Posts in category Holidays & traditions

Happy 394th Thanksgiving



How’s your Thanksgiving history? Here’s a refresher on the important dates in the history of our country.

As some accounts go, one day in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims were preparing for a feast to celebrate the harvest. The men went out to shoot game for the meal, but when Wampanoag scouts heard the sound of gunfire, they were concerned that their new immigrant neighbors might be planning an attack.

Chief Massasoit and 90 of his men visited the Pilgrim encampment, and found out that they were simply hunting in preparation for the feast. The chief ordered his men to pitch in with some of their own game, and for three days, the Pilgrims and Wampanog feasted on deer, shellfish, corn, and other roasted meat. What? No turkey, stuffing, or cranberries?

Of course, the Pilgrims being the Pilgrims certainly must have given thanks to God for the provision, but the first recorded instance of a “Thanksgiving” meal was two years later, when the Pilgrims thanked Him for ending a two-month-long drought.

Fast forward 166 years and the land is officially the United States of America. On October 3, 1789, newly-appointed President George Washington signed a resolution of Congress recognizing Thursday, November 26 to be a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” to the Almighty, not just for food, but for the blessings of a government that respects the individual and his freedoms as being from God. Here is the text of the proclamation.

ThanksgivingBy the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks —for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

The next few presidents issued similar proclamations until 1815, then silence. And then, 75 years to the day after Washington’s initial document, President Abraham Lincoln reinstituted the day in 1863 after two years of Civil War. With that proclamation, people were not just encouraged to spend a day of Thanksgiving, but it became an official national holiday. Here’s the text.

Thanksgiving 2By the President of the United States of America. 

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

And so, from that day until now, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as an official holiday on the last Thursday of November. Well, that is, except for the years of “Franksgiving,” from 1939-1941. On the tail end of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt felt that moving Thanksgiving back to the third week of November would spur Christmas shopping and, thus, the economy. (And you thought Black Friday was a recent invention.)

After years of pressure from Congress, Roosevelt made Thanksgiving officially the fourth week of November in 1942.

So there you have it. The history of Thanksgiving.

But there are some older proclamations you might want to use yourself this Thanksgiving day. Below are some Scripture verses of thanksgiving to God. Consider dividing these verses among the people at your dinner table, having each person read one, then closing with your own prayer of thanksgiving.

1 Chronicles 16:8 – Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.

1 Chronicles 16:34 – O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Psalm 28:7 – The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.

Psalm 34:1 – I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 69:30 – I will praise the name of God with song, And shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 95:1-6 – O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth; The peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Psalm 100:4 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name.

Psalm 107:29-32 – He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet; So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, And praise Him at the seat of the elders.

Jonah 2:9 – But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving.  That which I have vowed I will pay Salvation is from the LORD.”

Colossians 2:6-7 – Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 3:15 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

1 Timothy 4:4-5 – For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

11 great Father’s Day commercials



It seems like with each passing year, holidays become more commercialized: Christmas, Valentines, even Mother’s Day. But not so much Father’s Day.

Until now.

This post is nothing but commercials about being a dad. The great thing is that they’re not overtly selling anything … except the value of fatherhood.

If you’re a dad, look them over and be reminded how important you’re role is. If you still have you’re dad around, let him know what he means to you while you still can (I wish I still could).

Our encouragement to you: Build up the dad in your life by sharing this post (or the individual videos) with him. And encourage other dads by sharing the post via social media.

But most of all, have a (not-so-commercialized) happy Father’s Day.

 

Father’s Day Re-Do – Toyota Camry (Father’s Day 2015)

Let’s make Father’s Day mean something. The best thing you do for your dad is to let him know that you notice and value all the things he’s done for you through the years.

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My Daddy, My Hero – Toyota Verso

Little kids might have a slightly inflated view of their dads, but the things you’re doing for them every day really are heroic.

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My Bold Dad – Toyota Camry

Fatherhood is about being there to protect, to teach, to love … and to let go.

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First fatherhood moments  – Dove Men+Care

Unscripted moments from home videos of real-life men finding out they’re going to be dads.

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With Dad – Nissan (Super Bowl 2015)

Even when you’re not physically able to be there, keep your heart connected to your children. Their hearts want to connect with you.

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Dad’s Sixth Sense – Hyundai Genesis

We fathers may not always be in tune with emotions, but we seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to protecting our children.

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Father-Daughter (driving) – Subaru

Making the transition from protecting to releasing your child in the adult world comes quickly. And sometimes the lines get blurred.

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“Gift” (old homemade dad’s coupons book) – Publix

It’s not just the thought that counts. I still have a few of these stashed away. You never know when they’ll come in handy.  🙂

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Origami Birds Father-Daughter – Wrigley’s Extra gum

Your day-to-day fathering may seem like meaningless scraps sometimes, but they’re collecting in the lives of your children.

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Caring Makes a Man Stronger – Dove Men+Care (Super Bowl 2015)

The name “Dad” says a lot of things, as you can hear in the expressions of these children. One word, so many meanings.

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How to Dad – Peanut Butter Cheerios

Being a dad is an awesome privilege and responsibility. And it’s fun. In case you’re new to the role, this commercial is a primer on “How to Dad”

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Making a mother’s day



Maybe the last thing you’d expect to see in a blog for men is a post about Mother’s Day. That’s the precise reason I decided to write about it.

It’s not that the day’s not important, it’s just that it’s not something that shows up prominently on our radar screens as men. For most guys, whether boys or adults, Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that just seems to sneak up on us.

For me, that was especially true one year when I was in my early teens. The thought had crossed my mind once or twice that Mother’s Day was coming up. I really did appreciate my mom and had a great relationship with her. But in this particular year, if I had any thought of getting my mom something for Mother’s Day, it was a fleeting one.

So when I woke up one Sunday morning and realized it was Mother’s Day, it was too late. I felt incredibly guilty, but it was about to get worse. Normally, my dad was a gentle, non-confrontational man, but when he found out that I hadn’t thought enough to honor my mom for Mother’s Day, he really got mad at me. How could I forget the woman who did so much for me every day, who rarely thought of herself, and who never forgot me on special holidays like my birthday and Christmas?

He was still on his tirade when I stormed out of the house, half mad at him for coming down so hard on me and half mad at myself for being an ungrateful son. But my dad’s talk did accomplish one thing—it  stirred me to action.

For the next 30 minutes, in my tear-filled, angry stomp through the neighborhood, I stopped at every house with a garden and snuck away with the prettiest flowers!  I was determined to show my dad that I wasn’t a thoughtless son, and to convince my mom that I cared enough to only give the very best.

After I had composed myself emotionally (and picked enough flowers to fill my hands), I returned home and presented the bouquet to my mom with sincere apologies for my thoughtlessness. I could tell that my dad wanted to give me lecture number two (this one about stealing from the neighbors), but instead settled for an incredulous, quiet chuckle at my creatively desperate remedy.

I think Dad and I each learned something that day. I’ve never forgotten another Mother’s Day. And until I was an adult with my own kids, he never neglected to remind me a couple of weeks out that Mother’s Day was coming, and that he knew that I genuinely wanted to honor Mom.

I’ve tried to carry on that tradition with my seven children, reminding them when the calendar flipped over to May and even suggesting things that Ellie might appreciate. Of course, there have been years where they forgot, or have given half-hearted gifts that indicated that they might as well have. I just remind myself that I’ve been there.

I tell my story to remind you that the calendar is flipping tomorrow. Whether you only have your mom to honor or whether you have children of your own who need to honor their mom, here are some ideas to take the lead and show your appreciation for the selfless woman/women in your life.

Mother's DayThink about what speaks love to your mother or your wife.

Presents. It could be a flower arrangement, a live flowering plant, a box of chocolates, or something to nice to wear. Just knowing that her children took the time to pick out something just for her will make her feel honored. Even better, have them make her something. Maybe frame each child’s favorite photo with mom like we did.

Encouraging words. It’s one thing to pick out a greeting card for Mother’s Day. It’s quite another for Mom to hear or to read her children’s own words about what she means to them. Write them. Speak them. If you’re not near your mom, plan a phone call that’s off the clock. Just let her enjoy the conversation without being in a hurry to get off. If you really want to go all out, give mom a tribute—a nicely written letter, suitable for framing, that she can pull out months or years from now when she’s having an especially difficult day and needs a little reminder that her efforts have been worth it.

Physical touch. Young mothers spend much of their day getting pulled and tugged by their little brood. What if mom just had a day where her little ones could snuggle in her lap for a book, or to watch a movie together. For teens, maybe it means giving mom that unexpected hug that she so often deserves but so rarely gets. Or maybe she’d appreciate a massage, a manicure, or pedicure.

Acts of serving. Moms are always doing for others: cooking, cleaning, washing, shuttling, nurturing. This is a day where kids call pull out all the stops and do for mom what she’s always doing for them.  If they’re old enough, maybe they could cook the meals that day, including a special meal to honor Mom—maybe even breakfast in bed. Or they might custom-make mom a book of coupons for chores she normally does. Like washing the dishes or clothes, or anything else she always does without complaining, even though she may hate to do it.

Devoted time. If she could, mom would love to disconnect from the daily responsibilities and just spend time talking, or enjoying a relaxing day together. What does she like to do? Spend time outdoors? Have a picnic? Window shop or spend time at a coffee shop? Find out some things she likes to do, and make a day of it, being sure that the relationship is what gets priority.

Husbands, this can be your day to shine (in the eyes of your wife and your children). Think creatively. It’s your responsibility to remind your children that their mom matters (to them and to you), and just how blessed you are as a family to have her.

Set the tone for the day. Enable your children to honor their mom, whether that means taking them to the store to pick out gifts, helping them put their appreciation into written words, or doing all the heavy lifting around the house so that mom can just have that relaxing, uninterrupted time with her children.

For blended families, you as a man can play an important part. Mother’s Day can be awkward when the woman living with your children isn’t their biological mom. Still, she does a lot for them, and deserves appreciation. Help your children think outside their own feelings to recognize hers and the selfless things she does for them. If you’re the step, it’s a great day to step aside and let your children focus their love and attention on their mother.

And if your children’s mom is not in the home, make sure that this day is one where they can connect with her, to honor her as mother, regardless of your current feelings or situation. If their mom has passed away, it’s a perfect time to remember together and honor the impact she made during the time she was with you.

Part of being a man is putting aside yourself for others, particularly those who most care about (and are most dependent on) you. Mother’s Day is one day a year where you can exercise your God-given role by going all in for others.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post by Scott Williams, “Making a mother’s day,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” – Proverbs 31:28

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistWhether you have good or bad ones, “Putting Your Parents in Proper Perspective” is important for you both.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFor tips on how to honor your mom (or your kids’ mom), read “4 Practical Ways to Honor Your Parents.”

Lucky or thankful



Lincoln1863I remember a few years ago, as our family awaited the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television, we heard a public official talk about how lucky we are to be from such a great nation. Part of his activities today, he said, included serving Thanksgiving dinner to those whom “God has dealt a bad hand.”

Lucky or thankful? The smile of fate, or the blessings of God?

What a far cry from the proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln back in 1863, recognizing God as the giver of all things. Lincoln’s proclamation was the first in an unbroken string of presidential Thanksgiving proclamations that lasts until today. His words bear repeating, and heeding.

Have a grateful Thanksgiving Day!

THANKSGIVING DAY 1863 by ABRAHAM LINCOLN
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

– A PROCLAMATION

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore if, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3rd day of October A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

The cost paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence



Our last post detailed the convictions and courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This post shows the price many of them paid for the courage of their convictions.

signers of the declaration independence hallTheir courage and sacrifice

Strong convictions often bring about strong consequences, especially when they oppose someone addicted to power. The British military had already been acting as though it was above the law; now it would be all out war. Citizens who didn’t support the king would see suffering. They could expect to be imprisoned and have their property confiscated.

And those who led the effort to step up and break away from King George would especially face serious consequences: not just the vengeance of the British throne, but the high personal price of their unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom. Consider the fate of a number of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

George Walton of Georgia was wounded and captured in 1778 leading his state’s militia in the defense of his hometown of Savannah.

30-year old Thomas Heyward, Jr. of South Carolina signed the declaration at the great displeasure of his father, who was sympathetic to the king and told Thomas he would likely hang for the act. The two men resolved their differences before the elder Heyward died the next year. Two years later, Thomas, along with fellow South Carolina signers Edward Rutledge and Arthur Middleton, were taken prisoner in the siege of Charleston and held nearly a year to the war’s end.

