043: Dad Life – Leading and Loving Your Kids

In light of Father’s Day, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Aaron Lutz and Aric Harding about the fun times and awkward conversations that come with being a dad. They discuss how they lead their family when it comes to technology, discipline, and the priority of their marriage and relationship with Jesus.

They also tell some classic dad jokes.

RESOURCES:

The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley

Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes

Tender Warrior by Stu Weber

 

5 Ways to Help Your Marriage Thrive During COVID-19

Over the past several weeks, most married couples have spent more time together than any time since their honeymoon. Though this constant close proximity has the potential for irritation, it also creates ample opportunity for growth and fun. Spending more time together this summer is a gift that we should embrace and utilize to grow in love for each other. 

But, how can we use this unique season to strengthen our marriage? To answer this question, we went to the experts — Clear Creek Navigators with decades of experience leading groups of married couples to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. A few of their strategies for growing your relationship together are compiled below. Which of these ideas will you implement today?

 

 

1. Plan a Date Night

We have a date night each week. We order pizza for the kids at 5 p.m., have them take showers, and then they are upstairs for the rest of the night, watching TV or playing video games. I actually put on something other than yoga pants and even some makeup. Shaun and I then order takeout or grill something, and we sit outside and relax with music on the speaker and adult conversations. We get the boys to bed at 8:30 and then watch a movie and relax with popcorn and movie theater snacks. I seriously look forward to it! 

Shaun & Elizabeth Hauser
Egret Bay

 

On Friday evenings, we order from local restaurants to have our date night dinner at home. We’ve even hung curtains near the entrance to our dining room for privacy from the kids. We listen to music while we dine together.

Scott & Tami Bishop
Clear Lake
 

Friday night dance dates! We found an online dance program that teaches us step by step. Once our daughters go to bed, we move the coffee table out of the way, throw on some socks, and try to dance the night away! It has provided some great laughs and moments of connection during this stressful season.

Ryan & Tasha Thomas
Egret Bay

 

2. Get Outside

We take late afternoon walks. It gives us a chance to get some fresh air, exercise, and time to chat about life. It has been good for us to take that pause in the day while getting out of the house together. We plan to keep this going long after COVID-19!

Travis & Cari Hicks
Clear Lake

We have been motivating each other to get moving! We either walk, ride our bikes, or do some other outdoor activity. As long as we are moving together, we are moving in the right direction!

Jaime & Nina Valverde
Clear Lake

 

Sarah and I go on walks almost every day with the kids. It gives us a chance to get out of the house, avoid distractions like TV and phones, and enjoy the kids on their bike or in the stroller. It also gives us time together as a family and as a couple. Being able to walk and talk to one another has been very important to our marriage during this time. 

Nathan & Sarah Southard
Egret Bay

 

3. Make Time to Talk

We make it a point to put the kids down early so that we have time and enough energy at the end of the day to talk about what went well that day, what could’ve gone better, and any changes to our plan of attack for the upcoming days. It’s also a great time to just relax and spend time together without kids interrupting.

Derek & Abby Willis
East 96

 

We take a walk most evenings so Doug can get an ICEE at Buc-ees. We use this time to catch up with each other and talk through ideas, plans, frustrations, etc.

Doug & Kara Dawson
Egret Bay

 

We both have been working since the stay-at-home orders started, but our working hours have been different so we are not rushing out the door at 6:30 each morning to get to work. We have been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee together, with unrushed conversation and prayer before starting the day. 

Michael & Clara Springer
Clear Lake

 

4. Think about the Future

We love to travel and do projects in our backyard and around the house, so right now we enjoy talking almost daily about future trips and projects. Our talks vary from camping trips to sketches about closet shelves and garage organization. It’s fun to sit, plan, and dream a little together. 

Brad & Allison Swenson
West

 

We have started to dream together! We have been sharing with each other and our kids what we want to do post-quarantine, from planning vacations to new family norms. We aren’t dreaming out of current discontentment, but with great hope that the Lord will see us through and we will forever be changed.

