Author Archive

Connecting With Your Kids Series: #3- Non-Negotiables

March 25, 2010

I don’t know how many times I heard Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, speak, but I do remember he only had a few messages. Keep Christ as your first love. Help fulfill the Great Commission. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. And as he got older, he also added in prayer and fasting. That’s it.

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Bill Bright knew who he was and what God had called him to do. That allowed him to focus on the non-negotiables. There’s tremendous power in that.

When it comes to connecting with your kids, here are a couple non-negotiables and another that’s working for me. Maybe it’ll work for you, too.

1. Grow in your relationship with God. Make this your #1 priority. Ultimately, you want to not only connect with your kids, but you want to help them connect with God. If you aren’t growing in Him, you can’t do this. You don’t need to be a Bible scholar. You just need to be seeking Him. Are you?

2. Grow in your relationship with your wife. After your relationship with the Lord, your marriage is your highest priority. Not your kids. Not your job. Not golf. Not hunting. It’s your wife. How does this help connect with your kids? Well, take your marriage to the opposite extreme: divorce. Connecting with your kids becomes a lot tougher when you don’t live with their mother. Do your kids know your wife is your highest priority after God? Does your wife know?

3. Spend money to connect. My oldest daughter is visiting us this week from southern California. Her husband is a Marine and she’s taking online courses toward her college degree. They live in a small, but expensive apartment. In other words, money is tight. Of course, my wife and I are both in ministry, so money has always been a little tight for us, too.

And yet, I purchased the plane ticket for Rachel to visit us. Was it in our budget? No. Did it make things a little tighter? Yeah. Could I have used that money to reduce some debt. Sure. But I suspect in twenty years, I won’t regret whatever money I spent that allowed me to connect with my kids. Actually, I don’t even regret it now.

Bottom line: don’t worry so much about how to connect with your kids. Focus instead on being someone they’d actually want to connect with.

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One-Tenth of a Year

January 7, 2010

I know we don’t normally think of tenths of a year. Instead, we divide years into twelve months. Recently though, I experienced a wonderful “tenth of a year.”

My oldest daughter, Rachel, and her husband live in California, so we don’t see them very often. Since Richard was finishing up a Marine deployment, Rachel was able to be with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. We had a great time with her. I even had the privilege of baptizing her just two days after Christmas.

One of the things that makes our time with Rachel so special is how “unspecial” things used to be. Let’s just say she wasn’t the easiest child to parent. I’ve shared it previously, but this is the same child who at the age of eight when asked by me what she’d like to be in charge of, replied without hesitation, “You and mommy.” Those three words foreshadowed the next ten years.

Sadly, I learned this holiday season just how quickly a tenth of a year can pass. You know how it is–one moment you’re waiting for family to arrive and before you know what happened, you’re hugging goodbye.

So the quick passage of a tenth of a year got me thinking–they’re all going to pass just as quickly. January and February aren’t as much fun as November and December, but they will fly by also. Same number of minutes each day. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Before I know it, it’ll be spring break. Then summer. Then the start of football practice for my son and senior year of high school for my third daughter.

It hit me a couple years ago, that once my children leave for college (two already have), there will be many more days for the rest of our lives that we will not see each other. Up until college starts, we see each other almost everyday of our lives. But going off to college changes everything. Oh, I’m still their dad and we can still have a close relationship…but it’s different. They’re not there at the end of the day to hug or tuck into bed.

So it got me thinking about how many more tenths of a year I’ve got with my two remaining kids at home. Amy is half way through her junior of high school now. She’ll start college in August of 2011. I’ve got 16 tenths left. Not many, if you ask me.

Rob is in 8th grade. Feels like I’ve got a lot of time left with him. But I really don’t. I have 46 tenths left with him. I know how fast the previous tenth went by. No reason to think the next 46 won’t be just as fast.

How many tenths do you have left with your kids?

What are you going to do with them?

The Other Way to Handle Difficulties

December 7, 2009

I have to confess–my first inclination when I face difficult circumstances is not to trust God. Usually I get frustrated. Of course, that’s just a nice way of saying I get angry. If it’s not frustration or anger then it might be worry or discouragement. None of them are good or helpful responses.

Parenting sure presents its fair share of difficult circumstances. And every one is the potential catalyst for sending us into a tailspin of negative emotions.

One of my children has dealt with a series of medical issues. Fortunately, none have been serious, but I tend to worry when a new one (or old one) pops up.

Another child was arrested and fined over $1,000 for the offenses. Poor choices present us with an opportunity to lose our cool pretty quickly. (Fortunately, I didn’t in this case.)

One of my daughters has struggled greatly with our move to Fayetteville last year. She misses her school, her friends and our old house. I hurt for her.

