Category Archives: Family

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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6 “Small” Things that Erode Marital Trust


Trust is the taproot of marriage. A marriage that is thriving is one that is built upon godly commitment. While every husband and every wife will make mistakes, when those mistakes cause distrust to build, the marriage is slowly eroding.

Sadly, there are some who think they can keep from doing the “big” stuff that would break marital trust (have an affair, for example), but they fail to see the “small” things that are slowly eroding the trust in their marriage. Many even do some of these things intentionally, just to have their “own life” on the side. (Which, by the way, goes against the very fabric of marriage.)

What are some of these things? Here are 6 things that some may think are small, but that can be eroding the very taproot of your marital trust.

1. Withholding Information. I wanted to lead with this because it may be the most common, and most difficult to break. Each person in a relationship is going to be privy to information that could (literally) be difficult for the spouse. Often, we withhold that information, but we let that temptation grow. It becomes easier and easier to withhold what we think are minor details. All along, though, we are eroding open and full communication, which a marriage simply must have to thrive.

2. Pornography. An affair is trust breaking, but pornography is trust eroding. When (not if) a struggle with pornography is discovered, a spouse’s ability to trust will be thwarted. And it will not just be a struggle in the bedroom. The hidden life and covered tracks will be enough to show that communication has been broken at a deep level in the marriage.

3. Separate Finances. While I do think each spouse should have some money he or she can just spend and enjoy, there is no way a marriage can be healthy is he has “his accounts and bills” and she has “her accounts and bills.” As Dave Ramsey often states, “When you get married, you change pronouns.” It is now our money and our bills. While you both may be honest, having separate accounts leaves the door open to distrust and a lack of communication about shared values and goals.

4. Wandering Eyes. You may think, “Wait a minute. Didn’t he already talk about pornography?” I did, but what about when you are walking through the mall or downtown and your eyes take in the figure of every member of the opposite sex that walks by? Too many (and, let’s be honest, it’s usually us men) think there’s no harm in just looking, but a spouse will be harmed by wondering if you are doing more than just taking some “harmless” glance. And, by the way, don’t be surprised when your eyes wander toward magazines, computer screens, and maybe beyond.

5. Private Online Presence. Does your spouse know your Facebook password? What about your Twitter handle (every Twitter account)? Does he or she have open access to the people you have been chatting with? If not, why not? We can get so caught up on our cyber-world that we close out our spouse. Even if we are doing nothing harmful, there is a lack of trust there that is not just perceived. It is real.

6. “White” Lies. This is the most obvious, but still needs to be said. Often, to “protect” our spouse, we make up a little lie, a cover-up, a small fib. When the truth comes out, we just treat it almost as funny, and yank out the excuse that we were just trying to protect them. Instead, we harm them, because they begin to wonder what “bigger” truths we have hidden or just changed.

Honest. Trusting. Open.

Those words need to describe every aspect of the life of a husband and wife. It may force us to be a bit vulnerable before a fellow human being, but he or she is the person you made the choice to be vulnerable before, and to trust with your whole life.

Don’t erode that…not even in a small way. Instead, build it up every day.

What are some other “small” things that too often erode a marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Where the Grass is Greener

grass is greener

“…You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does He not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:13b-15).

If you have been married for any length of time, you have had moments of unhappiness. Remember, your vows predicted it: in SICKNESS and in health, for richer or POORER, for better and for WORSE. Every marriage is going to be a struggle. Sometimes when the struggles are prolonged people begin to think about getting out.

Across the fence they see pasture; that is, greener grass. They see a friend or co-worker of the opposite sex who listens to them. They see this person in all their good moments. They don’t see their bad attitudes. They don’t have to live with their poor choices. They don’t see them when they are unattractive. They only see them in the sunshine.

If it is not another person that people see, perhaps it is the peacefulness of the field. No more fighting. No more rejection. No more animosity. Married folks begin to think that having no spouse would be better than a spouse they have learned to loathe. They think the peaceful field is easy. They don’t see the forest just beyond the field that they must pass through later. They forget how much they need and will need someone to hold their hand.

If you are married, I want you to know that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. You made a commitment before God and many witnesses that God wants you to keep. Your co-worker or close friend is not your spouse. Though different, they have just as many problems and weaknesses, probably more. If you hop the fence you will find the ground muddier than you thought it would be.

The grass is actually greener on your side. If it is not, it is because you have not cultivated it as you should. Think about it. You can only work the ground on your side. You are only allowed to plant on your own property. You have no business taking what rightfully belongs to someone else. God is blessing you on your side, and you ought to show Him some respect and appreciation. Proverbs 5:15 commands, “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.” God will help you to grow what you have sown. He can change the soil. He can do what you think is impossible in your field if you let Him.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that married couples are one flesh, and that they should nourish and cherish their relationship. This means submission to one another in the fear of God. This means learning to be unselfish. This means making sacrifices like Christ made for the church. This means the washing of water by the Word.

