Don’t Be the Spoiler of Joy in Your Home

Then all the people left, each for his own home, and David returned home to bless his family. 1 Chronicles 16:43 NIV

What difference do you make in your home? David returned home to “bless his family”. Do you bless yours?

I am sure your family loves you. You are the mother, the father, the brother, or the sister. Of course, they love you, but are you lovable? Do they actually like you? Are you a positive influence on the health of your home? Do you add to its success, or take away from it?  If they had a choice would they hang out with you today?

Think about it for a moment. When you enter your home, what happens? Do people get excited? Are they glad you are there? Can they expect to see a smile, hear a kind word, or know they can approach you in peace? Are you a blessing to your home?

More important perhaps: Would the people in your home agree with your answers to the previous questions?

When my boys were little, sometimes I found myself as the spoiler of joy. I would come home, they would be excited about something in their life, and I would crush their spirit with my attitude.  Thankfully not many of those days (I think they would agree), but enough that I remember them.

There were days that my role was a disciplinarian…when I had to make hard decisions, but other times I was that person because I had a bad day at work or I was in a bad mood. There were many times, when I took the stress of life out on my family.  In those times, I had to remind myself that my home needed me just to be a dad who blesses them. As it turns out, the days with my boys at home were quickly gone. I am thankful for the times I chose to add joy to the home.

David went home to his family…and he blessed them! All of us play a role in creating the mood of our home.  We can choose to be a positive or a negative influencer of that atmosphere. All of us have bad days, but the way we respond to our family is most important.  Considering the current mood you are adding to your home, could that verse have been written about you?

Have you ever been the spoiler of joy in your home?

A Week Of Thanksgiving: The Top People on My List

I’ve been writing about people I’m thankful for this week, encouraging you to do the same. Obviously our greatest thanksgiving should be for our personal relationship with the Living God, but I’m thankful He allows us to have people in our life to love and help shape us. We’ve shared about people who have helped us professionally, been consistent friends, and helped us grow spiritually. You can still do that in the previous posts HERE, HERE AND HERE.

Today, I want to share the group most of us would put at the top of our thankful list….our immediate families. The people in my life I’m most thankful for are my wife and two boys. I’ve previously shared most of these points about them, but they are still true today.

Cheryl:
• Models patience for me.
• Cheryl wants nothing in life but to see her family happy. That keeps me grounded in life.
• I want nothing more than to make see her happy, so she gives me a consistent goal in life.
• Cheryl makes me to be a kinder, gentler person.
• You can read a separate post I wrote about her HERE.

Jeremy:
• Jeremy models forgiveness for me. He is the most forgiving person I know.
• He encourages me to slow down and enjoy the moments of life.
• Jeremy shapes an “it’s okay” attitude in my heart.
• Jeremy is a relationship builder and opens me up to deeper conversations.
• You can read a separate post I wrote I about him HERE.

Nate: (My 19 years old)
• Nate has always modeled reality for me. He sees things more in black and white.
• He holds me accountable. He can be my biggest critic, but he’s usually right!
• Nate stretches my innovation. He’s a creative thinker and always challenges status quo.
• He keeps me light-hearted. There is no one who makes me laugh more than Nate!
• You can read a separate post I wrote I about him HERE.

This year, as I prepare to have a daughter, I’m also extremely thankful for Jeremy’s fiancé Mary. Mary has been in our life for quite a few years now and we have always loved her as a daughter. We are happy our son was smart enough to make it official! Mary is so much like my wife Cheryl, so I know our family, and my son, is being blessed. She has beauty, grace, and compassion to offer everyone she meets. I wrote about her more HERE.

Who are you most thankful for this year? Describe your immediate family to me.

Don’t Shy Away from the Word Balance

Over the years, I’ve heard differing opinions on the use of the word balance. I’ve learned there are many who actually hate the use of the word. For example, some say the life of a Christian is never balanced because God wants all of our lives. I couldn’t agree more. Others say it’s impossible to balance between work and home because one of them deserves our greatest energy (our home), and yet the two extremes will always compete for our best time and energy. I completely agree. In those contexts, I agree balance should not be our goal. We should prioritize our life around the extremes of life, ensuring that those things we value most receive our greatest attention.

Balance, however, doesn’t always mean things are equal. I prefer to use the term balance to describe how a person responds to the extremes of life. Balance to me means a person learns to stand up…keep their equilibrium, even when things in life are not equal…out of balance. When life is crazy, which it often is, the person of balance learns to juggle each area where over time none of them has to suffer. A balanced person prioritizes his or her life around what is most important, for me, that means first my relationship with God, then my family, then my work and my service to others, and then organizes life in a way where each area receives adequate attention for success.

I realize much of this discussion is semantics, but i believe it has importance in principle also. People who want to achieve success in all areas of their life must find ways to give adequate attention to each area, without neglecting those things/people of greatest importance in life. That requires balance. (The Proverbs 31 woman had balance.) I met with a new father recently and he’s having to learn how to balance marriage, parenting, and his work life, while attempting to be successful in each part of his life. He’s learning balance.

