Category Archives: Series

Stress Busters – Part 1

Stress is a terrible taskmaster. Sometimes it can feel like it is crushing us, and we not only have an emotional response to it but also a physical response. I can’t help but wonder if those feelings aren’t triggers to remind us that the Lord doesn’t want us to bear burdens alone.

Stress Busters for Homeschool Moms

One of the most important stress-busters that the Lord has given to me is my schedule. Years ago when I was still having babies and homeschooling, the Lord began to teach me about scheduling. That schedule alleviated many stressors I faced on a daily basis. Those stressors are ones that most moms will have in their lives. A schedule is the Lord’s direction for using my time to accomplish the responsibilities He has given to me. When I am doing that, the stressors are disarmed and not effective in their bombardment of my emotions. Let me share with you a few recent examples of how a schedule helped relieve stress for moms.

Consider the stress of a newborn in the family. However, here is what a mom wrote to me when her baby was about 4 weeks old:

“Having a schedule already in place when Joseph was born has proved to be invaluable. Some days have been a struggle, but other days like today have been amazing! Today the house is tidy, the children have been on schedule—it feels great! I have tried to remain on the schedule as much as possible. I know that the benefits will continue to be reaped in the many months and years to come.”

Dealing with Stress and Physical Illness

Then there is the stress than comes when one is struggling with an illness. Another mom recently told me about how her schedule has helped her in the midst of her illness:

“The bedtime/waketime have helped me in so many ways. The main way is how I feel. Even though I still have adrenal fatigue, the tiredness during the day has lessened because my body is getting more regulated sleep and more sleep earlier at night. Also, since I have struggled with self-discipline for a long time, it feels so victorious to get up and go to bed at the same times and know how beneficial that is to have an organized, productive day. It certainly will help my health as well!”

Stress Buster for Being Away from Home

Perhaps you are facing stress from having to be away from home for one reason or another. Can a schedule be a stress-buster for this situation? This mom had pre-surgery appointments on Monday and Wednesday with surgery on Friday. Here is how her schedule relieved stress for her:

“On Monday and Wednesday the family carried on and worked hard and pretty much stayed on task. They knew what to do and did it! We are finally seeing some consistent productivity; I am so very pleased with where we are right now.”

Then there are the normal, everyday stressful events that busy moms face continually. For me, my schedule prevented much of that stress. Here is what one mom told me happened in her home after just four weeks on her schedule.

“Laundry is being kept up—clean clothes and towels every day.

The children have been consistently doing their chores.

The kitchen and kitchen sink are much cleaner more consistently, and I’ve noticed that directly affects my mood :).

We are saving money on house keepers that were coming in once a week.

I feel so much better about ministry as a wife, mother, and homemaker. I feel like I am finally honoring my husband and the Lord with my efforts in our home. I can only explain it as pure joy in my heart. 🙂

There is a peace in our home now.

Even our older children having been responding so well to the schedule.

After being on a schedule now for several weeks, it isn’t intimidating anymore. Before starting this I really felt like it was too big of a task, and I was worried about being too restricted in my life or tied to a schedule but it was just the opposite. I am experiencing so much more freedom by getting our daily tasks done, and one very nice benefit to that is feeling like I am doing the tasks that God has called me to do. It’s a wonderful feeling. 🙂

My husband told me that when he comes home and things are looking so good and dinner is being cooked and the children are NOT running wild, he feels loved, and he feels like I really care about him and our family. He confessed that before when he would walk into our home in complete chaos, he thought I didn’t care or maybe I had given up. I’m not sure if I had already told you this or not. He keeps mentioning things like this to me :). That made me so happy to hear. It also let me know just how much our previous chaotic life hurt him and our marriage.”

Managers of Their Homes

Scheduling Key to Stress-Busting

Isn’t that amazing? All she did was make and implement a schedule! I desire these kinds of outcomes in my home, and I believe you do too

A schedule is the key for many. Our book Managers of Their Homes will help you toward a schedule if you don’t already have one.

We are facing the beginning of a new year soon, and there is no better time to begin a schedule or make revisions to one that isn’t being used effectively. The days between Christmas and New Year’s often provide a few hours for a mom that aren’t as hectic as the earlier part of the holiday season or as full as normal daily life can be.

That would be the perfect opportunity to ask the Lord for His direction for your schedule. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Why battle stressors in your life when you can eliminate them? There are plenty of stressful things that we have no control over. A schedule, however, gives us a great amount of control over some major stressors in home life. Making a schedule is worth the time investment in order to gain the benefits it affords.

Internet Protection for Families – Part 2

Last month we began delving into a topic that families question us concerning quite frequently and that is Internet protection for computers and hand-held devices. If you haven’t read that first article, we suggest you do so before moving on to this one. Here is the link. While we want to focus in this article on mobile devices, there is more we would like to cover concerning personal computers.

Our boys have chosen to have their computers set up so that their screens are facing the door by which people enter the room. They felt that gave them even greater accountability. There was the added accountability of how they were spending their time on the computer even if it was an acceptable website since they wanted to be productive with their time not time wasters.

When our children were young, they didn’t have Internet access. When they became teens, they were allowed to use the Internet if an older sibling or parent were sitting beside them. By the time they were fifteen or sixteen, they would generally have their own computers (we have lots of hand-me-downs because of business use of our computers) and have Internet access with web protection.

Our children did not have e-mail until they were older either. We finally gave Mary, our youngest, e-mail when she was fourteen, earlier than the other children had it, simply because so much of our family “organizational” communication had become via e-mail. E-mail and texting is an easy way for us to make sure every family member knows what time we were leaving for an event, what prayer requests have come our way, or when Mom is headed for a Wal-Mart trip. Mary was the only one who wouldn’t know what was going on because she didn’t have e-mail or a phone for texting.

