Posts tagged courageous manhood

Remembering and honoring a D-Day dad



“In all of the far-flung operations of our Armed Forces, the toughest job has been performed by the average, easy-going, hard-fighting young American who carries the weight of battle on his own young shoulders. It is to him that we and all future generations must pay grateful tribute.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt

June was Dad’s month. If James Lepine were still alive this month, we would be celebrating his 95th birthday. He was 25 years old in June of 1944 when he boarded the transport for the Normandy invasion. And it was in June of 1988, just a few weeks before what would have been his 69th birthday, that a different battle ended his life — a battle with malignant melanoma. Three days after he died — just 14 hours following his memorial service — we welcomed the first son into our family. We named him Jimmy.

BobMedals2aI am reminded of my father daily. A picture of him hangs on the wall in my office, and underneath it are these dates: June 16, 1941-January 25, 1946. Just to the right are various medals and ribbons, including a Purple Heart for his war injuries. I wish I knew more about the stories behind the awards. But when my father died 16 years ago this month, most of the stories died with him.

Dad arrived at Normandy roughly 24 hours after the battle had been engaged. Did he wade onto a blood-soaked beach, populated by the freshly dead bodies of his fellow soldiers, the way it appears in Saving Private Ryan? I’ve asked my mom, and she says Dad didn’t talk much about the battlefield. He was fighting to protect his country, and even after the war was finished, he may have continued to protect his wife by not telling her all that he had seen.

So, I’ve had to learn about Dad’s service in World War II from what Mom remembers, from the collection of letters he sent home to his parents which have been passed down to me, and from what history records about F Company of the 359th Regiment, 90th Division. Here’s what I know:

Second Lieutenant James R. Lepine received his commission and his orders in June 1941, the same day he graduated from what was then Michigan State College. He completed his basic training in Fort Benning, GA, and was sent across the country to Camp Roberts, Calif., for an additional 17 weeks of infantry training.

Driving to town on a sunny California Sunday afternoon, he would always remember approaching the roadblock where he was told to turn around and report back to camp immediately. It was December 7, 1941 — the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was a soldier whose nation had just gone to war.

He had just become First Lieutenant Lepine. His next duty station was Camp Barkeley in Abilene, TX, where he joined the “Tough ‘Ombres,” the men of the 90th Infantry Division. He continued his correspondence with his college sweetheart, Eileen Cross from Flint, MI, and in September, she rode the train from Michigan to Texas to become Eileen Lepine … in Abilene.

Dad stayed in the States for training until early 1944, when it became clear that the men of the 359th Infantry were going to be sent overseas. At Fort Dix, NJ, they received their final physical checkups, new clothing and supplies, and waited for deployment. And on March 22, they headed across the Atlantic for Operation Overlord — the code name for the Normandy invasion.

Letters home

My father was a faithful letter writer, and my grandmother kept a scrapbook of her son’s letters from Europe, along with the “V-mail” — the microfilmed version of full-sized letters that the government created in an effort to speed the delivery time and allow for more room in overseas shipping.

The scrapbook is my link to the events my father lived through 60 years ago. The first letter is dated March 20, 1944 — a couple of days before he shipped out. “I’m so tired I can hardly stay awake,” he wrote. “That, coupled with the fact that there isn’t much that we’re allowed to say will make this a short letter. … This may be the last chance I’ll have to write for a while, but don’t worry.”

It was almost three weeks later before the next letter from “Somewhere in England” which was as specific as he was allowed to be:

“I’m fine and, while I can’t tell you much, I can say that I think I will like England on the whole and that the food is good so far. If you think that you are suffering from rationing I can tell you that you can’t imagine what rationing is until you’ve seen British rationing restrictions. The civilian population really realizes what it means to be at war.”

Dad’s next letter was sent by V-Mail: “I have just finished writing Criss [my mom’s nickname] and can’t find anything that they’ll allow us to tell you people. She’ll be disappointed and I know you are too. But the shroud of military secrecy overhangs everything.”

