Category Archives: Family and Friends

Celebrating Great Fathers

If you’re like me, your Facebook feed today is full of children and mothers thanking the Fathers in their lives.  Video tributes, hand crafted items, taking Dad out for his favorite meal…but what’s really great is they are truly expressing love and appreciation for Fathers.  This generation of Fathers is more involved in their children’s lives than ever before.  Some are stay-at-home primary caregivers to their children and their spouse works outside the home.  Men are achieving more work/life balance to not stay long hours at the office but rather race home to spend time with their children.  

We’re starting to see a change in mindset of how people view and talk about Fathers.  TV shows and commercials are no longer shaming the stupid/lazy Dad cliche of yesteryear with a perfect superhero Mom/wife correcting his silly mistakes.  People are shamed for suggesting that a Dad spending time with his children is “stuck babysitting.”  You probably have heard of programs called “Mothers Day Out.”  This title assumes only Mothers are primary caregivers that need time away from their children.  What about the stay at home dad, or the single Dad trying to make it?  Though I am not a stay-at-home Dad myself, I was pleased when my church started a program and chose to call it “Parents Day Out.”  Thank you for realizing that child care is not a Mother-only endeavor anymore.

Now, men and Fathers have made many mistakes in the past and there are endless stories of absent or neglecting Fathers.  But things are changing and Fathers are more involved than ever.  When I take my son out by myself without my wife I don’t need women to give me a sympathetic look as if I’m stuck and am a clueless Dad who will surely screw this up.  But the good news is, more and more I see smiles and appreciation for a Father spending time with his son.  And that’s the story happening all over, and our media is finally beginning to reflect that.  A month ago when I was shopping for a Mothers Day present, I also saw this in the store:

Great Dad

Many people have had bad experiences with their Fathers, or didn’t have a Father around for them.  So Father’s Day can be a source of pain (as can Mother’s Day for the same reason).  My heart goes out to those with those types of Father issues.  Thankfully I had a great Dad who was very involved.  He would race home from work to be with us, he left early to coach our sports, he was a mentor to other kids whose parents weren’t around or didn’t care to show up to watch their games.  He set a great example for my brothers and me, and so I can be thankful for the time I had with him.  When he passed away, at first I felt robbed of more time with him.  I try to keep perspective of others that lost their Fathers at younger ages, or never knew their Father at all and I feel blessed.

The more we can see positive examples of Fathers blowing up our Facebook feed, women and Mothers celebrating and praising the men in their lives instead of complaining about them as well as the media reflecting a more positive image the better off we’ll be.

These days, Dads do it all.  Change diapers, wipe noses and tears, play dolls and have tea parties, help with homework, coach sports, taxi to practices and music lessons, prepare meals, do the laundry…everything there is for a parent to do.  Thank you to all the Dads out there being great examples to your kids and families.  And for those who didn’t know your Dad, I hope you’ve had a chance to find a mentor in your life to help fill the void.  Ultimately, God can fill that void as our Heavenly Father but He has also blessed us with many great Dads around us to help fill in the gaps.


Practical advice for first time dads

At the time of this writing, my son is almost 2 years old.  When you’re expecting your first child, you get all sorts of advice from reading material and other parents.  The stuff geared towards fathers is either really obvious or dumbed-down and borderline insulting.  I tried to think back to what I wish I had known or was better prepared to face.  So, here you go.

 

1. Don’t worry, be excited, you’re going to enjoy this! Don’t listen to people who complain about how tough it is to have a baby and make negative comments like “your life is over” or “you never get to do anything for yourself.”  While it definitely changes your life and limits you in ways, it is also is a great blessing and honestly a lot of fun.  Spending time playing and laughing with your baby will make up for whatever baby-free activity you’ll miss.  I also personally found it made me happier; able to let loose and be silly with my son and enjoy life rather than be so serious all the time.

IMG958191

 

 

2. Take advantage of your time before the baby arrives to do all child-proofing and any projects around the house you want to get done in the next year or so. Seriously, don’t put them off.  You will likely not get to do them after baby is born.  Re-decorating a room, landscaping, spring cleaning, etc.  It’s not only because you’ll have less time and the baby makes it difficult to get things done, but you’ll also want to enjoy time getting to know your newborn and not stress about unfinished projects.

