Fun With Dad

(NOTE: Some of our readers are forming step families with children from a prior marriage/relationship. This weekend, we dedicate our post to all Dad’s wishing them the happiest of Father’s Days! To all kids–here’s how to have fun with Dad…)

I loved my sixth grade teacher. His name was Mr. Wesner and he was a riot. He was tough, but fair and we learned a lot from him. I remember that he enjoyed playing “mum-ball” with us weekly.

Mum-ball was a game he made-up where we’d sit on top of our desks in absolute silence. Then, he’d chuck a rubber ball—the same kind we used in dodge-ball—at one of us. If we caught it and didn’t talk or make any noise, we got to keep playing. If it bounced off us or if we yelped, we’d be out and have to sit in our seat until the game ended. The last person sitting on his/her desk won.

There were a number of cases where one of us would dive off the desk to rescue a ball or where we’d be hit so hard that we, the ball, and our desk would topple over. Today, he’d be sued for child abuse. Back then, it was just pure fun!

Then there was Dad. Dad loved stuff like baseball, shooting, hunting, fishing–good old fashion outdoor fun. Still, again, the gun-related parts of this would be considered “taboo” in much of today’s culture.

So, on this Father’s Day, let me suggest that we take a break from political-correctness and hyper-vigilance over some progressive idea of “safety,” and have some fun, REAL fun with Dad. Sure, get him a card (click here for info on a great source for those), but…let’s get adventurous shall we?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Take him shooting. Yes. That’s right. Let him use a weapon to blow holes in something. It’s fun and, if done at a range with proper instruction, it’s safe too.
  2. Go to a paintball range. Welts and all, paintball is a great “Dad game.” It’s relatively inexpensive, messy, and might provide a good workout too.
  3. Play touch football in the yard. Or, just play catch. Yes, old school I know, but still fun.
  4. Wrestle with him. I remember family wrestling matches with my kids when they were little. They can all beat me now so I have scratched it off my list. Still, for some, it’s still OK.
  5. Take him to a ballgame. Hot dogs, popcorn, baseball…need I say more?
  6. Do an intense hike. Most local or state park associations maintain a list of great hikes of varied intensity. Dad might like some outdoor nature and family time.
  7. Try an extreme sport. I’m not a fan of skydiving, etc., but some are. Ask Dad if there’s one he’s always dreamed of trying and then–go for it!

If you survive this adventure into past masculine intensity, I’d love to hear your comments…I suspect, just like Mr. Wesner’s sixth grade class, you’ll have some good times and great memories to share!

Oh, and if you’d like to find some great gifts for Dad, check my review of Dayspring here. They offer some specials Dad might just love!

To that end,

Pastor Joel

Tough Love Relationships

James Dobson once said that if your kids live to be 18, you’re a successful parent. My Granddaughter Aadi almost ruined that one day.

My daughter Shelly and her daughter, Aadi, came to visit one afternoon. Aadi was about 2 and my daughter was pregnant with her second child. I was having some severe knee problems such that I was limping badly but I hobbled out the door to see them anyway. I let Aadi out of the car and we started walking toward the house together. My daughter was a few steps ahead of us.

When I reached the steps to our side entrance, I realized Aadi wasn’t beside me. When I turned around, I saw her running toward the street. We live on a main road between New Britain and Newington, CT. Traffic is intense and fast-moving. Aadi, oblivious to the danger, was laughing and racing toward it. My daughter screamed and we both started yelling to her to stop!

Aadi, who now thought this was a delightful game, laughed louder and ran faster toward her own demise.

Wincing in pain and screaming for her to stop, I took off! I ran and prayed and ran and prayed. Just as she crossed the sidewalk, literally one jump from entering traffic below eye-level for most drivers, I caught her by the collar and dragged her backwards. She fell on her bottom and cried, looking at me as if I was a cruel monster. I swept her into my arms, comforting and explaining to her that I HAD to do that because she almost had a “REALLY BAD OWCHIE” if I hadn’t stopped her.

I carried her to her sobbing mother who hugged and kissed and lectured her as we limped into the house.

