Posts by Jim Whitmore

Holiday traditions: time to step up



Spiritual leadership has never been easier than it is right now during this holiday season. Don’t know how to lead your family spiritually? Then this is the time to practice! Get ready to roll your sleeves up, dig in, and give your leadership skills a workout!

holiday traditionsDuring the holidays, our families are looking for something more meaningful from us.  Their hearts are more open, more teachable, and more vulnerable. The holidays are overflowing with traditions, and they should be. Family traditions matter. The repetition of the same activities creates strong memories and emotions. Traditions are what families look forward to and remember back on.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is to load the family up in our mini-van and take a drive. We fill a thermos with rich, hot cocoa, stuff a bag with some fresh homemade cookies, and change into our pajamas for the drive. We have a great park nearby that has an amazing Christmas drive-through light display. There are literally hundreds of unique displays in this park and every year they add a few new ones. We love driving through with the windows down, singing Christmas hymns, and munching down on Christmas goodness.

After the drive through the park we make our way to our State Capital which is always beautifully decked out. The kids think that walking through the Capital in their PJ’s is very cool. Then we go out to the Capital lawn to look at  an amazing manger display that features full-sized, hand-carved wooden figures. When our oldest son was little, every time we passed the capital he would point out “that’s where Jesus was born.” We still get a laugh out of it. On our way home we go past our previous homes and talk about our Christmas memories from each.

A spirit of contentment. Another thing I do intentionally throughout the holidays is help my kids keep an attitude of contentment and a grateful heart. We are living in a culture of little consumers. It’s tough to teach our own children to be content with what they have.

The first step is to help them develop a heart of gratitude. We need to show them by example what it means to be thankful for everything we have, beginning with our relationship with our Savior and then with our families and each other. If you practice gratitude in front of your kids, they will learn it from your example. Especially during the holidays, our kids will be bombarded with commercialism and the “Buy! Buy! Get your parents to buy this for you!” messages. We have to combat those messages with the truth we know.

Another thing we do to develop a heart of giving is to always stop and let the kids toss some money into the Salvation Army kettle every where we go. They love to give our money away and we think it’s a great investment to both the giver and receiver.

The Incarnate Christ. With Christmas, of course, the most important job we have is to communicate to our family that Jesus came to Earth, born of a virgin, He was born to die for our sins, and to be resurrected. That, guys, is the message of Christmas. At my house, we also do Advent candles at dinner. The kids love lighting the candles. Some nights we get through the study and some nights we don’t, because conversations drift, questions come up, or attention spans wane. Did you know you can even do the Advent in 5 days or less? One year we actually did it in one night.

Finishing doesn’t count nearly as much as getting started. In the end it’s not about the one thing we do, it’s about all the things we do, big and small, that continually remind us and our kids about the Reason for the season.

  • How do you keep Christ in Christmas at your house?
  • What are your favorite holiday traditions?
  • If your family were famous for a Christmas recipe what would it be?  Ours is chocolate peppermint pinwheels.  Willing to share your recipe?  Send it to ishare@familylife.com.

My anniversary epic fail



It’s me, the guy who told all of you guys how to plan special anniversary celebrations, because they are important to our wives. I still believe that, too. And I planned a great, week-long trip to celebrate my 14th anniversary with my bride. I had it all set up: great, romantic destination, pre-planned tourist stops, lots of beautiful scenery. It was dee-luxe all the way. I was the man with the plan.

Until we returned to our cottage after a romantic dinner and she gave me my anniversary card. She had a look on her face that said, “Okay. Where’s my card?” Time stood still, the crickets chirped and my life passed before my eyes. I had done almost everything. Almost. I did not buy an anniversary card for my bride. I had nothing to give her in return for her card to me. She looked at me with so much disappointment.

Anniversary epic fail.

Next, I did the unmanly thing. I got defensive with my wife, making a list of all the things I did do for her. I had planned our trip, the sights, the meals, and I had opened the car door for her every time we got in the car. Then, she reminded me that I hadn’t given her a card on Valentine’s Day, either. I figured the cruise we took for Valentines Day made up the card. What is it with the cards?

Actually, given time to get out of my defensive mode and listen to my bride, I had a moment of enlightenment. It’s not about the cards; it’s the sentiment. I should have realized that immediately. It’s about the words on the card I picked out and about the personal words that I added. I have worked at many Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, and the number one comment we receive in our feedback is that people totally love the project that requires each spouse to write a love letter to the other.

When we speak love to our wives through notes, cards, and love letters, we are following in the footsteps of the man who, when asked by God, “Of everything in the world, what would you like to have?” answered that he would like to have wisdom. That was Solomon, and he used many words of love to woo his beloved in the Song of Solomon. Such as, “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.” Nice, eh?

