Category Archives: Christian Living

How Gratitude Rescued Me

Person-Hands-Holding-Small-Flower-600x375I made a new friend this month.  Her name is Gratitude.  For years she was the dusty old acquaintance to whom I paid a cursory nod on all the appropriate occasions—anniversaries, birthdays, graduations.  But I never invited her into my daily life, and certainly not into my sorrow.  Not until recently.

I picked up a book about Gratitude, and to my surprise discovered that I barely knew her.  In all my years, I had hardly scratched the surface of all that she is and all that she can be.

So I resolved to get to know her.  Intentionally, this time.  I began to welcome her into my life.  At first, it was just in the peaceful moments.  I took her along on my morning jog, and discovered that she brought the world to life around me.  She made the sunshine brighter, the wind cooler, the trees grander.  She made me notice tiny blessings I’d never seen before.  Made me feel the strength of my body, able to run, the clarity of my mind able to think, the grace of my God evident all around me.

I took her out for coffee dates and explored her with fresh eyes.  And she became to me a most pleasant companion.  And then one day, she surprised me by showing up in the midst of my appointment with Pity, when I hadn’t invited her.  She tapped me on the shoulder as I was rehearsing my complaints, and at first I wanted to tell her to go away.  “Come back another time,” I wanted to say.  “This is no place for you.”  But she looked at Pity so sternly that I suddenly realized Gratitude can be fierce.  She was determined to stay, and at last Pity gave way to her.  Then, with a smile, Gratitude introduced me to her very best friend.  “This,” she said softly, “is Joy.  She loves to come along with me everywhere I go.”

I liked Joy immensely, and I hoped she’d never leave.  But I had a secret, and I knew that eventually it would jeopardize my friendships with Gratitude and Joy.  You see, I was in a partnership—I had been for years—with two very strong tyrants.  They burst into my home whenever they pleased, several times a day, and they moved me at their will, and I believed I was powerless against them.  One was loud and rude and he called himself Anger, and the other was monstrously large and named himself Pride.

They loved to visit me when the house was a wreck and the kids were a mess and dinner was burnt on the stove.  And always after they left, they sent Regret and Sorrow in their wake.  One day when I was lost in their grip, I noticed a spark of sunshine on the floor, so small I had to squint to see it.  It climbed into my palm and when I held it to my face, I was shocked to see that it was Gratitude, shrunken so that she was scarcely larger than a dandelion.  “How dare you try to enter here!”  I screamed into her face.  And with Anger and Pride rallying around, I yelled, “Get out!  Get out!  I don’t want to see you now!”

At last she spoke in the faintest voice, and this is what she said: “If you bid me go, I will go.  But I must warn you, I have to take Joy with me.  But,” she said, and I thought her voice grew, “If you want me to stay, I will fight for you.”

I winced in dismay for my heart was torn.  “But you are so small,” I finally said.  “How can you ever win?”

“You must feed me,” she said.  “And hold me.  And welcome me.  And if you do, I will grow so vast that I promise I will outshine these monsters holding onto you.  I,” she said firmly, “am very powerful.”

Gratitude had enchanted me, and amused me, and even surprised me.  But that day she rescued me.  That day I learned that Gratitude can do more than just dance in the sun—she can wage war in the darkness.  “Yes,” I told her when Anger and Pride had fled and Joy again was holding my hand.  “Yes, Gratitude, my dearest friend—you are very powerful, indeed.”

A response to all I am learning from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Gratitude.

You May Also Like:

The Master's {Violent} Mercy

The Master’s {Violent} Mercy

It's Okay to Admit It's Hard

It’s Okay to Admit It’s Hard

Why the Vaccination Debate is So Nasty (and Why It Ought Not Be)

Why the Vaccination Debate is So Nasty (and Why It Ought Not Be)

Re-Thinking Rest as a Young Family

Cleaver_family_Leave_it_to_Beaver_1960I had an epiphany this morning.  We’ve been talking about running on empty in church, and since this also seems to be the theme of my life, I’ve been paying attention.  Yesterday was an extra-long day to top off an extra-long week.  As I got the kids ready for pre-school, I could tell they were running on empty.  They needed rest.  They wanted nothing more than to skip school, wear pajamas all day, and play with me.

And then it struck me.  Finding rest as a young family is so challenging because the way each member “rests” is often contradictory.  Would I find it restful for the kids to skip preschool and play with me all day?  Of course not!  If I was an astronaut dying in outer space and I could choose between oxygen and pre-school, I would take the pre-school.