His letters throughout the spring of 1944 talked mostly about food and weather, along with regular assurances that he was fine. There wasn’t much he could say about the ongoing training to prepare for D-Day. There were occasional insights into army life before the invasion:

“Cigarettes are plentiful but Cokes could be sold for about $5 apiece. There’ll always be two classes: the “haves” and the “have nots.” I’m just in the wrong class” (April 15).

“Just a time tonight to let you know I am well and safe. We’re all getting pretty accustomed now to British scenery, British ways, and British money. You have no conception of the old-fashioned facilities that the British are in possession of. Plumbing and electricity and all are about 20 years behind our standards” (April 25).

“Don’t worry about my birthday because there isn’t anything I need or can carry with me. I changed the war bond allotment from a $25 bond a month to a $100 bond a month and they will be sent to Criss. As long as she’s at home she may as well keep them. … I feel fine and the food is still good. Have a ¼ inch haircut that I know you’d get a big laugh out of. But it’s very practical” (May 30).

Dad’s last letter home before the invasion was sent May 31. My family heard nothing for more than three weeks — only the news reports back in the States about the allied invasion. They could only hope and pray that if in fact he had been part of the attack on Normandy, he had survived.

D-Day

The 90th Division arrived on the beaches of Normandy in waves, beginning on the morning of June 6 and continuing for three days. In any conversation I ever had with my dad about D-Day, he would sum up the events of the day this way: “The ship I was on hit a mine as we landed. I made it ashore, passed out, and when I woke up, I was in a hospital bed back in England.”

The army sent the news of Dad’s injury in a telegram to my grandparents on June 21, 1944:

Regret to inform you Capt. James R. Lepine was on 7 June slightly injured in action in the European area. You will be advised as reports of condition are received.

There’s no way of knowing whether that telegram arrived before or after the letter my dad wrote home five days after being injured:

“In case the war dept. should send you or Criss some alarming telegram, I’m writing to let you know I’m OK. I’m back in England after a short tour of the coast of France. We went in early in the invasion. Our ship hit a mine and promptly sunk, leaving us to hitch hike the rest of the way. After riding in a couple of destroyers and landing craft we managed to land. My knee and back got kinda strained when the mine hit and I guess I must have passed out after walking 4 or 5 miles. I was probably a little punchy too. Next thing I can remember I was on a ship headed back here. Hope to get out and play war again if they’ll let me. My knee is still a little weak but I think it’ll be OK. Lot of people shooting guns over there and someone’s bound to get hurt. … Hope you’re all fine. Will write again” (June 12).

It was almost two weeks before Dad wrote home again. From his hospital bed in England, he reported he was being reassigned. In another, he wrote, “I feel good and, as all soldiers do, I’m living for the day when the Statue of Liberty again comes into view and we can start life over.”

He sensed victory in Europe was at hand. “I hope you aren’t becoming too optimistic about this war at home because I’m afraid everyone else is. Germany is whipped, I’m convinced, but intends to continue fighting a while longer. Sure will be glad when Hitler says quit, as will everyone else.”

In mid-August, the 90th Division fought the battle of Falaise Gap, where they destroyed the German 7th Army. By the time the smoke had cleared, more than 10,000 German soldiers had surrendered and been taken prisoner. Three days after the battle was over, Dad wrote home, saying, “If a man stays alive and in one piece for a couple of more months he should be able to make it ok.”

Dad was able to stay alive and in one piece, although a few weeks later he made a return trip to an Army hospital, this time with a concussion and with hearing loss in his left ear as a result of a nearby artillery blast. He wrote to tell his parents not to worry, but in a subsequent letter that he sent to his father at his office, Dad cracked the door open just a bit on the realities of war. “You have no conception of what hell the boys on the front lines go through,” he wrote. “I don’t think any of us will want to talk much about it afterwards, but rather will want to forget. There were some good days, but they didn’t make up for the bad ones.” On another occasion, he wrote, “The war for the most part is pretty awful and when these boys finally get back home they’re due every consideration that can be given them.”

