Rewriting History?

Kids have an uncanny way of catching parents unprepared, don’t they?  While our family was in the car (on the way to church no less) my youngest son asked the open-ended question, “Dad, has anyone in our family ever been in real trouble?” 

I have no idea what inspired his question or what he meant by “real trouble.”  In a matter of milliseconds I was in full internal dialog conflict.  I’ve already had the discussion about my wild and wooly youth with my eldest son, on my own terms, when he first became a teenager.  I want all the boys to learn from my successes as well as failures, but I didn’t plan to introduce certain parts of my history until I deemed each was mature enough to understand.  With the question I found myself put on the spot by my “baby” – the child with the unflappable memory.

First thought – deflect the question.  Surely we didn’t have time to get into the details right before church.

Second thought – lie now and ask for forgiveness later when I set the record straight.  After all, how would I be helping my boy by exposing him now to the truth of his father’s fallibility?

Third thought - tell the truth.  Heavy sigh...

Thankful for the influence of the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit, I resisted the temptation to try to rewrite my history.  In the end, there was more at stake than my pride.  Instead of adding a new failure to a past failure, I shared that yes someone had found trouble, and that someone was me.  After my son’s shocked look that pierced my heart momentarily, I explained that I had made some poor decisions as a young man, letting my immaturity and anger get the best of me - and I paid the price.  As quickly as the question came, the answer satisfied the random curiosity of the inquiry.

Fatherhood Challenge: Dare to tell the truth.  I realize there are definitely times when it would be inappropriate to share all the adult details of life, even if directly asked by our children.  However, risking a wound to my ego and being challenged to follow-up the truthful answer with a teachable moment later on, when the time is right, was the better choice.

Because I Love You…

It was one of those weekends to which any parent can probably relate.   

The need for what I call “everyday discipline” often seems to come in waves, and we were surfin’ USA.  I hate sounding like a broken record, and even worse yet, becoming a nag.  For reasons unknown to me, my two younger boys ran a course over two days that had me correcting them every few hours for one reason or another.  Right up to church time on Sunday morning we were battling over the same 'ol house rules and I was becoming more exasperated with each additional infraction.   

When we arrived at church and discovered the sermon was about passionate parenting, and specifically on the topic of discipline, I couldn’t help but think the timing was providential.

Few parenting topics have been written about as much as discipline.  In fact, a Google search of “disciplining children” yields 3,030,000 results!  My boss and mentor, Dr. James Dobson, wrote one of the definitive and best-selling books on the subject, titled Dare to Discipline.  I encourage every parent read D2D at least once, and re-read it when you can use encouragement or have specific questions.

Many solid principles of disciplining kids were reiterated in the sermon, such as: the value of consistency, the importance of setting meaningful consequences, and the need to distinguish between criticism of behavior and a personal character indictment.  The most important and fundamental point that hit home for me was the reason for discipline, so clearly communicated in Hebrews 12:6:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Like the Lord with all His children, our being willing to discipline and meet the parenting challenge to do it biblically and effectively is love.  Period.  Focused on the issue at hand, I sometimes forget to share this fundamental rationale with my children.  

There was also value in my sons hearing that loving discipline is a mandate, a job assigned to their parents by the Heavenly Father.  As the pastor made the connection I literally watched the light go on in my boy's eyes - yet another reason to help our children get into the Word of God and to have them engaged in a church setting where other Christian leaders can come alongside us as parents.

Finally, if we are truly acting in love as we discipline, it greatly helps with the frequent challenges that surround this key parenting responsibility.

His Sovereignty Is Forever

On the eve of the 2012 presidential election in the United States of America, there is tangible electricity coursing through our nation in anticipation of the appointment of the country’s 45th Commander in Chief.  Pomp and circumstance will soon mark the end of a long, exhausting, and expensive election season. 

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being nervous.  Not the kind of nervousness when anticipating the results of a Super Bowl, where my favorite football team was on the field but even the best team can be beat on any given Sunday.  This is more of a hot coal in the pit of my stomach type of nerves.   

I’ve had to ask myself, “why?”

Certainly the stakes couldn’t be higher for families in our nation.  There are clear, fundamental differences in the candidates’ positions on defending the sanctity of life, biblical marriages, religious liberties and plans for how to work back from an economic slide that has decimated our country’s global position.  For these reasons, we should all be engaged and very, very concerned about the election outcome.  For God’s sake brothers and sisters, exercise your right and vote if you haven’t already!

