Posts tagged discipline

“Shut up legs!”



JensVoigtAs a young boy in Germany, Jens Voight was a math prodigy who once put “Attack!” in every blank space on one of his math tests. It would be the wrong answer for everyone else but Jens got away with it. Hmmm. Perhaps he’s actually the World’s Most Interesting Man? This is how Jens has faced any situation he has had to fight through … Attack. This served him well as a professional bicycle racer. Although he never stood atop the podium in Champ-Elysees at the end of the Tour de France, he did wear the yellow jersey on two occasions. What he is probably most famous for is the phrase, “ Shut up legs!”

It was during an interview with a Danish TV station during the Tour de France when they asked him how he keeps going when his legs are burning and he’s worn out. He said, “I simply tell my legs to shut up and do what I’m telling you to do.”

There’s a spiritual parallel we can pull from that statement. There are times in our lives where we simply need to say “shut up” to whatever is distracting us and continue on with what we need to be doing. It’s especially a good phrase to use with our enemy, Satan. As blogger, Morgan Synder says, “I am staggered by the level of naïveté that most people live with regarding evil. They don’t take it seriously. They don’t live as though the Story has a Villain. Not the devil prancing about in red tights, carrying a pitchfork, but the incarnation of the very worst of every enemy you’ve met in every other story. Life is very confusing if you do not take into account that there is a Villain. You, my friend, have an Enemy.”

This Enemy of ours is out to destroy us. And destroy us by any means. He does not play fair or follow any rules other than doing anything to bring you – and your wife and kids – down. He’ll plant thoughts in your mind that are evil, lustful, and vengeful. He’ll tell you things that are untrue like, “You’re no good.” “You deserve to be punished for the sins you’ve done.” “You’re stupid and that’s why you never get promoted.” “You will never measure up.” This is just a very short list of things he’ll whisper in our ears. This is where we need to simply tell him to “Shut up!” These kinds of thoughts are against God’s plan for your life. Capture these thoughts when they come into your head, tell the Enemy he can shove it and then replace the lies with the Truth from God’s Word.

We also need to be on alert for our wife and kids. The Enemy will use the same tactics of using lies to destroy them as he does to us. The messages he sends will be different for each person but the plan of attack will be the same. He’ll tell your wife she isn’t pretty, she’s not doing a good job with the kids, or she isn’t as successful as other women. He’ll tell your kids they’re stupid because someone got a better grade or can read better than they can, that they aren’t talented because they were picked last for playground kickball or didn’t make the team, or he could go the other direction and fill them with pride, whispering how great they are, which also leads down an unhealthy path. We need to train our children to understand and be aware of the tactics of Satan, identify when he’s coming after them, and learn to fight off the attacks as they come into their minds.

As with a lot of things, if you want to win, you need a good offense in addition to a good defense. One of the best ways to be defensive against the Enemy is to be on the offensive. Stay in the Word, be connected with other believers, form a group of allies to battle with, and don’t entertain the thoughts Satan whispers in your ear. Know the truth about who you are, know what God desires of you and when your mind starts to play tricks on you with lies and temptations, be ready with a “Shut up, Satan!”

As a side note, when we are attacked and continue to give in to the temptation — whether it’s lust, alcohol, drugs, whatever — when we keep listening to and acting on the lies, it becomes a stronghold. With a stronghold, it will take more than just a simple “Shut Up” to gain victory. This is where it’s important to have allies in battle with you to fight with and for you.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Todd Nagel’s post, “Shut up legs!”  on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“Is Prayer Your First Response” when facing trials and temptations. Learn how to make it a regular discipline.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHelp your children develop spiritual discipline by teaching them with “A List of Scriptures from the Proverbs.” 

STEPPass - 10-point checklistA band of brothers can help you succeed in the day-to-day. Consider leading a group of men through Stepping Up.

11 ways a smart stepdad can engage



KilimanjaroHiker“How tall is it?” I ignorantly asked a Kenyan missionary.

“Mount Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 feet tall,” he smiled. “It’s big!”

No kidding, I thought. I could see the outline of the tallest mountain in Africa from my third-floor Nairobi apartment 130 miles away. “It might take a while to climb, huh?”

