The God Foundation

I believe that God is the giver of life and my children are a blessing from him. I don’t make any apologies about my personal convictions. I struggle with the thought of people talking about their faith, then making an apology for what they “say” means so much to them. Do we really believe what we proclaim, or is the desire not to offend others greater than our convictions.

There may be those that read this that believe differently from me. Your beliefs do not offend me. I am not angry if you disagree. Should I, therefore, worry about what others may think? If you have rights, then so do I. If I can share my beliefs, so can you. Why do we fear the judgment or being different from the rest of the world? In this writer’s opinion, I cannot be a strong dad and be timid about what I teach my children, especially if I “really” believe it.   

Our homes and the lives of our children must have a foundation. For me and my family, it is the belief in Jesus Christ and the authority of His word (the Bible). Some may say that love is the foundation of their home. To me, I agree with the statement, but the source of that love is a God that is bigger and more sovereign than my fallible existence.

Perhaps your view is that we should live and strive for our kids to live moral lives. I can find nothing more moral than that of what I find in the Bible. Its teachings have served my family without fail. This has been a source of hope in many hopeless situations. It has brought assurance when life offers us none. A prayer time and learning together has served as a glue for our family bond. 

Let’s be honest. You will let your family down from time to time. You will fail. Your love will not be enough. These are times that we must look beyond ourselves. This is when we need a peace that passes all understanding. That being said, I cannot explain to you, nor prove to you what I have discovered to be Truth. This is an experience and a journey that cannot be put in a simple explanation. For me as a dad, it has all come down to an element of faith. However, this faith can convict you more than any shred of evidence that you could experience.

This faith has become a staple for my life, my marriage, and my children. We live in such crazy times. Our world is broken and hurting. The foundation of God is the only source of love, hope, and assurance that I have seen to answer the needs of people. Many people, however, reject the idea for various reasons. Whether you want to relate to this as a choice or divine appointment, the heart of man wants to do what it wants to do. To surrender to this concept is to give concession to our lack of abilities and faults. 

Although many may argue, it is my conviction that children are happier, less stressed, and strengthened by faith and that of faith exercised in their parents’ lives. This is not to desire contention with other viewpoints, however, it is one that I stand by and will not apologize for. If you are moved to investigate the God foundation further, I hope and pray that you will. If you need guidance, have questions, or desire to connect with faith as your family’s foundation, there are many resources that you can reach out to. However, I would advise that you compare your information to the source of faith. Just because someone claims to have spiritual answers does not mean that you should simply rely on their words. 

For me, I advise those with questions and interest in the Christian faith to compare teachings to the Bible directly. Unfortunately, there are those out there that would lead you astray. There are those with personal agendas and teachings that promote the ideas of a cause that is not in line with that of the Bible. Avoid these individuals, but don’t give up on your journey and seeking to find truth. Some individuals feel as if it is bad to question teachers, the Bible, and even God. However, I submit to you that you only grow stronger in relationships that you can have a dialogue with. On a personal note, I am convinced that God is not afraid of your questions. 

This subject needs to conclude with a challenge. The challenge is, will you follow the truth where it leads you? Will you follow it regardless if it is different from what you believed growing up? Will you challenge yourself? Do you desire to have the strongest foundation for your home? Do you desire to be the best dad possible?

Deacon

The Need for Community

Last night, my daughter called me and said that a boy who attended her old highschool had taken his life. She was classmates with the boy’s brother and knew the family quite well. She said, “Dad, I just need to talk this out”. All I could do was listen and think of the nightmare that family must be going through. I also thought about and reached out to the school, offering the only thing I could, which was prayer. This was/is a time for grieving. It is also a time for community.

Just prior to this information, my wife and I were in a small group meeting that is associated with our church. We received information that a young girl of 7 years old (associated with members of our group) was diagnosed with cancer and would be undergoing daily chemotherapy for 6 weeks. She was the oldest child of 3.

Both of these situations stabbed me in the heart. As a dad, I have no greater fear than the loss or potential loss of a child. I would never want to have the arrogance to say that I remotely understand this type of pain. I realize that several of my readers have been through this. I have no words to offer. I only can describe a pain in my chest when I hear about such things. 

