Posts by Todd Nagel

Words your sons need to hear



Last week I was in San Diego attending an event and met a man there named Jimmy. We work for the same organization, but in different parts of the country, and that day we were serving side by side on an outreach project to feed the homeless. As we talked about our lives and backgrounds, Jimmy told me his story. It goes like this:

Jimmy Badillo

Jimmy Badillo

When his mother became pregnant with him, his father tried to cause a miscarriage. He didn’t want another child and soon enough, Jimmy would know it. As a young boy born in the Bronx and raised on the Lower East Side, Jimmy would wander the streets on his own. It seemed like no one noticed or cared. His parents soon separated and he lived with his father and basically raised himself.

Without proper supervision it wasn’t hard for Jimmy to drop out of school. As he grew older and reckless his father gave him an ultimatum, “Join the Army or you cannot live in my home.” He joined the Army but still felt empty. After his discharge in 1982, he avoided his problems, first by using drugs, then by dealing them. He married and had three boys, which resulted in increased drug activity as his way to provide financially for his family. Of course he was eventually caught, and under the state’s then-strict drug laws, he was sentenced to 15-30 years. He had lost his family and his freedom.

While he was in prison, his sister and brother-in-law became believers. They started going to church and the people in the church began praying for Jimmy. Jimmy behaved while he was in prison, and when the drug laws were slightly modified in early 2005, he sought early release. Influenced by his sister he prayed, “God, if you allow me to leave here, I’ll serve you.” Jimmy is quick to say he didn’t really know what that meant, but God answered his prayer and he was released on Monday, May 2, 2005, after serving just 3½ years.

As he was telling me his story, I noticed a tattoo on his arm and asked him about it. He related another life-changing event that happened during his prison stint. His dad passed away. “In Loving Memory of Jimmy Badillo Jr. RIP.” Jimmy had gotten it after hearing the news of his dad’s death. It cost him two packs of cigarettes, he said. He teared up when he told me how he lives with regret that his dad died only knowing that his son was in prison. He told me how he hurts whenever he thinks about about how his dad never got to see the person he has become.

I found it interesting to talk to a grown man, a thick, strong man, who served time in a tough prison, who lived and sold drugs on the streets of New York, a man who knew his dad didn’t want him when he found out his wife was pregnant and who tried to end his life while he was still developing in his mother’s womb. But here he was, still wanting validation from his dad. He wanted – no, he needed – to hear the words, “I’m proud of you son. You have become a man. You have done good things with your life.”

I wasn’t sure if Jimmy had ever heard these words before and as I sat at my layover in Phoenix headed back home on a Thursday afternoon I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to email these words to Jimmy:

“I know your dad is proud of who you have become and if he were still on this earth you would hear him say, ‘I am so proud of you son,’ just as your Heavenly Father is saying the same thing about you. You’re a good man and God is going to use you in mighty ways, just as He already has in touching the lives of countless individuals. You have impacted people in ways you will not know until you get to Heaven but it will be tens of thousands. Keep up the good work. I’m proud of you too!”

Several years before meeting Jimmy, I had a similar conversation with a gentleman in his late fifties who had previously been homeless but was now working at a soup kitchen at a church in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the course of our conversation he confided, “Last year I heard for the first time someone say they were proud of me. Those words had never been spoken to me before but to hear that meant so much.”

Dads, if you have sons, they need to hear often how proud you are of them. They need to know you believe in them, that you believe they have what it takes to be a man, that they are important and you can see specific things in their lives that are unique to them. And when I say “often,” I’m talking about every day. They won’t get tired of hearing it. Look at it this way – would you ever get tired of your boss acknowledging the work you did and how much it helped the company out? If he said something positive to you every single workday, would you grow weary of hearing it and ask him to stop? I know I wouldn’t. And neither will your son grow tired of hearing these words from you.

But wait, there’s more! Not only do your sons need to hear this, but God has allowed your path to cross with the paths those of other men who have not heard these words spoken to them. God wants you to be His voice, His hands and feet, to encourage, inspire, and speak words of life to others. When the Spirit prompts you, listen and obey what He wants you to say and who He wants you to say it to. You can have a profound impact on someone’s life by saying a few small words they need to hear.

And after that?



BoatParadise

This blog post by Todd Nagel recently appeared in the Noah Gets A Nail Gun blog. 
As the story goes, a boat was docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the local fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. “Not very long” answered the fisherman.

But then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American. The local villager explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?

I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing a few songs. I have a full life.

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the revenue you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plant and maybe even open your own plant.

You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.

How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

And after that?” replied the fisherman.

Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big you can go public, start selling stocks and make millions!

Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the fisherman.

After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandkids, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and playing the guitar with your friends!

I’m liking the question, “And after that?”

Our lives have gotten out of balance. At the dawn of the introduction of technology there were dreams of a 30 hour work week, or even 20 hour work week, with more time at home with our spouse and kids, more time to relax and enjoy life. But just the opposite has happened. There is no more 9-5 work day. When are you not “at work” when you are tethered to your smartphone? Even on vacation you’ve probably spent an hour or two (each day) answering email. The line between work-home has become blurred. And just so you know, like Paul told Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” If I’m throwing stones I’m throwing them in the air and letting them hit me in the head! I’m guilty of all the above.

The bottom line is it comes down to having balance. Run everything through the “And after that” grid. Sure, you could work an additional 10 hours a week and make more money, “And after that”?

Somewhere along the line we believed the lie that we needed bigger, newer, nicer, more. In our attempt to achieve those things we have lost what’s vastly more important than material things…relationships.

paintingI’m certainly not advocating a lazy work ethic. I’m currently in the process of painting my two-story house. Besides the roof and windows, everything else requires me to slap some paint on it. I love a good project but this one is pushing it a little. If you’ve never painted the exterior of a house, trust me, it’s not the easiest task to undertake. I’m a firm believer in if I have the physical ability and brain power to do something, I’m not going to pay someone to do it for me. But more on that another time.

All that to say, as Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, “Whatever your hands find you to do, do it with all your might.” Work hard but have balance. The relationship with your wife, kids, parents, friends, all those far outweigh making a little extra income. This may require you to make some tough financial decisions but nobody looks back at the end of their life and regrets not working more. It’s always “I wish I spent more time with my wife, kids, etc.” As you are faced with opportunities to make a little more money even though it will require longer work days, ask yourself, “And after that?”

Shady planes and shipwrecks



MoldovianPropIn the spring of 2001 I was doing work on a Jesus Film blitz in Eastern Europe and traveled to four countries during a 12-day span. One of the places I found myself in was a small country called Moldova. After completing the assignment, my traveling companion and I boarded our plane to fly over to Ukraine. The airline of our choice was the country’s flagship carrier out of the capital city of Chisnau, (yeah, it sounds just like it’s spelled) called Moldovian Air. To give you an idea of the size of the country, airport, and national airline, today Moldovian Air boasts one plane in its fleet. But when I flew Moldovian 15 years ago they had three planes, so they were pretty big-time back in the day.

The little engine that couldn’t.

We took off around 7:30 in the morning and about 15 minutes into the 90-minute flight the one flight attendant began serving breakfast and everyone was settling in. Five minutes later it got really quiet. The kind of quiet you don’t want when flying 20,000 feet above the ground. Curious as to the lack of noise, I looked to my left and saw the propeller wasn’t moving. Quickly I looked over to my right and was thankful to see the propeller on that side of the aircraft was still actually moving.

MoldovianMealNoticing how the flight attendant didn’t miss a beat and continued to serve breakfast and pass out Moldovian Air chocolate bars, I thought maybe they save fuel by only running one engine once they got to cruising altitude so perhaps this is normal. Everything else I’d encountered in the former Soviet Union was backwards so why not fly with just one engine? The other thought I had was that she knew we were going to crash and that we might as well go out with a full stomach of airplane food and the taste of chocolate in our mouths.

Fast forward 30 minutes and a new pair of pants, we made it back to Chisnau where the runway was lined with all three of the city’s fire trucks and both ambulances. After using the entire runway to finally come to a stop we were safely back on solid ground. When we stepped off the plane I noticed the entire left side of the aircraft was covered in oil, which meant the aircraft had blown an engine.

The other plane I flew on that made it only because of my prayers.

After being placed in a temporary holding room they put us on board one of their other two remaining aircraft to get us to our destination. My seat was next to the exit door and when I sat down I noticed the door was half open and we were getting close to taking off. I thought surely someone will come check to make sure the door was closed but that never happened so I took matters into my own hands and sealed the door shut myself. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing” and for the duration of the second flight while sitting next to what I figured was a faulty exit door that was going to blow open any minute and suck me out of my seat and into the great wide open, I was fully obedient to that biblical command.

After disembarking the first aircraft with the bum engine I found a corner in our holding room, put myself in a fetal position and sucked my thumb. The second to last thing I wanted to do was get on another airplane. The very last thing I wanted to do was stay in Moldova. Facing those two choices I opted for the plane ride. Then I had to close the emergency exit door and began to rethink if I had made the right choice. But here I am today so you can relax knowing how the story ended.

