Will You Make the First Move?

start (1)We had been seated in an outdoor area.  The restaurant was very busy.  We were waiting on our pizza.  The people at the next table were inches away.  They spoke no English (apparently).  We certainly spoke no Italian (their language).

Yet, it did not take an understanding of their language to know that they were angry with one another.  They glared at one another.  Occasionally they spoke.  We could not understand what they said but it certainly didn’t seem pleasant.

I wonder how long it took them to work out their problems.  I wonder how long it took them to get beyond this quarrel.

What does it take for men and women to step up to the plate?  Far too many of us are waiting for someone else to make the first move.  We say, “If only she would do this or that, then things would be good.”

Don’t Stop Living Before You Die!

Man relaxing in a reclining chair

I knew a man who was alive and vibrant in his church in his 30s.  He seemed to grow and connect with others in a meaningful way.  However, something happened in his 40s.

He found his recliner.  That became his location for much of his life.  Sitting and mindlessly watching hour after hour of television.

Then there are others who seem to live vibrant meaningful lives until the day they die.  Don’t misunderstand.  For many of these people, life is anything but easy. They might have family struggles and health challenges.  Yet, these people are fully alive.

So what can a person do to stay fresh all of her life?

  1. Build rhythm into your life (Luke 4:40-43; 5:15-16; 6:12-13).  Many have no rhythm at all.  Rather, they respond to every distraction (Facebook, Twitter, texts, e-mail, for example) that might come their way.  People with rhythm understand that they must determine the priorities in their lives and manage their energy, or the distractions will consume them.
  2. Practice some of the spiritual disciplines to help with your formation.  There are numerous spiritual disciplines available and various resources that might be helpful getting a better handle on this.  However, two very important disciplines are prayer and Scripture reading.
  3. Invest in your family – even if they are grown.  There is something life-giving about serving one’s family.
  4. Be aware of your own emotional maturity.  Some of us carry baggage from the past into our marriages and the church.  Many people have sought professional counseling and have received tremendous help.  Grappling with these issues can take time, but will ultimately bless your relationship with your spouse and children.
  5. Be a good steward of your body.  My entire being is impacted by exhaustion, and a lack of sleep.  This, coupled with little exercise, is a recipe for fatigue and lethargy.  Ignoring my physical body impacts the rest of my being.

We don’t all live forever, of course.  However, I would like to stay vibrant as long as I am alive physically.  So much of this has to do with intentional decisions that you make today.

When Men Leave Emotionally

(The Frustrating Silence of Emotional Withdrawal)

basement_series_sadness-500x332What does a man do with pain?

Many men simply leave.

No, they don’t necessarily leave physically. Rather, they leave emotionally.

I recently heard a friend of mine talk about this as he reflected upon a very difficult time in his life.  I could identify.

Many men have learned that the safest place to take one’s pain is within.  While withdrawing may be one’s default for dealing with pain, it is not conducive to connecting with another.  In fact, to family members and friends it can feel like the person has “gone away.”

Most men who leave emotionally do not do so maliciously.  I don’t believe most have the intention of being difficult or hurting their family and friends.  Rather, this may be the comfortable default that has been a part of one’s life for many years.

So when we leave one another emotionally, where do we go?

  1. Some of us just stay very, very busy.  We lose ourselves in our work.  Maybe we can stay so busy that we are not preoccupied with the pain we feel.
  2. Some of us look for substitutes.  Alcohol.  Drugs.  Pornography.  Or, a man may lose himself in his children so he doesn’t have to address the issues of his marriage.  Or, he can volunteer for numerous activities at church.  It may be hard to argue with someone who is heavily involved at church.  Yet, this can be a way of not dealing with pain.
  3. Some of us retreat to a room within ourselves which may seem safe but actually serves to disconnect us from the people we love most.  This “man cave” might be a place where we occasionally revisit the moments of shame, humiliation, and disappointments in our lives. Perhaps it is the place where we house the pain we experienced as children.  Or, it may be the place where we occasionally sift through the ashes of our hurts and resentments.

As a result, many men live with an anger that quite often comes to the surface.  Or, such men can experience depression.

The Charmer, the Bully, and the Church

woody-selfieSome secrets need to be exposed.

One of those secrets exists in families where the husband/father is a narcissistic man. During thirty six years of congregational ministry, I noticed that occasionally a certain kind of man would emerge who could be quite a problem for others.  This person had a view of himself that was completely self-absorbed.

Sometimes the issue was marriage related. At other times the issue centered on the problems that adult children had with a certain man in the family.  Today, this particular pattern in a man is often referred to as narcissism.  This husband/father is a narcissistic man in terms of the way he sees himself and consequently the way he relates to others.

For example:

One Sunday morning, a husband flies into a rage toward his wife.  He calls her several demeaning names and then tells her she is crazy.  Yet, a few hours later, he leads the opening prayer at their church.  Others comment to her regarding how “lucky” she is to have such a husband.  She wonders for a moment if she is not making a big deal out of nothing.  After all, these people at the church think he is such a good man.  She concludes that maybe she just needs to try harder.

