Monthly Archives: October 2014

5 Principles for Disciplining Children

10362863_10152240653161599_2278280600722933084_n  The day after my daughter’s second birthday, something crazy happened. My sweet little princess almost instantly transformed. She went to bed a cute ball of sugar and cuteness. She woke up the next day a tiny tyrant, complete with temper tantrums, stomping and screaming, throwing herself on the floor, and occasionally pulling handfuls of hair out. I haven’t figured out what caused the change, I’m pretty sure there was something in the cake. The terrible twos had begun and there was no going back.

I’ll admit that deep down I wonder if she will grow out of it, or if I will raise her into one of those adults who throws tantrums at the grocery store because the line is too long. This shift has prompted a number of discussions between my wife and I on the matter of proper discipline. We don’t always agree on the right way to discipline, but we agree that correction is important to raising a child who has learned how to live and act properly. Here are some of the basic concepts that come into play in our discipline strategy.

Discipline is an act of love. As tough as it seems, discipline is a loving response to incorrect behaviors. The author of Hebrews points this out.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”   Hebrews 12:5-6

God demonstrates wise parenting by redirecting behaviors to change the direction of those he loves. Discipline turns us from decisions, behaviors, and attitudes that could potentially cause us great harm. Ignoring destructive behavior or responding in a manner that is inadequate to change the behavior may feel nicer than punishment, but it brings more pain when ingrained behaviors need to be relearned later.

IMG_2431Discipline is best when it instructs. One of the clearest memories I have of being disciplined as a child was that it was always followed by my parents sitting with me and explaining the purpose for the correction and basic instruction on how to behave.

Discipline must be proportional. There is a hard balance to manage with children and discipline. Micromanaging a child crushes them. Responding to minor infractions with huge punishments is out of proportion and will only result in either a crushed sense of independence or resentment. The real objective is a chance of direction. Paul presents this idea in the household code he included in his epistle to the Ephesians.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Discipline must be timely. Discipline must be clearly associated with the behavior for it to be effective. The age of a child is important to take into account when determining timely discipline. A 3-year old doesn’t do as well associating consequences with behaviors the further apart they take place. Correcting a toddler for behaviors that took place a week ago simply won’t be effective. They don’t think that way. Teenagers, on the other hand, are a little more mentally advanced and can associate consequences with actions that are a little more removed. Another important component of timeliness is the emotional state of the child at the time of correction. It always makes me scratch my head when I watch a parent trying to reason with a child in the middle of a full tilt tantrum. Tantrums are the point where thinking isn’t going to happen. Period. Instruction at this time will not correct the behavior.

IMG_0912Consistency is key. Children are keenly aware of how you are going to respond. They know if they can get away with things because you aren’t going to respond. Further, sending mixed messages will only confuse them. There is a degree to which discipline is classical conditioning. Inconsistency will undermine the conditioning component. If you make a threat of punishment and don’t follow through, you will have more trouble in the future. If parents are openly divided on discipline issues, the child will recognize it and figure out how to work the division to their advantage. It’s necessary to figure out your approach and stick with it.

Remember that you love your kid. When your child picks the worst possible moment and way to act out, it’s hard to remember that you are responding out of a desire to correct their behavior so they will be successful adults. Kids have an innate skill for driving their parents nuts. The only reason they can do this is because they are so precious to us. When other people’s kids have tantrums, I don’t pull my hair out the same way I do with my own. It’s harder because we love them.

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A Romantic Dinner for 3? 5 Strategies for When the Kids Decide to Join Date Night

titus dnnerFriday, my wife and I had planned a stay-at-home date night. I grilled steaks, lit candles, and planned out our activities for the evening. That was when the baby started crying. He is 16-months old and has the sharpest radar for detecting parental enjoyment of any child that I have ever encountered. A diaper change and a bottle of milk later, and my beloved son was back in bed screaming like a banshee. My kids share a room, which means that all that screaming was libel to wake the preschooler. After a brief discussion, my wife and I agreed that the best course of action was to get our boy out of bed. He then joined us for date night. Mind you, this was not 30 minutes of our alone time. Several attempts to put him down for sleep ended in failure. He managed to stay through almost 3 hours of our date night. So, what happens when the kids just won’t let you have alone time?

