The Real Meaning of Dad

Before we can assess our impact as dads, we must first examine ourselves as men worthy of the title. To be a biological father, one only has to donate selfishly to his own desires. It doesn’t take any measure of character. To be a dad, especially a good one takes much more than an animal rutting season to achieve. It takes dedication, suffering, patience, selflessness, love, and learning.

We can’t be the dads that God has called us to be if we embrace the American dream. Okay, wait a minute. I believe that America is the best place to live in the world. However, the majority of the American Dream that is preached today is about what you get or have; owning a house, having your degree, owning a business, or making a lot of money. However, none of these things bring about true satisfaction in life. None of it means that you are better, more important, more desirable, more respectable, or even successful. Yet, we chase these things.

One particular program that I like to watch is the Joe Rogan Experience. If you are not familiar with it, just check it out on youtube. Joe has many really interesting guests on the show that discuss not only their area of expertise or fame but also the emotions, drive, as well as the struggle that these guests have or are currently facing. In a conversation that was taken from episode #1038, Joe was talking to Billy Corgan, from the Smashing Pumpkins. In this interview, I found it very powerful when Joe asked Billy, “when you reach a certain level and are selling out giant arenas and you are one of the biggest bands ever, where the f%@# do you go?” Billy’s response was “madness”. When Billy was told by a corporate individual that they were probably going to be #1 (back circa 1995), he literally responded with, “Isn’t there something higher?”

No matter how much we get, have, or possess, it will never be enough. This is because we are made to serve, give, love, and glorify God rather than ourselves. We always want that thing or a better thing. However, it never satisfies. One of my favorite quotes is by St. Augustine who once said, “Oh greedy men, what will satisfy you, if God himself will not”. Winston Churchill said. “…we make a life by what we give”. 

As a musician, I always had dreams of being famous or at least famous enough to hit the road and play music for a living. There is nothing wrong with that idea. However, there is a cost that comes with it. Being on the road, many times means being away from family. In a song entitled I don’t mind by Falling in Reverse (a rock band), the singer says the following…”Mama you are an addict and you passed it down to me

But who am I to cast a stone with a daughter I never see

And honestly this honesty is getting way too hard to sing

I’d trade it all, I would give it back to be a decent human being”. 

When my kids were little, I remember coming home from work and they would yell with joy and run into my arms. My brothers and fellow dads out there, there IS NOTHING that the world could offer me in exchange for that. Having guy time, a dream career, or the latest man toy will NEVER bring joy to your heart like loving your kids and knowing that they know…” daddy loves me and will never abandon me”.

Don’t waste your time chasing after titles, awards, possessions, and everything that will mean nothing in the long run. There is no selfish indulgence that will bring you the joy that is yours as a dad, especially a God-fearing dad. You will never be respected or remembered as a great man/human being for what you get in this life. Yet, the chase goes on. Hearts are broken, families are torn apart, and men are left with nothing but a neon light that blinks an arrow pointing at them.

Don’t wake up in your 30’s or 40’s to an epiphany. Start changes today. Learn from the mistakes of others. Stop the vicious cycle that is spinning out of control in so many homes across our country. Evaluate what really matters. You are going to go out of this world just as you came into it. Make your mission to give, love, and honor God with your life. Be a man of character. Be the best dad possible.
Deacon  

How Marriage affects Your Children

Marriage is a topic that has unfortunately been under-rated and not respected as it should by many young adults today. Perhaps this is due to our social environment as well as our failure as parents to teach the importance of this union to our children. I realize that many readers have beliefs that may differ from this writer, but as I will respect your right to voice your opinion, I will also exercise my right to express my beliefs and hope they will meet with equal respect.

I believe that the health of a marriage is crucial in the lives of children. It is the foundation of what they know as security and trust. They want to believe in mom and dad as individuals and as a team. This is a foundation that they walk on although rarely vocalizing its importance. We don’t talk about air much, but how crucial is it? Kids are resilient and adaptable, but no alternative situation is more ideal for a child than living with a mom and dad where there is a healthy marriage.

As men, we like to feel and act like we are strong, sometimes more so than we actually are. We want to think that we can do everything for our kids. You can’t. You can’t be a mom. You can perform duties and roles, but there is an emotional and spiritual connection between mothers and children that you cannot fake. They need a mom. We need to recognize this and nurture this relationship. We need to cherish our wive’s role and strive to treat this relationship with respect.

