Posts in category Leaving a legacy

Sowing seeds in the souls of men



As men, we can see how many seeds are in an apple, but only God knows the number of apples in an apple seed. And only God knows the full impact that Stepping Up has made through one solitary homeless shelter in the Southeast.

Last spring, Jim Reece, the CEO of The Atlanta Mission, became convicted that he was spiritually shepherding the lives of hundreds and thousands of homeless men and women, but was not doing a good job with two men who married his daughters. So he challenged them to go through the Stepping Up 10-week men’s study with him.

RaineySUBlackBackground

The impact was so strong that he began talking to his staff about taking them and some of the men from The Atlanta Mission (one of the largest in the country) through the series. At least 125 men attended, and nearly all of them completed all 10 sessions. Jim indicated that for some of these men, this is the first thing they’ve ever finished in their entire lives. So they wanted to make a big deal of the graduation ceremony. They had a catered meal for 150 men before the ceremony. Then they heard in person from three of the men who had been speaking to them through the video series for the past 10 weeks—Paul Holderfield, Jr., Crawford Lorrits, and me.

I spoke for about 25 minutes about the first three steps of the manhood journey: boyhood, adolescence, and manhood. Then I asked Crawford to come up and speak to the men for 10 minutes about the mentoring step. Then I asked Brother Paul to come up and speak about how his dad was a patriarch and how these men should aspire to the patriarch step. What a great way to challenge men. Both Crawford and Brother Paul were in rare form and the men gave both of them standing ovations!

The Atlanta Mission created a Stepping Up Graduation Certificate, signed and displayed in a nice oak frame. We then had each man come up to receive his recognition. There were cheers, handshakes, high fives, hugs, and words from Crawford, Brother Paul, and me of how proud we were of each man.

We met men who shared incredible stories.

  • One man said his dad has been in jail his whole life and that he never met him until he was 25. His mom would go get high on drugs and leave him and his siblings for weeks. He was six at the time.
  • Another man could hardly wait to go home for Christmas.  It was the first time he had accomplished something that he had received a certificate for, and he was going to give it to his mom as a gift, because he knew she would be proud of it.
  • A father with four sons, whose wife died 12 years ago, said he’s trying to be the dad they never had.
  • Man after man told how he was separated from his wife and children by his poor choices and was determined to get his wife and family back. For each one, this was the step of responsibility he was determined to make after completing the series.
  • Some men had no wife, no children, no living relatives. No family. These men understood after going through the series that they had no person they were responsible for, and they wanted to change that.
  • A dad with four daughters felt he needed to interview his daughter’s date.

I could go on, but one last one.

If you’ve seen the tenth Stepping Up video session, you may recall how Brother Paul shared the story of his father, who as a young fireman was unwilling to shake a black man’s hand. He then talked about his father’s subsequent conversion, his life change, and then how God used him to touch thousands of African-American boys, young men, and men. It’s a great story of redemption.

Well, one of the staff members for The Mission watched that session and, pierced by the Holy Spirit, recognized that his family was just like that–filled with racism.  He repented and confessed his sin of bigotry.

Jim Reece tells me that the men haven’t stopped talking about how honored they felt that night. And I certainly felt honored to read the following in an email I received from him:

“As I look over my six years here, this night was one of the highlights of that time. To watch men who had captured a new vision of what God could do through them was so powerful.  Know how hard you fight for the family, know that Stepping Up is impacting families, not just well families but broken families, families with a chance for a new start with men who really want to be a different man.”

Whether it’s at Wrightsville Prison in Arkansas, or at The Atlanta Mission, men are men.  Broken.  Selfish.  Needing redemption that can only be found in our Savior. Regardless of their station in life, men want to discover and be the men, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers that God created them to be.

