Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Power for Marriage

My wife and I followed the tradition of not seeing each other on the day of the wedding.  So, the moment I first saw Carol as she appeared at the end of the aisle, my breath was taken away.  She was absolutely beautiful and I could not believe that I would soon be married to this amazing woman.  As she started to walk down the aisle, I felt my eyes begin to fill with a watery, salty discharge tears, I think they’re called. As she eventually made her way down the aisle and to my side, those same tears started to roll down my cheek because it was becoming more and more clear to me that there were now a whole lot of women who were going to miss out.   Sorry ladies. 😊  Although I say that jokingly, the truth is the moment I said “yes” to Carol, I was, in essence, saying “no” to every other woman on the planet.

Anyone can fall in love.  Honestly, falling in love is the easy part.  About the only thing it takes to fall in love is a pulse.  Staying in love … that’s a different story.  Love is a choice.  It’s a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment that says I am going to choose to love you … even if you’re not being lovable … even if things change … even if I change … I am vowing myself to you and I choose to love you from this day forward. A “feeling” would never be strong enough to hold people together through all of the changes in life.  And, that is why marriage is described as a covenant. A covenant says that I’m not only choosing to love who you are today but, forsaking all others, I choose to love the person you are becoming.  A covenant keeps one eye on the present and one eye on the future by choosing to love today and choosing to love tomorrow even though none of us knows what tomorrow holds in store. And, this is important to remember for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons to remember this is simply because people change.  You will not be the same person 5 years from now and neither will your spouse.

I have been married to 8 different women in the last 14 years … and they’ve all been named Carol … Carol as a new bride, Carol as a mother of one child, two children, three children, four children, Carol as a working mom, Carol as a stay-at-home mom, and Carol after a move to Maryland.  And, guess what … she’ll continue to change.  We all do because God’s grace is all about change.  The grace of God accepts us where we are but always does so with the agenda to move us forward.

So the power of marriage is rooted deeply in the commitment to love today and to love tomorrow and by, forsaking all others, there is a willingness to do whatever it takes to help your spouse become who God is calling them to be.  Just as God commits Himself to you, so you commit yourself to your spouse.

If that makes marriage sound like hard work that’s because it is!  If we believe this to be true, we will see every easy opportunity and every hard opportunity to love as a way that God continues to reveal to us our need for Jesus and His grace at work in our life.

I believe that God wants us to be great husbands or great wives, but His greater purpose is to make us more like Jesus and, in so doing, we become the husband or wife He has created us to be. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ten Ways to Help Your Kids Become Indifferent

·      Give them more screen time.  That extra video game time may feel like it’s helping you not to lose your mind, but it’s also keeping your kids from using theirs. Plus, if they’re not in front of a screen, you may actually have to talk to them and ask them about their day.

·      Don’t expect them to rise to the level of your expectations.  Kids were never meant to do hard things, so set the bar really low.  This will build their self-confidence while teaching them that everything in life will be easy.

·      Focus on the outcome rather than the effort. Judge winners by winning and losers by losing.  It’s the American way.  We definitely want to teach our kids to find value in their performance rather than their character.

·      Enforce the rules but do not reinforce the child.  Take every step possible to make sure your kids obey but never take a step toward their heart.  Lecture them, but never talk to them.  Discipline them, but never disciple them.  The good thing about demanding unquestioned obedience is that it typically leads to a lot of questions later in life. 

·      Be a child-centered parent instead of a God-centered parent.  It’s important to drive 150 miles so your kids can be involved in that competition, but it’s not important to drive 10 miles so they can be involved in a church activity especially on a school night.  We have to teach our children about what is important, you know.

·      Be more concerned about their self-improvement instead of their self-denial. This, after all, is what Christianity is all about self-help.  It’s really difficult to help yourself if you’re pre-occupied with denying yourself.  I mean, who has time to help themselves when they’re concerned with helping others?

·      Don’t ask questions about where they’re going and what they’re doing.  You do not want to appear to be too interested in what they’re doing.  This might come across as intrusive and like you actually care.  So, keep your distance and let them have their own way.  As long as you give them what they want, they won’t push back on you.

·      Be more concerned about their behavior than about their heart.  Again, this is probably what Christianity is about behavior modification.  Some say it’s about heart transformation, but it’s a whole lot easier just to tell people what to do and not to do instead of actually getting to the root of why they may be doing it. 

·      Avoid meals together around the table.  You certainly do not want to start your day together with breakfast and then come back together for dinner.  We don’t want our kids to become one of those statistics that says having meals together as a family increases emotional stability and decreases behavioral problems in children.   Who wants that kind of drama?

·      Work long hours and try to be away as much as possible.  No one has ever gotten to the end of their life and wished they had worked more hours.  But, if you keep at it, maybe you’ll be the first.  I’m sure that will feel much better than knowing you left work on time in order to have dinner with your family.

Friday, February 3, 2017

"If I Could Just Get Back to Where I Used to Be"

I was talking to my wife the other day and I found myself frustrated.  I wasn’t frustrated with her, but rather I was frustrated with myself.  We were talking about some things that “used to be” in my life.  It’s been a consistent conversation for the past few months.  During our latest conversation, several times I caught myself saying, “If I could just get back to where I used to be then  

I left the house that day frustrated and unhappy.  While I drove to the office I started to pray. While praying, I felt like God revealed something to me:  If I keep trying to get back to where I used to be, I will never move forward to where I could be.  It may only seem like semantics to you, but it was truly a revelation to me.

The past is a funny thing.  It has a subtle way of keeping me trapped.  I can reflect on it and celebrate what God has done, but if I think about it too much, it slowly begins to wrap its warm embrace around me and does not let me go.

The past can keep us trapped in our hurts and our failures, but surprisingly, it can also keep us trapped in our success and victories. The more I focus on the past, the more steps I will take in that direction and the less steps I will take forward toward the future God has in store.  So, instead of trying to get back to where I used to be, the mindset I've adopted now is to take an honest look at where I am and then, with God’s help, take steps forward toward the new that God can do.

“Forget the things that happened in the past. Do not keep on thinking about them. I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don't you see it coming? I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.”
Isaiah 43:19 NIRV 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bookend the Day for Your Kids

I firmly believe that the influence I have as a parent is the greatest influence I have as a man.  Never in my life will influence come easier than it does with my children.  It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of my role as a parent because parents are pivotal figures in the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development of children.

One of the things my wife and I try to do as parents is something we describe as “bookending” our kids.  We want to “bookend” their day with love, smiles, enjoyment, and a sense of security in our home.  So, as best as we can, we try to be there every morning for them greeting them with smiles, sitting down to breakfast together, and sending them off in to their day knowing that they are loved by mom and dad.  And, at night, we try to spend time with them before bed … talking, laughing, and reading … we pray over them, tuck them in, and try to send them off to bed knowing that mom and dad love them.  So, we do our best to “bookend” their day.

As with every part of life, there are ups and downs with this.  Some days it goes amazingly well … other days, not so much.  As parents we always need to rest in the grace of God and remember that His grace enables us to continue on when we'd rather quit and engage when we'd rather walk away.  But, again, influence will never come easier than it does with our kids and, as a dad, I want to leverage every bit of influence I have with my kids in as many ways as I possibly can.  “Bookending” their day is one way to do that.

Why Pray for Others?

I was a senior in high school.  While riding the bus home one day, several of the “rowdies” on the bus were really giving a friend of mine a hard time.  Let’s just say the names they were calling him were anything but encouraging and several threats were being thrown his direction.  This was going on all the way up until our stop.  My friend and I got off at the same bus stop and as we were getting off the bus, one of the hooligans lunged toward my friend.  I caught this happening out of the corner of my eye and instinctively stepped between the bully and my friend.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  I was hoping my white belt in Kenpo would be enough to protect both of us.  Well, to be honest, I didn’t have a white belt in Kenpo.  I had only watched a Steven Segal movie and he made it all look easy enough.  How hard could it be?  Anyway, the point is, I instinctively wanted to step in to help and to protect, even though I had no idea what that would look like at the time.

Our prayers for each other can be used in the same way. If I am genuinely concerned and interested in the work of God in a person’s life, I simply cannot neglect praying for them.  The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (NLT)  To “intercede” simply means: “to make a request or petition on behalf of or for the benefit of another person or persons.”  In other words, prayer will draw us out of ourselves and in to the life of another.  Prayer puts us right in the middle of the action that God is doing in someone else’s life. And, prayer brings more to the fight than a white belt in Kenpo.  Prayer brings the infinitely, self-sufficient God in to our relationships and invites Him to do what only He can do in another’s life. 

