7 Simple Steps That Will Help You Develop Your Team

In order to multiply the influence God has given you the most important area you can focus on is developing leaders around you.   Here are 7 simple thoughts on how you can do that effectively.

1) Identify Who You Need To Develop

Time is short. All of us are limited in the amount of time we have to invest in others. Your life stage, job and other circumstances will determine just how much time you have to give.   You must set realistic expectations on yourself when it comes to the amount of time you can pour into others.

You cannot develop everyone.

Most of us try to work with too many people at once. I love people and I have many friends and a long list of people in whom I would love to invest my time and energy. However, if I give all the people I want to invest in a little bit of my time then I am really helping no one. In order to have the greatest impact make a short list of those people that you have the greatest ability to impact.

Spend your most focused time on your most valuable leaders.

I read somewhere that you become like the 5 people closest to you. I am sure there is some great truth in that statement.   To begin developing leaders make a short list.   Take a few minutes and see if you can get a list down to 10 or fewer people whom you need to be investing in.   Here are some questions that will help you make your list.

Who MUST I invest in?   At the top of your list should be your family. There are many who can replace you at work or in the church setting but to your wife and children you are irreplaceable.

Who must I develop at work or in my ministry?

Who is teachable? Do not waste time on people who do not want your investment.

Who is available? There may be some top-level leaders who you may want to have on your team and invest in but they are maxed out and therefore unavalible.

Do they need my help? Don’t try to develop people that should be developing you. Learn from them.

2) Be Someone That Other People Can Follow

It a glorious waste of time for you to try to lead in a direction where you have not yet gone or are not pushing yourself to go. No one wants to follow someone else who is a hypocrite or someone who does not practice what he or she preaches. The best teachers model the behavior that they desire to see in others. First live it then lead it.

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3) Spend Time With The People You Wish To Develop

 Helping in the development of another leader is not something that will happen overnight. You cannot simply take your leaders to a good conference on leadership and expect them to be different people. Conferences are great for getting new ideas and for motivating people but usually do not create long-term change. Helping someone else become all that God has called him or her to be will take your most precious asset, your time. Those that you desire to develop must be people that you spend time with every week. If you are not having success in helping others grow it may be that you are not giving them enough of yourself. How much time are you spending with the people you are trying to help? You can plant a great garden but if you do not give it attention then weeds will choke it out and bugs will eat the fruit.   The same is true when investing in other.   Time and attention are required to maintain health.

4) Listen…And Then Listen Some More

You cannot develop someone until you know him or her. In order to help someone you must find out where they are?

What are the things that are keeping him or her from being a better leader?

What are the areas of their life that need development?

To help people you must hear them, really hear them.  You can never learn anything new when you are talking.  You need to find out what they are most passionate about.

How are they gifted?

Where are they weak?

Where do they want to go?

What do they want to accomplish?

Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. You will never lead someone where they do not want to go. You may drag them but you will not lead them. The idea is not to get someone to go where you want them to go but to help them become who God wants them to become as a leader. Don’t make the focus about your objectives but about their development.

5) Help Them Come Up With Clear Goals

If you do not know where you are going you will have a hard time every getting there.   Help the person you are developing establish what the end result is. In my line of work we talk about helping others establish a “win.”   A win is a clear standard of measure that helps everyone know if they are being successful or not.   You can call them goals, wins, or whatever you want but you must define them. Over the last few years I have found that in most cases it is better to establish wins in the area of what we can control and not what we cannot control.   We measure in the sowing and not the reaping.   Help others define clear measures of victory in what they can control.

6) Give Them One Step

I think as leaders we often overwhelm people with 27 things that they must do to be a success.   Start with one step. Give the person you are developing one clear action step to take and then meet with them and hold them accountable to that step.   Keep going back to step one until it is completed. Tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it. Watch them while they do it.

7) Hold Them Accountable

The older I get the more important I believe accountability is. We all perform better when someone is watching us and someone is following up with our progress. You will never develop leaders past what you are willing to hold them accountable for. I know many great speakers that can tell people what they need to do but never truly develop them because they do not follow up. The fortune is in the follow up.   John Maxwell says that you cannot expect what you don’t inspect.

