All posts by Steve Maxwell

Steve, husband to Teri for over 40 years, dad to eight and grandpa to eight, desires to encourage homeschool dads to spend time in the Word, disciple their children in the ways of the Lord, use their time wisely, and be men of God. His five home-school graduate sons are now wage-earning adults, and three have purchased their homes debt-free before marriage. He has been writing e-mails for Christian dads since 1990. Steve is co-author of of a number of books, including Managers of Their Homes, and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts. Steve also wrote Buying a House Debt-Free: Equipping Your Son, Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family and Redeeming the Time. Find out more information on Steve Maxwell and his books.

Gratefulness

What is “music to your ears?” I mean, what do you really enjoy hearing others say to you? I expect almost universally we love to hear expressions of gratefulness to us for something we have done. Not only is gratefulness an essential character quality, but also it does so much for producing a spirit of harmony in a home. It can’t be overstated.

When I’ve taken the children somewhere I thought they would enjoy, I’m very pleased if I hear them thank me. However, I feel wonderful if they go on to say how much they enjoyed it and what fun it was. I don’t think I’ve ever said to them, “Please stop, you’re being too grateful.” There is something about gratitude that just, well, it delights my heart!

Now the question comes up, How grateful am I? Since I am the leader in the home, just what sort of example am I setting? Am I quick to recognize the acts of kindness that are done for me and tell that person how much I appreciate them? Do I thank my sons for mowing, yard work, or cleaning the garage? Do I thank Sarah for all the baking she does? Do I thank Teri for dinner, for washing my clothes, or for the nightly neck and shoulder massage I receive while we have a session of geography immediately following our evening meal? (I wonder if that is why I have had this new-found love for geography lately. If you haven’t tried this approach to geography, I guarantee you’ll like it.)

However, most of all, I’m eternally grateful to Teri for her ministry of love in teaching the children at home. She has chosen a much more difficult route than to send them off to school. She appreciates how I feel about her efforts, but that alone isn’t enough. She wants to hear me express it to her in words and not just once a year. Phone calls, letters, email notes, or gifts–you name it, she loves it. I have yet to come close to being too grateful, but I need to purpose anew to try.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Fathers in America

I am amazed that we could be at a turning point in the history of our country. If Bill Clinton is re-elected, he stands to have appointed over 50 percent of all the Federal judges in our country, not to mention the ones on the Supreme Court. In addition to the appointments are the ideologies that he appears to stand for and will push to implement.

What is most incredible about this situation is what it reveals about the soul of our nation. A salesman I was speaking with the other day very honestly summed it up. He said, “All I care about is what he (the President) is going to do for me and my family.” Honest, yes, but what an indictment. It appears the average person is most interested in how big the handout is going to be for him. What has failed in our country?

Instead of people being horrified over the multitude of allegations of wrongdoing, they accept them as normal, or part of one’s private life, and not important. If even 5 percent of them are true, this president would make Nixon appear “squeaky clean.” Does character not count anymore?

There may not be a group of people more passionate in caring about these issues than the home-educating community. One of the top reasons for home educating is that we can raise children of godly character who know how to work. To us, the consequences of the current direction are only too obvious, but it does not ease the anguish of our souls as we observe the slide. But what can be learned from this situation?

I feel the lesson is for us dads. You see, I believe the failure can be placed squarely on the backs of dads in our nation, fathers who did not seek God. Fathers who believed money was more important than time with their children. Fathers who valued their wives more when they were earning a paycheck than raising children. Fathers who wanted their own entertainment, relaxation, and pleasure more than they wanted godly children. I don’t believe God will listen to excuses when fathers are held accountable for the lives they were entrusted with.

Is there anything we can glean from this mess our country is in? YES!! May we bless and appreciate our wives for the daily sacrifices they make for us. May we be zealous for being the godly fathers we are called to be. May we purpose to use every last bit of energy to train up children who love the Lord and want to serve Him, children of godly character who know how to work and enjoy it. I believe the children who are raised according to this recipe will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Communicating with Our Families

As I watched, Jesse, my next to youngest, pointed down the hallway and excitedly said, “beedsbuks.” However, as many times as he repeated it, I still didn’t understand what he meant. Then, finally, one of the older children translated it for me and said, “Dad, he wants you to read him some books.”