Now, let me lay a heavy point on you dads. You are the example to your children of how a woman should be treated. This is true for your boys and girls. You set the example. They are watching you. Many dads, especially those that struggle in relationships don’t like the weight of this fact, but it is true. The responsibility lies within your words and actions. 

I realize that there are women out there that can be a nightmare to live with. This is why I stress to you, that if you are single, do not get married for the sake of marriage. Being with no one is better than the wrong one. You need to realize what it is that you are committing to and spend much time in prayer and consideration before diving off into a relationship that is designed to be life long.

Now to soothe the minds of my lady readers. Men, I believe that 80% of failed marriages are the fault of the husband. When you get married, you give your life to another. This means that you cannot live selfishly. You cannot live for #1 and be successful. To me, the perfect example of how a husband should be can be found in scripture. Now, those that are not religious may want to skip over this part. However, I challenge you to read the following and then examine women and marriage according to this standard if you adopt these principles.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[a] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

If we do nothing, but desire and strive to live this way, I cannot see the woman you love to not say, “I’m in”. “IF” we love this way. I believe that most ladies would respect and love this quality in us. The problem is that we think we can do this and maintain “I am man, hear me roar”. Do you want to be loved and respected? Then it starts with you, not with your wife. If you look at scripture we/men are given the command to love. So, not to burst your bubble, but if you are not feeling loved and respected, are you loving and living as the scripture definition above describes?

Our role as dads and husbands lie in our responsibility for our words and actions, NOT in the response of those around us. This is something that must be given effort and time. You can’t expect to live according to scripture definitions for a week and everything will be better. This is a commitment to your bride and to your children. We must be selfless, not selfish. We need to be the best husbands and dads possible.

Deacon 

The Making of a Princess

Little girls, teenagers, and young ladies have a special and unique need from dads. This is a subject that keeps me humbled and ever mindful of my responsibility. It is not that boys lack love and encouragement. However, there is a specific attention and assurance that is vital to girls. I know that I have touched on this topic before on my blogsite thedadmanual.com, but today I would like to address it with a bit more detail and clarity.

My first child was a boy. Seven years later, I had another boy. I was living in the world of “been there, done this”. This was comfortable ground. I knew how to care for boys. To me, they were low maintenance. Yes, they needed protection, love, and encouragement. However, they appeared to be “free-range” in their growing up. You just had to set them in motion.

Let me be the first to say that I screwed up in so many areas with my first kid. I did not know what I was doing. I learned by doing so many things wrong. You would think that when my second son was born, I would be more careful. No, I thought I was pro. I did make fewer mistakes but still did an injustice by not trying to educate myself on Dad 101. When it came to my little girl, this would be a different story…sort of.

My little girl had the same basic baby needs but quickly grew into a different creature. Her needs were different. I quickly noticed that she was developing quicker when it came to smarts. Not that I am calling my boys dumb, but things just came quicker to my daughter. She was growing up, but not with an outward trajectory as my boys. By boys required less protection, but my girl still desired it. She wanted to be near me. She wanted a safe place with dad. This would prove ironic later in life. As she grew, she became such a source of my strength.

Little girls crave that their dads notice them, love them, treasure them, and protect them. I am thankful that I quickly recognized this. Let me tell the dads reading this one important thing. You CANNOT tell your daughter that you love her too much. You also need to show it. I would write little notes and put them in her room, backpack, or other places that she would find them. I would send her flowers at school. Not just on special occasions, as often as I could afford to do so. Let me stress that it is NOT buying them things that will make the difference. It is you telling them that they are special.

If you have a little girl, start now. Give them your time. This is not just designating a time. Seek them out. Color with them, have tea parties, wrestle, tickle, sing to them. Be willing to be seen as silly. My little girl liked to paint my nails. Yes, I said it. I was willing to be silly and a fool for her smile. 

As she grew older, I praised her hard work and encouraged her to tackle the world. When she got knocked down, I would tell her that champions get up and fight again. When she would do so, I would praise her regardless of outcomes. This practice helped form her character today. Yes, she still desires dad’s safe arms and kind words, but she is a strong woman with a fighting spirit. So she needs me but doesn’t “need” me. Do you get it? 