Have you taken time to follow up with leaders you are developing with accountability?

The lid on your leadership may be your lack of follow up.

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“A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”   This is the line that kept reverberating in my brain this morning as I read a number of gag worthy news articles about the murder, dismemberment, and sales of aborted babies.   You can watch the footage here if you can stomach it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjxwVuozMnU

I was trying to think of where the quote came from and it finally dawned on me that it came from a Dr. Suess’ book that I used to read to my children called, “Horton Hears a Who.” This little line from this children’s book written in 1954 embodies what we have all known to be true since we were children.

EVERY LIFE MATTERS!  

This is what the Bible says, “for YOU formed my inward parts. YOU knit me together in my mother’s womb.   I praise YOU for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are YOUR works and my soul knows it very well.”

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Your conscience bears witness. No matter what your belief system, inside every person is a core belief that life has value. This is what we know in our hearts and minds to be true. People…Human beings are the pinnacles of Creation.   We are made with intrinsic value and worth.

What do we do? How do we respond?

We weep!

James 4:9 “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.”

We weep for the children who are the victims of these murders.

Our hearts should break. We must not become so numb to the wicked acceptance of killing babies in the womb that we no longer feel it. This dismembered child could have been your child. These are not clumps of cells but people. These are little people full of potential to love, dream, hope and have families of their own. They are future neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They are the future businessmen, farmers, teachers, and mothers, fathers, and leaders that will never be.   They are a picture of potential that has been stolen, destroyed, and extinguished. We weep for the babies.

We weep for the mothers!

We weep for women who are so scared and so fearful that they feel abortion is their only option. Our hearts should break for the young girl who is 15, 16, or 17 who has lost her virtue and has been left alone. We weep that no one is there to support her and help her raise the life that is within her. She has no mother or father with sense enough to tell her to do what is hard and right instead of what is quick and easy.   ‘Quick and easy’ is a lie she will have to live with for the rest of her life. We weep for the woman who has had multiple abortions. We weep for her because she is so lost that she does not value herself or the babies within her body. We weep that she has not been taught that she is valuable, that God loves her and God loves her babies that she is choosing to abort.

We weep for the men.

We weep for the men that view women as objects to meet their sexual needs. We weep that they do not understand that sex is designed to be tied to accountability. We weep that they will not know the joy of being a responsible father to the child that has been aborted. We weep because they do not know that true joy is not found in taking from others but giving of yourself as a protector and provider.

Jesus wept over a city in Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

I wonder if He is looking over America today He might say, “O America, America the nation that kills its children and mocks God’s messengers. How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Those of us who believe in the value of human life must speak up.

Use your voice.

Use your voice in social media. Be loving but truthful in this area.   The truth is that social media is so much more fun when it is birthday cakes, summer vacation selfies, and pictures of what people are eating for dinner. But if you have a voice you need to use it for good.   Talk to people about the value of life.

Use your actual voice. Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that this must stop!   Beg them to pass legislation that will end the brutal practice of abortion.   Plead with them to not allow any more taxpayer money to go to Planned Parenthood and other abortion industries.

Use your pen. Write letters to you political and church leaders and ask them to stand up for these children.

Use your parenting. Raise your children to value life. Tell your little girls that abortion is never an option. Let them know that even if they make bad decisions you will be there to support them and their child if needed. Teach your sons to be responsible men.   Talk to your children about the value of waiting till marriage to have sex.

Use your prayers.   This is the time that every believer of Jesus Christ should be calling out to Him on behalf of these children.

Share your faith. Your neighbor next door or your coworker down the hall may be contemplating abortion. You need to know them. You need to share with them the hope of Jesus Christ.   It is only in finding hope that you can erase hopelessness.

Use your pocketbooks. Give to agencies that seek to help women that have an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. These places are called Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Thousands of children every year are saved because of organizations like these.

