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Breaking the Cycle

In his book, Man Alive: Transforming Your 7 Primal Needs into a Powerful Spiritual Life, Patrick Morley describes how his grandfather abandoned his family when Patrick's father was only two years old and the youngest of four children. He writes, "That one fateful decision set forces in motion from which our family has still not fully recovered." Patrick's dad never had a good role model for fatherhood, so when the size of their family grew to four young boys, his dad sent them to church. But their church had no vision to help men like Patrick's dad become disciples of Jesus. So Patrick grew up never having a good role model for fatherhood. When Patrick became a dad, he brought his father's and grandfather's brokenness with him. Morley confesses, "It's hard to silence the echoes of the past." Fortunately, Patrick sought help and Christian men discipled him and taught him how to be a godly husband and father.


Our nation is pandemic with generational brokenness due to poor fatherhood or father-absent homes. According to www.withoutafather.com, 26% of all children in the U.S. are growing up in a household with only one custodial parent, and 84% of those parents are mothers. Among African-American children 49% are growing up with a single custodial parent. Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse." Children in father-absent homes are more likely to get pregnant as teenagers, have lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations, poor attendance records, more likely to be incarcerated, and are twice as likely to drop out of school.


I’ve shared this in a previous blog, but when I served as a prison chaplain in New Orleans, I asked hundreds of inmates two questions over the course of two years: (1) How many of you had a dad at home when you grew up? (2) How many of you are a dad? Over that two-year period of time, I only had two men tell me they had a dad at home who helped raise them. Many of them said they were raised by their grandmothers or extended family members. The answer to the second question was that almost all of them were dads. I asked the men if they believed their life would be different if they had a dad who stayed at home, showed them love and discipline, and helped raise them, and the men completely agreed. I would then tell the men that they have an opportunity to break that generational cycle, and they can be godly fathers who raise their sons and daughters to love the Lord and make a Kingdom difference in the world.


We need to break this cycle! And the only way it's going to happen is for older men to teach the younger men how to be godly husbands and fathers (Titus 2:1-8). We need godly men to come alongside single-moms and be role models to their sons and Christ-like examples to their daughters. We need Christian fathers to pour into other fathers how to love, discipline, and raise their children in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and others (Luke 2:52).


For those of you who have generational brokenness, you can break the cycle. You can move forward with your life in the love and truth of Jesus Christ. There's an old Irish proverb that says, "You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was." Regardless of how good or bad you had it when you were growing up, regardless of whether you had an abusive or absentee father (or mother), you can rise above and “do your own growing.” Prayerfully seek out a mentor whom you would like to emulate as a parent. And be sure to break the cycle of your own sin patterns. Be honest and own up to the destructive behaviors you may have learned or inherited and that you, unfortunately, might be passing on to your own children. Grieve what could have been, but then forgive, ask for forgiveness, repent for all the ways you have sinned against others, ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse and transform you by His power, and then be patient. For most of us, mending takes time. But gradually, incrementally, we discover that we "are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). And praise God that He does bring us freedom from generational brokenness through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Triple-A Method of Overcoming a Funk

Some people have asked me if I work out a list of topics ahead of time for my blog, and my answer is, "No, although I probably should!" With sermon planning, I work months in advance, because I want to make sure I'm covering as much ground as possible in a healthy, balanced diet of God's Word. But this blog is supposed to be more personal, and, thus, I typically write about whatever is on my mind or heart at the time. My hope is that as I share my thoughts and heart with you, then hopefully you will read something that brings encouragement and will also help you help others.


So this is what's on my mind at the moment: The Monday Blues. We all have those times when we get up on a Monday morning, it's raining and cold outside, and we just want to go back to bed. Well, today is one of those days. I've been told that preachers often go into a small state of depression on Mondays, because they have a big adrenaline rush on Sunday which then comes crashing down on Monday. Whether or not that's true, most of us know the feeling of the "blahs." We have a long, busy week ahead of us, and the weekend seems like an eternity away. When you experience The Monday Blues, what can you do to push through and rediscover some joy? Here are a few suggestions. Consider this the Triple-A Method of Overcoming a Funk:


-->Assess. Check your heart, spirit and mind. Is there a deeper cause of your depression, or is it just the "blahs"? Are you praying? Are you reading Scripture? Are you eating healthy and are you getting enough sleep? Have you been in a fight with your spouse or child? Are you facing a lot of pressure at work right now? We are holistic beings where our mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health are all connected. In Psalm 31, David identifies the causes of the "distress of [his] soul" (verse 7). He experienced grief (verse 9), sin (verse 10), and adversaries (verse 11). He felt forgotten (verse 12) and besieged with schemers plotting against him (verse 13). Notice the multifaceted dimensions of David's distress: emotional (grief), spiritual (sin), physical ("my bones waste away," verse 10), and external (adversaries). Part of the battle in overcoming a funk is simply knowing what's going on. If you can assess why you're feeling the way you do, then you can start figuring out what steps to take next. 


-->Align. Where is your focus? It's important to identify the causes of your distress or depression, but it's doubly important to shift your focus away from those causes on to the solutions. This is the area where I see many people continue to struggle. They keep focusing on the cause which only leads them deeper into the valley of depression. If all we see are the problems and not the solutions, we can very easily get caught in the trap of hopelessness and despair. Right after David assessed the distress of his soul, he immediately aligned himself with the One who has the power to lead him out of the pit and into abundant goodness (Psalm 31:9). David wrote, "But I trust in you, O Lord" (verse14). David concluded his psalm with the exhortation to "be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!" (verse 24). Align yourself with Almighty God who brings refuge and who hides us in the cover of His presence (verse 20). God has the power to lead us through the valleys of life, so let's align ourselves with Him!


-->Act. After we assess the causes of our funk, and we align ourselves with God who delivers us through Jesus Christ, then we act. We put one foot in front of the other, and we slowly, yet deliberately, begin to move in faithfulness. Back in Psalm 31, David wrote, "Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride" (verse 23). We love, not through word or tongue but in action and truth (1 John 3:18). We are to act in faithfulness and not in pride. In other words, we act through our dependency upon the Holy Spirit rather than our own strength which fails us. One of the best ways for me to overcome the blahs and bleakness of the day is to get up and do something. Act.


The next time you find yourself with The Monday Blues, try the Triple-A Method and see if it helps get you off dead center into a new frame of mind and deeper joy. In fact, I think it's time for me to get up and go do something!

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