Trust me, I will never forget the value of an anniversary card, Valentines Day card, Mothers Day card or even Groundhog Day card. Honestly it’s not even about a $5 card. In fact, next time I am simply going to write her a note, fold it in half and put it in envelope. Knowing my wife, it will be worth way more than $5. It will be priceless.

How about you? Are you ready to step up and recognize your wife’s need for affirmation, love and emotional security?

Movies: They’re not just for entertainment



When my family gets together to have a good time and just chill out, we love to watch a great (not just good) family movie. Who doesn’t? Some of our favorites are Madagascar, Cars, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For date nights, my wife and I enjoy movies like Courageous and Fireproof. We love these movies because they are fun, entertaining and they reinforce the values we want our kids to have.

Using movies to teach. Then there are movies that we show our boys for other purposes. For example, young sons need to understand why it’s not good for them to be left on their own without supervision. Answering  “Because I say so,” just isn’t satisfying to kids intellectually when they reach a certain age. After I sat down with my boys and watched Lord of the Flies, they understood the complicated issues very easily, because the movie graphically illustrated the difficulties in a way I can’t describe as well verbally.

In the same way, when I wanted to teach my boys about duty, honor, courage, and loyalty, we watched Saving Private Ryan together. While it may seem like an overly-bloody movie to some people, the values I mentioned are important to me. The movie demonstrates all of these traits in a story that is based on historical events and in a specific context that I can’t recreate in my own life.

There are other movies that demonstrate the traits of manhood, courage, upholding vows, and many other positive traits in men. So build a good library of these movies and see if they don’t help you teach your boys new things in new ways that are more creative and easy than just sitting down and having a talk.

Are you using movies to teach? Tell us what your favorite movies are for teaching moments? What are some of your favorite family movies for just plain fun?

After Miley: Thoughts on raising daughters



686030aWhen I first heard about Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMA Awards last week, I heard a cynical, Oh, here we go again, go through my head.  Another young celebrity gone wild.

So, I started thinking, how can I make sure that I raise my own daughter so she will never turn out like that girl?

As shocking as they were, the writhing, pole-dancing moves made by Miley Cyrus may not be an anomaly.  Miley may just be the public face of what many of your young girls are doing at their own private parties every weekend.   Young girls need a lot of attention from their fathers when they are growing up, or they will look for it in the young boys and young men around them.  Not just Miley Cyrus, but every young lady out there.  So, dads, what can you and I do?

First, we need to give our daughters real, sincere affection.  Physical hugs and attention.  Raising daughters means building up their self-esteem and inner strength.  It’s up to us.  There is nothing that can replace the love of a daddy in a daughter’s heart.  Also, dads, we have to relentlessly pursue our daughters’ hearts for the Lord.  Keep tabs on where our daughters’ time goes, where they are, whom they are with, and what they are doing.  Be the dad.  Learn to say no when you need to.

Dad, it may be that if you have a teenage daughter, and she has not received the attention from you she needed, she may already be showing too much of herself to young men.  Try to find out.  Don’t sit her down and confront her.  Instead, take the advice of Dr. Meg Meeker, who writes in her book, Your Kids at Risk, that if we want to know what our tweens and teens are doing, we should not rely on asking them. Hate to break it to you, but sometimes kids lie.  Rather, we should ask them what their friends are doing, because that is what our kids are really doing.

Lovingly and casually attempt to draw out from your daughter what her friends are involved in.  Find out where and with whom she spends her time.  Change your behavior with your daughter.   Fill her needs for love, attention and self-value.  Let her know that she is God’s daughter and yours.  See if with a bit of time you see a change in her attitude and heart.

It’s always a great idea to have your kids and their friends spend their time at your house, rather than out and about.  Make your house the house to hang out at!  Have sodas and snacks on hand as much as possible.  Be hospitable. Yeah, even to teenagers.  If you can, have a fire pit, make s’mores, whatever.  But, we must step up and be there for our daughters.

12 Ways to encourage Your wife



husband-wife-talking

One of the best ways to encourage your wife is by spending time with her, and really listening to her

We all want to encourage our wives, right?  Sometimes, it’s just a matter of coming up with an idea of what to do, and we want to help!  So here are 12 ideas to encourage your wife:

1. Get up first in the mornings and get the coffee started.

2. Call your wife at lunch time and ask her how her day is going.

3. Always remember birthdays and anniversaries.

4. If you ever compare your wife’s cooking to your mother’s cooking, make sure your wife’s cooking comes out on top!

5. Take your wife’s face in your hands, look into her eyes, and tell her you would marry her all over again, and again, and again, and again.

