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.

 

25 things dads should teach their sons



HikingDavisMenBefore the industrial revolution, it was common for men to spend much of their day in the company of their sons — either on the family farm or in the family business. In those settings, dads could teach their sons practical lessons as well as the lessons of leadership, protection and provision expected of manhood.

Today, work, school, extracurricular activities and even church take fathers and sons in separate directions. Dads, therefore, have to be intentional about creating the opportunities to teach their sons — to model manhood, to teach industry and resourcefulness. One way to do that is to work through a list of things that fathers can teach sons. You can work through such a list in one of two ways: either

  • (1) by setting aside a regular father/son time to take on one item at a time (one dad started this routine and calls it “Manhood Mondays”) or
  • (2) by just taking the time to instruct your son anytime you’re about to do one of these tasks yourself. It’s not efficient, but the investment of your time can be priceless.

Whether you do it proactively, reactively or both, what matters most is taking the time to build a legacy with your son(s).

Don’t freak out by what is or isn’t on the list here. These are meant to be examples of what engagement looks like, but you can adapt this or just see it as a head-start for your own list. You’ll notice that many of the skills listed here can be bypassed by modern technology in most industrially advance countries. Making the effort to teach these, however, will give you valuable time with your son(s) and will give you a practical opportunity to present principles of leading, protecting and providing, all the while building confidence in their abilities as emerging men.

25 things dads should teach their sons
  1. Speak in public—there’s power in the spoken word.
  2. Read good books—leaders are readers.
  3. Play an instrument—especially because of the discipline required.
  4. Play individual, two-person and team sports.
  5. Build a fire.
  6. Camp out—pitch the tent, cook stuff over the fire, the whole thing.
  7. Carve a turkey.
  8. Light a grill.
  9. Jump start a car.
  10. Tie a knot—such as a bowline, square knot, taut-line, and figure eight among others.
  11. Use basic tools—hammer, saw, wrench, screwdriver.
  12. Paint a room—trim and all.
  13. Handle a gun and a knife—for safety, protection, sport and hunting.
  14. Skin an animal.
  15. Be a gentleman—open doors, stand when a woman approaches at dinner, etc.
  16. Grow stuff—and not just a Chia pet.
  17. Iron a shirt—and do laundry and other work around the house in a manly way.
  18. Manage money—keep a balanced checkbook, show generosity, and learn basic saving and investing.
  19. Shake a hand—strong shake (save the tuna for dinner) and look ‘em in the eye.
  20. Give a man hug—skip the side hug, and go arms spread eagle with bold back slaps.
  21. Keep vows.
  22. Dress like a gentleman—coordinate pants, shirts, jackets, ties, belts, socks, etc. appropriately to the occasion.
  23. Tip—for example at least 15% for a waiter providing adequate service, $1 for a checked coat, $1 per bag for curbside check in at airport, etc.
  24. Serve others—shovel walks, help with heavy loads, etc.
  25. Handle loss—sports and games in preparation for loss in work and relationships.

Taken from:  A Guide to Biblical Manhood by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas. Copyright © 2011 by SBTS Press, a division of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

RandyStinsonMugDr. Randy Stinson is Senior Fellow at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and is Senior Vice President for Academic Administration & Provost at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He enjoys hunting, fishing, and encourages his eight children in their pursuits. He Danna have been married for 22 years.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “25 things dads should teach their sons,” by guest poster Dr. Randy Stinson. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhich items might you want to learn so you can teach them? What would you add to the list? Share your ideas.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear Randy Stinson on FamilyLife Today radio broadcast as he lays out “Casting a Vision for Your Family.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPick one thing from the list to do this week. If you don’t have sons, share this post with someone who does.

Avoid being a social media casualty



social media casualtyDid you know that a third of all divorce filings contained the word “Facebook”?

That’s a according to a recently-released report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. But before you go telling all your friends that “a third of all marriages end because of Facebook,” recognize what the report really says.

