Posts in category EXTRAS

Second chance manhood



When we launched the Stepping Up video series a few years ago, we had no idea what a huge impact it would make on men in homeless shelters and in prisons. Many of these men grew up not knowing what it meant to be a man, and they found themselves in hard places as adults.

BarbedWireCloudsThat’s the reason Stepping Up is making such an impact on these guys. For the first time in their lives, they’re getting a road map to manhood, and the results will make a difference for the generation coming after them.

We recently received a letter from Lynden, who’s serving time at a federal low security facility in the Northeast. Lynden gets it. Not only are the Stepping Up principles changing his life, they’re getting him excited about helping other men change their legacies. This is something to get excited about. Please pray for Lynden and men like him who are Stepping Up!

Dear Mr. Rainey, 

I’ve just completed the Stepping Up course here at [the correctional facility]. I found the course to be very helpful in showing me the extreme importance of having men in our lives to provide us with real-life examples of how life should be done. It also caused me to “look back” on my own life at how I was failed by the men in my life and, in turn, how I failed to provide the real-life example for my step-son.

I have great remorse about my actions as a father and step-father and now I am seeing the fruits of my own failures. My step-son, now 19, dropped out of high school and now has a pregnant girlfriend. They are having the baby and will be getting married, but I can see that my lack of leadership is a direct contribution to his situation. I sure would like to have that opportunity back, but we get one shot to get it right. I’m not saying that I would have to be perfect, just a good father that makes mostly good decisions.

I made many more poor decisions than good ones. I turned my back on God and embraced atheism for four years. My step-son wants no contact with me and he has no older males in his life. I fear for him. He is not saved and was raised in a semi-active LDS home.

While I know there are no “do-overs” in life, I look ahead to what the Lord has in store for me. I’m blooming where I’m planted through demonstration and proclamation of Jesus Christ. While I find it somewhat difficult to apply the principles of mentorship here in prison, I take the content of the Stepping Up course and try to apply it to my life.

My vision for the future is to start a post-prison re-entry program. The name will be 491 More Second Chances. The ministry will help men through apprenticeship and journeyman programs in construction, plumbing, electrical, renewal energy, HVAC, food service, welding, machining, and carpentry.

My first wife and I plan to remarry and pursue this endeavor together with Christ at the focal point. We want to provide free counseling and support groups for the men and their families. We’re looking to reconnect these men to their families, themselves, and most importantly, to introduce them to the King of Kings.

We both know this will be a huge task, but with God all things are possible. We’ve got a plan and we’re excited to see how the Lord is going to lay out the path before us. I’ve done too much “self-service” and I’m now serving the Lord in my life. I wish I would have known how awesome it is to be an obedient, honest, and trustworthy man of God years ago … but I didn’t. I do now and I’m not looking back, now that my hands are firmly holding to the Gospel plow!

Thank you for Stepping Up and FamilyLife.

In His Love & Service,

Lynden

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Letter used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read, “Second chance manhood” about how Stepping Up is changing lost lives and legacies.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWatch how Stepping Up impacted men at another correctional facility in this  blog post, Stepping Up as a prison ministry.”  

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 in prison or homeless ministry in your area. Or you can help others get one started.

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.”

More than a national championship coach



EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, another college basketball season is in the books. With Duke celebrating the national championship with their win over Wisconsin, it seems like an appropriate time to remember back to a man who was synonymous with national championships. 

Long-time UCLA coach John Wooden was interviewed on the FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast more than a decade ago. For Dennis Rainey, it was more than just an opportunity to interview a basketball legend and a childhood idol. It was also an opportunity to talk to a man with a championship legacy in his personal life.

WoodenNetOne of my heroes growing up was John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood.” He won 10 national championships at UCLA and is considered the greatest basketball coach of all time.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Coach Wooden a few years ago for a series of broadcasts on FamilyLife Today.   The only thing that betrayed his age was a cane that he used to balance himself. Everything else about Coach was sharp and steady. His daughter sat in on the taping of those broadcasts and said later it was one of her favorite interviews because my co-host and I didn’t just “talk to Daddy about basketball.”