In his book A Gospel Primer, Milton Vincent writes, “Prayer is not simply something I am allowed to do as a Christian; prayer is actually one of the great purposes for which God chose to save me.  I find this to be true because, not only is prayer my ongoing conversation with God, but prayer is a way to serve others as well.  Yes, I want to get my hands dirty by helping others, but I must get my knees dirty as well by kneeling before the Father and praying that out of His glorious riches, others would be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith … that they may be rooted and established in love and may have supernatural power from God to grasp and experience the love of Christ, even though it is too great to understand fully. (Ephesians 3:14 – 19)  Yes, I am called to help and my help can make a difference.  But, only God can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” therefore, we must pray. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Twenty Things I Wish I Had Known in My 20's Part 2

Here are 10 more things I wish I had known in my 20's.  You can read the first 10 right here, if you missed it.

11. Your Character is Always More Important Than Your Accomplishments … this is true because who you are will always show up in what you do. It’s easy to set the goals and think about how much money you’d like to make, how far you’d like to get in your career, what you’d like to accomplish 5, 10, 15 years down the road.  It’s not wrong to have those dreams and goals, but it’s always more important to focus first on who you want to be instead of what you want to do.  If you allow accomplishments to get ahead of your character, that’s when you get in trouble.

12. Guard Your Heart … Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  What that tells me is every word, every action, every thought … all of what we do highlights what is in our heart because whatever is in control of our heart will direct our actions.  What needs to be transformed in our lives is not so much our situation or our relationships.  What really needs to be transformed is our hearts. Long-term transformation always travels the path of the heart. We need grace to transform what we love, what we crave, and what we serve. And, that’s the beauty of the Gospel!  Even though I've given myself over and over to an endless list of God substitutes, even though I've loved myself more than I’ve shown love to others, God comes to me in grace offered through Jesus Christ and begins a process that will result in the total transformation of my heart. (Tripp) Which is why a prayer like David’s in Psalm 52 … “Create in me a clean heart, oh Lord” … is one of the most powerful prayers we could pray. As I allow the Holy Spirit to work on my heart, He will always lead my heart to Jesus.

13. It Really Is Better to Give Than to Receive … Jesus said it Himself … “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”  I’m no certainly no brain surgeon or rocket scientist, but given the option of choosing to be more blessed or less blessed … I’m probably going to choose to be more blessed.  And, in God’s economy, the way I can choose to be more blessed is simply by choosing to be more generous.

14. It’s OK to Be Single … singleness is not a sickness.  For some the scariest thing in the world is to NOT have a boyfriend or not to have a girlfriend.  And, the reason it’s so scary for is because it’s easy to wrap your identity around someone of the opposite sex.  Singleness is not a sickness.  Moving from guy to guy or from girl to girl … that’s the sickness.  That’s unhealthy.  You are not defined by who you date.

15. Don’t Get Involved with the Wrong Person or at the Wrong Time … nothing will derail a life faster than getting romantically involved with the wrong person or getting involved with someone at the wrong time.  Be patient when it comes to relationships.  Don’t rush in to them.  Rushing now usually leads to regrets later and you’ll find yourself saying a few years down the road, “I wish I would have handled that differently.”  If you rush in to something, you’ll usually do it with the wrong person or you’ll be stepping in to something at the wrong time … which can be just as damaging.  Be patient.  Wait on God’s timing and be strong enough to walk away from the wrong person and to wait for the right time.

16. I Will Not Just End Up Where I Want to Be … you can hope and you can dream and you can have the best intentions … but if you do not deliberately set yourself on a path that leads to where you want to be, you’ll end up somewhere else. 

17. Stay in Touch with People … it doesn’t take long to lose contact with some of your closest friends.  Life happens.  Things get busy.  And, the reality is that some people are only meant to be a part of your life for a certain part of your life.  But, if there are friends you do not want to lose contact with, you’ll have to be intentional about that.  If you’re not, don’t expect to stay in touch with them except for the annual Christmas card.

18. Live on a Budget … money has a funny way of getting spent.  If you don’t keep track of it, you’ll never know where it’s going.  A budget helps your take control of your money and allows you to make your money work for you.

19. Don’t Hold Grudges … you never win when you hold a grudge because the grudge ends up holding you.  Life is short.  Move on.

20. What You’re Doing Now Matters … if you’re looking at pornography now, that will matter somewhere down the road.  If you’re having sex now, that will matter somewhere down the road.  If you’re going in to debt now, that will matter somewhere down the road.  Your past doesn’t just go away.  What you’re doing now has a funny way of following you around later.

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