Culture, Family, Hardship, Roy Baldwin

“Building Trust or Walking on Eggshells…”

Let me start off by saying that I am not always approachable.

If I was truly candid, which I am about to be, I would tell you that my most important relationships seem to suffer the most when I am not approachable: My wife and my kids.

I am sure if they were most honest, which they usually are, they would say, “dad is loving but sometimes being near him is like walking on eggshells.”

“Walking on eggshells…” I am wondering how many of you can relate to that feeling or phrase.

RABBIT TRAIL: Did you know the phrase, “walking on eggshells,” first started out as “walking on eggs.” Considering how trauma is passed down from generation to generation…I suppose eggshells are all that’s left.

This idea or phrase of “walking on eggshells” implies “to be very careful not to offend or upset someone” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Patterns like these can leave lasting damage in our homes, although mood swings are a natural part of life, it is important for all of us to deal with and manage appropriately.

We see this in foster care, especially when working with vulnerable children and families. Did you know that witnessing abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, neglect) between parents/adults in the home carries the same risk of harm to children’s mental health as being abused directly?

How we emotionally regulate in our homes is critical to the health of our children. If only 4 out of 10 kids are currently flourishing (pre-pandemic) how much of this comes back to our homes and the closeness and connection occurring in our relationships? Oftentimes it’s our dysregulation that leads to fractured relationships. In his book, What Happened To You, Dr. Bruce Perry writes, “Regulation is the KEY to creating safe connection. And being connected is the most efficient and effective way to get information to the cortex (page 144),” meaning, “getting to the place where you can communicate rationally with someone (page 143).” He goes on to write, “If we don’t feel safe, we become dysregulated (page 148).”

Here is a great article on this, “Walking on Eggshells” by Dr. Steven Stosny. He shares, “Everyone in a walking-on-eggshells family loses some degree of dignity and autonomy. Half suffer from clinical anxiety and/or depression. (“Clinical” doesn’t mean feeling down or blue or worried, it means that the symptoms interfere with normal functioning. You can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, can’t work as efficiently, and can’t enjoy yourself without drinking.) Most of the adults lack genuine self-esteem (based on realistic self-appraisals), and the children rarely feel as good as other kids.

Side note: I was reading an article recently that tries to tackle the mental health crisis in our schools…but I feel they miss the point entirely…which is to hire more mental health workers for schools. Make our schools safer by addressing grief and trauma. Although necessary this is tertiary intervention at best. We need to make our schools and communities healthier by seeing emotionally healthier parents leading and loving their children. We need to address the root of this grief and trauma which is happening in the homes…and not to be cliché…but we need to address fatherlessness.

A Fatherhood Class

During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I had the pleasure of facilitating a fatherhood class at Lincoln Berean Church here in Lincoln, NE. We had dads and some single men from all walks of life and different experiences participate in the class. It was full of amazing conversations and interactions. We spent a great deal looking at data from different studies about dads, looking at some Scripture and unpacking its application in our lives.

One key truth we unpacked came from the book, “Families and Faith Findings: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations” by Vern Bengston (which I have also mentioned before in multiple posts). The study found this to be true – “Parental warmth is the key to successful [religious] transmission” (p.186).

As I reflect on this idea of parental warmth, I think of relational or emotional safety. I think of closeness. I think of connection. I think of trust.

I love what Dr. Henry Cloud says of trust, “Trust fuels investment…trust is built when it is reciprocated (gives/receives).” Trust or relational warmth helps grow and fuel any relationship and its not optional. We are giving or receiving this emotional “currency” in every interaction.

Is it any wonder that our faith grows in proportion to our trust? Think about all the areas in your life where you do not trust. What lives there? Fear. Anxiety. Control. How much of that fear then carries over into the areas of my life and into the relationships most important to me?

Am I trustworthy? “Am I approachable?” If not, then why am I not? What inhibits my ability to be that trustworthy person to God, to myself and to those I have a direct impact on?

“Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown, wind can caress or cut. And so it is with human relationships: we can both create and destroy, nurture and terrorize, traumatize and heal each other.”

Dr. Bruce Perry (“The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog…”)

Practical Application:

I know I have been processing a lot about how I can be more approachable to my family. Why should everyone else get my best? They shouldn’t. I have to become so much more self-aware of my own emotional fuel tank and make sure I am not just physically present at home. I have to be emotionally invested. I have to be aware of my emotional triggers.

Side note: As a follower of Christ, I have to take some ownership of my own walk but what I cannot do is think I have the ability to change myself…or clean myself up. I need Jesus to do the work in me that I often try to do myself. I must offer myself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2)

I shared a critical perspective of this in my post, “Sincere Faith Cannot Be Outsourced” and the important role the Gospel and my sincerity plays in this work of trust and emotional warmth.

Below is an exercise I recently did through a small group my wife and I are a part of with some other couples. The 9-month experience is a program through Trueface Ministries called Trueface Journey. The “Trust” exercise provides a prayer as well as an assessment that I found to be quite challenging and convicting. It exposed some areas where I am not trusting the Lord… I hope you find this helpful. It’s a great self-reflection tool… and an exercise you could discuss with someone you trust to be loving and honest with you.

FINAL THOUGHT:

I wonder if the areas in my life where I am not trusting God are the very areas that cause others to “Walk on eggshells” around me? Scripture speaks of this. “Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7) and “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). Does my lack of trusting Christ lead to my stress and anger? Yes it does. Truly trusting His work replaces the eggshells I offer with the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

My prayer is that those we love most would feel the warmth of His love through the sincerity in which we live our daily lives and taste of the fruit His Spirit.

Faith, Family, Roy Baldwin

Sincere Faith Cannot Be Outsourced

This is a follow up to a previous post I wrote entitled, “We Are Failing Children.” This post tackles the subject of passing faith down to our children.

Sincerity

Being sincere is important to me. Sincerity is a character trait in which I want others to see in my life. I want others to see it in the way I interact with them, listen to them, how “present” I am with them and what they have observed in me as I interact with others. I would want this to be true of me regardless if I am with my children (who know me better than anyone else) or with a complete stranger.

Let me define sincerity.

