The Prodigal Father

By: Dave McClow


The “prodigal father” is the story of our time.    It is the story of fatherlessness in our families.   Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is and has always been highly aware of the crisis of fatherhood and its implications for society (see my previous blog).   He knows that when fatherhood is gutted, “something in the basic structure of human existence has been damaged” (The God of Jesus Christ, p.  29).   But he is also supremely insightful about what happens in the family, both positively and negatively, because of fathers! Let’s start out with the problems:


“A theologian has said that to ­day we ought to supplement the story of the Prodigal Son with that of the prodigal father. Fathers are often entirely occupied by their work and give more wholehearted attention to their work than to their child, more to achievement than to gifts, and to the tasks implied by those gifts. But the loss of involvement of the father also causes grave inner damage to the sons” (God and the World, pp. 274-275).

I’m not sure why he leaves out daughters, but the effect is just as devastating for daughters.   Are you leaving behind the gift of your children for busy-ness or business?   Are you too task and achievement oriented?   Part of this over-focus is the religious nature of our masculinity–our natural inclination toward sacrifice for a cause.   This is masculine spirituality that is often not acknowledged by men or women.   If men can’t relate to God as men, they turn to things which are not ultimate–that is, to things Scripture calls idols.   This is why work, hobbies, and sports can become all-consuming.

Fear is another component of turning to non-ultimate things.   Sometimes a lot of men view the murky waters of relationships and emotions at home like a foreign country to be feared. They would rather turn elsewhere to feel like a success.   We need to invoke my vote for St. John Paul II’s #2 motto (after “Totus Tuus, Totally yours, Mary”), “Be not afraid!”   We need to have courage!   There is nothing wrong with work, hobbies, or sports, but they must be rightly ordered–they must not take precedence over people or God.   Even virtues in the extremes become vice.

As Pope, Benedict XVI includes in the problem list broken families, worries, and money problems, along with “the distracting invasion of the media” in our daily life.   All of these things “can stand in the way of a calm and constructive relationship between father and child.” “It is not easy for those who have experienced an excessively authoritarian and inflexible father or one who was indifferent and lacking in affection, or even absent, to think serenely of God and to entrust themselves to him with confidence” (General Audience, January 30, 2013).


He nails the problems of modern life including technology; and the perennial problems of fathers who can be excessively rigid, indifferent, lacking in affection, or even absent.   These things damage our view of God and make it difficult to trust.   Next, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he contrasts two very different fathers: Zeus and God the Father.

If we look for a moment at pagan mythologies, then the father-god Zeus, for instance, is portrayed as moody, unpredictable, and willful: the father does incorporate power and authority, but without the corresponding degree of responsibility, the limitation of power through justice and kindness (God and the World, pp. 274-275).

If you are the kind of father who wants your kids to obey just because you’re the father, you’re in the Zeus camp, which uses the power and authority of the role without the responsibility which limits that power through justice and kindness.   This father uses domination and fear to lord it over the kids and demands obedience.   Consequently, because they don’t like the master/slave relationship, the kids usually have a temper problem and find ways to rebel.   Or as Protestant apologist Josh McDowell has aptly put it, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”   The master/slave idea is found more in Islam, a word which means submission. Allah is not a loving Father–in fact, this idea is blasphemous to a Muslim.   Allah is an all-powerful God who must be obeyed.


Zeus shows us how not to be a good father.   The Pope Emeritus says that Scripture helps us know of “a God who shows us what it really means to be ‘father’; and it is the Gospel, especially, which reveals to us this face of God as a Father who loves” (General Audience, January 30, 2013). The Father uses power and responsibility with justice and kindness, which is a more relational approach. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he unpacks this idea:

The Father as he appears in the Old Testament is quite different [from Zeus], and still more in what Jesus says about the Father: here, power corresponds to responsibility; here we meet a picture of power that is prop ­erly directed, that is at one with love, that does not dominate through fear but creates trust. The fatherhood of God means devotion toward us, an acceptance of us by God at the deepest level, so that we can belong to him and turn to him in childlike love. Certainly, his fatherhood does mean that he sets the standards and corrects us with a strictness that manifests his love and that is always ready to forgive (God and the World, pp. 274-275).

So the Father loves us first (1 Jn.) and is devoted to us, and this love creates trust, acceptance, and belonging!   It is only after loving us that he challenges us with his standards and correction; but even the challenge reveals more of his love for us.   He is like a coach or teacher who sees our potential and is therefore hard on us.  He is working for our good.   This is rightly ordered parenting: deep and wide love and then challenge.   Many fathers I work with start with the challenge and standards, skipping over the love part.   But doing this reverses the way we are designed and messes up the family.   To cut these fathers a break, this is probably how they were trained by their parents.

Psychologist Gordon Neufeld  puts it a little differently as he answers the question, “What’s the easiest way to parent children?”   His answer is not punishment, showing them who is boss, new skills, or even loving them.   It is getting them to love you.   He often asks, “When did your child give you his/her heart?”   If the parent is in Zeus mode, his or her reply is only a blank stare.   But when kids love you, they want to please you–it’s in their nature, and it’s the same with adults and God!   This is what it means to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven–when we give God our hearts in response to his love, we take correction more easily and experience discipline as a reconciliation–we are welcomed back home.

The Pope Emeritus continues his description of the Father: “God is a good Father who welcomes and embraces his lost but repentant son (cf. Lk. 15:11ff).”  He is “a Father who never abandons his children [Ps. 27:10], a loving Father who supports, helps, welcomes, pardons and saves” and whose love opens the “dimensions of eternity.”   This Fatherly love is “infinitely greater, more faithful, and more total than the love of any man.”   And knowing this love through faith, “we can face all the moments of difficulty and danger, the experience of the darkness of despair in times of crisis and suffering….” Of course, “[i]t is in the Lord Jesus that the benevolent face of the Father…is fully revealed.” In and through Jesus we know and see the Father (cf. Jn. 8:19; 14:7, 14:9, 11).  He is “the image of the invisible God” (General Audience, January 30, 2013).


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has laid out both the problem and a theological solution: the problem is prodigal fatherhood, i.e., fatherlessness, in various forms, and the solution is God the Father as our model for fatherhood–“the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15).   The contrast between Zeus and God the Father is striking and, from my vantage point as a pastoral counselor, insightful and helpful.   The Pope Emeritus has even more practical thoughts on the topic, but they will have to wait for another day.   With an epidemic of fatherlessness and our Faith’s revelation of a loving, tender, and challenging Abba, an interesting side point comes from the current Preacher to the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa (in  Life in the Lordship of Christ):  “It’s sad that in the whole liturgical year there isn’t a feast dedicated to the Father.”   Isn’t it time?

