Category Archives: Family

Marriage is All About “U”

marriage is all about u

We have often heard it said that marriage is not all about you. A good marriage is one where a great deal of sacrifice takes place, and where the other person’s needs are put above our own.

But, maybe, marriage should be all about you…or, actually, all about “U.”

There are three “u’s” that a marriage needs to have. Each of these can be found in Genesis 2:24, which states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become on flesh.” Based upon those famous words, notice three important things about marriage.

1. Unique. Leaving father and mother implies that this new marriage is establishing a new, unique home. While the parents still should have input from their years of wisdom and experience, they should allow this new home to flourish and, yes, to work through mistakes on their own.

2. United. The word “joined” carries the idea of “glued.” Nothing should be able to separate this new home, because the husband and wife are so glued to one another. Every other relationship (work, children, parents, etc.)–save the covenant between a person and God–must be subordinated to the relationship between this man and this woman.

3. Union. They are now “one flesh,” which means more than the sexual relationship. In every humanly-possible way, this man and woman should be “one.” Dan Winkler suggests five areas this must be true:

  • Natural (the helpmeet relationship)
  • Intimate (they must remain monogamous)
  • Sexual (the marriage bed is undefiled, Hebrews 13:4)
  • Spiritual (they should help one another glorify God and go to heaven)
  • Permanent (“’til death do us part”)

So, as you can see, marriage really is all about “U!”

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What I Learned when I Quit Facebook

what i learned when i quit facebook

I like to communicate. I like a room full of people. I like activity. I like to share ideas and thoughts and dreams with others. I am a people person. The advancement of social media for a person like me has caused a reaction similar to that of my six-year old daughter when she recently tried a new dish. She took one bite and said, “Where have you been all my life?!”

As an evangelist I use social media for the gospel’s sake. I have had countless Bible studies and private spiritual discussions involving counseling online. I have left “chat” immediately to meet the very people I have been chatting with at the church building to baptize them. I do not deny many friend requests because I want to be a link between people and God. This is my job. I know Jesus is the only mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), but I want to be a link between people and the mediator. I care for souls and this love for people influences my decisions within the social realm.

But social media can take over your life if you are not careful. I had to cancel my Facebook account once and start again when the number of friends reached over 3000. Slowly but surely it began to build again. By the end of last year, I needed a break. I decided to quit all social media for a month with absolutely no cheating. I did not look on anyone else’s page. I did not ask questions. If people started talking about anything related to social media I walked away. It was a refreshing experience. Several realizations came in the process.

1. Social media can become an addiction just like anything else. It can drain time and energy and productivity. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a blessing in many ways and it is not wrong to engage in it. But if you want to know if you are addicted I have one easy litmus test: Do you ever sit in your office or at home at night on your computer, phone, or tablet refreshing newsfeed? Yeah, you may have a problem.

2. Social media can keep a person from engaging in real relationships. If you have to use media to have a relationship with someone, you may be living in a false reality. Some use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to create a person they want people to see but is not truly them. They post certain pictures and say certain things in order to project the person they wish they were. Looks can be deceiving. The best person you are is the person you are in public – talking with people, working, and being a regular part of society. The world deserves the real you. You need to contribute and be functional in the outside world. Never hide behind technology.

3. Social media keeps us in the loop. It’s the 21st century. Some people might want to think about deciding to enter it with the rest of us. I was amazed at how much information I was gleaning from social media, especially Facebook. My timeline for gathering information or finding out about situations was considerably affected when I left. If you want to minister to people information is valuable. I lost several opportunities to be a Christian influence when I stepped away for a month. In truth I am definitely closer on some level to people whom I communicate with electronically. If you don’t answer email, text, return calls, or do any social media in today’s world you are almost a hermit. Sometimes people reject these avenues of communication because they really are very private and just want to be left alone.