Recently I was reading in 2 Corinthians 11 where Paul talks about all the perils he faced. One of the threats he mentions is “dangers at sea.” The Greek word he uses is “kindunos,” which means extremely dangerous. Paul knew it was extremely dangerous to travel by sea and could write with a high level of authority on this topic seeing how he was shipwrecked three times. I had a hard enough time getting back on a plane and I wasn’t even in an actual crash. Plus my one ordeal was only 30 minutes of actual flying time without an engine. Luke’s account of one of the three shipwrecks that Paul was part of goes like this:

“The ship was caught by the storm … and we took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day [day two of being in the storm] they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for MANY days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Not the actual boat Paul was on.

Last night I happened to catch the last 20 minutes of the movie, The Perfect Storm, a movie about the boat Andrea Gail being caught by two huge storms that converged together and then on top of them. The boat and all the crew were lost at sea but the movie depicts what it would have been like as the waves overtook the boat and ultimately took their lives. I couldn’t help but think this was what it would have been like for Paul, Luke, and the others that were traveling.

Having had the above-mentioned airplane experience I can understand why someone who has been in an actual plane crash would be hesitant to get back on one. I could also understand if, after his first shipwreck, Paul never got on a boat again. Certainly after a second voyage that turned into a swim, one could undoubtedly sympathize with Paul if he never got back on a sea vessel. Then a third time?! I’d have to start thinking I was the problem if every time I got on a boat it went down. And if I were a friend of Paul’s I certainly wouldn’t get on a boat with the fella. “Sure I’ll travel with you Paul. You know what, why don’t you take the one that leaves tomorrow, I need to wash my sheep’s hair and I’ll catch one a little later.”

In a devotion written by Rick Renner he says,

“I’m sure these devilish attacks at sea were designed to put such a fear of sailing in Paul that he would never get back on another ship. But if Paul was going to get to the various places where God had called him to minster, he had no choice. Therefore, he didn’t allow these occurrences to determine whether or not he obeyed God. Even if it meant he had to get back on another ship and sail through dangerous waters again, he’d do it, if that was required of him, in order to successfully fulfill his God-given assignment in life.”

He goes on to say, “It takes guts to do the will of God. You have to be totally convinced of what God has told you, or the devil will throw enough blockades in your way to make you turn around and permanently go back home.”

Life is challenging. Job, marriage, parenting, it takes work to be determined to see it through to the end. I feel like I’ve been shipwrecked a few times in life and also recognize I need to do a better job of jumping back on board the ship after I get tossed. I want to demonstrate to my wife and kids that I’m committed to God’s call on my life, committed to my marriage and committed to raising my two daughters and two sons in a godly way.

There’s only one way to live and that’s to go all in. And the only way I know to do that is to have complete reliance on God. We’ll be hit by waves and want to give up at times, but if, like Paul, we stay true to the end, we’ll also be able to say like he did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV) I can hear Paul yelling encouragement to us, “Keeping battling. It’s worth it!”

This post first appeared in the Noah Gets A Nailgun blog, © 2015. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Todd Nagel’s guest post, “Shady planes and shipwrecks,” on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistThe difficulties endured because of her husband’s martyrdom led Elizabeth Elliot to spiritual maturity.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGod Has Not Forgotten You is a 31-day devotional for handling the shady planes and shipwrecks of life.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTell fellow men, dads, and husbands about the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog. John and Todd post excellent stuff.

Awful advice from Mister Wonderful



MrWonderfulSharkTankIf you’ve ever watched the show Shark Tank then you’re familiar with Kevin O’Leary, or as he calls himself, “Mister Wonderful.” Even though he plays it up a bit for the cameras, he’s still pretty much a cold-blooded, shrewd and self-absorbed person who loves money more than anything else in this world. If that last sentence was your first introduction to Mr. Wonderful then I’m sure I sound a bit harsh. In a recent article he was asked what it takes for him to pick an entrepreneur to work with and his answer will shed additional light on his worldview:

“Any entrepreneur on my team needs to understand that the goal is always cash flow, and they must be willing to do anything to keep the money rolling in. I don’t care if that means missing your kid’s birthday party or your 25th anniversary for an important business meeting.”

He explains further the philosophy for this attitude: “The reason you pursue an entrepreneurial career is to one day provide financial freedom for yourself and your family. The only way to achieve freedom in your career is by amassing wealth and the only way for entrepreneurs to reach this point is by giving their full devotion to growing their business, accepting all of the sacrifices that come with the approach.”

