Posts in category Your wife

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.”

Same old argument again



What happened was silly.  I was downstairs and opened a bill.  Since my wife handles our bills, I ran upstairs to discuss it with her.  I bounded into the room where she was engrossed on the computer.  She was re-watching a 600+ slide show of wedding photos to find a particular photo.  I interrupted her and when she waved me off, I did not take the clue and told her we could handle this quickly.

JeffStacyKempUnfortunately, I ignored and flustered her, causing her to lose her place and end the slide show.  She was upset and told me so.

I justified myself.

She reiterated her disappointment.

I weakly said, “Sorry.”

She explained how she felt, and the inconvenience I’d caused.

I said, “Don’t freak out.”

Things got worse. Duh!

The conflict was growing and I stood there defending myself in my heart, looking blandly at her, while thinking about how often we have this stupid disagreement.  Finally I zipped my lip and went downstairs.

When I sat in my chair I thought, That is about the 1,948th time we’ve had that exchange.

I began a conversation with God that went something like this.

God, why does that happen so much?  I meant well, but then I offended her, then I hurt her, then I made it worse.

The thought God gave me in return was this:  Jeff, you’re more upset that you had the conflict than you are that you inconvenienced her.  And you’re more upset that you had the conflict than that you hurt her feelings by defending yourself and showing no real empathy. You always want her to adjust and accept you. You ask for less of these instances of offense and conflict, but you should be asking Me to help you change. You need to want to not hurt her more than you want to not feel bad that you messed up.

Wow … That led to a very introspective and intense prayer time, and a decision.  I aimed to change so that I could be a better apologizer, be less defensive, and truly be more interested in Stacy’s feelings than my own.

I went upstairs, got down on a knee next to her, and told her I was wrong to not apologize fully at first.  I was wrong not to want to hear from her how I had inconvenienced her.  I was wrong to defend myself.  I did not care for her feelings well, and I want to.

I concluded with four things:  “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Will you please forgive me?  I want to change.”

Stacy teared up in a good way and swiftly loved me back with her forgiveness, her own apology, and a hug.

Adapted by permission from Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials Into Triumphs, Copyright © 2015 by Jeff Kemp, Bethany House Publishers.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished Jeff Kemp’s post “Same old argument again” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to Jeff Kemp on FamilyLife Today as he talks about “Marriage Under the Shadow of the NFL.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistVisit the Facing the Blitz website to download a chapter from Jeff’s book, or order a copy of the book for yourself.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistInvest in your wife and your marriage by attending a Weekend to Remember getaway.  Learn about events near you.

Daddy daughter and God



This post first appeared on the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog last summer. With pool weather right around the corner, start making plans to do what the author did: get the book, get together with other guys, and learn to be better daddies to your daughters.

I recently started discussing the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters with a group of guys in my neighborhood. We gather around the pool one night a week and talk through two chapters at a time while our kids play in the background. It works out great since many of us are already there closing down the swimming hole many summer nights, and this is one way to be intentional with some of that time.

daddy daughterThe sub-title of the book is “Ten secrets every father should know.” It’s pretty straightforward: ten secrets, ten chapters. Easy reading that you can work through quickly. A perfect setup for group discussion. We began with the first two chapters, titled, “You Are the Most Important Man in Her Life,” and “She Needs a Hero.” There was a fascinating section in chapter one that has shaped the interactions with my daughter over the last few days:

Fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for a daughter’s life. … I have watched daughters talk to fathers. When you come in the room, they change. Everything about them changes: their eyes, their mouths, their gestures, their body language. Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They might take their mothers for granted, but not you. They light up – or they cry. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They hope for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration – or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.

When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence. If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both. Boyfriends, brothers, even husbands can’t shape her character the way you do. You will influence her entire life because she gives you an authority she gives no other man.

Wow. Talk about intimidating. No pressure here. As I’ve watched my daughter, I’ve thought about these words and wondered how I was shaping her life and how she perceived me. What would I unconsciously impart to her? What ways would I mark her as distinctly different from her peers?

The same day I read this paragraph, a friend shared with me that he is positive his wife would not have given him the time of day if it were not for her dad. She meant her dad was an untrustworthy individual, and my friend, though full of his own self-acknowledged challenges as a young man, was someone she could trust. She saw that he was honest. Even brutally so at times. And so she was drawn to him.

