Archive for June, 2009

Using tragedy to discuss truth!

June 26, 2009

Today, the world is mourning the loss of two entertainment icons; Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett. Big news! Nearly every channel, radio station, news feed and internet site has carried some aspect of these stories.This was a status update from a friends Facebook this morning, “Dang, can’t get Thriller out of my head this morning. It’s on every channel.” We’ll see television specials on it for the next week at least. Last night alone, two of the major networks ran an hour piece on each of the stars.

It’ll soon be like reliving my teens and early 20’s again —Farah Fawcett posters will probably be reprinted and hanging all over town and we’ll be hearing Michael Jackson’s music all over the radio.

We can’t avoid the attention the deaths of these icons of entertainment bring.  Regardless of how you feel about these individuals, there is no debating their impact on our culture during their lifetime. And, their sudden deaths will be a topic for a long time to come.

How are you handling the discussion of the death of Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett in your families?  The reality of life (and death) produces opportunities to discuss pertinent and biblical truths with our children.  Death is a subject we’d prefer to “leave on the shelf”.  Despite the anti-aging craze our culture is embracing, we will age and, eventually, die.  Death’s reality is unavoidable.  When it happens to those seemingly “bigger than life”, it takes on a certain aura that “if it can happen to them, it can happen to me.”  For those who have lost loved ones, that truth is all to real.

As a dad, I’ve used times like these to approach the “unapproachable” with our children.  I consider it a great opportunity to ask questions about the lives of those in the news.  The lives of Farah and Michael were marked by both the spectacular and the scandalous.  One of the most interesting questions being asked out of their deaths is, “how will they be remembered–for their artistic and professional accomplishments or their personal demons?”  Regardless of how you’d answer that (and there is no right or wrong response), it is an interesting discussion topic.

So, dad, I encourage you to use the upcoming media blitz covering these tragic deaths of well known people to spur conversation with your family.  Here are just a few thoughts to help you begin to stimulate that discussion:

  • If your kids are at an appropriate age, discuss the fact that even stars die and that one day so will we.  How will we be remembered?  What legacy do we want to leave?  Do we have the assurance that when our days on this earth are over, we can know where we are heading?
  • Use Farah Fawcett’s reluctance to marry to open up a discussion about why co-habitation is not part of God’s plan for a man and a woman…Marriage and commitment are.
  • Discuss some of the changes in Michael Jackson’s appearance over the years to discuss how God looks at our hearts, not at our external beauty.  What would drive him to be so consumed with his appearance?
  • Talk about how they each used their God-given skills to impact the world.  Yet, they each seemed unhappy in many ways, including the use of drugs, unwilling to commit to relationships, seclusion, surrogate children, hiding in public and living with accusations of child abuse.
  • Financial discussions about how you can make $20 million / year and be $400 million in debt?
  • Discuss the pain of loss and how that loss is not God’s plan.  Death is separation but, thanks be to God and Jesus Christ that it isn’t  the end for those who are in Christ.

Certainly Michael and Farrah have left an indelible mark on this world.  We will listen to his music for the rest of our lives (maybe more than we want over the next few days 😉 and admire and emulate his dancing.  We will admire Farrah’s beauty and recall her roles on TV and in movies, too.  Yet, in the end, the real issue isn’t what they will be remembered for on this earth (what they sang, how they looked or how much money they had or didn’t have).  No, what will matter for them as it will be for us is “how does God see us”.  Remember to share that with your kids!


Father’s Day Fast Forward: Top 10 Ways to Know Dad Loved You

June 21, 2009

leary_gatesThis is the third and final post in the Father’s Day Fast Forward series- things the DadPad authors would like our children to remember about us when they write their Father’s Day memories years from now.  This installment from Leary Gates.

My beloved children, in your early years David Letterman, a comedian, made famous his Top 10 List direct from the Late Night Home Office in Omaha.  Well, here’s your Dad’s Top 10 List direct from the home office in Eagan that you can pull out after I’m long gone.

How to know your Dad loved you (even when it may not have seemed that way):

#10. He prayed for you often. Though he couldn’t be with you always, he prayed that our Father, who could be, would bless you greatly.

#9. He made your mom his best friend. You may have felt second, but hopefully you got a glimpse at how good a great marriage can be.

#8. He pursued what he believed God was telling him. We may not have had the most lavish lifestyle and you’ve had to make lots of sacrifices, but hopefully you’ve learned that God is your very great reward.

