Posts tagged stepping up blog

Men should be investors not consumers



Men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.

man smashing piggybank

Do you know any men who pout or whine when their wife’s idea of frequent sex is different than theirs?

Do you know any men who only go on dates when their wife sets one up?

What makes more than a few young men devote massive amounts of time to video games and social media?

How many husbands need stimulation from more and more porn while their physical intimacy with their wife dwindles away?

Why can many young guys hook up with girls, but not have the courage to ask them on a date or navigate a constructive relationship?

What’s causing so much perpetual adolescence among guys in their late 20s and late 50s?

God has answers to these questions which drive us to passionately reach and disciple men.

We’re facing a crisis in our culture. It’s urgent! When a boy stays a boy for life … when a man doesn’t know what it is to be a man … when he uses girls and women like property … when he fathers kids outside of marriage … when his marriage breaks up … the price paid is compounded for women, children, and society.

Men don’t need to be attacked, however. They need to be welcomed into a Christian fellowship of other men, where manhood can be bestowed. They need to see and learn the manhood model of Jesus, while in the company of friends and mentors.

Men have been tricked, and we need to help them break free from the lies and false vision of manhood. One key cause for the counterfeit versions of manhood and sorry state of marriages today is one we can beat only if we identify it. We need to understand our identity as consumers and rebuild a new identity as investors.

Think about it. Most of us Americans see over 500 advertisements a day. We are trained by Madison Avenue and Hollywood to be consumers and pleasure seekers. It makes us petty, selfish, and little.

Investors not consumers

But men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.  Doing that in marriage for your wife, whom you are to cherish, makes you and your children much happier over time.

In defining manhood and leading men, we need to square up and tackle the passive, selfish, small vision of manhood that shapes boys and men into the mold of “consumer.”  Men want a vision to create something significant, battle for something good, and love a woman and family heroically.

That won’t be possible with a small consumer identity.  We need to wake men up to the devil’s and society’s trick.  God made us to be investors.

Consider pro football.  In the quarterback meeting room and in drills they teach Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, and Drew Brees to throw the ball to receivers in a target diameter of one foot, perfectly serving the receiver so he need not stretch, bend, jump or dive. And they teach wide receivers, “If you can touch it, you must catch it.” Make the quarterback and the team look good. Lay out. Sacrifice. Those are investor mentalities.

Let’s break the consumer mold, call men up to being relationship investors — guys who protect the weak, bring out the best in others, and love unconditionally. Galatians 5 tells us we were called to freedom, not so we could feed our fleshly desires but so we could serve one another — to love our neighbor. It warns that if we are selfish in our flesh and relationships, we’ll be consumed ourselves.  Philippians 2 tells us to be like Jesus and look out for the interests of others, not just self.

Men investing in other men will help us all rediscover the model of manhood: Jesus, the ultimate relationship investor.

 

Jeff Kemp quarterbacked for 11 years in the NFL.  He is a vice-president and “HomeBulder Catalyst” for FamilyLife, speaking to men and equipping men’s group discipleship with FamilyLife’s DVD men’s experience, Stepping Up™.   You can reach Jeff at jkemp@familylife.com.

 

Copyright 2013 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

Major League trailblazer — Jackie Robinson story (part two)



Yesterday, we started the courageous story of Jackie Robinson as shared in Stepping Up.  Today, we continue the story in part two …

Stepping Up FamilyLife Jackie Robinson sliding-2

photo from http://www.myhero.com/

Handling the pressure

Rickey turned out to be an accurate prophet. After a successful year in the minor leagues, Robinson made his major-league debut as the Dodgers’ first baseman in April of 1947. The first resentment he faced was from his own teammates. They didn’t like the idea of a black player taking a white man’s spot on the roster. Many were from the south and weren’t accustomed to equal treatment for blacks.

Dixie Walker, one of the top Brooklyn players, worried about the reaction back home in Hueytown, Alabama, if he played with blacks. He feared how it would affect business at his hardware and sporting-goods store. “I grew up in the South, and in those days you grew up in a different manner,” Walker said years later. “We thought that blacks didn’t have ice water in their veins and so [they] couldn’t take the pressure of playing big league baseball.”

On opening day, most of the players ignored Robinson. He arrived in the locker room to discover that he hadn’t been assigned a locker; his uniform was hanging on a hook on the wall.