Soon thereafter, I had a conversation with Teri. She revealed that she thought I did not value her organizational abilities. I was truly shocked. I have been so appreciative of them and felt I conveyed that to her through the years. I was saddened at the idea she had not known of my sincere appreciation for her abilities in that area. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

As a husband and father, I often think of English as my “second language.” It’s not that I have some other language that I speak as my fluent native tongue (English actually is), but I can have such difficulty communicating what is on my heart. Is that ever a problem for you? It can be a real source of frustration for me, just like poor Jesse when he was doing his best to ask me to read him a book. He was giving it his all, but he was unsuccessful. The other children understood, even though I had not. So why not me?

I’m sure one reason is I don’t spend as much time around him as the others do. Sheer quantity of time around the people you want to communicate with is important. As dads, we are away from our families much of the time during the week. We miss a lot that goes on in the home, and as such, we are not as well “tuned in.” That affects both how effective we are in getting our message across and how well we hear what someone is really trying to tell us. I think the best cure for that is large doses of time. Not the lie of quality time, but time. I’ve known dads who say they have to go for quality, since quantity isn’t an option. I believe that is just an excuse to pacify their conscience. What our wives and children want is US to spend time with them. The less time we spend with them the more difficult it is to truly communicate, soul to soul, with them. There may be pleasant conversations, but they won’t be on a level that is necessary to keep a healthy marriage or strong bond with your children.

I’m sure another hindrance to communicating effectively is how observant I am. Am I really listening intently to what they are saying? Am I concentrating on what is being said, or am I thinking about some other project and giving only half-hearted attention? I’m guilty of that. I can look at them and even nod appropriately, giving the pretense of interest. God hates pretense, and it seems like I am always caught when I try it. It’s a good thing, too, or I would probably do it more often. In one passage in Jeremiah, God told him how He prefers unfaithful Israel over pretending Judah. “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah” (Jeremiah 3:10-11). What a sobering thought when I am tempted to pretend.

Another problem is that often I don’t try to compensate for the differences. We are aware there are many differences between us, our wives, and our children. The politically correct will insist there are no differences between men and women. I wonder if “they” ever tried to discuss financial issues with someone of the opposite sex. Teri and I approach money matters from different perspectives. It’s difficult to explain, but somehow we can both arrive at the same conclusion from opposite directions.

Let either of us try to explain the route we took to get to the conclusion, and the other one is totally confused. I am not saying her route is wrong; it is just a different approach to getting there. I feel what is needed is understanding and patience: understanding in how we approach things differently and patience to be willing to answer questions and kindly explain.

The bottom line is that communication can be hard work. It takes time and effort. That is why Teri’s and my weekly dates are critical to avoiding roadblocks and helping her be most efficient in home educating. If you don’t have the weekly date habit (movies don’t count since talking through them would be difficult and certainly viewed as rude by others), I strongly encourage you to begin it. In regard to the children I think it is like the rules for locating a business. There the formula is location, location, location. With our children, I believe it to be time, time, and more time.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

How Our Words Can Be Like Rocks

What is it about boys and rocks? You know what I mean. There is just something innate in a boy! When he sees a rock, he wants to throw it! It is simply the way boys are made. Ohhhhhhhh, and what consequences there can be. When I was four or five, I caught a rock with my forehead and immediately was covered with blood. Two little boys had some consequences. Mine was the stitches. The other boy’s was courtesy of his parents.

Unfortunately, I feel our words are often like rocks in the hands of boys. We carelessly give them a good toss, and thereafter they are out of reach. We desperately wish we could take them back. But once they are in motion, there is nothing that can be done. It is so easy to think I can apologize, and it will be okay. Ever throw a rock through a window? All of the “I’m sorry’s” in the world will not put that window back together like new. Even with painstaking gluing, the cracks will be seen forever.

