The Good News Bears



Good News Bears

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

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

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

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

That’s where the story starts with my dad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

How to make the family meal the norm



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

Mind your manners

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

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

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

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

Recent family fun at our dinner table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

Capturing the elusive family meal



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

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

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

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

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

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

Living in the real world

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

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

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

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

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

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

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

50 ways to increase your wife’s worth



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 great Father’s Day commercials



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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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My Daddy, My Hero – Toyota Verso

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

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My Bold Dad – Toyota Camry

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

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First fatherhood moments  – Dove Men+Care

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

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With Dad – Nissan (Super Bowl 2015)

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

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Dad’s Sixth Sense – Hyundai Genesis

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

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Father-Daughter (driving) – Subaru

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

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

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

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Origami Birds Father-Daughter – Wrigley’s Extra gum

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

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

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

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How to Dad – Peanut Butter Cheerios

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Get started. Honor dad. Be an honorable dad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

Can you be proud of a prodigal?



One of the hardest things a father can face is when his child walks away from the family or the faith. But in the midst of helplessness, there is hope. This post is from the Help for Hurting Parents email list, and originally appeared on Proud of a Prodigal? – James Banks.com. Encouraging Prayer site. 

ProdigalCan you be proud of a prodigal?

That depends, doesn’t it? Your son or daughter has made some choices you know you’re not proud of. But what about when they make the right ones?

When you’re the parent of a prodigal you learn to look at life a little differently. Cari and I have a phrase we use frequently. When we’ve made it through 24 hours without a “prodigal incident” and our children have made good choices, one of us inevitably says, “Today was a good day.” Parenting a prodigal makes you grateful for small victories. And sometimes victories that may not seem like much can be large indeed.

Recently our son celebrated his 21st birthday substance-free. That’s an accomplishment for anyone in a culture that practically programs kids to abuse the moment their odometer clicks. But for someone who’s struggled with substance abuse, it’s huge.

We were out to dinner when the waitress discovered it was “his day.”

“You should drink!” she urged through a thick Ukrainian accent. Our son just smiled.

“I’ve done enough of that in my life already,” he responded.  “Besides, I get too crazy when I drink.”

As his Dad, I can’t tell you how much those words meant to me. If you had been living in our home over the years you’d understand. Think of it like this. Imagine watching your son run a big race. You see him stumble and fall out of the blocks while other runners leave him behind. Then somehow (by some kind of miracle), he rises to his feet, shakes off the fall, hits his stride, and breaks the tape.

You’d cherish that moment, wouldn’t you? You’d replay it in your mind again and again.  It’s more than just a “that’s my boy!” moment. It’s a fall-to-your-knees-and-thank-God moment you’ll remember as long as you live.

Some months before his birthday I told my son, “When you turn 21, why be like everyone else? Why don’t you do something different, and go without substances?” And he did. He made it a milestone, and I couldn’t be prouder of him for it. Not with the stuffed-shirt, pat-yourself-on-the-back-because-your-kid-made-you-look-good kind of pride, but with the healthy God-given satisfaction that looks on an achievement and lovingly sees that it is “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” has a moment where a mother defends her love for her prodigal son to his sister who hates him for his mistakes:

“Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning—because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ’cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right child, measure him right. Make sure you done take into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

Your prodigal child may have chosen “hills and valleys” of his own free will. He may still be in a “far country” (Luke 15:13) and have a long way to go. But when he starts to come “to his senses” (Luke 15:17) and turn toward the Father’s house, it is a “very good” day indeed. Every step in the right direction is cause to praise “the tender mercy of our God,” who daily guides “our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

© James Banks. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Can you be proud of a prodigal?” by guest blogger James Banks on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistBilly Graham’s prodigal grandson now pastors a widely-respected church. Find out what brought him back.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Leslie Barner’s personal article.
“When Things Fall Apart: Seven Promises for Brokenhearted Parents.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSubscribe to the Help for Hurting Parents blog feed. Talk together and pray together as a couple through the issues.

My worst fan letter ever



Each week, Jeff Kemp releases a new video featuring a thought from his new book, Facing The Blitz. You can sign up to receive the weekly video, which also includes self-reflection questions and action points on how to apply the principles to your life. Here’s this week’s offering, “Worst Fan Letter,” just to whet your appetite.

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In 1986 I had been quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers for the couple months that Joe Montana had been injured.  I then injured my hip and Joe made a miraculous mid-season recovery from back surgery.  When he was about to return to the line-up, I received this “fan letter.”  Or so I thought.

“Dear Jeff,

I know that when Joe Montana comes back, you will probably feel like you were shoveled off to the side.  Don’t worry.  You should feel lucky that you even got to play on Joe’s team.  He’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game …”

The letter went on and on about how great Joe was. As I read along, I was surprised that the guy asked me for my autograph. It would have been more appropriate to the letter, had he asked me to get Joe’s autograph and send it to him.

After asking me a few more questions about how amazing Joe is, the end of his letter cracked me up.

“P.S. You’re not as bad as some people might say.”

My lessons from this letter:

  1. Laugh at yourself.  If you can’t, you’re taking yourself way too seriously.  That won’t be good for you or those who live with you!
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others.  Don’t try to imitate them.  Be yourself.  Be the best self you can be, but be you.
  3. Don’t play for the applause or the fans.  Play for the ultimate audience.  Live for the audience of ONE  Jesus.  God is the one audience we should aim to always please.  His perfection calls for the highest standards.  His love accepts us even when we fall miserably short.  His glory is deserved and appropriate.  Ours is short-lived and foolish.

“Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3b NLT).