4. Quitting anything you habitually practice is healthy for you physically, mentally, and spiritually. I would suggest at least a short break from anything that consumes a fair amount of your time. You are missing out on the rest of the world if you dwell too often with the same people in the same places. You need to drive outside of town on a clear night and just look at the stars for a while. You need to take your kids fishing or to the park. You need to go have a long and meaningful one-on-one conversation with an older person you love who will not be here forever. If you will step away for a few days or weeks you will be practicing one of the fruits of the spirit: self-control. And let’s face it, self-control is the hardest spiritual fruit of all for anyone to grow – and the tree God wants us to be growing cannot plug in to an electronic outlet. The only real and lasting power is in His Word.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.”

– Philippians 3:7

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A Disconnected Connected Society

a disconnected connected society

Posts, tweets, pins, links, updates…

The list goes on and on.

IMHO, we are becoming the most disconnected connected people who have ever lived. (By the way; did you see how cool I am? I know tech speak for “in my humble opinion!”)

We know what is going on with somebody half-way around the world whom we have  “accepted” as a “friend” (even though we’ve never met them), or “follow,” are “linked in with,” or are in some other way connected electronically. At the same time, we have no idea what is going on with our spouse who is sitting right next to us; our children who live in the same house; our real friends who have been there for us at difficult times in our lives; the people who live next door to us; and/or a host of other people we used to know and spend time with before we got hooked on our electronic devices.

People who know me know that I’m sort of a sucker for this stuff. I guess it started with the iPhone.  I was among the millions who were “wowed” by it. I couldn’t believe that one little device was capable of doing all that it could do.

It took me a while to get an iPhone, but, once I did, I was hooked. Although I’ve gone to the dark side and now have an Android phone (and tablet), I’m still intrigued by the possibilities that electronics provide for us.

I’m also intrigued and saddened by what I am observing; that is, when I look up from my phone or tablet. Increasingly, I am seeing (and sometimes participating in) a scenario in which family members, friends, etc. can all be in the same room and are all communicating. The problem is that they (we) are communicating with somebody somewhere else. Instead of sharing their (our) lives with those who should be the closest to us, something as trivial as a joke or a cute picture is being shared with somebody who may not even care enough to look at it.

I’ve never had the privilege of sitting right behind home plate in the front row of a major league baseball game. I don’t expect I ever will have that privilege.

However, as I’m sitting at home miles away from the stadium, I’ve watched as that center-field camera zooms in to the home plate area. I have seen people who occupy a seat I can only dream of having. I’ve watched them texting, emailing, or doing something other than watching the game. I’m wondering how much money they spent on those tickets — and why.

When was the last time you went to a sporting event (maybe even a little league game in which your child was playing) and just watched the game?

When was the last time you enjoyed some of God’s wonderful creation without feeling compelled to share your experience with the world?

When was the last time you and your spouse had an uninterrupted real conversation?

When was the last time your entire family sat around the same table at the same time and enjoyed a meal without any electronic interference?

When was the last time you “unplugged” and just lived life with those whom you love?

I’m beginning to think that there is, in fact, a disconnected connected society. I’m beginning to also think I’m a part of that society.

How about you?

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Hosting a Neighborhood Ice Cream Social

hosting an ice cream social

We love our neighborhood, but more than that, we love the street we live on. For the past couple of years, especially, we have greatly enjoyed getting to know our neighbors a little bit.

But, as we all know, people are busy. Getting to know one another is difficult and takes effort. It requires us to be intentional.

Leah and I have been kicking around the idea for some time about hosting some informal, simple events to get to know our neighbors–especially those on our street–better. Last week, we held our first, and it was fantastic!

We decided to have a simple ice cream social, and make it a come-and-go, informal evening. There was nothing fancy about the night, and I think that helped it be a success. The expectations were low, so people didn’t feel like they had to “put on” for others. In all, about 30 people were present.

Here’s how we did it, and you can, too.

1. Simple promotion. We made super simple flyers (see below) that gave our  neighbors the date and time, and asked them to let us know if they were attending. With school getting ready to start back, we called it a “Back to School” night, but we told folks that was just an excuse to get together. We took one evening, and walked up to each house. If they were home, we invited them personally. If not, we just left the flyer on their door. Nothing more was done by way of promotion.

ice cream for blog

2. Simple night. Ice cream, a couple of toppings, some cookies, and lemonade on a very small table. That was it. That’s all we had to set up and get ready (and the ice cream wasn’t even homemade). We figured the simplicity of the food would help people just enjoy the conversation. A couple of our neighbors agreed to help with the cookies, so the whole night only cost us about $40. Again, this was not about putting on some kind of “show.” It was about keeping things laid back and inviting.