The truth is that Facebook is mentioned in one-third of divorce filings. True, a lot of those filing papers only make reference to an online relationship. Some husbands or wives have even declared their intention to break up through Facebook, email or Instagram. But a great number of the divorce papers simply use Facebook messages or wall posts to make a case for divorce by pointing out a spouse’s uncivil behavior or poor parenting skills.

The widespread use of electronic media today makes it almost certain that Facebook and Instagram could be used by lawyers to build a legal web to snare an uncommitted spouse. And that’s on the rise. Consider that three years ago, 20 percent of divorce filings contained the word “Facebook.” Whatever the case, social media is definitely playing an increasing role in families and family breakup.

More important than that, I believe the level of social media engagement in our culture today is evidence that we’re putting a lot of time into passing interactions with others and not enough time in deep relationship-building with a spouse.

Recently I saw a comment on one of FamilyLife’s Facebook pages by a husband who took a little passing snipe at his wife for everyone to see. In all fairness, he was probably reaching out for help in an area of frustration in his marriage. But those kinds of comments, when read by a wife, often make the problem worse by feeding a sense of embitterment or hurt.

Here are some principles that may help keep social media interactions from becoming words in a divorce filing.

1. Keep everything in the open.  If you don’t have a joint husband/wife account (on Facebook for example) make sure what you say online is nothing you couldn’t say with your wife standing there beside you. Before messaging, ask yourself, “Is this something I wouldn’t mind my wife seeing?” You may even consider letting your wife read it first. It’s good for accountability, and it’s a good way to double-check that what you’ve written isn’t miscommunicating what you meant.

2. Say what you need to say … and say it to the right person.  Rather than gripe about a marital problem on social media, talk directly with your wife. If you think it might hurt her feelings or get you in hot water, think of a way you can soften the blow when you raise the issue.  In most cases, the following approach is helpful: “I know you care about me, and I know you probably didn’t think about it, but I feel (insert your emotion) when you (insert the offense). I don’t want problems to build that will isolate us. Can we work through this together?” This works for wives, too.

3. Use social media to build each other up.  It’s never been easier than it is right now to send a note to each other for no reason at all, or to brag about your wife in front of others.  Social media makes it easy to connect with each other while you’re apart during the day, and that will keep a relationship from drifting.  Just make sure that what you say online is reinforced by what you say and do when you see each other that night. Remember, your wife is always looking for proof that she’s important to you. That gives her a lot of security.

4. When you’re together, come together.  It’s very easy, even when you’re home, to drift to your own individual social media corners. By the end of the evening, you realize that you’ve hardly spoken a word. This happens with father-child relationships, too. Set your personal devices aside, and plan some face time (the real thing, not the Apple product.)

Above all else, remember these two driving principles of building and maintaining a relationship:

  • The quality of your relationship depends on the amount each of you invests in it.
  • If you aren’t intentionally growing toward oneness, you’re automatically drifting toward isolation.

Don’t let your marriage become a social media casualty. Be intentional about strengthening your marriage and about avoiding the things that could potentially destroy it.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Avoid Being a Social Media Casualty” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“The Unmasking of an Online Affair” tells the story of one couple who came back from emotional infidelity.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Dave Boehi’s 3-part series “Are We Replacing Conversation with Connectivity” on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this post and these articles with your wife and work together to keep social media under control.

3 keys to stop domestic violence



stop domestic violenceOn the heels of yet another arrest of a NFL player for domestic violence, the time is now for men and women to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The lack of awareness of the healthy building blocks for strong marriage and relationships are destroying the lives of too many. Scripture clearly states, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” What you don’t know about healthy relationships could be the very thing that is causing harm to you and those you love.