We keep personal e-mail addresses private for family members and close friends. Then we each have a public e-mail address that we use for ordering on the Internet. We now use Gmail, which has eliminated the spam and bad e-mail that kept us from allowing our children to have e-mail during the years when there was no way to stop those awful e-mails.

When our children get a Gmail address, they give Steve their Gmail address and password. Remember accountability is a strong ally of resisting temptation and remaining pure.

Often we are asked what we do about ads that pop up on sites with immodest women. We have installed an ad blocker on our Internet browser. The browser we like to use is Chrome. If you don’t already use this browser, here is a link to it. Chrome has an ad blocker extension as we believe most, if not all, browsers have. The ad blocker has done a great job of eliminating ads and particularly the ones that were objectionable. Here is a link to it.

We use Google Safe Search, so there isn’t as much possibility of accidentally stumbling onto a bad site as there was in earlier years of the Internet.

What about accountability on mobile devices? That is Accountable2You as well. Accountable2You uses something called VPN that we enable on our phones that allows Accountable2You to track phone web browsing activity.

Can we eliminate every bad influence from the Internet on our children’s lives? Perhaps not, but we are trying to do all we can do. The most important protection for our children is to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As we are in the Word, as we discuss right and wrong, as we look at the pain sin brings, and as we draw our children’s hearts to a deep love for their Savior and obedience to His Word, we give them the best protection of all. However, as Steve shares in our Keeping Our Children’s Hearts workshop, we have all heard of pastors who fall to immorality. These are men versed in the Word, who have been shepherding a flock, and counseling their members. However, they have the flesh, they don’t shelter themselves, they don’t have accountability, and they fail.

Scripture tells us, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15). It also gives us the answer to victory, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).

We want to educate our children on the lures of sin, the frailty of the flesh, and the power of Jesus Christ. He has given us wisdom and direction through His Word to help us such as, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). For our family that equates to the plan for Internet protection and the sheltering that we have chosen to have in place in our hearts and on our computers and devices.

So far we are very pleased with Accountable2You. The links for Accountable2You are Titus2’s affiliate link. If you sign up, we’ll receive 15% every month you’re in. This blesses our ministry and helps with the cost of running it.

Internet Protection for Families – Part 1

During the family panel discussions that were part of our conferences, we almost always got a question that went like this. “We know your family uses the computer and Internet for business, ministry, and personal things. Plus many of you seem to have smart phones. You mentioned that you have protection on all of them. What do you use, and how can we protect our families?”

That question is important to us, and we would like to share information on this topic with all of you. It has taken us years of research and trial and error to come up with our plan and what we utilize to implement it.

Regularly our time is spent on the computer and the Internet. Our sons’ businesses are all computer related. The Titus2 ministry is mainly conducted via the Internet. Much of our business and personal communication goes on through e-mail. We use texting for quick, easy communication between family members and close friends. It has become imperative to us that we have safeguards on our computers and devices so that none of us unwittingly or purposefully happens upon immoral sites.

We regularly receive e-mails from moms who are devastated by the addiction their husbands have to the immorality that is readily accessible via the Internet. As families share with us their problems concerning losing their children’s hearts, regularly the Internet has been a factor. Usually the privacy of a bedroom, where there is no accountability, is the path the young person treads leading him deeper and deeper into sin.

As we have become more aware of the dangers of the Internet, we have wanted to protect and shelter our children from those dangers as we could. There are several things we have done to help avoid those problems.

Obviously, the most fail-safe way to protect them is not to have the Internet in your home. However, for us, because the Internet is so involved in our livelihood that was not a reasonable option for our family so we sought ways to minimize the negative influences. Just as one uses a chain saw, which is very dangerous but can be powerfully utilized with proper training and safety precautions, we have chosen to do what we could to safeguard the Internet, using it as a tool not a toy in our home.

First, we have had our children share bedrooms—a boys’ bedroom and a girls’ bedroom. With less privacy, there is less opportunity for failure since there is often accountability and even when a child is alone in his bedroom, he never knows when a sibling will enter.

Years ago, we had a family conversation and discussed some of what we were hearing about moral failures among Christian young people. As we discussed this topic with our children, we asked them if they would like accountability in order to help them avoid being in similar situations. Everyone agreed, and as a family, we took some steps toward that accountability. We have an open device and open computer policy. That meant that we (Steve and Teri) had full freedom to get on the children’s computers, see their e-mail, and look at their phones. Since they knew we would do this, it provided them with accountability. In a similar way, we (Steve and Teri) have an open policy with each other concerning our computers, e-mail, and phones. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). Accountability itself goes a long way in reducing temptation and sin. “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

We use Accountable2You for our computers and device accountability. With Accountable2You, I get a daily report for each device. Steve gets my reports. It is a summary. I can go online for a detailed report. If there is questionable usage, I will get an immediate email. (The Accountable2You is a Titus2 affiliate link and blesses Titus2.)

There is still quite a bit more we would like to tell you concerning protecting our families in this technological world from the evil that would like to prey upon them. We will continue on this topic next month. We pray that each of our heart’s desire is that we would be as Peter encourages us, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). That is only possible through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, may we be willing to invest of our time and finances to shelter them. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 8

Talking about building strong sibling relationships has spanned the course of many articles. Here is the link to the previous ones in this series if you have missed them.

