Posts by Dennis Rainey

Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys (part 1)



Aggressive girls and clueless boys. A dangerous combination. What should we do as parents? Dennis Rainey shares some insight.

It was just a routine check. When Susan and Tom gave 13-year-old Josh his first cell phone, they told him that they would occasionally look through his text messages. But Susan was completely unprepared for what she found that Saturday morning.

She waded through a couple hundred short, inane messages, more than slightly confused by the shorthand that kids use when texting. She was struck by the fact that Josh and his friends seemed to text each other more than they actually talked. And then something different popped up. There was no confusion about this message: “If you could have sex with me, would you?”

Her mind spinning in disbelief, Susan continued looking through the texts. And a story began to emerge: While hanging out with some friends a couple of weeks earlier, Josh had met a girl from another school. They began texting each other the next day, and it was clear that she had quickly begun pursuing him sexually. With suggestive language, she talked about what she wanted to do with him, and within a few days she lured him into sneaking out of his house in the middle of the night so they could meet for sex at a relative’s empty apartment. “I’m wearing a thong,” she wrote. “Can you sneak out tonight?”

Susan was so stunned that she could hardly breathe. Josh has never had a girlfriend, never even kissed a girl, she thought. We’ve raised him in a good home. How could this happen?

In a daze, she found her husband and filled him in. He was just as shocked. They knew they would someday need to talk with Josh’s younger sisters about how to handle boys who wanted sex, but they never expected this.

A shift in our culture

Sex among teenagers is old news, unfortunately, as are the trends of aggressive boys pursuing girls, men pursuing women, and adult women pursuing adult men. But a growing number of parents like Tom and Susan are learning that something has shifted in our culture over the last few decades.

Increasingly, girls are aggressively pursuing boys—in high school, middle school, and even earlier—in numbers we never saw in the past. The rules have changed, and many parents are asking for help in how to protect their young sons. This shift has caught them by surprise, and they don’t know what to do. (Check out this story from the New York Times written back in 2002) here’s an excerpt from the piece: “Many girls attributed their forwardness with boys to the gains of feminism, which promotes parity between boys and girls in fields like sports and education. The message of empowerment has been translated by 15-year-old girls into the worlds of dating and sex, and while many girls approve, some of their elders are skeptical.”)

A few years ago, I wrote a book entitled Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date. I challenged dads to man up and take steps to protect the purity of their daughters. Interviewing a young man who wants to date your daughter is a good way to filter out the undesirables, so to speak, and call young men to treat a young lady’s sexuality with respect and nobility.

After that book was published, I heard stories about fathers who stepped up and had some great heart-to-heart conversations with young men. But what I didn’t expect were the messages from readers and FamilyLifeToday® radio listeners asking for help in protecting their sons from aggressive girls. Here is a sample:

“We have three grown daughters and a 16-year-old son. You would think our family would have experienced plenty of aggressive behavior from boys toward our daughters, but nothing compares with what I see our son going through.”

“I have a 14-year-old son. He is contacted by girls all the time on Facebook and texts. One went so far as to take pictures of herself in scant clothing (in my opinion) and send them to him. This occurred without the knowledge of her parents and when my son was in seventh grade.”

“My 10-year-old son was enticed by another fifth grade girl via e-mail to open another e-mail account so that I couldn’t monitor it. But I found it and canceled it. She is sending e-mail messages and e-cards to him and two of his friends in a love quadrangle that she’s brilliantly orchestrated.”

“I have two sons who attend public school. Recently, they were talking at the dinner table about the girls that grab their butts in the hallways. My husband and I were shocked. They said, ‘Welcome to public school, Mom!'”

“I have a 13-year-old boy, an 11-year-old boy, and a 7-year-old boy. All of them have been pursued by girls. I think what shocks me the most is the encouragement from the parents of the girls who mistakenly think it is ‘cute.'”

“We recently were hunting for a church nearer to our home. We found a good one, except that girls in the youth group zeroed in to our son like heat-seeking missiles.”

There have always been girls who are flirty and crazy about boys, even some girls who could be labeled as “bad girls.” You probably remember a few from your own days as a teenager. But now, the “bad girl” problem is becoming more commonplace. Over and over, parents are expressing the same concern: Girls are pursuing their sons more openly and relentlessly than ever before. They are calling, texting, sending suggestive photos, setting up romantic liaisons … and they’re doing these things at a younger age.

I want to make it very clear that I am not placing all the blame for teenage promiscuity on girls. I also understand that parents need to protect their daughters from aggressive boys, especially as those boys move into the latter years of high school and beyond. A shocking number of men and boys have, and continue to be, sexual predators. I make absolutely no excuses for them. But I’ve heard from enough parents to realize that we also have a growing problem with aggressive girls.  And most parents tell me they just aren’t prepared for it.