Robinson’s first real test occurred in a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies. A flood of insults poured out of the Philadelphia dugout during the game. The Phillies insulted his appearance and yelled about the diseases he would pass on to the Dodger players and their wives.

Robinson took insults like these personally. “For one wild and rage-crazed minute,” he wrote later, “I thought, ‘To hell with Mr. Rickey’s noble experiment.’ I thought what a glorious, cleansing thing it would be to let go. To hell with the image of the patient black freak I was supposed to create. I would throw down my bat, stride over to the Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of bitches and smash his teeth in with my despised black fist. Then I could walk away from it all.”

But Robinson withstood the temptation that day . . . and for the entire season. Instead, he let his playing speak for him. It was more than his hitting and fielding, which improved throughout the season. He also disrupted the opposing team with his daring base running. He would take impossibly big leads off base, throwing pitchers out of their rhythm and shaking their confidence. This led to more walks and better pitches for his teammates to hit. He could take over a game even if he never got a hit.

Still, he paid a price for holding back his emotions. At home he became withdrawn from his wife, Rachel, and found it difficult to sleep. At one point he called his sister and said, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m quitting.”

He received almost no support from his teammates, who excluded him from social outings and hardly spoke to him on road trips. The players’ wives met regularly for shopping, knitting, and impromptu sleepovers, but Rachel was never invited.

Rooting for Jackie Robinson

But as the season progressed, things began to change. His teammates began yelling in his defense at opposing teams, threatening retaliation if the insults continued. He was greeted by well-wishers and autograph seekers wherever he went. White kids began selling, “I’m rooting for Jackie Robinson” buttons at Ebbets Field.

Most of the letters the Dodgers received were encouraging. One fan wrote, “You’ve got a lot more friends in this country of ours than enemies. The main thing to remember is that it’s the unthinking few who generally make the biggest noise.” Another said, “If your batting average never gets any higher than .100 and if you make an error every inning, [and] if I can raise my boy to be half the man that you are, I’ll be a happy father.”

Robinson also began to see the impact he was having on the culture. An owner of an electronics factory in New Jersey, for example, was inspired by Robinson’s example and decided to integrate his factory.

Late in the season, Brooklyn fans were angered when Enos Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals appeared to deliberately step on Robinson’s foot at first base. One fan, Doug Wilder, was at the game that day, and he felt this may have been Robinson’s greatest moment “in showing how he would rise over and over to be the person he was. . . . It was a tremendous lesson.”  Later in life, Wilder went into politics in Virginia and became the first African American in the United States to become a governor.

Robinson was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1947, and he helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees. After the final game of the series, each of his teammates came by his locker to congratulate him for the season.

He had succeeded in integrating the major leagues; in fact, by the end of the 1947 season, there were other black players in baseball. But his greatest impact may have been in the broader American culture. As Arnold Rampersad wrote in his biography of Robinson,

Over a period of six months, from the first stumbling steps to the victories that closed the season, he had revolutionized the image of black Americans in the eyes of many whites. Starting out as a token, he had utterly complicated their sense of the nature of black people, how they thought and felt, their dignity and their courage in the face of adversity. No black American man had ever shone so brightly for so long as the epitome not only of stoic endurance but also of intelligence, bravery, physical power, and grit. Because baseball was lodged so deeply in the average white man’s psyche, Robinson’s protracted victory had left an intimate mark there.

Final post tomorrow…

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

A Major League trailblazer — Jackie Robinson’s story (part one)



This week, Major League Baseball’s first pitch was tossed for the 2013 season.  There’s an upcoming movie, “42”, about the man — Jackie Robinson.  And in the book, Stepping Up, we shared the story of Jackie Robinson.  The next few blog posts will be selections from that chapter, sharing the impact that he had on Major League Baseball, his personal courage and integrity to team with Branch Rickey to become the player that would break the racial barriers that existed in Major League Baseball and across the nation.

Jackie Robinson didn’t see much of a future for himself in professional baseball.

Stepping Up FamilyLife Jackie-Robinson

photo from Think Positive magazine, http://74.53.231.70/~thinktpm/

The year was 1945, and he was twenty-six. A UCLA graduate and World War II veteran, he was trying to make a living by playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. He hadn’t played much baseball; he was better known as a football star at UCLA. But when the Monarchs offered him a job, he decided to give it a try.

