Posts in category Leading your family

What breed of man are you?



A motto I once heard goes like this: Winners concentrate on winning, while losers concentrate on just getting by.

If that statement were carved into the granite at the front of a Fortune 500 company, you would nod your head in agreement. Inwardly you might say, Now that’s the way to run a business. I would imagine that company is really a company of excellence. They know how to do things right!

Yet when it comes to the family, it’s interesting that most homes today would have to be characterized as losers. Too many marriages have become marred by mediocrity. Children are seen, at best, as a status symbol — a way to achieve something through them that we, ourselves, weren’t able to achieve when we were their age.

Too many marriages today are concentrating on “just getting by.” With “squeaking by” as the goal, it is no wonder so many marriages don’t amount to much.

In his best-seller, The Seeds of Greatness, Denis Waitley tells the story of his grandmother whom he idolized. She crossed an apricot and a plum tree. Grandmother Waitley called it a plumcot. This delicious fruit was perfected by the gentle, wise old lady after careful and tedious pruning and grafting of the two fruit-bearing trees.

As a boy, Denis learned a valuable lesson from his grandmother. She harvested a plumcot because that was what she planted.

What you plant is what you get

Marriage is a lot like that — we never get out of a marriage what we do not put into it.

One man confessed, “At work I concentrate on winning, and as a result, I am a winner. At home, however, I concentrate on just getting by.”

It’s no wonder he is losing.

As Americans, we think of ourselves as winners … we are used to winning, but too many times in the wrong places. As a result, we end up losing in the important places … at home.

Vance Havner has said, “Americans know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”

If a business goes bankrupt, it is the president or the chairman of the board who is to blame. Similarly, if the home fails, the man is to blame. You and I, as husbands and fathers of our family, must master the ageless art of leadership and apply it to our families. If we ever hope to win at home, then we must focus on winning.

Spinning plates

Too many of us, as the leaders of our families, are like the man who used to come on the Ed Sullivan Show years ago and spin the plates. This man would start at one end of a long table by placing a stick perpendicular to the table and spinning a plate on the stick. In consecutive order the plates would be placed … two, three, four, five, six plates. As the first plate slowed down, it would begin to wobble. I can remember denying the urge to want to jump through the TV and run to help the man by grabbing the plate before it fell off the stick and shattered into tiny slivers of porcelain pieces.

Now with the first plate wobbling in a near-fatal orbit, the man would rush back and expertly spin that plate again as the audience breathed a sigh of relief. On he would go … seven, eight, nine. By that time, plates two, three, and four were now beginning to wobble. And just before you knew the man could not keep a dozen or so plates spinning, he would quickly scoop them up in his professional hands like he was carrying them to the cupboard and bow to the smiling applause of the audience.

Similarly, the roles we assume in life — husband, a father, a businessman, a civic leader, a church leader, a golfer, a fisherman — all represent different plates in our lives. We begin spinning them early in our married life with plate number one being our marriage. Giving focused attention to that one place, the plate spins along merrily and does well. With the addition of plates number two (business) and three (children), efforts to focus become more difficult. Carefully we keep adding our plates until we finally step back from the table to see two or three of the first plates beginning to wobble badly. We have to make choices. Decisions. Decisions based upon priorities. Our family has needs, but we mistakenly choose to meet those “material” needs by applying our efforts primarily to our business. The result: Focus is lost.

However, most businessmen are not worried about starving. Most of us are concerned about status, significance, accumulation of more, and how we can feed the materialistic monster that lives within us. A good friend recently said, “Materialism is not what you have, it is what has you.”

Too many husbands and fathers have become dizzy from the many spinning plates we have set up. We give our family an occasional spin just to keep things at status quo. We focus on just getting by. The results? More plates begin to fall off the table. Children become strangers — children who are crying out for attention. Mothers plead for help. Meanwhile, being the visionary leaders that we are, we ignore fallen plates and add additional plates. Yet the Psalmist warns, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

There is no question why so many marriages and families are functioning poorly. Nothing — a business, a school, a basketball team, or a family — can function without leadership, energy, time, and most importantly, focused attention. Without these, the plates will begin to fall.

Being somewhat of a selfish man myself, I struggled to keep my family plates spinning over the dozen ego-stroking plates I could have focused on, spending energy to keep them spinning, when our kids were growing up. However, I was constantly forced by the person of Jesus Christ to come to grips with my limits. I have been wrestled to the ground by Him on more than one occasion to be forced to answer the question, “How many plates can you keep spinning and still win?”

