Finishing Well/Leaving a Legacy (A Tribute to my Dad)

My dad has a lot in common with someone famous.

I watched the last couple minutes of a 60 Minutes interview with Ted Kennedy’s son, Ted Kennedy Jr.  I was impressed with one statement he made.  He said, ”My dad was not a perfect man. He made lots of mistakes, but he spent the last days of his life trying to right the wrongs he had made.”  (Paraphrased)

When I saw the interview, I couldn’t help but think about my dad’s story. Without giving all the details, my dad would readily admit that he has made a lot of mistakes in his life. We could pretend those days never happened, but the fact is that his alcoholism and the times of separation from my mom and his children caused scars in the life of his family.

Today my dad is a new man.  He has been sober for many years and he and my mother are now very happily married.  He loves his children and wants nothing more than to be with them and his grandchildren just think of him as Pa Pa, with no personal knowledge of years gone by.  He is active in church, loves to share Scripture with others, and would help anyone who needed a hand.

Perhaps that is what the writer of Ecclesiastes meant in Chapter 7, verse 1, which says, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” I learn from watching my dad’s life that finishing is better than starting and that finishing well by loving God and others is the end goal of life.

When I meet with people who have made mistakes in life in my role as a pastor, I am always less concerned with where they have been or what they have done wrong.  I am always more concerned with where they want to go in life and how dedicated they are to get there.  My dad is an example of someone that wants to end well.  I believe his legacy will prove he achieved his goal.

Love you dad!  Thanks for paving a good path for others to follow.

Help For Ministry Wives (Interview with Rachel Lovingood)

005183353_lOne of the toughest jobs in the church must be the role of pastor or minister’s spouse. Recently Cheryl (my spouse) completed a Bible study on her own that she felt was very helpful to her. She believes it will be helpful for other ministry spouses. If her schedule will ever allow it she would love to lead a group of area wives through this study. I decided since it was valuable enough for my wife that I would like to interview one of the authors.

Rachel Lovingood and Jennifer Landrith wrote the study called “In Our Shoes…Real Life Issues for Ministers’ Wives by Ministers’ Wives”. Recently I was able to interview Rachel to find out a little more about this study and the ministry behind it.

Here is that interview:

Ron: Rachel, tell me a little about your background. Did you grow up in church? When did you become a believer?

Rachel: Yes I was a typical good church girl who knew so much about God and even how to live like a Christian…I went on mission trips and youth camps etc., but when I was a sophomore in college one night in my dorm room I suddenly realized that although I had plenty of head knowledge about God I really didn’t have the heart knowledge I needed and so I surrendered my life to Christ and asked HIm to save me.

Ron: That’s a great story and one I am sure many share with you. Was there a time when you sensed a call to ministry, or did you just happen to marry someone in the ministry?

Rachel: I started dating my husband, Jeff, and he was called to ministry so my calling went from following God with my life to being called to marry Jeff who “happened” to be going into the ministry

Ron: What prompted you to write “In Your Shoes”?

Rachel: My pastor’s wife, Jennifer, and I have been friends a long time. She and David, her husband, grew up in the same town and church as Jeff and I did. As a matter of fact our hubby’s have been best friends since like 8th grade. As we have been serving on the same staff for the past several years, Jen and I noticed a common thread among our own staff wives as well as ones we had other opportunities to spend time with–that they are hurting, lonely, feel frustrated, feel inadequate and so on…we both looked and really didn’t find any resources that got to the heart of the matter for ministers’ wives. Although there have been a few resources out there that are good, we didn’t see any that we could use to help equip and enable the wives serving with us–so we decided to write something it and ourselves became “In Our Shoes”.

Ron: Well, it’s a great resource and helped my wife. It is obvious you have a special heart for ministry spouses. If you had one word of encouragement to say to them what would it be?

Rachel: Relax, trust that God knows you and where you are and He has you there for a reason…you are not alone!

Ron: Have you heard from any of the ministry wives who have completed or are working through the Bible study? What has the reaction been to your work?

Rachel: We have been overwhelmed and extremely humbled by the responses we have gotten…some have said “I felt like quitting and my husband walked in from a trip where he bought me your book, I sat down and the first thing I read was like God speaking to me Himself”. Hearing stories like that is the most awesome thing–to know that God really is using this work for His glory is what it’s all about–it also reinforces that there are so many hurting and struggling spouses out there in the world of ministry…

Ron: Are there any other resources for minister wives?

Rachel: We set up a blog for the book so that wives can comment and ask questions or just network about issues that relate to our lives in ministry. (You can find that blog HERE.)

Ron: Thanks so much for your time Rachel. Any closing thoughts?