Sincerity is defined as “the absence of pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.” One example would be found in the life of Ben Franklin. He saw sincerity as one of 13 virtues in which to live by. He defined sincerity as, “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” Living a sincere life is seen as a virtue in most cultures and faith traditions over the centuries. Confucius stated, “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.“

Sincerity is an incredibly important part of our Christian faith as well…in fact I believe it is the lynchpin to faith transmission.

Sincerity…a lynchpin? YES.

Why is sincerity so important? I believe sincerity brings to life (demonstrates) on a daily basis, in our words and actions, the very things we have placed our hope in. I love what Dallas Willard writes about living the Christian life. In Renovations Of The Heart In Daily Practice he writes, “Our lives are a result of what we have become in the depths of our being-what we call our spirit, will, or heart. From there we see our world and interpret reality. From there we make choices, break forth into action, and try to change our world. That is why the greatest need of collective humanity is the renovation of the heart…The Revolution of Jesus is one of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through an ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, habits of choice, bodily tendencies, and social relations.” (p.15)

This change as Dallas suggest impacts every aspect of our lives. The sincerity of which we live this out internally and then in relationship with others becomes a critical part of how faith is transmitted.

If sincerity is a virtue and a pursuit we should all be after…what does this have to do with faith?

Having worked with many parents over the years, I often ask parents what their deepest longing is for their children (Both Christian and non-churched parents). Two answers would typically surface: for Christian parents it was for their children to know Jesus (eternal life) and to be happy or fulfilled in life (aspects of flourishing), and for non-churched parents it was for their children to be happy or fulfilled typically by what they could attain (career, money, etc.) In some ways, Christian or non-Christian parents alike always expressed the following sentiment, “I want my kids to be better off than me.”

If we long for our children or grandchildren to flourish in life, which by the way, requires the “right” character traits (sincerity as one) and behaviors that will last, there are certain things we cannot outsource or abdicate as I tackled in my last post. Are you going to trust just anyone with your deepest longings for your children? If a sincere faith or character isn’t near the top of the list, I would hope by the end of this post it would be.

Let me explain my thinking

Let me define sincerity from a Biblical perspective. A gospel-centered sincerity is an intentional, transparent, and honest pursuit of grace (undeserved favor that we cannot earn) and truth (consistent with the nature of God’s character and His design of all of creation) in all of life. The pursuit of grace probably needs to be unpacked more, but for the sake of this post, the sentiment I am after is found beautifully in the words of Dallas Willard, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” This includes grace and truth about ourselves, grace and truth about others—but most importantly, the impact of grace and truth as we experience the work of Christ in our lives. Our attempts to achieve true sincerity are experienced and revealed as we unpack these three aspects – self, others, and God.

For a growing Christian, desire will always outstrip performance or, at least, perceived performance. What is it then that will keep us going in the face of this tension between desire and performance? The answer is the gospel. It is the assurance in the gospel that we have indeed died to the guilt of sin and that there is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus that will motivate us and keep us going even in the face of this tension…That is why I use the expression “gospel-driven sanctification” and that is why we need to “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” (Jerry Bridges)

“Gospel-centered sincerity” is not achieved when we try to discover our real selves and throw it into the microwave of personal feelings, performance-driven results, and cultural opinions as we strive to “be real” although these responses at some level are a part of the process. This lifelong process of sincerity as a virtue is only achieved as it collides with the Gospel that hopefully we are preaching to ourselves daily.

Some Key Scriptures:

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.” Joshua 24:14

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

We know our faith is truly sincere or authentic when people are drawn closer to the heart of God by witnessing the process of our pursuit of grace and truth.

The verses above demonstrate the nature in which we live out His work in our lives. This process should be transformative. This transformation is not just for a Facebook and Instagram world where everything looks great or I have all the answers.

This process is messy and broken. It is never sanitized. Faith is discovered and tested in those moments when I am prone to get angry, fearful, or selfish.

Hopefully those closest to me (my wife and children) can “give testimony” of my growth as they see the Gospel come to life as I sincerely allow His grace and truth to transform me.

What I have come to learn in my life is that this kind of sincere faith is deeply personal and drives my convictions and beliefs. I cannot outsource my faith to anything or anyone and this is also true for my children (Deuteronomy 6). I need them to see and experience His work in my life.

If Christ’s people genuinely enter Christ’s way of the heart, they will find a sure path toward becoming the persons they were meant to be: thoroughly good and godly persons yet purged of arrogance, insensitivity and self-sufficiency.” (Dallas Willard)

How do I pass faith onto my children then?

I am no expert in this, other than I see the data and read His Word and I am pursuing it the best way I can for my own children and family. The programs we offer in church are not necessarily producing the outcomes in regards to faith transmission…and as I mentioned in a previous post it is because we have forsaken the impact that mom and dad have on their homes and the sincerity of which faith, love and hope are transmitted.

According to a study by Vern Bengston (Longitudinal Study of Generations), they found that faith is transmitted through the emotional warmth exchanged between parent and child. Learning the practices of faith such as prayer, attending church, and studying the Bible are critical. But what makes it “sticky” and brings those practices to life happens within a flourishing relationship between parent and child.

Here are a couple of the big takeaways from Vern’s book, “Families and Faith Findings…”

“Parental warmth is the key to successful [religious] transmission” (186)
“Families do matter in determining the . . . religious outcomes of young adults, and they matter a great deal” (195)
“Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad” (196)

PERSONAL APPLICATION

This past year I sat down with my family and I acknowledged that I was sorry for not being the dad they needed me to be. Anger. Moodiness. Tension. All of these things in my life were influencing the safety felt in my home. My children were quick to say, “Dad, you are not failing us,” but the reality is that I was being a poor example of Jesus in my home. I have to own that. Since that time, I have been working really hard to be a healthier person in my house and in my car.

I have been working really hard to be emotionally warm and present with my kids. I have been intentional in truly listening to them and loving them. I have also been sharing with them my devotions and having conversations and sharing thoughts about the work God is doing in my life. I want them to see it…I want them to know that the change they see in me isn’t my own work…but His. (“The Revolution of Jesus”)

I want them to see the sincerity of my faith shine through my imperfections as much as my perfections (what I get right). You see if they don’t see it…they will walk away from faith because they will see the hypocrisy in it. This is THE BATTLE for families and for the church. To see sincere and authentic acts of faith lived out in homes. Sincere and authentic faith is transmitted when my family can truly see me being my most sincere self in light of the redemptive work of the Gospel. If my kids can’t see that… then I have completely missed the point of not only my faith but what it means to be a parent. 