Plan ahead. Perhaps the best way to make sure that you don’t have any pint-sized guests to your stay-at-home date night is to make sure they are worn out. Take the kids to the park, run them around in the yard, play with them, chase them around, skip or shorten their nap, and whatever else needs to happen to wear them out so they go to sleep. Planning is the key to avoiding the loved, but unwelcome dinner guest.

Maintain the regular routine. Children respond well to routine. Establishing a bedtime routine and sticking to it will help train them to go to sleep when the time comes. Think of it in terms of Pavlov and his dogs. He rang a bell when he fed them. Eventually, the dogs learned to associate the bell with feeding. The same principle works with children. Brushing teeth, reading stories, singing songs, going potty, and saying prayers are a good set of bed time activities that can serve as cues for the child to go to sleep. Because kids usually can’t tell time, this training can be effective even if bedtime is moved up an hour or two. Stick with the routine and your odds of smoother bedtime is more likely.

Plan to stay up late. With children who have a tougher time going to bed, it may be necessary to plan late nights for dates. You can do this on Fridays, especially if neither of you are getting up in the morning.  You can go to bed earlier the previous evening or  nap during the day. This may require some give from one or both partners, but time together, alone is vital to relationship health. Later date nights are an easy solution.

Make the best of it. Sure adding a kid to the mix throws off the romance of a candlelit dinner and makes cuddling through a movie nearly impossible. It definitely throws cold water on many of the sorts of plans husbands and wives usually make for evenings alone. It’s not ideal, but generally even the most stubborn children go to sleep eventually. As frustrating as an awake child is, working your way through the situation with the best attitude possible is sometimes your only option. The worst thing you can do is get frustrated, angry, resentful, or upset. A foul mood is far more toxic to intimacy than a child. Make the best of it. Eat dinner, watch your movie, play a game, skip or shorten naps, or do whatever it is you need to do until your precious child goes to sleep.

Don’t give up. It’s easy to get frustrated. If one night doesn’t work, perhaps the next night will. It is crummy when a fancy dessert or surprise roses are deployed on a non-date night, but it’s important to work together and put frustrations aside. Dating is important to the relationship and needs to be pursued for the good of the relationship and the kids.
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Dad’s Rest Day: 5 Basic Rest Realities

935835_10151451295271599_1447668726_nIt’s Sunday afternoon. My wife and daughter are at a baby shower. My son is taking his standard, extremely long, post-church nap. My standard Sunday afternoon counseling appointments all cancelled for the day. No family, no work, no honey-do projects. I don’t have anything I HAVE to do. I am in the strange position of having no seriously pressing obligations, apart from some writing I’d like to get done, which I could reasonably do tomorrow. Because of the odd demands of being a small town, small church pastor I work most days. When I am not working, I am being a dad or a husband. I am not complaining about these things. I love them. The real trick is that I don’t often take time to rest because I am so busy being busy.
Rest is a need that is built in to all of us. We need to stop and breath periodically. It’s so important that God requires that we rest in the 10 Commandments. We are literally commanded to take time to rest and spend with God. Rest is important because it gives time for our souls to recharge. We need to discharge our stress and be replenished by God in order to continue to be sharp. I often talk to folks who struggle with keeping their spiritual fervor active and vital in their lives. In every incidence of this struggle, the folks in question don’t take time to rest and be intimate with God. Really problematic is the sad reality that, in many cases, we have forgotten how to rest and recharge, instead choosing to always zone out and escape. Over the years, I have learned a few things about rest, largely because I don’t slow down all that much.

UnknownRest is more than shutting off:
 Rest isn’t just napping in the hammock, though that’s one of my favorite leisure activities. Rest includes, among other things, mindless detached time, investment in relationship for the purpose of refilling personally, time spent with God for the purpose of maintaining spiritual health and peace, and times of reflection and quiet. Each of these components has a place in rest, though for many the detachment of TV time has become the sole focus or rest.