In working with both current and former NFL players, there are some common themes that are occurring in these cases. Prior to these events, some of these individuals were known to be great people and leaders in the locker room and community. How could people that seem to be such good people, commit acts of harm or endangerment to those that they claim to love? It’s the same reason we are shocked when we find out about any other case of domestic violence. From the outside looking in, it is impossible to see the years of spiritual or emotional wounds that exist within a person, or the value and respect of women that were instilled into that man when he was a child. We also don’t know the emotional triggers of individuals and how they cope and deal with stress and anger.

For the record, let me make sure I am clear. Domestic violence is wrong. It doesn’t matter if it the man that is the aggressor or if the woman is the aggressor. Physical and emotional abuse is wrong, and there is no justified excuse for domestic violence.

Here are three things that can help to stop domestic violence.

Know Your Hurt

In all sports, the medical report is a part of the overall assessment of the player. The scouts and team executives will take into account what the doctors say about previous injuries, and the implications on whether it could shorten the players’ career, or potentially be a recurring injury due to how the previous injury healed. The trainers also look to see if the player develops habits to compensate for the injury. For example, if a player has a right knee injury, they may put more pressure on the left knee to compensate, which can result in both knees being injured over time.

As men, we must take the lead the charge to assess your previous emotional injuries. It is our responsibility to reflect the character of God in our homes at all times. But this is difficult to do if you have past wounds that aren’t healed. This begins with an honest assessment of your value of women, and understanding your triggers from emotional wounds from the past. Some of these triggers could be the habits that you developed to compensate for what happened in the past. Understanding your triggers will allow you to maintain self-control, and help you to manage your emotions, and actions under pressure. If you have untreated emotional scars from the past, or a distorted view of the role of women, you could be the next case of domestic violence waiting to happen. Your relationship will only be as healthy as you are.

Know Her Hurt

I am humbled by the opportunity to help current and former NFL players, and equally excited about the new initiatives that we are launching nationally. We have a responsibility to help all men to truly understand what it means to “love your wife as Christ loved the church.” Just because being a servant leader in the home isn’t easy, doesn’t give us an excuse to not be one. Just like you have past wounds in need of healing, so does she. And just like you may have developed habits to compensate for your previous injuries, so has she. It is your role to live with your wife “in an understanding way” and help the healing process in her by avoiding her triggers and emotional scars from her past. This requires a person to walk in unconditional love, and focus on what you can give your spouse, rather than what you are getting from your spouse.

Know Your Role, Know Her Role

It’s been said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” In sports, there are many times you disagree with your coach. You may not like a play call, how hard practice is, or your playing time. Regardless of how you feel about your coach, you learn to control yourself and to never allow your feelings to cross a line of disrespect. As a player, you understand that crossing that line will result in consequences that you don’t want. Loss of playing time, extra conditioning, or even being dismissed from the team can be the consequence of disrespecting the person and the role they play in your life.

Most smart men will agree that the role of a wife and family is more important than a coach. Yet, too many men forget to apply the same rules of respect that they know from sports or work to apply them at home to their wife. We must always remember the value of the role they play in your life. Though you may disagree from time to time, always remember who you are talking to and be mindful of the consequences of not honoring the role that they play in your life.

Your hands are created to heal, not to hurt. Be the source of understanding, safety and security that you are intended to be as a man.

©2014 Unlock the Champion. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the blog post “3 keys to stop domestic violence” by guest contributor Freddie Scott II

STEPthink - keep your cool

Listen to Freddie talk about his childhood as the son of an NFL player on FamilyLife Today: “Making a Mark or Leaving a Scar.” 

STEPembrace - keep your coolMeditate on the Scripture passages linked in this article. What will you do to make your relationships more Christlike?

STEPpass - keep your cool

Are you “Living with an Angry, Abusive, or Violent Spouse” or do you know someone who is. Ed Welch offers help.

FreddieScott

Freddie Scott is a former NFL player, pastor, author, and founder and president of Unlock The Champion. He is a Transition Coach for the NFL Player Engagement Program, and serves as a family expert for the NFL Players Association conducting workshops across the country helping men to be better husbands and fathers.

