faith, Family

Courage | Letter to My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Manly courage may not be what you think it is. This type of courage demonstrates real maturity as a man. A lot of men discover the power of this courage late in life. I thought it would be good to share with you this type of rare courage now, so you can practice while you are young. It will serve you well.

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

— 2 Samuel 12:13

It was King David who made this confession. He was one of the prominent leaders of the Old Testament. And one of the attributes we remember about David was his courage. But David is remembered for this not just because of his courage in his battles with others, but even more because he was willing to battle with himself.

You see, men are made courageous by God. But courage is a result of being confronted with a challenge. Often this challenge exposes weakness and forces a man to come face-to-face with himself and his insecurities.

In the text I just read, Nathan confronted David about his sexual sin with a woman named Bathsheba and attempted to conceal the sin by murdering her husband, Uriah. It was a sin that he tried hard to conceal, which was now revealed. Busted by God, David confesses his sin to the only one he sinned against, which was God. And while David could have continued to hide from God by deflecting, denying, or blaming, he knew that hiding was not an option. So David takes a challenging and courageous step by confessing his sin.

I believe the greatest of men are willing to confess their mistakes. They are willing to verbalize what they have done wrong and have the security to admit it in their relationship with Christ. They courageously come out from behind, deflecting, denying, blaming, and concealing by revealing all they are to a God who already knows who they are. Thus confession is defined as “agreeing with God about who he already knows we are.” So in confession to God, we are not revealing something he doesn’t know. We are demonstrating in confession that we know that God knows. And this requires courage.

But this type of courage is only born in the willingness first to confess sin to God. You see, godly men who are courageous are not courageous by their own strength because they know that strength comes from God through their weakness. Courageous men trust in God’s strength to work through their weaknesses which spills over into other aspects of their life — like their leadership. Now it may look to the world like human strength mustered from courage, but it is not. It is a strength that comes from complete trust in God, who works through us.

For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

— Romans 7:18-20

I love these words from the apostle Paul primarily because they make me feel normal. One of the most prominent early leaders, Paul, declares he was no different from you or me. He was a sinner saved by grace who daily struggled with sin. Just like I do. And just like you do.

Sometimes I think that we wrongly believe there are Christians out there who don’t struggle with sin. Maybe because many Christians are good at concealing their struggles with sin. But it’s sin that brings us together. And it’s grace that brings us to God. While it sounds counterintuitive, our battle with sin creates a connection with other believers who also struggle with sin. This is because everyone sins. Now we might all sin a little differently, but we still all sin. And in a way, we are connected because of this. Don’t believe me? Then attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting sometime and listen to how sin has brought these people together. You will hear story after story of men and women trying to figure out how to battle the war with their sin — together. And their mutual weaknesses manifested differently give comfort to each other. And together, they seek support and solutions, which are only found in God.

So given this, here is something for you to think about. Maybe an advantage that I can pass on to you. It comes from James, the half-brother of Jesus. He said:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

— James 5:16

Over the years, I have underestimated the power of confessing my weaknesses and sin. Confession is something courageous men do. And when confession is done in brotherhood and immersed with prayer, notice the outcomes that James says proceed — power and healing.

This is why I was taken aback by your confession this last week. Strangely at that moment, I was reminded of all my failings in leadership. Leadership mistakes I made in high school, college, and even early in my career. For a few seconds, your confession connected me to you emotionally and spiritually. Yet, at the same time, it compelled me to encourage you to keep confessing — to stay in that place of great strength. So son, keep acknowledging your weaknesses and confessing your sin. Only the greatest of men and leaders do this. Because every time you make one of these confessions to me, your courage connects me to you and compels me to confess my heart and to give you guidance that will help you overcome the challenges you are facing.
Great job, son. I love you, Dad.

faith, Family

Success is Misunderstood | Letter to My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Son, I believe determining and pursuing a genuine definition of success has been and always will be one of the great challenges in your quest for manhood. I have known many men who have invested decades of their life trying to figure this one out only to become undone by a single moment in time that redefines their understanding of success. Therefore, this letter is an attempt to caution you on how you perceive the success of other men and how I believe you should define success and pursue it yourself.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

— Matthew 16:26

There are numerous ways we determine and measure the success of a man in this life. The income he makes. The perceived power of his role. The number of followers he has on social platforms. Almost without thought, we reference these worldly measures as if they are the sole determining factors of a man’s success. But the lie we believe is that that they are the sum of a man’s success.