Rest needs to be regular and intentional. If you are not naturally inclined to slow down and take it easy, it is necessary to be intentional about resting weekly. It’s no coincidence that the Bible directs us to take a Sabbath day of rest. If we run too long, we wear out. Once a week is an appropriate interval for resting, though down time on a daily basis is good if you can manage it.

Time with God is important! One of the major components of rest is time spent with God, praying, meditating, worshipping, or reading His word. This is important because we were designed to be in relationship with God. Maintaining intimate relationship with God is vital to maintaining our spiritual vitality. It’s a little like  tuning up a car. The car may continue to run if it’s not tuned up, but it won’t run right. We are similar. We may be able to maintain our spiritual lives without regular visits with God, but we won’t run as well. Eventually, a lack of regular maintenance will result in breakdowns.

It’s important for men to spend time with other men. It’s pretty common for men with careers and families to fall off from interaction with other guys. However, men challenge each other to excellence in ways that really doesn’t happen in other relationships. It’s worth noting that this time needs to be significant. Many men have only surface relationships with each other that never delve any deeper than opinions on sports or politics. Deeper personal connection is important. This is somewhat taboo in our culture where guys are encouraged to be unfeeling and as deep as most kiddie pools. The reality is that deeper personal connection leads to recharging and growth in ways that simply does not happen in other relationships.

Family time is important. Spending leisure time talking and playing with family is an important component of rest. Family relationships are central to a man’s life and occupy a center point in his relationship sphere. Spending time with family playing and enjoying the relationship is a big deal. This needs to take place as a whole family and also with spouses only, because the marital relationship ought to be the source of significant relief as well. This is a big deal because family relationships can often be a source of enormous stress due to obligations and responsibilities. Without leisure time, it’s easy to grow resentful of the personal toll that accompanies family obligations. Intentional rest together can fall to the wayside in this sort of environment.
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Willy Wonka and Lasting Happiness

willy_wonka___gene_wilder_by_94cape69-d7b1h0cOne of my favorite books and movies of all time is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I particularly love the way that the story depicts the children who visit the chocolate factory for the tour, with four of the five children suffering from glaring personality flaws. For example, Verruca Salt is a spoiled brat who gets everything she wants, but still wants more, or Augustus Gloop, who eats ravenously and is never satisfied. Several times while I was working as a youth pastor, I showed this film to groups of kids and asked them which of the children was probably happiest. Typically, the kids would respond that the characters who got whatever they wanted were the happiest. The reasoning seems obvious: If you always get what you want, you’ll be happy. After further discussion, most students recognize that the characters who always get whatever they want aren’t truly happy. Whenever they get what they want, their bliss passes quickly and they move on to the next want. Their happiness never lasts. For example, Verruca would decide she wanted a pony or some toy. Her father would give it to her and she would respond by asking for something else. When she got what she wanted, she would again ask for something else. All happiness that is found in possessions or circumstances is temporary. It must then be followed up with some new possession or experience in order to sustain the happiness. Verruca is a bit of a caricature, but demonstrates the concept well. In addition, we see real life examples of this every Christmas, when the internet has been replete with examples of teenagers complaining to Twitter and Facebook about how terrible their parents are for giving them the wrong color of iPod or that they received gifts instead of cash. Another common example is found in folks that run up huge debts buying new cars, clothes, and toys that they will never be able to pay for. They keep doing it because they need more stuff to be ok in life, as the happiness passes from their original purchase.

It’s like a mosquito bite. You scratch the itch and it feels better momentarily, only to begin itching again. The more you scratch the itch, the worse it gets, until your skin is raw and bleeding.charlie Attempting to sustain our happiness through temporary means produces the same result in our soul. We scratch the itch over and over again, only to find that the practice changes us. It leaves us emptier than we were when we started. The reason that this pathway to happiness can never work is because it is an attempt to fill an emptiness in the soul. Philosopher Blaise Pascal describes it as a void that God had intended to  occupy. Everyone has it. The problem is that only God can properly fill it. We can mask the emptiness with possessions, experiences, or alcohol, but in the end, it always comes back. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians that he had learned the secret to living in any circumstance, whether he was poor or rich, hungry or well fed. It’s worth noting that he wrote this while sitting in a maximum security prison facing the possibility and being executed for preaching about Jesus. He still was able to point to a contentment that was not based on his experience. That contentment was found in his relationship with Jesus and the hope he had for eternity with Christ. Paul relied on God for all of his needs. He recognized physical discomfort as a temporary condition that would pale in comparison to heaven. When he was hungry or in pain, he looked to God for context and relief. Ultimately, this resulted in Paul becoming the sort of person that could be content and joyful no matter what befell him. This lasting joy stands in stark contrast to the temporary satisfaction we feel when we get a new toy, eat a delicious meal, or go on a stellar vacation. Even more impressive is that this lasting joy is free and available to anyone who would simply choose to engage in relationship with Christ.