I can remember something I said to Teri over fifteen years ago, which can bring tears to her eyes even now at the mention of it. More recently, there was an incident when I said something harshly to one of my children. It breaks my heart as I recollect the hurt expression that enveloped their face, almost a look of betrayal. I wish I could take it back, but it’s too late. With both of those incidents, I have humbled myself and asked forgiveness. Asking forgiveness is a critical step as it stops bitterness from growing and destroying a relationship, but it does not eliminate the pain. The only way to avoid others’ pain is not to hurt them in the first place.

As dads, we are called to nurture and encourage those entrusted to our care. Yet careless, angry words can tear down, in a minute, what has taken weeks to build up. May our words be filled with praise as we train up these precious souls God has given us.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Training Our Children?

There is a lot of talk about the Olympics these days. Certainly, national pride and world competition has much to do with it, but I wonder if there isn’t more than that.

How impressive would those teams be if they were comprised of contestants who had been selected by lottery? I believe we are impressed because the athletes had superior training and they perform flawlessly.

Isn’t that why our military is so good? They have first been instructed in what, when, and how; then they are drilled repeatedly to perfect the performance. I believe that is why those who have been home educated are doing so well. Not only are they being educated, but also they are disciplined in the application of that knowledge.

So what does that have to do with us dads? Maybe not a lot, but I did want to make a point. Quality training is respected by almost everyone, and it is no accident. It takes a concerted, organized effort, usually by more than one individual.

We are training this country’s leaders of tomorrow. They will be the ones whose performance is admired. Even now, compliments on a child’s behavior, attitude, and academic performance are not foreign to parents of home-educated children.

In most of your homes, Mom is the day-to-day coach, and Dad keeps things on track for the long run. Dad is the one who holds the children ultimately responsible for learning what Mom is teaching.

I have found that as I’m spending time with a child, something will come up that is an excellent chance to apply what they are learning. I suppose most often they ask a question. The solution will involve a math problem that I help them work in their minds. When I was a child, I disliked word problems in school; they revealed I didn’t know how to apply what I was learning.

Dad’s interest shows the children how important it is to him that they are learning. His encouragement will challenge his children and bless their mother.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

A Man’s True Identity

Have you noticed that as men, we can often relate to others only in terms of what each does for a living? Our job becomes our identity, who we truly are. Isn’t that why the loss of a job can create such a crisis in a man’s life? Certainly, the issue of providing for our family is one that shouldn’t be ignored, but this seems to go beyond that.

Often I hear about divorces that are due to the father being more married to his work than to his wife. Could it be that his identity was wrapped up in his job and not in what it should be? Each one of us might do well to ask the question, “Who am I, really?” If everything I have and currently know is taken from me, am I still someone, or nothing?

There have been times in my life that I have unknowingly had my identity in other things. In Florida I was working eleven hours a day to get ahead in my job. The result was a neglected wife struggling with three young children and a gold (actually solid bronze) bar with the words “Outstanding Performance” on it. Is that something to be proud of or what? Now it is easy to see what a fool I was as I daily see that bar sitting in front of me on my desk. It isn’t displayed as a trophy, but as a sad reminder to prevent me from losing my priorities again. Jobs come and go, but a family is eternal! The precious souls that God entrusts to our care are eternity bound, and as fathers we are powerful influences in their lives.

But the answer is not to have our identity in our family either. Then what happens when there is not peace in the home or a loved one is lost? It is only when our identity is in the Lord Jesus Christ that all these other areas come into proper perspective. You see, I’m the adopted son of God the Father through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).

If my identity is in the Lord Jesus Christ, then my identity is steadfast, since nothing can sever my relationship with my Lord (Romans 8). No matter what the circumstances, there can be peace when I am in Christ Jesus. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Where Is Your Treasure?

This is my absolute favorite time of the year. I enjoy Christmas immensely, but that is not the primary reason for preferring this above all other seasons. Our company gives us fewer holidays off during the year, so we can have the days off between Christmas and New Year’s. I rejoice in being home with my family!

Teri is truly my best friend. There is no one I would rather be with and do things with than her. During workweeks I get up early enough that I also have to go to bed early. That schedule precludes staying up after the little ones are down, so we don’t get as much talking time as we would like. During the holiday week, though, we can stay up a bit later and talk. Additional little errands, etc., that come up over this holiday week give us even more time together.