The final point that separates the needs of boys and girls is your daughter’s need for you to be vulnerable. As a man, I can’t say that I fully understand this. They need to see you when you are sad, weak, or hurting. This is something that most men strongly avoid. We don’t like being vulnerable. We feel exposed, embarrassed, and less manly. However, if you will let your daughter in your safe space, it does something that bonds the heart. You will see that her presence alone is a comfort.

Your boys will be your chest-beating pride. Regardless of his recent troubles, I loved how Bill Cosby explained the father/son feeling. In his first major standup video, he was saying, “see the boy running the touchdown, that’s my son”. Daughters can also make us proud, but more so by reflecting on their character, intelligence, and drive. I found that if I lived vicariously, it was through my boys. My daughter was different. She was her own person. She was just so different. She was my princess. She did and does represent what is good and right…not just how tough she is. I hope fathers reading this will give an amen.

Your daughters need you in a special way. They need your words, actions, and your heart. Wholeheartedly serve them as the dad/man that they need. They are your princess. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

How to be a Good Brother/Sister

When my wife and I were raising 3 children at home, we emphasized the necessity for the boys to be good brothers and our daughter to be a good sister. We told them that we are a team and what each of us does either helps or hurts the family. That may sound like a heavy burden for a little kid. However, in our case, the results were that each child felt more valued and responsible for the family. 

This does not mean that they didn’t fight like cats and dogs from time to time, especially the younger 2 that were so close in age. However, the right to oppose was limited to them. If any outside individuals caused grief or trouble, the others were quick to rally. As a matter of fact, my boys took that VERY seriously. No one was allowed to hurt family…especially their sister.

One Saturday, I was at the kitchen sink that had a window looking outside. My oldest boy was at a friend’s house, but the younger 2 were playing in front of our house. They were approximately 7 and 8, my boy being the older of the 2. The rule was that they had to stay on our street which had very little traffic and we knew the neighbors. Two houses down from us, there was a 12-year-old boy. He was a little jerk. Well, on this day he had made my little girl cry by making a rude comment to her. He said, “I can see your panties”, as she rode by on her bike. Our son came into the house and went to his room. He sad nothing, but emerged with his pellet gun. He stepped outside, took, aim, and pop. He then walked in, saying nothing and went to his room. 

He had been responsible and taught safety when it came to the pellet gun. I knew this to be true. However, I stepped outside and looked for what he shot at. I saw and heard nothing. I just saw my daughter riding her bike with a smile on her face. I walked back inside, put my dishes away and walked to my son’s room to inquire about what happened. When I reached his door, there was a knock at my front door. So I went to the front door to find the man who’s 12-year-old lives 2 doors down. He wanted to inform me that my boy had shot his boy with his pellet gun. I immediately went into investigative mode and retrieved my children. I learned what the neighbor boy had said to my daughter, and that my son, therefore, decided to shoot him in his panties. Thank goodness that the father was more embarrassed about his son’s behavior than he was mad about him having a stung pee-pee (my daughter’s words….lol).

So how could I ever take this event and turn it into a constructive lesson that does not advocate violence? Good brothers and sisters protect each other however they can. They do for each other. This could be babysitting, fixing a sandwich, or even something as simple as listening. Obviously, appropriate boundaries and lessons need to be taught. That particular day earned my boy some restrictions when it came to the use of his pellet gun. However, I did let him know that I loved the fact that he loved his sister, and would do anything for her.

As kids grow older, we as parents want them to maintain a close bond. Sometimes that is the case, but many times they drift apart and are not what we might call “The Waltons”. However, there are things that we can do to maximize their interaction to encourage a growing bond. One thing we can do is to eat together as a family. We can mandate that we as family support and attend each other’s extracurricular activities whenever it is possible. Game night or activities that involves shutting off electronic devices encourage interaction. Going to church as a family does likewise. The key is to encourage interaction and not isolation. Unfortunately, today’s technology can monopolize our attention and time.

Sometimes, establishing rules can be met with resistance. Let me encourage you to be consistent. Start as early as possible. The more interaction is a way of life, the deeper the roots of relationship will grow and serve them later in life. The later you begin this process the greater the obstacles will be.