6. If your wife’s parents are ever harsh or judgmental with her, respectfully intervene and be protective of your wife.

7. When your wife wants to watch football, take time to sit down, and enjoy that time with her.

8. Schedule a regular date night, even if it’s just to get out for a cup of coffee and dessert.

9. Tell your wife you love her, and tell her why.

10. Pray with your wife every day.

11. Put the seat down and teach your sons to do the same.

12. Never stop opening doors for your wife, including the car door.

A grandfather’s legacy



I never met my grandfather because he died before I was born.  But his legacy and influence live on because he took the time to write down a blessing to my father in the form of words of advice. This blessing has been passed through my father to me and is now passing on to my sons.

Bible

My grandfather was an amazing man.  He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended the University of Arkansas receiving his law degree while participating in cheerleading for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  After college and law school, he moved to Texas to practice law.  When World War II broke out, he gave up his practice and joined the Army, where he served as chief of staff for then General Eisenhower. After the war, he returned home, became the district attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, and later became a judge.

My dad and his dad didn’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, as Dad was a free and rebellious spirit.  From what I can tell, they had an explosive relationship: the judge and the juvenile delinquent.  It came to a head when my father announced he was going to drop out of high school to pursue a career as a rock and roll drummer.  I understand the argument was ugly; the words from both sides were hurtful and it ended with my grandfather yelling out to my dad as he left, “Son, if you drop out of high school it will kill me.” Dad slammed the door as he left, did what he felt he needed to do, and dropped out of school. When he returned home for lunch, an ambulance was in the driveway and my grandfather was dead from a heart attack.

Dad went on to pursue his rock and roll career, playing drums for stars like Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and many others throughout the late 50s and early 60s. But, the pain of the broken relationship with his dad haunted him and he became an alcoholic.

He drifted from relationship to relationship with women. Everywhere he went he seemed to hurt those he loved.  This all came home to me when I was 12 years old and learned that Dad had been arrested and charged with murder for hire.  For the next two years, when I wanted to see him I had to do so by going through numerous heavy metal doors with bars to get to the maximum security section of the Tarrant County Jail during his trial.  I have vivid memories of those Saturday morning visitations.  I had to talk to my Dad standing on my tippy toes looking through a 4×7 metal grate built into the door of my Dad’s 4×8 cell.

When he was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair I thought I had lost him.  My visits were now held at the Ellis Unit which is the Maximum Security Prison that houses death row for the State of Texas.  At least I could see him through a larger metal grate but there was still no physical  contact.  I really thought I had lost my dad and never knew which visit would be the last.  I had to endure two last-minute stays of execution not knowing if my Dad had been electrocuted or not.

However, shortly after I turned 15, I was surprised to find out that my father’s conviction was overturned and that he would go down in history as the only man to ever walk off of death row as a free man in Texas.  I got my father back, and had a second shot at having a real father-son relationship.

Over the years we did develop a close relationship.  My dad made a lot of mistakes during his life, but the one thing he did right was to make sure that I knew he loved me and was very proud of me. Everywhere I went people would say, “You’re Chip’s son! Your dad is always bragging on you.”  Those words mean a lot to a young boy, and helped my self-esteem as a man.

By the time Dad passed away about 11 years ago, he had been married 15 times to 13 different women. I am, amazingly, the only child he had.  As I was going through his stuff after he died, I ran across an old Bible and in it I found these words written from my grandfather to my father:

To my son Chip, from his dad – with these words of advice:

1. Fear God

2. Be right and fear no man

3. Love the truth and hate a lie

4. Tell the truth regardless of the consequences

5. A thief and a liar are the same, trust neither

6. Once confidence is established, be loyal

7. Be energetic and hunger for knowledge

8. Have compassion for the unfortunate

9. Be prudent but not prideful

10. Always love your mother

11. Build character and respect for your word

12. Try to see all sides and then decide

13. When in doubt do nothing

14. Be tolerant  Be kind

15. Be a square shooter and a good loser

With love for your first birthday,
Dad

Some of these things I remember my father saying to me, some were new.  My boys often hear me quote these same pieces of advice to them.

My grandfather’s legacy is still alive in spite of being tested by a prodigal son because he took the time to write down the values that were important to him.  These words are now being passed from generation to generation and I pray they will be defining characteristics of what it means to be a Whitmore.

What defines your family?  What words of advice and encouragement do you need to pass to the next generation?

 

3 reasons wedding anniversaries matter



There are three main reasons why your wedding anniversary should be important to you.

The first reason is that it’s important to God that men make a point of remembering and outwardly celebrating His blessings to them.  In the Old Testament, God commanded His men to gather together 12 stones as a “remembrance” of miracles he performed for them (Genesis 31:1; Joshua 4:8; I Kings 18:31).  Just as those men remembered God’s blessings to them and praised God for them, we need to remember our anniversaries, celebrate, and thank God for our wives.  Anniversaries are milestones, opportunities to honor our wives and God.