The leaders and people I respect most in life are those I see learning to balance success in all areas of their life…at home…at work…and in the world.

Don’t shy away from the word balance. Just learn to use it well. Gaining a sense of balance is a process that often takes years and even a few stumbling moments to accomplish, but it’s worth the challenge.

What does the term balance mean to you? In what area of your life are you most out of balance?

7 Emotions from the Male’s Side of Infertility

Cheryl and I have often said that one of the greatest trials we have walked through in ministry with people is the hidden pain of infertility. Every time we celebrate the birth of someone’s child we also know of a couple who can’t seem to get pregnant or have recently had a miscarriage. (I wrote about the pain of the childless in a previous post HERE.) Many reading this post will have walked through this pain personally.

One aspect which I may have overlooked is the man’s side of this issue. I knew men struggled with infertility also, but I am not sure I realized the extent of their pain. Recently I was talking to a man who shared his personal and hidden pain during he and his wife’s time of infertility. It opened my eyes to the man’s perspective.

When a couple is battling infertility here are 7 emotions the man often feels:

Helpless – “My wife and I are hurting and I don’t know what to do” is the emotion many men feel. Being wired to fix things, this problem, like many issues in life, isn’t often fixable and the man feels helpless.

Protective – The man, in an attempt to defend his wife may think, “I don’t want you to hurt anymore”, which might lead him to react in ways that make the wife feel he isn’t as interested in having children as she is interested.

Insecure – The man is probably asking, “Am I not enough?” This is a hard one for women to understand, but it’s even Biblical. Read 1 Samuel 1:8 for an example. Men naturally struggle with insecurity, but especially during this issue.

Empty – I knew the woman felt this emotion during infertility, but I am not sure I realized the man does as well. A man who wants to be a dad may feel like something is desperately missing in his life.

Scared – A lot of times the man is thinking “What if it’s my fault?” He may fear that something physically wrong with him is keeping his wife from experiencing the joy of motherhood.

Frustrated – Men don’t understand why this is happening to their marriage, so they may wrongly become frustrated with themselves, with God, and even with their wife.

Inferior – Men dealing with infertility often wonder why other men can get their wife pregnant, but not them. They may struggle with a sense of worth and doubt their abilities in other other parts of their life.

This post is not new information for those of you who have or are struggling with this issue, but, again, I never understood the weight of burden this was to a man’s life. I have always known from experience the pain in a woman’s heart who deals with infertility, and even the weight it places on a marriage relationship, but my friend helped me understand the specific side of this issue relative to men.

Keep in mind, most men are not as equipped to talk about their emotions as women may be. Some men don’t even know they have seven whole ranges of emotions (semi-joking here). Men, if this is your issue, don’t struggle alone. Be vulnerable with your wife and a few other men who can walk with you through this issue.

Men (and women), have you dealt with this issue? What have you learned that could help others?

Men, since this post addresses your emotions in this issue, please add your thoughts to help other men. Women, did you ever understand this issue from a man’s perspective?

Orange Week: Churches Partnering with Parents


It took years before I felt comfortable teaching about parenting. I don’t feel adequate to teach about parenting adult children now, since I’m still doing that, but I feel better about helping parents of younger children. Our boys have become healthy, well-adjusted, God-fearing children.

This week is Orange Week; a ministry of The ReThink Group. It’s a week to talk about the Orange strategy of partnering churches with parents, believing that the combined effort works better than either one of them working independent of each other. I’m happy to participate. Grace Community Church uses and believes in the Orange strategy. If you want to improve your ministry to families, attend the Orange Conference next year.

Cheryl and I owe all our success at parenting to God’s grace, but it’s also true that we were extremely intentional with our parenting. Our boys were early teens when I surrendered to ministry, but they were raised in the homes of committed church members. My boys have been “pastor’s kids” less than 10 years, but we were “orange” parents before we knew the term. The ideal arrangement for us was to be in a church that believed in helping us direct our children towards Christ, but not doing it for us.

I didn’t want the church parenting my children. I didn’t want my boys to learn all the important life principles, even the Biblical principles from the church, but I realized that the church should and did play an important role in the life of my two boys. Some of their best friends were in the church, which helped them make wiser decisions in school. They found mentors in the church, which helped for times they didn’t want to talk with me. Cheryl and I became better people and more committed believers in the church, which made us better parents. The reality of us working with the church in our parenting was powerful and I’m confident it helped mold our boys character to what it is today. For more on my parenting philosophy, click HERE.

Are you partnering with the church to improve your parenting? Are you taking advantage of the opportunities the church offers? Are you being intentional in your parenting? How has the church helped shape your home?

For more information about the Orange strategy of helping churches partner with parents, click HERE.

Criss Cross: Our Newest Staff Member at GcomChurch

We have a new staff member at Grace Community Church. His name is Criss Cross. He started in the office this morning (and thankfully I’m out of town).

Criss Cross is our children’s ministries new mascot. We realize churches usually don’t have mascots, but we are passionate about reaching children for Christ. It amazes me to watch children get excited about a mascot at a ballgame. Sometimes they don’t even know a game is in progress if the mascot is nearby. I love watching their excitement interacting with a mascot.