As these articles began, I shared with you things that I remembered from our parenting days with younger children and the positive outcomes we have observed as our children grew to adulthood. Then I asked some of my friends with older children if they would give me their ideas and suggestions. Because they have children with good sibling relationships, what they have to say is proven to be effective. This article includes the final information that I have to give you from my friends.

Let me start with Anne.

Here are some of the ways the Lord has led my husband and I to build sibling relationships:

We always have told the children that they, and all children, are gifts from God and blessings from Him. When I asked the children this evening some of the things their dad and I have done to help their relationships, my oldest daughter said, “You always remind us that each of us is a gift to each other.” I also will encourage the children in front of each other and say, for example, “Isaac, Luke is so blessed to have you as his big brother!”

You mentioned praying for godly sibling relationships. I have spent much time in prayer privately, in church, and in our family devotions, for the siblings to have blessed relationships and be each others’ best friend.

I have also used reenacting. If there is a squabble, I will have the children reenact the entire event, but respond to each other in a godly manner, discussing the godly behavior prior to the reenactment.

After a disagreement, we will discuss what each sibling could have done that would have led to peace. Most of the time each individual could have done something that could have led to peace. I pray much for all of us to do what leads to peace.

When I notice that the children are consistently not being encouraging, I will put out jars with each sibling’s name on them. Each time someone says an encouraging word to another sibling, I put a piece of candy in the jar. We have dessert two times a week, so on dessert day, they get to eat extra sweets for being sweet! The older children still enjoy this :)!

Isaac said, “You always told us that we should look at our siblings as being more important than ourselves.”

I also would encourage the children with the golden rule/Scripture, to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. I have also suggested that they do to others as Jesus would do, or as they would do to Jesus.

I praise God for showing us many ways to build sibling relationships. We always try to do all things together. Also, if one child has an interest, we would all partake in learning about that interest through research, outings, etc.

The older children have taught the younger children singing, piano, voice, and help with home education. When this would happen, I would have the younger child give the older child a gift or treat with a thank you note.

Luke said, “If we didn’t treat our sibling in a godly way, there was a consequence.”

Morgan mentioned that having all of them work together on their business and saving up together to start the business has drawn them closer together.

We talk a lot together about issues, joys, and sorrows.

When one of the children is sick, I allow one of the others to take care of the sick individual.

Here is what Sandi told me.

I have been thinking a lot about sibling relationships since you have been writing about it in the Mom’s Corners. You have done a wonderful job with it. I wish I had something new to share with you about children getting along.

I can honestly say we don’t struggle much with the children fighting. Sure, the little ones will fight over a toy. We have done pretty much the same thing that you did with your children.

Shawn wanted to share a room with the younger boys like Christopher did, and Sabrina wanted to share with Emma. I think sharing a room is SO important. It encourages them not to be selfish. I loved sharing a room with my sister, and we are still close. Every night sounds like a party downstairs when the boys go to bed after Bible time.

The one thing we have always told the kids is that God knew just who their friends should be, and He made them their siblings. I think they get along so well because we do everything together. Mike and I have learned so much about forgiveness from watching how the children handle conflicts. It’s sad to say, but they handle it so much better than we do. Sabrina and Shawn really are best friends, and it is so interesting to watch them work through conflict. They work very closely together at the farm. At times they will have disagreements, but they work it out so quickly and forgive each other. Working together is so important. The farm has really been a blessing for that.

We also do what you guys did and limit time with other friends. I think it is key for siblings to get along. I remember growing up how sad I was when summer was over because my sisters were finally being nice to me. It got so much better with Sabrina when we took her out of ballet.

Finally, my friend Becky, who has been a widow for sixteen years, responded to my question concerning how she and her husband helped their children toward solid sibling relationships.

Stan’s wanting the kids to be on the “same team” applied to many areas in our parenting. For example, if they were playing cowboys, they were not allowed to have some of them be the good guys and some the bad guys. If they wanted imaginary bad guys maybe that was okay, but Stan felt if they teamed up AGAINST each other, that might carry over later in the day. Little ones can get mad easily sometimes at something that comes up later, and it would be easy to say “You’re the bad guy!”

In a more important spiritual sense, we’ve talked about how Satan wants to put the mom against the dad in a family, or Mom versus daughter, or older brother gets annoyed at the little brothers. We need to remember that is Satan’s PLAN.

Also an effective military strategy is to divide and conquer. If Satan can put a wedge between little brothers playing cars or Legos, he can do it when they’re older. It’s not me against my son, or one girl versus one brother, but we ALL need to realize it’s Satan versus the entire family—he’s trying to take us down and will do it any way he can. We need to band together and be strong! We taught our children to pray for each other, be accountable to each other, speak words of encouragement to each other. It is so amazing to my kids when they see families who are OBVIOUSLY NOT doing this! Some siblings they talk to seem very out of touch as to what their own family members are going through!

My heart’s desire is that this information will be an encouragement to the young mommies who are dealing with the constancy of little children’s selfishness toward their siblings. I realize that can be quite discouraging. I hope that these mommies will say in their hearts, “It is worth the investment of my time, prayer, and emotions to help these children toward strong, positive, lifelong sibling relationships.” “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Psalms 133:1-3). May I encourage you to build that unity in your children’s lives?

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 7

During the years we have our children living in our homes, we have the ability to influence their relationships with each other. There is much that we can do to help them become best friends, learn to deal with conflict, and become each other’s greatest encouragers. If you haven’t read the other articles in this series, I suggest you do that before reading this one. Here is the link.

When I e-mailed several friends with grown children asking them what they felt had positively influenced their children’s sibling closeness, I received some excellent feedback. It both challenged and encouraged my heart. I think it will yours as well. I shared some of it last month, but I have more I want you to read.

“I see our children truly loving each other, and continuing to work at a close and spiritually connected relationship with each other, even once they leave home, and it is an incredible blessing. On the surface, I really have no idea WHY, other than the grace and kindness of the Lord. We did set up expectations of kindness from the time they were very small, that I honestly just thought EVERY family did. It was not until more time went on, and I observed more families, that I realized how different our children’s relationship with each other were. I have taken it for granted. So, again, I will read through your Corners, and pray, and think more because I don’t know that what we did was very intentional, but rather just biblical love and kindness extended to those closest to us—our family, first.” Debbie

Then Debbie followed up with this note:

“Well my friend, I’ve read all of the Corners in the Sibling Series and honestly, I cannot think of anything I did in addition to the things you mentioned. I found it fascinating how similar our approaches were/are with a few exceptions. I think many of the things we ‘stumbled’ into, sometimes for different reasons, but having a similar result. I was thinking how we limited outside friendships and outside activities. It was often for reasons unrelated to specifically choosing to work on building family closeness, but the result was family closeness. I think that is one side of it, eliminating part of the common cause for children’s discontent with family. The other side is dealing with the inborn sin nature we all have. Even if we never let our children play with anyone else, they would still be selfish and unkind and need to be taught and trained in biblical kindness and love. As you pointed out, we simply cannot afford to grow weary, as much as it is a temptation some days.

“I guess one thing I pondered on, and it is just an observation from our own family. I feel like we worked very, very hard on our first four children. Parenting just felt harder (more intense) with them. It was not that they were any more naughty, but maybe it was because I was younger and less experienced as a mother and was learning what works and what doesn’t. However, God was so kind to bless our work and perseverance, I think, and the younger children have had good examples to look up to. I think part of it being easier to train the younger ones now, is that they have wonderful examples to follow that the older ones did not have. The work I suppose DID pay off in that way, as well as just in the tremendous blessings you mentioned of having children who love each other, get along, are kind, and genuinely and cheerfully helpful.

“We always called it the trickle down effect. When an older child was kind to a younger child (and conversely if he was unkind), that child would treat the next one below him the same way, and down, and down, and down the line it went (and still goes). I have been known to use that, in my teaching and training after an incident.

“‘Do you realize, when you spoke that way to __A__, that __C__ was watching? And tomorrow, or the next day __C__ will then think it is okay to speak that way to __H___, and on down the line. You are setting an example, for good or evil, for all the siblings coming up behind you. You need to be so careful to be setting a godly example (or depending on the offense, I might give it a more specific name).’ I have found that when they really realize the ‘family’ impact of an action or an attitude, it has a bit more weight. They DO love their younger siblings and don’t want anyone else being unkind to ‘the baby’ for example. When they realize their potential part in being unkind to ‘the baby,’ it truly does bring a sober mind to the situation.

“When I really think on it, I believe one of the major things we did, that you’ve already mentioned, is simply not allow unkindness when we were aware of it. Like you, physical things were not tolerated – no hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing. Verbal unkindness was treated with the same seriousness. All those things, when the children were very young, we gave the children consequences for. We wanted to send a very clear message from the earliest time. People used to mock us for not allowing ‘kids to be kids.’ Well, our fruit is now much different from theirs, and I am grateful for the fruit we have.

“Of course, all of that was alongside giving Scriptural reasons WHY, though I wasn’t as thorough in that area as I wish I could be. My husband has always been better at that than I. We didn’t want the teaching to just be surface, outward behavior, but that God’s Word could get into them and do God’s work, which is so much more effective.

“I am so very aware that of course we did ‘something,’ but I just believe the fruit we have to this point, is by the grace of God. I know, because we regularly prayed James 1:5, that God gave us wisdom when we cried out for it, when we were SO stumped as to HOW to teach or train or deal with a certain behavior, that GOD gave wisdom.

“I wish I had more specifics to offer you to share, but honestly, we very much did as you did. Maybe you really have given your readers a good list of possible things God might use to help them, but I have found that people are often just wanting more and more suggestions and not really APPLYING what has already been given. They also need to be crying out to God with James 1:5 since every family situation is different, and God alone knows how to reach the heart of each individual child. We actually felt that on occasion, God did not allow us to ask advice of others so that we HAD to search it out for our own family. Other times, He seemed to allow it and gave us help through the wisdom and experience of others.

“Parenting is just plain HARD work, day after day after day for a very long time. But it is SO very, very worth it, when you see your children sincerely and faithfully walking with the Lord in very personal relationships with HIM. Seeing my older ones, encourages me to stay the course with my younger ones, and I still have plenty to work on.” Debbie

These are the years to be sowing seeds in your children’s lives that will produce strong life-time, sibling relationships. May I once again encourage you to be determined to set your heart on helping your children learn to communicate with each other, work together, and just be nice to each other. I believe they will thank you in the years to come.

Making a Christ-Like Living in a Dog-Eat-Dog World – Part 6

(This month’s MP3 version of the Dad’s Corner is available.)

If you haven’t read the previous parts to the series, you may do so here. Looking up the definition of “Good Ol’ Boy” in the dictionary would likely produce Dan’s photo. That isn’t his real name, but that’s what I’ll call him. He is seventy years old but looks and acts like he is sixty or even younger. He has gray hair, but he is so full of life and energy, you can’t believe he’s seventy.