Jackie was infuriated by the indignities that black ballplayers faced. In some stadiums, they weren’t allowed to use the locker rooms because white owners didn’t like the idea of black men using the showers. He hated the segregated hotels and drinking fountains. In one instance, when the team bus stopped for gas and the station owner said the players couldn’t use his restroom, Robinson threatened to fill up the team’s bus at another station. The owner changed his mind.

And, of course, the worst indignity of all was the fact that Major League Baseball was segregated. For decades, some of the best baseball players in the nation —  legends like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson—were kept out of the big leagues. Robinson saw no hope for the situation changing, or for the opportunity to move up and play baseball in the whites-only major leagues. “I began to wonder why I should dedicate my life to a career where the boundaries for progress were set by racial discrimination,” he later wrote.

A legendary meeting

Robinson was contacted by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Word was that Rickey was forming a new Negro league and wanted to talk with Robinson about joining it.

Robinson’s meeting with Rickey on August 28, 1945, became a turning point in America’s history. Robinson learned that Rickey had no intention of starting another Negro league. Instead, he wanted to break the color barrier in professional baseball . . . and he wanted Jackie Robinson to lead the way by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Rickey could have chosen better players, but he was looking for someone with the right character. He had no illusions about the pressure that the first black ballplayer would face — the hatred he would encounter from white players, and the impossible expectations he would feel from the black community. He wanted someone who was angry about segregation but could keep that anger in check. Choose the wrong player, he felt, and he would push the cause back by years

“If you’re a good enough man, we can make this a start in the right direction,” Rickey told Robinson. “But let me tell you, it’s going to take an awful lot of courage.”

In the meeting, Rickey confronted Robinson with examples of the situations he would face. He acted the part of ballplayers using racial slurs and trying to start fights. “They’ll taunt and goad you,” he said. “They’ll try to provoke a race riot in the ballpark. This is the way to prove to the public that a Negro should not be allowed in the major league.”

“Mr. Rickey,” Robinson said, “are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” “No,” Rickey replied, “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” Robinson wondered if he was the right person for this. Did he have that kind of strength and courage? “Yet I knew that I must,” Robinson later wrote. “I had to do it for so many reasons. For black youth, for my mother, for Rae [his wife], for myself.”

Continued next post…

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

6 gifts you can give your spouse to help overcome fear



At our house, we have experienced plenty of failures, both great and small. For years, a meal without a spill was nothing short of miraculous. The milk may have gone shooting across the supper table or formed a lazy river that cascaded over the edge, splattering onto the floor. We’ve seen some classic spills: two simultaneously, four at one sitting, and one glass of chilled apple juice that spilled perfectly into Dennis’s shoe (while he was wearing it). Our favorite phrase for the children became, “It’s okay. Everybody makes mistakes.”

One evening, I (Dennis) spilled my drink during dinner. A little hand patted my arm, and Rebecca (then a five-year-old) reassuringly said, “It’s okay, Dad. Everybody makes mistakes.”

It’s comforting to know that we are not alone in our failures. Others, too, have needed and claimed God’s forgiveness when they failed. King David failed through his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Peter failed by denying Christ. Thomas doubted. Saul (Paul) assisted in the murder of Stephen.

Yet none of these lives represented total failure. Each of these men sought forgiveness. They didn’t give up. They kept on. They left a track record of faithfulness in spite of personal foul-ups.

Giving your spouse the freedom from fear of failure

Men Stepping Up blog -http://www.flickr.com/photos/josefgrunig/ Freedom

What is the solution for the fear of failure? How do you encourage a partner whose feelings of failure are triggered by the most insignificant of circumstances? We have found that one of the most powerful principles in building one another’s self-esteem is: Give your mate the freedom to fail.

When you give your mate the freedom to fail, you begin to remove the pressure to perform for acceptance. You free your mate to overcome fear and to take risks and try again. You free her to excel. Failure then becomes a tutor, not a judge. In the presence of freedom, we learn from failures instead of being intimidated by them. In the absence of condemnation, confidence in how God can use you mounts.

If you would like to give your mate the freedom to fail, we recommend six gifts you can give that will begin to release her and help her in overcoming fear. Keep in mind that you, too, will possibly fail by taking back some of these gifts. That’s okay. Failure is a part of learning for both of you.

1. The Gift of Compassion

Every person’s life has a context. During her childhood, your mate may not have experienced a relationship in which she had freedom to fail. Perhaps her “failures” taught her to expect rejection, disapproval, and anger from those in authority. She may have learned to feel that rejection is the natural consequence of failure.