Then there’s the “me” part of the equation.  While usually politically opinionated, this is the first presidential election when my immediate family and I, together, have been mobilized for the cause.  We’ve read, listened, watched, and studied. We have talked about the issues and choices at hand with those who would listen.  We’ve donned the signs and bumper stickers and attended victory rallies.  Been there, bought the t-shirt and worn it.

Unexpectedly, our support for Mitt Romney and his plan for America became a personal issue very quickly, putting our family at odds with other family members, friends, clients and strangers.  We’ve been given rude salute, shouted at, and my sticker-laden vehicle was even vandalized.

So what does this have to do with the fatherhood challenge? It has everything to do with what happens next.

As the pastor of the church we attend reminded us yesterday in a teaching series on parenting, my three sons are watching their mom and I - especially now.  Through our behavior, in our countenance, and in what and how we pray our kids will learn lessons about victory or defeat, elation or disappointment, community or division, about real patriotism and love of country.  And I thought all that was left to do was vote!

I pray for new leadership in America and for the restoration of the Christian heritage that made this country truly great.  That is MY prayer.  But far more importantly, I trust God.  So now, before the election is decided, I focus on the greater lesson before us and the reason that my nerves are simply a waste of energy.  I borrow from columnist Joel Hilliker and his article, “Why We Should Pray For The President.”

"1 Peter 2:13 tells us to 'Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.'  For whose sake?  The Lord’s.

Why?  So we learn to submit to government.  It will be much easier to submit to a loving God if we learn to submit to a hard boss.  We all must learn the lesson of submitting to government even if it is not being applied correctly.

Look at Christ’s example.  He put Himself totally in His Father’s hands, knowing God was in control of everything.  When He came before Pilate, He didn’t revile—He submitted Himself to that authority.  He knew that Pilate had no power but what God gave him, and that everything occurs in accordance with God’s ultimate purpose (verses 22-23; John 19:10-11).

If we can learn this lesson of submitting to whomever God puts over us in this world, it will tremendously help us in our relationship with our heavenly Father.  It will, in fact, prepare us for the Kingdom of God.”

The right to publicly and passionately agree or disagree on the road to representing and defending our values is an incredible privilege that most of the people on earth do not share.  In a mostly civil way, Americans have engaged in the freedoms that defines our republic and sets us apart as “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

May we each pledge allegiance, under God, to the United States of America and support in faith the leadership He allows.  May we commit to patriotism and teach our children love and respect for our country, regardless of the election outcome.  May we live in the peace of knowing that the Lord’s will is perfect and that His sovereignty is forever.

Scared - For Real

It feels like we’re living in crazy town.  Earlier this year, a bright college student went on a deadly shooting spree in a local movie theater just a few miles from our home.

In what made national news, a young local girl’s body was discovered, confirming the worst of her disappearance.  We then learned that the 17-year old “boy next door” had savagely brutalized his victim.  On the same evening, parents in our neighborhood were alerted that two other separate and independent child abductions were foiled, thank God, that day alone.

Late that night I found my wife with her head in her hands, weeping quietly as she sat outside our children’s rooms in the dark.  “I’m scared,” she whispered.

Behind the locked doors and engaged alarm system of our second amendment-secured home, I didn’t understand her fear, at first.  Then it hit me.  She was afraid for our boys, for all children, not so much in here as out there.  I share her fear.

As a child I always loved the spook and spectacular of Halloween.  The ghouls and goblins and zombies were fun and funny because they were fake.  What really scared me?  Jaws.  Like millions of others, I was genuinely afraid of the reality that an unseen predator posed.

Today the threat of a gnashing beast isn’t limited to deep and murky waters at sunset.  Monsters don't just creep the neighborhood on All Hallows' Eve.  They are real and they are everywhere.  Is the world becoming a more sinister place?  Are our children at greater risk by the horrors of man’s dark sin nature?  I hate to say it because it shatters my sense of security, but I think the answer is yes.

So, in an uncontrollable world, what can we do to help protect our kids and instill a healthy sense of caution in them?

• We must keep vigilant watch on our surroundings and be an active part of our kid’s day-to-day worlds.

• We need to have regular conversations with kids about the predatory dangers that hunt children around the corner, down the street, and especially online. 

• We must face the reality of desensitization towards violence, gore, crime, sexuality and lowest common denominator human behavior (see most of the “reality” shows on prime time television) that is occurring daily with our children.  The rising threshold of tolerance for the macabre is an epidemic and exponentially increases the challenges for parents safeguarding kids.  We must guide youth in establishing values that transcend the culture.  We need to help them discern the difference between fantasy and reality.

