The Old Guys At McDonalds

Growing up in South Dakota we would have to leave very early in the morning to travel to our basketball, baseball, football, soccer, or "you name it" games.  So my mom would usually let us grab breakfast from McDonald's on the way and occasionally we would have time to go in and eat. 

When we went inside even through a groggy haze I remember seeing the same group of old guys sitting in McDonald's sipping coffee and swapping stories.  Most of these stories I shouldn't repeat, but let's just say they made a teenager giggle.  They'd sit around talking and drinking until one by one they would leave for the day.  Every time one would leave the group would say "See ya Bob" or "Catch you tomorrow Fred" knowing that the next day would bring them back together. 

Fast forward to Frankfort, Illinois 2011 and walk into any McDonalds early in the morning and I willing to bet you will find a similar group.  A group of old timers swapping stories, sipping coffee, and talking about life.  And whether they think about it or not they have a great support system for one another sheltered safely under the Golden Arches. 

This just goes to show that everyone needs or has a small group.

It seems that one of the scariest requests you can make of someone in the church world is to "join a small group".  Say those words and people retract back in their personal shells like a turtle at the zoo.  Somehow the thought of willingly putting yourself in a group of peopel to discuss life seems so odd and foreign, but from what I've seen it's completely natural!

Let's be honest if a group of guys that lived in a generation much less open and "feelings orientated" as ours today can get together and talk life I think we probably could too.  And listen, no one makes these guys get up at 4:30 am to come down to McD's.   They do it willingly!  For some reason they desire to be around their friends.  For some reason they are drawn toward community.

The reason is because that is how God designed us.  He created us to be in community with each other and living life together.  He never envisioned us pulling in our garages, turning off the car, and shutting the door before we got out.  In fact His plan is exactly the opposite.

"The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.'"- Genesis 2:18

"Let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another." – Hebrews 10:25

I know sometimes the thought of going to some random person's house you never met and walking in with your rice crispy treats and untouched Bible could be intimidating.  Man it was for me too at first!  But what is even scarier is thought of trying to manage through this life on my own. 

So maybe we all need to take a little advice from the old guys at McDonalds and get in a small group.  If you haven't gotten in one and you attend Parkview why not click on this link?

Join a Small Group Now

If you are reading this somewhere else I'll just challenge you to jump into a group somewhere and start digging into life with some people.  I know you will not regret it and who knows maybe you will learn to like Egg McMuffins too!

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The Voices in My Head

Read this phrase to yourself:  "I Love You."

  • Now say it to yourself as if it was someone who really loves and cares for you. 
  • Ok, now say it to yourself as if it was someone you casually know as a friend.
  • One last time.  Now say it to yourself as if it was someone that you can't stand or your worst enemy.

Did the meaning of the words change as the person you envisioned saying it changed?

You said the exact same phrase right? 

The only difference was the voice of the person saying it, but it totally changed the meaning and/or sincerity in which you felt those words.  You can't expect to feel the same way when your wife tells you she "loves you" and when Osama bin Laden tells you the same thing!

My mind and heart will instantly detect the genuineness and sincerity in my wife's words and the sarcasm and deceit in the words of a mass murderer. 

However…sometimes this works against us too. 

Take e-mail for instance.

Do you ever find that when you read an e-mail you add all kinds of attitude and sassafras to their words so that by the time you’re done reading it you pretty much want to punch the person in the face?  I mean throw an emoticon in there at least would ya!  But then when you actually talk to the person about the e-mail you find out they intended it to be far less caustic than the voices in your head made it sound.

I find that those same voices in my head mess with my relationship with God too. 

Depending on what you've been taught or heard about God, I' sure you have a perception of what you think He is like.  Some people have the view that God is angry and a grumpy old man on a cloud.  So even when they hear that God "Loves them" they do so with a bitter taste in their mouth and doubt that it could be true. 

Others of us have this idea that God is always puppies and ponies and all He intends for us is to be healthy and wealthy.  As if God were a genie in a bottle and if we say the right prayer and sing the right songs money will fall out of the skies into our cubicle at work.   Then when it doesn't happen and we drive home in our 1984 Ford Taurus with only 3 of the 4 doors still attached we feel God has let us down.

The voices in our heads that tell us what we think God is like cloud our judgment so much that we never really investigate what He really is like.

Now I don’t' have enough space to describe the complexity of who God really is, and frankly I wouldn't do Him justice if I tried.  So maybe I can just pose a few questions and let you take it from here. 

  • What if what you thought about God was as inaccurate as the e-mail you read from your friend?
  • What if you have been saying the words "I Love You" with the wrong image of who is saying it?
  • What if the voices in your head are wrong?

So I'll encourage you just as I encouraged myself.  Read the Bible and find out who the REAL God is and not who you've made Him out to be.  I've found out He is way more loving, merciful, graceful, and amazing than I could imagine.

 

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True Confessions of a First Time Dad: The Gospel According to American Girl

I had heard rumors about it…I've seen the effects of it…I even knew it was coming, but I wasn't prepared. 

Yep it's the American Girl store. 

Wall to wall dolls floating in sea of dresses, outfits, proportionally sized dogs, doll hospitals, hair salons with adult stylists, and aisle after aisle of passed out father's overwhelmed by the experience. 

It's an experience because it isn't just a normal day at a normal store getting a normal doll.  No, no, no. You see, American Girl develops a whole world for you to enter into with your doll. 

Each year they create a new doll and cast a young girl that looks just like her to bring the doll to life.  You can buy a DVD about the dolls.  You can have tea with your dolls.  You can get clothes for you to match your doll.  You can even get glamour shots with your doll for a Christmas card.  For crying out loud, even the bathroom stalls have holders for the dolls so you don't accidentally dunk them!

Even the shelving of the products was thought out since they are at two different heights for two types of people; the parents with the green and the little girls with needs. 

All this marketing genius is for a doll that will most likely be put in a Rubbermaid container after a few months with the other $5 toys.  But it works and has made getting a doll fun and down to the level of the kids. 

I wonder if we as Christians could learn something from this type of approach?

I mean, I wonder if we do a good enough job bringing the Gospel down to the level of the people we are talking to or even interacting with on a daily basis? 

Now, I'm not saying we should create a store like American Girl to talk to people who are interested in Christianity, but you'd have to think the Noah's Ark section of the store would be pretty sick (FYI, sick = cool).

However, there may be something to be said about tailoring the way we talk with people about God that is at their personal level which may be more effective.  Instead of trying to impress ourselves as we talk at them about all that we know, maybe we should start by asking what they know and start there? 

For instance, I'm certain the lady that styles hair at the store knows full well she is styling doll hair and not human hair.  I'm sure she could get paid way more if it were a human in the chair, but she knows that her role in the experience is for that little girl beaming from ear to ear at the counter in front of her.  At that moment it isn't about her needs as an adult, but about the needs of the little girl.  When we truly want to share our faith with someone, we need to remember it is about the needs of the person we are talking to and not ours. 

Who cares if you’re the CEO of the company and are talking to a floor worker at lunch about the church you go to?  Who cares if a mom takes her son out paintballing to talk about having Christ-like character?  Who cares if you take your wife shopping just to spend time talking about life and Jesus?  So what if you look a little foolish!? 

I'm telling you (and me) that we should care way less about how we look or feel and more about how the other person feels about Christ. 

At its core it breaks down this way: If I look foolish for a moment, but the person accepts Christ would I care?  Of course not!

I just think all of us could spend more time learning from American Girl's approach and less time with our small group of Christian friends that get together to talk about how much we all have it together.  We need those moments of sharpening and encouraging, but it doesn't do any good if we don't pop the Christian bubble and get out and impact our world.  Believe me…people are dying to know way more about a Savior, and not one that will get put in a box in the garage someday.  

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Rolling Through The Stop Signs Of Life

It seems like when I'm driving around the Southside of Chicago that stop signs are treated like suggestions instead of laws.  It could be bone dry out, but that won't stop Mr. "My Time is More Important Than Yours" from rolling through the 4-way stop so he can get home 7 seconds faster. 

I wish I could say that Lloyd Christmas' words from Dumb and Dumber "Hey, I guess they're right. Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose. I'll be right back. Don't you go dying on me!" was the excuse for all the people I see, but I can't.  It is multi-generational.

