Read an Excerpt
Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter
By Dave Stone
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Dave Stone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEndangered Species
Have you ever spent time browsing the endangered species list? It's fascinating. Worldwide there are currently more than 10,000 animals and 9000 plants in danger of extinction. On that list you'll find everything from Abbott's booby to Zuniga's dark rice rat. You'll find epauletted fruit bats and splayfoot salamanders, skinks and corals, viperous toads and brush-tailed wallabies.
There's one species, however, that inadvertently got left off the list: the joyful Christian family.
Is it just me, or do you see the distractions and diversions of this world sucking the life out of families? In a world of electronic devices, hectic schedules, and temptation at every turn, the family is suffering. As someone once said, "If Satan can't make you bad, he'll keep you busy"—and he has.
So many pressures compete for our time and energy these days. Technology that should free us, instead, seems to absorb our attention like a black hole. Stuff that used to be entertaining, like sports, music and other extracurricular activities, has turned into duties drained of excitement and spirit. We're so exhausted that we drag ourselves through our days, fall into bed, and then get up the next morning and do it all over again.
We don't have fun anymore. Delight has been deleted. Joy and fulfillment have been replaced by worry and hurry.
It's no wonder that the joyful Christian family has become all but extinct.
THE JOURNEY TO JOY
Would you like to rediscover a life of joy and contentment, where your home is the center and your family actually enjoys being together? Then press the "pause" button, have a seat, and let's explore the way back.
Last year my wife, Beth, and I attended a conference for pastors and their spouses. The event was held at a very nice resort—chocolates on the pillows at night and towels folded in animal shapes. This was not some shabby motel.
Throughout our stay I was intrigued by the name badges each employee wore. All the badges had the employee's name, of course, but below that was not their hometown or their department at the resort. Instead, there was the word Passion.
Some of the "passions" listed were predictable: golf, travel, music. One jovial worker listed food as his passion, and no one seemed to doubt his honesty. The novelty of the name badges generated a lot of conversation during that week.
On our last day, out of curiosity, I asked the manager, "What's the most prevalent passion your employees list?"
Without hesitation, he responded, "Family."
Most folks would claim that family is their number one priority. Why, then, don't more children feel important to their parents? Why don't families spend time together? Why is everybody going in different directions? What happened to the fun?
Think about it. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Life to the full—or, as another translation puts it, "life abundantly."
If that's God's priority, shouldn't it be ours as well? Don't you long for it?
So if Jesus spoke of full, abundant living, and if we all love our families, then shouldn't that be a winning combination (of two ingredients) that's better than a Reese's cup?
And shouldn't abundant life begin at home, with the people you love and cherish the most?
Truth is, a joyful Christian family is pretty much like chocolate and peanut butter. It's addictive. It's delicious.
And it's possible.
FINDING THE FUN AGAIN
Do you know what an oxymoron is? It's a common phrase that contains an inherent contradiction: jumbo shrimp, organized chaos, obvious secret, harmless lie, easy childbirth. Members of my church might add short sermon ...
But let me suggest another oxymoron—joyless Christian.
I remember seeing a T-shirt once: "If Jesus is in your heart, then please notify your face!" (I wanted that to be the title of this book. It didn't happen.)
But the message of the shirt is true. If Christ dwells in us, then we should be distinct from the world, especially when it comes to joy.
A normal week for me involves being a husband to Beth and father to three, leading a staff of 400 and writing a sermon to preach to more than 20,000 people. I am invited to countless meetings, functions, services, and parties each year. Such demands are exhilarating, but they're also dangerous. We've had to be vigilant about protecting our family time.
Now, my family would tell you that they are more important to me than my job. But it wasn't always like that, and it didn't happen by accident.
We've had to carve out Friday family nights, date nights, game nights, family vacations, track meets, baseball games, and countless late-night parties with teens in our home. There is purpose behind our planning and activities. We work at it.
And while Beth and I have made plenty of mistakes in parenting three children, by God's grace each of our children has genuine joy. We laugh a lot.
And why shouldn't we? Christians ought to have more joy than anyone else. We ought to be known as the party animals of the world. Folks should be beating a path to our doors to learn how to have fun.
