“Where are the good men?”

My friend’s eyes filled with tears as she asked these pertinent questions: Where are the good men? Who love God and want to do what’s right?IMG_4922

If this was an isolated case, it might not be blog-worthy. But I have heard these questions for ten years as I’ve walked with women. I should start a match-making service because I have been honored to walk with outstanding, hard-working, motivated, Jesus loving women.  But when I look around for available men to be good husbands to these women — the list gets quite short. Instead I find mamas boys, porn addicts, leeches, gamers, and stoners. And, might I add, they are quite content to stay that way.

These women are not perfect. But the secret lies in they know they are not perfect and seek health and wholeness in God. They are working on their stuff to build a better future. But so many of the guys we have seen are stuck in this perpetual teenage boy stupidity:

I want to play. I don’t want to commit. I want sex anyway I can get it. I want to escape.

These Christian women are saying this is the best they get INSIDE the church, let alone those outside the church. One women aptly asked the question, “are my only options to stay single, or, take on a life long project of helping a guy get sober and learn how to get a job and be a husband and dad?”

Listen, before you blast me, I know some outstanding men too. Those guys don’t last long on the marriage market. They are in high demand. But if we are honest, the good men shortage is reaching epidemic levels.

I readily admit I am old school.  I come from a heritage of men who know how to work, hard.  The passage of my brothers and cousins into manhood was bailing hay as teenagers.  Nobody cared if those boys were tired, or sore, or unhappy, or horny. There was work to be done. And you worked full out until the hay was up in the barn just like all the other men did.  They were changed by this calling out. We need more of this. A lot more.

Many Christian men I know today, married or single, are walking through life crippled at worst or undeveloped at best. They are lacking fathers in some cases, but in many more cases, they are lacking wise mothers.

If you are a parent to men-in-the-making, may I make a few suggestions for raising them strong:

1) Stop babying your boys.

They will rise to the standard you set. If you do everything for them from laundry to finances to cleaning to cooking, you are setting an expectation that “someone else” will always do the dirty work. In fact, they will let you do all the work, all their life.  I heard someone say once “never do for your child what they can and should do for themselves.”  This is a powerful gift of personal responsibility. Believe it or not, taking care of yourself begins at a much younger age than most of us like.

2) Men are here to serve others.

Women seem to get this naturally. It is part of our maternal, relationship DNA I suspect. But many young men carry this attitude that “I am the center of the universe.”  This does not make for a successful employer, employee, husband, father or friend. You have to teach them to care for others from a young age, and emphasize it all the more when the hormones start raging.

3) Strength must be tested.

The absence of strength is fear of weakness. It doesn’t even mean they are weak. But they fear they will be weak, that they don’t have what it takes in work, life, and family. Obviously, I mean more than just physical strength, but mental and emotional as well.

In the same way a woman constantly assesses her beauty, and man is constantly assessing his strength. If he is never allowed to test his strength, or develop his strength (ie, mom is afraid he will get hurt) then what grows instead is a distorted weakness. This is debilitating to adult males. I believe this is a root cause to most addictions.

He lacks confidence. He lacks initiative and drive. He lacks the ability to be the Man for his family. So what happens? They marry strong women who try to carry both buckets of man and woman inside their families. It doesn’t take long for these marriages to be strained beyond survival. We need strong men and strong women to have healthy families.

The current culture has a lot of bad definitions of men and women. We can’t let those become the norm in our homes. We are kingdom builders. We are co-heirs with Christ. We need godly men and women raising the next generation.

God give us wisdom and power from on high to this noble calling.



What I Gave Myself for Mother’s Day 2013

This is not for the faint of heart. And if you can’t relate, please…spare me the correction. The voices in my head are loud enough without your “I can’t relate” voice singing harmony. Heck, it’s taken me this long to process all that God downloaded, and even still, I was typing through tears. Hopefully, some of you moms will appreciate my gift and want to get it too.

The morning of Mother’s day rolled around and I got snuggles from both my girls and the cats, home-made cards, coffee in bed from Chuck, and all is well. Until. Until Chuck sweetly and innocently asked, “What do you love best about being a mom?”

I started bawling…IMG_1082

Chuck’s utter shock and dismay was equaled only by my own shock over the breach in my bastion of emotions.  “What’s. The. Matter?” he said wide eyed. Like a crack in a dyke that has been  ramrodded one too many times, the dam broke.

