Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Cracks in Your Foundation

Foundations hold buildings upright. Foundations go deep into the soil below frost lines. Foundations are necessary in buildings, in family relationships, in work places, in communities and in marriages.

Good foundations keep the forces of nature from creating catastrophic damages to structures and those structures keep people safe. Foundations help set direction and establish capacities. You need a strong foundation for your marriage and your family. 

Marriages that begin on faulty foundations like living together, lying about former relationships, hiding sin or hiding debt will most assuredly face major challenges in the early years. 

What is one practical, real-life item that will keep your marriage and family foundation strong? 

                                                                    INTEGRITY

Integrity helps build a high capacity, low stress and highly successful relationship foundation to marriage. One lie, one close to the truth statement or one compromise can begin to cause cracks in your foundation. Once a crack begins, it tends to become worse and eventually compromises the whole foundation. You can place temporary fixes on the cracks, but they will ultimately weaken.

To see all that God has for you and your relationship, each and every crack must be thoroughly repaired to a noncompromising state. In order to enjoy the blessings of God upon your family, you’ll need honest confessions and then forms of care for healing.

Good foundations in marriage allow for the growth of integrity, the forgiveness of when we do it wrong and the hope for a better future. Maintaining a good foundation means maintaining one’s integrity in all things without compromise. 

Tell the truth, confess your fault, stay humble, forsake pride and walk in honesty before your God and life mate.

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Challenge, Children, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

National Divorce Day?

Did you know that “national divorce day” is the first working Monday of the year? Divorce attorneys report the highest incidents of divorce filings occur on that day.

Once the papers are signed, they can now go on with their lives. It’s easily accomplished with a small, very small printed newspaper article declaring publicly a divorce granted and legally filed in the county courthouse. The “I do” has effectively turned into “I don’t.” Their homes are separate; their children have two beds and two dressers.

In this couple’s mind, it is the end of arguments, trying to get along, counseling and late night, knockdown, drag out, heated disagreements. It is the end of trying to make decisions together. It is the end of needing to consider the other in any and every decision. They also think it’s the end of hurtful, emotionally charged words and sarcasm. And no more ridiculous faces of disgust to look at.

But it’s not over! It’s never over as long as the two shall live. The kids will go back and forth and it will take an inordinate amount of communication. The lack of attention to detail and facts concerning any relational connection will still be present. There will still be the unkind words and demeaning facial expressions. Anger will be present and it will cause further heated discussions over kids, over activities or weekends and over money.

Still present will be the emotional upheavals, tears and ongoing loss. Holidays will be especially difficult and extended family will suffer as well. 

Then, just imagine bringing new dating relationships into this mix. It is a scheduling nightmare day in and day out. Children crying and saying, “I want to go to mommy’s house.” Parents crying and trying to bring some kind of new normal to their children. More counseling. More doctor visits because of more stress. More stress because at the end of the day it’s all up to you. There is no longer a spouse to lean on and to share the load. Your life is so totally different you barely recognize it. 

You’re single again. What does that even mean, look like, feel like? You’re not 19 or 20 years old. Wow, how life has drastically changed!

No wonder God stated in His word how much He hated divorce (Malachi 2:15, 16). He knew how destructive it would be. He knew how difficult and hard on a family it would be. And He knew the brokenness involved in each and every divorce. Being alone again is no dream-filled panacea. Not every relationship can be repaired or even should be, however; it sure is worth trying and praying toward that end.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Promises for the New Year – 2022

Mary, my wife, and I spent some time away evaluating our year, giving thanks to God and then taking an extended time of dreaming toward the future. Why? We have so much to be thankful for, we want to learn from our mistakes and we know that we always have a future and a hope through our relationship with our heavenly Father and the love we share for each another. 

We realize that magnitude, intensity and nature of our problems do not matter as long as we have our faith and trust in God intact. We also realize that God has a redemptive purpose behind every life difficulty and He then uses situations to develop character in each of us. As character is built so is grace, patience and honesty.