Before I get to the essence of that interview, I have to share with you what happened at the end of our time together. Coach Wooden had a way of making you feel like he really liked you … at least that’s how I felt as we wrapped things up. He signed his book and handed it to me. Being a basketball player who played on scholarship at a small junior college team during the “Wooden Era,” I smiled and handed it back to him and said to him, “Coach, you don’t know this about me but I still have the school record in high school when I scored 44 points. Why don’t you just write in the front of the book, ‘Dennis, you could’ve played for me at UCLA!’” He got a sly grin on his face and took the book back.

I watched as he smiled and scratched out a few words and closed the cover. He looked up and handed me the book and said with an even bigger grin, “Dennis, I’m a man of integrity.” After I thanked him and said goodbye I sneaked a peak at what Coach had written to me. 

Thank you Dennis,
Since I never initiated contact for an out-of-state player, why didn’t you contact me?
John Wooden
8/12/2002

After more than 3,000 interviews, my time with Coach remains one of my great favorites.

The story of Joshua Wooden

After John Wooden died earlier this month at the age of 99, a chorus of tributes arose from former players and writers. It’s hard to think of a sports figure more admired.

Few of the tributes mentioned Wooden’s father, Joshua Wooden, and that’s the story I’d like to tell. When you read about Joshua Wooden, you realize that lessons taught during childhood can reverberate far into the future.

Joshua raised four sons on a small Indiana farm in the early part of the twentieth century. Life on a farm was not easy in those days—there was no electricity or running water, and the family had to grow most of what they ate. To keep his boys warm on cold winter nights, Joshua would heat bricks on the family’s potbelly stove, wrap them in blankets, and place them at the foot of their beds.

From the beginning, Joshua knew he was not just raising boys but also building men. The boys could play, but only after they had done their chores for the day. You can imagine that on a farm with no electricity or running water, where the family grew most of what they ate, there was plenty of work for four growing boys to do!

Joshua was a strong man—“strong enough to bend a thick iron bar with his bare hands,” one of his sons wrote—but also gentle. Each night, by the light of a coal-oil lamp, he would read to his family from the Scriptures, and he also read classic books and poetry.

He believed in building character, and continually emphasized the importance of making right choices. Two of his favorite phrases that he taught his sons were:

  • “Never lie, never cheat, and never steal.”
  • “Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t alibi.”

When his third son, John, graduated from eighth grade in his small country school, Joshua gave him a card and said, “Son, try to live up to this.” On one side was a verse that read:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was a seven-point creed that read:

Be true to yourself
Help others
Make friendship a fine art
Drink deeply from good books
Make each day your masterpiece
Build a shelter against a rainy day
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

John kept that card in his wallet for decades until it fell apart. Eighty years after receiving it, he still knew the words by heart.

Joshua lost his farm during the Depression and wasn’t able to pay for his sons’ college education. But all four of them graduated from college with English degrees. Every son but John became a school administrator. John became a teacher of another sort: a basketball coach.

One of the reasons I would have liked playing for Coach Wooden was that he was more than a national championship coach. He was a teacher of character. He built men, not just players. He was a friend and mentor to his players. He called them to step up.

He developed what he called the “Pyramid of Success,” which he taught his players every year. Looking at this pyramid today, with its building blocks of industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, cooperation, loyalty, etc., you can’t help but realize that this is a man whose entire outlook on life came from the influence of his father.

Lifelong lessons

John Wooden’s desire to influence others remained strong for another 35 years after he retired in 1975. Many of his former players called him regularly to seek his advice on everything from raising children to coaching to battling cancer.

One of those players, John Vallely, recently said, “The interesting thing about playing for Coach was not necessarily the championships, but what he taught us about living life was far more important. I just recall the importance of the Pyramid of Success and the characteristics. What he taught us were lifelong lessons. So much of what he was teaching really had a parable of how you live your life.”

Let me close with one more choice verse Joshua gave to John, this time when the Coach’s son was born in 1936:

A careful man I must be;
A little fellow follows me.
I know I dare not go astray;
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.
He thinks that I am good and fine;
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
This little chap who follows me.
I must be careful as I go;
Through summer sun and winter snow.
Because I am building, for the years to be;
This little chap who follows me.

I can picture the Wooden household on those cold Indiana nights, when Joshua would read from the Bible to his family. He had no idea what influence he would have far beyond his death—all he knew was that he was raising sons to become men.

What a father.  What a son.  What a legacy.

