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    Clovis Chappell, a minister from a century back, used to tell the story of two paddleboats. They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail's pace of the other. Words were exchanged. Challenges were made. And the race began. Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South.

    One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship's cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned their cargo.

    God has entrusted cargo to us, too: children, spouses, friends. Our job is to do our part in seeing that this cargo reaches its destination. Yet when the program takes priority over people, people often suffer. How much cargo do we sacrifice in order to achieve the number one slot? How many people never reach the destination because of the aggressiveness of a competitive captain?

    In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado Word Publishing, 1991, pp. 97-98.

    Even that first famous Adams generation (children of 2nd president John Adams, 1735-1826) had more than its share of black sheep. John and Abigail's eldest child, Abigail, married a wastrel and at her death left her children to their care. Son Charles married the sister of his spendthrift brother-in-law, dissipated family funds, died of alcoholism and left his widow to the care of his parents. Son Thomas Boylston also became an alcoholic, again bequeathing his children to the care of the family. Though John Quincy (1767-1848) turned out well, he and his unhappy wife Louisa hardly went unscathed. Thier first son was an alcoholic and committed suicide at the age of 31. Their next son was expelled from college, failed in business and died of an alcohol-related illness. Only their youngest son, Charles Francis (1807-86), reacted against the family pattern by his exemplary sobriety, his prudence in business and fervent dedication to his wife and children. He spent years writing the biography and editing the words of his grandfather John Adams. But he concluded, "The history of my family is not a pleasant one to remember. It is one of great triumphs in the world but of deep groans within, one of extraordinary brilliancy and deep corroding mortification."

    Charles Francis Adams, grandson of 2nd President John Adams, son of 6th president John Quincy Adams, in U.S. News and World Report, Dec 12, 1988

    It started with Rent-A-Wife, a small Petaluma, California, company created by Karen Donovan to help clients decorate their homes, balance checkbooks, run errands, etc. Donovan, who launched her business through a small ad in the local newspaper, is already thinking big after four months of operation. She wants to hire her father to initiate Rent-A-Husband and her two teens to start Rent-A-Family. "We can do what any family does," the newfangled entrepreneur joked. "We can come over and eat all the food, turn on all the lights, put handprints on the walls, take showers and leave the towels on the floor. When clients are finished with Rent-A-Family, they'll have to call Rent-A-Wife.

    Campus Life, October, 1980.

    In 1978, Thomas Hansen of Boulder Colorado, sued his parents for $350,000 on grounds of "malpractice of parenting." Mom and Dad had botched his upbringing so badly, he charged in his suit, that he would need years of costly psychiatric treatment.


    Statistics and Commentary

    The evidence is convincing that the better our relationships are at home, the more effective we are in our careers. If we're having difficulty with a loved one, that difficulty will be translated into reduced performance on the job. In studying the millionaires in America (U.S. News and World Report), a picture of the "typical" millionaire is an individual who has worked eight to ten hours a day for thirty years and is still married to his or her high school or college sweetheart. A New York executive search firm, in a study of 1365 corporate vice presidents, discovered that 87% were still married to their one and only spouse and that 92% were raised in two-parent families. The evidence is overwhelming that the family is the strength and foundation of society. Strengthen your family ties and you'll enhance your opportunity to succeed.

    Zig Ziglar in Homemade, March 1989.

    According to a study of more than 500 family counselors, the following are the top traits of successful families:
    *Communicating and listening *Affirming and supporting family members *Respecting one another *Developing a sense of trust *Sharing time and responsibility *Knowing right from wrong *Having rituals and traditions *Sharing a religious core *Respecting privacy.

    Focus on the Family Bulletin, December, 1988 .

    From a national survey of strong families conducted by the Human Development and Family Department at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, a profile of a strong family:

    Appreciation. "Family members gave one another compliments and sincere demonstrations of approval. They tried to make the others feel appreciated and good about themselves."
    Ability to Deal with Crises in a Positive Manner. "They were willing to take a bad situation, see something positive in it and focus on that."
    Time Together. "In all areas of their lives--meals, work, recreation--they structured their schedules to spend time together."
    High Degree of Commitment. "Families promoted each person's happiness and welfare, invested time and energy in each other and made family their number one priority."
    Good Communication Patterns. "These families spent time talking with each other. They also listened well, which shows respect."
    High Degree of Religious Orientation. "Not all belonged to an organized church, but they considered themselves highly religious." (1983)

    Human Development and Family Department at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln.

    Families in 2000 will average 1.81 children, down from 1.84 today. Some 60 percent of kids born in the '80s will live for a time with one parent; 1 kid in 4 will live with a stepparent by age 16. One third of all households will be childless. . . Supporting a teenager still at home will cost $12,000 a year against $7,000 now. Kids who head to college in 2000 will need upwards of $100,000 for each bachelor's degree.

    U.S. News and World Report, Dec 25, 1989.