Proverbs 31:8 could not speak more clearly, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

In the book “Horton Hears A Who,” these powerful words are given, “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. 
A person’s a person, no matter how small! 
And you very small persons will not have to die 
If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!

God, help us to make these little people heard.

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Parenting Gremlins (Teenagers)

How do we keep our children from throwing their lives away and breaking our hearts in the process?

A few weeks ago I dropped my 5 year old twins off at Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church. Both daughters cried and would not let go of me when they arrived with their group.   They made quite the scene as I attempted to pull away. I was frustrated with them and scolded them and told them to go to their class.   Looking back I know the day will soon come that I will be dejected because they will no longer want to hang on to me, instead they will want to let go of me. I have been told by a number of parents with grown children, “When they are little they step on your toes and when they get older they step on your heart.”

I have seen many broken-hearted parents with teenagers and young adults that have gone astray. I cannot help but believe that while young people will make their own decisions, there are some very practical things parents can do to keep their children from going down a path the leads to misery.

Recently, I witnessed some pretty disturbing things among teenagers and preteens. Here are a few:

Middle school age children, both boys and girls, addicted to pornography.

Teenagers cutting themselves with razor blades to ease the pain they feel.

Teenagers contemplating or even engaging in a same sex lifestyle in 8th grade.

Middle school and high school age children taking pictures of themselves naked and sending them to their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Teenage Stress…

Teenage Depression…

Teenage Despair…

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These are scary accounts you might expect to hear from hard on their luck, inner city kids, but that is not where these came from.

These stories came from upper middle class church kids at youth camp.

I recently was the evening speaker at my church’s youth camp. There were 323 sixth through twelfth graders along with over 100 adults. The students were awesome and God moved in a big way.   There were students giving their lives to Jesus, surrendering to ministry calls and many tears of brokenness over sin.

The reality of what kids are dealing with today versus 5-10 years ago is amazing!   Sin is still the same.

The internal struggle is still the same but availability, access, and the cultural moral compass have changed.

I would like to offer what may be some helpful thoughts for Christian parents and youth leaders.

Youth today are further down the sin path then they were ten years ago.   Let me explain what I mean.

Ten years ago at youth camp there were usually a few boys struggling with pornography.

Today most of the guys are struggling and many of the girls are struggling with pornography.

Ten years ago you never would have thought to talk about kids struggling with same sex attraction in a church camp setting.

Today most of the youth have accepted homosexuality as a normative behavior.

I can remember in 8th grade it being pretty scandalous if you were kissing your girlfriend, and yet this generation has self-identified homosexuals in 8th grade!

All parents know that there are no guarantees in parenting but there are patterns and there are some wise decisions we can make as parents that will help our children. Here are some ideas that I think Christian parents must consider.

It may be (It probably is) worse than you think – When you hear about kids struggling do not automatically jump to the conclusion, “That’s not my child.” Maybe they’re not…but maybe they are. Most parents of teenagers who are seriously struggling do not know their kids are struggling.

Praise your children for things that are praiseworthy – It is very easy and even natural for us to see what is wrong with our children. We correct them and try to change their behavior to make it what is acceptable. It is so important that we parent according to the gospel. Jesus calls believers His children. When His Spirit convicts us of our sin it is a calling up and not a pressing down.   Satan uses fear and guilt. Satan reminds us of how bad we are and how we could never be accepted.   Many times I am afraid Christian parents employ Satan’s strategy in parenting.   We shame our children. We scold them and tell them how bad they are.   God’s Spirit of conviction in our life is different. He convicts us of sin, not to shame us, but to call us to be who we already are in Christ.   We are a son or daughter who was adopted into God’s family through the blood of Jesus. He tells us we are to act like who we already are…His children.   I am working to remind my kids of who they are and not who they aren’t. Find what they are doing and encourage them.

