All rights reserved..

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading a guest post by Dr. Dan Errickson, “Grandfathering: A dad do-over” on Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat would you do over about parenting? What kind of legacy do you want to leave your family and grandchildren?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead “Creative Ways to Teach Your Grandchildren About Life” by Jack and Lisa Hibbs on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistBegin writing or recording stories you want to pass on and values you want to instill. It’s never too late (or early) to start.

11 ways a smart stepdad can engage



KilimanjaroHiker“How tall is it?” I ignorantly asked a Kenyan missionary.

“Mount Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 feet tall,” he smiled. “It’s big!”

No kidding, I thought. I could see the outline of the tallest mountain in Africa from my third-floor Nairobi apartment 130 miles away. “It might take a while to climb, huh?”

On average it takes an expedition four to seven days to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. And why do people climb it? Because it’s there, right? Just conquering the challenge is one reason people take on this massive testimony to God’s creativity. And then there’s the view from the top. On a clear day you can see for hundreds of miles in a 360-degree panoramic view. Oh, yes, there’s plenty of reward for those who conquer the mountain. But it often doesn’t feel worth it until you reach the top.

When reflecting on his role as a stepfather, David said, “I simply didn’t have any idea how hard blending a family would be. I lacked any knowledge of how to deal with my stepkids.” Conquering Stepdad Mountain might not be as rugged as climbing one of the world’s tallest peaks, but it will probably take longer than you expect.

And you’re not just climbing because it’s there. You’re climbing because it matters. Yes, there is reward for you at the top, but there’s also reward for your family and stepchildren. How you live, love, and lead your stepchildren (and biological children) will create a legacy and heritage that long outlive you. It’s important that you climb well.

So how do you climb? Here are some best practices of smart stepdads, young and old, new and veteran. Consider how you might implement them into your climb.

1. Trust God to lead. Probably the one universal negative experience of stepdads is the feeling of uncertainty. If you find yourself wondering what to do and how to go about it, you’re in good company. From a spiritual standpoint, uncertainty is an invitation to faith. God always uses our “I don’t know what to do’s” to invite us to trust Him more—and we should.

Don’t anguish because you don’t know what to do. Ask God to show you. Don’t panic in your uncertainty and give up on your family. Seek a word from the Spirit. Don’t assume you are alone. Find comfort and direction in His Word. Then you can climb Stepdad Mountain one step at a time.

2. Know your place. A smart stepdad understands that there is an inherent dilemma to his task: How can you be Dad when you’re not Dad? Obviously, you can’t. Even if the biological dad is deceased, you will never replace him, so don’t try. Playing “who’s your daddy” only causes stress in your home. And stress in a stepfamily thickens blood, pitting you against your stepchildren and often your wife.

3. Understand the limits of your role. It’s not your responsibility to undo the past. The negative consequences of divorce, or the pain children experience when a father dies is not yours to resolve. Come alongside children in these situations and try to offer a positive influence over time, but don’t try to be the white knight in shining armor. Just love them.

4. Move in with tact. Don’t be a bull in a china shop. Respect children’s loyalties.

“I became a stepfather when my stepdaughter was eight,” said Anthony. “Her father was very involved in her life and a good dad. There just wasn’t room for me in her heart; therefore, we had a very strained relationship. We were never able to build anything. Now that she is a grown woman, I sense she is becoming a little less competitive … but I think the best way to describe our relationship even now is ‘uneasy toleration.’” Anthony’s climb was and is steep. Thank goodness he respected this reality or things might have become worse.

5. Partner with your wife. She needs to believe that you are committed to and care about her, her children, and their past experiences before you will receive her trust. Therefore, do a lot of listening before injecting your opinion; demonstrate an authentic appreciation for all she has done to provide for her children before trying to make suggestions.

When you do make suggestions, especially early in your climb, be sure to reveal your heart’s intentions first. Consider the contrast between harshly saying, “Your son is a lazy boy. When are you going to make him get up in the morning and get to school on time?” and saying, “I have come to really care about David. I’m hoping to offer some guidance to him and better prepare him for life. I’ve noticed he’s struggling to manage his time and responsibilities with school. Can we talk about how we might encourage more responsibility in him?”

6. Until you have earned their respect, let your wife handle punishment with her children. Leadership that shapes character is a function of emotional attachment with a child. Ruling with an iron hand without a foundational relationship sabotages your level of respect and subverts what you are trying to teach.

Many stepdads mistakenly assume that not taking the lead is a sign of weakness. Actually, it is an indication of strategic wisdom and strength. So while taking the time to build a solid relationship and gradually moving into discipline, trust your wife to continue being the primary parent to her kids.

7. Be patient with your wife, especially when her past creates emotional baggage that you can’t change. Danny shared that his wife’s first marriage left a lot of emotional scars that he thought he could change. “I didn’t have a clue how hard it would be for her to overcome them,” he said. “We have been together for nine years and I’m still dealing with her insecurities. It’s part of who she is, so I just deal with it and go on.”