I do understand 2 things when it comes to suffering. The first is that there is a strength that can be drawn from a person’s faith. I cannot describe it more than a sense of peace. I have seen it take place in the face of many tragedies and can tell you that it is real. Many people may doubt the legitimacy of faith. However, when you are in agony, most people will grab a hold of anything that works. Faith in God has been the only constant that I have ever witnessed that truly works.

If faith were peanut butter, I would proclaim community to be the jelly. Community is the second part of the equation that seems to play a significant role in the area of comfort and encouragement. Sadly, while many dads may have faith, we are somewhat lone wolves when it comes to community. We hate the feeling of vulnerability, yet desperately seek to ease our suffering. Many times this gets in the way of healing. This is why we say we are “fine” or nothing at all.

When we allow it, community can be the tool combined with faith to pull us through. It keeps us from shutting down and burying all our hurt and fear. I’m still trying to learn this lesson. I find it difficult to rely on others. When my mother passed away, two of my sisters talked about my strength. Apparently I was a “rock” during that time. However, nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was hurt, lost, and hated the world. Everything got “darker” for me. My mother was very kind and gentle. She symbolized what was good walking around on earth. I didn’t want to let people see me hurting. I also missed out on many expressions of love and encouragement.

Although I did heal with time. It took a lot longer for me than maybe it should have. I have faith but did not want people “taking care of me”. The loss or suffering of a child is a situation that I would dread far more. For me, all I know is that to be alone would not be good. That being said, I strongly believe in the ability of those that care for us to be a huge foundation coupled with faith. God made us with the intent of “doing community”. When the church was established they took care of each other (see Acts). They needed each other. Today, many churches struggle to meet the needs coupled with the problem that people bury their weakness and pain.

With a fear of intruding, being uncomfortable, or lacking courage, we can miss the opportunity to be a part of the care and healing for others. Many times we don’t know what to say or do. Sometimes we can even feel like our mere presence is an intrusion. It can be difficult to get in the trenches. However, when we do, it sets an example for our children. It teaches them to serve others as well as sends the message that it is okay to receive help. This could help them greatly in the years to come.

Both in the Old and New Testaments, it says that God will never leave us nor forsake (abandon) us. As I have said in other posts, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is to “be there”. Show your kids how to serve. Let them know that it is okay to be served in a time of need. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Don’t Forget to Get Your Copy of My New Book

Are you a Prepared Dad?

One of the best things that you can do as a dad is to be prepared. Whether it is the scouts, military, businesses, or first responders, the motto is the same. Are you prepared? The lives of your children are paramount. The raw truth is that you most likely care about them than those outside of your home. That being the case, what are you preparing for? There are people, places, and circumstances that you need to think about. What is it that you need to know? You must have  knowledge of the tools and skills you will need. You must also have knowledge of the environment.

This may sound like I am trying to make you think negatively. On the contrary, being prepared for the good, unexpected, and bad is a very positive thing. What is it that you must possess or be able to perform to be a good dad? This article will be a first in a series discussing different needs or problems that you will or may need to address while your kids are home. These issues may require your presence, advice, verbal intervention, or action. So before we dive off into specifics, what resources and or skills do you need to bring to the table to be a prepared dad.

  1. Love
  2. Sacrifice
  3. Protection
  4. Provision
  5. Praying
  6. Teaching
  7. Counseling
  8. Supporting
  9. Listening
  10. Correcting
  11. And laughing….or being fun.
  12. Etc.

Along with these resources and skills, there needs to be a knowledge of any environment that your children may find themselves in. Examples of this are 

  1. Home
  2. Off with Extended Family
  3. Friends’ Homes
  4. Church
  5. School
  6. Sports or Social Groups
  7. Common Places
  8. And New Environments

No matter who you are, your kids are going to have needs, problems, serious issues, and even emergencies. How do we become prepared to assist or help them in their time of need?