We've got all kinds of reasons to be joyful. Christ has taken up residence in our hearts. Jesus has made it possible for us to live after we die. The Spirit of God lives within us. Those assurances should radically affect the way we approach and appreciate each day.
I hope you agree with my logic. Jesus does. (How's that for playing a trump card early on?)
He really does, remember? "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). You can't add anything to full to make it fuller. That's as good as it gets!
Our day-to-day attitudes with our families grow out of an internal relationship with Jesus, not the external circumstances of life. And so no matter what happens to us, abundant life is what happens in us—unbridled joy. Family unity. Fun times. Close relationships.
And laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.
FACT OR FICTION?
Maybe you're wondering: Can a family truly find joy together in a culture that seems intent on undermining it? Even my family?
Listen to the promise one more time: "I have come that you may have life to the full."
That promise comes straight from the One who created you in His image.
Some of you are new parents who want to start your family off on a different pathway than some of the disheartening examples you've observed or experienced. Some of you want to elevate the expectation of joy within your home and enhance the level of communication and connection. And others may need a complete makeover.
God specializes in new beginnings and second chances.
So, how do you generate genuine joy in your family? Well, you certainly don't do it by acting like it's already there. If you're merely interested in the perception that others have of you, then go audit a drama class at your local community college.
We're not interested in simply appearing to be happier than others. We want the real thing. If you long to have a joyful family, to delight in your time together, to like one another as well as love one another, then this book was written with you in mind.
On these pages, you'll learn how to develop a family mission statement. I'll teach you how to make lasting memories out of everyday outings and mealtimes. After a while it will become second nature for you to seize teachable moments and do spontaneous things with your family.
This book will show you how to find meaning in the madness. It will help you learn how to protect your family time and take pleasure in one another's company. You'll come to understand the difference between happiness and joy and why your family should pursue true joy—and expect to experience it.
Here's the secret nobody's told you yet: you can have the fun I've been describing and still be a family of individuals with living, active faith.
Siblings can get along.
Teens can appreciate time with their parents.
Dinnertime can be the highlight of the day.
The three-hour drive to Grandma's house can be enjoyable even without a DVD player—or anything that begins with the letter i.
Secrets and sullenness can be replaced by shared struggles.
Scowls can be transformed to smiles, grunts to belly laughs, and selfishness to service.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
I've spent countless hours visiting in hospital rooms, and I've come to realize that when people are dying, their conversations are usually brutally honest and free of pretense. You name it, I've heard it—doubts, regrets, lost dreams, unfulfilled desires.
But I've never known anyone who lamented, "I spent too much time with my family."
At the end, we all know what's really important. When you're on the threshold between this life and the next, looking across into eternity, don't you want to be surrounded by a family that is tied together with genuine love, faith, and the memories of a great life together?
Come to think about it, don't you want that now?
Is your family on the endangered species list? Many families today are. You don't need to read a book to raise kids who are aimless, joyless, and Christless. Simply get in line and follow the crowd.
But if you want your family to be different from the world and if you want to break the unhealthy habits you've grown up with and start building a healthy, joyful, godly family, you will need a book. It's called the Bible.
Join me as we spend the rest of this book applying the principles from that book.
Prepare to be challenged to get out of your comfort zone and establish a home where everyone enjoys one another.
Together let's build family ties with faith, love, and laughter.
Chapter TwoWhich Way from Here?
Remember Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when Alice came upon the Cheshire Cat sitting in the crook of a tree?
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the cat.
"I don't much care where—" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the cat.
"—so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the cat, "if you only walk long enough."
Often we feel like Alice, standing at a fork in the road, looking in both directions, not knowing which way to go. The Cheshire Cat's response offers us a profound and troubling truth: If you don't know where you're going, any road will do. And if you keep on, in no particular direction, you're sure to get somewhere—but don't be surprised if it's not the place you hoped for.
What's your goal for your family? You may be thinking, That's simple—survival. Each night when my head touches the pillow, I'm just thankful I made it through another day.
