Posts in category Vision Casting

Irreplaceable



Last week I had the pleasure of sitting in on the one-time showing of the Focus on the Family documentary film Irreplaceable. Even if you missed the premiere, encore presentations of Irreplaceable are being added at other theaters around the country.

You may have seen the trailer for the film. If not, here it is.

YouTube Preview Image

http://www.irreplaceablethemovie.com/

The movie is just an introduction to a new series that seeks to look at the family from a number of different angles in an attempt to “recover, renew and reclaim the cultural conversation about the family.” It is also the launch of a new initiative by Focus called Gen3, challenging individuals to commit to building a thriving, divorce-free legacy for three generations.

After watching the first film in the series, I’m inclined to believe that Focus on the Family is going about it the right way. As you can see in the trailer, the film itself is a journey to find the cause of family (and thus) cultural decline. But the journey actually finds its answer in an unexpected place—back at home.

The film starts off looking at the history and ideology that’s led to family decline, and the far-reaching impact it’s had. Starting with modern views on sexuality (which really aren’t new at all), the questions move in a progression toward marriage, then parenting, then children, to the meaning of life itself. It becomes obvious that there is not just one cause for cultural decline, but many. It reveals that individuals, not social issues, are at the heart of the problem … and of the solution.

The documentary starts with the notion that cultural decline is inevitable when families become unstable, because the family is irreplaceable. But it ends by recognizing that what is truly irreplaceable is each person within a family.

The narrator’s search for answers to the general problem of family fracture leads him to reflect on his own personal struggles growing up in a family where the father was not faithful to the family. This leads him to recognize his own importance to his own family and how much his active presence is needed by his wife and his children. He realizes that it’s he who is irreplaceable.

Truth be known, everyone is irreplaceable in their family, if you believe in God as Sovereign. I’m often impressed at how differently God has made each of the members in my own family, and how their strengths and personalities have a unique and vital place in the health of the family as a whole, as well as in the life of each individual. Add to that the unique roles we each have as husband and wife, mother and father, son and daughter, brother and sister, oldest, youngest, and middle. God has placed each member in the family to be a blessing and to be blessed.

How about you? How often do you think of yourself as irreplaceable as a man, as husband of your wife, and father of your children? How often do you recognize your wife’s unique fit as your partner and helpmeet, and as the nurturer and center of the family? And how often do you recognize each child and his or her irreplaceable part in your home now, and the irreplaceable part they will have in the family they will begin when their time comes?

The first step in rebuilding a crumbling culture is to create a strong culture in your own family. They, in turn can carry that legacy to the next generation, and the next.

His final sacrifice: Honoring Rob Tittle



final sacrifice for wife

Rob and Kerry

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

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

final sacrifice for daughters

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

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

final sacrifice for sons

He taught his boys how to work, and serve.

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

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

final sacrifice Fathers Day

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

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

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

A character cheat sheet



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

CarverEdwardsWooden

We talk often on this blog about leaving a legacy. Honestly, that can feel pretty daunting, esoteric, and enigmatic. And if that isn’t clear enough, you might feel obfuscated by such pleonastic redundancies.

No doubt “Leaving a Legacy” is a big task. But where does one start? Leaving a legacy is simply the daily living out of your core convictions. More than likely, the people you admire were good at living out what they believed, in very small ways, day after day, moment by moment. They were consistent, stable, and people of integrity. They could be counted on to do the right thing at the right moment.

But here is the challenge of living that way: To live out your core convictions, you have to know your core convictions. Steven Covey says you have to “begin with the end in mind.” He isn’t talking about reserving funeral plots and picking out caskets, but knowing where you want to go before you leave the driveway. Most men struggle to live consistently because they have a moving target. They are not even sure who they want to be. So you have to start by identifying these convictions and dwelling on them regularly. And since nothing is manlier than a solid shortcut, after identifying your core convictions, your operating principles for life, you should jot these down on a 3×5 card.