Finally, we must acknowledge that the age gap between the siblings will determine a lot of their interaction. However, regardless of age, each child should feel their responsibility and ownership in the family. Older or younger, they all need to feel loved and important. This is a task that you will try to tackle all of your life. It never stops. Invest in them as individuals and as a group. Reinforce how they are needed…for the family…and for their siblings. Teach them to be the best brother/sister possible.

Deacon    

How to be a Friend

Being a friend seems to be a subject that is a no brainer. In its simplest terms, this may be true. It appears that our kids can be a friend without much instruction. However, we need to guide our kids to understand that being a friend is really an art form. In today’s post, I would like to offer you some information that may serve as a resource in developing your kids into that friend to someone that can make the greatest impact.

When I was a kid, I had a friend named Jorge. I met him when I moved to a new town. I walked into a 4th-grade class in the middle of the school year and Jorge was the first one to nod and smile at me. To my delight and surprise, Jorge rode the same bus home. He lived close to my house. Well, the rest was history in the making. Jorge and I did everything together. We were practically adopted by each other’s parents. We played and lived at each other’s houses. It was like something out of a wholesome family movie. We fished, shot bb guns, built forts, climbed trees, and rode bikes. You could say that I was a great friend. However, it was easy to do as long as life was simple and good.

As our world expanded and we got older, it became clear that I was only a great friend out of convenience. Which I must say appears to be the same with most of us. As long as life meets our needs, we are easy to get along with. However, when life becomes difficult or more complex, friends of convenience have a way of disappearing or distancing themselves. I know this was the case with me. I didn’t like to share my friends, nor deal with heavy subjects. 

It is hard to teach kids that friends are those that will go through hard times with us. We as humans like to avoid discomfort. We also may not know what to say to a friend that is hurting or struggling with a specific problem. However, it is in these times that friendships will truly be defined. The question is how do we teach our kids to “be there” as a great friend. Let me give you what I think is a great analogy to show them.

The best visual I can share with you is a sports teammate analogy. You can substitute this idea with a sport that you may be more accustomed to. For me, a friendship can best be explained looking at the game of soccer. For many people who don’t understand or follow the sport, it is just a bunch of players running around, kicking a ball, and trying to score. However, it is a very complex sport of plays, roles, and mindsets, that are very evident to the seasoned player. Nothing is better on a team than having a teammate that understands his/her role with regard to “space”.

All the complex plays and strategies fall under the idea of understanding space. As a good teammate, this has to do with 2 principles…creating opportunities and support. This knowledge is just as important as your ball-handling skills. When you do not have the ball, it is paramount that you get to a position of new opportunity to receive the ball. Running to a new forward position allows your teammate to have more options to advance the ball. Falling back behind your teammate with the ball is to give them support should they lose possession or need to pass back. 

As friends, we need to understand that being too close can prevent us from being the most effective. In the sport of soccer, two players standing too close actually eliminates the opportunity. The term is called taking yourself out of the game. Think of it this way. If I have the ball and dribble past an opponent, I have, with one move beaten 1 player. If there are 2 opponents standing close to each other, then I can beat 2 players with one move. 

To be valuable friends to those we care about, it is important that they know where you are, NOT that you are too close to make a difference. As a forward running teammate, I will raise or waive my arm so I can be seen as an option. When I am behind them, I need to be heard. They need to hear me say, “I got your back”. When we communicate in such a way to our friends that are hurting or struggling, we serve them best. Notice that in either role, we keep an eye on them. We don’t need for them to acknowledge us or communicate back. They just need to know. 

Finally, whether we are talking about being a reliable friend or teammate, we must realize that they may or may not rely on us. Many people get their feelings hurt if they are not utilized. That is not friendship, nor is it a good teammate. When your friend or teammate has the ball, whether that ball is a literal ball or symbolic of a problem, it is not about you proving how great you are. It is about BEING great for that person…not your ego. Friends and teammates are READY to act. That does not mean that you will. 

Being a great friend means understanding our role. As we teach our kids. It is important to take the opportunity to teach about space and communication. It is also about having a team mentality, not one that glorifies oneself as a great friend. Give them the tools to understand and be a valuable friend to others. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

When a Father Figure Dad is not Enough

Less than an hour ago I received notice that a former student of mine just past away from a heroin overdose. I don’t know if now is the right time to be writing this. However, I want to be transparent in order that I may help others. This young man, I will call him Nick, was a troubled teen with a hard life and an abusive home life. During the time that he was a student and living in the same state, he reached out to me and another coworker as his father figures.

