Is Kindness on Your Tongue?

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   Last night my family and I embarked upon a new study for our home. We are studying from the book Character Building for Families by Lee Ann Rubsam. It is a book meant to assist the bible student in developing godly character traits. While it certainly can be studied “in order” it can also be studied by jumping from trait to trait, so long as you finish a lesson before starting the next. So, to start our study I asked my children what they felt was our family’s biggest weakness. It was quite humbling listening to them give their answer. The overall issue was that kindness was lacking in our home.

As we continued our little study, another harsh reality set in. I asked the kids to define kindness. The older three had no issues in defining kindness. One stated that kindness is handling something gently. Another stated that kindness is seen in how you talk to someone else. As I looked at the definition sitting in front of me in the book, it was as if they had already read the lesson before we sat down to meditate upon God’s word. Kindness is speaking to another tenderly. It is being mindful of other people’s feelings, actions, etc. It is treating another with love. Before we moved on any further, the sad reality set in. It is not that we don’t know what kindness is. It is not that we don’t know how to practice kindness. The issue was about application.

As I contemplated this harsh reality I began to wonder how many other people have similar problems in their homes. Would we talk to our bosses the way we take to our spouses? Would we talk to our friends they way we talk to our siblings? Would we talk to our brothers and sisters in Christ the same way we talk to our children? Chances are good that we don’t. Now, I am not saying that the average home, or even my home, is constantly filled with bitterness, backbiting, and abusive speech. However, I am saying that the average home in 21st century America does. Statistics are showing this to be the case. Conversations I have had with husbands and wives show this to be the case. And how we perceive our home shows this to be the case. How many of us look for that extra job at work to do, not because we need the overtime but because we aren’t ready to go home? How many of us go out after work because going home means more time with the spouse? How many of us look for any excuse to get out of the house? More often than not, when we do such things we do them because we kindness or gentleness is not on our tongues (or at the very least not on our spouses tongues).

Then I began thinking about the fact that no one marries a person that isn’t nice to them. No one marries a person that yells at them all day. No one marries a person that treats them like dirt. No one wants to marry a person that brings out the worst in you. We marry the person that brings out the best in us. We marry the person we feel that we can’t live without. We marry the person that it is easy to be kind to. So, a lack of kindness in our marriage is not because we don’t know how to be kind. We know how. The lack of kindness in our marriage is not because we never were kind. We once were. So, what brought about the change?

I am convinced that we cease to care to be kind. I know for my house, we are changing that. Before we lose the foundation for our home, before it seems like it is too late and bitterness sets in. I encourage you to follow suit. I don’t want to find out 10 years from now that I am alone because I failed to treat my wife and my kids with the kindness they deserve.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After?

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This weekend, I learned something that every father eventually learns about his daughter. She eventually grows up and begins to take notice of boys. While my daughter is not yet 13 (she is a few months out yet) she is quickly reaching that age when she will no longer be just my little girl. She will be the wife of some young man. The thought terrifies me.

I began contemplating what I have done to prepare her for that day. What lessons have I given her about marriage? Sure, there are the lessons that she sees daily in my own marriage. She sees the daily successes (and failures) that I make daily in my relationship with her mother. These are vital. For I know that she is very likely to grow up and marry a man like me. She will marry a man that treats her the same way that I have treated her mom. As such, I know that it is imperative that I treat her mother with kindness, love, and tenderness. But, not all instruction is about what she sees. What have I been filling her mind with concerning marriage?

I am afraid that most young ladies in our society today get more instruction concerning marriage from movies like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White. The “knight” comes in, it is love at first sight, and after “True Love’s First Kiss” they live happily ever after. While I am not saying that a married couple cannot live “happily ever after,” I am saying that just because one feels that “chemistry” does not mean that it is a match made in heaven. When that honeymoon period elation dies down, many are convinced that something must be wrong with their “happily ever after.” As such, they think they married the wrong person, start looking elsewhere and divorce happens. The reality is, our divorce rates in this country are out of control. Marriage no longer is saying “I will love you forever.” Instead it is saying, “I will love you for now.” It is as if we look at marriages like we look at jobs. I will stay committed to this relationship until something better comes along.

So, what am I filling my daughters heart with? Am I giving her a steady diet of Sleeping Beauty, Twilight Saga, and Teenage Drama programs? Or am I sitting down with her and teaching her about what a real man is? Am I talking to her about what a real woman is? Am I talking to her about what God wants her marriage to look like? Do I warn her about men that don’t make for good husbands? Am I instructing her about what it takes to have a strong marriage? Do I teach her about communicating with her husband? Do I teach her about selfless love? Do I teach her about forgiveness, patience, and understanding? If I want her to have a “happily ever after” these are the things I need to do. I need to have these conversations with her BEFORE she becomes twitter pated with the wrong guy and no longer desires to listen to me. I need to have these conversations with her before she has entered into a marriage with a man who doesn’t know how to love anyone save himself.

Fathers, I know this is not an easy conversation to have with your daughter. But it is a conversation that you need to have. Perhaps one of the most important conversations I have had with my daughter was our 1st conversation about boys. I won’t go into the details of that conversation. But, by the end of our conversation she knew that I was not minimizing how she felt. She knew that my heart’s desire was for her happiness. She knew that I would help her find the man that would be not only everything she could ever want in a husband, but more importantly, everything she would need. And she knew that one day, I would happily give her away to the right man. I would stand by her side, proud of her decision… if she were to follow my instruction. The sooner you have this conversation, the better off your daughter is going to be. She needs to know that the reason why you don’t want her dating just some guy, is because she is too valuable to be with just some guy… she needs a man who will honor her all the days of her life. She needs a man who make “happily ever after” possible.

