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About The


Ethics & Religion
October 5, 2016
Column #1,832
(second of two-part series)
Guard Your Heart - II - Family & Friends
By Mike McManus


What does it take to be a good friend? This is harder for men than for women who always seem to have several close friends. Men tend to focus on work and family, but Rev. John Yates learned the value of have a weekly breakfast with two men.

"Our only agenda was breakfast and talk. They were cheerleaders, but would tell me if I was going in the wrong direction. Intimate friends protect each other." However, such friendships do not just happen. "You have to be the initiator."

Men devote huge amounts of time to work and many acquaintances. However, a married person's top priority is one's spouse, who tends to get ignored in the rush of life. Therefore, John and Susan Yates go on a Date Night once a week.

They also built in "family time," one night a week where they did something fun with the kids, such as decorating paper plates. They also had family dinner together each evening, giving everyone chance to share and have fun.

A son's best friend experienced his dad walking out on the family. Therefore, John and his son went to their house, spending many hours with the distraught mother and children. They prayed for one another.

How do you stay on top of your work and your family at the same time?

The Yates began a late summer/early fall ritual that made a big difference. As the new season got underway, they set aside "couple time" to discuss each of their five children in five areas of growth: emotional, spiritual, physical, mental and social. "We named the child and asked God to reveal to us their needs in each area," Susan stated.

They asked themselves questions like:

  • Social: Does this child need a special friend, or to reach out to others? Does a teen need to be in a youth group ministry? Does the child need more discipline in schoolwork?

  • Emotional: Does this child need more time from one of us?

  • Physical: Does a child need better eating habits or to get more exercise?

Chris, a son, fell head first on a cement floor and fractured his skull. "We were in the hospital for two weeks and it was scary," Susan recalled.


When he regained consciousness, they read Romans 8:28: ("For God causes all things to work together for those who love him."). Then they asked him if there was any way that he could see that God had used this for good? He replied, "Mom, I never knew I was so special before."

John and Susan looked at each other with tears in their eyes, realizing that God answers the private prayers of parents.

When the kids were in high school and college, they held a "Needs and Goals Time" with everyone in the family. "Of course, they groaned when we mentioned it's Needs and Goals time," Susan commented.

However, that became a way for everyone to keep up to date with one another, and of praying for one another in the family. Today, John and Susan ask each of their five "kids" to "give us updates" for each of their 21 grandchildren! "This enables us to pray more specifically for each of them!"

When John was 8, his older brother, aged 18, wrote him a letter, which began, "Didn't we have a great time at the ball game?" Then he added, "Brother, I want you to know you are the greatest little brother a guy could have! If something is bothering you, please tell me, and we will seek God's help."

Recently, the older brother wrote a letter to Susan, praising John, his younger brother, who is now 70! Family ties are important - particularly if we nurture them, and pray for one another.

That same brother and his wife recently visited John and Susan for several days. After breakfast one morning, they read Scripture and looked back on their lives, asking each other, "What do you remember about God's faithfulness?" John recalled, "I learned things I did not know."

Four factors threaten family life. Parents are typically not spending enough time with children individually. John began having "Pancake Breakfasts" with one child.

Secondly, parents tend to take kids to one event after another, but rarely sit down as a family. Daily family dinners are important.

We need to parent intentionally, and not just react. Pray for each family member on a regular basis.

Finally, have fun as a family. Alphonso, a rubber alligator, would hide in the dishwasher!

They add, "Write a letter to parents or family members and thank them for what they did right."
Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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