Phil is 95 and Margaret is 94. They have been married 71 years. They are Karen’s parents. They served as missionaries in Japan 38 years. Karen grew up in Japan (3-17 years old).

1 Phil, what were you impressed with in Margaret? 

I could tell she was a solid Christian.  No matter what we talked about, she brought it back to the center of Christ. Her answers to my questions were helpful to me as a future pastor and missionary. 

2 Phil, how long did it take to know she was the one? 

First date I felt strongly. She was not only beautiful but dutiful, sticking with the Lord no matter what. She wasn’t just looking for a husband; she was looking for the Lord’s will.

Margaret: Alma Hagen helped me to realize that marriage was not the goal. The Lord’s plan was the goal. If this included marriage, so be it. No matter how good looking, I would not have married him if he didn’t desire to follow the Lord.

3 Margaret, what qualities did you like most about Phil? 

He was fun to be with. He had a scintillating personality, but I did not want to be blinded by charm or good looks, because I wanted us to serve the Lord together. 

4 Margaret, any disappointments in marriage? 

Only that I could not be more loving and kind to him and to our children.  Phil said, I remember my own shortcomings. She was right on. Her solid commitment pulled me along.  

5 Margaret, did you see your shortcomings?  

Yes, I knew I had to look to my own. Alma taught me not to think of myself. I never thought, “Aren’t you lucky to have me?” I thought, “He is so kind to me.”

6 Margaret, were you ready for children when you married or did you want to wait? Rather than get in a selfish groove, we decided to have children right away.  It was exciting to be a parent. God made us co-creators. He taught us that we couldn’t do it ourselves. We looked to the Lord for our marriage and our family. To be a parent was to me the most wonderful thing in the world.

7 Margaret, was it difficult to send your two oldest kids (10 & 8) away to school for several months at a time? It was the most terrible thing in the world, like having a baby, then sending her away. 

8  Phil, was it hard to travel around the country in the summer in your car with four kids and a bunch of musical instruments?  

I don’t think so. So you didn’t have a lot of fighting among the kids? No.

9 Phil, what was most difficult for you as a parent? 

Being a missionary didn’t give me enough time to be a father. It was a joy to teach the kids about faith. God enabled me to do what was clear in Scripture—raising them up in the Lord. Some missionaries came back because of difficulties. They had a tough time living in Japan and the children couldn’t handle the different style of life. I get that. God gave us grace, for which we are thankful. Karen added this: I remember one time I ran into my room in anger. I knew I was wrong. Dad came to the door and knocked softly and said, “Do you want to talk?” I knew he was not rejecting me. It was a kind and gentle response. Grateful for wonderful parents!



Here is my tribute to a good father, now in heaven.


You gave me permission to go to Johnny’s. Then you asked me later in the day how church was. I responded, “I didn’t go. I went to Johnny’s house.” You looked at me for a quite a while, not with a mean, stern look but serious. Then you asked in a low tone, “Will you ever do that again?” I said, close to tears, “No, Dad.” You got your point across with gentleness. I kept my word, Dad. Thank you for not punishing us with a strident tone or raised voice. You were slow to anger.


On the few occasions when I rose early, I would see you in your favorite chair in the living room reading the Bible. Then later in the morning you would gather the family for devotions. I was often bored, but I did the same thing as a dad, and now my kids are doing it. You started something; it’s called legacy. Thank you for loving God, loving the Book, loving his people and lost people, your wife, your children.


You were kind. You never criticized her. You knew how to cook and sometimes helped her. I try to lay down my life for my wife, in part because I saw you do it for yours.


Many are deeply imprinted in my mind. I think often of the times we had at Green Lake, Camp Seely, Arrowhead Springs. We listened to records at night of musicals like “Oklahoma.” You gave us a love for family. We all wanted one because we grew up with one.