Ok, I already hear the objections. “Hey … if they are ‘core convictions’ shouldn’t you be able to remember them without writing them down?” Good word. In theory they should always be at the front of your mind, but in reality, we often behave differently than we know we should. Usually more base interests like food, sex, sports, and Shiny Objects With Flashing Buttons move to the front of my mind, pushing aside all other thought or reason. In these moments, a short list serves as a great reminder of what I have convinced myself of in a saner moment. Because we all suffer from temporary insanity at times, having a crib sheet will help you through those character tests.

Not only is this decidedly manly, but a few prominent manly men have led the way with their examples.

Carver’s 8 Cardinal Virtues

Famous American scientist, botanist, educator, inventor, former slave, and all around renaissance man (dubbed the “Black Leonardo” by Time Magazine) George Washington Carver had his own list, what he called his “8 Cardinal Virtues”:

  1. Be clean both inside and outside.
  2. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  3. Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  4. Win without bragging.
  5. Always be considerate of women, children and old people.
  6. Be too brave to lie.
  7. Be too generous to cheat.
  8. Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.
John Wooden’s 7 Point Creed

The famous basketball coach from UCLA, the “Wizard of Westwood” (anyone with a nickname involving the word “wizard” must be manly) holds the record for most NCAA championships by any coach by a long shot (10 championships in 12 years, 7 of those in a row). Wooden was given a seven point creed to follow by his father. Seven points and seven championships in a row. Coincidence? I think not.

On one side of the card was a poem from Henry Van Dyke, and on the other side was the list his father developed. First the poem:

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 the seven-point creed:

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.

Even into his 90’s, Wooden could rattle off both sides of the card from memory. No doubt these items had a profound influence on shaping his character and life.

What was the power in these lists? They were short. Which means memorable. Yes, some over achievers like Jonathan Edwards went for the long ball, weighing in with a whopping 70 resolutions, but there is definitely power in brevity.

So what is your list of “Core Convictions” or “Cardinal Virtues?”

If you had to write down what guides you on the back of a 3×5 card, what would be your list? We’d love to see your list – leave it in the comments below. Try to keep it under eight. Shoot for seven if you coach basketball. Just in case.

And consider writing these down and handing them over to your kids on their 16th birthday or before. You’re giving them a character cheat sheet, because in this case, cheaters really do win.

I am who I am because of you



In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.).  If you want some guidance to do one yourself, check out “The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents,” or the link above to purchase the book. In the meantime, here’s what one man did.

Tribute to Alan Nagel from his son, Todd: 

Dad,

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for blessing me with a dad like you. There are so many memories that flood my mind and so many godly qualities that I see in you that I desire for my own life, but there are two things that have impacted me the most:

The first one I remember is how I would come downstairs in the morning before school and see you in your chair having your quiet time or on your knees praying. How many boys get to see that? Not many. That is one of my earliest childhood memories and you continue it to this day. I know that has been used in my life to help shape my walk with the Lord.

The second is this: Always hearing how proud you are of me and how much you love me. Those words have enabled me to expand my borders because I always knew there was someone who believed in me.

There are so many other memories with you … fishing, catching passes from you in the backyard as I wore out the grass from running back and forth, throwing the baseball, kicking the soccer ball around, playing basketball, tennis, and golf. Some of my favorite memories are from the golf course.

Although you traveled a lot, I still knew we were a priority and I won’t forget how we would run down the ramp at the terminal gate and jump on you. And then we would get our “present” that consisted of the candy you had bought during your last layover!

When you were in town, which was the majority of the time, you did always make it a point to be at my sporting events. Thank you for being there to watch me play Little League baseball, basketball, and flag football. Then you were there to watch me run cross-country, play soccer, and tennis in high school. And then you made a few trips to watch me play tennis in college. A lot of guys never had their dad there to watch them play, but I did and it meant a lot. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

I also remember our family trips snow skiing, the farm, trips to the beach, Colorado, and the countless other places we’ve been. One trip that stands out in my mind is when we went snow skiing in Switzerland. That’s one of my favorites! Thank you for the sacrifices you made to make those trips happen.