 

3. Child-proof your house. No, really child-proof it.  You’ll do all the things you’re supposed to but be surprised at what your baby or toddler will get into.  Your baby will explore his world and touch EVERYTHING.  Don’t underestimate your baby.  She will be stronger, smarter and more resourceful than you expect!

 

4. What to read.  There are obviously a LOT of books, blogs and websites with loads of information.  Yet many of them seem vague or general.  My wife and I gravitated toward the blogs that were more straightforward and practical…and funny.  We preferred things that sounded like a real person with experience, not a text book vibe.  Read whatever grabs your interest, but in my opinion the best is Baby 411. 

Baby 411 (also Toddler 411) is practical and each section is short and to the point.  When you are exhausted and want to refresh your memory on feeding or sleeping tips (what is sleep again?) this will be an easy reference.  A friend gave it to us for a present and we plan on doing the same for anyone we know about to have their first.

 

5. Listen to other parents…whose babies are only a little older than yours.  Some of the best advice will come from other parents.  But keep in mind that parents of older kids are onto their own challenges and won’t remember specific details about the first year.  Each month you are facing something new to you.  If you ask a parent of a 10 year old how many millimeters of formula to feed a 6 week old, they won’t remember.  Feeding, sleep patterns, teething…all these things are generic ideas for older parents.  So it’s even a more distant memory for people in the generation above you.  Speaking of…

 

6. Generational differences.  There are new laws, new health studies, etc. that your parents generation never dealt with.  And their experience may have included a dad that wasn’t as involved as you plan to be. 

 

These days fathers are more involved than ever, and there are more and more stay-at-home dads.  Even among younger generations, people might have expectations based on how things were in their house growing up.  Don’t let people shove you aside or ignore you.  You need to learn what to do as well as bond with your baby.  Family may be visiting, friends will drop by with prepared meals and visit for an hour…but soon after it will just be you and your wife dealing with this baby.  You’re the father, and that is just as important as the mother.

 

7. Sleep will become a drug.  A newborn will wake about every 3 hours to sleep.  You’ll hear about this elusive “sleeping through the night…”  don’t worry, it WILL happen.  There were times my wife and I thought our child would never sleep more than 6 hours but soon (around month 5/6 if I remember) he will start increasing to 8, then 10 and before you know it 12 hours will be normal.  Then you can actually get some sleep as well.  In the meantime, take turns waking up to feed and change the baby so you both can get some decent chunks of sleep.

 

 Bed is all mine

 

8. Most importantly, enjoy every moment you can.  You always hear parents say their kids grow up so fast and they wish they could go back to those early years of cuddling and cuteness.  This is going to be lots of fun and your baby is going to laugh, smile, play, joke around with you, wonder at the new world she is experiencing and every day is entertaining and fun.  Yes, it has challenges and stressful times.  But all it takes is a smile or laugh from baby and all is right in the world. 

 


Celebrating the good fathers

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, in short due to busyness at work and enjoying my 7 month-old son.  I used to spend time writing a post and proofreading and editing it too much, and I’ve got a folder of ideas that I procrastinate getting to.  Then there’s the stat sheet, which can either excite you or drain your enthusiasm.  My friend Teri on her blog Grits and Bottle Rockets recently posted an inspiration to just get writing.  Just do it, just write.  There’s nothing to proofread or edit if you don’t start somewhere.

So I’ve decided to try and just write when I get the inspiration and knock it out.  And normally I try to write random ideas not associated with any holiday or current event, but this one’s a coincidence with Father’s Day coming up soon.

Baby stroller - this is how i roll

Recently I was out walking my son in the stroller around my neighborhood.  I saw 3 other dad’s hanging out with their kids either playing on the porch or walking with strollers, too.  The thought struck me how great it is to see so many fathers spending time with their kids.  While there are some bad or absent fathers out there, in general fathers often get a bad rap.  Look no further than your television:  whether in scripted shows or even the commercials where usually the man is a bumbling idiot with no clue and the wife/mother looks on and shakes her head at her stupid oaf of a husband.

I thought it’d be nice to acknowledge and celebrate when we do see good examples of fathers who are spending time with their kids, being good mentors and showing them love and care.  There are more stay-at-home dads these days that do a fantastic job.  There are dads who aren’t afraid to change a diaper or get up and comfort a crying baby back to sleep at 4am.  There are dads who help out around the house and bring relief to tired mommies.  When you see any children’s sports team, you’ll no doubt see fathers who volunteer to coach.  They leave work early to teach fundamentals and wipe snotty noses.  When you drop your kids off at their classes at church, you will find more and more men volunteering to work with children.