From September 1944 until March 1945, Dad remained in England. And then the letters in the scrapbook come to an end. I have no idea how much longer Dad was overseas, or when he arrived back in the States. I do have the papers processing the end of his time in active duty, dated January 26, 1946 —almost nine months after Hitler had committed suicide and Germany surrendered.

The sacrifices of our fathers

Dad never initiated much conversation about the war, and I didn’t know enough to ask or care until he was gone. I grew up knowing that my Dad had been at Normandy, but without knowing much about the significance of that battle.

He died before Saving Private Ryan, before Band of Brothers, before Tom Brokaw proclaimed his The Greatest Generation, before we stopped as a nation and thought about the sacrifices of our fathers and honored them for their service. I’m sure if Dad were alive today, I would have lots of questions for him about the landing at Utah Beach, his injuries, whether he was scared, whether he ever had to watch a friend and fellow soldier die, or whether he ever watched an enemy soldier die from a wound he had inflicted. And I’m sure he would have done what many of his fellow soldiers have done — shrugged his shoulders and said, “We just did what we were supposed to do. It was just something we did.” Simple as that.

Thanks, Dad. I don’t know that I ever said it while you were alive, but I should have. Thanks to you and to all who stormed Omaha and Utah beaches 70 years ago. Thanks to those who fought the Battle of the Bulge. To those who waded ashore at Iwo Jima. To the prisoners of war who died in the Bataan Death March. To the men on board the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. To our fathers and grandfathers.

Many of us realize now that we should have expressed our gratitude years ago. We didn’t know. We didn’t understand. I’m not sure we do now, but maybe we’re beginning to, and we’re grateful.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

 

Fleshing out David and Goliath



This post originally appeared in the blog, Noah Gets a Nailgun.

david and goliath 1The Bible is filled with tons of great stories but my favorite is David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. Its one thing to read the story in the Bible – it’s fascinating for sure – but the story becomes much richer when you have a better understanding of the details surrounding it. I found some out about David and Goliath and thought I’d share them with you if this particular story strikes your fancy. If not, no worries but you probably want to stop reading now and check out another one of our posts!

Centuries ago a seafaring group of people from the island of Crete had settled onto the coast of Palestine. Once settled, they desired to expand their territory, as most nations did back in the day – and some like Russia are doing now. They had their sights set on this nation that was settled in the mountains under the leadership of King Saul. In the second half of the eleventh century BC, the Philistines began to move east, winding their way along the Elah Valley. Their goal was to capture the mountain ridge near Bethlehem and split Saul’s kingdom in two.

The Philistines set up camp along the southern ridge of Elah. The Israelites set-up on the north ridge, which left the two sides looking across a ravine at each other. To attack meant descending down the hill you were camped on and then making a suicidal climb up the enemy’s ridge on the other side. Thus the reason they kept lining up for battle but never actually did any fighting.

Finally the Philistines had enough of the staring contest and sent down their greatest warrior into the valley to resolve the deadlock in a one on one battle. Goliath would come down twice a day and shout over to the Israelites, “Choose a man and have him come down and fight me. If I beat him you all become our servants but if he beats me, we’ll become your servants.”

What Goliath was doing was asking for what was known as “single combat.” This was a common practice in the ancient world. Two sides in a conflict would seek to avoid the heavy bloodshed of open battle by choosing one warrior to represent each in a duel. Mano a mano with the winner’s country taking all.

By most accounts Goliath stood 9’ 9”, covered head to toe in armor that all combined weighed more than 150 pounds, came to battle packing a spear, rod and sword and had an armor bearer that stood in front of him with a large shield. I still haven’t figured out why he needed a guy in front of him with a shield but that’s what it says.