So, what kind of father are you?   If you see yourself more as Zeus than God the Father, you were more than likely trained by a Zeus, and you need to pray and fast to “our Abba” for a deep experience of his fatherly love so that you can love as he loved us.   The Catechism challenges us to tear down the idols of Zeus–the paternal images that stem from our personal history and distort God’s Fatherhood (see  CCC  2779).   And since the wound was created in community; the healing can only take place in community.   So find a priest, a friend, a Catholic men’s group, or call us to help.

Credit to Dave McClow of  CatholicExchange.


Why Women Live Longer

By: Dr. Greg Bottaro

old woman smiling

Some statistical facts about women-  They live longer.  As of 10 years ago, only 7% of the entire prison population in the US was female. There is a significantly higher rate of Antisocial Personality Disorder among men as compared to women. Another interesting fact? The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC), which is the area of the brain where anger and aggression are controlled, is larger in women than in men. A larger PFC is also correlated with higher rates of conscientiousness, better decision-making, and greater overall impulse control. Research also shows that women are better at keeping strong negative emotions in check. When a woman does act on her negative emotions, she will more often attack verbally rather than physically.

A longitudinal study began in the 1920’s by a researcher named Lewis Terman. The study began on 1,548 gifted children and the research has followed these same children long into their adult lives. Although Terman died in 1956, his work was carried on by his students, and then his students’ students, and the study is still being conducted today.  Researchers are using the data to try to answer questions about the factors that contribute to a person’s success, health, and longevity.

Almost one hundred years after the study first began, researchers have concluded that the number one predictor of longevity is what they termed, conscientiousness. Conscientiousness involves using forethought, planning, and perseverance in many aspects of life — all functions of the Pre-Frontal Cortex. It just might be that a larger Pre-Frontal Cortex can contribute to living a longer and healthier life because conscientiousness enlists self-control to make better life choices.

Conscientious people are less likely to smoke, drink heavily, abuse drugs, or engage in life threatening or risky behaviors. No wonder they live longer! These are the people that come to a complete stop at stop signs, follow doctor’s orders, and pay all their taxes. Again, these are all functions of the PFC, which is larger in women. Self-control and conscientiousness make up this week’s strength, and they bring us to the last in this series on female brain strengths, which we will cover next week: just a little bit of healthy worry.

In relation to this series of articles, some readers have responded that it seems like I am saying women are “better” than men.  I want to clarify for those readers who misunderstand the point of this series. I am pointing out here statistically measured correlations and differences between men’s brains and women’s brains. At some points I might add in my own commentary, or make connections to Catholic thinking, but none of this commentary equals misandry. Some of the differences in brain structures correlate with certain behaviors that can be viewed as strengths. However, a man can perform any one of these functions that, based on brain structure, are more naturally performed by a woman. The difference is that a man might need more motivation, might use different parts of the brain, and might need more practice. If I said that a weight is curled by use of the bicep, and the bigger the bicep, the heavier the weight that can be lifted, it would not be sexist, discriminatory, or inconsequential to say, “Men, on average, have larger biceps and can therefore have the capability to curl heavier weights.” There are women who can curl the same weight, though it would probably take them longer to build the same amount of muscle (since men have more testosterone, which builds muscle) to curl the same weight. Also, some women might be able to lift the same weight if they use two hands. The final action might be the same — curling the weight — but they have arrived at it differently.  Analogously, men as people can also display the same strengths covered in these articles, but they might take longer, need more motivation, or arrive at the final action differently than how a woman does.  There are also strengths that the male brain has over the female brain.  Some of them are implicit in what we are covering in this series, since something might be a strength or weakness relative to the context.  Some of men’s strengths are separate and I will elaborate on them in the future.

“Correlation does not equal causation” is a very important distinction when we apply these brain differences to virtue. There might be some objection based on a concern that I am saying women are more virtuous than men. Let me be clear: these brain differences do not create virtue. Virtue is a description of action — which is a complex collaboration of many different systems, including, but not limited to, brain anatomy. A person may very well act virtuously but in opposition to their brain anatomy. A teenage boy with raging testosterone certainly must act against his brain anatomy at times if he is to act virtuously.

The overall take home point  is  that men and women are very different, though complementary.

Credit to Dr. Greg Bottaro of CatholicExchange.


The Pope, the Sinner, and Me

By: Dr. Greg Bottaro


This is not a response to the media distortions of the recent interview with Pope Francis.  I’d rather focus on what Pope Francis actually is saying to me as one of his flock, and admit that maybe there is something here to personally grow from. Second of all, this article is not advocating or in any way considering a “change of church teaching.” If that’s what some readers take away from it, I’d ask them to please read it over.

This has been on my heart to write about for a while, but I must admit, I’ve been a coward. As a Catholic and as a psychologist, I want to add in my two cents to the conversation on homosexuality. This might be one of the single most divisive issues of our immediate time. I have been a coward up until now because this topic is a minefield, and I’m scared of bombs. I say up until now because our Pope has given me an offer I can’t refuse. In his recent interview, Pope Francis gave an example of courage and unyielding tenacity for truth, beauty, and goodness that sparked something in me.

Religion has become for some — myself included — an opportunity for mediocrity in following Jesus. I have a sneaking suspicion that it has been this way for thousands of years. Jesus certainly spoke out pretty vehemently against this sort of mediocrity in his time, and now the Vicar of Jesus is speaking against it now. By mediocrity, I mean to say that religion gives us categories to snugly place ourselves into. It gives us a moral system to fall back on that distinguishes “us” from “them.”  Well, for all of us comfortable Christians in the world, Pope Francis just punched us in the gut and knocked the stale air out of our moldy lungs.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.  The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Despite some “spiritual” traditions, trends, and movements, the Church is not to be primarily a megaphone on the street corner calling out peoples’ sins. Likewise, members of the Church, the body of Christ, are not to have these megaphones blaring out from our hearts. Mediocrity is a mentality of  “us vs. them,” those of us behind the megaphone, and those that are on the other side of it. Pope Francis is telling us that we can’t let church become for us a system of dividing “us” from “them.” What then, is he saying the bosom of the universal church is to be?

“Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

Pope Francis outlines pretty clearly the mission of the Church.  We must make a proposition of Jesus to the world.  We must propose Love.  “From this proposition the moral consequences then flow.”