The Father has been sowing seeds lately in soil most people have passed off as barren. Only He knows the full extent of the apple harvest yet to come.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Sowing seeds in the souls of men” on FamilyLife’s Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistCan you think of any man who may not be stepping up because he needs someone to show him how?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIf you’re a dad, are you “Defining the Search for Manhood” for your son? Dennis Rainey talks about it on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFind a group of men you can walk with through the 10-week Stepping Up small group video series.

Grandfathering: A dad do-over



I walked into the living room, looked into the sweet eyes of my daughter Shannon, and instantly she began to cry.

She seemed overcome with fear and her eyes gazed at the floor while tears streaked her cheeks. Through sobs, she said, “Dad, I’m pregnant.”

My wife Cathy sat beside me as Shannon’s sobs broke my heavy silence. I sat there bewildered as the waterfall of thoughts rushed through my head. My daughter had recently graduated high school and was beginning her walk into adulthood.

Travel weary, I had just returned from training in Denver, after recently being appointed as Promise Keepers’ regional director for the Northwest. I was just 44 years old, and a pregnant teenager was not part of my five-year plan.

Thankfully, my heavenly Father quieted my inner turmoil and not a word of my initial thoughts was breathed. In a still small voice He spoke to my sprit: “Tell Shannon what I have told you time after time. This is part of my plan for her life and I am with her. This child will usher in the beginning of a new and rewarding life for you and Cathy.”

I must have been quiet for an extended time, because Cathy shook me out of my bewilderment when she said, “Say something!” I expressed to Shannon our commitment to be there for her and her baby. I told her, “There was a God in heaven who loved her unconditionally and there was a dad on earth who did too.”

God was right! It began a journey of grandfathering that changed my life. I have to admit that I was a preoccupied father. I struggled with my own insecurities, seeking to please others, and I often lost sight of those people in my life that really mattered most. I often allowed the “whats” in my life to determine my identity and significance. This affected how I related with the “whos” in my life – my wife and children and now grandchildren. In many ways, through my grandchildren, I got a “do-over” and a fresh start.

grandfathering

Photo by Tina Vanderlaan

Shannon gave birth to our first grandchild, Gabrielle, who we affectionately call “Gabby.” She is now 19 years old, going on 25, and working her way through college.

God allowed Cathy and me to become part of a moment in their destinies. That moment in 1994 could have gone quite differently. I realize now that God was testing me. He already knew what he was going to do. He was giving me a fresh start; He was giving me a do-over.

Shannon would get a do-over too. She married a wonderful man who adopted Gabby, and they gave me four more grandchildren. My younger son, Doug, found a beautiful lady and gave me two more. God has blessed me with a full quiver. My God, my wife of 43 years, my two kids and my seven grandchildren are the loves of my life. Apart from God and them I am nothing.

Family is the true expression of the heart of the Father.

I have determined in my heart and spirit, with the help of God Almighty that I will live a life that will leave a legacy, one that will echo now and for eternity.

Whether you’re a grandparent or not, you too can leave a legacy in the lives of those who matter most to you. Today can be the beginning of the rest of your life.

Maybe you can identify with me; you also need a do-over. I want to stir up and call out of all grandfathers (and anyone else who is reading) the belief that they can make a difference, that they can leave a legacy through grandparenting.

We should not fear failure. We should fear that we would spend our lives succeeding at what really does not matter.

Imagine the possibilities!

ErricksonDanMugDr. Dan Erickson is the author of “Grandfathering: Live to Leave a Legacy,” and leads People Matter Ministries. He is a former executive director of the National Coalition of Ministries to Men, and a former national director of PromiseKeepers. He has two children and seven grandchildren.

© 2014 by Dan Errickson. All rights reserved..

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading a guest post by Dr. Dan Errickson, “Grandfathering: A dad do-over” on Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat would you do over about parenting? What kind of legacy do you want to leave your family and grandchildren?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead “Creative Ways to Teach Your Grandchildren About Life” by Jack and Lisa Hibbs on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistBegin writing or recording stories you want to pass on and values you want to instill. It’s never too late (or early) to start.

