Finding a Balance…Wrap-up

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Well, here we are at the end of our Work-Family-Ministry Balance series.  Thank you for your interest and comments.  By God's gift, this was and is our own family identity.  These are not theories that belong in a book or ideas that we never actually got around to.  No, this was and is the fabric of our family life. So let me close with a few reminders from our last few weeks together. Reviewing our chart above, remember... The time commitments on the left side are going to be "squeezed" when children join our family. We can't let these "squeezed" areas go to zero. If our time as a couple goes to zero in these busy children years, there will be no spark, no flame, no fire, no romance when…
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Perfection Is Not The Goal…Consistency Is

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
For the past few weeks, I have been sharing material from a presentation I give on finding a Work-Family-Ministry balance.  One of the habits I stressed in the spiritual training of our children section was reading the Bible and praying as a family.  In fact, it was so important to Rhonda and I that our goal was to do this every day.  When I make this presentation to a group, I always close with this question to make my concluding point, "You have only known me for about 45 minutes.  But based on what I have shared and hearing this talk, if our goal was to read the Bible every day as a family and this is considered 100%, what percentage do you think we actually accomplished?  If every day…
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We Are In This Together

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Last post, I closed with the thought that we husbands need to show our wives by our actions that we are in this child investment effort together.  As dads, we can be big talkers about how important our family is to us.  But our wives know the real deal.  They know if we are serious about our claims.  And they know by our actions, not just our words, whether we truly are in this thing together. Let me give a small example of what this "showing by our actions" looks like.  Several years ago, I became the Exploration Manager for the Houston office of a small oil company headquartered in New Orleans.  My management position involved not only many video conferences with the main office, but several trips to New Orleans…
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Starting, Quitting, and Pitching In

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Kevin Leman, in his book Home Court Advantage, has an excellent chapter on work.  He writes, "Your quitting time at work is your starting time at home."  Have you ever made this connection?  Your quitting time at work is literally your starting time for what is arguably your more important job; leading and serving your family.  Therefore, when it comes to work, we need to be just as punctual about our quitting time as we are about our starting time.  Think with me about what this looks like in practice. How many of us would show up an hour late to work and say to our boss, "You know, my wife and I just had SO MUCH to talk about this morning.  We needed to hammer down some plans for…
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You Are Indispensable at Home

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
I began this set of posts on balancing family, work, and ministry with a diagram to summarize our time commitments.  We covered the various time categories that get "squeezed" when children join the mix.  We also talked about the time we invest in our families.  We emphasized that family time is not babysitting or childcare; it is investing in our children's future and our legacy. Let's wrap up our discussion with a few thoughts about work.  It is easy to find our significance in our work.  I think this is especially true if we feel unqualified or uncomfortable on the home front.  But rest assured, God has qualified and gifted you to be a success as a husband and father.  Everything you were given at your new birth - a…
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Love Trumps Knowledge (again)

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Finally, we invest in our children when we teach and model the concept that love trumps knowledge.  Paul writes in I Corinthians 8:1, "Knowledge puffs up, love builds up."  Or in another translation, "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."  Paul could not be more direct.  When the apostle expounds on the topic again in I Corinthians chapter 13, he explains that knowledge without love is useless.  According to Scripture, knowledge without love is of no value whatsoever! This prominent message of the New Testament has tremendous implications in your family and in your community of believers.  In our legitimate quest to get things right, we can forget the love.  In our effort to get our kids to fly right, we can damage the relationship with a lack of love.  In our search for…
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Affirm, Affirm, Affirm

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Oops, I see that I skipped 29 ways to affirm your children.  Let me make it succinct:  Affirm, affirm, affirm your kids.  Affirm them for their gifts.  Affirm them for their personalities.  Affirm them for their spiritual interest and maturity.  The essence of Christian child-training is celebrating our children for who they are while at the same time spurring them on to greater development and maturity. Now parents sometimes wonder, "Will Junior take advantage of all this affirmation?"  In my mind, it works a lot like grace.  Legalists worry that too much emphasis on grace in our practice and teaching will somehow lead believers to take advantage of God's gift.  But I see it as just the opposite. The more I know and experience of God's grace, the more I…
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Everybody Join In

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
The next two categories in the "Children" section are Join them in their interests and Join you in your interests.  As my friend Greg Despres says, "Kids spell love T-I-M-E."  Join your son in a Lego building project.  Join your daughters in a tea party.  When you see your teenager shooting hoops, go out and challenge him to a game of HORSE.  You may be thinking, "I haven't developed that kind of relationship.  I don't think my son would want me to join him."  It is never too late to start.  Persist in joining your kids in their interests, but persist in a way that is winsome and inviting. But this is not only about the children's interests.  Have them join you in your interests.  Include your kids in the things…
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Teaching Life Skills