Pope Francis calls on an image that is extremely important in his interview — the road to Emmaus.  What happened at first on the road to Emmaus?  The two walking with Jesus did not recognize him.  They were the “them.”  Did Jesus chastise them, saying, “Idiots, don’t you know who I am?”  “Dirty scum, how are you so blind?”  No.  He walks with them. He speaks with them, as one of them.  They don’t feel the need to form coalitions and march in parades to find some form of validation.  He validates them. He builds friendship with them and leads them into a true encounter with himself,after  which “their hearts burned.”

As a society, we have been so wrong about homosexuals.  As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I can also say that the majority of “faithful” Catholics I have ever known have also been so wrong about homosexuals.  I have a question to ask to make my point.  As you sit with the discomfort this article may be causing, ask yourself this question:

How does your attitude, belief, and demeanor toward men and women who identify as homosexual compare to your attitude, belief, and demeanor toward men and women who engage in some other mortal sin such as contraception?

How about masturbation?

How about drunkenness?

Let that sink in a bit. How do you treat the person?

I’d especially like to elaborate on this last issue of drunkenness. It astounds me how many Catholic circles consider drunkenness, at least implicitly, as acceptable.  Have we not heard Galatians 5:21 before?  “Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that  those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Wow. So it’s ok to get together and drink a few too many with our friends, but being homosexual is the supreme debauchery?

I am not advocating puritanical teetotaling. I enjoy my scotch or wine at the appropriate time.  Sometimes it is even me who has too many with my friends and I have to hand the keys over to my wife for the ride home. Yes, I am a sinner. Not in the garment rending, abstract, and safely generalized way, but I commit very specific sins. Somehow there is an appallingly strange mercy for me.  If we are to love with the love of Jesus, if we are to be Jesus as members of his body, his Church, we will love men and women who experience, and even act out on, homosexual desires the way we love ourselves or our friends when we know the types of sins we commit.

Now as a follow-up question, if you haven’t thought this already (and kudos if you have), let me ask: Did you realize my first question asked about the sinfulness of those “who identify as homosexual”?  Is homosexuality a sin? No, it is not.

First of all, if you do happen to know a person is committing mortal sins such as acting out on their homosexual desires, why in the world is it ok to treat him or her any differently than anyone else you happen to know committing mortal sin, including yourself?

Second of all, homosexuality in itself is not a sin. When you meet someone who is homosexual, you very well might be in the presence of a saint. If someone is living chastely with homosexual desires, he or she is living heroic virtue. Homosexuality is a cross that no heterosexual will ever understand. It is a life called to celibacy without the luxury of discernment. It is potentially the most extreme example of “chastity for the kingdom” that I can imagine. Do you happen to know the interior life of every homosexual?

If they look deep enough, many Catholics might be ashamed of their disposition of heart towards homosexuals. I know I am. Sure, I knew how to say that I “Loved the sinner, hated the sin.”  But Pope Francis seems to think such words aren’t enough.

If I’m the only Catholic who had these feelings, so be it. Here I am confessing my sin to the world. As Pope Francis said, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

Credit to Dr. Greg Bottaro of CatholicExchange.


Emotional Pornography

By: Dr. Greg Bottaro

woman watching TV

Sex sells.   Marketing in our culture is almost exclusively based on sex.    We have known this for years, and although we think we are stronger than corporate marketing strategies, we (men) still fall easy prey to GoDaddy super bowl ads and Victoria’s Secret ceiling-high mall pinups.   When I say “easy prey,” I don’t mean we all necessarily go home lusting after these pictures and falling into sin, but somehow there is a movement of something in us.  That movement of something within us is because we were made by God to be moved!   Although the marketing media has no regard for our souls, we have to give them credit at some level for figuring out better than many Christians how to move people.   As men though, we have a serious responsibility to learn how to control our desires and direct them in a way that is consistent with what is true, good, and beautiful.   This is how we let our God-given desires propel us towards God himself through a life lived virtuously.

Using sex to sell is a form of pornography.   Pornography comes from the same word as prostitution, which is the Latin for “price.”   Porn uses a person as a marketable good in a transaction. Pornography is evil primarily because it goes against the very nature with which we were created.   As John Paul II said, “the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end.”   There are actually two major problems with pornography.   First, as JPII points out, it turns the people involved into objects of use. Second though, pornography presents fantasy as reality.   Porn trains its viewers to believe in a version of reality that does not actually exist.   Marketers and producers of porn have figured out how to provide instant and exaggerated gratification to the desires of men and women.   In reality, true gratification does not come in the same form.   This is why pornography is fantasy.   In the examples listed above, women are the marketed objects, but men are not the only ones moved by pornography in the media. There are two kinds of pornography rampant in our culture — physical pornography and emotional pornography.

Emotional pornography markets primarily to women and their emotional desires.   Music and movies — especially movies — present an idea to a woman that somehow moves something in her.   Movies like the Notebook or Twilight resonate with a woman’s desire.   The problem with movies like these though is that they present fantasy to woman as reality, very similar to the way physical pornography presents fantasy to a man as reality.   You may think you are stronger than corporate marketing strategies, but you still fall easy prey.   Somehow there is a movement of something in you.   That movement of something within you is because you were made by God to be moved!   As women though, you have a serious responsibility to learn how to control your desires and direct them in a way that is consistent with what is true, good, and beautiful.

Women across the board (and yes I am making a huge generalization here) typically feel pretty rotten about physical pornography.   Even women who pretend to be ok with it in public because they think that’s what men want still feel deep down that pornography is somehow way off.   It presents an unreal version of women, and a type of relationship they would never want to be a part of, because it supports the idea that women exist for men’s physical pleasure.

Men are very often uncomfortable with chick flicks.   While it is true thatmany men are just uncomfortable with emotions in general and could learn a lot about them from women, I am going to step out from behind the macho veil and let you women in on a secret. Just as you know that you will never be able to live up to (or down to) the level of those women in porn, we feel deep down that we will never be able to live up to (or down to) the level of those men in the movies you love.  These movies present an unreal version of men, and a type of relationship we would never want to be a part of, because they support the idea that men exist for women’s emotional pleasure.

I am not saying Twilight or The Notebook are evil movies in the same way physical pornography is evil.   I am simply saying that if you walk away from these movies feeling like your life isn’t that great, your relationship isn’t measuring up, or somehow you won’t be happy until you find a Ryan Gosling character to sweep you off your feet, you might want to consider how chaste you are being.   I am also not saying that women are the only ones to fall prey to emotional unchastity (or men to physical unchastity). The physical/emotional distinctions are only concerning the primary ways that sin affects us in our gender differences.