25 things dads should teach their sons



HikingDavisMenBefore the industrial revolution, it was common for men to spend much of their day in the company of their sons — either on the family farm or in the family business. In those settings, dads could teach their sons practical lessons as well as the lessons of leadership, protection, and provision expected of manhood.

Today, work, school, extracurricular activities and even church take fathers and sons in separate directions. Dads, therefore, have to be intentional about creating the opportunities to teach their sons — to model manhood, to teach industry and resourcefulness. One way to do that is to work through a list of things that fathers can teach sons. You can work through such a list in one of two ways: either

  • By setting aside a regular father/son time to take on one item at a time (one dad started this routine and calls it “Manhood Mondays”) or
  • By just taking the time to instruct your son anytime you’re about to do one of these tasks yourself. It’s not efficient, but the investment of your time can be priceless.

Whether you do it proactively, reactively or both, what matters most is taking the time to build a legacy with your son(s).

Don’t freak out by what is or isn’t on the list here. These are meant to be examples of what engagement looks like, but you can adapt this or just see it as a head-start for your own list. You’ll notice that many of the skills listed here can be bypassed by modern technology in most industrially advanced countries. Making the effort to teach these, however, will give you valuable time with your son(s) and will give you a practical opportunity to present the principles of leading, protecting and providing, all the while building confidence in their abilities as emerging men.

25 things dads should teach their sons
  1. Speak in public — there’s power in the spoken word.
  2. Read good books — leaders are readers.
  3. Play an instrument — especially because of the discipline required.
  4. Play individual, two-person, and team sports.
  5. Build a fire.
  6. Camp out — pitch the tent, cook stuff over the fire, the whole thing.
  7. Carve a turkey.
  8. Light a grill.
  9. Jump start a car.
  10. Tie a knot — such as a bowline, square knot, taut-line, and figure eight among others.
  11. Use basic tools — hammer, saw, wrench, screwdriver.
  12. Paint a room — trim and all.
  13. Handle a gun and a knife — for safety, protection, sport, and hunting.
  14. Skin an animal.
  15. Be a gentleman — open doors, stand when a woman approaches at dinner, etc.
  16. Grow stuff — and not just a Chia pet.
  17. Iron a shirt — and do laundry and other work around the house in a manly way.
  18. Manage money — keep a balanced checkbook, show generosity, and learn basic saving and investing.
  19. Shake a hand — strong shake (save the tuna for dinner) and look ’em in the eye.
  20. Give a man hug — skip the side hug, and go arms spread eagle with bold back slaps.
  21. Keep vows.
  22. Dress like a gentleman — coordinate pants, shirts, jackets, ties, belts, socks, etc. appropriately to the occasion.
  23. Tip — for example at least 15% for a waiter providing adequate service, $1 for a checked coat, $1 per bag for curbside check in at the airport, etc.
  24. Serve others — shovel walks, help with heavy loads, etc.
  25. Handle loss — sports and games in preparation for loss in work and relationships.

Taken from:  A Guide to Biblical Manhood, by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas. Copyright © 2011 by SBTS Press, a division of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

RandyStinsonMugDr. Randy Stinson is Senior Fellow at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and is Senior Vice President for Academic Administration & Provost at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He enjoys hunting, fishing, and encourages his eight children in their pursuits. He and Danna have been married for 22 years.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “25 things dads should teach their sons,” by guest poster Dr. Randy Stinson. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhich items might you want to learn so you can teach them? What would you add to the list? Share your ideas.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear Randy Stinson on FamilyLife Today radio broadcast as he lays out “Casting a Vision for Your Family.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPick one thing from the list to do this week. If you don’t have sons, share this post with someone who does.

3 keys to stop domestic violence



stop domestic violenceOn the heels of yet another arrest of an NFL player for domestic violence, the time is now for men and women to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The lack of awareness of the healthy building blocks for strong marriages and relationships is destroying the lives of too many. Scripture clearly states, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” What you don’t know about healthy relationships could be the very thing that is causing harm to you and those you love.

In working with both current and former NFL players, there are some common themes that are occurring in these cases of abuse. Prior to these events, some of these individuals were known to be great people and leaders in the locker room and community. How could men that seem to be such good people, commit acts of harm or endangerment to those that they claim to love? It’s the same reason we are shocked when we find out about any other case of domestic violence. From the outside looking in, it is impossible to see the years of spiritual or emotional wounds that exist within a person, or the value and respect for women that were instilled into that man when he was a child. We also don’t know the emotional triggers of individuals and how they cope and deal with stress and anger.

For the record, let me make sure I am clear. Domestic violence is wrong. It doesn’t matter if the man is the aggressor or if the woman is the aggressor. Physical and emotional abuse is wrong, and there is no justified excuse for domestic violence.

Here are three things that can help to stop domestic violence.

Know Your Hurt

In all sports, the medical report is a part of the overall assessment of the player. The scouts and team executives will take into account what the doctors say about previous injuries, and the implications of whether they could shorten the players’ career, or potentially become recurring due to how the previous injury healed. The trainers also look to see if the player develops habits to compensate for the injury. For example, if a player has a right knee injury, they may put more pressure on the left knee to compensate, which can result in both knees being injured over time.

As men, we must lead the charge to assess our previous emotional injuries. It is our responsibility to reflect the character of God in our homes at all times. But this is difficult to do if you have past wounds that aren’t healed. This begins with an honest assessment of the way you value women, and understanding your triggers from emotional wounds from the past. Some of these triggers could be the habits that you developed to compensate for what happened in the past. Understanding your triggers will allow you to maintain self-control, and help you to manage your emotions and actions under pressure. If you have untreated emotional scars from the past, or a distorted view of the role of women, you could be the next case of domestic violence waiting to happen. Your relationship will only be as healthy as you are.

Know Her Hurt

I am humbled by the opportunity to help current and former NFL players, and equally excited about the new initiatives that we are launching nationally. We have a responsibility to help all men to truly understand what it means to “love your wife as Christ loved the church.” Just because being a servant leader in the home isn’t easy, doesn’t give us an excuse to not be one. Just like you have past wounds in need of healing, so does she. And just like you may have developed habits to compensate for your previous injuries, so has she. It is your role to live with your wife “in an understanding way” and help the healing process in her by avoiding her triggers and emotional scars from her past. This requires a person to walk in unconditional love, and focus on what you can give your spouse, rather than what you are getting from your spouse.

Know Your Role, Know Her Role

It’s been said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” In sports, there are many times you disagree with your coach. You may not like a play call, how hard practice is, or your playing time. Regardless of how you feel about your coach, you learn to control yourself and to never allow your feelings to cross a line of disrespect. As a player, you understand that crossing that line will result in consequences that you don’t want. Loss of playing time, extra conditioning, or even being dismissed from the team can be the consequence of disrespecting the person and the role they play in your life.

Most smart men will agree that the role of a wife and family is more important than a coach. Yet, too many men forget to apply the same rules of respect that they know from sports or work and apply them at home to their wives. We must always remember the value of the role they play in our lives. Though you may disagree from time to time, always remember who you are talking to and be mindful of the consequences of not honoring the role that they play in your life.

Your hands are created to heal, not to hurt. Be the source of understanding, safety and security that you are intended to be as a man.

©2014 Unlock the Champion. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the blog post “3 keys to stop domestic violence” by guest contributor Freddie Scott II.

STEPthink - keep your cool

Listen to Freddie talk about his childhood as the son of an NFL player on FamilyLife Today: “Making a Mark or Leaving a Scar.” 

STEPembrace - keep your coolMeditate on the Scripture passages linked in this article. What will you do to make your relationships more Christlike?

STEPpass - keep your cool

Are you “Living with an Angry, Abusive, or Violent Spouse” or do you know someone who is? Ed Welch offers help.