At first, Danny though he could “love it out of her,” but in time he came to see that ultimately this was her mountain to climb. He could choose to love her as best he could, but in the end, she would have to deal with the emotional residue from her first marriage.

8. Be equitable in parenting. Wayde observed, “I’ve always felt that my wife has supported my authority with her kids as long as it was fair and equal to what I’d use to punish my kids.” If you ever want to turn your wife into an angry mother bear protecting her cubs, just show favoritism to your kids and treat hers unfairly. Believe me, you’ll awaken the bear.

9. Unless proven otherwise, assume your stepchildren would pick their dad over you. Recognize that a huge step toward gaining your stepchildren’s respect comes from respecting their relationship with their father (even if he’s deceased) and not positioning yourself in competition with him. Doing so just pushes them further away from you and closer to their dad. [new paragraph]

Tim, a dad of two and stepdad to two, understands this well. “I have always tried to keep in mind what I want my child to hear from my ex or her new husband about me. I then apply the Golden Rule to my stepkids’ dad. If, on the other hand, I put the kids in the position of having to choose between me and their dad, I always assume they would choose him. (This is especially difficult at times when I want to selfishly ‘one up’ him to make myself look better.) This also means that when my wife and stepkids are badmouthing him, I have to keep from being drawn into the discussion. They will turn on me in a heartbeat.”

10. Remain engaged. Through the years I’ve worked with many disengaged stepdads and their families. The reasons for their drift varied: one man had a “these aren’t my kids” attitude; another had an extremely introverted personality and he simply didn’t know how to engage people in general, let alone his stepchildren. Still others found themselves paralyzed by the guilt of not being around their biological children.

“How can I really enjoy my stepkids when I feel like I’m shorting my kids of my time?” one man said. “In some bizarre way I think I’m making it up to my kids when I deny myself time with my stepchildren.” Still other stepdads find that once they’ve disengaged, which may have initially been part of surviving the confusion of their role, they can’t find their way back.

If you have been disengaged, you can’t stay that way; you hold an important role in your stepkids’ lives. When you married their mother, God positioned you as a role model, friend, teacher, and mentor.

The specifics of how intimate your role will become cannot be predicted, but you have a responsibility to make the most of the opportunities you are given. You can be a blessing to your stepchildren, but not if you don’t engage. To the best of your ability, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). And remember, if you want to have influence with someone, you must be moving toward them emotionally and them toward you. If one of those isn’t happening, forget about having influence or authority.

11. Don’t go it alone. A smart stepdad will also surround himself with a band of brothers. Joe, a stepfather of two, encourages young stepdads to be involved in a fellowship with other men where you are open and honest about your life. “You cannot do this alone,” he says. “You desperately need other men to walk with you on this journey. Without my band of brothers I never would have come this far. If there are men in your life that have ‘meddling’ rights, then you can stay on the right path with the right attitude.”

Adapted excerpt from The Smart Stepdad © 2011 by Ron L. Deal. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by Permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “11 ways a smart stepdad can engage” by Ron Deal on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to the FamilyLife Today three-part audio broadcast with Ron Deal on how to be an effective stepfather.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Ron Deal’s book, The Smart Stepdad, for more help and hope for building a strong stepfamily.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare the link for this blog post, the radio broadcast, or Ron Deal’s book with a stepdad you know.

6 sentences your child needs to hear from you



Editor’s Note: Those of us who have parented at least one child from newborn to early adulthood recognize the power of the parent-child relationship in developing the confidence and character needed to make it in the world.

As he so often does, Mark Merrill boils down the process to a few easy-to-remember, easy-to-do phrases that can make all the difference in the life of a child, now and into their adult years.

6SentencesChildNeedsIn raising our five children, Susan and I have tried to consistently convey to each of them these 6 short sentences. We’ve done it with our words and our actions. And, as I write this post, I’m realizing I need to say these things even more because they can’t be said enough.

Saying these 6 short sentences will give your child a strong sense of security, identity, belonging, and value.

1. “I’m here for you.”

Being available for your child is incredibly important. They may not need you when you tell them this, but they’ll remember you promised to be available to them when they need you the most. This sentence is more than just giving them permission to find you when the going gets rough…it’s an invitation to them. It tells them, “I will do whatever I can to help you whenever you need me.”

2. “I’m proud of you.”

Some middle-aged men I’ve talked to have never heard, or have waited years to hear, their dad say “I’m proud of you.” And many of them thought if they just performed better, if they just made it big in sports, or if they just had a thriving money-making career, their dad just might notice. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t make your kids wait. Tell them today.

3. “I believe in you.”

Remember back to your teen and early adult years? How confident were you in yourself? And how confident are you today in yourself? Self-doubt and second-guessing come with the territory of being human. And you can be a great source of support to your child through these struggles. Your child needs to know that somebody somewhere in this world believes in them and their immeasurable value.

4. “I want the best for you.”