“I can’t think about what I love best about being a mom because I have just been sitting for the last two weeks examining all the places I have failed.  I see all these wounds in my girls and I know I did that.  I see my own selfishness, stubbornness, and being controlling.  I hear them being unkind and angry to each other and I know they learned that from me.  I love being a mom more then I ever thought possible but it is the most painful thing I have every experienced.  I know I have done some things right but to love someone so much and still hurt them—it’s more than I can bear sometimes,” I said in a rush between sobs.

I pulled my bedspread over my face and wept.  Chuck carefully came over and held me, trying to comfort his neurotic wife. Inside I was thinking, “Idiot. Why did you let that out in the open?” But deeper inside, I heard the Spirit say, “We will talk about this later.”  So I had a good cry, got my face back on, Chuck took a deep breath, and we were back to normal.

Until. Until I got to church. And the conversation continued.

For several years, my family has celebrated Father’s day by blessing Chuck with things we appreciate about him. We have then taken time to tell God the things we love about Him being our Father. It’s been so rich and powerful to sit in Him enjoying us as we enjoyed Him. However, I have never done that on Mother’s Day.  I don’t know why. It’s as if somehow the male mantra of doctrine never prompted us  to consider God as a great Mother, although the Bible is full of “mothering” names and actions. This was the day to break that barrier.  I began listing all the ways that God had been a nurturing, faithful, and tender Mother to me.

I said out loud, “You alone are the role model for Mother and Father.”  The loving correction I received next could only have come from a  Parent who is fully invested in me walking in fullness and freedom.

“There is no room for weakness in your parenting,” He said.

“I know,” I said, and began to cry again. “I want to be a perfect parent, and I can’t be.”

“That’s My job” he said ever so tenderly. “You are trying to be perfect, instead of embracing your weakness— for My glory.”

I had to just sit in that.  How do I embrace my weakness? How do I resist the urge  to immediately create a 1-2-3 Fix-it Plan?  How do I resist the temptation to 1) beat myself up for all my mistakes, 2) blame others for what I am alone responsible for, or, 3) live in some watered-down denial that ‘I did the best I could do’?

God interrupted. “Not denial. But Grief. Acceptance. Grace.”

Grief. He was calling me to grieve the mistakes. Don’t blame, deny or gloss over. Just grieve. Yes I blew that. Yes I missed that. Yes I chose poorly there. Yes I hurt you and I hurt me too. Yes I am sad about this. Really sad about the loss of time and opportunity. But I can’t live there forever. Right on the heels of a true grieving is an acceptance that we are all learning all the time.

Acceptance. Raising little humans is hard.  I’ve never been a parent before.  I have permission to learn. I tell my girls that “failing is part of the process just learn from it. True failure is when you quit trying.” I have to believe my own counsel. I have to keep learning and failure is a great teacher. I have to accept that God will carry my girls through my failures and successes.

Grace. Did I believe that God was big enough and strong enough to wash over my girls’ wounds and my wounds with His grace? Did I believe that God could restore, redeem, or resurrect these stages of childhood that are ever fleeting?

That morning He brought this verse to mind: “He fills everything in every way.” And then these words flooded through my soul like windows thrown open to let fresh spring breezes clear the stagnant air:
God’s grace fills every thing I missed.
God’s love fills every thing I broke.
God heals every thing I wounded.

He showed me that one of the best things I could share with my children is how God shows up strong in my weakness. But first, I had to admit to God, to myself and to my kids that I have weaknesses.

How would they ever learn to rely on God’s help in their weaknesses, if they have never seen Chuck and I own our weaknesses and  seen God shine through them? Wow. What a concept. Instead of shame and condemnation for not being a perfect mom, I could experience compassion and grace for myself. In greater dependence on the Spirit and far less pressure to perform, I could learn to love these children as much as I can, shepherd them in Jesus with as much wisdom as I can, and trust God to fill in all the gaps.

What I gave myself for Mother’s Day was a Grace Reality Check.  There is a perfect Parent. And it’s not me. Can’t be me. Was never meant to be me. But I am a well loved child who has the Perfect Parent. And THIS is what I can teach to my children: the fullness of Jesus made known through our weakness.

Thank you God for being such a great Mom.

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:22-23