Archive for November, 2009

No Waiting! Aisle One.

November 27, 2009

Black Friday. Today millions of shoppers hit the stores, hoping to snag a one-of-a-kind deal for Christmas. Some have stood in lines formed overnight anticipating the 4 a.m. store openings.

Yet, you can’t rouse that kind of motivation to get up early. Perhaps for a 10-point buck or a walleye, but not for crowded shopping mall. Nope. Instead, you’ll happily remain at home while the rest of the world tramples through mazes of over-promoted product only to return with the hollow satisfaction of saving money on something they may not have otherwise purchased.

Your satisfaction is so much sweeter. There are no lines in the living room, and there’s a whole roster of games and movie marathons to take in. Welcome to Slack Friday. Where there’s plenty of turkey sandwiches, pumpkin pie and the TV remote is king. It’s time to plug in and tune out. Way out.

Then you hear it. “No waiting! Aisle one.” You look around. Must have just been a commercial. What a relief, you think to yourself, to not be out among the maddening crowd. Back to the football action.

There. Again. Once more. “No waiting! Aisle one.”

You realize now that it’s not merely a voice you hear. It’s a prompting. And it’s coming from that leather bound best-seller sitting on your bookshelf. Suddenly you become aware of other voices, too. Familiar voices—those of your children. Yet, strangely, they are now somehow more than your children. They are hungry souls. That’s when it hits you. You are hungry too.

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A Thanksgiving Tribute to my Mother-in-Law

November 26, 2009

During a holiday where we typically celebrate with those we love and share those things we are grateful for (and direct that thankfulness accordingly, in our case, toward God), I must admit that my focus has been limited to being faced with the truth of my beloved mother-in-law’s seemingly limited time on this earth.

Tributes are all too often done AFTER someone departs this earth. I wanted to make sure that I crafted a Thanksgiving Tribute to Peg before she leaves us. I don’t know if she’ll be able to hear this if someone reads it to her but I want her and those around me to know how much I love her and how grateful I am that she’s been such an inspirational woman of faith and fortitude in my life.  Here are some snippets of the letter I posted to Peg on my personal blog at Abramo-Bits & Bytes:

Peg, I don’t know if you will awaken long enough to ever read this or to hear it read to you but I couldn’t let you go without saying good-bye to you. It seems at this time I won’t get a chance to see you unless God intervenes in a big way, the only way He ever intervenes :) . So, as the tears flow down my cheeks, I want you to know that I love you.

You’ve been a great model of a wife who loved her husband like the one described in Proverbs 31. I think it’s right to include some of that Proverb here because it aptly describes much of the woman you’ve been to your husband and family:

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.

I love your zest for life.  You’re always willing to speak what’s on your mind.  There is no “wondering” about how you feel about something.  I love that.  I love the discussions we’ve had about life, faith and the world around us.  As easily as you express your opinion, you also listen to what others have to say.

Your laugh is infectious.  Some of my best memories are of us all laughing…

I’ll also never forget how you accepted me into your family as one of your own.  I’ve felt as much a part of your family as I have my own…

I wish we could play one more round of golf together.  Your compliments of my golfing far exceeded my actual ability.  You’ve been a great …

Read the entire LIVING tribute to my mother-in-law Peg by CLICKING HERE and going to Abramo-Bits & Bytes


The Advice My Dad Never Gave Me

November 25, 2009

I don’t remember my dad giving me much advice. No long talks. No words of wisdom. When I hear someone say, “My dad always said _________”, I can’t relate. I don’t remember anything my dad “always said.”

He was a great man though.

My dad was faithful to my mom for thirty-five years…until the day she died. It wasn’t easy for him. She was an alcoholic.

When I was 12-years-old, I’d already played football for two years and didn’t want to play a third year. I’m pretty sure my dad was disappointed, but I don’t remember him trying to talk me out of it. He never pressured me to play. It was probably hard for him since he’d been a football coach. After a year off, I went back to football and played through high school and for a couple years in college. I still love football. I wonder if I would if he’d made me play.

My dad once drove five hours to see me play a football game on a Friday night at Cornell. Then we drove five hours back to New Jersey so I could come home for the weekend.

Speaking of Cornell, my dad had told that if I got accepted, he’d pay for it. I got in. He paid. Not once did he ever mention how much it was costing him, which was a lot.

When my wife, Robyn, and daughter, Rachel, moved to Arkansas in 1988, my dad drove the U-Haul the whole 1200 miles. Of course he never did let me forget the heavy boxes of books he carried up the flight of stairs. In August.

Actually, my dad did give me a lot of advice. He just didn’t use words.

I’m very thankful for him. I wish he was still alive so I could tell him.