But there is no man who has known success in any of these areas who would say pursuing them led them to fulfillment. In fact, the people I know who pursue them are always wanting more. They are perpetually consumed and let down by their gains. Therefore I have to conclude this to be a shallow determination of success.

In the verse above, Jesus explains this. Jesus even says it is possible to “gain the whole world.” And there are many men who try this. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffett are a few. These are five men who are currently among the most wealthy men in the world. We learn from them that it is possible to “gain the whole world” or at least major portions of it. But as Jesus explains if you pursue them you will only get their temporary gain. More is always wanted.

But let’s get real honest with each other. Have I dreamed of being rich? You bet. I would be lying if I said “no.” But I have heard the stories too many times from too many men who are rich to know that most of them are miserable, lonely, and exhausted by their pursuit of riches. There is no end to the pursuit. It never fulfills the soul. Or, more accurately, success in these areas provides temporary pleasure but not real lasting fulfillment. Thus it falls short in being successful.

And in Jesus’s statement, he is urging men to consider their interpretation of success. He wants them to assess the better investment. So his question to us is this.
Will your determination of success be something that provides only temporary fulfillment or something that provides lasting profitable gain?

Honestly, I could care less about how much money, power, and fame you have in this life. These things only matter to those who worship them. Now I want you to be able to provide for yourself and a family along the way. But, in the end, I care more about your spiritual success and your pursuit of soulful profit because I know this is far more fulfilling.

But here’s the catch. A man can pursue a soulful profit in the wrong way and thus miss aiming for true success. So let me address that next.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

— Ephesians 4:22-24

Now, this is a little more difficult to describe, but many Christian men transition from the world’s means of success to a godly means of success, but end up doing it out of worldly motivation. And the two areas I see men do this the most are in how they live out spiritual obedience and how they use their spiritual gifts.

Let me clarify that there is nothing wrong with nurturing and pursuing growth in spiritual obedience and in our gifting. But we cannot pursue them like we do world things. For example, when a man pursues worldly success, they primarily do it out of selfish and self-centered motivations. But as followers of Christ, we cannot pursue our obedience or gifting out of the same motivation. But some men do. Primarily because it’s hard to unlearn our selfish motivations from our time living in the world. But to pursue spiritual activities by worldly means only strips the spiritual activity of its divine purpose. Consequently, many men get spiritually frustrated when this means is less unsuccessful. As a result, they find using their spiritual gifts unfulfilling and spiritual obedience exhausting. The reason why is that they are pursuing these things for personal gain.

Son, you should never assume two things about my spiritual motivation. First, that I pursue Christian obedience to increase my popularity with people or my standing with God. Second, that I use my spiritual gifts to receive economic advantage or gain power and influence in this life. My true motivation behind them is to bring fame to Jesus’s name by means of my obedience and gifting — that’s it. There is no other reason. I know you may not always know this because the motives behind my actions are hard to see, but this is my primary motivation. And somehow, as a result, my pursuit of these things has granted us some provision for the family. But that is secondary and an outcome, not the focus of my pursuit.

It took me a long time to learn this. I hope you learn this earlier than I did. And I should add there are moments I still struggle to put off the old man’s motivations, renew my mind, and put on the desires of the new man. Yet in time, you too can learn to have a new mind and new motivations in your pursuit of godly success.

Test your passions for success daily and learn to redirect them toward pure and holy motivations.

But the question still remains. What is true success?

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

— Mark 12:30

Now it may seem strange that I choose this text, but here is why I choose it. Love is an eternal currency. It has real value. It has a lasting profit. And provides perpetual fulfillment. Love is where success begins and ends. And it’s not found in the love of things but a person — God.

Eventually, we must all face this truth. That God’s love is the only endless commodity. And he, out of love, pursued us by sending his Son. Through Jesus, he wants us to know how much he loves us. And he wants us to love him. And in his love, there is fulfillment, value, profit, and success.

Son, men have spent lifetimes learning the lesson of true spiritual success. Know that there is the only one who can love you like you need to be loved. And when you know God’s love with all your heart, soul, and mind his love will fill you and spill over into all your motivations and out to others.