On average it takes an expedition four to seven days to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. And why do people climb it? Because it’s there, right? Just conquering the challenge is one reason people take on this massive testimony to God’s creativity. And then there’s the view from the top. On a clear day you can see for hundreds of miles in a 360-degree panoramic view. Oh, yes, there’s plenty of reward for those who conquer the mountain. But it often doesn’t feel worth it until you reach the top.

When reflecting on his role as a stepfather, David said, “I simply didn’t have any idea how hard blending a family would be. I lacked any knowledge of how to deal with my stepkids.” Conquering Stepdad Mountain might not be as rugged as climbing one of the world’s tallest peaks, but it will probably take longer than you expect.

And you’re not just climbing because it’s there. You’re climbing because it matters. Yes, there is reward for you at the top, but there’s also reward for your family and stepchildren. How you live, love, and lead your stepchildren (and biological children) will create a legacy and heritage that long outlive you. It’s important that you climb well.

So how do you climb? Here are some best practices of smart stepdads, young and old, new and veteran. Consider how you might implement them into your climb.

1. Trust God to lead. Probably the one universal negative experience of stepdads is the feeling of uncertainty. If you find yourself wondering what to do and how to go about it, you’re in good company. From a spiritual standpoint, uncertainty is an invitation to faith. God always uses our “I don’t know what to do’s” to invite us to trust Him more—and we should.

Don’t anguish because you don’t know what to do. Ask God to show you. Don’t panic in your uncertainty and give up on your family. Seek a word from the Spirit. Don’t assume you are alone. Find comfort and direction in His Word. Then you can climb Stepdad Mountain one step at a time.

2. Know your place. A smart stepdad understands that there is an inherent dilemma to his task: How can you be Dad when you’re not Dad? Obviously, you can’t. Even if the biological dad is deceased, you will never replace him, so don’t try. Playing “who’s your daddy” only causes stress in your home. And stress in a stepfamily thickens blood, pitting you against your stepchildren and often your wife.

3. Understand the limits of your role. It’s not your responsibility to undo the past. The negative consequences of divorce, or the pain children experience when a father dies is not yours to resolve. Come alongside children in these situations and try to offer a positive influence over time, but don’t try to be the white knight in shining armor. Just love them.

4. Move in with tact. Don’t be a bull in a china shop. Respect children’s loyalties.

“I became a stepfather when my stepdaughter was eight,” said Anthony. “Her father was very involved in her life and a good dad. There just wasn’t room for me in her heart; therefore, we had a very strained relationship. We were never able to build anything. Now that she is a grown woman, I sense she is becoming a little less competitive … but I think the best way to describe our relationship even now is ‘uneasy toleration.’” Anthony’s climb was, and is, steep. Thank goodness he respected this reality or things might have become worse.

5. Partner with your wife. She needs to believe that you are committed to and care about her, her children, and their past experiences, before you will receive her trust. Therefore, do a lot of listening before injecting your opinion; demonstrate an authentic appreciation for all she has done to provide for her children before trying to make suggestions.

When you do make suggestions, especially early in your climb, be sure to reveal your heart’s intentions first. Consider the contrast between harshly saying, “Your son is a lazy boy. When are you going to make him get up in the morning and get to school on time?” and saying, “I have come to really care about David. I’m hoping to offer some guidance to him and better prepare him for life. I’ve noticed he’s struggling to manage his time and responsibilities with school. Can we talk about how we might encourage more responsibility in him?”

6. Until you have earned their respect, let your wife handle punishment with her children. Leadership that shapes character is a function of emotional attachment with a child. Ruling with an iron hand without a foundational relationship sabotages your level of respect and subverts what you are trying to teach.

Many stepdads mistakenly assume that not taking the lead is a sign of weakness. Actually, it is an indication of strategic wisdom and strength. So while taking the time to build a solid relationship and gradually moving into discipline, trust your wife to continue being the primary parent to her kids.

7. Be patient with your wife, especially when her past creates emotional baggage that you can’t change. Danny shared that his wife’s first marriage left a lot of emotional scars that he thought he could change. “I didn’t have a clue how hard it would be for her to overcome them,” he said. “We have been together for nine years and I’m still dealing with her insecurities. It’s part of who she is, so I just deal with it and go on.”

At first, Danny thought he could “love it out of her,” but in time he came to see that ultimately this was her mountain to climb. He could choose to love her as best he could, but in the end, she would have to deal with the emotional residue from her first marriage.

