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.

The courage not to cut the line



The following post first appeared on the Matthew 419 blog Fishers of Men: Catch the Life You’re Called to Live.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Harris could have done what so many others would’ve.

At the bottom of a murky pond in Maryland last year, Harris was struggling for air and losing strength as his scuba diving partner, Petty Officer 1st Class James Reyher, became trapped in 150 feet of water under debris. Almost everything went wrong on the dive, reported the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. Equipment malfunctioned. Communications with sailors on the surface became garbled. According to the official report, Harris could’ve cut his line connected to Reyher and save himself.

Cut the Line

But he refused.

“Harris exhausted himself in an attempt to save Reyher,” said a military investigator in documents obtained by the Virginian-Pilot. “Both divers resisted the natural instincts of self-preservation, in order to expel his last breaths in an effort to save each other.”

The most powerful human instinct to overcome is self-preservation. It drives men and women – good ones – to do things they regret the rest of their lives when someone else had to pay a price. They may run or back away when someone needs help. They may ignore an obvious need. They may convince themselves someone else can step up and do it.

Or, they go against those instincts and become the hero even at a personal cost. In the case of Harris, a married father of two young daughters, it was the ultimate earthly price.

The cost of brotherhood

Men use the term “brother” to describe others they have no biological relation to. It comes at varying levels of sincerity. We’d like to think we’re the type of guy like Harris, choosing to stay with someone he surely considered a brother rather than leave. It’s an impossible call to make, though, unless you’ve actually been in a similar situation.

Do a search for “brotherhood” in the Bible and you’ll get a lot of responses, including:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ~Pro. 18:24

and …

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. ~1 Pt. 2:17

There’s a crisis among men today having a lack of brotherhood. It happens easily. We get busy with home and work and before you know it you’ve lived in the same town for years and realize you still don’t really know many guys that well.

It’s all the more reason for re-establishing the importance of brotherhood among men, especially among Christian men. With each day the importance of guys who think in a Christlike mindset becomes more crystalized. We see the alternative in the major headlines around the world.

Being a brother requires some sacrifices in time and commitment. It requires risking friendships when someone has taken a step in the wrong direction. It requires us to not cut the line in those times it would be the easiest thing to do. From the Virginia-Pilot story (italics added):

“As he watched his air supply disappear, Harris could have cut the line connecting him to Reyher. That would have freed him. But neither man ever pulled out their knives, the investigator concluded.”

One more thing about Ryan Harris: his heroics weren’t discovered until the completion of the investigation 16 months after he died. For all that time it was an extremely tragic event that claimed the lives of two military servicemen with no one knowing the real story.

That’s something else about brotherhood – it’s done in anonymity. It doesn’t grow through expected pats on the back, but simply because. It grows by doing the things others wouldn’t.

ScottBarkleyScott Barkley is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., where he maintains and writes for the men’s ministry website at Matthew419.net. He and his wife, Amy, have four children. 

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read the post The courage not to cut the line by guest poster Scott Barkley on the Stepping Up men’s blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAre there men who you would sacrifice your life for? Do you have men in your life who would do the same for you?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to John Vawter on FamilyLife Today broadcast discuss how to have High Performance Friendships with other men.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSeriously consider organizing a Stepping Up 10-week study, so you can begin the process of connecting with other men

 

God gives again



In the previous post, Taken, Ron Deal shared honestly about his struggles after losing his 12-year-old son, Connor, and how he measures his life by “before” and “after”. But he admitted that he and Nan weren’t hearing from God about the future, until Nan received a phone call that showed them how Connor would live on in the lives of others.

A mutual friend had connected Randy and Pam Cope to us about one year ago. They, too, had experienced the unspeakable loss of a child when their son Jantsen, age 15, died in 1999 of an undetected heart defect.

To survive their tragedy, the Cope’s started the Touch A Life Foundation with the goal of caring for and rehabilitating exploited children. Their work began first in Vietnam, then Cambodia, and finally in Ghana, West Africa. In 2006, Oprah sent journalist Lisa Ling to Ghana, West Africa, to rescue a boy named Mark who had been featured in a New York Times article on child slavery. What Lisa discovered just a few months after the article was published was that the Cope’s had already partnered with Ghanaian volunteers to find and rescue Mark. Additionally, they were able to rescue six other children (including Mark’s brother and sister) and begin providing for all of their needs. Pam was later featured in an Oprah program on the plight of trafficked children in Ghana.