I see this at play with my wife, though in the opposite way. Her father was her biggest cheerleader, constantly sang her praises, made sure she knew she could do anything a boy could and anything she wanted to. Run a chainsaw, drive a tractor, mend a mangled barbed-wire fence, get an engineering degree. He believed in her. And she benefited from that in tremendous ways. She is one of the hardest working people I know. When she says she’s going to do something, look out. You can guarantee it will be done. He profoundly shaped who she is today. She would not be the same person without his influence.

The Daddy Daughter Connection

Fathers will leave a mark on their daughters. This is a scary reality at one level. But the other observation for me, related to this reality, is how much of our lives has been shaped by so many different influences to the point that there are many things we do, many decisions we make, that we have relatively little control over. Your immediate reaction to any circumstance is likely a complex mixture of responses that have been formed in you over the years, some of which you are not even aware. Some come from your parents, some your peers, some the books you read, your emotions, your experiences, your beliefs on religion, politics, nature, philosophy, and food. Even the smells that passively waft to your nostrils trigger a complex array of emotions and memories at the most unexpected moments. And then there is your own sin nature and sinful decisions. And boy do the stains from these ever linger.

Paul, in Romans 7:15, hits this head on when he says, “… I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Ever feel that way? Why? Paul continues … “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who did it, but sin that dwells within me”(v 19-20). Yes there are many influences at work which shape your reactions and choices, one of which is the root of sin that has been at work in your heart your entire life. But there is hope, as Paul proclaims, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

You do have a choice about how to live your life, it’s just not always the easiest to choose against those habitual attitudes that have been hard wired in your heart over time. And the hope is not in trying harder, but leaning on the proper source of power.

Tim Keller in his book Center Church says this:

Imagine you’re in an orchestra and you begin to play, but the sound is horrific because the instruments are out of tune. The problem can’t be fixed by simply tuning them to each other. It won’t help for each person to get in tune to the person next to her because each person will be tuning to something different. No, they will all need to be tuned properly to one source of pitch. Often we go about trying to tune ourselves to the sound of everything else in our lives. We often her this described as “getting balance.” But the questions that need to be asked are these: “Balanced to what?” “Tuned to what?” The gospel does not begin by tuning us in relation to our particular problems and surroundings; it first re-tunes us to God.

Let’s bring this full circle shall we? Back to the starting theme of this post: Parenting daughters. The bottom line is to make sure your heart is tuned to the gospel every day. No doubt the task of parenting a daughter (or son for that matter) is daunting. But so is keeping the law and trying to be good on your own strength. The task is beyond you, but let that reality produce comfort rather than fear. Find your comfort in the strength of Christ, who will provide the measure of courage you need to fulfill the task ahead of you.

Although summer is not yet in full swing, it’s not too early to pick up the book and gather with a group of dads and discuss how you can be intentional in your efforts to parent your daughter. Some say it takes a village to raise a child, but at the very least it takes a pool to gather the men who make up that village who will raise that child.

© 2014 Noah Gets a Nailgun. All rights reserved.

John MajorsJohn Majors is the most interesting dad in the world to his daughter and two sons, and is pretty interesting to Julie, his wife of 14 years. As a key creator of the Stepping Up material, one of John’s greatest interests is to see men equipped with tools for leading their families well.

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading John Majors’ post “Daddy daughter and God” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDr. Meg Meeker talks about Strengthening the Father Bond and Providing Boundaries  on FamilyLife Today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIf you want to know “How to Really Know Your Daughter,” read Greg Wright’s article about daddy-daughter dates.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPick up Dr. Meg Meeker’s book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters and start building intentionally in the life of your daughters.

 

Facing the Blitz



You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can always control how you respond.

Some of life’s toughest challenges present the opportunity to gain some of life’s biggest victories. It’s often a matter of mindset.

Consider the blitz. It’s perhaps any defense’s most effective weapon. But by putting all their effort in pressuring the quarterback, they leave open the receivers to the possibility of the offense making a great play.

That’s the experience of Stepping Up’s own Jeff Kemp. An 11-year veteran of the NFL, Jeff, as a quarterback, dreaded the blitz, but he welcomed the opportunity it provided to make the big play. As he’s made that application to life, he has seen that some of the enemy’s biggest efforts to discourage and defeat, reveal even bigger opportunities to trust God more and to see him bless in ways that are beyond anything we can ask or imagine.

Jeff has taken those years of experience on the football field and decades of experience in life and put them inside the covers of a book, Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs, available Tuesday, March 24. Check out what Jeff has to say in this video, and in the introduction to his book.

