Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Breath Of Fresh Air

I Love Sports. This is the understatement of the year if you ask my wife. I can remember watching Sportcenter, before being married with children, over and over again on Saturdays. I could practically recite the previous night's highlights after watching for hours. It's the thought of competition at a high level and the idea that either side could win. I could be content watching Olympic Curling.

High level athletes are often considered role models. Sadly many are not much to admire outside of their sport. For this exact reason it is so refreshing to see the recent success of Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. Two unlikely stars, each with a wonderful Christian testimony.

Tebow enjoyed much college success and a Heisman Trophy. Few thought he would translate to the different style of play in the National Football League. The only thing standing in his way was opportunity. That opportunity came this past season when he led his team to the playoffs and a surprising victory over the favored Steelers. The media continues to doubt his abilities, but his actions show he is a winner. What is most impressive is his humble attitude. He is not afraid to speak the name of Jesus publicly and always redirects his compliments toward his team.

Jeremy Lin is the biggest story in Sports today. He did not have the college visibility of Tim, but shares many of the same qualities. Jeremy is a gracious Christian who also made the most of his opportunity. Both are products of hard work and determination. Just as Christians should, they do everything heartily. These guys will most likely be successful in whatever they choose to be involved with.

In a time when sports stars are using drugs and going to prison, Jeremy and Tim are a breath of fresh air. They are role models kids can look up to. We know that any human can let us down including these two, however it is nice to see devout believers in such a visible setting. I am grateful they point others towards Christ. They are under a microscope and choose to not fit in. We can learn a lot from these highly visible young men.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Must Decrease

Most everyone is all about self these days. You don't have to look far in today's world to see this is evident. It's in the workplace, on social media, and sadly can be in our homes. This is not a Christ-like attitude. It is clearly not a trait a family leader should possess.

Some days it is almost comical to scroll down your Facebook page and see how many people are constantly taking photos of themselves. Posed in front of a mirror, snapping a pic with a smart phone as to say "Hey, look at me!"

On the job this can be a daily battle. Employees often go out of their way to make others look bad. They strive for career advancement at the expense of someone else. Often it is masked by good intentions such as "I'm just trying to provide for my family". However, when our attitude is not right we know it is not pleasing to God. Sometimes God won't allow Christians to move up the ladder at work. Strong believers often won't fit in and face persecution. Perhaps it is to keep us humble. Maybe a promotion would equal more time away from family. We may not always understand His ways, but the Lord always knows what is best for us.

In the home it is easy to be physically present and mentally absent. We can get caught up in the things we want to do. We want to relax after a stressful day with our mindless entertainment or on our computers. Fathers often put a priority on hobbies. We're quick to ration our valuable time between self interest.

The Bible instructs us to love our neighbor as ourself. We are also expected to be humble. There's so many principles in Gods word that points us to unselfishness. If we acknowledge we belong to Him it should be easier to get the focus away from self. John 3:30 tells us He must increase, but I must decrease. These are principles that seem so basic and simple, yet we struggle to apply them to our lives. Unfortunately, until we put God and others before ourselves we cannot be what He expects us to be.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Nonrenewable Resource

February is Stewardship Month in our church. When most Christians hear stewardship they instantly think about money and tithing. We consider it another item on the believer checklist. While tithing is commanded, it is only one part of being a good steward.

A steward is defined as a person who manages another's property. We are managers of what God entrust us with. Our attitude must be one of acknowledgement that all we have is God's. This includes our material possessions, our abilities, and our time. Our best in these areas is always enough for Him, no matter how small.

I have come to realize time is my most valuable resource. This is especially true for working dads with large families. It seems everything is tugging for your time. Your time is divided between family, career, ministry opportunities, and much more. How we prioritize our time is critical to so many. Once it is gone it cannot be retrieved. It is so easy to fail as a manager of our time.

What can we do in our children's life today that will matter for eternity? Is it that important they play every possible organized sport? What if we were as excited about our children learning scripture and hiding it in their heart as we are about a touchdown?

If we have a proper perspective it is easier to "make it all work". We should be aware that our time is a gift from God just like every other blessing He gives. Our time should be thought of as a budget. We can't spend what we don't have. If we spend most of our day not honoring God than our "budget" is upside down. Many times fathers have good intentions and still make poor choices. We are wired to be providers and can focus too much on our jobs if not cautious. Sometimes the best intentions are damaging to the family. This makes it so so important to have the right vision for your family.

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Heart To Homeschool

I have not always been excited at the thought of my kids being homeschooled. My wife saw the value long before me. It always seemed to be something for kids that couldn't adjust to public school. I considered it an alternative that appealed to the hippy style family who always bucked the norm. I spent several months in prayer before I felt it was the right direction for our family. I finally ran out of excuses why anyone would be better to educate my children than their Christian, loving mother.

When I think back to my thought process in the beginning it helps me understand why others may initially be unsupportive of our decision. I have to realize they don't understand how much went into this decision. It easy to be frustrated. For some reason others sometimes see our decision to homeschool a form of judgement against their education choice. Many times individuals fail to realize it is a family choice. It is what we believe God expects from us.

Homeschool has been a challenging transition. Of course I am usually at work all day so my wife faces the majority of the challenge. Her days are not easy, but they are very rewarding. After a few years she is really beginning to see the fruit of her labor. It is an exciting time in our home. The kids are developing daily in all areas. We are beginning to see some creative talents surface.

These positive results naturally encourage us to advocate for homeschooling. There is always families on the fence about whether or not they should educate their kids in the home. Many moms would love to homeschool, but lack the confidence and/or family support. My wife really enjoys encouraging these mothers. They are all highly capable of teaching their children. As with my wife, they just need to trust God and go for it.