Men grow up in competition mode all the time, taught not to show emotion or weakness and are constantly having to prove their masculinity.  When a man becomes a father, you see him no longer care about himself but put his family first.  A good father would sacrifice himself, would embarrass himself in public, attend a tea party or wear a ridiculous costume to make their kids happy.  A father will display failed craft projects and wear horrid clothing items if purchased for him by his children.  There are all sorts of reasons to be thankful for your father, and I invite you to share yours in the comments.

I am blessed to have grown up with a great dad, and had prep from my brothers and friends with kids to learn by their example and advice.  Who would you like to acknowledge?  If not your own father or a father figure in your life, do you know any dads who are a great example and deserve some thanks and recognition?


Summer Story Series Closes: A Legacy of Faithfulness

My dad once told me about a co-worker in his twenties who approached him (then in his late fifties) and said to him “There’s something different about you.  You don’t seem to ever get angry or curse, you’re always nice and honest and respectful to everyone.  What is it about you?”  My dad then had a wide open opportunity to talk about his faith in God and how Jesus had changed him.  He gave the young man a bible and invited him to a lunchtime bible study that he started with some other Christians at his office.

My dad’s life was filled with stories of impacting and encouraging others.

Four years ago I stood in a receiving line at my father’s funeral and was in awe at the number of people that showed up.  My parents had retired and moved from Pennsylvania to coastal North Carolina.  Many people from up north couldn’t make the trip and yet there were still hundreds of people in attendance.  The stories and comments we heard showed us how much my dad had influenced and touched the lives of those around him.  It was the evidence of a life lived with faithfulness, respect and integrity.

One woman shook my hand and smiled, “Your father always brightened up my day.  I’m a widow and get lonely sometimes and he would ride his bike through the neighborhood and stop by to say hello.  He’d tell me a silly joke to make me laugh.  He may have only stopped for a few minutes, but it made a difference.”

One relative with a family of his own shared that he learned how to be a faithful husband and father from observing my dad.  A long-time friend and colleague of his was in tears and trembling, telling my brothers and I that “your dad was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.”  I stood speechless and just cried.


 When we talk about what it means to be successful in this world, we often debate career success over enjoying time with family.  Somehow, my dad was able to have both.  He was never wealthy but managed to work his way up the corporate ladder while still being a family man and maintaining his integrity.  He didn’t lie or cheat or deceive to get ahead and was known for his honesty and solid business practices.

He didn’t grow up with a father himself, and during high school he took a job in the mail room of a large corporation to help support his mother and younger sister.  After high school he kept working  while taking college courses at night.  Over the next couple decades, he went from the mail room to the executive suite…and never missed a family meal and was always around to help us with our homework.  My dad had vowed to be there for his kids because his own father wasn’t.

He loved sports, and not just the way most people enjoy it as a hobby or escape.  It was an opportunity to be a part of a community, to share in teamwork and achievement.  He had to sacrifice playing sports in high school since he was working.  So when had had his own kids, he poured his passion into volunteering to coach.  Having three boys who were all active in multiple sports, my parents’ schedules were pretty much dominated by practices and games, and they never missed one.

As if that wasn’t enough, he managed to find time for other kids as well.  Some parents were not as dedicated or involved in their children’s lives and for those kids, my dad became the closest thing some of them had to a father.  He would purposely volunteer to coach the “B” teams: the less talented and often over looked kids.  His motto was “everyone plays.”  He made sure every kid got playing time no matter how bad they were, and built them up and encouraged them in their efforts.  He even managed to fill up the trophy case a few times.

The mainstay of his spiritual life was a love for the Bible and hearing good preaching.  He always had a kind and encouraging word for others.  He often found himself as a shoulder for others to lean on and even pastors confided in him.  My dad was humble, at peace with his walk with God and at the end of his life had no regrets.  He left us an incredible legacy of faithfulness and inspiration to follow in his steps.

I often think about the stories that were shared at his funeral.  He never stood before a crowd and preached a sermon or lead a congregation in song.  He didn’t travel to other countries on missions trips and when he gave his time to the church and community, it wasn’t for attention or praise.  He left a legacy of lives who were touched by his words, his actions and his heart.   And I know that when he met face to face with his Maker, he heard the words from Matthew 25:21 that every child of God longs to hear.