Dad as Connector – Part 2

November 21, 2009

In my last post, I shared the impact and importance of connecting with my son as his father by inviting him into my world and getting into his.  I’ve also tried to do the same with my daughters.  It’s been more of a challenge and I’m not sure I’ve succeeded but I can say, I’ve worked at it intentionally.

In addition to connecting to my children as their father, I have also worked at connecting my children to other adult men and women to help them mature.  As much as I want to think they just need my advice, I have come to understand, more than I want to admit, that it does indeed “take a village to raise a child” (just keep them away from the village idiot ;).

During the same year we celebrated my son’s entrance into manhood (see part 1), I also asked a few other men that I admire to speak into Bryan’s life during his 16th year.  One of them is a co-author on this blog, Leary Gates.  Additionally, he got connected to some other men of God who could speak to him with wisdom that I didn’t/don’t have and from personal experiences and perspectives of life that I couldn’t possibly offer.  The result has been that my son learned how to communicate, seek assistance and relate with older men.  My daughters have also had mentors enter into their lives to help shape and guide them.  These are relationships that will grow and flourish outside of our home.  And, I’m so thankful they have those relationships for seeking help, information and friendship.

Confession time — it wasn’t easy for me to invite other men into my son’s life.  There’s this little thing called “pride” that gets in the way of doing the things we should do.  While trying to connect Bryan with other men,  it meant laying down my sense of worth in trying to be the “perfect” father (like I could attain that anyway), and letting other men speak into his life.  If they gave him advice that I wished I had given or maybe didn’t agree with, my “nose got a little tweaked”.  Lessons around humility come from many places.  This was one of those that I had to learn–I don’t know it all.  My son is not mine to own but he’s on loan from God for a time to teach, lead and then launch.  He’ll ultimately spend a lot more time with others than he will with me.  Learning how to handle relationships and seek others for help, advice and camaraderie are critical to his maturing into full manhood.

The earlier you guide your children into relationships with other trusted, Godly adults, the more chance they have at learning what it really means to connect at deeper levels with other people.  It’s all part of the maturing process.  Here’s a little guide you can use as you search for these kinds of relationships for your children:

  1. Pray.  Pray that God would give you names of men/women who would be positive role models and mentors for your children.  These might be people you know or those God puts in your life.  Start praying early–like when they’re in the womb :).  If they’re already out, start today.
  2. Talk to your son/daughter about things that interest them and areas they’d like to explore.  These are things that might help you with your prayers for them and who you could pursue to help them build on those areas.
  3. For my wife and I, pursuing men and women who live fully devoted lives to Christ was key.  We believe that our children need to see how others live out their faith.  And, we want them to be able to ask honest questions as they pursue that area of their lives.  Sometimes carrying the title of “mom” or “dad” inhibits that kind of openness.
  4. When you think you find someone, talk to your child about their willingness to meet this other adult?  Determine the setting and frequency that might be best.  If they are a bit older they can start to make those decisions for themselves.
  5. Make sure that both you and the mentor recognize that they will have discussions that will need to be kept confidential and that it needs to be OK for that adult to withhold that information from you (unless to do so would damage the child in some way).  This kind of relationship comes out of trust between you both.  And, make sure your child knows that his/her relationship with the mentor will be kept confidential unless the child OK’s disclosure of discussion topics.
  6. Be a mentor yourself!  Seek out younger men/women that God has placed in your midst and seek to invest in their lives.  You don’t have to be perfect to be a mentor.  You just have to care about others and be breathing.  Perfection is not what they’re seeking.  Caring men and women who have been where they are going is who they want to connect with.

Bottom line–Connecting is a multifaceted process.  You need to connect with your children as I shared in part 1 and you need to connect your children to other Godly men and women who can help them grow to maturity.  Parenting is not for the weak but it is meant to be done in community!

WHAT ABOUT YOU?– How has mentoring affected you or your child’s life?  How have you been positively impacted by someone who shared their life with you in a real and personal way?

The Next Sherwood Movie is Announced…and it is

November 15, 2009


In my Partnership director role at FamilyLife, I (Jeff) have had the privilege of working closely with the team that created, directed, produced and promoted the movie, Fireproof.  The integrity of the Hendrick brothers (Stephen and Alex; writers, directors and producers of the movie and pastors from Sherwood Baptist church in Albany, GA), the heart of the movie division that promoted and distributed the movie, Provident Films, and the zeal that everyone involved from the PR firm to the marketing promotion organizations and volunteer action squads displayed made this a wonderful experience.  So, I waited with great anticipation to hear the announcement of the “fourth-coming” movie from this team to be made this evening.