Another question which redirects me is, “Where do I want to win so badly that I am unequivocally unwilling to lose?”

“Which of those plates would I be willing to lose for the sake of my family, if need be?”

A new breed of man

Today some tough questions face Christian businessmen and leaders. We have become a cult of Christian celebrities. We worship successful businessmen and pro athletes who can perform in the office or on the field. We pay little regard to whether they are a success in their personal and private lives. The time has come for a new breed of Christian husbands and fathers.

We need a new breed of man who will say “no” to more bucks when it means sacrificing our families. A new breed of man who will place family between us and every decision we make. A new breed of man who will ask the question, “How will this affect my family?” A new breed of man who will determine how much is enough. We need a breed of man who will seek to establish relationships with our families before seeking fame in our culture. A new breed of man who will recognize that we need to leave something to posterity that will outlive us: proven character in our children. A new breed of leader who realizes that to succeed in the eyes of men, but fail in the eyes of God, is the ultimate waste.

Renowned Senate chaplain Peter Marshall once said, “It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”

One last question — will you take upon yourself the challenge that Albert Einstein gave a group of young scientists? While addressing this highly motivated group of young men, he pointed to them and said, “Gentlemen, try not to become men of success. But rather, try to become men of value.”

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just read a post by Dennis Rainey, What breed of man are you? on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist
So, what breed of man are you? Could you do a better job of defining success at home? Write a definition to guide you.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to the FamilyLife Today broadcast series on how to implement strategic planning in your home life.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Think of one thing that you can do this week to lead your wife and children. Make that your measure for success.

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?

10 ideas for keeping strong family relationships



“Familiarity breeds contempt.”

“You always hurt the ones you love.”

The timeliness of these old adages speaks volumes. It seems we reserve our least kind words, our most thoughtless deeds, and our meanest actions for those who mean the most to us. And because those close to us care  more about what we say and think, those words and actions hurt more deeply. It’s a double whammy.

Because the stakes are so high in the family, we must ensure that our communications not only stay away from the negative, but that they lead everyone to the positive. Here are ten passages of Scripture that can be very helpful in building and maintaining strong family relationships.

1. Mining for Good – Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

During the Gold Rush of the mid 19th century, prospectors would scoop up pan after pan of rocks and carefully wash away the useless lumps in hopes of finding just one gold nugget. We need to be prospectors of the good in other family members.

2. Rot Not – Ephesians 4:29

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Unwholesome, in the original Greek, can just as legitimately be translated “rotten.” The contrast in this verse makes it clear that our words fall into two categories:  “Edifying” and “Rotten.” If our words are not lifting our family members up, we don’t need to be wasting our breath.

3. Takes One to Know One – John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

When we’re considering how we ought to respond to an unkind word from a spouse or other family member, we need think no further than what Christ has done for us. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

4. The “I Insist” Principle – Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I come from “The Hospitality State” (Mississippi), where it’s not unusual to have two drivers stopped at an intersection, sometimes for 10 seconds, each politely signaling to the other to go first. Sure, that may be a bit of overkill, but in this age of selfish individualism, maybe a pendulum swing in the opposite direction would be helpful … and closer to Scripture.

5. Go Deep Into Debt – Romans 13:8

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

Scripture warns against being in financial debt to anyone. But here, Paul makes the point that there is an acceptable – even desirable – kind of debt. And because God, who is the author of love, offers an endless reserve of the commodity, the more debt we carry, the better it is for everyone.

6. It’s the Law – John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

All the laws of the Old Testament, Jesus proclaimed, hinged on loving God and others. The burdensome, unattainable “to do lists” created by the Pharisees are preempted by one single command, which Jesus deemed important enough to repeat twice. And rather than being burdensome, it is incredibly freeing to both the giver and receiver.

7. The Checklist of Love – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Few passages of Scripture are as widely accepted and as lightly applied as this one. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful tools for revealing my own unloving attitudes in times of turmoil. People generally don’t appreciate having it pointed out when they’re wrong, but because this passage is so well loved, it tends to disarm even the most stubborn combatant.

8. Egg ‘Em On – Hebrews 10:24

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

How many quibbles turn into full-blown disputes because one person has “stirred up” (the word is “provoked” in some translations) the other to anger? Instead of being students of one another’s hot buttons, we need to consider what can nudge each other back into the right direction.