It’s because of you that I am where I am today. You have ingrained many character qualities in me by your patient, insightful, and wise instruction. You taught me how to control my emotions in sports (which has definitely carried over into the real world!), the importance of quality work, to do my best at whatever I’m doing, and how to persevere.

I have had the privilege of being around many incredible Christian leaders, but I have not found one that I think more highly of, respect more as a person or leader, or would rather have as a father, mentor, and friend than you. I am so proud to call you my dad!

There are so many character qualities that I admire about you. Your wisdom, consistency, endurance, patience, sound judgment, inner strength, integrity, knowledge, understanding, self-control, your “get the job done” attitude, doing what is right no matter what the cost, and how you see everything in light of eternity. It is neat to see your natural leadership come through in every situation. You are one of the rare people who live out their Christian faith in every aspect of their life. You always have an encouraging word and a motivating spirit. You have laid a foundation in my life that will take me to heights I never would have been able to reach otherwise.

I am truly blessed beyond what I could ever have hoped for or imagined when it comes to having a dad. Thanks, Dad, for everything!

Your Son,

Todd

Copyright © 2004 by Todd Nagel. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

A Father’s Prayer from Gen. Douglas MacArthur



In June, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur was named National Father of the Year. The honor came just three months after he moved his family to the Philippines to lead the U.S. Pacific campaign of World War II, a level of honor and responsibility realized by few men. His statement in receiving the award truly revealed his heart and priorities.

father's prayer

“By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder — infinitely prouder — to be a father.

A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life.

And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, ‘Our Father Who Art in Heaven.'”

In the early days of that war and campaign, MacArthur acknowledged his dependence on a Heavenly Father when he composed “A Father’s Prayer”:

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

“Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. 

“Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail …” 

“Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

“And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.

“Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

“Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.'”

What is your Father’s Prayer for your children? You’ll probably never achieve the level of accomplishment of General Douglas MacArthur, but when all is said and done, what will make you whisper “I have not lived in vain”?

Make champions on Super Saturday



Super Saturday facemask videoWhile the numbers weren’t anywhere close to the 164 million who watched last year’s Super Bowl, the effect of the 2013 Stepping Up Super Saturday will be felt for years to come.

Last year, at least 23,000 men gathered around the nation and world, not to watch a championship, but to help each other become champions at home. They met in homes, churches, places of business, and on college campuses. They gathered in groups from a handful to a hundred in all 50 states as well as in Hungary, Mexico, and the Cayman Islands.

And on February 1, the day before this Super Bowl, many of those men will be leading new groups of men through FamilyLife’s one-day Stepping Up™ Video Event. They will follow the lead of men from last year who organized events in their own communities — guys like Frank Johnson and Tony Dronkers — who hosted an event in the Washington DC area to help fellow pastors and men’s ministry leaders. That enabled men to jump start their own churches’ ministry to men. And those men are likely to be leading others through the Super Saturday event next month.

One of last year’s events was organized by a 16-year-old named Westley and two of his friends who had been through Stepping Up material with their church small group leader, and now wanted to encourage and equip other teens to step into their new role as young men.  Fifty teens and grown men ended up being impacted by that event.

Our communities need men who understand God’s unique design and calling on a man’s life and want to share that with guys who are in desperate need of vision, teaching, encouragement, and accountability. The one-day Super Saturday event is a way to get men started on a clear path to courageous manhood.

You can be that catalyst for your church, business, or community. Visit the Stepping Up website to find out where there are events near you. Or better yet, host your own event and  invite men in your circle of influence. All the materials you need to put on an event are available through the website (and right now at more than half off). Videos that give guidance and ideas for pulling it off are also available through the site.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment or question on this blog, and we’d be glad to help.

May God bless you as you lead in your home and come alongside fellow believers to help them do the same.

I didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but …



It’s that time of year: the NFL playoffs. For months, fans have been putting their hopes in their teams’ players and coaches, who have been pouring every ounce of mental and physical energy into a singular goal: reaching and winning the Super Bowl.

Every team is dying to get there but few do. Fans dream of going to the big game, if they could even afford the tickets. Players, coaches, fans — we all yearn for our team to make it.