FreddieScott

Freddie Scott is a former NFL player, pastor, author, and founder and president of Unlock The Champion. He is a Transition Coach for the NFL Player Engagement Program, and serves as a family expert for the NFL Players Association conducting workshops across the country helping men to be better husbands and fathers.

Stepping Up: Freeing men behind bars



When Dennis Rainey wrote the book Stepping Up and when FamilyLife created the 10-week video series, everyone had the idea that it would impact men. But no one had any clue how God would choose to use these resources to impact the very young and guys many would consider the throwaways of society. The men behind bars.

I thought it was phenomenal when my son’s Boy Scout troop went through the series as a father-son activity. I was blown away seeing how hungry these young men, even boys, were to hear the message of what it means to be a man. Even at their young age they grasped it; they grasped for it. Unlike many of us grown men, they may be spared the years of struggling and failing in their quest for authentic manhood.

Recently, I saw an even more remarkable story of transformation.

A  group of men behind bars at the Wrightsville Correctional Facility in Arkansas went through the 10-week Stepping Up study. Most of these men didn’t have good male role models growing up, if any at all. God met them in a powerful way through the study to draw them to Himself and to help them get a glimpse of who He created them to be. Their testimonies are powerful.

As Dennis Rainey says in the video segment:

“I think men in prison are hungry to become real men. Maybe more so than men in the church, because they recognize how they’ve failed.

“Men—regardless of whether they’re in prison or at the top of the heap in corporate America—need other men calling them up and away from childish ways, which every man can step back into at any time in his life.”

Watch this incredible video, and see if God gives you a vision of how to use Stepping Up in creative and impactful ways.

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© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistHopefully, you watched the video, “Stepping Up As a Prison Ministry,  taken from the Stepping Up website.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHave you done the Stepping Up video series in a creative or unusual setting? Please comment to tell us about it!

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistMore kids and young men today are experiencing “Father Hunger.” How can you satisfy your kids’ need?

STEPPass - 10-point checklistYou can host Stepping Up as a prison ministry in your area. Or you can help others get one started.

Truett Cathy: Patriarch of more than the chicken sandwich



Truett Cathy is the father of the chicken sandwich and a man who set the bar for other fast food empires. On Monday, September 8, he left this world, and the restaurant kingdom he built, to go home to a better kingdom and be with his Heavenly Father.

Cathy invested his life in others. Nowhere is that more evident than through the testimony of his sons, Dan and Bubba, who carried on his values at home and in the corporation they manage.

Watch this segment from the Stepping Up video series. It was created to be a representation of what it means to be a patriarch. With Truett Cathy’s passing, it is a testimony to a life well-lived.

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Truett Cathy was a patriarch. Not just of the chicken sandwich or Chick-fil-A, but in the more traditional sense of the wordin the best sense. He was married to Jeanette for 65 years. He passed on his business and family legacy to his two sons and one daughter. He taught adolescent boys’ Sunday School for 50 years because he knew the importance of older men investing in the lives of younger men.

Listen to a special broadcast of FamilyLife Today, “Truett Cathy: A Life Well-Lived,” which features an interview that Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine did several years ago with this patriarch.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read the post, “Truett Cathy: Patriarch of more than the chicken sandwich” on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat kind of legacy was left to you? What kind of legacy will you pass on to your children and to this world?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDennis Rainey wrote an article “Remembering Truett Cathy” which includes his personal reflections.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistIf you appreciate the legacy of Truett Cathy, share the blog post, video, or broadcast with a friend.

God gives again



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

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

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

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

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

GodsWayGideon

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

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

Who? Who is sitting in front of you?

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

I fell to my knees.

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

“What are their names?” I asked.

Her answer made complete sense because I knew two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GodsWayTShirt

God’s Way bearing Connor’s image

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

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

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

Dad (Ron Deal)

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

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

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

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

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

Taken



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

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

Taken

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

He didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Men are the first domino



MenDomino3

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

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

Then, marriage will be men’s great interest.