Dan and his two employees work hard every day, but he quits at five o’clock. At that time don’t get between him and the door, or you will lose. Dan has a highly successful specialty parts and repair business, fifty rental houses owned free-n-clear, and over seven hundred acres of farmland. He is a great example of a hard working, highly successful, small business owner. Not only has his business provided very well for his family, but it also will be his children’s some day, building quite a financial legacy for them.

We all have the same opportunity that Ol’ Dan had when he first started – twenty-four hours in a day, no more, no less. Our most important, precious, and non-renewable resource is our time. If someone wants to do well in life, it’s critical that he learns how to manage his time wisely.

An important measure of the Christian man is the value he places on his time. When we value our time, we see each day as a new beginning with twenty-four hours to be used as the Lord directs. We are owned by the Lord Jesus. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As His property, all that we have and all that we are is His; and therefore, all of our time is His time.

In my corporate jobs, I noticed guys that were wasteful with their time at work. They’d visit with coworkers or surf the Internet when they should have been working. Then when it was time to leave, they weren’t finished with their work and would stay late to complete it. Maybe they felt it looked good for them to stay late hoping the boss would notice, but I figured the boss did notice. I was sure he noticed all the time they had wasted during the day and as a result weren’t really earning any points. Sadly, these men were in reality stealing precious time from their families. If an earthly boss notices how our time is spent, we can be sure that the Lord knows exactly how we are spending our time. Are we stealing time from our Lord?

Our priorities should determine how we spend our time. When priorities are properly managed, then we will spend our time on those things that are most important and consistent with God’s direction for our life. God is the One Who established twenty-four hours in a day. He is the One Who has an agenda for our time. He will never give us more to accomplish in a day then we have time for. If we have unwisely spent our time, then after we repent, we may have some catching up to do. Thankfully, He will then direct us on how to recover in a way that is consistent with godly priorities.

If we are frustrated over too little time, something is broken. Either we have had wrong priorities or not been self-disciplined in spending time according to our priorities. It is also possible that God has allowed trials to prove us, or He is chastening us. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). If you are struggling with time management, but don’t know what the cause is, I have found that prayer and even fasting will yield the answer. God is so good and desires to conform us to the image of Christ. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). He will show us things that are hindering the process if we ask Him.

Business owners generally feel they have more things that need to be done than they have time. There are only twenty-four hours in the bucket to draw from each day. If we waste time while doing one thing, there is less for another. Sure we can pay someone to do things we don’t have time for, but that adds to overhead and cuts down on profit. The best course is learning to be highly efficient with our time.
Most business owners I’ve talked to say their business could consume an endless amount of time if they let it. When you consider that Ol’ Dan is able to keep his three business ventures running with just two employees, it is amazing. On top of that, Dan is disciplined to go home at five each day. His family is more important to him than his business, and I believe that is why he still has his family. We would be wise if we prioritize our families over our businesses. There may be a brief “blip” when it is necessary to work longer hours, but we set ourselves up for failure and God’s discipline if we put business above our family.

Managing time wisely, as servants of the living God is a struggle for many. Our resource Redeeming the Time has proven to be a great help to men seeking to manage their time according to Scriptural priorities. “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5). Time is short, and it is our most precious resource. Once we spend a minute, it is gone forever. May we be wise stewards of the time God entrusts to us.

Making a Christ-Like Living in a Dog-Eat-Dog World – Part 4

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the previous parts to this series.

For many years Joseph’s guitar had served him well, but then he began having problems with it. When this happened, we were on a speaking trip with no time to stop to have the repair done plus a concert was coming up on Friday. Since Joseph was really ready for an upgraded guitar, it seemed like the perfect time to make the purchase. We found a local music store and went in to see what was in stock. It didn’t take long to find a guitar that was comparable to Joseph’s ability.

As we were discussing price and warranty, the owner asked if we worked for the government. That seemed like a bit of an odd question to us. We answered “No. Why?” He explained that he could ship an empty box to our home in Kansas and write up the guitar purchase as a telephone order. That way we could save money by not paying the sales tax. We told him that as Christians we pay what is owed to the government, and therefore, we couldn’t do that.

He said, “I’m a Christian too, but the Bible doesn’t say a person can’t save a little here and there.” However, we were thinking that while the Bible might not say you can’t save a little here or there, it does say “. . . Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s …” (Matthew 22:21).

The salesman was offering to violate the law which is also contrary to Scripture. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Whether we like it or not, we are to obey the law. This man and his business were mostly likely headed for trouble, and it is probable he was not going to experience God’s blessing on his business. The salesman was either choosing not to obey Scripture like he was choosing to disobey the law, or he was ignorant.

We need to be Bereans studying Scripture and then applying it not only to our personal lives but also to our businesses. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Maybe you’ve had a situation similar to what we experienced with the guitar salesman when doing business with a professing Christian who wanted to do something that was questionable and perhaps even illegal. Situations such as these highlight that there are many professing Christians in business, but there is great need for businesses to reflect the truth of God’s Word. As Christians we are to be bright lights in a sea of darkness.

I would encourage you to be committed to seek God’s blessing on your business. One way to do that is by obeying the law. Instead of ignoring the law or pushing the limits to just short of disobeying the law, seek to glorify the Lord in this area too. As laws change and continue to become more complex, it takes diligence to comply.

One example of that would come from our Titus2 speaking ministry. When we travel to various states and localities to give a conference, we are also selling our materials. The tax laws vary every place we go so it takes an incredible amount of research time, filling out the correct paperwork, and then paying the taxes that are owed. It would be easy to ignore the tax laws and assume since we are only there for a one-time sale, we wouldn’t owe taxes. However, despite the inconveniences and the difficulties involved, we know it is right to do what the law tells us to do.