    Rudyard Kipling once wrote about families, "all of us are we--and everyone else is they." A family shares things like dreams, hopes, possessions, memories, smiles, frowns, and gladness...A family is a clan held together with the glue of love and the cement of mutual respect. A family is shelter from the storm, a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild. No person is ever alone who is a member of a family.

    Fingertip Facts.

    Parents rate their inability to spend enough time with their children as the greatest threat to the family. In a survey conducted for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Corp., 35 percent pointed to time constraints as the most important reason for the decline in family values. Another 22 percent mentioned a lack of parental discipline. While 63 percent listed family as their greatest source of pleasure, only 44 percent described the quality of family life in America as good or excellent. And only 34 percent expected it to be good or excellent by 1999. Despite their expressed desire for more family time, two-thirds of those surveyed say they would probably accept a job that required more time away from home if it offered higher income or greater prestige.

    Moody Monthly, December, 1989, p. 72.

    Sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman, in his 1947 book Family and Civilization, recorded his keen observations as he compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. Eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture Zimmerman studied.

    *Marriage loses its frequently broken by divorce.
    *Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
    *Feminist movements abound.
    *Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.
    *Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion.
    *Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.
    *Growing desire for and acceptance of adultery.
    *Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.

    Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah, p. 90.

    Becoming good at the things that build inner confidence and calm takes practice -- and a dash of creativity! The following list might provide some cloudseeding for a brainstorm or two of your own. Have some fun with your family...and get ready for a good rest.

    1. Pay off your credit cards.
    2. Take off ten pounds or accept where you are without any more complaints.
    3. Eat dinner together as a family for seven days in a row.
    4. Take your wife on a dialogue date (no movie, guys).
    5. Read your kids a classic book (Twain's a good start).
    6. Memorize the Twenty-third Psalm as a family.
    7. Give each family member a hug for twenty-one days in a row (that's how long the experts say it takes to develop a habit). 

