Archive for the ‘encouragement’ Category

When Does a Rut Become a Grave?

May 7, 2011


I heard a pastor one time make this comment about the difference between a rut and a grave-“a rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out”. One day you look up from the daily fray of life and realize that you’ve spent years being someone you wished you weren’t. You ask yourself “how did I let this happen” and begin to believe that it “will never change”. Those are the words of death to the soul. Without hope that things can be different, despite what has happened, a rut becomes a grave. However, you don’t have to continue to believe the lies.

I have made this observation – as good as it is to plan, no master plan will ever be carried out exactly as developed. Look back at the last year of your life. Is there ANYTHING that happened that wouldn’t have been or wasn’t on YOUR master plan for the year? Undoubtedly the answer is a resounding “YES”!

As my wife and I look back one year ago, we didn’t know our son would be getting married this summer or that my wife’s father would die exactly one year after her mother died. Though I had begun to map out a course of leaving a large international ministry as a full-time missionary, I didn’t know exactly how that would look and certainly wouldn’t have concluded it would look like it does today. Now, before all of you task masters and list makers hyperventilate, I’m not saying its bad to plan. I am saying you need to hold your plans loosely and that if you’re at a point in life where you feel it will not get better, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring since you probably didn’t plan on being where you are at today.

This applies to all facets of life but, as a dad, it’s a critical truth to ponder. No matter where you find yourself in relationship with your children, you can start today to change that legacy. Don’t let the rut of not having spent as much time as you wished you had with your kids, going to more of their events, spending one-on-one time with them, not telling them you loved them and how proud you are of them, etc. keep you from being the dad you’re children need TODAY. It’s not too late. Don’t let the rut of not having been the dad you wished you had been keep you from being the dad you can be NOW. Age or time is not a factor. Forgiveness and reconciliation may be necessary to heal real wounds. Don’t die in your rut of fatherhood. Rise up and let this year be the year you filled in the rut of your life as a man and dad, and purpose to let God bring you hope and joy.

Here are some things that I’ve done that have helped me rise above the rut and fill in the trench of my life so I could begin or regain hope in my life.

1. Don’t believe the lie that it can’t get better. Begin to pray and ask God to heal your heart and to give you hope. It’s why he sent Jesus – his life, death and resurrection showed that sin and death were defeated so we would no longer be a slave to either. You have to start with hope that God can and desires to give you freedom from your sin and despairs.

2. Find a trusted friend that you can meet with to share the hurts you’ve experienced or even perpetrated as a man and/or father. Isolation is the enemy to hope and growth.

3. Find some great resources about being the man and father that you were created to be. Organizations like FamilyLife and Focus on the Family as well as All Pro Dad and Men’s Fraternity have some great books, group studies and other articles, podcasts, etc., that can help you develop and take the courageous next steps

4. Do something! Take one of the steps mentioned above or do something like… Call your child/children. Take them out. Text them. Send them a video message. Write them an old-fashioned hand written letter or card telling them you are thinking about them. But don’t just sit there. Maybe you have a very damaged relationship that will need a lot of time to heal. But, you can and should make the first overture as a dad to begin the healing process (this doesn’t take into account some legal or other significant barriers that may exist in some circumstances). The hardest step to take is the first one.

There is hope for every one of us. That hope is that we are made for a purpose and we were given the responsibility to pass on a Godly and positive legacy to our children. You may not have started well but YOU CAN finish well.  Hope is the dirt.  Get help in filling your rut.  Don’t let your rut become a grave.


A DadPad Rerun: Nice Hat!

October 21, 2010

originally written by Roger Thompson

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Some of the best memories I have of my Dad are the times when we started something with excitement, got half-way in, and then didn’t know whether we could salvage it from disaster. There was that woefully under-powered go-cart we built, named the “Chug,” assembled from a scavenged motor, a plank stolen from the basement shelves, and wheels bought at the hardware store. We were stumped when it came to rigging up the steering mechanism, and the assembly stopped. I was eleven, and an eager helper, but the engineering was way over my head. One night we were seated at dinner when my Dad jumped to his feet, shouted: “I know how we can do it!” and bolted down the basement stairs. I was on his heals, still swallowing my chicken casserole. There, with shafts, axles, and chunks of steel the basic geometry of our steering dilemma was solved. The next day we went to the welder for a few precision bends of the steel spindles, and progress resumed.