• We should be in vigilant prayer that Almighty God protects our families and that He shields us from evil.

 “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” 
Proverbs 18:10

We pray for the Ridgeway family and all parents who have suffered the inexplicable loss of a child.

On behalf of mothers and fathers everywhere, I send my deep thanks and prayers to Ms. Sigg, the aforementioned murderer’s mother, who played a critical role in her son’s confession and arrest.  I cannot fathom the pain and confusion she must feel.  It is clear though, while the precious girl who lost her life cannot be restored here on earth, that this brave woman possibly saved other lives at the hands of her son.  With parenting comes incredible responsibility, in good times and bad.  

Living Courageously

What does courage mean to you? defines courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc.”

In my view, real courage is much more than the preparedness or a plan to be brave, committed, and resolved in one’s convictions.  It’s about action – what someone actually does (or doesn’t do) when it matters most. 

As you may know, I work with Dr. James Dobson.  The experience has been one of the great honors of my professional career.  The truth be told, when I accepted this assignment I had no idea how much I would learn not only from his expertise and body of work, but by watching him live.  Time and time again, I witness Dr. Dobson display great courage as he stays the course, promoting the biblical principles of parenting and marriage.  All too often this puts him under personal attack - his service, his heart, his intentions and his character are all called into question.  Flat out lies and hate speech are publicly flung his way.  And yet, the man transcends these attacks. 

I wish you could see what I’ve seen day-to-day.  The tireless work ethic.  The dedication.  The love this man has for families, for his own family, and for the Lord.  You get a sense for it in Dr. Dobson’s books, but I can tell you – it’s not just theory.  He is the real deal and we are all very lucky to have him as he stands for the family.

Challenge: Especially as parents, we each need copious amounts of courage.  We are blessed to have a handful of men and women in our midst who model what it really means to be courageous Christians.  We would be wise to pay attention.


“This, then, is our goal as parents: we must not transfer power too early, even if our children take us daily to the battlefield.  Mothers who make that mistake are some of the most frustrated people on the face of the earth.  On the other hand, we must not retain parental power too long, either. Control will be torn from our grasp if we refuse to surrender it voluntarily. The granting of self-determination should be matched stride for stride with the arrival of maturity, culminating with complete release during early adulthood.”  Dr. James Dobson, from Parenting Isn’t For Cowards.

Save The Day

After a long week, my already lengthy homeward bound commute was extended an hour-and-a-half by inexplicable bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Friday evening I was reminded that my son’s picture day and soccer game was scheduled at an unfamiliar location, far away from our home at 7-something AM.   Exhausted, the following morning we rushed out the door as dawn cracked the horizon.  I got lost.  We were late.  I was underdressed.  We arrived 30-minutes after the designated meeting time, just as the photographer was arriving.  Annoyed parents shivered with hands stuffed into puffy jacket pockets on a foggy, wet field.  Being jacket-less myself in the low-40 degree chill, I opted to thaw in my car as everyone waited for the picture guy to get his act together.  Cold, hungry and tired, a mood was forming…

Soon I was summoned to the parents huddle by the team coach.  Apparently he’d missed an email from the league.  Our game had been rescheduled.  He sheepishly asked, could we “fill time” for six hours at the field or drive back for a game at 3PM?  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only parent for whom a full-day, hour-long soccer game would not work.  As we determined that we’d not have sufficient players to field a team at the actual game time, it began to rain on us.

So what now?

My sons had every reason to feel equally frustrated.  However, they could have cared less.  To my grumbles one responded, “At least I was able to see my friends,” and “I’m glad we didn’t miss my pictures,” and way too cheerily, “now we have more time for our day!”  They suggested that we find a place where they could have a second breakfast and warm up with something hot and sweet.  OK, whatever.

When we arrived at The Original Pancake House, no less than 30 ravenous people waited eagerly as the cue extended beyond the restaurant’s cozy lobby out to the patio and into the parking lot.  I thought – GAME OVER!  Undeterred, my sons pressed that we wait.  When all those before us were seated, as well as, mysteriously, some who arrived after us, we were ushered to our table.  I sat and everything changed. 

