Category Archives: Family

Sometimes “why?” is not the right question

Dylan RidolfiJust a few weeks ago, tragedy struck the home of one of our close friends.  Their 15-year-old son, Dylan, a great kid on his way to great things in this world, died in a freak sledding accident.

He could have gone down that same hill a million different times and not died.

But he did.

Now, as his parents, siblings, family, and friends try to process the loss, mourning, and sadness, many, many questions run through our minds.  And one such question that dominates is, “Why did this happen?”

People often ask “Why?” when bad things happen in life, to them or to others.  The question certainly arises when a family member or friend is killed in an accident or from a disease that happens “before his or her time.”

While asking “Why?” is a very common response to tragedy, and is a very natural part of the grieving process to help us try to understand and bring emotional closure, I have come to see over the course of my life that it just might be the wrong question to ask in these situations.  Not only because we likely will never know just why our loved one died at that particular time, but because it often causes bitterness and anger, and, consequently, keeps us from asking the more important question: “To what end?”

Quiet StrengthIn Tony Dungy’s (former coach of the Indianapolis Colts) book, Quiet Strength, Dungy recounts the most difficult experience he ever had in his life when his son took his own life at the age of 18.  In so doing, Dungy discusses the need to ask “What?,” not “Why?”

“Why do bad things happen?  I don’t know.  Why did Jamie die?  I don’t know. But I do know that God has the answers, I know He loves me, and I know He has a plan – whether it makes sense to me or not.  Rather than asking why, I’m asking what.  What can I learn from this?  What can I do for God’s glory and to help others?”

Dungy with sonThe book goes on to chronicle how Dungy’s life answered those questions with some very life-giving stories and conversations.  Here is one such story: “One worried father asked me to call his son, who he thought might be contemplating taking his life.  We spoke several times over the next few weeks.  ‘Why are you taking the time to call me?’  the son finally asked.  ‘Because if someone had been able to help my son with a phone call, I hope they would have taken the time,’ [Dungy responded.] His dad called me later to thank me for helping his son get through that time.  I was happy to know that our experience, as unbearable as it was, had actually helped another family.”

God’s plan in all of this may never make sense to us and we may never know why Dylan died as that particular time on that particular hill.  There still is a whole lot of mourning and healing going on, and likely will continue in some ways for the rest of our lives.

Fortunately, though, I have already seen first-hand over the past few weeks how asking the question, “To what end?,” can result in some pretty incredible things.  For instance, just a few days after Dylan’s death, I watched his friends (and he had lots of friends), freshmen in high school, pour out their hearts, one after another, at a candlelight vigil – sharing how he inspired them during his life and will continue to inspire them in his death to love better, work harder and with more purpose, and never take a minute of their lives for granted.


So, while we will all miss Dylan dearly for the rest of our lives, we need to keep asking ourselves and each other the two questions that guided Dungy through the valley he found himself in after his son’s death.

What can I learn from this?

What can I do for God’s glory and to help others?

We can rest in the fact that God somehow will use his tragic death to bring glory to Him and to help others in amazing ways, seen and unseen.

(As you finish reading this post, please pray for the Ridolfi family, that God will continue to give them a peace and calm that passes all understanding through this extremely difficult time.)

(This post is a modification of a post I previously published in September 2011 on the Providence blog about my sister-in-law’s suicide.)

Everybody else is doing it

In the car the other day, my 11-year-old and oldest daughter was expressing her “feelings” about my rule that she cannot text or FaceTime with anyone after 9:00 p.m.

She just didn’t get it.

So she spent a good part of our 10 minute drive to school trying to convince me of the error in my ways.  Upon realizing that her “arguments” were not working, she pulled out the age-old doozy that we’ve all used in a similar situation at some point in our lives: “All my friends are doing it.”

And the result of her plea likely resembled the result you accomplished using the “Everyone is doing it” argument.  So I’m sure that it won’t surprise you that she and her brother still are not allowed to text, FaceTime or otherwise communicate with their friends using technology after 9:00 p.m.

In telling her that “everybody else is doing it” is, in itself, never a legitimate reason to do anything, I got to thinking . . .

Was I right?

Is “everybody else is doing it” ever, in itself, a legitimate reason to do anything?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

Leave of absence

Some of you may have noticed that I took an unannounced break from blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and other social “presence” over the past week or so.

dark family shoot 347The reason . . . I spent 6 days on an incredible getaway with my beautiful wife (yes,  that’s right, we let G’ma and G’pa hang out with our five kids for nearly a week).

We were able to spend time at a friend’s cabin outside of Brenham, TX.  One of the best things about the place is that there isn’t a whole lot to do there (didn’t even have wi-fi) except commune with God in nature, exercise, cook, and really connect with each other on multiple levels.  Oh, and the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory is nearby so we had to make a few “field trips” there as well.