JPII said, “It is the duty of every man to protect the dignity of every woman, and the duty of every woman to protect the dignity of every man.”   If a person were being used to create or sustain some emotional pleasure, his or her dignity is not being protected.

Credit to Dr. Greg Bottaro of CatholicExchange.

Women's Colllaboration

By: Dr. Greg Bottaro

women group

On the train this morning on the way into the office there was  a female conductor.   I’ve traveled with a female conductor on a train once before, and both times ended the same way.   On the intercom as we reached our destination, the conductor concluded her comments with, “have a great day everyone, and thank you crew for your work.”   The only two times the conductor thanked the crew in the past two months were the two times the conductor was female — and they were different females.

This week’s female superpower follows from empathy, which  we covered last week.   What we are talking about this week is  collaboration, which is a natural consequence of understanding and feeling the feelings of other people.

A 2011  Harvard Business Review  article reported a study that tested the intelligence of groups working together in areas of brainstorming, decision making, and problem solving.   Individual IQ scores were also tested, but as it turned out, they did not have an effect on the overall ratings of the groups’ intelligence.   Even though a person might have had a higher IQ, his or her ultimate performance on the group assessment depended on if there were more men or women in the group.   The more women in the group, the higher the group’s score.

Cohen, cited in the last article, theorized that men and women work differently in groups.   Men search for underlying rules that govern how a system behaves, and then try to predict certain outcomes.   Women, using their strength of empathy, attempt to identify what others are thinking and feeling, and therefore respond appropriately.   They are more concerned with the emotional cohesion in the group and therefore pick up on more information contained in the other members of the group.   Men are prone to be less aware of the others in the group as they are more focused on the problem solving aspect.

This distinction is not to say that men don’t care about the feelings of others.    Women simply have more brainpower devoted to perceiving what others are thinking and feeling.   Therefore, they have more brainpower available to accommodate the needs of members in a group.   This greater capacity can lead to greater group cohesion, helping a group to reach its goals more efficiently.

Sociologists have known this for years, long before it was possible to look into the brain.   Behavioral differences have long been studied between men and women, boys and girls.   Cross cultural studies have shown that around the world, little boys tend to try to figure out how things work and little girls tend to want togetherness.   When given toy blocks, little boys will competitively try to build the tallest or longest construction, while little girls will make circles in which all can play together.   All of this points to the idea that women can make better leaders in many situations, and are certainly always a significantly important part of any team.

I want to step aside from the science for a moment to respond to some of the criticism  to this series thus far.   Some people feel that these differences are arbitrary and unimportant, or merely conjecture.   While much of feminism strives to prove that women can be just as good as men, we need an entirely different appreciation for women as  women.    It’s become very unpopular to speak about gender differences.   I don’t think diversity means that everyone should be viewed the same.   Same respect? Yes.   The human person deserves the highest respect possible, but not because we are all the same.   If society was, and is in many ways, a male dominated system, I think it is a very weak argument for women to say, “we can do just as good as men can.” Male domination has convinced society that the part women play is not as important as man’s.  First of all domination is not something to strive for, and second of all women contribute something entirely different than men to every aspect of life.   This includes marriage, family and the home, the neighborhood, business and the economy, government, and the society in general. From philosophy to art to science and everything in between, women have something unique and important to contribute, precisely because they are women and not men.

Pope Francis recently spoke about our lack of appreciation of women.   He said, “The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework  … we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of [an organization], but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the church.”   Even in the Church’s theology, according to Pope Francis, we need to move away from a “woman can do what a man can do” mentality to explore what makes a woman unique and important and beautiful for being a woman and  not  a man.

As long as the feminist argument is reduced to “we are just as good as men are,” feminism is losing.   In order to make the real argument for real feminism — an argument that shouldn’t have to be made in the first place — we need to understand precisely how men and women are different.   In our diversity we have complementarity, and complementarity necessitates mutual respect and admiration between the sexes.

This specific trait of empathy-based collaboration  is an excellent example of something that women are typically better equipped for than men, and a very compelling reason to afford equal treatment, equal respect, and equal opportunity in the workplace.   Maybe even preferential treatment when team cohesion and collaboration is at stake.  And as far as train conductors, women make for a much more enjoyable trip.

Credit to Dr. Greg Bottaro of CatholicExchange.


St. Joseph, WD40, and a Craftsman Wrench

By: George J. Galloway

St. jo jo and Baby JJ

American country music singer and songwriter, Toby Keith, wrote and recorded a favorite song of mine that I played continuously when I was camping last weekend. It’s called “Made in America.” Perhaps you’ve heard it, but on the off chance you haven’t, here are some of the lyrics:

He’s got the red, white, and blue flyin’ high on the farm
Semper Fi tattooed on his left arm
Spent a little more in the store for a tag in the back that says ‘USA’
He won’t by nothin’ that he can’t fix,
With WD40 and a Craftsman wrench
He ain’t prejudiced, he’s just made in America.

As my wife and I were camping in our trailer, I was constantly fixing things as I usually do. You know, like adjusting the level of the camper, making sure the water, electrical, and sewer hookups were perfect, repositioning the awning and hanging festive lights off of it, checking the propane, tightening a screw here and there or a nut and a bolt. Not to mention chopping firewood, gathering kindling, and making sure there was plenty of wood on the fire at all times.

I’d look around the campground and see most of the guys doing the same things. We were on vacation, but we were busy doing stuff — tweaking something, getting it just right. It’s part of our DNA. We just can’t help it.

We’re the husbands and fathers of those we love. We have to provide. We have to use our labor, our God-given talents as men to shelter, protect, and defend our families, even in the most trivial ways and on camping trips. And, yes, most of us are driven the same way on behalf of our country, our homeland, our communities and churches.

Give us a job to do and we’re happy, satisfied, complete. If we didn’t get dirt under our fingernails, then we would feel empty. It’s really that simple. Why men are psychoanalyzed and researched over and over again is a waste of time. Men need to do what men are meant to do — what they were created by God to do: they need to work or they can’t sleep at night. They’re tactile creatures. Using their hands to do a job is innate.

And my wife, who knows how to relax, is seated, comfortably, on a nice camping chair we just bought, like a princess on her throne, sipping from a glass of much deserved chardonnay, and looks at me doing non-stop odds and ends, shakes her head, completely befuddled. I wonder if she thinks all men are as crazy as I am.

