Posts in category Your work

Truett Cathy: Patriarch of more than the chicken sandwich



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

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

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

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

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

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

God gives again



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

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

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

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

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

GodsWayGideon

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

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

Who? Who is sitting in front of you?

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

I fell to my knees.

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

“What are their names?” I asked.

Her answer made complete sense because I knew two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GodsWayTShirt

God’s Way bearing Connor’s image

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

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

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

Dad (Ron Deal)

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

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

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

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

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

What breed of man are you?



A motto I once heard goes like this: Winners concentrate on winning, while losers concentrate on just getting by.

If that statement were carved into the granite at the front of a Fortune 500 company, you would nod your head in agreement. Inwardly you might say, Now that’s the way to run a business. I would imagine that company is really a company of excellence. They know how to do things right!

Yet when it comes to the family, it’s interesting that most homes today would have to be characterized as losers. Too many marriages have become marred by mediocrity. Children are seen, at best, as a status symbol — a way to achieve something through them that we, ourselves, weren’t able to achieve when we were their age.

Too many marriages today are concentrating on “just getting by.” With “squeaking by” as the goal, it is no wonder so many marriages don’t amount to much.

In his best-seller, The Seeds of Greatness, Denis Waitley tells the story of his grandmother whom he idolized. She crossed an apricot and a plum tree. Grandmother Waitley called it a plumcot. This delicious fruit was perfected by the gentle, wise old lady after careful and tedious pruning and grafting of the two fruit-bearing trees.

As a boy, Denis learned a valuable lesson from his grandmother. She harvested a plumcot because that was what she planted.

What you plant is what you get

Marriage is a lot like that — we never get out of a marriage what we do not put into it.

One man confessed, “At work I concentrate on winning, and as a result, I am a winner. At home, however, I concentrate on just getting by.”

It’s no wonder he is losing.

As Americans, we think of ourselves as winners … we are used to winning, but too many times in the wrong places. As a result, we end up losing in the important places … at home.

Vance Havner has said, “Americans know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”

If a business goes bankrupt, it is the president or the chairman of the board who is to blame. Similarly, if the home fails, the man is to blame. You and I, as husbands and fathers of our family, must master the ageless art of leadership and apply it to our families. If we ever hope to win at home, then we must focus on winning.

Spinning plates

Too many of us, as the leaders of our families, are like the man who used to come on the Ed Sullivan Show years ago and spin the plates. This man would start at one end of a long table by placing a stick perpendicular to the table and spinning a plate on the stick. In consecutive order the plates would be placed … two, three, four, five, six plates. As the first plate slowed down, it would begin to wobble. I can remember denying the urge to want to jump through the TV and run to help the man by grabbing the plate before it fell off the stick and shattered into tiny slivers of porcelain pieces.

Now with the first plate wobbling in a near-fatal orbit, the man would rush back and expertly spin that plate again as the audience breathed a sigh of relief. On he would go … seven, eight, nine. By that time, plates two, three, and four were now beginning to wobble. And just before you knew the man could not keep a dozen or so plates spinning, he would quickly scoop them up in his professional hands like he was carrying them to the cupboard and bow to the smiling applause of the audience.

Similarly, the roles we assume in life — husband, a father, a businessman, a civic leader, a church leader, a golfer, a fisherman — all represent different plates in our lives. We begin spinning them early in our married life with plate number one being our marriage. Giving focused attention to that one place, the plate spins along merrily and does well. With the addition of plates number two (business) and three (children), efforts to focus become more difficult. Carefully we keep adding our plates until we finally step back from the table to see two or three of the first plates beginning to wobble badly. We have to make choices. Decisions. Decisions based upon priorities. Our family has needs, but we mistakenly choose to meet those “material” needs by applying our efforts primarily to our business. The result: Focus is lost.

However, most businessmen are not worried about starving. Most of us are concerned about status, significance, accumulation of more, and how we can feed the materialistic monster that lives within us. A good friend recently said, “Materialism is not what you have, it is what has you.”

Too many husbands and fathers have become dizzy from the many spinning plates we have set up. We give our family an occasional spin just to keep things at status quo. We focus on just getting by. The results? More plates begin to fall off the table. Children become strangers — children who are crying out for attention. Mothers plead for help. Meanwhile, being the visionary leaders that we are, we ignore fallen plates and add additional plates. Yet the Psalmist warns, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

There is no question why so many marriages and families are functioning poorly. Nothing — a business, a school, a basketball team, or a family — can function without leadership, energy, time, and most importantly, focused attention. Without these, the plates will begin to fall.

Being somewhat of a selfish man myself, I struggled to keep my family plates spinning over the dozen ego-stroking plates I could have focused on, spending energy to keep them spinning, when our kids were growing up. However, I was constantly forced by the person of Jesus Christ to come to grips with my limits. I have been wrestled to the ground by Him on more than one occasion to be forced to answer the question, “How many plates can you keep spinning and still win?”

Another question which redirects me is, “Where do I want to win so badly that I am unequivocally unwilling to lose?”

“Which of those plates would I be willing to lose for the sake of my family, if need be?”

A new breed of man

Today some tough questions face Christian businessmen and leaders. We have become a cult of Christian celebrities. We worship successful businessmen and pro athletes who can perform in the office or on the field. We pay little regard to whether they are a success in their personal and private lives. The time has come for a new breed of Christian husbands and fathers.

We need a new breed of man who will say “no” to more bucks when it means sacrificing our families. A new breed of man who will place family between us and every decision we make. A new breed of man who will ask the question, “How will this affect my family?” A new breed of man who will determine how much is enough. We need a breed of man who will seek to establish relationships with our families before seeking fame in our culture. A new breed of man who will recognize that we need to leave something to posterity that will outlive us: proven character in our children. A new breed of leader who realizes that to succeed in the eyes of men, but fail in the eyes of God, is the ultimate waste.

Renowned Senate chaplain Peter Marshall once said, “It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”

One last question — will you take upon yourself the challenge that Albert Einstein gave a group of young scientists? While addressing this highly motivated group of young men, he pointed to them and said, “Gentlemen, try not to become men of success. But rather, try to become men of value.”

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just read a post by Dennis Rainey, What breed of man are you? on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist
So, what breed of man are you? Could you do a better job of defining success at home? Write a definition to guide you.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to the FamilyLife Today broadcast series on how to implement strategic planning in your home life.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Think of one thing that you can do this week to lead your wife and children. Make that your measure for success.

How are you rubbing against time?



rubbing against time - it's just rainIt’s been raining off and on here for the last several days. Yesterday when I got home from work I had to run back out to the store so I took my two boys with me. We parked and I took my four-year-old’s hand to go inside. He pulled me all across the parking lot row we were on so he could walk through every puddle. He got his shoes, socks, and feet soaking wet. And was happy as he could be.

When we got home, I wanted to go for a run even though I knew there was a good chance of getting rained on. My nine year old wanted to ride his bike with me so we struck out for the jogging trail by our house. He proceeds to ride his bike through every puddle on the paved trail and through every mud hole he could find on the side of the trail. Starting from the back of his head going all the way down to the heels of his shoes he was covered in either water or mud. And now he too was happy as he could be.

As dinner was cooking, the two of them were on the trampoline and the rains came down and began to flood the earth. It was a downpour. I stepped onto our deck to see the boys completely soaked, jumping up and down, grinning ear to ear, and between his screams of joy I heard my four-year-old say to his brother, “This is awesome!”

I started to wonder what’s happened to us men and our childlike joy of jumping in puddles, riding through mud, and playing in the rain? At what point did we start becoming averse to such things instead of looking forward to them? When did we start looking at the weather and then concern ourselves with packing an umbrella? Or when did we decide not to do something like go for a hike or go watch a game because we were afraid it might rain? Better yet, when was the last time it started raining and you grabbed your kids and spent 30 minutes playing in it with them?

One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. While I don’t agree with all his theology, I love his writing style and he often throws out some good, thought-provoking comments. In one of his books he writes, “A man’s senses are either sharpened or dulled by the way he rubs against time.” How are you rubbing against time these days? Are you being dulled by long hours of work? Are you dulling yourself by always being on your phone checking email, scores, or Pinterest? (If you answered yes to Pinterest you need intervention. Immediately.) Not only are you dulling yourself, you’re dulling your relationships with those around you. Perhaps it’s time for you to change your work-life and phone habits. And  in place of those, reclaim that boyhood, carefree, “enjoy the little things in life” attitude. You’ll be amazed at how much freedom and fun there is when you do this. I promise you’ll love it and so will your kids!

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the Stepping Up blog post, How are you rubbing against time?

For a jump start on how to engage with your children, read 10 Ideas: Creating Quality Time with Your Kids.

STEPembrace

What do you plan to do to put aside your activities and ask your kids what they want you to do with them?

STEPpassShare one of these two articles with your wife or a fellow father. Help each other to be more involved in your children’s world.

Has the excitement worn off?



This post originally appeared on SwayzeWaters.com. Swayze is kicker/punter for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL), who start their regular season tonight.

not normalAbout a week after I reported for training camp in Toronto this past season, I got all dressed up and went downtown for a big ceremony to celebrate our previous season.

All of my teammates, coaches, front office staff and management were decked out in the finest of suites. The venue was elegant and decorated in double blue. A photographer was on hand to catch all of the action. This was the night we had all been waiting on. We had already won the 100th Grey Cup just six months previous but tonight was the night we got our rings.

We had a full course meal. Medium rare steaks. We were able to sit back and take a little break from the grueling hours of training camp that we were in the middle of that month. They brought the lights down and showed a video of one of our captains talking about the ring, how it was designed, what it symbolized, etc. Then they brought them out on trays. They set them on our tables in front of us with our names on the outside of the box.

I can still remember this perfectly. A room full of grown men looking around at each other with childlike grins wondering what would be in the box. What design did they go with? Yellow or white gold? No telling what all was running through the minds that were in that room. I was excited. Ecstatic. I was a champion and was about to have the ring to prove it.

They then counted down for us to see the rings… 3….2….1….. boxes sprung open all around the room and guys began laughing and talking. Everyone just sat there smiling and looking at the shiny gold and sparkling diamonds. All 139 of them … this was no ordinary ring. “This ring cost someone a lot of money,” I remember thinking to myself. I slipped the ring on my finger and began taking pictures of it … taking pictures with my teammates. I couldn’t wait to show everyone the pictures and tell them about it! As quick as I could I was posting, tweeting, emailing and texting. Even facetiming (I don’t think thats a word)! I was excited! This was no ordinary day … and this was certainly no ordinary ring. I had to tell people!

Fast forward to today … I brought this same ring with me to a school the other morning where I was speaking at an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) huddle. I have done this numerous times since the night I received it. I have brought it to signings, churches, school, etc. Hundreds of people, both young and old have posed for pictures with it and tried it on, most of whom don’t even know about the CFL or the Argonauts. But it’s BIG, its SHINY and it symbolizes victory. People love it!

Over the last year, the excitement has worn off for me. I’ve seen it so many times and taken so many pictures with it that it has become normal. When I take it out of its box to show others I don’t get as excited as I did that night in Toronto last year. This ring that I was so happy and eager to show the world just a year ago has become normal to me now. I’ve gotten used to it. (I’m ready to win another one!)

Has your excitement worn off ?

I told some kids about this the other morning … if we are not careful, this is exactly what we will do with the gospel. We will take the son of God, who is far more valuable and beautiful than any ring man could make, and somehow in our twisted way of thinking and being we will make him ‘normal.’ We will hear the gospel and not respond. We will feel called to action and reason why we shouldn’t follow through. We will hear the Easter story about Jesus Christ stepping in and giving his life for ours, covering our sins with his perfect blood — reconciling us with our Holy God — then rising from the dead and defeating sin and death. We will hear all of this and not get excited.

How is that possible?

How can we hear this story and not get excited? How can we see God’s perfect love for us on the cross and not tell people? This is not just a normal story. This is not just a normal man. Lets get excited (every day). Lets tell people (all people)!

This is way better than a ring!

SwyzeWatersSwayze Waters is a Christian, family man, and athlete, in that order. He and Kendal have been married since 2011, and he’s been playing pro football since 2009. Swayze is beginning his third year as a kicker/punter with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, the 2012 Grey Cup champions.

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.

Boomer or Murphy: Whose side are you on?



Boomer or Murphy

I don’t like to run around and jump on bandwagons, but you probably saw the embarrassing stink that ESPN commentator Boomer Esiason caused when he railed against New York Mets outfielder Daniel Murphy. Murphy’s offense? Compromising his devotion to his team by missing two games to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. According to Esiason, Murphy should have insisted his wife schedule a C-section before the season started.

Public reaction was swift and strong about the imbalance between sports and family, but not against Murphy. Fans lowered the boom on Boomer, who also happens to be a family man (he’s been married to his wife Cheryl since 1986, and is a passionate dad).  To his credit, Boomer quickly and earnestly apologized, particularly for unnecessarily thrusting this couple’s life into the limelight.

Boomer’s not the only one in sports, media, entertainment, or business who would strongly criticize someone for not putting their professional duties and organizational duties first, particularly if you’re paid huge millions.

But Murphy’s decision reflects a change he has undergone in the past couple of years. His world used to revolve around baseball and himself. He poured everything into “being the man” in his sport, but two injury-plagued seasons brought him personal struggles that caused him to re-evaluate his identity and priorities. At that point, he recommitted his life to Christ and vowed not to let baseball define him.

Acting like Boomer or Murphy?

It’s  easy to criticize Boomer’s blatant disregard of the priority of being with your wife at the birth of your first (or any) child. You just don’t miss such a big event. But what about all the small things we do as husbands and fathers that elevate  our jobs over our family?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed to show up on time when I told my wife Stacy I’d be home for dinner, or just generally failed to show consideration for the one person who  gives so much for me. The lowlight was when I came back from a celebrity ski race  just long enough to drop off my laundry with Stacy and leave for a  boxing match in Las Vegas. Not my best chapter as a husband.

On my wedding day, if you showed me a list of the ways I would put Stacy and my boys in second place behind my work or hobbies, I probably would have been as critical of myself as you probably were of Boomer Esiason for his extreme position. It’s easy to let the pressures of life swallow up the best resolutions made as a new husband or father.

I fully understand the pressures that an intense job in a tight economy can inflict on the types of family choices a guy makes. Athletes feel it particularly intensely because they have teammates depending on them, coaches breathing down their necks, the critical gaze of fans, and a big contract that could disappear with an injury or release.

Sometimes the conflicts between work and home are unavoidable. When I was with the Seahawks, I remember a great tight end (who was also a great husband and father) joining the team mid-season. The week he arrived, we flew with the team for a  game against San Diego. We got phone calls from the airport that his wife was in labor. My wife was the only person she knew in town, so Stacy went with her to the hospital and was her coach in labor—what he would have been doing if he was there. The day-and-a-half road trip was just long enough to keep him from away from his wife as she gave birth in a brand new city 3,000 miles from home back east.

He hated it, but between the move, travel for the game and the timing of the labor, it was unavoidable. Daniel Murphy, though, was just exercising the right to a standard three-day league-guaranteed leave early in the season, when the stakes aren’t so high.

Bringing it home

Half the kids in America are growing up without the benefit of both parents at home, and there are so many challenges today to keeping marriage commitments front and center. It’s all the more important in this age to set an example and speak up to support the responsibility a man has, to be there for his family, even though some would say that’s shirking work responsibility.

So whether it’s  something big like keeping your travel schedule clear so you can be with your wife when she goes into labor, or something routine like making family dinner time a priority, you have the opportunity to model priorities for your co-workers and your family.  Take confidence knowing that your Father in Heaven blesses your decisions when you’re doing what He’s called you to do as a husband and father.

How about you? Have you had to make tough decisions to put your family ahead of your work?  Are there things you need to do that communicate to your family that they are the priority in your life?  I’d love to hear your story.

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.

Inside the Manning legacy



Back in October, Scott Barkley at Fishers of Men blog had a particularly outstanding post about how one man took his ache for a strong father-son relationship and turned it into a great legacy. As we enter Super Bowl week, he’s given us permission to re-post this story of the Manning legacy. We hope it encourages you to make the little decisions that can make a great impact on the next generation. And if you haven’t seen The Book of Manning film by ESPN, we highly recommend it.

manning legacy

The Manning quarterbacking legacy. From right, dad Archie, and sons Peyton and Eli. Photo by Bill Frakes.

After his sophomore year at Ole Miss, Archie Manning had everyone’s attention. For starters, he’d just led the Rebels as quarterback in only his second year at school, a feat which didn’t happen a whole lot back then. In addition there was something in the air about the football team at the school – hope for a successful year.

All that would be challenged when he returned that summer to his hometown of Drew in the northwestern part of the state.

One day Archie came home and discovered the body of his father, Buddy. As it would for anyone, the moment and days to follow were defining in Archie’s life and as it would turn out, for so many more than he could possibly imagine. A good son, Archie felt his responsibility was to stay home and take up his father’s cotton business. This would be the same business that had fallen on hard times for Buddy Manning; the same business that demanded his time away from Archie’s athletic exploits at Drew High — the same business that Archie would surmise decades later in an ESPN Films special would play a part in his father’s decision to end his own life with a gun.

Jane Manning would have nothing of it and persuaded her only child to return to Oxford for his junior year. Helping Archie work through the return to Ole Miss at a time when school and football just didn’t seem as important was his girlfriend Olivia, who would later become his wife.

We never know what moments in time hang by a thread and how crucial they are to where things go. If Archie Manning stays home the likelihood is he grows up to be a decent cotton farmer who threw the prettiest spiral you ever seen at Drew High School. Maybe he ends up marrying Olivia, but there’s a good chance he doesn’t. Gone are those magical seasons at Ole Miss and the grainy films of Manning slithering through the backfield between would-be tacklers before connecting with a receiver downfield. Gone is the pro career and the all-Pro, Super-Bowl-winning sons. Gone would be the Manning legacy as we’ve come to know it.

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What we can learn from the aforementioned film “The Book of Manning” is not just what roads come from success and hard work, but those that appear through grief and disappointment. Archie Manning wouldn’t know how every time he saw an empty seat in the high school bleachers beside his mother – because his dad had to tend to business – that it would drive him to be the exact opposite. It wouldn’t become obvious until he was suffering through those awful seasons in New Orleans while Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw were enjoying the benefits of being surrounded by Pro-Bowlers. Even in those times, Archie considered himself a father before he was a professional football player.

And while many assumed his boys would be football players themselves, Archie contends that was never his plan. Sure, the home videos show them running through the backyard with their tiny-mite helmets and shoulder pads nearly swallowing up their bodies. That wasn’t Archie steering them, though, it was boys wanting to be like dad.

Which brings us back to small decisions, and the reflections that follow.

It’s easy for fathers to not remember little eyes are watching. After all, it seems they’re usually watching something else – the TV, their brother trying out his new rollerblades, the dog chase a squirrel. We can get lulled into thinking what we’re doing is slipping by unnoticed; the effect we’re having isn’t too big.