But, here’s the catch, to know the fulfillment of this love you have to love everything else less — much less. Listen to how Jesus said this:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

— Matthew 16:24-25


So I could sum up success this way.
Success is denying all selfish motivation, letting go of everything in this life, and learning to love God with all I am.

Learn this lesson long before I did. If you do, I would consider you one of the most successful men I have ever known. And again, I don’t care how much money you make, your status among men, or the initials after your name. I only care that you invest your life in learning to love God before all things.

And guess what?
I love you son. But not as much as God — Dad.

Fortitude, Personal Development

2021 Team Quadzilla Book List

How People Change – Allen Wheelis

As one with special interest in mental fitness and human behavior, I expected this book to be right up my alley, based on the title alone. But when I saw it was written in the 70’s, I half expected some really outdated counsel on the topic. Instead the saying, “there is nothing new under the sun” rang true. Many of the thoughts and strategies that we know to be true today about mental fitness, overcoming bad habits, changing behavior, and  achieving goals were written long ago. The author says things like, “…we are what we do, if we want to change what we are we must begin by changing what we do.” (pg101) And one of my favorite ideas on mental fitness is discussed just a paragraph later where Wheelis writes, “Change will occur only if such action is maintained over a long period of time.” This is a short book and easy to read. The sad story about his childhood will make you happy about yours.

Men Who Love Fierce Women – LeRoy & Kim Wagner

Are you a married man? Read this book. Regardless of your wife’s personality, this is a must read. LeRoy is gut-honest about his failures and frustrations as a husband, and in this book he shares realizations that saved his marriage. Be encouraged how to love and lead your wife well even if you are a more quiet and reserved type of guy. This goes on the re-read list for me.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes – Dan Egan

I found this book fascinating. My son had to read this for AP English and write papers on it, so I thought I’d read it with him. We talked about this one often. It’s US history, politics, agriculture, business, environmental science, and biology all wrapped in one witty and entertaining narrative. Trust me, you have no idea how important or valuable the Great Lakes is to humanity. Or how many times humanity has tried to destroy it. Highly recommend.

The Dichotomy of Leadership – Jocko Willink

Leadership insights from a guy who spent his career leading men in war? Sign me up. I gained more respect for those who lay their lives on the line to protect mine. These guys have relentless pursuit of doing the right things right, communicating clearly, working as a team, leaning on one another, etc. because if they don’t, they die. Jocko shares from his mistakes about what leadership is not. He explains “extreme ownership,” when to act fast and when to pause, and how to care for the people you lead by serving them with humility. Good stuff here.

When Night Comes – Dan Walsh

A winter diversion from my typical “educational” books is this novel about a man with very strange dreams. There’s WWII story to it that is fun to read and Walsh makes you feel like you were there.

Remembering Dresden – Dan Walsh

Another novel because the first one went well for me. This one is also good. Digging deeper into some WWII stuff, Walsh spins a fun mystery with plenty of twists I didn’t expect.

Change Your World – John Maxwell

My friend and John Maxwell Team member Nick gave me this book which is the latest in the John C Maxwell library. Especially in these pandemic times we live in, Maxwell emphasizes the importance of relating to people. We need one another for encouragement, accountability, mentoring, laughing, and helping each other whether in person or not. You and I can change our world when we make the effort to get together. Maxwell shows us how.

The Screwtape Letters – CS Lewis

A classic must read. And re-read. This is a compelling book about the psychology of temptation from the point of view of the devil. So witty and brilliant how Lewis gives us an inside look at conversations the devils must have with one another about how to get humanity off track and keep us from knowing and loving God.

The Lazarus Life – Stephen Smith

My dear friend Jay gave me this book several years ago because it encouraged him. This is my third time through it. If you have (or are currently) endured pain, suffering, and waiting and have wondered where God is in all of it, this book is for you. If you are ready for a real, lasting change – a transformation, then the story of Lazarus is one worth becoming intimately familiar. Smith helps us to “unwrap the grave clothes” of the things that are dead in us and experience the life and freedom for which Jesus has set us free. Experience the love Jesus has for you in and through your pains, your past, your present. This is a book of hope.