Finding Contentment

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My post is a day late because I chose to take the day off yesterday. My youngest daughter turned 4 years old. This past year, my wife and I decided that we were going to remove materialism from our family birthdays. Instead of showering our children with gifts we wanted them to learn to be content with what they had. Now, we didn’t make her birthday like any other Monday. Instead, each child gets to choose what special place they would like to go (a movie, a museum, etc). My little birthday girl decided she wanted to go to the zoo. So, on the hottest day of the year, we headed out early, hoping to beat the worst of the heat, and headed to the local(ish) zoo.

We had a great time. At the end of the day, we walked past the gift shop on our way out the door. As is the habit it seems of most children, the can I have talk started. The little birthday girl say a stuffed leopard she really wanted. We talked about how she already had a stuffed leopard at home and that her nana and papa just sent her a new stuffed unicorn (which she was super excited about when she opened it). She learned a lesson yesterday in contentment. She had forgotten all about that leopard by the time we sat down at lunch (it took as 10 minutes to reach the restaurant from the zoo). If it was something she really needed, I would still be hearing about it I am sure.

Later that night, I too was reminded about what true contentment is. I was at my eldest son’s flag football practice. I was watching talking with one of the other fathers while I was there. He asked about how long I had been in Grinnell and the different struggles that I face as a preacher (specifically with all the moving that I have done in my life). It was at that time that it really began to sink in. My youngest daughter is four. When my wife got pregnant we were living here in Grinnell, IA. We celebrated her birth here in Iowa. We celebrated her 1st birthday here with our friends in Iowa. And now, I have celebrated her 4th birthday. In December, I will have been in Iowa for 6 years. That may not sound like much, but, before moving here, I had not lived in the same place for more than 2.5 years since I was in high school. Each of my kids was born in a different state. And to be honest there are times were I get that itchy feeling. That feeling that I should be moving on. Why I have even had someone once tell me that I was “wasting my talents” living here in the north, laboring with smaller churches, and that I needed to move down south into the “Bible belt” and get a preaching job with one of those big churches that can supply my every need.

And last night it hit me. Why do I need to do those things? Is it because I need more money? Is it because I need better name recognition? Is it because I need a bigger church to be a better preacher? Or was that desire to move on more about a lack of contentment? When I was truly honest with myself that is what I see. I have a nice house here where my wife and I are building a home. I have great memories here not just with my youngest but with all my family. It was here that I finally admitted my gluttonous ways were not just destroying my health and my family’s well being but it was destroying my relationship with God. It was here that I ran my 1st half marathon (and now also my second). It was here that I have seen my eldest daughter blossom into a beautiful young lady. It is here that I have been made to feel at home again, not just by the people in this town that have accepted me as part of their community, but also the church family that has made me a part of theirs. It is here that I have seen more people come to the Lord than I have in any other place I have lived.

Paul said in Phil. 4:11 “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Finding contentment really isn’t that hard. It is merely looking at what you already have and not being worried about what you don’t have. Yesterday, I learned a valuable lesson from my daughter. If I just remember what I do have at home, I won’t be worried about what I don’t have. And I for one can certainly be happy with that.

Citizens of a Better Kingdom

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            If I didn’t know any better, I would say that the sky was falling. It seems like over the last couple of weeks, even as our nation celebrated its birthday, many people didn’t feel like celebrating. It seems like our nation is going through a really difficult patch.

There was a law passed that defied what the bible teaches. From the beginning, marriage has always been between one man and one woman. Even nations that did not honor God understood that marriage was between a man and a woman. Even nations where homosexuality was considered normal behavior (like in ancient Greece and in Rome) marriage was between man and woman. And with the vote of nine people they struck down what has stood since the beginning of this world. Since then, bakers, florists, clerks, and preachers have all been under fire. Many have come out and said that their religious conscience will not permit them to condone such activities. Many have already been fined, some have been sued, rumors are swirling that some have been ordered to not speak out on same-sex marriage and now there are rumors of a preacher being beaten for taking a stand against homosexuality.

We also had the tragedy in South Carolina where a deeply disturbed young man thought he needed to take it upon himself to restart the Civil War by walking into a historically African-American church and gun down those that were attending services that night. The initial reports were true, it was a hate crime. A hatred so deep, he felt that he had no alternative than to open fire upon God fearing people.

With all of this going on it makes me quite thankful that I am a citizen of a much better country. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20).” When I first started this blog I gave it the title Finding Hope in the Word. I gave it this title because I cannot find hope in this world. The wicked are waxing worse and worse (II Tim. 3:13). Christianity is now under assault and hope looks bleak.  If I have any desire to find a reason to smile it cannot be found in the direction the world is headed in.  Even Paul stated that if this world is our only hope we ought to be miserable (I Cor. 15:19).

I know that I cannot tell the future. I know that it is quite possible that I am wrong. Maybe, just maybe our country finally opens its eyes and sees that our nation’s cup overflows with wickedness. That our founding fathers did not call for freedom from religion, but the freedom to believe what you wanted to believe. And yes, that includes believing that marriage is one man and one woman and that homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord (Rom. 1:22-28). What I do know for certain is that if I place my trust in the moral compass of this country I will be sorely disappointed.