The need for a plan

The fact is that many parents just don’t realize how little training they are giving their adolescent and pre-adolescent sons in how to relate to the opposite sex. I’m not just talking about sex education; our boys need to learn what to expect in adolescence—and beyond—and how to handle it. Temptation, lust, and sexual attraction are bearing down on them. They need to be prepared. You need to prepare them.

I wrote my recent book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, to offer time-tested counsel to empower you to teach and equip your son to understand a biblical perspective of sex and how to protect himself from seductive girls who would do him harm. I write about three commitments you need to make as a parent that will keep you engaged in your son’s life as he moves through the years of high hormonal temptation.

And I discuss seven conversations you must have with your son. Six of these are founded on passages from the book of Proverbs and focus on helping your son understand what God says in the Bible about maintaining sexual purity. These conversations are intensely practical and will help you establish boundaries for your son and also prepare him for specific situations he will face with aggressive girls both now and later in adulthood. Each of these chapters ends with a suggested step-by-step guide for directing the conversation with your son.

They thought they had more time

Tom and Susan, the parents in the story at the beginning of this article, found themselves dropped in the middle of a minefield. Their son, Josh, had never even been on a date, so they were shocked to find that he had become sexually active. When they met with Josh and told him that they knew what was going on, he tried to deny the extent of his involvement. But the evidence was clear, and he finally admitted what he had done.

Tom and Susan immediately took away Josh’s cell phone, shut down his Facebook page, and grounded him from going out with friends for a period of time. They made sure he kept busy with school and sports, so that he wouldn’t have idle time. And they moved him out of his downstairs bedroom into a room upstairs with his little brother.

The wounds were still fresh when Susan related the story. “Josh knows this isn’t what God wants for him.” But the future seems unclear. How do you restore a child to a path of purity after he’s already lost his virginity … at age 13? They are praying that God will use the experience for good in Josh’s life.

“I wish we had known these things were going on,” Susan said. “I think we would have been more prepared.”

 

Adapted by permission from Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, by Dennis Rainey with David Boehi.  ©2012 by Dennis Rainey.  FamilyLife Publishing.

Listen to Dennis Rainey talk about his book—Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys—on a recent FamilyLife Today interview.

 

Finishing strong



finishing strong

What do you want your life to look like as you begin to approach the finish line?

Our culture tells us that we should look forward to retirement—a golden time when we can relax, travel, play golf and bask in the glow of a successful and lucrative career.

At the same time, reality tells many of us that the final lap of our lives will not be golden—it will be a time of living on a limited income and coping with infirmities.

As I’ve spoken with men over the age of 55 or 60, I’ve noticed that few seem to have a real vision of how God can use them.  Quite a few lament that they feel disconnected from their children and grandchildren… that they have little to offer…that their glory years are long gone.

That’s why I challenge men to become patriarchs during the latter years of their journey of manhood. As godly heads of their families, patriarchs can leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.  As figures of influence in their communities, they have the opportunity to be used by God through their words, their actions, and even their financial contributions.

The Scriptures describe life as a race.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul tells us, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.”  And Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

We all start the race that is set before us, but it is common for many to grow weary and lose heart along the way.  Dr. William Culbertson, president of Moody Bible Institute, said it well:  “It is nice to start well.  It is even better to finish well.”

A patriarch is a man who is finishing strong.

Do you know someone who is finishing the race strong?  Share your story below and thereby encouraging others about the impact they can have as they age.

A tribute to Daddy Fish



I believe the battle today for the family begins with how men behave.  As men step up and man up, they will have an incredible impact on their wives and on their children.  And that impact will be felt for many years to come.  We need a movement of men stepping up.

A number of years ago on FamilyLife Today, we interviewed RV Brown, who heads up an outreach to youth.  RV was one of seventeen children, and at the end of our interview I asked him to give a tribute to his father—to honor him for what he had done well.

RV-Brown-Sunday

I’ll never forget what he said to his dad, Willie Fish:

“Daddy Fish, I just want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, first of all, for loving my Mama, and then secondly, for loving me, and kissing me, and rubbing my little round head, and telling me to go to school, and everything was going to be okay.  And then, Dad, I want to thank you for taking me fishing—July the sixth, 1959, for the first time.  

“And Dad, I want to just tell you what an awesome leader you was.  With no education, Dad, you taught me.  You educated me how to love.  Dad, thank you!  I’m the kind of man I am today because of who you are.  Thank you for loving Mama.  Thank you for the leadership and authority in which you raised us.  Thank you for the discipline; and most of all, father, I want to thank you for that hug and that kiss, and that little rub on my little, round head, and you’d say, ‘You’re going to be okay, son.’  Dad, I love you.”

What a great illustration of a man who was courageous in stepping up to love and lead his family. And it’s even more powerful when you listen to it—click here and you’ll find it at the end of the broadcast.

It doesn’t get much better than this.  This is the type of impact we long to have as men.  Men Stepping Up means a culture that will begin to change for the better.

