Men: Being the Spiritual Leader of Your Family – You Gotta LOVE Your Wife

This is the second in my series on helping men become the spiritual leaders of their family. You can find the first post and links to remaining posts as they become available HERE.

I remember a story that the pastor at a church I used to attend and then served as children’s pastor told from time to time. The story was of a street preacher. You know the ones standing on a random street shouting at people as they walk or drive by. Sometimes they have a megaphone or even a speaker system. This particular street preacher used to regularly shout, “Husbands, you gotta LOVE your wife.” If you want to be the spiritual leader of your family this is one of the first things you gotta do.

You gotta LOVE your wife. Street preachers like the one in my pastor’s story can be easy to ignore. They’re kinda wild and sometimes downright obnoxious. But, in this particular case, the street preacher makes a good point. You’ve gotta LOVE your wife. It is unfair for you to expect your wife to follow you, if you don’t love her. Not only do you need to love her, she needs to know that you love her. More about that in a little bit, but for now let’s just say that you need to love your wife. If you don’t then we shouldn’t go any further.

Take time right now, and every day, to pray for God to help you love your wife more and better.

She’s number 1, well number 2, but also number one. There is a mistake I often see in families today. Things are pretty good until kids come around. Then, suddenly, the husband or wife get’s pushed to the side. Suddenly, one or the other begins to feel like a second-class citizen. I get it. the kids NEED you. They require more attention. Still, we HAVE to remember that your wife MUST remain your number one. There should be no human relationship that outranks that with your wife.

There is one relationship that must outrank your wife. That is your relationship with God. You must focus on that. I’ll talk more about that in a later post. For now let’s just say that God is number 1, but your wife comes in at a close number 2.

The best witness for your kids. As dads we often think about ways to witness to our kids. We think about how to be a good example to our kids. We want to show our sons what it means to be a Godly man. We want our daughters to see what a Godly man looks like to help them choose a Godly husband. The best way that you can witness to your kids is to love their mother. Your sons will learn that this is how you treat a woman, especially their wife. Your daughters will learn that this is how a woman should be treated, especially by her husband. Hopefully this will help our sons be better husbands and our daughters to choose better husbands.

More than words. It’s easy to tell people we love them. However, it requires WORK to show them. I’m not taking about flowers or chocolates, that’s too easy. I’m talking about doing things that show your wife that you love her. There are probably things you already that show your love for your wife. From making sure the cars are in top running condition, or that the yard is well maintained her not having to worry about these things is HUGE. But, when you do things that maybe she normally does, that’s a game changer. When was the last time you send her away and cleaned the house? Or maybe prepared dinner? Or maybe do the dishes. I’m certainly not saying that these things are HER job. But, you might be amazed at how much she appreciates you doing them.

She’s YOUR wife, not mine. Ultimately, she’s your wife, not mine. I’ve spent the last 27 years getting to know my wife. I know what it takes to make her feel loved, even if I’m not always good at doing it. You need to take the time to learn your wife. Look for the things that cause her stress. She’ll when you work to reduce that stress. Find out what she enjoys, do those things with her and help give her opportunities to do these.

Tag, you’re it. Now, it’s your turn. I’ve given you some things to think about. Now, you have to go out and do them. You’re wife will never follow you as the spiritual leader of your family if she doesn’t feel loved by you. So, first step. Learn you wife. If you don’t do that, then nothing else you do will help you become the spiritual leader of your family that you want to be.

Matt Norman

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This is What Love Looks Like

So, today is Valentines Day. I was planning to post the second in my series helping men learn how to the spiritual leaders of their families. Then life threw me a curveball. You see this past Sunday, some really unexpected things happened. Through that I got a really good idea of what true love looks like, and it looks a lot like my wife.

It ain’t about flowers or candy. These are common gifts often given on Valentines Day. Heck, there is currently a box of chocolates sitting on my dinning room table that my son intends to give to his girlfriend. But, that’s not love. Anybody can do that. Countless millions of dollars will be spent on candy and flowers this week. Sadly, many of those couples will not spend another Valentines Fay together. You can certainly get candy or flowers for the one you love and, if they are into that, then you should. BUT, that’s not the best way to show your love.

It ain’t about words either. In our society love has become nearly meaningless. We love pizza. We love cars. We love super hero movies. We love our kids. We love our spouses. When we use this one word to describe our feelings for so many different things, how can it possibly express how we feel for the most important person on Earth. That’s why expressing out love has to be so much more than simply saying, “I love you.” You should say it. You should say it often. I think you should never end a phone call or leave your spouse without saying it. BUT, it can’t end there.