We must start out by being observant. In the book Visual Intelligence by Amy Herman, you are taught to observe things that you may typically overlook. This is an amazing read. I highly recommend it. We need to take time and observe, really see and know the environments in which our kids interact. These environments are “where” their needs are going to surface. Depending on that environment, you may call on different resources and skills to best provide for them. 

Communication is key to know what to do when to step up or restrain yourself from getting involved. Many times, your kids won’t even know they need help. On the other hand, there are times when they will want it, but the best thing for them is to work it out on their own. How do you know what is right?

Before we move into this little series let me make a qualifying statement. Besides a physical threat, you and your spouse will rank these issues differently. The FIRST time you encounter a particular issue, it can appear larger than it really is. Let me quote from the Complete Survival Manual. “STOP. 1. Stop 2. Think 3. Observe 4. Plan”. Most people don’t realize that outside of an imminent threat, YOU HAVE TIME…use it. Give yourself time to respond instead of reacting. A sense of calm not only allows you to see more clearly but also calms others down. Whether you are on the inside, a display of calm spirit says you have some amount of control in the situation. This comforts others.

Over the next week, I will be posting different scenarios that you may encounter with or concerning your kids. Let’s serve our children well by being prepared, or as much as we can be. Thinking, communicating, and planning can go a long way for you to be the best dad possible. Don’t miss tomorrows post.

Deacon 

Dare to be Weird

Being a dad requires a professional balancing act. There are so many roles that you play. It is hard to be supportive, maintain rules, be a counselor, a defender, a teacher, and yes…fun. We all want to have fun with our kids. We hope that our kids will desire to hang out with us because it is cool to do so. The sad part is that there are not many dads that I know who are willing to be weird. Let me explain.

Weirdness as a dad has everything to do with timing. We can’t be known as a joke. I mean, our kids have to take us seriously when things are serious. However, we must embrace laughter, fun, and crazy times to bask in the joy of life. Therefore, why don’t I just say “have fun when you can?” I like doing fun things that are different. For that, you have to care more about the laughter smiles, smiles, and fun, then you do about how outsiders see you. 

So what is weird? What is out of the ordinary for you? Do something most people may not choose to do or go where others would not go. By the time I had my little girl, and she was 3, I can’t tell you how many times she would want to paint my toenails on a Saturday night. Some of you may say, “what’s weird about that?” Did you ever wear sandals to church the following morning? Have you ever given your teenagers some spraypaint and a mask and allow them to go crazy on their walls in their room? Have ever had a junker car and let them paint it?

Go out to eat at places you have never been to before. Are you into rock-n-roll? Go to a ballet. Take your kids to a museum if that is rare. One thing that we liked to do is to locate where the food trucks would hang out in a given town to find something new. Do charitable projects with your kids. Giving and doing for others together is awesome. Google and research things to do within a 30mile radius of the house. I use to take to my kids to weird places for photoshoots…like at a graffiti wall, railroad stations, and bridges. 

One thing that several of my adult friends found unusual about me as a dad was my encouragement of my kids’ self-expression. Many fathers want to control so many things about their kids’ lives. In many cases, I believe it is a concern on how they (the fathers) are perceived by others  and not a fear of their children being judged. With everything, it must be kept in due bounds, but a hairstyle, clothing choice, and art can be a very freeing thing for them to find out who they are. That being said, none of my kids overdid it. My buddies that had much more strict guidelines found their kids testing and destroying boundaries. As a matter of fact, the tighter they squeezed, the worse behaved their kids were.

Growing up has a lot of pressure these days. Kids have to let off that pressure somehow. Finding healthy outlets for them, being okay with a mess or controlled stupidity lets them know “I get it. Go for it”. One time my oldest son was playing bass in a talent show with a drummer friend of his. My son had a couple of basses, so when the drum solo part came up, he took his bass off and threw it across the stage to a friend waiting behind the skirt of the curtain. Luckily, the kid caught it. My son grabbed another bass and came back in shredding. When he did it, everyone in the crowd was like “whoa”. I was like “yes…..rock on”. His jazz teacher found me a few days later and told me that he had never seen a kid so “free” in a performance. 