#7. He told lame jokes. Yes, you groaned, but hopefully you gained a perspective that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

#6. He grew more in love with God each day.  As a result, he grew more grateful for the miracle that you are.

#5. He yelled – on rare occasions 🙂 – because he cared.  That’s only half true. He cared, but really he yelled because he wasn’t perfect, and that gave you plenty of opportunity to learn to live with imperfect people.

#4. He worked hard. Some of the hardest work he did was to stay sensitive to your need to hang out together and just chill.

#3. He gave you lots of hugs and kisses. Yes, that should be an obvious sign, but it wasn’t something he learned growing up.

#2. He wanted to be just like you. You have so many gifts and opportunities that he was thrilled to watch you in action and imagine what God would do.

#1. He misses you already and is waiting for you to come home. He’s standing on the sideline cheering you on to finish strong.

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Father’s Day Fast Forward: I hope you remember that…

June 20, 2009

This is the second of three posts in the Father’s Day Fast Forward series- things the DadPad authors would like our children to remember about us when they write their Father’s Day memories years from now.  This installment from Jeff Abramovitz


On the surface, it’s kind of a sobering thought to envision that day whenyou will be eulogized or talked about by others in the past tense. Yet, there will be a day when we will all be a memory to someone. So, Bryan, Erin and Jaclyn, I know one day you’ll share the life and times (both the good and challenging) Abramovitz family with your family and friends.  When the sun sets on my life and I’m ushered into the arms of Christ, in addition to the outrageous, frustrating, and sometimes dramatic memories we shared together, I simply hope you remember that…:

  • I prayed for you before you were born and I always knew you weren’t ours but you were on loan from God, kind of like the Blues Brothers 😉 (you may have to rent the movie to get it).
  • Loving your mom was the most important thing in my life. Though I didn’t model it well all the times, she was my best friend and you were the result of that deep, covenant love. I prayed the same for your marriages each day of my life.
  • You weren’t the only ones to be prisoner to my corny “fly fishing” type jokes. Sad story is that I started telling those long before you were born.
  • Those times I lost my cool (like the time when the toilet overflowed and you laughed when I dumped the gallons of water in the light fixture all over the kitchen) and asked for your forgiveness…I really meant it.
  • When we wrestled on the floor, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
  • I was always so proud of each of you as continued maturing in your faith and relationship with Christ
  • The words from friends, family and neighbors about your lives always brought me more joy than I could express.
  • All those lectures I tried to mask as “teachable moments” came from my heart, even when I knew all you heard was “blah blah blah”.
  • Though we didn’t always have the “stuff”, I was always satisfied with what I had in you.
  • My heart literally ached when you left our house. It was right for you to “fly” with your wings to begin the life God gave you, but the imprint of your lives on your mom’s and my heart was indelible.
  • God was my delight.
  • In my imperfection and often sinful life, God’s grace reached down to cover my sins through the blood of Christ, so I could serve and love you and others out of gratitude and love because He loved me first.
  • We had a LOT of fun together and I liked to laugh with you and to make you laugh.
  • We also had times of tears and that was OK too.
  • Every time I stomped around the house upset because you didn’t pick something up that I stubbed my toe on…I was upset and DID want you to pick it up J.
  • When I saw your name come up on my cell phone from a call or text, I always smiled.
  • I always loved you unconditionally. Nothing you did ever diminished my love for you. NOTHING.
  • I didn’t give up fighting the good fight until my last breath and prayed you would do the same.
  • I LOVED YOU and can’t wait for our reunion in heaven.

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Father’s Day Fast Forward

June 19, 2009

Leary, Gregg and I have shared some memories of our dads over the past three posts. Some to be cherished. Lessons learned. Sadness revisited. The role of the father in the family is powerful. As father’s we want to leave a legacy to our children that will make a difference in their lives for good and build into the legacies they’ll leave to their children and their children’s children. We will take turns sharing the things we hope our children remember us for long past Father’s day!

Gregg Stutts-

The year is 2046. I pass away just a few months before my 61st wedding anniversary. I can’t complain though. I’d asked God to bless me with 60 years of marriage and He did. And now He has graciously allowed me to listen in to my memorial service. My children are about to share…

“I want to thank my dad for loving and serving my mom so well and for helping her become all God wanted her to be. Because I saw what my parents had, I knew what kind of marriage I wanted to have.”

