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Year end pulse: your family

If there's an exposed nerve in our corporate psyche it may the re-definition of family that has occurred over the past several generations. "Family dynamics" are often the words scribbled in the margins of societal studies measuring our public education systems, work environments, the criminal world in all it's variations, the growing welfare state and entitlement culture, defining the have's and have-nots, class struggles, and even church life. The ideal of family is superimposed over every other significant sub-set of life. Family is important.

As a retired pastor you'd know my ideal of family is defined by a traditional Christian worldview. Family for me involves a man and woman married for life, their offspring, and the generational branches that grow from that traditional family tree. There's a special place in my heart for those outside that narrow definition. To love and embrace those whose family values are different than mine is no problem. Personal faith provides the spiritual arms to wrap around those with differing views. Just the same, when I'm talking family the reference point is the biblical model. In contradiction to the liberal media, that doesn't mean I hate those whose values clash with mine.

My year-end pulse check for our family life involves some predictable questions too. Yes, there are dozens of additional queries that could provide evaluative guidance in estimating my heartbeat for the family. One obvious question would be the standard of measure used to address family health. Will it be time, money, stuff, vacations, destinations, education, credit card debt, number of meals shared, digital contact, or dozens of others? My personal standard is more relational. Leadership is the central theme. Five questions bring focus around that theme---

FQ1: Am I providing loving spiritual leadership for my family?

FQ2: Is the spiritual leadership for my family example or words?

FQ3: Does this spiritual leadership include physical and emotional care as well?

FQ4: Is my spouse the most important human in my life?

FQ5: Does mutuality define the relationship with my spouse?

The biblical worldview would place family in the secondary position of my personal value system. In this system everything is subsidiary to my personal relationship with Christ. This, of course, creates some tension in the current culture because the position of family in the hierarchy of significance has taken such a beating. In many ways family life has shifted downward as definitions have been blurred and roles upended. A typical knee-jerk reaction, especially for traditionalists, is to move family matters to a more prominent position in the personal priorities. In already crowded schedules and obligations the personal faith life is sacrificed for quality family time or other measures. As an additional extreme, some moderns equate family experience with spiritual experience, finding the favor of God in works oriented family standards.

Life in a fallen world throws some curves at our family norms as well. Two years ago at this time my pulse check for our family revealed the need for some adjustments. Recently retired at the time my family passions were ignited by possibilities that hadn't been realized while I was on the daily ministry treadmill. Grown children, growing grand children, an aging parent, more time, and other extended family circumstances gave new energy to the pulse check. 2016 was going to present totally new opportunities to express loving care and leadership to the people in my circle. Then, again, there was this thing about living on a fixed income. Some of the thump-thump-pitter-patter of that heartbeat had to be adjusted to fit the new economic realities of retired life.

It's an important pulse check, however, this thing about family. Every study of spiritual leadership acknowledges the often negative influence of church life on family health. All too often the natural offset to languishing church mission is the tendency for busy-ness. As a result many churches have become carnivals of activity, the treadmill at church being as vicious as the one out there on the streets. Lately I've been encouraged by the number of congregations streamlining and simplifying their schedules, seeking a more family friendly posture in fulfilling their mission. Certainly the spiritual leaders in every household must take this same approach to insure that family life and church life are spiritually compatible.

2017 is going to stretch families further. Government action and the preferences of a secular world will increase the pressures of family life. My prayer is that the heartbeat of spiritual leaders for their families will be that expressed by the Apostle Paul to his friend and colleague Timothy---

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his

household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8, ESV

May the heartbeat be God first, family second.

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