Parents, coaches, teachers, peers, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, and other significant people gave her a personal heritage of either success or failure. The more you fully grasp the context of your mate’s journey to adulthood and express compassion for where your mate has been, the more freedom your mate will feel to admit failures to you.

Whatever her background, your mate needs your compassionate, consistent, and tireless belief in her. Talk about the context of her life and together gain understanding of past mistakes as well as present ones. Don’t leave your mate alone to deal with her failures. Tell her that you are unlike those who have rejected her; your commitment is unwavering and your love is consistent, despite her imperfections. In this climate of compassion and patience, she will begin to feel free to take risks and to fail without fear of rejection.

2. The Gift of Continual Affirmation

Years ago, I (Barbara) drove to the grocery store and accidentally backed our van into a couple’s newly painted Camaro, denting it slightly. I felt so foolish, and my apologies didn’t make the dent go away. Understandably, the car’s owners were not happy and insisted on calling the county sheriff’s office.

I called Dennis, and as I waited for him to arrive, I wondered what he would think and say. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be upset with me, but I speculated for a while.

When he joined me at the store, he assured me that everything would be fine — that in the end it didn’t really matter. We both knew I had made a mistake, and it would have accomplished nothing for him to drive home a moral lesson or give me some driving tips. I needed to experience his approval, and I needed to know he wasn’t angry with me. He affirmed me, and I felt like pieces of a puzzle coming together.

Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” One of our favorite verses, 1 Peter 4:8, says it best: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Continuous, ongoing, unbroken approval in the face of many mistakes and failures of life will build your mate’s self-esteem to overcome fear and failure.

3. The Gift of Perspective

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” As partners in the pilgrimage of life, we are responsible to speak the truth to one another in order to help balance our perspective of failure.

Understanding the truth of God’s sovereign rule — that He is in control — brings an eternal view to your mate’s mistakes. The promise of Romans 8:28 — “God causes all things to work together for good” — beautifully illustrates His absolute supremacy. These words offer comfort, reminding us that nothing is wasted in His economy. God can use even our mistakes and failures. Encourage your mate to believe God and, as a couple, ask Him to use your failures for good.

4. The Gift of Disassociation

Most people don’t realize they can fail and not be a failure. They have not learned to separate their worth as persons from their performance. Many find it difficult to have their ideas, work, or accomplishments criticized. They feel that others are criticizing and rejecting who they are, not just what they have done.

A teacher told one mother that her son was not a good student. “He can’t learn,” said the teacher. “He’ll never amount to much.” But the mother chose to believe in her son rather than listening to the voice of this “authority.” As a result, that young man grew up in a home of loving acceptance, secure in the knowledge that he was a person of value.

In spite of all this, he continued to fail. In fact, he failed ten thousand times on one project before he, Thomas Alva Edison, perfected the electric light bulb. His close association with failure caused Edison to comment, “I failed my way to success.” His mother’s belief in him was the human fuel for his inventive spirit.

How can you help your mate learn to fail without feeling like a failure? Try not to discuss a problem in your marriage or family with accusing words such as, “You never …” or, “Your ideas are always …” Those kinds of extreme statements verbally link your mate with her performance, insinuating that she is a failure. Instead, use your words with discernment to help her see the distinction between her person-hood and her performance.

When you discuss issues with your mate, begin by expressing your commitment and loyalty to her as a person. Then give your mate the benefit of the doubt. Remove the accusing edge by saying, “I may be wrong, but did you …” or “I feel that …” or “It would help me a lot if you would … (fill the car with gas, balance the checkbook, pick up your socks, etc.).”

Tell her the truth: She is loved by you, esteemed and valued by God, gifted, and yet limited. Call to mind her past accomplishments. Most importantly, help your mate separate herself from her failures. Focus on her as a person, too, not just on her performance. When your mate knows how to handle failure without being a failure, she truly has the freedom to fail.

5. The Gift of Encouraging Decisive Living

Many times in life, we fail not because we make the wrong decision but because we make no decision at all. Seeking safety and security, we escape to the seemingly trouble-free world of procrastination and indecision. Never venturing out of our protective covering of indecision, we avoid risking a wrong decision that might end in failure. We decide not to decide.