A cheerful and attentive server supplied copious amounts of caffeine, and quickly delivered delectable cinnamon apple German pancakes and others frothing with whipped cream and dripping with hot syrup.  Sizzling, crisp bacon wafted a smoky aroma that gifted memories of my childhood.  The boys joked and laughed, making up memory games and drawing good-natured caricatures on the restaurant-supplied Etch-a-Sketches (a fantastic idea, by the way). Warm, fed and hydrated it settled in - the day had been saved.

Thinking back just one hour I realized that the tipping point was the “what now” moment in the car.  My boys’ ability to find beauty in the ashes led us down a significantly different path, likely for the remainder of the day.  They were the ying to my yang.  I was reminded and inspired to look for opportunities to be the sun amidst other’s cloudy days instead of being the lightning.

I wonder if the real purpose of the day’s string of previous fiascos was simply to set-up that very moment with my boys.  In it, Psalm 127 : 3-4 became alive.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”

As parents, we should be aware of the living example God has entrusted to our care.  Despite the circumstances of daily life and setbacks both large and small, we are challenged to be appreciative, to be flexible, and to live in the joy of the moment in a child-like manner.  More than our moods are at stake.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:1-3

PRAYER: Father, we thank you for the blessing of children and ask for your help and continual reminder to also live in the hope and faith that they naturally display.  Amen.

Truth and Integrity

It was after bedtime and my 9-year old son rushed me a stack of papers and thrust a pen into my hand, asking for my signature – a signoff on his weekly reading log. Clearly he’d just filled-in several days of “reading” and was requesting my confirmation of his work. The problem was he’d claimed daily reading time through 10/3. It was 10/2. I asked him to reconsider his report, explaining that it was far more important to me that we tell the truth; that we are men who try our very best to develop and live with integrity – to celebrate our strengths and to own our shortcomings. Oh, and I reminded him that because of his after school soccer practice, dinner and bedtime routine, there was no way he’d read the day before and he couldn’t possibly have already read tomorrow.

After considering my proposition, he reclaimed the reading log and recorded zeroes for the previous three days. With eyes directed to the floor my boy explained that consequently he’d have to attend study hall the next day instead of going to recess. There, he would face the music and get caught up.

My heart swelled with pride for this young man. He chose integrity. He chose to trust me with the truth. I told Hunter that by deciding to correct his path he has set a precedent whereby I can stand by him when he counts on me to back him up, even when no other hard evidence is available.

It occurred to me that I have the same choices as he did. And, I have the opportunity and obligation to show him that honesty matters to me through my own admission to failure – not just when it’s easy. The teacher has become the student again. What a privilege it is to be challenged, man-to-man, iron sharpening iron.

Mr. President, you too can learn something from my son, Hunter.

Challenge: Make the most of your next misstep by sharing with your child how you erred and what you’ll do to make things right.

Sex and Spaghetti?

I’m not a prude.

My engine runs like most red-blooded, testosterone charged men. By God’s design, we are driven by a natural attraction to the opposite sex. And, we are biologically and emotionally compelled by sensual and sexual content. For those reasons, there is no denying that sex sells.

But why are we allowing strangers to sell sex to our kids?

Natural sexual appetite is being exploited and abused like never before by the media and marketing industries, and our children are increasingly becoming the victims.

As a desensitized culture, every day we are accepting a depraved and anti-biblical paradigm of human sexuality and a not-so-subtle assault on the definition of marriage and family - not to mention propagandistic views that promote and celebrate a “new normal” - even when the vast majority of our nation’s citizens neither agree or nor embrace lascivious lifestyles and the proclaimed falsehoods.

Fathers, I ask you: Are we burned out, clueless, or just plain naïve about what is happening under our watch?

Take for example this small sampling of recent atrocities that range from highly inappropriate to downright homosexual propaganda:

• Radio ads for the fast food chain Jack in the Box play verbal ping pong with double entendre, the spokesperson, “Jack,” describing a super-sized food item while the counterpart character instead references engorged male genitalia – a blatant referral even my 11-year old son caught. No better are Carl's Jr. ads that objectify women and feature hyper-sexual situations... to sell burgers.

• In a television commercial promoting Ragu spaghetti sauce, a pre-teen boy comes home from school early to walk-in on his Mom engaged in “afternoon delight,” (with whom we do not know, presumably Dad would be at work,), traumatizing the young lad. The solution? Feed him spaghetti because “his day has been rough enough.”

• Airing at 7PM, a prime time courtroom drama television program featured two attractive female attorneys who can’t resist the need to “make out” back in the judge’s chambers between legal cases, a gratuitous scene that was absolutely non-relevant to the story.

