Posts tagged mensteppingup

A grandfather’s legacy

I never met my grandfather because he died before I was born.  But his legacy and influence live on because he took the time to write down a blessing to my father in the form of words of advice. This blessing has been passed through my father to me and is now passing on to my sons.


My grandfather was an amazing man.  He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended the University of Arkansas receiving his law degree while participating in cheerleading for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  After college and law school, he moved to Texas to practice law.  When World War II broke out, he gave up his practice and joined the Army, where he served as chief of staff for then General Eisenhower. After the war, he returned home, became the district attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, and later became a judge.

My dad and his dad didn’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, as Dad was a free and rebellious spirit.  From what I can tell, they had an explosive relationship: the judge and the juvenile delinquent.  It came to a head when my father announced he was going to drop out of high school to pursue a career as a rock and roll drummer.  I understand the argument was ugly; the words from both sides were hurtful and it ended with my grandfather yelling out to my dad as he left, “Son, if you drop out of high school it will kill me.” Dad slammed the door as he left, did what he felt he needed to do, and dropped out of school. When he returned home for lunch, an ambulance was in the driveway and my grandfather was dead from a heart attack.

Dad went on to pursue his rock and roll career, playing drums for stars like Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and many others throughout the late 50s and early 60s. But, the pain of the broken relationship with his dad haunted him and he became an alcoholic.

He drifted from relationship to relationship with women. Everywhere he went he seemed to hurt those he loved.  This all came home to me when I was 12 years old and learned that Dad had been arrested and charged with murder for hire.  For the next two years, when I wanted to see him I had to do so by going through numerous heavy metal doors with bars to get to the maximum security section of the Tarrant County Jail during his trial.  I have vivid memories of those Saturday morning visitations.  I had to talk to my Dad standing on my tippy toes looking through a 4×7 metal grate built into the door of my Dad’s 4×8 cell.

When he was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair I thought I had lost him.  My visits were now held at the Ellis Unit which is the Maximum Security Prison that houses death row for the State of Texas.  At least I could see him through a larger metal grate but there was still no physical  contact.  I really thought I had lost my dad and never knew which visit would be the last.  I had to endure two last-minute stays of execution not knowing if my Dad had been electrocuted or not.

However, shortly after I turned 15, I was surprised to find out that my father’s conviction was overturned and that he would go down in history as the only man to ever walk off of death row as a free man in Texas.  I got my father back, and had a second shot at having a real father-son relationship.

Over the years we did develop a close relationship.  My dad made a lot of mistakes during his life, but the one thing he did right was to make sure that I knew he loved me and was very proud of me. Everywhere I went people would say, “You’re Chip’s son! Your dad is always bragging on you.”  Those words mean a lot to a young boy, and helped my self-esteem as a man.

By the time Dad passed away about 11 years ago, he had been married 15 times to 13 different women. I am, amazingly, the only child he had.  As I was going through his stuff after he died, I ran across an old Bible and in it I found these words written from my grandfather to my father:

To my son Chip, from his dad – with these words of advice:

1. Fear God

2. Be right and fear no man

3. Love the truth and hate a lie

4. Tell the truth regardless of the consequences

5. A thief and a liar are the same, trust neither

6. Once confidence is established, be loyal

7. Be energetic and hunger for knowledge

8. Have compassion for the unfortunate

9. Be prudent but not prideful

10. Always love your mother

11. Build character and respect for your word

12. Try to see all sides and then decide

13. When in doubt do nothing

14. Be tolerant  Be kind

15. Be a square shooter and a good loser

With love for your first birthday,

Some of these things I remember my father saying to me, some were new.  My boys often hear me quote these same pieces of advice to them.

My grandfather’s legacy is still alive in spite of being tested by a prodigal son because he took the time to write down the values that were important to him.  These words are now being passed from generation to generation and I pray they will be defining characteristics of what it means to be a Whitmore.

What defines your family?  What words of advice and encouragement do you need to pass to the next generation?