3. No agenda. We just let people talk, and did they ever talk! We had said the evening would be from 7:00-8:00 PM, but we had folks stay until about 8:30. There were people who had never met, though they live just a couple of houses apart, who talked for nearly the entire time! This was not meant to be a Bible study or an invitation to purchase something. We wanted people to just enjoy getting to know each other better.

On our street, there are 16 houses, and about 30 people came. That’s not bad! As you can see, all this happened even though there was almost no preparation required. When all was done, we think the night went as well as we could have expected.

We also saw two “outcomes” that made us feel gratitude for having held such a night. First, people wanted to get a list of emails and phone numbers to pass around, so we could more easily keep up with one another. We were glad to gather these and I sent them out via email later that night.

Second, and best of all, people were already coming up with ideas for future get-togethers! It was a joy to hear ideas of cookouts and more “socials” like this first one. While I don’t expect these to happen all the time, I do think we’ll see a handful of these events in the coming months.

In a time when people complain because they don’t know their neighbors and so few people seem to want to be friendly, this night was a breath of fresh air. It may take some initiative, but I think neighbors want to know one another. So, do something simple and hold an evening to allow your neighbors to interact. You might just be surprised at how well it goes.

The best compliment we got all night was by a fellow sister in Christ who lives down the street. After thanking us for having this event, she said, “This is a very Christian thing to do.” We hope so, and we hope this encourages you to do something similar in your neighborhood!

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Home is People {Quote for Pinterest}

Today, we have a great quote for you. It shares the age-old idea that home is not a building, but it is the people.

We have made this quote where you can pin it on Pinterest, to share the encouragement with others. Enjoy!

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Being the Bad Guy

being the bad guy

Parenting is not for wimps. I know a young couple who married in 2013 and had their first child this year, about a year after their wedding. In a recent conversation I asked them if their newborn was resting well at night so they could get some sleep. They said it was off and on but getting better. They informed me that they realize now that nothing could have prepared them for some of the things that go with parenting.

Which leads me to this next thought…

In doing pre-marital counseling, when I ask young couples what their plan is for having children I often get this response: “Well, we are going to wait until we are ready to be parents.” Although I know what they mean, I often laugh inside because, as a father of three, I know by now that you are never ready for most of what parenting entails. As one of my former elders used to say, “You do the best you can and let the rough end drag.”

We now have a teenage son, a ten-year old boy with middle-child syndrome, and a little spitfire of a daughter who is about to be seven (if we let her live that long). Discipline is becoming more difficult by the minute. They are challenging us in new and different ways.

I often have to go to the back of the house with my wife to huddle and diagram plays. We have to agree on everything. We have to back each other up. We have to disallow any defense from getting through and tackling the quarterback. Parents, raising children is a team effort. It is serious business. If you don’t have a plan you are going to lose the game!

I know we are just getting started with this teenager stuff, but one thing the Tatum parents have agreed on is the willingness to be the bad guy.

Case in point: Our teen recently received a cell phone. We have no plan on it so no calls or texts are yet happening and there is no internet package. But he knows how to get on a few free web spots like youtube and some gaming sites. We have limited his usage, we see his content, and the rule was no using the phone except in the family room. But the other day he had retreated to his room and was on the internet; thus, he was breaking the rules. (I knew he had done this more than once and warnings were issued).

So no messing around – I took the phone. It is gone indefinitely. I told him that he had broken the trust he had been issued. We had a conversation about the dangers of what is out there. He knows it may be a long while before he ever gets it back. It has been over a month so far and I am in no hurry to return it to him. He is doing just fine!

Because I love my son, and because I love his soul even more, I am not concerned if this restriction makes him mad at me. The biggest mistake parents make in discipline is allowing their desire to be buddies with their growing teen trump their responsibility to be the bad guy.