• The national big-box retailer Target recently featured a periodical advertisement picturing two gay men intimately holding hands while gazing into each other’s eyes, stating that Target was the home of “their” wedding and (dare I say bridal) registry.

• And don’t even get me started on NBC’s new sitcom, The New Normal, described on the network’s website as, “Two gay dads and a baby mama create a totally new kind of family comedy.” This entertainment vomit attempts to push off what should be viewed for what it is –a social collapse- as funny.

We are accepting this decimation of family values and dilution of righteous sexuality by not refusing it and objecting as relentlessly and loudly as others are thrusting this garbage upon our innocent children.

I’m telling you, parents. Satan is on a tear, using our biological drives and the downward spiral of our culture’s moral conviction to devour our children’s innocence, to confuse them about sexuality, and to erode the wholesome lessons and biblical worldview taught at home.

If you agree with me I hope you’ll also opt-out of supporting any organization that is directly peddling filth and therefore hurting our kids. Personally,

• I will not watch TV programs that bait-and-switch content and cave to a perceived demand for lust-driven scenes.

• I will not eat at Jack in the Box or Carl’s Jr.

• I will not buy Ragu spaghetti sauce.

• I will not set foot into a Target store or buy online from them.

• I will monitor the TV programs that my sons watch in our home and disallow those that set out to poison their minds.

What are you seeing and hearing? What do you cringe at when knowing your children are also being exposed? What will you do… or NOT do?

Finally, Rebecca Hagelin recently wrote an article worth reading, citing a study that shows teens imitate the risky sex of films and TV. Check out: Culture challenge of the week: Movies “selling” sex to children. Rebecca Hagelin is the author of 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. To find her book and reach her directly, visit

Other Resources:

• You can register your dissatisfaction with organizations and media campaigns with the National Consumer Complaint Forum.

• File a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC: Obscene, Profane, and/or Indecent Material Complaint Form

• Has the media already trapped your kid in a seductive web? What to Do if My Child is Looking at Porn: 5 Critical Steps.

They’ll Always Need Us - Whether They Know It Or Not.

It’s one of the great struggles of parenting – providing unconditional love and nurturing care to our child at all growth stages while simultaneously developing independence and survival skills.
So often in our culture we see the debris left by young adults for whom the pendulum of balance swung too far one way or the other. It is the adult adolescent who’s entitled worldview started at home while his mom and dad handled nearly all of life’s blocking and tackling. It’s the lost 20-something who is already exhausted and disenfranchised from battling through trials and errors, largely alone, while desperately trying to figure out “the system” as her self-absorbed parents perpetuate their absentee legacy.

Ultimately, we seek to provide tools and training for our child to become healthy, happy, and saved - as well as - the personal security that having the lifelong emotional support of parents can provide.

As our kids grow into young adults, so too does the challenge of being allowed to provide that balanced support.

My eldest son is in his second year at an engineering-focused college. Clearly, the kid is bright. Like the advanced environmental challenges and theoretical models that he and his fellow students reverse engineer (for fun), he has much of life “figured out.” I’m tickled when I see him take charge, doing research about things both large and small and weighing his life’s options - even when a little disappointed when I hear about important decisions he’s made, after the fact. Such is the price of letting go.

Recently, as my son prepared for an upcoming job fair, I was taught something important about the ongoing challenge of being a balanced and supportive father to an increasingly self-reliant young man. He came to my wife and I for help in securing a suit for the fair. He wasn’t (initially) asking for advice on how to present himself or how to succeed at the event. However, being there for him with the small thing provided us the time together to sneak in a little real experience and wisdom – the much larger thing. Too often have I provided the answers to the “more important questions,” without first answering the question asked!

I suggested that my son borrow one of my suits. In fact, he could have the pick of the litter. If I’d simply told him to borrow someone else’s suit or just transferred a few bucks into his bank account, I would not have had the canvas (or his attention) to share with him the benefits of my experience and what will really outfit and serve him well at his job fair. As I was cinching up his tie, I’m pretty sure we were both thinking, “This worked out OK. How do we do more of this?”

Many parents preemptively mourn the day that their child will not need them anymore. I believe that day should never come. By looking for invitations to “be there” for our maturing kids, we will continue to prove to them that they can rely upon us, even as their independence grows. What greater testimony to relationship than to be wanted in our child’s life once they run it for themselves.

At any age, our babies won’t care how much we know unless they know how much we care.

Challenge: What is one way you can solicit the invitation to “be there” for your child this week?