Second, wedding anniversaries matter to our wives.  And, guys, whatever is important to them, must be important to us, because God tells us to love our wives as Christ loves the Church, and even gave His life for her (Ephesians 5:25).

Finally, our kids are usually aware of our anniversaries, and they are watching.  A man who honors his marriage, his wife, and God is showing his kids that their home is a secure place to be. They can count on him.

Happy couple on the floor - wedding anniversaries matter

Wedding anniversaries matter. They’re a memento of a life shared.

To me, though, not just any date night works for an anniversary celebration.  An anniversary calls for a special deal.  This past year, for example, I took my bride of 13 years on a tour of all of the special places around town that had special meaning for us as a couple.  We started at the restaurant where we went on our first date.  We drove by the coffee shop that had been our favorite, on by the apartment where she lived when we first met, and where I lived when we met.  I took her to the place where I proposed to her.

At each spot, we stopped to talk and walk around a while, remembering all of the memories sparked by that spot and the surrounding area.  It was a great time of remembering and celebrating because it was planned in advance, and intentional.

My wife has already begun to remind me that our next anniversary isn’t too far off, and she’s looking forward to it.  So, I’m working up a plan for this next one now.  Although I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like yet, it will be good because I know who I will be celebrating with, and she knows I’m planning ahead.

What about you guys?  Does your wife know you are planning now for your next anniversary celebration?  What do you do to demonstrate your thankfulness to God for your wife?

4 reasons why I am very thankful today



I’m sure that you all know about the devastating tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, recently.  What you don’t know about me yet, is that I am from Norman, Oklahoma, and I live in Central Arkansas, which is relatively nearby. Watching the tragedy unfold on TV, and witnessing the loss of property and lives, my family and I were deeply touched and saddened, as I’m sure you were also.

My sons and I are involved in the Boy Scouts of America together, and we resolved to collect money, bottled water, and other much-needed items, and deliver it to Moore. We also participated in some cleanup work.  Everywhere we went we saw survivors picking up the pieces of their homes with American flags flying high. I love my fellow Okies. God, country, and family are in our blood.

I am so proud of our scouts and how they have stepped up to help others.  The trip we made to Oklahoma was intended to bless the folks there, and I’m sure what we gave, and what we did, was helpful to them, but it was also a huge blessing to me.  I got to see my sons and the boys in my troop reach out and give help and the things they collected to folks that really needed them.

Today, I am very thankful for the kindness, sharing, and giving hearts that I see in my sons.  I see our Father in them, and I don’t mean me.  I see our Heavenly Father reflected in my children’s hearts.  And, I’m so thankful for that.

Seeing all the devastation and loss has made me even more grateful for the three children that my Father has entrusted to my care.  I’m even more resolved to be a good steward of the children God has given me to raise.  I came home from our trip looking forward to speaking a blessing over the ones I have at home.

What about you?  What are you thankful for today? What good traits are you seeing in your children?  Please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/mensteppingup and share all of the reasons why you are thankful for the traits you see in your children.

Why Abercrombie & Fitch is wrong



Men, you need to know this:  Abercrombie & Fitch is wrong.

Recently, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, said in a statement to the press regarding his company’s marketing target demographic: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in A&F], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

The statement was about the fact that Abercrombie doesn’t carry any clothing for young women larger than a size 10, or a ladies “large,” but does carry “XXS” for young women.

Do you get that?  Extra-Extra-Small is equal to “Cool.”

Wow!  That puts a lot, a whole lot, of pressure on young girls to be very thin, even if it could be unhealthy.   In a place where there are a lot of voices telling our young people that looks are more important than character, a statement like this from a large corporation, especially one that sells clothing, really concerns me.  I am the father of a girl who might be vulnerable to messages like this.

We read and hear about bullies all the time.  But, who would expect the CEO of a huge corporation to bully our young girls?  I want my daughter to be strong, not skinny.  I want her to know that beauty comes from her identity in Christ.  Not from what people say to her.  I want my daughter to understand that she makes the clothes.  The clothes don’t make her.

Abercrombie & Fitch is wrong. As her father, what I say to my daughter will affect how she feels about herself for the rest of her life. As dad, I don’t want to hinder my daughter,  I plan on empowering her, and inspiring her every chance I get.  And I plan to counter every negative message she hears from the culture around us.

I want my daughter to understand and embrace God’s word, which says: “You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (I Peter 3:4).

Dads, what do you think?  Are you reinforcing with your daughter(s) that what really counts is what she is inside? That a beautiful, quiet spirit — one that honors God — is beautiful?

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