The Song: A film for the restless man



“There is nothing new under the sun.”

As we men strive to find meaning and purpose and to make meaningful connections in our fast-paced, consumer-driven, anything-goes culture, the words of Solomon ring truer now than ever.

“I have seen everything done under the sun. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after wind.”

Three years ago Richard Ramsey and City On a Hill Studio set out to make a film that would speak to modern-day audiences through Solomon’s lifelong quest for real love and true meaning. The writer and director wanted a theater-worthy film that believers and the unchurched alike would want to see and talk about.  As Ramsey says, it is a film for the restless man.

The script and directing are remarkably intentional, making use of biblical allusion, symbolism, parallels and imagery to bring the life and teachings of Solomon into today’s realities. The story line follows Solomon’s relentless search for meaning through wisdom, pleasure, and power, only to find that the elusive answers are not distant, but as close to home as the heart.

The Song, which debuts on September 26 in theaters across the country, uses narratives from the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, masterfully woven into the tapestry of a modern-day story of love, marriage, and meaning. The movie follows the career of Jed King (played by relative newcomer Alan Powell), a struggling musician who’s blessed and cursed to be the son of beloved country music star, David King (yes, the symbolism starts early in the film and poignantly shadows the plot throughout).

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The first five minutes show the rise and fall, redemption and untimely death of his father in a gritty sequence that is foreign to many faith-based films.  While not graphic, the sequence (which parallels the failures of King David) lays the legacy for Jed King and offers a foreshadowing of difficulties to come as he follows in his father’s footsteps.

Jed believes he’s meant to be a singer, not just because of his father’s legacy but also because it’s a gift and mission given to him by God. Struggling to find a breakthrough after being cut from his record label, Jed takes a gig at a local hometown festival where he meets Rose (Ali Faulkner, another relative newcomer).

The two fall in love and marry (no, that’s not a spoiler, because you know the Song of Solomon) and begin their George-and-Mary-Bailey wonderful life. But as with all marriages, the infatuation gives way to distance as the two are pushed away by the busyness of parenthood, extended family, career, and the ever-present search for self-fulfillment. As their emotional and physical distance grows, Jed becomes frustrated and begins searching for fulfillment outside the home in the most obvious place—his music career.

Solomon’s woman of Proverbs 7-9 makes her appearance in the form of Jed’s opening act, fiddle player Shelby Bale (played by Caitlin Nichol-Thomas in her movie debut). Shelby is there when Rose is not, and his heart is further pulled away from home.

Throughout the movie, the dialogue is punctuated by Jed’s narration, directly from Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Proverbs. We follow the story through the bliss of Solomon and his love, and through the search for meaning and pleasure. Each promise of fulfillment ends up empty and takes Jed on his journey further and further from home and his first love.

The Song contains the most extensive use of Scripture of any film I’ve seen except for Jesus, which uses only Scripture. Yet it is far from preachy because it’s Jed own words, narrating his own story of love, loss and futility, a story that ultimately finds redemption and purpose.

This movie will not be the “feel good” movie of the fall season. Ramsey, in his writing and directing, intentionally leads the viewer through the messiness of life and the soul-searching of Solomon. It is heavy and frequently dark, but it needs to be. The man watching this movie needs to feel the weight of foolish, short-sighted decisions.

As a film centered on music, the songs are significant elements in revealing the characters, their struggles, and values. Powell and Nichol-Thomas perform their own songs quite capably. In fact, Powell is a member of the Christian vocal group, Anthem Lights, and Nichol-Thomas is a professional fiddler. One song that won’t be new to moviegoers is The Byrds’ 1965 classic, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” This musical rendering of Ecclesiastes 3 is a favorite of Rose, and plays a prominent part later in the movie.