Admonitions to good parenting abound in Scripture. We are to “train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), giving him good gifts (Matthew 7:11), loving and disciplining him for his sakes (Proverbs 13:24), and providing for his needs (1 Timothy 5:8).

Developing Values, a Voice, and a Vote

First, this is not a political commentary. Rather, today we should consider our parental role in teaching and encouraging the next generation of voters in America - our children. I will suggest that the voting process begins long before our kids turn 18 years of age.

Last week there was an automated voicemail message on our home telephone, extending a ‘personal’ invitation to attend a Romney for President rally to hear local officials speak and see (and even to board) the touring campaign bus. I thought, what a terrific opportunity for my sons to see the political machine in process.

We went and listened to speakers, ate “freedom cookies,” and cheered as our country’s flag was waved while triple-barreled questions incited uproarious chants of “Yes!” After all, who wouldn’t want a better economy? Who wouldn’t want to support families? And who wouldn’t want to renew national security by not selling it out with debt for generations to come? But what impacted my kids most? At 9 and 11 years old respectively, it was getting on the bus.

I asked them what they heard during the rally. They responded, “Romney is for families. Romney is for jobs and he has experience in business.” I followed, “What about President Obama?” They said, “He’s not.” They were listening after all. However, this example creates a challenge for us, parents. While our family constituency is unavoidably hammered by the over-simplified marketing clarion calls of political party affiliations and candidates, we must ask ourselves if we are doing the more fundamental job – helping them identify their values and to develop a voice to promote and defend them.

I was raised in a politically divided household. My mother was a vocal supporter of Kennedy/Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. My father, a Navy man and career defense industry engineer, was a quiet-but-devout conservative. I suspect that because they didn’t personally agree, neither politics nor the underlying issues were discussed or taught in our home. As a result, when the privilege of voting also became my right, I felt generally disconnected and had no idea how to navigate the messaging or propositions to establish an opinion. So, with my first two opportunities to vote, I did nothing. We have to do a better job as parents, especially teaching children how to listen, discern truth (if they can find it), and indoctrinate the responsibility to exercise their voice in the political process through voting.

The ways of politics are rocking our children’s confidence in this country and in their future. Both campaigns are overwhelmingly focused on the defamation and destruction of character, capacity, and aspirations of the opposing candidates. The message is clear, “The other guy sucks. If he wins, kiss your dreams goodbye.” Wow. Guess what? Someone IS going to win. And now as part of the political process we’ll have convinced nearly half of our united states that he is a creep. These messages are inescapable to the underage audience as well, appearing pervasively on television, on the radio, online, in social media and even in video games. This erodes national pride and any sense of security of the next generation of voters.

I do not want my sons to blindly assume my political affinity. However, I would be thrilled if they come to the same conclusions that I have, after understanding the options presented and matching those to the values that they’ll learn in our home. Then they will be equipped to exercise their own voice through voting, towards their values. If they come to different conclusions, there is still victory in our raising active, engaged voters.

Challenge: Independent of your own political stance, help to get kids on the bus. 

With your child:

• Discuss your family values.
• Identify core issues that impact our country (and especially the family).
• Help your child understand the difference between the political messaging designed to win an election by tearing down the opponent, and that of working towards a better America by voting in the candidate with who he or she has the greatest confidence and represents their values.
• Finally, we must find a way to encourage patriotism in kids independent of politics. Withholding our prayers, hopes and support from whoever wins this election (provided your desired candidate does not win) only teaches that our national pride is conditional upon one leader. It also presumes that God cannot achieve miraculous things through adversity. Both of which are not true.

God help us as parents, and God bless America.

A Taste of Bitter Fruit

Does threatening about consequences work with your kids? My wife Kelly bought me a great little book this week titled, 1001 Things it Means to Be a Dad, by Harry H. Harrison Jr.

Killer stuff! Some of the truths contained therein were so simple. Others were hilarious. Still others I couldn’t help but want to volley back, “Yes, in theory…”

#891 Being a dad means realizing threats mean nothing. Consequences mean everything.

“Darn straight!” I thought to myself, and then was immediately conflicted. You see, I don’t intend to threaten about anything really, unless in jest. I mean what I say when I say it, if not always how I say it. When I kindly offer, “I’ll be pleased to glue your face shut if you’d like,” of course I’m only inquiring, “Can we lower the volume a tad, my volume-blessed sons?”

