These Two Words Will Change Your Life

Date

November 22, 2022

Categories

Home

When was the last time someone thanked you for something you did for them? Were you surprised? —”Wow, I had no idea what I did meant so much to them.”

When was the last time you thanked someone for something they did for you? If you’re convicted by the last question, do not fell put upon! That is me. That is all of us.

What I want to share with you is not a typical Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving message (I’m not kicking dust on ole Norman). But it is something that I hope will be a great encouragement to you and lead to greater joy in Christ—which is what I want to be about.

My main point is simply this: when we say, “thank you!” we bless others, and receive a blessing back in the form of a changed life. Here’s how this happens in three steps.

STEP ONE – Practice saying, “Thank you!”

Given human nature, it is safe to say that our natural tendency is toward entitlement rather than thankfulness. Sometimes, “thank you” is not reflexive but something we have to remember to say—or to say well. For example, as parents, we know how hard it can be to get our children to say thank you for a gift from a friend or grandparent. I suppose in this way our children are more like us than they are unlike us, but I digress.

Over time, saying those two words and penning handwritten notes create an awareness that we each have been given much more than we realize. We have taken a lot for granted. It is not only decent but healthy to practice saying “thank you” for everything from a Christmas gift, a good deed, a word of encouragement, personal concern voiced, or even for an enduring friendship.

STEP TWO – Grow in gratitude

Over time, as we practice saying “thank you”, we become more grateful people because we realize how dependent on each other we really are. Little things: the words of encouragement, the times given for impromptu conversations at desperate moments, the simple meals with a friend, the many “I’ll pray for yous” about your scary doctor’s appointment, financial or marital struggles matter. These and so many more blessings we enjoy take on much greater meaning. And this is where it really gets good!

As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we enjoy a huge benefit. We begin to see how God is really the One who is behind all of our blessings. God is behind every act of kindness we receive because he is love. Giving was his idea because that is who he is. He is the giver and redeemer of life. He is at work in all our lives, making us more like him as we are woven together as one in Christ through his Holy Spirit. This is a joyful thing to see happen.

STEP THREE – Let joy change you

Our joyful response to seeing God’s love poured out to us through others, quite frankly changes us. Here’s how. God’s love is reflexive. It has the effect of causing us to love others (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Growing in being others-centered represents Christ-like change. Gratitude causes us to see ourselves as the truly unworthy recipients we really are. This gives us joy! God loves me so much that he has put people in my life who genuinely care about me and who will help. We become what the world is desperately seeking but that apart from Jesus, will struggle to ever find: people who really care about others—no matter who they are.

Say thank you to someone this Thanksgiving. Say thank you to someone the day after Thanksgiving, and on January 11, March 3, July 21, and September 15 (i.e. every day!) Doing so cultivates a grateful attitude that will not only spawn new and deeper relationships. It will increase your joy and also change your life.

As I close this Thanksgiving article, I want to say, “thank you!” to you, our faithful audience. Some of you are new to the ministry, some have been with us for years. All are a blessing to our family. As you listen to our humble attempts at podcasts and support the ministry through donations and prayers, you have meant so much. We look forward to walking into the new year with you and growing in the joy of the gospel, together. Happy Thanksgiving!

You May Kiss the Bride

Date

November 16, 2022

Categories

Home

Parenting

What is your favorite part of a wedding? Is it watching the radiant bride walk down the aisle? The exchange of vows? When the pastor says to the giddy, newly minted husband, “You may kiss the bride!” These are iconic moments. Weddings also provide vital opportunities to seize encouragement we desperately need in a broken world.

Last week, I married off my first child and daughter, Abigail. It was a glorious day filled from beginning to end with joyful celebration… and admittedly, some tears.

As I reflected on this experience, I realized in a fresh way that weddings have incredible power to comfort and embolden us as we face disappointments, fears, and frustrations.

Three Reminders.

First, our lives find meaning within God’s larger story. Isn’t it easy to get engrossed in the details of our own little lives? When our purpose is defined by the selfish words “me-my-mine” we taste the bitter fruit of self-pity, depression, anger, worry, and other woes. Our world shrivels like a raisin, rigid and dark. We lose sight of God’s broader purpose for our lives which is to be part of his story whose plot is redemption.

We are not our own, we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Our relationships are both an end and a means to the end of redemption in our own lives and the lives of others. We are interdependent. We give and we take. We need each other. Marriage in all its complexity is to be a technicolor picture of how redemption works out in the lives of saved sinners. It points to the much more important and eternal relationship of Christ and his church. As such, weddings remind us of our place within God’s larger story.

Second, we find great peace and rest when we follow God’s plan. It is God’s general plan for men and women to marry (for the good and joy of both). God has demonstrated throughout history that he blesses his people when they follow his plan. Even when we fail, God’s plan provides provision for how to get back on track. We find peace and rest when we follow his plan for our relationships. We can embrace it with the expectation that he will bless it and he will redeem, despite cultural disdain.

Third, God is good. Marriage reminds us of God’s goodness. God created all things good, including man and woman. God said that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Why argue with The One who made us this way? Men and women are gloriously different but complimentary. Our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical differences were designed to bring us joy. Even the lows; the frustrating struggles of marriage when handled with the grace of the gospel, demonstrate God’s goodness as a redeeming God; restoring us to himself and to each other. We can always build back better (to redeem an otherwise euphemistic political phrase). If we still have a pulse, it is never too late. His attributes of sacrificial love, forgiveness, and oneness (all good) intended to accomplish good are all modeled in marriage.

Now, I would like to make two observations.

Parenting Years Fly by Fast. Enjoy Them.

Life is short and our time with our children is shorter. As I prepared my “father of the bride” speech, I was struck anew with this truth as I considered stories about my time with Abigail as a little girl. Those wonderful years were filled with precious moments. But they flew by so fast and I confess that I did not choose to enjoy those years as much as I could have. We do have jobs that need our attention, but our jobs do not ultimately define us. I’ll never forget these sage words, “When you are on your deathbed you will not be wishing you spent more time at the office.”

As parents, we really are circus stars. Raising children is a balancing act that lasts 20 years, not 20 seconds. Actually, the metaphor of a balancing act isn’t exactly accurate because a job and raising children are not equal. But it does convey the idea that we need to intentionally engage the struggle if we are doing it faithfully. Do we seek ultimate significance in our careers that will often rob others, or do we rest in our significance as redeemed sons of the Most High God freeing us to serve others? If it all seems too easy, perhaps we are “out of balance.”

Be Grateful for Our Relationships.

Weddings (and funerals) help us see that our church relationships matter—a lot. I was looking at the wedding guests and each one has played a significant role in our lives. Some of the people were extended family, but many were fellow church members who have been part of our lives for decades. They were there because they were special. Unfortunately, there were many special people who we could not invite but even that realization was a blessing.

Weddings provide a visible reminder that we are not alone. God has given us a community, an eternal family to help us walk with him, especially when we are struggling, which if we’re honest is often. He has made a way for us to have enduring joy, peace, and purpose in this broken world. Weddings are vital reminders or God’s effervescent love and provision for our joy and redemption.

To hear more from Leslee and me about the wedding and our takeaways, please listen to the Home In Him podcast here.

Two Simple Encouragements for Parents

Date

Oct 14, 2022

Categories

Parenting

​All ten of us were around the dinner table and the conversation slouched in a bad direction—fast. The kids were discussing some choices that a friend had made. These were not necessarily sinful choices but could reasonably be categorized as lacking wisdom. I tried to arrest the free-fall by looking over at my youngest son, Hunter, asking him, “Hunter: What is something you are thankful for today?” I don’t even remember what he said. I then headed around the table asking his siblings the same question.

I could not believe it. Like a school of piranha fish my children began attacking one of their siblings for what they said they were thankful for. Distraught, Leslee left the table and quietly went upstairs. I stayed for about 3 more minutes and went upstairs to find her.

Is this a familiar scene in your home?

Leslee and I were both angry about what we saw. It was a struggle. The situation needed to be addressed. But how? We knew we needed to pray and get our own hearts right so we could then discuss what had happened. We discussed what we should do in order to address what happened. Then, we went downstairs and called a family meeting. After everyone gathered in the living room, we prayed with the children and then calmly asked some questions. We had about 45 minutes of good discussion which led to some confession and restoration between siblings. Leslee and I even gained some insights we hadn’t had before. It wasn’t quite a scene from the Sound of Music but it was effective.

I wish that I could say that events like this were rare. And I wish I could say that they all cleaned up as relatively easily as this one apparently did. My point in sharing this is to encourage mothers and fathers with two reminders:

First, God works through the messes. The messes are real life. I think we all (parents and children) learn more from messes than from perfection. We all want life to be less confrontational and more peaceful. We wrongly conclude that because there is conflict that there is something inordinately wrong. But that doesn’t have to be, nor is it usually the case. While we seek peace it doesn’t just happen because we wish it but because we work through the inevitable challenges presented by our sin.