Copyright © 2010 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Dennis Rainey’s post “More than a national championship coach” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“True Success: A Personal Visit with John Wooden” is a FamilyLife Today interview with the Wizard of Westwood.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistStepping Up’s John Majors is “Leaving a Legacy to Pass On to His Children.” If you don’t have a legacy to pass on, start one.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass along character to your sons. Listen to Bill Bennett talk about “The Book of Man” on FamilyLife Today.

Stepping Up in space



Stepping Up in space

Barry “Butch” Wilmore aboard the International Space Station (Photo by NASA)

Barry “Butch” Wilmore is captain of the International Space Station, where he’s spending several months conducting experiments, doing repairs, and increasing the capabilities of the station.

One of the other interesting things Wilmore did was to finish a personal study of the Stepping Up men’s material, which he found to be both empowering and challenging in his personal life. 

Wilmore recently talked with FamilyLife Today hosts Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine about his time in the space station, focusing mostly on spiritual matters, like his mentoring ministry, his role as a father and daily experiencing the awesome creation of his Heavenly Father. 

This is an excerpt of the transcript from the February 6 broadcast. Click the link, “Life Aboard the Space Station,” If you want to hear the entire broadcast. 

Dennis Rainey: Captain Wilmore, you have done a number of deployments in your service for the Navy. You have any coaching for dads who travel a lot?  Maybe, they don’t go to outer space, but they’re gone three or four days a week or a good number of days throughout the month—any coaching for them about caring for their wives and their children in the midst of that?

Barry Wilmore: I think the thing that I would say from my standpoint—and what I’ve tried to do myself—is always think about biblical principles—you know, raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and teach them God’s Word.

That’s what I do with my daughters, and that’s what my wife and I do together.

I think a big part of that is preparing, especially when the children are younger—I’ve got a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old. We did a great deal of preparation for this separation time—discussing it and talking about it. My number one message to my daughters, and I even say it when I call them now, is: “Help Mommy.” We also—my wife homeschools—so, the follow-up slogan to that is: “Help your teacher. The principal may be out of town for a while, but he’s coming back!”  [Laughter]

Dennis: So, that’s a setup. Do you want to say anything to those girls of yours?—any words from Daddy to a daughter?  I know you get to talk to them too, but here is a chance to both brag on them and exhort them with a few hundred thousand, if not a million, listeners across the country.

Barry: Yes, both of my daughters are taking piano lessons—my youngest just started. I want you to know, girls—Darren and Logan—Daddy loves—loves—to hear you play the piano. I thank you when you practice, and I thank you when you play over the phone so I can even hear you from here—so, thank you for that. I want you to know that Daddy is very proud of both of you. And I also want you to know that the slogan is the same in this message too: “Help Mommy / help your teacher.”  [Laughter]

Dennis: Well said by a dad. Way to go!  Is there a question you’d like to be asked that’s a favorite question for you to answer?

Barry: I think, you know, it’s less about me / more about my Lord is where I would try to orient any question: “What drives you?”—maybe. What really, truly drives me is my desire to live according to what the Lord has laid out in His Word that we should do—

—and to glorify Him—and that’s the main driver. So, that would be the question: “What drives you?” and that’s the answer.

Stepping Up in space

Astronauts Terry Virts and Butch Willmore from the US, and Samantha Christoforetti of Italy. (Photo by NASA)

Bob Lepine: You have time in your schedule to include spiritual disciplines and to keep your spiritual self in shape, right?

Barry: Absolutely; yes, sir.

Bob: So, what are you doing in space—I know you have an opportunity to read your Bible, and you mentioned reviewing messages from church. Anything else that you are doing to just stay connected to Christ?

Barry: The Lord gave me something a few years ago that I have been continuing. It wasn’t something I set out to do—it just kind of happened—and that is that I started sending out a devotion to just a couple of people daily / every single day. Over the years, the Lord grew that distribution list. I don’t know how many people are on it now—I haven’t counted—it’s probably 70 or so different emails that I send out.

So, I do that every day—preparing the devotion to send out to those 70 individuals.

Also, I have it posted on my friends and family website. So that, right there, is something that the Lord has given me to keep me in His Word, and keep me studying, and keep me growing—and for that, I am grateful.

Dennis: I just want our listeners to think about where Butch is right now because he’s looking at how this verse is really spelled out—Psalm 8.

Stepping Up in space 3

The Aurora over the US and Canada. (Photo by NASA/Butch Willmore)

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. You have set Your glory above the heavens!  When I look at the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; what is man, that You are mindful of him and the son of man that You care for him?