Over on the Israelites side there wasn’t anyone who could go toe to toe with Goliath. But they also couldn’t rush down their hill and then back up the Philistine’s side and win the battle, so their options were few and none you’d want to choose from.

Enter into the story the young kid David. He’s is in his early teens. He’s already been anointed King of Israel but he’s still tending his father’s sheep. His dad sends him to the war zone to take food to his three older brothers who are in the army and to bring back a report about how things are going.

As he’s checking up on his brothers, here comes Goliath down to the valley. He of course makes his usual announcement and all the soldiers tremble with fear. David looks around going, what’s wrong with all you people, why are you afraid of this guy?

Word gets around to King Saul that someone is willing to fight Goliath so he summons David and David tells him, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go out and fight him.”

To which Saul replies, “You can’t go out and fight him; you are only a boy and he has been fighting since his youth.”

Let’s pause here real quick. Put yourself in the shoes of King Saul and having this responsibility. You have to pick one person to go fight this giant and the result of the throw down determines if your country becomes slaves to this other nation. When your soldier gets beat it means you are no longer king, you end up in prison or something worse, your people are no longer free, you no longer have a country, etc. Kind of a big deal. And the one person who volunteers isn’t even old enough to drive a car yet. What would you have done?

david and goliath 2David responds to Saul’s hesitation with, “Hey look, I’ve killed a lion and I’ve killed a bear. I grabbed them by their hair and struck them down. This Philistine will come to the same end because he is defying the armies of the living God.” Very interested the worldview David has and his trust in God.

Saul of course thinks David is going to partake in this “single combat” style of fighting so he tries to dress David up in his armor and gives him his sword but David has other plans and has no intention of doing this one on one deal. Instead, he goes down to a stream, picks up 5 smooth stones, puts them in his shepherd’s bag – which was basically a fanny pack before fanny packs were cool – get’s a “Go get ‘em and may the Lord be with you” from the King and heads down the hill toward Goliath.

I envision Michael Buffer standing in the middle of the valley making the fight introductions: Fighting out of the blue corner standing 9 feet and 9 inches tall, wearing 150 pounds of armor, being guarded by an armor bearer, armed with 3 weapons designed for close-combat fighting, the undisputed champion of the world, Goliath!

And fighting out of the red corner standing half as tall as the other guy and weighing less than the armor the other guy is wearing, carrying a stick, five stones, a sling shot and a sweet little pouch to carry the rocks in, David “The Underdog” son of Jesse.

I’ve never bet on sports but in this case I’d probably dare to wager some money on Goliath taking this one early in the first round.

As David and Goliath start coming closer to each other Goliath sees who’s been sent to fight him and he’s a tad insulted, “What, am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” He throws some curse words out just for good measure and then tells David he’s going to feed his flesh to the birds.

To which David replies, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, I will strike you down and I will cut off your head.”

David clearly holds his own when it comes to the pre-battle jawing.

David then takes off running full throttle toward Goliath. As he’s running he pulls out a stone, puts it in his sling, starts whipping it around faster and faster – six or seven revolutions a second – and aims for the one small and only spot where Goliath isn’t protected.

For a quick side note: A typical size rock flung by an expert slinger from about 100 feet would have the same effect as someone using a fair-size modern handgun. Not quite the same kind of slingshot my mom bought me from the dollar store when I was a kid.

Everything happened so fast that Goliath had no idea what hit him. But David put the stone right between his eyes, Goliath drops straight down, David takes Goliath’s sword cuts his head off and the route is on.

You can envision all the Israelite soldiers pouring down the side of the ridge whizzing past David as he stands there holding Goliath’s head up high for all to see and at the same time all the Philistines go from celebrating a sure victory to turning tail trying to escape.