Sure, I do take time in the early morning, when the sun’s just up, and you can see your breath on a brisk, cool morning. I love to hear the sound of a cold mountain stream or brook skipping its way over a stone-strewn bed and cast a fly. I love the way it feels as I release the line using my fingers to control its distance, to place my lure exactly where I want it to go. Every man wants to do that. To place things exactly where they want things to go, when it’s the right time, when it feels natural.

Men are control freaks. I don’t like flying in an airplane, because I want to fly the plane. I want to control my own destiny. I enjoy sailing only when I control the canvas and rudder. I never like it when someone else drives the car, because I want to be in command of the wheel. It’s always I.

Not because I’m an egotist (better ask my wife that question). But, because I need to be the director of my own play — nothing is more sacred to me than my wife and family, period.

To put these things into someone else’s hands would be the ultimate betrayal.

Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, had to have felt the same way. Maybe he didn’t have WD40 and a Craftsman wrench (and duct tape, I couldn’t live without duct tape), but he had his tools: his saws, his mallet, his plane, his hand drill, his plumb bob and A-frame mason’s level. These were the tools of his trade. This was how he made a finished product from a piece of timber or raw wood. The same wood his foster-son would later be nailed upon.

And he must have instructed his son the only way he knew how — in carpentry. He taught him how to steam and plane a stave so that it could be fashioned into a barrel, strapped and secured with wooden hoops, before the age of the cooper. He taught him how to build a table or a chair. How to measure twice and cut once — all the necessary things a father teaches a son, which always have immeasurable value in any life-changing decision.

His decision: the girl, Mary, is pregnant. Not by him. She needs his help. He knows how to fix things. That is what he was born for. He has a dream. Everything in his life up to this point tells him to use the law. To banish, if not have her stoned to death. It is his right to do this. But, he had this dream. He was given his orders.

Joseph, poor and simple, strong, with forearms and hands and shoulders twice the size of most men, doesn’t hesitate. He  believes. He is a soldier. A soldier who takes upon his back, and upon his heart, an unbelievable job. He accepts. He actually, without a moment’s pause, accepts. He is now the hand-servant of the Lord. It is his fiat — his “yes.” He now participates in the redemption of all mankind. But only because he said “yes” — because Joseph took it upon his own muscular shoulders to carry the burden which would eventually become our salvation.

Mary said “yes.” That was the first part. She said “be it done unto me.” But Joseph also had to say “yes.” Not vocally. Guys don’t have to use words. Deeds are more important. If he didn’t return the salute, if he hesitated, if he weighed things in the balance of his plum line, what would have happened?

Okay, there was certainly no WD40 and a Craftsman wrench, or duct tape, in Joseph’s time; although I really think he would appreciate these things.

After all, a carpenter can never have too many tools.

And, I think, Toby Keith would never compare himself or his own father to St. Joseph the Worker. No man in his right mind would. Nobody would want his job. You have to be called by the highest pay grade to do something like protecting and raising The God-Child. But, men can certainly relate to a guy named Joseph the carpenter. He’s the fellow next door. He doesn’t ask too many questions. He sees the situation for what it is and gets the job done. Fathers can identify with that. Good soldiers can, too.

Credit to  George J. Galloway of CatholicExchange.


In Celebration of the Feminine Genius

By: Emily Stimpson

beautiful woman beach

In all the recent chatter about the Catholic Church and women, it’s hard not to think that somewhere, somehow, wires are getting crossed. Much of the secular media and more than a few politicians have one idea about what the Church teaches: Women are an inferior sex, not to be trusted with much beyond the domestic sphere.  Plenty of Catholics also have bought into some false ideas of what the Church thinks about women, believing (some with approval, some with harsh criticism) that all members of the fairer sex are called to become plasticized versions of the Virgin Mary, cookie-cutter caricatures of consecrated virgins and holy wives.  All of which couldn’t be further from the truth.  So, what does the Catholic Church teach about women?

Setting the Record Straight

For starters, the Catholic Church believes neither sex is superior to the other. It doesn’t teach gender polarity – that men are better than women – nor reverse gender polarity – that women are better than men. In ages past, some Catholic theologians, taking Aristotle’s theories on biology a little too seriously, bounced the idea of gender polarity around, but their ideas have been roundly dismissed in the centuries since. What the Church actually proclaims is gender complementarity, meaning men and women are equal but different in mutually beneficial ways.  Likewise, while the culture might hold up one universal ideal for what makes a woman beautiful, desirable and successful – an ideal measured in clothing sizes, sexual dexterity and bank balances – the Church sees things a little differently. According to its teachings, women are beautiful when we’re being the women God made us to be; we’re desirable simply by virtue of being women, always sought after by our Creator who loves us and wants us to be with him; and we’re successful when we’re doing the things God calls us to do.

Importantly, because God created no two people alike, being who God made us to be and doing what God calls us to do means there is no one model or mold we have to follow or fit. Each and every woman images God in some singular way.  That’s why one of the great tasks of our lives is learning to faithfully image him as no one else can – as wives and as mothers, yes, but also as doctors, lawyers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. The Church recognizes that God has gifted women with minds and abilities as singular as their souls, and expects women to use those minds and abilities to serve God, the Church, and the world.

Feminine genius

In that work, however, we’re not entirely on our own. Each woman’s soul may be an unrepeatable work of wonder, but it is still a woman’s soul. Accordingly, the Church teaches, like her feminine body, a woman’s soul bears within it not just a capacity for, but also a call to nourish and nurture life. In other words, it’s made for motherhood.  Motherhood, the Church tells us, is the feminine genius, the thing women can do that men simply can’t. It’s also the thing women must do in order for cultures and souls to thrive, and the thing women need to do in order for us to be the women God made us to be. It’s what makes our work as butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers both effective and necessary. It’s one of the reasons why the world needs us so.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that all women are called to physically bear children. Some aren’t. Others can’t. Rather, it means all women are called to be spiritual mothers, nourishing and nurturing the souls that cross our paths. In our homes, our parishes, our places of business and communities – wherever life takes us – women are called to carry out spiritually the same essential work mothers carry out in their homes.

Practical Femininity

So, just as mothers surround their children with love, helping them understand that they matter, that they are important, so too are women called to do that in the world. We’re called to see the unique beauty in every person we meet and acknowledge that beauty. It’s our task to help people understand how precious they are.  Also, just as mothers are their children’s first teachers in virtue, helping little ones grasp the importance of saying “please” and “thank you” and sharing toys, women are called to be the culture’s first teachers in virtue. It’s up to us to keep the “civil” in civilization, treating others with kindness and charity; dressing, speaking and acting with modesty; expecting and pursuing chastity; practicing patience; and expressing gratitude for all that’s good.