I had nothing special to offer this young man other than an ear and a place to sleep when he found himself on the street. He was in a sense a victim but never lived as such. I grant him the understanding that he had poor parents that had several vices and mental health issues. However, Nick found trouble. He knew where to find it. He was tough due to his physical and emotional scars and feared no personal danger. He did, however, fear disappointing me and several people at our school.

After his graduation and moving out of state, we learned that Nick had been married. Not too long after that, he was a father to a beautiful little girl. His marriage did not last. Some custody issues were fought. Eventually, his daughter’s mother took her own life, leaving Nick with sole custody. 

Through social media, he appeared to be doing well, investing his all into his daughter’s life. Those that knew him back in the school days were unaware of the level of his drug abuse. Obviously, the story ends tragically for everyone that knew him. The lesson, however, slapped me across the face as a dad. There are times that no matter your efforts, words, and or guidance will not fix those that we father, regardless of relation. 

I feel a sense of loss. I question all the lessons that I attempted to teach Nick. Was I not good enough? Did I not give him enough time? Were others not committed enough to stand in the gap for him?. There are those young people that we care about that will make horrible decisions. This has nothing to do with your availability or lack of love. When these times do happen, you will question yourself. Obviously even closer if a young person is your flesh and blood.

There is no making sense of awful times such as these. Although we default to the question “why”, it will not ease the pain or doubt. Dads can’t fix everything. All those that turn to us as father figure will not listen to us. They may even accept your words as true, but fail to apply them to their life. Pain and addiction is a wicked animal that sometimes wins. Tragedy is not partial to its victims. Good kids make bad decisions and at times pay for those mistakes. You can’t change this.

So what do we do? How do we handle these issues? For fathers that have endured tragedy in their families, I don’t want to assume to know your pain, nor to say that all loss is the same. I pray God’s grace and healing upon your life and hope that you are able to get to a point that you understand that choices can be more powerful than our love for our kids. If you have been adopted by a young person as a father figure, I say the same. However, we must not stop doing our best or making ourselves available for those that come across our path.

To make a difference in the lives of other people, whether they are blood-related or not carries a risk. We all affect the lives of others as well as they affect us. Being there for someone is being vulnerable to hurt and disappointment. If you have not experienced this valley in life, it will come. People, our children, and our spouses will hurt us if we love them enough. They will choose paths that we pray they would avoid. Actions and words cannot be taken back. That is why I urge you strongly to stress to your children how their actions affect others.

We live in a society that tells us to look out for #1. However, I have never seen a human being live this way and experience joy in perpetuity. We are meant to love and bare each other’s burdens. This has always been God’s plan. Don’t stop caring for others. Show your children what it means to be there for other people. Don’t hide your joy or your hurt. You need to teach them the whole lesson. Life can hurt. Don’t stop loving. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

“God bless Nick’s family…especially his little girl”

Letters from Dad

Written affirmations and encouragements are invaluable tools that will go beyond you. How can you optimize your impact on your children? Put it in writing. To me, this has been especially apparent in the life of my daughter. By no means am I saying that it cannot have a huge impact on your boys, but I am convinced that daughters have a special treasured place in their hearts for such things.

Dads, your kids have different needs for guidance and teaching. However, they all need affirmation. This encouragement needs to be spoken and written. You don’t have to be a great writer to create notes of affirmation. “You are awesome.” “I love you.” “I’m so glad you are mine.” “You make my life so much better.” These will do more for the confidence and self-worth of your child than anything you could buy them or provide for them. 

More than ever, we are seeing how the role of dads is crucial in the lives of kids. This does not take away from the loving mother, but it does impact their lives in very specific ways. Kids with loving dads are shown to perform better in school and sports. They are less likely to develop unhealthy dependencies, less likely to develop a criminal history, and less likely to experience pregnancy prior to graduation.

Obviously, more is required than our presence. We need to be that rock for them. We also need to strive to be great communicators. My father, now 87 years old told me that his father loved him. He knew this. However, he could only remember his father saying “I love you” once. To me this was tragic. This also meant no cards or letters of admiration and affirmation. My dad did his best to do a better job for me and my sisters. However, this was difficult for him due to the fact that he had no personal model of this behavior.