Although the film ends on a happier note, the heaviness remains with you through the final credits, which is appropriate. Choices have consequences, and foolish choices leave a heart-wrenching aftermath, particularly when it comes to the closest human relationship—marriage. The Song is a cautionary tale for couples. Between the pace of life, the lures of our culture, and the deceitfulness of the human heart, marriage relationships naturally grow apart unless you’re intentionally moving toward oneness.

A selfish act, an unkind word, a bitterness unresolved have caustic results. But authentic love also carries the power of forgiveness and redemption. It is the very thing that has the power to draw someone from the depths of despair to a life that’s truly meaningful.

In an unplanned, deeply personal message to a concert audience, Jed voices this realization:

“You know, when you’re always under bright lights, you can’t see the stars. You forget things. You forget that somebody put the stars there, and that they love you enough to die for you. And it’s that kind of love that makes songs worth singing and life worth living. I had that kind of love and I threw it away. Because I am a fool. I’m sorry.”

Jed was referring to Rose, but what he says applies equally to our relationship to a loving Father, who gave His Son on our behalf. The Apostle Paul (who may be Solomon’s wise New Testament counterpart) reminds us that in the midst of our rebellion, it’s God’s kindness and patience that bring us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He also reminds us that when we’re most unlovable, God’s love reaches out to us (Romans 5:8), whether it’s for salvation or forgiveness.

The marriage relationship is the optimal environment where we can show the undeserved, unconditional love of Christ. It’s probably the hardest place as well. Who knows us better than our spouses? Who can put together the longest laundry list of offenses? On the other hand, who have we let closer to our hearts to see the beautiful and honorable, the vulnerable and needy? Besides God, who better knows the depth of our need for grace and companionship?

And that is the dual message of The Song. As Solomon draws his conclusions in Ecclesiastes:

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

That’s a message everyone needs to hear.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “The Song: A film for the restless man,” by Scott Williams in the Stepping Up men’s blog. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklist

Men are prone to sexual temptation when things aren’t great at home. Read “When men are tempted to cheat.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn the “3 Weeds You Need to Pull from Your Marriage Garden” to keep your marriage from drifting toward isolation.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFind a theater near you showing “The Song” and bring your wife, your friends, or the restless man.

Stepping Up: Freeing men behind bars



When Dennis Rainey wrote the book Stepping Up and when FamilyLife created the 10-week video series, everyone had an idea that it would impact men. But no one had any clue how God would choose to use these resources impact the very young and impact guys many would consider the throwaways of society. The men behind bars.

I thought it was phenomenal when my son’s Boy Scout troop went through the series as a father-son activity. I was blown away seeing how hungry these young men, even boys, were to hear the message of what it means to be a man. Even at their young age they grasped it; they grasped for it. Unlike many of us grown men, they may be spared the years of struggling and failing in their quest for authentic manhood.

Recently, I saw an even more remarkable story of transformation.

A  group of men behind bars at the Wrightsville Correctional Facility in Arkansas went through the 10-week Stepping Up study. Most of these men didn’t have good male role models growing up, if any at all. God met them in a powerful way through the study to draw them to Himself and to help them get a glimpse of who He created them to be. Their testimonies are powerful.

As Dennis Rainey says in the video segment:

“I think men in prison are hungry to become real men. Maybe more so than men in the church, because they recognize how they’ve failed.

“Men—regardless of whether they’re in prison or at the top of the heap in corporate America—need other men calling them up and away from childish ways, which every man can step back into at any time in his life.”

Watch this incredible video, and see if God gives you a vision of how to use Stepping Up in creative and impactful ways.

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© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistHopefully, you watched the video, “Stepping Up As a Prison Ministry,”  taken from the Stepping Up website.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHave you done the Stepping Up video series in a creative or unusual setting? Please comment to tell us about it!

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

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

Truett Cathy: Patriarch of more than the chicken sandwich



Truett Cathy is the father of the chicken sandwich and a man who set the bar for other fast food empires. On Monday, September 8, he left this world and the restaurant kingdom he built to go home to a better kingdom to be with his Heavenly Father.