IT is OK to tell your children that there are things that are NOT ok!   We must not let the insane illogical world of culture dictate what is true in our homes. We live in a day of illogical confusion. We have laws to save endangered birds and also have laws that make sure we have the right to kill our own children in the womb. Our politically correct gibberish is creating a generation of confused young people.   Parent, it is ok to say that a white woman who claims to be a black woman is actually wrong and confused. It is ok to teach our children that a man that thinks he is a woman is not a hero but a very broken person in need of finding his identity in Christ. It is ok–no, needed–that we teach our children that a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex is not ok. It is important to teach your children that it is not ok to look at pornography.  This list could go on for a long time but basically you must teach your children truth based on the Bible and basic common sense. These are lost in our day.

Teens are begging for their parents to help them. They would not say it that way…in fact they would not verbalize it at all. The thing they think they want least (their parent’s love, discipline, and instruction) is the thing they are crying out for most. They are drowning!   Teenagers from the beginning of time have struggled with sex…body’s change and hormones rage.   All adults wandered through the awkward years of adolescence, but today is a day like never before. For centuries gone by, sexuality has always been a curiosity to teens but always something that was subdued until a time of marriage.   A man’s strong desire for sex would drive him to work and to be a responsible man.   A young woman’s virtue was her highest prize.   A combination of unlimited free pornography, unlimited Internet access and most kids having smartphones has changed everything! Porn is the ocean in which our children are drowning. Some just feel like they cannot do anything to get free.

We need to give them a plan.  It is not enough to say pray and read your Bible. They don’t need shame. They need help. They don’t need you to yell at them.   When most parents find out their children have some great sin issue or struggle they blow their top, yell and scream, and threaten to lock their children up for the next 10 years. Most of the time these kinds of reactions only cause more separation between the child and parent.   Parents should be hurt and even angry that their child has drifted into the deep waters of sin, but they must use that deep emotion to help their child develop a plan for getting out!   Some issues need professional help. Sometimes it may be some simple levels of accountability.   Every situation is different and requires wisdom and a long term plan for help. Maybe you are thinking, “I have no idea how to get my child help!”   Start with the local church you attend. Ask a pastor. That is what they are there for. If they cannot help you, they can point you in the right direction.

We do not need to put undue weight on them.   They “need” a cell phone because everyone else has one. We give them one because every other parent has given their child one, but what if they actually don’t “need” one.   What if giving them a phone is not helpful but really the weight that pulls them down in the ocean of porn. Remember a phone is not a phone anymore. The thing they use their phone for the least is actually calling people. It is an eye gate to the world. It is an information center. It is the key to everything social.   Their phone holds the key to everything they will find their identity in. Is that what you want for your 12 year old? It is the object that shapes our child’s worldview.   I don’t even know if they make “just phones” anymore. Be very slow in making the decision of when your child will get a phone. Be very fast in taking their phone away if they are struggling.   I don’t let my 18 month old play with knives because she will hurt herself. Most young children are not ready for smart phones when they receive them. We are giving our children a tool to hurt themselves.

Parents must make sure their children have safe, Godly people to talk to other than themselves.   At church youth camp I was again shown the importance of Godly spiritual adults.   I was reminded that the day will come where my children may not feel like they are able to talk to me about a particular subject because I am their authority figure and I make the rules. They must be able to talk to someone!   I am so thankful for youth pastors, girls’ directors, small group leaders, and Sunday School teachers because they are that safe harbor where kids can go to talk. You must get your kids around Godly adults and leaders other than you that you trust. If they are not going to talk to you, then who will they talk too?

God’s Word is the best counselor. I am starting to get on a regular basis questions that I was never asked 5 years ago. Things like: “I have a child that is a girl, but wants to be a boy. What do I do?” or “How can I help my child who is attracted to the same sex?” or “My child is in Middle school and has been sexting. What do I do?”   Because these issues are different than issues parents have dealt with in the past sometimes we feel inadequate…which we are.   I have found that the best advice for parents is not something new, but something old. We must choose to believe God’s word and use it as counsel.   While the problems may be complex, the answers are simple.   We are sinners in need of Jesus. When we repent of our sin and live in a way that is pleasing to God, eventually our heart changes. Transformations are rarely overnight…they take time, but God’s word is true and He knows us better than we even know ourselves.   We must choose to believe about us what God says about us. The best counselor a parent can know is their Bible!   Most parents feel inadequate to help their children because they do not know what God’s word says or where to find it.   Here is a novel idea for all parents: Read your Bible everyday. Pray for your children everyday!   Don’t miss church and be among other Christian parents!