We fathers need to understand how important our role is as well. Our wives need our support and guidance. Our kids need to see it also. We need to thank the Lord these moms are willing to homeschool. They did not take the easiest path. I need so much improvement in this area. We should seek out ways to help. If it is a family decision to homeschool, then it is the fathers responsibility to ensure success. Everything rises and falls on leadership.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's Not A Checklist

My wife is the queen of lists. This is not surprising in a house with seven kids. There is packing, chore, grocery, and to do lists. Let's not forget the dreaded honey-do list. This one is never completed and always growing. They have become a necessary form of organization in our home.

Sometimes, as dads, we look at our role as a checklist of tasks. These tasks may include being a good husband, child disciplinarian, and financial provider. We might pay the bills, cut the grass, and make home repairs. We tell ourselves as long as we keep checking these items off we are okay. We are also similar in our approach to Christianity. We go to church, check. We read our Bible, check. We pray, check.

This is great behavior and is all things we need to fulfill, but we are called to be so much more. If our tunnel vision focuses only on the task at hand then we miss out on so much. A true, God honoring father is a dynamic individual. He is about the required tasks, but he is also about the relationships. He is in tune with the emotional concerns of his wife and children. He knows he cannot let them fail, because he is the leader. His family needs to know that he would die before letting Satan in the home. I admit that while I may accomplish some of the tasks, I still have a lot of growing to do in this area.

The big question is, where do we start? Cleary we can't change the past. We only have today forward. It starts with commitment and foundation.  First we need to realize the need for us to improve is necessary. Not one of us has "arrived". Not until we are like Christ and that is not happening on this earth. A dad needs a humble spirit. It is only then when we are most easily molded into what we need to be. We have to know it is only through His power that we will ever be the spiritual leader needed by our family. We have to exercise obedience to God and remove the sin from our life that has stunted our growth. A great father also is a consistent man. He is willing to work hard and honor God day after day. This is when it gets hard. It is difficult to stay the course over time. I know dads who provided strong foundations for their kids for a long period of time, only to let their guard down in the tough teen years.  It is difficult, but it is what is needed.

One thing we need to be mindful of is the days are continuing to get more evil. The world has changed so much even since the time when I was a child. The dangers of the world have instant access to our children through technology. Now more than ever us men need to dig in and take a stand. We can't afford to waste another day on the sideline.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Modern Day Large Family

My father was child number eleven growing up on a farm in Wisconsin. That was very common in that period of time. Today large families are looked at as an oddity. It comes with a stereo-type of irresponsibility. In most cases nothing could be further from the truth.

Many people are very critical of the Duggar family. I cannot tell you how much respect I have for this family. To me it is easy validate they are great parents when you simply look at the character of their grown children. They all love the Lord and are natural leaders who care for others. This doesn't just happen out of coincidence. This is clear evidence of God's blessings resulting from obedience and consistent faithfulness to Him.

My family obviously is not as big as the Duggar's (at least not yet), but we do have 7 children. We often see the judgmental glares and hear the rude comments such as, "Don't you know what causes that?" I can't imagine making such a comment to a complete stranger. I guess most people view family different than us. It is not as if I think everyone should have their own in house baseball team, but if they do it is their business. Sometimes it is difficult to stay positive when others look down on you.

The fact is we have had the opportunity through foster care and homeschooling to be around many large families. These are some of the most responsible, intelligent, and caring folks I have known. One thing I truly admire about these families is they are willing to think outside of the box, especially if that thinking strengthens their family. They don't settle for what society finds acceptable.

Something that upsets me most of all is when other Christians are critical of the modern day large family. As if it's not difficult enough in today's world, the resistance from fellow believers is definitely not encouraging. What has happened to iron sharpeneth iron. I think we all know the Christian family is under attack. Sadly, what I have learned from these Christians is how "not" to treat others.

I know it is my task to lead my family regardless of others. I am thankful to be part of a loud and crazy household. I'm grateful for the sound of little footsteps, lots of footsteps. Our home is full of love and is blessed daily. And by the way, we do know what causes that.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Time To Lead

I was reminded of something just the other morning. I was reminded of how our attitude and mood affects others. After hitting snooze several times I finally realized I had a meeting and if I didn't get moving I would be late. The previous night I had been up late for no good reason. Needless to say I was groggy and a bit grouchy. As I reached over I noticed my wife was already up for the day. When I came downstairs she had already made coffee, spent time in prayer, and was reading her Bible. She looked to be revived and ready to face the day. She was excited to see me and before I said the first word I instantly felt better. My spirit was lifted.

Reflecting on that moment made me wonder how many times after a tough day at work I probably deflated the life from my wife and kids. The times when a stressful day kept me from leading and encouraging those who need me most. I think of those times when my children are begging for a little time and all they get from me is "not now, Daddy's busy". There have been days when my body is home, but my mind is still at the office. It is very sobering to step back and think about it.

It is time that us fathers and husbands step up to the plate and focus on what is really important. We are called to lead and we need to do just that. It's time we hold ourselves accountable. We should realize our jobs are just a means to provide for our family. How great would it be if people didn't think of us first as construction workers or office managers, but thought of us as Christians and family leaders? One day we will retire and our companies will keep moving as if we were never there. Maybe we will have a shiny retirement watch. All of this is of no eternal value. I know guys who have totally sold out for their job just for career advancement and when they retire are miserable and begging to go back to work. On the other side of that coin I know strong Christian men whose children are now grown and faithfully serving the Lord. Some of these men I have no idea what their career was because they were not defined by their job. It's time we recognize our role and fulfill it.

At the end of the day we are very blessed to have all we do. We should acknowledge that of whom much is given, much is required. Let us not take lightly that which God has trusted us with. He knows all about our situations and he sets us up for success. It is our responsibility to be obedient to him.