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
The next topic on the "Children" part of our diagram is Life Skills. What do I mean by "Life Skills"?  Basically, the whole range of what children need to know to function as independent adults in this world.  Everything from brushing their teeth to learning to drive a car.  From setting the table to moving the lawn.  From developing positive character qualities to learning how to sort their laundry.  The list, if one existed, could go on to infinity.  But wait!  There is a list and it is located here.  This one page summary (taken from the Teaching Home magazine and edited by us over the years) is a good starting point. Many of these skills will be learned by repetition or just "catching on" as we live out our…
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Building the Relationship

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Several years ago, when our children were small and we were just beginning this parenting journey, I came across this quote from Charles Swindoll, "Building the relationship is more important than rules of control."  With plenty of need for "rules of control" in a family of seven, I had to mull this idea over for a minute or two.  I concluded at the time that maybe the need for a relationship was as necessary as the need for rules, but surely not more important.  But I was wrong. As life with a growing family evolved, I came to agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Swindoll.  Building a relationship is more important than rules of control.  Rules are of course necessary.  But over time, rules will change.  Rules will slowly lighten up as…
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Family Worship

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
The first investment on our chart regarding our kids is spiritual training.  For our family, this started with reading the Bible and praying together.  When our children were young, we usually read a Bible story at bedtime.  Over the years, our Bible reading and prayer time varied from around the dinner table to early evening to early morning before Dad went to work.  The important part was not the when or how, but the consistency; making the time for family worship in our busy schedules. The consistency your kids see in your effort elevates God's Word in their minds.  They see that this connecting to God through our praise, His Word, and prayer is important enough to Mom and Dad to make it a priority.  Besides sticking with the plan,…
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Making the Investment

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Let's now turn our attention to the right side of our diagram, the "Children" area. We have already acknowledged that our new responsibility of children will squeeze our other priorities.  But what do we do with the time we dedicate to our kids?  One thing I emphasize with fathers is that this time with our children is not babysitting or childcare.  It is investing.  It is investing in their future and our legacy. There is a verse in the New Testament that gives us great motivation and instruction in what that investment looks like.  Ephesians 6:4 encourages us with, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  Paul starts with the relationship angle, "Do not provoke your children…
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Margin and its Friends

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
What about our other time areas that get "squeezed" by our new family responsibilities?  Let's tackle them one by one. Personal Time.  To keep time for personal study or other interests, we may need a change in our daily schedule.  As many parents have discovered, you may need to get up earlier to maintain your interest in reading or exercise.  Also, including your kids in your hobbies and things you enjoy is a great family connection time. Friends.  We were created for community.  We were created to enjoy the beauty of friendship.  Naturally, with children in the house, there will be less time for softball with the guys or book clubs.  But just as with our time as a couple, we do not want to let our friends time go to…
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A Failure to Communicate

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
One of the things Rhonda and I learned early on in the effort to preserve our time as a couple was the need for good communication.  To put it bluntly, we just did not have the time to deal with poor or misunderstood communication.  When your time is "squeezed", the need to share your hopes, dreams, challenges, and hurts in ways that are understood and addressed is critical.  We demonstrate love through our encouraging and caring ear.  And when communication is good, we feel like we are moving forward as a couple.  Let me share some principles that helped us along the way. Good communication only happens when the listener understands the words of the speaker in the way the speaker intended them to be understood.  In our communication, we asked…
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Keeping the Spark Alive

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Let's start through our list of time commitments with some practical ideas about handling the "time squeeze" that comes with a growing family.  I am going to begin with our time together as a couple (see last post's diagram for a list of these areas) because getting this right is critical to our marriage and family health.  Now some of this couple time is just naturally moved over to the kid time because of all the things we do together as a family.  But keeping some time for just the two of us is very important. One of the ideas I challenge men with is to commit at least two uninterrupted hours a week to listen to your wife.  This is just the two of you together.  To our women readers,…
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Feeling the Time Squeeze

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Last time, we introduced you to this diagram that provides the background for our "balancing family, work, and church" discussion. The categories on the left represent life before kids.  We have our personal time; hobbies and other interests.  We have our work commitment, time as a couple, and spending time with friends.  Other categories are our extended family, ministry pursuits, and some time for margin in our lives. What I tried to show in the drawing is how all those areas get squeezed when the kids come along.  One of the few exceptions is our work.  That time requirement generally stays the same after the children arrive and I showed that with the thickness of that category staying the same.  But what about the others?  We are just going to…
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Finding a Healthy Balance

Thoughts, Work - Life Balance
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to share with the men of Cypress Bible Church a presentation on finding a healthy balance in our family, work, and church responsibilities.  The talk was a mix of biblical admonitions and life experience.  As our five children have moved into adulthood, it has afforded us the chance to look back and reflect on where God has taken us as a couple and as a family over the past 35 years.  Over the next several posts, I would like to continue the conversation started at the men's breakfast and write about the experiences and principles that guided us as a way to encourage you on your own family journey. I have included a family photo to introduce you to the cast of characters. …
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