The subject of abusive relationships isn’t often discussed. The reality is, however, that many of those around you are likely dealing with such a painful situation. From an online article at Focus on the Family’s site, some insights about emotional abuse:
…chances are you or someone you love is in an emotionally abusive relationship. Your abuser may be a spouse, a boss, a brother or a sister. You may have tried to ignore it, deny it and fix it. Perhaps you have even tried to accept it. But it hasn’t worked. This is your moment of truth. Are you willing to do what it takes to break the cycle of abuse in your life?
While the optimum situation is for both parties in an abusive situation to seek help, Dr. Tim Clinton, President of the American Association of Christian Counselors, insists one person can change the relationship.
“Change a person; change a relationship,” he says.
On the other hand, if the abuse is severe and occurring within the marriage relationship, it’s time to take bold steps and assert biblical, healthy boundaries.
“Sometimes separation can be a powerful attention-getting boundary if you’re fully ready to use it,” says Karla Downing, abuse survivor, counselor and author of 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. “The purpose of the separation can be to physically or emotionally protect you and your children or to convince your husband (or wife) that you’ll not continue to live the same way. Separation can also be by mutual agreement for each to work on your own problems separately with the goal of reconciling your marriage.”
Author and counselor Leslie Vernick discusses the warning signs of an emotionally destructive relationship and the necessary steps to stop it in this radio program. Listen, if not for yourself, so at the least you’ll be informed and ready to help that friend or family member who is in need.
Lately, I’ve been traveling about once a month. That means a fair amount of time in airports and on planes.Anyone who thinks travel is glamorous hasn’t done much of it lately. Yikes!
As I fly, I am aware that from the moment you enter the airport, there will be cranky people. It might be the counter or TSA agent, the customer whose flight got cancelled,or the child in seat 23B who has had enough of it all. So, I have incorporated a rather relaxed approach to most of the experience. I often take a deep breath, figure it won’t be too bad, and resign myself to the fact that few of us love being here, so let’s not get overly excited.
There’s no doubt that the professionals along the way get a lot of verbal abuse. Demanding, irritated, unreasonable passengers make an airport worker or flight attendant’s day mighty long. So I try to be as kind and non-combative as possible. And upon reading this article about what those flight crews make, I am reminded that they have some extreme hours, and often don’t seem to get paid sufficiently for the work they do.
With that knowledge. this gentle reminder that if you have air travel anytime soon, practice a little patience and some extra kindness to those you encounter.
As the writer put it many years ago,
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
He faced many difficulties and failures, the types of circumstances that would have stopped lesser men.
“Whatever happened, Magellan’s response was always, “Sail on, sail on!” “He never flinched. It was always, “Sail on, sail on!”
That line is from a book by Os Guiness, The Call. In his excellent exposition about God’s will and His call on our lives, Guiness references the power of being laser-focused on the right things. That ability to concentrate on something – often something larger than life – comes from within. It isn’t an external characteristic that one puts on. It is a burning inside. It is the “gravel in the gut,” as an NFL coach recently described one player’s inner fortitude. And that conviction often carries men and women to greatness.
Ferdinand Magellan had this quality. As Guiness describes him,
“Magellan’s character was far from perfect…but in his single-mindedness, his unflinching conviction, his resolute indifference either to approval or rejection, and his stubborn defiance of discouragement, defeat, and death, Magellan demonstrated the fortitude of a life in focus.”
I think the world is hungry for men and women like that, who adhere to principle no matter what circumstances occur, no matter what worldly pressures come to bear. An individual who speaks the truth unflinchingly, regardless of the criticism leveled at him. A person of such conviction that nothing – nothing! – can move them from their course. People around us want to see and to follow individuals who are single-minded in their convictions.
As we enter 2013, I want to be more like that. Single-minded in all I do. Seeking to please God and not man. I want to live life with an unwavering conviction of God’s plan and His empowerment – despite the odds or what others think.
Reading recent headlines it seems apparent there will be plenty of opportunities to show courage. People of faith will be able – no, will be called – to increasingly reflect values that are out of synch with the world. We do so out of personal conviction, but not to convict others. We do so because it is what God asks of us. It’s what Paul wrote about in Romans 12:1, pleasing only God and not worrying about what the world around us thinks:
So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. (New Century Version)
Or, here’s how Eugene Peterson wrote those verses in The Message,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
May your “everyday, ordinary life” be full of God’s power and grace. Today, and every day of the coming year.
From the New King James Version of the Bible, Luke’s account of the birth:
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
May you ponder the birth in a special way this blessed season. Merry Christmas!
Stunned. That’s how I responded to the horrific news last Friday of the shootings in Newtown. I’m pretty sure that’s how you reacted, too. There simply are no easy answers. It is evil, wrong and impossible to comprehend. Even now I am still unable to understand how those families are going to make it through these next days, especially with Christmas here. Such a joyful time for so many, now a time of exceedingly great loss and grief.