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”


Props: Genuine Friendships

“What about your friends will they stand their ground
Will they let you down yeah, yeah
What about your friends are they gonna be low down
Will they ever be around or will they turn their backs on you”

I love the movie “I Love You, Man” where Paul Rudd’s character has to find a man to become his friend and Best Man at his wedding.  His character mentions how it comes natural to seek out a girlfriend, but to find a male friend is difficult.  I didn’t have many friends growing up.  I was teased and bullied in elementary school, and in high school I never really fit in and was never invited to hang out.  More than a couple times, I was severely let down and betrayed by people I thought were my friends.  When I became a Christian, I finally meet some genuine friends, some of whom have been life long friends.  

While people in the Church are of course human and flawed like anyone, I have met some amazing people in the family of God.  Friends and mentors who were there to listen and not judge me, to allow me room to grow in my newfound spiritual life and to be encouraging even when I stumbled.  In the Church, you will find people that will listen, pray for you, and be there when you need them.  The Church takes a lot of criticism –including from the inside–but we can’t ignore the powerful and life-changing relationships developed in healthy church community.

It’s very difficult these days to find solid friends.  I know many people who feel the same way.  We are good at being social, at having a lot of Christian acquaintances, but close fellowship is not easy to come by.  I’ve been fortunate to find some great friends over the years, despite the times that friendships haven’t really developed.  I encourage you to look around, keep your heart and life open to the people around you, and to strive to be loving and encouraging to others.  I’ve always heard that the best way to make a good friend is to be a good one.  If we open up, reach out, and show others that we’re there for them to be a solid friend, we will start to see it reciprocated by the right people.

What does genuine friendship mean?  It means we don’t size people up and judge them based on externals.  I have a difficult time with this, because I’ll often judge people at first meeting them and think I won’t have much in common with them.  If I give them a chance, I can find out there’s more to them and we can find ways to connect.  Genuine friendship means picking up the phone at midnight and talking a friend through a struggle.  It means praying with someone on the spot, or helping be a distraction from a stressful day.  Genuine friendships are the kind where you don’t have to wonder IF you’re going to hang out with that person this week, but it’s just a matter of what you’ll be doing together.

Genuine friends don’t leave you out or make you feel unwelcome.  They get beyond the surface and learn to appreciate who you are, and encourage you in your goals and dreams.  They hold you accountable in your spiritual life, and knowing them improves your walk with God.  “As iron sharpens iron…”

I am truly thankful to God for bringing so many great friends into my life over the years.  Why don’t you take time this week to reach out to the people in your life who are loyal and always there for you, and drop them a thank you note and show them you appreciate them?

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

-Colossians 3:12-15


“I don’t need church, I can worship God on my own.”

You or someone you know has said that phrase at one time or another.  The trend in recent years is for people to view their spirituality as very individual.  People will spend “me time” on things like yoga, a cup of tea on the porch during sunset, or experiencing God in nature and call that their “church.”  It’s important to have personal time with God through prayer, meditation, reading and reflection, and it’s great to find unique ways to experience God in nature or whatever works for your personal worship time.  However, it’s also important to pursue God together in community.

Having church was God’s idea.  From the early beginnings and throughout the Bible, God’s people have worshiped together in community.  In the Old Testament, God spoke to a nation, not just an individual.  Worship happened at Mt. Sinai, and then in the Temple, and continued in the synagogues.  In the New Testament, Jesus called 12 disciples that mostly spent time with him in a group.  He didn’t go around meeting people one on one.  He fed the 5,000 and preached the Sermon on the Mount to a large group.  Jesus instructed his disciples that he was building His church, and in his last earthly prayer in Gethsemane, prayed that we would have unity and be as one.

Most of the New Testament letters are addressed to churches – groups of people.  And when Jesus spoke again in Revelation, He had a message for the churches, not just individuals.  Acts chapter 2 tells us that the new believers even met together every day.  The New Testament letters are full of instructions on how we are to relate to one another.  Hebrews 10:25 even specifically tells us not to stop meeting together with other believers.  We are to forgive, be patient, and realize that we are all different parts of the same body.

We’ve all experienced hurt, disillusionment or just boredom with church at one point or another.  Sometimes we need a break.  But it’s important to remember that church was God’s idea, that He wants us to continue to meet together, and that great things can happen through fellowship with other believers.