Richard Stockton of New Jersey had his home overrun by the British invasion. He managed to get his family to safety, but he was captured, specifically because he signed the Declaration of Independence. He remained imprisoned for years, the last half year of which he nearly starved and froze to death. In battered health, he was released and returned to his home to find that all his furniture, crops and livestock were taken or destroyed, and his library—one of the colony’s best—was burned.

John Witherspoon of New Jersey, an active clergyman and president of the College of New Jersey (later to become Princeton), shut down and evacuated the school when British troops invaded the area. He spent most of the rest of his life rebuilding the college. Witherspoon also lost his son James in the battle of Germantown.

Thomas McKean of Delaware led an army the day after signing the Declaration to help George Washington in the defense of New York City and narrowly escaped with his life from cannon fire. In the next year he was on the run from the British, having to move his family five times.

John Hart of New Jersey was also pursued by the British. His property was invaded and looted. Two of his young children fled to relatives’ homes nearby, and Hart himself took refuge where he could in the surrounding woods and in nearby caves. He returned to his home a few months later, and a few years later he offered the fields surrounding his property as an encampment of Washington and 12,000 troops.

Lewis Morris of New York lost almost all of his property and wealth in the war, much of it within just two months of signing the Declaration of Independence. He served as a brigadier general during the war and spent nearly all his post-war days working to rebuild his property and farmlands. His frail wife was imprisoned by the British and never recovered her health.

Philip Livingston of New York was forced from residence to residence by the British armies. His first two homes became a British barracks and hospital, and the other two homes were burned to the ground. As well as the properties he lost to the enemy, he sold several others to support the colonial war effort, and died suddenly in 1778 before he could rebuild.

Lyman Hall, on the advice of General Washington, took his wife and son and fled his Georgia home for Connecticut, where he remained for two years until the war’s end. He returned to his property in Georgia, but he had lost most of what he had.

Carter Braxton of Virginia invested a large amount of his wealth in the revolutionary effort, as well as the shipping and privateering industry, which furnished the war effort with supplies. The debt that he incurred forced him to leave his estate and move to a smaller home.

Robert Morris of Pennsylvania surpassed all when it came to putting up his personal fortunes to support the war effort. Before any country or major bank was willing to extend credit to the fledgling United States, Morris was there. The $10,000 that he loaned the new government supplied Washington’s desperate troops, who went on to defeat the British at Trenton. Like Braxton, he also supported the shipping industry that delivered provisions to the soldiers and citizens. Morris never recovered his pre-war wealth, but his investment helped turn the tide of war in favor of the Americans and helped establish the United States as a nation.

signers of the declaration documentThe legacy of their actions

These were just a fourth of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. While others may not have sacrificed as much as these, each risked his personal safety, integrity, and possessions to stand for freedom from tyranny and oppose the unlawful British rule.

Despite their admirable actions, these men were not without their character flaws. Several were slaveowners. Massachusetts’ Elbridge Gerry has his name forever linked to the unethical process of gerrymandering. Benjamin Rush, the father of American medicine, was a gossip and was even caught forging an anonymous letter seeking to undermine George Washington’s leadership of the continental army. Benjamin Franklin was a playboy and given to deception.

But at a crucial moment in history, these men were willing to step up and sacrifice their personal comforts for the good of their countrymen. Like John Adams, each had doubts about the wisdom of breaking free from England and the prospects of their success. But they were committed to the ideals of equality and responsible government. It’s doubtful any of them could have imagined that the nation they birthed would still celebrate 238 years later, with fireworks and feasts.

But like Adams, they would almost certainly approve.

Next Steps

1.  Read Dennis Rainey’s article, “5 Ways Men Need to Step Up”

2. In Rainey’s book on manhood, he combines stories about courage with a strong challenge for men to step in their families.  Order Stepping Up.

3. FamilyLife’s Stepping Up website features a blog and helpful information about our exciting Stepping Up video series.

The courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence



When you think of the Fourth of July, what words come to mind?

signers of the declaration flagHoliday? Grilling? Fireworks?

But 238 years ago, it was three different words.

Conviction. Courage. Sacrifice.

On July 4, 1776, 56 men met in Philadelphia to pass a resolution declaring their independence from England. It was anything but a picnic. What they did that day at Independence Hall would cost them greatly in the years to come. But it paved the way for a radical new way of thinking about government that would change the course of human history.

It’s not that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were against celebration. In fact, two days earlier, when 12 of the colonies had ratified the document, one of its architects penned a letter to his wife, predicting that the Second of July would be celebrated every year thereafter.

The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.

Four days later, the Liberty Bell rang out to summon the people to the first public reading of the document. As the words were read, there were great shouts of affirmation, and great celebration following. A year later, Congress would authorize the use of fireworks as an appropriate means of celebrating the birth of a new nation.

But amidst his feelings of enthusiasm, John Adams’ words above also reflected a somber tone that was common to all who signed the Declaration of Independence. In doing so, they knew they were inviting a declaration of war by England. They knew that, as traitors, they were essentially forfeiting all their possessions to the crown. Essentially, in signing the document, they were putting bounties on their own heads.

signers of the declaration document

The Declaration of Independence (click to read)

Their convictions

But in spite of the obvious cost, they considered the impact their actions would have for the people of America. They understood from Scripture that government is a sacred trust given by God to protect the inherent rights of people created in His image. Their new document stood toe-to-toe against the prevailing governmental idea of the day — the divine right of kings, which held that, when the one on the throne spoke, it was the voice of God speaking.

The Declaration of Independence contended that King George was abusing his God-given power as leader of England and the American colonies. It was their responsibility as decent men, they stated in their document, to challenge him on this for the sake of his subjects. Benjamin Franklin himself recommended a national motto in defense of their actions.

“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

They listed King George’s offenses against the people and against his office— 27 of them. The signers of the Declaration maintained that their continued efforts to bring their grievances before the king and his appointed  leaders had been met with indifference, if not oppression. They had no other recourse, they stated in the document, but to declare their independence from the tyrant who represented neither them nor the God who entrusted him with his position of leadership. They rejected his authority because King George had rejected His authority.

The concluding post details the personal costs paid by 13 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Freedom isn’t cheap, and it certainly wasn’t for these men.

Remembering and honoring a D-Day dad



“In all of the far-flung operations of our Armed Forces, the toughest job has been performed by the average, easy-going, hard-fighting young American who carries the weight of battle on his own young shoulders. It is to him that we and all future generations must pay grateful tribute.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt

June was Dad’s month. If James Lepine were still alive this month, we would be celebrating his 95th birthday. He was 25 years old in June of 1944 when he boarded the transport for the Normandy invasion. And it was in June of 1988, just a few weeks before what would have been his 69th birthday, that a different battle ended his life — a battle with malignant melanoma. Three days after he died — just 14 hours following his memorial service — we welcomed the first son into our family. We named him Jimmy.

BobMedals2aI am reminded of my father daily. A picture of him hangs on the wall in my office, and underneath it are these dates: June 16, 1941-January 25, 1946. Just to the right are various medals and ribbons, including a Purple Heart for his war injuries. I wish I knew more about the stories behind the awards. But when my father died 16 years ago this month, most of the stories died with him.

Dad arrived at Normandy roughly 24 hours after the battle had been engaged. Did he wade onto a blood-soaked beach, populated by the freshly dead bodies of his fellow soldiers, the way it appears in Saving Private Ryan? I’ve asked my mom, and she says Dad didn’t talk much about the battlefield. He was fighting to protect his country, and even after the war was finished, he may have continued to protect his wife by not telling her all that he had seen.

So, I’ve had to learn about Dad’s service in World War II from what Mom remembers, from the collection of letters he sent home to his parents which have been passed down to me, and from what history records about F Company of the 359th Regiment, 90th Division. Here’s what I know:

Second Lieutenant James R. Lepine received his commission and his orders in June 1941, the same day he graduated from what was then Michigan State College. He completed his basic training in Fort Benning, GA, and was sent across the country to Camp Roberts, Calif., for an additional 17 weeks of infantry training.

Driving to town on a sunny California Sunday afternoon, he would always remember approaching the roadblock where he was told to turn around and report back to camp immediately. It was December 7, 1941 — the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was a soldier whose nation had just gone to war.

He had just become First Lieutenant Lepine. His next duty station was Camp Barkeley in Abilene, TX, where he joined the “Tough ‘Ombres,” the men of the 90th Infantry Division. He continued his correspondence with his college sweetheart, Eileen Cross from Flint, MI, and in September, she rode the train from Michigan to Texas to become Eileen Lepine … in Abilene.

Dad stayed in the States for training until early 1944, when it became clear that the men of the 359th Infantry were going to be sent overseas. At Fort Dix, NJ, they received their final physical checkups, new clothing and supplies, and waited for deployment. And on March 22, they headed across the Atlantic for Operation Overlord — the code name for the Normandy invasion.

Letters home

My father was a faithful letter writer, and my grandmother kept a scrapbook of her son’s letters from Europe, along with the “V-mail” — the microfilmed version of full-sized letters that the government created in an effort to speed the delivery time and allow for more room in overseas shipping.

The scrapbook is my link to the events my father lived through 60 years ago. The first letter is dated March 20, 1944 — a couple of days before he shipped out. “I’m so tired I can hardly stay awake,” he wrote. “That, coupled with the fact that there isn’t much that we’re allowed to say will make this a short letter. … This may be the last chance I’ll have to write for a while, but don’t worry.”

It was almost three weeks later before the next letter from “Somewhere in England” which was as specific as he was allowed to be:

“I’m fine and, while I can’t tell you much, I can say that I think I will like England on the whole and that the food is good so far. If you think that you are suffering from rationing I can tell you that you can’t imagine what rationing is until you’ve seen British rationing restrictions. The civilian population really realizes what it means to be at war.”

Dad’s next letter was sent by V-Mail: “I have just finished writing Criss [my mom’s nickname] and can’t find anything that they’ll allow us to tell you people. She’ll be disappointed and I know you are too. But the shroud of military secrecy overhangs everything.”

His letters throughout the spring of 1944 talked mostly about food and weather, along with regular assurances that he was fine. There wasn’t much he could say about the ongoing training to prepare for D-Day. There were occasional insights into army life before the invasion:

“Cigarettes are plentiful but Cokes could be sold for about $5 apiece. There’ll always be two classes: the “haves” and the “have nots.” I’m just in the wrong class” (April 15).

“Just a time tonight to let you know I am well and safe. We’re all getting pretty accustomed now to British scenery, British ways, and British money. You have no conception of the old-fashioned facilities that the British are in possession of. Plumbing and electricity and all are about 20 years behind our standards” (April 25).

“Don’t worry about my birthday because there isn’t anything I need or can carry with me. I changed the war bond allotment from a $25 bond a month to a $100 bond a month and they will be sent to Criss. As long as she’s at home she may as well keep them. … I feel fine and the food is still good. Have a ¼ inch haircut that I know you’d get a big laugh out of. But it’s very practical” (May 30).

Dad’s last letter home before the invasion was sent May 31. My family heard nothing for more than three weeks — only the news reports back in the States about the allied invasion. They could only hope and pray that if in fact he had been part of the attack on Normandy, he had survived.

D-Day

The 90th Division arrived on the beaches of Normandy in waves, beginning on the morning of June 6 and continuing for three days. In any conversation I ever had with my dad about D-Day, he would sum up the events of the day this way: “The ship I was on hit a mine as we landed. I made it ashore, passed out, and when I woke up, I was in a hospital bed back in England.”

The army sent the news of Dad’s injury in a telegram to my grandparents on June 21, 1944:

Regret to inform you Capt. James R. Lepine was on 7 June slightly injured in action in the European area. You will be advised as reports of condition are received.

There’s no way of knowing whether that telegram arrived before or after the letter my dad wrote home five days after being injured:

“In case the war dept. should send you or Criss some alarming telegram, I’m writing to let you know I’m OK. I’m back in England after a short tour of the coast of France. We went in early in the invasion. Our ship hit a mine and promptly sunk, leaving us to hitch hike the rest of the way. After riding in a couple of destroyers and landing craft we managed to land. My knee and back got kinda strained when the mine hit and I guess I must have passed out after walking 4 or 5 miles. I was probably a little punchy too. Next thing I can remember I was on a ship headed back here. Hope to get out and play war again if they’ll let me. My knee is still a little weak but I think it’ll be OK. Lot of people shooting guns over there and someone’s bound to get hurt. … Hope you’re all fine. Will write again” (June 12).

It was almost two weeks before Dad wrote home again. From his hospital bed in England, he reported he was being reassigned. In another, he wrote, “I feel good and, as all soldiers do, I’m living for the day when the Statue of Liberty again comes into view and we can start life over.”

He sensed victory in Europe was at hand. “I hope you aren’t becoming too optimistic about this war at home because I’m afraid everyone else is. Germany is whipped, I’m convinced, but intends to continue fighting a while longer. Sure will be glad when Hitler says quit, as will everyone else.”

In mid-August, the 90th Division fought the battle of Falaise Gap, where they destroyed the German 7th Army. By the time the smoke had cleared, more than 10,000 German soldiers had surrendered and been taken prisoner. Three days after the battle was over, Dad wrote home, saying, “If a man stays alive and in one piece for a couple of more months he should be able to make it ok.”

Dad was able to stay alive and in one piece, although a few weeks later he made a return trip to an Army hospital, this time with a concussion and with hearing loss in his left ear as a result of a nearby artillery blast. He wrote to tell his parents not to worry, but in a subsequent letter that he sent to his father at his office, Dad cracked the door open just a bit on the realities of war. “You have no conception of what hell the boys on the front lines go through,” he wrote. “I don’t think any of us will want to talk much about it afterwards, but rather will want to forget. There were some good days, but they didn’t make up for the bad ones.” On another occasion, he wrote, “The war for the most part is pretty awful and when these boys finally get back home they’re due every consideration that can be given them.”

From September 1944 until March 1945, Dad remained in England. And then the letters in the scrapbook come to an end. I have no idea how much longer Dad was overseas, or when he arrived back in the States. I do have the papers processing the end of his time in active duty, dated January 26, 1946 —almost nine months after Hitler had committed suicide and Germany surrendered.

The sacrifices of our fathers

Dad never initiated much conversation about the war, and I didn’t know enough to ask or care until he was gone. I grew up knowing that my Dad had been at Normandy, but without knowing much about the significance of that battle.

He died before Saving Private Ryan, before Band of Brothers, before Tom Brokaw proclaimed his The Greatest Generation, before we stopped as a nation and thought about the sacrifices of our fathers and honored them for their service. I’m sure if Dad were alive today, I would have lots of questions for him about the landing at Utah Beach, his injuries, whether he was scared, whether he ever had to watch a friend and fellow soldier die, or whether he ever watched an enemy soldier die from a wound he had inflicted. And I’m sure he would have done what many of his fellow soldiers have done — shrugged his shoulders and said, “We just did what we were supposed to do. It was just something we did.” Simple as that.

Thanks, Dad. I don’t know that I ever said it while you were alive, but I should have. Thanks to you and to all who stormed Omaha and Utah beaches 70 years ago. Thanks to those who fought the Battle of the Bulge. To those who waded ashore at Iwo Jima. To the prisoners of war who died in the Bataan Death March. To the men on board the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. To our fathers and grandfathers.

Many of us realize now that we should have expressed our gratitude years ago. We didn’t know. We didn’t understand. I’m not sure we do now, but maybe we’re beginning to, and we’re grateful.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

 

Treat your wife to a Moms’ Night Out



Father’s Day is coming up in a month and a half, and so that must mean that Mother’s Day is this coming weekend. Yikes, is it here already?

If you’re like a lot of guys, it kind of slipped up on you. It’s not that you don’t appreciate your mom or your children’s mom, it’s just that it’s one of those holidays where you feel caught between the boy in you and the man in you.

Your mom will always be your mother, but you’re not her little boy anymore. You’ll probably send her a card or give her a call on Sunday to tell her how much you appreciate what she’s done for you.

Your wife’s not your mother, but she sure earns your respect as the mother of your children. But what should YOU do for her to bless her on this special day? Well, for one, you want to help your children express the love and appreciation you know that they have for her deep down inside (but don’t always show it). You might encourage them to draw pictures or make cards for her, or buy her something she wants or needs. You may arrange for the whole family to go out for dinner on Mothers’ Day Sunday.