What I Am Going To Do To End Racism

We are on the heels of yet another heart breaking senseless crime. Another young white guy has murdered a mass of people.   This recent mass murder is a little different than some of the others. This one was clearly motivated by racism. This young man in his deranged mind justified the killing of 9 innocent people at a church prayer meeting.

What horrible irony. The place you go to find hope and forgiveness would be the place that he would bring death and destruction.

What if we could end racism? What if the answers are already there?

I can tell you the answer is not in passing a law, having the right person in public office, or going on a social media rant.

This murder has caused a lot of attention toward the Confederate Flag and whether it should be taken down from certain public areas.   Some use the flag as a symbol of pride and to some the flag is an object they have always associated with racist people.   Maybe the flag should come down, but the flag is really not the issue. The issue is always the same. It is a matter of the mind and heart. This is where we are losing.

I grew up in the Deep South. As a Caucasian male I don’t pretend to know what it is like to an African American person. I don’t know how hard it is. I don’t know how a black man sees me, or what feelings well up within him when he come in contact with a white man.

I do know that I grew up in a culture that verbalized disgust when a white woman and a black man were together. I grew up in a culture where there was always some level of fear when young black men were around because the perception was that they were angry and would commit some crime. In the school I attended black people hung out with black people and white people hung out with white people. While I had many friends that were black I did not hang out with them outside of a school setting. We played sports together, were in the band together, and sat next to each other in class but there was always a clear distinction between black and white. There was a always a clear level of separation that was seen most clearly on Sundays at church.   These are just the facts of how things were and how in many places they still are.

As I have grown in the Lord many of my personal views have changes. I have come to fully realize that every person is incredibly valuable because Christ made us.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

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This tells me that the Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends race, socioeconomic status and gender. In Christ we all have value.   We are one church under His blood. The precious blood of Christ was shed for every man.

Because the world is broken and people are naturally sinful I am sad to say that racism will not end.

Many will take this tragedy and use it to politicize their particular agendas.   Many people will use this opportunity to throw out more hatred. Neither of these responses helps anyone.

Racism will probably never end…but I just might be able to end it in my family.

I cannot change the pain and anger that people feel in their hearts, but I can teach MY children.

Here is how I am going to end racism in my home.

I am going to teach my children what God says about people. I am going to teach them that God loves people so much He gave His life to save them. John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I am going to teach them that we should love people and give our lives in service and love towards others. Matthew 22:39 “…’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I am going to teach them to do to others, as they would have others do to them. Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

I am going to teach my children to value other people and cultures. 1 Corinthians 9:22 “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”

I am going to invite people of other races into my home. 1 Peter 4:9 “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

I am going to teach my children that we do not judge someone by the color of their skin but the content of their character. John 7:24 “”Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

I am going to show them the evil of prejudice and teach them the beauty of love. Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

I am going to (if the Lord allows) open my home to foster children of whatever race the Lord sees fit.   James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

I am going to beg my children to not repay evil with evil but to repay evil with good.  Romans 12:21 “Do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I can’t end racism…but I can make a difference in my home. I pray my son will not be the deranged young white kid with hatred in his heart towards people of a different skin color.

I pray my children will not be the problem but the answer.

We end racism one decision at a time, one heart at a time.

The answer is almost never in legislation or anything in the realm of politics. The Bible has already showed us how to end racism. We just have to obey it.

There is hope. Close friends of mine, who are Caucasian, have become foster parents of three young African American children. I am so thankful for this. One of the children is a girl and she has become best friends with my little girls.

One of the three children is a baby who just turned one and had a birthday party that we attended. It warmed my heart to see my 7-year-old son blowing on the belly of this baby just like he blew on his sister’s belly.   He didn’t even think about the difference in skin color. He just loved the baby.   I pray that my children will grow up to love people…all people.