Cathy invested his life in others. Nowhere is that more evident than through the testimony of his sons, Dan and Bubba, who carried on his values at home and in the corporation they manage.

Watch this segment from the Stepping Up video series. It was created to be representation of what it means to be a patriarch. With Truett Cathy’s passing, it is a testimony to a life well-lived.

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Truett Cathy was a patriarch. Not just of the chicken sandwich or Chick-fil-A, but in the more traditional sense of the word–in the best sense. He was married to Jeanette for 65 years. He passed on his business and family legacy to his two sons and one daughter. He taught adolescent boys’ Sunday School for 50 years because he knew the importance of older men investing in the lives of younger men.

Listen to a special broadcast of FamilyLife Today radio broadcast, “Truett Cathy: A Life Well-Lived,” which features an interview Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine did several years ago with this patriarch.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read the post, “Truett Cathy: Patriarch of more than the chicken sandwich” on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat kind of legacy was left for you? What kind of legacy will you pass on to your children and to this world?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDennis Rainey wrote an article “Remembering Truett Cathy” which includes his personal reflections.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistIf you appreciate the legacy of Truett Cathy, share the blog post, video, or broadcast with a friend.

How should a single man prepare himself for marriage? (part 2)



EDITOR’S NOTE: In the previous post, we looked at how a man should take the initiative in developing a relationship with a potential future mate, and how he should be preparing himself morally and financially for that relationship. This post looks at the spiritual and relational preparations for marriage and family life.

A man should prepare himself spiritually.

Finding myself single again after being married for over eighteen years, I confronted a question that we must all wrestle with in the face of any loss: Is God enough for me? Until we can answer in the affirmative, we would be wise to suspend seeking another relationship.

Loneliness is difficult, but it is not a sufficient reason to pursue a partner. Loneliness in its rawest form can make us very self-centered. Therefore any relationship we enjoin out of sheer loneliness holds only ourselves, or mostly ourselves, at the center. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we seek to medicate our wound through the presence of another person. This is neither fair to them nor healthy for us.

Remember men, we are to be Christ-like. That means we are not seeking to be loved but to love. Love that is self-centered is really not love at all. Better to come to grips with this now and have God form genuine love in our hearts than to enter into a relationship that hurts both individuals and misrepresents Christ.

So how does a man prepare himself spiritually? By seeking God with all his heart. To do this, he must embrace his loneliness, grief, disappointment, hurt—any and all circumstances that have brought him to this place of aloneness. Embracing the hurt ushers in the comfort, and comfort is delivered by God Himself.

Spend more time in prayer. Spend more time studying the Bible. Read Christian literature that instructs and edifies. Attend Bible study or discussion groups. Involve yourself in service. Step out of the world of self-pity and into a life that is marked by Kingdom purposes and activities. Give more than you take. Understand that real men are leaders and real leaders are servants.

Spiritual development also involves the building of a prayer life. Speaking of which, it is surprising how few men actually ask God for a wife. Of all things, why would we leave this matter off our prayer list? Perhaps some would argue that it is unspiritual to pray about such a thing, that if God intends us to be married we should disengage from the process and allow Him to override our neutrality. Being neutral is fine if it means surrender and waiting by faith on God’s answer (which, by the way, first demands that a request be made), but it is not fine if it implies apathy or cowardice.

A man should prepare himself relationally.

Beware of two relationship-killers: over-aggression and passivity. In the past the former was the likelier culprit; these days however, the latter seems more common. When it comes to male-female friendships, which is where any meaningful relationship begins, men are increasingly stolid.

What is making men so passive?

Some of this is no doubt due to personal hang-ups or bad experiences. But much of it is, in my opinion, the result of two widespread phenomena. First, the past few generations have provided fewer and fewer positive examples of what a Christian marriage can be. Second, manhood has been under siege. Women have been encouraged to be stronger, to stand up for themselves and revolt against male domination. In some instances this may have been both appropriate and necessary. However, as a cultural wave it has created a harmful undertow: the erosion of manhood.