Finally, it was tough to see one of my kids discouraged by being the smallest on the team and not getting much playing time.

Your difficult parenting circumstances may be different, but I have a suggestion for handling yours and mine today. In fact, it will apply to whatever your facing today–parenting issues, financial concerns, job stress, a health problem or whatever. The answer is found in Psalm 100:

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Whatever you may be facing today, choose to follow the instructions in this psalm.

Verses 1 and 2 tell us to worship Him. There are no qualifiers on the circumstances. It doesn’t say to worship only if things are going well. The psalmist simply says to shout for joy. Worship with gladness. Come before him with joyful songs.

Let me encourage you to put together a playlist of worship songs on your iPod. If you don’t have an iPod, put it on your wish list for Christmas. I know of nothing better than great worship songs to lift my eyes off my circumstances and get them on God.

Verse 3 instructs us to know that the LORD (Jehovah) is God. He made us. We belong to Him. He is our Shepherd. We’re never alone. We’re never left to figure things out on our own. We belong to Jehovah, the One who has everything under His control.

Verses 4 and 5 tell us to praise and thank Him and also gives the reason why. I know it’s hard to thank God when it feels like things are falling apart, but choose to praise His name and thank Him. Why? Because He is good, He is loving and He is faithful. You may not see it or feel it at the moment, but choose to believe it anyway and let that belief lead you to praise and thanksgiving.

Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that God is pleased by our faith and rewards us when we seek Him. You can know that He is good. He does love you. He will always be faithful to you. It won’t always be easy, but don’t doubt those truths.

You and I have a choice when difficulties come…and they will come. Probably today. We can get angry or worried or discouraged. We’ve tried that though. We know how that turns out.

So what if instead we choose to worship, to remember we belong to our God and He’s in control, and to praise and thank Him because He is good, loving and faithful?

Will you give it a try and let me know how it goes?

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.

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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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?

Labels Can Stick

May 18, 2009

When I was a kid, my mother once called me “anti-social” because I didn’t want to go to a party. I’ve never forgotten that.

During her childhood, a friend of mine was introduced by her mother as the “pretty, but not too smart” one. She’s never forgotten that.

Words matter. Labels can stick. Especially when they come from a parent.

So try to catch your children in the act of using their God-given gifts or exhibiting a certain character quality you want to reinforce. Identify it. Give it a name. Then point it out to them.

Let’s say you ask your son to clean his room. An hour later you check and the job is done. When you tuck him into bed, you could say, “Son, you not only got your room clean, but you did it right and you did it the first time I asked. You are someone who is responsible and trustworthy.”

Maybe your teenage daughter is trying a new hairstyle (or make-up, clothing, etc.). Try saying, “You sure are beautiful, but not just on the outside. I’m so proud of who you are.”

Your words are going to stick one way or the other. You might as well make them good ones.

Sound off: What words or labels stuck with you from your childhood?

No Regrets

April 29, 2009

My father died four years ago after a tough fight with leukemia. I had the privilege of caring for him during the last two weeks of his life when he was too weak to even climb a flight of stairs. In the years prior to his death, I’d taken many opportunities to honor and thank him for being my dad. And yet I have one regret. (more…)

Confused Them With Confusion

April 16, 2009

When I was playing high school football, film day was on Monday. I never looked forward to Monday. No matter how well I played, there was always something I knew would be caught on film. After one particular game, which we’d won, I’ll never forget my head coach telling us how he thought we’d won the game. He said, “We confused them with confusion.”

You’ve probably had conversations with your kids that would lead you to believe they were trying to confuse you with confusion. One of my children once told me she was being disrespectful because Iconfused was disciplining her. Of course, I was disciplining her for being disrespectful. I tried to explain that using that logic was like telling the police officer you were speeding because he pulled you over. She didn’t get it. Clearly we weren’t communicating.

Two days ago, I was checking one of my other daughter’s blood pressure. We needed it for a camp she’ll be working at this summer. The display on the electronic cuff showed normal blood pressure, but an irregular heartbeat. I checked two more times with the same result.

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Reaffirming Grace

April 10, 2009

You’re messed up. So am I. Sin has deeply affected us.

Some affects are obvious. We lie. We lose our temper. We gossip. We act selfishly.

Some affects are subtle. We judge others. We try to appear better than we are. We hold others to our standards. We give love when we feel it’s earned.

The good news? We live under God’s grace. Our sin is forgiven. We’re totally accepted. He’s fully pleased. We’re not a disappointment to Him. He loves us no matter what.

Do you have that kind of relationship with your children? I don’t mean you have to do it perfectly—God knows we can’t, but do your children live under your grace? Do they know they’re fully accepted and loved apart from their performance?

Could there be a more appropriate day than Good Friday to express to your children that they are deeply loved and fully accepted, not only by God, but by you?