My own yearning to go to the big game started early — as a seven-year-old boy. It was around Christmas when my dad told me that if his team won their big championship game against the Chiefs, I would get to fly to Los Angeles to watch the very first Super Bowl in NFL history. Dad was more than a Buffalo Bills fan — he was their quarterback.

Dad played hard. We cheered hard. But our Super Bowl dreams were dashed when the Kansas City Chiefs won the league championship, earning them the trip to face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I.

Less than 20 years later, I had my chance to go to the playoffs as quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams, only to lose in the first round. The next year our team made it all the way to conference championship game, just like my dad’s team did. But we weren’t that close; we lost to the Bears 24-0 in frigid, windy Chicago. But hey, 25 points in the fourth quarter and we’d have been in the New Orleans Superdome playing in Super Bowl XX.

make it to the super bowlOne of the best teams I played for, the San Francisco 49ers, went to and won multiple Super Bowls, but not in the season I was on the team. My teams made it to the playoffs six times, but never to the big game. So I know at least a bit about the yearning and the sacrifices made to reach and win the Super Bowl.

The best NFL coaches do more than just cast a clear vision of the Super Bowl as the team’s goal. They connect every little detail of preparation and practice as vital to the journey and prize of a Super Bowl championship. I remember Hall of Fame coach, Bill Walsh, explaining to us how details — like perfectly consistent steps in handing off the ball or timing in releasing a pass — relate to the constant improvement and excellence that would lead us toward a Super Bowl.

Laser-like focus is crucial to accomplishing great things in life. The trick seems to be in choosing what steps are important and what goals are truly great.

I didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but there are more important things in life that we should all set our focus on. Often we are distracted from the ultimate goals and most important things in life. It may be busyness. It may be the sudden blitz of life’s painful problems. It may be the distractions of entertainment, or for us fans, the obsession with a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

I’ll be the first to admit it. I love the playoffs and I obsess a bit too much about getting to see all the great games, culminated by the Super Bowl.

But for those of us who believe in and aim to follow Jesus, all the enthusiasm and emotional devotion we have toward the playoffs should trigger a calibrating question: How much do other interests of mine crowd out what should be my transcending joy and dominant interest?

If I can put so much energy into reaching the Super Bowl, how much more focus and effort can I put into my marriage, raising my children to know Christ, and preparing them to walk in His purpose for them?

God and His Word point us as men to the ultimate goals and destination: seeking first His Kingdom, our eternal relationship with Him, and leading others to the same. Our goal is the upward call of the prize of dwelling with God eternally and elevating our Savior, Jesus.

We all love our teams. But this eternal goal should be motivated by gratitude and love for God, who never lets us down. And that should drive us to the daily and the practical: to show our love for Him by loving others, including each person in our family, and every human neighbor He puts in our path.

Friend, you may never get to attend the Super Bowl or accomplish your biggest earthly goal. But there are bigger, more attainable goals in Christ. This year let the intensity, attention, and extravagance of the Super Bowl prompt us as Jesus followers to refocus on our greatest joy, our greatest victory and our greatest calling. How should that make us live differently?

Letters that transform



Letters that transformI have several handwritten cards saved from as far back as when I was a boy. They’re heavy stock 3-by-5 cards with the initials JFK at the top. These notes are golden … treasured. I loved getting them and I saved them to read again. I still read them. They assured me I was significant, I was valued, I was loved.

No, they didn’t come from the president, but someone much more important to me. The writer of these notes was a congressman, an athlete, my dad – Jack French Kemp.

When I was a boy I’d find these notes on my pillow or in my spot at the table. My dad continued to send them well into my adulthood. I valued those notes not for what they said about him, but what they said about me. He loved me. He believed in me. He was proud of me. He encouraged me.

Dad was a busy man who traveled too much, perhaps. But even in his absence he communicated love, and he took the time to leave it in ink on paper.

Most of us get too busy to write down in notes and letters our love and admiration for our parents, our wives, our children, or our grandchildren. But when we take the time to write them, our letters of love change the lives of our loved ones because they put to words what often goes unspoken — how much they mean to us. Children, especially, are desperate to know what their parents really think of them.