If we will search deep within ourselves and look at our spouse again in the love of our vows, we will remember where our happiness has its brightest hope. We will see where the grass is truly greener. We will keep our commitment before God and these witnesses. We will rejoice with the wife of our youth (Proverbs 5:18).

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…” ~ (Psalm 23:1-3a)

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Would You Like to Make a Quick $1000?

make 1000

Now that I have your attention, let me share with you where I got the idea for that title.

I heard something interesting the other day about some mothers in New York City who are paying professional organizers to get their children prepared to go to summer camp.

The “going rate” for these professional organizers is $250 per hour. According to one of the organizers, it usually takes about four hours to get the kids ready. After all, they just must have the proper soaps, shampoos, scented candles, sheets, etc.  Everything must be in place in order for the kids to have “all the comforts of home.”

So — if you can move to New York (or already live there), can qualify as a professional organizer, and want to help rich kids get ready for camp, you should be able to make $1,000 in just four hours.  If you could put in eight hours a day, that means you could make $10,000 in five-day work week.  That wouldn’t be a bad summer job, would it?

Here’s another idea.  What if we focused less on spending money on our kids and/or spending all of our time making money?

What if we focused more on spending time and making memories?

Sadly, during her later years, my mother-in-law lost her memory.  It is sad when that happens to anybody, but it was especially sad in her case.  I can still remember what she said repeatedly during the times when some or all of the members of the family were together.

We would be in the middle of doing something and we could count on her saying, “We’re making memories, aren’t we?” Believe me; those memories are worth more to me than any amount of money possibly could be.

I can also remember something my father told me when our children were still very young. He said, “Jim, you’re going to turn around twice and they’ll be asking for the car keys.”

It seems like it was only a year or so ago that he told me that, but I guess I’ve turned around more than twice. We now have a grandchild who is less than three years away from being old enough to get his license to drive.

Parents, I’ve learned from experience that you only have those children for a very, very short time. Please don’t just throw money at them.

Please do give to them. Give them your time and your heart. That kind of investment pays huge dividends in ways that cannot be deposited in any bank.

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Greatest Thing a Father Can Do {Quote for Pinterest}

Today, we share another quote for you that we’d love you to take and pin on Pinterest. Enjoy!

love their mother

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Don’t Lie to Your Children


parents lie children

My family had a wonderful Monday evening last week. We went to a gospel meeting. I appreciate Tom Stafford for inviting me to come to Buffalo Valley to hear Dwight Fuqua preach on “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.” The kids behaved very well and we enjoyed a spiritually driven night that we all needed. I am looking forward to other opportunities this summer to take my family to a VBS or a gospel meeting in our area – it is nice when you don’t have the next morning of school staring you in the face – you have more time in the evenings for such things.

During the sermon brother Fuqua talked about one lie in particular some parents are telling their children. Before I give the details I will mention that Dwight was once in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, and I believe he still holds the high school record in Kentucky for home runs in a season. He was a sports star and in his early years his life was dedicated to the pursuit of major league baseball. So he understands the desire to achieve in the athletic arena and he knows the sacrifice it takes to do so. So I believe he is fully qualified to speak on this subject. He often preaches out of town meetings, staying in local hotels. Going down on Sunday morning to the breakfast area before worship, what does he commonly see?: children in ball uniforms – going to tournaments. They are playing games on Sunday and often they, along with their families, are forsaking the assembly.

So what is the lie? It is when some parents tell their children, “God and the church come first.” Parents may say this, but they are not being truthful about it. I agree with his sentiments completely. When everything you are doing in your life says something other than what is coming out of your mouth – words become meaningless. Our behavior in front of our children will always have more influence than the words we chose to explain it.

Are you lying to your children when you say:

  • “I love your mother/father very much.”
  • “I promise to do that with you soon.”
  • “It is a bad habit but I am trying to quit.”
  • “I would never hurt you for any reason.”
  • “I will always be there for you if you need me.”
  • “I love you more than anything else on this earth.”

It all depends on what you are doing. Lies often become lies, not because we don’t intend for what we say to be true, but because we live in such a way that we allow our own selfish concerns and desires to trump our intentions to be God’s people.

Parents, be real. Don’t tell your children anything from your mouth that you refuse to back up by your life. They deserve the truth. They are a reflection of you.

“The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”

– Proverbs 12:19

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