Sometimes survival seems like the best we can do. But it is, at best, a short-term goal. Let's think a little farther down the road. If your passion is your family, what's your purpose as a parent? Your answer will determine whether your family experiences frustration or fulfillment.
Look around at the families in your neighborhood. Contrary to popular opinion, the success of a family is not measured by the speed you travel or how many different directions you go. Frantic and frenzied schedules seldom add character or depth to a family.
It reminds me of the old joke about two friends heading off on a road trip to California. As they're speeding along the highway, the passenger asks the driver, "How are we doing?" And his buddy replies, "I have no idea where we are, but we're making great time!"
That's the heart of the problem for many families: lack of direction. Like Alice, they're not sure which way to go, but from the looks of all the activity around them, they need to be going somewhere—and fast. If you don't much care where you're headed, then save yourself fifteen minutes and skip this chapter. Better yet, sell this book on eBay, because it you don't have a purpose these pages are meaningless.
DETERMINING YOUR DIRECTION
In the business world, leaders spend a great deal of time and money developing a mission statement. That prime directive becomes the foundational principle for every job in the organization, every decision, every change, every dollar spent. When the mission is understood and embraced, it serves as a compass for every employee. Everyone aims toward that goal, and the company succeeds.
We know it works for business. Why, then, don't we give more attention to the mission of our families? How can we be such fierce and focused leaders at work and not bring the same principles and practices home? A clear vision for the family, repeated and woven into the fabric of daily life, results in joy, direction, and confidence. Rather than aimlessly meandering in a maze, your family can find meaning through its mission.
I can hear you muttering under your breath, "Nobody said anything about homework. Besides, we've gone this long without a family mission statement. What's the big deal about doing it now?"
Here's the big deal. To steal a line from the feline, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."
Think about it this way: Your phone or car may have a GPS, but until you lock in a destination, all it does is show you where you are. You can't get to where you want to be until you know where you want to go.
DEVELOPING A FAMILY MISSION STATEMENT
In the first book of the Faithful Families series, we set the goal of Raising Your Kids to Love the Lord. We all want that, but let's kick it up another notch. If we truly are serious about Building Family Ties with Faith, Love, and Laughter we'll need a compass to get us there. That compass is the family mission statement.
A mission statement is not something parents come up with and then impose on their kids. It's a family project. You need to involve everybody in the process; decide together what your values are and how they can be reflected in your mission. When everyone has a voice, you'll have what the business world calls "buy in" for years to come. Everyone takes ownership. Everyone is invested in the outcome.
It doesn't matter if your children are five or fifteen, a family mission statement provides a rallying point, a focus, a center of gravity that holds your family together. So, how do you go about it? It's a simple process, really.
Pray for God to give you all clear direction and unity.
Discuss principles and goals that are important to your family.
Talk about how you'd like the family to be remembered years from now.
Write down several possible statements. (See examples that follow.)
Narrow it down to the best one, then pray about it for several days.
Reconvene and determine your family mission statement.
Schedule a regular time for the family to pray and evaluate your progress.
There are lots of creative ways to do this. You might want to brainstorm with your family by getting a large piece of poster board and some brightly colored markers. Place the poster in a prominent spot—near the breakfast table, maybe, or on the side of the refrigerator. For a few days, let everyone in the family write on it—graffiti-style—significant Bible verses, ideas, prayers, fruit of the Spirit, hopes, and wishes for the family. Set a time to brainstorm, agree on the principles, and identify goals that are important for your family. Use those as the basis for your mission statement.
A FEW EXAMPLES
Relax. This is not a test. There is no right or wrong way to go about it, no grades, no black marks on your permanent record. You are crafting this around the way your family is wired, so your mission statement will be different from anyone else's. The detail, length, and intent are up to you.
Kurt and Kristen Sauder's mission statement for their family is: We exist to love and honor Jesus Christ by living for His kingdom and letting our light shine so that others will be fully devoted to Him.
Jason and Daniela Richardson came up with this: To live unselfishly with grace and prayerful concern, to work as servants, and to love each person to the glory of Jesus Christ.
Hector Ramirez is a single dad who drives home the message of the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Excerpted from Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter by Dave Stone Copyright © 2012 by Dave Stone. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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