YouTube Preview Image

I wouldn’t have guessed that my experience handling blitzes on and off the field would provide me with many of the most powerful lessons of my life. And I certainly didn’t expect it to make the difference between a life of meaning and one of despair. But that’s been my reality—and probably yours too. Isn’t life, for all of us, about facing blitzes?

If you’ll take a long-term perspective, if you’re willing to change, and if you adopt an others-centered approach to everyday living, then life’s problems, attacks, and trials will serve to grow you. They will grow your humility, your honesty, your relationships, your faith, and your joy. They will open up your eyes to the pain that others are feeling because of their blitzes and help you be a better team player and support person for them. These are all good things that can come out of your blitzes.

You’ll learn that overcoming is not about bouncing back so much as bouncing UP. No matter how near or how far you are from your blitz, this is not a book about the past. It’s about the present and future. This is a message about recovering, about coming back from, about transforming—and then getting better and going further than you ever dreamed possible.

But to do all that, you’ll need the courage to embrace three simple principles—strategies, if you will—which are as easy to understand as they are difficult to follow:

  1. Take a long-term view.
  2. Be willing to change.
  3. Reach out to others.

Before you dive into understanding and trying to employ the three strategies for facing, and beating, a blitz, you’ll need to understand why some people are better at it than others, and why for other people these requirements don’t make any sense. It all has to do with how we see ourselves, the world, and life in general. How well you master these strategies will depend on how you answer these questions:

  1. Do you see life as an individual sport or a team sport?
  2. Do you look at the world from the standpoint of a consumer or an investor?
  3. What is your power source for living, loving, and overcoming trials?

Your answers to these questions will reveal your lenses.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post, “Facing the Blitz,” on FamilyLife’s blog for men, Stepping Up.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRandy Alcorn helps us sort through “How God Uses Suffering for His Glory” and for our ultimate good.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistVisit the Facing the Blitz website to download a chapter excerpt from Jeff’s book, or order a copy of the book for yourself.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistEncourage other men who may be facing life’s blitz by sharing a link to this blog post or the book’s official website.

6 lessons from a first-time dad



Eight months ago my wife, Emily, and I received our first son, Isaac, through the blessing of adoption.  We have spent many years praying about the right time for our family to adopt and felt God moving us toward adoption last year.  Though we read tons of books on parenting during five years of marriage, I was shocked by how under-prepared we were for the realities of the task.

Becoming a father adds a strange and new dynamic to marriage, even if you have a healthy relationship. There are multiple lessons to be learned—about being a dad and about being a good husband/leader.

Dad lessons

1. Just survive. Even though we were not expecting a fairy-tale baby, we drastically underestimated how hard the adjustment would be.  Everything that he needed we had to provide, which meant less time for our own interests. A lot less! Those first few months were just downright hard.

The temptation for any new dad is to escape the madness.  If you are expecting your first child soon, all I can say is … just survive.  Grit your teeth and just get through it.  Every parent goes through it.  I guarantee you, better days are coming.  It will get better.

2. Understand your anger.  In general, I’ve rarely struggled with a temper.  In 20 years of playing organized basketball I have only been charged with one technical foul.  But during the first few months as a parent I was shocked and even embarrassed at how angry I could get.

All the crying can really take its toll.  There was one Saturday that I decided to give Emily a day out to herself, which meant Isaac and me, all day, together (I can hear every woman laughing now).  He literally cried from the moment she started the car until five minutes before she returned.  She was gone for eight hours.  It was as if someone was scraping five-inch nails across a chalkboard all day long.

After opening up to a few people, I found that I was not alone. I found that most new parents wonder if there is something wrong with them because of how angry they get. My mother-in-law even admitted she scared herself with how angry she became.

Although our anger reached new levels, I learned that this is a perfect opportunity to become more like Jesus.  Often with increased anger, sin follows closely.  In Ephesians 4:26, Paul tells us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  I’ve often had to seek forgiveness from Emily for my attitude, and way before the sun ever started to set.

I also started asking forgiveness from Isaac.  He may not understand what I am saying, but it provides great practice for me as he grows up.  Forgiveness is something that we continually need to seek from others as we follow Jesus.

3. Remember that this is God’s child. One night Emily and I were talking about different decisions we would make as Isaac grows.  At some point in the conversation we just stopped.  We realized that we can’t protect him from everything.  And we can’t provide everything he will ever want or need.  But we know who can.

