A Father’s Day Reflection

“‘Father’ is the noblest title a man can be given.  It is more than a biological role.  It signifies a patriarch, a leader, an exemplar, a confidant, a teacher, a hero, a friend.”  Robert L. Backman

I’m already looking forward to Father’s Day tomorrow.  My alarm is set for 4:15 a.m. and the very first thing I get to do is get on “What’s App” at 5 a.m. and through a pastor and friend, meet 82 orphans in Pakistan that we’ve had the privilege of helping to support.  As I think about this, I think about how even though they have no earthly parents, their Heavenly Father loves them deeply and provides for their needs.  I can’t wait to meet them!

Afterwards, I’ll head out for an early morning run and talk to God for a bit.  Then I head to church and get to share an encouraging word with the dads there.  Not a bad way to start the day! #pumped

As I think about Father’s Day and what it means to me, I’d like to encourage you and maybe put a new twist on it.  Instead of expecting our wives and kids to wait on us, I’d challenge you to do something different in the spirit of Ephesians 5:25….

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her….”

Instead of just lounging around waiting for breakfast in bed, give some thought to how you can express your gratitude for and to your wife.  After all, if it wasn’t for her you wouldn’t have your kids, right?  Consider getting up early to go out and grab some flowers and/or a card for her and have them waiting on the kitchen table when she gets up.  Let her know how much you appreciate all she does for you, which in turn allows you to be a solid Dad for your kids.  Make sure and let your kiddos know what a tremendous blessing they are to you.  If you’re more of a stoic type in this regard, man up and verbalize it today.  They’ll never forget those words and it will bear fruit in their lives as they continue down their own path.

I believe that the role of a father holds much more weight than our modern culture will give us credit for.  If you really think about it, you’re playing a vital role in raising a lineage of sons and daughters that come after your own kids.  Your words and more importantly, your actions and example, will shape lives for generations.  Whether you’re encouraging, supportive, sacrificial, loving and strong or rageful, neglectful, self serving, disrespectful and bitter….these are the seeds you are planting in the hearts of your sons and daughters and their sons and daughters and so on down the road.  Your leadership in your household is a high calling and God treats it as such….

“If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me- to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  Matthew 18:6

God doesn’t mince words.

Take some time to reflect on your walk as a father and look at everything….and I mean everything  Pay particular attention to potential “generational curses/spirits” that come through various addictions, marital unfaithfulness, a compulsion towards pornography, etc.  If you’re caught up in this, ask God to forgive you and heal you.  Pray against this type of mindset/behavior and that it would stop with your generation.  Pray for future generations of your family to be free of that spiritual bondage.  This is part of your role as the God appointed leader of your home.  Don’t shrink away from this responsibility or make light of it.  Men, you will give an account to God so take it seriously.

As I write this I have the movie “300” playing in the background.  One of my favorite “dude” flicks of all time.  While Leonidas is definitely my hero in the film, the other is absolutely Queen Gorgo!  With that being said, I’d also like to address the ladies that might be reading this.  You also play a tremendously important role in all of this.  For your husband to reach his full potential as a father, husband and man, your strength, encouragement, love and support are his lifeblood.  In the film, before Leonidas and his band of Spartans push-kick the Persian messengers down the well, he looks to his queen for her approval.  With a simple nod showing that she is in agreement, he attacks and down they go…. While you wouldn’t want your kids in the room during their love scene, it’s a powerful example of how she embraces his role, builds him up and validates him.  Ladies, speak strength to your husband.  Pray for him.  Let him know that you’re trusting him to lead and guide the family and don’t neglect the connection he needs with you physically.   You play such a critical part and I can’t emphasize that enough.  We men are easily built up or broken down by our wives.

Dads, grandads, uncles and mentors….may your day be blessed in unexpected ways and may your relationship with your Heavenly Father continue to grow.  Cherish and embrace the blessing of your family with great joy and enjoy this season of life….it won’t last forever.

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” Marcus Decimus Meridius

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  Frederick Douglas

Rise Above

“My strength will be refreshed within me, and my bow will be renewed in my hand.”  Job 29:20

People will let us down.  Family, friends, colleagues, bosses, pastors.  Give someone enough time and it will happen.  Misunderstandings arise around what is said and sometimes just as importantly, what is left unsaid.  Expectations are not met in a manner that we thought they would be.  Gossip rages throughout churches and youth sports leagues that our kids are just trying to enjoy.  Compassion gives way to cynicism.  Hard hearts often prevail in others….as well as ourselves….we fall on our faces before the cross seeking forgiveness, yet how often do we withhold that same forgiveness from others because well,”they just don’t deserve it”?

I believe it was Ice Cube who once waxed poetic, “So come on and chickity check yo self before you wreck yo self….”

How do we respond when faced with this type of situation in our lives?  When we call a friend multiple times and the phone call is never returned?  When someone near to us all of a sudden begins to avoid us?  When we sense the whispers behind our backs?  I’ll tell you how….

We give it to God and trust Him to handle it for us.

Hurt people hurt people.  So our angle in any situation should first and foremost be compassion.  We don’t need to pretend that we’re not hurt.  In fact, I never want you to invalidate how you feel, even and especially in your own mind.  Keep that “self talk” real.  However, what we do let go of immediately is any grudge we may want to carry, before it has a chance to take root.  Pause and remind yourself of all of the grace that you continue to need in your own life and live through that lens….not the “self-righteous” perspective that the devil will want to sell us, especially in those moments.  Be quick to forgive.  We need to turn our gaze upward toward Heaven and ask God to forgive those that have wronged us.  If we happen to ask Him for a rebuke in someone’s life, it should always be from a root of compassion and with the end goal to be constructive in their own heart and life.    This doesn’t mean you have to be their BFF, but it does mean that the compassion of Christ takes over.  If you’re not there yet?  Get there.  Ask God to help you get there.  I can’t emphasize enough that forgiveness is absolutely HUGE to God.  So much so that he says, if you don’t forgive others, you won’t be forgiven…. (see Matthew 6:15).  How serious is that!  Will you allow bitterness and unforgiveness to keep you outside the gates of Heaven?  Here’s a question for you….Is an unforgiving heart in us actually just evidence of our own potentially unredeemed soul?  After all, the Bible clearly states that “you’ll know a tree by it’s fruit”. (see Matthew 7:16-20)  So, ‘let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven’. (Matthew 5:16)

Even from a clinical distance (a term that I throw around quite a bit), we can and should operate from a place of compassion.  This is how we rise above bitterness, thoughts of “getting even” and our own potential hard heartedness.  We strive instead to keep our hearts soft and malleable in God’s hands….within healthy boundaries that we set for ourselves, in each unique situation.  Have a battle plan in place and follow it when these opportunities come up.  If you and a friend find yourselves at a perceived impasse, you be the first to extend the olive branch.  Leave the door open for a healthy conversation (healthy is the key word here).  You be the bigger man and take the high road.  Even if you perceive yourself walking it alone, God will be alongside you reminding you, “this is the way, walk in it.” (see Isaiah 30:21).

Stay in tune with your mindset and align it with Jesus.  When it’s a struggle, simply ask Him to help you.  He is faithful and will honor that prayer.  These are the moments in our “spiritual workouts” that we need to dig deep and embrace the grind!  These are those moments!  Keep moving forward in love.  Our world might tell us otherwise but don’t become trapped with the masses who take the easy road of cynicism and bitterness.  Don’t drink that poison, friends.  Love one another as He has loved you.  Practice this…day in and day out….repetition, repetition, repetition.  Do this and you will soon find that you are “more than conquerors, through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Continue to push forward and fight the GOOD fight!  Until next time….

The Thief Named Selfishness

“Dying to self doesn’t mean giving up what’s good for us.  It means letting go of what’s not, so that we can accept what is.”

When talking about romantic relationships, especially marriage, how often have we heard or even found ourselves saying that it has to be a 50/50 deal?  With this mindset, we attribute the same equal value to what we “get” as to what we “give” (although the degree of giving is often based on how much we feel we’re getting…. here lies the problem).  The “issues” begin when our expectations about what we “give” and “get” differ from what our significant other may have in mind…. and so, the battles begin.  We start planting flags and claiming territory on the relationship “battleground”.  It’s often not even something we’re consciously aware of but it will go something like this…. “Well you didn’t do this for me so I am going to withhold “            ” from you (insert sex, intimacy, conversation, support, help, flexibility, etc.).  We stew in our anger and brick by brick, we start to construct our walls….