The families of the victims in the Charleston shooting have showed us what Christian character and love look like. In the midst of the deepest pain they chose to publicly forgive their enemy instead of pile on more hate. Let us all learn from their example.

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10 Things I’ve Learned In 10 Years Of Marriage

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of the most defining moments of my life. All the people that I cared for showed up (minus a few that hadn’t been born yet).   My best friend stood beside me. My hands were sweaty and my knees were weak. There was a harpist playing a beautiful melody as couples walked down the aisle dressed to the nines. And then the moment happened…the automated bells tolled and the doors swung open. There she was, my love, my dream girl, my to wife to be! I have never seen a prettier sight.  I was 23 and she was 22 (that seems awful young to me now).   We were two kids in love with a lot of dreams. I am usually not too nervous in front of groups of people, but I was really nervous that day. I answered the preacher and looked into her eyes and meant every word I said. That was an amazing day that I will never forget.

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From that day to this day seems like the blink of an eye. I have a belief that the more you are enjoying your life the faster it goes. We are 10 years into this journey together. I pray we have at least 40-50 more together.   Life has gone by at the speed of light and every year it gets better and every year it moves faster.   I wanted to take just a minute to reflect and share some lessons I have learned in the last 10 years with my amazing wife, Charyl.

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It gets better and things change. Our first year of marriage was not horrible but it was an adjustment. Every year we know each other better and love each other more.   Don’t give up. Maybe you are in year 1 or 2 and you feel like you have been tricked.   Stick with it. As you grow together you begin to grow together. The more life change you experience together the more you learn to trust one another.

Here are just a few of the changes that we have been through in 10 years:

We have lived in 7 different houses.

We have had 4 children.

I added between 20 – 35 extra pounds.

Charyl got more attractive (if that was even possible).

Together we have had 8 different jobs or career changes.

Our income has gone up. Our expenses have gone up.

We have had 2 dogs.

We have had 7 different cars.

We bought and sold a house.

I have infinitely more gray hairs than I had when we got married.

We have made more new friends than we can count.

I have been to 7 different countries.

Charyl started a very unexpected business that has become a career and ministry (Premier).

I have been a youth pastor, middle school pastor, young families and college pastor, senior pastor, and am currently the discipleship pastor.

Charyl went from RN to Jewelry lady.

We became special needs advocates (particularly for families who have a member with down syndrome)

Jesus has been with us every step of the way. He has never left us. He has never forgotten about us.

He has been most near when things have been most difficult.  

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Happy Wife, Happy Life (Or if you are a woman: Happy Man, Happy Land) – Maybe you have heard this statement, “If momma aint happy then nobody’s happy.” When Charyl and I got married my mother gave me some advice that I almost blew off at the time. She said, “Rick, your job is to help Charyl not be stressed.”   In the last 10 years I found this to be a peach on the tree of wisdom. I heard Tony Evans say that if you want to know where you are spiritually as a husband, then look at your wife.   She is a reflection of you.   I have found when I have not been the husband I need to be it affects Charyl. When I do not love, serve, and make time to meet her emotional needs then it affects everything else in our home. She is the heart of our home.   Husbands would do well to give great attention to the heart.   This is an area I hope I am growing in.

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Marriage Is Not 50/50 Or Even 100/100 – I believe the best marriages give all they can don’t expect anything in return. The best ratio would be 100/0 or 100/not my responsibility.  As long as you are expecting something in return you will struggle. Appreciate what your spouse does. Don’t act like what you are doing is harder or more important than what your spouse does. Never belittle them. Your job is to build them up and not tear them down.

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Time Is Short So Don’t Waste It. The first ten years have blazed by. Life has only picked up speed.   Take time each day to hug your spouse, kiss your spouse, pray with your spouse, and talk to them. Go Home! Work is hard and long. If you don’t go home then you will grow distant from your spouse. Date your spouse. Try to make a time weekly or at least a couple of times a month where you just focus on one another. Family time with the kids is vital but it is even more vital that you connect with one another in a setting where you can really talk with no stress and no distractions.