Aaron & Nicole Daniel
West

 

5. Grow and Serve Together

Our small group had each person write down one thing about their spouse on each day of the week (M-F) that they like, are grateful for, are impressed by, appreciate, etc. Then on Saturday morning they would give their spouse the list. This was very well received and neat to see how something really simple could impact one of the people you love most in this world.

Dan & Danielle Mellen
Egret Bay

 

We actually have been more intentional about doing our couples devotional. It really jogs the mind to think about how we are growing spiritually through our family relationships and especially with one another. It asks hard questions and provides prayer suggestions. It is fun, but difficult at times. However, it does seem to reignite our communication with each other and relationship with God.

Darren & Alecia Whitmarsh
East 96

 

One of the things we struggled with before COVID-19 was slowing down and taking the time to get to know our neighbors. Lately, our new favorite thing to do once we put our child to bed is sit out in the driveway and eat our dinner. It’s a nice change of scenery, and we love to wave or talk to people as they walk by.

Matthew & Victoria Horne
East 96


 

It’s Viral

Kay and I, like many other people, have been taking a lot of walks the last few weeks. It’s been fun and it’s been a bit strange because there are times when so many people are strolling it almost looks like a parade. Everyone walking in the street – keeping a polite distance – walking along with their dogs, children, bikes, and wagons. It’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if evening walks in the neighborhood became our collective norm.

Still, there is something unsatisfying about it.

The parade has the appearance of being quaint and beneficial, until you look closely enough to see what’s really going on. If you stop and just watch the “parade” through the neighborhood you notice people are together, but separate. They can get close to each other, but not too close. Some are obviously afraid of everyone and some groups are brazen in their disregard for the whole “distancing” idea.

I want to remember the picture because it so aptly illustrates what sin does.

Think about it. Like a virus, sin is unseen. It is present all around you, and even in you, and it makes you sick and it makes the people you interact with sick.

Sin is the greatest producer of “social distancing” in the history of people. Sin separates us from one another. Sin is like the unseen virus that produces conversations without hugs, presence without intimacy. Sin is the unseen virus that keeps some people bound in fear of others while some people flaunt their indifference to how they might injure other people. Sin is the virus that makes us mistrust the person approaching us, and even mistrust ourselves. So we keep safe space, we keep secrets, we erect defenses, we chase urban myths seeking cures and comforts.

Maybe the best thing that could come out of the unprecedented response to a physical virus would be if each of us would take some strong action against our spiritual virus, sin. Instead of using the current circumstances as an excuse to look outwardly and act against a physical threat, now would be a great time to look intently inward and deal with a more dangerous threat.

Here is a really good place to look for the virus: if in the midst of spending more time at home you find yourself getting irritable and impatient with your spouse, why is that? Why is it that the person you joyfully became one with is now somehow an inconvenience? What is it that is more important to you than they are? Or, what have you been thinking and doing over the years of your marriage to give your spouse reason to mistrust you or protect themselves from how you respond to life?

If there is tension between the two of you, you can “social distance,” or you can wear masks to cover up and protect what you’ve chosen to love more. You can make your focus the harm you fear they might cause you. You can prioritize your work and personal space and just adapt to the tension. That is what is happening in some hearts and homes in the midst of this forced presence at home. And so, like the evening parade in the neighborhood it looks kind of cool, until you look closely. But if you stop and watch you notice the masks, the fear, and the mistrust.

The better response would be to kill the virus that is living in you and making you the center of your own little universe. The better response would be to hold your heart and its desires up to the truth of Scripture and face up to the ways you choose to serve you, over and against choosing to practically love and serve the person you married. The better response would be to use this unprecedented opportunity to trust God in the simplest, most mundane interactions in your home to serve your spouse. You aren’t going to fix everything in a week, but you can change the trajectory of your marriage starting today, starting with you. As a beginning how about picking just one short verse of Scripture and commit to living it out at home, something like:

 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Ephesians 4:29

 

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

 

You pick a verse that will attack the worst symptom of the virus in you. You probably already have one ringing in your ears. If so, do that one.