Yet, you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor!  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands and have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and the beasts of the fields, and the birds of the heaven, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Barry: I can tell you from this vantage point, “majestic,” indeed—praise Him.

Bob: Butch, let me ask you one more question. How often does the sun come up during the day, and how often does it go down during the day for you?

Barry: Oh, there is another blessing!  The sunrises and sunsets here are just amazing. The Space Station—the whole station for about six to ten seconds turns completely orange as it goes through—as the light passes through the atmosphere. It kind of acts as a prism and separates the colors. I get 16 of those a day—fantastic!

Bob: So, is it almost bedtime for you now?

Barry: It actually—it is. I’m going to grab me a quick little bite to eat; and then, I’m going to hit the rack. [Laughter]

Dennis: Well, Butch, thanks for joining us on FamilyLife Today. Just want you to know it’s no excuse that you can’t listen to the broadcast up there. You should have figured that out in advance, but we’ll forgive you for that; okay?

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou finished reading the post “Stepping Up in space” in the Stepping Up men’s blog from FamilyLife.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat do you picture as you read the words of Psalm 8 about God’s creation and the special place He has given you?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to Barry Wilmore on FamilyLife Today from the February 6 broadcast and the December 22 broadcast.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistWho could you get to join you to go through Stepping Up as a small group? Pray about it, then go for launch.

Guiding kids to maturity



As I read through Scripture, there are some passages that just grab my attention and make me think. Often those passages involve lists. There are probably dozens of these in the New Testament alone, and I’m sure you’ll recognize a few, like

guiding kidsI guess it’s a guy thing. We like action, and there’s something about a list that encourages action, that breaks down a project into more manageable tasks. Some of those list passages offer a set of filters for working through a situation. Like in I Thessalonians 5:14 (NASB):

“And we urge you, brothers,
admonish the unruly,
encourage the fainthearted,
help the weak,
be patient with everyone.”

That list has always intrigued me. I had always assumed it gave instruction on dealing with difficult people, but until recently I never really dug into it. So I decided to devote several of my morning quiet times to the passage, delving into the meaning of the words, understanding the four challenges within the larger context of the passage and meditating on what the verse looks like applied in my own life.

The big picture

Right off, I saw that the four-item list was actually three specific challenges and one overarching one. The Apostle Paul points out that there are three different types of behaviors you can expect to encounter when you’re dealing with people, and how you can properly respond to them when they come up. As I studied, I was sure that understanding the passage would help me recognize situations where I could put the principles to use as I dealt with people throughout the day. But where would they show up, and how would I know it when they did?

Eventually it hit me square in the face. I’ve actually been encountering the situations and dealing with them almost every day for years … in my own home. The reason I’d missed the wisdom of this verse is because it’s listed in reverse order of how I had learned it as a dad.

My wife Ellie and I have raised seven children to adolescence and beyond.  When our first was born, I was struck by how helpless he was. He was dependent on us for everything. As he grew and acquired skills and experience, I had to encourage him that he was able to do more than he realized he could. He just needed to apply what he’d learned to the life situations he was encountering.

And as he reached the teen years and started choosing his own way in the world, I had to constantly convince him that there’s a big difference between learning and knowledge, between facts and experience. And I had to admonish him that life was not just about him, but just as much about using what he’s learned in order to relate to those around him.

As each of our seven children grew in wisdom and stature, their personalities may have been different, but the principles were always the same. They needed to learn the basics, apply them to their own lives, then learn to use them in their dealings with others. And they needed someone along the way to help them navigate that path to maturity.

Epiphany! I had been doing I Thessalonians 5:14 in the everyday process of being a father; I just didn’t realize it. That understanding and experience made the whole verse and passage come alive.

Help the weak

The Greek word for weak means lacking the strength due to immaturity or inability. Whether they’re newborn babies, brand new coworkers or new believers, people come into situations where they know absolutely nothing. They’ll be confused. They’ll make mistakes. You could chide them or tell them to keep trying, but their greatest need is for someone to teach them … patiently.

The Greek word for help doesn’t just refer to using your ability to meet someone’s weakness. It implies that you put aside your own interests for theirs. As I was holding my first granddaughter the other day, I reminded myself that she couldn’t do anything for herself, including communicate what she needed. When she wailed, I had to work extra hard to understand her need, then meet it the best I could. That meant putting up with the crying and fussiness, because it wasn’t about me, but about her.