God loves my son more than I could ever love him.  He cares for Isaac more than I ever could.

I can’t explain how liberating it is to say out loud to each other that, “We can’t, but God can.”  He has given us the awesome responsibility to train this little boy.  This is His child.  What an amazing thing to know that God loves Isaac more than I do.

Husband lessons

1. Man up and grab a diaper. As a new dad, it’s easy for me to withdraw and make an excuse that Emily is better at taking care of Isaac and that she doesn’t need me.  But she does need me.

This gives me great opportunity as a man to be creative.  I must look for ways to serve around the house and play an active part in raising Isaac with Emily.  I’ve found that I can be very helpful by taking care of all the dishes, changing diapers, keeping up on household cleaning, and taking out the trash.

Part of being a family leader is learning to anticipate needs that are coming before being asked to do them.  When I look to serve Emily—just to purely serve and take some burden off of her—it goes a long way. In Ephesians, Paul calls all men to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  Christ lived so sacrificially for the church that he died for it.

Why is it that we would be willing to take a bullet for our wives, but we forget the simple act of serving them?  It could be as simple as holding the baby for 30 minutes after work to give my wife a needed break.  So when I feel the urge to flop down into the recliner, I just need to make sure I have the baby with me.

2. Dates are essential. Getting away together is essential to our marriage.  This allows us to fight isolation by feeling like normal people.  We can concentrate more on each other rather than the needs of Isaac.  Isaac is very important, but our marriage is the top priority.

It is also very important to spend some time in conversation about things other than Isaac.  We are still real people.  What has been going on with each of us?  What has God taught us?  Where would we like to go on our next vacation?

This is essential in keeping our sanity.  Our family can’t be all about him.   And dates don’t necessarily have to be in the evening.  Dropping Isaac off at someone’s house on a Saturday to get a few hours out together, even if it is just going to the grocery store, is worth it.

SheafferDanEmilyIsaac3. Stop and enjoy the moment. There have been so many special moments with Isaac.  It was exciting to see his smile develop and to watch him learn to laugh.  I think I could sit for hours and just watch him peacefully sleep.

Many dads miss these little moments.  They miss the birth.  They miss the first few years.  They miss the school years.  They are living in the same house, but miss speaking into the lives of their children.  I know many parents who turn around after their kids leave the house and ask, “Where did the time go?”  No offense to these parents, but I want to be able to turn around when my kids leave the house and say, “I know exactly where the time has gone.  Emily and I have been there hand in hand every step of the way.”

God calls me as a parent to train up our children.  That means it is my responsibility, not someone else’s.  I won’t miss the moments with my kids.  There are so many things in this world vying for the attention of Isaac, and I need to be the voice of truth and love in his life.

I may never achieve perfection.  In fact, I will screw up.  But learning is a process.  Striving to be more like Jesus and love my wife is hard work.

The same is true for you, whether you’re a first-time dad or you’ve been at it for a while.  You don’t have to be perfect today—just work a little each day to love your wife and kids better.  Love with your children is spelled T-I-M-E.  That starts right now.  Go get ‘em, dads!

© 2013 by Dan Sheaffer. Used by permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “6 lessons from a first-time dad” by Dan Sheaffer on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhether a new dad or a veteran, what are some areas where you could be more intentional about fathering?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead the article “Dad University” by Dennis Rainey and get a quick course about being a godly father.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass either of these two articles to any young dads or expectant fathers you know. Encourage them in the fraternity of dads.

Serving and caring until the end



From the doorway, Roy quietly watched his darling wife standing in front of the cook stove. She wasn’t one for fancy recipes, but to Roy, everything she cooked was “good eatin’.”

Sophie breaded a pork chop and gently placed it in the frying pan as she had done so many times before. Roy could remember well the first meals she cooked as a newlywed almost 60 years before. The tears welled up in his weathered, hardened eyes, not only from the fond memories of the past, but also from his present grief.

OldCoupleHandsHoldYou see, every 10-15 minutes Sophie would start another meal, forgetting she had already begun one. In addition to the pork chops, there was a chicken stewing on the back burner, and a pot roast in the oven. She was growing more and more forgetful.

Months earlier Roy noticed that Sophie would wander into a room to dust, forgetting she had just finished dusting moments before. More than once he caught her doing laundry and making their bed with fresh laundered sheets for the second time in one day. She was making several entrees for lunch and dinner—and now she had three going at once.

