Courage Under Fire
Early July 1863….
154 years ago, the largest military conflict in North American history began when Union and Confederate forces collided at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
Throughout my military career, and even still today, I am an avid consumer of military history. When it comes to the Battle at Gettysburg I have continually been awed by the decisions and actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I have read Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel “The Killer Angels” and watched Jeff Daniels remarkably play Chamberlain in the movie “Gettysburg.” However it was not until I had the privilege of taking a group of my Marines to the actual battlefield that I truly understood this tragic conflict.
Together we climbed the slope of Little Round top and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge. We studied the defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and continually discussed the decision making of opposing Generals Lee and Meade. From human factors to combined arms, we immersed ourselves in the significance of this three day battle.
During a moment of reflection on the hallowed ground of Little Round Top, I paused to think about the decisions Chamberlain had to make. Against all odds, he stubbornly and courageously rallied his forces. Many historians claim his actions saved the day and possibly turned the tide of the Civil War. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation simply stated: “For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on Big Round Top.”
It has been seven years since I was last at Gettysburg. I no longer view Chamberlain’s actions through the lens of a fighter leader. I now view his actions through the lens of a father leader. The battlefield I must now protect and hold is called my home. At stake is the hearts and minds of my wife and children.
The world will continually tell my wife and children lies about their identity.
They will be continually be presented with expectations that drown their worth.
They will continually be attacked….
But like Chamberlain I will not back down. I will continue to love, lead and serve well. I will continue to point them to the Father who created us for His glory.
I have always been amazed at how one man can change the course of a battle. Husbands and Fathers….more than ever before, I believe it is our duty to now do so.
Will you join me?
What’s A Primary Faith Trainer?
A former survey of parents by The Barna Group found that “close to nine out of ten parents of children under age 13 believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters.”
This is great news!!! Scripture clearly commands us as parents to teach our children the truth of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6). I was happy to hear so many families agreed!
However…..(there’s always a however).
However according to the same survey, “a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters with their children.”
Instead, the parents surveyed typically “rely on their church to do all of the religious training for their children.” Unfortunately this runs contrary to God’s plan for the discipleship of our families. To quote a friend and fellow Pastor, Brian Haynes, “the family is plan A and the church is plan B when it comes to the spiritual formation of the next generation.”
So what can we do about it?
The first thing to determine is the “why?” Why do parents who believe they should assume the responsibilities as the primary faith trainer in their home fail to do so?
The report provided the answer: “a majority of parents are willing to provide spiritual leadership for their children, but feel ill-equipped to lead them in this way.”
Like most things in life, specifically in parenting and marriage, we over complicate what was meant to be natural. We add pressure to live up to a standard presented on a blog or a Pinterest page. We grab our Bible, our spouse, our kids, and our best intentions and off we go!
And then life happens…..
So in our own strength we try harder….
And we fail (according to the unrealistic standards)….
Then we become overwhelmed or feel defeated and we give up…..
Then unfortunately we don’t do anything.
Thankfully, many years ago before I arrived at my current church, the staff provided a clear blueprint on what the role of a Primary Faith Trainer looks like. We continue to teach these habits in our parenting classes.
Simply put – a Parent as a Primary Faith Trainer does three things:
- Lead Faith Talks
- Capture God Moments
- Celebrate Milestones
In the next few weeks we will walk through each of these in more detail but for now I want to leave you with a question, “Are You Willing to Be the Primary Faith Trainer in Your Home?”
4 Reasons You Should Organize Your Time – Your Family Needs It.
For the last few years at our Vacation Bible School, we have held a “Power Parenting Class” each afternoon. The kids have to be picked up at noon so we simply ask the parents to join us at 11:45 for a brief discussion. My senior pastor took the lead most days and we had a new topic during each 15 minute session. We also took written questions from the parents about topics they would like us to address and issues they were struggling with. What was interesting was the amount of questions and comments concerning simple time or life management. Everyone seemed to be overwhelmed with “busyness.” “Help me,” was their cry!
In a future blog post we can discuss some suggestions about how you should organize your time and how you can slow down, but today I want to specifically address the WHY. If we don’t understand WHY we should organize our family time then we will never fully grasp the how.
Here are 4 Reasons WHY You Should Organize Your Time:
1. You’ll feel less distracted. Being busy is hard work. It has an effect on your mind and body. I have heard many parents say they feel frazzled or overwhelmed. Trust me….we have been there! And though there are certainly seasons where the chaos will be more prevalent than others, organizing your time will help bring some order and structure to your life. It will be hard but it is possible. Remember, busyness is often procrastination and disorganization in disguise.
2. Time moves too fast. My family recently watched the movie “Hook.” As a grown-up Peter Pan, Robin Williams’s character showed up late or not at all for everything important in his children’s lives. “Peter, you’re missing it!” his wife pointed out. Sometimes we’re so distracted by the next moment that we forget to simply enjoy the one we’re in. I’ll be honest, there are some days I go to bed and realize – I was too busy today. I didn’t have a decent conversation with my wife or kids. I didn’t notice the little things. Time moves fast, I should slow down.