Regardless the reasons, it is time for men to become manly again. It’s fine to be deliberate, but not passive. It’s good to be cautious, but not cowardly. Dating is risky business, and I’m not advocating a reckless abandonment to our feelings. I am saying, however, that Christian men need to be motivated toward building proper relationships with Christian women. This is the design and intent of God. Clearly marriage is part of His will for most men and women. Do not rush into it, but do not hide from it either.

There is a time to involve trusted members of the body of Christ in your personal business, and your dating life should be one of those occasions. Connect with some married couples whom you respect, and ask them to pray with you about this matter. If you are interested in a certain lady, ask them to pray about whether you should initiate contact with her. Get their counsel on how to proceed, and be open to their cautions.

Though I’ve listed only four, you may discover other areas of your life that need attention. Perhaps you need to work on your physical condition (for the sake of health, not vanity). Perhaps you’ve made ministry commitments that you’ve not kept (now would be the time to take that mission trip). Perhaps there are interpersonal rifts that you need to mend or personal disciplines you need to establish. Anything that stands in the way of your wholehearted devotion to Christ also obstructs your candidacy for relational intimacy. Wisdom says: Deal with these matters sooner rather than later.

The right man on the right journey

In Proverbs 18:22 we’re told, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” The word “finds” can be translated “to come upon, meet.” The biblical language here describes a discovery made while on a journey. In other words, the man was not on a hunting expedition, intent on finding a wife, trapping her, and dragging her home. Rather, while on a purposeful journey he met her, recognized that she was a godsend, and won her heart.

As we men journey through life, seeking God and going about the tasks He has given us with diligence and faithfulness, it is within reason to believe that God will bring the right woman across our path. Let us make sure, then, that we are on the right journey. And let us not be afraid when we discover the “good thing” that God sends our way.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read the second of a two-part post, “How should a single man prepare himself for marriage” by Tim Grissom.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistIs dating preparation for marriage or just meeting the needs of the moment? Listen to the broadcast “Dating Friendships.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHow are your preparing spiritually for marriage? How about “Developing a spiritual workout plan”?

STEPPass - 10-point checklistWhether married or single, you could benefit from the Stepping Up video series. How about leading one?

How should a single man prepare himself for marriage?



Hang around Christian singles long enough and you’re sure to encounter a certain emotion. If you’re thinking loneliness, guess again. The prevailing emotion is frustration.

Men are frustrated because they don’t understand what women want from them. Or, if they do have a clue, men feel the expectations are too high. Women, on the other hand, are frustrated because they want men to take initiative, to lead.

That’s right, lead. Don’t believe everything you hear; Christ-centered women still believe that God assigned respective roles to the sexes. They want to be led by Christ-centered men.

So what’s to be done about the stalemate? How should Christian men and women move toward deeper friendship, possibly even engagement and marriage?

Initiating the relationship

It takes a man to be an initiator. Relationship building with the opposite sex is risky, but in God’s created order two become one (Ephesians 5:31). However, this will never happen until you, as a man, accept your God-given role—an acceptance that includes:

  • believing that men should initiate the relationship,
  • understanding that preparing yourself for a relationship is part of becoming a man.

This may sound old-fashioned, but I believe it not for the sake of tradition, which of necessity comes and goes, but because it is biblical. Marriage is meant to be, among other things, an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5); the husband typifies Christ and the wife typifies the church. Clearly it is Christ who initiates the relationship; “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Furthermore, the Ephesians 5 passage describes the husband as “the head of the wife.” Men are called to be—created to be—leaders. This is not an empowerment that mystically comes over a man at his wedding, but part of his inherent nature. If a man shirks relational leadership prior to marriage, chances are slim that he will properly assume it after.