Sophie turned from the stove with all burners going, walked into the living room, and picked up her needlepoint to work. Roy knew that she would forget the dinner and burn the food, so without mention he adjusted the heat and finished each part of the dinner in time. Sophie continued to work on the needlepoint, pausing for long moments to vacantly stare.

No One Knew

Roy realized it was time to act. He fixed things around the house to protect his wife, putting in hidden switches on the stove, turning down the temperature on the water heater to prevent burns in the bathtub, and removing plug-in appliances to keep Sophie from hurting herself.

To the people around them, life looked pretty normal as they attended worship, went shopping, and even visited others for special occasions. Everyone knew Sophie was a bit forgetful, but no one knew to what extent. They said it was “cute” how Roy and Sophie were never separate, always together … “such sweet love.” But little did they know the depths of the love they observed.

It wasn’t easy for Roy to watch over Sophie, help her dress, oversee her cooking, and be with her at all times. But he willingly served, thinking often of the hymn, “I need Thee, O, I need thee. Every hour I need Thee …”

It wasn’t until one Saturday morning in early April that the family and the neighbors finally learned of the depths of Roy’s committed love.

In a mid-morning phone call, Sophie told her friend Lena, “Roy won’t wake up. I’ve been waiting for him for breakfast. He is still sleeping, and I can’t wake him.”

Lena responded quickly and kindly, “Sophie, I want you to sit in your chair by the phone, and then I want you to hang up so I can call your sister. Can you do that and promise not to move until I get there?” Sophie, obedient in her confusion, waited for Lena and her sister to arrive.

When they entered the house, they found my grandfather, Rudolph “Roy” Walter, in bed under the covers wearing a peaceful expression in sound eternal sleep. The doctor said, “His heart just wore out.”

My grandmother had no idea what had happened; Sophie had no concept of death or life. At the viewing, she observed her husband lying in the wheat-colored coffin. Touching his hand she said, “Roy’s cold; maybe we should cover him.”

It wasn’t until the family had to care for Sophie, that they truly understood for the first time how much Roy cared for her. Sophie needed help at every moment, and Roy had been willing to give it.

Roy died happy, knowing he loved his wife the only way he knew how— serving and caring for her, “until death do you part.” He knew that love is more than romance; it is constant, determined, serving, and uncomplaining.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

 

Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey



This is the final post in a three-part series about “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” The second post, “Man up to Christian Grey and Fifty Shades,” offered ideas about what you can do to reflect real manhood: Be a man of integrity, love your wife unconditionally, and show your daughters their strength. This post picks up that list with four more suggestions.

4. Raise men of honor.

The way a young man treats a young woman tells her what he thinks of her, and even feeds into how she thinks of herself. We need to remind our sons to value young ladies like we value their mom and treat them with the same honor and deference. The same axiom I mentioned earlier works in reverse: “Be a gentleman; get a lady.”

We also need to remind sons that they need to take responsibility for the self-discipline of the relationship. Just because of how we’re designed, we men are more likely to be the pursuers in a relationship. We will advance as far as we are allowed, and even push the boundaries to find out how solid they are.

As dads, we endeavor to raise our sons to be men of honor and integrity. And our desire is that they date young women with high moral standards as well. But we know that, as romance and hormones blossom, the tendency is for those physical boundaries to get mushy. In generations past, a young woman might put on the brakes if the passion got too high. Today, though, young women are just as likely as young men to be the aggressors.

We need to remind our sons (and the guys who date our daughters) to not let the passion rise to those hard-to-stop points, even if their dates seem to be giving the go-ahead. When things have settled down, she’s likely to appreciate him taking the leadership, and more trusting that he’s watching out for her.

5. Warn the women in your life about pornography.

At one time, porn use among married men wasn’t something “polite” women brought up. In recent years, women have bravely begun to speak up about how it hurts them and makes them feel inferior to the sex objects on the pages of magazines and computers. But at the same time, strangely, pornography has become more accepted among women.

Men who have battled porn addiction should be the first to speak up to warn and protect women.  We know firsthand how pornography lures us with the promise of sexual fulfillment and release, but it eventually dominates our thinking. Advances in neuroscience have confirmed what we already knew from experience: the more we give ourselves to porn, the more our brains are trained to want more of it, more often, and more graphic. Eventually, we’re more drawn to the instant fulfillment of a sexual fantasy than to work through a real relationship with a real woman.