At the present moment the guy’s worth $300 million. I’m not sure how much you need in the bank to reach his definition of “financial freedom for yourself and your family” but I would probably say $300 million would suffice. I’d even be content with $299 million, personally. Yet he keeps missing birthdays and anniversaries for this so called freedom.

In a way I feel sorry for him. At some point he’ll look back on his life and wonder what the purpose of it was. He gave his life for amassing cash but in the end there’s no way to spend it all, and having destroyed his relationships with his kids, wife, and perhaps a friend or two, there’s nobody to enjoy it with. On the outside he looks like he’s living the dream with fancy cars, big houses, private jets, but on the inside it has to be so empty. God did not create us to be fulfilled by these things.

Solomon, in addition to being the wisest man ever, was also one of the wealthiest men to ever live. He says in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11,

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Note to self: When we run after things that are not part of God’s plan for our lives we will find ourselves empty and grasping after air.

After reading the article, it made me take a quick inventory of my life. Kevin’s trying to accumulate money, what am I running after? He’s willing to miss birthdays and anniversaries, and he certainly wouldn’t blink an eye at missing his kid’s sporting events or recitals. Are there things in my life – job, hobby, “needed downtime” – that are causing me to miss out on the same things he is? Even though I’m not pursing money like he is, are there other things in my life that I’m going after that need some re-calibration?

When it comes right down to it, this life is about relationships. Having a healthy and growing marriage, having a deep relationship with my kids, living life with other people, that’s way more valuable than anything else out there.

This post originally appeared in the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog© 2015. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished Todd Nagel’s post, “Awful advice from Mister Wonderful,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat are you running after? Adding to the bank account? A bigger retirement? Or enjoying your family?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistSometimes it’s not having more money but “Managing the Family Finances better.” Hear the broadcast.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this post with another father and husband, and challenge each other to review your priorities.

“Shut up legs!”



JensVoigtAs a young boy in Germany, Jens Voight was a math prodigy who once put “Attack!” in every blank space on one of his math tests. It would be the wrong answer for everyone else but Jens got away with it. Hmmm. Perhaps he’s actually the World’s Most Interesting Man? This is how Jens has faced any situation he has had to fight through … Attack. This served him well as a professional bicycle racer. Although he never stood atop the podium in Champ-Elysees at the end of the Tour de France, he did wear the yellow jersey on two occasions. What he is probably most famous for is the phrase, “ Shut up legs!”

It was during an interview with a Danish TV station during the Tour de France when they asked him how he keeps going when his legs are burning and he’s worn out. He said, “I simply tell my legs to shut up and do what I’m telling you to do.”

There’s a spiritual parallel we can pull from that statement. There are times in our lives where we simply need to say “shut up” to whatever is distracting us and continue on with what we need to be doing. It’s especially a good phrase to use with our enemy, Satan. As blogger, Morgan Synder says, “I am staggered by the level of naïveté that most people live with regarding evil. They don’t take it seriously. They don’t live as though the Story has a Villain. Not the devil prancing about in red tights, carrying a pitchfork, but the incarnation of the very worst of every enemy you’ve met in every other story. Life is very confusing if you do not take into account that there is a Villain. You, my friend, have an Enemy.”

This Enemy of ours is out to destroy us. And destroy us by any means. He does not play fair or follow any rules other than doing anything to bring you – and your wife and kids – down. He’ll plant thoughts in your mind that are evil, lustful, and vengeful. He’ll tell you things that are untrue like, “You’re no good.” “You deserve to be punished for the sins you’ve done.” “You’re stupid and that’s why you never get promoted.” “You will never measure up.” This is just a very short list of things he’ll whisper in our ears. This is where we need to simply tell him to “Shut up!” These kinds of thoughts are against God’s plan for your life. Capture these thoughts when they come into your head, tell the Enemy he can shove it and then replace the lies with the Truth from God’s Word.

We also need to be on alert for our wife and kids. The Enemy will use the same tactics of using lies to destroy them as he does to us. The messages he sends will be different for each person but the plan of attack will be the same. He’ll tell your wife she isn’t pretty, she’s not doing a good job with the kids, or she isn’t as successful as other women. He’ll tell your kids they’re stupid because someone got a better grade or can read better than they can, that they aren’t talented because they were picked last for playground kickball or didn’t make the team, or he could go the other direction and fill them with pride, whispering how great they are, which also leads down an unhealthy path. We need to train our children to understand and be aware of the tactics of Satan, identify when he’s coming after them, and learn to fight off the attacks as they come into their minds.

As with a lot of things, if you want to win, you need a good offense in addition to a good defense. One of the best ways to be defensive against the Enemy is to be on the offensive. Stay in the Word, be connected with other believers, form a group of allies to battle with, and don’t entertain the thoughts Satan whispers in your ear. Know the truth about who you are, know what God desires of you and when your mind starts to play tricks on you with lies and temptations, be ready with a “Shut up, Satan!”

As a side note, when we are attacked and continue to give in to the temptation — whether it’s lust, alcohol, drugs, whatever — when we keep listening to and acting on the lies, it becomes a stronghold. With a stronghold, it will take more than just a simple “Shut Up” to gain victory. This is where it’s important to have allies in battle with you to fight with and for you.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Todd Nagel’s post, “Shut up legs!”  on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“Is Prayer Your First Response” when facing trials and temptations. Learn how to make it a regular discipline.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHelp your children develop spiritual discipline by teaching them with “A List of Scriptures from the Proverbs.” 

STEPPass - 10-point checklistA band of brothers can help you succeed in the day-to-day. Consider leading a group of men through Stepping Up.

Dads, speak words of life into your children



MatterhornI’ve always been a little jealous of King Solomon. When he took over as King of Israel from his father David, God appeared to him in a dream and invited Solomon to “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Hoping one day this happens to me, I’ve begun compiling a list of things I’d like and am currently ranking them in order of what I want most. Because of my love of the outdoors, right now owning the country of Switzerland is at the top.

Back to the story – you probably know how Solomon answers. He asks God for wisdom to lead the nation. God was pleased with this response and gave Solomon the understanding and discretion he asked for. Plus the answer was so good he also got everything else he didn’t ask for: wealth, long life, the death of his enemies, etc.

There is no exact age given for when Solomon took over for his dad, but most scholars agree he was in his middle to late teens. How many teenagers do you know are given a blank check for anything they want and they cash it in for wisdom? But that’s exactly what he did.

I’ve often wondered how Solomon knew to ask for wisdom and recently I found my answer! In 1 Chronicles 22:12, David is close to death and calls his son Solomon to his bedside and speaks this over him, “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding [a.k.a. wisdom] when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.” David did not pray for his son to have wealth, long life or reprieve from his enemies. He prayed that he would have wisdom. And when Solomon was given a chance to ask for whatever he wanted, he knew what what was most important because of the words his dad had spoken over him and so he asked for wisdom. I wonder what Solomon would have asked for had David not put this in his heart by praying it over him?

This does serve as a great reminder to us dads to speak words of life and meaning into each of our kids. Solomon even said so himself when he wrote Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” And then again in Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Speak words of life you want to see in your children

I don’t believe we as fathers fully grasp the amount of life-changing power – for either good or devastation – that we possess when it comes to speaking into the lives of our kids. But we are the most powerful force and with that comes great responsibility and accountability. We must be intentional to speak words of encouragement and empowerment into our kids and we have to be intentional in controlling our tongues so we do not speak destructive words of death that haunt them for their entire life.

One thing I’m in the process of doing, and would encourage you to do as well, is to come up with five to seven words that are character traits you see in your child or are trusting God to give your child. For example, with one of my sons, the words I’ve come up with so far are: Strong, Courageous, Industrious and Loyal. I’m letting these words simmer for a few weeks as I pray over each of my four kids, asking God to give me the right words for each one. I’ll then take those words and create some type of poster and hang the words in their bedrooms. By doing this, every day they will be reminded of what I see in them and who God created them to be.

I may never own Switzerland, but if my kids grow up with their identity in Christ set and secure, I’ll take that over the Swiss Alps any day!

How are you rubbing against time?



rubbing against time - it's just rainIt’s been raining off and on here for the last several days. Yesterday when I got home from work I had to run back out to the store so I took my two boys with me. We parked and I took my four-year-old’s hand to go inside. He pulled me all across the parking lot row we were on so he could walk through every puddle. He got his shoes, socks, and feet soaking wet. And was happy as he could be.

When we got home, I wanted to go for a run even though I knew there was a good chance of getting rained on. My nine year old wanted to ride his bike with me so we struck out for the jogging trail by our house. He proceeds to ride his bike through every puddle on the paved trail and through every mud hole he could find on the side of the trail. Starting from the back of his head going all the way down to the heels of his shoes he was covered in either water or mud. And now he too was happy as he could be.

As dinner was cooking, the two of them were on the trampoline and the rains came down and began to flood the earth. It was a downpour. I stepped onto our deck to see the boys completely soaked, jumping up and down, grinning ear to ear, and between his screams of joy I heard my four-year-old say to his brother, “This is awesome!”

I started to wonder what’s happened to us men and our childlike joy of jumping in puddles, riding through mud, and playing in the rain? At what point did we start becoming averse to such things instead of looking forward to them? When did we start looking at the weather and then concern ourselves with packing an umbrella? Or when did we decide not to do something like go for a hike or go watch a game because we were afraid it might rain? Better yet, when was the last time it started raining and you grabbed your kids and spent 30 minutes playing in it with them?

One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. While I don’t agree with all his theology, I love his writing style and he often throws out some good, thought-provoking comments. In one of his books he writes, “A man’s senses are either sharpened or dulled by the way he rubs against time.” How are you rubbing against time these days? Are you being dulled by long hours of work? Are you dulling yourself by always being on your phone checking email, scores, or Pinterest? (If you answered yes to Pinterest you need intervention. Immediately.) Not only are you dulling yourself, you’re dulling your relationships with those around you. Perhaps it’s time for you to change your work-life and phone habits. And  in place of those, reclaim that boyhood, carefree, “enjoy the little things in life” attitude. You’ll be amazed at how much freedom and fun there is when you do this. I promise you’ll love it and so will your kids!

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the Stepping Up blog post, How are you rubbing against time?

For a jump start on how to engage with your children, read 10 Ideas: Creating Quality Time with Your Kids.

STEPembrace

What do you plan to do to put aside your activities and ask your kids what they want you to do with them?

STEPpassShare one of these two articles with your wife or a fellow father. Help each other to be more involved in your children’s world.

The manly art of the handshake



This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Handshake Statue

The handshake – almost as old as stone

Over the last year or so I’ve become discouraged at the decline of the firm, manly handshake. During the time at church where you turn around and greet those around you, I know there’s a 50/50 chance the guy I’m about to shake hands with will have a lighter grip than my grandmother. And as I’ve had to interact with other boys my son’s age, I’m noticing very few of them know how to properly do this simple, but very important act. Someone once said about making an impression, “three hours of interaction with a stranger is automatically created by the physical touch of that initial handshake.”

For me personally, if I shake your hand and all you give me in return is a dainty little squeeze back, or even worse, you only offer me four fingers to shake, my entire perception of you changes in an instant. I don’t have a study to back it up but I’m telling you, you lose respect from people if after they shake your hand they are left feeling like they just grasped a wet noodle.

You also don’t want to be the guy others never want to shake hands with again because they were bruised from you squeezing too hard. If you hear cracking when you shake someone’s hand then you’re doing it too hard. However, I would opt for the vice grip handshake any day over the wet noodle handshake. At least I know you’re a man. You may have a Napoleon complex but it’s still better than the alternative.

In all seriousness, it is important to own a good handshake and then pass it on to your son. Not sure why its happening, but we have begun to neglect teaching our kids the finer points of human interaction like the handshake. This one act can convey dignity, confidence, and respect. Or it can communicate you have none of these things.

The handshake also speaks to our physical maturity—which is a mark of manhood. Obviously men come in different shapes and sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical power, but common to all men is a natural strength and confidence that is given to us by God. He created us to be strong, masculine individuals. The handshake is a great way we demonstrate control over our God-given strength—not giving a bone-crusher handshake and not giving a limp-fish handshake. By doing it properly, we display our innate masculine design.

Steps to a good handshake:

    • keep the fingers together with the thumb up and open
    • slide your hand into the other person’s so that each person’s web of skin between thumb and forefingers touches the other’s
    • make the pressure firm, but not bone-crushing
    • hold about 3 seconds
    • “pump” once or twice from the elbow if you like
    • release after the shake, even if the introduction continues
    • include good eye contact with the other person

My nine year old and I have practiced his handshake over the last several months. I first sat down and explained to him why a good handshake was important and then we worked on it together. Every so often I’ll walk up to him and hold out my hand to see if he still has it—which he does. He’s also been complimented on having a good handshake by other men and when I circle back with him about that and tell him how proud I am, his chest swells a little and he gets this smile across his face because he knows he’s becoming a man.

Part of our jobs as dads is to teach these kinds of things to our sons. There are a lot of small life lessons like this that are extremely valuable and we need to be instructing our sons. Don’t not engage with your boys because you think it’s not worth talking about or just assume he’ll get if figured out. Big or small, press into these small lessons with your son and be his teacher.

Five generations of fathering



This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Five generations of fatheringThis is a picture of five generations of Nagels that I keep in my office. Moving left to right is my great-great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, father and on the far right is the one guy not in a coat and tie — me. The verse on the framed picture is from Proverbs 17:6b.

“The glory of a son is his father.”

I’ve been blessed with a strong Christian heritage and am at a point where I’m understanding how valuable this is and have become more and more grateful for it.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

The generations before me have kept His commandments and have passed them on to the next generation. Now it’s my turn.

Maybe you have a similar spiritual lineage. Or it could be you’re a first generation Christian. Either way, as a dad, you now have the responsibility to teach your kids about God. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” (5-9)

Five generations of examples

Instead of giving you a list of church answers of things to do with your kids like have family devotions, pray before bed, love your wife, go to church, etc. I want to give you three things: one thing that impacted me as a young boy watching my dad and two things that go hand in hand that I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. One of my earliest childhood memories is coming into the living room and seeing my dad either reading his Bible or on his knees praying. He didn’t start his day reading the paper or figuring out what was on his work to do list, he started it by connecting with God. There’s something powerful and contagious about seeing your dad in God’s Word. I want to pass this along to my kids too.
  2. I’ve got an impressive list of things I’ve done wrong as a dad. My kids know I’m not perfect, but they also know I’ll ask forgiveness when I need to. They were driving me absolutely crazy earlier today while I was in the midst of unsuccessfully trying to fix a minor issue on an appliance and in my frustration I said some things to one of my kids that were not called for. Once the dust settled I took the child off to the side, told them what I did was wrong, didn’t make excuses, and asked them for forgiveness. Your kids know it when you mess up and they know it when you blame others, make excuses, or just flat our refuse to admit you were wrong and say you were sorry. I know people like that and honestly I want nothing to do with them. You don’t want your kids feeling that way about you. Admit when you made a mistake. Your kids will forgive you and they’ll love you even more for doing it.
  3. On the other side of that coin, I always want to be quick to forgive my kids when they ask me for forgiveness. Their view of God as Father is going to be most impacted by me, their earthly father. I don’t ever want them to think their heavenly Father won’t forgive them and that means I need to immediately accept their apology and not bring up their past infractions time and again. I have a child who continues to do the same things over and over and when they ask for forgiveness my flesh wants to respond in anger by saying something like, “I know you aren’t really sorry because you keep doing this. Until I actually see you make an effort to stop acting this way I’m not interested in hearing your apology.” Obviously this type of response will have serious affects on how they view God’s forgiveness. In that moment I have to say a quick prayer telling God how I’m feeling and ask Him to enable me to respond in a way that reflects His nature and not my flesh.

I realize this is just scratching the surface of things we can do as dads to help pass on a godly legacy to our kids. What are some things you learned from your dad, or have done as a dad yourself, to pass on the faith to your kids?

Fleshing out David and Goliath



This post originally appeared in the blog, Noah Gets a Nailgun.

david and goliath 1The Bible is filled with tons of great stories but my favorite is David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. Its one thing to read the story in the Bible – it’s fascinating for sure – but the story becomes much richer when you have a better understanding of the details surrounding it. I found some out about David and Goliath and thought I’d share them with you if this particular story strikes your fancy. If not, no worries but you probably want to stop reading now and check out another one of our posts!

Centuries ago a seafaring group of people from the island of Crete had settled onto the coast of Palestine. Once settled, they desired to expand their territory, as most nations did back in the day – and some like Russia are doing now. They had their sights set on this nation that was settled in the mountains under the leadership of King Saul. In the second half of the eleventh century BC, the Philistines began to move east, winding their way along the Elah Valley. Their goal was to capture the mountain ridge near Bethlehem and split Saul’s kingdom in two.

The Philistines set up camp along the southern ridge of Elah. The Israelites set-up on the north ridge, which left the two sides looking across a ravine at each other. To attack meant descending down the hill you were camped on and then making a suicidal climb up the enemy’s ridge on the other side. Thus the reason they kept lining up for battle but never actually did any fighting.

Finally the Philistines had enough of the staring contest and sent down their greatest warrior into the valley to resolve the deadlock in a one on one battle. Goliath would come down twice a day and shout over to the Israelites, “Choose a man and have him come down and fight me. If I beat him you all become our servants but if he beats me, we’ll become your servants.”

What Goliath was doing was asking for what was known as “single combat.” This was a common practice in the ancient world. Two sides in a conflict would seek to avoid the heavy bloodshed of open battle by choosing one warrior to represent each in a duel. Mano a mano with the winner’s country taking all.

By most accounts Goliath stood 9’ 9”, covered head to toe in armor that all combined weighed more than 150 pounds, came to battle packing a spear, rod and sword and had an armor bearer that stood in front of him with a large shield. I still haven’t figured out why he needed a guy in front of him with a shield but that’s what it says.

Over on the Israelites side there wasn’t anyone who could go toe to toe with Goliath. But they also couldn’t rush down their hill and then back up the Philistine’s side and win the battle, so their options were few and none you’d want to choose from.

