Being a Father is NOT Babysitting

dads

Yesterday I started an adventure that I have never undertaken before.  I drove down to Kansas City, met my in-laws there and let my wife ride off with them as I loaded all 4 of my kids in our van and went home.  My MIL is not well and my better half needed to be with her without the chaos that my children can bring.  I offered not only to drive her down there, but I offered to take the kids off of her hands so that she can be down there.  Yesterday was not so bad.  My youngest took it harder than the other two as she cried out that she would never get to see her mom again.  It took me a good hour of convincing that we will see her next Sunday but I did finally get her calmed down.  The rest of the 5 hour drive was spent in worship, a movie, and sing-a-longs with Weird Al.  I imagine by the end of the week I will have a new found appreciation for single moms and single dads out there.

Something that has really bothered me through the my years as a father is when I here someone offer their condolences to me as I watch the kids on my own.  Or, they say something like, “Oh, you are babysitting your kids tonight.”  Or worse yet, the stares I get when I am out with just my kids.  I remember the 1st time I had special daddy time with my kids.  I took all four to go see a movie while we were on vacation so that mom could get a nap.  The person at the movie theater had this deer caught in a head lights panicked look on his face watching me bring 4 completely under control children into the movie theater.  Even this past Saturday, I took the kids to a movie and received a similar look from one of the mothers there.  She was shocked that I was there, all by myself without a mother.

What has happened to the fathers in this society?  When did it become so unusual for us to take an active role in the raising of our children?  (And I am talking about more than watching your son during football practice.)  Fathers, we need to be more involved.  A dad is more than a person that comes home and watches TV while mom makes sure that dinner is serves, dishes are washed, homework is done, and kids are washed up before bed.  A dad needs to be there kissing booboos, teaching their children, doing special things with them, and of course teaching them about faith, love, marriage, parenting, etc.

Now, I realize that some of you don’t live with your children.  It becomes even more important that you be involved in their life.  My wife had an uninvolved father.  He was so uninvolved that when we invited him to the our wedding and sent him a birth announcement from our first child he NEVER replied.  I cannot begin to explain unto you the psychological damage it caused upon my wife.  Absent fathers don’t just hurt children, they hurt adult children.

Stop settling for “just good enough” and be the best father you can be.

A Person of Integrity

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Last week, on my way to the fitness center to work out, I had an accident. It was not exactly my finest moment as it was my first accident in nearly 20 years. While I don’t pride myself on being a great driver, I do consider myself to be a safe driver. Well, at least for brief moment that went out the window. In the week that followed I had to talk to several insurance people concerning what had happened. Along the way I was recorded. Asked to recount the events. To be honest, I felt like I was being placed under a fine toothed comb and I was waiting for them to ask for my blood-type and other information to verify my story.

At first I was rather offended that so much information was needed just to resolve what ended up being a rather minor finder bender. However, in time I learned to realize why I had to retell the story so many times, why I had to be recorded and why I had to verify that my story was true to the best of my knowledge. Our society has forgotten what it means to be a person of integrity. To be honest, I don’t think too many people today even know what that word means.

The best way to describe what integrity is to describe a bridge. A bridge that has integrity is a bridge that can be trusted to perform as it was designed to perform. The Golden Gate Bridge is a great example of a bridge of integrity. It is such a great example of something that performs as it was designed to do disaster movies depict it all the time. They essentially show that short of a natural (or in some cases supernatural) disaster, that bridge will continue to perform as it was designed to perform. It is trustworthy. Perhaps the most famous bridge without integrity is the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Tacoma Narrows Bridge (or Galloping Gertie) of Washington which collapsed on November 7th, 1940, just months after it was opened to the public.  The images of this bridge’s demise is so iconic that once you see it you will never forget. The bridge looked as if it were made of water as it swayed to and fro in the wind. It is easy to see the bridge collapse if you never have a simple google or youtube search will bring it up. Watching that video spooked my kids. They certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable riding in a car on that bridge and they had no desire to even walk on it.

A person with integrity would be like the Golden Gate Bridge. Nothing short of a disaster beyond his control will cause his trustworthiness to fail. I remember when people used to “shake on it.” (Or at least my father remembers those days). I do at least remember the day my father ceased to “shake on it.” He entered a deal with a movie producer to do special effects for a low budget film. My father trusted the man to keep up his end of the deal. My father wasn’t paid. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of materials and labor were never reimbursed. That leaves a rather negative impression about the “word” of others.