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Little Things Will Kill Your Marriage Or Make It Stronger – Most fights are over little things. He didn’t put is clothes in the hamper. She didn’t remember to get what you asked her to get at the store. Instead of flying off the handle, build a bridge and get over it. They are not perfect and neither are you. Growing your love for one another is also built on little things. Pick up flowers for no reason. Hold hands with one another. Leave notes for one another. Look for little things to appreciate in one another. When you see something, say something. Never let a complement go unsaid. Words have the power of life and death…particularly in a marriage.

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Marriages Are Not One Size Fits All – There are so many marriage books out there but your marriage is not like any of them. Principles can help but your marriage is like you…it’s unique. A system that worked for your parents may not, probably will not, work for you. Make your own normal.

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Your Children Will Bring You Together Or Push You Apart…You Choose Which.   Children are one of life’s greatest blessings. They can bring so much joy to your life and your marriage.   If you make your children the most important thing in your life then your marriage will suffer…it may even die. I have witnessed too many couples that had children and forgot about each other.   The best thing you can do for your children is having healthy marriage. Do not let your children drive a wedge between you and your spouse.

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Marriage Means There Is Someone With You At The Hospital. When you are a teenager, love and marriage is all about emotion and romance. Most of the romance revolves around attraction and the hope of a great sex life. This is all well and good but as your grow older you realize that there is nothing better than living with your best friend and knowing they will be there for you for better or worse, through thick and thin. Romance turns to something more beautiful called commitment.

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Find Something You Like To Do Together. We watch “Chopped” together. This is a cooking show that is on Netflix. My wife and I don’t watch much TV. We really don’t have time. But there is a brief moment at the end of most weekdays between about 8:30-9:30 that the kids are asleep and we still have enough energy to talk. We talk for a few minutes and then we watched Chopped.   We don’t say much. We might hold hands but it is the simple act of being in the presence of one another. Enjoy each other’s company.

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Without Jesus We Would Not Make It – Pray for each other. Worship together. Make church attendance a non-negotiable of your home. Have family worship time at the dinner table at least a few times a week. There is NOTHING more important in your marriage than keeping Jesus as the foundation. There are not many things that make us more like Christ than the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit through marriage.

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I Need Your Help With My Daughter With Special Needs

I have been a parent of a child with special needs for about 17 months now.   It has been a journey that started off as shocking. When our 4th child was born, we found out she was born with Down Syndrome (DS). Through our belief that every human life is made from God, in the image of God, and knit together in the womb by God, we knew a blessing had been given to us—but it was still a shock. When our tears dried and the dust settled on our new normal, we started to get to know our new little gift, our Joy.   While Joy’s health has been good, there are many challenges she faces that typical children do not face. There is the constant worry that we are not doing everything we can to help her development.   These are worries and fears we face with all of our children, but they are amplified with Joy. My greatest worry is for her heart.   Not her physical heart (thank God it is doing great), but for her soul, her emotions.

To say Joy has been a delight to our lives would be a dramatic understatement. She is a little sunshine to everyone she comes in contact with. Her siblings cannot wait to wake up every morning and hug her. They constantly fight over who gets to play with Joy. God did not make a mistake…He never does. He always takes what is difficult and, given enough time, He turns it into something very beautiful.   It is never in our time, but always in His.

Now, on to what I need your help with.

I do not need money to help with Joy (although therapies and doctors visits are very pricey.).   I do not need you to take care of her (although, if you want to watch her and the other three I am never opposed to date night with my wife). I need you to love her.   No, I mean really love her like a person.

One thing my wife and I have learned through this journey is that people are people no matter their physical limitation or intellectual capacity.   What has been heartbreaking is the colossal ignorance of society in general. As I look at the speck in society’s eye let me first say that this has been a log in my own eye that Joy is helping remove.   While I have always tried to love people, my comfort level with those with special needs has been limited. Most people are uncomfortable when they are around someone with special needs. They do not know how to act; they do not know what to say. The great irony in this is that while typical people can be very judgmental, those with special needs are mostly loving and accepting.   There is no reason to feel weird other than the fear of the unknown.