You were my biggest supporter. You even showed up at some of the practices. No other dad did that. I felt valued. I’m afraid my sisters didn’t get the kind of support I felt as your only son. Once you bought a t-bone steak, your favorite, and cooked it for me before the game. Then you sat down and watched me eat it while we talked basketball. Unforgettable!


I cannot recall you saying, “Be in by 11!” I do recall you saying those words a hundred times, long before Simba heard it from his father Mufasa. I choked up when I saw the movie, because you gave me an identity. I knew who I was–I was your child and God’s. Maybe you already know this, but we had an extended family retreat a few years after you left. We wore tee-shirts with the phrase on them. Sometimes I wear it when I speak on how identity drives destiny.

Surprise! You had your weaknesses. You were encased in flesh, and I saw it most clearly on Sunday afternoon. You liked people things more than studying for a sermon. Sometimes you felt like you didn’t deliver, and you would come home discouraged. Mom would urge us to tell you that you did a great job. You would sometimes start an afternoon nap with a headache. Sorry I wasn’t more encouraging. Thanks for being a great Dad! See you soon!


TO OUR CHILDREN: I wish we had been more intentional in our parenting. We did some right things. We got the kids up for devotions, even when they complained. That stopped when they knew it would do them no good–and maybe do them bad. We made attendance at dinner an obligation, not a choice. We made it fun by having questions to discuss. We sometimes succeeded. The older they got, the more they tried to self-exclude. It usually did not work. We didn’t raise our voices–usually. We are embarrassed about the exceptions. We had fun vacations and a generally light and happy house with lots of fun, especially on family night. We laughed at ourselves & our children.

However, I wish I would have addressed some important matters:

  1. Making a commitment to Jesus as Lord. It would have helped our children through difficult times. Harder to talk yourself into sinning when the Lordship of Christ is firmly established in your mind.
  2. The infilling of the Spirit and speaking in tongues. Happened for me the summer after my senior year of high school. Made a massive difference in college and seminary. I found strength I didn’t know I had. It shaped my life for years to come, including the migration to Minnesota to lead Lutheran Renewal. It is still a central focus of my ministry. The empowering presence of the Spirit would have helped our children navigate the teen and young adult years better.
  3. Disciplined study of the Word. Daily devotions were a constant strength in college and seminary. Wish we would have helped our kids better enter into this joyful exercise.
  4. Preparation to handle the hormones of teen years. I was not instructed well as a pre-teen, and I didn’t help my children brace themselves for what was about to hit them. Wish I had learned to walk in vulnerability. Dr. Hendricks told us at seminary that the first thing he tells someone he is going to mentor is his failures. That means he is a safe place rather than a threat. I was likely more of a threat than a safe harbor.
  5. More music training. My nephew David did better as a parent in this regard, and I am sorry that I did not give our children more structure and more opportunity to excel.

As I look back, I see my parents doing much the same, both the positive and negative side. They provided a loving and caring environment, quiet, positive, and peaceful, but they were not intentional when it came to specific guidance at different stages in our life. They were our parents but not our mentors. An outside speaker helped me deal with the Lordship of Christ. Pastor Allan Hansen prayed for me to be filled with the Spirit at Bible camp. Devotions became a part of my life after that, but the example of my father probably influenced me more than I am aware of. Dad gave a book to Mom to give to me about the birds and the bees. I looked at the pictures and never read it–and was uninformed. Music lessons for me ended in ninth grade. Wish I had continued and majored in music, so I could do more writing and playing classical and jazz. I write this by way of reflection, apology, and possibly recommendation. We hope you do better than we did, and it sure looks that way to Mom and me at this point. If we can assist you in any way with your children, please let us know how. Otherwise, we’ll just keep loving them!


I recently had a good talk with Andrew, number one son. I asked him if raising kids was easier or harder than he thought it would be. He said he was a better parent before he got married and had kids. Children in the house made parenting more difficult. But he said, “I have mantras that help me manage.”