Those are all good, but may I suggest something else? How about a Moms’ Night Out?

It’s actually the name of a comedy that opens Mothers’ Day weekend around the country, starring Sara Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), and Trace Adkins (the country music guy).

You can see my full review of Moms’ Night Out here, but below is a brief synopsis.

Allyson has arrived at her lifelong dream of being a wife and mother, yet she finds herself stretched and stressed and barely hanging on. When she finds out that some of her friends are in the same boat, she suggests that she needs a night off with friends, and her husband wholeheartedly agrees. In fact, he and his friends will take care of all the kids so the ladies can relax and recharge.

Well, the evening doesn’t turn out to be so relaxing after all — not for the dads, and not for the moms. But Allyson and her friends learn some important lessons that allow them to see their lives for the blessings that they are. And both husbands and wives gain some new appreciation for each other.

So here’s my suggestion: Treat your wife to a Moms’ Night Out, which includes the movie.  Give her the choice of doing it with her girlfriends, as a date night with you, or maybe even a family night with the kids. I promise you, the movie will speak to her heart.

But it’s not just for moms. The filmmakers were wise enough to craft it to be fun entertainment for kids … and their dads, too.

Oh, and by the way, it has the endorsement of guys like Tony Dungy, Dave Ramsey, David Platt, Gary Smalley, and Stepping Up’s own Dennis Rainey and Jeff Kemp. And if you need one more to seal the deal, there’s Alex Kendrick.

You can find great clips, the official trailer, and a lot more stuff at the official Moms’ Night Out website.

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.

What to do after Valentine’s Day



I’m not one who does holidays up big. Some people may enjoy making a big deal out of Memorial Day, New Year’s Eve, and the 4th of July, but not me.

after valentineNow before you start thinking it’s just my lame attempt to avoid treating my wife special on Valentine’s Day, you need to know that I’m a real romantic at heart — I don’t need a special day as an excuse to woo my wife. To me, romancing Ellie only on Valentine’s Day would be like remembering Jesus only on Christmas and Easter.

We guys tend to think that romancing our wives means making a big deal: a dozen red roses, dinner at a nice restaurant, a weekend away at a bed and breakfast. Actually, you may have noticed that your wife would probably rather be romanced every day with little things that remind her you’re thinking of her, you still love her, and you’re willing to pursue her.

This Valentine’s Day may be a hit for you, or it may be a miss. But honestly, the little things you do after Valentine’s Day — the other 364 days of the calendar —  have a whole lot more to do with keeping romance alive in your relationship.

Regardless of how you did on February 14, you can use these 14 Simply Romantic Tips to Romance Your Wife through the rest of the month to build a daily habit of letting her know what she means to you.

  1. Look in her eyes and just listen.
  2. Remember your wife is God’s gift to you. Thank Him for her and tell her you did so.
  3. Each day in the rest of the month leave her a Hershey’s kiss where she’ll be sure to find it. Ask her to save the paper flags in a jar and redeem them for actual kisses.
  4. Using dry erase markers, leave a note to your sweetie on the bathroom mirror.
  5. Compliment your wife in front of others — especially your kids. You may be the only one in her life who’s doing it!
  6. Write out your wedding vows on a small card and sign your name to them. Put the card somewhere she will see every day.
  7. Hold her hand whenever you’re in public together.
  8. Women view romance differently from men. Ask your wife to describe what’s romantic to her. Don’t be surprised when her ideas sound very different from yours.
  9. Snuggle (just snuggle!) in bed and tell her all the things you admire about her.
  10. When you see your wife after work, kiss her. Not just a peck on the cheek. Really kiss her.
  11. Find the book your wife is reading and leave some encouraging notes in it every 20 pages or so.
  12. Make foreplay the focus. Focus on her: Play with her hair, caress her face, and gently stroke her arms and legs. Let things build slowly.
  13. Make a stop on your way home from work and pick up that special treat your wife just loves.
  14. Bathe the kids. Clean the kitchen. Fold the laundry. Make the bed. Do whatever she normally does. Tell her to relax.

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