8. Be equitable in parenting. Wayde observed, “I’ve always felt that my wife has supported my authority with her kids as long as it was fair and equal to what I’d use to punish my kids.” If you ever want to turn your wife into an angry mother bear protecting her cubs, just show favoritism to your kids and treat hers unfairly. Believe me, you’ll awaken the bear.

9. Unless proven otherwise, assume your stepchildren would pick their dad over you. Recognize that a huge step toward gaining your stepchildren’s respect comes from respecting their relationship with their father (even if he’s deceased) and not positioning yourself in competition with him. Doing so just pushes them further away from you and closer to their dad.

Tim, a dad of two and stepdad to two, understands this well. “I have always tried to keep in mind what I want my child to hear from my ex or her new husband about me. I then apply the Golden Rule to my stepkids’ dad. If, on the other hand, I put the kids in the position of having to choose between me and their dad, I always assume they would choose him. (This is especially difficult at times when I want to selfishly ‘one up’ him to make myself look better.) This also means that when my wife and stepkids are badmouthing him, I have to keep from being drawn into the discussion. They will turn on me in a heartbeat.”

10. Remain engaged. Through the years I’ve worked with many disengaged stepdads and their families. The reasons for their drift varied: one man had a “these aren’t my kids” attitude; another had an extremely introverted personality and he simply didn’t know how to engage people in general, let alone his stepchildren. Still others found themselves paralyzed by the guilt of not being around their biological children.

“How can I really enjoy my stepkids when I feel like I’m shorting my kids of my time?” one man said. “In some bizarre way I think I’m making it up to my kids when I deny myself time with my stepchildren.” Still other stepdads find that once they’ve disengaged, which may have initially been part of surviving the confusion of their role, they can’t find their way back.

If you have been disengaged, you can’t stay that way; you hold an important role in your stepkids’ lives. When you married their mother, God positioned you as a role model, friend, teacher, and mentor.

The specifics of how intimate your role will become cannot be predicted, but you have a responsibility to make the most of the opportunities you are given. You can be a blessing to your stepchildren, but not if you don’t engage. To the best of your ability, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). And remember, if you want to have influence with someone, you must be moving toward them emotionally and them toward you. If one of those isn’t happening, forget about having influence or authority.

11. Don’t go it alone. A smart stepdad will also surround himself with a band of brothers. Joe, a stepfather of two, encourages young stepdads to be involved in a fellowship with other men where they are open and honest about their lives. “You cannot do this alone,” he says. “You desperately need other men to walk with you on this journey. Without my band of brothers I never would have come this far. If there are men in your life that have ‘meddling’ rights, then you can stay on the right path with the right attitude.”

Adapted excerpt from The Smart Stepdad © 2011 by Ron L. Deal. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by Permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “11 ways a smart stepdad can engage” by Ron Deal on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to the FamilyLife Today three-part audio broadcast with Ron Deal on how to be an effective stepfather.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Ron Deal’s book, The Smart Stepdad, for more help and hope for building a strong stepfamily.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare the link for this blog post, the radio broadcast, or Ron Deal’s book with a stepdad you know.

What children want … and need



Parents have to make a lot of judgment calls on what is best for their children. As the father of seven, I know full well that my kids haven’t always agreed with my choices. I often wonder: If they had the same decisions to make, would they be good ones? What would my children want?

A few years ago, Ombudsman for Children, an Irish advocacy group, decided to find out the answer to that question of what children want in their unprecedented Big Ballot. They identified five key areas of life, then polled Irish children from 21 counties to find out what they identified as the most important between:

  • Education
  • Family & Care
  • Having a Voice
  • Health, Wealth, and Material Well-being
  • Play and Recreation

As might be expected, Education got schooled by the heavy hitters of Play and Having a Voice. Only 12% of kids picked Education as their top choice. Just above Education at the bottom of the list (16%) was Material Well-being. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that Having a Voice was only a half percentage point higher than those.

what children want

Father’s Day 2008 with my three youngest children and my wife Ellie

So, now we’re down to two: Play and Family. Which do you think topped the children’s list?

Family.

Nearly one third of the children surveyed chose it as their top concern, compared to just a quarter of the ballots for Play and Recreation.