3. “Quality of Life” starts at home. Home is where everything starts. Home is the epicenter of family life. So let me ask, who told us rushing around to all those activities was more important than barbecuing in the backyard with the family? Whose priority is it that relegates time together as a family three places behind travel sports? Don’t’ get me wrong, my kids are involved in sports and church activities but we recognize that family time is not only free, but priceless. Give up some quantity of activities for some quality ones at home!
4. Your marriage wants you back. Typically when our schedule becomes full the first place we sacrifice time is with our spouse. This is easy to do but is often the most costly. Righting this ship involves more than just squeezing an extra 30 minutes into our schedule….it involves re-prioritizing our lives. Like all areas in our schedule, we make time for the important things. Make time for your spouse!
Please do not misread what I am saying. I am not implying you should pull your child out of activities and stay home every night. On the contrary, our kids are involved in activities and we certainly enjoy the relationships we have made with the families we have met…..I am simply saying it is important to understand how having a bit of organization can be a true family time multiplier.
Remember – busyness is a trap that can snare many a child and adult, even those with the best intentions. Help combat it by adding a layer of organization. As parents we need to set the course for our family! We can do it!
Want to Change the World: Make Your Bed
I originally posted this last year. I find myself needing the reminder often….
Every year around May and June, I am routinely intrigued and sometimes entertained at the number of celebrity commencement speakers at universities across our country. Some commencement speeches are dull, some are grandiose, and some get made into Top 40 hits. But some, some are truly motivational. Last year was one of those moments.
In 2014, the University of Texas at Austin invited Admiral William H. McRaven to share his philosophy of leadership with the recent graduates. At the time of his remarks, Admiral McRaven was serving as the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Before commanding all of our nation’s most elite warriors, McRaven, a Navy SEAL for 36-years, had been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He had commanded a squadron in the legendary Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and even oversaw the planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. On this day, he choose to share ten lessons learned from basic SEAL training. Although all were compelling I found lesson #1 especially convicting.
Lesson #1: “If you want to change the world….Make Your Bed”
McRaven shared that how every morning in basic SEAL training, his instructors would show up in his barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was his bed.
McRaven elaborated, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right…..And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
McRaven’s statement may sound a little far-fetched, but his advice is undoubtedly worth considering: if you want to make an impact on a large scale, you have to be comfortable making it on a small scale too.
This made me wonder: As a parent and spouse, how often do I overlook the importance of the small mundane tasks.
Do I spend more time planning for a great trip or vacation but neglect the blessing of an early afternoon off with the kids?
Do I shoot for the moon on my wedding anniversary but totally miss the target on scheduling regular date nights?
Do I overlook the importance of the hours I have today while focusing on my 5 year plan?
Like Admiral McRaven, I too am convinced that we all need to be reminded that success in most parts of our life revolves around doing the simple things really well.
Do you want to have an impact on this generation…start by making your bed!
(After making your bed, I highly recommend reading the other 9 leadership lessons McRaven presented that day http://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/admiral-mcraven-commencement-speech)
The Valentine’s Day Challenge
Valentine’s Day – the annual celebration of love and commercialism – hits us again on Sunday, and many of us will spend the coming days scrambling to find perfect gifts for our significant others (not me this year – already bought my gift!)
According to a USA Today article I scanned earlier this week, the top 5 Valentine’s Day 5 gifts are:
- Gift Cards
These are all great gifts. But this year I want to challenge you to add something to the box of chocolates or new pair of socks you buy your spouse. I want to challenge you to take 10 days…a simple week and a half…and give your spouse the gift of encouragement.
10 days where you intentionally speak and write words of encouragement to them.
10 days where you praise at least one thing you appreciate about them.
10 days where you point out things about his or her character that you love.
10 days where you point out the contributions they make to your family.
10 days where you praise their talents and gifts.
10 days where you simply attach value to the person you love most.
You know during my military career there were times where I got an award, or medal, or even a welcomed pat on the back. These were all great and appreciated however no gift or no person can encourage me like Liz. Her words, her actions, and her belief in me are needed more than any other earthly accolade. She has the power to diffuse stress and literally give me energy.
So this Valentine’s Day I challenge you take 10 days and speak life into your spouse! Drop me a note and let me know how it goes!
The Myth of Balance
Have you ever watched the TV series Myth Busters? It is about a couple of guys who take well-entrenched cultural beliefs or adages and test these things to see if they have any basis in reality. Pretty cool show. I wish I could tee up a concept for them to test…the balance of life.
There are a lot of definitions of balance but I like this one best: It is a point of equilibrium between two or more countervailing forces. A point of equilibrium – it’s neither going this way or that way.
So we’ve got forces wanting to push down or pull up or twist sideways, but our lives somehow are supposed to find this perfect point where it all balances out.
Maybe it is just me on the hunt for this thing called balance…where our work, leisure, family, and all these things come into some lovely equal poise? You know, where it all floats around elegantly, delicately like a little mobile. These things never clash against one another and they perfectly weigh out against the other. Isn’t everybody looking for that, balance? I hear it all the time. I’m just trying to live a balanced life. I think it’s a myth.