Several months after my wife died, I was talking with a friend who is also a wise and loving pastor. He wanted to help protect me from too quickly getting involved in another relationship—a common problem for men who are divorced or widowed. (My advice: Lock them in a secure room for six months.) My friend’s counsel was simple, and should be heeded by all Christian single men regardless of age: Concentrate first on being the right person, then on finding the right person.

A man who wants to be godly and who means to prepare himself for a wholesome, meaningful relationship has his work cut out for him. And it doesn’t begin by random dating.

Be prepared

The Jewish young men of the Old Testament intentionally prepared themselves for marriage. In addition to becoming skilled in a trade that would support a family, these men saved their resources in order to pay a dowry to their future in-laws, and generally built their own dwellings. The latter was often done in the time between engagement and marriage. Taking a wife was a serious commitment, one that demanded earnest preparation.

I’m not suggesting a return to these practices, although we’d probably be wise to realign romance with realism. I merely wish to point out that healthy marriages are seasoned with preparation. If a man wants to find the right person he needs to be the right person, and that takes concentrated effort that is best begun before there is a potential mate on the scene.

If a man is serious about walking with Christ, and serious about wanting to be the right kind of husband and father someday, how should he prepare himself?

A man should prepare himself morally.

Our culture, even our Christian subculture, has become enamored with sex. It’s everywhere in entertainment and conversation. One would think that sex is all there is to happiness and fulfillment. But this just isn’t real. The man who enters marriage thinking that his wife is cut out of the same fabric as are the seductresses, excuse me, actresses he’s seen on the television and movie screen—eager to jump in bed at any moment and ready to resolve every conflict with sex—is in for a terrible shock. A mutually pleasing sex life thrives on a good relationship, it doesn’t drive one.

Men who are unguarded in their intake of viewing and reading material set themselves up to be disappointed and to be a disappointment. Moral behavior requires a moral mindset—the discipline to shut off the supply of impurity. Why not take a 40-day media fast? For the next 40 days, leave the television off, do not attend or rent movies, and use the internet only as your job may require. If a conversation begins moving toward immoral topics, excuse yourself. These 40 days may prove to be some of the best days of your spiritual development. And you’ll begin to view women with the wholesome respect God intends.

See immorality for what it is: a weapon of the enemy designed for your destruction. So choose your friends carefully; connect with men who care about your growth and standing as a follower of Christ. Be honest with them about your habits and struggles. Let them know what you are doing to try to grow spiritually so they can pray for you, hold you accountable, and get in your face when necessary. Forge friendships with your fellow warriors, and cover each other’s back.

A man should prepare himself financially.

We’re told that more marriages break up over finances than any other issue. This needn’t worry us, but it should motivate us. Men should aspire to financial stability. This doesn’t guarantee a surplus of money or safeguard us from occasional unemployment. I am suggesting, however, that a man who is disciplined in his work ethic and wise with his resources is better prepared for courtship and marriage than one who is impulsive and discontent.

The kind of lady you want will be drawn to your character, not the model year of your car or the square footage of your house. More importantly, God is honored by the wise use of every resource He lends you, whether dollars in your wallet or hours in your workday.

Some who read this may be in debt or out of work, and the current financial picture is bleak. Are you a hopeless cause? No. But you need to focus on what you can do to improve your situation. What steps can you take, under the leadership of the Lord, to move toward financial freedom and gainful employment? Get yourself situated and moving forward.

In the next Stepping Up men’s blog post, we’ll look at how a single man prepares himself spiritually and relationally for marriage. In the meantime, take the following steps:

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read “How should a single man prepare himself for marriage?” by Tim Grissom on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead “Evaluating Your Spiritual Relationship Before Marriage” and ask yourself these two key questions.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGary Thomas’ book, The Sacred Search, offers great guidance in your search for meaning in relationships.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTell single guys who you know that the Stepping Up blog for men is not just for dads and husbands.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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