Then, there’s beauty. It’s a mother’s job to make her home a well-ordered place where children thrive and guests are welcome. In the world, women are called to do much the same. We’re called to appreciate and cultivate the beautiful in some way – dressing with style, planting gardens, renovating old houses, supporting the symphony, or simply making the occasional visit to the museum – so that through beauty we (and others) can encounter God, who is beauty.  And, of course, there’s prayer. In the home, a mother’s prayers for her children are perpetual. She never gives up, she never lets go, she is faithful to the end. Like the persistent widow in Scripture, all women are called to do the same – pestering God with tenacity for the lost, the confused, the hurting, and the lonely.

A mother’s Disposition

Through the centuries, women have understood that doing those things well requires cultivating certain habits and dispositions, recognizing that ultimately, motherhood isn’t about what we do. It’s about how we do it.  Not surprisingly, at the top of the “how” list is receptivity. Wherever we find ourselves and whatever we do, women need to cultivate a spirit of receptivity – receiving others as readily as we receive God’s wisdom and grace.  We also need to be attentive – paying more attention to others than to ourselves. We need to be responsive – reacting rightly to meet the needs we see. We need to be submissive – to God’s will and the Church’s teachings. And we need to be gentle (controlling our strength), as well as tenacious (holding on when all hope seems lost), and beautiful – cultivating loveliness in body and soul so that we can reflect the loveliness of our Creator.

That’s the Church’s call to women. That’s what it asks of us: to care for the world and all within it with a mother’s love and do it all in the singular way that only we can.  That’s not oppression. That’s freedom.

Credit to Emily Stimpson of

Mixed Signals

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

fighting couple

“No matter what I do, it’s never good enough. I just don’t feel like he loves me and I’m completely fed up.”  Colleen and David began marriage counseling as far apart as two people could be.     Often during a first session, I will make time to speak to the husband and wife separately, so that each can feel free to say what they need to without fear of being contradicted. Colleen took the first turn while David headed out for a cigarette.  “I have really tried hard to show him how much I love him.” She said. “I used to pack little notes in his lunch. I try to keep the house looking nice. I try to be romantic. Things have been rough for a while, but a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would try to do something special. I made a nice meal, lit candles, set the table with our good china….” Colleen trailed off, gathered her thoughts and began again.

“He barely said two words the whole meal. We just sat there, eating in silence. I wanted to stab him with my salad fork, I was so angry.” She grabbed for a Kleenex and composed herself. “It’s like that all the time. I try to do things that let him know that I love him, but he never responds. Not only doesn’t he appreciate what I do for him, he never does anything to show me he cares. He says he loves me, but those are just words. Why doesn’t he show me?”


We discussed a few more issues, getting the general overview of her situation, and then it was David’s turn.  “She is just so fussy. Everything has to be perfect all the time. I feel like it completely kills any spontaneity. The other week, she made this dinner. I came home and I was tired. I was really looking forward to an evening of just hanging out on the couch together, being close, just relaxing–maybe over a pizza or something–and I walk into all this pressure. She had the candles lit and the good china out.     All I wanted to do was get out of my jacket and tie, and all of a sudden I felt like I was underdressed in my own house.

“I was irritated, sure, but I figured this was important to her. We hadn’t been getting along all that well for a while, so I thought I would try to play along, maybe it would help soften her up a bit. I was enjoying the meal well enough, but then I saw her get that ‘prissy face’ she gets when she’s mad at me, and all I could think was, ‘Ah, man, what did I do now?’”  He sighed and made a face. “I was too tired to deal with it. I just kept my mouth shut and got out of there as fast as I could.”  David continued. “She’s always doing stuff like that. I’m always trying to do things to let her know I love her. I try to hug her, but she’s always a million miles away. I used to call her from work to see how she was, but she was always too busy with some project to talk. I tell her I love her, but she says, “That’s just words!”     I love to fix things and keep the house in good shape, you know, guy stuff (he smiled conspiratorially) but she doesn’t really need me to do any of that for her because she’s so competent. Meanwhile, I’m killing myself trying to show her that I care, and she isn’t doing anything for me. It’s always about what she wants.     I just got sick of it after a while.”


David and Colleen were struggling with a common but serious marital problem. Specifically, the couple’s individual “lovestyles” were crossed.     To put it another way, each was working hard to communicate love to the other in a way that made sense to him or her self, but was completely irrelevant to the other. Colleen, having a more visual lovestyle liked to concentrate on atmosphere.  She was attentive to details, and showed her love in the way she decorated the house, presented a meal, and set the mood with candles and other visual indicators of affection like her appearance, or notes and cards.  David on the other hand was not as visual as his wife. Employing both kinesthetic (kin-es-TET-ic) and auditory lovestyles, he was more oriented to touch and action-oriented expressions of love as well as verbal affection. He tried to communicate his feelings for Colleen through acts of service, hugs and other physical displays of affection, and calling her to check on her day, in addition to saying, “I love you.” as much as possible. Unfortunately, despite all this love going around, both David and Colleen felt horribly neglected.

Back to School.

To understand the concept of lovestyles better, I need to take you back to grade school for a minute. Teachers spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how their students learn best (their “Learning styles”). Some students are visual learners, and do well with reading assignments, workbook pages, and other visual input. Others are more auditory learners. They need to be talked through tasks. They also do well in lecture classes and discussion groups and other oral/auditory learning activities.     Others still are kinesthetic learners, who learn by doing. These students learn through their hands and do well with projects, acting out assignments, manipulatives, and other physical activities that inspire learning.  Because learning styles are neurologically based, they don’t disappear in adulthood, they generalize out of the classroom and become communication styles–and in marriage– what I call, “lovestyles,” which brings us back to our couple.

Both Colleen and David were working very hard to demonstrate their love for one another, but almost all of their efforts were for naught, because they were communicating love in a manner that the other was not neurologically “wired” to receive. Because of that, Colleen’s visual efforts at romance were dismissed as mere, “fussiness” by the more kinesthetic David, and David’s attempts to communicate love through physical affection and words were experienced by Colleen as being either “groping” or as “empty words” respectively.  When I explained this to the couple, they were initially underwhelmed if not outright pessimistic. David said, “It sounds like you’re saying we’re doomed. That we’re just wired differently and that’s all there is to it.”  Clearly, this is not what I was trying to say. The good news is, to the degree that you have five senses, you can rewire and expand your lovestyle. The difficulty is that it simply never occurs to most people.     A person with a more visual lovestyle tends to believe that everyone should give and receive affection just as they do. It never occurs to them to try anything else.     The same is true of the other lovestyles. So they tend to dismiss, or simply miss, those displays of affection not communicated in the lovestyle they are most comfortable with. And it never occurs to anyone to notice all that they are missing.