You can strengthen your mate by helping her understand that a risk-free life is also a potentially boring and selfish life. By eliminating risk, we eliminate many pleasures, too. Security and safety are not found in hiding from reality and responsibility. In fact, the opposite is true. Failure ultimately looms on the horizon for the person who avoids the decision-making process. She is riding a fence with both feet firmly planted in midair — there is little stability.

6. The Gift of Forgiveness

The effects of failure can be disarmed through the miracle of forgiveness. Pure and free, forgiveness gives us something we often don’t deserve. This is how God relates to us as His children. He gives us love when we deserve punishment. Forgiveness says, “I choose to accept you fully, just as you are, and I will neither reject you nor remind you of your failures.”

Forgive your mate when her error has affected you. Urge her to receive God’s forgiveness and to forgive herself, if necessary. The act of forgiveness opens the door to healing.

Paul has some good advice: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” He also writes, “Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against any one, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

Whatever the situation, mistakes carry a price tag. The price can be extra work, suffering, financial expense — or all three. Perhaps your mate’s failure caused you to be late, which you hate. Maybe her failure cost her a bonus, which you were counting on to buy a new loveseat. Because of your partnership in marriage, your mate’s mistakes and failures will affect you to some degree. When you forgive your mate’s failures, you give up your right to punish. Forgiveness is an act of the will — a deliberate choice that means you will not retaliate when you feel the other person has wronged you. True forgiveness doesn’t throw your mate’s failures up to her or use them to hurt her.

The gift of forgiveness is not just in giving forgiveness, but in asking for it when you’re wrong. Whether you’re 90 percent in the wrong or only 10 percent, asking for forgiveness takes the logs out of the fire. Verbalize it. Be specific. And don’t fudge. Some people try to weasel out of their responsibility so they won’t have to admit they were wrong. But in doing so, they miss the benefits of forgiveness.

Forgiveness stands with the open arms of a loving relationship ready to embrace. It is illogical for your mate to resist such an aggressive love. By removing the fear of rejection, you give your mate renewed hope to keep trying without fear of failure.

Excerpted from Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. ©1995 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

3 keys to helping your child avoid the traps of adolescence



Although they seldom admit it, deep down, most teens desperately want their mom and dad to come alongside them and say, “You know, there are some things I wish I had told you earlier, but I want to tell you now. I want to be a part of your life as you go through these teenage years. I want to be there for you. I want to help you avoid the traps of adolescence.”

beartraps men stepping up familylife

Thankfully, God’s desire matches our own. He wants the best for our (His) children, too. But those traps: peer pressure, alcohol use, driving while drunk, premarital sex … What about them? How much of a threat are they?

We are convinced that far too many parents are lulled to sleep during the tranquil elementary years. Unaware of the approaching perils of adolescence and of how quickly they arrive, parents are caught without a defensive and offensive game plan for the teenage years.

These snares, and others like them, such as drug use, teenage pregnancy, and gangs, are the newsmaker traps. But there’s another whole group of traps that don’t get as much press but are just as perilous to our youth, such as pride and selfishness, deceit, false gods, busyness, media, appearance, mediocrity, anger, and more.

What can we parents do to prepare our children for the challenges they face? We know they’re not perfect, and like everyone dressed in human skin, they must go through good times and bad, the inevitable mountaintops and sinkholes of life. But we ache for them to avoid as many traps as possible and to have lives of happiness, meaning, purpose, and achievement. Ultimately, more than all else, we want our children to know, love, and obey God.

God wants to help you raise your family. He wants to equip you. He wants to guide you. But He demands that you be utterly dependent upon Him. How is this to be accomplished? We believe the critical tasks of being a God-honoring parent fall into three categories:

  1. Know and walk in the truth ourselves. We need to know what we believe — our convictions — and stay out of the traps as adults.
  2. Shape the truth in our children. We build convictions in their lives so that they can identify the traps and stay away from them.
  3. Monitor the testing of the truth in our children. We encourage and guide them as they test their convictions in real-life situations while still living under our roof.

And when our children are ready, we release them to their own journey of living and following the Truth.

Doesn’t sound simple, does it? When we signed up for parenting, most of us didn’t read the fine print. Can you name a more demanding career than being a godly mom or dad? Air traffic controller? That’s a stroll in the park compared to a mom landing and dispatching four teenagers from an after-school holding pattern. Brain surgeon? Would you rather poke around in a sedated skull in a fully staffed operating room or try by yourself to soothe and heal the tangled feelings and thoughts of a teenage girl who wasn’t invited to the prom or who failed to make the drill team?

