If men are honest, we’d like to understand our wives, we try to, but we are often left scratching our heads as to what they need, what they want and what they are trying to say. While men love to stay in the world of logic and avoid emotions at all cost, women stay right at home in emotions. For men, it rarely makes sense and if you ask women, they will tell you it doesn’t have to make sense.
Over the last month, as we’ve shared with people what is happening in our adoption, waiting to bring Judah Mamush home it has been hard to describe the agony of what it feels like. I told one guy that we’ve discussed putting Katie on a plane so she can go to Ethiopia to be with Judah Mamush until he passes embassy and he said, “Josh, you need to stop trying to control things.” I said the same thing to a couple of Mom’s and they all looked they were going to cry.
While the last month has been hard for me, it has been different for Katie. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about my wife and the heart of a mother that hopefully will be helpful to other men (whether they have kids or not).
Here they are:
- A mother feels differently than a father. While this is true of men and women in general as I said earlier, when it comes to parenting it is even more true. A mother feels the loss of something different than a father does. I miss Judah. I can’t wait for him to be here, to play soccer with him, teach him to ride a bike, to do things with him. Katie longs to hold him, to snuggle him, hug him and tell him that he is loved. To give him a feeling he has not had in his life, a feeling of safety, of belonging.
- Be honest with your wife about your heart. While men often get labeled as callous or insensitive because we don’t cry or feel the way a woman does, it is important to be honest with your wife about your heart. A wife always wants to know what you are feeling, what is running through your head and heart. When we left Judah Mamush on our last day in Ethiopia, he was on the ground screaming and crying because he didn’t know if we were coming back, he only knew we were leaving. He doesn’t speak English so we couldn’t say, “We’re coming back.” Katie is on the verge of losing it and I did everything in my power to pick him up and not cry. I couldn’t even talk or else I would’ve cried. I am almost crying retelling this story. As we left and over the last month, it has been important to my wife’s heart to know of my heart, to know how it hurts, to know my longing as a father for my son. To not be the man and just bottle it up and with tough upper lip. That’s why a wife thinks her husband is insensitive, because he holds back.
- Distance is easier for men to handle. Men can handle distance in relationships because of how we handle emotions. We are able to compartmentalize things, get busy and forget about things because we are laser focused and don’t multi-task our emotions. I can go a whole day and not think about something that Katie has thought about all day while doing 15 other things. This can create a sense for women that their husbands don’t care or don’t feel. That isn’t it at all, it is just that we push it to the back of our minds so that we can do other things. If I thought about Judah the way Katie did, I would never get any work done. She can think of him, teach our kids, have coffee with someone, make dinner and still think of Judah and post something on Facebook that isn’t related to Judah.
- Hold a woman when she cries, don’t ask questions. This has been one of our rules in marriage from day one. Katie has told me, “When I cry, just hold me and don’t ask why.” This is just solid advice for a husband, but even more so in the moments of parenting when you as the father can’t fix a situation or do anything about it. I can’t make the Ethiopian embassy go faster or look at our paperwork. I can’t send Katie on a plane to Ethiopia to bring Judah home any faster than it is going and that is frustrating.
- A mother’s heart is a mystery. While I’ve learned some things, a mother’s heart is a mystery to me and will remain so. It feels and responds in ways I can’t even imagine. It longs in ways that I don’t. It aches in ways that don’t even cross my mind. It is a mystery, and yet, as a father and husband I am grateful for it. It forces me to feel in important ways. I can easily be tough and not emotional, but walking with Katie through this time, meeting Judah and holding him and then the agony of having to say goodbye to him has taught me a lot about being a father and the love God has for me.
My hope with this post was to honor my wife and the beauty and power of her heart as a mother. But to also help men know how to best honor, love, care for and support their wives and the hearts that beat in them. To encourage them to be a mystery, to have emotion and to handle things differently from men.
I’m often asked about book recommendations when it comes to parenting or adoption. Everything from how you get your child to eat the food you give them to organizing your day to not go crazy and everything in between. Below are some of the books that I have found to be the most helpful and useful, with a little bit about each book so you know which ones to get for your family.
Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne Schooler & others
A great book with an overview perspective on parenting traumatized children- less of a how to and more of a why things play out the way they do. MANY books are referenced, and there is an extensive appendix of additional resources and support groups/aids. There is an honest look at extreme abuse/trauma cases but doesn’t talk through cultural/language differences or more mild cases- though I would assume it is much of the same. There is a good section on how adoption affects the “original” family; including siblings already in the home.
As a mom of a resistant eater this book covered many things that don’t apply to our specific situation ie. a healthy son who refuse to try new foods, but is has some great ideas to help include a wider variety of foods into a resistant eaters diet. The book provides a middle ground that I could not see- not acquiescing to whatever your child will eat and not forcing them to eat which can promote negative attitudes toward new foods. There seemed to be many ideas for kids with special needs who need help developing a wider diet.
For a soon to be adoptive parent of an international child this book is a must. It gives so many practical tools and games to connect with a child who needs help bonding and also gives clues into what your child is feeling based on the type of play that they are engaging in. The book uses a few “stereotyped” kids to talk through typical reactions for different personality types and coping methods for kids from hard places. This book does not need to be read in one sitting, but can be read incrementally because it is written in chronological fashion.
This has nothing to do with adoption, but I know that a solid routine for kids from hard places is very helpful. This book is written by a mom, who gets at the heart behind a schedule- namely mortification- self-discipline to promote Godliness.
Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: Volume 1 by Heather Forbes
Is a how-to book in dealing with specific issues experienced in adoption. The premise of parenting from a place of love instead of fear is very freeing. I think that this book is a good first step to many of the behaviors addressed, but I would guess that there needs to be a certain amount of self awareness from the child to be able to have the discussions used as examples in this book. The biggest take away from this book is that children are not trying to be manipulative, but their behavior is the only way they know how to express what is going on inside.
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim Payne M.Ed., & Lisa Ross
Again, this book is not about adoption, but deals with… simplicity in schedule, stuff, and making sure that there is a solid connection and grounding for children. The thing that was an eye opener about this book lies in the introduction; the author talks about how he was doing some work at a refugee camp in Africa and was treating kids with PTSD, then after that he started a private practice in the states. Through his practice he started to see that children in the US were exhibiting some of the same behaviors as the children from the refugee camp… mainly because of the pace and disconnectedness that so many children grow up with in their homes. My fear is that many children are adopted out of their original culture, and then through another environment do not give them the connectedness and grounding that they need, so the underlying issues are not addressed just masked.
This is one that I am planning to read along with the workbook by Karyn Purvis; found here http://empoweredtoconnect.org/created-to-connect-study-guide/.
This past Saturday, Rex Ryan, head coach of the NY Jets caused a stir in New York City by skipping out on the last day of cuts and going to see his son dress for a college football game at Clemson. His son is a walk on for that team.
If you aren’t familiar with “cut day” for the NFL, it is when all teams must get their rosters to 53 players. This day was Saturday, the same day as the Clemson football game.
According to one NY reporter, “his trip to watch his son play is ‘big F.U. to all of the players,’ that coach was going to watch son play…Ryan shirked his professional responsibilities for personal ones.”
Did he shirk his professional responsibilities for personal ones? According to ProFootballTalk, “Ryan had permission from the Jets owner to attend the game.”
Let’s say it is true and he had permission to attend the game. The question becomes if it was a wise move.
From the perspective of a father, the answer is yes. They didn’t decide who was being cut that morning. Those cuts were in the process all week. It isn’t like Rex Ryan could not be reached if something came up.
How many times does your son dress for his first college football game? Once. You can’t replace that. I still remember my first college soccer game that I dressed for. I was so excited about it and my dad surprised me by driving 5 hours one way to see it. Right when the game was over, he drove 5 hours back because he had to work the next day. And I played 0 minutes in that game, but he was there to see me dress. I had accomplished one of my goals and he didn’t miss it.
That’s choosing what matters.
