Are Your Children a Bridge or a Wedge in Your Marriage?

Are your children a bridge or a wedge in your marriage?

Wedge:

Many parents allow children to be a wedge between them. They have separate discipline policies, differing goals for the children, and different methods of communicating with the children. They talk negatively to the children about the other parent and force the children to take sides between the parents. Some parents use the children as a tool to get even with the other parent. Other parents use the children as an excuse for a bad marriage.

Bridge:

Cheryl and I used our children to bridge our relationship. Obviously couples talk about children naturally, so we used that time to dream together, plan for our parenting, and escape for our personal time. Our two boys became a glue that continually brought us back together. We never gave our boys an answer on major issues until we talked about it together first. We refused to let our boys pit one of us against the other. We didn’t always agree at first, but our boys didn’t know it at the time and it forced us to come together on a decision, which in turn helped strengthen our marriage.

Are your children a bridge or a wedge in your marriage?

Parenting By Grace: Revised

Cheryl and I attempted to implement grace parenting in our home. Our boys are now grown, but we are beginning to see some fruit from our methods and our heart is to help others learn from things we did wrong and things we did right. Grace parenting is one thing I believe we did right. Grace parenting attempts to raise children the way God parents us…by grace. If God leads us by grace, shouldn’t we lead our children by grace? I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Oh, the power of grace. (Aren’t you glad we are not under the law…but grace?)

This does not mean that we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to that. :) ) It doesn’t mean we release them to sin, or even that we expect them to sin. The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace living. (Romans 6:1-2) To the contrary, I actually believe grace parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

These are some steps that helped us think through this concept of parenting by grace. Consider them for your own family and see if they are appropriate, recognizing that each child is unique and may require a different approach in some areas.

Here is our parenting model, Parenting by Grace:

Set clear boundaries - Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these, when they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace. One of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us, but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me.

Recognize the individuality of the child - Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child. One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination…a path for him…he would get there in his own way.

Major on the majors, not the minors - There should be some items, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tend to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character, then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly, but still with love. The minor issues, issues, which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but they can be handled less severely. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart – We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mould a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23) If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily – God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children…especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you. They should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

If your children are living within the boundaries, then be a “fun” parent - Let them enjoy having a good time with you. We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house, while at the same time we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model, there were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.

How are you being intentional with your parenting? Let others learn from you.

(This is a revised post from a few years ago. My boys are now out of the house.)

Building a House

The wise woman builds her house…

(Proverbs 14:1)

If you want to build a house…

It takes a plan…

It takes diligence…

It requires the right materials…

It takes time…

It involves sleepless nights…

It requires discipline…

It’s not done in front of the television or computer…

It’s not cheap…

It will stretch your heart…in various directions…

It will not always make you the popular parent…

It will require sacrifice…

It’s not easy…

But…

Its rewards last for generations…

Parents…

Are you building your house?

What else does building a house require?

(To see my personal parenting model, click HERE.)

7 Ways I Gain Influence with My Team

John Maxwell says leadership is influence. If that’s true, then how does a leader develop that influence with the people he or she leads?

Here’s how I gain influence with my team:

Treat people professionally and with respect - I expect to be treated likewise, but for me to demand it without displaying it doesn’t build influence, it fosters control. (I wrote a post about that HERE)

Take risks on people and give opportunities to fail (or succeed) – Several on our staff started their ministry career with us…in large roles. I like placing faith in people. If a team member comes to me with a dream, I’ll try to help them attain it. The risk is almost always worth the return.

Recognize and reward efforts – I try to find ways to invest in our team, based on the individual needs and desires of the team member. I’ve been known to be creative in rewarding a team member for doing exceptional work. I’m also not afraid to single out exceptional work for individual recognition.

Allow them to know me personally – I’m transparent. I try to be clear about my weaknesses and own my mistakes. I’m also not afraid to be the brunt of the jokes.

Be approachable - I return phone calls and emails to my team quickly. They can get in touch with me and on my schedule before anyone other than my family. I keep the door open when I’m in the office and welcome walk-ins. (I have candy in my office too!)

Be consistent and reliable - I keep lots of lists so I don’t forget things I’ve committed to do. I have an Evernote folder with each team member’s name on it for things relative to them specifically. I don’t make many promises, but I try to honor my commitments, even when it’s costly at times. If I tell a team member I’ll do something, I make it a priority in my schedule until it’s accomplished.

Help others achieve personal success - I love to learn a team member’s goals and help them achieve it.

Keep in mind, I’m not perfect and this is not an attempt to brag about my performance. As with all my posts, I’m trying to be helpful in developing your leadership. If you read this blog regularly you know that one way I improve what I do is that I annually ask my team to evaluate me. (You can find out about that HERE and the consulting I offer in that area HERE.)