On top of all the challenges of parenting, there’s something far more sinister taking place: We’re in a spiritual war and are operating like guerrillas behind enemy lines. The paths we walk, and the trails our children must walk, are dangerous — littered with traps set by a spiritual enemy that you can’t see, an enemy who wants to destroy the souls of children before the children become adults.

In the years while your child is at home, you can help him successfully navigate the trap field. Often you’ll need to go first, showing step by step the way around those deadly snares. There is hope. It really is possible to raise a godly family in this family-unfriendly culture. Attempting to be God’s parents is hard work. Long hours. No guarantees.

But there are plenty of rewards. Nothing can compare to the joy of seeing a child grow up to walk in the truth — “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Nothing is as exhilarating as watching our children bravely walk through traps and snares, advancing the banner of Jesus Christ in their generation.

 

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.

Treasured memories or wasted time?



Stepping Up blog Dennis Rainey

The Encyclopedia Britannica gives a half page to the accomplishments of the son of President John Adams, Charles Francis Adams. Adams followed the political trail of his father and became a U.S. diplomat to Great Britain. The encyclopedia makes no mention of Charles’ family, but Charles’ diary does.

An entry one day read: “Went fishing with my son today — a day wasted.”

Another diary, that of his son Brook Adams, gives us a different perspective: “Went fishing with my father — the most wonderful day of my life.”

Interesting, isn’t it, how a little boy’s perspective could be so different from his dad’s.

But it’s true of me, too. I can remember tugging and half-pulling my dad out of his favorite chair while he was trying to read the evening newspaper. I wanted to play catch. He usually let me win the tug-of-war, sometimes reluctantly. Those were wonderful evenings.

There were fishing trips with Dad to Canada when I caught a trophy Northern Pike. And another outing to a local lake where he netted a small boy’s catfish — a fish so small that it went through the holes in the net. He always used to kid me about that fish — his laughter still echoes in my mind when I recall that skinny fish slipping through the net.

It’s interesting now as an adult how the mind can play tricks on me. Looking back, those days of vacation and moments of memories are among my most cherished possessions. Yet, now that I’m grown, it seems that playing catch and going fishing are not nearly productive enough. No measurable goal is apparently achieved. Until, of course, I get a few moments to reflect on the value God places on a little boy or a little girl.

Treasured memories

I was reminded recently that not all men today have those memories of time with dad etched on the slate of their hearts. Jeff Schulte, a former associate of mine here at FamilyLife, once wrote the following letter to his ministry partners, thanking them for their partnership in strengthening families. It speaks of memories of a different kind.

I can still picture my Dad bouncing me on his knee, coaching me in Little League, showing me how to shine my shoes, helping me reel in my first fish, and telling me stories about his early days as an undercover detective on the Dayton police force.

I can still hear him saying the words, “Son, I love you.” I can imagine him messing up my hair, wrestling with me on the living room floor, and sharing a hot dog with me at a Cincinnati Reds game.

I can still see him puffing up his chest when he talked about me to his friends. He was proud to be my Dad. He would do anything for me — I was his son — he was my Dad. I was a chip off the old block.

I can still see all this and much more, but I can’t see it in the reservoir of fond memories. Instead, I recall it from an imagination and yearning that wished then and wishes now that it were so. My Dad left home when I was 3. I never really knew him.

When I drive home from the office, I’ll often turn off the radio and in the quiet of the car I’ll think about a little blond-headed three year old somewhere who will grow up knowing his dad because you and I decided we wanted to make a difference.

I’m 26 years old. I still miss my Dad (even though that’s hard to admit). I even cry sometimes when I’m honest with myself about how I feel. Please pray for my Dad. I don’t believe he’s met Jesus.

The most piercing statement in Jeff’s letter are the words, “I never really knew him.” I couldn’t help reflecting on the number of children today who will replay a similar record in their minds. No, not just those from broken homes, but those whose homes have a father and a mother in name only.

Becoming a father

Some years ago at a Weekend to Remember getaway here in Little Rock I remember one man’s statement to me at the end of the conference. He grabbed my hand and blurted out, “I became a father this weekend!” When I asked him when his wife had given birth during the conference, he said, “Oh, no. She didn’t have a baby — we already have three children. You see, I had ‘fathered’ three children, but I wasn’t being a ‘father’ to them. And this weekend I decided I was going to become a real father.”