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Dating My Wife

During the first year after having our daughter, my wife and I went out alone twice. 944422_10151382747321599_1727274684_nWe didn’t live near family, weren’t comfortable with leaving our baby with anyone, were constantly tired from late night feedings, and were so busy with family and work obligations that we just didn’t go out. We didn’t have time, lacked opportunities, and really lacked the energy necessary to go anywhere. As time went by, we began to go out together again, until our second baby came along. This time, as our time together began to wane, we both noticed the trend and agreed to make changes. Spending time together -and alone- is important to the health of our relationship in the long term. It’s a basic maintenance practice for a healthy relationship. Without time spent focusing on each other, the relationship can eventually grow stale and cold.

Recognizing the pattern and responding: When we realized that we were falling out of the courting pattern and into a parenting-only pattern in our relationship, we started by occasionally finding a sitter and going out for dinner. This happened mainly when we noticed that it had been a while since we had gone out. The problem with this approach was that it tended to result in us going out on dates about once a month, sometimes less often. Sitters can be difficult to arrange, expensive, and it can be tough to build the energy for an outing. Though this was better than going out every 6 months, we quickly recognized that this as-we-noticed-we-needed-to approach left us fairly distant. Our solution was to agree on an appropriate frequency for dating and come up with a plan for date-planning.

1926840_10152187510656835_205969447562527891_nThe need for intentional planning: The big key to ongoing, active dating life after kids is intentionality. When we don’t have a pattern to follow, we tend to let it fall to the wayside, behind parenting, work, or church obligations. Our solution was to agree that we needed dedicated one-on-one time at least once a week. We also agreed that this time should not consist primarily of engaging in life maintenance activities, though it is tempting to go grocery shopping without the kids along. We agreed that we would take turns planning the weekly date night. I plan one week, she plans the next. This way we are given a little time between having to put a bunch of effort into organizing and plan an evening together. In addition, planning the date is a simple way of serving each other.

Stay-At-Home-Dates: Because of the challenges associated with going out, we have also begun planning stay-at-home dates. A stay in date night begins early in the day, when we run the kids ragged so they will sleep early. After putting the kids to bed early, we spend the evening together. There is a temptation to just watch movies on stay-at-home date night, but we try not to fall into this pattern. Date night usually features a nice meal, though I’ll confess that my wife is better at planning and executing date night dinners than I am. She is good at planning unique dishes and varied cuisine. I usually plan dessert well, making fondue or baking cookies. Sometimes we light candles, sometimes we don’t. We always try to do the best we can with the circumstances available, particularly when a fussy baby joins us for a romantic candlelit dinner. Apart from dinner, date night often includes board games, though sometimes we watch movies. We always try to spend time talking and enjoying each other’s company.

1521517_10151723998876599_1632361690_nThe Spirit, Rather than the Letter: I wish I could say we are consistent, or that every date night is the stuff of fairy tales. In reality, we are doing our best for each other. It’s difficult to invest in your marriage when there is so much other stuff that is demanding time, energy, and money. The dividends paid out on this investment is worth the effort. In the end, we try to approach the whole thing with grace and commitment. Sometimes, I plan more than one week in a row. Sometimes I’m too busy or tired to do much of anything. We don’t judge, we work together as a team to improve our relationship. Marriage is a team effort.

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The Fatal Component of Addiction is Denial

One of the more difficult to grasp concepts about addiction is denial. denialDenial is the component of addiction that is actually fatal. This seems counterintuitive, because addiction typically features all sorts of destructive patterns and practices that seem to the part of addiction that kills you, but the reality is that what kills the addict is the inability to recognize the severity of the situation.