We can do better than TV dads like Homer Simpson

TV Dads | Stepping Up | FamilyLife | Tribute to Dad

Homer Simpson … Peter Griffin … Ted Mosby … Stan Smith … Phil Dunphy … Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor … Cliff Huxtable. What do all these have in common? They are TV dads.  And most of them are not the kind of man who should be left to lead a family. From being dim-witted to overbearing, from conservative values to trying to get their son to have sex for the first time, these dads represent various aspects of what our culture thinks of and imagines when it comes to representing fatherhood in America.  Some of them represented the honorable and virtuous aspects of fatherhood but a majority of them characterized dads as out of touch, less intelligent than their wives, unable to control their children, laughable, and almost a detriment to the family. We also don’t pretend that Father Knows Best is the perfect model for fatherhood either. But, let’s face it, dads haven’t gotten the “good nod” when it comes to on-screen representation.

Unfortunately, the attributes that are hyperbolized in fatherhood are too evident in reality in too many homes around this nation. One thing that can be said about every dad on the list above is that at least they were there, at home with their families. But are these the kinds of characters we want to emulate? No, of course not. Despite television’s attempt to reduce dads to lying, cheating, lazy, harmless, or harmful oafs, we know that there are many, many dads that love and lead (or have loved and led) their families well. Stephen Colbert states it as it is:

“America used to live by the motto “Father Knows Best.” Now we’re lucky if “Father Knows He Has Children.” We’ve become a nation of sperm donors and baby daddies.”
― Stephen ColbertI am America

We are tired of seeing dads beaten down and portrayed as buffoons or, at best, inconsequential. We want to raise up a generation of men who believe that being a man of God, a husband to one wife, a leader of integrity and moral character in his church and community, a great friend to other men and a caring and intentional father is noble and worth pursuing with every ounce of his being.

So, here’s our plan over the next 10 days as we head into Father’s Day on June 16.  We are going to honor dads who have done it well. Not perfectly. Not completely. Not so they would get recognized. We will be sharing a number of tributes that various people have written to their fathers over the past few years and that have been published on And, we’ll share Dennis Rainey’s tribute to his father, “Hook” Rainey on Father’s Day. Also, if you have a tribute that you want to give to your father, would you share it in the comments below or on our Facebook page at  We’ll collect those and put them into a post as well, and you might be able to share it with your father as a surprise tribute!


In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.). Following are examples of a tribute. Click here for more information on honoring your parents and for more tribute examples.

Tributes to Stanley Overby, Jr., from his sons, Spencer and Steve:

A dad is someone who wants to catch you before you fall but instead picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again. A dad is someone who wants to keep you from making mistakes but instead lets you find your own way, even though his heart breaks in silence when you get hurt. A dad is someone who holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail … my Dad is everything a dad should be and then some.

Dear Dad,

I believe that something store-bought is not worth half as much as things made from the heart. So for your 75th birthday I sit here and recall all the things you have done for me, and the things we have done together, and I find the list really long.

When I close my eyes, I can still see you caring and taking Tina to the vet shaking, and making popcorn, the family car trips, and you dropping me off at Aunt Gene’s, me throwing up in your new ’66 LTD, and you yelling “get that kid out of my car.” I remember going to work with you at the factory riding in a big truck. Learning how to have a tab and order Shirley Temples. I remember you never spanking me, learning how to play golf as a family, breaking Steve’s black stick horse, sharing anchovy pizza, building slot cars with a broken hand, stripping furniture and finding coins. I remember making furniture in the garage, getting a trash can for Christmas, taking care of your mother, building a fort, ripping up Steve’s new tennis shoes because Mom was crying, picking up all the bats and leaving Little League practice. I remember your going to Promise Keepers with Steve and I and celebrating our Lord together, your being the best man in my wedding and your teaching me that nothing comes between you and your wife. I could go on and on. It’s funny, the older you get the more vivid your childhood memories become. The older I get the more I long for those carefree childhood days when all was good and the only worry was if Dad was going to beat me at cribbage after dinner.


Men Stepping Up — A Super Saturday recap

Four weeks ago, we were in great anticipation of the Super Saturday Stepping Up event that was about to explode across the nation with more than 23,000 men attending more than 1,000 events from Alaska to Florida and New Hampshire to Hawaii.  Though the fervor has died down, the stories that came out of that great event are uncovered almost daily.  This past week, FamilyLife sent out their newsletter, The Family Room with an article about what happened on Super Saturday.  We thought it would be good to share some of the stories that we’ve captured at the one month mark after the event and hope you are continuing to be encouraged by what God did in so many men’s lives that day.

We know there are more events happening.  If you have an event and want to draw attention to it, don’t hesitate to share your Stepping Up event on our Facebook Page – MenSteppingUp and we’ll post it so that as many men as we can reach know about it.  Additionally, if you are starting a follow up study (like our Stepping Up 10 week video study), share that as well.  Events are great.  They are catalytic and can energize a community, church, or neighborhood.  But, eventually, the energy from the event fades and the only way any movement can be sustained is by leaders stepping up and making it happen.  Tell us those stories as well on our Facebook Page or in the comments below.  Celebration is best done together!  Enjoy the stories of what happened on February 2, 2013 and what God did and continues to do in homes, churches, and communities around the country.

Men Stepping Up - Super Saturday event

Men Stepping Up on Super Saturday

History was made on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2013, when a record 164.1 million fans tuned into CBS and watched the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. But the Ravens weren’t the only champions that weekend. The day before, on Super Saturday, an estimated 23,000 men gathered together for FamilyLife’s one-day Stepping Up Video Event.  These men were not yearning for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Instead, they want to be champions at home.

They met in churches, houses, offices, and on college campuses. They were at retreat centers, restaurants, prisons, and military bases. They met in all 50 states and around the world: in Budapest, Hungary …  Mexico City … the Cayman Islands.

Regardless of where the men gathered on February 2, or the size of their group, they all were taught how to step up courageously to be God’s man. They watched DVDs featuring ministry leaders like Dennis Rainey, Robert Lewis, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Voddie Baucham, and others.

Dennis Rainey, the president of FamilyLife, decided to show up unannounced at the Super Saturday gathering at FamilyLife in Little Rock, Arkansas.  He went because it was organized by a 16-year-old young man named Westley and two of his buddies. More than 50 men were in attendance there. “I wouldn’t have missed how three young men made an impact on their peers and men of all ages,” Rainey says.

Now stories are pouring into FamilyLife about how God worked through the Stepping Up event. Here are three:

Men Stepping Up - Super Saturday Event

Lake Ridge Baptist Church and Washington Area Coalition of Men’s Ministries (WACMM)

Pastor Frank Johnson of Lake Ridge Baptist Church (Lake Ridge, Virginia) teamed up with WACMM’s conference director, Tony Dronkers, to host a Super Saturday Stepping Up event. WACMM is focused on helping not only pastors, but also the leaders of their men’s ministry. Dronkers says that Super Saturday was a great fit. Pastor Johnson wanted to jump start his ministry to his men, and WACMM was able to bring some other churches together to share the opportunity.

So on February 2, more than 60 men watched the Stepping Up videos at Lake Ridge Baptist Church. Twenty-three were from the host church; the rest were from the community and other small churches in the area. One man drove about 100 miles with his son to attend.  “I loved the conference and the impact it had in reminding us who we are called to be as men of God,” he said.

For Lake Ridge Baptist Church, Super Saturday was a starting point for a men’s ministry. Pastor Johnson is now leading the Stepping Up follow-up series for the men in his church. Twelve men attended the first session. One of them, Scott, brought his three sons, and said, “I am using this as part of the answer to God’s call to raise my sons to be courageous young men.”

Crete Berean Church (Crete, Nebraska)

Pastor Kyle Bond had been praying that God would direct him to a simple curriculum that could be used as a catalyst to get men motivated to being the men that God has called them to be. He believes that Stepping Up was an answer to his prayer.

Eighteen men, ranging from 27 to 82 years of age, came to the Super Saturday event at Crete Berean Church. Pastor Bond said, “To a man, they have all said it was great and challenging.” One of the men had recently …


Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys (part 1)

Aggressive girls and clueless boys. A dangerous combination. What should we do as parents? Dennis Rainey shares some insight.

It was just a routine check. When Susan and Tom gave 13-year-old Josh his first cell phone, they told him that they would occasionally look through his text messages. But Susan was completely unprepared for what she found that Saturday morning.

She waded through a couple hundred short, inane messages, more than slightly confused by the shorthand that kids use when texting. She was struck by the fact that Josh and his friends seemed to text each other more than they actually talked. And then something different popped up. There was no confusion about this message: “If you could have sex with me, would you?”

Her mind spinning in disbelief, Susan continued looking through the texts. And a story began to emerge: While hanging out with some friends a couple of weeks earlier, Josh had met a girl from another school. They began texting each other the next day, and it was clear that she had quickly begun pursuing him sexually. With suggestive language, she talked about what she wanted to do with him, and within a few days she lured him into sneaking out of his house in the middle of the night so they could meet for sex at a relative’s empty apartment. “I’m wearing a thong,” she wrote. “Can you sneak out tonight?”

Susan was so stunned that she could hardly breathe. Josh has never had a girlfriend, never even kissed a girl, she thought. We’ve raised him in a good home. How could this happen?

In a daze, she found her husband and filled him in. He was just as shocked. They knew they would someday need to talk with Josh’s younger sisters about how to handle boys who wanted sex, but they never expected this.

A shift in our culture

Sex among teenagers is old news, unfortunately, as are the trends of aggressive boys pursuing girls, men pursuing women, and adult women pursuing adult men. But a growing number of parents like Tom and Susan are learning that something has shifted in our culture over the last few decades.

Increasingly, girls are aggressively pursuing boys — in high school, middle school, and even earlier — in numbers we never saw in the past. The rules have changed, and many parents are asking for help in how to protect their young sons. This shift has caught them by surprise, and they don’t know what to do. (Check out this story from the New York Times written back in 2002) here’s an excerpt from the piece: “Many girls attributed their forwardness with boys to the gains of feminism, which promotes parity between boys and girls in fields like sports and education. The message of empowerment has been translated by 15-year-old girls into the worlds of dating and sex, and while many girls approve, some of their elders are skeptical.”)

A few years ago, I wrote a book entitled Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date. I challenged dads to man up and take steps to protect the purity of their daughters. Interviewing a young man who wants to date your daughter is a good way to filter out the undesirables, so to speak, and call young men to treat a young lady’s sexuality with respect and nobility.

After that book was published, I heard stories about fathers who stepped up and had some great heart-to-heart conversations with young men. But what I didn’t expect were the messages from readers and FamilyLifeToday® radio listeners asking for help in protecting their sons from aggressive girls. Here is a sample:

“We have three grown daughters and a 16-year-old son. You would think our family would have experienced plenty of aggressive behavior from boys toward our daughters, but nothing compares with what I see our son going through.”

“I have a 14-year-old son. He is contacted by girls all the time on Facebook and texts. One went so far as to take pictures of herself in scant clothing (in my opinion) and send them to him. This occurred without the knowledge of her parents and when my son was in seventh grade.”

“My 10-year-old son was enticed by another fifth grade girl via e-mail to open another e-mail account so that I couldn’t monitor it. But I found it and canceled it. She is sending e-mail messages and e-cards to him and two of his friends in a love quadrangle that she’s brilliantly orchestrated.”

“I have two sons who attend public school. Recently, they were talking at the dinner table about the girls that grab their butts in the hallways. My husband and I were shocked. They said, ‘Welcome to public school, Mom!'”

“I have a 13-year-old boy, an 11-year-old boy, and a 7-year-old boy. All of them have been pursued by girls. I think what shocks me the most is the encouragement from the parents of the girls who mistakenly think it is ‘cute.'”

“We recently were hunting for a church nearer to our home. We found a good one, except that girls in the youth group zeroed in on our son like heat-seeking missiles.”

There have always been girls who are flirty and crazy about boys, even some girls who could be labeled as “bad girls.” You probably remember a few from your own days as a teenager. But now, the “bad girl” problem is becoming more commonplace. Over and over, parents are expressing the same concern: Girls are pursuing their sons more openly and relentlessly than ever before. They are calling, texting, sending suggestive photos, setting up romantic liaisons … and they’re doing these things at a younger age.