Do you have in your head what I call the “if-only,” and the “as-soon-as” clauses? The “if only I had more money,” or “if only I didn’t have this job,” or “if only I lived in that house.” Or we also say things like “As soon as I’m done with this season of my life,” or “as soon as these three weeks go by and this crazy time is over.” If-only and as-soon-as derive their authority from this sense of something like “in three weeks my life will become easy.” Has that ever happened? No…why? Because balance is a myth.
I remember years ago once listening to a sermon on this very subject. To paraphrase the Pastor: “Can you think of one person in Scripture who lived a balanced life? When you think of King David, do you think, Oh, there’s a man who has got it all together? I mean, whether that guy is living in caves or he’s ruling the kingdom, he is a man after God’s own heart right? What about Nehemiah…spending twelve years busting his chops to accomplish what God called him to do. What about the Apostle Paul, does he strike you as somebody living a balanced life? Jesus came myth-busting, didn’t he? I love when he routinely says, “You’ve heard it said … But I say to you.” He uses this statement to drive home the truth. To bust myths!
So what am I getting at? I believe this:
In Scripture and in Christ what we see modeled is not balance but a great deal of consistency, a great deal of peace, a great deal of certainty and purpose in the midst of some pretty dramatic and out-of-whack circumstances. Simply put…A great deal of surrender!
My challenge to you…don’t worry about a balanced life. Instead shoot for a surrendered life. Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God.
The Weight of Expectations
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.”
It was summer 1996 and these were the words of my Senior Drill Instructor, Staff Sergeant James Porter. He was demonstrating to my boot camp platoon how to properly carry our Marine Corps “pack” in preparation for the long days of hiking ahead. For our next phase of training, we would spend some time in the mountains and hills over San Diego with more than 80lbs on our back. I watched as those who took his advice and instruction thrived, while those who did not failed.
As a husband, there are many weights in my pack; however experience has taught me that one of these weights is typically larger than the rest: expectations.
These expectations are typically broken down into two parts.
First: what do I expect my wife to do (my expectations)
Second: what does she actually do (her behavior)
In my short 16 years of marriage I have learned this one basic lesson: There is always a gap between expectations and behavior. Maybe this gap is there because of how things were done with my family or how things where done in her family. Maybe this gap is there because of something I have failed to communicate. Regardless of the reason….the gap is there.
But here is the bigger issue – I will typically fill that gap with one of two responses: I can believe the best about her OR I can assume the worst about her.
I want to be clear // what we choose to put in that gap is fundamental to the health of our marriages. Our relationships will grow or fade depending on what we choose to put in that gap.
Stephen Kendrick, author of the best-selling book The Love Dare beautifully states, “Love chooses to believe the best about people. It gives them the benefit of the doubt. It refuses to fill in the unknowns with negative assumptions.” Centuries before Stephen wrote his words, the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Corinth, boldly declared, “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”
Love demands we fill in the gap by believing the best! When we assume the worst, our pack becomes heavier. Thankfully we can lighten our pack by communicating our expectations and assuming the best! Remember, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.”
Leadership Minute: Picture Perfect Parenting
This morning on the way to work I was listening to a podcast and the following question was asked, “Is your family the picture you had in mind.”
That question got me thinking. Whether we admit it or not, we all hold pictures in our mind of how we think our family should look or how our family should “behave.”
Before I got married and had kids my picture looked like this: Dad’s in charge, we have morning devotions together before our breakfast, relaxing evenings together, we never eat fast food….you know…every morning our children wake up and call their parents blessed.
Well we soon all come to grips with reality and say, “that’s not us” but we (or maybe it’s just me) still feel an incredible pressure for it to be “us.”
The truth is, there is a degree of dysfunction in every family. After all, a family is merely a gathering of flawed human beings. So don’t buy into the myth that we have to make more lists, get more organized, spend more money, and never make mistakes in order to be successful parents. Unrealistic pictures paralyze parents. Remember….our role as mom or dad is not to impress our children with our ability to parent. Our role is to impress our children with the love and nature of God.
I love the following statement by Reggie Joiner, “The family exists, even in its imperfection, to display the heart of God to every generation.”
Instead of looking at your family and wanting a “Better Picture” – shift your thinking and look at the “Bigger Story.”
16 Years of Marriage
Sixteen years ago today, Liz and I stood at the altar and made a commitment to each other for the rest of our lives.
Here is a brief snapshot of our blessed life together since that day:
2 boys…who are very much boys
0 cats (this number will remain the same)
A dozen or so lizards…maybe more…maybe less…don’t ask
9 inter-state moves
Too many training exercises, military operations, and deployments to count…
On the day I left for bootcamp in 1996, Liz handed me a small leather bound Bible. She told me she had underlined one verse that spoke from her heart. I spent the next 2 hours on the plane looking for her message. I found it in the Book of Ruth.
3 years of long distance dating and 16 years of marriage and she has never wavered from those words.
To the girl of my dreams, my bride of 16 years; I hope you know:
You still fascinate and inspire me.
You still influence me for the better.
You’re still the object of my desire.
Thank you for another wonderful day of marriage.