Denial is a thinking mechanism that enables the addict to effectively lie to themselves. All sorts of terrible things happen to the addict, like health problems, legal consequences, relationships disintegrating, loss of employment, or financial problems. These are often directly connected to the addict’s behaviors. Even highly functional addicts experience problems, but deterioration is inevitable. Because their addiction demands more and more of their attention and energy, they are unable to invest in their social and work obligations. Regardless of how bad things get for the addict, denial prevents them from associating their difficulties with using or to recognize that they have developed a serious problem. It’s not intentional, but rather the product of their illness that keeps them focused on everything except the connection between addiction and their problems. Because of denial, the addict gets sicker and sicker without recognizing it. Eventually, it is the lack of recognition that prevents them from working to stop their addictive patterns and results in their death. Denial is fatal because it keeps the addict from seeking help. They anesthetize themselves against most of the pain of consequences by using and blame the rest on other causes.

Typically, denial is broken when the addict experiences so much pain as a result of their using that they wake up to the problem. This is typically referred to as “hitting the bottom.” Unfortunately, the bottom is usually so bad that it kills the addict. Sometimes an addict will swear they won’t use again after an unpleasant experience and attempt to control their using. This fails and memories of the unpleasant experience are hidden behind the denial mechanism. Typically, these moments of clarity are not all-encompassing enough to really break down denial. The first step of the Alcoholics Anonymous program is acknowledging that life has become unmanageable, that the addict cannot control their behavior and that their addiction is destroying them. This is the level of acknowledgement that is necessary for the addict to begin recovery. They have to recognize that they are really sick. If an addict gets help or joins a group of other addicts, this can often lead to them coming to the realization that they are sick, largely because the recovering addicts can typically connect with other addicts in ways that non-addicts don’t necessarily emulate well. In the early days of AA, members would go to addicts in hospitals and sanitariums and proselytize them into the program. Addicts were able to successfully engage other addicts in ways that others weren’t. They could cut through denial because they understood it from the inside.

There are other ways that denial can be broken. For example, interventions put the consequences and impact of the addict’s behavior in front of them in order to force them to face up to reality. They are told about the effects their addiction is having on their loved ones, which prevents them from avoiding the reality of the situation. Another way for breaking denial is by convincing an addict to start treatment through motivational interviewing or other therapeutic techniques, but ultimately they cannot make progress until their denial is dealt with. Facing the consequences of their actions is an important component of beginning recovery. As long as they are protected from the natural consequences of their actions, they cannot begin to wake up to the severity of the situation.
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When Brush Fires Break Out In the Church

The area of Northern Montana where I reside is largely prairie. Our annual rainfall is measured in inches and the local farms grow wheat and raise cattle. fireatnightDuring the late summer, a persistent Sunday morning prayer request is for no fires and for safety when they do break out. The interesting thing is that it takes very little to start a blaze. The heat from the exhaust of a car parked in tall grass is more than sufficient to light a fire. A thrown cigarette or a lightning strike can destroy hundreds of acres. Dry wheat, chaff, brush, high winds, and farm equipment make for a dangerous combination during the dry season. One of the most impressive things about these fires is the response from the farmers and ranchers. When a fire breaks out in the  hills, the farmers call each other, load into trucks, and put the fire out. The fire department is also called, but with 30 miles of travel to put in before they fight the fire, every set of hands matters. Most farms have water trucks and backpacks for spraying water on fires. There is a perfect model here for the church.