“My dad’s natural bent was to worry and be anxious, but I saw him worry less and less over the years. He never stopped in his pursuit to believe God, not his circumstances. He showed me what it looked like to truly experience the peace of God no matter what was going on in his life.”

“My dad was full of grace. I always knew he loved me and accepted me unconditionally. He never stopped encouraging and affirming me for who I was, not just for what I did.”

“Most of you probably don’t know this, but my dad was pretty weird. He did and said a lot of funny things. Well, at least he thought they were funny. We just thought he was weird. He really enjoyed life and loved making himself laugh.”

May God grant me 60 years of marriage and may I be this kind of man.

Father’s Day Memories-a series Pt 3: Lollipop Dad

June 16, 2009

“What would you like for Father’s Day, Dad?”


“Oh…an all-day sucker.”


“Ah, come on, Dad. Isn’t there something you really want?”


“An all-day sucker.”


learysdadEvery year as far back as I can remember my dad would give my sisters and me the same response. We surmised that he wasn’t really a fan of lollipops, or “all-day suckers” as he would call them. I don’t think we ever saw him eat one.  Instead, we reasoned, it was his way of deflecting us from knowing what he might really want for Father’s Day. We confirmed our theory one year by giving him a huge “all-day sucker” only to see him set it aside with a polite “thank you.”  To this day, I’m not sure if he even ate it.


Like many men from his generation, he was taught to be strong by being the silent type. There’s much I don’t know about my father.  We lived in the same home, though physical proximity is not the same as intimacy. His inner world was a fortress that none could penetrate.  And when he finally surrendered that fortress to the grave, he took with him the hope of a son to know first-hand his father’s accomplishments, aspirations, disappointments and beliefs.


Why is it that we often don’t know the questions to ask when the opportunity is best?  I didn’t have much interest in exploring my father’s inner world when I was young.  But, as the years went by, I felt my longing increase.  Like the tension on a kite string, it grew as it was let out.  Eventually, the pull became so great, its presence could no longer be ignored.


That string broke on April 19, 2000.  In the days that would follow, as distant relatives came to pay their last respects, I would learn more of the man who wanted only an all-day sucker. Stories of his sacrifices as a soldier and as a provider to his extended family warmed me.  There was much more to this man than I will ever know.  Embarrassing things, I’m sure.  But also things that would have made me proud.  Yet, only God knows them all. Through my extended family, God gave me the glimpses of my father’s life story that I needed to lay him to rest in the earth—and in my heart.

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Father’s Day Memories-a series Pt 2: Weekly Dad

June 14, 2009

Here’s the 2nd installment of our Father’s Day series.

Batter UP: Jeff Abramovitz; On Deck–Leary Gates!

My birth father wasn’t in my home growing up, or at least not for very long.  I don’t remember living with him.  My parents divorced when I was 3 and, therefore, I don’t recall ever waking up and walking over to my dad while he lived in our home.  Yet, unlike many with a very similar tale, my dad was in town and did make the effort to see me on a regular basis as I grew up.

My earliest memories of my dad are of him arriving to my house on a Sunday morning. He and my mom had an unusually amicable relationship (it wasn’t unusual for me as a child since it was all I knew but, obviously, I have come to find out that it was rare). After a few minutes of “chat”, we would leave. Most of the time we would stop by a place to pick up lunch and then it was off to his apartment.

When I was 10, my dad purchased his first set of Minnesota Viking season tickets. I remember sitting in old Memorial Stadium freezing my yammers off but loving every minute of it. I learned to love football through my dad. We still spend a lot of time criticizing the Vikings each season :).

During the summer of my 13th year, we took our first of many summer vacations. We drove up to the lakeshore city of Duluth, located on the banks of Lake Superior (Lake Gitchegoomy for you Gordon Lightfoot fans). I don’t recall anything that transpired that weekend but I remember it was with my dad. The trips got more extensive (and expensive for him) as I got older. Road treks included jaunts to Seattle, Los Angeles, the Bay area (SF and Oakland), Cleveland (yes, that Cleveland), and a pre-bicentennial trip to Boston, New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia. There were blown tires, overheated radiators, lost contacts in a pool, bumpers ripped off by exposed fence posts and other mishaps. Those only served to make the trips more memorable.

Despite all of the good memories of times with my dad, latent longings began to develop inside. Later in life, I realized how much of my life my dad missed. I never recall him attending a baseball game. When I dated I missed having him readily available to counsel me about things to avoid (or look forward to ;). I couldn’t sit down and just tell him about my day. As I contemplated college and career, he provided no input. Feelings of a missed childhood filled my thoughts and I was sad.

