Category Archives: Parenting

Too Much On Our Plate – Making Prayer a Priority

Because of my career I am given many opportunities of offer up a public prayer to God.  Oftentimes I am praying for a group of men, married couples, or parents.  Other times I am praying for an entire congregation as a part of a morning worship service.   During those times I ask that God would meet very real concerns that people have shared, praise Him for the many blessings that He gives to the group, and petition him for a variety of the fruits of the Spirit, such as patience and wisdom.   If you were to be a part of a gathering where I am leading a public prayer you might think that my personal prayer life is frequent, vibrant, and fulfilling.

You would be mistaken.

The fact is that I struggle with my personal prayer life just as much as the next guy, if not more.   I envy those who talk about connecting with God on a regular basis and how much He speaks to them through prayer.  I’m also astonished at how much time those fellow believers are able to devote to prayer and wishfully wonder where I would ever find that kind of time.

Can you relate?

Admittedly, finding time to pray and having a meaningful prayer life are two separate things, yet that are intrinsically connected to each other.   We can’t have a meaningful prayer life if we don’t make praying a priority in our life, and yet many of us don’t make it a priority in our lives because we can’t seem to have those times we do pray be meaningful.

 I once heard someone put their frustration with their prayer life this way – “I struggle with prayer on a regular basis.  At times it feels like I’m just leaving messages in His voicemail and hoping He gets back to me.  Unfortunately, it feels like he never does.”  I have to say, there are definitely times when prayer feels that way to me.

There are other reasons why we (well, at least I) don’t make our (my) prayer life a priority:

  •  Independent/Self-reliant  – I like to feel like I have things under control and I arrogantly think “I got this God, don’t worry about me.  Help someone else, I’ll let you know when I need you.”
  •  Subconsciously getting back at God – Life is not turning out exactly the way that I want, so I take out my frustrations on God by not praying. (Hey I didn’t say the reasons had to make any sense!)
  •  Confused – I’m not sure what to pray for, or my prayers for something that I clearly felt was God’s will for my life haven’t been answered, so I just stop praying.
  •  Scared – What if I pray for something and God answers it, but not in the way I want or was suspecting?  (This is also known as the “I just know He is going to send me to Uganda” reason.)

So how can we overcome all of these self-inflicted obstacles to prayer?  Each person needs to develop a regular time, place, and method for their prayer time.  What works for someone else might not work for you.  Perhaps the best time for you to connect with God is during your morning commute (keep your eyes open!)  Perhaps it is over your lunch break, or at the end of the day.

Some folks keep a prayer journal to help them know what to be prayer for.  Others use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide each time.  Still others use the “ACTS” (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method.  You can even use the prayers that are offered in Bible as a guide (Ephesians 3:14-19 is a great place to start).

If you are having a hard time with consistently spending time in prayer  I would encourage you to find a prayer accountability partner.  This person doesn’t necessarily have to pray with you in person each time, but rather will regularly be checking up on you to encourage you in your prayer life and keep you going.   Mary and I have started getting up just a little bit earlier to start our day with some personal time of devotions.   There have certainly been some days when I would love to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and I am sure that there are days that she would like me too as well!  But the commitment that we’ve made to each other keeps us going.

What has worked for you?  How have you incorporated the spiritual discipline of prayer into your life?

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Too Much On Our Plate

Imagine for a second that you enjoy golfing (for some of you that won’t be hard).  One day Phil Mickelson calls you up and says that he is in the area and was wondering if the two of you might play a round of golf together at a local course.  My guess is that you would immediately begin to clear your schedule to make it happen, no matter how busy you might be.  After all Mickelson is one the most famous golfers in the world!

Or let’s say you are really into leading worship music and one day you receive a text message from Chris Tomlin who says that he is giving a concert in the area and thought he might stop by the church and sit in on your practice session.  You would immediately call the entire team and tell them to come no matter what , right?  After all, it’s Chris “the Godfather of Contemporary Worship” Tomlin!

The truth is that whenever we get an opportunity to personally meet someone who is at the absolute top of their field we try to do so.   It doesn’t matter how busy we are or how cluttered our calendar is, we find a way to meet them.

And yet…

Whenever someone challenges us to deepen our commitment to God, or spend time in prayer each day, or get into the Word more, many of us often respond with that familiar lament “I just don’t have time.”  There have been many occasions  where I’ve been a part of a small group, Sunday school class, or other gathering of believers and the leader has given a challenge to put more energy and effort into being a better spouse… or more involved parent …or a more devoted follower of Jesus.  Many times someone will reply that they want to do those things and know that they should, but they are just really busy right now and once things slow down they are going to really commit to it (sometimes that person has been me).

We would gladly drop everything to meet the “heroes” of our areas of interest, but we claim that we don’t have time to connect with the God of the Universe, the Creator of heaven and Earth, our Heavenly Father.  For some reason we just can’t find the time.