9. Share the Load – Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

In this age of radical individualism, a person’s responsibility goes no farther than the tip of his nose. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that when we notice someone limping down the highway of life with an oversized load, it is our responsibility as Christians to claim some of that load as our own.

10. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me – Ephesians 4:26-27

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Few marriages are destroyed as the result of a single action. The vast majority collapse under the combined weight of unconfessed sin and bitterness held in reserve. God’s way of preventing that kind of stockpiling is with a self-imposed sunset clause. Knowing that you have to deal with an issue before bed not only defuses the dissension, but it improves communication, which makes the marriage (or other family relationship) stronger.

 

Thank you for choosing to be my dad



Bill Eyster has been executive vice-president of FamilyLife since 2006. That Thanksgiving, he wrote this tribute to his stepfather, Dr. Alvin L. Morris, but felt it would be better to deliver it the following June to honor him on his 80th birthday.

Al Morris passed away October 10, 2013. Since then, Bill has felt led to move his family back to Kentucky so he can care for his mother, Beverly.

choosing to be my dad

Beverly and Al Morris

I know you don’t want a big deal made of your birthday and that speaks to the kind of man that you are, but this is as much for the rest of the family as it is for you. I want them to know …what I have come to know, understand, and appreciate about you.

I think it’s important that the grandchildren recognize the legacy that their grandfather passes on. They need to know the impact you have made on my life. So, Al, please humor me and allow me to tell you how much you mean to me.

Al, you are intentional about everything and when you married my mother you knew what you were stepping into.

At age 13, I had been filling the self-imposed role of “man of the house” for close to four years. When you came on the scene and began to date my mother you were able to see first hand how broken I was.

You saw my anger, my rebelliousness, and my bad choices.  You witnessed crushed tables, all night outings, and other such challenges. But, because of your love for my mother, you chose to marry her and intentionally accepted the responsibility of raising an independent 6-foot-tall, 13 year old boy that was full of anger.

The challenges with me didn’t stop there. I was running hard and a living example of a rebellious “red headed stepchild.” You experienced late nights, bad grades, disrespect, ill gotten speakers, a trashed brand-new RV, “borrowed” cars, unauthorized parties, and a continually bad attitude. It’s not lost to me that you had already raised three great children and yet you accepted the responsibility for raising me.

In the 32 years I have had the privilege of being your son …

  • I have seen what it means to be a man of integrity,
  • I have seen what it means for a man to love his wife,
  • I have seen the importance of family,
  • I have seen hard work and dedication,
  • I have seen a man who loves the Lord,
  • I have felt acceptance … I have felt loved.

As I have gotten older and closer to the age at which you made this choice, I marvel. Through it all you never treated me or made me feel like a stepchild. You set high standards and challenged me to meet them. You selflessly and intentionally accepted me, loved me, and cared for me. You were always there.

As I have grown in my faith, I realize how God put you in my life to play a major part in making me the man, the husband, and the father that I am today. I thank God each day for you and want you to know I am deeply grateful for your love, for your acceptance, and for choosing to be my dad.

— I love you.

Your Son — Bill

_____

If you haven’t written a tribute to your parents, we’d encourage you to do it while you still can. If you need help, check out our free resource The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents, or get Dennis Rainey’s bookThe Forgotten Commandment.  

If you’ve given your parents a tribute that you’d like to share with the readers of Stepping Up, we’d love to hear about it. Whether it’s something you’ve written or recorded on audio or video, just Contact Us here.

His final sacrifice: Honoring Rob Tittle



final sacrifice for wife

Rob and Kerry

We lost a good man Sunday night. A godly man. Our co-worker Rob Tittle was doing what every real man does in a crisis — he was protecting his family first. His final sacrifice was simply a reflection of the way he lived his life.

Even before the tornado sirens sounded Sunday night in Central Arkansas, Rob and his wife Kerry were hustling their nine children to safety under an interior stairway of their home just west of Little Rock. Rob left to find his remaining two daughters when the massive funnel dropped from the sky onto their home. A wall collapsed, crushing Rob and killing him instantly. 20-year-old Tori and 14-year-old Rebekah were also killed, and four of the other children were taken to the hospital with injuries. Their home was wiped from its foundation.

final sacrifice for daughters

He dated his girls (here with Rebekah, Whitney, Emily).

