Guys Need Bros (Guest Post, Desiring God)

Five Ways To Find Male Friendships

lonely guy photo

Photo by Daran Kandasamy

Hey men, let’s be honest.  After work, family, church and trying to keep our homes from imploding, it feels like there’s no time left for close friendships with other guys.  At least not ‘real life’, in-person ones.

That’s exactly how I felt as I turned 40.  I had Facebook friends and random hangouts with other guys, but nothing meaningful or consistent.  No one knew what was really going on in my life.

But when my wife, and a popular Christian author challenged me, I decided something had to change.  And – without a ton of effort – it did.

In this guest post for Desiring God, I explore how developing close guy friendships is critical for our health, marriages and walks with Christ.

You can read the post right here.

PS: I’ve done two other guest posts for Desiring God.

 

 

7 Ways Your Short-Term Mission Trip Can Have Long-Term Impact

Don't Let Your Short-Term Trip Be A Mountaintop Experience

mountain cross photo

For our team, it had been—quite literally—a mountaintop experience.

We had enjoyed a week of medical missions together on a mountain in Central America. God had welcomed 137 new believers into his family and provided healing for many others through our very humble efforts.

But as I stared out the window on the plane ride home, I began to feel uneasy. How could we—how could I—take what God had invested in us during our trip and continue to live that out back home? How could we apply it in our real, busy, and broken everyday lives where we so often just survive?

There’s no easy answer, but here are seven ideas that have been helpful to me that may be helpful to others returning from a short-term missions trip.

Expect Some Setbacks and Failures

Short-term trips take us out of our comfort zones, and while we are there outside the norm, we often experience a spiritual growth spurt. We learn new ways to rely on God and engage with people. But when we return, as fallen sinners it’s natural to slide back into patterns of self-reliance or simply become overwhelmed.

Recognizing and turning from unhealthy pre-trip patterns is a sign of God’s grace, but we need to have reasonable expectations for ourselves when we return. If we don’t, we may despair and fall back into doing nothing at all once we fail to integrate our new spiritual lessons into everyday life.

I had the privilege of writing this article as a guest post for IMB, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  They have a massive vision for reaching the world for Christ.  You can read the rest of the article here.

Six Ways To Pursue Spiritual Intimacy In Marriage (Guest Post at Desiring God)

If you find it difficult to consistently connect spiritually with your spouse, you’re completely normal.

But there’s hope in Christ for marriages like yours.  And mine.

couple holding hands photo

Just a quick heads-up that I’ve written a guest post over at Desiring God about this: Six Ways To Pursue Spiritual Intimacy In Marriage.

I hope that it helps you pursue greater spiritual intimacy with your husband or wife.  (Or any couple on the road to marriage, really.)

Dads, Stay Close To Your Daughter

(This article first appeared at desiringGod.org.)

Ugh.

After another difficult interaction with our teenage daughter, I felt like screaming. My wife patiently listened to my venting, and she calmly but firmly spoke words I’ll never forget.

“I know you’re frustrated. I get it. But you’re the parent. She needs more from you. She needs you to move toward her and stay close.”

I was too annoyed to respond, but I knew she was right.

Silly picture with my daughters Carissa & Anna.

Outtake with my daughters Carissa (left) & Anna (right)

Tough, Important Times

I suspect most dads with teenage daughters can relate. You may find yourself wondering where that sweet little girl went. The one who sat on your lap, followed your advice, and freely shared her heart while you played together with her toys and sang “Jesus Loves Me.”

But now, things are different. One moment your daughter thinks you’re the Best Dad Ever, then says, “I can’t stand you,” the next. Trust and obedience are replaced by suspicion and endless boundary-testing. Sometimes it feels like you only see her when she wants something from you.

In these moments, it’s so easy to pull back. To tell yourself you’ve tried. To withdraw — bitter, angry, and hurt. To convince yourself all you can do now is pray and wait.

As someone who has failed significantly in this area, yet seen God work powerfully, I want to encourage and challenge you. To remind you that God has sovereignly placed you in your daughter’s life to model, as her earthly father, her perfect heavenly Father.

Fathers, your daughter needs you to stay close to her.