Fast-forward to Saturday morning.  What would the kids find restful?  A family day at the park.  Dumping the entire contents of the playroom on the floor and cleaning it up…never.  Playing Octonauts with Dad and Mom for five hours straight.  You know what Dad and Mom would find restful?  Having one of those talks where you get to finish your entire thought without interruption—what is that called?  Oh yes, a conversation.  We would like one of those, please.  And perhaps a chance to lie in bed and read one of those rectangular objects…  Remember when we used to read those things instead of drool on them?  We would love to sleep in, or drink a cup of coffee before it gets cold, or do absolutely nothing.  Just for an hour.

As if those forms of rest aren’t contradictory enough, we have to throw the baby into the mix.  You know what my little sweetheart finds restful?  Routine.  She loves taking her nap in her bed.  She wakes up happy and rested when bedtime is consistent.  But guess what?  One family trip to the park or date night, and it’s sayonara routine.

I can think of virtually zero activities in which every member of our family would enjoy his or her ideal version of rest at the same time.  And that’s a little disappointing.  I’ve always had this picture of the perfect Saturday: pancakes, pajamas, laughterIn the picture, we’re all being refreshed together as a family.  It’s very Leave It to Beaver.

But maybe it’s time to re-think rest as a young family.

In this season of life, maybe “rest” requires sacrifice.  Maybe it means that in order for one person to be refreshed, somebody else has to become a little bit depleted.  The baby has to give up her routine so her big sisters can enjoy a family date.  The big sisters have to go to pre-school so Mom gets a reprieve.  Mom skips sleeping in on Saturday, so Dad can take a break.  Dad spends his day-off playing Octonauts for five hours.  Maybe rest requires give-and-take.  And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Maybe it’s simply one more way God sanctifies our families.  We may not be united in how we find rest, but as we serve one another, we grow united in love.  And we discover that joy doesn’t come solely through rest.  It also comes through sacrifice.  So the next time you find yourself reading Stuart Little at 6am on Saturday morning, thank God that you’re able to give that hardworking man a chance to sleep in.  Thank God that He is using you to refresh your precious children.  And remember, Monday morning is coming with coffee…and pre-school.

You May Also Like:
What Kids Really Want

What Kids Really Want

Running a Home While Running on Empty

Running a Home While Running on Empty

8 Ways to Cultivate a More Restful Home

8 Ways to Cultivate a More Restful Home

Why the Vaccination Debate is So Nasty (And Why It Ought Not Be)

vaccine-diplomacyOf all the Mommy-War debates, I can think of few that are as emotionally charged as the war over vaccines.  Does that make me want to avoid the topic?  Like a nuclear missile!  But (like a nuclear missile) that also makes it so important.  My goal is not to re-hash the hundreds of arguments for or against vaccines.  Rather, my goal is to answer a simple question: As Christian mothers, how should we approach this sensitive and volatile topic personally, among friends and strangers, and in our social media testimony?

When I set out to answer this question, I started by asking myself why the vaccination debate is so heated.  I think there are three predominant factors.  First, it involves personal heartache.  Many (if not the majority of) mothers who choose not to vaccinate have what they would call a “vaccine-injured child.”  They truly believe vaccinations have had adverse effects on their child.  In some cases, the conditions their children face are extreme, lifelong, and even deadly.  Whether or not vaccines are to blame for these conditions, the point is these moms (who are not stupid, nor short on research) truly believe they are.  My children are vaccinated, and I have not experienced adverse side effects.  However, I can imagine how outraged, confused, and afraid I would feel if I thought my kids were suffering because a doctor told me to do something that I believed hurt them.

But unfortunately, this issue is also emotionally charged because it has communal implications.  Whether or not you believe in “herd immunity,” our society still functions in support of it.  In other words, our government and medical professionals believe immunizations are in the best interest of society at large.  That’s why you’re still asked to present an immunization record at kindergarten Open House.  It’s why doctors talk about mutations of previously eradicated diseases emerging as the anti-vaccination movement grows.  Whether or not you agree, you can understand why vaccinating parents find this scary.  Ironically, it’s the exact same fear non-vaccinating parents feel–the fear that something poses a threat to our children.