Announce_Alex_Kendrick_by_Hayley_CattI just received an email and PR release announcing that the fourth movie from Sherwood Pictures is goingAnnounce_Stephen_Kendrick_by_Hayley_Catt to be called, Courageous.  Why is this a DadPad worthy announcement?  The movie is going to be about fatherhood.  Here’s part of the press release I received from Lovell-Fairchild communications:

“The movie is about fatherhood and the title is one word: COURAGEOUS,” Alex Kendrick said, briefly outlining the plot.  “Four fathers who are all in law enforcement—who protect and serve together—go through a terrible tragedy,” he said. “They begin looking at their role as fathers . . . and they begin challenging one another to fulfill God’s intention for fathers.”

That single-word title, Pastor Catt said, echoes God’s call for men to “rise with courage” in their homes and as leaders.  This at a time when 4 of 10 marriages end in divorce* and more than a third of all children live away from their biological fathers.

“The statistics on fatherless children are devastating,” McBride said. “And because the family is the building block of society, one important place to rebuild families is through fathers who stay and lead and love.”

“God led us,” co-writer and producer Stephen Kendrick said to the audience of church members, many of them volunteer crew, cast, or catering in earlier Sherwood movies.  “We believe God is calling men to rise up with strength and with leadership in their homes, with their families and with their children.”

You can see why DadPad is excited about Courageous!  One of our desires with this blog is to get men engaged with their role as fathers.  I have no idea what this movie will turn out to be like but if the progression of quality and content continues as it has from Flywheel to Facing The Giants to Fireproof, I can only imagine that it will be a compelling story that will leave us thinking and being impacted as dads.

Begin to pray NOW for the writing, production, and filming of this movie (which begins in March 2010).  I know that Stephen and Alex Kendrick, Sherwood Baptist and Provident Films would invite your prayers for every aspect of this movie and, ultimately, that it might address and impact the plight of fathering in our culture.  Go get ’em Sherwood!!

Dad as Connector – Part 1

November 5, 2009

1st of a 2-part series of how Dads can connect their sons  and daughters to themselves and other men and women.

Get ConnectedPreviously I wrote a series of “Dad as…” blog posts.  (see the DadPad archives to read them).  They were Dad as Coach, Counselor and Consultant.  Here’s another—Dad as Connector.

Outdoor activities like hunting, fishing and camping are not at the top of my “bucket list” activities.  That is, I didn’t do them much growing up, have dabbled a little in each of them over the years, didn’t spend a lot of time engaged in them with my son and don’t plan on making them lifelong chases.  It’s all rather unfortunate, really.  They are GREAT activities for connecting sons and fathers at a deep level.  I can almost definitively say without any hesitation that where a son and his father have connected in those kinds of pursuits, there is a deep bonding between them.

During the 16th year of my son, Bryan’s, life, we did something that was special and it included camping and some fishing.  A group of 5 dads and their sons concluded a year long small group study using PromiseKeeper’s Passages material with a celebratory trip to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota.  It was a memorable trip for a number of reasons.

First, we were out in the outdoors together.  Laughing, hiking, fishing, canoeing, tenting and so on.  Then, I had written a 4 page letter to my son to share some real intimate, personal thoughts that I had of him to encourage him.  I told him how proud I was of the young man he was becoming and of my continual prayer for the man of God I envisioned and prayed for him to grow into.  I read–Bryan paddled (no motorized water equipment is allowed within the Boundary Waters Canoe area).  Anyone who understands physics and weight distribution challenges in a small canoe can imagine what happened next.  Trouble ensued as I read and my much lighter son paddled into a stiff wind and waves.  I had plenty of time to read my mini-novel to him because it was apparent we weren’t going to get to any destination quickly.

Many memories of the weekend linger but the one that remains etched vividly is what we did the last night together.  We lit a fire in the pit.  Then, one at a time each dad stood over his seated son, laid his hands on his son’s shoulder and prayed for him.  Additionally, the group of dads prayed collectively over the 5 young men.  The dads verbally committed to pray for their son as well as for the others in the group.

I think of those men and their sons often.  This summer one of the men of the group got married and Bryan was in the wedding party.  I love each of the fathers like they were brothers.  It was a special year…a special group.  Those men took the time to speak into my sons life and I know they are words that still resonate within him today.

Though that weekend did not turn me into an “outdoorsman”, I connected with my son.  We have other interests and things we do together and though I do wish that we had more of those kind of experiences we’ve connected in other ways.  We have shared interests in football and other sports, spiritual conversations about growing in our walk with the Lord and even some more personal intimate accountability discussions.  Laying the foundation of connecting has helped us to stay connected through the years and, I pray, even after he embarks on his life post college and singleness.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:  How do you connect with your son or daughter?  What ways have you found to use both your interests and purposely finding out what they are interested in to deepen your relationship?  Make a decision to start engaging them in activities that will bring them into your world and bring you into their world!  You’ll never regret it.