2 things I need help with:

It seems the answer to the “problem” of children with DS is making sure that you get tested while you are pregnant and have time to get an abortion. This is harsh but it is just the reality. Depending on the studies you look at, between 80-90% of children with DS are killed in the womb. My soul trembles at the joy and hope that is being stolen from our dark world. What a horrible thing that families would exterminate their children because they are different.   I need your help. If you are tested and the test comes back that it is probable that your child has DS please allow that child to have life. If you cannot handle the stress, then allow your child to be put up for adoption. I have been told that there is a waiting list of families who specifically want to adopt children with DS. Choose life.

The second way I need your help is simple–this: please love Joy like a real person! I know this may sound odd but it is something that bothers my wife and I. People with DS are just people! They may move a little slower. They may not be able to do higher levels of math and some of them may talk funny (For some people, this has to do with their hearing and the size of their tongue.) THEY ARE JUST PEOPLE! They love, they laugh, they hurt, they cry, they have dreams, they have ambitions and they have feelings.   I see so many posts and articles on the internet by well meaning people (many times I am tagged in these or they are shared on my facebook wall) that frustrate me.   Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.   I have seen a number of young girls with DS that may be asked out to the prom by a popular boy in school. The boy makes a big deal about it and it goes viral and makes everyone feel good that the typical popular boy takes out the sweet little girl with DS.   It is heartwarming and makes that boy feel like he is really making a difference. But I don’t think of it that way. I am that little girl’s daddy!   That little girl is not a puppy or a party favor. That girl has real feelings and emotions that, to me, are way more important than someone having a “photo opportunity.” I come home to that little girl who may be crying on her pillow because the boy who took her to the prom never called her again. She doesn’t understand why he won’t take her out again.   He had a great night and everyone applauded him, but my little girl is left with the feelings of inadequacy and hurt because she knows she is different. She knows she has DS and a typical boy would never care for her in that way. I used to struggle with how much my daughter would know. Would she be high functioning?   Now I struggle with a different battle. I am afraid she will know too much. I am afraid she will be too ‘typical’ and still have DS. I am afraid that she will feel the sting of being a young teenage girl that stops getting asked to hang out with the girls who were her friends when they were little.   I am afraid that she will not understand why she might not be able to get her drivers license when her brother and sisters did. I am afraid these and a hundred other little things that most parents don’t have to think about. I will do my best to help her through it. I know she is strong. I know she will bring light everywhere she goes. But I wrote this just to bring a little perspective to those of you who may not have a child with DS.

I need your help.   I need you to treat Joy and other people like her, like a person. Take time to remember that she has the same feelings and desires that you do. Treat her as a fellow image bearer of God!   Just like every person that is typical is an original, so each person with DS is not like the next. Be careful to not make the assumption that all people with DS are the same. Thank you for your help.

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Dear Christian,

Don’t think like the world. Don’t buy the morality of the day.

Suicide, homosexuality, transgender identification, abortion are tools of the enemy that will rob, steal, kill and destroy. They come out of broken lives in need of Christ. We do not celebrate these things. We mourn and pray.

These issues fall under the cultural umbrella of “people should be able to do whatever they want with their own body.”

…not for Christians.

Christianity is the complete opposite of this way of thinking. When we become a Christian we willingly put ourselves under submission to Christ. In Bible terms we become slaves to Christ.
Christianity is about not thinking about you.

It is about learning how to understand that life is about doing God’s will and not my will. Life is about putting the needs of others before myself.

It is the teaching of Jesus that when we make God the priority of our life then everything else will be added to us. The Bible teaches that joy, happiness, and peace are not found in getting our needs met, to the contrary they are found through loving God and loving others.

We give when others take. We love when others hate. We take the last seat. We turn the other cheek. We are salt. We are light. We are agents of reconciliation. We are ambassadors of the High King. We are soldiers in the Lord’s army. We are farmers in the fields of Spiritual harvest. We suffer because Christ suffered. Our lives should not make sense to the world.