The final reason I think the debate is so heated is because it’s a high stakes issue.  I’ve seen articles and videos that claim infants have died from adverse reactions to vaccinations.  On the flip side, I’ve talked to doctors who claim they’ve seen infants and children die from vaccine-preventable diseases.  Any way you look at it, fear, suffering, and the desire to protect our children are the primary emotions driving the war over vaccines.  Our fleshly instinct is to respond to these emotions with all manner of ungodliness.  Both sides are guilty.  For brevity sake, let me summarize some of the sentiments I’ve heard and/or read:

Anti-Vaccines Pro-Vaccines
Pride / Condescension “I love my babies too much to put such-and-such chemicals into them.” “I love my babies too much to put them at risk for preventable diseases.”
Hatred “I hope your kids end up injured by a vaccine so you change your tune!” “I hope your kids catch a disease and die!”
Judgment “Parents who vaccinate are un-researched, blind followers.” “Parents who don’t vaccinate ought to be jailed for child abuse.”
Selfishness “This isn’t about your children.  I’m not thinking about your children at all!  This is about my children.” “I don’t care what your story is, if your kid isn’t vaccinated, keep him away from my kid!”

The problem isn’t that we have an opinion on this issue.  It’s not even that our opinion is bound to differ with someone else’s.  The problem lies in how much we value our opinion.  Biblically, I believe Christian moms are free to stand on either side of the debate.  I don’t believe there is anything inherently sinful about vaccinating or not vaccinating your children, so long as you are submitted to God and motivated by love for Him and your kids.  But, it is sinful to elevate this issue above Christ.

Before you assume you’re not guilty of this, here are some hard questions I’ve had to ask myself:  Does thinking (or reading) about this issue ever evoke feelings of hatred or judgment within me?  Has it ever made me wish suffering on someone else?  Do my words and lifestyle reflect that I’m more passionate about this topic than I am about the gospel?  Does it consume my thoughts and/or control my emotions?  When others think of me, is this issue one of the first things they think of?  

Yes, this is a high stakes issue.  But when it comes to how we interact with it, there is something even greater at stake: our testimony to a watching world.  Vaccinations impact this life, but our testimony for Christ impacts eternity.  How foolish we would be to sacrifice something of eternal value for the sake of an earthly cause!  Am I saying it’s wrong to share your opinion on vaccinations?  Of course not.  But if you value your opinion to the point that it causes you to sin against others (in thought, word, or action), then for you this issue has become an idol.  In essence, you are more devoted to it than you are to the mandates of Christ.

Let me be the first to admit, I’m on the guilty side of this reality.  This issue has stirred arrogance, judgment, and anxiety in my heart and mind.  The only way I’m “de-throning” it in my life, is by fighting fear with the true, biblical antidote.  The fact is, the solution for fear and suffering has never been found in “winning” the external war.  You can’t get rid of the turmoil in your heart by converting the world, one tweet at a time, toward or against vaccinations.  The only true antidote is faith.  If we truly believe that all the days ordained for our children are written in God’s book (Psalm 139:16), that He alone is the author of their lives, wiser than any parent and stronger than any threat, I believe it would change the way we approach this debate.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the mom who hopes other kids suffer because their mother doesn’t agree with me.  I don’t want to be the mom who turns unbelievers off to the gospel because of my testimony over a spiritually gray issue.  Like the Psalmist, I want to be the kind of mom who says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom (or what) shall I be afraid?”  The kind of mom whose heart, passion, and legacy cries out: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:1, 4).  Only then, will I be able to take a stance on this issue with love, humility, freedom, and peace.

Photo Credit

You May Also Like:

5 Reasons I Fear Standing Up to My Kids

5 Reasons I Fear Standing Up to My Kids

Can You Really Raise a Child with an Unbiased Worldview?

Can You Really Raise a Child with an Unbiased Worldview?

If Only Everyone Could Just Like Me

If Only Everyone Could Just Like Me

How Much Should a Mom Minister Outside the Home?

tug-o-war1-1024x345

Tug of war.  That’s what comes to mind when I think of this question.  On one end of the rope, I see this narcissistic, household-consumed version of myself who dreams about Pottery Barn bedding and pre-school drama to the neglect of all the people beyond the four walls of my home.  On the other end of the rope, I see this frazzled, crazy version of myself delivering homemade casseroles to every sick family in church while my own kids eat microwavable corn dogs in front of the TV.

