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Archive for Family

I am married to the greatest woman I have ever known. She also happens to be your mother. For years I have taught people about the grace of God, but I understand God’s grace most clearly when I see you mom and realize that I don’t deserve her, for she is far greater than anyone I deserve. Your mom is beautiful, both inside and out, and is easily the best person I know. I suspect that is your belief as well.

I am thankful that your mom showed you the importance of having a relationship with Christ. I may have been the one who baptized you, but your mom is the one who led you to faith in Christ. She is the one that was committed to teach you all of those Bible stories and she taught you the value of knowing and loving Jesus.

I am grateful for your mom because she was always more interested in your character than your accomplishments. I was the one who was concerned about awards, achievements and accolades. Your mom was always more interested in your character. She wanted and continues to want you to be a person of good character.

I also appreciate that your mom was the one who was committed to making sure that you served and valued others. Remember all of those things you did to serve at church when you were younger? Unloading and loading tubs? Backyard Bible Clubs? Mission trips? She knew that it was important that you didn’t just say you loved your neighbor. She wanted you to experience ways that you could tangibly love your neighbor through actively serving them, regardless of who they were or where they were in life.

She also encouraged you to pursue your passions. When you were young, she exposed you to countless opportunities from soccer to karate. She took you to all kinds of places to broaden your learning and experiences. If you showed an interest in something, she encouraged you to explore it. And when you discovered your talents and developed your gifts she riotously cheered you on. She continues to be your greatest cheerleader and advocate.

Your mom has been and continues to be the glue that keeps us all together. She’s the one who keeps us on the rails when we want to leave the tracks. She’s the one that has helped us know what matters and what counts. Any values we have that are worthwhile have been established by her steady, loving hand.

I’m most grateful that your mother has loved me. Everyone in every church I have served has esteemed me in ways that are beyond who I really am. You have seen me on good days and bad. You know the unvarnished me, the me I am when I am at home out of the spotlight. Your mom knows me even more than you, and she unconditionally and sacrificially loves me in the midst of who I am and what I am. If you love me, and I know you do, its because your mom has has shown you how to do it.

Our family isn’t perfect. None are, I suppose. But deep down I know we wouldn’t trade each other for anyone else in the world. And we can all thank your mom for that.

Categories : Family, Mother's Day
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Jun
16

Reflections on Father’s Day

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The older I get the more I appreciate Father’s Day. I turned 50 this year, and still have my father. I sent him and card and gave him a call, realizing that even at age 90 he’s still parenting. He’s always affirmed and encouraged me and still does so today. As we got ready to hang up, he told me he was proud of me. I don’t take that for granted because I know plenty of people who have never been blessed by their fathers.

My oldest has graduated from college and is in his first job. My middle child is in college and our youngest is down to her last two years of high school. I used to think that as soon as my kids would graduate from college I’d be finished with parenting. Nothing is further from the truth.

Father’s Day is a bittersweet holiday. Like you, I love my kids and I’m extremely proud of them. I’m humbled by their talents and achievements, wishing I could somehow take credit for teaching them or coaching them toward their accomplishments but I can’t. What they have and what they’ve achieved is of grace. God has blessed them with talents and gifts that I cannot take credit for. It’s all of grace and all a gift from God.

While I marvel at all of the good, I weep for my own failures. I don’t know of any father who can honestly claim to have gotten every single element right. As fathers we’re not bad, but we’re broken. The implications of the fall run deep and are most clearly revealed in our homes. We can fool people at work or church but we can’t fool our spouses and our kids. They know us and love us, often in spite of ourselves.

There are times I’ve over reacted and times I’ve under reacted. There are times when I’ve spoken when I should have been silent and times when I’ve been silent that I should have spoken. There have been times I should have said yes when I said no, and times I said no when I should have said yes. I’ve minored on majors and majored on minors. In short, I’m not planning on writing a book on parenting any time in the near future!

