Father

Ramblings of a dad trying to figure out parenting through all of life’s experiences.

Friendship and Joy in God

I am a highly relational person.  In most personality studies, my traits lean me toward quiet influence and steady support for those around me.  I enjoy collaborating with people, and most of all, I love the close relationships I have in my life.  Carol, my wife of 19 years and truly my best friend, is one such example.  I have known her now for 26 years (since high school), enjoying the gift of a friendship that grows stronger each day.  And this has brought me great joy.

I also have enjoyed several very close friendships with some key men in my life.  These are vital friendships in my journey of faith.  These men have seen me through some difficult challenges in my life, they have shared their lives with me, and I have enjoyed an amazing fellowship with these men.  What is so incredible to me is how God brought them to me from so many different places: church (both current and previous), previous employment, and even counseling.  And these friendships have brought me great joy.

As I sit in the dark in our room here at Ridgecrest, NC, with my family still sleeping, I am also reminded of the gift my children have been to me.  My two older boys (young men, really) are finishing up their fourth year at a two-week camp for boys here in the mountains near Asheville, NC.  We will be picking them up in a few hours.  And I have missed them.  Yes, I am their father.  Yes, that is not always easy.  But I would never trade it for the world.  And as they grow, I know that our relationship will change to more of a friendship.  And this entire process has brought me great joy.

So, as I began reading during my quiet time this morning, my eyes (and my heart) were drawn to these amazing words in Romans 5:10-11:

10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (emphasis mine)

So often in the church, the message we hear sounds a little more like we’re still enemies with God, but He will tolerate us because of Jesus.  But we better be on our best behavior or He may decide to send us off after all.

I for one do not do well under that kind of message.  Being highly relational, I am very sensitive to my perception of what people around me think of me.  So, when my mind begins to process my relationship with Jesus the same way, I struggle in my faith.

This passage says that through Christ and His saving work, I am now friends with God.  This is astounding.  Friends hang together.  Friends share their deepest secrets.  Friends work through hard things.  Friends are there for each other when they need them most.  And friends… real friends… last a long time.

Friendship with God means I can trust whatever process God has for me at any moment of my life.  Friendship with God means I can unequivocally trust Him with my whole heart.  And friendship with God leads me to rejoice in the beautiful life He has given me.  I can have confident hope in my salvation.  I can have utter joy.

So, today, I choose joy.  I realize a few days after the boys come home and school begins next week, life will return to normal.  It will be hard.  We’ll get mad at each other over various meaningless things.  They’ll assert their independence in ways very frustrating to me.  And I’ll be ready for them to go back to camp long before they do again next year.  But in the end, I will rejoice in my God and all He has done, and I will choose joy in the midst of these beautiful relationships God has given me.

Family Matters and Family Meetings

My family means a lot to me.  I have been married to my beautiful wife for nearly 19 years, and am blessed to have both 3 sons and a daughter.  They are intelligent, witty, funny, athletic, and creative.  I think they will all be incredible leaders one day.  Each one has a unique giftedness.

My oldest son Connor, 14 years old, has an amazing laser-focus intensity when he is working on something or learning something new.  Once when he was in 5th grade, playing his 2nd year of baseball, he started throwing a new pitch and the coach asked him where he learned it from.  His reply?  I watched a youtube video.  When he was 5 or 6 years old, he spent the entire Christmas day (not stopping until he finished) putting together a Millennium Falcon kit that was intended for ages 9+.  He is a smart and athletic guy.

My next oldest son Brandon, also quite smart and athletic, has an amazingly beautiful personality.  He has hardly ever met a stranger.  He’ll play hard in a sport with even older boys, then sit down and joyfully read a book with his 5-year old brother and 7-year old sister.

Caroline, our 7-year old?  I think I may need to buy a Michael’s store to keep up with the amount of paper and supplies she uses to create the amazingly wonderful ideas she has in her head.  She is always creating, playing make-believe, or dancing.  And I am very thankful to be the delight of her heart.  That’s the place every father should have in a little girl’s heart.