The answer to this problem is a combination of generosity and awareness. Catholic marriages are founded on the notion of self-donative love, the idea that it is a spouse’s duty and privilege to use his or her whole self–body, mind, and spirit–to work for the good of the other. By challenging our comfort zones and consciously working to love our spouse the way he or she needs to be loved, instead of just the way we want to love him or her, we expand our capacity to give and receive love, and open our own minds to experiencing a world previously unknown to us.  I suggested that David and Colleen try an experiment.     I asked them to list at least twenty different actions that communicated love or attentiveness to them. These items could be more romantic, like cards and flowers, or they could be more mundane, like taking the garbage to the curb, or giving up the TV remote for the evening. The only requirements were that these activities should be low-expense, not terribly time consuming, and still be meaningful enough to cause the recipient to have a gut-level reaction that says, “Ahh! That made me feel very well taken care of.”

Over the next few sessions, David and Colleen developed their lists and worked to overcome some of the basic objections to each other’s requests. Colleen said, “One of the first reactions to some of the things he wrote down was, “You want me to do WHAT!?     I’m ashamed to admit it now, because it wasn’t as if he was asking for anything immoral or demeaning, he just wanted me to do things that don’t mean a great deal to me, and would require me to challenge my comfort level. Things like holding his hand in public, or sitting on the couch and snuggling together in front of the fire even if there were chores that still needed to be done, or keeping him company when he changes the oil. I would NEVER think of doing those things on my own, and honestly, when he has asked me to do them in the past, I just dismissed them because they didn’t mean anything to me.”

David agreed. “My first reaction to her list was, ‘This is really stupid.’     I think I’m a pretty loving guy, but a lot of the things she wrote down didn’t seem so much loving, as they were fussy. ‘Wear something nicer than old sweats in the evening.’ or, ‘Write me a note that says you love me and why.’ or ‘make sure the bedroom is straightened up and light candles when you want to make love.’ I just don’t care about that kind of stuff on my own. Honestly, it seemed a little silly. I mean, why would I need to write her a note? I tell her I love all the time. I just thought she was being picky.”  But after we spent some time addressing their objections and they had an opportunity to practice the items on each other’s lists, the difference was remarkable. As Colleen put it, “It occurred to me that I had been very selfish.     I was only willing to love him the way I wanted to love him. I didn’t care how he needed to be loved. In a sense, my loving efforts in the past were more focused on helping me feel good than they were showing him affection in any meaningful way.”

David added, “It was hard for me to remember to do the things on her list at first, because they just don’t come naturally to me at all. But I tried to check the list everyday and tell myself that it wasn’t important if this stuff meant anything to me. It was just important that I wanted her to know I loved her, and in order to do that, I needed to learn to speak her language. And the first time she read the little love note I wrote in about ten minutes earlier in the day, she just beamed. I knew I’d scored big.”  But the benefits didn’t end there. David and Colleen both learned important lessons about themselves and opened their eyes to new ways to experience and share love. As David put it, “Colleen told me that she can really see how doing these things is helping her become a more open, loving person who is more relaxed and less ashamed about showing affection. And I’m becoming a whole lot more attentive as a husband. I used to think that as long as I was a better husband than most of the guys at the office, that was good enough. Now I realize that God expects me to be the husband she needs me to be, not just the husband my friends think I ought to be.”

If you are experiencing the tension of loving someone with a different love language, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and find the solutions you are looking for. Call us to get the skills you need to succeed.

Manly Men-Reflections on Masculinity

By: PaxCare Staff


In the culture in which we live, there are many stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the roles and identities of men. What makes a man, well…a man? How do we determine manliness? This article will shed some light on the issue.

What’s the Manswer?

Read the following two character sketches and answer this question:   Which man is more masculine?

#1.   Mr. A is a florist by profession.   He enjoys going to the ballet, musical theater and supports the arts in general.  He dresses well and cares for his appearance. He is warm and affectionate to the people he meets.   He is in touch with his emotions and comfortable sharing them.

#2 Mr. B is a contractor by profession.   He enjoys monster truck rallies, loves to watch football, and judges the quality of a movie by the number of explosions in it.   His idea of dressing up is wearing  his nice plaid flannel shirt (the one without the beer stain).   He is friendly enough, but not very affectionate.   Some would describe him as gruff.     He does not enjoy talking about feelings.   He would rather solve problems than talk about them.

So, which is more masculine?   A or B?   Answer:   It is impossible to tell from the information presented.

Why?   Because masculinity has little to do with the jobs we do, the things we like, or the way we look.   Masculinity has much, much more to do with how effectively we live out our humanity through the male body given to us by God. Masculinity is determined by how comfortable a man is with his body and uses that body in the manner it was intended by God to be used; that is, to serve others.   Let’s use two different examples.

The Demands of Loving Service

Same question: Which is more masculine?

#1 Mr. C adores his wife. He is conscientious about fulfilling the promises he makes to her. He is an active father and makes sure to spend time with his children every day. He is concerned about caring for his family’s emotional and spiritual needs and regularly leads prayer in his home and encourages his family to take advantage of the sacraments.     His wife and children know that any time they need something, they can count on Mr. A to help them find the most godly and efficient way to meet their need.

#2 Mr. D says he loves his wife but really couldn’t tell you anything about what her needs are or what it takes to make her happy. When she asks him to do something for her, he will often promise to do it to get her to stop nagging him, but he rarely follows through. He is not very involved with his children. He avoids discussion anything he doesn’t have to with his family. He does not pray with them. He will go to church if his wife insists. Sometimes. By and large, his wife and children do not count on him for much.

So, which is more masculine? Clearly, Mr. C. Why? Because Mr. C presents as a man who knows himself, is comfortable in his own skin and he is using his self and his body in the way God intended it to be used; to serve others. A man might have more in common with either Mr. A or Mr. B above, but it doesn’t matter, because his masculinity is determined not by the job he has or the things he likes or the way he looks. It is determined by the way he uses his self and his body to serve.

“It’s Good to Be King”? A Serious Look at Headship in Christian Marriage.

By: Gregory Popcak

washing feet

“Defer to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives be submissive to your husbands…. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.”