I think most dad’s really love their kids and want the best for them. No, we’re not perfect, and yes, love covers a multitude of sins. For what it’s worth, here are some things I’ve learned about parenting. Like my mentor Gary Taylor used to say, these are not commandments but rather suggestions for fellow weary pilgrims.

1. The best thing I can give my kids is a great marriage.
Americans are pretty good about making kids their priority. We go to ball games, concerts, plays, dramas, performances, dances, recitals and more. We are attentive to our kids needs, sometimes to the neglect of our marital needs. If you want to be a good parent, begin by being a good spouse. When your marriage is healthy, you’re kids benefit in ways that you’ll never expect.

2. Let your kids be who God created them to be.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Unfortunately, a lot of parents assume that verse means that if we take our kids to church they will always love the Lord and follow him. That’s not what it means. The verse means that if we teach our kids to follow their natural bent, they will thrive in that bent in adulthood. One thing my wife and I tried to do was to provide our children with as many experiences as possible while they were young so they could figure out what their interests were. That meant we took our kids to piano, karate, soccer, football, gymnastics, upward basketball, art classes and more so they could identify their gifts and talents. We didn’t make them what we wanted them to be. Rather, we let them identify their interests and develop them. Our oldest is an athlete. Our middle is a musician and an artist. Our youngest is an artist, athlete, and musician. If you met our kids you might wonder how they could come from the same parents, but they did. You can’t play favorites or compare them to each other. You have to let them be who God created them to be.

3. Admit your failures.
My wife and I grew up in homes where our parents never admitted their mistakes. Neither one of us heard a parent say, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” We determined that we were going to be transparent enough to admit when we blew it. Is it hard? Sure. But I think our kids have appreciated the fact that we have always been willing to admit it when we’ve blown it.

4. Love them unconditionally.
The final word I would offer is to love your kids unconditionally. They may not be champions. They may not be a starter on the team. They may not earn the big scholarship. That’s ok, love them anyway. Performance based love is a terrible scourge on the American family. Sometimes we love conditionally because we’re trying to vicariously live our lives through our kids. Sometimes we enforce demands on our kids that are unfair or unreasonable. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’re doing our kids a favor. But performance based love places a severe amount of pressure on our kids that most cannot bear. Love your kids because they’re yours. Not because of what they do, but because of who they are.

Categories : Family, Parenting
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Here’s an article that was in today’s Des Moines Register. It shares five practical ways that parents can teach their children about charitable giving and volunteerism. While the article doesn’t target or specify giving to churches, the principles are still helpful. You can find the article here.

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Jan
05

No Excuses

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The story of Joseph can only be understood in light of his family history. If you’re familiar with his life, you’re already aware of the dysfunction that flooded his home during his developmental years. While he is introduced to the reader as a 17 year old, his story began long before.

Joseph’s father, Jacob, spent most of his life living up to his name: “cheater.” He stole his brother’s birthright and blessing by deception. While on the run, he continued a life of deception under the watch care of his uncle Laban. There is great irony in the story as Jacob continually complains of Laban’s deceptive ways.

Joseph was born in Canaan to his parents, Jacob and Rachel. Jacob had four wives who collectively bore him 12 sons and one daughter. Joseph’s mother died in labor and delivery at the birth of his brother Benjamin. His upbringing was difficult. The wives never got along, his mother was dead, and he had 10 older half brothers who hated him. These brothers were rascals, characterized by brutal and ruthless behavior. Jacob was aware of what was going on, yet didn’t act. He was a passive, look the other way, kind of dad. He played favorites with his wives and his kids, which shouldn’t surprise us. After all, he had been a favorite himself.

The reason I recap the background is simple. There was something within Joseph that refused to allow all of the dysfunction of his home life and his formative years to become an excuse. He didn’t compromise or conform. It has been said, “Rivers and men become crooked the same way: by following the lines of least resistence.” That may have been true of his family, but Joseph was determined to live counter-culture to those closest to him. He said “no” to the status quo, and made no excuses. He was an overcomer.

What excuses are you hiding behind? Who or what are you blaming for your life and your circumstances?

Categories : Family, Genesis, Joseph
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