Farmer Super Bowl Commercial: Reflections

I couldn’t get past the “Farmer” commercial during the Super Bowl. My grandfather on my mother’s side lived in Kansas. He died when I was young, but I’ve always lived somewhat in his shadow…he was a hero of mine. Everything I knew about him was captured in that commercial. If you missed it, or want to see it again, watch it now.

A good friend…and a great leader…Jason Cummins sent me his thoughts on the commercial.

Here is a guest post from Jason reflecting on the commercial:

The Super Bowl was last night, and as always, my wife and I looked forward to the commercials. However, I’m not one to go online and view them ahead of time. I feel the precise broadcast time establishes context, and thus is an important part of the overall experience.

As we entered the second half, I was a bit disappointed. No croaking frogs, dive-bombing pigeons, or office linebacker sightings. Rather, Madison Avenue seemed content to reflect our culture’s status quo…a preference for short-term gratification over long-term reward.

Then entered what will be referred to today as simply, “The Farmer” commercial. Narrated by one of my all-time favorites, Paul Harvey, the ad immediately transported me back to my childhood, riding on the bench seat of the family roadster or huddled around the single, family radio in my grandparents’ house.

But it wasn’t merely the voice that made the commercial so powerful. Rather, it was the verbal content and the accompanying deep, pictorial images. Americans respect farmers, and the farmer was extolled for his virtuous characteristics. As I rewatched the commercial this morning, I pulled the five following traits from the rich narrative. These resonate with our souls, for deep down, we respect them, desire them, and want to be led by those who embody them:

1. Disciplined work ethic. He is willing to get up before dawn, work all day, finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then work another 72 hours. He isn’t afraid of hard work. He is hard work.

2. Selfless. He attends school board meetings, applies first aid, and willingly attends to the needs of others before himself.

3. Competent. He can shape an axe handle, shoe a horse, or make a harness out of scrap. He knows his trade and confidently, yet humbly, goes about doing his work.

4. Compassion. He sits up with an ailing colt and splints the leg of a meadowlark. He heart is attune to his surroundings, and he is willing to do something about it.

5. Character. He plows deep and straight and will not cut corners. He will choose the harder right over the easier wrong. He works for good.

And then the commercial concludes with, “To the farmer in all of us.” Much like a good class, the ad not only made us think, but it also made us feel. And in the process, it reminded us of important characteristics we should all aspire to emulate. May each of us live a little more like a FARMER today.

Who do you think of when you watch that commercial?

7 Steps to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

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In a tweet and Facebook post recently I said, “The hardest conversation is often the most needed.”

It was as a result of my counsel to another pastor in a leadership setting. I happen to encourage those type conversations often. Apparently, from the retweets and “likes”, it’s a frequent issue. In relationships, there are consistent needs to have difficult conversations. Often leaders, spouses, and friends avoid them, but it’s often to the detriment of the relationship.

I decided to expand beyond Twitter length encouragement. Do you need to have a difficult conversation?

Here are 7 steps to prepare:

Conviction – There first needs to be some sense of urgency towards having the conversation. People who have frequent hard conversations just to have hard conversations are obnoxious at best. Hard conversations, where you challenge someone, confront a situation or address sensitive issues should be rare, not normal. Make sure you know it’s something you must do in order to improve the situation or protect the relationship.

Prayer – You should pray as a part of the conviction process also, but this is prayer after you know you are moving forward. Pray for God’s favor on the conversation, open hearts for you and the other party, and God’s resolution to be realized.

Notes – Jot down your main points you are trying to make. You might read THIS POST. It’s about how to write a sensitive letter, but the points in it will help you prepare for a face-to-face conversation also. (and there are times a letter is best) You want to be prepared. The main issues (but read the post) are to be factual, to the point, but kind, truthful, and helpful. Be willing to assume blame where needed.

Setting – Time and place are critical in difficult situations. You should never “attack” someone in ways that will embarrass them more or add unnecessary stress to the situation. Be strategic with your when and where.

Rehearsal – Go through your notes and your part of the conversation. Imagine if someone was having this conversation with you and how you would respond. You can’t determine how they will respond, but you can rehearse how you will respond. The more you do this the better you’ll be able to control your emotions when the time comes.

Action – Do it. You need to plan the when, as stated above, but the longer you wait the harder and more awkward it will be. Have the conversation while you’re prepared and in a prayerful mindset about the situation.

Follow up – Most likely the conversation won’t end with the conversation. You will need to check in with the person, send them a follow up email, phone call or even another meeting. You may need to reiterate your care for them personally even after the conversation. If nothing more is needed between you and the person, at least take time to think through how the conversation went so you can learn from it and be better prepared for future difficult conversations. You can be assured of additional opportunities.