The reality is that most of us aren’t first string or hall of fame; we feel like backups a lot of the time. But your value is determined by your character and your relationships, not your fame or your status.

Don’t let the blitz of comparison beat you down. Look around and make it your goal to make others feel like first string. Lifting others up will help you feel like more than just a back-up player. Be the best you can be. And remember, you’re the only dad or husband that somebody will ever know.

Quote:

“Reality must be faced. We are not what we do, whom we work for, or who the public sees us to be. We’re persons with spirits, souls, personalities, emotions, stories, wounds, fears, virtues, strengths, and weaknesses. To understand these things about ourselves is to know ourselves. We become free to live at peace with others, to live with contentment, not dependent upon circumstances, and to handle the losses in life — including the loss of certain dreams.”

Facing the Blitz, Strategy #1: Take a Long-Term View

The Playbook:

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

 Time-Out:

  • Do you measure yourself by what you accomplish and how people view you?
  • What’s one way you would live differently if you didn’t worry so much about what people thought of you?

Go Deep:

You can discover more on how to create a big vision out of broken dreams in chapter 3 of Facing the Blitz.

How to avoid moral failure



EDITOR’S NOTE: This post appeared in the blog feed for The Gospel Coalition addressed to those in ministry, but the lesson from these failed pastors is instructive to every man. How does a man protect himself from moral failure?

During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late, great Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Hendricks shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.

NormandyLandingAt the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromise. At one point in those days, the falls came so frequently I felt as if I was on the spiritual beach of Normandy watching buddies’ lives get blown apart all around me.

Fallen Soldiers of Christ

The study examined 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period. As far as Hendricks could discern, these full-time clergy were born-again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an adulterous relationship.

After interviewing each man, Hendricks compiled four common characteristics of their lives:

  • None of the men was involved in any kind of real personal accountability.
  • Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship.
  • More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.
  • Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

As I reflect on this study, four lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay-at-home moms, and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.

1. Sin thrives in isolation.

Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there. Lies live best in the darkness. That’s why when God calls us to himself, he calls us into the church.

God has created the church to be many things, including a community of people who help each other fight sin and love him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:1525), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matt. 18:10-20Gal. 6:1-2James 5:19-20).

Who knows you? I mean, who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon that permission to ask you penetrating questions? Are you answering those questions honestly, or are you hiding details and painting over your sin to guard your image? Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.

2. If you flirt with sin, you will fall into sin.

Sin’s slope is slippery. The longer you walk along the edge of the abyss, the more likely that your foot will slip. The men in the study put themselves in dangerous situations again and again. They ignored the words of Solomon, who warned his sons to “keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

These men did not guard their hearts, or the hearts of the people they were supposed to be protecting. Instead, they became blinded by the deceitfulness of sin (Eph. 4:22Heb. 3:13) and were led into the ditch of destruction (Matt. 15:14).

What ways are you flirting with sin? What provisions are you making for the flesh with regard to lust (Rom. 13:14)? What guards have you stepped over? What details are you hiding? What e-mails are you deleting? What search histories are you erasing?

Sin is crouching at your door (Gen. 4:7), and the tempter is looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Pet. 5:8). How are you making his aim easier?

Flee from sin, don’t flirt with it (Gen. 39:6-12; Prov. 5-7, Rom. 6:12-132 Tim. 2:221 Pet. 2:11).

3. Pride blinds us to our weakness.

Many of us think this sort of serious sin would not happen to us, just as those fallen pastors thought. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Let us not forget that Samson, the strongest man in the Bible; Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible; and David, the man after God’s own heart, were all overcome by the temptations of sexual sin (Judg. 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 2 Sam. 11-12; Ps. 51). No one is above the temptation to sin in grievous ways. If you doubt, you are on your way to a great fall.

Beware! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

4. Purity is cultivated by loving Jesus.

Somewhere along the line, each of the men in the study began to drift. Prayers became less passionate. The promises of God in his Word grew dusty. Love for Jesus became something spoken of in the past tense. The seduction of sin and enticement to sacrifice all to satisfy inner longings became too strong to resist.

But Christ is stronger. Hear these words of promise afresh:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14–16)

There is no sweeter assurance of help than Christ Jesus the Lord. He stands ready at God’s right hand to supply the grace and mercy we need.

Do not allow your hearts to grow cold toward the Lord who loves you so. Draw near to him daily, moment by moment, in hopeful expectation that he is better than any fleeting pleasure that might entice your heart. Do not seek him only in days of desperation, but seek him daily. Walk with him. Rekindle passion. Plead with him to help you. He is able to do it, and he delights to do it:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).

Come Lord Jesus, come.

© 2015 by Garrett Kell. All rights reserved.

KellGarrettGarrett Kell came to know the Lord through the witness of a friend and the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ while a student at Virginia Tech, and later received his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary. He currently serves as Lead Pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Garrett and Carrie have four children, Eden, Haddon, Phoebe, and Graham. Follow him on Twitter.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to avoid moral failure” by guest blogger Garrett Kell on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhich one idea can you implement TODAY to keep you from wandering down the road toward moral failure?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHave you suffered a moral failure. Sam and Toni Gallucci tell about their road to redemption on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistJoin with other men to keep each other strong by going though the Stepping Up Small Group Video Series together.

Second chance manhood



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

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

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

Dear Mr. Rainey, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for Stepping Up and FamilyLife.

In His Love & Service,

Lynden

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

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read, “Second chance manhood” about how Stepping Up is changing lost lives and legacies.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWatch how Stepping Up impacted men at another correctional facility in this  blog post, Stepping Up as a prison ministry.”  

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

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

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