My actions that day didn’t ruin our relationship. In fact, they saved her life. Still, had you asked her that afternoon about her “Bampa,” she would have told you that I was “Bad.” Why? Because I ruined her fun.

A lesson for marriage

You might be thinking, “Well, this is fine for parents, but I’m only engaged,” or, “We don’t have kids yet–so what’s the point?”

Truthfully, ALL relationships require “tough love.” There’s not such thing as a trouble-free, conflict-free friendship–let alone, marriage! In my book, “The Crucified Couple,” I talk about several steps to conflict resolution. CLICK HERE for a review of the book (Scroll down the reviews to find “The Best Marriage Book Ever.”). Still, that only becomes necessary when we are bold enough to confront a problem–in love, and with humility, but confronted nonetheless!

True love isn’t “live and let live,” nor is it “live and let die,” (as the Beatles musically taught us all). True love will always confront someone when to avoid that confrontation means to allow them to suffer. In Galatians 6:1, the Apostle Paul puts it this way, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted (NKJV).”

Simply put–you can’t let them run into the street!

Questions to Ask

So if you’re considering marriage, consider these questions:

  1. Are you willing to confront your future spouse if needed?
  2. Is he/she willing to do the same for you?
  3. Are you willing to receive that confrontation with grace and humilty?
  4. Is he/she willing to receive your correction the same way?

If the answer to any of these questions is, “No,” I would advise that you “put the brakes on” any marriage plans until you get some counseling and change it to a “Yes.” If I can help–just let me know. You can reach us via the “contact” tab on this page or by calling 860-938-2725.



Pastor Joel

Just Quit!

No matter what you’re struggling with, marriage issues, job problems, friends or a church leader giving you grief–whatever it is, I have two simple words for you:


That’s right–quit! I know you don’t expect this, but still, I believe it’s true. You need to quit…you just need to:

  1. Quit–complaining. Even if your complaints about your situation are true and understandable, they do you NO good. They won’t change anything and they won’t help. Just quit. All complaints do is drive others away when you need them the most.
  2. Quit–justifying. Like complaints, justifications for failure, loss, or even the sins of others committed against you are fruitless and pointless. I’ve heard victims of abuse justify their abusers actions. Crazy? Yes, but somewhat normal. Does it help us? Not at all. So…just quit!
  3. Quit–comparing. Let me put your mind at east. There are and there will ALWAYS be people who are better off than you are. This is, at least in part, why scripture tells us that comparing ourselves is unwise (2 Cor. 10:12). It’s a waste of time.
  4. Quit–reveling. Pigs love slop. But here’s a revelation–you’re not a pig (even if you’re not known for tidiness). You’re a child of God. Thus, you do yourself a disservice if you revel in your pain, your loss, your failure, your conflicts, etc. Just quit!
  5. Quit–running. One thing I’ve noticed about problems is, like zombies, they are relentless–and they’re fast too. What I mean is, you can’t outrun them! So…running from them is silly. Don’t do it. Just quit!
  6. Quit–ignoring. Similar to #5, we forget that problems don’t usually just “go away.” They chase us, harass us, and attempt to devour us. We may not run, but sometimes we just pretend they’re don’t exist. It won’t work–so don’t do this…QUIT!
  7. Quit–blaming. Perhaps this is the most damaging and common response to problems. We blame our parents, our bosses, our government, our spouses…even God. There are times when some of those we folks have played a part in our problems. Still, the future, which God says is to be blessed, is NOT controlled by these folks. Blaming only takes away your free will and gives control to others. Don’t do it! Just Quit!

The answer to all problems is to own them, seek God’s direction through them (Proverbs 3:5-6), and then move on! If you’d like help with that–especially with a marriage/relationship issue, please contact us by calling 860-938-2725 or sending an email to


Pastor Joel


What Have You Done For Me Lately?

I was a sales executive for Applied Data Research in my early to mid 20’s during the Regan era. I went from making barely enough to survive to a six figure income in my first year. At the end of 1987, I was over 300% of my quota and was asked to come to Princeton, NJ to speak to the new sales recruits. I loved it! I felt like a star…

Until I ran into my VP in the hallway. “What’s in the que?” He asked. “Er…ummm…well, I don’t have much yet,” I said, “I’ve been here since the start of the year doing these sessions for new salespeople.” “Well—let’s get moving,” he snapped. “I need numbers now!”