How do we find balance?  I always assumed I just needed to find the “middle of the rope.”  Which is a very vague way of saying, “just try harder to be, well…balanced.”  If you could see my schedule now, I think it would look fairly balanced on the outside.  I serve in two different ministries at church, which helped me say “no” to serving in a third ministry outside of church.  We spend a few evenings a week with others, and a few at home by ourselves.  But the truth is, this isn’t really an outward question.  It’s not a logical, “what does your schedule look like?” kind of question.  It’s an emotional and spiritual question, often laden with guilt, presuppositions, and preferences.  A heart question.  And as we all know, our schedule can look ship-shape while our heart is in turmoil.

On Sunday night I dropped my kids off at our church nursery so I could serve at a youth event.  It was a whiny, reluctant drop-off because “What?!  So-and-so-friend isn’t here tonight?!”  Being the godly mom that I am, I promised them each a cupcake when the event was over, and said good-bye.  As the youth band played I thought about…my kids.  And my kids, and my kids, and my kids.  “Oh God,” I prayed, “I want to be present here tonight.  I want to serve these high school students.  Help me recognize that I’m called to more than just my family.”  And as His peace washed over me, a new thought occurred.  Maybe ministering inside and outside the home aren’t on two different ends of a rope. Maybe, in God’s perfect design, they actually work together to make us better at both

Think about it like this: how do we become the kind of women who have the character and wisdom to shepherd those outside our home?  By first being faithful inside our home.  A reader once referred me to an article in which a married blogger was reluctant to have children because she didn’t want to shortchange her ministry.  The blogger explained that when she got married, she felt like she took a “back seat” to her husband in ministry.  The last thing she wanted was to have children and be rendered entirely invisible at their church.  The blogger’s conclusion was to abandon gender roles, whereby she and her husband could do all things interchangeably.

The reader who referred me to this article was understandably confused by it.  “Is this the right perspective?” she asked me.  In my opinion, no.  It’s not.  I can say that with confidence because the Bible flips this perspective upside-down.  In Titus 2:3-5, Paul instructs, “Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live…Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Clearly, God is passionate about the home.  So passionate, in fact, that one of the chief ways he wants women to minister to other women is by training them to be faithful in the home!  How can we fulfill this mandate if we’re never home learning these lessons ourselves?  In this way, our home isn’t an obstacle to ministry, it’s a platform and training ground for it.

On the flip side, I also believe that as we embrace God’s calling to serve those outside our home, we become better wives and mothers to those within the home!  Think about it like this: what message are we sending our children if we’re constantly consumed with them?  More importantly, is it a biblical one?  Growing up, my mom imparted many lessons to me without ever saying a word.  As she counseled sobbing women on the sofa, I learned that she was more than just my mom, and that there were things that were more important than playing tea party with me right now!  I learned that there was great suffering in the world, and one of the ways we could love Jesus was by loving others.

So how do we find balance?  I think it begins with that popular word we all love so much…submission.  If you resent the way your family limits your freedom in ministry, you need to submit to the biblical truth that God has called you to serve your family, trusting that as you obey Him, He will groom you to more effectively minister to others.  If you idolize your family to the neglect of the rest of the body of Christ, you need to submit to the biblical truth that the best way to love your family is to make Jesus primary, trusting that in doing this, you will be a better wife and mom.  Either way, the answer lies in submitting our own preferences and personal agendas to Christ.

Here are a few practical questions I’ve been stewing over as I check my own heart:

  • Do I regularly meet my husband and children’s needs for love, attention, and affirmation?  If they were honest, what would they say?  
  • Is the way that I manage our household a blessing or a burden to my family?
  • Does it concern me when I hear that others are suffering?  Does my prayer life reflect this concern?  Do my actions?
  • Am I open and sensitive to God leading me to serve others, or am I quick to assume “I’ve got my hands full”?
  • Is there an area outside my home where I have felt burdened to serve God, but have not obeyed?   Is there an area outside my home where my husband has challenged me to serve God, but I have been unwilling to even consider it? 
  • Has my husband, or a spiritual mentor, ever suggested I may be over-committed in ministry, to the detriment of my family or my own well-being? 
  • Why am I motivated to serve my family and others?  Am I motivated by love for Christ, or love for myself?

Clearly God has called us to both the home and those outside of it.  That can only mean these two mandates are not at odds with one another, but rather, working together to make us the women he wants us to be.  Forget tug of war.  Instead, picture a bicycle with two pedals pumping in unison.  One propels the other forward, and vice versa.  It’s the only way the bike can balance.