In the third chapter of James, he speaks at length regarding the tongue and the danger that accompanies words that are far too loosely spoken.
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  James 3:5-6
I have worked in professional church ministry for over a decade and have watched as gossip, envy, angry talk, and other words started fights that ruined friendships and split fellowships. All it ever was, was a small spark; a few words and the fire was lit. Gossip, boasting, and judgement preceded the forming of  factions and alliances, which led into hostilities and splits. It’s astounding to me the sorts of things folks would say and do in the name of their opinion regarding what was right for the church. Once these fires started, they were extremely difficult to put out. I once met a stranger at work who grew up in a different town than the church I worked for. He told me all about what he heard of my actions in a church fight that had happened years before. A few sparks spread to another field and the fire continued. The tragedy of the whole situation was that believers in Christ got burned. I know folks who walked away from church membership entirely over the shoddy behavior of the folks who decided it was their job to burn the wheat and the tares in the name of their petty issues. (Matthew 13:24-30)

Ideally, the church should resemble the farming community in which I live. When a fire breaks out, instead of running to pour08252013FourAlarm99YeaOldChurchPhiladelphiaFire_001 gas on the blaze, every member should leap into action to put out the fire before the harvest is set ablaze. Friends, family, and neighbors wouldn’t sit around and listen to the newest juicy gossip. Instead, they would recognize the danger of a fire catching and respond by lovingly correcting the behavior and stopping the fire before it spreads. When a fire catches and begins to spread, members of the church community would charge in and make peace, throwing water on the situation. They would respond to the fire alarm with a sense of urgency that is in harmony with the danger that is presented to the body of Christ.

They would respond by working to put out the fire. This does not mean that they will drive the fighters out of the church, but rather they will call those involved to Christlike behavior, love, and to be peacemakers. Believers do not step on each other to create harmony. Rather, they call each other to repentance, speaking the truth in love.

A final component of preventing fires from spreading in the church is for the preacher and teachers to teach members about the dangerjames 3s of speaking too loosely and the sin of gossip. Believers need to be taught about the dangers of loose talk and the sins associated with sowing seeds of dissension in the body.
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Tools In the Marital Toolbox: The Heart Alignment Tool

Years ago, I was replacing the clutch on my car. After removing the old clutch, I went to a high end transmission shop, where the guy at the counter explained that though they had the part, they did not have the alignment tool that normally clutch toolcomes with it. I had never replaced a clutch and had no idea how important the tool was, so I said “no problem” and was on my way. I discovered that it actually was a problem when I attempted to put the engine back into the car with the misaligned clutch. The engine simply would not fit the transmission. I tried several improvised fixes, but had no success. Finally, I pulled off the clutch and went back to the shop, where a different guy was now at the counter. He looked at the clutch and stated firmly that they didn’t sell the alignment tools separately and that the part was not returnable because I had attempted installation. After some arguing and effort, I realized I wasn’t going to make any progress. I then turned to the internet and discover that no one was selling my alignment tool. Finally, after days of working on the problem, I took the engine to the dealer and paid an hour’s worth of labor to a technician, who spent 3 minutes aligning my part. The little plastic alignment tool, that seemed so unimportant at the time, was vital to properly installing my clutch. Without the tool, the engine, which produces power, simply couldn’t connect to the transmission, which transfers power to the tires.

There is a similar problem in many marriages. Both members of the partnership have specific ideas as to how things ought to be, heart alignmentbut struggle with making the ideal version in their head transfer into relationship reality. They want to communicate without arguing, agree on financial decisions, experience perfect harmony in their physical relationship, and find that spark of excitement that was present when they first started dating. The problem arises when the idea as to how marriage ought to be fails to translate into forward and harmonious movement in the relationship. This misalignment is a product of the fallen nature, which inclines us toward self-centeredness. If you take a look at Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, you will find the antithesis of the sinful inclination of man. It’s natural for people to struggle with making their behavior match their convictions. Paul describes this struggle in Romans 7,

I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Our sinful flesh inclines us away from right and toward sin. It’s no coincidence that Paul talks about a perfect version of love in the context of spiritual gifts, because the love he describes is impossible for us to live out. It is a product of the Holy Spirit’s intervention.
One tool in the marital toolbox is similar to the one I was missing when the time arose for me to align my clutch. The great heart alignment tool available to believers is the intervention of the Spirit, aiding us toward Christlike action. As we submit our lives to Christ and learn to obey His teachings, the Holy Spirit produces new attitudes and behavior in our lives. If we simply try to obey a set of standards, apart from new life in Christ, we will find ourselves mired in legalism, which is ultimately impossible to maintain for the long haul. Ultimately, this will produce the same sort of results that my improvised alignment tools produced. The tool that was designed to fit my car is the only one that could successfully line up my engine and transmission.