I believe one of the primary attitudes important in self-employment is that of a servant. “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44). The way to success is through the unlikely path of having the heart attitude of a servant. As Christians it should be second nature for us to have that attitude in business. Since we began our family business, our mission has been the success of our customers.

For our family business, we only accept work from someone who we want to see succeed. When we work for a client, we put one hundred percent effort into the project’s successful completion. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). If a prospective client has products we can’t endorse such as alcohol or tobacco, we turn their business down. If we feel their leadership isn’t ethical, we don’t work for them. In good conscience, we have to be able to endorse the company and its products in order to work for them. It is not about us making money but about our client’s success. These policies reduce the number of clients we have, but the Lord has provided the right ones in the right time.

A servant’s heart will require you to tell your customer “no” sometimes if they ask for something that you are convinced is not in their best interest. Years ago I worked for a large company on a billion dollar contract. The customer had wanted several things that my employer was convinced would not be good for the project. Since my employer said the customer is always right, they agreed to it. Eventually, those requests caused the whole project to fail. It was the only contract my employer had ever defaulted on, and it was because they didn’t tell the customer “no” when they should have.

A servant’s heart doesn’t mean he is relegated to being just a robot of the customer’s wishes. If he is skilled and knowledgeable in his trade, it means he knows more than the customer does about what it takes to do the job. So not only may he end up telling the customer “no,” but he may also need to tell him there is a better way to do it.

A servant’s heart doesn’t mean he isn’t paid appropriately for his time. A business must make a reasonable profit, or it ceases to be a business and becomes a hobby. To guarantee that he is around to serve future clients, he must make a reasonable profit. If the customer doesn’t agree his services are worth the price, then he finds other customers who do. At the same time, a servant is striving for excellence by ensuring that the service or product rendered is truly worth the income received. Don’t earn business based on a low price but by providing great value.

A servant’s heart will accurately represent his products and services. He won’t use gimmicks to get a sale because he is looking for needs that he can realistically meet. Then once accurately presented, the customer can decide if the product or service meets his needs. Few people like surprises unless it is on their birthday.

A servant’s heart will seek to ship orders as accurately, timely, and damage free as possible. Many businesses are satisfied once they have the order, but at that point the customer wants what he ordered. How hard we are willing to work to ship it is a measure of a servant’s heart.

There is a discount chain that is known for being ruthless with their suppliers in order to provide their customers the lowest possible price. However, a servant’s heart respects that his suppliers must make a profit if they are to stay in business and deliver a quality product. He also sees that all invoices are paid as quickly as possible even if there are thirty day terms. His suppliers are treated with respect, and a good relationship is cultivated for the sake of the ultimate customer.

The Lord put us on this planet to seek Him first and to work. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We seek to glorify the Lord in everything we do, and we diligently work hard as servants.

I want to clarify that when I refer to our “family business,” I’m not referring to Titus2 but to the computer business we began in 1997. Our sons are the ones who have their respective endeavors in the “family business.” My primary involvement is to give them counsel. It’s one way of leaving them a heritage by helping them build strong, stable businesses. My heart, focus, and joy is Titus2.

Following the Lord Jesus in our personal walk is exciting, but adding self-employment to the mix makes following the Lord a bit thrilling. Self-employment provides so many challenges and opportunities to trust Him and seek His direction. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Siblings: The Good and the Bad: Part 6

Sibling relationships should be the sweetest of relationships next to those of a husband and wife and a parent and child. But watching the way young siblings often treat each other, one sometimes wonders if it is possible for them to move into their adult years with close relationships. We have delighted in watching this very process happen in our home between our eight children, and we want to encourage you that it is possible. Here are links to the first five articles in this series in case you haven’t read them.

In the previous articles, I shared all that Steve and I can recall that we purposely did to promote strong sibling relationships. We even asked our family for their input as to what they felt made a difference in their development of strong sibling ties. We give all the praise to the Lord Jesus because we know that anything we do that ends up good is only because of His grace in our lives.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Just as we were continually crying out to the Lord for His wisdom in how to deal with problems between the children, we suggest that you do the same thing.

In this article, we want to share what others have done to build sibling relationships. I asked the Corners readers to share their suggestions. Here is what they had to say.

“Have them pray for the person they are struggling with.” Shera

“Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:28)

“My idea for siblings is that I put on my children’s weekly lesson plans that they are to serve one person of the family in some way each day—to bless them. Monday is one sister, Tuesday is another, etc. The children love finding ways to serve their parents or siblings in this way. I think it helps develop a servant’s heart for Christ and helps keep peace between each other as we serve one another. They love to surprise each other with what they have done to help and serve. Sometimes they do a certain chore, clean a closet, or wash cars. They also love to do it in secret so they aren’t discovered. This is one of the proactive ways we attempt to avoid sibling rivalry and fighting.” Carolyn

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

“I have three boys who are 9, 8, and 5, and a baby girl of 18 months. My boys are really struggling with this issue of kindness to each other right now. One of the things I have been doing because it can be applied quickly is this, ‘Try again.’ If I hear one of them saying something not nice to another, I will call out, ‘Try again.’ They have one minute to say something nice to the person they offended with their words. If they fail to say something kind in one minute, they get a swig of apple cider vinegar. It’s a substance that is good for them, but tastes terrible to ‘wash’ out the mean words from their mouths.” Shauna

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

I also asked some of my friends for their ideas beyond what I had already shared. These are moms who have older children with the kind of sibling relationships I believe you want your children to have. Their credentials prove the substance of what they have to say.

“We wanted to teach our girls to love each other so we came up with a plan. On Monday they needed to serve one another. Tuesday was edification day so they wrote encouraging letters or notes to one another. Wednesday they were to defer to someone other than their own self. For example, in our home, the oldest always sat in the front seat when that seat was available, so on Wednesday she might defer that seat to a younger sibling. Thursday was gift-giving day, and it could cover just about anything you consider a gift. They might make something for someone, or they could give of their time. Friday they prayed with each another and did a devotion together. This encouraged our girls to think about others, not just themselves, which we believe is key in relationships.” Tammy

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12:10)

“We love working on our farm together side by side. This has definitely helped in sibling relationships. My husband and I will often break the children into ‘groups’ to encourage sibling relationships. The groups change often.

Today my eighteen-year-old daughter and her fourteen-year-old brother went to the local feed and seed store to get more plants, do errands, and be together. My daughter said to me this evening, ‘Mom, I had so much fun with my brother this afternoon!’ I am glad they want to spend time together. “Today, I was with my seventeen-year-old son and four-year-old daughter all afternoon giving lawn estimates due to my son’s lawn business. We had fun and even slipped in a cold soda break at McDonald’s. My son has a very thriving lawn business. The family rule is that he cannot work alone. A sibling or parent must work alongside of him every day he cuts. This has been very profitable for building sibling relationships. My older daughter even works for the lawn business every Wednesday!

“Also, our children share rooms with someone. This has proven to be fun—at least for the girls! We have purposely limited the amount of time our children spend with other families and friends. Truly, my children really have no outside friends—just their brothers and sisters as friends.” Teresa

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

“We never let our children pretend evil or fight against each other. We didn’t want the children to develop the mentality of ‘being against each other’ but wanted them to always love, help, and support each other.” Becky

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” (1 Peter 3:8)

I hope that when your heart is discouraged because you have just witnessed a brother grab his sister’s toy, you will stop to pray. Ask the Lord to give you the courage and strength to deal one more time with the same kind of situation you have often dealt with in the past weeks and maybe even earlier in the day. There will come a time when you will reap a fruitful harvest of brothers and sisters dwelling together in unity. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). You will have no regrets that you persevered through weariness, discouragement, and even self-pity. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

Making a Christ-Like Living in a Dog-Eat-Dog World – Part 3

In the book of Ezra we read that the children of Israel were on a mission. They were returning from captivity in Babylon with the command and blessing of King Cyrus to rebuild the temple. Even with the ruler’s support, the difficulties facing them would be tremendous. The group was made up of 42,360 people plus another 7,337 maids, servants, and singers. The majority of those returning were families.

Starting a business is not easy. If it was, everyone would have his own business, and no one would work for anyone else. According to the Small Business Administration latest figures, roughly 69% of start-up businesses survive the first two years, 51% to five years and 34% to ten years or more. While these statistics show it can be difficult to begin a business, there is good news for Christians. If we are following the Lord’s direction for our lives, failure rates mean nothing. I might add, if God desires to use a business failure for His glory – maybe our growth – He will.

In the third chapter of Ezra, they all came together, offered burnt offerings, kept the feasts, and offered freewill offerings to the Lord. In essence they were setting their spiritual house in order so they could begin the work of building the temple with God’s blessing. Israel made many mistakes, and that is what brought them into captivity as slaves. (Worth mentioning here is that today the majority of believers, those set free from the bondage of sin, have voluntarily enslaved themselves to mortgages, school loans and credit card debt. If you are in financial bondage, will you begin the process of setting yourself free?) The offering was initially made, but we read in verse four, “They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required” (Ezra 3:4). They weren’t distracted by the business of building the temple. They first dealt with their relationship to God. Getting right and staying right with God wasn’t a one time occurrence for the Israelites but rather it was a daily process. That is much like salvation. First we are saved, but then we are to daily confess sin and abide in the Lord Jesus as we obey Him.

I wonder how many dads begin a business when their spiritual houses aren’t in order. They presume upon God’s blessing in business when they don’t care enough for the Lord to honor Him with their lives. The strong encouragement I’ve previously given is to know what venture the Lord is directing you and when He says it is time, pursue it. Until then, get ready, but don’t build. Here are links to the first two articles in this series.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Our vocations are to be a result of God’s direction for our lives. Then after He gives that direction, we trust Him for continued leading. Just like salvation is not an end in itself, neither is self-employment. We must look to the Lord daily through our personal Bible time and prayer for His direction not only concerning our spiritual lives but also business decisions. His Word gives insight and confirms the leadings impressed on our hearts.

I mentioned last month that my son and I felt the Lord directing us to print brokering when I first came home from a corporate job. Print brokering made no sense because we didn’t have experience with printing, but we strongly felt the Lord’s leading. If we can trust the Lord with our eternal salvation, then we can trust Him to guide us in every area of our lives and that includes making a living. We learn how to follow Him day-by-day in the small decisions. Then when a big decision comes, we know what it means to hear Him, confirm direction through His Word, and then obediently follow.

Do we acknowledge Him in all our ways? Another way of stating the verse is that we are to know and recognize Him in everything we do. I wonder when dads pray ifthey then base their decisions on the Lord’s response? Is it possible that once having asked, they assume all is good and proceed? In speaking with many dads, I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t the way they make decisions. Even if they pray about it, once prayed, they proceed according to their will. Is that the way we parent? Is it enough for our children to ask us for direction and then once asked, to proceed without our response? Of course not.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). According to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, the Greek word for hindered is “ekkopto,” and it means “to cut off.” One key area to answered prayer is whether a husband is giving honor unto his wife. If not, Dad can pray all day long, and God isn’t answering because those prayers of Dad’s are cut off. Therefore if Dad starts a business having a bad relationship with his wife, he is handing God a REALLY big paddle.

Also, Dad may be praying about things that God has already answered in His Word, or there are warnings in the Word that are going unheeded. Are we reading our Bibles every day and leading family Bible time? I believe Ezekiel 34 speaks to Dad’s responsibility to feed those under his spiritual authority. The admonition by the Lord is so strong that verse ten concludes with the warning about the difficulty of the shepherds feeding themselves. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more …” (Ezekiel 34:10). Their crime was that they weren’t spiritually feeding those under them; therefore, God said he would make it difficult for the shepherds to make a living. Dads are you feeding your sheep every day?

When God shows us a business venture and the timing, it is critical our spiritual houses are in order. Then we follow.

Siblings: The Good and The Bad – Part 5

I am not sure that there is anything that tears a mom’s heart up more than when her children are being unkind to each other. Encouraging family harmony is usually one of the top priorities of moms for the children. When a mom’s efforts and prayers have been invested only to have the children continue in their selfish ways, she usually experiences discouragement. We have been discussing ways to develop and strengthen positive sibling relationships in this series. Here are links to the previous articles.

I would like to give you a few more practical suggestions for things to use as consequences for siblings who are not choosing to be kind to each other. These are things we did with our children. Since my children are beyond the consequences age, I had to ask them what they remembered we had done with them when they were younger.

One of the first things they recalled is that we took away desserts from the offending children. If some of the children weren’t going to be sweet to each other, then they wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the sweet dessert that the rest of the family, including the children not involved in the problem, were eating.

When our three older children were elementary school age, we would have them write blessing letters to their brother or sister if they had been in conflict with that sibling. The blessing letter was to document several of the positive things they could come up with concerning that sibling. Of course this consequence only works for children who are old enough to write. Sarah kept some of those letters and has given me permission to share one with you. I remember that in the midst of those conflicts, the boys could be adamant that there wasn’t anything good they could think of to write about the other child. That just showed how important it was to continue working with them through the difficulties.

Dear Sarah,
You have demonstrated hospitality by sharing your bears with me. I also like the way you demonstrate enthusiasm. For example, when you read, you demonstrate enthusiasm! You show initiative by stopping what you are playing to do chores when Mom gets out of the shower. I am excited about the Baby! And I enjoy you being my loving sister.
Love, Chris

Christopher was nine years old when he wrote that note to Sarah, and she was seven. You can see that even though this was to be a blessing letter, Christopher got a little poke in at Sarah by mentioning the chores. Although I don’t fully remember the schedule back then, I expect Sarah was supposed to be doing some morning chores while I took my shower. Stopping play and starting the chores when she knew I was out of the shower and she would have accountability was most likely not the schedule she was supposed to be following. From this note it is obvious we still had “heart” work to do on both sides.

A mom wrote to me after the last Mom’s Corner with an idea she had that was similar to the blessing letters. I am going to include her whole e-mail because she also acknowledged how she had become lax with giving her younger children consequences for their unloving behavior. That is often the case as we become busy with our older children plus caring for younger ones.

Your Mom’s Corners about sibling rivalry have been incredibly encouraging! I had used Scripture to correct problems with my older children but faded off to just quickly reprimanding the younger ones and getting back to my “work” of cleaning, cooking, school, etc.

Clearly that was not working. The Lord was merciful and showed me an idea for applying 1 Peter 3:9 to a squabble that my six- and eight-year-old daughters had. “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

After gently, lovingly, and carefully questioning the girls individually about their personal roles in the disagreement, each agreed that they had indeed rendered evil for evil and railing for railing, and that it was not what they should do. Next came the blessing. I had each one write a list of three things that she could do that would be a blessing to the other. By the time they had finished their lists, which took some time, they were both excited about ways that they could bless their sister that day! I asked them each to do each thing today and save their lists so that they can add to them later. One daughter actually got so excited she wanted to give her sister all three blessings the first day! They had ideas ranging from doing chores for each other, drawing pictures, letting the sister be the lunch helper, to a hug. 2 Peter 1:13 says “. . . to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.” Thank you for doing that for me. Dawn

“Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). We used this verse to help us determine another consequence for siblings who were squabbling with each other. Part of our nutritional program for our family involved purchasing and then grinding wheat berries into fresh whole-wheat flour that we then made into whole-wheat bread. When I served the bread, the family didn’t prefer the outside crusts but rather the soft, middle slices. I dried the crusts in order to make bread crumbs or croutons with them.

One day, Steve and I realized our “dry morsels” on the counter that were waiting to be processed had the potential of being an effective discipline for children who weren’t being nice to each other. I would call the offenders to the dining room table and serve them a dry crust. The dry crusts didn’t make the children gag. They simply didn’t prefer them.

I could share with them that we would rather eat dry crusts all the time and have kindness and sweetness between them than to get to eat the way we eat in the midst of strife. This was a consequence that removed the children from the problem, was easy to administer, and in addition, it was healthy for them!

I expect many of you have some great suggestions for improving sibling relationships or for consequences when the bickering breaks out. If you are willing to share, e-mail them to me so I can collect them for inclusion in a future Mom’s Corner.

Once again, I desire to encourage you to be faithful to pray for your children and then to have a workable plan in place to lead them toward strong sibling relationships. It has been so long since we have had to use the consequences I share in this article that I had to ask my children to tell me what they remembered we did that they felt was effective. I want you to have that outcome for your children as well. Remember, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). May I encourage you to help your children toward dwelling together in unity?