You May Also Like:

3 Ways to Raise a Pharisee

3 Ways to Raise a Pharisee 

If Only Everyone Could Just Like Me

If Only Everyone Could Just Like Me 

Raising Pure Kids in an Impure World

Raising Pure Kids in an Impure World

 

3 Things to Tell Yourself When Others Prosper While You Suffer

how-to-deal-with-jealous-peopleHave you ever noticed that suffering makes us keenly aware of the blessings of others?  It’s the woman recovering from a miscarriage who’s the first to notice all the pregnant bellies in the grocery store.  The laid-off employee who feels like every Facebook friend is celebrating a fulfilling career.  The spread-thin single mom, who watches husbands hauling baby carriers into church.

There was a season in my life when it felt like God said, “No,” to every request I asked of Him.  I stored up those “No”s in my heart like an old woman in a house full of cats, daily nursing my grievances with God.  Finally, out of nowhere, I received an unexpected blessing.  It was a very small thing, so when it fell through a few months later, my husband couldn’t understand why I took it so hard.  As we cooked in the kitchen (well, technically he was cooking and I was sobbing on a stool), I finally managed to choke, “It just felt like it was a sign that God still loved me.”

In the weeks to come, God impressed three truths upon me that deeply comforted me and radically changed my perspective.  The first was this:

I do not need a single blessing from God to know that He loves me.  I only need to look to the cross to know that He loves me.  When we look solely at the circumstances of our lives, it often feels like God plays favorites.  Like He loves sweet Susie Jane with her happy family and easy life more than he loves you and me.  I used to comfort myself by thinking that one day the boot may drop on Susie Jane’s perfect life, too.  But it may not.  People really do face varying degrees of suffering while on earth.  And even if the boot did squash Susie Jane for a season, is it really biblical to delight in her suffering?  To hope for it, even?  Of course not.

I still remember the day God whispered those bolded words above into my heart.  All at once I saw the cross again.  And just like that, I had proof…MIGHTY proof that God had not forgotten me.  Just like that, I didn’t need to test Him anymore, because the test had been given on a hill long ago, and He had passed with flying colors.  Months later, my insecurity was triggered all over again when a sweet friend received the very blessing I ached for.  As I cried to God in bed, I could almost hear Him pleading with such earnest passion, “Look to the cross!  I promise I love you–look to the cross!”  You know what?  In a thousand years I wouldn’t trade that intimate and powerful moment for a fleeting, earthly blessing.  Which brings me to lesson #2:

In God’s economy, spiritual blessing always outweighs earthly blessing.  In the allegorical book, Hinds Feet on High Places, Much-Afraid embarks on a journey to the High Places.  As she is about to set off, the Shepherd promises her, “I have most carefully chosen for you two of the very best and strongest guides.”  Much-Afraid is horrified to learn that the guides are named Suffering and Sorrow.  But later in her journey, when the Shepherd asks her how she feels about them, this is what she says:

“I never could have believed it possible, Shepherd, but in a way I have come to love them…They do truly want to get me up to the High Places, not just because it is the commandment which You have given them, but also because they want a horrid coward like myself to get there and be changed.  You know, Shepherd, it makes a great difference in my feelings towards them not to look upon them any longer with dread, but as friends who want to help me.”

This is exactly what passages like James 1:2-4 want us to see!  God designs suffering to make us more like Christ.  Much as I despise encountering Sorrow and Suffering on my own journey, they are the most excellent tutors I have ever known.  And nothing is more encouraging than looking back over my life and realizing that because of them, I am no longer the cowardly girl I once was…or the arrogant teenager…or the idolatrous young adult.  That is the truest blessing.  Becoming like Jesus is more valuable than birthing children, or winning awards, or finding a spouse, or any other earthly blessing we could ever beg for.

I am not called to evaluate the lives and circumstances of others.  I am only called to follow God myself.  The final stop on my journey to accepting personal suffering in light of other people’s prosperity was John 21.  Right after Jesus prophesies about Peter’s future death, Peter glances at John and says exactly what I would’ve said: “Lord, what about this man?”  To which Jesus beautifully replies, “If it is my will that he remain (alive) until I come, what is that to you?  You follow me!”

Wow.  And ouch.  If it is My will, that she receive the blessing you wanted…what is that to you?  If it is My will to write the story of your life completely differently than you wanted Me to…what is that to you?  If it is My will to say “yes” to him and “no” to you…what is that to you?  You follow me.

