5 WAYS TO HONOR THE LADY OF THE HOUSE ON MOTHER’S DAY

The majestic Statue of Liberty towers above the entrance to New York harbor.  The French government gave it to the United States.  A sculptor named Bartholdi spent twenty years and a lot of his own money to finish the project.  When he looked for a human model whose facial features he could reproduce as “Lady Liberty,” he picked his own mother. How can you “raise a monument” to honor your own mom, or the mother of your children, this Mother’s day?  1.   A Photo and VerseSelect a good photo of her: your favorite portrait, or a picture of her preparing a meal or holding one of the kids.  Arrange it in an expensive frame, leaving room for the words of Proverbs 31:28-29: “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, he praises her, saying, ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ ” Don’t hand it to her.  Place it on the counter or on a dresser where she’s sure to spot it early on Mother’s Day. Letting her find it adds the element of surprise. 2.  Empty Envelope Lick a stamp and put it in the corner of a letter envelope.  Write her name and address on …

10 QUESTIONS I WISH I HAD ASKED MY DAD

   My dad, a textile mill worker in rural North Carolina, loved Jesus passionately. Forced to drop out of school in the seventh grade to go to work, after coming to Christ as a young man, he studied the Bible voraciously. Dad taught an adult Bible study class, wrote poems about faith, and often wept when he heard a gospel song on the radio. At 59, he died of kidney failure. At the time I was 29, with two boys.  As I reminisce about him, I realize there’s a lot I never learned about my father, and even more I could have learned from him, but didn’t. I wish I could go back and ask him these questions. How did you come to faith in Christ? I’d probe for who was responsible for leading him to faith, or what circumstances created an openness to the gospel.  As a teen, he was known for hard drinking and fist fights—even gashing others with his knife at times.  What is your favorite Bible book? Chapter?  Verse?  Why? What were your mom and dad like? I never met my paternal grandmother, and my paternal grandfather only once. All I recall is that he was an alcoholic.  I’d …

8 TIPS FOR GIVING CRITICISM

When you need to confront, especially as one Christian to another, or as a leader to someone you supervise, here are tips I’ve learned from 40-plus years in vocational ministry. 1.    Know the conditions for giving criticism. When is it necessary?*Is the person’s attitude or behavior dishonoring God, or in direct defiance of biblical commands/principles?*It is damaging my relationship with this person?*Is it hurting the offender?*Is it exerting a negative impact on the ministry or work environment? 2.     Criticize in private.  Do it face to face if at all possible, not through a text or email.  Use the phone only when distance prohibits a private meeting. Dignify the person by not confronting in front of other staff members.  I had the same policy as a parent:  “Criticize in private.  Praise in public.” 3.     Base the criticism on objective evidence, not rumors. If you are hearing rumors of a person’s inappropriate behavior, perhaps it’s necessary to engage the person in a conversation.  Ask if he’s aware of what is being said about him.  Let him talk.  But don’t assume those rumors are true. 4.    Criticize specific behavior, not one’s character in general.  Employing words such as “You always…” or …

9 TIPS FOR RESPONDING TO A CRITIC

The only surefire way to avoid criticism is to do nothing.  In a span of 45 years of ministry, here are response suggestions that I’ve learned the hard way.​1.     Not every critic or criticism merits a response. If I defend myself from every salvo, the effort siphons off time and energy needed elsewhere.  Ask the Lord for discernment concerning whether to respond, and how.  Be especially hesitant to reply impulsively to critical emails, texts, or tweets.  Perhaps the best response to these forms of criticism is when you don’t hit SEND. 2.     Pray for a teachable, non-defensive spirit.  Critics aren’t always right, yet God’s Word repeatedly tells us to listen. Representative of numerous verses in the book is Proverbs 17:10:  “A rebuke goes deeper into a wise man than a hundred blows into a fool.” Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, received a lot of harsh letters because he went outside the established church to launch a ministry to sailors.  He took every letter into God’s presence and said, “Lord, show me any kernel of truth in this criticism.”  Even if I’m convinced that 90% of what a critic says is off-base, I’m responsible before God to heed the …

The Autumn Years Of Marriage

A long marriage relationship doesn’t make or break one’s character; it merely exposes it. Those years constituting middle age and beyond are particularly revealing. That’s when the kids are in college or living on their own. The schedule no longer revolves around their school or sports’ activities. Then you’re forced to focus on the marriage a bit more and evaluate the status of the marriage, since it’s the primary relationship you have left. Those years bring signs of aging, causing alarm to the extent a person has relied on looks or physical prowess for a sense of significance. It’s during this phase of life that a marriage either deteriorates or grows stronger, depending on the foundation laid in earlier years and the values that control the man and wife. Hopefully, marriage between Christians will echo the qualitative relationship reflected in Proverbs 31:10-11: “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” To be sure, failure of the relationship is not inevitable, depending on whether the marriage is analogous to an oak tree or to a cedar. The oak’s leaves turn …

As Long As Forever

My son and daughter-in-law were wed on the beach in South Carolina in 2004. I wrote this poem for them and read it during the ceremony. May their marriage and the marriage of your children last “as long as forever.”Terry 3/31/16 How long should you love this beautiful bride?How long should you stand by Jennifer’s side?How long is her favor too precious to lose?How long should you hold her when she has the blues?How long should the Lord reside in your heart,keeping you two from growing apart?How long should you take time for a walk?Listen whenever she wants to talk?How long should she smell the flowers you’ve sent,and thank God for you when filled with their scent?How long should you keep from raising your voice?Should putting her needs first be your choice?How long should you greet her with hugs and a kiss?How long should she stay number one on your list?How long should her joy be your endeavor?The answer is simple: as long as forever.As long as the waves lick the sand on the shore,retreat, then repeat the cycle once more.As long as the leaves sprout green in the Spring,turn red in the Fall before they take wing.As long as …

FARLEY AND ME

Two Relationship Lessons from My Dachshund From my 7-year-old badger dog, I am striving to learn and apply these insights. 1.  Value of Presence    If I plop down on the couch to watch TV, Farley hops up to join me and nuzzles close.  When I stroll into my home office to study or to use the computer, he tags along.  When I go to the bathroom, he waits for me outside the door.  He wants to be with me, and that’s how I know he loves me. Dwight L. Moody was in his study when his young son sauntered in and stood silently for several minutes.  “Well, what do you want?”  Moody finally asked.  “Nothing,” replied his boy.  “I just want to be where you are, daddy.” Do others sense that I just want to be where they are? Nothing substitutes for our physical presence.  My best friend left his office just to sit with me during one of my worst depressive episodes–Christ with skin on!  (Is it any wonder he’s my best friend!?)   When someone who lives nearby receives a harsh medical diagnosis…when he or she faces serious surgery…when a grandchild is lost to an accident…when they suddenly lose …