    8. Pick a night of the week in which the television will remain unplugged.
    9. Go out for a non-fast food dinner as a family.
    10. Pray for your spouse and children every day.
    11. Plan a vacation together.
    12. Take a vacation together.
    13. Read a chapter from the Bible every day until it becomes a habit.
    14. Sit together as a family in church.
    15. Surprise your teenage. Wash his car and fill up his gas tank.
    16. Take an afternoon off from work; surprise your child by excusing him from school and taking him to a ball game.
    17. Take a few hours one afternoon and go to the library as a family.
    18. Take a walk as a family.
    19. Write each member of your family a letter sharing why you value them.
    20. Give your spouse a weekend getaway with a friend (same gender!) to a place of their choice.
    21. Go camping as a family.
    22. Go to bed early (one hour before your normal bedtime) every day for a week.
    23. Take each of your children out to breakfast (individually) at least once a month for a year.
    24. Turn down a promotion that would demand more time from your family than you can afford to give.
    25. Religiously wear your seat belts.
    26. Get a complete physical.
    27. Exercise a little every day for a month.
    28. Make sure you have adequate life insurance on both you and your spouse.
    29. Write out information about finances, wills, and important business information that your spouse can use to keep things under control in the event of your death.
    30. Make sure your family car is safe (tires, brakes, etc.) and get it tuned up.
    31. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm.
    32. Put a security system in your house.
    33. Attend the parent/teacher meetings of each child as a couple.
    34. Help your kids with their homework.
    35. Watch the kids on Saturday while your wife goes shopping (but if a friend calls, don't say that you're "babysitting").
    36. Explain to your spouse exactly what you do for a living.
    37. Put together a picture puzzle. (One thousand pieces or more.)
    38. Take time during the week to read a Bible story to your children and then discuss it with them.
    39. Encourage each child to submit to you his most perplexing question, and promise him that you'll either answer it or discuss it with him.
    40. Finish fixing something around the house.
    41. Tell your kids how you and your spouse met.
    42. Tell your kids about your first date.
    43. Sit down and write your parents a letter thanking them for a specific thing they did for you. (Don't forget to send it!)
    44. Go on a shopping spree where you are absolutely committed to buying nothing.
    45. Keep a prayer journal for a month. Keep track of the specific ways that God answers your needs.
    46. Do some stargazing away from the city with your family. Help your children identify constellations and conclude the evening with prayer to the majestic God who created the heavens.
    47. Treat your wife to a beauty make-over (facial, manicure, haircut, etc.). I hear they really like this.
    48. Give the kids an alternative to watching Saturday morning cartoons (breakfast at McDonald's, garage sales, the park, chores, etc.).
    49. Ask your children each day what they did at school (what they learned, who they ate lunch with, etc.).
    50. After you make your next major family decision, take your child back through the process and teach him how you arrived at your decision.
    51. Start saying to yourself "My car doesn't look so bad."
    52. Call you wife or husband from work just to see how they're doing.
    53. Compile a family tree and teach your children the history of their ancestors.
    54. Walk through an old graveyard with your children.
    55. Say no to at least one thing a day -- even if it's only a second piece of pie.
    56. Write that letter to the network that broadcast the show you felt was inappropriate for prime-time viewing.
    57. Turn off the lights and listen to a "praise" tape as you focus your thoughts on the Lord.
    58. Write a note to your pastor praising him for something.
    59. Take back all the books in your library that actually belong in someone else's library.
    60. Give irritating drivers the right to pull in front of you without signaling and yelling at them.
    61. Make every effort to not let the sun go down on your anger.
    62. Accept legitimate criticism from your wife or a friend without reacting or defending yourself.
    63. If your car has a Christian bumper sticker on in -- drive like it.
    64. Do a Bible study on the "wise man" and the "fool" in Proverbs...and then apply what it takes to be wise to your life.
    65. Make a list of people who have hurt your feelings over the past year...then check your list to see if you've forgiven them.
    66. Make a decision to honor your parents, even if they made a career out of dishonoring you.
    67. Take your children to the dentist and doctor for your wife.
    68. Play charades with your family, but limit subjects to memories of the past.
    69. Do the dishes for your wife.
    70. Schedule yourself a free day to stay home with your family.
    71. Get involved in a family project that serves or helps someone less fortunate.
    72. As a family, get involved in a recreational activity.
    73. Send your wife flowers.
    74. Spend an evening going through old pictures from family vacations.
    75. Take a weekend once a year for you and your spouse to get away and renew your friendship.
    76. Praise your spouse and children -- in their presence -- to someone else.
    77. Discuss a world or national problem, and ask your children for their opinion on it.
    78. Wait up for your teenagers when they are out on dates.
    79. Have a "quiet Saturday" (no television, no radio, no kidding).
    80. If your children are little, spend an hour playing with them -- but let them determine the game.
    81. Have your parents tell your children about life when they were young.
    82. Give up soap operas.
    83. De-clutter your house.
    84. If you have a habit of watching late night television, but have to be to work early every morning, change your habit.
    85. Don't accept unnecessary breakfast appointments.
    86. Write missionaries regularly.
    87. Go through your closets and give everything that you haven't worn in a year to a clothing relief organization.
    88. Become a faithful and frequent visitor of your church's library.
    89. Become a monthly supporter of a Third World child.
    90. Keep mementos, school projects, awards, etc. of each child in separate files. You'll appreciate these when they've left the nest.
    91. Read the biography of a missionary.
    92. Give regularly and faithfully to conscientious church endeavors.
    93. Place with your will a letter to each family member telling why you were glad you got to share life with him or her.
    94. Go through your old records and tapes and discard any of them that might be a bad testimony to your children.
    95. Furnish a room (or a corner of a room) with comfortable chairs and declare it the "disagreement corner." When conflicts arise, go to this corner and don't leave until it's resolved.
    96. Give each child the freedom to pick his favorite dinner menu at least once a week.
    97. Go over to a shut-in's house as a family and completely clean it and get the lawn work done.
    98. Call an old friend from your past, just to see how he or she is getting along.
    99. Get a good friend to hold you accountable for a specific important need (Bible reading, prayer, spending time with your family, losing a few pounds, etc.).
    100. Establish a budget.
    101. Go to a Christian marriage enrichment seminar.

    Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, pp. 219-223.


    At the annual family-reunion picnic, a young bride led her husband over to an old woman busily crocheting in a rocker. "Granny," she said, touching the old woman's hand affectionately, "this is my new husband." The woman eyed him critically for a long moment, then asked abruptly, "Do you desire children?" Startled by her bluntness, the young man blushed and stammered, "Well-uh-yes, I do very much." "Well," she said, looking scornfully at the large tribe gathered around the six picnic tables, "try to control it!"

    Colleen Pifer.

    To prove his love for her, he swam the deepest river, crossed the widest desert and climbed the highest mountain. She divorced him. He was never home.

    Rose Sands, The Saturday Evening Post.

    Who can ever forget Winston Churchill's immortal words: "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills." It sounds exactly like our family vacation.

    Robert Orben.

    An exhaustive study shows that no woman has ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes.

    Earl Wilson.

    A woman was at home doing some cleaning when the telephone rang. In going to answer it, she tripped on a scatter rug and, grabbing for something to hold onto, seized the telephone table. It fell over with a crash, jarring receiver off the hook. As it fell, it hit the family dog, who leaped up, howling and barking. The woman's three-year-old son, startled by this noise, broke into loud screams. The woman mumbled some colorful words. She finally managed to pick up the receiver and lift it to her ear, just in time to hear her husband's voice on the other end say, "Nobody's said hello yet, but I'm positive I have the right number."

    James Dent, Charleston, W.Va., Gazette.

    The man who seldom finds himself in hot water is the one with a wife, several daughters and one bathroom.