Parents, I am begging you, listen to me! If you want to be their friend when they need you to be their instructor and rule-maker and disciplinarian you are blowing it. They may not like you now but they will love you later. They will be your friends later when they understand why you did what you did. Right now they will call you harsh and foolish and at times their hormones may even make them say they hate you. I guarantee at some point they will lash out. This is life. This is parenting. You have not been called to this noble job of preparing the next generation in order to allow an immature minor who has been charged to your trust to have their way.

Love your kids enough to be the bad guy. It may take awhile for your kids to get it. But one day, when your grandchild gets their first cell phone, your frustrated middle-aged child may use it to call you for advice. And you will smile.

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Ephesians 6:4

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How Strong is the Hedge Around Your Marriage?

how strong is the hedge

It took a special tank.

After the Normandy invasion of World War II, the Allied army–and particularly the Americans–got bogged down. One reason that had nothing to do with Hitler or the Germans was the landscape.

If you’ve seen a stereotypical movie about Europe, you have probably watched a scene where someone tried to work their way through ridiculously-huge hedgerows. If it was a comedy movie, they probably made it through, but were cut up and scraped.

When I think of hedges, being American, I think of little short bushes in front of my porch. But that’s not what the Allied army faced after D-Day. They faced those almost-stereotypical sized hedges. Literally, few tanks could make it through.

So, the Rhino Tank was created. It was a tank outfitted with special “tusks” that could cut through these huge and intimidating features of the landscape.

I suppose, since he wrote a book with the title, it was Jerry B. Jenkins, who came up with the idea of putting “hedges” around our marriage. His book outlines various hedges that every man needs to have around his relationship with his wife in order to truly protect the sanctity and innocence of their relationship.

But I wonder: which kind of hedge are you building?

Is the hedge you are building around your marriage the little dinky shrubs like I have in front of my porch? I can take a small pair of trimmers and cut them virtually to the ground. With a few minutes and a shovel, I can remove them completely. They may be hedges, but they aren’t much protection.

Instead, we need to build the tank-resisting hedges! Any and every precaution that can be made to protect your marriage should be taken. There is no move that is too small. There is no expense that is too great. There is no effort that isn’t worth making.

After all, Satan is not going to come after your marriage with a small pair of trimmers. He’s going to be driving a tank, trying to destroy your home from any angle he can. Build a hedge he cannot penetrate, then cover that hedge with prayer.

How strong is the hedge around your marriage?

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How’s Your Family Growing

hows your family growing

Recently, a couple of things happened that were not actually related. In my sometimes unusual way of thinking, there might have been a connection.

My wife and I hosted our “second annual Cousins Camp.” All of the grandkids were at our house.  It was a little — no, make that a LOT — loud for a few days. Thankfully, we had some “counselors” to work with us — our daughter and our daughter-in-law.

Cousins Camp is the brainchild of my wife. It is an attempt on our part to help develop and nurture the sense of family that is so important to us. It is also an opportunity for us to see how the grandkids are growing.

Boy, are they ever growing!  We now have a grandson who is almost as tall as I am. He’s thirteen!

While the “counselors” and “campers” were packing up and getting ready to go home, I did a little of what I call “visiting the visitors.” I do not have a perfect record on this, but I do have a goal. My philosophy is that, when somebody takes time out of their schedule to visit where I preach, I need to try to find the time to take out of my schedule to visit them. Again, I’ve failed to do this more often than I would like to admit, but it is a goal and I do succeed sometimes.

During one of those visits, a lady was talking to me about the fact that, after years of marriage, she and her husband are now divorced. The words she used are seared into my brain. I wanted to cry when she said, “We just grew apart.”

As the conversation continued, she told me how her ex-husband had been with her during a recent hospital stay, how she will still fix a meal for him once in a while, and how they are still good friends.  In spite of all of this, they are no longer married because they just grew apart.

How about you and your spouse and/or children? Are the children growing physically, socially, and intellectually? Is the business and/or your career growing? How about that retirement account? Is it growing like you want it to?

While nothing is inherently wrong with any of those things, I pray you’ll take the time to ask one other question (maybe two). Is the relationship with that person you dreamed of spending the rest of your life with growing closer and more meaningful or more distant as the years go by? How about those children you brought into the world? In which direction are those relationships going?