Rachel: It breaks my heart when I hear of ministry couples divorcing or leaving the ministry because of marriage issues and I always wonder, “What could have been done to save this marriage or protect this ministry?” I am convinced that we will have healthier churches when we have healthier ministries and our ministries will be healthier when our marriages are healthier and our marriages will be healthier when we are healthier…so In Our Shoes is our offering to the church.

Consider buying one of these study books for your minister’s wife. I agree with Rachel. Many times the health of the minister’s family determines the health of the church and ministry.

Leaving a Legacy

beach-footprints2On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at His sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD.’ Joshua 22:27 NIV

What is your legacy? There is an old song Christian artist Steve Green sang called “Find us Faithful”. A line in the song says, “When your children sift through all you’ve left behind, will the memories they uncover…?” I recall hearing that song when my boys were young and I was always convicted! I was concerned about the memories I would leave behind for my boys.
Nate, our youngest boy, was often morbid with his childhood thoughts. When I travel out of town he would often ask, “Daddy, what will happen if the plane crashes?” To which I would reply, “Well son, I suppose I’ll probably die.” (I didn’t say that, but I was tempted to sometimes.) The funny thing though was that he wasn’t asking about my death as much as he was asking about his future. He was asking what he was to do without me. It was morbid, but it was a fair question.

What are those who come behind you to do when you are gone? What kind of legacy are you leaving them?  Since children are likely to follow in our footsteps, what footsteps are you setting for them? They often repeat the same mistakes we make. They often experience similar success. What kind of life are you living for them to follow?

Let me ask you an even more direct question: Would you want them to live the life you are living right now, or do you want more for them?  If you aren’t pleased with the answer, start living a different life before them today!

Dear Nate (Letter to a Son)

Nate (formerly known as Nathaniel), you have been a soul mate to me since you were very little. We are so much alike that it scares me for you sometimes. Yesterday was the longest ride of my life after dropping you off at college. This past week has been an emotional roller coaster. I am so excited that your dream of being at Moody has come true, but the thought of you being so far away and not seeing you everyday is overwhelming to me.

You kept telling me “thanks for everything” the last few days. Son, if only you knew how much value you add to my life in so many ways. No thanks are necessary.

This letter will attempt to communicate to you clearly things I hope I have said to you over the years, but never want you to forget.

  • There will never be anyone in your corner more than me.
  • You are awesome. I am your biggest fan.
  • At such a young age you have so much insight into life, leadership, church-life, and relationships. Use it well for the Kingdom.
  • I will try to let you go, but honestly it is proving to be one of the hardest things I have done in my life.
  • I am always here for you. You cannot interrupt me, because you are a part of me.
  • I look forward to seeing you grow and be the man God wants you to be.
  • Your passion for life and Christ is contagious.
  • I hope you always make better decisions than I have at times.
  • I pray you are determined to take risks, dream big, and trust God even more than I was.
  • I will miss most our random conversations about tackling the world’s problems and our belly laughs at things no one else would understand.
  • You have more potential than you even realize, but thanks for being so humble.
  • Feel free to keep asking me to pray for you, but the request is granted long before it is made.  (You can just give me specifics.)
  • My greatest wish for you, as it always has been, is that you will continue to love Jesus with all your heart.
  • We named you well.  You truly are a “gift of God”.

You have my number. I am just a phone call (or text) away.

I love you buddy!

Dad (Pops)

P.S. Love your blog! (nateedmondson.com)

Get To The Bottom And The Up Will Be Found

When an organization, relationship, or situation is in trouble, the faster it can get to the bottom the sooner it can begin the climb to the top again. This is often true in marriages, businesses, and economies.

Recovery will not usually come until the bottom is found.  The quicker you find the bottom the sooner you can reverse the slide from down to up or bad to well.   No one enjoys finding the bottom, but it is from there that any positive movement will most likely be found.

In a marriage for example, some people keep bringing up the same issues and repeating same mistakes and so they fail to initiate change.  Sometimes a spouse refuses to tell the whole truth and so bad news keeps coming out, opening new wounds each time.  The marriage never improves until everything is on the table, there are no more secrets and the bottom is found.

Get to the bottom of an issue or problem and its all uphill from there.

Are you nearing the bottom yet?

Building Spiritual Maturity In Your Home

Most Christian parents want to encourage their children to mature spiritually, but they do not know how.  I am not an expert at this and I am still learning, but my boys are incredible men of God and they sincerely seek after Christ into their young adult years.

Here are some thoughts for producing children who desire to grow spiritually:

Look at your plank first

How is your own your spiritual life? Are you growing in your knowledge and love of God outside of Sunday morning?  You cannot lead your family somewhere you have not been or are not going.

Have a plan

If you do not know where you want to go you probably will not get there.  I wanted my boys to be men of God. I started at the age of about 8 teaching them what that means.  At the age of 12, we began a year of discovery and at age 13 we celebrated entry into the beginning stages of manhood.  We have continued to fine tune that plan each year.