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To listen to the FamilyLife Today program where RV Brown’s tribute is shared, click below:

25 ways to spiritually lead your family



Ideas for men who want to leave a spiritual legacy.

NYResolutions

Well, 2012 is just about completely in our rearview mirror as we knock on the door of 2013, ready to enter.  Are you a man (or woman) of resolutions?  Many go through the motions of making resolutions to accomplish something in the upcoming year that they want to pursue, complete, start, quit, or attempt even when they know fully well they may not be successful.  Sometimes that’s because the resolution is something that is good for them to accomplish at some level.

For men, one of those that often make the resolution list is to “spiritually lead your family better”.  If it doesn’t make the list with weight loss, exercise, et al, it’s probably because so many of us don’t know what that looks like.  We think it just means more work.  And, many of us didn’t see it modeled well growing up.  Maybe we’ve turned over the spiritual aspect of our family to our wives.  That is not how God intended it to be in our home.  So, as you consider your resolutions for 2013, here are some things that you can do to help you accomplish the goal to lead your family spiritually better in 2013 than you did in 2012 (and, even if it’s not a resolution, this is still a good list to read through and deploy).  Make it simple…don’t choose all 25 but choose your top 5 to accomplish in 2013 or schedule them throughout the year.  Here’s the list:

1. Pray daily with your wife.

2. Write a love letter that she’d like to receive.

3. Discover her top three needs and over the next 12 months go all out to meet them.

4. Buy her a rose. Take her in your arms. Hold her face gently. Look into her eyes and say “I’d marry you all over again!”

5. Take her on a weekend getaway.

6. Read the Scriptures to her.

7. Replace the “D” word with the “C” word! (D: divorce – C: commitment)

8. Court her.

9. Remain faithful to her.

10. Fulfill your marriage covenant.

11. Have a family time at least one night a week.

12. Use circumstances to teach your children to trust God.

13. Protect your family from evil.

14. Restrain your teenager’s passion.

15. Set spiritual goals for your children.

16. Take one or two of your children on mission trips.

17. Catch your kids doing something right–and let them know you caught them.

18. Date your daughters.

19. Inspect what you expect.

20. Do a Proverbs breakfast Bible study with your teens (15 and older).

21. Hug and kiss your sons and daughters.

22. Ask your children for forgiveness when you fail them.

23. Pray with them.

24. Call them to a spiritual mission to do what God wants to do with their life.

25. Persevere and don’t quit.

Did any of these scream to you, “PICK ME, PICK ME”?  Which one(s) will you work on in 2013?  Share some thoughts below to help you be accountable to moving forward with leading your family spiritually in 2013!

 

(originally this list appeared on FamilyLife.com)

The one thing a man of courage does



manafraid

Over the years I’ve challenged men to take the initiative and improve their marriages in a way that requires bedrock courage.

No, it’s not initiating sex. By comparison, that’s risky indeed, but nowhere nearly as challenging as … praying daily with your wife.

Now, some men are already praying daily with their wives. But I’ve seen that look of hesitation and even fear in the eyes of many men when I’ve given them this challenge. It’s way out of their comfort zone.

I’m not certain that Barbara and I would still be married had it not been for this spiritual discipline of experiencing God together in our marriage. It has kept us from building walls in our marriage, it has forced us to forgive each other, and it has kept us focused in the same direction.

A businessman  who works for a well-known corporation took my challenge a number of years ago. He and his wife had been married for years and had two children. At the time, he was experiencing some difficulties in his marriage—he was angry over the lack of time they spent together, both relationally and sexually; he had begun drinking (again); and they had been sleeping in separate bedrooms for two years. They were not considering divorce and remained committed to the marriage, but in his words, “We were both on different pages, spiritually and mentally. She wanted to have Bible studies together and pray, but I wasn’t willing, due to my inner anger at her.”

A few years later, our paths crossed again, and he wrote to tell me that when he took the initiative to pray daily with his wife, their relationship was transformed:

Over a period of time and consistently praying together, we have seen amazing changes in our lives. Quickly the level of anger subsided. Each night our prayers became easier and meant more.

We seemed to move onto the same page, our attitude toward each other changed, and we began liking each other again. We also saw changes in our parenting; we started talking more and having in-depth conversations. Over the last few years, our conversations have turned to deep, meaningful reviews of our lives and the mistakes we’ve made. We share hurts, frustrations, and worries. We both seem to want to help each other and support the other in times of need.

As we learned to love and respect each other, our sex life has grown into a beautiful expression of our love and is more satisfying than ever. Our walk with God has grown deeper, individually and as a couple. Our lives seem to be connected on a spiritual level as never before. As with any marriage, problems still arise, but now we feel equipped to deal with the issues in a positive way.

Jesus Christ has done a mighty work in our marriage, and we attribute much of that success to the fact that every night we approach the Throne of Grace together. It truly is His grace that has sustained us. Only He could salvage our train wreck of a marriage and not only make it survive but thrive.