But the foundation that Rob laid in his family will live on for generations.

final sacrifice for sons

He taught his boys how to work, and serve.

Rob’s passion for his wife and his family were a reflection of his passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Before he served with Life Action Ministries and eventually served at FamilyLife, he served His Savior. When he met Kerry  the same passion for Christ showed in the way he loved and served her and, in the years to come, the way he nurtured and guided his children.

At work, Rob was the same. He was diligent and intentional, keeping lots of projects going at one time, but always working with a gracious attitude and cheerful disposition. Among co-workers, he didn’t shy away from admitting his own weaknesses and asking for prayer for himself, his wife and his children. He wanted to walk closely with his Lord, and wanted the same for his family.

final sacrifice Fathers Day

Made for Rob by his children last Father’s Day.

Rob has gone to be forever with the Lord he loved and served. But his influence will doubtlessly continue in the lives of his co-workers, his children and his wife, who saw the life that he modeled and how he laid it down in the end. Our prayer is that the way he lived and the way he died will give many men an example of how to live intentionally, courageously, and selflessly.

Still, the fact remains that the Tittle family needs prayers, as does another FamilyLife staff family. Another FamilyLife family, Dan and Kristen Gaffney, also lost their home in the tornado but thankfully were protected by their storm shelter. If you are interested in ways you can help these families in addition to prayer, contact us and we’ll let you know how you can meet their needs.

Boomer or Murphy: Whose side are you on?



Boomer or Murphy

I don’t like to run around and jump on bandwagons, but you probably saw the embarrassing stink that ESPN commentator Boomer Esiason caused when he railed against New York Mets outfielder Daniel Murphy. Murphy’s offense? Compromising his devotion to his team by missing two games to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. According to Esiason, Murphy should have insisted his wife schedule a C-section before the season started.

Public reaction was swift and strong about the imbalance between sports and family, but not against Murphy. Fans lowered the boom on Boomer, who also happens to be a family man (he’s been married to his wife Cheryl since 1986, and is a passionate dad).  To his credit, Boomer quickly and earnestly apologized, particularly for unnecessarily thrusting this couple’s life into the limelight.

Boomer’s not the only one in sports, media, entertainment, or business who would strongly criticize someone for not putting their professional duties and organizational duties first, particularly if you’re paid huge millions.

But Murphy’s decision reflects a change he has undergone in the past couple of years. His world used to revolve around baseball and himself. He poured everything into “being the man” in his sport, but two injury-plagued seasons brought him personal struggles that caused him to re-evaluate his identity and priorities. At that point, he recommitted his life to Christ and vowed not to let baseball define him.

Acting like Boomer or Murphy?

It’s  easy to criticize Boomer’s blatant disregard of the priority of being with your wife at the birth of your first (or any) child. You just don’t miss such a big event. But what about all the small things we do as husbands and fathers that elevate  our jobs over our family?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed to show up on time when I told my wife Stacy I’d be home for dinner, or just generally failed to show consideration for the one person who  gives so much for me. The lowlight was when I came back from a celebrity ski race  just long enough to drop off my laundry with Stacy and leave for a  boxing match in Las Vegas. Not my best chapter as a husband.

On my wedding day, if you showed me a list of the ways I would put Stacy and my boys in second place behind my work or hobbies, I probably would have been as critical of myself as you probably were of Boomer Esiason for his extreme position. It’s easy to let the pressures of life swallow up the best resolutions made as a new husband or father.

I fully understand the pressures that an intense job in a tight economy can inflict on the types of family choices a guy makes. Athletes feel it particularly intensely because they have teammates depending on them, coaches breathing down their necks, the critical gaze of fans, and a big contract that could disappear with an injury or release.

Sometimes the conflicts between work and home are unavoidable. When I was with the Seahawks, I remember a great tight end (who was also a great husband and father) joining the team mid-season. The week he arrived, we flew with the team for a  game against San Diego. We got phone calls from the airport that his wife was in labor. My wife was the only person she knew in town, so Stacy went with her to the hospital and was her coach in labor—what he would have been doing if he was there. The day-and-a-half road trip was just long enough to keep him from away from his wife as she gave birth in a brand new city 3,000 miles from home back east.

He hated it, but between the move, travel for the game and the timing of the labor, it was unavoidable. Daniel Murphy, though, was just exercising the right to a standard three-day league-guaranteed leave early in the season, when the stakes aren’t so high.

Bringing it home

Half the kids in America are growing up without the benefit of both parents at home, and there are so many challenges today to keeping marriage commitments front and center. It’s all the more important in this age to set an example and speak up to support the responsibility a man has, to be there for his family, even though some would say that’s shirking work responsibility.

So whether it’s  something big like keeping your travel schedule clear so you can be with your wife when she goes into labor, or something routine like making family dinner time a priority, you have the opportunity to model priorities for your co-workers and your family.  Take confidence knowing that your Father in Heaven blesses your decisions when you’re doing what He’s called you to do as a husband and father.

How about you? Have you had to make tough decisions to put your family ahead of your work?  Are there things you need to do that communicate to your family that they are the priority in your life?  I’d love to hear your story.

Real men die



“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

TombUnknown

Photo by Stacy Fischer

The inscription on the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery remains a fitting tribute to true manhood: Giving up your life, not for personal recognition, but in the service of others. Even when no one knows what you have done but you and the One who weighs the motives of your heart.

I grew up hearing the stories of heroism on the field of battle. To me, these soldiers were paragons of manhood. As a young boy, I especially loved the movie Sergeant York. I don’t know how many times I replayed in my mind the scene where Alvin York went alone up the hill toward enemy machine gun nests that had been picking off his fellow soldiers. He did it not for the thrill of battle, or dreams of glory and fame, but on behalf of the men who fought alongside him. If you’re not familiar with the story, York eventually captured 132 German soldiers — single handedly.

The humble and godly York initially turned down the Warner Brothers biopic offer, but later agreed so he could use the money to benefit others. With the movie royalties and speaking engagements, he built a Bible school and a high school on his old homeplace in Pall Mall, Tennessee.

Alvin York believed God’s favor on the battlefield paved the way for him to have the platform to help people and change lives. His considered his greatest lifetime achievement not his achievements as the most-decorated soldier of World War I, but building the schools and giving himself to improve the lives of others.

Real men die

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

In contrast to his fellow soldiers who gave their lives on the battlefield, York lived a full 76 years. But if you know the back story, his life was one of daily dying to self. After giving his life to Christ in 1915, York did a 180, turning from his past of violent drunken outbursts to a deep conviction not to harm others. Although he signed up for the service, he did so as a conscientious objector. When his appeal was denied, the expert marksman reluctantly accepted the role of training soldiers how to shoot.

Soon afterward he had to find a way to serve his country on the battlefield without violating his conscience. And when his commanding officer was killed, he assumed the leadership of his platoon, storming the hill alone, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 32 machine guns that had been picking off his fellow soldiers. All the time York was shooting, he was yelling for the Germans to surrender, hoping to save as many lives as possible, even of those who were trying to kill him.

In a way, Alvin York didn’t have to worry about dying as he charged that hill because he had already committed his life to dying to self in the service of others.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Alvin York’s life belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ, who had provided the ultimate example of manhood on another hill. His very purpose in coming from heaven to earth was “to seek and to save.” Denying Himself to the very end, He offed himself a willing sacrifice on the hill called Golgotha (the place of the skull).

If anyone occupying human flesh ever had a right to glory and fame, Jesus Christ did. Yet he willingly gave it all up for us, offering to exchange his life for the death that all of us eventually face as men. In doing so, He gives us the maxim for masculinity: Real men die to self. Real men serve others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   – Philippians 2:5-8

In the 45 years since I first saw Sergeant York, the heroic visions of my childhood have never materialized in my own life. I haven’t had the opportunity to storm an enemy hill, capture countless prisoners, or save a platoon. I haven’t even been able to build a school or missionary training center.

But I’ve learned that the real heroism as a man isn’t in the big feats. It comes in putting away my selfish desires on behalf of my wife and children, serving others by sharing the word of life and seeking to better the lives of those around me. I’ve also found that these little decision to die daily to self are so much harder than the ready-for-the-moment courage of my childhood fantasies. Amazing how it can be so easy to storm a machine gun nest in my mind, yet so hard in real life to give my undivided attention to Ellie and the kids.

Real men die. Our decisions to deny self may be unknown to anyone but ourselves, but they are known to God, who looks at the heart. He is the same God who accepted Christ’s sacrifice for us, conquering death for all and leaving an empty tomb.

He is risen.

Parenting and anger



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

A few weeks back I was volunteering at my kid’s school as part of the Watch Dog program. I was in the cafeteria reading with four 1st graders when I heard the assistant principal down the hall ripping apart this seven-year-old girl. I have no idea what the girl had done but whatever it was, it must have been really bad. I’m pretty sure I would have either cried or wet my pants had the assistant principal talked to me like that and I’m 37.

Parenting and anger
parenting and anger

“Kids, if you don’t obey so I can have some peace and quiet, someone’s fixin’ to get this dropped on them.”

The very next day I was reading in James where he says in 1:20, “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” The verse came alive in several new ways when I read it. First, when I get angry and yell at my kids, it is not going to produce in them a heart that wants to be righteous. My anger might cause them to obey what I’m wanting done but it’s not addressing the heart. Their disobedience is the symptom of something deeper and my anger is only addressing the symptom, not the root. In order to get to their hearts, I need to approach it in love, kindness, and care for them. Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. We would do well to follow the same example.

Another nugget I took from this is that while the girl might behave now, she’s not doing it out of respect or love for her authorities but rather out of fear. And because it’s being done out of fear, she will not have any type of growing relationship with that person. The same is true for us. If our kids only obey because they fear us, we won’t have the relationship with them that they need or that we want.

The way I see it, as our kids get older, our role in their lives changes. If done right, as your child gets into her teen years, you should become more of a mentor to her. And from there, that should morph into a friendship, and you will become someone she can seek counsel from. If we’ve not built the relationship with our kids from an early age on, this isn’t going to happen. We destroy the foundation of the friendship when we yell and get angry at our kids. Think about it for a second, if a buddy of yours is constantly getting mad and screaming at you, how long are you going to stay his friend?

I personally need to do a better job with how I talk to my kids when I get upset at them. I need to address the heart behind their actions. I need to think long term about how I’m building (or destroying) the foundations of my relationship with each of my kids. I also need to check my heart and see where my anger is coming from. James again comes through for us in his first two verses of chapter 4:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

What part of my attitude is because I’m not getting what I want? I want my kids to go to bed so I can watch TV so I yell at them to go lay down. Or I’m mad because I wanted to go do something on a Saturday but I instead need to be home watching them. My anger is because I’m not getting what I want.

I don’t doubt that what I saw at the school was what I look like when I get mad at my kids. It was helpful to see what my anger looks like toward them and I know I can take from that experience to become a better dad, and I hope you can too.

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 the 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.

What makes a leader?



In creating the Stepping Up men’s video series, FamilyLife interviewed men in the New Orleans French Quarter, asking the following question:

“What makes a leader?”
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Some of the guys in the video were on target with their answers, others were a bit off. Below, we’ve pulled some quotes, not from just any guy on the street, but from some men who have been intentional about their leadership.

. . .

“If you look in Ephesians, Chapter 5, and you look at the list of qualifications, really, for a husband — you look at this picture of what it means to be a Christ-like leader — basically, to lead a wife as Christ leads the church. You find that the picture is not just about a guy who pounds his chest and says, ‘Me man; you woman — me speak; you do.’ He’s to lead in love. He’s to lead in the Word. He’s to lead in righteousness. He’s to lead in selflessness, and he is to lead in intimacy.

“Most guys don’t understand servant-leadership from that perspective. So, it’s very important that when we talk about the way a husband is supposed to lead, we don’t just take the culture’s definition of leadership and superimpose that on the Scriptures. We have to get into the Word of God to determine what biblical leadership in the home looks like; and then look for an individual who understands that, as opposed to just the cultural norm.”

– Voddie Baucham, from “Discovering Biblical Leadership,”  FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast

“The statue is of William Leftwich. It is a statue of a man, with one arm pointed to his left — his rifle is in that arm — his body is clearly running in the direction of his outstretched rifle. His right arm is crooked; and it is beckoning those who, although unseen, are behind him. His head is pointed back at them. You can tell he’s yelling something. Below that statue, it says simply, ‘Follow me!’

“And that, I think, is a phenomenal picture of leadership. It is: ‘If you want to know where to go, watch me. Follow me because I will be doing what I ask you to do, and I will be leading the way toward a mission that is worthy of being accomplished.’ This man, ultimately, died in Viet Nam because he went on every rescue mission for the Reconnaissance Marines that he sent out. One day, on the rescue mission of the men he commanded, his helicopter was shot down and he died. He was doing exactly what he asked his men to do. When he said, “’Follow me!’ they listened.”