I’ll spare you the details, but I strongly recommend that all married couples do something similar at least once a year.  Somewhere into day 2 or 3, after you’ve had a chance to really unwind and remove yourself from the stresses of your day-to-day lives, you will be able to really dig into what is going on with each other, what areas of your relationship you need to work on, what areas you’re doing well in, and how you can work together to grow closer to God and each other.  And you can start dreaming together about the future.

dark family shoot 331You can also just hang out, read together, play together, watch movies together, and do all kinds of other things together.  The important thing is that you get away from your “day-to-day,” remove the distractions, focus on each other, honestly assess and examine your relationship, intentionally plan for the future, and do stuff together.

How do you “retreat” with your spouse?  How long do you go for?  Where do you go?  What do you do?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Two simple practices . . . massive results – Part 2

Last week I shared with you how my “ancient” practice of waking early to read, pray, and journal, has produced results exceeding all of my expectations (which were pretty high). (“Two simple practices . . . massive results – Part 1”)

Well . . . despite those results, something important was missing.

My wife, Becca, and I weren’t praying together.

I was growing and experiencing incredible things, but my wife, my best friend and partner, was not with me.  Since we are “one,” a clear void existed since we weren’t growing and experiencing the incredible things together.

Couple prayingIt then hit me square in the face that we have never regularly prayed together at any point during our 12 years of marriage.  Sure, we pray together before we go to bed sometimes, before dinner most nights, and with the kids at bedtime.  But we have never really prayed together in an intentional way at a regular time.

So, a little over a two weeks ago, I talked with her about it and she excitedly decided to get up at 6:00 (or so) every morning to pray with me. (For the record, she was excited about the “praying with me” part, not the “getting up earlier” part).  And we have been praying together every morning ever since (except for a couple days when we were both sick).

I had no idea how much the two simple practices, an early morning reading/journaling/prayer time -and- intentional prayer with my wife, could affect my (and Becca’s) life in such a short period of time.  In addition to individual growth, Becca and I have grown even closer together, know more about what is going on, good and bad, in each other’s lives, are much more patient with each other and the kids, empathize and sympathize with each other better, and know how to pray for each other throughout our days.

If all of this can happen in just a couple weeks, imagine with me what a few decades of this can bring.

Now it’s your turn.

Sit down with your spouse and connect with each other.

Pick a time before you start your day to pray together.

Get up at least a couple minutes before that time.

Then, just do it.

Start by praying for a few minutes and go from there.

If you’re anything like us, you likely will pray a lot longer than expected.

And you’ll start seeing life together a lot differently.

What’s your story?  Do you pray with your spouse on a regular basis at a regular time?  What does it look like?  What fruit has it produced?  I look forward to hearing your stories about how God has worked in your marriages and other relationships through prayer together.

Two simple practices . . . massive results – Part 1

About a month ago, I had a long overdue and not-so-earth-shattering epiphany . . . I need reading and prayer to be bigger parts of my life than they currently are.

If your days are anything like mine (emails, calls, texts, job responsibilities, and other unscheduled interruptions), however, you know that it is very difficult to create effective and predictable “space” for non-work-related reading and prayer during normal business hours.  Evenings are no different with family time and very tired eyes and mind (i.e., falling asleep after 1-2 pages or praying very strange and funny prayers before fading into sleep).  After trying to “fit it in” for a couple days, I quickly realized that the only time I could actually read and pray without interruption is the early morning – yeah, you got it, the time that you and I are usually sleeping.

kids-readingSo I decided to revive one of my personal “ancient” practices (hopefully it will stick this time): a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call (about two hours earlier than my normal wake-up time) with a 40 x 40 x 40 reading/journaling plan.  40 minutes of Bible, 40 minutes of a personal/leadership development book, and 40 minutes of a “fun” book.

For the past month, I’ve risen early, read, journaled, and prayed by myself in a quiet house.  I figured that I’d notice a difference in my life, but the results have blown away all of my expectations.  It has been incredible.

Among other things, I have started my days on the right foot, learned a lot, reduced anxiety, increased patience with my kids and Becca, been quicker to listen, been slower to anger, and have felt God’s presence much more throughout the day.  Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one who’s noticed the changes – Becca and the kids have recognized a marked difference and reaped the benefits.

The really exciting thing is that I know this is just the beginning of great things to come.

So now it’s your turn.

If you aren’t doing so already, I strongly encourage you to start a similar early morning reading/journaling/prayer plan that works for you.  (And, for the record, “I’m not a morning person” is not a valid excuse.)

Give it a try.

For one week, get up a bit earlier, read a good book and pray.

Maybe give up the snooze button for Lent.

I can’t guarantee that you won’t be tired.

But I can guarantee that the time will be well spent.

And the time will produce much fruit in your life.

A word of caution: You’ll probably continue the practices well beyond your “trial period.”  You’ll miss them if you don’t.

What do you do each morning?  When do you read?  How do you make time to read?  Do you journal and pray regularly?  What fruit have these practices yielded in your life?  I’d love to hear your answers to these questions and thoughts on these issues.