This strange sort of national “time out” period could be the best thing that ever happened to you, your spouse, your family. But only if you look inside and only if you have the faith and courage to ask God to forgive you, heal you, remake you in his image. God will do that if you let him. He has the power and the will to kill the virus in you.

I hope and pray you will respond to the spiritual virus that’s in you with more energy and enthusiasm than the world is responding to a physical virus.


 

Close Quarters, Healthy Marriage

All areas of life are being tested right now: finances, health, school, work, and for many of us, marriage.

Social distancing presents opportunities to grow, but can also create friction in our marriage. Amidst the constraints of space, new responsibilities, and fear, we often end up treating those we love the most, the worst. We take out our frustrations on each other, lose patience quickly, and aren’t able escape from the issues in our relationships. We should offer each other a lot of grace — we are in a unique and difficult place — but we can also use this experience to learn how to love our spouse better and strengthen our marriages.

 

1. Begin with Humility

The starting point is recognizing that our own broken nature is the biggest problem in our marriage. It’s not the order to stay at home, it’s not our spouse’s annoying habits, it’s not financial uncertainty—it is our own brokenness. Not because we are horrible all the time, not because we are worse than our spouse, but because we are all broken.

We are called to initiate the other-centered, patient, enduring love of Christ to our spouse, regardless of how they are acting.

Ask yourself, not whether your spouse is living up to your expectations, but where are you falling short of this type of love? We so often fail, but transformation is possible when we begin with repentance. In order to love our spouse well, we have to see ourselves clearly and confess—only then can we turn around.

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

 

2. Rest in Grace

Yes, we are broken, but we are also completely forgiven in Christ, which changes everything. In order to extend this grace and forgiveness to our spouse, we must remind ourselves of the gospel love of God – a love that we do not deserve and can never hope to return; a love that is enduring and transformative.

We forgive because we are forgiven.

Instead of white-knuckling our way to restoration through our own effort, we must learn to rest in the grace offered to us in Christ, letting his forgiveness transform us into people who offer this same grace to those around us. And when we do this, when we forgive as we are forgiven—for minor daily hurts or life-altering mistakes—it produces patience, endurance, and love in our marriage.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, 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 must also forgive.

Colossians 3:12-13

 

3. Embrace your Identity 

Even when we approach our relationships in humility and with grace, we cannot escape the reality of conflict. The stereotypical marriage fight—which way should the toilet roll face—has taken on a new meaning today, but here’s the truth: it was never really about toilet paper. We think we are arguing about whether the roll goes over or under, but these arguments are actually rooted in issues of trust and love. Something simple triggers us, we feel disrespected or unloved, and then spiral into an argument.

In order to break free from cycles that leave us distant and defeated, we must remember and trust that we are chosen and loved completely by Jesus. Only then can we let go of needing our spouse to fill this place of identity. An identity centered in Christ frees us to listen without becoming defensive, to reject the temptation to blame, and to respond to our spouse with empathy and patience.

In this love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:10-11

 

We all desire happy and fulfilling marriages—and that’s good— but, the goal of marriage as Christians isn’t personal happiness, it’s much greater.

God’s design is that our marriage would reflect his own love and faithfulness and transform us into the image of Jesus. When we turn toward each other in humility and forgiveness, grounding ourselves in the truth of the gospel, he is able to use these difficult moments for his good purposes.

We are broken, but because of Jesus, we are empowered by his Spirit to transform our brokenness into marriages that reflect the beauty, love, and purposes of God. There are many suggestions on how to fill our time right now—read more, learn a new language, pick up a new hobby—but what if, instead, we build marriages that glorified God and drew others to Christ?

In the middle of trial and testing, may we all turn toward God, turn toward each other, and create something beautiful together.

Forgive

Physically, I’ve been somebody who, since I was in high school worked out every day. I was a college athlete. Played sports my entire life.

I stopped working out, I stopped training. Things didn’t get to me. I could really feel my heart hardening to a lot of things that would previously affect me, and that was when my wife really knew that something was wrong.

When people are going through depression for whatever reason, they don’t necessarily recognize it at that time. And I didn’t either.

So, my brother had a child with my sister-in-law, my wife’s sister. And he just up and left. He abandoned the family, took off. And whenever all of that happened, because of how tight-knit both of our families are, it created a lot of animosity and thrust me into that middle man role. With that came a lot of expectation and things – the way other people wanted me to handle the situation. And it created a lot of tension within my marriage. And we were still a very young marriage, at that point we hadn’t even been married a year.

When I would come home from work, I would eat dinner and go to bed because the last thing I wanted to do was have a conversation with my wife.

I was a coward to the point where I was going to try to push her away.

In my mind at that time, that was the only way I was go get the resolution that I wanted, which was to get everybody away from me so I could get a fresh start, and I could go out and be alleviated of this situation, because I didn’t want to live that way for the rest of my life.

Everything I was doing was dictated around trying to get rid of that sense of stress in my life to the point where it actually pushed me to commit adultery. That was the lowest I’d ever sunk in my life. I didn’t know how to come back from that.

At that point, I fully anticipated coming home, her having my stuff waiting outside. I could pick it up and hit the road.

And I was wrong.

When I got home… Well, I didn’t go home. She met me at a church. And, she sat there and I expected her to chew me out and to want to know why, and to hate me, to just throw me out. And she didn’t. She sat there and she looked me in the eyes, with tears coming down her face and she told me that she’s not giving up on me, she’s not quitting on me. And it made me so angry. I was so mad at her! How can you respond that way? That makes no sense to me.

So initially, I just fell deeper into that depression and started struggling even more, and tried to push her away even more. Then it was just a slow battle of redemption.

It wasn’t me.

Because at that point, there was nothing that I wanted to do that was going to bring me out of that. I wanted to get away from it, and that’s what was going to bring me out of the depression in my mind. It was God working in certain ways. Everybody thinks about the way that God’s going to work within them. But what you don’t understand, and you don’t anticipate, is the way that God works in people around you.

That was the thing that I guess affected me more than anything, was I got to see it in my wife. I got to see the people who I expected to be the angriest, and the most disappointed in me, not be so. I got to experience things that were total God moments, where people that, for no other reason than God being in that place at that time, were pouring very specific messages that I needed to hear during that journey into my heart. That was kind of how it happened. It was gradual, it wasn’t just overnight I flipped a switch, but there was that moment of clarity for me where I realized I do love my wife, and God brought her into my life for a reason. And she’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

For a lot of that entire process I didn’t want to know necessarily the answer for forgiveness because I didn’t feel like I was forgivable. I felt like what I did was the most heinous thing that anybody could ever do. For me, there was no excuse why my wife should stay with me. I didn’t deserve to be with her. Just kind of painting this pity party, so to speak, of why I didn’t deserve to be forgiven. All the while, I’ve got people who are showing me the entire time what it means to forgive, what it looks like to forgive. I didn’t understand that God is a forgiving God, that he is a redeeming God, and he forgives us and allows us to be able to have these opportunities at redemption.

So, understanding that, and learning exactly what the gospel teaches us about forgiveness. Because in our world, when people do things as heinous as what I did, you don’t forgive them. You don’t ever lose that sense of being angry toward that person, that just doesn’t happen. You don’t see that happen unless God is truly working in somebody. So, learning what that looked like, and seeing it firsthand from my wife, that was the lesson that I learned. It wasn’t a particular verse, but it was seeing the lesson of forgiveness being lived out through the people around me. You know, the way that she was handling things with sending me prayers, and sitting there and actually seeing her go through and revert back to Scripture to pull her through the situation, because, obviously, she was struggling as well. And so, she’s finding Scripture to pull herself through it, she’s finding Scripture to pull me through it. And then from there, it was just, you know, we had a very intentional sense that the Gospel has to be at the forefront of our lives.

So, we got plugged in at Clear Creek [Community Church], and really started to grow, and continued to push each other.

I mean, obviously, since I got baptized last year, there are things that I still struggle with.

When you get baptized and you come to faith in Christ, it’s not easy. I tell people oftentimes, it’s a lot harder. Walking this way and living your life by faith is a lot harder than not. But there’s no better way to live it