It’s exactly what Jesus did for me. “For while we were still helpless (weak), at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5).  As He put aside His desires for a helpless sinner, I need to do the same for the weak in my life.

Encourage the fainthearted

The heart is the seat of the soul. The French word for heart is where we get our word “courage.”  Those who are fainthearted are dealing with a heart that’s too small for the task.

With seven kids, you can imagine that their personalities are quite different. For some of ours, faintheartedness looked like despondency. To others, it looked like impatience, or maybe even frustration. Whether it was because they were unsure of themselves or unsure of the situation facing them, they needed someone there to bolster their hearts—to en-courage them. They needed someone to believe in them, to say, “You can do it.” And they needed to know that I would be there with them on the other side to say “I knew you could!”

But encouraging is not just being a cheerleader. It’s coming alongside to give wisdom, to help the person understand the reason for the faintheartedness and to do the right things at the right time. Again, like with the weak, this requires you to put away self for the sake of others.

If there was any question that this passage directly applied to fatherhood, it was put to rest as I read what Paul had said to the Thessalonians just a few chapters before.

“Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). READ MORE »

Super Bowl MVP: Dad



Just about everyone gets a little excited about the Super Bowl. Even the people who aren’t football fans probably look forward to the halftime show or the creative and entertaining commercials. They’re more interested in the side show than the final score or the MVP.

If this year’s commercials are any indication, there’s already a winner for this year’s Super Bowl MVP: Dad.

This year there are three commercials that will probably touch everybody, man, woman, or child. That’s because they’re about dads, and the fact is that either you are a dad, have a dad, or have a dad-hole you’re looking to fill. The commercials for Toyota, Nissan and Dove pluck all those heart strings.

Dove Men + Care: “Real Strength

This commercial’s been out on the web for a while (it went viral last Father’s Day with 12 million views), but the exposure it will get during the Super Bowl will likely make it a commercial that everybody remembers.

It’s simply a succession of two dozen clips of kids and young adults in everyday life. A swimming pool, a high chair, a wedding. No one says more than one word, but that one word is powerful. Dada. Daddy. Dad.

YouTube Preview Image

The commercial’s text asks a simple question and offers a simple but profound answer:

What makes a man stronger?

Showing that he cares.

Dove’s reminder is that a dad’s strength is his involvement in the lives of his children, from their earliest years to the time they start their own families.

The commercial concludes by inviting dads to share how caring makes them stronger at #RealStrength

Nissan: “With Dad”

Like Dove, Nissan has already been around the internet with its “With Dad” campaign, but they’re keeping their Super Bowl commercial under wraps until the big game. Over the past several months, Nissan has repeated the mantra, “Everything’s better with dad.” It’s a campaign by Nissan’s chief marketing officer Fred Diaz, acknowledging something that every parent in America knows: it’s hard to strike a good balance between work and family, but it’s important to do it.

You probably remember Diaz’s contribution to the 2013 Super Bowl, with his tribute to farmers, with audio narration from Paul Harvey. If that’s any indication of the quality and impact we can expect, the commercial’s sure to be one of the viewer favorites this year. Until then, all we have to go on is this 10-second teaser.

YouTube Preview Image

As for the football connection, you can check out a series of features Nissan did on the NFL Matthews family by searching #withdad on YouTube.

Toyota Camry: “To Be a Dad”

This commercial focuses on the reality of fatherhood, featuring real life stories from dads and their kids. Some are NFL players. Others are just regular Joes. The commercial begins with a simple question:

Is being a good dad something you learn, or a choice you make?

More than a feel-good piece about, say, ginormous horses and fluffy puppies, “To Be a Dad” focuses on how “one bold choice leads to another.” Whether they had a good father or not, these men share about how they are trying to be that good dad, and you can see how they are passing that legacy down to their own children.

At the end of the piece, viewers are invited to become participants by tweeting about their own father. The piece ends with this message:

Honor your dad.
Tweet us photos of him using #OneBoldChoice
to join our big game celebration.

Check out the extended length commercial here.

YouTube Preview Image

As you can see, the commercial is inspiring in many ways.

  • We see men we respect on the field being men we can respect in real life.
  • We see men who started life with a void who are now determined not to let their children know that feeling.
  • We see children talk about how their dads inspire them.
  • We see dads who are humbled and gratified at the impact they’re having on their kids.