The misalignment of heart and actions in the marital context is best illustrated by the responses of husbands to Paul’s teaching in Philippians 5:25-27

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

When reading this passage with men, I find that they often get hung up on talk of wives obeying, which is addressed in the preceding verse. They complain that their wife doesn’t obey them, and they harbor resentment because of it. This is a product of a misalignment of heart with the heart of Christ, specifically because they aren’t looking at the passages that apply to them. They are only looking at what they are owed. Husbands bear the responsibility of loving their wives asclick here tools Christ loved the church. This literally means that husbands should be willing to give everything for their wives and take on the role of servant. He ought to lead his family spiritually, not only in words, but also in action. The job of a husband is to align their attitude and behavior with that of Jesus. When she offends him, he forgives. He is patient, selfless, kind, and forgiving. When things are not as they ought to be, he guides through love and sacrifice. We do not see Christ demanding that He be served. The tool that helps us to align our hearts with his, and then our actions with our heart is the Holy Spirit. Prayer, confession, accountability, devotion to the Word, and obedience is our side of the equation. The Spirit convicts and changes us as we strive toward holiness. Without the Spirit, we simply cannot manage this on our own.

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Raising a Real World Superhero Part 3: Training Young Men to Respect Women

 Over the last few weeks, you can hardly turn on a news program without coming across an opinion piece or news story about Ray Rice, the professional football player whose career has been ruined after a video surfaced of him punching his fiancee. Having seen the clip, I can’t fathom how anyone can call it anything but reprehensible. As the larger culture debates what sort of action should be taken and whether or not the league acted appropriately, fathers need to take the opportunity to talk with our IMG_2208sons and educate them as to how God calls them to act toward women. In a culture that is increasingly hostile to the dignity of women, treating them as sex objects, humiliating them in pop culture, or glorifying their mistreatment; it is vital that we make our stance clear and stand firm on the matter. Raising a young man into a superhero requires more than just teaching him to carry a football; it involves teaching him to act with integrity toward women, whether that woman is his wife, sister, date, neighbor, or a stranger.

There are all sorts of biblical passages that describe the importance of men protecting women and treating them with a special degree of gentleness. The prophet Malachi offers a strong statement on the subject when he writes:
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Malachi 2:16
In the ancient world, women who were divorced were put in a difficult situation, IMG_2279as remarriage was difficult and there were limited employment and property ownership rights. This resulted in poverty, indentured servitude, or prostitution as the only options for women who did not have a husband. God’s declaration of anger toward men who do not love and take care of their spouse is no small matter. God expected men to care, protect, and provide for their wives. Further, the act of abandoning her is described as an act of great violence. The message seems clear, violence against your wife isn’t okay. Even more so, husbands are expected to not only to abstain from violence toward wives, God considers not taking care of them as being on par with violence. Men are to treat women with an extra measure of gentleness and protection.

Another powerful verse that is worth considering is found in Peter’s comments on how various groups ought to act. Interestingly, Peter’s list offers special concern to groups who were less powerful and more likely to be oppressed. His instruction to men is sometimes misread:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7
It’s easy to see the phrase “weaker partner” and assume that it’s a condescending statement. What Peter means here is that women are typically physically smaller and not as physically strong. Peter’s wording refers to loving, considerate, and gentle treatment of the wife. This is based on the reality that the husband is physically capable of hurting his wife. Peter’s direction is for Christian men to be gentle. Peter also points out that women are heirs of eternity, in the same way that men are. This puts women and men on equal footing before God. As such, they are to be treated as equals in all other respects.

A final passage worth considering is from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus specifically directs His followers not to look at women lustfully, because in doing so, he commits adultery in his heart. This passage explicitly teaches that men are to remain sexually pure in their thought lives. However, it is reasonable to read the passage as also teaching that treating women as sex objects is not acceptable.