During these years, my mom remarried. My stepfather was a provider for the home but we were never close. He wasn’t a bad man, just not a great father. They divorced after 15 yrs of marriage and I have seldom seen him since. We are friendly and cordial when we meet. But, my “dad” hole was never filled by him.

Now, as a nearly 50 year old father of three nearly grown children I look back on time with my dad with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I have some very fond memories of those times together in his apartment, eating strange foods that I still have an affinity for, bonding through football and our trips. Yet on the other hand I wonder what it would have been like had he been more “fatherly” in my life. Might I have persevered through some personal challenges and decision making around a broadcasting career instead of wilting and giving up? Would I have had a healthier view of dating and relationships if he had spent more time teaching and coaching me in that arena? I’ll never really know the answers to these questions.

And, maybe it’s not really relevant. I’ve moved on and love my dad for who he is. There’s no resentment, only wonder and some sadness. His childhood, which was a mystery to me until recently, was not something to be emulated either. Fathering for him had to be a challenge since he missed a father who was active in his life.

So, for this Father’s day, I just want to say, “thank you, dad”. Thank you for introducing me to football and sports. Thank you for the great road trips we took which gave me a love for the road and travel. Thank you for wanting to spend time with me and staying close so that we could be together weekly. Thank you, dad, for loving me and caring for me and loving my family. Happy Father’s day, dad.

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Father’s Day Memories–a series (PT 1): Treasured Memories

June 12, 2009

Over the next several days leading up to Father’s Day, we (the collective author team) thought that it was only fitting for a blog about Dad’s to focus on this one day during the year when the nations eyes are on “old pops”.

Each of us will take a stab at sharing memories about our dads (some of these have come out in various blog posts previously) and how those memories have helped shape (both good and bad) who we are as “fathers”.

Batter UP–Gregg Stutts; On Deck–Jeff Abramovitz; In the hole–Leary Gates!

Having lived in Arkansas for the past 20 years, there hasn’t been an easy opportunity to take my son to a MajorDad and Son at Baseball game League Baseball game. The closest team is the Texas Rangers, but they’re about five hours away. Today though, we’re going to see the Atlanta Braves play the Pittsburght Pirates at Turner Field. We’re staying at Young Life camp about an hour north of Atlanta, so I couldn’t pass up the chance.

I grew up in New Jersey about 90 minutes east of Philadelphia and 90 minutes south of New York City, so my dad took me to see a number of baseball games. I remember seeing a Yankee game from box seats along the third baseline. I think we once sat behind homeplate at Shea Stadium to see the Mets play.

My favorite memories by far though are of going to the Vet in Philadelphia to see the Phillies play. Much of the drive from Brick, New Jersey to Philadelphia is along Route 70. It’s a state highway that begins at the Jersey Shore (New Jersey actually has great beaches!) and ends near Pennsylvania. Route 70 has great memories for me. Probably better memories than the games themselves.

Route 70 was paved in such a way that your car tires made a “ba-dump…ba-dump…ba-dump” sound as you drove. I think much of the old road has been paved over now, but anyone who has traveled that highway knows what I mean though. I love just the thought of that sound.

Going to a Phillies game also meant stopping at Olga’s Diner. I don’t remember anything special about the food, but I’m sure my dad could tell you what he liked there. He often remembered places he’d been by the restaurants he’d visited. No trip to Philadelphia was complete without a stop at Olga’s.

So today, I get to take my son to his first MLB game. I’m hoping he’ll take away at least one good memory of the day. I know I’ve got a treasure chest loaded with memories of being with my dad.

Sound off: What are the treasured memories of being with your dad?

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Is Pixar’s “Up” about giving up?

June 9, 2009

Imagine a guy carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Family, work and the unexpected turbulence of life call for repeated sacrifices of time, energy, finances and passion. Dreams of youth, embraced with the vigor of certainty, over the years gently give way to a hopeful longing. Until, with the passing of his wife, they turn into scornful remorse of promises unkept.

Were the story not so pervasive, Pixar’s latest movie, Up, might just be another overly marketed animated film. But it’s not hard to see something of a Carl Fredrickson, the crotchety old widower, in each of us. [Warning: If you haven’t seen the film, what follows may be a bit of a spoiler.]