It’s an exercise of letting go of the prior year with each and every blessing or problem we faced behind us and embracing a brand-new year, a fresh start, a new beginning. One thing we love to do is find scripture that helps us in our faith and gives us hope for the year forthcoming. 

We thought we would share some of those hope-filled, life-giving scriptures for your new year. You can pray, memorize or just regularly read over them for a faith building exercise. 

With that, we bless you and give God thanks for you in this brand-new year 2022!

And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great. (Job 8: 7)

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. (Psalm 65: 11)

The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31: 8)

He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. (Deuteronomy 7: 13)

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43: 18-19)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29: 11)

Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. (Habakkuk 1: 5)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4: 6)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1: 17)

Certainly there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23: 18)

A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

But the LORD your God refused to listen to Balaam. He turned the intended curse into a blessing because the LORD your God loves you. (Deuteronomy 23: 5)

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90: 12)

May He send you help from the sanctuary, And support you from Zion! (Psalm 20: 2) May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! (Psalm 20: 4)

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Men, Parents

Your Father’s Faith and Christmas

Did you have a father that passed on his faith to you? If so, you were one of the blessed ones. There is no perfect dad, but if you had a dad that shared the Christian faith with you, taught you to pray, taught you God’s word and walked his talk, you were blessed beyond measure. 

Dad’s want to see their children smile and laugh as they open their well thought out Christmas gifts. Perhaps they saved all year in order to purchase that bike or doll house. Maybe they sacrificed and went without something for themselves just so their son or daughter could be blessed with the gift of their dreams. Dads and moms want to bring joy to their children, especially at Christmas time. 

Christmas is also a time to remember those who are less fortunate. Perhaps you filled one of those Christmas boxes as my wife did and were excited about Samaritan’s Purse distributing it to a needy child. Or maybe you are going caroling with your small group to the elderly neighbor who has few visitors. Perhaps you bake cookies and give them to your friends and neighbors, letting them know how much you appreciate them.

Whatever the season brings, it’s a time to think of others who are going through a difficult period. Did you ever hear this story from Senator John McCain’s book, “Faith of My Fathers”?

On Christmas Day, we were always treated to a better-than-usual dinner. We were also allowed to stand outside our cells for five minutes to exercise or to just look at the trees in the sky. One Christmas, a few months after the gun guard had inexplicably come to my assistance during my long night in the interrogation room, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw him approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me. Again he didn’t smile or look at me. He just stared at the ground in front of us. After a few moments had passed he rather nonchalantly used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We both stood wordlessly looking at the cross until, after a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away. I saw my good Samaritan often after the Christmas when we venerated the cross together. But he never said a word to me nor gave the slightest signal that he acknowledged my humanity.

We have so much to be grateful for. Remember those who protect you and keep you safe, those who deliver your mail, those who remove your trash, those who teach your children and those spiritual leaders who pray for you. It is a season of giving because God gave His Son to you. 

Draw a cross in the dirt (or the snow) and let your light shine.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Supersize Me!

I have never purchased one of those “supersized” meals. I find the portions of a regular value meal sufficient. But I have experienced a supersized dream or two–dreams that were way beyond me.

Dreams beyond our capability, our strength and our intellect are good. It means that we can’t fulfill them in our own strength. If we could, then just do it, why dream about it?

My wife and I had a supersized dream to pay our thirty-year mortgage off in ten years. My income wasn’t sufficient to triple our mortgage payment, but every month we put some extra cash on the principle and every once in a while we had small windfalls to deposit as well. Our dream was realized in twelve years.

I had a supersized dream to start a business on the side of my main career in order to help my children with college costs. After twelve years of college attended by my three children, the side business began to dry up. The dream was fulfilled and I was able to help them financially.

After ten years of social work and then fourteen years of family and marriage counseling, I had a supersized dream to travel around the world and give personal oversight, counsel and support to godly leaders and leadership teams. I have lived in that dream now for twenty one years.