It’s not just going to church out of tradition, to be able to boast of large membership numbers or to get more in the collection plate.  Being together in community results in discipleship, accountability, generations passing on wisdom, counseling, praying for one another, serving alongside others to grow the church and reach the community, a powerful worship dynamic and so much more. 

If you’re holding out for the perfect church, you’ll never find it.  Wherever there are humans, there are flaws.  Sometimes, our flaws get magnified and there are abuses and offenses that happen.  But there are good churches out there with caring people, servant leaders and people who are at least trying to build solid community.  It may take some time, and some faith and patience on your part, but keep praying and trusting God to find the right church for you.

As we look in the mirror, we also have to realize our own sins and faults that contribute to a faulty church.  We can begin to examine ourselves and begin to change…but let’s change the Church from within, not abandon God’s vessel to bring light to the world.


Time to wake up (and love)

Church, we need to wake up.

The following verses have been really convicting me and making me look in the mirror.  And honestly, what I’m seeing in my spiritual mirror is falling short.  We have to do better.

Romans 13:11

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

The verse begins “And do this” which is referencing the passage just before it, verses 8-10:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments… are summed up in this one command:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

The writers of the New Testament believed that Jesus was going to return during their lifetime.  They believed they had little time to travel and spread the Gospel.  Yet, even in their urgency, they kept the focus on:

Notice that in urging the Church to wake up, the Bible tells us that the urgency is to love.  It doesn’t tell us to judge people or tell them they’re going to hell.  Not argue with other believers over who has the best doctrine.  Not bicker in debates over mega churches, mid-size churches or home churches.  The Bible doesn’t tell us that the hope of the world rests in our ability to put on a killer Sunday morning performance with the best sound & video (and fog machines).

It doesn’t tell us to protest pop culture, hate homosexuals or atheists, or complain when the government doesn’t promote our religion over others.  No, it tells us to love.  Jesus said people would know we are His followers by our love.

The hope for the world is the love of Jesus.

Church, we need to wake up and show the world who Jesus is.  We need to tell them why He died for us.  We need to show them how He’s changed us.

We have got to show them His love.



I’m done playing church

I’m done.

Not with church, not with God, not with community or my spiritual life.

I’m done with playing the church game.

I can no longer be fake and I can’t handle anything that is not truly authentic.  I am no longer going to try to make myself look good to a pastor or leader in the hopes of being “promoted” to a volunteer or paid ministry position.  I’m not interested in comparing my church to another and claiming it’s better because of a program, production value, the personality of the pastor, or any other superficial factor.  I’m sick of seeing a Christian roll their eyes when someone says the name of a church or denomination they belong to, as if their own is superior.  Why can’t we be excited to meet a fellow believer?

I’m done with the phony people at church that pretend to be your best friend and throw around statements like “I love you” and “we should totally get together sometime” but don’t mean a word of it.  I’m over gossip, talking behind each other’s backs, tearing people down with judgment and criticism instead of lifting each other up.

I’m done caring what the religious Pharisees of today have to say.  I’m tired of churches focusing more on programs and producing an exciting Sunday experience and less on developing loving and friendly community.

I am saddened that Christians don’t seem to want to pray together or have spiritual fellowship anymore.  I’m bothered by my own lacking spiritual life, that I am so easily distracted and I don’t make time for prayer and reading the Bible.

I’m tired of thinking ancient rituals or traditions are bad because they are old or “churchy.”  Our spiritual lives could use some discipline, ritual, fasting, meditation and reflecting.  We could benefit from some old fashioned liturgy to guide us, and still have modern influences and technology at the same time.  We can have balance, instead of avoiding something because it’s not part of the tradition of our denomination or upbringing.

I’m worn out trying to convince someone at a church that I have talent and passion to offer, but not get opportunities to serve God and the Church.  I’m done looking up to leaders that seem only interested in promoting themselves or rubbing elbows with famous and successful pastors or ministries.  I’m done with sitting under bad leadership that uses a title as an excuse for bad behavior.

So I’m done with simply playing church, and getting sucked into the silly games we Christians play.  And believe me, I’ve been guilty of plenty of them myself.  We need to take ourselves out of that game and put ourselves into authentic and genuine community.  We need to be encouraging toward each other, mentoring, accountable and convicting (in love and grace, not judgment).  We need to look in the mirror at the game we’ve been playing and be honest with ourselves.  It’s time to stop playing the game of church… and get back to simply being the Church.


%d bloggers like this: