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Men are back, at least for today



Men are back in vogue.

At least they are today on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attack.

Fourteen years ago, a lot of everyday guys became instant heroes. They didn’t set off that day to be heroes, they just responded with courage in the flash of a moment on a day that was anything but everyday.

Some of those guys, like the first responders in New York City, were trained to do heroic things. They thought of their actions that day as nothing more than just doing their jobs. Other men were military personnel, but not the heroic kind on the front lines of battle. These were guys who had desk jobs, whose heroism was thrust on them when the Pentagon came under siege. Other guys were just businessmen who were flying as part of their job, until their job became confronting the face of evil in the skies over Pennsylvania.

In every instance, each man stepped up by putting aside his fear and personal safety for the well-being of those around him.

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote about these men in a column a few days after the 9/11 attacks. It wasn’t specific men she was writing about, but the innate character of men that may hide itself in times of safety, but shows itself the most heroic in the face of catastrophe.

You didn’t have to be a fireman to be one of the manly men of Sept. 11. Those businessmen on flight 93, which was supposed to hit Washington, the businessmen who didn’t live by their hands or their backs but who found out what was happening to their country, said goodbye to the people they loved, snapped the cell phone shut and said, “Let’s roll.” Those were tough men, the ones who forced that plane down in Pennsylvania. They were tough, brave guys.

It’s easy to venerate these guys when you see what they did on September 11, 2001. But would we have felt the same way about them on September 10? No, we probably wouldn’t have even noticed them. Even the firefighters.

One segment of the Stepping Up video series features these members of the New York Fire Department. Just looking at these guys on the video and hearing them talk, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about them.

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“When we talk about heroes—and that’s typically always discussed—I don’t think that anyone who is currently working that was down at 9/11 in any capacity views themselves in that light.  The heroes are the ones that didn’t actually come home; we were just doing our job.”

Truth is, though, there was no difference between the ones who came home and the ones who didn’t. Both groups showed courage. Both stepped up. Both were heroes, it’s just easier to recognize it in the ones whose heroism took the form of the ultimate sacrifice.

It doesn’t take a 9/11 to be a hero or even to do courageous things. It’s only the circumstances that bring it out. These firefighters probably showed the same courage on the 10th and 12th as they did on 9/11. And there are other men around the country that we will never know about who showed just as much courage on those days. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important,” said Ambrose Redmoon.

So whether your actions earn you the title of hero or whether they’re never even noticed at all, do the things that a man does: stand for righteousness, live for others, and keep the big picture in focus. Remember that today’s everyday man is often tomorrow’s hero.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post “Men are back, at least for today” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistFor Brian and Mel Birdwell, the heroics began after the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Listen to the broadcasts.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistOne of Dennis Rainey’s favorite things to ask men is “What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGrab a group of guys to explore together the Stepping Up video series and what makes up courageous manhood.

The Good News Bears



Good News Bears

Unlikely successes – The 1970 Branding Chute team with my manager dad (top left), my pitcher brother (bottom right), me in the catcher’s gear, and the rest of us below average champions.

I love athletics and I’m competitive by nature. From my early childhood to today, I have participated in sports, whether it’s been organized baseball as a boy or playing rugby in college, or just recreational activities like golf in my college years to Ultimate Frisbee and bowling today in my 50s. And when I haven’t played, I’ve watched or written about athletics as a sports writer and editor.

But truth be told, I’ve never been a good athlete. I play for the love of sports, and the enjoyment of the competition and camaraderie. So even when everyone around me is more skilled, or younger, or better, I still feel like I belong, in part, because of a lesson I learned from my dad at an early age, and from my Heavenly Father as an adult.

My first year in Little League in Jackson, Mississippi, was a disaster. I had a hardcore coach bent on leading his team to the league championship. He practiced us hard twice a week. I remember after one game when we kept getting thrown out at the bases, our coach scheduled a two-hour practice doing nothing but sliding. I came home with a huge strawberry from upper hip to mid-thigh.

That’s where the story starts with my dad.

Unlike me, my dad was a natural athlete. He was a starter on his high school football team until a shredded knee ended his career. Still, he fought through pain and continued to play league basketball and especially softball well into his 70s. But he always loved the game more than the competition.

After my two-hour sliding practice incident, I think my dad determined that his sons and all boys my age should learn to love the game rather than be miserable in winning. He also thought the Little League draft system (where coaches take turns picking the best players until they got down to the non-athletes like me) was overkill for 9- to 10-year-old boys.

So the next year he volunteered to coach. He told the league that they could give him whatever players the other coaches didn’t want, just as long as he could coach my brother and me. Until that year, I had been assigned the two typical positions for players of my ability: outfield and bench. But my brother was a pretty good (although sometimes wild) pitcher, so my dad decided to teach me how to play behind the plate. He was a catcher himself, and with his patient teaching, I picked up the position pretty well.

The other guys on our team were a mixture of skill levels, from not bad to awful, but everyone got equal playing time under my dad and the other coaches. Those three men decided that it was more important to instill in each boy a love of the game and a sense of belonging to the team than playing the game just to win.

I experienced the downside of that level playing field approach. I was developing into a pretty good catcher, and could even pick off a guy stealing second. But when an awful teammate was covering the bag, I found it hard to throw down.

I remember after one game, my dad praised my choice not to throw to second base, because the runner probably would have ended up at third or home after the inevitable error. But the next piece of advice he threw me was a curve ball I wasn’t expecting but needed to hear. He told me that it was important for me to trust my teammates and to let them have the opportunity to come through in the clutch. He reminded me that I was more confident behind the plate because I was getting the opportunity to prove myself to myself. I needed to give other players that chance as well.

That mentality of trust began to change the guys on our team. We worked with each other to improve. We had faith in each other. We celebrated each other’s great plays, and offered encouragement and coaching to the other guys when they blew it.

Individually, we were average at best. But as a team we became unstoppable and finished the season at the top of the league with a 10-1-1 record. Call us the Good News Bears, I guess.

A lot of the stars from the other teams went on to play high school ball, maybe even college. As for the guys on our team, I don’t know if any of us ended up playing more than one more season of baseball, but I’m sure the lessons we learned that year carried through life.

I see it played out in Scripture as well. There’s one particular passage that, whenever I read it, I think about our 1970 Little League team.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31

When God wanted to humble the Philistine’s Goliath, he used the young shepherd boy, David. When he wanted to defeat the massive army of Midian, he chose a timid Gideon to lead a team of just 300 men. When he wanted to deliver the message to Egypt’s Pharoah to free His people from slavery, he used the stuttering, downcast fugitive Moses.

Nearly two decades after my Little League experience, I learned the same lesson from another perspective. My wife and I had felt a calling to take the gospel to remote, unreached people groups. As I went through Bible school training, I found that I was good at Bible study, teaching, and language learning. I saw a few other students like me, and I was confident we would be the ones who would end up on the mission field, translating the Word of God and helping establish a self-sustaining local church. Then there were the other students, who weren’t exceptionally gifted in any of those areas. I wasn’t even sure they’d be able to hold down a minimum wage job, much less get out of  Bible school and onto the mission field.

But it was their humility and lack of gifting that God was wanting to use.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Now, more than 20 years after Bible school, only one of the talented students is still on the mission field. The ones who made it long-term were the “weak” ones, the “untalented” ones. They persevered, not in their strength, but in God’s. They surmounted overwhelming odds of living in tribal locations not by their own prowess, but in mutual dependence of other missionaries who also understood their weakness and God’s strength.

So to the strong, I challenge you to look to the One who’s stronger. You will eventually max out your potential, but His is limitless. To the weak, don’t underestimate your potential, or the potential of the other weaklings around you, especially when God is at work in you. Build each other up, challenge each other up, and see what God can do with a team of guys who range from awful to not so bad.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Scott Williams’ post, “The Good News Bears,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAre there certain things you don’t try because you aren’t good at them? Remember to make His strength yours.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistAll Pro Dad can help you teach your children valuable lifetime lessons as they participate in youth sports.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistRead Larry Fowler’s article, “Shaping Your Child’s Destiny,” and help YOUR kids see God’s plan for their lives.

My worst fan letter ever



Each week, Jeff Kemp releases a new video featuring a thought from his new book, Facing The Blitz. You can sign up to receive the weekly video, which also includes self-reflection questions and action points on how to apply the principles to your life. Here’s this week’s offering, “Worst Fan Letter,” just to whet your appetite.

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In 1986 I had been quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers for the couple months that Joe Montana had been injured.  I then injured my hip and Joe made a miraculous mid-season recovery from back surgery.  When he was about to return to the line-up, I received this “fan letter.”  Or so I thought.

“Dear Jeff,

I know that when Joe Montana comes back, you will probably feel like you were shoveled off to the side.  Don’t worry.  You should feel lucky that you even got to play on Joe’s team.  He’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game …”

The letter went on and on about how great Joe was. As I read along, I was surprised that the guy asked me for my autograph. It would have been more appropriate to the letter, had he asked me to get Joe’s autograph and send it to him.

After asking me a few more questions about how amazing Joe is, the end of his letter cracked me up.

“P.S. You’re not as bad as some people might say.”

My lessons from this letter:

  1. Laugh at yourself.  If you can’t, you’re taking yourself way too seriously.  That won’t be good for you or those who live with you!
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others.  Don’t try to imitate them.  Be yourself.  Be the best self you can be, but be you.
  3. Don’t play for the applause or the fans.  Play for the ultimate audience.  Live for the audience of ONE  Jesus.  God is the one audience we should aim to always please.  His perfection calls for the highest standards.  His love accepts us even when we fall miserably short.  His glory is deserved and appropriate.  Ours is short-lived and foolish.

“Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3b NLT).

The reality is that most of us aren’t first string or hall of fame; we feel like backups a lot of the time. But your value is determined by your character and your relationships, not your fame or your status.

Don’t let the blitz of comparison beat you down. Look around and make it your goal to make others feel like first string. Lifting others up will help you feel like more than just a back-up player. Be the best you can be. And remember, you’re the only dad or husband that somebody will ever know.

Quote:

“Reality must be faced. We are not what we do, whom we work for, or who the public sees us to be. We’re persons with spirits, souls, personalities, emotions, stories, wounds, fears, virtues, strengths, and weaknesses. To understand these things about ourselves is to know ourselves. We become free to live at peace with others, to live with contentment, not dependent upon circumstances, and to handle the losses in life — including the loss of certain dreams.”

Facing the Blitz, Strategy #1: Take a Long-Term View

The Playbook:

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

 Time-Out:

  • Do you measure yourself by what you accomplish and how people view you?
  • What’s one way you would live differently if you didn’t worry so much about what people thought of you?

Go Deep:

You can discover more on how to create a big vision out of broken dreams in chapter 3 of Facing the Blitz.

Deflating your ego



FootballsDeflatedJeffKemp
Few quarterbacks have dominated the NFL like Tom Brady. In his 13 full seasons, he has led the New England Patriots to four Super Bowl titles.  What he may lack in raw talent, he makes up for in hard work. He watches lots of game film and pays attention to detail on and off the field, which is a common character quality of someone who performs at the highest level like he does.

But now the reputation of the reigning Super Bowl MVP is tarnished, with the league recently announcing that he will be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season for participating in the deflating of footballs in the first half of the AFC championship game.

Breaking the rules, as the NFL has claimed, may not have been the most damaging thing Tom Brady did. He may not have even been suspended if he had admitted early on to his involvement (whatever that was) and apologized to the league for his indiscretion.  Instead he allowed his agent to speak for him and deny even knowing of a scandal.

But after spending months reviewing the evidence surrounding the “DeflateGate” scandal, the NFL found enough in text messages to confidently say that Brady was involved in some way. And now public opinion has turned against him, with about 70 percent of avid football fans believing Brady cheated.

Let’s face it: if you don’t take the blame for your own mistakes (as small or as big as they may be) other people will spend their time, effort, and energy putting the blame on you. I learned that lesson in my last year with the Seattle Seahawks and gained a great appreciation for the importance of accepting responsibility. Even though I wasn’t involved in a cheating scandal or at the center of some controversy, the incident did involve my integrity.

I was the starting quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks and we had just suffered a 20-13 loss in an important game with Kansas City. In press interviews after the game, rather than own up to my shortcomings, I chose to play the optimist. “We’re going to do better next week; we’re going to turn the corner and go forward.”

It wasn’t until later in the week that I realized the damage that I had done. Eugene Robinson, a great friend and teammate, came up to me and told me privately, “Dude, a bunch of the coaches and defensive guys are questioning whether you’re a stand-up guy or an excuse maker. They don’t think you’re owning up to your responsibility for that loss.”

Their criticism wasn’t aimed at my skills or performance, but at who I am—my character. As I wrote in my book, Facing the Blitz:

They thought that, in my optimism, I’d left the blame with the team instead of taking my part in it. Not only had I contributed to the loss, it seemed I wasn’t being an accountable and trustworthy leader.

I felt misread and misjudged. I decided to talk privately to a couple of the defensive coaches who reportedly held these concerns. I told them I was my own worst critic and knew I’d fallen way short of what we needed to win. I knew I’d played a major role in our loss. … My team wanted to hear that I understood my role in our loss. My play wasn’t the only reason we lost, but they needed to see that, first, I got it, and second, I was willing to take the heat, not simply leave it with my teammates and coaches.

The bottom-line issue isn’t the results of your actions as much as what it says about your character. Whether it’s me playing down my part in a loss or Tom Brady refusing to admit even an awareness of the team fudging on league rules, the ends still don’t justify the means.

Another NFL great quarterback recently weighed in on the “DeflateGate” controversy. Brett Favre believes that even if Tom Brady broke the rules it wasn’t really cheating because it didn’t affect the outcome of the game. He was just doing what everyone else does—trying to get a competitive edge.

A common philosophy in the world, and in the world of professional sports is, “If you’re not getting caught every once in a while, you’re not working hard enough.” It’s ironic that someone as good as Brady would feel a need to do something that has so little impact on the outcome of the game to gain a competitive advantage.

Deflating your ego

Maybe an even bigger issue is what happens when you make it to the top of the heap, or the top of the league. You begin to believe the hype that everything depends on you. You may even begin to see yourself as a special case. You then justify actions that for most everyday people would be indefensible.

American society invites a pride and hubris in its successful people, and that is reflected in how Tom Brady and his agent have continued to oppose the NFL investigation. Pride and hubris aren’t attractive to the public. Pride lets you think you can do things differently because you think you are special. It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re in the spotlight and when you’re trying to keep up expectations as the being the best. But Scripture brings us back to reality:

“Pride comes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.”—Proverbs 16:18

“Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”—2 Timothy 2:5

But then there’s another scriptural reminder than keeps us from pointing the finger too much at others.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”—Galatians 6:1

My teammate Eugene Robinson helped me to open my eyes and see the impact of my actions. Issues like “DeflateGate” help us check our own character to see if we are cutting corners, cheating, or taking ethical shortcuts. And it’s a great opportunity to teach our kids valuable lessons about integrity and humility.

More than a national championship coach



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story of Joshua Wooden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lifelong lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2010 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

Passing along the faith



NavyChaplainCorpsPlaqueAs dads, we have a spiritual and moral responsibility to teach our children right from wrong. We look for opportunities to turn life events into teaching moments. Sometimes that might require a lecture or strong admonition when they get off course.  But what our daughters and sons get from years of preaching isn’t as rich as what they learn when they see how we respond in the midst of a crisis of conviction. It’s in those times that theoretical truths become living realities.

Last week, 14-year-old James Modder was a frontline witness to one of those times where life and truth collide on the battlefield of conviction. It was the day his father, Chaplain Wes Modder was relieved of his duties. James went with his dad to help him remove his personal effects from his chaplain’s office. That day and the preceding months must have been a hard time for father, son, and the whole family.

Back in December, Chaplain Modder was hit with a number of grievances related to his private counseling sessions with sailors. The essence of the complaints centered on Modder’s biblical conviction on matters related to sexuality, marriage, and gender roles. The Assemblies of God chaplain counsels based on standards from the Word of God, which has been increasingly running afoul of military policies on gender and sexual inclusion.

Chaplain Modder admits that in one-on-one counseling and pastoral care sessions that he expressed his beliefs that “sexual acts outside of marriage are contrary to biblical teaching; and homosexual behavior is contrary to biblical teaching; and homosexual orientation or temptation, as distinct from conduct, is not sin.”

And now, he has been temporarily relieved of his duties, and the Navy has asked that he be barred from promotion, fired as chaplain, and brought before a board of inquiry, where he could face expulsion from the Navy.

Chaplain Modder’s ministry is not just something that he came by on his own. He is the recipient of a rich legacy of Christian service that included his grandparents and his great grandfather, all missionaries to India. And given what his family is seeing now, that legacy is poised to pass on to the five Modder children, including James, the only son. Wes Modder is passing along the faith.

As Wes Modder was driving away from cleaning out his office, his son told him about numerous officers who had privately spoken to the son that afternoon.  “They told my son that ‘you can be proud of your father because he’s keeping the faith,'” Modder said. “The whole command knows that Chaplain Modder is keeping the faith.”

Chaplain Modder will teach his son many things over the years.  But showing that nothing—even your job—is more important than your faith?  That’s a lesson that will last a lifetime.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Scott Williams’ post “Passing along the faith” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“Values Are Your Most Important Parenting Tool.” They come through in your actions. Read the article.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDennis Rainey’s worksheet helps you in “Determining Your Core Values.” Start a family legacy today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTim Kimmel talks about “Raising Kids for True Greatness” on the FamilyLife Today radio broadcast

Stepping Up in space



Stepping Up in space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stepping Up in space

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

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

Barry: Absolutely; yes, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

Stepping Up in space 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Bowl MVP: Dad



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

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

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

Dove Men + Care: “Real Strength

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

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

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

What makes a man stronger?

Showing that he cares.

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

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

Nissan: “With Dad”

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

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

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

Toyota Camry: “To Be a Dad”

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the extended length commercial here.

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

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

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

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

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

Five God-given roles as men



“It’s your turn to take out the trash this week.”

“I washed the dishes yesterday, remember?”

“You should pay the bills. I have too much on my plate.”

Household arguments like these are common to marriage. They might seem like no big deal, but they are rooted in something profound: a man’s role in the home, the church, and society.

When a man lives up to his role, life-giving things start to happen. Children are not abused, and they grow up feeling secure and safe. Teen pregnancy rates go down. Drug sales and drug use plummet. Young people avoid jail. Divorces are avoided, and the tragedy of teen suicide loosens its grip on our young people. I firmly believe that every family and societal problem can get better when a man knows how to fulfill his role and takes action.

During the NFL season, teams spend Fridays completing their on-field preparation. They know that the adrenaline-filled, high­ stakes physical battle is just two days away. That’s why a good Friday practice is vital. However, for NFL players, the most important preparation comes on Saturday morning and evening. And this preparation is more mental than physical. Players and their position coaches gather to review video footage of their opponents and hold the last practice, known as a “walk-thru.”

The walk-thru and video reviews have a sole purpose: to ensure players are absolutely clear about their game-day roles on offense, defense, and special teams. A player who doesn’t understand his role is a liability to his teammates. He might even cost his team the game and lose his job on the roster.

In the NFL, a mistake is sometimes called “a blown assignment.”  A running back fails to block a blitzing linebacker. A safety lets a receiver get behind him.

In life, we men cannot afford to blow our assignments. It’s not merely a team that is counting on us; it’s all of society.

What are our assignments, our roles as men? I can sum them up in five words:  praise, protection, provision, proclamation, and presentation.

Let’s look at each one in detail.

Praise

Praise is more than words. Praise is a man’s heartfelt response to the God who created him. It’s his first and most fundamental role in life—to offer God unabashed applause for who He is and what He’s done.

Even long-time Christians underestimate the importance of praise. But the man who strives to let praise flow from his life to God’s throne is poised to fulfill God’s destiny for his life. He will achieve this destiny because his life is based on an authentic relationship with his Boss and King.

I understand that vocal and visible expressions of praise are tough for men. Why? Maybe it’s a male-pride issue. Or a fear of truly releasing our emotions.

On the other hand, have you ever seen a bunch of guys cheering for their favorite sports team? We jump to our feet. We lift our hands. We shout until we’re hoarse—all for mortal men who have done nothing substantial for us. They did not get us our jobs. They didn’t heal our sick or injured bodies. And, most likely, they haven’t given us wisdom to live by. The truth is, men do understand praise, but our praise is often misdirected.

Our homes and our churches need men who will lead the way when it comes to cheering the mighty works of God.

In too many churches now, the women praise ecstatically, while the men sit uncomfortably, waiting for the worship service to end. And the children take note: “Daddy doesn’t like church.”

What has happened? In short, the devil has deceived men and convinced us to shut down emotionally in God’s presence. But David, a great king and a man’s man, danced before the Lord and committed to proclaim His goodness among the people.

Men, if David can do it, we can too. The world is waiting for us to applaud God in the public square, in our homes, and in the house of God. When men offer praise to God, everyone takes note. We are the tone setters in our culture. Like it or not, what we do, everybody does. So, “Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15 NKJV).

Protection

When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, his job was to keep watch and to protect everything entrusted to him from the devil’s deception. Adam’s role back then is a man’s role now. We need to protect our “garden” from the deceptions, dark acts, and destructive works of the devil. Your personal garden is wherever God has assigned you to live, work, and play. The people who inhabit your garden, especially the women and children entrusted to your leadership, are your responsibility to protect.

Don’t be like many men in our culture who, like Adam, have shunned the call to protect. Instead, they have become vultures, preying on those who need their strength. Some men have even demanded that the women and children protect them! Something is desperately wrong with this picture.

Bullying in our culture and around the globe is a problem growing with exponential fervor. Typically, kids who bully were unprotected by their own fathers. They act out with resentment toward their peers or toward those who appear weak to them. A society in which men drop the ball of protection is a society of aggression, crime, and hate. But when we men use our God-given power to protect, we can turn the tide and bring the sense of safety everybody needs—the bullies and the bullied.

Provision

I’ve seen too many men in our culture, especially during the recent economic downturn, curl up in the fetal position and suck on their vocational thumbs. I’m tired of hearing men from church complain, “There aren’t any good jobs out there. No one’s hiring.”

If no one’s hiring, create your own job! READ MORE »

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