Can you imagine what would happen in your marriage, in your family, if you demonstrated that type of initiative and courage? My encouragement is to try it. If you miss a day, then pick up again tomorrow and pray together. I’ve found that the men who initiate prayer with their wives have a dramatically different relationship with them in less than two years.

Do you have a similar fear of prayer?  Not sure you’d say it right or that you might not say it well?  God isn’t interested in your posture, words or vocabulary.  He’s interested in you, your heart and your family.  When you take the initiative to lead in this way, God will do some supernatural work you have not even thought about.  And, I bet your wife will actually find it romantic when you lead her in prayer with sincerity and intent.

Give it a try.

If you have a story about praying with your wife, challenges you faced and overcame or hesitancies today, share them below because I can guarantee you that you’re not the only one who has or does struggle to lead your wife/marriage in this way.  Be strong and courageous, men.

Adapted from the book, Stepping Up™ by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing, 2011.

What a life; what a legacy



 

leaving a legacy

Our lives are filled with “firsts.” First tooth. First steps. First date. First car.

But a few years ago I experienced a first of a different stripe—I helped to bury a friend, one of my comrades on the team of speakers for our Weekend to Remember™ getaways: J.T. Walker. After an 18-month battle with leukemia, J.T. passed away on June 10, 2004. He left a wife, Enid, and five children (three daughters and two sons) ages 5 to 20.

J.T. was passionate about his Savior, his family, and his church. (He was pastor of community outreach at Immanuel Baptist Church in Springfield, Va.) He also was fervent in his desire to reach others with the message of the gospel and of God’s blueprints for building a family. He served on our speaker team for nine years and spoke at more than 50 Weekend to Remember getaways to more than 25,000 people.

Just six weeks before his death he spoke at a conference in Boston. One man who attended, a pastor who had been married 23 years, said that his marriage was “hanging by a shadow of a thread…” and that God had used J.T. to breathe fresh hope into a dead marriage. That day, a marriage, a family, and a ministry had been rescued. That was a mark of the man’s life.

Like most of our speakers, J.T. had some signature illustrations. One was the story of his father, who built cabinets and tables. His dad would complete a table and then stain it before applying the varnish. As a young lad, J.T. played under one of those tables and noticed that his father’s handprint was stained into the wood where he had held that table as he stained the top. J.T. put his hand on that handprint but never could quite fill up the imprint. His dad’s life was like that—challenging him to become the man God had made him to be. As a man, husband, and father, J.T. Walker ultimately filled the handprint of his father… and more.

At a memorial service attended by more than 1,100 people, I shared a conversation that I had with J.T. shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. I can still recall where I was standing on that cold December day as I spoke with him on a cell phone. J.T. was about to celebrate Christmas alone, going through the rigors of chemotherapy. I finally prayed with him, but not before he began to weep and express to me what a privilege it was for him to speak at our conferences. He then gave me a charge to be a steward of what he said was the “most important ministry and message of our day to the family.” Through tears, he exhorted me to be faithful. And I had called to pray with him.

What a man.

What a husband.

What a father.

What a life.

What a legacy.

Is there someone who has made that kind of impression on your life or someone you know?  Share their name here as a tribute.  Too often we wait until it’s too late to tell someone, “Thank you for investing in me”.  No time like the present, is there?

Adapted from an article from FamilyLife.com

Keep Christ the center of Christmas



Keep Christ the center of Christmas

 

Pounds of Turkey have been consumed and still to be eaten in who knows what kind of concoction.  Christmas songs are probably playing around the house.  Black Friday shoppers are still sleeping and will arise in time for dinner.  Plans to decorate your home with lights and newly purchased or cut tress are in process of being executed.  It’s Christmas again.  For many of us, this is the holiday that we most look forward to celebrating.

But, in this culture, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep Christ the center of Christmas.  Materialistic desires abound.  Focus on gifts and holiday gatherings take our mind off of the significance of this day/season.  In an increasingly hostile nation, displays focusing on the Christ of Christmas are under fire, especially if they are on public property.  But trying to strip Jesus from Christmas will never work.  Why?  Because of who this holiday is about.

So how do we keep Christ the center of Christmas in our home?  There are no magic formulas.  What it takes is an intentional fortitude on the part of mom and dad to plan activities and moments that point to Jesus Christ during this month.  We’ve taken an excerpt from a FamilyLife Today program From November 28, 2011, where Dennis and Barbara shared some of the things they did as they raised their six children to capture their kids minds and help them keep Christ the center of Christmas in their home.

Barbara, you really had an agenda for about a four-week period between the end of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was to capture the kids’ imagination and point them in a spiritual direction.