My second boy is a daredevil that likes to jump off things like bridges, cliffs, climb high stuff, etc. My daughter is an amazing judo and jiu-jitsu fighter. They are also talented artists. One day, a cowboy friend of mine said, “I can’t believe you let your boy do all those stunts”. I laughed at my friend and reminded him, “you let your boys ride bulls”. Kids and teens can encounter some confusing and frustrating times. I’m not advocating fighting, stunts, or throwing musical instruments, but they have to have an outlet. Be a part of that. Encourage the unusual and for them to be different. That along with the suggestions earlier in this post can have some amazing results for your kids.

Finally, learn to laugh. You have to laugh at yourself, life, and yes…at each other. Show me a kid/teen that can laugh at themselves and okay when others laugh, I will show you a pretty solid kid. The same thing goes for dads. Drop the egos. Drop the concerns about outsiders perception of you. Laughing with my kids was, and still is my favorite thing to do. Love life. Express yourself and encourage your kids to do the same. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Learn Grow Love!

I love the movie Driving Miss Daisy. It came out in 1989. If you haven’t seen it, you must. If you have seen the movie, you will recall the wonderful story of friendship and love that developed throughout the story. The part that I love so much about the story is the raw honesty, verbal battering, and understanding that developed in the story.

Miss Daisy, played by the amazing Jessica Tandy was a stiff-necked widow and retired school teacher. Morgan Freemon played the role of Hoke, the man hired by Miss Daisy’s son to be her driver. Miss Daisy was a rude and snobbish old lady at the onset of the film. In one scene, Hoke revealed to Miss Daisy that he could not read. Miss Daisy fussed at him, gave him a brief grammar lesson to enable him to find a specific headstone in a cemetery. During the “lesson”, Miss Daisy said, “I taught some of the stupidest children that God ever put on the face of this earth…”. 

Although it commanded a chuckle of “amen” from many old school teachers in the theater, it made me do some serious contemplation about kids and their learning. I started to look into their development. I always looked at kids as young, but rarely as unable to comprehend. I’m not talking about toddlers, but young teens…middle and high school ages. When looking at their behavior, there were many times that I pulled out my stupid rubber stamp. I never took the time to consider how they think and their brain development. 

In a book entitled The Teen Whisperer by Mike Linderman, the author states, “Many teens, because their brains are still growing aren’t capable of the kind of higher-level reasoning, abstract thought, formulating a vision of the future, and feeling empathy for others the way adults can”. I had heard the suggestion and claims many times throughout the years, but never put 2+2 together. Perhaps I was the one with the incapability. Not of the tasks in his statement, but truly understanding kids and teens.

One thing I hate is excuses. I try not to make them because I can’t stand them when they come to form my students. I had to come to a place where I owned my own lack of understanding. I always viewed those that gave excuses as weak or dismissive of responsibility. I had to learn. The first step in learning is to shut up. That’s right…eyes and ears open…mouth shut. After that, you can question for clarity, not to debate your own convictions. I had to ask myself what it was that I truly wanted to learn and why. 

I needed to learn in order to grow as a man, teacher, and dad. Only then could I give my kids and students the type of love that they needed which would open their minds to learning. Remember, where there is hostility, little learning takes place. Where there is misunderstanding relationships don’t grow. Lastly, only through compassion and love will you ever reach a child’s heart and mind. Please note that I never removed discipline from the equation. Discipline and guidance must be present for a child/teens sense of security. It is up to you as the dad however, to balance the other elements for their development.

Does this mean that I would need to embrace excuses? Never. What it means is that by understanding grow and abilities, it allows me (the adult) to make sure that I am communicating and teaching with the proper tools and language. I think giving kids an audience for excuses increases their likelihood of more failures throughout their lives. I think it says that failing is okay. Failing is only okay when you react to it properly, owning it and trying again.