   Parents need to relax. They are going to get it–hopefully soon than later. Doesn’t happen all at once. If everything is a big deal, prepare to raise anxious children. It is good for parents to remind themselves, “This will probably be a small matter by tomorrow.” That helps Dad and Mom from taking every issue to the Supreme Court. Remember–responding beats reacting.


      They are on loan for a few years before they launch out and attempt to do what we are trying to do–and sometimes failing. They will probably do it better than we did. God gives us children to raise us. They teach us more than we teach them. Should we let them know?


      I keep thinking, “I’m a bad parent. I am not getting it.” Hey, I am in process just like my children. I’ve never done this before. Call it on-the-job training–we learn as we go. We didn’t get a trial run before the real deal. We sometimes say really stupid things, like, “If you do that again…” or “One more time and…” Get a grip, Dad. You’ll get it right sooner or later, probably later. And the kids will forgive you if are vulnerable.


     Everything is not a ten. I don’t want to stay in reaction mode. I create issues by making everything an issue. Kids do not learn primarily from discipline. They grow from loving parents creating an environment in which they can grow and learn and make good decisions. If you make everything a battle, your home will be a war-zone. It needs to be a happy place, light and joyful.  How would you describe the environment of your home? Basically positive, happy, peaceful, light, friendly? Some environments are quiet, non-communicative, on your own.


   They will get this potty-training down easily by the time they are ten. We only have them for about eighteen years. They will be out of the house before long, and then they will be missed. (Really?) So treasure the moment and know it will not last. Knee-jerk reactions are usually wrong. Parents need time-outs more than kids. Too many emotional responses. Relax! Trust God for your kids. He’s a good Father!


We did a great job with our kids–except when we didn’t, which was too much of the time. I’d like to say that we had few glitches along the way, but our children would laugh.


  1. We had people living in our home from the get-go. Hey, we don’t recommend it. We should have concentrated more on our children, but we were a community, and until we moved to Minnesota, the extended family ate with us. Kids need focus. The extra crowd deflected the attention that could have been on our children.
  2. We did not mentor them. Wish I knew then what I walk in now. Everyone needs a coach, someone to look after them, encourage them, ask questions, guide them along the way. Of course, we did this, but not nearly enough. I take that job seriously now, both with our adult children and with the men I mentor.
  3. We did not do home-school well. We needed to have helped them more. They were too much on their own. We failed in some ways with their education.
  4. We did not learn vulnerability soon enough, not until they had all started their own families, and it came first through Andrew our firstborn, not me. Now I am vulnerable, and it serves me well in mentoring.


  1. We disciplined them in love. Some exceptions, but I don’t remember ever disciplining them with my voice or in anger. Spankings were sometimes tender moments.
  2. We ate and prayed together. Attendance was required. They took turns at dinner picking the subject for discussion out of the jar. Erikka told me recently, “The reasons we all like to get together now is that you made us eat together and read the Bible together.” Devotions at 7 AM. Everyone came. We sang together. That carried over into singing together at the Holy Spirit Conference occasionally and sometimes at other places where I was speaking. Several continue to share in worship leadership.
  3. We had high-powered vacations. Much fun, great unity, trips to an island in Canada (thanks to generous friends), a camp in Montana, DC, California, the North Shore. We still go there together and spend three days hiking, playing games, & riding four-wheelers with grandchildren.
  4. We laughed a lot. When the kids were young, Karis and Mom listened to the Moody Bible Institute every morning, but we howled at what Karis at age five incorrectly called it: Moody Instanta Bible Toot. Karen listened to radio programs with most of them, some daily like Elizabeth Elliot, others like Odyssey weekly, concluding with the Saturday morning march with pots and pans.
  5. Church was a non-negotiable. It stuck. They not only share in leadership but are all part of a small group (I think).
  6. We told them they were here to serve, not to be served. They tended to be popular, and I said, “Hang with the kids who are rejects, and you’ll have God on your side. He is near the brokenhearted.”
  7. We didn’t always solve their problems. Sometimes we asked them how they were going to solve them.