Second, Prayer is powerful. Prayer demonstrates a simple dependence upon him. He must act because he is the only one who can change our hearts. Sometimes—especially in the midst of conflicts—we don’t want to pray. Prayer sometimes feels hollow. But God sees in our hearts the desire to honor him. He is glorified in this. And we are helped.

It is easy to become discouraged when we see the same song, 99thverse in our homes. We can easily lose hope because we wrongly conclude that God is not at work. But don’t give in to the hopelessness that is so easy to give in to in the home. Stand firm in the fight for our families. Use the powerful means of prayer. Never doubting that God is at work through it all to accomplish his glory and our ultimate joy.

Simple Way for Your Family to Pray for a Lot of People

Date

May 16, 2016

Categories

Prayer

“Will you pray for me?”

Yikes! How many times have you said, “Yes, of course!” but doubted that you’d ever remember to do it?

I’d like to share a simple way to live up to those prayer commitments that also provides an opportunity to involve your family in the ministry of prayer. All you need is a deck of 3×5 cards, a 3×5 card box, and a pen.

Step 1. Personalize the card.
Write the name of the person on one side of the card and the prayer request (if needed) on the back.

You may want to go ahead and make cards for the people you normally pray for…and those who have not asked for prayer but you pray for anyway.

Included in our deck is each member of our family, one card for each extended family unit, the elders of our church, the President of the U.S., state and federal legislatures, neighbors, missionaries, friends, and ministry supporters.

Step 2. At breakfast or dinner have a child randomly pick one of the cards and pray for the person named.

Our 4 year old absolutely loves picking the card each morning which provides a simple way for him to participate in our family worship time. It’s very clearly—HIS JOB—if you know what I mean. Usually, I will have one of the other children pray for the request. If the prayer request is of a particularly sensitive nature, I usually limit the information and pray myself.

Step 3. Put the date that you prayed for the person on the back of the card.
Writing the date on the back of the card allows you to know how long you’ve been praying for that particular person. You may also want to write updates on the back of the card.

Step 4. After praying, put the card in a section of the card box that is separate from the other cards so that everyone is prayed for once per cycle.

Step 5. Add/Remove cards as needed.
We rarely remove cards but simply change how we pray for that person.
Other comments: We often pray for people with exigent requests, regardless. As in one case, we were praying for a young father who was deployed in the Middle East for about 4 months. We prayed for him almost every day.

To get through the deck faster, pick a card at breakfast and one at dinner or simply pray for more than one person at a time.

Individuals and couples without children can benefit from this system. I actually have a separate deck of cards that I use for my personal devotional time.

Remain faithful to your prayer commitments! Lord willing, this simple tool will encourage you to that end.

To receive more encouragement in your prayer life, I suggest attending a Prayer Life Seminar by Paul Miller’s See Jesus Ministries. Three years ago, I took my two teenage daughters to one. It was a great experience as well as an influence for this idea.

Wanna Get Away?

Date

September 15, 2022

Categories

Home

Marriage

Parenting

Main Point: We need physical and spiritual rest. Slow down to listen to the Lord. Marinate in God’s word. Pray. Decompress. While my article addresses men directly as leaders in the home, it applies equally to wives and mothers, too. Both men and women need what I describe.

Wanna Get Away? is a popular slogan for a major U.S. airline. It works because life is increasingly uncertain, chaotic, and physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining. We all want and need a time to disconnect, rest, focus on the Lord, and think intentionally about our families.

At the behest of one of my life coaches, I did this very thing in August. My coach strongly suggested I do this at least 2-3 times per year. While I was not new to this practice, it had been way too long since I last did it. I was so glad I did.

With eight children (five are adults and it doesn’t get easier when they get older) and a home-based ministry, my life is complicated and generally over-extended. I am easily overcome by the tyranny of the urgent. I can quickly lose perspective on priorities.

When I am away, I recalibrate mentally, physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually. This particular getaway provided noticeable mental and spiritual rest. I could literally feel myself decompressing. I was also able to actually think about relationships in my home in a way that brought clarity and action.

NOTE: This most definitely is not a vacation! Vacations generally involve open ended fun with the family. This however is a time alone, by yourself, focused on seeking the Lord and thinking intentionally about your spiritual walk and your relationships at home.

What follows are 15 ideas to prime your own pump on how to make a getaway like this possible for yourself—or your spouse!

  1. Be honest about your need for rest. It is not a weakness to admit you need to rest and reconnect with God in a way that requires getting away. Sometimes we or our relationships break before we finally listen. Even Jesus—God in human flesh—had times away from the grind to connect with his Father and to rejuvenate. If God himself needed that. How much more do we?
  2. Just do it. Look at the calendar with your wife and set a time to go. Frankly, this is the hardest part. We are all so busy and it is hard to commit to something like this that while important, is usually not urgent. Putting it off is the same as a decision not to do it. I put it off for over a year. I could’ve used that time but for over a year—I did not do it.
  3. Plan to be away for at least 2 nights. It is hard to disconnect only being gone one night. Two nights gives you one full day and possibly two partial days. I have found that the partial days on either end are not very productive because of the distractions of going and coming. Whole days are the ticket. Three nights gives you two full days which is ideal.
  4. Choose a hotel that you like. You may have to spend a little money but it is worth it. If the vibe is off, it will impact the effectiveness of the time away. Personally, I like Hilton’s Embassy Suites. They offer a delicious, free, made to order hot breakfast. Each suite offers a bedroom and a separate living or work area with a desk. The inside atrium style of these hotels offers a resort feel with tables and various comfortable chairs where you can read and reflect as a change of scenery from your suite. The overall vibe works well for me and puts me in a relaxed mood. But maybe camping is more your style? If so, more power to you!
  5. Bring your Bible, a journal, and a spiritual book to read. The Bible and a journal are essential equipment. The additional book—not so much. But it is good to take time to read something you enjoy other than your Bible. On my recent getaway, I read two books: The Daily Relaxer by Matthew McKay, and Family Discipleship by Adam Griffin. Both offered significant insights into issues I was addressing.
  6. Read the Word in the morning after breakfast. Set the tone by spending time with the Lord first each day. I like to choose a whole book of the Bible and read it through over and over in one sitting which I rarely if ever do this as part of my normal devotions. There just isn’t enough time. Doing this though will likely lead you to see new things in the passage. In my recent time away, I read through Colossians several times and was greatly encouraged by deeper meditation on the mystery of the Gospel which Paul addresses.
  7. Pray as you read the word. Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to speak to you through His word. After reading a particularly meaningful verse, pray. Ask God for understanding. Meditate on the verse. Pray some more, etc.
  8. Make notes and journal. As you read and pray, make notes in a journal about fresh insights, or things you want to think more about. These might be personal spiritual matters or they might be relational matters. Either way, writing them down or even journaling helps to learn, clarify, and prioritize specific matters needing further action. Note taking and journaling also provide a record that you can go back to later and evaluate your progress.
  9. Pre-empt distractions. It is challenging to slow down and create separation from the daily grind—even when you are away. To help with “Daily Grind Creep” have a sheet of paper ready where you can write down the things that will pop into your mind. Things like fixing the leaky sink in the kids’ bathroom or remembering to change the oil in the car. If it comes to mind, write it down so you can stay focused in reading and in prayer.
  10. Pray conversationally. You now have time to talk with God in elongated format. Listen to Him.
  11. Spend time thinking about each family member. Ask the following questions about your wife and each child: How is their walk with God? What are areas of strength that I can point out and encourage them in? What are areas of weakness where I need to help strengthen them? How am I loving my wife like Jesus? What are ways I am exasperating my children? One thing I do is try to write down identity statements that match up well with specific areas of struggle and that they can memorize and that I can pray for them to better understand.
  12. Enjoy yourself. This is part of resting. Do something you rarely do: watch a show you like! Or, start watching a show early enough that you don’t fall asleep before the opening credits are finished. Go outside and stare at the stars.
  13. Treat yourself to a nice meal. One night, I went to a hole-in-the-wall Greek restaurant where I ate seared anchovy’s and skate wings. It was a bit crazy but fun and delicious. I couldn’t help but wish my wife was there with me to enjoy it (although I don’t think the anchovies would have gone over too well.)
  14. Make a pact with your cell phone. Turn notifications off and silence it. Don’t get trapped playing games on your phone. I took my phone and put it under the pillow in the bedroom while I worked at the desk in the other room.
  15. Report back home each day. It is good to report back home once a day to share how it is going. These reports help your wife and children pray for you and also help them see that the sacrifices they’re making to make this time possible are being rewarded in your own growth and in better leadership of your home.

Leading well in the home begins with being well ourselves. Then, it requires an investiture in the lives of others that requires intentionality. But intentionality itself must be a priority. The busyness of life works against that. Time away to rest and reflect help rejuvenate us in being intentional about the right things in our own walk with the Lord and in our relationships at home.

On final thought: do not let the best be the enemy of the good. You want to do this “right” (there is no ONE right way) but for some reason it can’t be perfect so, you do nothing. A time away for a day or a time away that is not ideal in some way is better than no time away at all.

So, when are you going to take your time away?