In case you think I’m overplaying the significance of these kinds of notes, it’s happening this year in the lives of single parents and their sons on a Los Angeles high school football team.

It all began when a 32-year-old coach asked the parents of all his players to write a letter of affirmation and love to their sons. Masaki Matsumoto had actually picked up the powerful idea from a coach near Seattle, but it resonated with him. Having been raised by his mom, Masaki knew how stretched single parents are. He also knew how hungry teenagers are to know how much their parents love them.

Coach Matsumoto asked the parents to get these special letters to him by the beginning of the practice season.

When 45 varsity football players arrived at the school’s gymnasium in July, they anticipated performing conditioning exercises. Instead, each was handed an envelope and told to find a quiet spot where he could read what was inside and reflect. What happened next took everyone by surprise. For the next 15 minutes or so, wherever Matsumoto looked he saw players sobbing — against walls, in corners, bent over in chairs.

The letters built connection. They brought everyone together as family.

BernsteinFootballLetters

I love stories like this because every one of us can replicate it. Not the football team part of it, but the letters are a gift we can give to our children, our grandchildren, even to our parents.

I’ve gotten letters like this from my dad … and I’ve written them to my sons. My wife has prompted my sons to write them to me for a special occasion and I’ve challenged them to do the same for her.

Whether you are the President or a congressman, a high school coach, a parent or a grandparent … I challenge you to schedule time this week to write a letter to a child or grandchild. Put yourself in their shoes and tell them what they want and need to hear.

Start by drafting a bullet point list of their positive character traits. Build on it by affirming their talents and dreams. Declare your love and pride in them. Apologize for your shortcomings.

Write those letters that transform — that will unleash your love and confidence. They may be the words that change a relationship.

The power of praise — good and bad



Much ado is made these days about the power of praise in the lives of children. With seven children of my own, I understand how much they need affirmation. But I often chafe at how indiscriminate some experts are about their encouragement to praise.

A few years ago, I ran across a book that challenged the popular notion about “the power of praise.” Nurture Shock is a book by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The duo compiled many of their New York magazine articles through the years on the science of parenting. It’s broken into topical headings with provocative titles that strike at the heart of culturally vogue parenting myths.

Right out of the blocks the book attacks the Golden Calf of  parenting myths — that children should be praised for things like their intelligence, and as often as possible.  Bronson wrote in his original New York article:

“According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart.  In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.”

power of praiseThe problem is that studies suggest this type of praise is having the opposite effect. “Giving kids the label of ‘smart’ does not prevent them from underperforming.  It might actually be causing it.”

The praise fad owes it genesis to Nathaniel Branden’s 1969 book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem. Bronson and Merryman contrast it with the recent research of Carol Dweck which shows quite a different picture.

For more than a decade, Dweck has studied the power of praise on the academic and social well-being of older elementary school children. Consider what she found when she looked at research from other scholars:

  • Children who are praised for their intelligence are more likely to attempt easier tasks, seeking success over growth.
  • Children praised for their efforts are more likely to attempt harder tasks. They attribute their lack of success to their own actions, then redouble their efforts the next time. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” Dweck says. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success.  Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
  • A review of 200 studies done on self-esteem finds that the quality didn’t improve grades or career achievement. Nor did it lower alcoholism or violence.
  • Students who grow up with excessive verbal reward fail to develop perseverance and are prone to quit trying when rewards are withdrawn.
  • Among two control groups, students who were taught study skills alone didn’t perform as well as those who were given study skills and taught about how challenging the brain improves intelligence.

Bottom line: Don’t praise your children simply because you think they need to feel good about themselves and their gifts. Praise them for what they do well, for their efforts to tackle a problem. Bronson and Merryman point out that children are quite adept at sniffing out insincere praise. In fact, they may even dismiss adults who seem too quick to praise when it’s not really due.

There are those parents. And then there’s me.