Then, the family will bond, heal, and thrive.

The church will be strong.

Its work and witness will be powerful.

The weak will be protected, not exploited.

Christ will be glorified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

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

 

 

In death as in life



This post was originally published in my personal blog eight years ago. I’m posting it again in honor of a truly good man, husband, father, and friend who lived out his heart of ministry and service in death as in life.

in death as in lifeFifteen years ago this week, my brother was killed.

A drunken driver cut short his life as he pulled a late-night shift for a fellow police officer in Hawaii. Jay took every opportunity he could to earn enough money to move his wife and two young children from their apartment into a real home. He died as he lived, serving and sacrificing for others.

God had prepared Jay and his family for his departure in a way that, to this day, defies explanation. Months before his death, Jay met with a life insurance agent and with his pastor (who was also the department chaplain) to plan for his funeral. There was no reason for him to suspect that his life might be in danger. In fact, he and I used to joke on the phone about some of the “hazardous” assignments he had as a policeman on Maui, like when he answered the call about a bowl of soup that was allegedly stolen off a kitchen table.

For whatever reason, Jay felt impressed to increase his insurance to an amount probably several times higher than any honest insurance agent would recommend. And the solidly evangelistic funeral service that he planned would end up ministering powerfully to his fellow officers, who knew him to be a man of integrity who lived out his faith and loved his family more than anything else.

The card

But probably the most enigmatic act my brother would make in preparation for his death was a sympathy card he had penned years earlier. Jay shared a birthday with our aunt Harriet, who had lost her own beloved husband, Phil, years earlier to a massive heart attack.

Jay wasn’t able to attend Phil’s funeral like I was, and had to settle for sending a card. But his sensitive thoughts and words of hope ministered to Harriet in a way far deeper than my own presence at Phil’s funeral ever could. Jay spoke into the heart of this grieving wife about how her husband lived his life in the grace and love of Christ and how he reflected that godly care to everyone he came in contact with. His words reminded her that her husband was spending eternity with the Savior, free of the pain that is so much a part of this world we know, and that one day, they would be reunited in heaven.

Now, years later, Jay’s own wife, Dee, was experiencing the same inexpressible grief. It was weeks after the funeral. All the family was gone, and she was left to take care of their two young children – who reminded her so much of him – and left to grieve on her own.

Until the card came.

As Harriet heard of Jay’s death, she was reminiscing about the nephew who had comforted her years earlier. After some effort, she managed to locate the sympathy card, which was tucked away in a book. She read his words again, this time thinking about Dee’s grief at losing her husband.

Harriet wasn’t able to attend his funeral, but she sent Dee a card to minister to her in her grief.

The same card

As Dee opened that card, she could hardly believe what she was seeing. The handwriting she knew like she knew her own heart. The tender words of consolation wrapped themselves around her soul as they had in the days when she and Jay were dating. But now, instead of words of his undying devotion, Dee was reading his words of deepest consolation in his own death. And the wife who didn’t get to tell her husband goodbye would end up reading his own words of comfort to her in her time of greatest grief. It was his final gift to her, words of promise and hope that they would be reunited forever in God’s timing.

Jay was inexplicable in life, and inexplicable in death. But his heart lives on, because the One who held his heart lives eternally. And the love of Christ that ruled Jay’s life is the same Life that has conquered death for all.

So on the anniversary of Jay’s death, I wanted to remember one man who, like me, experienced the second birth. One who shared that hope, in word and deed, with those around him.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Scott Williams, “In death as in life,” on the Stepping Up blog for men by FamilyLife.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistJay Williams was prepared for his death.  If you were to die suddenly, where you would spend eternity? 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHave you spent time considering “If Something Happens to Me, would we be prepared financially?”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare Jay’s story of hope and the other links here with your friends via Facebook, Twitter or email.

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