One time, my dad told me of a time that he got into a fight in grade school. Back then, corporal punishment practices were much more severe. There was not a whole lot of positive reinforcement. However, he remembers his teacher taking him into the classroom and giving him a hug. My father wept. It is indescribable what love and affirmation do for a child at any age. We cannot rely on what they should know or their memory of the last time you encouraged them.

I know that you probably are encouraging and loving. However, this needs to take a higher priority with fathers in general. To me, I have found it invaluable to write things that will go beyond me, meaning my unpredicted lifespan. I may live to be a very old man. I may be gone tomorrow. That is why it is crucial for me not to wait or delay in getting on this train. My kids will need sources of referral when I am no longer around. What a treasure it could be to have letters, notes, texts, emails, etc. 

Another reason that I have found for implementing this practice, is that I don’t want to create an excuse for my children to fail. We live in a society where few people don’t blame others for their problems and failures. I believe it is important for my kids to own these times in order to grow and prevent an unhealthy cycle of excuses. Dads, if you don’t know by now, a lack of father’s affection is a default button for kids to dwell in mistakes and failures. Don’t allow this in your family. Your written affirmation will give them the “I can” attitude to pull themselves through the difficult times. 

The final benefit or “win win win” is what such practices will do for your marriage. Your kids are going to grow up and leave. Your wife will most likely still be around. You need to understand how a practice of love and affirmation affects your spouse. Your love for her children is by default an additional show of love for her. It brings peace to the home, makes you more respected, makes you more attractive…yes I said it. It makes you appear to her as the man she is proud of.

We don’t have any guarantees for tomorrow. Time is not on our side. Don’t let chances pass you by. Take time to write a note, send a text, a card, or an email. The benefits are overwhelming. Be who you need to be for your kids. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon  

Get More from Serving

One of the greatest joys I have ever experienced as a dad is teaching my kids the joy of serving others. There is a lie that many of us in society have bought, not only for ourselves but for our kids to follow. The lie is that loving and taking care of #1 is the most importance. I have been briefly happy, but never full of joy by serving and loving myself. I have however witnessed a lot of people that live fulfilled lives by serving others with their time, resources and talents.

My family is unapologetically Christian. We have a very strong belief system and are compelled to serve in our home churches. While many people will not associate gratification with anything that they are compelled to do, let me state that for us, this is not the case. I believe that we are created to love and serve others. I have never experienced more of a sense of purpose in life than putting faith in action. My prayer is that my children and their children will hold fast to this wonderful lifestyle.

I started out with my children, identifying people in need. We would discuss it together. I would ask my kids if they noticed the same need that I did. Many times this would be a family that had either material needs or needed someone to helo them with a personal task. I would ask my children what they thought God would want us to do in that particular situation. Without exception, their response was to give or to work help those with the need, for the need to be met. 

On one occasion, we encountered a family that had been wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. They literally came to our communities with what they could stuff in the car. Everything else was gone. My oldest son noticed that an elderly parent who was bound by a wheelchair just sat around doing nothing in their small apartment. My boy asked me if he could give this elderly man his t.v. I was so choked up with pride. What an amazing experience that this was for our family. To see your children set an example for others in a selfless manner elevates you as a dad to the mountain tops. When I have told that story before, I have had people say, “well, you didn’t really let him give away his t.v., did you?” Of course, I did, and he was happier for it.

Something that we need to keep in mind is that an accomplishment contains more satisfaction than a material object. This is because it allows oneself to identify their character. In the book, The Price of Privilege, by Dr. Madeline Levine, it is discussed how possessions or lack thereof have very little to do with happiness, but the sense of knowing oneself has a significant impact. 