Prayers to Start Your Day – Criswell Freeman

One hundred prayers. Each on a single page. A scripture reference for each. A word of encouragement for everyday life. Takes 2 minutes to read, but it can really help you through the day. This belongs on repeat. Think Oswald Chambers and “My Utmost for His Highest” but easier to read and not quite so heavy.

Extremely Loud Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

I’m not sure why this book is so popular. It’s dumb. My son had to read it for AP English and write papers on it, so I wanted to read it with him. Honestly, I’m kind of upset that this book is fine for students to read while other “classics” are now cancelled because of their “offensive” content. This book has more offensive content than any classic I’ve ever read. Ugh. I digress. Don’t waste your time on this one.

A Love Worth Giving – Max Lucado

Based on the “love” passage in 1 Corinthians 13, Lucado takes us verse at a time to explain how we should love. It’s a task we can’t do well on our own. Thankfully, God gives us what we need to love well by the power of his Holy Spirit who lives in every believer. Lucado explains that even with the Spirit in us, we will still struggle to love well until we fully understand the amazing love that God has shown to us first.

The Great Divorce – CS Lewis

Like all CS Lewis books, this requires some focus when reading as every word is thick with meaning. This is a story filled with allegory about a bus ride from Hell to heaven. Lewis puts us in the minds of the passengers as they talk about the thoughts we have about both places. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, reading it once likely won’t be enough. This will need read multiple times to get all that Lewis means to share with us.

What is a Healthy Church – Mark Dever

A small book that my missionary friend Peter McMillan gave me on his visit this summer. It takes a detailed look at the characteristics of a healthy church. For those who are looking for a church or wondering if they are in the “right” church, this guide can bring clarity. And since the church is made up of people, one could look in the mirror as he reads this book to evaluate how well he’s doing his part as a follower of Jesus and active participant in his church.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

This is really 2 books in one. The first half or so is the author sharing his experience in the German concentration camps during WWII. It’s awful to read how people treated each other there, yet also inspiring to hear of the power of the human spirit to endure such hardship. The rest of the book reviews the science of Frankl’s philosophy of psychiatric care in what he calls logotherapy. Where traditional psychotherapy delves into your past and focuses on introspection, logotherapy looks to your future and helps one to focus on a personal meaning to life to drive healing from the mental hurts and hang-ups that keep us from being our best.

I won’t spoil the details, because I think you should read it for yourself, but be prepared to be encouraged and inspired about what you are made of and the future you can have when you live on purpose.

The COACH Model for Christian Leaders – Keith E. Webb

This book is an eye opener for me. Leadership, mentoring, coaching looks very different than I thought, and certainly different from any coaching I’ve received. The leadership skills required to really help people are centered around listening and asking great questions. It’s not at all about having good answers, or any answers for that matter. A well trained coach can help anyone with virtually any problem because the solutions come from the person. The COACH model shows how anyone can connect, relate, and help others with their questions and problems. This inspires me to pursue training in coaching skills so I can be of better help to others.

Fitness, Nutrition

Essential Guide to Healthy Eating

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Healthy eating does not have to be difficult or complicated. As an advocate for healthy living, understanding food and basic nutrients is important to me. I believe that to change your body (and physical health in general), you must start with your mind first, then your food, and THEN your exercise. You can’t outwork a bad diet, and you’ll never enjoy a lifestyle of healthy eating until your mindset is right about food.

Rather than re-creating the wheel, I’ve simply gathered some resources from the MyFitnessPal Blog that does a great job of simplifying the basics of healthy eating. I like these linked articles because they explain the importance of often persecuted food groups and defends my personal opinion that eating a balanced variety of foods is better than any restrictive “diet-of-the-month” that requires you to cut all carbs or fats. Take some time to read these links and educate yourself. Consider this your crash course in healthy eating.

Essential Guide to Macros

Essential Guide to Protein

Essential Guide to Fat

Essential Guide to Carbohydrates

Want more? Check out my video presentation of a Nutrition 101 course I taught for my employer.

Fitness, Nutrition

Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

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Want your family to eat healthier? It all starts with a healthy shopping list. If your cupboards and fridge contain mostly healthy foods, everyone in your family is likely to eat better. If the junk food is not in your house, you can’t eat it. Duh.