We also see some of the damage that’s in the process of being healed. Damage caused to grown men when they were little boys by fathers who weren’t present or who were emotionally detached. These men feel like they don’t have a template to follow and are left to make it up as they go, essentially trying to become everything they didn’t have as they were growing up.

Thankfully, we all have a Heavenly Father whose deep desire is to know us and have us experience all His best for our lives. And thankfully, He’s given us an instruction book that teaches us how to father, not out of our woundedness, but out of His wisdom and love.

My hope is that these commercials will raise the conversation around fatherhood. Hopefully it will spark stronger connection between dads and their kids, and will bring together those men who grew up without dads and those who were far more blessed, all around the conversation about what it means To Be a Dad.

Will you take the MANuary Challenge?



Even though January is over in a couple of days, MANuary is every month.

In case you’ve missed it, The MANuary Challenge is a call to invest in the lives of others by starting a men’s group centered on the Stepping Up Small Group Video Series. If you’ve been waiting in vain for someone in your church or your circle of friends to bring together fellow men for camaraderie and building into each others’ lives, that might just mean that you are the man God’s looking to.

Our challenge to you is to invest in other men because godly, courageous men mean stronger homes and a stronger nation. Start by recruiting at least 10 guys and take them to higher ground with the Stepping Up Small Group Video Series. This groundbreaking study combines engaging video content with biblical truth and insightful, expert teaching. And over 98 percent of hosts would recommend Stepping Up!* Check out the compelling content in this teaser.

YouTube Preview Image

The Stepping Up Video Series is designed to be completed in a group setting. The 10 sessions feature over 20 top experts on manhood including Dennis Rainey, Matt Chandler, Bill Bennett, Tony Dungy, Robert Lewis, Voddie Baucham, Stu Weber, James MacDonald, Joshua Harris, Eric Metaxas, and Crawford Loritts. But the real fruit of this study is the personal application and the time spent with other men.

Session titles are:

  1. A Call to Courage/What Robs a Man of Courage
  2. The Five Steps (Part One: Boyhood/Adolescence)
  3. The Five Steps (Part Two: Manhood/Mentor/Patriarch)
  4. The Power to Step Up
  5. Am I Stepping Up? Part One: Stand Firm
  6. Am I Stepping Up? Part Two: Men Take Initiative
  7. Am I Stepping Up? Part Three: Men Engage with Wisdom and Grace
  8. Am I Stepping Up? Part Four: Men Plan ahead and Provide
  9. Having a Vision for Your Marriage and Family
  10. Having a Vision for Your World

Each session is designed to take about one hour to complete. Video sessions average 25 to 30 minutes and small-group discussion times average 30 minutes. Hosts will need a leader kit, and each guest will need a video series workbook.

Now is the time. Time for men to be intentional. Time for men to rely on God. Time for men to challenge other men. The new year is a new opportunity to help men step up. Men want leadership, and they’re looking for someone like you to call them up to godly manhood. Are you ready to raise the standard?

Here are some free resources to get started with the challenge, including a MANuary Challenge commitment form to remind you of your decision and a free Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood ebook download.

If you’re considering leading a Stepping Up Video Series or hosting a Stepping Up one-day event, our starter packs offer the best value. Leader kits are bundled with workbooks for greater discounts, like the Video Series Starter Pack for 10 guys (plus leader)

You may not feel like you can get 10 guys to start the series with you. Or you may believe that 10 is thinking too small. We have starter packs for five guys as well as 25 or more. You can purchase other Stepping Up series and event resources via our online store. Our advisors are standing by to answer any questions you may have. Email us at SteppingUp@FamilyLife.com or call us at 1-800-358-6329.

If you’d like to take the next step, you can preview session one of the Stepping Up Video Series here.

Every man has a task for which he is uniquely suited. You may have already discovered this—or maybe not. Our charge to you is this: Press into the battle, fill your lungs with smoke from the front lines, and finish strong. Be prepared to shine when presented with your finest hour.

Let’s make 2015 an epic year for manhood!

Unbroken, plus 10 other real-man movies



The movie Unbroken, which opened on Christmas Day 2014, tells the story of a real-life World War II hero. In this post, we share a bit of his story and point to 10 other major motion pictures about real-life men who stepped up in the face of overwhelming pressure.