As the world continues to fail my children, I will keep pointing them to the One who will never fail.

Community, Culture, Faith, Family, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

We Are Failing Children

The intent of this post is not to blame, shame, or politicize data. I also don’t want to oversimplify a very complex issue. I simply want to share a perspective I don’t hear talked about a lot in Christian circles. (This is the first of two posts.)

It is difficult for me to watch the news and scroll through my social media feeds nowadays without a sense that at some level we are failing children and youth on an unprecedented level. It’s everywhere. Postmodernism is redefining everything. Yuval Harari in his book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” provides some excellent descriptors of postmodernism: “Modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarized in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power...Since there is no script, and since humans fulfill no role in any great drama, terrible things might befall us and no power will come to save us or give meaning to our suffering. There won’t be a happy ending, or a bad ending, or any ending at all. Things just happen, one after the other. The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause.”“Meaning and authority always go hand in hand. Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”

If postmodernism contends that there is no objective truth…is it any wonder that children are suffering?

I typically have the following filters: a deep transformative view of the Gospel (good news); the sacredness of every life; the loss and trauma of our world. I have worked with at-risk and vulnerable children for decades and in multiple venues and situations. These filters I have are not just merely sentiments…they have been forged in the fire of life.

So, as I think about the sentiment of “we are failing children” there is a deeply personal part of this for me that comes out and that I have to process.

There are stories and faces of the young men and their families that had a huge impact on my time at EGA (residential care facility serving the 5 boroughs of NY City). As I served as a houseparent with my wife at a residential school, loving and supporting a home of 8-10 girls (70+ girls in 9 years). The lives, the stories, the joy, the loss. When I think of our own family journey of 27 years of marriage and three kids. It’s been a hard but beautiful adventure. There have been some really amazing and beautiful moments but there have also been hardships and losses.

Why are children failing?

I firmly believe that the family unit has been outsourcing and abdicating its responsibilities for decades (generations) because the very institutions meant to support and partner with families, such as schools, churches, and government, have effectively neutered the authority of the family by telling families, “we can do it better than you,” and “we know better than you.” (Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”)

In essence, how dare you show up to a school board meeting and express your concerns about what is being taught or talk about the safety of your children without being labeled or looked down upon.

How are we failing children you ask? Let’s look at some of the data:

  • Prior to the pandemic less than half of children in the US were flourishing according to a study out of John Hopkins. Children who are flourishing are directly connected to the strength (resilience and connection) of the parent/child relationship.
  • Since the pandemic, these indicators of children failing have gotten worse. According to the CDC: a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health; 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless; 55% reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.
  • 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting and beating
  • 29% reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.
  • Teen suicide is up (31% increase from 2019-2021) – and a fivefold increase in suicide attempts in children ages 10-12 (2010-2020)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 jumped 51 percent between February and March 2021. For boys, that number increased by 4 percent.

If this data is true, (and there is so much more data) then why are we not talking more about this? Why are children, after spending more time at home during the pandemic, seem to be worse off? Research tells us that the healthy parent/child relationship is critical to the long-term resilience of children and leads to better outcomes in children and adults than anything else. If children are doing worse, then what does that say about the health of homes and families? Our children should not be worse off…

This doesn’t mean we start shaming parents, although there is plenty of blame and ownership to go around with how parents are raising their children today. If you ask most parents, they would probably tell you, “I was just following the norm and expectations of taking kids to school, loving my child, being involved in their activities, occasionally taking them to church and they will turn out ok.” At some level, the pandemic ripped open these norms and expectations and the data doesn’t lie…our children are in trouble.

Things are not ok and these very institutions have betrayed (intentionally or not) the sacred trust that should exist to help protect the family and children even if it means calling out the very unhealthy behaviors that probably should be addressed in families. I know many teachers and school personnel that feel absolutely helpless in dealing with many of the behavioral issues and challenges in schools either by their own policies and/or what is tolerated for fear of reprisal and threats by parents. It’s not healthy on any level.

The Role of the Church

As I process what is happening culturally, what role does faith and the church play in all of this? Is this another institution that has missed the mark? I often hear the following sentiment from parents whose children are no longer in their homes and who have “walked away from the faith” yet attended church most of their lives and wrestle with regret about not being a better parent to their children: “I just wish I knew sooner what they needed from me.”

Well, why didn’t they know sooner?

It’s because their primary and life-giving role is not elevated within the walls and programs of the church. It’s a secondary or tertiary intervention at best to help parents when it should be a primary role of the church to equip and inspire families to thrive and flourish.

On a regular basis, parents need to be reminded from the pulpit that they are their child’s number one pastor and then offer and design innovative ways to help them do that. Church Programming such as Sunday School, Youth Group, Retreats and Camps, and many other programs are meant to support the role of the parent, not replace.

Somewhere along the line, we have bought into the idea that a youth leader is better suited to teach our children about Jesus than parents are. We let them handle it – after all, they’re “cooler” than us. They understand scripture, have a better understanding of the pressures teens face, and probably have some training on how to make a better impact on their lives.  Most youth leaders I know play a huge role in teens’ lives and in most cases the previous descriptions are true (cool, relevant, and can teach the Bible).

But that doesn’t mean I outsource my child’s faith.

I hope you do not hear criticism of the amazing work we are doing in our churches, that being said, we can no longer pay lip service once a year to a child’s dedication of the important role parents play and then never mention it again.

How is Faith Actually Transmitted?

Research (i.e. Families and Faith, Vern Bengtson) and scriptures (i.e. Deuteronomy 6) instruct us that parents play the most important role in faith transmission. As Christian Smith (professor and author, “Souls in Transition”) has stated about the role parents play, “Parents are their child’s number one pastor.” I don’t believe that is hyperbole.

We are failing children because we are not respecting the design God has created in the way faith is transmitted.