One hidden blessing in the Cope’s efforts to rescue children was discovering that what ministered to them in their grief would also minister to other grieving parents. So, through the years, they have actively sought out those who have lost children (or loved ones) to be volunteers for their ministry. This is what led them to befriend us, and, as God would arrange it, for Pam to call Nan at a time of great despair. In the course of their conversation, she invited Nan to go to Ghana and minister to the children. Helping children in honor of Connor seemed a worthy effort and something he would have loved to do so Nan agreed.

In November of 2010, she, my sister, and a small team of women went with Pam Cope to Ghana for two weeks. But the trip turned out to be so much more than taking gifts to kids.

GodsWayGideon

God’s Way and Gideon immediately after their rescue from child slavery

Day after day I received texts and pictures from Nan reporting on their mission. But one morning I received a text with a picture of two small boys. I didn’t know who they were or why Nan had sent the picture. Suddenly the phone rang and Nan was crying on the phone. “Did you get the picture? They’re sitting right in front of me,” she kept repeating. “They’re sitting right in front of me.”

Who? Who is sitting in front of you?

She then proceeded to tell me about the rescue of these two boys. Sold into slavery by their parents, these two brothers, ages 6 and 8, had been forced to work as fishermen for their master on the waters of Lake Volta. A typical day included fishing for 10-14 hours per day, diving into the dark water to untie nets (many boys drown unless they are excellent swimmers), and living on one meal per day. Nan and the team had just visited the village where these boys lived and had rescued them from their master. They were still in the boat making their get-away as she recounted the rescue.

I fell to my knees.

“You’ve got to be kidding me? You just rescued two kids!” (I knew she would be ministering to rescued children, but no one anticipated that they would be part of a new rescue.)

“What are their names?” I asked.

Her answer made complete sense because I knew two things:

  1. that these boys had actually been rescued before and resold into slavery; and
  2. that rescued children often rename themselves with terms that reflect their new future.

“Gideon and God’s Way,” she said. “Their names are Gideon and God’s Way.”

In awe and wonder, I replied the only thing I knew to say, “You found God’s Way?” On more than one level, she did. She did indeed.

And that’s when I heard God’s booming voice: “I am with you; I am taking care of your wife; this is Connor’s voice.” And that’s also when I heard Connor applauding.

As my wife sat in a boat with two rescued children and I sat on the floor of my house crying, trying to process what was happening. “Now let me see if I have this straight,” I thought to myself. Twenty-one months ago, my son Connor was being taken even as Nan and I saw a movie about a child taken for child trafficking. And now, my wife is half-way around the planet taking back two children who were taken into child trafficking. Is this real? Who is this God that I serve? How great is His power to redeem, to bring beauty from ashes! And that’s when I echoed back to God the words of Job.

“God, for a year and a half now I have been calling into question things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. I have now seen who you are and what you are capable of; my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (see Job 42:1-6)

As a result of this trip, we have begun an effort to support the work of the Touch A Life Foundation (based in Dallas, Texas). Connor’s Song, as we have entitled it, seeks to rescue children from child trafficking in Ghana and contribute to their care and rehabilitation. We are raising money to rescue more children and build/manage Connor’s Creative Art Center, a facility that will offer education and art therapy to the children. In addition, we support underprivileged children wherever there is a need and inspire them toward creativity—all things Connor loved. Connor is still singing, and now you can sing with us by making a donation.

Someone asked me recently if all the good that is being done in Ghana changes how I view Connor’s death. No way. I know beauty is coming from our ashes, but the ashes haven’t gone away. We’re still on the unstoppable train riding on two rails: anguish and hope. Year five is just halfway through. If I could, I’d take Con back in a heartbeat. The price of his life is too much—even with all the good that is happening now. I hate to say it, I told that person, but selfishly I’d take Connor back even if it meant those two boys couldn’t be rescued.

Sort of gives you reason to pause, doesn’t it. The Heavenly Father chose to let his Son die in our place—and He didn’t have to. He could have taken Jesus back, but he let him go so we could be rescued from the slavery of sin.