I’ve always been on the other end of the spectrum. Because I know what insincere praise feels like, I often don’t praise out of concern that a child may feel that I’m pandering to his self-esteem. My seven children have learned that when Dad gives praise, it’s genuine.

Unfortunately, Dad doesn’t invoke the power of praise enough.

While the findings detailed in Nurture Shock do somewhat vindicate me in my low-praise approach, still I know that I need to strive for greater balance. The best place I know to find that balance is in the Scriptures.

I’m immediately reminded of the story of the three servants. Each is given an amount of their master’s money to look after while he is away. When he returns, he asks them to give an accounting. Each had solid explanations for their actions. The master praised the first two while harshly rebuking the third. The bottom line is that whether they received a lot or a little, the servants were judged on what they did with what they had. That is a good ground rule.

Praise — whether it’s for children or adults — shouldn’t look like junk mail, which comes to everyone indiscriminately. It should look more like a hand-written, hand-addressed note. Praise should be the result of a job well done, a situation well handled, or a challenge nobly met. At the same time, praise-stingy people like me need the admonition that the Apostle Paul gave to the believers in the church in the city of Philippi.

“…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Each of us needs to be diligent to look for praiseworthy qualities and behavior. And we need to be just as diligent to make sure that our praise is sincere, and sincerely warranted.

Bronson and Merryman conclude the first chapter of Nurture Shock with a personal story about learning to praise appropriately. The author, undertook a personal three-step program to recovery for praise addicts like himself.

  1. First not praising everything,
  2. Then looking for specific things to praise that would unleash the child’s initiative to achieve.
  3. Finally, learning to delay praise until the child wrestled through a problem himself and had earned the commendation.

Coming from the other end of the praise continuum, I guess I need to have my own three-step program for the praise stingy.

  1. First to consciously hold off on correction unless it’s absolutely needed.
  2. Then to look for very specific incidents where praise is due and offer it freely and sincerely.
  3. Finally, to make honest praise second nature.

Praise is impotent when used indiscriminately, but when sincerely applied has incredible power to unleash undeveloped potential. We would all do well to use it wisely.

Fan the flames of faith, fathers



fan the flames of faith

Photo by Jesse Millan

Building a simple fire pit in the backyard was key in building up the spiritual condition of our children.

Barbara and I have been blessed with six children. Sitting in the auditorium the afternoon that our youngest, Laura, graduated from high school, my heart swelled with a mixture of delight and sadness. Sure, I was thrilled at her accomplishment. But my mind couldn’t let go of the fact that it was just yesterday when I, the proud daddy, held Laura in my arms for the first time. As she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, I remembered when she took her first steps. As she adjusted her cap and gown, I recalled the first day she played dress-up.

Talk about a bittersweet moment.

Sometime later I was thinking about the implications of her graduation. A school official had handed Laura a diploma certifying she had completed her studies. She had learned her lessons well. She was ready to move on.

Or was she?

Actually, yes. While I knew that piece of paper wouldn’t sustain her when the storms of life thundered, Barbara and I worked hard to instill in her something that would: a heart for Jesus. And you know what? One of the single best things I did as a father to enhance her spiritual heritage, as well as that of each of our children, might surprise you.

I built a fire pit.

That’s right. A good, old-fashioned campfire pit in our backyard. The kids loved to sit on a log or on a stone around the flames as we’d swap stories, share the Scriptures, talk about the day, or sing a favorite song. With the crickets adding their serenade, we’d roast hotdogs, marshmallows … and occasionally s’mores.

One thing is sure. Those countless visits to the campfire sparked the fire of faith that burned brightly in Laura’s eyes as she walked the aisle.

How about you? Do you want to pass along your faith, your values, and your heart for God to your children? This summer, why not consider something as “low tech” as a campfire. As the Apostle Paul said, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2Timothy 1:6a).

A week after her graduation, I stood by the fire pit and pondered: The days of fanning the flames of our children’s faith are not over — it’s just a new season. Our children will never lose their need to be cheered on in the race of life by their parents. I pray that my life “glows” as one who continually points them back to the Savior.

Fan the flames of faith, fathers.

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