Check out this short video from FamilyLife’s Stepping Up Men’s Study:

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To apply it to our own lives:

How many of us feel overwhelmed with a temptation or a trial in life that we feel there is no way to conquer? Romans 8:37 tells us that we are more than conquerors through Christ. Don’t lose heart when you come up against an insurmountable obstacle or a besetting sin. God gives us the power and the victory, just like he did with David, if we are willing to be obedient and trust Him for the outcome. Don’t lose heart like the other Israelites did. We can say with confidence just like Isaiah, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save!”

And a HUGE thanks to Scott Edge for allowing me to use his images for this post!

Todd NagelTodd Nagel is a 36-year-old man who has been a husband to Sarah for 11 years and a dad to four kids, two girls and two boys, ages 9 – 3. He loves outdoors and especially likes to hike, mountain bike, kayak and golf, but doesn’t have a ton of time or money to do much of those things (see info about having a wife and four kids). Todd has been with a ministry called Cru for 14 years and has a desire to see men grow spiritually and lead their families well.

Make champions on Super Saturday



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Saturday: A day before the big game



Experts include Bill Bennett, Tony Dungy, Crawford Loritts, Dennis Rainey and many others

If there was ever a time when men need vision for what it means to be a godly man, this is it. Imagine if we could call men from all walks of life to become courageous, godly leaders in their own lives, marriages, churches, and communities. Well, we can. And it all starts with you.

On the Saturday before the Super Bowl, we’re calling on thousands of churches across America to host a Stepping Up Super Saturday: one life-changing day that could turn the tide for men in your ministry, and across America.

Stepping Up Super Saturday proudly presents the Stepping Up Video Event, a DVD-based kit designed for an all-day event. High quality DVDs deliver dramatic stories, humorous vignettes, man-on-the-street interviews, and expert teaching from the more than two dozen ministry leaders. Watch this video from FamilyLife Vice-President and former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp to learn more about how you and the other men in your realm can step up on Super Saturday.

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Today’s men are shrinking back when they should be stepping up. Help them tackle the challenges of modern life head on by hosting Stepping Up Super Saturday at your church February 1, 2014. Sign up today, order your Video Event Kit  and….GAME ON!

A new battle for godly manhood begins



Imagine if we could call men from all walks of life to become courageous, godly leaders in their own lives, marriages, churches, and communities. Well, we can. And the new battle for godly manhood starts with you.

Super Saturday battle for godly manhood - FamilyLife Stepping UpFamilyLife proudly presents the Stepping Up Super Saturday Video Event, a DVD-based kit designed for an all-day men’s event. High quality videos deliver dramatic stories, humorous vignettes, man-on-the-street interviews, and expert teaching from 12 renowned men’s ministry leaders, like Dennis Rainey, Robert Lewis, Tony Dungy, and Bill Bennett.

On the Saturday before the Super Bowl®, you can host a life-changing one-day video event that will call and equip men to Step Up to godly manhood! It’s easy, we’ll show you how.

We’re praying that thousands of men across America will host a Stepping Up Super Saturday: one life-changing day that could turn the tide for men in your community, and across America. Last year over 20,000 men attended a Super Saturday Video Event with rave reviews.

“Loved the event. I only heard positive comments from the men in our church. It was well done, we could do it for a reasonable cost, and had 60 men involved in a church of 350 (men, women, and children.) That’s pretty good. I think it hit where the men were at. In the closing comments we had 10-12 men share they were deeply challenged by it. I could tell by their comments that the material struck a chord through which the Holy Spirit is working.”

The most courageous thing a husband can do with his wife



Over the years I’ve challenged men to take the initiative and improve their marriages in another way. This action requires bedrock courage.

No, it’s not initiating sex.  By comparison, that’s risky indeed, but nowhere nearly as challenging as … praying daily with your wife.

Courageous husband

Now some men already are praying daily with their wives. But I’ve seen that look of hesitation and even fear in the eyes of many men when I’ve given them this challenge. It’s way outside of their comfort zone.

I am not certain that Barbara and I would still be married had it not been for this spiritual discipline of experiencing God together in our marriage. It has kept us from building walls in our marriage, it has forced us to forgive one another, and it has kept us focused in the same direction.

The power of praying together

A businessman who works for a well-known corporation took my challenge a number of years ago. He and his wife had been married for years and had two children.  At the time, he was experiencing some difficulties in his marriage — he was angry over the lack of time they spent together, both relationally and physically. He had begun drinking (again) and they had been sleeping in separate bedrooms for two years. They were not considering divorce and remained committed to the marriage, but, in his words, “we were both on different pages, spiritually and mentally. She wanted to have Bible studies together and pray, but I was not willing, due to my inner anger at her.”

A few years later, my path crossed his again, and he wrote me that when he took the initiative to pray daily with his wife, their relationship was transformed.

Over a period of time and consistently praying together, we have seen amazing changes in our lives. Quickly the level of anger subsided. Each night our prayers became easier and meant more. We quickly seemed to move onto the same page, our attitude toward each other changed, and we began liking each other again.

We also saw changes in our parenting. We started talking more and having in-depth conversations. Over the last few years our conversations have turned to deep meaningful reviews of our lives and the mistakes we’ve made. We share hurts, frustrations and worries. We both seem to want to help each other and support the other in times of need.

As we learned to love and respect each other, our sex life has grown into a beautiful expression of our love and is more satisfying than ever.  Our walk with God has grown deeper, individually and as a couple. Our lives seem to be connected on a spiritual level as never before. As with any marriage, problems still arise, but now we feel equipped to deal with the issues in a positive way.

The Lord has done a mighty work in our marriage and we contribute much of that success to the fact that every night we approach the Throne of Grace together. It truly is His grace that has sustained us. In fact, many times we have grinned that we know God exists. Only He could salvage our train wreck of a marriage and not only make it survive, but thrive.

Can you imagine what would happen in your marriage, in your family, if you showed that type of initiative and courage? My encouragement is to try it.  If you miss a day, then pick up again tomorrow and pray together.  I’ve found that the men who initiate prayer with their wives have a dramatically different relationship with them in less than two years.

 

Adapted by permission from Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, © 2011 by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

 

Defining courage



 

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Our culture today offers a marred picture of what it means to have courage. For example, in recent times we have seen revered athletes own up to their failings such as Tiger Wood’s admission of serial adultery, Michael Phelps’ admission to recreational drug use and last week’s confession by Lance Armstrong to Oprah concerning the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It seems the dutiful on-camera confession is all that is required for a reputation to be restored and the shamed are upheld for having the courage to come clean.

It’s one thing to confess and come clean, but let’s not pretend it’s courageous to deceive the public for years (in Wood’s and Armstrong’s case) and only come clean when the evidence is stacked against you. Even Oprah said of her interview, that Armstrong still seemed to be playing semantics, not wanting to fully admit his wrongs, still skirting the truth. We know that it takes a real man, a really courageous person, to admit when they’ve done wrong by others and change. True courage is modeled for us in the Bible, but sadly, celebrated confessions reflect society’s superficial standard of virtue and character.

So we’d like you to join us in a linkup to define real courage. If you have a blog, write a post about a time you (or your spouse) were faced with a choice that took courage, and link your post back to the Stepping Up men’s blog. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to leave your definition of courage in the comments section of this post.

We want to help redefine courage in America today, so every blogger who participates in the Defining Courage Linkup will receive a copy of Dennis Rainey’s book Stepping Up, a Call to Courageous Manhood.  One lucky, randomly selected winner will receive a Stepping Up Event Kit. Posts must be linked by January 28 to be eligible for the giveaways.

Plan to participate in a Stepping Up Super Saturday event on February 2 where Dennis Rainey, Voddie Baucham, Bill Bennett, Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, Robert Lewis, Mark Driscoll, and others help you tackle some of the biggest issues facing men today.

 

The one thing a man of courage does



manafraid

Over the years I’ve challenged men to take the initiative and improve their marriages in a way that requires bedrock courage.