A DadPad Rerun: Father, Forgive them

October 15, 2010

by Leary Gates

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I had lunch this week with Dave, a friend of mine and father of three adult children.  The topic of this blog came up so I asked, “What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a dad?”  Dave’s answer was profoundly succinct, “Expect less, love more.

As I reflected upon his advice, I remembered Jesus’ prayer on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  Now that’s expecting less and loving more!

Then it hit me.  When it came to my kids—and many of my other relationships—I bought into another similar sounding message: “expect more, pay less.”  It’s the slogan of Target Corporation and it’s been heavily advertised into my heart.

It’s too easy to expect more of my children, particularly as they grow into young adults.  And I want to pay less too.  I’d like the sacrifices I’ve made as a dad to be paid back or, at least, to cost me less.  The “expect more, pay less” combination applied to relationships, however is lethal. Expectation of others without personal cost is demandingness.  Ironically, it’s a childish attitude.

Show you my tongueWhen my teenagers take off with their friends, leaving chores undone, do I really expect that they would put their parent’s desires above their own?  I say to myself, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  When they come home later than we wanted to stay up waiting for them, can I admit I did the same at their age? Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. When their forgetfulness means more work for me, can I realistically expect a heartfelt appreciation for the schedule overhaul I just engineered? Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

And when my Father looks down on my ungrateful, demanding spirit, wanting my way, my agenda, my comfort, in my time, can I hear Him say, “I forgive you, for you know not what you do?”

SOUND OFF:  What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned as a dad?

Being a “Rad Dad”

August 9, 2010

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I remember the first time my kids got into “social media”.  My son asked about something called Xanga.  It was like My Space and Facebook before they became popular.  It was my first entry into this new thing called “social media”.  I didn’t have a clue what it was but it began a journey for me to investigate so that I could enter into meaningful discussions with them about if and how they could use or embrace these new apps.

One day, I sat down with my daughter to look at her iTunes list just to see what kind of music she was listening to.  The purpose of my questions were not just to “check up” on her but also to enter her world.  It’s a lot easier to have discussions about what your kids are doing, music tastes, social media involvement, etc., when you have a little understanding of what they like, don’t like, listen to, and update or read on the internet.  This concept extends to more than online or music camaraderie.

If I were to ask you the following questions over coffee at Starbucks or Caribou (my personal favorite), would you be able to answer them?

  • What kind of music do your kids listen to?  Who’s their favorite artist?
  • What sports do they LIKE to play (not which ten do you have them involved in)?
  • What’s their favorite color?
  • Which subject in school do they feel really excited about when they are in class and which ones make them feel inadequate or do they struggle in?
  • If they could travel to any country in the world, where would they go?  Why?
  • Who are their favorite friends?  Which friends show interest in them?
  • What’s their favorite food?  Do they like to try new foods?
  • When do they feel most loved?

There are hundreds of these seemingly innocuous questions you could think of that would be a great date night tool to help you get to know your kids and the world they live in.  There are a lot of traps out there that our kids can easily get lured into that could harm them.  But, if we don’t take the time to get to know them for who God made them to be, our concerns and admonitions often are heard as “blah blah blah”.  So, my encouragement to you, dad, is to be “rad”.  Get to know the things that are happening and even startle your child by asking them if they’ve heard the latest _________ (you fill in the musical group or artist) and use it as a time of bonding and learning.  They might even think it’s “cool (a 70’s term that is gonna make a comeback–just you wait) that you know an artist that THEY like.  Then, you have a platform of beginning to teach and enlighten them if they are involved in things that might be harmful or even dangerous.  Teaching times are born out of a life that is focused on the child first and then their actions.

Dad Idea:  Write down a list of questions (similar to the ones above) and have them with you as you spend some devoted time with your son or daughter (by the way, this is a great thing to do with an adult child too–the nature of your questions might change but never too late to invest your time and attention on them and their lives).