However, when it comes to setting conditional behavioral scenarios (rules and consequences), sometimes due to my own time crunch, busyness or fragmentation of attention, I fail to close the loop. Instead, the fair and reasonable consequences that were set for off-track behavior simply become threats with no moxie. This is an anti-lesson. Worse yet, the next time when I appropriately follow-through with discipline on the same issue, my kids are even more confused because the last time I let it slide. This does them no favor. Ah, the scourge of consistency!

Then there is the issue of allowing our children to struggle a bit, especially when they’ve earned it. This is really tough and unnatural for me, particularly when it is the world doling out payback. It’s my job to protect the ‘lil beasts, right? Well, not always.

Dr. James Dobson offers this bit of gold in his straight-to-the-point video, Actions Lead to Consequences. He notes, the “taste of bitter fruit that irresponsibility brings can teach a young child valuable lessons that may be useful to him later on.”

I guess that is the point.  Let them have a taste. I think the only way kids come to understand the reality of life’s causes-and-effects is to gift them with the experience of consequences. And, better that this happen at home - when they are young.

Challenge: Before setting in stone the next consequence for errant behavior with your kids, ask yourself: Am I willing, capable and committed to doing my part to execute the consequence consistently? Idle threats can be more damaging than the sting of justice.

Righteous Anger

Anyone who tells you that parenting doesn’t involve the regular exposition of strong emotions, including anger, is lying.

The assault on our constitutional religious liberties by the current administration in Washington D.C. and the liberal media’s outright digital terrorism on the mind space of our youth to promote a licentious homosexual agenda, has me very, very angry.

Especially in a testosterone-heavy household like ours, expressions of aggression seem to be a normal part of life. So, I’ve been thinking about the use and appropriateness of anger, especially in the context of fathering. In a Christian home that is rooted in love and grace, where and when does anger have a place? Where and when should my anger work into the fathering plan?

Author John Oakes has some interesting thoughts on the subject. He writes, “It seems that righteous anger is directed toward people who willfully violate the rights and prerogatives of God or other people. Anger at those who commit acts of racial prejudice or those who scoff at God or who create division in the church is appropriate.“

“A parent’s anger at their children for blatant rebellion may be appropriate, but that depends on whether it is expressed in a righteous way. If such anger results in a desire to hurt or get revenge it is not righteous.”

In early adulthood I was in love with anger. In fact, I felt that anger was a gift. After all, my view (then) was that anger clarified life. Anger motivated me. I believed my anger was “controllable.” And selfishly, my anger was my own.  Most of my anger was rooted in strongly held assertions of life’s lack of “fairness” and was accompanied by robust payback fantasies.  Simply put, my anger was immature. Only later did I realize that I’d become a slave to my anger, especially the unrighteous and largely unexpressed anger held in my heart. Anger became a barrier to positive action versus a catalyst to change. I look around at our culture today and I see too much of that.

So what do I tell my kids about my own anger, and what should I show them? It’s a gross oversimplification, but I believe a good place to start is with three C’s: Consideration. Communication. Consistency.

• First, I really need to do some thinking about what has me so angry. Are the reasons righteous? If so, what purpose does my anger serve, if any? Serious consideration to what I am I willing to do, or not do, as a result is warranted.

If I’m going to be really angry about something, I’d better be prepared to tell my sons why. I need to communicate with them the context of my anger, what it means to me, and how it manifests in my behavior. Especially if it involves them, they need to understand the difference between being upset with situations or behavior and anger placed and directed at them.

• Anger is such a powerful and potentially damaging emotion that I simply must commit to being consistent about managing the role of that anger plays in my, and their lives. When I blow up, and I blow it with unrighteous anger, I have to be quick to correct myself and teach them how to recover as well.

Righteous anger is also an awesome learning and teaching opportunity. Explaining my reasons for extreme dissatisfaction about core life issues provides the platform for discussions about what is critically important to me. Likewise, digging deeper when my boys are lit up allows me to understand them and their worldview better.

Challenge: Get to know your own anger. Can you accurately qualify if it is righteous or unrighteous? The next time your real anger feels right, I challenge you to test if it is.

I can’t be the only father who sees the power and the danger of anger. What do you do to wield this mighty sword with discernment?

Anger in my life may be fuel for action, but anger in my heart is poison.

Fear of the Dark

In honor of a summer vacation that was ending too early, (don’t they always?) and the start of a new school year, we took the boys camping this past weekend. Our campsite was located on the periphery of the site acreage, bordered by thick scrub oak and Ponderosa pines. Despite the scratches and bug bites earned by three guys determined to trample through thorny brush in shorts and flip flops, “getting wild” and roaming off-path was one of the more memorable parts of our experience.