When my middle child went off to college, it was a very proud moment. He had graduated high school and worked very hard to get a college to draft him as a soccer player. Guess what. His college career lasted one semester. He traveled a lot with the soccer team and did not put the time into his school work as he should have. He failed. I told him this as he sat on my couch between semesters. He needed to own it. This was painful. He flushed the chance that he had wanted for so long. “Now what?”, I asked him. “You are down now. How are you going to get up?” His “formulating a vision for the future” was not there. I could not believe it and wanted to dismiss his lack of drive to be stupid. I was the stupid one. He needed me to understand what he could not put into words, have compassion, and guide him. “I” had to learn how to help him.

Dads, you are going to struggle with your kids/teens as long as you sit on your dad throne. Humble yourselves and learn. Then through love, compassion, and guidance, you can grow. Your children can grow. The relationship can grow and you can be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

When they Start to become Ladies

Am I the only guy that was scared to death of having a little girl? As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, boys were just easier for me. Not a whole lot went into it…at least the baby and toddler part. When they went “pre-pube” it was even easier. I had the right prescriptions for their needs…food, dirt, and fire.

Girls can be just as an adventurist. My daughter loves the outdoors, sports, and contention…lol. Boys just seem to acquire less when it comes to maintenance. When they start to change…preteen, hold onto your hat. They become quite complex. Hey dads, what do you do? Remember this phrase…”Let me think about that”. “Hmmm, can I have some time to ponder on that”? Dads….buy time. Do it in the name of giving your daughter the best response possible.

If you assume that you understand the mindset of your pre-teen girl, you will be wrong. Give her space. Give her time. This allows for decompression and for you to be viewed as an asset, not the other ass____. Some of you may be thinking that right is right and wrong is wrong. “This is my house and my kids do as I say”. Let me refer you to the most macho men on the face of the planet. They are called Navy Seals. One of their primary objectives is to identify a threat and “avoid” a conflict. Their focus is to accomplish the mission, not prove how awesome they are in combat.

So how can you grow closer to your aging and changing daughter? First of all, you are not one. Don’t assume that you know their feelings or state of mind. There is a lot more going on upstairs with them than boys. They are WAY more complex. You will experience conflict. There is no getting around this. Whether feeling damage is direct or collateral it will happen. A line has to be drawn that allows for you to maintain the household and for you and your spouse to be in charge…not them. They want and need strong parents. The keyword is strong. As I have mentioned in another post, they need the ROCK/ISLAND. This is a safe haven, a landmark for them to determine direction. However, they don’t want to run aground.

I see the biggest issues between dads and daughters develop amongst young fathers. Most of the time this stems from a lack of confidence and the dad not knowing who he is, let alone the man that he should be for his girl. That may step on some toes. The best way for me to respond to that possibility is to ask an important question. What is more important, your pride and feelings or the well-being of your girl. Learn now how to eat humble pie. This does not make you weak. This means that you are willing to go through anything for your child. It doesn’t mean that the ROCK/ISLAND moves out of the way when a ship is on a bad path. We will let our lighthouse warn them. However, ultimately it is better to be dependable, even if that means they hit the rocks.

Dependable dads do not give their children anything that they want. They are consistent and solid. There must be principles that you don’t budge on. If you don’t, your word is not worth anything. A mad child will get over it. You just have to keep reminding them how much you love them while reminding them that there are things that you cannot compromise on. I did not have a lot of rules per se. Showing respect, not lying, and handling their business was my main message. I know that sounds vague. However, most issues of instruction and dealing with contention can be managed with it. My kids loved their freedom. I made it very simple. Always show respect, don’t lie to me, and take care of their responsibilities. If they did those things, they had a LOT of freedom.

I know fathers that are on every extreme of parenting styles. Those that are extreme usually have the greatest impact on their daughters, especially those coming of age. Some dads let their daughters run wild because they don’t want to face a scene in the Exorcist movie. Some dads oppress their daughters with restriction and rules, thus making them socially inept, overly sheltered, and easy targets out in the world.

If you are going to be the dad that your young lady needs, you need to establish communication as early as possible. When they think of you, you want them to think strong, safe, always there (the rock/island), love, and a man of his word. This is the most healthy combo that you can have for her. To have all these characteristics, she must come before your needs. You need to listen, then listen some more. You don’t have to agree on everything. She will get upset…so will you. However, it is you, dad, the adult, that must set the pace and guidelines for her to have the healthiest upbringing possible. You can be the best dad possible.