If you think about it, the society we live in is really held together by a thin line of faith and trust in the people around us.  I mean, if a line of cars completely ignored the stop light at a busy intersection there really isn't much you as a driver wanting to go the other way can do.  We trust that the other drivers around us will abide by the same laws we know and stop, yield, signal, and turn when and how they are supposed to. However it only takes one person to ignore the rules and disaster strikes.

We also have faith that the laws that are established are created with our safety and best interests in mind.  I don't think anyone can say that a stop sign is made just to make people mad or to be used as a college sociology experiment, although that would be interesting research to see. 

The laws are put in place for our own good, but yet people still roll through life because they feel they are better than the law or they think their way is right.  However, just as rolling through a stop sign will set you up for a T-bone (and I don't mean from Smith and Wollenskys) so will rolling through the directions God gives us.

We read in Proverbs these words:

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." – Proverbs 16:25

"Wow Brian this seems a little extreme!  I mean isn't comparing my not stopping at a yellow light and death a little much?"  Or to bring it to a spiritual point, "How does me sleeping with my girlfriend before I'm married and dying have anything to do with each other?"  I guess it depends on which car you are in.

I just wonder if we ever stop and think about what our decisions to not follow God's direction in life do to other people.  We usually try to motivate change from the internal drive to do better for ourselves, but what about the drive to do better so you don't jack up somebody else?

When my friends were killed in a traffic accident back in high school it wasn't their choice to get hit by that drunk driver.  They didn't choose to drive into his lane on the highway.  No, their lives were affected because of the decision of someone else to think their way was right.

To bring it closer to home, maybe you call yourself a Christian man, attend church regularly, read the Bible every morning, call your grandmother regularly, and volunteer at the animal shelter on Tuesday nights.  But in your relationship you tell your “new to the faith” girlfriend it's ok to sleep together before you’re married because you are "married in your hearts".  Death still happens.  A little bit of the purity of that young woman died.  The image she has of a Christ-like relationship is shattered.  All because you rolled through a stop sign designed by God because you thought it wasn't hurting anyone.  

Our sin has a ripple effect that radiates far beyond our personal space and impacts the lives of so many more people than we will ever know.

The beautiful part of this Proverb though is what the opposite effect of it can be.  If we take a second to re-write it in the positive it would read. 

"All the ways of God are right, and will bring life." 

Now that's a saying you can put on a t-shirt!  It's also a verse that you can trust to live your life by without any regret. 

God's design is for us to not roll through the stop signs He made, but to trust that the guardrails He designed are meant for our protection and for those around us we love.  So take an extra second and come to a complete stop…it may just save a life…not just yours.

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Go To Your Room And Stop Being Stupid!

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid." – Proverbs 12:1

I remember writing a paper for a college English class at the University of Nebraska that really has stuck with me.  I have no idea what the paper was about, but what I do remember was getting back the first draft from the teacher and having it be so covered with red correction ink it was dripping.  It looked like the script of a horror movie coming alive on the page!

Well, after following the guidance of my teacher and looking at where I messed up, I turned in my final draft of the paper the next week.  Along with the paper, I attached a brand new red pen in the package and a note saying "I thought you may need this after my last one.  Sorry about that." Listen, I wasn't voted Class Brown Noser in high school for nothing.

In the end, I got a 100% on the paper and actually got an A+ for the entire semester. So needless to say, I took the direction of my teacher and fixed my mistakes.

I'm fairly certain I've never met anyone in all my different interactions in life that loved to be corrected or disciplined.

  • Not one of my baseball teammates ran up to me after a terrible day batting and said "Boy, I can't wait to meet with coach tomorrow and have him tear my behind apart!"
  • My brothers never got excited wondering what our dad would do to them when he got home and found out they broke the dry wall in the basement.
  • I've never met a girl that loved sprinting into my office to tell me she cheated on her boyfriend just to see what I'd say. 

Correction and discipline are not naturally woven into the human condition to be enjoyed like holding a baby or kissing your wife.  In most cases they are avoided with the same intensity as the perfume sprayers at the mall.  Our minds attach a negative connotation to both of them but in different ways. 

Correction is often seen as a sign of weakness where the person feels that the correction comes out of the need to fix your screw up.  We feel like everyone is watching and pointing at us. 

Discipline on the other hand seems to incite the feeling of being put in the corner or sent to your room because you did something wrong.  For my Catholic friends out there the nuns with the rulers would enter the picture here.

None of us enjoy having our bubble touched. We will kick, scream and even threaten violence to anyone that dares to pop the personal bubble we place around us. The bubble that says "I'm fine; everyone else is jacked up, and if it ain't broke why fix it?" Bubbles filled with old high school yearbooks, participation ribbons, employee of the month certificates, and whatever else helps to keep us built up inside. But have you noticed that it doesn't take much to pop these? 

Little things like an odd look or a misread text message can be just as destructive as a cheating spouse or an intervention for a drug problem. The bubbles pop very, very easily. 

I can relate. I wish I had more pats on the back than wagging fingers in my face, but what I’ve come to realize is that by resisting correction I'm missing out on God's desires for me. In fact by resisting He calls me stupid. Seems harsh, but once again…He's right!

The reason is that God's correction is not meant to show you how dumb you are, it is meant to put you on a path that is better than your current path of destruction. It would have done me no good if my teacher looked at my paper and said "Looks great!" just so I could feel good about myself. God would not be a loving Father if He didn't provide course corrections to us in our life.

Additionally, God's discipline, whether passed out directly from the Big Man upstairs or through thoughtful words of loved ones or a pastor, are not meant to put you in your place like a child.  They are meant to lovingly keep you from further damage and help you avoid the freight train of sin that is ready to smack you in the face the way you are headed.

So you and I can either learn to see the correction and discipline we receive as knowledge to become more spiritually mature, or we can punch the messenger in the face and keep living in our sensitive personal bubbles.

Just know, sooner or later, no matter how hard you try….Pop! 

 

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Daniel and the Lion’s Den – The After Party

“At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.” – Daniel 6:24

Now, before I touch on this verse I’d really love for you to read the rest of Daniel 6 so you have some context, but if you can’t here are the cliff notes.

In one of the most ironic and odd Bible stories we tell our children before they go to bed, this is the classic story of Daniel and the lion’s den.

Daniel is a highly regarded prophet of God and a really, really, really good one at that.  At this time in his life he is a high ranking administrator and because of his success not well liked by some people.  As a result, his critics look to catch him breaking a law they convinced the King to pass banning the kingdom from praying to anyone except the king for the next 30 days.

Daniel being a strong man of Faith did not budge in his devotion to God and as a result was sentenced to be eaten alive by lions.  The king himself was anguished at having to do this, but the law he passed was unshakable.  So down in the pit of lions Daniel went for the night as the king went home to try and sleep.

At the break of day, Scripture says, the king rushed back and found Daniel still alive in the den.  Daniel’s exact response was “O king, live forever!  my God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.  They have no hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  Nor have I ever done any wrong before you,O king.” (Can you see why this dude was loved? 🙂 )

However, here is where we jump into the verse above.

After hugging Daniel and most likely apologizing for the whole lion thing, he turns his attention to the yahoos that forced the king’s hand to kill this Godly man.

As we read, the punishment seemed almost fitting.  Take the punishment you tried to inflict on an innocent man and apply it the person who deserves it.  However, we notice that it wasn’t just the men that suffered the punishment.  It was the entire family that was mauled by the lions and whose bones were crushed.

Now wait a minute.  That doesn’t seem fair.  What did the kids and wives do?

In that culture this was very common.  You see, it all came down to eliminating any and all threats to the throne.  So instead of killing just the men and running the risk of the sons growing up to seek retribution, the king just eliminated everyone involved so he didn’t have to worry about keeping up with all the offspring.

So as a result the family of these men also received the punishment for their actions.  They were collateral damage.

Don’t kid yourself.  This still happens all the time today.

Families and loved ones suffering the consequences of someone else’s actions, mistakes, slip-ups, decisions…sin.  Lives mauled to pieces as collateral damage.

  • It’s the couple that gets a divorce because they “fell out of love” who have to watch as their kids are turned to dust through the process.
  • It’s the husband that decides to gamble his paychecks away thinking it will only affect him who then has to live through the “lions” of distrust and financial ruin along with his wife.
  • It’s the teenager who believes that “everyone is drinking so I should too” who soon finds out that going to college or getting a job is a lot harder with a DUI and a criminal record.  Not to mention the devastation of a mom who just had to post bail for their child.

We do not live life in a vacuum.  Our actions, decisions, and their effects are not isolated to only us.  They ripple out to many, many, many more people.

Without a doubt we should desire to remove sin in our life for the sake of our relationship with Christ, but additionally we should be spurred on by the families we love.

I don’t know of anyone that would be excited to see a hungry lion being brought home.

 

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True Confessions of a First Time Dad: The Effects of a 1 Year Old on the Most Romantic Place On Earth

Recently my wife and I took a trip to France to visit my brother in-law Alex and his wife Katie.  Not only was this the first trip to France for both of us, but it was also the first international trip for our daughter Aniston.  I thought you may appreciate the effects of a 1-year old on the most romantic city on earth.   

  • International Flight + 1 Year Old = I think Bill Cosby describes it best when talking about Jeffery.  
  • Leisurely Walks Down Charming Streets + 1 Year Old = Carrying a dead-weight, jet-lagged, hysterical baby to a train station and throwing out L1-L5 of your vertebral column while every French person possibly condemns you with their stares.
  • Public Transportation Metro Trains + 1 Year Old = Carrying a stroller loaded down with no baby but a baby backpack, camera bag, souvenirs, and umbrellas up and down 15- 20 flights of stairs as we transfer to 3 different lines.  Upside is that in no way do you need to work-out while on vacation.
  • Quaint Persian Hotel + 1 Year Old = Cramming your jet lagged child into a newly purchased tent big enough for a 1 year old at 2:00 in the morning as she is screaming.  This can only be compared to the grandma who wrapped up her cat for a present in Christmas Vacation.  Then finally giving in and letting her sleep on the bed with you which requires you and your wife to contort your bodies to form what can only be described as a UFC octagon to keep her penned in. 
  • Relaxing Pillow Talk With Your Wife + 1 Year Old = Whispering so quietly to each other (so as to not wake your child that finally went to sleep) that CIA microphones could not pick up the sound. 
  • Romantic French Bistros + 1 Year Old = Trying to order a grilled cheese sandwich that isn't lit on fire when it gets to your table while ordering food for yourself you can't pronounce. 
  • Flavorful French Cuisine + 1 Year Old = The most regular child on the planet who may break the record for most dirty diapers in a 9-day period of time previously held by an 88 year old man in Milwaukee.
  • French Crepes + 1 Year Old = Your daughter's new favorite food and the necessity to buy stock in Nutella.   
  • Watching an International Basketball Game + 1 Year Old = Only two words needed:  Despicable Me.  
  • Vineyard Tours + 1 Year Old = Dad left in the backseat of a Volkswagen Golf while the 1 year old that missed her nap writhes and screams so much that every window in the car fogs up.  The silver lining turns out that she likes writing in the fog she created on the windows, but there was still so much of it that my wife had to knock on the windows to see if we were still alive. 

The Final Verdict:  One of the coolest trips I've been on and I loved every second of it with my family. 

You see that is what we are, a family. Families include all the good stuff like giggles and impromptu hugs, but also screams and tantrums.  Families include parents that kiss each other and parents that want to strangle each other.  Families include good times and not so good times, but through it all it is a family.  

Don't get me wrong I love time alone with Cherie and we are not opposed to taking a few days to our self while someone watches Aniston, but that's not the norm.  The norm is that we do things as a family, live life as a family, and represent God as a family.  

You don't give up on a family when things get tough.  You don't call it quits on a family when you hit a bump.  You don't leave one family for another family that looks better. 

Nope.

You enjoy, work, encourage, endure, mold, pray for, laugh with, and honor the family God has given you through good and bad. 

I know this trip allowed me to take stock on how blessed I am to have the family God gave me.  Maybe you can take a step back and look at the family God has given you   Perhaps you need to realize that your family may not always be the most romantic thing to look at, but it is a blessing that He gave you and in the end it's always worth the effort. 

 

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True Confessions of a First Time Dad: I Drive Slow Now

 

My best friend and I used to be maniacs when it came to driving back home. Neither of us had cars that were lighting fast, but we sure thought they were.  How could you not when one of us had a S10 Pickup and the other had a Ford Bronco II!?  I mean, those are the definition of speed and handling in my book.

Regardless of what we were driving, there was no question that how we were driving was a little nutty.  We had an itch for that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you're on the borderline of flipping your car as you tuck around the corners of the winding roads we lived on.  Looking back we put ourselves and others in some serious danger by our road antics, but at the time we didn't think about that stuff.