If my main role as a man (husband and father) in my house is to be pastoral in my home, how would that change and influence my everyday life? I would suggest that being pastoral is not optional. It’s a part of the design. As a dad, whether I am present or not, I am passing some sort of “faith” tradition down to my children. They will then live their lives accepting or rejecting the truth which I have modeled and taught them by the way I have lived and loved them. Do I lead with a Gospel centered worldview or a postmodern worldview?

The truth is we are impressing something onto our children. If not us, someone is waiting to impress something onto them.

There is no substitute for the direct investment a parent has on their children. As many scholars and researchers will tell you, no one can replace or even come close to the impact a parent has on the faith of their children. Our faith is something we cannot outsource to someone who has them for one to two hours a week. We need to find partners in youth leaders and in the church to help reinforce a strong faith, but their key role is to come alongside to support.  It is my job as a parent to find key adults and communities to speak truth, love, and grace into their lives, and trust me…most youth leaders want to see you involved.

Final Thoughts

This is a complex subject and at some level, I have not given it justice. Working as the CEO for a faith-based child placing agency (foster care and prisons) where we stand in the gap between many of the institutions I described above, I see every day how we are failing children. Every day I am tired of the poor outcomes despite the many amazing individuals who work in these fields working desperately for better outcomes for kids. The truth is… it starts with these very institutions to stop playing the hero… and focus their strategies and programming around inspiring and equipping moms and dads in their families with the tools and truth that actually lead to better outcomes in them and in their children AND ultimately point to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus (who is the ultimate “hero” of this story). There is no way around this truth. There is no way around its created design.

Look for post #2 on this topic as I go further into defining a critical aspect of faith and how faith is transmitted.

Roy Baldwin

What is a Father?

I am always baffled by how much men, especially fathers, are shamed into action.

The latest satire video from Cool Carl of Sunday Cool, is a very funny but sad reflection of what is often true of the experience some dads will hear this Father’s Day.

I wonder if, at the root of this problem, is our inability to accurately define what a father is, the value a dad’s role plays, or impact he has on his children or family as a whole.

Stop Shaming Fathers

Church sermons, men’s ministry groups, men’s conferences, men’s retreats, men’s prayer breakfasts, men’s accountability groups, men’s curriculums…I have participated in these activities, I have spoken at these activities, I have designed some of these activities. And so often we start off by lecturing men about all the things they are not doing or not doing well, as husbands, fathers, sons, and as men.

Look, I know there is an abundance of data (fatherlessness, divorce, violence, drug use, suicide, depression, etc.) that would suggest men are not doing their parts when it comes to our homes, families, and marriages.

BUT I also know there is strong evidence that would counter this data and say men in some ways are being better fathers and spouses more than ever before (a post for another time).

Although the “over the top” video from Cool Carl is funny, it demonstrates a very destructive worldview that can live in our churches, about who fathers are and what they do or don’t do. I think this worldview is often very subtle, but nonetheless, it bankrupts our understanding of what a Biblical definition of fatherhood is and, on a greater scale, what masculinity is.

Men are drowning in shame

I do feel much of the data overwhelmingly shows that men/fathers are already drowning in shame.

Here are just three of many data points:

Recent research suggests that men have no close friends.

Men commit suicide at a rate 2-4x higher than women.

Depression in men is being called a “silent epidemic” due to its impact on coronary disease and other health conditions.

These factors cannot be ignored or explained away. If men are drowning in shame, the last thing we need to do before throwing them a lifeline is to lecture them on why they are drowning. 

What is a Father?

So often I think we approach men using the same tactics Jesus used when teaching his disciples about the Pharisees or how Jesus interacted with Pharisees. He saw them as hypocrites and “white washed tombs (Matthew 23). If this is our view of men or fathers, then our approach of challenging men to do better and be better misses the mark completely. It’s like pouring salt into an invisible wound.

Our approach needs to be more like the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3. Although the Apostle Paul doesn’t hold back about putting to death the old self, he encourages believers to put on the new self.

In 2015 I wrote a piece for the blog, Authentic Manhood, called “4 Traits of An Authentic Man,” I have updated those 4 traits for this post. Obviously, this isn’t comprehensive in regards to defining biblical masculinity, but I do think it lays down some foundational pieces.

  1. Authenticity (V.16)
    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

    Being grounded in God’s word, as described here, isn’t just an intellectual understanding. It’s with the understanding that as Christ transforms me with his Word, I become a different man and it is for the greater good of those around me. People should feel drawn to Christ, not because I have all the answers, but because of the “emotional and relational connectedness” they feel when they are with me.
  2. Content of our Character (v. 12-14)
    “…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

    These attributes become the content of our character as men. Our spouses, children, co-workers, friends family, even strangers are drawn closer to Christ because of these elements. As you will see from these attributes, there is an initial application of messiness (patience) and brokenness (bearing with one another), as well as redemption (forgiveness).
  3. Secure Identity (v. 12)
    “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…”

    Paul affirmed their identity in Christ. “This is who you are.” What we believe about ourselves will inform all of our decisions and those outcomes. This is why lecturing men doesn’t work. No one is harder on a man than a man himself. Start leading them. Gain their trust. Create a safe place for men to be true to who God is calling them to be.
  4. Gratitude (V.17)
    “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

    As Christ transforms men as they surrender to His work and process of transformation, the entire community (family, home and church) is blessed and grateful for this man who is giving his all for the cause of Christ.

A dear friend and former co-worker Glenn Stanton wrote a book called, “Secure Daughters Confident Sons.” He writes this:

Don’t you think the world becomes a better, happier, and healthier place when men are encouraged to become the best version of who they already are? That’s part of our job as parents raising boys. Still, we are wise to remember that Clint Eastwood is not Albert Einstein is not Harrison Ford is not George Washington Carver is not Abraham Lincoln….is not your husband or your son.” (p.20)

Men need to be inspired, encouraged, and discipled.

Final Thoughts

May we truly change the way we think about the men and fathers in our lives. I know there are a lot of broken promises, disappointments, and unmet expectations out there. My encouragement is to seek to restore, redeem, reconcile, and forgive.

To Fathers (bio, step, foster, adoptive, father figure): Thank you for what you do day in and day out. We play such a vital and critical role in the health and life of our families. Don’t give up. Our families need us more than ever. Be the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical provider and protector God has created and designed you to be. It’s hard…but anything hard is usually worth fighting for.

To fathers who feel like they are drowning and can’t undo what’s been done:
Find another man or person to talk with who will encourage and support you. There are some incredible resources for men out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone. As someone who is coming out of a very dark and hard season, ask for help.

I know this post doesn’t fully answer the question, “What is a father?” I do hope it challenges us to rethink our own beliefs about dads and the role they play especially in the church. I love the sentiment Bart Millard expresses in the movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” which captured the true story of his broken yet restored relationship with his dad. May this sentiment be true of us, “God will give us the grace to allow His redemption to come into any relationship whenever we are ready to receive His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.“

Karen Baldwin

Looking Forward

 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 NLT

A little over a year ago, I found my spot at camp.  I would sit on the bench, which was on the bridge overlooking the creek.  It was a protected sanctuary that had a roof of large trees and leaves.  They would protect me, drawing shade from the hot sun and a shelter in the midst of a rain storm.  I would sit there to get away from the unknowns, the struggles, and honestly, the realities of having no control of my family’s future.  I would praise God there. I would sob for forgiveness in my unbelief. I would beg for assurance and peace of what I could not see ahead of me.

But it was a place where I could escape and find a moment of tranquility in what seemed turbulent and unsettled.

Sitting there where all I could hear was the invisible wind, making its presence known, birds singing as if they had no cares in the world, water flowing with a confidence of where the path would lead…it was peace for my soul.  It was a moment to just be still, and to know that the God of creation and the nature that surrounded me cared more for me than the beauty those sounds and visuals could ever fully express.

And as has been my thought many times before when God slammed doors shut on our life journey, I would wonder what a year from now would look like.  Obviously God knows the plans he has for me, plans to give me a hope and future.  And a peace would come over me, knowing that I would look back a year from that time, and see a glimpse of his perfection and goodness in my life through the changes a year would bring.  He has a plan, He cares enough to have it all laid out.  He has the moments that will take my breath away, moments where I’ll fully see his hand, and the pieces will fit together.  Moments where he will take me to new places and answer the prayers that have been most pressed on my heart.

Here I am.  A year later…seeing the pieces fit together.  Completely? No!  I’m still in personal transition.  It takes me the longest to find my place!  But I have a home…what a miraculous experience it was to find the only home with the desires of heart and location.  Close to the schools that fit our girls so well.  Three minutes from the church we’d call home.  Across from a shopping center where our daily needs are met. A neighborhood with walking paths and a pond.  Did I already say it was the only house available?  It fit our family perfectly.  It is beautiful, spacious, with little maintenance, fenced-in backyard, and a refreshing place to rest, enjoy family time, eat, sleep and feel at home.  We longed and prayed for those things: good schools, a good church for our kids and for us, a place where we could be safe, feel cared for and to experience God’’s goodness…together.  He not only answered, but he blessed more that we could’ve planned or imagined on our own.

He provided a job for Roy.  I’ll let Roy tell his side of that journey…because like every other chapter, God showed his perfection in the job, ministry and passion to the things that built up to this moment.  But I will share that once a door first opened, it was less than 8 weeks before our house was packed and being moved across the country…again.  And so again, all of the details we had to figure out in that short amount of time…between holidays even…God had to take our hands and dictate many of those details for us.  It’s like a parent, he clearly said, “call this moving company, this is the home for you, fill out the paperwork in a parking lot, this is the church you will attend (not the one we had planned on!!), register your kids in these schools.  Here’s the dates.  Here’s the plan.  Just follow my lead.”  He had to dictate.  We could’ve never figured it out on our own.

Nebraska?  Really God? 

Where the heck is Nebraska anyway? 

I know it’s out there somewhere between NH and CO…but exactly where?  What?  No mountains?  I know there’s no big bodies of water…but corn and endless fields?  Ugh…but the people.  The beauty of people is so much more beautiful than even the greatest of mountains.  I’m still on the relationship building journey, but people out here are NICE!  I mean they just make you feel like family, like they’ve known you for years.  I’m still learning to raise my head and give eye contact as I pass people…because they really want to be cordial!  Though I’m still navigating relationships, I see my kids make friends and connect, at church and school.  And for me, that was the priority.  They are so happy and so very content.  They’ve adjusted quicker that I could have imagined.  And they each have found friends who are in the foster care system or have been adopted.  That just is a God wink for the call to which he had for us here.

Did you hear my repeated words throughout?  More than I could’ve ever imagined or planned in my own strength.  Every part of the journey has found its place in the greater story of our last this last year.  I won’t lie.  I questioned and grieved, worried and doubted a year ago.  But I also fought the lies that God couldn’t move us on to greater things.  I fought it by reminding myself that the questions of the present will have many answers a year later.  The faith isn’t a one-time belief in a God who protects and orchestrates.  Faith is the journey by which we live each day, depending on the One who already has it all figured out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad He has it figured out. I’m completely exhausted when I take those measures into my own control. I’m reminded today, as I look back and remember,  I just need to follow His lead…and find peace, joy and purpose in the midst of the journey, which is the here and now.  And be expectant.  Because a year from now, I think I’ll be looking back at relationships, where my kids are at in their own journeys, and the  passions he’s placed on my heart…and I’ll see the pieces of the coming weeks and months play out perfectly and often miraculously.

Video

Your Marriage Mindset

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to have a Marriage Mindset, what the Bible has to say about it, and define what a healthy growth mindset and an unhealthy fixed mindset looks like.

Watch the full video on YouTube and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content!

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Even before the strenuous pandemic that forced us to stay close to each other 24/7, marriage was at times hard and discouraging. It’s why throughout this series we have been constantly pointing back to Galatians 6:9 – Keep at it! Do not be discouraged when times become hard, love your spouse and strive to continue working on and growing your relationship. That is what we will be talking about in this conversation as we dive into our marriage mindset, and figure out the answer to WHY we do WHAT we do.

Defining Mindsets

Our behavior in marriage is influenced by our Mindsets.

Mindsets are the assumptions and expectations we have for ourselves and others. These attitudes guide our behavior and influence our response to daily events. Your mindset will affect how you feel about something, and even how well you do at something.