Dear believer, you and I are called to one thing only.  Jesus Himself.  To love Him enough to follow Him…no matter whatAs Much-Afraid finally came to see in the Valley of Loss: “Right down in the depths of her own heart she really had but one passionate desire, not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for Himself.  All she wanted was to be allowed to follow Him forever.”

Sometimes only valleys and deserts can teach us that.

You May Also Like:

When All You Can Do Is Wait

When All You Can Do Is Wait

The Wandering Thirty-Somethings

The Wandering Thirty-Somethings

Getting Real About the Girl Behind the Grin

Getting Real About the Girl Behind the Grin

Blogging and the “S” Word

woman-typing-computerThis is my 100th post.  Not too shabby an accomplishment for a wearer of many hats!  When I started blogging 1½ years ago, I had three simple goals: I hoped to grow as a writer, to cultivate contentment with my lot in life, and to leave a small, God-exalting imprint on the world.

In case you're wondering, I don't really look like that when I blog.  I look more like this only in pajamas.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t really look like that when I blog. I look more like this only in pajamas.

What I didn’t expect was for blogging to leave an imprint on me.  I thought I would be the teacher, not the student.  But blogging has taught me a lot about myself, about sin and temptation, people and suffering, culture and society.  And ironically, the bulk of the teaching comes from one little button.

For you non-bloggers, there is a button on every blogging dashboard that charts “statistics.”  It tells you how many people are reading your posts, how articles fare with others, which countries view your blog…etc, etc, etc.  I love this button.  It is my pat on the back for hours of work.  It is the just-keep-going-you-ARE-making-an-impact button.  This little button had the power to turn me into a paid writer for the first time in my life.  The statistics went up, and Wordpress offered me a portion of the revenue–enough money to buy a pack of crackers every three months.  Hooray!

I hate this button.  This button reminds me that I am constantly at war with the desire to be God.  To seek worship, to love glory, and to praise myself.  Every time I click on this button, it whispers the question, why are you writing?  This is the button that unearths motives and desires, the condition of my heart.

This button has taught me that people want to read about themselves.  That topics like parenting and marriage are popular, and topics like world hunger and the persecuted church are not.  It’s taught me that painfully vulnerable subjects will be highly viewed, but not highly shared.  That the “perfect” article must address the audience’s felt needs, be provocative, yet feel “safe.”

And so the challenge becomes walking the tightrope.  I am writing to people.  God is passionate about people.  At the end of the day, if my writing doesn’t encourage, comfort, and spur people on, what’s the point?   In this sense, I must pay attention to statistics.  I must understand the felt needs of my audience, or I risk becoming irrelevant in my own culture.

I am writing to people.  But I am writing for God.  Which means the statistics guide, but they must not govern.  I believe this is the only way I can truly be used by God.  He must govern the ship, even if His direction leaves the statistics in the toilet at times.  Because when He leads, He brings another “S” word into the picture: supernatural.  God has the supernatural ability to guide me to write that which will be used for His good purposes in the world.  And unlike statistics, this guidance knows no rhyme or reason.  It is about being in step with the Spirit.  Every time I post an article I pray for God to choose the audience.  Because the truth is, 100,000 people could read an article that bears no lasting fruit in their lives, and 10 people could read an article that changes them for eternity.  With God the statistics are unseen.

Dear reader, this morning as I blog about blogging, I am thinking about you.  I don’t know your story, but can only assume it holds its own share of statistics.  The success (or failure) of your marriage, the money you earn, the growth of your company or church, the private failures no one knows about, the public failures no one can forget.  It can be so tempting to view yourself through the lens of statistics.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in blogging, it’s that statistics are temporary.  One day, the greatest triumphs and the most embarrassing failures will be forgotten.  And on that day, Christ’s pleasure and the accomplishment of His purposes will be the only thing that lasts, long after we’re buried and the last statistic has dropped to zero.

You May Also Like:

When All You Can Do Is Wait

When All You Can Do Is Wait

2014 Book List

2014 Book List

Kids & Social Media: A Collection of Advice

Kids & Social Media: A Collection of Advice

4 Reasons Men Fail to Engage at Home

20111112_STP506In many Christian homes, the man of the house comes home from work only to plop down on the couch and turn on the TV. They are distracted at dinner. They are unmotivated in their role as a father and husband. Why don’t they seem to care?