“ConGRADulations”: 7 Ways to Celebrate Graduation

May 5, 2010

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You’ve cleaned up dirty diapers and bandaged “boo-boo’s”.  You just met the neanderthal taking your daughter to Prom and recently got a call from your son where he tells you he just cracked up the new car.  And, in between you’ve scolded, cuddled, kissed, spanked (can I say that?), wrestled, and worked on homework with them.  You made it through “THE” chat, with sweaty palms and a cracked voice and then wondered if they understood only to find out they knew much more than you expected (or wanted).  Trips and dates–dinners and late nights–movies and talks on the couch–evenings waiting for them to come home and mornings waiting for them to get up.  Ahhhh, 18 years filled with so many memories bring you to the day that you may dread but know is exactly why God lent them to you–you’re launching your child into the world.  Most of us will be launching them into college or some schooling.  Some into a job or even a young marriage.  It’s time to celebrate your child’s high school graduation.

Someday, I’ll chronicle the many and varied feelings my wife and I have had as we’ve launched two into college and will launch our last (daughter) this year.  But, though I’m nostalgic, I want to share how we can celebrate their accomplishment.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been pouring through thousands of pictures in iPhoto or songs in iTunes in order to produce the third graduation DVD.  Or, maybe it’s due to the fact that I’ve been watching my wife spend hours putting together a book of picture memories covering 18 years of our child’s life.  In any case, it’s our third time through this routine in the last four years (our son graduated in 2006, a daughter in 2008 and now our last in 2010).  So, over the next week or so, I’ll share various posts about graduation and celebration.  Now, I want to stimulate you with some thoughts about how you can celebrate this great moment in your children’s lives.  Here are 7 ideas to celebrate your child’s graduation—some we’ve done, a few that I’ve heard about and maybe a few I just made up but thought they sounded good 🙂 :

  1. PUT TOGETHER A DVD OF PICTURES AND SONGS THAT DEPICT THE MANY FACETS OF YOUR CHILDS CHARACTER. I’ve done this for our first two children and working on the one for our daughter this year.  I pour through “googleized” lists of songs that others have suggested for these kind of things and now have a lot of songs that I will share with you in another post.  I typically go way overboard on this and put together a DVD with a number of different slideshow arrangements.  But, you can keep it simple and still make it a powerful gift to give to family and your child.  We’ll sit down and watch it as a family when I’m done.
  2. CREATE A MEMORY BOOK OF PICTURES AND KEY WORDS. My wife has put together a memory book by going through years of old pictures and new digital ones.  We scan in the old to copy and use while printing the new.  Then, she uses various themes throughout by using different shapes, stenciled letter types and fabric or paper to make it interesting.
  3. HAVE KEY FAMILY AND FRIENDS WRITE A LETTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND ADVICE. Ask family and friends that have had an influence in your childs life to write a letter to them with words of encouragement by citing the character qualities they’ve observed in them.  Additionally, you can ask them to share a piece of advice or bible passage or story that might help guide your child into their upcoming unfamiliar steps.  As an added bonus you could put these letters into an album and give it to them as they head out to school or to their next adventure.
  4. EACH MEMBER OF THE FAMILY WRITES A TRIBUTE AND READS IT TO THE GRADUATE AT DINNER. Take your graduating child out to dinner with the entire family where each of you take turns reading letters to them (as they are able :)) about fun memories, things you’ll miss about them, things you won’t miss and some of the ways that he/she has impacted your life.  Make it fun and memorable.  Additionally, you can give them a special gift as a celebratory memory.
  5. ROAD TRIP. Map out a road trip for the summer between high school and college/job/?.  Make it a trip that might be themed after something that is geared for the graduates interests.  For instance, if she is into theme parks, consider driving to go to either one she’s always wanted to go to or take a “theme park tour” by hitting several over a 10-14 day stretch.  Or, if he loves baseball, consider a baseball tour or weekend event.  It might just be a camping outing if they love to camp and hike.  Whatever it is, make it about them.
  6. OPEN HOUSE. I grew up and lived most of my life in Minnesota.  An open house wasn’t an option, it was mandatory.  In fact, I had friends who would time the remodeling of their homes with the graduation of their children.   It is a way of life, at least in the metropolitan/suburban Twin Cities.  Since we’ve been in Arkansas, the idea of an open house seems to be catching on but has by no means been a “no brainer”.  So, if you live in a similar environment where you aren’t even sure what I mean by Open House, consider having one.  It can be a simple time of inviting friends and family over to your home, provide some simple refreshments, a large cake with congratulatory words and now digitally frosted photos and a home decorated with variously aged photos of the graduate placed around the home.