No, it’s not initiating sex. By comparison, that’s risky indeed, but nowhere near as challenging as … praying daily with your wife.

Now, some men are already praying daily with their wives. But I’ve seen that look of hesitation and even fear in the eyes of many men when I’ve given them this challenge. It’s way out of their comfort zone.

I’m not certain that Barbara and I would still be married had it not been for this spiritual discipline of experiencing God together in our marriage. It has kept us from building walls in our marriage, it has forced us to forgive each other, and it has kept us focused in the same direction.

A businessman  who works for a well-known corporation took my challenge a number of years ago. He and his wife had been married for years and had two children. At the time, he was experiencing some difficulties in his marriage — he was angry over the lack of time they spent together, both relationally and sexually, he had begun drinking (again), and they had been sleeping in separate bedrooms for two years. They were not considering divorce and remained committed to the marriage, but in his words, “We were both on different pages, spiritually and mentally. She wanted to have Bible studies together and pray, but I wasn’t willing, due to my inner anger at her.”

A few years later, our paths crossed again, and he wrote to tell me that when he took the initiative to pray daily with his wife, their relationship was transformed:

Over a period of time and consistently praying together, we have seen amazing changes in our lives. Quickly the level of anger subsided. Each night our prayers became easier and meant more.

We seemed to move onto the same page, our attitude toward each other changed, and we began liking each other again. We also saw changes in our parenting; we started talking more and having in-depth conversations. Over the last few years, our conversations have turned to deep, meaningful reviews of our lives and the mistakes we’ve made. We share hurts, frustrations, and worries. We both seem to want to help each other and support the other in times of need.

As we learned to love and respect each other, our sex life has grown into a beautiful expression of our love and is more satisfying than ever. Our walk with God has grown deeper, individually and as a couple. Our lives seem to be connected on a spiritual level as never before. As with any marriage, problems still arise, but now we feel equipped to deal with the issues in a positive way.

Jesus Christ has done a mighty work in our marriage, and we attribute much of that success to the fact that every night we approach the Throne of Grace together. It truly is His grace that has sustained us. Only He could salvage our train wreck of a marriage and not only make it survive but thrive.

Can you imagine what would happen in your marriage, in your family, if you demonstrated that type of initiative and courage? My encouragement is to try it. If you miss a day, then pick up again tomorrow and pray together. I’ve found that the men who initiate prayer with their wives have a dramatically different relationship with them in less than two years.

Do you have a similar fear of prayer?  Not sure you’d say it right or that you might not say it well?  God isn’t interested in your posture, words, or vocabulary.  He’s interested in you, your heart and your family.  When you take the initiative to lead in this way, God will do some supernatural work you have not even thought about.  And, I bet your wife will actually find it romantic when you lead her in prayer with sincerity and intent.

Give it a try.

If you have a story about praying with your wife, challenges you faced and overcame, or hesitancies today, share them below because I can guarantee you that you’re not the only one who struggles to lead your wife/marriage in this way.  Be strong and courageous, men.

Adapted from the book, Stepping Up™ by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing, 2011.

The most courageous decision (part 1)



(This is an excerpt from the book, Stepping Up™ by Dennis Rainey — this excerpt begins after a discussion about what it means to “make a decision for Christ.”  If you haven’t done that, or if you have questions about what that means, you can email us at info@mensteppingup.com. You can also purchase the book, Stepping Up™ and read the section describing this or check out this website, Cru.org)

Once you’ve made the most courageous decision to yield your life to Christ, the rest of your life lies ahead. There are some additional decisions that will mark your passage as a man.

most courageous decision a man can make?

The first is: Will you let God define your identity as a man? When a man defines himself and attempts to determine his identity apart from God, he is left to compare himself with others — a low and dangerous standard. A real man finds his essence and identity in his Creator.