~Ephesians 5:21-33

In my counseling practice, I have recently encountered a slew of questions relating to headship in Christian marriage and the abuses that flow from a misunderstanding of this concept.     I have been disheartened to see first hand how this beautiful and key teaching of Christian family life has been twisted in so many ways to cause so much pain. Let me offer some examples so we’re all clear on what I’m talking about.  “My husband doesn’t want me, just my body. He ignores me or is cold to me most of the time, but then he wants to have sex  at least twice a day. I feel like he is using me, but He says that he is the head and I have to submit to him in all things, especially this, or else I’m sinning. I want to be a good wife. I don’t want to offend God, but I am so sad. What can I do?”

~ ~ ~

“My husband said that I couldn’t buy any birthday presents for our two-year old because ‘He has enough already. He needs to learn to be grateful for what he has.’  He won’t even let my family come to celebrate his birthday. My heart is breaking for our son but I don’t want to disobey my husband, what should I do?”

~ ~ ~

“The people in my homeschool group tell me that when my husband says something, even if I disagree with it, I have to say, ‘Yes, dear.’ because in marriage I am supposed to sacrifice my will entirely to the will of my husband. Something about that doesn’t seem right. It sounds extreme but what if he wanted me to kill someone? Where do I draw the line?”

~ ~ ~

There is a great deal of confusion about what it means for the husband to be the head of the family and much harm can come from an improper understanding of this idea. The key to understanding headship lies in the John Paul II’s statement in Evangelium Vitae, that “Man’s lordship is not absolute, it is ministerial.” Let’s unpack that statement.

1. Obedience cannot be commanded, it must be invited.

There is an important distinction to be made between blind obedience and Christian obedience. Blind obedience uses fear to motivate. The person who relies on blind obedience says, “You must obey me because I am the leader, so there!” Christian obedience is a much different animal though. It is a logical response to loving service.  St. Ambrose was contemplating the scripture, “You are my friends if you keep my commands.” but he observed that friends don’t command other friends, if they did, it would no longer be a friendship but a relationship between a superior and inferior person (the commander and the commanded). What could Jesus mean by tying our friendship with Him to obedience to Him?     Ambrose realized that Jesus was talking about a new kind of obedience based on friendship rather than fear, an “obedience” that meant anticipating and fulfilling the needs of another.     Seen in this light, obedience is really another form of intimacy, where one person attentively seeks out the needs of the other and lovingly fulfills them, often without being asked, certainly without being asked twice.     This is the essence of true Christian obedience. What parent would not want this kind of obedience from their child? What spouse would not want this kind of obedience from their mate? What God would not want this kind of obedience from His people?

Understanding obedience in this way presents a challenge to all of us. Obviously Christian obedience is a good and desirable thing, and yet, we cannot demand obedience from another (nor can we nag, whine, threaten, beat, or manipulate it out of someone) if it is to remain true Christian obedience. In fact, there is only one way Christian parents and Christian spouses can “command” obedience; the same way Jesus commanded it, through an example of loving service.  When my wife or children come to me with a need, it is not my job to sit in judgment of that need and say “Yea” or “Nay” to it. It is my job to take that need seriously, and to help them find a godly way to meet that need. If I do this, then over time, my wife and children learn to trust me. They come to see that, “Hey, Greg always does well by us. He always helps us find respectful and efficient ways to meet our needs.” Because of this, they come to seek my counsel and take my advice all on their own without me ever having to “command” them to do anything. In other words, their “obedience” to my counsel is their logical response to my having served them first. In a Christian home, obedience does not result from me beating my chest and saying, “Me Head of Family! You brainless peon!”     (That is oppression, not headship.)     In a Christian home, obedience is not commanded, it is invited, by the husband becoming like Christ and washing the feet of the greatest and the least member of his family.

2.     The needs set the agenda, not the husband.

I recently spoke at a men’s conference where a gentleman cornered me after my talk and said, “It took me 25 years of marriage to realize I wasn’t going to get any credit– from God or my wife–for giving her things she didn’t want.”  I regularly hear from husbands who want to know, “How do I know what’s right for my family?” Many men think that omniscience is a prerequisite to headship. It is not.  How do you know what’s right for your family? You ask them!  As head of household, you must assume that the voice of God is speaking through the needs your wife and children bring to you. Their needs set the agenda, not you.  Husbands would do well to remember that God is the ultimate head of household and God is the author of all of our needs.  Of course, if you have concerns about certain things your family wants, you have a right to express them, even to insist that those concerns be addressed before you move forward with fulfilling that need (incidentally, your wife has this same right when you bring your needs to her. “Defer to one another out of reverence for Christ…) And you should always pray with your family to help them discern whether the need being expressed is truly godly, but assuming the need persists through prayer and discernment, we have little choice but to respond to it. As scripture says, in the end we must, “Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes.” Assuming we truly love God first and seek his will then, “all things,” presumably even our errors in judgment “will work for the good of those who love Him.” Again, being head of household does not mean being a one man Supreme Court whose family must convince you that their needs are worthy of being fulfilled.     It means that you must be a responsive and generous servant to whatever needs your family brings to you, especially the ones that make you uncomfortable. If you do this, then, and only then, will you be loving your family “as Christ loves the Church.”

3. You all belong to God.

Paul tells us, “None of us lives as his own…. In both life and death we belong to God.”  Because each one of us belongs to God, he speaks to each one of us, and he expects each of us to fulfill the purpose for which we have been created. The only way to do this, is to learn to be attentive to his voice in our hearts and to follow that voice where it leads us.  But I have met many husbands who think that their wife and children are obliged to follow the agenda that they set for the family, regardless of what the rest of the family thinks of that agenda. This is not headship. It is idolatry.  These husbands expect their family to be disobedient to the voice of God speaking in their hearts, and instead, be obedient only to the husband’s desires. How is this any different than the pagan kings of the Old Testament insisting that their subjects pray to them?     Whenever this occurred, the servants of God were praised for their strenuous resistance to this arguably legitimate authority who made himself illegitimate by the nature of his commands. Jesus said, “No man is greater than his master, no messenger than he who sent him” as he stooped to wash the feet of his apostles. If we would love our wives as Christ loved the Church, then we must first put on the apron of humility–and serve. We cannot concern ourselves with making our family obey us. We can only love them, better and better, until they turn their hearts to us. It is then that we will be like Christ, of whom we sing, “O, How I love Jesus, because he first loved me.

If you find yourself struggling with any of the issues mentioned in the above article, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and get the solutions you are seeking. Call us to get the skills you need to succeed.