One of the biggest challenges for me as a father is making sure I spend enough time, real time, with each of my kids. So many other things at home demand my attention, not to mention that part of me declaring I deserve some time to myself. Doing the math brings it back into focus, though. My oldest is 11. At 12 years old your child starts pulling away from you. Friends, school, and the like increase their pull. She’s still in your home, but she’s less your little girl. At 18 she’ll probably be out of the house and in college. Your influence is still felt, but at that moment she’s largely in the world making her own decisions.

Legacies aren’t established in an instant. They take time and are built brick by brick through the small decisions we make every day, the way we respond to life.

ScottBarkleyScott Barkley is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., where he maintains and writes for the men’s ministry website at Matthew419.net. He and his wife, Amy, have four children. You can find Fishers of Men on Facebook.

Choosing between my son and me



Good parenting is often choosing self-sacrifice rather than self.

“Daddy, you wanna hear me count to 10 million?”

Not a question I expected or necessarily even wanted to hear from my 5-year-old.

“Um … well … no, not really,” I was tempted to say (lovingly, of course).

Maybe for a mom, a question like this is precious! But I’m a dad and after a long workday, it’s most definitely not precious. “Let’s see, what’s the best way to waste time tonight? Ooh, I know, let’s count to 10 million.”

I’m pretty sure my 5-year-old can’t even count to 10 million, much less do it fast enough to fit the jammed schedule I had planned for the evening:

  • Put on comfortable clothes? Yep.
  • Eat dinner? Uh-huh.
  • Watch playoff basketball game? Now you’re talking!

Count to 10 million? Negative. I could hear it already. “One, two, three, four, five, um … wait, I’m starting over.”

Oh sure, you’re probably more spiritual than me. Cast the first stone if you must. But most of you with young kids can relate. They’re growing fast and learning about things too big for them. So they look to you for help sorting it all out. You want to be a great parent, but time and energy run short.

As I thought about the choice I had to make that night, God began to remind me of a few important things about spiritual life and parenting:

I needed to view this from my child’s eyes, not just my own. I joke that, in my flesh, I’m not really interested in hearing my son count to 10 million. But truthfully, from his perspective, that’s a huge deal and an incredibly worthwhile investment of his time. And for me to spend my evening doing that is even bigger to him.

I agree with what Steve Farrar writes in his book, Point Man: “Quality time comes at the most unusual moments. You never know when it will happen. It usually makes an appearance someplace in the realm of quantity time.”

Remembering to look through my child’s eyes gets me out of “quality time” mode and into “quantity time” mode. Don’t ask me exactly how to measure “quantity time,” though I figure counting to ten million is a pretty good place to start.

I can’t use up all my energy at work … I need to save some for when I get home. I’m as guilty as the next guy of putting every ounce of energy I can into my workday. I’ve got plenty of good reasons to do it, too. The Bible tells me to work hard, “as for the Lord rather than men” (Colossians 3:23). There’s also the economy to think about. I mean, who wants to be the guy found not working hard these days?

Unfortunately, none of that makes any difference to my son. All he knows is that I don’t want to hear him count to 10 million. For me, preserving some physical energy for when I get home actually helps me set the right pace for myself at work — sort of a parenting twist on the “render unto Caesar” concept. Render unto work the things due at work, but don’t render everything you’ve got every single day.

I needed to see this as an opportunity, not an interruption. Spontaneous “teachable moments” are the very essence of parenting. But I’ve found that it’s up to me whether I view them as opportunities or as interruptions. A steward has opportunities. An owner has interruptions. The wise parent spends his days as a steward.

On this occasion, though, I think God just wanted me to feel like a parent and to make a choice. My choice of whether to count to 10 million or not was really choosing between my son and me … between self-sacrifice and self.  And that’s always the rub isn’t it?

To be fair, a tired mom or dad may actually need to choose rest over the kids. But for me it’s usually not that complicated, and I still pick me more often than not.  But sometimes I make the better choice.

I have no idea who won the basketball game. But I’ll never forget the time I discovered that my 5-year-old son really does know how to count to 10 million.

Who knew?

Copyright © 2010 by Jim Mitchell. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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