Graham, our 5-year old son is the life of the party.  Though he hates it every time someone says “he’s so cute!”… he really is that cute.  He has watched his brothers play sports now since he was born, and knows more about the different facets of sports than many adults.  He was walking around the house the other day asking Carol’s iPhone about different sports scores.  Siri would respond with a very descriptive phrase “Tennessee pummeled…” and he would just get so tickled.  He also is the snuggliest of the bunch.  He loves getting real close to me or his mom and just sit and rest.

We are a busy family, with 4 kids in school, sports, dance, and church life.  Carol and I have been desiring to have regular weekly family meetings as an opportunity to slow down… to “rest” and bring us closer together for a brief moment during the week.  I came across a couple of resources recently on the art of manliness website with great info on how to conduct a family meeting and developing a family mission statement.  So, last night we had our first real family meeting.  Here are the highlights:

– Lots of fidgeting so Carol got them all squish-balls.

– I sent one to his room because of a negative attitude.  He came back ready.

– I wanted to end it halfway through because everyone seemed like they wouldn’t stay engaged (never mind that they’ll play video games for hours if we let them).

THEN…

– I taught them a couple of really neat ideas around developing a family mission statement.

– All 6 of us had an opportunity to share ideas, questions, and even difficulties in their lives.

– WE PRESSED ON AND FINISHED!

 

So, it was not perfect, by any stretch.  But we did it.  And for that, I’m grateful.  We’ll do it imperfectly again next week, but we’ll keep pressing on and doing it.  Why?

 

Because FAMILY MATTERS!

4th Quarter Comebacks and Parenting

I am a huge Peyton Manning fan.  OK… so, Carol says I have a man-crush on him.  I’ll own that.  He’s fun to watch.  Now, opinions are pretty polarized out there about whether he is as good as people say he is.  I’ve personally followed the Manning family since I was kid growing up in Louisiana watching Archie play for the Saints.  I’m also a graduate of the University of TN, Knoxville, where Peyton played 4 solid years before coming out as the #1 pick in the NFL prior to the 1998 season.  He is just so fun to watch, calling all those audibles, engineering drives with such precision and timing.

One of his stats which just blows me away is his 4th quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.  There are a number of sites depicting various stats on this topic, but this one probably has the best detail (and I’m a numbers guy).  http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/comeback.cgi?player=MannPe00

Peyton has completed 40 4th quarter comebacks and 51 game-winning drives!  The level of intensity Peyton maintains throughout the game, but especially in the 4th quarter is unbelievably inspiring.

Manning-Audible

I liken parenting (really life in general… but for this topic, parenting) to the various quarters in a football game.  We have 4 children, ages 5, 7, 11, 14.  Things seemed easier in the 1st and 2nd quarter (the younger years) of our family life.  Raising 2 boys who were close to 2 years in age that played pretty well together seemed… manageable.  In fact, during that time, I would have even declared our family to be playing at an “elite level”.  We were commended over and over for our children’s behavior and character.  So young and prideful…  Flash forward 8-10 years to the present, and well… life is very full and challenging.  I would not trade it for the world, but it is challenging.  Our approach and expectations as parents has been difficult to maintain when it is spread across 4 children with different ages, different needs, and extremely different personalities.  And our once “elite level of parenting” (Ha!) seems to have dropped like an NFL team that loses a 30-point lead and goes on to lose the game.

So, today, we are in the 4th quarter of parenting.  In fact, every day from here on out, I am in the 4th quarter.  I desire to raise my family to become people who love God, love others, are productive citizens in society, and hopefully one day, lead their own families, ministries, or whatever they are called to do in life.  To do this, I must maintain a high level of intensity and commitment to the goals we have as a family.  Because in the moment, when I’m tired or have an agenda that doesn’t match their willingness to follow that agenda, I forget it and lose it.  And those who watch football know that when a team starts to “lose their cool”, they forget who they are, and eventually kill themselves with penalties and turnovers.

But maintaining that level of intensity is not so easily done.  For me, this means every day… every moment, much like every play in a football game… every moment could be that game-winning moment.  Every moment counts.  Make the most of them.  Maybe that is what Paul meant with Ephesians 5:14-17:

14Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Football games are won and lost in the 4th quarter.  What things do you do to “win in the 4th quarter” of your family?