Barbara: Absolutely. I did not want Christmas in our house to be four weeks of “What I’m going to get” and “What I get to open” and “What’s in it for me?” We worked really hard to focus on the real reason for Christmas and to talk about that. We also helped the kids think about what they could give and what they could do for others.

Dennis: What Barbara’s talking about, being focused on what you’re giving another person, was even implemented on Christmas morning when we exchanged presents. Instead of going and picking the present that’s addressed to you, you’d go pick a present that you had given—

Barbara:  Yes, that you’d gotten for somebody else.

Dennis:  And hand-deliver it; and then that person opened that present.

Barbara: And then it was their turn to go give.

Dennis: Right. And so it was focused on not “What am I receiving?” but—

Barbara: “What am I giving?”

Dennis: Again, it’s back to the spiritual significance that Christ came and dwelt among us. And that really is God’s greatest gift to us.

What were some of the things that you did to try to tone down the noise of the culture and turn up the spiritual emphasis of the holiday?

Barbara: In addition to the whole gift-giving thing … I really worked at playing hymns about Christmas, songs that talk about Christ and Him coming to earth. We didn’t play very many “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman” secular kinds of songs around the Christmas holiday.

And then we always made a big deal of putting out the Nativity scene. I wanted that to be the focal point for our kids, more important than decorating the tree. We always put it in a prominent place so that it was kind of the center. Even though the tree was larger, the Nativity was in a more important place.

Dennis: On Christmas Eve we’d have the special meal that the girls and I prepared. It started out to kind of be a one-man show with a little group of toddlers hanging around, but as the girls became young ladies, they really helped with that Christmas Eve dinner.

We turned it into a feast; at the end of the feast, we’d read about the coming of Christ and His birth in Bethlehem. I always thought that was really important, to open the Bible and begin to read the story about the Savior and who began to seek Him out—the wise men, the shepherds—and talk about that as a family.

WGWFC - Keep Christ the center of Christmas

You were talking about a Nativity scene. A few years back FamilyLife put together a Christmas resource [with a Nativity] designed for families. In the last few months, you’ve been involved in a project here, Barbara, to give that resource a little bit of a makeover. What was the objective behind the new version of What God Wants for Christmas®?

Barbara: Well, a couple of things. There’s a portion of a poem to read for each character in the Nativity scene, and it talks about who that character is, what that character’s place was in the grand scheme of things, and it tells the story of the Nativity in a creative way.

And in the new updated version there’s an audio CD that has the poem, and it’s sort of acted out—I guess that would be the best way to say it—with different voices playing the different parts of the characters in the Nativity. So you can do this as a family, but then the kids can listen to the story over and over again on their own.

Because moms are busy, and I know moms are busy because I remember how crazy it was for me at Christmas to try to pull off anything that was meaningful. I had a zillion things going on all the time. And as much as I wanted to do things that were meaningful, it was always a challenge to get it into the schedule, to get everybody together, and to plow through and do it.  So I’m excited about the CD because if all else fails and you can’t sit down and read the book, your kids can listen to it. They can hear the story of the Nativity.

How would you use What God Wants for Christmas if you had toddlers and teenagers running around the same house together?

Barbara: I would probably have my older kids read the story, and I would probably be refereeing the younger ones as they anxiously wait to open the boxes [the resource includes packages for the kids to open, in conjunction with the story]. This is a resource that a family with wide age ranges of kids can use because it’s designed for younger kids to understand, but the words and the poem are intriguing enough that teenagers will be fascinated to listen to it because it’s not a little kid’s story. It’s a grown-up story.

Dennis: I just want to take some of the pressure off of moms and dads or grandparents who may be listening and thinking about implementing this into their Christmas tradition. Reduce your expectations, especially if the children are under the age of 5 or 6. I just remember that some of these traditions that we did were absolute chaos.

Barbara: It was not Norman Rockwell.

Dennis: It wasn’t. There weren’t all these children sitting with their hands in their laps, smiling wonderfully as you read the story and as you pull the figurines out. I mean, they may be throwing the figurines at each other, or arguing, or fighting over who gets to open the box.

Barbara: Probably arguing and fighting over whose turn it is.

Dennis: Yes. No doubt about it. I would just say, it doesn’t have to be perfect. To execute this, you just need to do it. You just need to keep pressing into it. And when there’s spilled hot chocolate, or tea, or whatever you have as you read this, don’t worry about it. Just keep a sense of humor and keep moving.

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What are some things you’ve done in your family that have helped keep your focus on CHRIST during Christmas?

3 storms that rob men of courage



In 2003, Hurricane Isabel slammed into the East Coast of the United States, lashing North Carolina and Virginia, then moving northward all the way to Canada, leaving sixteen dead and cutting power to six million homes. The edges of the hurricane passed through Washington, DC, prompting the president and members of Congress to find safer quarters.

men of courage

That was not the case at Arlington National Cemetery, where guards have relentlessly stood vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns every hour of every day since July 1, 1937. When the hurricane hit, the soldiers remained at their posts even though they were given permission to seek shelter.