The same thing is beginning to happen to women. Many are becoming obsessed with pornography and erotica and the fulfillment it offers. They become trapped in a world of fantasy where they attempt to meet emotional and sexual needs with a fantasy man. They may not be as attracted as much to the visual stimulation as men are, but they do notice the beautiful, sexy women in porn and imagine those women as themselves, the objects of desire.

With the power of the smartphone, young women have discovered they have the ability to create their own porn in the form of nude selfies and videos. They do it to connect to a love interest or to get noticed. With all the increase in women’s use of porn, the bottom line is that they seem to be willing to put up with objectification and debasement in order to find a way to be desired and fulfilled.

6. Be open with your wife about romance and intimacy.

Many married women defending the book often say it has improved their sex life. Certainly a film like Fifty Shades that blends heavy doses of romance and flesh can’t help but awaken many women’s sexual desires. It’s the same reasoning a man might give for watching pornography with his wife—to jump-start their sex life. But that’s trying to create a reality based on fantasy.

There is a much healthier way to jump-start romance and intimacy in your marriage. It’s called communication. Open, honest conversations about intimacy and sexual fulfillment keep romance and passion alive through years of marriage.

Talk honestly about how each of you assess your love life, frequency, likes, dislikes and wishes. Maybe you can start with some simple questions that you answer together.

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our intimacy?
  • What things that I do make you feel most wanted and fulfilled?
  • What would you change about our love life?

God has designed marriage as the place to enjoy a lifetime of intimacy between “the wife of your youth” and her “beloved” (Proverbs 5:18-19; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Song of Solomon 7:6-10). Talk and explore together how to get out of the intimacy rut and together create a more fulfilling sex life. Not sure what’s okay and what’s not (especially in light of all the junk passed off in Fifty Shades of Grey)? Here are some helpful guidelines borrowed from Marriage Today:

  • Is it forbidden in Scripture?
  • Does it violate your conscience?
  • Does it violate your wife, or is it against her conscience or will?
  • Is it physically safe or might it cause health risks?
  • Does it treat your wife in a disrespectful way or damage your relationship?
7. Understand submission God’s way.

What is presented in Fifty Shades of Grey is being called submission, but it’s actually subjugation. Subjugation is defined as “defeating or gaining control of a person for their obedience.” Submission is when a person voluntarily places themselves under the authority and guidance of another.

The Bible teaches women to submit to the God-given leadership of their husbands in the same way that Christ submitted to the will of God the Father. But here’s a reminder, guys: God doesn’t command a husband to remind his wife to submit. Instead He calls the husband to unconditionally love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave his entire life for her. Subjugation is the furthest thing from God’s design in the marriage relationship. Our wives are His gift to us as our completers, and we are God’s gift to them as shields of protection.

Out of reverence to Christ, both husband and wife are to put their personal desires aside to serve each other (Ephesians 5:21). That brings out the best in a man and a woman. It brings us together in mutual trust and fulfills the deepest longings of our souls.

When you rely on God’s word to guide you on how a man should treat a woman, it’s easier to see black and white. Thankfully, a real Christian doesn’t have to muddle through fifty shades of grey.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“7 Things to Remember About Sex” is one great way you and your wife can start a discussion about your sexual desires.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistTwo broadcasts, “Fifty Shades of Deception” and “Longings of a Woman’s Heart” point women to what’s really at stake.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistLet women see a better example of manhood by passing “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” along to your male friends.

Man up to Christian Grey, Fifty Shades



This is the second of three posts on what a real man should do with Fifty Shades of Grey.

On Valentine’s weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey dominated the box offices with $85 million in ticket sales, even though the movie was almost universally panned. In my first post, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?,” I expressed concern that the main character, Christian Grey, is a pathetic role model for true manhood. Rather than respect and care for an innocent and vulnerable Anastasia Steele, he subjects her to sexual abuse and degradation to fulfill the warped desires left from his own childhood sexual abuse.

Sure, Christian Grey is a fictional character, but his influence on the culture (through Fifty Shades of Grey) is troubling. Have women lowered their standards for men so far that Christian Grey is the object of desire? Reportedly, the books and movie have a heavy following among 25-55 year old women.  But it’s also reaching our young daughters. According to IMDB (Internet Movie Database), the movie drew the highest reviews by far from girls under 18.

And just in case you’re wondering, a Barna survey found that women who identify themselves as Christians are reading the books at the same rate as the general public. It’s captivating women everywhere.