Of course, my team is free to comment on this post as well, so that should humble me. :) Most of what I’ve learned in leadership came from doing the wrong things first. I think it’s vital to a healthy team that the leader be continually conscious of his or her need for influence and ways to improve upon it.

You may also want to read my post 12 Ways to Keep an Organization Small

What would you add to my list?

The 5th Type of Mentor

I’m updating a post. Yesterday I posted 4 types of mentors. Read it HERE (updated of course). I can’t believe I missed one…or that no one else caught my obvious error.

I grew up without a close relationship with my father. I missed the investment a father makes in the life of his son. As a result, I’ve tried my best to invest in my sons, but I guess because it wasn’t a great part of my story I missed it.

There is another kind of mentor.

The 5th type of mentor is:

Relational - It’s probably the best kind. It’s the way I am with my two boys. They can call me anytime for advice. They can get through my crazy schedule when no one else (except Cheryl) can. They hold my heart and my desire for their personal success in their hand. I mentored them because they are part of me. A relational mentor relationship happens with someone to whom you are related. It’s the most Biblical kind of mentoring. I hope it’s been a part of your life.

Isn’t that the best kind of mentor?

Do you have a relational mentor in your life? Share that with me here. I promise I’ll be encouraged!

He Who Loves You, Watches Over You

One of the greatest feelings as a parent has to be watching your children sleep….

Knowing they are safe….resting…under your care…

I never got tired of knowing my boys were safe in their beds at night. It was a great time of day.

I wonder if God feels that way…

I wonder if God gets a charge out of watching over His children as they sleep…

I wonder if He smiles when He sees a child drift into dream land…

I’m reminded of these verses:

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)

When you are sound asleep, God is on watch…like a proud dad!

As you go to bed tonight, capture the moment, imagine the emotion God has as He watches His child fall asleep.

Father’s Day Inspiration

I realize it’s not a modern song, and the graphics may seem cheesy, perhaps even the song to some, but I raised my boys on this song. Well, I didn’t actually raise them with it, but it did have a huge impact on my heart. Music always speaks to me and this songs lyrics challenged my fathering when I was a young father. This song captured the essence of who I wanted to be as a dad. I could still cry by listening to it today.

What is your greatest desire as a father? Be honest. Are you living a life to reach that desire? Be honest.

This is a great weekend to spend some time evaluating your role as a dad.

Is there a song that challenges you to be a better husband or father?

Happy Father’s Day, BTW!

A Word to the Men: From Pastor Ron

The last two years have been a season of change in my life. I’ve experienced a change of perspective as we’ve transitioned into being empty nesters and I’ve experienced a change of passion in terms of where I see God wanting me to invest my energies.

At 47 years of age, I have learned enough to know there are things I wish I had known earlier in life. Reflecting on my role as a husband, father, and leader, I realize how much wisdom is necessary to accomplish all that is required of men. In my conversations with other men, I know that many men never received proper instruction and wisdom on what it means to be a man. I have a strong and growing desire to encourage the next generation of men and young leaders to be men of God in their homes, churches and communities.

Recently I felt led to address the younger men of our church with this issue on a Saturday morning. In a simple, two hour gathering, I plan to speak to men candidly and challenge them to live godly lives in all areas of their lives. The premise of the meeting will be to address the men as if I was sitting with one man, helping him discern how to be a godly husband, father, and leader.

If you are in the area, come join us Saturday, June 18 from 8 to 10 AM at St Bethlehem Christian Church. We have advertised this to men age 35 and under. That’s not a magic age and no ID’s will be checked at the door. We are limited in space and want to make sure I’m addressing audiences younger than me. I’m still learning how to be 47!

Young men, be honest: Do you wish someone further down the road in life would speak into your life?

My Favorite Wedding This Year

This weekend we had the incredible experience of seeing our oldest son Jeremy marry his his school sweetheart Mary. I was privileged to perform the ceremony. It was a beach wedding, which kept the wedding party small, plus the waves kept some from hearing the vows Jeremy and Mary wrote for each other. Several have asked for the text of the ceremony, so I decided to share the main part of it here for family and friends. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Here is what I said in the message portion of the ceremony:

This is a special occasion for us today…..