Huh?  Doesn’t make much sense does it?

I’ve fallen into this trap as well.  I feel like I’m too busy for God.  I can’t manage to find time for devotions (though I manage to find time to watch football or the Phillies).   There are times when I’m tired when I get home, so I’d just as soon have the kids play by themselves.  Sometimes I know Mary and I need to talk about something, but it seems easier just to put it off until the “perfect moment” arrives.

Somehow many of us have let our lives become so filled with “stuff” that  we feel we don’t have time for what is really important.  Some of that “stuff” is good “stuff,” to be sure.  But even good “stuff,” when it comes at the expense of our relationship with God, our spouse, or our kids needs to be removed from our lives so that we have more time for our most important relationships.

Mary and I have started getting up a little earlier than usual in the morning so that we can each spend some time connecting with God before our days begin.  It’s been a really good thing for both of us, but it has at the same time shown me just how much growing I need to do as a husband, father, and follower of Christ.

I don’t have all the answers here, but over the next few weeks I’ll be offering some thoughts as to how even the “busiest” of believers can find time for spiritual disciplines in their life.  If you can relate to what I’ve shared here, I invite you to check back and join the conversation.

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Filed under Family, Family Matters, Marriage/Family, Ministry, Parenting

Being a Difference Making Dad

I was presenting one of our workshops on parenting at a local church this past weekend when I made the comment that some day in the future I ‘m going to walk Abby down the aisle and give her away to a young man.  As I’m doing that, I said, I don’t want to be thinking “I’m not done with her yet.  There’s still more that I need to teach her.”  It is a point that I often make when I’m speaking on parenting.

Imagine my surprise, then, when later that night a couple who was at the workshop sent me a message that as they were sitting there listening to me they did so in something of a daze, knowing that their oldest daughter was in the middle of being proposed to!  Although it seems a long way off, I know that the day is coming when I too will be in  a daze, wondering how in the world my little girl grew up so fast.

“It’s a girl,” may be at the same time the most joyous and most frightening words a man ever hears.  Being a dad to a daughter is tough stuff, certainly not for the faint of heart.  We sort of have an idea with our sons, but our daughters are a whole other ballgame (and spending time with them often doesn’t involve a ballgame!).  Boys will be boys, and since we were boys once (although some of us never quite grow up!) we can at least draw on those experiences as we parent.

My Princess

But (and this is earth-shattering) boys and girls are different, which means that parenting boys and parenting girls needs to be different as well.  It’s probably not a coincidence (but rather a “God thing”) just a couple days after speaking at the parenting workshop I started prepping for a Daddy/Daughter banquet that I’ll be speaking at in a few weeks.  As I reviewed some things that I had gathered for just such an occasion I was reminded of two things:

1. Just how much I love my daughter Abby and how much joy she brings to my life.

2. How much more growing I need to do as her dad between now and the inevitable day that she says “I Do.”

Here are a few “difference making” areas that we dads need to be mindful of:

Touch.  Many dads struggle with showing physical affection with their daughters.  Daughters need physical contact, and it needs to go beyond high-fives and wrestling (which work great for our boys).  Appropriate physical affection provides a world of benefits for daughters.  Not only does it show our love for them, it also provides a sense of security for them, and models appropriate touch as they grow older and want to date.

Speech.  A dad can crush his daughter’s spirit with one harsh word.  A sarcastic, joking manner of speech often causes her to misunderstand.  We dads need to be mindful of our speech with all of our kids, but we need to realize that we can hurt our daughter’s feelings very easily.  That doesn’t mean that we avoid correcting them or that we treat them like they are younger than they are, but it does mean that we need to be much gentler with our speech.

Self-Image.  Girls struggle with maintaining a healthy self-image much more than boys.  Dads need to express confidence in them and their abilities on a regular basis.  We don’t want to make stuff up (they’ll see right through that), and we may have to look real hard at times, but it is so important that we express our confidence in our daughters.  It does no good to just keep it inside, we need to tell them.

Presence.  I could devote an entire book to the importance of being there for your kids (many people have).  There is simply no substitute for it!  Go to their sporting events, piano recitals, and club activities.  In order to have a great relationship with your daughter you have to spend time with her, talk with her, and listen to her.  Yes, when they are younger their stories may not make sense and may take a looooooong time for them to tell. But if we don’t listen to them when they are younger, they won’t talk to us when they are older.  The best tribute a daughter can make about her father is that Dad taught her to love Jesus and that she could always count on him being there for her.

This is So True!!

Dads, we have such a huge responsibility when it comes to raising our little girls.  They are watching our every move, taking note of how we treat their mother, how we respect other women, and how we honor God.  Let’s be the involved, loving, and honorable fathers that God calls us to be so that when our princesses are deciding who they want to date and eventually marry they think “I want a man just like my dad.”

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Filed under Family, Family Matters, Parenting