I’d love to have you add to my list and give me the 7 ideas I promised.  What have you done for your high school graduate to celebrate this accomplishment?  What are you doing this year?  Can’t wait to add your idea to my list.

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DadPad Quotes & Notes: Oil and Idol

March 10, 2010

“I talk and talk and talk, and I haven’t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week.” — Mario Cuomo

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I got a call from my college senior yesterday.  He asked me if there was any special oil that the old SUV he drives up at school needed to be asked for when he took it in for an oil change.  It’s the kind of questions that sons ask dads all the time.  But, I was reminded that there are so many things in this life that you just need to experience to understand.  I am NOT a mechanically astute dad.  I remember changing the water pump on a 1960-something Rambler when I was in my late teens.  Over the past few years I’ve learned how to better manage my car but I’ll never be the first person others think of to ask for help in working on their car.  Compared to my dad, though, I’m Mr. Goodwrench.  I don’t mean any disrespect to my dad.  He’s got other great qualities.  Mechanical aptitude isn’t one of them.  Though I’m no NASCAR pit crew member, I have decided that I want my son to learn the basics in life that will help him take care of things, even if he’s not gifted in that way.  I realize my influence on him toward that end is stronger than I might naturally think.

Here’s a test for you–next time you meet someone that has a specific talent, ask them if they learned it from or worked on it together with their dad.  Last night on American Idol, Siobhan Magnus was asked by Ryan Seacrest about the song she chose.  She chose the song she did (House of the Rising Sun) because it was her dad’s favorite.  Then, she indicated that her dad was the best singer she had ever heard (and said that her dad had said that she was the best singer he had heard).  Point is, a dad’s involvement in a child’s life is often the reason that the child grows into a skill or even a career.

Mario Cuomo stated it well in the quote above.  A dad’s influence in their child’s life is much more impacting than anything else when it’s done out of love for the child.  As an aside, a dad’s influence is just as powerful the opposite direction as well in leaving a lasting legacy of hurt and pain when NOT not done in love.

For discussion: What seeds have you sown into your child’s life in terms of skill or encouraging a talent that you’ve seen the fruit of later?  Or, how did your dad build into you around a skill or talent that you’ve benefited from throughout your life?

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“Yes, you can.”

July 6, 2009

I love to give permission for my kids to do things they enjoy, particularly in the summertime. The season goes by so quickly in Minnesota, it’s tempting to pack as much activity in as possible. “Yes, you can,” is heard a lot at our home. I suppose you could call me an enabler.

upset boy against a wallBut I prefer being another kind of enabler—one that says “Yes, you can!” when they feel uncertain about their abilities. One of the greatest challenges they’ll face is their own self-diminishment. Taking thoughts captive and replacing untruth with truth is one of the hardest skills to master. As their dad, I want to help them recognize early the symptoms of stinkin’ thinkin’ (as Zig Ziglar calls it) and encourage them to say to themselves, “Yes. I can.”

These suggestions may help you become that kind of enabler as well:

  • Be a detective. It’s likely your kids are harboring self-defeat in some form. Like a detective, look for evidence of stinkin’ thinking. But tread lightly. You don’t want to push the culprit back into hiding.
  • Inquire about new experiences. Has your child picked up a new friend recently or started a new activity? The start of any new endeavor is often filled with self-doubt. Ask about their new experiences and listen carefully to their responses.
  • Explore abandoned experiences. Has your child recently abandoned a sport, hobby, or other social activity? Not every activity is meant to last forever, but sudden loss of interest may be a clue that your child has hit the internal wall of self-doubt.
  • Encourage replacement challenges. Find challenges that stretch and don’t break. If possible join them in it and encourage them along the way.
  • Pray for break-through moments. Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of detective work to discover self-defeating thinking in our kids. Saying, “you shouldn’t think that way” is usually not effective. That’s when it’s best to pray for a break-through moment. These are times when a shared experience becomes a teachable moment. A shared experience affords the opportunity to talk about the experience together and share how you worked through your own self-doubt.

What suggestions have you found helpful for enabling a “Yes, I can” belief in your children?

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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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