I’ve never performed a wedding ceremony that was this personal…

As a point of personal privilege, let me say…

Mary, thank you for being the person you are…so kind, so thoughtful, so caring for others…You are the perfect helpmate for Jeremy…We’ve said all along, you two make each other better people…We feel honored and blessed to have you as a part of our family and lives…

Jeremy, you have always been a warm-hearted person…You are highly relational…desiring to make other’s lives better than you found them…We have always said that your future will be bright not as much by what you do, but because of who you are…That’s a great great characteristic…

Jeremy and Mary, your parents are incredibly proud of the young adults you two have become…

Let me say a word to each of you gathered here…Your presence here today is helping to write a story…It’s a story about Jeremy and Mary….When Jeremy asked Mary to be his wife, he said he wanted them to write a bigger story together…Traveling this far…you have demonstrated your love for Jeremy and Mary…This wedding was kept intentionally small…So your role here today is important…it means you’re a leading character…

But it’s really a bigger story than even these two…or even all of us…You see, the story we are writing happens every time families and friends gather for a wedding ceremony…God, Himself, authored the first wedding ceremony…from the beginning with Adam and Eve

You see, marriage is part of God’s master story…It displays a picture of God’s love for us…As a man and a woman leave their mother and father, submit their lives to one another….the man loves the woman as Christ loves the church, and the wife respects her husband, the two are grafted together into one flesh…

Ephesians 5 calls this process a mystery…How two imperfect people…so incredibly different…can become one is hard to understand…God uses the picture of Christ and His love for the church as an example of that relationship…Christ died for the church…God sacrificed His Son for the church…The marriage that honors God is a picture of that kind of mutual, complete submission to one another…So many marriages today fall short of that goal. …

Mary and Jeremy, the biggest story you could ever live is to center your lives around God’s story….allow Him to direct your path…And live your life for a higher purpose…to glorify God with your life….May your marriage be the perfect example of the sacrificial love Christ demonstrated with His love for the church…

We find that love expressed in 1 Corinthians…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a)

Jeremy and Mary, as your marriage begins & for the rest of your lives, may you show that the love you have for each other is indeed part of the bigger story God is writing for the world…a greater love….

Jeremy and Mary wanted to make this a very personal occasion, and they’ve decided to recite vows that they’ve personally written for each other.

Here are the vows Jeremy made to Mary:

Mary-

I remember when it seemed like this day would never come…
…. Only 7 years, only 4 more years… 1 more year, 3 months, 10 days, 1 day, and now I can finally call you my bride.

Words can’t express how thankful I am to be standing here today. When I stop and think about the qualities I desire in a wife, you exemplify every one of them. You love God and strive every day to know Him more. You have the most amazing heart, and always put others needs before your own. You are beautiful. Your smile brightens my day like nothing else in this world. You love me unconditionally even when I act selfishly or disappoint you. You’re my best friend.

In the presence of our God, our family, and our friends, I make these promises to you:

I know that my life’s greatest privilege and highest calling is to lead you and our family spiritually. I promise to run to God often and ask Him for wisdom in leading our family, so that you will always know that the direction for our family comes from the Lord. I promise to be the husband God has called me to be and to point you towards Him in everything that I say and do.

I promise to make a commitment to die daily to myself and put you, your needs and desires before my own. ….. I promise to intentionally invest in our marriage more than anything else; to dream with you through every stage of life, to celebrate with you during the good times, to laugh as often as possible, to be a listening ear whenever you want to talk, and to stand beside you through every trial we might face.

Finally Mary, I promise to never leave you, because I believe God made you for me and me for you.

From this point on, I am forever blessed to have you, my bride, my one true love, everyday, for the rest of my life. I love you now, and forever more.

Here are the vows Mary shared with Jeremy:

Jeremy-

Almost since the first day that I met you, I had a crush on you; and ever since high school, I have loved you. We have been together for seven years and we have been through so much together- good and bad, but I believe that, through God’s grace, it has only made us better people and a stronger couple. I have waited for this day and I have prayed for you for a long time. I feel so blessed that we get to stand here today and promise to spend the rest of our lives together.

Jeremy, I promise to be the woman that God has called me to be- to be the best wife that I can be. I will love you genuinely and i will not take you for granted. I will honor you and respect you. I promise to put your needs, desires, and wants before mine. I promise to pray for you everyday. Jeremy, I will build you up and not bring you down.

I promise to be there for you in the good times and the bad. I promise to be the person that you want to run to with every piece of good news and also to be the listening ear and loving arms for you to run to when nothing seems to be going right. I will stand by you no matter what. The Lord has made us a team and we are in this together. I will be there when you need me. I will not leave you. I promise that you can always confide and trust in me.

I promise to be someone you can be proud of. I promise to always dream of our future together. I promise to laugh with you, cry with you, and to live life to the fullest with you, My prayer has been that Christ would be at the center of our marriage and that He would allow us to be able to serve Him and love Him better together as a couple- that our lives would be used for something bigger than us and I promise to hold up my end of that prayer.

I am so thankful for the man that you are and that God has allowed us to begin this adventure and write our story together. I love you, Jeremy.

Just curious. Did you write your own vows? Feel free to share them with us here. Have you ever been to a beach wedding?