GodsWayTShirt

God’s Way bearing Connor’s image

One day after rescuing Gideon and God’s Way, Nan sent me another picture. It was of God’s Way wearing his first new shirt—a Connor’s Song shirt. As I reflected on this newly saved child bearing the name of my son, I couldn’t help but think how precious it must be to the Father when we bear the name of his Son. We are, after all, “Christ-ians”. I love it when someone brings glory to God in memory of my son; it fills my heart with joy like you can’t imagine. What joy it must bring to the Father when we offer a cup of cold water to someone in need and give Christ the glory, or end our prayers “in Jesus’ name,” or publicly declare Jesus Lord over our life, or boast not in ourselves, but in His grace! I know I never tire of the good being done in my son’s name. I’m sure the Heavenly Father never does either.

Without question, much was taken 5 1/2 years ago and much will be missed every day thereafter. And yet, my Con-man still sings.

He gives and takes away…and then He gives again. Since my heart aches and my earthly understanding limited, I will choose to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Dad (Ron Deal)

Copyright © 2014 by Ron L. Deal.  All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Ron Deal, “God gives again” on the Stepping Up blog for men by FamilyLife

STEPThink - 10-point checklistGod comforts us in our pain so we can better minister to those in difficulty. Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGet involved with Connor’s Song to help children who have been taken. Like their Facebook page.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistHow can you help couples who have lost a child? Read 10 Ways to Help Parents with Grieving Hearts.

Taken



takenYesterday was exactly 5 1/2 years since Connor was taken from this earth. It’s still hard to believe. Some days I wake up thinking it was just a nightmare. Words cannot express how much we miss him and only faith in the Ruler over death gives us hope that we will see him again

I must confess that for the first year and a half after Con’s death, I did not hear from the Lord in a mighty way. Yes, He provided through friends and loved ones that poured themselves out for us and sustained us in a million little ways, a wise counselor who has guided our grief journey,—and yes, we felt confident that the Heavenly Father had taken over the care of Connor in ways that this father only dreamed of. But we didn’t hear God’s booming voice, until…

Taken

On February 10 that year, Nan and I went to see a movie. It was a Saturday night and we just needed to get out for a while. Taken is about a father whose daughter is abducted—that is, taken—for the purpose of child trafficking, sex slavery to be specific. As any good father would do, Liam Neeson hunts down the men responsible and saves the day. We returned home that night to find Connor complaining of a headache. Little did we know that at that very hour Connor was being taken. We gave him an Ibuprofen and sent him to bed confident he would feel better in the morning.

He didn’t.

Over the next 10 days we journeyed up and down steep mountains of hope and fear and spiraled through narrow passages while he clung to life until finally descending into the valley of the shadow of death. Gone from this life. Taken.

My whole life now falls into the categories of before and after.

Before: I never once prayed for “daily bread”. I prayed for early retirement.
After: I’m learning what it is to pray for daily survival, to be still and know that He is God.

Before: I prayed “if the Lord wills…” just like the book of James says to do.
After: I realized that I didn’t mean it. I didn’t really think that my plans for life wouldn’t come about. I was smitten with the illusion of control. If I just worked hard enough, prayed hard enough, lived right enough, things would pretty much work out. Now when I say “tomorrow I will do this or that” I don’t have any illusion that it will really happen…unless the Lord wills.

Before: Nan and I thought we knew what it was to be and have friends.
After: We have discovered the faithfulness of a few amazing friends who are willing to walk through darkness, day after day, year after year, with us even when we can’t be for them who we were.

Before: I thought a bad day was the flu, a flat tire, or a flight delay.
After: My definition of a bad day has been redefined. Watching my wife dig her fingernails into our son’s grave while screaming “I want my son back” now qualifies.

Before: Sunday was a time of family connection, worship, and celebrating our Lord.
After: Sunday morning worship is the worst hour of the week. Songs without Connor’s voice, the memory of his casket at the front of the auditorium, etc., etc., etc. make it a time of confusion and agony.

Before: Stress in our marriage might have been brought on by simple differences in preference, for example, about the temperature of the car.
After: stress results from trying to overcome the vast chasm of sorrow, depression, anger toward a God that you think has abandoned you, and the challenge of connecting when your soul aches so much you don’t know how to speak about it.