So, what happened on Sunday? Well, it started like any other Sunday. We moved in all the equipment, set everything up, and started service. We sang some songs and I got up to preach. I felt perfectly fine during the message. But, as soon as I finished and walked off I started feeling bad. I started having some abdominal pain and nausea. I walked over and told Kim that I wasn’t feeling well. I was able to pray to end the service. But, that was about as far as I got.

Just a couple minutes later, as everyone else started tearing down, I looked at Kim and told her that I needed to sit down. I was having severe abdominal pain and nausea. I was pouring sweat and Kim told me I was very pale. She told me just to leave, to go home. I tried to protest because somebody had to drive the truck with the trailer. She firmly told me to leave and that she would take care of the trailer. Finally, I conceded and left.

This was just the beginning. As soon as she got home, I went to bed. She brought me socks for my cold feet. She drove me to the ER, insisting on taking me to the door and then parking. She stayed with me in the ER and waited while I went to surgery. She missed dinner in the process. She stayed with me in my hospital room as long as they would let her. She tried to make sure I drank something, but I was too doped to even try. I just wanted to sleep.

The next morning she got the kids off to school and then rejoined me at the hospital. She helped me up to the restroom. She kept me company and helped me reposition when needed. She helped me with my breakfast and lunch. She brought me some clean clothes and helped me get dressed. Man, it felt good to get some regular clothes on, instead of just the hospital gown with… everything hanging out. When it was time to leave she gathered up all our stuff. She walked with me as the nurse pushed me, in a wheelchair out of the hospital. She then rushed out to the car, driving it up to the sidewalk so I could get in. She helped me get in and then drove slowly home… perhaps the biggest sacrifice she made the whole time.

When we got home she, and out son, went above and beyond to make sure I had what I needed and that I was comfortable. When it became time for bed she helped me get into the bed… then to get out. This was quite an ordeal. She demonstrated great patience waiting on me to decide how I wanted to sleep, where, and then how to get out of the bed. When I decided I couldn’t sleep in the bed, Kim and our son rearranged furniture in order to allow me to sleep in the recliner in the living room.

The next day she cooked me breakfast and brought it to me. She then took the kids to school and came back to make sure I had everything I needed. She helped me shower. What a simple and great thing. And it just went on and on from there.

What’s love got to do it? You might look at all of this and think, what’s love got to do with it. Some may say she was just doing what any wife or husband would do. Sadly, we know that this is simply not true. There are a great many husbands and wives that would not take such good care of their spouse. They should, but some wouldn’t. That’s love. We have been together for nearly three decades. At times we REALLY get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes were do things that are simply unloving. But, when it comes down to it, we love each other and when I needed her, she REALLY stepped up.

Matt Norman

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3 Things Wrestling Drunks Taught Me About God

Some of you may know that I spent just shy of 20 years working in a  local emergency room. Some of you may also know that I’m a fairly large man. As you can imagine this often came in handy in the ER. Often times I was just called on to perform feats of strength. Usually helping to move heavy patients. However, there were a great many times when my size and strength were called upon to “deal with” someone who was getting a bit unruly. Sadly, having to wrestle and even restrain someone is sometimes required for their safety, as well as that of the staff and other patients and visitors. Looking back on those experiences, here are 3 things wrestling with drunks taught me about God.

1.) He’s got my back, even when I don’t know He’s there.

I spent a couple years working as the charge nurse in that ER. In those days we had a charge nurse and a co-charge nurse. My partner was named Angela. I remember this one shift we had a particular mouthy patient in bed 6. This bed happened to be near the main nurses station. So, Angel and I had a good view of all his antics. He was quite drunk and not happy about being there. For his own safety, we had a responsible for doing what we could to keep him there until he sobered up.

For at least the third time this man had wondered out of his room and into the passageway. Angela was calmly talking to him, trying to convince him to go back into his room. He continued to yell and cuss, and Angela remained calm. I was very impressed. Then, suddenly, after a few minutes of this he says, “Well, I guess I better go back into my room.” Then he turned around and did just that.

A very shocked and confused watched as he went back to his bed, then she turned around to walk away… and nearly ran into me. You see, what she didn’t know was that I had seen her talking with this man and had walked up behind her. I didn’t say a word, or lay a finger on the patient. I just stood there with my arms folded looking mean and scary.

It’s like that with God. We don’t always know that He is there, but He is. He’s got our backs.

2.) I can be bold when I know that He is there.

As I said, I was often called on to help others deal with unruly patients. As a younger man, I would usually just rush in and take over the experience. Over time I learned that that might not be the best way to handle it. You see, I learned that all I really needed to do was be present. Quite often I would just stand in the doorway… looking mean and scary. I did quite a bit of looking mean and scary. With my face that comes pretty easy.

What I found was that my presence allowed the other nurse to be more bold, because she knew I was there and had her back. She could do what she needed to do because she knew that if I needed to I would step in. The patient usually also knew that I was there to “step in” if I had to.

It’s like that with God. He’s always there. Sometimes we forget. But, if we will remember that He is there, we can be much more bold.

3.) He will take action when the time comes. 

While me standing in the doorway often allowed the other nurse to do what they needed to do without having to get physical with the patient, it didn’t always work out that way. There were many times that I had to take action. Some might dispute this, but it really was for the safety of the patient, as well as the staff and others in the ER. In these cases, I would stand back and observe… looking mean and scary, of course… THEN when the time came, I would come in and take action. In that moment I would do what I had to do to control the situation.

It’s like that with God. He sees our struggles, and when the time is right, He will step in and take action.

In the Mark 6:45-52 we see this. Verse 45 says, “He made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him…” While they were out there on the boat, a violent storm came. To this very day, these sorts of sudden storms are common on this body of water. Verse 48 says, “He saw them being battered as they rowed because the wind was against them.” He saw their struggles. Then in verse 51 He climbed into the boat with them and the wind ceased.

Their journey wasn’t without struggle and I sure they would have liked for Him to do the whole control the weather thing much sooner. But, He’s God, we are not. So, we have to remember that He sees our difficulties and when the time is right He will step in.

So what?

Many of my coworkers quickly came to understand that I was there for them, even when they didn’t know it. I was constantly watching and listening for situations that might require me to at least be visible and to step in when needed.

It’s kinda like that with God. Remember that He has your back, even when you can’t see Him. You can be bold, when you remember that He is there. He WILL step in when the time comes.

Matt Norman

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Act Like a Fool

I am a complete sucker for those military homecoming videos. You know the ones. Mom or dad, or maybe a son, daughter, or a sibling is in the military and has been away for some time. Sometimes the set up is very elaborate. I’ve seen them done in elementary schools, high schools, college graduations, kid’s sports events, even professional sporting events. The family member has no idea that their loved one, who has been away serving our country, is home and is about to appear. Then, suddenly, the soldier, marine, sailor, or airmen appears. In almost every case the moment the family sees the service man or woman, they forget all propriety and run to them. We should be more like this.

Not cool, man. Not cool.

I remember one particular video. Actually I’ve seen several like it. It involves a high school or college guy playing sports. It seems like a game or practice, just like any other. Until the player across from him removes his football helmet, or catchers mask, or mascot head and reveals that it’s actually dad inside. In that moment this big, bad guy, this athlete cares nothing about what his friends might think. All that matters is that his dad is there. I’ve seen these big, athletic young men run and hug their dads, with tears running down their face. How often have YOU seen a high school or college age guy so willing to cry in front of his friends?

Daddy’s girl

I remember another one where a girl was a cheerleader. I can’t remember if it was high school or college, but you get the picture. She was in the middle of a routine. They were standing in formation when suddenly dad appeared. Even though she was supposed to be standing in formation, she no longer cared. She was willing to face the consequences of breaking formation. Heck, she may not have even been thinking about it. In that moment all that mattered was being with her father.

Momma’s boy

This isn’t just about dads either. I remember one where a young African-American guy was practicing with his high school basketball team when mom walked into the gym. He COMPLETELY LOST IT. He ran over to the padded wall behind the goal, then fell to the floor crying. Mom came over to him, encouraging him to get up, but he was so overwhelmed with emotion he simply had to sit there and let it out for a moment. After a couple minutes he did get up and hug his mother, still with tears on his face.

Husbands, siblings, children and more

This is not all just about moms and dads. I’ve seen similar video of siblings, husbands, or children coming home. In every instance the unsuspecting family member forgets all about appearances. All that matters is that this loved one has returned to them. The emotion is often overwhelming. I remember scenes of wives, with kids running along behind her, running across football fields to jump into the arms of her husband… literally jump into his arms. I’ve seen younger brothers collapse to the floor, over whelmed by emotion at seeing their older brother or sister. It never cease to amaze me the number of such videos that I have seen.

So, what?

I’ve been in church my entire life. One thing that I have noticed is how seldom people are willing to act, or appear foolish in church. The people in the stories I shared above, and hundreds more like them, give us an example of what it looks like to totally abandon propriety, even if only for a moment. These folks are so overwhelmed being in the presence of their loved one that they forget all about the limitations that they normally put on their own behavior. They act like fools, and they don’t care what anybody thinks.

Maybe we, in the church, need to act like fools more often. We come into the presence of God, but do we act like it. Are we so comfortable or complacent in our relationship with Jesus that we no longer get excited about being in His presence? When was the last time you got so excited about Jesus that you were willing to look foolish? Have you EVER been that excited about Jesus?

Maybe the reason that more people are not coming to church is because we don’t even seem to want to be there. We, who claim to now Christ, who claim to have a personal relationship with Him, are not excited about being with Him. If we don’t seem excited about it, why should anybody else be?

In the videos I talked about above, the only people running to the new appeared serviceman or woman are the family. The other members of the team are not running towards him or her. The people in the crowd are not running towards him or her. they don’t do that because THEY are not the ones with the personal connection. This is not their loved one, so why would they run towards them? But, the family can’t help but respond.

They make me cry. There I said it. These videos always make me cry. I’m a big cry baby. Many people are moved by these videos. I am so moved by the responses of the families that I cry. I get excited for them. I get excited with them. What if we became so excited about being with Jesus that we were willing to act or appear foolish? Would people around us be moved by our display of love for Jesus? Maybe.

I would encourage you to enter church with the expectation of encountering Jesus. Then be willing to become excited when you encounter Him. Be willing to get so excited that you can’t help but show it. Become so excited that you don’t care what people think. Become so excited that others can see it and are moved by it.

Don’t be afraid to appear foolish for the sake of Jesus.

Matt Norman

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5 Ways That Kids Can Serve in Kid’s Church

There is a common saying that says, “Children are the church of tomorrow.”

I HATE that saying.

The truth is that they can be the church of today, if we’ll let them. Everything that I think of when I think of being the church, they can do: salvation, worship, serving, leading, Spiritual growth, prayer. I see nothing in this lis that kids can do/be, if we will just give them the chance. It will mean setting up specific opportunities for children to be the church, but if we take the time to do this, it will be worth it. We have to remember that kids are not just little adults. They think, worship, and learn differently than we do. So, let’s set up opportunities for kids to BE the church that are design for them. With that in mind, here are 5 ways that kids can serve in kid’s church.

1.) Audio/Video: It was kind of a running joke in the 80’s that if you needed the clock set on a VCR, get a kid to do it. The truth is that they are usually pretty good with this tech stuff. For this reason running the A/V system is a great place for kids to serve. For most of my time leading children’s church  I had 4th of 5th graders that ran the computer for me. Running a powerpoint or other presentation software is simple, regardless of the age. With a little training I’ve even found that they could do a good job managing the soundboard.

2.) Worship Team: As an adult it is possible to get kids engaged in worship. But, it requires a lot more work than kids seeing their friends up there. Take time to teach them the motions. Be willing to let them be bad at it. Heck, even let them be a little goofy up there. Remember that the goal is to get them involved in the worship and for them to help get their friends more involved.

3.) Greeters: It’s great for new kids that come into your church to be greeted by friendly adults. It’s even better for them to be greeted and welcome by other kids. Train some kids to be greeters. Help them see he importance of it and show them what it looks like to do it well. Heck, they could even be placed at the front of the church with the grown up greeters.

4.) Buddies: Being the new kid in any situation can be difficult. This is no different in church. Train some kids to be “buddies” to the new kids. When a new kid shows up, assign them to their buddy. The buddy will then spend the day with the new kid. The goal is to make them feel comfortable from the beginning by giving them someone they can kinda feel like they know. It also gives them confidence that they will know where to go and what to do because their buddy will show them.

5.) Mentors: I remember a few years ago Craig Groeschel saying that at Life.Church, they have 5th graders mentoring kindergarteners. He said, “What 5th grader thinks that he can mentor a kindergartener? The one who has been told he can.” No matter how good a leader you are, no matter how cool you are, no matter how good you are with kids, the older kids will always be the ones that the younger kids look up to. How powerful could it be to disciple some older kids, and train them to disciple/mentor younger kids.

Bottom line: Ultimately the goal is to let kids BE the church. I’m convinced that part of the reason that so many leave church after high school is because they never really felt like they were part of it to begin with. Let’s allow them to be the church today.

Matt Norman

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