Ellie, Carl’s wife, meant the world to him. After her death, when faced with eviction from the home that held her memories, he sets out finally to pursue the dream they once shared; to have their home on the edge of Paradise Falls somewhere in South America. And he’s taking his house with him. Thousands of balloons affixed to the chimney turn it into a floating fortress for him and an unexpected stowaway, Russell, an enthusiastic young Wilderness Explorer seeking to earn his “aid the elderly” badge.

Eventually they hover within eyesight of Paradise Falls. Reluctantly, Carl drafts his tag-along to help him pull the house on foot, like a hot-air balloon in a parade, toward the distant fall’s shore. And therein lies a symbolic juxtaposition of a modern dad. Here’s a determined man—going somewhere—pulling everything he’s built with everything he’s got. Alongside him, a distractible and often irritating boy, far more interested in what’s around him than the destination. Watch a short scene from the movie.

I was that boy too often for my father. Like Russell, my restlessness and desire to explore were a source of consternation on our hunting and fishing trips. I’m that man too often now for my children. On excursions, like Carl, I frequently lock in on my timetable and have difficulty adapting to my family’s pace or their interest in enjoying the moment.

Fortunately, as with Carl, we can change. His change came when he discovered a note written to him in his wife’s dreambook. “Thanks for the adventure—now go make a new one.” Though Ellie never saw her dream of living on Paradise Falls, she nevertheless had her adventure fulfilled in the life journey she shared with Carl. That realization made a difference, not only because it changed Carl’s perspective on years gone by, but also because he could now be more present for a young, overly enthusiastic child, in need of a father. Do you have any of those living at your house?

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Meaningful, Powerful Connection

June 6, 2009

It was a great day. It was filled with truth, relationship and experience…and those elements always lead to a meaningful, powerful connection.

Most of the day was spent wrapping up miscellaneous tasks before leaving town for a couple days. No one item was major, but all together, they kept me busy. At 2:40 p.m., I brought my 19-year-old daughter to the doctor. She’d been experiencing some ringing in her ears that’s been getting a little worse, so we went in to check it out.

We waited for about 90 minutes before we could get in to see the doctor. Normally, 90 minutes in a doctor’s waiting room is, well, less than a great time, but these were 90 minutes I’ll treasure.

Erica and I talked and played–making each other laugh by taking silly pictures on our cell phones and sending them to each other. Once in the examination room, I talked with her about trusting God regardless of circumstances or feelings.

The next day, I learned that a car we’d been looking to buy for her was sold. Naturally, she was disappointed, but I reminded her that God has the right car at the right time for us. Who knows…maybe the one we were considering was going to break down. Bottom line: we trust God with the process. Even though it was by phone, it was another opportunity to not only connect with my daughter, but continue the process of helping her connect with God.

You can have a relationship without truth or experience, but it’s a little empty. You can have truth without relationship or experience, but it may not have the same impact or “sticking effect.” You can have experience without truth or relationship, but it’s not much more than a roller coaster ride–fun, but lacking meaning.

Put them all together; truth, relationship and experience, and together they create a lasting connection. Sometimes it can be planned like with Passport to Purity or Weekend to Remember. But sometimes it just happens like when you’re waiting for the doctor or trying to buy a car.

Sound off: When did you experience a meaningful connection, planned or unplanned, with your child?

Media Decision Making–What do you do??

June 5, 2009

Today’s post will be short and sweet but we need your participation to make this interesting. In a world of instant media, how do you make media decisions for your family? What do you let them watch on television? What movies do you let them see and at what age (assuming you abide by the approved movie ratings)? Do you limit time at or up to certain ages? How do you handle computer “face time”, i.e., do you have a guideline in your home that allows TV+computer+ipod+…?  Do you use media time (or taking it away) as a tool for disciplining your child to study harder?

So much to be aware of and manage as a parent.  We all face these issues.  Ignorance is not an option.  As beneficial and educational as media is to our culture, there are also a LOT of traps.  Having a game plan is a necessity as a dad/parent.

Share your family guidelines for viewing media with as much detail as you are willing to provide (ages of children, types of programs, hours a day, etc). This might just help the dad who’s in a phase where he’s making these decisions for the first time or has to establish new guidelines for his children as they enter a new stage of life.

If we get enough replies, we’ll post the results into a blog that we will publish later this month.

P.S. Please Share this with others so we gather more responses to make for a more interesting post later!

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