If you are a dad, you have professional responsibilities and personal responsibilities. Everyday is a balancing act of those 2 worlds. There are times you won’t be able to get back. The “first” experiences your kids have of anything is one of those. Being at games, recitals, plays, concerts, don’t come around again. As a father, every choice you make with your time and your family has enormous implications for years to come. Every adult can look back on their childhood and see the absence or presence of their father and know this is true.
I would say, as a father, Rex Ryan made the only choice that should have been on the table.
Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in.
So far we’ve covered:
The third sin that many pastors deal with is the sin of the pastor’s family and the view they give.
The blame for this sin sits with the pastor, his wife and the church. Often equally.
First, many pastors and their wife feels the need to be perfect. They feel that they are on this pedestal and must always appear happy, put together, growing in their relationship with Jesus. No flaws can ever be seen in their marriage, parenting or life. Often, church members want this. They want their pastor and his wife to appear above the struggles they have. Consequently, a pastor and his wife always feel like they are putting on a show, unsure of who they can be real with, unsure of who they can let their guard down around. What quickly happens is anger, frustration, sadness stay pent up until it becomes bitterness and rage that is let out at the worst possible moment.
This gets past on to the kids of a pastor. They feel that they have to behave perfectly, almost like little adults. I remember when we first started Revolution and after a service all the kids, read that again, all the kids in our small church plant were dancing on the stage and jumping off. A woman came up to me and said, “Is it a good idea for your kids to be on stage dancing and jumping off the stage? I’m not sure a pastor’s kid should behave like that?” Notice, there were 12-15 kids doing this. My kids at the time were a little over 1 and 3 and a half. I looked at her and said, “I can’t think of a better thing for my kids to do be doing right now than acting like little kids and having fun.”
This one is difficult because when expectations don’t match up, fights and division occur.
As the pastor, you have to lead on this one. In your home and in your church. You set the tone.
For me, I have friends I can vent to. Friends I can be myself around. Friends I can blow off steam with. Friends that when I get angry at someone, am hurt or frustrated will listen and then challenge me with the gospel. Friends who don’t expect me to be perfect.
Your wife also needs to have friends like this.
As a pastor, you must give your wife permission to be your wife and a church member. We tell the wives of our pastors, we expect you to act and serve like any other mature church member at our church. We think mature Christians will serve and use their gifts, have a quiet time, raise their kids if they have them. This changes with life stage. There was a time when my wife did nothing but help to lead a missional community with me. I had some people ask why she didn’t do other things and I explained our philosophy, Katie’s gift mix and the age of our kids. They were unhappy and left our church.
Your reaction to that last line pastor will determine if you will find a healthy balance in this.
If you are a church member, expect your pastor to live out the qualifications of an elder, but don’t expect him to be Jesus. Your pastor did and will not die on the cross for you and rise from the dead. He cannot be Jesus. He doesn’t need to be Jesus, we already have a Jesus and he is perfect and amazing and worthy of our worship. Not your pastor.
Here are a few more things to do:
- Ask your pastor and his wife how you can pray for them. Don’t look for gossip, just to pray for them.
- Give them a gift card to a restaurant for a date night as a way to bless them. Don’t expect anything in return, you are blessing them.
- Expect their kids to be kids and act their age. If they have teenagers, expect them to make boneheaded teenager moves like every other teenager. If they have little kids, expect them to tear things up like other little kids.
- When you hear someone say, “My old pastor did this or my old pastor’s wife did this, why doesn’t this pastor or his wife do that?” Gently but firmly explain this and then tell them, “If you liked it so much, maybe you should go back to your old church and your old pastor.”
Mother’s Day is a big day for most churches. For Revolution, this is the first time we’ve actually met on Mother’s Day as we met on Saturday nights for the first 4 years as a church. While Mother’s Day is a great day, a day to honor the Mom’s in our lives, it is also a difficult day for many. Most pastor’s on their blogs will talk about honoring women, doing baby dedications, giving out gifts to mother’s, etc. on Mother’s Day.
From the first year, we’ve stayed away from that. On Mother’s Day, it is a hard day for many women in your church. For some, it is a reminder of a broken relationship with their mother, of someone who is no longer there. For some, it is a reminder of the loss of a child. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t mother’s, even though their desire is there. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t married yet, when they want to be.
So, be sensitive.
Here are some things we’ve done:
- Honor all women.
- Acknowledge Mother’s and the role they play. While you are being sensitive, don’t ignore that it is Mother’s Day. It is, it’s on the calendar, everyone knows it. You can be sensitive while acknowledging and honoring Mom’s.
- If you give out a gift, give it to all women. We’ve given all women flowers in the past. This year we are doing free pictures for families, couples or groups of friends or individuals.
- If you want to give a gift to Mom’s, give it out in your children’s ministry so as to not draw attention to it.
- Encourage those who Mother’s Day is a difficult day to come forward for prayer with a leader.
- Acknowledge that Mother’s Day is a great day for some and a hard day for others. This goes a long of way of letting all women know they matter and that you see them.
- Preach the gospel. You should do this every week, but especially on Mother’s Day. Remind women that their only hope regardless of where they are on Mother’s Day is Jesus.
Lastly, don’t preach to women on Mother’s Day. More than likely, the women you will be preaching to will be back the week after Mother’s Day. Preach to the men they drug to church that day. But, if you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you should already be preaching to men clearly.
What do you do to be sensitive to women on Mother’s Day?
This is the one chief thought on which Jesus dwells. He would have us see that the secret of effectual prayer is to have the heart filled with the father love of God. It is not enough for us to know that God is a father; he would have us come under the full impression of what that name implies. We must take the best earthly father we know; we must think of the tenderness and love with which he regards the request of his child, the love and joy with which he grants every reasonable desire. We must then, as we think in adoring worship of the infinite love and fatherliness of God, consider how with much more tenderness and joy he sees us come to him and gives us what we ask aright. And then, when we see how much this divine arithmetic is beyond our comprehension and feel how impossible it is for us to apprehend God’s readiness to hear us, he would have us come and open our heart for the Holy Spirit to shed abroad God’s father love there. -Andrew Murray
I get asked by parents a lot how to make media choices with and for their kids. What shows should they watch, what music should they listen to. Here are some helpful questions for parents to ask taken from Give them Grace.
- Does this media outlet have any redeeming value to it? In other words, is there any way that we can use it to illustrate the one good story? Are the great themes of the gospel apparent (even though it may not be a “Christian” production)?
- Are our children unduly influenced by this movie or program? Do they mimic inappropriate words or phrases after spending time interacting with it?
- Are our children able to articulate what is lacking in this video or song? Do they see how it is contrary to the gospel? Are they able to tell you where they see the one good story in it?
- What is your child’s attitude when he’s denied access to this program? Has it become an idol in his heart, a god that promises him happiness?
- Is there any way that you can demonstrate a willingness to compromise with your child over this song? For instance, instead of saying no to an entire album, perhaps you could find a couple of songs on it that would be acceptable.
- Are you being ruled by fear of what might happen if your child watches or listens to this program or album? Or, are you able to think clearly about the influence the entertainment may or may not have over your child?
Every Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here.
I had Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (kindle version) by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson on my “to read” list for awhile. Katie read it soon after it came out, so I knew the gist of the book. I finally got around to reading it as I prepped my sermon on parenting at Revolution Church in our Man vs. Wife series.
As far as parenting books go, this is the best I’ve read. A close second would be Gospel Powered Parenting, but if you are going to read one parenting book, I’d tell you to read this one.
The premise of the book is that parents don’t give their kids the gospel. They give them law, rules to follow, in hopes of making them into well-behaved moralistic kids who act like Christians. All parents want their kids to behave, but often, we miss the gospel in that behavior.
One question that rang out throughout the book was “Could a parent who doesn’t know Jesus do all that you are doing as a parent?” If the answer to that question is yes, can you truly say you are raising your kids in a gospel centered way?
Here are a few things jumped out to me while reading:
- What most of us want for our children. Jesus or no Jesus, we just want them to obey, be polite, not curse or look at pornography, get good jobs, marry a nice person, and not get caught up in the really bad stuff. It may come as a surprise to you, but God wants much more for your children, and you should too. God wants them to get the gospel. And this means that parents are responsible to teach them about the drastic, uncontrollable nature of amazing grace.
- How do you think a Christian parent should respond to a child who is angry, disobedient, and hopeless? And should a Christian’s response differ significantly from what we might hear from a loving Mormon mom or a conscientious Jewish father? Sure, all parents would undoubtedly have restrained their son and told him that beating up his little brother is inappropriate behavior. But then what? What would come next? Is there something that would make a Christian’s response distinctly Christian?
- Most of us are painfully aware that we’re not perfect parents. We’re also deeply grieved that we don’t have perfect kids. But the remedy to our mutual imperfections isn’t more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children. Christian children (and their parents) don’t need to learn to be “nice.” They need death and resurrection and a Savior who has gone before them as a faithful high priest, who was a child himself, and who lived and died perfectly in their place. They need a Savior who extends the offer of complete forgiveness, total righteousness, and indissoluble adoption to all who will believe. This is the message we all need. We need the gospel of grace and the grace of the gospel.
- Children can’t use the law any more than we can, because they will respond to it the same way we do. They’ll ignore it or bend it or obey it outwardly for selfish purposes, but this one thing is certain: they won’t obey it from the heart, because they can’t. That’s why Jesus had to die.
- Christians know that the gospel is the message unbelievers need to hear. We tell them that they can’t earn their way into heaven and that they have to trust in Jesus alone for their goodness. But then something odd happens when we start training the miniature unbelievers in our own home. We forget everything we know about the deadliness of relying on our own goodness and we teach them that Christianity is all about their behavior and whether, on any given day, God is pleased or displeased with them. It’s no wonder that so many of them (some estimates are as high as 88 percent but none are under 60 percent1) are lost to utter rebellion or to works-based cults such as Mormonism as soon as they are free to make an independent choice.
- The primary reason the majority of kids from Christian homes stray from the faith is that they never really heard it or had it to begin with. They were taught that God wants them to be good, that poor Jesus is sad when they disobey, and that asking Jesus into their heart is the breadth and depth of the gospel message.
- Most of our children believe that God is happy if they’re “good for goodness’ sake.” We’ve transformed the holy, terrifying, magnificent, and loving God of the Bible into Santa and his elves. And instead of transmitting the gloriously liberating and life-changing truths of the gospel, we have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality. We have told them that being good (at least outwardly) is the be-all and end-all of their faith. This isn’t the gospel; we’re not handing down Christianity. We need much less of Veggie Tales and Barney and tons more of the radical, bloody, scandalous message of God made man and crushed by his Father for our sin.
- At the deepest level of what we do as parents, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, grace-giving Father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters.
- One of the reasons we don’t share this story with our children is that it doesn’t resonate deeply in our own hearts. As one mom of four told us, “I couldn’t teach my kids about the gospel before because it was not real to me and had no impact on me. Although I was a Christian, I was trying to live by the law and expecting my kids to live by it too—or else. Praise God that although I mess up every day with them, I am learning to direct them to their need for him and not their need to do good or to please me.”
- Training children in religious obedience is not wrong; in fact, we are commanded to do so. We are told to teach them the Bible, to talk with them about God’s nature and works, to pray in their presence, and to take them to worship (see Ex. 12:26–28; Deut. 4:9–10; 6:7–9; Ps. 78:4–8; Eph. 6:4). But telling children that they are good or that God is pleased with them because they closed their eyes during prayer time is both dangerous and false.
- I assumed my children had regenerate hearts because they had prayed a prayer at some point and because I required religious obedience from them.
- We have to remember that in the life of our unregenerate children, the law is given for one reason only: to crush their self-confidence and drive them to Christ.
- The one encouragement we can always give our children (and one another) is that God is more powerful than our sin, and he’s strong enough to make us want to do the right thing. We can assure them that his help can reach everyone, even them. Our encouragement should always stimulate praise for God’s grace rather than for our goodness.
- If we persist in seeking to build our children’s self-esteem by praising them, we make them into our own image, boys and girls who idolize the benediction, adults who are enslaved to the opinions of others, and parents who pass on the lie to the next generation—even though it hasn’t worked to make them good either. Like us, our children crave the blessed benediction: “You are good!” But the Bible says that because we are not good, those words no longer apply to us. We’re not good. Here’s how the Bible describes our plight: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
- Our children aren’t innately good, and we shouldn’t tell them that they are. But they are loved and if they truly believe that, his love will transform them.
- Give this grace to your children: tell them who they really are, tell them what they need to do, and then tell them to taste and see that the Lord is good. Give this grace to yourself, too.
- Seeking to be faithfully obedient parents is our responsibility; granting faith to our children is his.
- Within the heart of the Christian, idolatry is frequently the worship of some good, like having believing, obedient children. This desire is not sinful or idolatrous in itself; it is good. But it becomes idolatrous when we orient our entire life around it or we sin because we want it so much. When we so desperately want our children to be good that we’re alternately angry, fearful, proud, or sullen, then our desire for their transformation has become the god we serve. Yes, God does command us to train our children, but care needs to be taken that this training doesn’t morph into something more important to us than God himself.
- We have far too high a view of our ability to shape our children and far too low a view of God’s love and trustworthiness. So we multiply techniques and try to control the outcome. We subconsciously hope that by our “righteousness,” we will obligate God to make everything turn out the way we want.
- Identify the sin they are committing and that this sin shows their need for Jesus.
- Most parents know enough to confess their anger to their children. But do we regularly confess our self-righteousness and pride?
- We hinder our children from enjoying God’s embrace when we teach them that their religious activity and obedience elevates them out of the category of sinner in need of mercy.
- We hinder our children from coming to him when we inadvertently teach them that the good news is meant for good people.
- The good news: Jesus Christ has already done all the work that needed to be done. When in great relief from excruciating agony of soul he declared, “It is finished,” it really was. This is the message that we and our children need to hear over and over again. We have reminded you of this because every human heart is always and ever drawn to law. In the same way that iron filings follow a magnet, our hearts chase after rules—not because we ever really obey them but because we think they make life manageable.
- Our goal is always to get to the point where we are talking with our kids about the truth of the gospel more and more, believing that their training will be better brought about by the conviction of the Holy Spirit instead of the rod.
- I thought parenting was going to portray my strengths, never realizing that God had ordained it to reveal my weaknesses.
- Is there room in your parenting paradigm for weakness and failure if weakness and failure glorify God?
- The chief end of our parenting is not our own glorification as great parents but rather that we glorify God and enjoy him forever, whatever that means?
- The compliant child’s life lies to us, assuring us that she is good because we’re such good parents. Difficult children tell us the truth: God loves his enemies, and he can infuse us with grace that will make us lay down our lives for them too. Their rebellion is a verification of the gospel: we produce sinful children because we are sinners, but God loves sinners. God’s power is displayed through our failures when we tether ourselves to the gospel message of sin and forgiveness, no matter how desperate the situation becomes.
The last two weeks at Revolution Church have been incredible as we’ve been in our series Man vs. Wife. If you missed either of them, you can listen to what God calls women to be here and what God calls men to be here.
We are wrapping up our series Man vs. Wife this week with a “special bonus match” called Kids vs. Parents.
- I’ll be preaching from Ephesians 6:1 – 4 and looking at what Paul says the goal of parenting is and how to accomplish it.
- I’ll give you a hint, the goal of parenting is not to raise kids who act correctly or even to do what a parent tells them to do every time.
- This week we will talk about how to lead your family in devotions, how to communicate the gospel clearly to your children, how to create boundaries for them that are healthy, and how to prepare to raise kids before getting married or having them.
- We kicked off our Christmas Offering recently and I’m really excited about the response so far. For more information on what it is going to and how you can be involved, go here.
- If you haven’t “Liked” the Revolution Fan Page on Facebook, do so now. It is one of the ways we communicate and pass on resources for sermons and other ways to help serve you in your spiritual growth.
This is definitely a week you don’t want to miss at Revolution Church. So, bring someone with you (you never know when a simple invite will make an eternal difference).
Remember, we meet at 8300 E. Speedway Blvd. at 10am