According to Dr. Emerson Eggerich, people tend to hold one of two basic types of mindsets:

  1. Fixed: A fixed mindset is one that is set in place, with the person feeling that there is no need for anything to change, or work towards changing. They will say that “I really don’t have to work hard at bettering myself.” These types of people to blame others outside of themselves and flee when troubles and challenges arise.
    This is a very Unhealthy mindset to adopt.
  2. Growth: A growth mindset is one that is always looking to improve and change, and put the effort in to make things work out. The person with this mindset will say that they, “must work at being better”. A growth centered person will grow through pain and challenge.
    It certainly isn’t the easiest path, but it IS the Healthiest.

So where do our mindsets and attitudes come from?

Our mindsets actually stem from our Belief. Our belief about something is so powerful that it can change our reality: it can make something appear to be different than it really is. Belief does not require something to be true, only requiring us to believe that it is true.

When something doesn’t line up with our belief system, we resist it, no matter what we are told/given evidence for.

Think About It:

Where have your beliefs and worldview stemmed from?

What does the Bible say about Mindsets?

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2

This verse is telling us to allow God to change the way we think, and that opening up our perspective not only allows us to change our perspective, but to be transformed. Its why reading God’s word and letting what He has to say resonate within us is so important.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

Colossians 3:2

Our primary focus is not to be the things of this earth. We instead need to focus our belief on the God of the Bible. Our lives/marriages will be better off, and stronger, in a unity of belief.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8

Do you see your spouse in this way? Do you see them as true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable? You should strive to fix your thoughts on them in this way, even if there are times when you don’t want to. It’s why we need to constantly be checking our thoughts, and realign them if they start to stray away from this view of our spouse.

Unhealthy Mindsets

As you go through this list and identify some of these places where you struggle, be open and honest with yourself, and learn to replace these with a Growth Mindset.
(The following is material based on the work of Robert Leahy, PhD and Director/Contributor to the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy)

  • Labeling — You attribute a negative personality trait to your partner, leading you to believe that he or she can never change. As an alternative, rather than label your spouse, you can look for “variability” in his/her behavior.
  • Fortune-telling — You forecast the future and predict that things will never get better, leaving you feeling helpless and hopeless. An alternative to this is to look back at positive experiences that you have to challenge your idea that nothing will improve.
  • Mind-reading — You interpret your spouse’s motivations as hostile or selfish on the basis of very little evidence. Rather than engaging in mind-reading, you can ask your spouse what he/she meant or how he/she is feeling. Sometimes it’s beneficial to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
  • Catastrophic Thinking — You treat conflict or problems as if they indicate that the world has ended or that your marriage is a disaster. A better way of looking at this is that all couples face problems — some of them quite upsetting. Rather than look at an obstacle or a problem as “terrible,” you might validate that it is difficult for both of you, but that it is also an opportunity to learn new skills in communicating and interacting — a growth mindset.
  • Emotional Reasoning — You feel depressed and anxious, and you conclude that your emotions indicate that your marriage is a failure. A better way of looking at your emotions is that your feelings may go up and down, depending on what you and your spouse are doing. Emotions are changeable and don’t always tell you about how good things can be.
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking — You describe your interactions as being all good or all bad without examining the possibility that some experiences with your partner are positive. Whenever you use the words “always” and “never,” try assuming that you are wrong. The best way to test out your distorted and biased negative thinking is to look at the facts. Maybe the facts aren’t as terrible as they seem to be. Remember, mindsets are influenced by our beliefs.
  • Shoulds — You have a list of “commandments” about your relationship and condemn yourself or your spouse for not living up to your “should.“ Rather than talk about the way things “should” be, you might consider how you can make things better. Replace your shoulds with “how to” and “let’s try.”
  • Personalizing — You attribute your spouse’s moods and behavior to something about yourself, or you take all the blame for the problems. It’s almost never all about one person; it takes two to tango and two to be miserable.
  • Perfectionism — You hold up a standard for a relationship that is unrealistically high and then measure your relationship by this standard. No relationship is perfect — and no relationship needs to be perfect.
  • Blaming — You believe that all the problems in the relationship are caused by your spouse. There is a grain of truth in almost any negative thought, but blaming your spouse will make you feel helpless and trapped. A better way of approaching this is to take a “Let’s fix it together” approach. You can validate each other, share responsibility for the problems, plan to catch each other being good, reward each other, plan positives together, and accept some differences.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:5 (NIV)
Video

Developing Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to be spiritually intimate with your spouse, and why it is an important aspect of your marriage.

Watch the full video on YouTube and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content!

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Its no secret that marriage isn’t a perfect fairytale ending: it can be messy. A great marriage, however, does not need glitz, glamour and even excitement. On the contrary, what we really need to be focused on is how much depth there is in our relationships. Depth can be given through good communication, and being kind to each other. The bedrock for an enduring and deep marriage, however, is Spiritual Intimacy.

Developing and maintaining spiritual intimacy in a marriage isn’t easy. It’s important to read your Bible and pray, but it’s a lot harder to show and demonstrate what spiritual intimacy is, especially in marriage. If you gain one thing from todays conversation and developing spiritual togetherness in your own home, it’s to live according to Galatians 6:9 and to NOT GIVE UP!

The Value of Spiritual Intimacy

One of the key things to keep in mind going into this is that Spiritual Intimacy will NOT make your marriage perfect. What it will do instead is keep you in touch with the CREATOR of marriage – the One who has the answers to your most deep-rooted marriage challenges. Spiritual Intimacy allows you to connect with one another at the deepest levels of your soul, as well as link you with God’s purposes and plans for you. It allows you to bless each other with God’s love, and unify both of your deepest desires and values.

As you and your spouse grow spiritually intimate and submit to the teachings of scripture, your biggest goals and beliefs will be in harmony with one another.

Think About It:

What are some Hindrances to developing spiritual intimacy in marriage?

Tending the Soul of your Marriage

Faith in a personal God who loves you and is concerned for your well-being is fundamental to a deepening spiritual intimacy in your marriage. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Experiencing God together helps develop spiritual intimacy

There are many ways for you and your spouse to experience God together:

  • Worshipping together – At home, in small gatherings, at church
  • Read the Bible or a devotional book together
  • Talk about what God is teaching you in your individual devotions and studies.
  • Attend or lead a Bible study with other married couples
  • Make your devotions simple and brief
  • Be accountable to each other, sharing and receiving correction from each other
  • Compliment your spouse on his/her spiritual growth (no matter how small it may be. 

Together, you should seek God’s will for your life and marriage, while also counting the blessings God has given the both of you. Encourage the expression of spiritual gifts in ministry as a couple. You may have different interests, but if you can find a place where you can minister as a team, you will strengthen your spiritual togetherness.

Do not underestimate the power of prayer in your marriage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-6

Les and Leslie Parrott report that couples who frequently pray together are twice as likely as those who pray less often to describe their marriage as being highly romantic. These couples also report considerably higher sexual satisfaction and more sexual delight. While these are certain great benefits, prayer can mainly:

  • help you with your perspective on problems.
  • help you reorder your priorities.
  • Give you a sense of purpose.

With the importance of prayer established, how can you make it a significant part of your marriage?

  • You can agree together that you will make prayer a priority in your marriage. 
  • You can keep the prayer time brief. It is not necessary to pray for hours as a couple in order to have a meaningful prayer life. If one of you is not comfortable praying aloud, the shorter time will be encouraging, and you can always extend the time when it is mutually agreeable. 
  • You can include words of thanksgiving for your spouse, along with praying for his/her needs. 

Define and Understand your shared core beliefs, allowing those beliefs to be lived out in your marriage.

Ask yourselves:

  • What do you believe about life, death, God, marriage, family, etc?
  • Do your core beliefs include a personal relationship with God?
  • What do you believe about Jesus and his teachings?
  • What are your beliefs about forgiveness, hope, or pain in the world?
  • What difference do your core beliefs make in your daily life?
  • If someone looked at your life and marriage today, what would they say are your core beliefs?
  • Are you living out your spiritual core beliefs day by day, or is your faith in a God a “Sunday thing”?

Having shared core beliefs lived out in the lives of couples is related to higher marital satisfaction and a more connected relationships.

Video

Be Nice

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and Pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to be nice to your spouse, and why it is so essentially, especially during the Covid pandemic.

Watch the full video on Vimeo and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content.

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Throughout the years of Covid lockdowns, people are finding that they are spending a lot more time with people that they don’t usually spend 24/7. Families are stuck at home, with parents needing to find space to work while their children are always around.
Some spouses are even afraid that, through all the time they are spending with each other, that their significant other is getting tired of them.

Extended time with those close to you may reveal things you didn’t want revealed, such as the fact that you might not necessarily be as nice to them as you probably should be.

It is important to approach this issue by applying Galatians 6:9 to our lives: “Don’t get tired of doing the good things in your marriage that will be a blessing to you.”

In a time of upheaval, it’s important that we don’t get tired of doing what is good, as there will be a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time. Because of this, we should strive to be nice to one another.

Think About It:

What are three “Nice” things your spouse did for you this past week?

There need’s to be a balance between positive/negative in order to maintain a healthy relationship, as noted by marital researcher John Gottman. “To offset one negative word or deed, you need five positive words or deeds.” Knowing this and keeping this in mind is key to establishing a safe space between you and your spouse.

The 7 Ways to be Nice to your Spouse
  1. How do you greet each other after being apart?

You might think this isn’t applicable, considering you seem to always see your significant other during this Covid season. However, this doesn’t just apply to long periods of time being apart: this could be when coming together from being in different rooms, or small periods of time being apart. Research shows that the first four minutes of a conversation can define the interaction between two people for the rest of the day. It is important that you are intentional about how you greet your spouse.

2. Kiss your spouse goodnight or when you leave

Research sadly shows that 8 out of 10 couples no longer kiss each other before going to sleep. Shows of affection, even during times of anger or tension, is a way of being nice to your spouse. As Willie asked during the discussion, if you or your spouse were to pass away, what would you want your last memory with that person to be? It is good to show them you love and care for them, even during times when you might feel like brushing them off.

3. Say Thank You to your spouse as often as possible

You should strive to take note of what your spouse is doing and thank them for what they do. It is important, however, to NOT compare or make it a competition. If you must make a list, track all the good things your spouse is doing and thank them for it. Thanking your spouse and letting them feel appreciated for what they do is key to sustaining a healthy marriage.
Don’t wait to start when your spouse starts: take the initiative!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

4. Watch your words and the tone you say them in

Choosing your words and being meaningful with them is key to good communication within a marriage. Words themselves can give off different impressions, such as the difference between “You SHOULD clean the room” versus “Could you clean the room”.
While words are powerful, the tone in which they are spoken also hold great impact in a conversation, as nice words can be interpreted by your significant other differently than you maybe intended.
Instead of a tone of compassion, we can have a tone of cold-heartedness.
Instead of a tone of kindness, we can have a tone of hard-heartedness.
Instead of a tone of humility, we can have a tone of arrogance.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

5. Find ways to serve your spouse

One of the biggest enemies to being nice is selfishness. Having a selfish spirit, looking out for yourself over your spouse and family, is very toxic to any relationship. Part of working past the temptation to act on selfish desires is to work on being more of a servant leader, and developing a heart for service to others.
Gary Chapmen, author of The Five Love Languages, found that he and his wife were not getting along, an issue that both sides wanted to fix. Something that Gary did to help rectify this was asking his wife three questions at least twice a day:

1. How can I help you?
2. How can I make your life easier?
3. How can I be a better spouse?

A something to keep in mind with these questions is to understand where the heart of the giver/receiver is at. If you are being asked these questions, you shouldn’t give your spouse a laundry list! One or two small, immediate tasks, followed by a show of appreciation. To the one asking, it could be being mentally and emotionally prepared (especially when it comes to asking the third question).

6. Look for ways to say “Yes” more often

Most of the small regrets you will have someday are refusing to step out and say “yes” to do things. This goes back to the “If I or my spouse died tonight…” question: would a decision someday come to haunt you because you thought you had more time and didn’t simply answer “yes”?

7. Learn how to let things go

This goes back to point 2: being nice to your spouse means loving them, and not holding a grudge over something that happens.

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry

Ephesians 4:26

Its the small, nice moments that fill a marriage. And in these times of anxiety, uncertainty… and too much time together, we want to encourage you to be nice to each other. Even if it feels contrived, don’t stop striving to work on and improve your marriage.

Karen Baldwin

How Great is our God

How Great is our God…
And All will see how Great,
How Great is our God

This song played on January 26th, 2007 at 5:29am, the moment my daughter , Emily, came into this world. I can guarantee I would have never known had the midwife not mentioned it’s perfect timing and started singing along. It had been a hard week for Roy and me as we found ourselves in the middle of huge changes; ones we weren’t ready for. It wasn’t Emily’s birth, but our whole life, our work, our home, and our family.

At a time that should have been full of joy, we found ourselves devastated in our circumstances and crippled by the uncertainty of our future. Yet the birth of our 3rd child, a moment frozen in time, brought great joy and peace. What a blessing she became that night, as she continues to be in our lives. 

How Great is our God

It’s funny how, in the fall of 2006, Roy had somehow programmed our phones to play this worship song whenever someone called. I was always conscious of it, as I knew we probably paid an extra charge every time it rang!!!


But over time it proved to be a way for God to speak directly to us, as though He was constantly reminding us that He was in control of our circumstances and that He truly was a Great God.

And All will see How Great is our God

As our life began to unfold and we began our journey, we quickly fell to our knees. Our prayer for years now has been that God would receive all the glory in every part of our lives. During those months we didn’t know where he wanted us to be, where we would call home, or even where Roy would find work. There were many days where we failed to see God’s plan in our lives, and there were days we felt a lack of hope. 

But God took care of us. 

When one of us was down, the other always seemed to have the stamina to pray and encourage. God sent so many people in our path who prayed with us, shared meals with us, cried with us, and just loved us. So many of our kids from our nine years at Milton Hershey School called, wrote, or visited, sometimes without even knowing our situation. Our family, of course, stood beside us through it all. Our church pastors and staff, and many friends from within our church became a family to us in a way we can’t even begin to share. Roy and I could only give God glory for using so many people to show us His love. 

This verse is a true reflection of what we’ve tried to live up to. When times of misfortune come our way, we will still give God praise. God used that time to refine us. 

Our full dependence on God was all we had. And once we completely surrendered ourselves to Him, He began to work in mighty ways. We knew He allowed us to be stripped of everything we found comfort in so that we could find comfort only in Him. 

It’s amazing to me how this song has become our life song. In some of our darkest moments our phone would ring, an offertory would be played, and my three year old daughter, as loud as possible, would sing:

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

“Healing rain comes with fire, so let it fall and make us higher. 

Michael W. Smith

How Great is He?

On July 31st, 2007 (Exactly 6 months after our final day at Milton Hershey School), Roy had a job interview with Northwest Human Services. On August 1st, he spoke at a diversity conference at a local college (sharing his group dynamics and bullying training). On August 2nd he was offered a job as a supervisor of therapeutic foster care in Harrisburg, specifically in charge of recruiting, training, and retraining foster care parents and case workers. That same day he was asked to be a keynote speaker at a bullying conference in the area because of the response from his training the day before. On August 5th, we signed a contract to buy our first home. On August 6th, Roy began working. 

In 6 months time, God was often quiet when we pleaded for direction. At times we thought He was taking us to places as far away as Utah and Georgia (which he would someday do), but every “perfect” door was slammed shut, and we were left waiting. We knew it meant He had something better, and though at times we couldn’t imagine it, we knew we had to have faith in that. Within ONE WEEK, He gave us ‘the desires of our heart’ and allowed us to stay in what had become home for our family. This only tells bits and pieces of our journey, and there are so many other amazing ways He has proven Himself to us. His faithfulness in our lives is something beyond comprehension, and we often are in awe of what He has done and how our number one prayer was answered….

We can only give Him the Glory.

Roy Baldwin

What are You Known for?

Before I came to Christian Heritage, I had seen the best and worst life had to offer many families and kids. My path from Edwin Gould Academy to Milton Hershey School to Focus on the Family to Monadnock Christian Ministries has shown me a great deal about the pain and brokenness of the breakdown of the family. During our summer and winter camps at Monadnock I often wondered if we were a camp or an emotional “triage unit.”

The pain and brokenness that many teens and adults had experienced, whether of their own decisions and choices or the impact others had on them, defined them. The decisions and choices we make every day flow from these identities and they begin to define our future. They reveal what we believe about ourselves and our worthiness for love—both to give and receive it. It also reveals what we believe about God.

What Would People Say of You

If I were to interview your family or your closest friends and I ask them, “What phrase or words would you use to describe ______ (your name)?” what would they say?

“He loves his family!”

“She loves her husband!”

“She loves to give to others!”

“He is committed to his job!”

“He loves to drink and party!”

“She loves to shop!”

“She is a straight A student!”

“He loves God.”

What are you known for?

A few years ago Karen decided to give out our Valentine’s Day candy a little differently to our family. She placed a basket of candy in the middle of our dining room table after dinner and said, “You can grab a piece of candy but you need to give it to another person and then tell them something you love about them.” Our kids’ hands dived into the basket.

As we sat there going around the table I loved seeing the interaction. Then Emily said something that surprised me. She said, “Daddy, the way you love mommy!” Huh??? She loves me for loving her mom. I was shocked by her response.

Isn’t it amazing what our kids see? Now, I confess I don’t always get it right. I often feel like I fall short as a husband and dad. But this is the point….people are constantly watching. People can see, especially our family, those things that have grabbed the attention of our hearts and time. I am glad that at that moment my wife made the list of what is most important to me and my kids noticed.

You see, all of us are known for something. Maybe it’s our way of having a good time and letting off steam, maybe it’s the way we express our anger, maybe it’s the way we express love. Maybe for some of us we are known differently depending on who we are around.

Paul writes, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

As we strive to live up to our calling and mission in life, my prayer is that we would be known by those same virtues as Paul describes. I would also pray that they would be evident to my wife and kids, my friends and extended family. That is how I would like to be known.

One word of caution: Don’t let your busyness and schedule define your value; your schedule simply lets you know what you are pursuing. A quick way to find out about what is defining you is to pull your calendar from the past week. What have you spent the most time on? What does your activities say about your pursuits and identity. It might be time to re-prioritize. “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” ― Brandon Sanderson, “The Alloy of Law”

How about you? What qualities would you like to be known for and are you actively pursuing them?