All our kids are doing better than how we did at their age. We are thankful that they have not adopted our failures but have learned from them.



Jesus is different from us. The Pharisees did “all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5). Not Jesus; he looked for the praise from only One. And God was more than willing to grant it to him. Two times are recorded in the Scriptures in which God spoke out affirmation from heaven. The first was at his baptism, when God said, “You are my beloved Son. In you I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). It must have proved deeply satisfying to the Son. He had lived in fellowship with the Father from eternity but had chosen to willingly go to earth and serve as the sacrificial lamb. Now for perhaps the first time, he heard the audible voice of his Father commending him as he prepared to launch his public ministry.

The second time came when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration with three of his disciples. They would play leading roles in the New Testament church. Peter was blessed by the experience, in which Moses and Elijah showed up to meet with Jesus. Peter identified Jesus with these great men of the past, thinking he was giving Christ a notable place. Then a cloud hid them from view, and the Father spoke, not to Jesus but about him, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). Peter got the point. Jesus was not a great man among great men. HE is singularly great, and unlike anyone else receives the verbal affirmation of his Father at the commencement of his ministry and again near the climax of it. Peter later referred to this glorious experience, remembering when “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

When a pastor friend, Jeff, said at a monthly mentoring meeting that he wrongly sought the approval of others too much, we agreed with him. We all struggled with an over-the-top need for affirmation. But then Dan asked, “Isn’t it right and even necessary to have the affirmation of others?” It was a balancing question to offset our weakness. So what do you think?

The affirmation of a father helps his children to rightly believe in themselves. A lack thereof may create a skewed image in a child struggling to discover a true identity. The affirmation of an employer can help a worker know how well the job is being done and even provide motivation for greater work. The praise of a pastor can help the sanctification process along, when it feels like we aren’t getting it. The commendation of a teacher helps a student stick with the geometry until it is mastered.

The value of affirmation can hardly be overestimated. We need to be affirming, not flattering but diligent to “encourage one another and build one another up” (I Thessalonians 5:11) and especially “the fainthearted” (14). At the same time our ultimate, if not immediate, need is to find comfort and strength from the Father, the all-sufficient One. Then when others withhold words, we don’t fall into discouragement. We go to a Father who affirms his children like he did his only begotten Son.


“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). “Do not withhold discipline from a child…” (23:13). “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (29:15).


Is spanking child abuse? Maybe the way Adrian Peterson, Viking football star, did it. Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is administered in love, not in anger. We are doing it for a child, not to a child. We are not getting back at them for disturbing our peace by fighting with a sibling. We are in full control of our emotions, speaking in a normal voice and conveying love, not irritation. If you are irritated at your child’s behavior, don’t spank. Give yourself a time-out so you can administer a spanking appropriately. A mom who understands this recently said to me, “If they don’t know I love them, I just lost them.”  They need a firm, small object (like a ruler) with a gentle heart. Discipline is children-training, not corporeal punishment. It comes from our parental desire that children walk into their future with confidence, that they know who they are.


Child abuse is terrible. God will not hold parents guiltless who abuse their children. What we see at Cub’s is not deliberate, thoughtful, gentle, nor effective. It produces resentment and separation, not security and maturity. Parents who recoil from the idea of a spanking probably haven’t seen one administered with appropriate care. What we typically see is a vengeful parent embarrassed by children being children and using tone and volume to shame the them rather than giving them the gift of a deliberate spanking that will help control behavior. I would say, “Meet me in my study,” and they knew what it meant. I would quietly talk over what was violated, administer the spanking, then hug and pray together.


“No discipline is joyful at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11). If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t help. We are assisting a child to make a good decision the next time around: “I didn’t like the results of hitting my sister. Don’t think I want to do that again.” A spanking helps to restrain foolish behavior (more than a time-out), which is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15), and encourages positive behavior. We can trust Scripture to give us the truth. We just need to apply it in a way that makes it effective and leaves the event in the memory bank.