How to explain? We live in a world of contradictions. We rejoice in many wonderful things, everyday gifts of grace God gives, throughout life. Special moments with friends and family. An unexpected kindness. The simple joys of a child’s smile, or the beauty of Christmas lights.
We live in a world of evil, suffering and great pain.That unfathomable crime in Connecticut is the most recent of numerous events which make me keenly aware that life is full of sorrow.
While we can grab onto the abundant life God offers through Christ today, we also live with a daily reminder that this world is not our home. We grieve as a relative or close friend battles cancer. We hurt over strained relationships. We struggle with financial pressures. And we mourn over inexplicable events like those of last Friday.
It was THIS world, full of sin and struggle and death, into which God sent His one and only Son. He gave Jesus to such a world to save us, to offer healing. Christ came to restore that which is broken…ultimately, to restore us to Himself.
The Bible assures us that we are not to give up. We are instead to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We are to press on…even when things seem dark and we feel we can’t cope. We are to persevere even when it seems the Devil is succeeding at stealing, killing and destroying.
So as our hearts are heavy for the families who are still numb from last week’s shootings, we rightly weep with those who weep. And we find comfort in the knowledge that the Babe in the manger grew up, gave Himself sacrificially upon a cross for you and me, and then rose again to be the King of Kings. We await His return, when all is made right. We look toward heaven, where there are no more tears, and there is no more sorrow.
May He bring the peace that passes understanding to those in need. And may He use you and me to do that today.
My oldest son made me aware of this compelling, short video about the sensory overload many with autism or Aspergers experience. Since 1 in 110 kids is on the autistic spectrum, you’ll likely encounter someone who reacts this way to their (sight- and sound-cluttered) environment. Maybe this will help you understand and respond more appropriately to their difficulties.
In his book It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men, Truett Cathy cites startling statistics which show that kids from fatherless homes face a world of hurt and trouble (and maybe you know firsthand about this kind of heartache). These children are:
- 5 times more likely to commit suicide.
- 32 times more likely to run away.
- 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.
- 9 times more likely to drop out of school.
- 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
Aren’t those disturbing statistics?
And yet, there’s hope…when a dad shows up and gets involved in his kid’s life. Everything changes then! Dad, you have an influence to help your child avoid the difficult life choices that so many fatherless boys and girls have made.
In my book, First Time Dad, I suggest some easy ways to spend time with your son or daughter – time that’ll make a difference in his or her life. Things like:
- Taking him along when you run to the home improvement store. I can remember walking the aisles, answering Qs, and just hanging out with my sons. Good stuff.
- Being part of their bedtime routines. This is something I’ve tried to be really involved with…not always easy but almost always rich and rewarding.
- Letting them help you around the house (I know, I know, it is usually easier to just do it yourself. Resist that urge and let the kid help out!)
- Reading books
- Going to a local playground or park
- Take a walk around the block
- Teach him to ride a bike
- Volunteer together during the holidays to ring the Red Kettle bell, deliver meals, or visit a nursing home.
And the list can go on and on. These don’t have to be big getaways, or super-fancy celebrations. Just time together, so you are THERE and INVESTING.
Far too often we don’t make the effort to really influence our children. We sort of “let life happen.” Let me suggest a better approach: being intentional. It’s something you can start doing today.
Being an intentional parent isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t require lots of money. It does require some choices and some work, though. It just means that you “AIM” for an end-goal.
- ACTIVELY pursue a relationship with your child. Starting now.
- INVEST time with your child. You schedule time to be together. You don’t let things just happen (although there will be plenty of special moments that DO happen because you are around).
- MAKE IT A PRIORITY to be raise a healthy, well adjusted adult. You’re looking far beyond today – and targeting the end…which, for you as a parent, is to launch that child into the world.
Financial planners often remind us to set some goals for our retirement “nest egg.” That’s often easier said than done. But it is great advice for both your finances…and your family. So today, think about 10 or 15 years from now, and the child who will then be grown and leaving home. Will he or she do so with assurance of your love, with rich memories of your time? With that end-goal in mind, you can better aim your energies and activities.
What target have you aimed at, as a parent, if any?
(By the way, for some easy tips you can start putting into practice today, stop by Focus on the Family’s “Make Every Day Count” Facebook page. It has some great ways to show you care!)
When my son Dakota was 8, he began exhibiting some troubling behavior. He seemed anxious and easily upset. We had a difficult time controlling him, and couldn’t figure out why. Did he have anger issues? Why was he so agitated and ornery? What could we do?
In fact, it got so bad my wife and I sought professional help. The child psychologist listened, asked questions and then offered some insight.