This may sound strange coming from a professional writer, but I’m not a big reader. My schedule’s usually so busy and fragmented that it takes me forever to finish a book. That is, if I ever start one. A good year is when I actually finish five books.

Needless to say, I wasn’t overly excited or hopeful when my manager here at FamilyLife recommended a book for me to read. But he hit me at a good time, when distractions were at a minimum. I was hoping he was right about it being a gripping story, because if it didn’t grab me quickly, my schedule would.

He was right about Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. And so are the millions of readers who have kept it on the New York Times bestseller list for four years. And I’m pretty sure that millions more will be picking up a copy after seeing the film adaptation of Unbroken when it premiers in theaters on Christmas Day.

YouTube Preview Image

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, who may be the most incredible man you’ve never really heard of. The story follows his life, starting as a problem child running from the police, eventually channeling his talent for running into a positive direction and making the 1936 Olympics. When the nation was plunged into World War II, he put his Olympic career aside to become a highly-regarded bombardier in the Army Air Corps, only to become a crash survivor, floating at sea for a record 47 days before being picked up by the Japanese. He spent the better part of the next three years in brutal prisoner-of-war camps, written off as dead by the nation that revered him as an athlete.

After his rescue at the end of the war, he re-entered civilian life as a bitter and psychologically tortured man bent on revenge, which nearly destroyed his family. That all changed in 1949 when he heard Billy Graham at a Los Angeles evangelistic crusade speak of forgiveness and redemption through Christ. For the next 65 years until his death this summer at age 97, his personal life of forgiveness inspired and challenged others.

Two people in particular were impressed by his story. One was Laura Hillebrand, who wrote Unbroken. The other was Angelina Jolie, who directed the motion picture — one that directors toyed with for 50 years but none had the courage to tackle the complicated story line.

We haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet, but have paid close attention to the trailers, interviews, and news of the film — enough to be confident that it’s a movie well worth watching (and a book well worth reading). We have heard that the faith elements aren’t as strong as Christians would like, but thankfully the Billy Graham Association interviewed Louis before his death and had him tell the rest of the story … of how a bitter, broken man became unbroken through the life-changing power of Christ. The 30-minute video, Louis Zamperini: Captured by Grace, is available on DVD for a gift of any amount, and will be available to watch for free online beginning Christmas Day.

The film Unbroken is rated PG-13 for violence and some language, just to be forewarned. This may be a great outing for a father and older sons. Zamperini shows how talent combined with discipline and focus can defeat some of the most formidable foes, whether external or internal. Seeing other real-life men stepping up to face struggles in their lives, encourages boys and men both, and opens up opportunities for conversations about what it means to be a man.

To go along with the movie Unbroken, we came up with a list of 10 other movies for men. Over the past few months, we asked a number of people to recommend movies where men stepped up in the midst of difficulties and, in doing so, inspired others. Here are some of the films that consistently showed up on these men’s lists. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. We don’t even claim them to be the best biographical movies for men.  And some of them have objectionable elements that may make them inappropriate for your sons, or even for you. So we’ve included their MPAA ratings. For more information on the content in these films, follow the links to Pluggedin.com, Focus on the Family’s film review site, which we find to be dependably thorough and balanced.

So here’s our list of 10 real-man movies — films about real-life men who stepped up in adversity, and the films (in alphabetical order) that tell their stories.

READ MORE »

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.

The NFL and safer, stronger homes



KempScottKATV

Second-generation NFL players Freddie Scott II and Jeff Kemp get to the heart of domestic violence issues.

Recently, a couple of Stepping Up blog contributors (who happen to both be second-generation NFL players) were together at FamilyLife for a TV interview to give their perspectives on the NFL and its recent domestic violence issues.

While most every other voice you’re hearing blasts the league for the rampant problems among players and how poorly it’s handling the issue, these two former NFL players have a different take. A much more positive one.

Freddie Scott is actually working with NFL teams, players, and the players union to address issues like these, how to avoid them, and how to create a new paradigm for players who grew up in unstable homes. Jeff Kemp contends that the disciplines that the NFL teaches to its players to make them great performers and teammates are the very disciplines that make for strong fathers, husbands and men, creating safer, stronger homes.

Check out some additional footage from the interview that wasn’t part of the final broadcast:

By the way, just after Jeff and Freddie did this interview, they were in FamilyLife’s video studio to talk extensively about the subject. Our video team is working on editing those clips and we’ll pass them along to you as they become available.

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.