Surprisingly, healthier eating can lower your grocery bills, too. It’s true that ready-to-eat meals and packaged foods save time, but they can cost more and some have too much salt and fat. I was skeptical of this claim like you are, until I tried it myself. If you want real, sustainable change in your health, you’ve got to get the food part right. The good news is that it’s not that hard to do.

Follow these tips to get the most nutrition bang for your buck.

Stock Up With Staples

These pantry basics will give you the foundation you need for better family nutrition at home.

– Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables

  • Canned: Look for low-sodium vegetables and no-added-sugar fruits. We use a lot of canned green beans. Warmed up with whole wheat pasta and some lean meat for a super simple meal.IMG_0434
  • Frozen: Use what you need for a meal, then put the rest of the bag back in the freezer. We use a ton of frozen mixed veggies. I like to nuke the frozen veggies with raw broccoli. It steams the broccoli perfectly in 2 mins. Added to some pre-cooked chicken breast and whole wheat pasta or seasoned sweat potato chunks for a delicious healthy meal.
  • Dried: Check the label for and avoid added sugar, especially on fruits. I like raisins and dates. They are super sweet on their own to help satisfy my sweet tooth.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and non-instant oatmeal

Steel-cut oatmeal costs just pennies per ounce and is a good source of fiber. I’ve cut a lot of bread out of my diet lately, but I still go for super cheap Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats. No need to pay for the fancy stuff.

Beans, lentils, and peas

Packed with protein and other nutrients, they’re a great way to stretch your food dollar. Save! Use them in everything from soups to chili to burritos. Packaged dried beans cost less but take some planning to cook. Low-sodium canned beans are another option. Rinse canned beans to lower sodium even more.

Nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts

Lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs We eat lots of chicken breast, natural deli turkey, 93% lean ground turkey or beef, and eggs. Lots of eggs. So cheap and filling when mixed with veggies in a stir fry or omelette.

Low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products

Children under age 2 should have whole milk unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Yes, you can eat cheese. Real cheese though. Velveeta is not real cheese. Read the ingredients. We like Sargento Cheese. Yogurt and cottage cheese is tricky. Read the ingredients.

Buy Healthy Snacks

How to keep your kids from going overboard on chips, cookies, and other snacks? Make it easy to find the healthy stuff. We’ve learned that kids will adjust to the food you have. Don’t assume you must have junk food snacks for the kids because that’s all they will eat. You are in charge.

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Keep these healthy options on the center shelf of the fridge: (this list is on our fridge)

  • cut-up fruit
  • baby carrots and low-fat ranch dip
  • string cheese
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • low-fat yogurt

And these on the counter:

  • dried fruit and nut mix
  • pretzels
  • whole-grain crackers and peanut butter

3 Surefire Healthy Grocery Shopping Rules

To keep your food choices on track with your family’s health goals, follow these three basic rules as you cruise the supermarket aisles.

Don’t shop hungry. Ever notice what winds up in your cart when you shop with hunger pangs? Eat a nutritious snack beforehand so the munchies don’t take control of your shopping.

Make a healthy shopping list. Even if you know what you need, a list saves time and prevents impulse buys. Organize your list into sections according to the store’s layout. Shop for the healthy items first, picking up the treats last. We use the Kroger ClickList to automate our shopping. When you shop from home via internet, you are far less likely to add items to your cart that aren’t on the list. Saves buckets of money!

Hug the walls — most of the time. Stay focused. Avoid parts of your grocery store with the unhealthy choices. The edges of the store (the perimeter) tend to have the healthiest choices. Detour down center aisles for beans, whole-grain pastas and cereals, and canned and frozen vegetables and fruit. Skip the aisles with chips and other temptations, or get only the items on your list. When you’re grocery shopping with kids, the temptations can be especially distracting.

Let us know your healthy grocery shopping tricks to save time, money, and sanity.

SOURCES: University Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University: “Convenience costs;” “Snacks for healthy kids;” “Stretch your protein dollar;” “10 tips for saving at the grocery store;” “Ways to save money in 2010;” and “What’s a good buy?”American Dietetic Association: “Raising healthy eaters from preschool to high school” and “Save time and money at the grocery store.”The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: “Winning ways to grocery shop with young children.”WebMD Health News: “Baby Milk Recommendations Changed.”