It is my prayer that I will never again hear anybody say, “We just grew apart.” I pray that all of us, including me, will make whatever investment it takes to grow closer to the ones whom we love.

After all, I don’t want anybody looking back on his or her life (including me) and say what this dear lady said: “Maybe we should have tried harder.”

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When Tragedy Strikes the Family

tragedy strikes family

Tragedy struck our church family a few weeks ago.  It was a tragedy of the worst kind.  Lives were lost and bodies were damaged which will take months to heal.  Emotionally the damage was severe to everyone involved.  You see a tragic car accident turned a vacation trip for a mother, grandmother, and daughters into a nightmare from which it will take years to recover.  Our church family lost one of its vital members.

When a tragedy like this strikes a family our hearts hurt to see them going through such hard times.  When a physical family is close to one another, as this one was, and one or more are taken from this life, it is as though a major part of that family is missing.  In the case of this tragedy it was the heart of the family – the mother and grandmother.

When you truly love the members of your congregation, the loss of anyone is difficult – especially when it involves death and pain and suffering.  But as I sit here a few weeks after the accident I’m struck with the thought that tragedy strikes our families every day in many congregations.  Oh, it doesn’t cause physical death like we suffered, but it may cause spiritual death.

Tragedy strikes when Christians refuse to put God first in their lives (Matt. 6:33)  When any activity of the world is more important that the work of the church, or study of God’s word, or fellowshipping with other Christians, or praying, tragedy strikes.

Tragedy strikes when husbands and wives don’t communicate with one another and slowly grow apart until a glance at another person turns into a full-fledged affair.  Homes are destroyed and children are left with a broken home and an unstable life.

Tragedy strikes when wives refuse to follow God’s directives concerning their roles as wife, mother, and homemaker and begin complaining about being the slave in the home.  Such behavior turns the welcoming home into a place of torture.

Tragedy strikes when money and possessions become the gods in the home.  Battles are fought over amounts earned.  Possessions become the status symbol to the friends.  Children are shown “love” by the amount of “things” they are given and the name brand clothes they wear.

Tragedy strikes when discipline is ignored.  When God’s directive for parents to teach their children how to be servants for Him and how to treat others in this world is never explained or exemplified.

The list could go on, but I think you get my point.  It is tragic when we don’t follow God’s plan for our lives.   Our hearts are still aching for the family who suffered such a tragic loss. But our hearts ache everyday when we see families who have a lack of love for God and His word.

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Set Your Priorities : Balancing Work and Home as a

“In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

Philippians 2:5 (NIV)

set priorities

The heart-tugging story has gone viral. A young child wants to know his parent’s hourly wage. The parent is offended thinking that the child is presumptuous to ask and might be using the information to compare his parent’s level of success to that of a classmate’s parent. You know where this is going: the young child simply wanted to how much money was needed in to buy an hour of his parent’s precious time.

My question is this: why does this pull at our heart strings so strongly? Could it be that within this anonymous story we see grains of truth that make us uncomfortable?

There is the obvious. Have we made our children feel as though they have to buy our time? Are we so busy doing other things that they are reduced to battling to be a priority? And what about that hidden concern that our “level of success,” based solely on an hourly wage, won’t measure up and that if it doesn’t we will embarrass our child … or ourselves.

As people seeking to be pleasing to God while balancing work and home, we must make sure that we have our priorities in line with what God would have them to be. He does not judge success by comparing our salaries. He doesn’t log volunteer hours for good community events. As husbands and fathers, we must remember that it was to us that Paul wrote (inspired by the Holy Spirit) “…bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

As wives and mothers, we need to carefully examine the words found in Titus 2 to find the priorities God has set for us: teaching, loving husbands and children, living Godly lives. This does not mean that we cannot have other outlets of energy, including a career, but if we allow our priorities to reverse, we can be sure that stories like the one told here or lived out in our daily lives will bring guilt and not glory to God, which is the very reason we were created (Isaiah 43:7).

“Lord, as I seek to balance my career and my family, please help me do so with your priorities in mind. Help me keep You first and all else will follow.  Through Christ, Amen”

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