Find out what works for your children and for the family

You are only going to stick with things you really want to do and that work.  Your children are unique and each requires different environments to learn.  You may be strong enough to make your children sit still for a 30 minute family devotion time, but ask yourself is it effective or does it simply make you feel better.  The key is that your family is moving in the right direction spiritually, not that you follow someone else’s script.

Look for teaching moments

Be available to your children on their time. They do not know how the game of life works and they will need your input.  The problem is they will want you one minute and not the next. For Jeremy the best teaching moments were while kicking a soccer ball. For Nathaniel it was throwing a baseball.

Do not force it

Sometimes parents (maybe especially pastors) are so afraid of our own image, of what people may think if children do or say something wrong, that we put undue pressure on them. Do not be afraid for your children to question their faith. I see too many parents that go into panic mode when their children naturally question spiritual things. If you are normal then you have days when your faith is not quite as strong. Do not expect more from your children.

Minister together

I took my boys along for ministry meetings whenever I could.  We have participated in family mission trips.  I evaluate Sundays with my boys.  They feel a part of my ministry.

Keep your family emotionally healthy

How healthy are you emotionally? How healthy is your spouse and your children?  Recognize the signs of burnout and stress on your family and address problems early.

Build relationships first and spiritual maturity second

Build the kind of relationship with your children that will help them want more of what you value. Jesus did that with the disciples.  Your children are more likely to want to know the Christ you love if they learn first to love you.

What tips do you have for building spiritual maturity into your home?

Orientation By Wilderness Experience (Could It Work For Your Team?)

1078283_58943098Taylor, one of my 18 year-old son Nate’s best friends, is going to Wheaton University this fall. I am excited that he will be an hour away from Nate who will be at Moody Bible College.  I wrote a blog post about their friendship a couple months ago. Read that post HERE. I had coffee this morning with Taylor, because he is leaving this weekend for an extended and unusual college orientation.

Wheaton offers an optional wilderness experience as a preparation for incoming freshman to the university. Students explore a Christian worldview and get college credit in exchange for an extreme outdoor adventure with other students, professors, and experts in wilderness adventures.  Someone at the university told Taylor, “If you can survive 12 days alone with someone in this experience then you can last a lifetime together.”

I love the concept.  I am wondering if it would work in other settings:

  • Incoming staff people…
  • Premarital counseling…
  • Potential leaders…

Do you think this would build healthier teams?

Who in your organization/family would you like to send on a 12-day wilderness experience so they will be a better team player?

I Am A Teacher, Not a Know-It-All

899171_16345967I am a teacher, but I am not without flaw.

One common misunderstanding is that those who teach principles are perfect at implementing those same principles in their life.  Hopefully before someone agrees to teach on a subject they have a certain “expertise” in the area he or she teaches, whether by education or experience, but it is probably false to believe he or she is perfect in every area they claim expertise.  Obviously teachers are to be held to a higher standard (James 3:1), but just because someone teaches does not make them perfect at the subject they teach.

For example, I teach some principles I do not yet live out fully and perfectly.

  • I teach on marriage, but my marriage is a continual work in progress.
  • I teach on parenting, but each new age creates a new learning curve for me.
  • I teach on leadership, but I still have so much to learn about the subject.
  • I teach the Bible, but there are those I teach who know some passages better than me.

I believe and aspire to the principles I teach, and I do have education and experience in each area, but I am still very much a work in progress.

Do not make the mistake of believing that just because someone teaches good principles that they are fully implementing them in their life.  Hopefully they are attempting to, but you may be disappointed if you look for perfection from the teacher.

What qualities do you look for in a teacher?

Doing Your Part To Make The Marriage Work

marriageHere is a quick reminder to husbands and wives:

You are responsible to God and your spouse to obey the vows you took before God and others the day you married.

We often make excuses for our behavior because of the behavior of our spouse, but if each partner is accountable for their own role the marriage will be strengthened.

I have heard all the arguments.  One spouse feels unloved so he or she refuses to give love or respect.  One spouse feels disrespected, so he or she refuses to give back respect or love.  I understand it is difficult, but the fact remains each spouse is accountable for his or her heart and actions.

I am not at all advocating that a spouse must endure physical or emotional abuse. That is a completely different issue.  I am addressing the average marriage struggles where two people are equally at fault. In those cases, if one spouse will genuinely fulfill their responsibility, unless the other spouse has completely closed their heart to the marriage, the marriage is likely to see improvement.  It is when each spouse becomes selfish and refuses to do live their part of the marriage commitment that lines are crossed, feelings are hurt, and severe damage is done to the marriage.

Have you been doing your part to make the marriage work?