“It is pretty obvious that Dakota misses his daddy,” she said. “You are extremely busy, John, and now you’re seeing the external signs of the internal stress your son is experiencing.”
I was stunned by the revelation. After all, I worked for Focus on the Family and knew how to be a good parent! But, sadly…I wasn’t around enough to be the dad my boy needed.
At the time I was pursuing a master’s degree on top of logging 50 hours a week at my job. I hadn’t realized, however, what a large price my kids were paying for my absence.
That visit with the counselor prompted me to make an extra effort to tell my children how much I loved and missed them when I was gone. I was also determined to be more available – especially for Dakota – until their bedtime, leaving my graduate classwork for later in the evening.
The emotional healing took years, but I’m grateful that it DID happen. I had the opportunity to correct my mistake while my kids were still young. Today we have a great relationship.
For most of us, the task of balancing work and home life poses the greatest of all challenges. Men typically begin building their careers just as they’re becoming fathers. They feel an immense pressure to perform on the job even while they should be turning their attention to home.
All too often, work wins out.
What is it that makes the pull of work so irresistible? Famed Christian scholar C.S. Lewis suggested that
It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons (when you go into work, even though it is a day off), but to have them free because you don’t matter (in your work-world), that is much worse.
There are many reasons why a father will trade work for time with his kids, but a fear of being deemed insignificant is, sadly, very high on the list.
It’s easy to be drawn to work and the sense of accomplishment and completion that it provides. At the office, there’s your checklist, meetings and more. On the job site, you make things happen and manage the crew. These settings give you opportunities to measure your effort and output — and to feel competent and significant.
Fatherhood, on the other hand, rarely offers measurable results or clear indicators of success, and the real payoff for all the work of parenting may not come for many years. Being a dad is full of unquantifiable challenges, and its often easy to feel like you’re just not measuring up.
If you hope to fight the irresistible pull of work, you’ve got to recognize these dynamics and take the long view of your parenting task. See that your role as a dad is irreplaceable, and that it’s the most significant work you can do, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
So, here’s your challenge: What’s one way you can be more involved in your kids’ lives? It can be a simple calendar-adjustment, or a commitment to spend more time just hanging out them. Or maybe it’ll require something more dramatic. The question for you is this: How will you show your kids that being their Daddy is your favorite job? Even more important to you than your “day job?”
Believe me: The results of your on-going, active engagement at home may not be immediate, but your work THERE as a Dad is probably far more profound and longer-lasting than anything you can accomplish at the office.
We had been married almost four years when three simple words, “It’s a boy!” changed our lives. While I embraced my new role as a first-time dad, there were some cgallenges that came along with the new responsibilities.And those were mainly in the realm of our marriage.
Overnight, it seemed our date nights, romance and talk-time were history—at least that’s how I felt at the time.
As new parents, we were overwhelmed, exhausted, and insecure. We kept waiting for life to return to “normal,” but it just never did.
After two more kids, life began to really spin out of control. In the midst of the chaos, our ultimate romantic fantasy was eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I’m not kidding.
A strong desire for sleep, not romance, is what David and Claudia Arp recalled about the time surrounding their first baby. The Arps are counselors who have written about having a good marriage—which, they contend, is possible — in spite of having a new baby. Truth is, our experiences were universal. Most new parents feel like they’ve been blindsided by their baby. Maybe that’s you?
David and Claudia Arp have boiled down their advice for new parents into several healthy habits. Here are a few of their suggestions for the sleep-deprived couple who love being new parents but are in need of some helpful perspectives:
1. Be deliberate in sharing responsibilities: Every family is different, but it’s important to make sure one parent, usually the mother, is not the new baby’s sole caretaker. If she is bearing the brunt of it, a wise man offers to shop, cook, and clean around the house. Teamwork!
2. Develop healthy sleep habits: Without proper rest, all parents, including the new mom and dad, grow edgy and irritable. They don’t think clearly. Try to establish a routine that will allow each parent to get some uninterrupted rest. Granted the first few weeks will be tough, but things should eventually even out. (A practical tip here: trade turns using Mack’s “Pillow Soft” silicone earplugs. They take a bit of getting used to, but when you wake up in the morning refreshed because the baby didn’t wake you, you’ll soon enough become a believer. After weeks of recovering her precious sleep, Dena convinced me to “take a turn” and I’ve never looked back. At least one of us got some sleep!).
3. Find time for each other: One of my biggest mistakes was assuming I was done with dating my wife. Ironically, there is probably no better time to be deliberate about dating your spouse than after a new baby arrives. Plan ahead. Get a babysitter, even if it’s for an hour’s walk around the neighborhood.
I’m grateful to the Arps for their wisdom, and hope you’ve gotten a tip or two to help in the early days of being a new dad or mom.