The little boy who went fishing with his dad, Brook Adams, lived most of his life as an agnostic and a skeptic, defying the roots of his Puritan ancestry. Near the end of his 79-year life he returned to his home church, overcame his shyness, and made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. I wonder if God used the memory of the fishing trip with his dad, linked with the spiritual values his father taught him, to bring Brook Adams to faith in Christ.

So this month take a kid fishing and teach him one spiritual truth. Just one memory. Just one truth. It may be “the most wonderful day” of his life.

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.

 

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.

What a life — what a legacy



 

leaving a legacy

Our lives are filled with “firsts.” First tooth. First steps. First date. First car.

But a few years ago I experienced a first of a different stripe — I helped to bury a friend, one of my comrades on the team of speakers for our Weekend to Remember™ getaways: J.T. Walker. After an 18-month battle with leukemia, J.T. passed away on June 10, 2004. He left a wife, Enid, and five children (three daughters and two sons) ages 5 to 20.

J.T. was passionate about his Savior, his family, and his church. (He was pastor of community outreach at Immanuel Baptist Church in Springfield, VA.) He also was fervent in his desire to reach others with the message of the gospel and of God’s blueprints for building a family. He served on our speaker team for nine years and spoke at more than 50 Weekend to Remember getaways to more than 25,000 people.

Just six weeks before his death, he spoke at a conference in Boston. One man who attended, a pastor who had been married 23 years, said that his marriage was “hanging by a shadow of a thread …” and that God had used J.T. to breathe fresh hope into a dead marriage. That day, a marriage, a family, and a ministry had been rescued. That was a mark of the man’s life.

Like most of our speakers, J.T. had some signature illustrations. One was the story of his father, who built cabinets and tables. His dad would complete a table and then stain it before applying the varnish. As a young lad, J.T. played under one of those tables and noticed that his father’s handprint was stained into the wood where he had held it as he stained the top. J.T. put his hand on that handprint but never could quite fill up the imprint. His dad’s life was like that — challenging him to become the man God had made him to be. As a man, husband, and father, J.T. Walker ultimately filled the handprint of his father … and more.

At a memorial service attended by more than 1,100 people, I shared a conversation that I had with J.T. shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. I can still recall where I was standing on that cold December day as I spoke with him on a cell phone. J.T. was about to celebrate Christmas alone, going through the rigors of chemotherapy. I finally prayed with him, but not before he began to weep and express to me what a privilege it was for him to speak at our getaways. He then gave me a charge to be a steward of what he said was the “most important ministry and message of our day to the family.” Through tears, he exhorted me to be faithful. And I had called to pray with him.

What a man.

What a husband.

What a father.

What a life.

What a legacy.

Is there someone who has made that kind of impression on your life or someone you know?  Share their name here as a tribute.  Too often we wait until it’s too late to tell someone, “Thank you for investing in me.”  No time like the present, is there?

Adapted from an article from FamilyLife.com

Keep Christ the center of Christmas



Keep Christ the center of Christmas

 

Pounds of turkey have been consumed and are still to be eaten in who knows what kind of concoction.  Christmas songs are probably playing around the house.  Black Friday shoppers are still sleeping and will arise in time for dinner.  Plans to decorate your home with lights and newly purchased or cut trees are in process of being executed.  It’s Christmas again.  For many of us, this is the holiday that we most look forward to celebrating.

But in this culture it’s become increasingly difficult to keep Christ the center of Christmas.  Materialistic desires abound.  Focus on gifts and holiday gatherings take our mind off of the significance of this day/season.  In an increasingly hostile nation, displays focusing on the Christ of Christmas are under fire, especially if they are on public property.  But trying to strip Jesus from Christmas will never work.  Why?  Because of who this holiday is about.

So how do we keep Christ the center of Christmas in our home? There are no magic formulas.  What it takes is an intentional fortitude on the part of mom and dad to plan activities and moments that point to Jesus Christ during this month.  We’ve taken an excerpt from a FamilyLife Today program from November 28, 2011, where Dennis and Barbara shared some of the things they did as they raised their six children to capture their kids’ minds and help them keep Christ the center of Christmas in their home.

Barbara, you really had an agenda for about a four-week period between the end of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was to capture the kids’ imagination and point them in a spiritual direction.

Barbara: Absolutely. I did not want Christmas in our house to be four weeks of “What I’m going to get?” and “What I get to open?” and “What’s in it for me?” We worked really hard to focus on the real reason for Christmas and to talk about that. We also helped the kids think about what they could give and what they could do for others.