Our goal for children is to get their attention, so we can share with them the love of Christ. Honestly, in a sea of entertainment, that’s much harder to do these days. We are hoping Criss Cross will help us attain our goal.

Welcome to the team Criss Cross! Stay out of my office!

What are you doing creatively to reach people for Christ?

Love at Last Sight (Kerry Shook) Book Review


Authors Kerry and Chris Shook are encouraging a revolution of relationship strengthening in their new book “Love at Last Sight”.  The Shooks, who founded Woodland Church in 1993, and have seen it grow to a mega church of 18,000 per weekend, believe that relationships are in trouble.  The key relationships in our life, such as with our spouse, children and close friends, needs to move from a “love at first sight” mentality, to a “love at last sight mentality.”

Too many people get into relationships by falling madly in love, but then allow the relationship to lose energy over time.  “Love at Last Sight” challenges readers with Biblical principles to find people in our lives whose relationship needs encouraging, and invest in those relationship intentionally for 30 days.

It’s normal for relationships to strain and grow apart over the years.  For relationships to thrive long-term, people must be willing to risk the awkwardness of letting go of schedules, lists, and personal demands to concentrate on the relationship.  This book is practical and has the tools to challenge, strengthen, improve, and save relationships. This is not fluff reading, but anyone who cares about their marriage will enjoy reading this book.  I encourage you to read and apply the principles in this book today!

As a part of this book promotion, Kerry and Chris Shook challenge you to participate in the national Facebook fast on August 25th.  Their hope is that people will spend time off social media building genuine, authentic relationships….with skin on them!  Will you give it a try?

Three Easy Parenting Principles

I am asked dozens of questions about what we did or didn’t do as parents. I am amazed that God has allowed us to raise the two young men we have in our house, but there were a few principles we practiced consistently.

Here are three principles for parenting I think all parents should consider:

Be intentional – Parenting is hard work. Don’t try it without a plan. It’s amazing how we tend to plan for everything in life, but seldom for our parenting. I know men who have a plan to improve their golf game, but nothing to help them grow as a father. If you want to be a great parent, you must be intentional about that role. Have an overall plan for your parenting and an individual plan for each child, depending on their needs at the time.

Shape the heart – The Bible is clear that we should “Above all else guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) I believe in firm discipline. I also believe in extending much grace. More than anything, however, the parent should learn to know, protect and shape their heart of their child. It is that heart, which will determine the decisions and directions the child eventually makes in life.

Enjoy the ride – Children are children for a very short time. Enjoy those days. Be a fun parent, balancing love with discipline. Laughing together with your children will help relieve the stress of your life and keep them wanting to be close to you well into the difficult teen and early adult years.

For my complete parenting philosophy see THIS POST or read other parenting posts HERE.

Which of these do you most need to improve upon as a parent?

(Speaking of principles, be sure to read my disclaimer post about them from yesterday by clicking HERE.)

Caption This Photo: Winner Gets a Free Book


This is a precious picture from our time in Sierra Leone. I recently returned from teaching pastors in the country and I’m forever changed. You can read a post about the children HERE.

The children wanted to touch us, hold our hands, crawl in our laps, and share love with us. This picture helps share that story.

What caption would you give this picture? Comment on this post with your caption and I’ll pick one of them and send the book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni. (This is a great book to help frantic families restore sanity to the most important organization in their life!)

Again, all you have to do is comment a caption for this picture.  I’ll pick the one I think best captures this image. You have until Tuesday, July 27, 2010 to answer.

(Please understand this winner will simply be based on opinion.)

Also, will you say a prayer for the children of Sierra Leone?

Using Your Influence for Good: Lessons from Sierra Leone


Throughout our time in Sierra Leone children swarmed us everywhere we went, especially Daniel and Jesse, the youngest two on the trip. Their energy and enthusiasm with the children was highly contagious. They became almost like celebrities in every village.

At one point Jessie admitted she felt guilty for attracting such a crowd. She didn’t want people to think she was seeking personal attention or fame. Daniel agreed with the sentiment.

That’s when the thought occurred to me. Popularity, wealth and power are not all bad. Being “famous” is not necessarily something to be avoided. It may depend on how and for what purpose it is being used.

What occurred to me is that Daniel and Jessie were attracting crowds of children, entertaining them with games and songs, and then leaving them to go to the next village. What they left behind, however, was their influence. Those children in remote villages in West Africa will never forget the love and attention they were shown by these two young adults. They will be running through the streets of their village singing “Jesus Loves Me” because of the experience they had with Daniel and Jessie. They will do push ups, because Daniel taught them how and they will recite cheers Jessie recited and they will laugh and dance…all because two people used their influence in positive ways.

Don’t shy away from the influence God has given you. If it is being used for His glory, rather than for your own, it can be very positive. If your motive and heart is pure, and the glory is pointed towards God, be thankful for the opportunities he gives you.

How are you allowing God to use the influence He has given you?