What steps or advice would you add?

Communicating with Men Tips (Repost)

(Reposting the most read posts of the year.)

I hear from both sides continually. Between the two sexes, communication appears to be the biggest struggle. It’s a constant work in progress in my own marriage. The differences in men and women make communication difficult. (I also posted 5 Tips When Communicating with Men.)

My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike, but there are some generalities that can perhaps help a woman better understand a man and improve communication.

Here are 5 tips to communicating with a man:

We meant what we said…not what you heard – Thats true 99% of the time. (Statistically verifiable :) ) Men are usually more literal, and frankly simple-minded, so we aren’t usually talking in a code language. Not that women would be… :) Try to hear only what was said without attaching extra thoughts triggered by emotions. Ask if his statement had a deeper meaning before making assumptions. Most likely he meant only…nothing more…than what was said. (I can’t tell you how many classic examples of marriage problems I’ve seen develop with just this one tip.)

We don’t often like to give details – If we said where we were going, who we had a discussion with or what we had for lunch, that’s usually enough for us. We may not like going into detail beyond those simple facts. I understand you may need and even deserve more information, especially when a man hasn’t proven trustworthy, but know its often out of our realm of comfort to provide it. When it’s not a matter of trust, the less you pump for details the more likely we’ll be to share facts, and even occasionally, details.

Our range of emotions are limited – Most men don’t feel as deeply or multi-faceted as a woman feels about an issue. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we are wired differently. If you ask us how we feel, “happy” or “sad” may be as descriptive as we can get. Because of this, men tend to communicate more factually and less emotionally.

When you may tend to cry we may tend to get angry – I get criticized for this point sometimes, but I wrote a post about this issue HERE. There is never an excuse to misuse anger and abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, but anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible says “in your anger do not sin”, but it seems to assume we will have moments of anger. The same things that cause most girl’s emotions to produce tears, often cause a man to develop testosterone-producing anger. A godly man learns to handle that anger responsibly, but it doesn’t eliminate the response. When an issue riles a man emotionally, it helps if you understand his emotions may be normal and you may even be able to help him channel his response to that emotion. Cheryl does that for me continually.

Sometimes we have a hard time communicating what’s on our heart…often we never do – This is sad and we may even know it. The more you make us feel we’ll be respected regardless of the situation or the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions. You can actually help us with this one!

Please understand. I’m not making excuses for men. The basic premise of all of these is to remember that men and women are different. You can read my thoughts about mutual submission in a marriage HERE and HERE. I’m simply trying to help you communicate with a man.

Men, what did I miss?

Wives, any tips on how we could better understand you? I’ve learned a few and could share them, but thought it may come better from you :) .

Do you care to hear my women’s version…even realizing I’m not one?

Edmondson Christmas Newsletter 2012

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Merry Christmas from the Edmondson’s!

We truly never know the changes a year will make, do we? Cheryl and I moved to Lexington, Kentucky this year. I am now pastor of the historic Immanuel Baptist Church. Immanuel has a rich past as a Kingdom-building church. After nearly 10 years as a church planter, this was not a change we saw coming…and one we resisted at first. We love our new city and the people of Immanuel are some of the most loving and gracious we’ve ever encountered. We moved here in June and the first six months have been a blur, but we’ve seen God do some incredible things already. Greater things are still to come. We are certain of that.

We have acclimated quickly to the city with more restaurants per capita than any city in the nation! Cheryl has a part-time job in an accounting firm. I’m enjoying her flexibility in schedule. She’s a true partner in ministry and has been such a blessing with my extremely busy schedule. We moved into a beautiful neighborhood, bought a townhouse, and discovered what good “walk score” actually means. We enjoy our neighborhood grocery, pharmacy, restaurants and ice cream and coffee shops…all in walking distance. My running pleasure has increased dramatically!

Jeremy and Mary are enjoying life in Nashville. Jeremy’s solo career as a social media and communication consultant is going well. He is such a great network-builder and will be successful at whatever he attempts. Mary is working for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and loves her job. Both are active at Cross Point Church and building great relationships in their small group. They have a Weimaraner named Henry who will quickly steal your heart.

Nate graduated from Moody Bible College…just this month. He will begin the new year at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has a part-time job working with students at Chase Oaks Church near Dallas. He preached for me this year and did an amazing job. God is going to use him in the days ahead.

We lost our sweet 12 year old Yorkie this summer. NaJe was a precious part of our family and anyone who has a pet knows the sense of loss we experienced.

Other than that, Cheryl and I remain healthy and happy. It’s such a blessing to be married to your best friend. We are loving this season of life. We miss our boys and have such fond memories of their childhood, but we are learning that empty-nesting isn’t so bad after all.