Shortly after my fender bender last week someone asked me why I wouldn’t bend the truth to keep it from going on my record. The answer was simple. I am a person of integrity.  I want people to be able to stand on my word and my work.  I want people to be able to trust me in their heir of need.  I can’t do this if my actions look more like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge than the do the Golden Gate Bridge.

A Cinderella Story

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Who doesn’t love the story of Cinderella? As a kid I was drawn to the wonderful movie that Disney created. I always enjoyed watching the mice scamper about trying to help Cinderella; thinking to myself, why can’t mice really be that cute and entertaining? As I grew up, I began to appreciate the story itself. Seeing a down-on-her-luck child go from rags to riches epitomizes the American dream. However, her character was even more compelling. She loved. She served. She didn’t complain. She worked hard. And despite the way the story began, we see her love, service, and great demeanor rewarded. She was the one that one the prince’s heart.

This weekend the talk of Cinderella again has been on everyone’s lips. Young girls and moms alike flocked to see Disney’s recreation of the classic tale. It was the #1 hit at the box office this weekend and is already being considered a bigger hit than Angelina Jolie’s remake of Sleeping Beauty. True, a lot of young boys and fathers probably weren’t jumping at a chance to see this story. They were looking for a different kind of Cinderella.

This week March Madness begins. People all across the country are filling out their brackets this morning hoping that they kind find that magical Cinderella team that comes out of nowhere to capture the heart of the nation. They want to find that team that defies the odds, takes down the mighty giants and catapults themselves perhaps even to the national title game. Will it be UNI, Providence, or maybe Harvard? Who knows. That is why we as a nation will be glued to the TV, our computers and other devices to watch what happens all week long.

There is no doubt about it. We love a Cinderella story. There is something about it that makes us think that we can rise above our own trials, our own lives. The truth is, there is no greater Cinderella story than that of Jesus. He was born in what we might call today, a barn. He was laid in a feeding trough that 1st night. He was not born to some wealthy family capable of giving him the finest education, the finest clothes, and the best upbringing money can buy. He was born to a carpenter. Shortly after his birth, his parents had to flee the country. King Herod sought to destroy him. He ordered all male children two years and younger to be put to death. Anyone who has ever moved knows the financial and emotional strains this has upon a family. After Herod’s death the Lord’s family moved back to Galilee to a small city of Nazareth. Nazareth didn’t exactly have the best reputation back then as being a good place to be from. Nathaniel would later ask can anything good come from Nazareth (John 1:46). As Jesus grew up and became a man he began a three year ministry trying to show the world that God’s salvation has returned to man. As a result, he was hated, he was despised, and ultimately put to death on a cruel cross. And yet, three days later, he was raised from the dead a victor. Today, Jesus sits on a throne. Not only a victor, but a king. Not just a king, but the king of kings and the lord of lords! The odds (of this world) were certainly stacked against him. He prevailed. He found victory by doing the will of his Father.

What makes Jesus’ “Cinderella story” even more powerful is that we too can be “Cinderella.” His death made it possible for us to reign with him (I Tim. 2:12). He will lift us up out of this world of woe (I Thes. 4:13-17). He will give us a room in Heaven (John 14:1-4). And in this place, there is no death, suffering, sorrow, pain, etc. Those things have no place there. Every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4). All you have to do is take up your cross and follow Jesus (Mark 10:21). His hand is outstretched to you, will you allow him to lift you up?

My Thoughts on Yet Another Tragedy

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I would be foolish to say that there is not some kind of problem going on in this country. When yet another unarmed, African-American has died as a result of the actions of a Police Officer it tells us something is amiss. It seems like the last 6 months we have heard of these stories repeatedly coming up. What bothers me the most is that it is not just in one city, or even state. It has happened all over the country. Many, like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and even our own President has made proclamations of racism being at the heart of the matter.

I don’t tend to disagree. If fact, I think for the first time in my life that the racial tensions in this country are reaching the same levels as what they were in the 60s. I think this was further illustrated when two police officers when gunned down in cold-blooded murder by a man proclaiming, “if they kill one of ours, we’ll kill two of theirs.” Yes, my friends we have a real problem in this country. And unfortunately, I don’t think it is going to change anytime soon. Instead of making the appropriate changes in our cultures, what is going to happen is people are going to take sides. They are going to blame the cops. Or, they are going to blame the African-American culture. And I think it is only going to cause the vicious cycle to continue. Mothers will continue to mourn the losses of their sons. Children will continue to weep when their father’s are killed while in the line of duty. Does it have to be this way? No. There are ways to change. The issue is, until we as a nation all make the change, our nation is not going to heal. So, what do we need to do?