Another part of this lesson is for your kids to come to understand what “greatness” is. Albert Einstein was quoted saying, “The value of a man should be seen in what he gives, not in what he is able to receive.” To this day, I am never awed by those that have a lot. However, I am moved by those that give sacrificially. When we live in a world that takes and takes, it is wonderful to see people that will do all they can to help those in need, especially strangers. The “value” of those people is unmeasurable. Do you want your kids to be respected and admired? This comes hand in hand with acts of selflessness, never self-elevation, possessions, or desired social status. It is very simple. Love and serve people. The respect is automatic. However, when the desire is to be respected above serving others, the two never co-exist. Those that do for others only to be praised, are usually viewed with less regard than those that do nothing. In my personal view, those who serve to serve themselves not only fail to achieve respect but also rob others of the joy of serving in that specific capacity at that time. The bible states that only in humility is there true exaltation. “For those that exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

As a Christian, I look to the example that Christ gave, taken upon himself the role of a servant, washing the feet of the disciples. This action lacked any glory. There was nothing of prestige by serving in this capacity. Yet, he demonstrated it to show the disciples how they should serve others. 

I want my kids to be valued and respected. I want them to have joy and fulfillment in life. How ironic it is that both goals can be achieved by selflessness, giving, and a servant’s heart. Teach your kids the true source of value and joy. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Kids and Pets

The journey of caring for a pet teaches kids so many wonderful and important lessons in life. I am a dog lover…okay, fanatic. They just make me happy, and my kids have been raised around them. Let’s just say that we are a Fido family. It’s not that I hate cats, but I am taken back by the excitement and love that dogs can show.

As a child, I struggled with allergies and asthma. AlthoughI wanted to be around animals SOOOOOO much, my immune system and modern medicine were not up to par. Therefore I had to admire them from a distance or rush myself into scrub like a surgeon if I ever pet one. Praise the Lord that I grew out of that and that my children were not allergic.

We decided that we would have dogs as we raised our children. In that decision, we also included our children in every aspect of this responsibility. My wife had been a veterinary technician for many years and was as redneck as they come. Due to this fact, she was in charge by default. She was also stronger when it came to the circle of life and could take the lead on unpleasant tasks. This may not be the same for your family, but as for us, my wife was Dr. Dolittle.

As you can imagine, dogs have brought us a lot of joy, but equally as much of a pain in the butt due to the fact that dogs will be dogs. While young and learning, they all had a tendency to be destructive, forget where the bathroom is, and perform escape acts that would impress Houdini. Then there was the added stress of enjoying your pets while trying to prevent them from intruding on the neighbors, who may like them a lot less. This can range from barking late at night or very early in the morning to expressing their love or lack thereof for neighbors and their furry friends.

I must say that one of the biggest advantages that we experienced as a family was the protective nature of our dogs along with the unconditional love that they showed. This really gave my wife and me a peace of mind and an additional sense of well-being as our children were living at home. The downside was dealing with the circle of life.

Kids must understand about death. I have to admit that this has been the worst part of being a pet owner. However, it is a powerful teacher. My advice is that you NOT shield your child from these times. It royally sucks but does so much to teach about grief and compassion. I have to admit that I have to lean on my wife’s strength during these times. Losing a pet emotionally wrecks me. Perhaps my grief allows my children to be a part of the comforting factor. They know that it is a REAL sensitive area with me.

It is at this point that I want to stress the importance of vulnerability. Kids need to understand what makes us tick and hurt. There is a point of being tough for your kids. I understand that. I condone that strength. However, they need to see that dad “feels, hurts, and can show sadness”. These moments allow us to bond together in a unique and special way. Dads that resist this are missing out on a blessing as well as being a healthy example for their children. 

The other important lesson that kids can learn from caring for animals is that service is an expression of love. We feed, water, clean, clip, medicate and even pick up nasty stuff because we love our pets and want them to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. In addition to this, kids can see that discipline can make for a happier animal. An animal that is taught to behave is more welcomed, included, and appreciated. This is an amazing opportunity to talk about your children’s happiness.

The last point to make is that there are times when the best thing to do is to NOT buy, adopt, or grow your animal family. We all love the sweet puppies that we come across. However, the discussion needs to be held about responsibility and what is best for the dog. There are many situations that do not lend the best care to an animal. Therefore, refraining from bringing them home can in of itself be an act of love.

The concept, love, and learning experience that our kids can have with animals are amazing. However, we still need to guide during this time. We need to have open communication with our kids concerning the benefits and hurdles that this lifestyle has. We need to examine the needs and resources of the family to make the best decisions. I hope you can enjoy this amazing experience with your kids. I hope that it can be a small part of YOU being 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

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