Advance a few chapters in life to the present day and things are different.

Adding Aniston into the equation of life has made many things change for me including how I drive.  I'm sure all of us can remember driving home from the hospital for the first time with our new born baby and honestly feeling like you were driving your car in an episode of Star Wars with how fast the cars seemed to pass you by.  You'd lay on your horn and yell "slow down psycho!" as you literally travel slow enough that an old lady walking backwards could pass you.

But it's not just that trip that slows your driving roll.  You are forever more aware of stop signs, red lights, yellow lights, and school zones than you ever were before.  Looking both ways is not good enough when entering and intersection.  No, now you ask your wife to confirm that it is safe to drive through and you don't even mind the double check! 

For heaven's sake, I even use cruise control in town so I don't accidently go Dale Earnhardt Jr. on someone that cuts me off. 

I've changed the way that I drive because there is something greater at stake than me now.  I've slowed down because I want to enjoy the moments I have with Aniston even if it means getting somewhere 7 seconds slower.  I don't think any parents would argue this to a man, but would our actions match our words?

Allow me to carry this analogy beyond the roadways.  Parents or those who desire to be parents one day, how has/will your life slow down for your family?

  • Dads, do our kids know how much we love them all the time or is it only when Fantasy Football isn't in season?
  • Moms, is your anxiety about how they are dressed, what kids will think, if they'll skin their knees, or how they feel after that girl broke his heart keeping your from enjoying the brief time you have them?
  • Parents, has the pursuit of "giving them more than you had" come at the cost of giving them less of us physically, emotionally and spiritually?

I really hope that when I utter the phrase "wow, she grew up fast!" I'll be able to quickly pull up tons of memories with Aniston.  But I know some of you will struggle to remember even a few because you will have lived life never slowing down long enough to make any. 

I pray that today you are able to pull back the zoom lens of life to 30,000 feet and see what your life really looks like.  Then take the bold step of slowing down.  Not in a lazy, playing video games all day kind of slowing down, but in a getting rid of the unnecessary, self-induced, frantic pace of life kind of way.  

You'd be surprised what you will see when life isn't a blur in your rearview mirror.   

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What Have You Done For Her Lately?

I loved being married. 

Over 8 years with my amazing wife Cherie I can honestly say I've enjoyed way more of the minutes than I've hated. 🙂

Granted, it is the most unique relationship you will ever have in your life if you think about it.  One man and one woman with all of their baggage, expectations, anticipations, dreams, hopes, fears, and Faith are placed into the cage of life with the a timer that reads "until death do they part".  You can only imagine what "fun" comes up with that scenario.  Yes, only God could have come up with such a plan…but I love the plan.

I love it because in order for it to have any chance it requires Faith, hope, love, and fun for it to work.  However, for it to thrive it requires one key ingredient…teamwork. Man and woman working side-by-side tackling all of life's obstacles and mountain top moments.  Each separately wired with unique God-given abilities, but asked to  work together to make the relationship click. 

But men I want us look at ourselves for a moment and ask this question:

"What Have I Done For Her Lately?"

Now, before you get your Flintstones club out of the closet and beat your chest while you grunt in disagreement, pull up a rock and keep reading.

I'm not sure when the definition of being man was somehow tied to how much we can make our wives do for us so we can do what we want, but it seems to be happening more and more.  I see so many wives staggering to maintain the weight of being a mother, a homemaker, an employee, a friend, a peacemaker, and wife.  All the while their husband will come home from work only to hop on the computer, play video games, watch TV, play softball, or talk Fantasy Football with their buddies like Junior High girls.  And that's just the guys that come home in time for their wives to see them.  There is a whole other group of workaholics that have weekend families at best.

Listen I'm not saying any of those things above are inherently bad.  Heck, we all need a release, a hobby to enjoy, and to provide for our families but when these start to come at the expense of our wives sanity and/or our marriage that's where the problem lies. I know when I feel the best about my world as a man is when I know my family is taken care of in ALL respects including how my wife is doing.

Recently, I prayerfully did a self inventory of how I was doing as a husband.  With a lot of feedback from my wife, I realized I needed to step up in some areas.  Understand I did this so we could improve on our solid marriage not so I could get a little more "action".  Your missing the point if that is you goal  I'd much rather have you accept the challenge to assess how you are doing as a husband in the effort to make your marriage a success. 