That should concern any self-respecting man.

For decades, the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women in the media has been a problem. A majority of all young women today have been exposed to pornography before age 14. As they are encountering sexual material at younger and younger ages, we appear to be reaching critical mass.

In years past, that exposure would be met with disgust. But now it’s being embraced in our culture. About half of young adult women now consider viewing pornography as an acceptable way of expressing their sexuality. One in three visitors to online porn sites are now women, and one in five women use the Internet weekly for sexual purposes.

These are our wives and our daughters who are being affected. So, as a godly man, what do you do?

1. Be a man of integrity.

Women are looking for a man to admire, not just someone to buy them off and beat any sense of high standards out of them. As a husband, you need to make it your goal to treat your wife as your greatest earthly priority. As a father, you model for both your sons and your daughters not just what real manhood is all about, but the value of women.

Pastor and author Robert Lewis defines an authentic man:

  • He rejects passivity. He doesn’t allow the enemy to distract him from reflecting the image of his Creator God, and caring for the woman and the world that have been entrusted to him.
  • He accepts responsibility. He recognizes that his wife and children are dependent on him, and he seeks to correct his mistakes rather than make others continue to suffer in the wake of his bad choices.
  • He leads courageously. He doesn’t force women to step in to fill the vacuum of leadership left by passive men. But he also recognizes that his leadership is a position of voluntary submission to Christ, who voluntarily submits Himself to the Father.
  • He expects God’s greater reward. He recognizes that Christ didn’t give in to the temptations of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), but submitted his own desires to those of the Father so that he could redeem His bride, the church (Philippians 2:5-11).
2. Love the one you’re with.

Your wife should be the object of your desire. She longs to see in your words and actions that you are always seeking the best for her. Rather than expecting her to sign a contract listing your demands, remind her that you have made a covenant to cherish and care for her, and to love her as much as you love your own body (Ephesians 5:29).

weaker vesselScripture tells us (1 Peter 3:7) to live with our wives in an understanding way (be considerate), as a weaker vessel. That’s not a cut-down but a comparison; a compliment. I think of it as delicate vs. durable; Ellie’s demitasse china cup and saucer vs. my gunmetal grey travel mug. My wife is strong and capable (she would have made a great pioneer woman). Yet I know Ellie is created to be a responder, nurturer and empathizer. She flourishes when I treat her with honor and respect. And God reminds me that His receptivity to me is tied to how receptive I am to my wife. Strength and submission aside, we husbands need to remember that we are equal to our wives before God, as joint heirs of His grace. We need to become lifelong students of extending that grace to each other.

3. Show your daughters their strength.

Too many girls and young women today don’t realize the power they have to set the expectations in a relationship. In our sexualized culture, they are led to believe that their only real worth is as sensual creatures. They expect that by gratifying the natural desires of a man, he will come to desire her. The truth is that a woman who holds high standards for herself and the man she cares about will call him up from his basic instincts to his true calling as leader, protector, lover.

A young girl needs to know that she’s loved—by her Heavenly father and her earthly father. We daddies need to remind our daughters of their intrinsic worth to us, and especially their value to the God who created them, who knows them intimately, and who loves them unconditionally. The more they accept this, the more likely they will be to look for a man who recognizes and respects their value.

And often it’s the little things they do that begin to bring out the best in a guy. One of the things I’ve told my three girls through the years has been “Be a lady; expect a gentleman.”  Wait for him to open the door, to pull out her chair, to call for a date. Sure, she can do all those things, but in waiting, she’s offering him an opportunity to step up and to show her he values her.

If there’s a positive message in Fifty Shades of Grey it’s this: A man will give honor to a woman when she raises the bar and expects to be treated as a unique creation and not just an object of desire.

The final post in this three-part series will continue the suggestions about what you can do to challenge the image of Christian Grey  by being a real man. We’ll cover raising sons, warning women about the dangers of porn, developing intimacy with your wife, and understanding submission from God’s perspective.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to challenge Christian Grey and Fifty Shades” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead the original post in this series, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” and come back next week for the conclusion. 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRobert Lewis and William Hendricks share “What Every Husband Needs to Know” about ministering to his wife.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistA daughter is stronger when she has a relationship with her dad. Read “How to Really Know Your Daughter.” 

 

What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?



During the Christmas holidays, my 17-year-old son and I were settling into our theater seats to enjoy a movie we’d been looking forward to for some time–Unbroken.  That’s when we were assaulted by the preview for Fifty Shades of Grey.

50ShadesBoth of us found it disturbing. In fact, even after I’d finished watching Unbroken, the scenes that stayed in my mind weren’t of Louis Zamperini’s cruel treatment at the hands of “The Bird” in the Japanese prisoner of war camp, but the preview images from the “Red Room of Pain.”

In case you’re not familiar, Fifty Shades of Grey is based on one of the best selling books of all time. The movie bills itself as a romance between powerfully-attractive young billionaire Christian Grey and a naïve, not-so-self-assured college senior, Anastasia Steele. Without meaning to, she catches his attention when she’s interviewing him for the school newspaper, and he begins to do everything in his power (and he has a lot of it) to make her the object of his desires … desires which have been grotesquely mangled by being sexually abused at a young age.

Fifty Shades of Grey is pornography. No one denies it. But relatively few are opposing it. The Motion Picture Association of America developed its current rating system to help parents make decisions about which movies their children should see. Yet they gave Fifty Shades of Grey an R rating (“Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking young children with them.”) rather than NC-17 (“Clearly adult. Children not permitted.”). Considering  the popularity of the books, and how the movie got the same R rating as one-third  of the other films released, it’s no surprise that advance ticket sales have set all-time records on Fandango.

What is surprising is who is viewing the film and reading the book—and why in the world they even would. Many refer to the book as “mommy porn” because of its wild popularity among adult women. And ticket sales are briskest in the typically-conservative deep south.

Romance novels have always been a staple of women’s reading. But Fifty Shades of Grey goes beyond romance to erotica, which is essentially porn for women. As much as 20 percent of the two-hour film is sex scenes—as much screen time as all Hollywood films from 2014 … combined.

And the film isn’t just sex. It’s abuse. Proponents of the film try to argue that BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) is fine if it’s between consenting adults. But Ana repeatedly tells Mr. Grey (after each time he does his thing with her) that she doesn’t appreciate it. She’s constantly in tears about it. She tries to leave him, only to have him stalk her and emotionally manipulate her into staying. He demands control of her life to the point of prescribing her exercise and diet, choosing her wardrobe, and having a doctor examine her and put her on the pill.

Christian Grey is no real man in any sense of the word.  A real man respects and honors a woman’s body and emotions; he doesn’t abuse and manipulate her. But author E.L. James has somehow made Grey the desire of 100 million women. She cleverly plays to women’s innate longings to be sought after, to live a more fulfilling existence and to rescue a broken man. In doing so, she gets women to excuse abusive behavior and to ignore countless warning signs on a fool’s road to romance.

Reading through two very lengthy, very detailed synopses of the first book (I refuse to read the book itself), I was continually struck by how much Mr. Grey’s behavior was the very picture of everything we tell women to run away from to avoid abuse. How many times have we listened incredulously to real-world horror stories of women who endure years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from boyfriends and husbands, yet can’t bring themselves to leave. Yet here we are with a book series and movie that draws women into that same warped, powerless thinking—“I’m not worth it. He can’t help it. What will happen to him if I leave?”

It’s not just naive adult women who are getting drawn in by Fifty Shades of Grey. The book has found itself in the hands of myriads of teen girls who are quite impressionable and undiscerning as they embark on their quest for love and passion. And with the release of the movie (and subsequent DVD and home-streaming option) a lot of girls and guys will be sneaking their ideas of love and intimacy from this movie.

In other words, the media’s influence has the potential for creating a lot more Christian Greys, and giving girls the idea that they should put up with them. But rather than allow the media culture to create a false impression of what it means to be a strong man, we should step up to be the true strong men who treat women with respect and teach our daughters and sons to expect the same standard.

So what can we do to make that happen?

We need to model and talk about the proper values of leading and submitting, and the proper view of romance and intimacy with our wives, our daughters, our sons. The next post, “Man up to Christian Grey, Fifty Shades,” will look at some thoughts on how that can happen.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “What’s a Real Man do with Fifty Shades?” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead  more concerns about the book and movie in the article “Fifty Shades of Caution”  and the reader responses to it.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead about another movie that opened Valentine’s weekend: “An ‘Old Fashioned’ Alternative to ‘Fifty Shades’.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTwo broadcasts, “Fifty Shades of Deception” and “Longings of a Woman’s Heart” point women to what’s really at stake.

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!

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