I want to make it very clear that I am not placing all the blame for teenage promiscuity on girls. I also understand that parents need to protect their daughters from aggressive boys, especially as those boys move into the latter years of high school and beyond. A shocking number of men and boys have, and continue to be, sexual predators. I make absolutely no excuses for them. But I’ve heard from enough parents to realize that we also have a growing problem with aggressive girls.  And most parents tell me they just aren’t prepared for it.

The need for a plan

The fact is that many parents just don’t realize how little training they are giving their adolescent and pre-adolescent sons in how to relate to the opposite sex. I’m not just talking about sex education; our boys need to learn what to expect in adolescence — and beyond — and how to handle it. Temptation, lust, and sexual attraction are bearing down on them. They need to be prepared. You need to prepare them.

I wrote my recent book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, to offer time-tested counsel to empower you to teach and equip your son to understand a biblical perspective of sex and how to protect himself from seductive girls who would do him harm. I write about three commitments you need to make as a parent that will keep you engaged in your son’s life as he moves through the years of high hormonal temptation.

And I discuss seven conversations you must have with your son. Six of these are founded on passages from the book of Proverbs and focus on helping your son understand what God says in the Bible about maintaining sexual purity. These conversations are intensely practical and will help you establish boundaries for your son and also prepare him for specific situations he will face with aggressive girls both now and later in adulthood. Each of these chapters ends with a suggested step-by-step guide for directing the conversation with your son.

They thought they had more time

Tom and Susan, the parents in the story at the beginning of this article, found themselves dropped in the middle of a minefield. Their son, Josh, had never even been on a date, so they were shocked to find that he had become sexually active. When they met with Josh and told him that they knew what was going on, he tried to deny the extent of his involvement. But the evidence was clear, and he finally admitted what he had done.

Tom and Susan immediately took away Josh’s cell phone, shut down his Facebook page, and grounded him from going out with friends for a period of time. They made sure he kept busy with school and sports, so that he wouldn’t have idle time. And they moved him out of his downstairs bedroom into a room upstairs with his little brother.

The wounds were still fresh when Susan related the story. “Josh knows this isn’t what God wants for him.” But the future seems unclear. How do you restore a child to a path of purity after he’s already lost his virginity … at age 13? They are praying that God will use the experience for good in Josh’s life.

“I wish we had known these things were going on,” Susan said. “I think we would have been more prepared.”


Adapted by permission from Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, by Dennis Rainey with David Boehi.  ©2012 by Dennis Rainey.  FamilyLife Publishing.

Check out this FamilyLife Today series on Aggressive Girls.


25 ways to spiritually lead your family

Ideas for men who want to leave a spiritual legacy.


Well, 2012 is just about completely in our rearview mirror as we knock on the door of 2013, ready to enter.  Are you a man (or woman) of resolutions?  Many go through the motions of making resolutions to accomplish something in the upcoming year that they want to pursue, complete, start, quit, or attempt even when they know full well they may not be successful.  Sometimes that’s because the resolution is something that is good for them to accomplish at some level.

For men, something that often makes the resolution list is to “spiritually lead your family better.”  If it doesn’t make the list with weight loss, exercise, etc., it’s probably because so many of us don’t know what that looks like.  We think it just means more work.  And, many of us didn’t see it modeled well growing up.  Maybe we’ve turned over the spiritual aspect of our family to our wives.  That is not how God intended it to be in our home.  So, as you consider your resolutions for 2013, here are some things that you can do to help you accomplish the goal to spiritually lead your family better in 2013 than you did in 2012.

The list below, even if it’s not a resolution, is still good to read through and deploy.  Make it simple … don’t choose all 25 but choose your top 3 to accomplish in 2013 or schedule them throughout the year.  Here’s the list:

1. Pray daily with your wife.

2. Write a love letter that she’d like to receive.

3. Discover her top three needs and over the next 12 months go all out to meet them.

4. Buy her a rose. Take her in your arms. Hold her face gently. Look into her eyes and say, “I’d marry you all over again!”