That’s what a soldier does. He acknowledges the storm, but he doesn’t give in to it. He stands firm.

As a friend told me, “If these men can stand guard over the dead, how much more important is it that I stand guard over the living—my wife and children?”

Watch a clip of interviews with these guards:

Like these soldiers, we are called to stand and do our duty while staring down the very storms that seek to rob us men of courage, taunting and tempting us to neglect our duty and abandon our posts. These storms are packing some power. Are you ready for them?

Storm #1: Damnable Training by Fathers

I once met a man who grew up in a remote section of our country. He admitted that the only advice he received as a boy from his father about women was

  • Get ’em young.
  • Treat ’em rough.
  • Tell ’em nothing.

I wonder how that advice worked for him in his marriage.

You could say this is a legacy of the “strong, silent, tough man” image often passed down from father to son. This is the type of misguided training in manhood that has corrupted so many men as the leaders in their homes—selfish men who control their wives and children so that their own needs are met.

And that’s just one part of the problem. Many boys grow up with fathers who are distant and passive. Fathers who rarely engage their families, and when they do, their half-hearted attempts to train their sons may promote irresponsible, or even immoral, behavior. Like the father whose idea of sex education for his twelve-year-old son was to take him to a strip joint. There they sat for three hours as the women did their thing onstage. No words were spoken. When they arrived home later that night, the dad told his wife, “There, I did it! Now I’m going to bed.”

Another son told me about the knock at his door as he packed to go to college. His father handed him a small paper bag with this sage advice, “Don’t be foolish son—use ’em.”

You could likely tell your own story of how you were trained or abandoned by your father. Too many men today were raised by fathers who didn’t step up to their responsibilities. Is it any wonder we have a generation of men who feel lost and aimless, not knowing how to face their fears or think rightly about themselves, women, and their own passions?

Storm #2: Fatherless Families

The relentless, howling winds of a culture of divorce have uprooted the family tree, and with it at least two generations of men. With our high divorce rates and the increasing number of births to single women (nearly four out of ten children are born to an unwed mother), the number of children in the United States who live in a single-parent household has more than doubled since 1978.

Children are the innocent victims of this raging storm. The bottom line: dad is AWOL in far too many home today. This phenomenon has prompted David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, to pronounce that the fatherless family “is a social invention of the most daring and untested design. It represents a radical departure from virtually all of human history and experience.”

Stepping Up - Dennis Rainey

The social implications of fatherless families are endless. For example, the greatest predictor of a child dropping out of high school, committing a crime, and going to prison is a home without a dad. Many young people grow up today in areas where the only adult male role models they know are live-in boyfriends or gang leaders. The fallout has only just begun: a crop of weak young men and frustrated women who are looking for real men.

One of the greatest challenges any boy could endure is trying to become a man without a father to show him how. How can a boy know what it looks like to behave as a man, love like a man, and be a man in the battle if the main man in his life has abandoned him? My friend Crawford Loritts works with young men to build their skills as leaders. He writes that the issue of courage keeps coming up in their conversations:

Many of [these young men] grapple with fear. . . . I think that the dismantling of our families over the past fifty years or so has almost institutionalized fear and uncertainty. Divorce, the rise of single-parent households, and the tragic assortment of abuse and dysfunction in our families have produced a generation with many young people who are afraid of risk, and afraid to make mistakes.

So many of our young men grew up in homes in which they had limited or no contact with their fathers, or they had dads who were detached and didn’t provide any meaningful leadership. We are left with a legacy of men who in varying degrees have been feminized. They are uncertain about who and what a man is, and how a man acts and behaves. They are fearful of assuming responsibility and taking the initiative in charting direction.

Storm #3: A Culture of Confusion

My son came home one weekend from his university—a large southern school not exactly known for being the center for liberal thought—and shared with me that he had been taught in class that there weren’t two sexes but five: male, female, homosexual male, homosexual female, and transgender. No wonder young men are confused and young women are left wondering where the real men are!  We’re living in a multiple-choice culture: are you an A, B, C, D, or E? Male sexuality and identity have become a bewildering array of options.

Think of what it must be like for young boys growing up today. Media outlets and educational elites attack the traditional roles of men and claim that a man who seeks to be a leader in his family is actually oppressing his wife and children. Our culture is permeated with sexuality, where children are exposed to explicit messages and distorted images at a far younger age than their parents were. The educational system doesn’t seem to know how to teach boys, and as a result, girls are leaping ahead in test scores, college enrollment, and graduation rates. Boys are increasingly medicated because their parents don’t know how to channel their masculinity, adventure, and drive.

Is it any wonder that boys grow up so confused?

“I don’t know how to do family.”

