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Happiness Is Found at Home

The pastor and author shares inspiring thoughts on the blessings of faith and family.

Pastor Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria

A good friend received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation from the White House to meet the President. He accepted, of course, and booked his ticket to D.C.

There was just one hitch. That same night, he discovered, his son’s high school basketball team was playing for the state championship. Some dads might have hesitated. Not him. It was a no-brainer. He cancelled his trip.

“I got to see my son make the game-winning shot,” he told me. Maybe the son would have made that shot whether his dad was there or not. I’m not so sure. Strong families have a habit of following certain practices that lead to success.

There are a lot of pressures pulling families apart these days—the demands of work, school, peers, frantic schedules. Technology makes it easier for us to stay in touch when we are apart, but that can create a false sense of togetherness. Facebook is no substitute for the family dinner table.

And wonderful things happen when families pull together. I’m the pastor of one of the largest churches in America and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of my wife, my mom, my siblings, my kids. Here are some tips on keeping your family strong, especially in times like these.

Show up.
Not long ago our church was holding services out of town for the week. Then we returned and did three services here at Lakewood. My wife, Victoria, sat through every one of them. I figured she’d heard my same message eight times in a row. Listen, after eight times even I’m tired of it.

But she sits there, three services every week. She laughs at my same corny jokes, as though it’s the first time she’s heard them. Maybe she’s pretending, but it sure makes me feel good.

Family members show up for each other. They go to the game (like my friend), the school play, the open house. They listen to the speech or the sermon no matter how often they’ve heard it before.

My mom is tireless in her support. Whenever I’m preaching I hear her egging me on from the front row. She does it for my siblings too when they speak. Under her breath she’s constantly whispering, “That’s good, that’s very good.”

It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. Why, I can say to the congregation, “You may be seated” and my mom will say, “That’s excellent, Joel.”

Stay close to the people God has put in your life. They won’t always be there. The Scripture says in James 4:14 that our lives are like a mist. We’re here for a moment. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Show up for them. Support them. Love them. Sometimes it takes more than a phone call or e-mail.

Don’t keep up with the Joneses.
I’m trying to be the best father I can be. I’m not competing with anyone. I may not be the perfect husband (Don’t say “Amen,” Victoria), but I’m working at that too. I have a friend who puts me to shame, the way he is so romantic with his wife. He plans weekend getaways. He writes poetry.

I want to tell him, “Would you quit doing that? You’re making me look bad.” But I remind myself, I’m not Romeo. I’m Joel-eo. Don’t get distracted and lose your focus by comparing yourself to others.

We’re told in the book of Genesis that after God created the world, after he created the fish and the animals, after he created you and me, he said, “That was good.”

I love the fact that God praised himself, don’t you? Most of the time we are so critical, comparing ourselves to others and to some impossible ideal, and so focused on what we’ve done poorly, we never think about complimenting ourselves.

One of the tapes playing in my mind is: You’re a good father. You’re a good husband. You’re talented. You’re creative. You’re kind. You’re fun to be around. I play that tape a lot.

My brother Paul completed 12 years of college and med school and became a skilled surgeon. I left college after one year and returned to work in our father’s church. Paul and I respect each other because we know who we are and we focus on being God’s best. We have never been rivals.

Have fun together.
Our family didn’t have a lot of money when I was little. Thank God my parents were very innovative.

They would drive us to the airport when it wasn’t busy and we would ride the spiffy, modern shuttle train. We loved it! You would have thought we were at an amusement park. We would go back and forth between Terminal A and Terminal B for an hour and it didn’t cost a cent.

I’m sure people thought, That family is totally lost. They don’t know what they’re doing. You know what we were doing? We were having fun. Together. You don’t have to take a fancy vacation. Simple things mean the most.

Some of my best childhood memories were created when all of us kids—five of us—would sit with my father early in the morning as he drank his coffee by the fireplace.

My father would take his first sip of coffee then let out a long “Ahhhhh.” All of us kids, from four to 14, would do the same thing. We would have a contest to see who could do the best “Ahhhhh.” Boy, it made us laugh.

Couples and families who laugh together stay together. They have stronger relationships and tighter bonds. Turn off the TV, shut down your computer, lose the “smart” phone (how can a phone be smart?). Play a game of Monopoly or Scrabble.

Our son, Jonathan, is 16 now. I make a point of taking a break so we can work out together at the gym. But when the kids were small there was always something easy and fun to do. There’s no reason not to laugh every day with your family. Even after 25 years of marriage there is no one who can crack me up like Victoria.

I remember one day when our daughter, Alexandra, was only two and I was in my office working on my weekend message for the church. She kept bugging me to go out and play with her. “I have to finish this,” I said. But she kept coming by. “Alexandra, sweetie, I’m trying to concentrate.”

Five minutes later the door opens and this sweet little girl voice says, “Daddy, are you still trying to constipate?”

We still laugh at that one!

Pick your battles.
Early in our marriage, I had a pet peeve. If Victoria didn’t turn off all of the lights when she left the house I’d get uptight. “Victoria, be sure to turn off all of the lights!” I’d say.

Hours later, I’d come home to an empty house with all the lights on. I would remind her once again we were paying too much on our power bills.

I knew she didn’t leave the lights on intentionally. She just had other things on her mind. I harped at her for about five years before I put that pet peeve down.

After all that time of bringing tension into the house, getting uptight, it finally dawned on me, Joel, this is not a battle worth fighting. The few extra dollars a month it costs you is well worth keeping the peace in your home. The lower power bills were not worth the higher stress and headache.

And besides, was this really about the bills or about Victoria doing things my way? Maybe it was me who was being stubborn and unreasonable.

Learn from my mistake. How much tension are you bringing into the home unnecessarily? You may win a fight but will it be worth the stress?

Have you ever heard the saying “A bulldog can whip a skunk any day of the week. But sometimes even a dog realizes it’s just not worth the stink”?

Proverbs 20:3 reminds us, “Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor.” Your home needs to be a place of peace. You and your spouse need to be in harmony. You are stronger together than you are apart. Not only that, your children need to see a good example. They will treat their own spouses the same way they’ve seen their parents treat each other.

Being right isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Spell it out.
A few years ago I was rounding everybody up to leave for church. I was in a big hurry, all stressed out, and we were running late. Jonathan, who was eight years old at the time, was playing with a label maker someone had recently given us.

“Jonathan, put that away. We’re late. We’ve got to go. Right now.”

“Hang on, Dad. I need another minute, just another second.”

“We don’t have another second. We’ll be late for church. Put it away.”

Just then he printed out the label and handed it to me.

“You’re the best dad in the world,” it read.

I thought, Well maybe we can stay here a little longer and print out a few more of those.

Every day tell your spouse, your children, those who mean the most to you, how much you love them. Spell it out. Send them an e-mail, text them, leave a note in a place where you know they’ll find it. Or just say it as soon as you see them.

Make sure the people in your life know how much you appreciate the sacrifices they make and the support they give you. You wouldn’t be where you are if somebody wasn’t paying the price to help you move farther down the road.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking our families know we love them. We think we show it. We’re often in so much of a hurry, rushing everywhere, that we forget. Take a break no matter how pressed you are. Put your love into words.

Remember that old song “Love Will Keep Us Together”? Well, it will. Trust me on that. Love is the spiritual gravity that draws families together.

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