It was my first dose of “What have you done for me lately.” And, I didn’t like it.

Nobody likes feeling like their past efforts or accomplishments mean nothing. For married couples though, this story has two important messages or morals:

  1. Since we all hate being treated as if our past success is meaningless, we should make an effort to encourage our spouse by remembering and valuing those things. Celebrating accomplishments with special events or bringing them up at birthday or anniversary dinners is always a hit.
  2. As human beings constantly challenged to perform, we should avoid “resting on our laurels.” As much as I hated being pushed, it was good for me to avoid “basking in the glory” of my past year and get busy finding new business for myself and my company. Past wins may be good memories, but only constant and future diligence produces success. In marriage, this means that even a good marriage needs constant care, constant work toward improvement, constant prayer, etc.

So celebrate and remember victories in your life and your relationship. However, don’t let those create complacency–keep working to improve. The results will bless you…and your spouse!


To that end,

Pastor Joel

Is the Grass REALLY Greener?

Is the Grass REALLY Greener? Is your friend’s marriage REALLY better than yours?

I played a lot of sports in college including intramural flag football on artificial turf. Our school was one of the first to get artificial turf and it was really cool…until you played on it. In other words, it looked great, was easy to maintain, and was 100% even with no potholes, bumps, etc.

So what was the problem?

Well, in those days, it was stiff. It was like thousands of little green plastic needles. Furthermore, it was mounted on a wooden platform which sat on top of a concrete underground garage. Falling on it would both bruise you and often, slice you open. I don’t mean a clean cut—like from a knife or straight edge either. No, it would burn you open like the scrapes you got on your knees or arms as a kid when you face-planted on the living room carpet at a dead run!


I remember walking into the locker room after a game and thinking I had been teleported back into a medieval torture chamber. Guys were screaming and moaning and cursing and yelling at the tops of their lungs. Often, we wouldn’t notice how raw or how numerous our wounds were until we stepped into the shower. When the hot water hit those open cuts…


So…while it looked better on the outside and seemed easy to maintain when compared to natural grass fields, our artificial turf really wasn’t a dream. For players, its was more like a nightmare.

Marriages can be like that too. I know many couples who APPEAR to have the “perfect relationship.” Still, behind the scenes, things are often difficult–even painful.

My advice is to focus on growth and improvement instead of making odious comparisons to others. Truth is, you’ll never know whether or not they have it better than you anyway. So, instead of wasting time idolizing a false image, pray for and implement changes that will bless you and your spouse.

If you’d like help and some practical questions to ask each other as a couple in order to improve your relationship, click here to get my popular book, “The Crucified Couple.” I pray it will make your grass truly greener :).


In Christ,

Pastor Joel

Stop Fighting Over Money!

As a pastoral counselor, I’ve worked with dozens of couples who want to stop fighting over money. Unfortunately, money and sex are the two biggest conflict areas in marriage–often stated as the reason for divorce.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Based on my experience and the great teaching of people like Dave Ramsey as well as material in the Prepare-Enrich marriage program, here are some tips I’ve compiled to help couples draw closer regarding finances, not pull further apart:

  1. There’s no such thing as “my money,” only “our money.” While it is good to have discretionary cash for each of you to spend (see point 6 below), thinking in terms of “my money” versus “your money,” doesn’t work and frankly, is a false paradigm. Whether it’s the IRS, the credit card company, or your bank–everyone else will see a debt incurred by either of you as a joint responsibility. Since the entire world sees it as your collective earnings or debt, why don’t you choose to see it that way also? Having a single budget with a total income and a total expense balance makes more sense and leads to more peace than having separate bank accounts, budgets, expenses, etc.
  2. Use a budget worksheet. In my book, “The Crucified Couple,” I’ve got a chapter on finances and a sample worksheet in the appendix. Here’s a link for more information: CRUCIFIED COUPLE BOOK. Having a unified and often reviewed worksheet will help you avoid a lot of trouble while pursuing common goals together.
  3. Communication is the key. This leads well to the most important factor of all–good communication. If you can’t share openly, reflectively listen, and resolve conflict in a healthy way, no marriage book or counselor will be able to help you find or maintain financial peace! This is another area covered at length in my book as well as in posts on this site as well.
  4. Let the most gifted partner manage. Some couples struggle financially simply because of pride. If you’re not gifted at math and/or accounting, but your partner is–let them handle the checkbook! This doesn’t mean you are “out of the loop.” Communicating regularly about your financial state is critical. Still, the day-to-day paying of bills and reconciling of statements should be done by the most capable partner.
  5. Make sure both of you have some discretionary cash. As mentioned above, it’s good for each of you to have “blow money.” Money you use for whatever you individually wish/see fit. The amount should be budgeted and maintained though so that you don’t incur debt or miss important payments.
  6. Use the debt snowball to get out of debt…and stay that way! Dave Ramsey’s method found in his book, “Total Money Makeover,” (which you can learn about HERE),  Dave talks about a method of paying off debt starting with the smallest amount owed and working toward the larger amounts one step at a time, while making the minimum payments on each monthly. So if I’m making a $30 minimum payment on a $500 debt and a $50 on a $1,000 debt. I’d pay off the $500 first and then apply that $30 to the “snowball” until the $1,000 is gone. Again, I highly recommend Dave’s book to understand and implement this. You can learn more HERE.
  7. Let financial priorities be based on goals you set together. Too many couples are in what I call “financial survival mode.” Even if it’s just a few dollars a month, money should be set-aside to meet future goals including travel, retirement, or other dreams. Dreams become goals when you set an amount and start saving for it. Build your budget around those goals and be encouraged by each small step of progress.

My prayer for you is that you’d be richly blessed and that you will draw closer to your spouse as you implement these steps and work together to make finances a blessing, not a source of stress!

To that end,

Pastor Joel


How Do I Make My Marriage Last?

I worked security in college and had an awesome boss. He was an ex-Texas Ranger and when they say, “One riot—one ranger.” I totally get it. Lee Stolley was his name and he was T-O-U-G-H, tough! Loved him though…He was fair and fought for his men, so we were all completely loyal to him.

I remember one incident that illustrates his toughness. We had a drunk guy on campus that was threatening to cause trouble. Lee calmed him down, but the guy was then ready to climb into his truck and drive home. He was in NO condition to drive. Lee stealthily slipped the keys out of the ignition while trying to talk him out of driving, but the guy suddenly grabbed the ignition to start the truck, and found that the keys were gone…


He slammed the door into Lee and jumped to his feet. He was easily a foot taller and probably 50 pounds heavier, but that didn’t matter. Lee was on him like Tar Baby on Briar Rabbit and soon had him in a choke hold from behind. He was yelling to my coworker, “Mace him Louis—hit him with the mace!!”

Louis Bergin, the other guard, was in his late 60’s and moved at the speed of frozen molasses. He looked like Yoda from Star Wars, but that’s where the comparison stopped. He slowly took out his mace canister, waved it around trying to aim carefully, and when he finally “let ‘er rip,” the suspect ducked and Lee Stolley took a direct hit to the face and eyes.

Now gagging and blind as a bat, Lee was completely off the ground and on the back of this 260 pound, angry drunk who, like a wild bull at the rodeo, was trying to fling him off his back. Didn’t matter. Lee hung on, tightened his choke hold, and eventually subdued and cuffed the guy.

Perseverance…that’s the word I would use. Lee Stolley was a pit bull when it came to wrestling a perp, protecting his men, or just completing an “everyday task.” I just wish most married couples I know had this same tenacity.

I know that conventional wisdom requires that we come-up with a magic cure or technique to ensure marriage longevity. The truth however, is that what it really takes is just a heavy dose of perseverance. One, or preferably both, partner(s) saying, “I’ll make this thing work or die trying!”

How do you develop that?

Well, that’s at least in part what we do at Christian Marriage Mentor. If you’d like coaching or other tools to help you develop that tenaciousness, please contact us using the link above.



Pastor Joel