Our All-Important Foundation

If we want to be close to our daughters, we need to be close to our heavenly Father first, pursuing him as our greatest Treasure. Often busyness, apathy, interruptions from kids, and the pull of social media and entertainment make it hard to find consistent time with our Lord. But we need to persist, trusting that God “rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

When we persevere, we’ll find with king David that God’s “steadfast love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). And with the apostle Paul, we will learn to “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). In many ways, maturity as fathers is simply coming to know and experience, more and more, how beautiful and awesome God is.

While I’m nowhere near as close to Christ as I’d like to be, desiring to move closer to him is transforming me — and my relationship with my daughters. As his greatness and grace toward me become more real, I’m finding it easier and easier to extend grace toward them too. And to be the kind of father with whom they want to be close.

Dads, I want to urge you to pursue intimacy with Christ as your highest priority. If you do, you’ll find that staying closer to your daughter will eventually follow.

Eight Ways to Stay Close

If we’re growing in our own thirst and desire for Christ, the rest of these will start to flow much more naturally.

1. Gently model unconditional love and grace (Matthew 26:30–32; Galatians 6:1). While we need to be reminded that we, as dads, need to be the humble “buckstopper” in our homes, many of us struggle with being harsh and angry. Our daughters need us to be tough on sin, but even firmer on their Savior’s grace.

2. Come alongside them in their insecurity and affirm them (see Judges 6:11–18, especially verse 12). Teen girls feel pressure to look a certain way, wear certain clothing, and be friends with the “right people.” We need to remind them that if they are born again, Jesus has made them acceptable forever, and that nothing can change that.

3. Protect them sacrificially (John 15:12–15). Our culture encourages girls to dress immodestly and find their identity in guys’ approval. So, our role as fathers, created in the image of the Great Shepherd, includes helping them understand how men’s minds work and what’s appropriate to wear, and (especially) helping them find their value in Christ.

4. Just listen (James 1:19). While we’re tempted to “fix” their problems immediately, our teen daughters mainly want us to listen, care, and understand. This often creates an atmosphere of trust where we can offer the input they need.

5. When you mess up, confess it (James 5:16). If we’re rooted deeply in Christ, we’ll find this easier and easier. I’ve been amazed at how quickly a simple but genuine apology often heals a rift with my daughters.

6. Be present. At home, we easily get distracted by our phones, television, and work. As we look at Jesus’s example, though, it’s amazing how much time he spent with his disciples — and how he gave them his undivided attention. Our daughters need positive male attention, and we have the privilege of leading the way, if we’re willing to set other things aside and engage them.

7. Remember that God has made each of our daughters differently. My two teen daughters are so different that sometimes we wonder if they’re really both ours! I love how sisters Mary and Martha come to Jesus with the same lament after Lazarus dies, yet Jesus responds very differently (John 11:23–35). What works with one of our daughters may not benefit the other.

8. Go on regular daddy-daughter dates. Most teen girls love to talk, eat, and connect. Several months ago I (re)started taking each of them out for breakfast every two weeks. During these undistracted times, they often share their hearts in ways they don’t at home, and they come away feeling special. And they are!

With God’s help, what steps could you take to move closer to your daughter (or son) during these crucial teenage years?

8 More Ways You Can Love Your Family While You’re Still In School (And Beyond)

When you’re still in school, life can become full and the people we love most can start to feel neglected. And yet, we want to honor God’s call to ‘love our [very closest] neighbor as ourselves’ (Matthew 22:38).

How do we do it well?

Ojas' First ShootCreative Commons License Harsha K R via Compfight

This is the final post of a four-part guest post series for the Emerging Scholars Network‘s (ESN) blog, a terrific resource for connecting your life in Christ with your academic or professional training.

In Part 1 I explore the real reason we struggle so fiercely to balance our time at home with our academic work or professional training.  Part 2 tackles 3 specific, common issues behind that core struggle so we can fight against it more successfully.  In Part 3, I share 7 practical ways we can love our families (or anyone) while we’re still in school.  (Hint: most of these apply even when you’re out in the working world, too.)

To wrap the series up, I share 8 more practical ways you can make space to love your spouse and kids while you’re still in school.  (Or, just have a full, busy life.)

What did I miss?  I’d love to hear your own ideas in the comments section.