God’s grace has clearly been displayed upon our life and for that we are eternally grateful.

God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Premarital Counseling: Things to Cover

(At the end of the year, I’m sharing the most read posts.)

As with most pastors, I’ve performed a fair number of weddings. Part of being in ministry is helping couples enter the most important of relationships…marriage. It’s a daunting task and responsibility. Prior to a wedding, however, a minister has access to speak into a couple’s life in a way unique to any other time in their life.

I feel it’s important to help couples, as much as I can, be prepared for marriage. With time always at a premium, I frequently suggest couples walk through the book “Preparing for Marriage“. I’ve found it a helpful tool in thinking through many of the issues a marriage will encounter. I also try to make sure, as a minimum, the couple understands a few key principles prior to their wedding day.

Here are 7 issues I try to teach in pre-marital counseling:

You are different – Opposites do tend to attract. Each spouse is not only differently physically, but there are differences in backgrounds, outlook on life and the way to approach a situation. This is not intended as a curse against marriage. God designed those differences for a reason. The more a couple learns to celebrate those differences, the stronger a marriage will become. (I address this issue in previous posts HERE and HERE.)

Leave and cleave – Don’t let either set of in-laws dictate how you lead your new family. Decide in advance that no one, related or otherwise, is going to be a wedge between you two. Every couple has lots of other relationships, including perhaps children someday, but none of them should be allowed to interfere with the oneness God intends to create with the marriage. (I address these interferences more in THIS POST.)

Expect surprises – Life won’t always be as blissful as it is today. There will be hard days, whether self-induced or life-induced. Life brings changes and those times have the ability to catch even the best marriages off guard if not prepared for them. We can never be fully prepared for what might come, but we can prepare ourselves that when something comes, whatever it is and no matter how hard it is, that we will handle it . Couples should use these times to improve the strength of their marriage rather than allow them to pull the marriage apart. (I talk about this issue in a post on keeping the marriage fun. Find it HERE.)

Make a commitment to the marriage no matter what – Couples usually assume they are doing this by standing at the altar together, but statistics would say otherwise. Many times these days a person is saying “I’m committed until it becomes difficult or until the love we have today fades.” That’s not the Biblical picture of marriage God designed. Marriage is more than simply a feeling of love, it is a commitment to love…for better or worse…from this day forward. Verbalizing and agreeing to that on the front end, and continuing to remind yourself of that through the difficult days, will help the marriage last. Couples who should ask for help soon, not letting problems in the marriage linger too long without asking for help. Remove the fear of asking for professional counseling if necessary. It would be better to get help early than to see the marriage disintegrate beyond repair. (I preached a message on the commitment of marriage HERE.)

Model after the right couples – I encourage couples to find a couple whose marriage they admire and follow them closely. Most likely they have some stories to share. Things may not have been as wonderful throughout their marriage as they are today. No doubt they have learned some practices to having a strong marriage. I challenge couples to learn all they can from the couple they want to be like. (I did a post about this issue HERE.)

Evaluate often – Couples should ask  themselves often, are we growing together as a couple or further apart? Is the marriage growing stronger or are there holes that need addressing? Don’t assume your spouse feels as you do. (I’ve learned this is especially true for men who often don’t know there is a problem until it’s a big problem.) Establish the understanding early in the relationship that you have the right to periodically check on the state of your marriage. (Read a post about questions to assess the health of a marriage HERE.)

Put Christ first – This is the one most couples expect the pastor to say, but it’s not just the preacher answer, it’s the best secret to a lasting marriage. “A chord of three strands is not easily broken.” A couple’s individual and collective relationship with Christ will ensure they can endure the hardest days of a marriage. When the relationship with Christ suffers, the marriage will often suffer. Satan looks for any excuse to destroy the marriage. Pour your heart and life into Christ and let Him strengthen and sustain your marriage. (I preached on Christ’s standard for marriage HERE.)

That’s my list. I’m not sure they apply simply to premarital couples. These are good principles for couples regardless of how long they have been married.

Just so you know, I have, at times, simply shared with them this list. Sometimes I weave them into the discussion. Regardless of how you choose to do it, make sure you are strategic in helping couples begin their married life together.

Pastors, how do you do premarital counseling? What would you add to my list?

7 Ways to Help Children Cope with FEAR

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Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night. We talk about it at the dinner tables. Our children are not immune in an information age. Violence even happens in school. Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Don’t assume – Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened that they don’t know or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and that there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid…even a recent time.

Limit exposure – You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember they process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance.

Ask questions – You may think they are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots.

Assure them – Let them know they are safe. Don’t lie to them, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare…very rare. Remind them you’d do anything to protect them. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live normal – As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm – Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. They get their faith through you.

Give them Scripture – They need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word that will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often.