Before: I recycled.
After: Life is too short to give a rip about paper or plastic!

Before: I thought trust and faith was the antidote to pain.
After: I’ve realized that the train I now travel on sits on two rails: the left is sadness (deep, deep sadness) and the right wonderful memories. The left is anguish, the right hope. The left anger, the right trust. The left sorrow, the right peace in the arms of Jesus. Neither rail invalidates the other. Neither excludes the other; faith doesn’t end grief, and faith does include asking “why?” (no matter what the preacher says). I travel them both, side by side, on an unstoppable train… till Jesus comes.

Before: I weighed 15 lbs heavier and didn’t have any gray hair.
After: Well, just look at me.

Before: I thought Job was patient and his wife was faithless.
After: I think, just like me, Job had an inadequate theology, he gripped a lot, and was anything but patient with God – and his wife got a bad rap.

Before: I had read Job’s reflections in Job 42:1-6 but I really didn’t understand them. If God’s plans can’t be thwarted, why let Satan wreak havoc on our lives? How is Job’s loss something “too wonderful” for him to know? Job had “heard of God” but after his loss he now “sees God”—what does that mean?
After: I have come to accept that God’s ways are far beyond my wisdom to know; further, it’s not for me to know this side of heaven. And as for what Job saw about God that he had never seen before, I’m still not sure I know exactly what it is, but I think it has something to do with trusting God to manage what in this life I will never have the privilege of understanding.

But despite all these spiritual insights—re-calibrations I have begun to call them—Nan and I still didn’t hear directly from God. And then, at Nan’s darkest hour, she got a phone call.

Read the rest of the story on the Stepping Up blog post, “God gives again.”

Copyright © 2014 by Ron L. Deal.  All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Ron Deal, “Taken,” on the Stepping Up blog for men by FamilyLife. The second part will publish on Aug. 21.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHow would a situation like what Ron and Nan went through change you? What would you do more of? Less of?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistTraumatic events happen to everyone. Where can you turn for help? Read Anxiety: How Can I Cope?

STEPPass - 10-point checklistHow can you help couples who have lost a child? Read 10 Ways to Help Parents with Grieving Hearts.

 

 

Men are the first domino



MenDomino3

We need to have Jesus disciple us to be who He made us to be.

Then, we need to disciple men to know their identity and role as men.

Then, marriage will be men’s great interest.

Then, the family will bond, heal and thrive.

The church will be strong.

Its work and witness will be powerful.

The weak will be protected, not exploited.

Christ will be glorified.

Christ is the first man, the ultimate man, and He is everything.

The way Christ lived as a man is how we learn to be a positive influence on others, and a catalyst for positive change as a man.  Christ forgives, defines and empowers us.  He disciples us, so we can disciple others.

Within your marriage is where you have the greatest opportunity to emulate Christ. As you bond with and love your wife, you are modeling Him who received us as a groom does his bride, faithfully loving and bringing out the best in us.

That devotion in marriage is the foundation for a strong home, where children are bolstered in their faith. That faith follows these children out of the home and into life. That faith becomes the strength of the church. And a vibrant church reaches out and cares for the weak, the lonely, the lost. It reflects the love of Christ out in the world.

Men, our world needs us, but it starts with our need for Christ and how we live that out in the closest relationships – with those in our home.

Loving our kids starts with loving their mom. If you are married, put your wife first in a Christ-like love. If you’re a dad but aren’t married to the mother of your children, you still need to respect and honor the structure that provides stability for children by honoring their mom. And by honoring the cooperative bond of parenthood.

When it comes to thriving at home, none of us are self-sufficient. We all need Christ.  I know that I drift, falter and fail unless I commit to walk with Him. To be effective as a man, each of us needs to grow in the knowledge of Christ through His word, through prayer, through obedience, and through fellowship with mentors and other men.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Jeff Kemp , “Men are the first domino,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistMake a list of the people in your life who need you. In what ways can you be a better influencer?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistWatch Jeff Kemp and Brian Doyle talk about the theology behind men ministering to other men.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Be part of the Stepping Up 10-week series study with other men, to help improve your influence.

 

 

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