When I spanked Naomi once as a young girl (it didn’t happen often), she instinctively lunged toward me and hugged me as she cried. She felt my love. Had I shown anger, she would have been repelled rather than feeling welcome in my arms. Authoritarian parents who do not exhibit love will not get the results they want from a spanking. Nor will permissive parents who want to be close to their children but do not set strong boundaries or issue appropriate discipline. Authoritative parents who understand their training role and use spankings as one of the legitimate tools in their toolbox are building strong children who will likely become healthy adults, emotionally and spiritually. Children don’t usually come out of a timeout converted. They don’t say, “That was helpful. Now I understand why I shouldn’t hit my brother.” They are immature. Time-outs work better for adults.



Parents: when you correct your children, correct with content, not with tone. People who hear your tone and not your content should not be able to detect that you are upset. If they do, you are not correcting properly. Using tone, like extra volume or a strident quality is an attempt to change through means other than content. God does not do this.


When we correct with volume or quality of voice, It brings shame through our contorted voice. We don’t talk with friends that way. We are beating them up with our voice. When our kids get to us, we need to back off. Otherwise, we will be building resentment without knowing it. If they come back at us with the tone we give to them, they are echoing our bad behavior, and it easily escalates. What we wanted was a momentary correction and we got an argument, and our tone was to blame. We need the correction more than the kids.


Paul told Timothy to be gentle with those who opposed him. He was not to come with dominating voice as if to say, “I am in charge.” He was to come in a voice of meekness to match the character of Christ. We know whether we have learned the gentleness of Christ when it is time to correct our children for misbehavior that annoys us. If our demeanor changes, we are sacrificing content, and it will not get the same effect. Disciplining in love is purposeful, not punitive (that is, to punish rather than correct). We should be attempting to correct the behavior rather than shaming the child and beating him down with our yelling.


God’s still small voice says, “I love you” and “that was wrong” with the same volume and intensity of love. It makes us want to change and be like Him. He corrected us not out of annoyance but out of the desire that we take on His qualities of love, gentleness, and righteousness. Sometimes the correction of a parent comes because a child is interrupting them from their cooking or TV watching or book reading. The tone says, “I am upset. You are to blame for making me upset. If it wasn’t for you, I could keep doing what I am doing, but now I have to put my good book down and come over and break up a fight. See what you have done. How unkind!” We have just quit serving our child by giving him the needed discipline. We are serving ourselves by telling him to quiet down. Our actions are betraying our intentions, inappropriately applied because we were inconvenienced.


Discipline is done for a child, not to a child. (I think I heard that first from Larry Christenson). We are training them. It is our gift to them to help them grow up. Children are immature, and we are God’s instruments to bring them to maturity, not show them how immature we are by our raised volume and unkind words. Children who grow up thinking they are an inconvenience will resent us and what we stand for. They will take opposite beliefs to spite us.


If your child instinctively hugs you after a spanking, you were doing it right. You are helping him  want to obey. He is repentant and tender. It did not bring shame or anger; it brought affection.  (A blog about spanking coming).


1 “Father” and “friend” are two different words. Kids need a dad. Let children their age be their friend. They need someone to bring order in the house (eating together, communicating, doing chores, having family devotions). Fathers who do not do these things should not be surprised if there is more chaos than peace in the home.

2 Be a child first. You are a son of the Father. The more you understand sonship, the better you will get fatherhood. The closer you are to the Father, the better you will father your children.We have been adopted into God’s family, chosen by the Creator, and we will always belong. We will never be alone, never without purpose, never without a future. Translate those realities to your children.