Enter into the story the young kid David. He’s is in his early teens. He’s already been anointed King of Israel but he’s still tending his father’s sheep. His dad sends him to the war zone to take food to his three older brothers who are in the army and to bring back a report about how things are going.

As he’s checking up on his brothers, here comes Goliath down to the valley. He of course makes his usual announcement and all the soldiers tremble with fear. David looks around going, what’s wrong with all you people, why are you afraid of this guy?

Word gets around to King Saul that someone is willing to fight Goliath so he summons David and David tells him, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go out and fight him.”

To which Saul replies, “You can’t go out and fight him; you are only a boy and he has been fighting since his youth.”

Let’s pause here real quick. Put yourself in the shoes of King Saul and having this responsibility. You have to pick one person to go fight this giant and the result of the throw down determines if your country becomes slaves to this other nation. When your soldier gets beat it means you are no longer king, you end up in prison or something worse, your people are no longer free, you no longer have a country, etc. Kind of a big deal. And the one person who volunteers isn’t even old enough to drive a car yet. What would you have done?

david and goliath 2David responds to Saul’s hesitation with, “Hey look, I’ve killed a lion and I’ve killed a bear. I grabbed them by their hair and struck them down. This Philistine will come to the same end because he is defying the armies of the living God.” Very interested the worldview David has and his trust in God.

Saul of course thinks David is going to partake in this “single combat” style of fighting so he tries to dress David up in his armor and gives him his sword but David has other plans and has no intention of doing this one on one deal. Instead, he goes down to a stream, picks up 5 smooth stones, puts them in his shepherd’s bag – which was basically a fanny pack before fanny packs were cool – get’s a “Go get ‘em and may the Lord be with you” from the King and heads down the hill toward Goliath.

I envision Michael Buffer standing in the middle of the valley making the fight introductions: Fighting out of the blue corner standing 9 feet and 9 inches tall, wearing 150 pounds of armor, being guarded by an armor bearer, armed with 3 weapons designed for close-combat fighting, the undisputed champion of the world, Goliath!

And fighting out of the red corner standing half as tall as the other guy and weighing less than the armor the other guy is wearing, carrying a stick, five stones, a sling shot and a sweet little pouch to carry the rocks in, David “The Underdog” son of Jesse.

I’ve never bet on sports but in this case I’d probably dare to wager some money on Goliath taking this one early in the first round.

As David and Goliath start coming closer to each other Goliath sees who’s been sent to fight him and he’s a tad insulted, “What, am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” He throws some curse words out just for good measure and then tells David he’s going to feed his flesh to the birds.

To which David replies, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, I will strike you down and I will cut off your head.”

David clearly holds his own when it comes to the pre-battle jawing.

David then takes off running full throttle toward Goliath. As he’s running he pulls out a stone, puts it in his sling, starts whipping it around faster and faster – six or seven revolutions a second – and aims for the one small and only spot where Goliath isn’t protected.

For a quick side note: A typical size rock flung by an expert slinger from about 100 feet would have the same effect as someone using a fair-size modern handgun. Not quite the same kind of slingshot my mom bought me from the dollar store when I was a kid.

Everything happened so fast that Goliath had no idea what hit him. But David put the stone right between his eyes, Goliath drops straight down, David takes Goliath’s sword cuts his head off and the route is on.

You can envision all the Israelite soldiers pouring down the side of the ridge whizzing past David as he stands there holding Goliath’s head up high for all to see and at the same time all the Philistines go from celebrating a sure victory to turning tail trying to escape.

Check out this short video from FamilyLife’s Stepping Up Men’s Study:

YouTube Preview Image

To apply it to our own lives:

How many of us feel overwhelmed with a temptation or a trial in life that we feel there is no way to conquer? Romans 8:37 tells us that we are more than conquerors through Christ. Don’t lose heart when you come up against an insurmountable obstacle or a besetting sin. God gives us the power and the victory, just like he did with David, if we are willing to be obedient and trust Him for the outcome. Don’t lose heart like the other Israelites did. We can say with confidence just like Isaiah, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save!”

And a HUGE thanks to Scott Edge for allowing me to use his images for this post!

Todd NagelTodd Nagel is a 36-year-old man who has been a husband to Sarah for 11 years and a dad to four kids, two girls and two boys, ages 9 – 3. He loves outdoors and especially likes to hike, mountain bike, kayak and golf, but doesn’t have a ton of time or money to do much of those things (see info about having a wife and four kids). Todd has been with a ministry called Cru for 14 years and has a desire to see men grow spiritually and lead their families well.

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