This sentence has a couple of benefits. First, it tells your child that you have a purpose behind your parenting. They may not understand how you see “what’s best”…and they may not even agree with you, but they will hopefully start to appreciate it over time as they see you working hard to do what’s in their best interests. I have often said to each of my kids, “I’m doing this or saying this because I always have your best interests at heart.” And they know they can always trust me. Second, it puts you in their corner. Again, they may not always see how your ideas, your standards, or your consequences are really for their benefit, but giving them this regular reminder at least assures them, in the depths of their heart, that you are for them, not against them.

5. “I will stand with you.”

I saw a video recently of a dad dancing with his daughter at a talent show. The girl had a severe and rare disorder that keeps her from having almost any muscle tone, control, or physical abilities of her own. But as her dad picked her up out of her chair and danced around the stage, her nearly inexpressive face suddenly blossomed with a huge smile. This girl knows that her dad is willing to risk embarrassment, harassment, or scorn from any person in order to be counted with her. This sentence tells your child that you are willing to be identified with them even when they’ve made a mistake or have to do hard things.

6. “I love you.”

This is, quite simply, a sentence that cannot be said too many times. Big family moment? “I love you.” Quiet and quick goodnight? “I love you.” Dropping them off at school or a job? “I love you.” Just for no particular reason at all in the middle of the day? “I love you.”

© 2014, Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.MarkMerrill.com.

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a guest post, “6 sentences your child needs to hear from you,” which first appeared on MarkMerrill.com.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHas your child heard any of these sentences from you recently? How did they react? Tell us your story.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDetermine to say at least one of these saying to each of your kids this week. Add more each week until it’s a habit.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Pass this article along to your wife or a fellow dad. Keep each other accountable to speak life into your kids.

20 things husbands should stop doing



Sometimes we need encouragement in our quest to step up and be the men God has called us to be. Sometimes we need information, and sometimes we need training. Sometimes we need a mentor—someone who will show us how to be godly men, how to love our wives as Christ loves the church.

things husbands shoud stopAnd sometimes we need to know what we should stop doing. Sometimes we may even need someone to say, “Hey, stop acting like a jerk!”

That’s what this list is about.

We gathered suggestions from a number of men and here’s a list of their best ideas. Of course, not all of these items apply to all men, but perhaps something here will hit home for you.

Again, these items were sent to me by other men, not by wives.

  1. Stop acting like the battle is won in pursuing and getting to know your wife. Have fun together, just like you used to do before you walked down the aisle.
  2. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, stop treating her like her work during the day is somehow less strenuous or less important than yours.
  3. Stop working so much. Find a healthy balance between work and family.  Your wife would rather have you than a big house, nice car, etc.
  4. Stop acting like you’re listening when you’re really watching TV.
  5. Stop allowing the spiritual leadership of the family to default to your wife.
  6. Stop being a closed book.  Open up to your wife.  Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
  7. Stop allowing your role as leader in the home to be an excuse for selfish behavior.  Don’t forget that a true leader also serves.
  8. Stop dishonoring your wife by criticizing her in front of your children or in public.
  9. Stop using your size and strength and anger to intimidate your wife and children.
  10. Stop saying you’ll do something and then procrastinating.
  11. Don’t purchase any major item without first discussing it with your wife.
  12. Don’t allow your eyes to linger on beautiful women who pass by. You can’t help the first look; it’s that second, longer look that you need to avoid.  (And if your wife is with you, don’t lie to her and say you didn’t see that woman.  Just admit you looked.)
  13. When your wife tells you about a problem she’s having, don’t immediately try to solve it. She may just need you to listen to her.
  14. Stop treating your wife like a child. Remember that God has given her a wealth of experience and information that you need.
  15. Stop feeding your sexual desires from any source other than your wife.
  16. Don’t look up old girlfriends on Facebook.
  17. Stop putting a number on how often you should enjoy sexual intimacy.
  18. Stop acting as if you have a GPS programmed into your brain.  Before you go somewhere with your wife, get the right address and find out how to get there.  If you are lost, don’t hesitate to get directions—from your smartphone map, even from a person.
  19. Don’t make fun of your wife to other guys.
  20. Don’t allow guy-only activities (like playing golf, basketball, etc.) to rob you of leisure time with your wife and kids.

Some will say that lists like these are “too negative”—that this is an example of “trashing” men.  Here’s how I see it: If you are coaching your son’s Little League team, you’re going to teach him a lot of positives—how to hit, how to throw, what base he should throw to when there are runners on first and second. But you also will need to get him to stop doing things—like swinging at bad pitches, or jogging to first base instead of sprinting.

Sometimes we need to know what not to do.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Dave Boehi’s “20 things husbands should stop doing” on the Stepping Up blog. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat would you add to the list? What do you have the biggest struggle with? Share your comments with us.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistNow that you know some of the things you shouldn’t do, check out “What Every Husband Needs to Know.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistListen to “Ten Questions Every Husband Should Ask His Wife” on Familylife Today… then ask them to your wife.

 

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