5. Take her on a weekend getaway.

6. Read the Scriptures to her.

7. Replace the “D” word with the “C” word! (D=divorce; C=commitment).

8. Court her.

9. Remain faithful to her.

10. Fulfill your marriage covenant.

11. Have a family time at least one night a week.

12. Use circumstances to teach your children to trust God.

13. Protect your family from evil.

14. Restrain your teenager’s passion.

15. Set spiritual goals for your children.

16. Take one or two of your children on a mission trip.

17. Catch your kids doing something right — and let them know you caught them.

18. Date your daughters.

19. Inspect what you expect.

20. Do a Proverbs breakfast Bible study with your teens (15 and older).

21. Hug and kiss your sons and daughters.

22. Ask your children for forgiveness when you fail them.

23. Pray with them.

24. Call them to a spiritual mission to do what God wants to do with their lives.

25. Persevere and don’t quit.

Did any of these scream to you, “PICK ME, PICK ME”?  Which ones will you work on in 2013?  Share some thoughts below to help you be accountable to moving forward with leading your family spiritually in 2013!


What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Here are Bob Lepine’s top 7

Bob Lepine's favorite Christmas Movies

One of the traditions of Christmas in our modern era is to put out a list of favorites … favorite Christmas cookies, carols, etc.  Of all those, arguably our favorite list is that of Christmas movies.  Bob Lepine, cohost of FamilyLife Today’s radio program gives us his top seven favorite Christmas movies of all time.  And, in the spirit of David Letterman, we will count down … here goes …

At number 7… Christmas In Connecticut (1945).  Look for the 1945 original with Barbara Stanwyck, not the remake that shows up on TV with Kris Kristofferson. It’s a classic screwball comedy that’s more about romance than Christmas. But it’s still fun to watch by a roaring fire. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, S.Z. Sakall, and Robert Shayne. Directed by Peter Godfrey.

6. Meet John Doe (1941).  Another film from the legendary Frank Capra (It’s A Wonderful Life) that has its climax at Christmas time. Starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan, James Gleason, and Spring Byington. Directed by Frank Capra.

5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947). See the original 1947 version in black and white. We love the scene where a woman who has had too much to drink says, “We would love to have Santy Claus come and stay with us!”  Starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Gene Lockhart, Natalie Wood, and Porter Hall. Directed by George Seaton.

4. All I Want For Christmas (1991).  The Parent Trap meets Christmas.  It’s all about making a marriage and family work.  Starring Leslie Nielsen, Lauren Bacall, Harley Jane Kozak, Jamey Sheridan, Ethan Embry, Ethan Randall, and Kevin Nealon.  Directed by Robert Lieberman.

3. Holiday Inn (1942).  Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in the movie that the song “White Christmas” came from first. Not technically a Christmas movie, but it’s still a seasonal favorite. Starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, and Louise Beavers.  Directed by Mark Sandrich.

2. White Christmas (1954). Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sing and dance to songs by Irving Berlin. It’s a “must see” every year.  Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger, and Mary Wickes.  Directed by Michael Curtiz.

And, Bob Lepine’s all time favorite Christmas movie (shocker alert):

1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946).  It’s a wonderful movie.  My all-time favorite.  Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, and Henry Travers. Directed by Frank Capra.

So, which ones did Bob miss?  What movie would you put at #1?  Help poor ol’ Bob out here.

BONUS:  The image in this post is from a movie NOT on Bob’s list. Who is he (actor AND character) and what movie is this from?  Extra credit:  What year did this movie come out?


The one thing a man of courage does


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give it a try.

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

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

The most courageous decision (part 1)

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

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

most courageous decision a man can make?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 lame excuses for why I don’t initiate


The Courage to Initiate

Initiative is the essence of manhood. Nothing comes to the man who is passive, except failure.

Men are not meant to be spectators. Real men accept responsibility rather than making excuses and look for solutions instead of casting blame. They reject the “I’m a victim, so let me off the hook” mentality and find a way to push ahead through the storm. On the other hand, the disengaged man, whether single or married, will settle for diluted, bland maleness. Life happens to him; he doesn’t happen to life. His expectations are low. And so are his achievements. I hope you’re not counting on him. I hope you’re not him.