We need to re-instill in the hearts of our children a respect for authority figures. I read an article earlier this month talking about how teaching African-American children that their survival is contingent upon them respecting police officers. I thought that sounded awful. It sounded like a backhanded slandering of police officers. (As if they are looking for someone to shoot and kill). It is not about survival, it is about having a better life. Respecting authority figures goes above police officers. It is about respecting their moms and dads, respecting judges and officers, respecting their teachers and preachers, and respecting the mayor, governor, and even the president. It is about respecting them not because of their policies, or the color of their skin. It is about respecting the position of honor that they hold. (I am not saying that they should drop to their knees and accept a firing squad). What I am saying is that we ought not fight back, slander, attack, etc any authority figure because we feel we don’t have to listen to them. And speaking of honoring authority, it also means to teach our children to honor the law. (Several of these unarmed men (and teenagers) that were killed had committed crime that brought on the confrontation with the police officer in the 1st place).

With that said, we need to be teaching one another to stop looking at the color of one’s skin. I think that was the point of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech. His dream was that we could walk hand in hand because we no longer see black, white, etc. What we see is a human being, and more importantly, someone whom God loves deeply. If these police officers really are more on edge because they are approaching an African-American about a crime than they are a Caucasian, shame on them. Shame on them for seeing the color barrier. Shame on them for believing that person is quantified by exterior appearance. In I Cor. 15:39 Paul implies that all human flesh is the same. That is, that there is no difference in who we are. God doesn’t see us as American, Latin-Americans, African-Americans, Greek, Jewish, Russian, etc. “There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all (Col. 3:11).” Looking at each other through the eyes of God would go a long way to fixing what ails our country.

Your Kids Want You

parenting

This past year my wife and I made some big changes in how we are raising our children.  At Christmas, rather than ransacking the house with a plethora of gifts we decided to give our children 4 presents.  We gave them something they wanted, something they needed, something they could wear and finally something they could read.  This changes was sparked by many things.  We have too many kids to be buying a lot around Christmas time.  We have too small a house to have that many toys added to it every year.  And most importantly we wanted to change the focus of our children, especially around the holidays.  I wanted my children to see that the most important thing in life is not opening presents.  I wanted them to value their relationships more.

Why bring this up now?  Christmas isn’t around for another 9 months.  No, I am not getting a jump on the Holiday Season.  Tomorrow is my youngest son’s birthday.  (He turns the big 7).  His is the first birthday we have had since we made these big changes in our home.  Apparently what we have been teaching our children has been working.  I offered him a single present or special time with the family.  He quickly opted for special time.  His birthday present this year is a special day of going to a museum and looking at dinosaur bones.  (Yes, I am aware of the fact that  dinosaurs and 7 year old boys are a win-win situation).  However, when I re-informed him that this meant he had no presents to open on his birthday we was quite okay with this.

My son’s actions taught me a very valuable lesson.  They would much rather have you do something with them than give them a gadget, a toy, or a movie to occupy their time.  I know some of you might be thinking, “my kid isn’t 7.”  ” My kid avoids me.”  “My kid thinks I am ruining his/her life.”  I have one turning 12 later this month and I am well aware of the fact that she is a bit of a drama queen.  Her new “thing” to do right now is to slap her headphones on, crank up the MP3 player and shut out the world.  But, when I ask her to be honest with me, she often tells me that what she really values is time spent with us.  (Now, her idea of time is not being homeschooled, watching a movie, sitting in the same room, being lectured, etc).  What she wants is chances for bonding.  She longs to be close to us, even while she is pushing us away.

I realize that all kids are different.  I realize that they all react differently to our words, our actions, etc.  However, they are all in need of their mom and dad and they know it.  They need mom and dad whether they are 7, 13, 21, or 40.  Take them out on special dates.  Go on a walk.  Get out there and play in the snow with them.  Call them up just to tell them, “I love you.”  Turn the TV off, grab a blanket and snuggle up next to them.  Play that 1000th game of candy land.