Perhaps consider these:

  • If you asked your wife on a scale of 1-10 how you are as a husband how would you rate?
  • How much of who you are as a husband (good or bad) is determined by your father growing up?
  • How much do you look to Scripture for wisdom on being a husband?
  • Dads, when you come home, who do you kiss first?  The kids or your wife?
  • When was the last time you and your wife talked for over 30 minutes at one time without an agenda?
  • What does your wife want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
  • What are 3 things that you could do right now that could help your wife and marriage with little to no personal sacrifice to you?  (Ex: Fold the laundry, empty the dishwasher, get the oil changed in her car)
  • What are 2 things that you could do in the next month that could help your wife and marriage with minimal personal sacrifice?  (Ex:  Plan a date night and you find the babysitter, quit a recreation team for a season and let you wife have that night to herself, turn your cell phone off when you get home for 30 days)
  • What is 1 thing you could do within the next year that could significantly help your wife and marriage with noticeable sacrifice to you?  (Ex:  Alter your work schedule to work a day from home, ask for a transfer to a location closer to home, (if she desires) look for ways for your wife to quit her job so she can stay at home with the kids full time)

Please hear me, I'm not saying I have it all figured out.  In fact my 1-10 rating in my mind is much lower than even my wife said!  What I do know, is that I desperately want to have a marriage that is God honoring and set-up for success.  I know I love my wife so much that I would go to the ends of the earth for her and that includes sacrificing things I enjoy so she is cared for. 

Marriage is awesome, difficult, awesome again, a little more difficult, add a side of frustrating, and then back to awesome but in the end is totally worth every up and down.  

Men we need to show our wives through our actions that we are pursuing Godly marriages and relationships and I think it can start by asking ourselves, "What Have I Done For Her Lately?" 

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Truth Be Told #4: Don’t Fast Like A Criminal

"Worshiping God involves more than observing an outward ritual;

there must be an inward obedience and submission to the Lord." -Warren Wiersbe

Do you know why most criminals get caught?  It is because they can't keep their mouths shut.  Sooner or later Bubba has to tell someone that he stole a pack of cigarettes from the gas station so he can feel tough and then…wammo…handcuffs baby.  Most detective work is just waiting around for Mr. or Mrs. Criminal to tell someone with one more brain cell than them about the crime and then the cops go pick up the perp after who they told rats them out. 

We may not all be criminals, but all of us on some level want people to know what we did. 

I mean sit around a table at dinner with more than 3 people for 10 minutes and you'll find that to be true.  One story leads to another story that leads to another better story that leads to an even better story that is only half true which leads to someone knowing someone which leads to your dad somehow having had dinner with Frank Sinatra. 

We all want to feel important and to have people notice us. 

That is the crux of what Jesus is talking about in this truth.

 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." – Matthew 6:16-18

Now fasting in its simplest sense is deprive yourself of something you want such as food or water for a period of time so in the moments of their desire you can refocus your attention to God.  Fasts can last hours or days but the reason for them stays the same.  It's about refocusing on God.

I've fasted in times of great stress or at a time when large decision was looming to truly seek God's direction and guidance.  In all honesty though, I am a light weight when it comes to fasting and in fact one day is very hard for me, but the challenge is always a draw to me.

The difficulty with a fast, in most cases, is not about the food it's about the heart.  When you are in the middle of fasting or even just starting out it is such a temptation to announce it to someone.  To maybe subtly let it slide that it's the reason you can't each lunch or it is the reason you are so irritable.  It would be such a great confidence boost if someone would say "wow, that's awesome!" or "I wish I was disciplined enough to do that."  Those little boosts seem harmless, but what it may do to your spirit could be crushing.  What Jesus wants us to do in our times of fasting is not seek the approval of others, but seek the face of God. 

Jesus tells us that if our desire is for the approval of those around us, we have received our reward.  However if we fast in worship to Christ and not reduce it to grimacing and moaning for sympathy we are told our reward is eternal.  It simply takes us keeping our mouth shut and our soul open.

So the next time you are considering fasting, try not to fast like a criminal, but rather fast as a Christ follower should.

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