Even when they might not agree with our choices, our children still realize that the family provides them security, protection, enjoyment, love, and counsel. It reminds me of how important a task we have to provide a nurturing environment for our children, and how much they look to us to care for them.

What makes a father proud is to know that his children value the same things that he is trying to provide for them. As long as he’s valuing the right things, it’s almost a slam dunk that his children will want the same things.

What makes children proud — what children want deep down — is to have a father who is an example of integrity and understanding, and who is a source of stability and direction. These are the very things that Scripture speaks of when it addresses the attributes and expectations of a father.

Although it’s not even close to being an exhaustive list, here are a few things children want — and need — from you, straight from the pages of Scripture.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO TEACH THEM THE RIGHT WAY

Deuteronomy 11:19 — You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

3 John 1:4 —  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO CORRECT THEM WHEN THEY’RE WRONG

Proverbs 3:11-12 — My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

Hebrews 12:7-11 — It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND WHO THEY ARE

Colossians 3:21 — Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Psalms 103:13 — Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR BIGGEST NEEDS

Matthew 7:9-11 — Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO TREASURE WHO THEY ARE

Psalm 127:3-5 — Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Developing a spiritual workout plan (part 2)



This is the continuation of a two-part post. Click for part one of “Developing a spiritual workout plan.” 

Years ago I saw an advertisement showing a young man with the washboard abs, with glistening muscles rippling as he pumps his Solaflex machine — with its haunting reminder:  “No pain, no gain.”

WeightsThe same is true spiritually speaking, isn’t it? We want the faith of Moses, but we’d rather avoid the process of a 40-year visit to the wilderness so God can humble us.

We want David’s heart for God, but we don’t want blisters from shoveling smelly sheep manure. We want the glory of the spotlight, the prestige of the position.

And who wouldn’t want to have the spiritual impact of Paul? He shaped the first century church. He journeyed to other countries, preached to massive crowds, entrusted his life to men like Timothy — we’re talking gain, real gain. But we’re also talking pain — major-league pain. Among other things:

  • Paul did time in prison.
  • He was beaten near to death “many times.”
  • Five times the Jews gave him 39 lashes with a whip.
  • He was stoned once, and beaten with rods three times.
  • He was shipwrecked three times.
  • He spent a night and a day in the sea.
  • Many times he was without food, water, and clothing (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

More agony. More pain. But more gain.

Let’s take a few moments and visit two more weightlifting stations that will stretch your faith and increase your endurance.

Do you have “guts”?

One of the largest muscle groups in the body is the stomach. In spiritual terms, your stomach is the place where courage resides. Courage to make tough decisions — hard choices. It is said of a courageous person, “He has guts.”

But our society is guilty of flab in the waistline. We don’t want pain — we want comfort — thus the loss of tone and a resulting bulge from our failure to be bold.

Christians who lack “guts” sacrifice truth on the altar of love. Many lack the tough love to fearlessly confront a family member caught in the web of an addiction. They have a soft view of love, because they fear conflict, rejection, or loss of emotional comfort.

So they don’t broach painful subjects with those they love the most. Or, if they do, they sit on the sidelines throwing stones and second-guessing those who care enough to confront.

Actually, gutless believers are selfish — unwilling to be hurt to see another healed. Paul wrote to Timothy, “God does not give us a spirit that makes us afraid. He gave us a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Flexing your faith muscles

Is there a situation in your life right now where you need to flex your faith in your stomach area? A tough decision? A heroic admission to a friend of some secret sin? An undaunted, loving confrontation with a loved one who is in a downward spiral spiritually?

Go against the tension and exercise your spiritual guts.

Now on to the next station — a spiritual treadmill to exercise our legs. This machine is designed to increase our endurance.

Building endurance

These days I try to run three miles at least three times each week. But when I started on my 40th birthday I could barely run downhill for one mile. I had to endure a lot of pain to get up to my present level.

The same is true spiritually. If I don’t go ahead and face the pain now, I’m left with the inevitable reality of having to face it again and again until I embrace the circumstances, learn the lesson, and gain the stamina. I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve had to learn the same lesson, simply because I was unwilling to face the “painful” truth of what God was saying to me.

God gives our legs hills so that we can grow stronger. The prophet Isaiah gives us the secret to where strong legs come from: “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31).

It is a blessing to endure

One last point about this treadmill: The older you get, the steeper the incline becomes. Sound like bad news? It really isn’t. Who wouldn’t like to think that they had finally arrived?