What super-sized dream is next? I am not sure, but this I am sure of, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20)”

Dream on and ask God to supersize it!!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing

We Create So Much of Our Own Pain

So much of the pain we walk in is self-imposed. Far too often our own unhappiness results from how we respond to negative situations.

If we take a moment and think back to a few negative situations in our life, we’ll often discover that in some form or fashion they have worked out or were at the least not as negative as once perceived. Granted, this is not always the case, but I’d venture to guess some of our sleepless nights would have been avoided if we would have known the eventual outcome verses the one we projected in our minds.

Let me give you an example. When my wife and I were building our home many years ago, one of the invoices submitted to us was double the contractors actually “good faith” estimate. We had no expectation of that happening and had not changed anything too drastically to warrant an actual invoice that was double the estimate. I talked to others to try and find out what to do. I worried and I had several sleepless nights trying to imagine how we were going to pay this bill.

Finally, I called the contractor, we met and eventually worked out the difference. I could sleep again. Did we rightfully owe the money? I’m not sure, but to this day, because of the action we took, I can look that man in the eye without any remorse. In the action we chose, we also considered the relationship and decided that the relationship was more valuable to us than money or ongoing hurt and self-imposed pain.

What are you worrying about? What keeps you up at night? How much self-imposed pain are you walking in? 

Here is a Psalm (37) that helps me: 

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Thankfulness and Marriage

My wife and I recently spent several days on our annual evaluation and vision time. We take time away to look at our year, evaluate our goals and pray about the year ahead. It’s a time that has become very precious to us and one that we would not desire to miss. As my wife often says, “I feel like we come away from this time on the same page and in agreement.”

It’s true we do, but let me tell you how we begin this time. We give thanks. Yep, we take all the necessary time needed to say thank you to God for every aspect of our year past. To be thankful for the good, the not so good and the unexpected can change our attitude, lighten our heart and bring a deeper level of satisfaction.

Someone once said that when we lose our thankfulness we begin to focus on what we feel God is not doing in our lives. We did not focus on our losses, we focused on thanksgiving. Being thankful is contagious. The more things we find to be thankful for, the more we walk in a spirit of grattitude (I Thessalonians 5:18). 

Thankfulness brings encouragement and helps us to focus on what we recognize as ultimately God’s goodness to us. Being thankful for things one wouldn’t normally be thankful for or for things considered questionable helps to release those things to God so that we are not carrying them. Thankfulness is like therapy you don’t pay for. It’s medicine to your soul and spirit.

The book of Colossians tells us to “Overflow with thankfulness.” As you enjoy friends and family this Thanksgiving here in America, remember to give thanks even for the things that we do not normally express thanks for. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news

A Fugitive for 36 Years!

Have you ever felt like you were running from something? Ever sensed as though you needed to watch your back? Have you experienced that disturbing dream where you were desperately trying to outrun something or someone?

William Asher III lived his life this way. He was a fugitive from a California prison camp for 36 years. “On the lam,” they call it. It wasn’t until his mother was on her death bed that the authorities finally caught phone records (from his secret phone number) in his attempts to reach and visit with his mother.

Asher, as an escapee, lived a pretty normal life. He assumed numerous alias’s, married, raised a family and worked as a truck driver but must have lived a life of mistrust, always running internally, ducking from police or anyone he deemed suspicious. Quite honestly, it must have been nerve-racking and an exhausting way of life. He is now being held at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, CA.

I am guessing there is a bit of relief on William’s part, finally caught, no longer running and a conscience that may be easier to live with.

Fifty years ago, I remember running, trying to escape. The Holy Spirit would not leave me alone. My time was up. I needed to stop fleeing and turn myself in to my heavenly Father, confess my wrongdoing and receive freedom. And, oh, what a glorious freedom He has granted me!

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men, Parents, Women

Parents, Phones and Distractions

Statistics of children becoming injured has decreased steadily since 1970, thanks to safer play areas, safer play equipment and closer supervision. Those statistics are, however, changing and injuries have increased from 12 to 17% since 2007.1 What happened in 2007 that could possibly begin an injury increase in children? The answer is distraction by smart phone use. 

Emergency-room doctors see a growing trend of hand-held devices as the explanation for a child’s injury rates to increase. All the while, users do not consider themselves distracted while they are checking their email or responding to a text message.2 The numbers of growing injuries to children with distracted parents looking down at phones has increased exponentially.

An 11-year-old child was pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool, “unresponsive.” “The department of Children and Families concluded that ‘the death was a direct result’ of inadequate supervision.” The child’s mother was distracted and “twittering” as the child drowned.3 Parents are being charged with “reckless endangerment of a child” due to the increased number of accidents and injuries as a result of increased screen time rather than properly caring for and interacting with their children.

Your child is begging for you to watch him make the basket or see her hit the ball. It’s how they receive your affirmation and approval. It’s how they are complimented for accomplishing a feat. If you as the parent are so distracted by your phone, it will not be long until you unknowingly send the message to your child that your interaction with your phone friend is far more important than they are.

When your child is requiring your attention, put your phone away and give them your undivided eye and ear contact. It will let them know they are the most important thing to you at that time. They will continue with the conversation and be ecstatic about your interaction. 

Cell phones today are decreasing relational and personal face-to-face connection. We are quickly losing conversations that bring life or instruction. I have repeatedly witnessed moms and dads glued to their phones while their child is desperately crying out for a need or to have a simple question answered. 

Before you realize it, your child will be graduating from high school and be off to college. Soon your daughter will be walking down the aisle and you’ll wonder where all of those childhood years disappeared to. Do not raise your child in such a way that one day you regret the times your child felt like they were second place to a hand-held device.

“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children…take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (Ephesians 6:4, The Message)

1-3: Wall Street Journal article, The Perils of Texting While Parenting, by Ben Worthen, 2012

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Challenge, History, Just for fun

Pennsylvania’s William Penn, a Holy Experiment

William Penn landed in America in 1682 near what is known today as New Castle, Delaware. Penn belonged to a society called the Quakers. His faith was persecuted in England and he was coming to America to establish a new colony that he contended would be a “Holy experiment.” That experiment was a place where there was no established denomination or church.

 

Pennsylvania would be a safe, free of persecution, place for Quakers and other oppressed faiths from all across Europe. This new colony also attracted German-speaking Amish and Mennonite who came to be known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch.” The first city Penn would establish would be named Philadelphia–Greek for the city of “brotherly love.”

 

This experiment was said to be a great success as many differing denominations of Christians lived together in peace. Further, in Penn’s colony, there would be absolutely no ill treatment of the native Americans as Penn insisted they would be dealt with fairly and honorably.

 

Penn died in 1718, but many of his desires continue in this state. William Penn was the father of Pennsylvania, known as the Keystone State which means “Penn’s Woodland.” Penn’s Woods claims 63,200 farms covering nearly eight million acres. These woods still boast of over two million acres of dedicated state forest land.

 

Pennsylvania is rich in natural resources. Today its Marcellas shale gas fields are said to have enough natural gas to supply every major city of the U.S. for 200 years. Oil was first discovered in this state and coal has been a rich resource of energy in the past.

 

The soil of Pennsylvania is blessed. In the county I live in, Lancaster, one of 67 counties, there is a total of 609,181 acres and 439,481 of those acres are presently farmland. That farmland produces $469 million dollars’ worth of poultry and eggs, $425 million dollars’ worth of milk and $159 million dollars’ worth of beef cattle. The land also produces abundant crops of corn, forage, soybeans, wheat and other vital animal and human food supply.

 

William Penn, thank you for your “Holy experiment” as so many of us here in Pennsylvania, across America and the world enjoy the fruit of your faith and labor. Thank you for the righteous seeds planted of which we now reap the benefit. What difference are you called by God to make in your world today? What seeds are you called to plant so that a harvest of righteousness is reaped in the years ahead?

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