Raising a young man, one who stands apart as a hero to those around him, requires that he learn to treat women right. It is vital that the fathers persistently talk to their sons about God’s directions for us to treat women gently and with respect. Sons need to be taught that they are supposed to physically protect women, as isclick here their responsibility before God. Treating a woman roughly or violently is totally apart from God’s direction for them. Further, God repeatedly describes Himself as a protector of those who are most exploitable. This is an example Christian men are to emulate. We should not engage in any activity that treats women with less dignity than is afforded to God’s beloved creation. This is foundational for raising a young man to be a real world superhero. Beyond teaching them, fathers must model the behavior in their relationship with their wife and the women around them. Boys learn to be men by watching their fathers and the other strong male figures in their lives. A father must model right behavior to raise a superhero son.
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5 Daddy-Daughter Date Night Ideas

real world linkI take my 3-year old daughter out on dates every couple of weeks. She picks the sort of restaurant we would visit, the activities we engage in, what we have for dessert, and what kind of music we listen to while driving. She dresses up and we spent the evening together. My daughter and I go on dates regularly. We watch movies together, we go for walks, we have tea parties, we talk, and spend time together doing all sorts of other father-daughter activities. She asks me often to take her out and spend time with her because she enjoys it. I enjoy it, but I have another objective. I am teaching her about what a relationship with men ought to look like. I touched on this previously in the first Raising a Real World Superhero article, but it’s important enough that it merits deeper consideration. For starters, it’s scriptural. Proverbs 22:6 offers the best principle for this practice:

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

By teaching my daughter what she ought to look for in a male relationship, she will learn how a man ought to treat her. Spending time modeling relationship is far more effective than simply telling her how a man ought to treat her, because it is training her. The time a father spends with his daughter trains her in the first lessons she will learn about men and what male relationships ought to look like. I want to do the best I can to teach her what loving, attentive, and supportive relationships with a Christlike man ought to look like. I want her to learn that a man ought to cherish her and treat her like a princess, who is a child of God.

In the last 3 years, I have learned, through effort and focus, how to make my daughter feel like the treasure that God sees her as. I am writing to share some of the basic “dates” I go on with my little girl, with the hopes that they will inspire other dads to engage their little girls and teach them how a man of God ought to treat them.

1. Dinner and a day together: 10689867_10152240843956599_4277277737945522172_nWhen Abbey and I go on dates, she gets to pick everything we do. This usually begins with her picking what dinner will be. For some reason, she has decided that Chinese food and eating with sticks is the best thing in the world. A year ago, she loved eating at McDonalds and playing in the play land. I don’t like McDonalds, but I eat where she wants because I want her to know it’s special. We eat and talk. She tells me stories. I ask her questions. She gets my full attention. When given a choice as to what she wants to do after eating out, sometimes she wants to go to the comic book store, or to the book store, or to buy bows at the girl stuff store. She picks and she gets my attention the whole time. Please note that I don’t buy her everything she wants, but she does get my full attention.

IMG_21592. Tea parties: I am not a fan of tea parties, but we do them regularly. Stuffed toys usually attend. There is usually cookies and snacks. We drink tea, eat cookies, pretend, play, and talk. Usually setting up the tea party is as fun for her as having the party. Sometimes I read her stories. Most tea parties last about an hour, and she loves them.

3. Camping: Camping is a bigger production, but is a huge deal to her. She is only 3, so camping isn’t usually as much an outdoor adventure, as it is an opportunity to stay up too late, eat junk food, watch cartoons, look at stars, and sleep in a tent. We sometimes just camp in the yard, while other times we camp in the mountains or parks. It doesn’t matter to her. Camping with dad is an adventure. When her little brother gets older, she won’t get to do this alone anymore. For now, it’s a favorite of hers.


4. Movie Night
: This week, my wife had an evening out withmovie night some gals from church. This left me home alone with the kids. We rented a cartoon movie and I let her pick dinner. She decided we would eat popcorn for dinner, drink soda, and eat cookie dough for dessert. We talked about the cartoon, she hid under the blanket at scary parts, and she told me she loved the whole evening.

5. The Park: An afternoon at the park is one of her favorite things to do. I push her on the swings, I talk to her, we chase each other around, and she gets my full attention for the duration of our time there. Sometimes we go for ice cream or get fruit snacks at the grocery store. Sometimes we go for walks. The important thing is spending time.

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