This is a common problem, and it is not just deadbeats and sociopaths that fail to engage at home. Even sincere Christian men struggle with engaging at home consistently. I, personally, am deeply convicted about my responsibility as a husband and father, but I still have good days and bad days when it comes to being engaged at home.  This article shares 4 reasons why I have struggled to engage at home.

Learn more about guest blogger Aaron Smith below.

Learn more about guest blogger Aaron Smith below.

1. Work goals and rewards are more tangible than family goals.
Like most men, I like solving problems, and that makes me thrive in the work world. At my job, all of my goals are well-defined and the path to success can easily be broken down into tangible steps: “Do these calculations…fill out this report…” Sure, there are surprise challenges and delays, but at least the problems and the goals are well-defined.

At home, on the other hand, I sometimes get lost in what I am trying to accomplish. What are the actual steps that lead to a stable marriage or Godly children? Oh, how I want a formula for being a good dad and husband… “play two games of hide-and-seek on Mondays, bring flowers home for my wife every Tuesday, read Scripture at dinner, and voilà… perfect family.”

But, unfortunately, there is no formula for having a loving marriage or for raising Godly children. Only God can make our family efforts succeed. But God still intends for men to make plans and to lead their families the best that they can. I think that this is why I find it much easier to stay engaged at home when my wife and I have a clear set of goals for our family.

2. Men feel entitled to “veg out” after work.
When I was single, I could work really hard for a couple of days, and then just “veg-out” for a few hours to recover. But, now as a father and husband, I don’t have that luxury. But, I still regularly have days at work where the stress and pace really take it out of me. I often want to just come home and watch TV. Being entertained is so much easier than engaging. Sometimes, I even rationalize to myself, “Why shouldn’t I take a rest? I have worked hard all day. Don’t I deserve a rest?”

In general, the answer is no. I have a responsibility before God to actively love my wife (Eph. 5:25) and to train my children (Eph. 6:4).  I only have a few hours after work each day, so if I am going to be faithful, I will need to spend most of that time engaging with the family. I don’t have the prerogative to regularly “check-out” from family time.

The times when I have succumbed to the temptation to veg out, are times that I have lost sight of how much I am needed at home and my responsibility before God. Also, when I find that I have nothing left to give my family at home, it usually means I am giving too much of myself at work (see next point for more on this).

3. Men make work an idol.
The line between doing my best at work and making work an idol often seems like a razor’s edge. I may start the week desiring to work hard for good reasons: to provide for my family and to glorify God with my talents. But by the end of the week, I have fallen into idolatrous motives — looking to my performance to give me significance and trusting in my own efforts to bring me happiness.

And as soon as I wrap my happiness and significance up with my work, I become a slave to success. Delays or setbacks at work continuously tempt me to work longer hours. Even when I come home, I keep drifting back into thought about how to solve those pesky problems at work, and how great my life will be when I overcome them.

The problem here is that I forget the Gospel. Christ has already accomplished the work that gives me significance. His death on the Cross has made me holy and blameless before him, a beautiful bride for Christ (Eph. 5:25-27). Also, I don’t have to trust in my own efforts to provide for my family’s needs. The God who made all things knows all my needs and cares for me; He will provide. He has given me His Son — how shall He not also give me all things (Rom. 8:32). When I keep these Biblical truths in my mind, I have much more energy left to give at home.

4. Men don’t take advantage of opportunities to meditate on God’s Word.
Anytime that I struggle to stay engaged at home, I probably have not been spending enough time meditating on God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3 promises the following to those who regularly meditate on God’s Word:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

What an exciting picture! I long to be a husband and father who bears good fruit during each new season of my family’s life, and the only way that this will happen is if I regularly renew my mind with God’s Word.
IMG_2035I’m happy to introduce another talented guest writer!  Aaron Smith is a husband, dad, engineer, and blogger.  He spends his days designing hydraulic systems, and his evenings at home with his wife Christel and their two children.  In his spare time (or in his words, the time he should be sleeping!) he blogs at Faith and Life.  Check out his blog, share it with your husband, and leave him a comment below!

You May Also Like:

The Marriage Conversation You Ought to Have

The Marriage Conversation You Ought to Have

5 Dating Tips for Single Guys

5 Dating Tips for Single Guys

Budget Cuts: How to Go from 2 Incomes to 1

Budget Cuts: How to Go from 2 Incomes to 1