In the wake of these storms lies a generation of men who don’t know how to be men. They don’t know how to have real relationships—with women, with their children, or with other men. And many grow up with what I call a courage deficit—they have little idea what men of courage look like, or what types of courageous choices they need to make as they move through their lives. One of these men came to my front door one Saturday morning. I’ll never forget him standing sheepishly in the doorway. “Mr. Rainey, in the past couple of years, I’ve gotten married and had two children,” he said, “and I’ve determined that I don’t know how to do marriage. And I don’t know how to do family. Could you help me?” This young man articulated what millions of young men are feeling today—inadequate, fearful, angry, and in desperate need of manhood training and vision.

So, have you been robbed of courage?

What are the storms you’ve encountered?  Did you see courage modeled well in your home?  Do you have a foundational plan to help you walk through the obstacles in your life?  These are real issues in our lives.  Until we get at the root of our storms, we will be in turbulent waters.  Only when we are investing our lives into other men and allowing them to invest in us all under the guidance of God and His Holy Spirit, we can’t find peace in this place for the storms we face as men.  Is your home safe in the storms of life?

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing, 2012.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “3 storms that rob men of courage” by Dennis Rainey on the Stepping Up blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat’s the most courageous thing you’v ever done? Listen to men on the street try to answer this question.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear the true meaning of Christ-centered courage discussed on the FamilyLife Today radio broadcast

STEPPass - 10-point checklistAre you or your friends needing a shot of courage? Do a Stepping Up small group video series together.

Boys will be boys: Stepping up to become men



Boys stepping up to manhood is what our culture craves and needs

BOYS WILL BE BOYS

Boyhood is about exploration. A boy has license to wander and roam. But boyhood is also a time when he finds barbed wire at the top of fences and learns that some folks really mean it when they post No Trespassing signs. Boys bump into boundaries and experience the consequences for right and wrong choices.

The apostle Paul understood that boys will be boys when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” Or, in my words:

When I was a boy, I was all boy. I used to speak like a boy, think like a boy, reason like a boy. (All of which explains why I behaved like a boy.) But when I began stepping up, I did away with boyhood stuff.

One of the tragedies of our day is that too many boys are growing up without the guidance of a father, or another man, to show them what it looks like to do away with that boyhood stuff. As a result, they often move into adolescence and then adulthood looking like men but still speaking, reasoning, and behaving like boys.

Stepping up to become men

Our society is equally confused about when a boy becomes a man.  Here are some responses to our Man on the Street question, “When does a boy become a man?”

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Why is it so hard to go from boyhood to manhood

In a cover story titled “The Trouble with Boys,Newsweek magazine examined the growing achievement gap between boys and girls today. “By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind,” wrote Peg Tyre. “In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests.” According to the American Council on Education, young men now represent only 43 percent of college undergraduates, with women comprising nearly 60 percent (Jacqueline E. King, Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2006 (Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 2010).

After examining how educators are working to close the gender gap, the article finally focused on what I’d consider the key issue:

One of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: does he have a man in his life to look up to? Too often, the answer is no. High rates of divorce and single motherhood have created a generation of fatherless boys. In every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, an increasing number of boys—now a startling 40 percent—are being raised without their biological dads (Tyre, The Trouble with Boys). (emphasis added)

Making the problem even larger is the number of boys growing up with fathers who are physically present but emotionally distant and uninvolved.

What to do about it?

One of the biggest needs in our generation is for men to step into the lives of boys to train them, equip them, and cheer them on to grow up as they begin the process of “manning up.” And I’m not just talking about fathers getting involved with their sons. I’m also talking about a generation of boys who are growing up with no male figure in their lives—boys who are desperate for a man to show them how to be a man.

To think about:  There is no benefit to beating yourself up because of what has transpired in your life as a father.  Shame is never good.  Conviction that results in positive and fruitful action is what we need.  What really matters is “what do you do with what you know?”  What can you do TODAY to build into your son, another young man or to find a young man who needs a man that cares to help him grow up from boyhood to manhood at the right time.  Will you step up and fill that gap?

On February 2, 2012, thousands of churches, ministries, men’s groups and community groups of men will be hosting a simultaneous Stepping Up™ Super Saturday events.  Will you be one of the groups hosting a great event for the men in your church and community?  Find out how you can get involved to help men step up to Godliness HERE:  MenSteppingUp/super-saturday-february-2-2013

Adapted from Stepping Up by Dennis Rainey. FamilyLife Publishing, 2012.

Are you faithful? 5 questions to consider



Many are on a career path, but few seem to be on a character path. All too frequently who we are is discarded upon the altar of ambition.

Are You Faithful?

Are you trusted by your friends? Are you reliable? Can others count on you? Do you want to know how to be an original in a culture of copycats? Do you want to be a part of a vanishing breed in today’s generation?

If so, then become a person who is faithful. You know, a person who follows through. One whom others can count on when things are rough or smooth. His word is good on the little stuff as well as the mammoth gargantuan tasks too. He’s the kind of person who promised to call—and does so—on time. He said he’d do it and he did it—exactly like you asked it to be done.