– Donovan Campbell, author of The Leader’s Code, from “Characteristics of a Leader,” FamilyLife Today radio broadcast

“Two words — serve and lead — may seem like a contradiction, but they are inseparable according to Scripture. While the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:23 that ‘the husband is the head of the wife,’ he quickly puts to rest any notions that this leadership allows any form of selfish male dominance. He completes the sentence with ‘as Christ also is the head of the church.’ Then the passage goes on to say that husbands should love their wives ‘just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her’ (verse 25).

“This paints a picture of leadership that is contrary to how the world views it. A man is called to be a servant-leader — to take responsibility for his wife and children and to put their needs ahead of his own. He is called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love — the type of love we see in God toward his children.”

– Dennis Rainey, “5 Ways Men Need to Step Up”

Did you do something of value today?



Just one day can make the difference in a life wasted and one that leaves a legacy that will outlive us all.

Driving home one night after work I switched on the radio to catch the news. In an uncharacteristic moment of sincerity, the disc jockey made a statement that sliced through the fog of fatigue I felt from the day: “I hope you did something of value today. You wasted a whole day if you didn’t.”

His statement struck me abruptly. Maybe it was because I had just spent most of the day solving some of the problems of a growing ministry. Fortunately that day, I felt pretty good about how I had invested my time.

Or perhaps it was because of where I was heading. In 10 minutes I would be home where one lovely lady and six pairs of beady little eyes would want and need my attention.

Would I do something of value with them tonight?

It’s just one night, and besides, I’m exhausted, I thought. Then I pondered how one night added to another, 365 times, adds up to a year. The nights and the years seem to be passing with an increasing velocity.

“I hope you did something of value today. You wasted a whole day if you didn’t.” It echoed in my thoughts as I drove through the darkness.

Five minutes more and I’d be home.

I’ll bet there are other men like me who are really tired right now, I thought. I wondered how they would respond to the question if they heard it.

A moment of pride struck me. I bet I do better than average with my kids, I smugly concluded.

Another thought lingered in my mind: Did God call me to be merely a better-than-average husband and father? Or to be obedient and to excel?

Living above average

To be better than average, all you have to do is beat the masses — a step ahead of the herd, so to speak. Not much challenge there.

But to be obedient and to excel, well, that means I’ve got to be a disciple … deny myself … take up my cross … and obey … even when I’m tired and whipped by the day’s draining events.

Is my audience man or God? Where do I want the applause? Heaven or earth?

One night. What will I accomplish? Will I waste it spending all evening in front of the television?

It’s just one night. Another night to build a legacy. What will my legacy be?

I struggled over the lure of “just” one evening of selfishness — to do my own thing. But what if Barbara had a similar attitude? Then who would carry the baton?

What kind of heritage and legacy would I impart? Selfishness? Or selflessness?

One minute, and I’ll be home.

Just one night, Lord. It’s just one night. And then the same angel that wrestled Jacob to the ground pinned me with a half nelson as I drove into the garage.

Okay, okay. I give. You’ve got me. Being a Christian parent is not always easy in this narcissistic culture.

Just one night

As the kids surrounded my car like a band of banshees whooping and screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” I was glad on this night I had made the right choice.

At supper, rather than just grazing our way through the groceries, we spent a few moments on nostalgia. All of us answered the question: What was the favorite thing we did as a family this past year?

And after supper I gave the kids three choices of what kind of memory they would like to make for that night:

1. Play Monopoly together as a family,

2. Read a good book together quietly, or

3. Wrestle on the living room floor together.

Which do you think they chose?

Three little sumo wrestlers grabbed my legs as they began to drag me into the living room. Dad was pinned by the kids. Mom was tickled by Dad. And kids went flying through the air (literally) for the next hour. Our 10-month-old even got in on the act by bouncing on me after she had observed the other kids in action.

Do my kids remember that night? Maybe, but I doubt it. We didn’t break anything to make it memorable.

Did they know I had struggled in the car? No.

Did I do something of value that night? You bet!

I did my best that night and on the many nights that followed while my kids were growing up to leave, with God’s help, a legacy that counts. A legacy that will outlive me.

If you struggle with priorities as I do, then you might want to commit these verses from Ephesians to memory: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (5:15-17). I’m convinced none of us intends to become the fool Paul wrote about. It just happens.

“I hope you did something of value today. You wasted a whole day if you didn’t.”

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