How Jesus Can Use a Family Just Like Yours

pottery-2 (1)

My dad grew up in a modest home, a son in a family who just got by.  His family didn’t have much but neither did anyone else.

Their family went to the Church of Christ in Granite, Oklahoma.  W.D. Hockaday (1855 – 1944), one of the elders of their church, was very influential in his life.  His son, Don Hockaday Jr., preached at the church.  W.D. Hockaday owned a hardware store and he was also an encourager of good works.  He helped found Cordell Christian College in 1907, with its first President being, J.N. Armstrong.  Hockaday’s sister was Sally Hockaday Benson, the wife of George S. Benson (later President of Harding University).  My dad knew none of this as a boy.  What he knew is that Hockaday was known in their community as a good and generous man.

My dad enjoyed telling a story about Christmas in Granite during the Great Depression years.  Each year, Hockaday would pass out Christmas presents to all the children in town.  Children would line up in front of Hockaday’s store and wait their turn.  Inside the store, Hockaday sat by a potbellied stove as each child would pass by.  He would give them a paper sack with a few nuts, fruit, and a piece of candy.  For many of these children, including my dad, that would be the only Christmas present they would receive.

Fast forward many years later.  I remember leaving Bible class on a particular rainy Wednesday evening.  After Bible class at church, 0ur family drove to a house not far from the Pleasant Grove Church building in Dallas.  We knocked and stood on the front porch of the house.  A young family came to the door (the entire family!).  My parents had brought a sack of groceries.  My dad handed the father the key to what had been my mother’s car.  My parents were trying to help this family, giving them groceries and practically giving away this car.  As a young boy, I watched all of this closely.

On another occasion, when I was in elementary school, a little girl came to live with us.  I didn’t understand then but a mother at our church with a number of children could no longer care for them.  Now this little girl was staying with our family.  In fact, the whole congregation was involved in looking out for the children of this family.  Somehow, the willingness to serve and be helpful had caused them to take in this little child for a number of weeks.  My parents responded with graciousness and generosity toward this young girl.

I have thought about what my parents did on these occasions and how these moments impacted me.  I can’t help but wonder if these seeds of the good deeds were not first planted in my a in my dad’s heart through the generosity of W.D. Hockaday many, many years earlier.

Can God use a family like yours?  Absolutely.  Better yet, he may already be using your family to plant seeds of faith, love, and generosity into the hearts of your children.

Children pick up so much from their parents.

They hear how you talk about the church, both positively and negatively.

They hear how you talk to your own parents, the words as well as the tone of voice.

They hear and see how you respond to others, whether with grace or contempt.

One thing for sure, our children are being shaped into a certain kind of people.  The question is, “Are we intentional about shaping our children?”

 

The Daddy I Don’t Want to Be

9407_0009_webCharlotte and I have two children.  Actually, they are now two women. They each have children and families of their own. This is hard for me to grasp as it seems like yesterday they were small and I was trying to figure out what it means to be a dad.

Now many years later, I have learned much about being a father.  I have also become more aware that I still have much to learn.  I am grateful for having some very good role models. In each congregation we served (over three and a half decades), I watched some fathers who took this role very seriously.  I also learned from some who unfortunately squandered many of their opportunities for influencing their child for God.

One of the most powerful ways that a father impacts his children is through the way he treats his wife, their mother.  Little boys and girls learn much from watching and listening to their daddy. These impressionable children can have a front row seat to witness how a Christian father values and cherishes their mother.

Instead, some boys and girls grow up seeing their daddy do the following:

  • They hear their daddy talk to their mother in a way that is condescending and dismissive.
  • They hear their daddy speak to their mother as if she lacked intelligence.
  • They witness their daddy use the children to manipulate their mother.
  • They hear their daddy call their mother demeaning names.
  • They see their daddy laugh as he makes fun of their mother.  He excuses his humor as “just having a little fun.”
  • They witness their daddy treat their mother as if she were of little worth.

What I Wish I Had Known When Our Children Were Born

 

SullyCharlotte and I have two daughters and a son-in-law.  We now have three grandchildren! Little Sully was born to Jamie and Cal just the other day.  As I drove home from Oklahoma City yesterday, I thought about what I wish I had known when our children were born.  Like others, Charlotte and I were trying to figure out what we needed to do as parents.  In spite of the way it may appear at times, no parent has this figured out.  Good parents are constantly learning.

What I wish I had known when our children were born:

The best gift two parents can give their child is for them to love each other.  If a husband and wife love, care for, and cherish one another, they have given their children a precious gift.  Children watch their parents closely.  Often parents think their kids do not overhear unkind words or see the menacing looks. Typically, children don’t miss very much.  They see the way their daddy treats their mother and the way their mother treats their daddy.  You cannot talk your way out of problems that you have created.  You can’t explain away the contempt you have for one another.

On the other hand, when children see that their mom and dad are tender toward one another and that they cherish each other, they experience a special kind of security.  When they see that their daddy adores and treasures their mother (and vice versa), they are witnessing something that can positively impact them for a long time.

Some of the very best parents I’ve known were single parents.  Some became single because of the death of their spouse. Others experienced divorce.  At almost every church we have served, there were single parents who gave their all for their children.  It is tough to be a single parent and yet so many raise their children in homes of joy and contentment.

What Good Parents Do

child-and-adultThose of us who have children are always learning, or at least we should be.  We have two daughters who are adults and are still learning what it means to be a dad and mom to two adult children.

James K. A. Smith, in an article in Comment journal (fall 2015) speaks of “the currents and dynamics of society that are essential but often ignored because they are banal and taken for granted.”  He observes that “While headlines focus on spectacles and draw our attention to controversy, the things that make a society tick hum away in the background, in the quiet of life-giving homes and the energy of formative classroom . . . .”  (“Health Beyond the Hospital” p. 2-3).

As parents, we need to be aware of the significance of the “quiet of life-giving homes.”  This may be where some of the most significant work of our lives will be done.  Yet in our busyness and fatigue, we may also ignore some of the most important realities of being a good parent.

What do good parents do who wish to raise children in life-giving homes?

Good parents continue to learn.  Pity the child who is being raised by a dad or mom who won’t learn, grow, read, or ask questions of others.  Their default is often their own experience.  “This is the way I was raised.  This is good enough for my children.”  Granted, all of us can learn something from our families of origin.  However, we bless our children when we continue to grow and mature as parents.

41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 4)

usa marriage

The following is part 4 of a series that I have entitled, “41 Things Married People Ought to Know.” Most of these 41 statements I have learned from being married and observing others.  (Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.  Part 3 is here.)

31.  If a couple is at war with one another, almost any issue can be a point of contention. If a couple is pursuing peace and togetherness, they can work through almost any issue

32.  A couple can bless one another by creating an atmosphere in the home that is pleasant, inviting and warm. As a result, they will likely look forward to coming home after a long day at work.

33.  A husband or wife with a demanding spirit often pushes their spouse farther away. Regardless of the legitimacy of the issue, a demanding person feels threatening

34.  Married people, who are wise learn to look for the good in another. Too many of us become overly focused on the negative and the shortcomings we see in each another.

35.  One can add something positive to the home environment by being pleasant and enjoyable to be around. However, when a person is negative, pessimistic, and constantly griping, that person has a way of draining the energy out of the room.

36.  Being hard on one another may produce the desired external behavior— for a time. But, badgering and nagging someone can create deep resentment and anger. Such attitudes do not foster internal change.

37.  Most of us would do well to think before we speak. There is no real merit in allowing every fleeting thought to come out of our mouths unfiltered. (Please don’t say, “I was just being honest.” Honest words still need discernment.) We need to pray for wisdom regarding our speech.

38.  Every married person is married to a sinner. This person can never meet the deepest needs of his or her spouse. Only God is capable of bringing completeness to any person.

39.  Individual daily repentance will ultimately bless marriage. There is something good about getting honest before the Lord every day. A husband or wife would do well to examine how he behaved with his wife the previous day. Ask God’s forgiveness for an attitude, behavior, or words which were not Christ-like.

40.  Remember that you are married to God’s daughter or God’s son. You know how you feel when someone mistreats one of your children. You also know how you feel when someone has been a blessing to son or daughter. Think about how God might feel as he sees how you treat his daughter or son. God knows the intent of our hearts. What does he see? (Thanks to Gary Thomas for some of these thoughts.)

41.  Every good moment you experience in your married life needs to be received as a gift from God. Don’t act like you deserve these moments! Don’t think you are entitled. Christ-followers understand that we are totally dependent on God’s grace. It is out of that grace that we have air, food, and, yes, the good moments of marriage.

41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 3)

toy_car_wedding_proposal_A

The following is part 3 of a series that I have entitled, “41 Things Married People Ought to Know.” (You can find part one here and part two here)

21.  Marriage can be very satisfying and joyful.  Many couples experience great pleasure in their marriages. There is great pleasure to be found in marriage through friendship, emotional connection, emotional intimacy and sexual expression.

22.  Marriage is hard work.  A good marriage takes effort and often requires us to be intentional. As married people, we depend upon the Lord for strength to navigate our marriages well.  A very frustrated married person once asked me, “If marriage is right, why is it so hard?” Yet, simply because something was created by God does not mean it will be easy.

23.  Marriage requires that we be steady and consistent.  After all, the journey is long and requires constancy and faithfulness.  But shouldn’t there be sizzle?  Yes, of course.  However, one would think from watching the way relationships are portrayed on television and in the media that real life is to be found in encounters where there is no commitment to the future, but only an awareness of the moment.