Everything changed when the sun dropped behind the Rocky Mountains. Suddenly, the wild and wooly unknown of the woods became a threatening vortex of danger as broad and deep as one’s imagination. Flashlights penetrated no deeper than inches into the fray. An unknown that beckoned for exploration only 30-minutes before was now the source of anxiety - only moments later. My sons, whose boundless energy and spirit for adventure often had them out of sight, now craved two things: closeness to their sense of security (me) and light. It was natural for them to seek both.

It’s easy to get spooked in the woods.

I watched their wandering nature become corralled like an invisible fence by the reach of the flashlight on our path.  Meanwhile, I sought to squelch their fear with information; “There hasn’t been reports of bears in this area recently…” and “If you DO encounter a bear, don’t run – just get behind me!” Get the facts. Have a plan. That’s what makes me feel secure.

However, I found myself thinking, “But who do I get behind?”

Fathering is not unlike camping. We traverse through the wild in areas both known and unknown, but as men perhaps become less equipped to face the dark.  Instead of sticking close to the light when things get gnarly we often go wandering off alone, distancing ourselves from the very sense of security we seek.

Challenge: When fear of the unknown attacks you, and it will, run towards someone whom you can trust. Even the most remote paths are likely familiar territory to someone else.  Together, you can walk safely – even in the dark.

Show and Tell

My mother recently came to visit us in Colorado from her home in Austin, Texas. As the first born of her five children, I am -very appropriately- her favorite child (sorry brother and sisters!) and we have a terrific relationship. Her love for her grandsons is a close runner-up.

After an adventuresome expedition and cruise around downtown Denver, we returned to a parking garage and I proceeded to the front passenger side of my vehicle. Presuming I was getting in the car, my middle son stopped and asked, “Dad, what’re you doing? Grandma can’t drive your car.” As a point of reference, you must know that my car is tall – armored tank tall.

I was stunned by the question. Had my boys not seen me open the car door, the doors of the shops we just perused, the door to the restaurants, all the doors – all the time, for my mother? Why would it seem odd or out of place to him that I help my energetic (but 5’3”) mother into her seat? Have they not seen me do the same thing hundreds of time for my wife? Apparently not.

Nailed. Failed. This lesson about respect for women and the demonstration of care for our loved ones, (and dare I say, chivalry,) apparently has flown way below their radar. My assumption that showing my values and modeling the behavior that I wish to see in my boys was simply insufficient to make a lasting impression. I’ve been reminded that for this lesson as well as other fathering opportunities I must show and tell to accomplish the desired influence.  Now that we’ve had that “teaching moment” about boys and doors, we’ll test the theory thoroughly and see if I’m not the only guy to hold the door for their mom.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-8

Challenge: What lessons are you assuming that children are naturally picking up? This week, take the time to explain one lesson to ensure they understand what and why it is important to you, and why it should be important to them too.

Getting on the Field

I wish I had all the answers.

Maybe you’re like me, some days wearing regret for my shortcomings and failures as a father like a trenchcoat while jogging on the sun, and other days feeling I own the sun and it’s brilliance when I get something right. The truth is, no matter whom you are, being a father is a challenge.

Regardless of where on the Dad spectrum between hero and chump that you really are, being a great father requires work. Good role models, bad role models, NO role models… everything changes and we all start at square one when the Lord blesses us with child.

I am the father of three terrific sons. Loud, beautiful, smelly, caring, brutal, clever, raging and loving young men. At 8, 11, and 19 years of age they stretch my imagination and my patience in every way possible. Without knowing it (most of the time) they challenge me each day to be a better steward of this gift, this opportunity. I’ll tell you what though – I’m in. I’m going to continue to take the field for this gladiatorial battle. With the victories and defeats, with the scars and triumphs I will get better and I will not quit. Because they are worth it.

Perhaps I don’t really wish I had all the answers to conquering the fatherhood challenge. After all, what then would I learn? How then could I grow towards the man God would have me be?

Maybe you have some of the answers? I’m hoping so. Whether you are a father today, a grandfather, a mentor or just someone with heart and wisdom about family life, my wish is that we can learn from each other by sharing some of the day-to-day fatherhood challenges. There are stories, oh so many stories. Fathers, suit up. I challenge you to join me. It’s GO time.