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:30

Recently I was talking with a friend who is in the process of going through a divorce from an abusive spouse.  She was sharing about how when she was pregnant with their daughter, he refused to speak with her for three weeks because he had wanted a boy…. I was floored.  This man was blessed with a lovely family, with a new beautiful baby girl on the way.  Instead of celebrating that gift, he allowed the thief in the door.  Without him even recognizing it, he had been robbed of the joy and excitement of that season in his life.  In turn, it also robbed his wife of feeling cherished, loved and supported…. causing her to feel heartbroken, isolated and alone.

While I would consider the example above to be on the extreme side, in our natural “unchecked” state, we are all selfish…. and before we climb on our own high horse, we need to understand that the potential for this type of behavior lives in all of us.

How can we counteract this?  What does Jesus remind us of in Luke 9:23 and John 12:24.  Deny yourself….die to self.  Over and over again, Jesus reminds us that in order to walk the path of “life” as God intends us to, we must first die.  We see this exemplified in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus, soaked in blood and sweat asks His Father to “remove this cup from me”…. but He finishes His prayer by saying “not my will but YOUR will be done”.  (see Luke 22:42)  Right there, He buries any potential for selfishness.

In our relationship with our spouse, I believe that the root of many of these issues can often be traced back to the faulty foundation that is found in the 50/50 mindset.  At this point, I feel the need to share a disclaimer before we go any further.  What I am about to say is not a license for anyone to abuse you in any way.  You are not a doormat to be walked on.  Let me remind you that you are God’s creation, therefore you are His handiwork…. His masterpiece.  He made you with a purpose and has a plan for you in this time and in this place.  This is the foundation on which the next idea is built.

I believe that the 50/50 model, by its very nature, is broken.  Instead we need to focus on a “100/100” idea.  I need to be 100% about my spouse (as my friend and pastor says, “I am preaching to myself here.”)  It is on me to learn and understand what makes my spouse feel loved, cherished and appreciated and then implement those ideas in real world ways.  If it’s “physical touch” and you’re not a touchy/feely person, it may be unnatural at first but it is your responsibility to get over that hump.  If it’s “quality time” or “giving gifts” you need to make those things a priority (I recommend reading “The Five Love Languages” to learn more).  Remember that it’s not about what you “feel” like doing.  What it is about is “dying to self” and giving 100% to your spouse.

If you happen to be watching “Monday Night Football” and you notice that the kitchen is a mess….and you also see that your spouse has had a draining day with the kiddos, simply pause the game for 20 minutes and go in and clean it for them (without parading around looking for a pat on the back…. I’ve found that you’re more likely to receive a heartfelt thank you if you’re not actually asking for it  😉  ).  I need to remove the burdens and clear the obstacles that clutter my spouse’s path as best as I am able to.  We (husbands and wives) are the “safe harbor” for our spouse.  Yes, God is ultimately our refuge but we have an absolutely crucial role to play in reflecting Christ’s love, grace, understanding and compassion in our relationship.

As partners in a marriage (or those who are seriously dating/courting), this should be our mutual goal and if you haven’t taken the time yet, talk to them about this idea (and even more importantly, please listen).  Will things be perfect?  Not to burst your bubble but…. of course not.  We are still broken people being rebuilt by God.  There will be days when either partner (sometimes both at the same time) can be exhausted, sick, frustrated and impatient.  What should we do when this is the case?   We need to practice, give and receive grace.  Men, if we’ve “sinned” against our wife in those moments, we need to man up, recognize it, apologize (and give ourselves some grace…we’re not perfect) and take care of any fallout.

The world is a battleground and there is nothing that the enemy would rather see more than a family slowly being broken down and destroyed by selfishness.  When you arrive home, take a breath and before entering that threshold, remember to drop your weapons at the door.