Are you known as a faithful person? If you are, then here are a few of the words that can be used to describe you: trustworthy, dependable, reliable, true-blue, and responsible. All of the names are saturated with one reoccurring theme: Character. Character quietly, yet convincingly, says, “You can count on me—at any cost!”

Faithfulness. Strange, isn’t it, that such a simple thing would be in such short supply?

I’m about to step up on my soapbox—do you mind?

Being faithful with little

I sense in our society a growing feeling of “deserve a perk,” such as, “I deserve a promotion (without the process)” …  “I deserve the position, prestige, and responsibility without having to pay the price and be faithful today.”

Many are on a career path, but few seem to be on a character path. All too frequently who we are is discarded upon the altar of ambition.

Today our oatmeal is ready to eat in 60 seconds, our pictures can be developed in 60 minutes, and our house can be built in 60 days. We are a culture that is used to getting what we want instantly. We aren’t used to working patiently, or waiting on anything—even a hamburger.

Jesus taught, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a little thing is unrighteous also in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous riches, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Luke 16:11).

What we want today is the much more without the very little. We want the tip without the toil, the gain without the grind, the sweets without the sweat, the prize without the pain, and the perks without the perseverance. Today, duty, diligence, hard work, and attention to details are a rare commodity in any endeavor—whether it be at home, at work, or at church.

Could it be that we are chasing after the wrong thing? Do we want to have it our way regardless of what it costs us? Could it be that faithfulness at home is shredded by the pursuit of just one more dollar at work?

We’ve become a sloppy generation with all kinds of cover-ups for the unfaithful. Like, “It just fell through the cracks!” (Some today seem to have a pretty broad measurement of the cracks!) Or, “I just forgot—are you sure the deadline was yesterday?” My favorite is “I didn’t have time.” Better stated, “Other priorities were chosen before your thing got done.”

I struggle with being faithful in little too. I missed about a half dozen deadlines in getting this article done! Confession may be good for the soul, but it’s bad for the reputation! But I’m efficient, no matter how long it takes!

Are you faithful?  Some questions to consider

You might be asking, “I agree with you, but how do I know if I am viewed as a faithful person by others?” Perhaps the following questions would be good for you to consider:

  • Do others constantly have to remind you to get things done? Do you habitually forget to follow through?
  • What does your word mean to you? Is it a premium seal that secures the deal? Or is it a flimsy wrapper that can be taken off and thrown away with ease?
  • Do you return your phone calls?
  • Do your children believe you when you promise to do something with them?
  • If you promise you’ll be home, do you call if you’re going to be late? Deadlines are missed occasionally—things do derail us unexpectedly—a call or a note that the deadline is going to be missed places value on the other person’s expectation and lets them know you are responsible and can be trusted.

Maybe you are faithful—a cut above the herd, but I’ll bet you work near others who could use a double dose of faithfulness. What if suddenly we had a dramatic rash of people falling all over one another trying to be faithful in the little things in their work? Do you think excellence would be a mere myth?

What would happen in our homes if there was an epidemic of husbands and wives infected with being faithful in the little things in their relationship with each other, their children, and their parents? What if we really did do what we promised one another? What would happen to the next generation if we trained our children to be faithful in little as well as to be intelligent and athletic? Are we raising a generation of children that will embrace selfish pursuits or faithfulness? If they don’t learn to be faithful from you then what kind of leaders, workers, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers will they make? And if you don’t teach them, who will?

And what do you think would be the impact of Christians on society if they replaced faithfulness and obedience toward God in the place of compromise and unfaithfulness? Perhaps the salt would become truly “salty” again.

But our values are all fouled up and sticky with the things the world values. Do we admire the man who is successful or faithful? Do we give awards for production or for trustworthiness? Are moms honored for slugging it out in the trenches and raising a family or do we sling a little dirt on the occupation by always talking about the women who are making it “big time” in the business world?

A movement of faithfulness

Since Jesus said that “the much more” depended upon our faithfulness, then why not join a growing number of Christians who are giving faithfulness the standing ovation it deserves. How about cheering your family members on for:

  • A faithful act that was performed when no one was apparently watching …
  • For your husband who was honest in preparing your income tax …
  • A mother who is faithfully taking the time to rear the next generation (so much of her work is unseen and unappreciated by others) …
  • Or a child who tells the truth instead of lying even though the consequences are painful.

How do you view the details? As picky things to be ignored or that get in your way? Or as a stepping stone to receiving the true riches of the kingdom?

Value. Character. Faithfulness.

As Chuck Swindoll says, “It’s never too late to start doing what is right.”

Want much more? Then do the little—faithfully.

Adapted by permission from “If You Want More, You Must be Faithful in Little”, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife.com, Copyright 2012, all rights reserved.

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