3 Understand vulnerability. I wish all fathers could have a meeting like we had a few years ago. It started with Andrew writing an email to his siblings, acknowledging his shortcomings as an elder brother. It continued when Gabriel, second brother in line, asking forgiveness of his siblings for sometimes arguing and joking. The atmosphere in the air led to a meeting that changed the way we did life at our house. When parents are vulnerable, they release grace into the air, making it easier for their children to share their struggles and failures. I wish my dad and I had talked more about hard issues. Dads, how about asking your kids to share with you where you have failed them as a father?

4 Serve your wife. The children will know if you are laying down your life or primarily going after a career. If the kids see that you are not in unity, they will play one off against the other. Unity at the top brings unity to the family. The best marriage advice I received came from Jesus, not about marriage–about life: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). It took me a long time to learn how to lay down my life, but when I got it, things changed. Marriage is not about doing your own thing.

5 Discipline with love. The discipline that comes from heaven is deliberate, not reactionary, and is given to strengthen character, purposeful rather than punitive. God doesn’t go from a 2 to a 7 in ten seconds. He is slow to anger. You don’t ever need to raise your voice. My dad didn’t–ever. We grew up knowing we were loved and cherished.

6 Be present. Many children have father wounds because of absentee fathers who have convinced their children that the job environment is more important than the home environment. They seem to say to the wife, “You raise the kids; I will raise the money.” Family does not work that way. We worship a Father who is the most accessible person in the universe. “I called–He answered.” Be available to your children and especially in their times of greatest joy and greatest sorrow.

7 Emotions matter. You want more than the facts. Find out how your kids are feeling about you, life, school, themselves, God, the opposite sex. Probe. Where are they struggling, hurting, questioning? What are they afraid of, hoping for? Wish I had done more of that.

8 Focus more on identity than behavior. If you focus primarily on behavior, you will not get the behavior that you are desiring. My dad said often, “Remember who you are.” Identity drives destiny!


  1. a gift of property, especially personal property, as money or a will.  2. anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.

On January 31, 2018 at 10:57 AM, I wrote this to our children and their spouses:

“I pray for your children by name almost daily. Bless you for raising them to love God. If you think we have fun family times, imagine what it will be when they grow up close to their cousins. There is not a word to describe what that kind of fellowship and fun will be. I pray that there will not be one who will depart from the faith, not one who gives in to the lies of the devil. Each generation will only accelerate the anointing…

What about when they have kids twenty and thirty years from now. I probably won’t be hitting the road as much, so Mom and I will have even more time to enjoy them, sing, play the piano. ‘Do not be weary in well-doing, for in due season you will reap if you do not give up’ (Galatians 5:9). What Mom and I had in both our families has gained momentum in yours. It will gain even more in each succeeding generation, IF (big if) you are faithful in raising them as you are doing, passing the baton, and continuing to stay in touch and pray.

As I have told you, I pray for the great-grandchildren who don’t exist yet, the children of your children… If all of them are loving God and each other, it will be quite a tribe of Christ-honoring people. Let the vision of the legacy keep you from burning out. One of the best words to describe raising God-fearing children is the word “hard.” Anxious moments (did I do the right thing?), sad moments (when they did the wrong thing), fearful moments (when they say “goodbye” and you’re not sure if they are ready). One day you will launch yours with tears of joy, thankful that God gave you the grace needed to give them what they require to live the same way you lived, walking in His ways.”

Why did I write this? Because seeing the big picture helps us to endure the whining, the kickback, the resistance. Karen and I got it. They are getting it, too. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” He could have said, “In the family…” You don’t get as much if you want to be the friend of your child, if you back them rather than the teacher, if you let them get away with stuff, because it is easier than making a big deal out of it.

When my kids said that they worked harder than the kids down the street, I had one answer. I asked, “Do you know why you work harder than the kids down the street.” “No, why?” “Because you don’t live down the street.” Rather than trying to make them feel important or be popular, I said, “Don’t think you are hot stuff. Hang with kids no one else wants to be with, and you’ll get the favor of heaven.”

We are encouraging our children to think generationally: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Ps. 71:18).