What else would you share with parents?

Without a dad…

boy and father

A boy struggles…

Knowing what it means to become a man…

What courage, honor, and strength really looks like…

When to take a risk…

A girl struggles…

Understanding her beauty and value…

Sensing self confidence and independence

To demand respect and equality…

I’ve been convicted lately, that many times the orphans of today…

Are the fatherless…

(And many times the widows are the single mothers…)

The statistics of the impact of this on society are staggering. Great efforts are being taken by non-profits such as The Fatherhood Initiative. Even the government is getting involved, recognizing the problems associated with this issue in our society.

What is the church doing about it?

Seriously, what initiatives do you know of where the church is addressing the fatherless issue?

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...” James 1:27

(This is not to say we don’t take care of widows and orphans. We certainly do, but, in my opinion, we must not forget the cultural issues of our day…if we want “pure and undefiled religion”.)

What do you think?

Husbands: 7 Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

Christmas gifts

I know I’m talking to some men who haven’t even thought about what you’ll get your wife for Christmas yet. Right? I understand. It still seems early to you Christmas Eve shoppers. :)

Maybe you’ve thought about it, but not being as in tune with things like this as your wife is, you haven’t a clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

Here are 7 suggestions to get your wife for Christmas:

Make a coupon book – A date night a week…or a month… Make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit – She may have tried to change you. It hasn’t worked. You need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or maybe it is the way you talk to her. You are super critical of her. You talk down to her sometimes. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly or not so subtly tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her.

Start listening – Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? You know the distraction. Maybe it’s a picture of your face, symbolizing you’re going to look her in the eyes and not always have an answer…trying harder to listen next year.

Open a savings account – Put $100…or $50…whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it…”future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step to make it happen this year.

One night in a nice B & B – Many men shy away from these…and many women do…but for Cheryl and I, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Make a new habit – Could it be that you need to do a Bible study together? What about a prayer routine? Could planning your personal finances be in your future? You probably know what she wants in this area. If not, ask her. Then wrap it up! If you’re subtle enough you may even be able to surprise her still. And make her very happy in the process.

A trip away…in May – This is my best gift idea. It isn’t as practical for me now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home.This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions up until the trip. When she’s having an exceptionally stressful day she can remember…at least we are getting away soon. In addition, you can plan the trip now, yet pay for most or all of it later, helping to stretch your Christmas budget. (To do this I often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now before I get Dave Ramsey emails, be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms. You forgot you bought those already, didn’t you? She didn’t.

Seriously, not trying to be funny. Trying to help. Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

The Lord is With You

The Lord you God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Take a moment and savor that verse. Read it. Read it again. Read it one more time!

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

God takes delight in you! He rejoices over you with singing!

When my boys were little I loved the smile on their faces when I told them how special they are to me. It still seems to bring such peace to them to hear me brag on them. They seem to want to know my pleasure in them.

I find the same joy in my heart when I read this scripture!

The idea that God delights in me! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t feel very delightful! Sometimes I wonder how I can even stand myself! Yet, God, the Creator, Sustainer, Lord Almighty, the Great I AM, takes personal delight in me! Me!

Picture this! God rejoices over you and me…enough that He does it with singing! What a wonderful testimony of the depth of our Father’s love!

As you lay down to sleep tonight, listen carefully for your Father’s tender voice, as He takes great delight in you and rejoices over you in song! Somehow I picture Him having a special tune…a unique lyric…words that are designed just for you.

The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save!

Are you listening? What do you have to worry about with a God like this?

Introducing Urbana (And giveaway!)

Winners (selected by Random.org) have been notified by email. Congratulations!

Now giving away 3 registrations!

Pastor, let me encourage you to get your leadership team…or yourself…to Urbana!

I recently attended a global church mission forum. I’m still processing all God did in my mind from that event and will share more later. The same people who introduced me to that event let me know about Urbana. It’s got to be good. If you want a better orientation to what God is doing in the world then you should attend the Urbana conference.

Urbana puts you in touch with today’s culture like no other conference can. It helps you know what is driving the concerns of a new generation. As a pastor, I am called to effectively disciple all ages. Urbana will give great insight and new resources to deal with the younger generation, especially those in college today.

It is guaranteed to be a fun event, because, as I’ve experienced at other events, there is something special about worshiping with the nearly 20,000 young people. In addition, you’ll walk away with needed information for your ministry.

Sign up for Urbana today! (Click HERE)

 

As a bonus, I’ll give away three (3) registrations to Urbana. That’s an incredible deal. Please don’t sign up unless you will attend, but if you’re interested, comment on this post, make sure I have a valid email address, and I’ll choose 3 random names sometime early next week.

(This is a non-paid endorsement. I simply believe in the people behind this.)