Dennis: What Barbara’s talking about, being focused on what you’re giving another person, was even implemented on Christmas morning when we exchanged presents. Instead of going and picking the present that’s addressed to you, you’d go pick a present that you had given —

Barbara:  Yes, that you’d gotten for somebody else.

Dennis:  And hand-deliver it. And then that person opened that present.

Barbara: And then it was their turn to to give.

Dennis: Right. And so it was focused on not “What am I receiving?” but —

Barbara: “What am I giving?”

Dennis: Again, it’s back to the spiritual significance that Christ came and dwelt among us. And that really is God’s greatest gift to us.

What were some of the things that you did to try to tone down the noise of the culture and turn up the spiritual emphasis of the holiday?

Barbara: In addition to the whole gift-giving thing … I really worked at playing hymns about Christmas, songs that talk about Christ and Him coming to earth. We didn’t play very many “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman” secular kinds of songs around the Christmas holiday.

And then we always made a big deal of putting out the Nativity scene. I wanted that to be the focal point for our kids, more important than decorating the tree. We always put it in a prominent place so that it was kind of the center. Even though the tree was larger, the Nativity was in a more important place.

Dennis: On Christmas Eve we’d have the special meal that the girls and I prepared. It started out to kind of be a one-man show with a little group of toddlers hanging around, but as the girls became young ladies, they really helped with that Christmas Eve dinner.

We turned it into a feast. At the end of the feast, we’d read about the coming of Christ and His birth in Bethlehem. I always thought that was really important, to open the Bible and begin to read the story about the Savior and who began to seek Him out — the wise men, the shepherds — and talk about that as a family.

WGWFC - Keep Christ the center of Christmas

You were talking about a Nativity scene. A few years back FamilyLife put together a Christmas resource [with a Nativity] designed for families. In the last few months, you’ve been involved in a project here, Barbara, to give that resource a little bit of a makeover. What was the objective behind the new version of What God Wants for Christmas®?

Barbara: Well, a couple of things. There’s a portion of a poem to read for each character in the Nativity scene, and it talks about who that character is, what that character’s place was in the grand scheme of things, and it tells the story of the Nativity in a creative way.

And in the new updated version there’s an audio CD that has the poem, and it’s sort of acted out — I guess that would be the best way to say it — with different voices playing the different parts of the characters in the Nativity. So you can do this as a family, but then the kids can listen to the story over and over again on their own.

Because moms are busy, and I know moms are busy because I remember how crazy it was for me at Christmas to try to pull off anything that was meaningful. I had a zillion things going on all the time. And as much as I wanted to do things that were meaningful, it was always a challenge to get it into the schedule, to get everybody together, and to plow through and do it.  So I’m excited about the CD because if all else fails and you can’t sit down and read the book, your kids can listen to it. They can hear the story of the Nativity.

How would you use What God Wants for Christmas if you had toddlers and teenagers running around the same house together?

Barbara: I would probably have my older kids read the story, and I would probably be refereeing the younger ones as they anxiously wait to open the boxes (the resource includes packages for the kids to open, in conjunction with the story). This is a resource that a family with wide age ranges of kids can use because it’s designed for younger kids to understand, but the words and the poem are intriguing enough that teenagers will be fascinated to listen to it because it’s not a little kid’s story. It’s a grown-up story.

Dennis: I just want to take some of the pressure off of moms and dads or grandparents who may be listening and thinking about implementing this into their Christmas tradition. Reduce your expectations, especially if the children are under the age of 5 or 6. I just remember that some of these traditions that we did were absolute chaos.

Barbara: It was not Norman Rockwell.

Dennis: It wasn’t. There weren’t all these children sitting with their hands in their laps, smiling wonderfully as you read the story and as you pulled the figurines out. I mean, they may be throwing the figurines at each other, or arguing, or fighting over who gets to open the box.

Barbara: Probably arguing and fighting over whose turn it is.

Dennis: Yes. No doubt about it. I would just say, it doesn’t have to be perfect. To execute this, you just need to do it. You just need to keep pressing into it. And when there’s spilled hot chocolate, or tea, or whatever you have as you read this, don’t worry about it. Just keep a sense of humor and keep moving.

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What are some things you’ve done in your family that have helped keep your focus on CHRIST during Christmas?

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