After Teri, our children are my next best friends. What a joy they are to be with. When we are all together, something is usually going on, and we are often laughing. I enjoy the individual time with them that the vacation allows.

However, this year is better than the last two years because in December I resigned a ministry position that was taking my time and attention away from my family. It has been such a relief to not have something major competing with the family. I had not realized how heavily this ministry had weighed on me. I believe God was telling me Kansas City is full of men He could use to fill my previous ministry position, but I was the only one He had called to be my children’s Daddy.

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Next to the Lord, may our hearts be consumed with our families. May we cast off the myth of “quality time versus quantity time.” The only way to imprint on another life is through time. Please don’t let others rob your family of your time. Lavish it on them; they need you.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Finding Causes for Character Problems

Here is a test. Can you quickly write down what the major character needs are of each of your children? As dads we are not only responsible for the education of our children, but also their character. Any character issue that is left unresolved in our children becomes a future spouse or employer’s problem. If our children get by with laziness, lying, stealing, disrespect, or disobedience, they will only get worse once they are out of our homes.

I spoke to a saleswoman just yesterday who said she and her husband had decided to tell their twenty-three-year-old “dead-beat son” not to contact them ever again. That will not solve anything. Hopefully, none of us will ever experience a situation as grave as the one they are in, but the principle that we will reap what we sow is an iron-clad guarantee. The doubly sad part of their situation is that these parents view themselves as ideal role models and poor, innocent parties. Therefore, they will probably never humble themselves sufficiently to resolve the breach. They are not willing to accept responsibility for what they have created.

So, does that mean there is no hope since none of us are perfect? Certainly not! God’s grace is sufficient and in our weakness He is made strong. However, we must humble ourselves and be willing to admit our failures. We need to seek God’s answers to the problems. We must cry out to God for insight into the problems as we look past the surface issues to the real root causes. We must accept the possibility that we dads may have a significant part in the solution. Then we must commit to do whatever is necessary.

There is one area I encourage you not to overlook as you search for causes. I am convinced one of the biggest contributors to much of the difficulty in homes is the TV. I could write pages about TV and what it is teaching anyone watching it. I believe none of it is of value. Some might say, “Wait a minute, sometimes we watch educational shows.” Yes, but aren’t most of them humanistic and teach evolution? Wouldn’t it be much better if our children were reading the information out of a godly textbook? They would still receive the knowledge while improving their reading skills at the same time. I used to justify watching TV, when in actuality it was my own laziness and desire to be entertained that kept us watching it. It is a mistake to confuse entertainment with rest. One day of rest is good, more than that is likely slothfulness.

Others may say TV is great entertainment. Entertainment it is, but certainly not great or profitable. Could it be responsible for a generation that is entertainment starved? There is never enough. Children show up at youth groups looking to be “wowed” and to spend each moment having fun. There is no concept of serving or spending time profitably.

I’m told there are many programs that teach rebellion, disrespect for parents, laziness (that we must be entertained), and unhealthy sexual ideals. I’m sure the list could be much longer, but if there is a grain of truth in what I’ve heard about TV these days, then why keep it in the home?

Certainly there are many other areas that should not be overlooked. Unfortunately, most require difficult decisions to be made. We have all made a very tough one in deciding to home educate. Now the question is: Are there other difficult ones that could help to solve character issues while there is still time?

Posted in: Dad's Corner
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Shepherding Away from Wrong Influences

A short time ago I was speaking with a co-worker, whom I’ll call Bob, about his son who is involved in a very serious problem. He said his son was saddened by a family who wouldn’t let their son associate with his son anymore because of this problem. Bob said he understood how the other parents felt, and he didn’t hold it against them. However, his son might not be in trouble now, had Bob exercised the same judgment at a previous point in time.

You see, Bob’s son’s trouble stemmed from his friendship with a fourteen-year-old young man. This young man had a history of this kind of problem, and yet Bob didn’t discourage his son from the friendship. Now, as Bob looks back, he can see how costly his lack of protecting his son will be.

Proverbs 22:24 says, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go.” Otherwise we will learn his ways. We are also not to join with the rebellious, or we too will pay the consequences. Proverbs 24:21, “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change.” These principles hold true for us as parents and certainly even more for our children. Children are extremely impressionable, and that is why negative peer pressure and other wrong influences are very dangerous.

I know some will say that young people have to learn to deal with the world; you can’t shelter them forever. However, aren’t our children more precious than young, tender plants that are raised in a greenhouse until they are mature and able to stand the environment? We don’t put a plant out in a violent thunderstorm for just a little while so it can get used to the wind and hail. It would be permanently injured. The same is true for our children. They must be protected until they have a strong foundation and have matured.

God’s role is for the father to be the protector of the family. We must be on guard for all types of threats. Certainly, the top of the list is wrong friends. They often appear to be nice and well behaved. Do you remember Eddy from “Leave It to Beaver”? He was nice while he was around the parents, but was a terrible influence the rest of the time. Your children may have friends who sow seeds of discontent with home education. Is it any wonder when your children then become discontented?

There are problems with wrong books, TV, and computer games. I am incredulous to find fathers who let their sons play the latest popular computer games. Some are very hideous and violent. Are we so naïve as to believe our children won’t be affected? Do we forget that companies spend millions of dollars for sixty-second commercials to influence people’s buying habits?

So, dads, are we being the shepherds that God has called us to be? Are we aware of what our children are reading, playing, watching, and who they are playing with? If so, are we certain that these influences will be for our children’s good? We will all give an accounting to the Lord someday for what kind of stewards we have been with these treasures God has entrusted us with.

Love Your Wife

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

I have asked many men over the years if they loved their wife enough to die for her. Christ was our example and we are to love our wives in the same way. Most dads have quickly replied, “Yes I would.” Certainly, I have placed myself in that category.

The next question is usually more difficult to answer. Would you wash dishes every evening (or some other task you might not care to do) for the rest of your married life? That is where we often take longer to answer. Again, I’ve proudly thought to myself, “Yes, I’d gladly do that for my wife.” God recently provided me with an opportunity to see just how deep my commitment was.

Teri, the four little ones, and I were at Wal-Mart early on a Saturday evening while the older ones were with Grandma and Grandad. We finished shopping and had just returned to the car when the familiar refrain of, “I’ve got to go potty,” was heard. After making sure it was a serious, high-priority request, I was to be the one to return to the store with the little one and take care of the matter.

I gave the keys to Teri so she could get the others settled while I was taking the child and cart back in the store. Teri unlocked the van, tossed the keys on the seat and turned to pick a little one up. Just then the door swung closed, and she realized she had pushed the power lock button instead of unlock! She looked at me with the most innocent expression and said the keys were locked inside.

At that moment, I had one of those rare opportunities to prove how much I loved Teri and that she was more important than circumstances. My unbelief was quickly replaced with anger. Of course, I retained my outward composure, but inside I was a very unhappy camper.

How Teri needed me to put my arm around her and tell her it was okay. I failed! I asked her to go inside and wait while I tried to get in. I figured I wasn’t very creative if I couldn’t get in the car with a whole store of resources at my disposal. But God had a lesson for me. Fifteen dollars later, I knew it was hopeless.

By the way, have you ever noticed how people snicker in a parking lot when they see someone trying to get into their locked vehicle? I deserved it and more. I even tried to be a little spiritual and thank God for the situation.

However, I really didn’t mean it, and so back in the store I went to sit with Teri and the children until her parents came to rescue us. Notice, I wasn’t blaming myself for not having hidden another key or carrying one in my wallet. I was feeling sorry for myself.

For the rest of my life I will deeply grieve every time I remember that day. How easy it is to prove our wives and families actually aren’t first in our lives and how difficult it is to demonstrate true love.

As we begin the new school year, we will have many, if not daily, opportunities to put our families first. When we come home we can spend time with our wives, see how their day went, and how we can support and encourage them. We can take the time to have the children show us their work and tell us what they learned. We can deal with the character issues that surfaced and need to be addressed. The list goes on and on.

Hopefully, you will not fail like I did. I know I’m praying that I will set my priorities properly and be the loving husband and dad that my Lord Jesus Christ would have me to be.