But if I understand the Scripture, the longer we live, the more we have to die. The more you want to grow, the more you and I must say “no” to self and “yes” to Christ.

I must confess that the more I grow the more in touch I become with how sinful I really am. As the angle of the incline of the treadmill becomes steeper, I see more and more that my only hope is in God and His grace. Paul said it well, “But God’s grace has made me what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Now there’s some hope for tired muscles. Suffering is used by God to conform our character to the likeness of His Son—to “train us in righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

As you “pump the iron” of difficult circumstances, perseverance under trial will occur. Look at this promise of how the pain will result in gain: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life…” (James 1:12).

The truth of “no pain, no gain” is summarized succinctly in the following essay written by one of my favorite authors, Max Lucado.

When a potter bakes a pot, he checks its solidity by pulling it out of the oven and thumping it. If it “sings,” it’s ready. If it “thuds,” it’s placed back in the oven.

The character of a person is also checked by thumping.

Been thumped lately?

Late-night phone calls. Grouchy teacher. Grumpy moms. Burnt meals. Flat tires. “You’ve-got-to-be-kidding” deadlines. Those are thumps. Thumps are those irritating inconveniences that trigger the worst in us. They catch us off guard. Flat-footed. They aren’t big enough to be crises, but if you get enough of them, watch out! Traffic jams. Long lines. Empty mailboxes. Dirty clothes on the floor. Even as I write this I’m being thumped. Because of interruptions, it has taken me almost two hours to write these two paragraphs. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Jesus said that out of the nature of the heart a man speaks (Luke 6:45). There’s nothing like a good thump to reveal the nature of a heart. The true character of a person is seen not in momentary heroics, but in the thump-packed humdrum of day-to-day living.

How do I respond? Do I sing? Or do I thud?

If you have a tendency to thud more than you sing, take heart. There is hope for us “thudders.”

1) Begin by thanking God for thumps. I don’t mean a half-hearted thank you. I mean a “rejoicing, jumping-for-joy” thank you from the bottom of your heart (James 1:2). Chances are that God is doing the thumping. And He’s doing it for your own good. So every thump is a reminder that God is molding you (Hebrews 12:8).

2) Learn from each thump; Face up to the fact that you are not “thump-proof.” You are going to be tested from now on. Might as well learn from the thumps; you can’t avoid them. Look upon each inconvenience as an opportunity to develop patience and persistence. Each thump will help you or hurt you, depending on how you use it.

3) Be aware of “thump-slump” times. Know your pressure periods. For me, Mondays are infamous for causing thump-slumps. Fridays can be just as bad. For all of us there are times during the week that we can anticipate an unusual amount of thumping. The best way to handle thump-slump times? Head on. Bolster yourself with extra prayer and don’t give up.

Remember, no thump is disastrous. All thumps work for good if we are loving and obeying God.

Been thumped recently? Remember where there’s “no pain,” there’s “no gain.” By the way, this spiritual workout center does exist—it’s the local church. Been missing your workouts recently?

Copyright © FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Developing a spiritual workout plan



I remember the year I joined a workout club in an effort to shed some unwanted pounds. When I arrived for the first time, I stood in the doorway of a workout room, looking at all these slim and trim, toned and tuned hardbodies. My greatest fear was that they would all look up at me simultaneously and fall to the floor, laughing hysterically.

WeightsAfter enduring the humiliation of walking to the dressing room and getting into my sweat suit (I wish I had arrived already dressed), I noticed two things. The room was full of all sorts of weight machines designed to strengthen different muscle groups throughout the body. Second, I couldn’t help but notice the mirrors. They were everywhere. I felt like I was in some sort of narcissistic cathedral. People throughout the room stared at their bodies, but I ignored the mirrors — I already knew what I looked like.

As I began to move from station to station, using muscles that must have wondered what prompted their agonizing, abrupt promotion from hibernation, a Scripture began to pound in my ears:

… discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7b-8; NASB).

The word “profitable” is used in this passage to contrast “gain” in two worlds — the physical and the spiritual. The perishable and imperishable. As I began to perspire I thought about my own perishing muscles and the truth of that Scripture.

We need a spiritual workout center

Here I was, moving from machine to machine, an out-of-shape, plump glob of mid-life molecules, surrounded by the “saints of Muscledonia.” But I couldn’t help pondering how, after decades of attempting to obey God and walk with Him, the spiritual conditioning was paying off in my life. No, I didn’t envision myself as some kind of spiritual hunk or hardbody, but I did think about the growth (by the grace of God) that has occurred — what I’ve learned about loving people, developing a blueprint for handling life’s struggles, creating peace and harmony (for the most part) at home, and, most importantly, learning to trust God.

Then it hit me: What you and I in the Christian community need is a spiritual workout center — a sort of spiritual weight machine with different stations to strengthen our faith “muscles.” A place to work out our spiritual soreness, a place to flex and tone our unused muscles of faith, a place where Christians could go to be built up and not torn down. A place to go to see others who, over a lifetime, have faithfully worked out and applied the spiritual disciplines.

As I left those muscle toning machines and ran out the door to go jogging, I began to design my Spiritual Faith-Building Center. I began to think about the individual stations where certain muscles of the faith would be stretched and flexed. I need my own faith-muscles toned and tuned as I faced a new year — more and more stamina is demanded with each passing year. As you read through these, why not select a couple of these areas and do some of your own biblical exercises?

The tongue

My first station in this spiritual workout would be a machine that produces little sweat, but incredible results. This machine would help bridle the tongue. Posted above this faith-building spot would be the following verse:

If any one thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:26).

Bridled by the Bible, a muscle-toned tongue would be appropriate for those who share gossip in the form of “prayer requests.” By controlling this muscle, one could refrain from critical, harsh, or angry words. This would be an excellent machine for Christians whose slimy slab of mucous membrane is used to telling off-color jokes. And for any saint who hasn’t yet swept clean his vocabulary.

Sets of exercises could be developed to train the tongue to form words of appreciation, praise, and encouragement for those who do the laundry, clean house, do yard work, manage the money in the household — and for those who meet the needs of a growing family. Also a special exercise would ingrain in the tongue the ability to give thanks in all things — something that’s not easy even for the most muscle-bound saint (so I’ve been told).

The eyes

Since we’re working on the face, let’s visit a station that addresses the faith-muscles of the eyes. Above this machine would be pictures of some biblical heroes whose lives were ruined when they lost control of their eye muscles. Samson and David were both deceived when they allowed their eyes to gaze too long upon the opposite sex. Special workouts would be designed to train men to look just once at a woman, and then turn his eyes in another direction if necessary.

Eyes that are lured into selfish, materialistic traps when shopping and browsing through catalogues would also receive special exercises. Also, eyes that tend to be discontent with what they have (job, home, and wealth) — eyes that tend to roam every couple of years — would receive special glasses to correct short-sightedness, until the faith-muscle of contentment can be built up (1 Timothy 6:6).

The neck

I would also have a machine that works on the spiritual muscles of the neck. It would increase flexibility in those who have become “stiff-necked” — especially those who are too proud to admit mistakes, too stubborn to ask for forgiveness, or too arrogant to admit they need to depend upon God.

This exercise would demand a person be on his knees with neck bent downward in prayer. Prayerlessness is usually a sign of stiff neck muscles. But prayer loosens muscles that are tied in knots by worry, pressure, or long hours of hard work.

A special softening of the neck muscles with certain Scriptures would be necessary to work the kinks out of the neck area:

“God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

“You scold proud people. Those who ignore your commands are cursed” (Psalm 119:21).

“Proud looks, proud thoughts, and evil actions are sin” (Proverbs 21:4).

“Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).

Teachability toward God and others would increase as the muscles of humility began to be developed in the neck area. As one became more willing to hear the truth, admit failures, and take responsibility for wrong actions, a genuine joy would begin to move from the neck to the face.

Sweating yet? Any increase in your heart-for-God rate? Out of breath? Sore? Like any good workout, it wouldn’t be good to overdo it the first time out.

Read part two of “Developing a spiritual workout plan”

Copyright © FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

 

Managing anger in teenagers: lessons from experience



It’s so important in a family to get a handle on anger.

Have you ever had a scene like this in your home?

Two of our teenagers were asked to clean the kitchen together. Over the next 45 minutes, I came back in to inspect their work three times.

The first time they were arguing about who had done the most. I asked them kindly to keep on working. The next time they were bickering about who had to sweep the floor. I calmed their emotions and encouraged them to finish the job.

Finally, after I had inspected their halfhearted work, the two gave me the lame excuse that they didn’t know what a clean kitchen should look like!

familylife men stepping up anger management

That did it. This normally unflappable dad flipped. The anger that I had controlled during the prior visits erupted and spewed out like lava. I went on a tirade about how they were disrespectful and disobedient. I picked up a box of Kleenex and, in unsanctified rage, flung the box near their feet. Hard! I whirled around, stormed out of the kitchen, and stomped out the front door, slamming it shut.

Standing there on our front porch, with my blood pressure higher than the stock market, two profound thoughts dawned on me. First, It’s very cold out here. Why am I standing here freezing and they are inside warm as toast? I’m the father, the one who is paying for this house and supposedly in charge!

The second thought settled in like the cold and pierced me to the bone. My anger has got the best of me, and I’m acting like a foolish child.

I don’t recall how long I stayed outside, nor do I recall the exact words of the apology to my children that followed. I do recall coming to an important realization: If I am going to help these children grow up emotionally and know how to appropriately express their anger, then I’ve got to finish the process of growing up, too.

God never said we shouldn’t get angry. God did say to not let anger spoil and turn into sin — a trap. The Bible cautions, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quickly tempered exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). And, “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

Anger was never intended to be an emotion that we hold onto for more than minutes or at most, hours. That’s why the Scriptures warn us, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). It’s nearly impossible to rest with an anger alarm ringing, as all of us have found out more often than we’d like to admit.

Ross Campbell wrote in How to Really Love Your Teenager, “We are instructed in Scripture to ‘train up a child in the way he should go,’ to educate him ‘according to his life requirements’ (Proverbs 22:6, KJV and MLB). One of the most important areas in which a teenager needs training is how to handle anger. Anger is normal and occurs in every human being. The problem is not the anger itself but in managing anger in teenagers. This is where most people have problems.”(1)

We must admit there is no subject or emotion in our family that has perplexed us more or made us feel more like novice parents (and failures, at times) than helping our children deal with their anger. And part of the reason is that often when they are angry, we get angry, too.

It’s so important in a family to get a handle on anger. H. Paul Gabriel, M.D., wrote in Anticipating Adolescence: “It becomes critical in adolescence that your children have the feeling that you, too, will listen to them carefully, that they can trust you to think about what they have to say, that you might have a true disagreement with them without getting angry with them. Without that feeling, they simply won’t have the necessary trust to turn to you with the serious issues of adolescence.”(2)

Reaching clear convictions on this topic is a crucial step to achieving a spiritually and emotionally healthy family.

Every family needs a plentiful supply of good anger. Note the emphasis on good. By that, I mean that when anger inevitably comes, we should recognize it, understand the cause, and deal with it properly. We shouldn’t stuff it inside ourselves like a sleeping bag tightly packed into a knapsack. And we shouldn’t fling it on others like confetti.

God created anger to be an asset, but it gets misused and twisted in a fallen world. In basic terms, anger is an emotional alarm that sounds a warning when something is wrong. Only a fool would hear a smoke alarm clanging in the middle of the night and stay in bed to enjoy the interesting tones of the alarm. No, the wise man gets out of bed to see what’s wrong. Yet when the anger alarm sounds, too often we sit and stew instead of turning it off and finding out what’s wrong.

Unfortunately, most families — Dad, Mom, and children — don’t know how to keep good anger from fermenting into spoiled anger. And then when a family has an adolescent or two, the anger issue can take on new dimensions and managing anger in teenagers is nearly a full time job.

We need to look no farther than Jesus to see that anger is an acceptable emotion. A number of times Jesus showed strong feelings of anger. Perhaps the most memorable was the day he tipped over the tables of the moneychangers and chased them out of the temple (see Mark 11:15). Additionally, throughout the Scripture, we find that God is described as an angry God who exhibits a righteous anger at man’s rebelliousness. The problem is that most of us don’t know what to do with appropriate anger when we feel it. We need to grow up and become mature in our expression of this Divine emotion, following the example of Christ.

1) Ross Campbell, M.D., How to Really Love Your Teenager (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1993), p.65.

2) H. Paul Gabriel, M.D. and Robert Wool, Anticipating Adolescence (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p.24.

 

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

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