7 Ways You Can Love Your Family While You’re Still In School (And Beyond)

Guest Post Series, Part 3

Ever feel like school or your work is swallowing you up?  Like that big fish from the book of Jonah.

Sometimes we wish it would just go ahead and spit us out.

Truth is, though, there are things – many things, actually – we can do to fight for balance and sanity. With God’s help, you can love your family while you’re still in school.

Map with 'You Are Here' marker

This is Part 3 of a four-part guest post series for the Emerging Scholars Network‘s (ESN) blog, a fantastic resource for connecting your life in Christ with your academic or professional training.

In Part 1 I explore the real reason we struggle so fiercely to balance our time at home with our academic work or professional training.  Part 2 tackles 3 specific, common issues behind that core struggle so we can fight against it more successfully.

And now, in Part 3, I share 7 practical ways we can love our families (or anyone) while we’re still in school.  (Hint: most of these apply even when you’re out in the working world, too.)

I’d love to hear other ideas you have in the comments section.

 

Avoiding The Idolatry Of Work

Guest Post Series, Part 2: How To Love Your Spouse, Kids (And Anyone, Really) While You’re Still In School

It’s so easy to make work into our Everything.  An idol.  The scary thing thing, of course, is that no one sets out with this goal in mind.  We’re doing it for the Lord… right?

In Part 1 of this guest post series for Emerging Scholars Network (ESN), I explored the real reason we struggle so fiercely to balance our time at home with our academic work.

In Part 2, we tackle 3 specific, common issues behind that core struggle.  Once we understand what’s going on, we can fight against it more successfully.  Although the focus is on grad school and academics, you’ll be able to apply it to any kind of work you do with just a little bit of effort.

bleary-eyed woman rests head on her laptop

photo by len-k-a via freeimages.com

By the way, if you’re in any sort of academic discipline, you’ll probably find ESN’s Scholar’s Compass blog very helpful.  Check them out!

The Real Reason We Keep Putting Our Work First

Guest Post Series: How To Love Your Spouse, Kids (And Anyone, Really) While You're Still In School (Part 1)

How do you care for your spouse and kids while you’re still in school?  It sounds so simple, but those of us with families know that balancing time at home and work feels like an endless tug-of-war.

I’m thankful for the chance to guest post with ESN’s Scholar’s Compass blog on this topic on Sundays in April.  In part one of the series, I explore the ultimate reason why we struggle to over-prioritize our work at the expense of our families and others we love.

tug of war

photo by Oliver Tam via freeimages.com

By the way, if you’re not familiar with Scholar’s Compass, it’s a great blog dedicated to helping people in academia keep Christ at the center of their lives.  Definitely worth checking out!

7 Simple Ways To Kick Apathy Out Of Your Marriage

How do you recognize – and fight against – apathy in your marriage?

If you’re married, or have been in any romantic relationship, you know that the answers are rarely easy.  And, even harder to live out in real life.

couple sitting passively on opposite ends of couch

But in Christ, there’s hope for our marriages, no matter how good, bad or indifferent they are.  In my latest guest post for Jackie Bledsoe, I offer 7 simple ways you can kick apathy out of your marriage.

And while I have you here, I’d like to give Jackie a plug.  I’ve become familiar with him over the past several months, and appreciate the ways he’s so intentional about investing in his wife and children.  He writes for a broader audience faith-wise, so his posts are more subtle in that respect, but he’s someone I’ve learned from and hope you will, too.

After you’ve checked out the post, please consider leaving a comment so we can interact about it and learn together. See you there!

Amazed Again: 5 Ways A Familiar Advent Story Can Renew Our Worship (Guest Post on ESN)

Ever feel like Advent is supposed to renew your heart for Christ but find yourself feeling flat anyway?  Like you’ve missed another opportunity by the time New Year’s rolls around?  I know I do.

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My prayer is that a fresh look at the all-too-familiar story of the Wise Men’s journey to Jesus will help you renew your worship once again.  Special thanks to my friends Tom Grosh and Hannah Eagleson at the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) for allowing me to share with their tribe through this guest post.

As a quick follow-up, ESN is all about helping students and academics connect their lives in higher education with their faith in Christ.  Not always easy, but absolutely critical and possible.   You can learn more right here.