No man will understand who he is and what his ultimate assignment on planet Earth is apart from knowing God. This is why A. W. Tozer wrote in his book, Knowledge of the Holy,

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

In fact, I believe that one of the reasons we’re short of real men today is that we’ve lost the fear of God. The majority of proverbs in the Old Testament were written by a father to his son to introduce him to God and equip him for life. Proverbs 1:7 tells us clearly, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The word wisdom is an important word for men. It means that we are to have skill in everyday living. We are to live life skillfully, the way our Creator designed it to be lived. Fearing God is the starting point for being a real man.

To fear God means that I hold Him in reverential awe. It means I see Him for who He is — the sovereign King. When I revere God for who He is, I can rightly determine who I am as a man.

As I study Scripture and understand who God is, I realize that I am not the center of the universe. God is. I realize that I don’t call the shots in life. God does.

This means I humble myself in submission to Him. I make choices realizing that God is everywhere present, sees all, and knows all. I live my life not to please myself but to please Him. I understand that I will someday give an account of my life to God and that His presence in my life motivates me to turn away from temptation, evil, and sin.  That is why this is the most courageous decision we make in this life.

What have you experienced when it comes to making this decision in your life or maybe haven’t made?

Tomorrow’s Post — What other courageous decision must you make in life?

12 things I’ve learned from my mentors



For many of us, mentoring is a word we are familiar with from the academic and business world.  Yet most of us haven’t really experienced what it means to be a part of a mentoring relationship.  Here are two things I know and believe with all my heart: Men need a mentor, and men need to be a mentor.  And for many of us, one is harder than the other.

To a man, I can guarantee that almost all of us want to be mentored.  But we don’t see that we have anything to offer others so we don’t feel adequate to be a mentor.  Yet without one, there isn’t the other.  Without a mentor, there is no mentoring.  So as you grow in your manhood, it’s time to start thinking and praying about opportunities to mentor another man.

As a man stands on the manhood step, it’s a good thing to be facing upward, thinking about mentoring. As you contemplate becoming a mentor, I want to encourage you to begin asking God to give you a couple of men to mentor. This may not be the most courageous thing you’ve ever done, but I promise you, it will be one of the most important and satisfying things you will ever do as a man.

Previously I shared a list of 12 things that I teach those I mentor. Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned from mentors who’ve come alongside me through the years:

  • The best measure of what a man can do is what a man has done.
  • Making bad decisions helps you learn to make good decisions.
  • Once the facts are clear, usually the right decision jumps out at you.
  • Communication is not what is said but what is heard.
  • Every man needs margin in his calendar for the unexpected at work and at home.
  • No amount of success at work will compensate for failure at home.
  • Debt is dangerous.
  • Lifelong male friendships are challenging, but every man needs a friend who can speak truth into his life.
  • A man needs to be accountable to another man.
  • Praying with his wife is the most powerful thing a husband can do every day.
  • Every man is leaving a legacy, so why not be intentional about the legacy you leave?
  • A life lived without God, the Scriptures, and complete, daily surrender to Jesus Christ is a wasted life.

What about you?  Was there a man or group of men who invested some of these truths into your life ?  Do you have someone you can turn to when life whips you into discouragement or even despair?  Do you take the time to invest in someone else?  Are there boys in your life (church, neighborhood, work, etc.) who are without a dad or could use another man’s perspective on life … yours?

If you wait to feel adequate enough to mentor, you never will.  God doesn’t equip those who think they have all the answers.  He honors those who take a courageous step of faith.  He equips you to accomplish what you’ve taken the initiative to do when it’s done for His glory.  And, taking care of the next generation and preparing them for God’s work is for His glory.

You can do this, men.  You can be the man God uses in the life of another young man to unleash him toward God’s purpose.

It takes a little courage.  Are you that man?  Step up and see God work.

Excerpted from Stepping Up (Kindle Locations 2297-2314). FamilyLife Publishing®. Kindle Edition.

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