Abdicating their roles

Some men demonstrate more courage in their jobs than they do in their families. A friend recently made an observation about a neighbor and expressed questions about why some men don’t step up at home:

Rebecca is in her late thirties and is married to Bill, a man in his early forties who is a successful CEO of the leading oil company in a Middle Eastern country. Bill was a U.S. oil-company exec when they met fifteen years ago; then they moved [to the Middle East], had children (his second family), and raised them until they started school. Rebecca [and their children] moved back to the U.S. to get the younger son, who has ADHD issues, the right educational environment. For the past five to seven years, she’s lived here, and Bill has visited about once every month or two — it seems to work for them. However, the boys are growing, now twelve and fourteen and out of control, and she can’t handle the virtual single-mom thing anymore. Finally, Bill announced last month that he’s stepping down from his international gig and coming home to spend more time with the family. Everyone is excited. His twenty-two-year-old daughter by a previous marriage is posting the news to her Facebook page — “Dad’s coming back!” Sounds like he’s finally agreeing to engage in the family he supports financially, right? No. Yesterday I learned that the twelve year-old son is being shipped off to military prep school, and Dad is considering a new job in Ireland. Jaw dropping.

Why is it that some men can initiate great tasks and conquer overwhelming obstacles at work, yet remain passive in relationships or in leading at home? It’s as if there’s a disease that infects the male species. None of us is exempt from the passivity virus. Over the years I’ve done a little inventory of my life and listed some of my own lame excuses for why I haven’t taken the initiative when faced with a duty or challenge:

Lame Excuse #1: Taking the initiative is hard work, and I’m tired.

I hate to admit this, but pure selfishness and laziness have been the cause of most of my passivity. In years past, after solving problems at work, I just wanted to vegetate, watch television, and not get involved with cleaning up the kitchen, helping with homework, or putting the kids to bed. And I certainly didn’t want to deal with bigger issues, such as repairing a breach in my relationship with my wife or addressing a disciplinary issue with a child. On multiple occasions I’ve had to pry myself out of my easy chair and into situations that I would rather have ignored. Being a man will involve pain. Initiative requires sacrifice and self-denial.

Lame Excuse #2: I don’t know how to initiate.

When I was single, developing a relationship with a woman was risky. The learning curve was steep, and there was always the fear of rejection. Later, as a husband, at times I found it easier to abdicate leadership to my wife. As a dad I knew I needed to develop a relationship with my daughters and take them on dates, but what were we supposed to talk about? Other responsibilities, such as having a “birds and bees” conversation with my children, were awkward and easy to rationalize putting off until sometime in the future.

Lame Excuse #3: Taking the initiative means I might fail.

Or it may mean I’ve already failed, and it’s easier not to risk failing again. Whether it was asking a young lady out on a date when I was single, hammering out boundaries and discipline for the children — or just dealing with the basics of leading my family, I found that the fear of failure creates a gravitational pull toward passivity. But real men take action. And when they do, great things can happen.

So, men, what is it for you?  Do you have some “lame” excuses that you’ve used or maybe continue to use to keep from being real men who accept responsibility?  What is it that today you can say “no” to or “yes” to that would be a departure from yesterday and be a step toward initiating leadership in your family?

Adapted from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey. © 2011 by FamilyLife Publishing. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “3 lame excuses for why I don’t initiate” by Dennis Rainey on the Stepping Up men’s blog 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat will you do the next time a task seems too hard, you don’t know how to do it, or you’re scared of failing?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn the two basic directives for men in “The Masculine Mandate” by Richard D. Phillips on

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSeriously consider leading a group of men through the 10-week Stepping Up video series.


Are you man enough? 10 questions to ask your wife

man enoughFor many years, Tom Elliff and his wife, Jeannie, have taken time away from their normal routines to get away and be together. They’d have some romantic dinners and fun conversations, and generally just have a wonderful time talking about their lives. One year Tom decided to elevate the discussion and, in the process, open himself up in a way few husbands ever do. He developed a list of questions based on issues he knew were of concern to Jeannie, and then he was man enough and sprung them on her during a retreat in the Rockies:


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