Deacon

How Dads can Comfort their Kids

When I was young, I was a momma’s boy. Yes, I said it. I don’t mean that I was a wuss. It’s just that I defaulted to mom for my comfort. This was not to say that dad could not be comforting, but mom had the right words and touch for the moment. However, when anything heavy went down, I quickly ran to dad’s shadow. Heavy did not mean that I was feeling bad, or needed encouragement. Heavy was that I thought I was going to die.

As I became a father, I wanted to give my children more than a feeling as if I was an alpha male lion. I wanted to be a part of a more nurturing role. I never wanted to be mamma, but just included in some of that stuff. I never felt like my dad had failed me in this area. I was not correcting a wrong. I just consciously wanted to do more.

I had to learn some things to be effective in the area of comfort. The first thing was to learn how not to be dismissive to my children’s concerns and fears. I think it is easy for men to roll their eyes, laugh off, or even fuss at kids when they express worry or concern at stuff that does not bother “us”. 

In the sentence following my last one, I started to say that we as men feel a certain way about child concerns. I erased that sentence. I don’t think we feel at all. I don’t think we even give it a second thought. We blow it off or dismiss it. How do we stop that? How can we see what they see? This may sound dumb, but I started lowering myself to their height. I would kneel or sit. When I started this, I really didn’t know what I was doing, thinking, or trying to fix. It’s just when I caught myself, I didn’t want to dismiss them. Whether I had the answer or action they needed, I just wanted them to know that their worries, anxiety, and concerns were worth my time.

Let me say that I did not bat 1000 on this. I’m sure that I may have walked or thought past an opportunity to grow even more in my relationship with my kids. However, when I was spot on, it could open up wonderful lines of communication. We had some of the greatest talks. There were times that I could not fix their problem or make their fears go away. This frustrated me. Like my father, I am a fixer. I want to make it better. I want to have a solution. Let me tell you that sometimes all you can do is be there.

This drive began with me when my oldest son was living with his mother 2 hours away. I wish I could say that it started from day 1. However, it really started as soon as he was not living under my roof. For 5 years until he was 10 (which was the age that he came to live with me until high school graduation), I wanted to be the dad that he needed/wanted. I wish that I could say that it initiated as a noble cause. I wish I could say that I had an epiphany. My initial efforts were to compete against my “X”. I wanted to be a better parent than she was. The only thing I could constantly do was to be there. I had nothing else to offer. I just wanted to be a man of my word and make my son feel like he was a priority. 

The competition mode that I had with my “X” did not last long at all. I could see that just my going to see him was all that he wanted. NOW there was an epiphany. I saw his love and confidence in me grow. The event that killed the competition happened on a weekend that I was going to go see him. I was not consciously competing with his mother anymore. I was driven NOT to disappoint him if possible.

That weekend, a hurricane was blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. It had not landed, but there was heavy rain. Did I mention that I only had a motorcycle at that time? I decided to try and beat the storm before it got worse. I made it to see him. All was well. However, I was not going to be so lucky on the way home. I ended up driving my bike in downpour rain and strong wind. I was soaked, scared, and thought I was gonna die. However, it ended up fine and I had put the trip out of my mind. Sometime later I was not able to make a trip and felt so horrible. It was then that my son crushed me with understanding and grace. He told me that it was okay, “you drove your bike through a storm to see me”.

Dads, it is about the effort. It is not knowing what to do and say. We are all going to have victories and failures. That is not what your kids will see. They will see your heart. They will see how important they are to you. You won’t fool them. My oldest son’s words changed my drive and set the tone for how I would try to be for my 2nd and 3rd child. This did not mean that I would always be successful. 

Get down to their eye level. Listen to them. Show them that they are worth your time. They just want you. You can be more than a tough guy, more than an alpha lion. You can be a huge comfort to your children. Give it all you got. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon