Worthy Goals for Our Sons

IMGP6812 (2)Parents who love their children typically “want what’s best” for them.  This can translate into providing opportunities to explore interests, or enabling time and resources with patience while our sons test various skills and abilities. Inevitably, it also means providing coaching and guidance – after all, as adults, we have been around the block a couple of times and we should share our acquired wisdom and insights.

I think we need to be careful; however, to distinguish how we perceive “what’s best” for our sons – is “best” aligned with what we see on TV, read in books, or receive from God’s Word?

Naturally (because we love them), it’s normal to want our children to:

  1. never go hungry,
  2. never be homeless, or
  3. never become ill with the lack of resources that could treat/heal them

However, it’s easy to tip that scale too far to the other extreme.  We can easily slip from protection (contentment) to defining wealth, mansions, the praise of men, and perfect health through perfecting one’s own body in physical sport and training as the goal for (or happy outcome of ) our sons’ lives.  This would be unfortunate for many reasons:

  • our sons could be confused in how to distinguish doing their very best at their appointed task (aka “Walking Worthy”; vocational callings, ministry service, et.al.) versus doing their very best to acquire material goods or conditions (stuff, wealth, house on the hill, perfect 6-pack Abs, vanity wife, etc.) as artificial measuring posts (i.e. running hard to win the prize of the true calling, versus running hard to fill a trophy case of trinkets)
  • our sons could become over-confident in their own abilities, accomplishments, intellect, and material goods to lose sight of God’s role in daily living, and our dependency on Him. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • our sons could be confused as to the origin of our love — pride in their earthly accomplishments, versus joy in seeing how they help, serve, lead others in relationships motivated by gratitude for all God has already accomplished on our behalf (salvation from slavery and damnation).

Focus on Family poster 1

Surely, the best possible life for our children is defined by their response to God’s commands (obedience), receipt of His grace upon confession and repentance for restoration, and to do good works – not to earn reconciliation, but out of gratitude and as an expression of love towards others. In this case, I want them to seek God, run the race as to win (for Him), and regardless of the outcome, know I love them as gifts from God (Psalm 127:3).

Consider these passages as admonitions to our sons (each will open in a new window, each from NASB unless otherwise noted):

  • 1 Tim 6:8-12 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
  • Matthew 5:16Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
  • Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
  • 1 Cor 3: 10-15 – According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
  • 2 Cor 5:9-10 – Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
  • 1 John 2:28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
  • Ephesians 4:1-3 (TLB)I beg you—I, a prisoner here in jail for serving the Lord—to live and act in a way worthy of those who have been chosen for such wonderful blessings as these. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another.

Give your sons (and daughters) a big hug; talk with them, spend time sharing insights from the Word. Let them know you love them and want them to follow God’s leading for their lives.  It may have eternal consequences.

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Outdoor Adventure vs. Vacation Bible School

IMGP6938When I met a very diverse group of men and women at the first Trail Life National Conference, one of the most commonly asked questions at the breakfast table, lunch line and dinner table was: is Trail Life going to be about the scouting methods (with emphasis on rugged outdoor skills) or some form of “Sunday School/Catechism Class”?

Some of the folks were concerned that there would be so much emphasis on faith matters that:

  1. The outdoor adventure component would be weak or even non-existent
  2. The demand for troop leaders to become defacto ministers, pastors or priests would become a detraction from recruiting leaders who were not well versed in the Bible or doctrinal matters

At the same time, I heard questions raised as to why the organization wasn’t taking this opportunity to inject more spiritual development such as requiring bible verse memorization as part of rank advancement.

All in all, as we sat through the sessions outlining the program and how it would be organized, most of these concerns fell by the wayside and the folks grew in courage and IMGP7151confidence that Trail Life USA would indeed, raise the standard in meaningful ways.  That we could have the best of both concerns and adjust the volume on each depending on the season-of-life of the individual unit.  Simply put, it didn’t have to be all about one at the exclusion of the other.

While everyone agreed that spiritual development is critical for young men (i.e. self-control, courtesy, respect for authority while also being mentally alert and using critical thinking skills, etc.) we also knew that a strong outdoor program that highlighted real adventure, backpacking, boating, and more would bring excitement and enthusiasm (i.e. FUN) to the mix.

I left the conference with heightened confidence that the program would flourish because there is a range of opinion, and that we’re stronger for it. Additionally, while there is a IMGP6443range of troop programs throughout our organization, we’re also in alignment with principal goals and mechanisms to reach them – a real complementary fit.

In this context, we can celebrate the notion of “honoring our legacy while raising our standard” – being the best program that we can be without trying to define it by what came before (although it’s hard not to make the occasional comparison — informally or not).

The only thing we may be missing is YOU. If you’re on the fence about Trail Life USA or have questions, please do not by shy. Instead, be brave and speak up. Our area point men and national staff are happy to provide insights into our program, and we have a convenient unit locator map, too.

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Go Have Fun with Your Family

IMGP6935There are 16 days until Father’s Day.  Today’s quote:

A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father. — Frank Abagnale

I encourage all Dads to take a moment today to think about how you could invest yourself in your family’s life this weekend. Can you adjust your schedule to surprise them with a picnic, a walk at a local park, tossing the ball with your son, having a chat with your daughter, reading portions of a familiar book together, getting something “extra” done from your wife’s “please fix this” list?

The founder of the Scouting movement, Sir Baden-Powell, offered a lot of great statements that resonate through the past century.  One of my favorites is this:

bshb0…the final and chief test of the scout is the doing of a good turn to somebody every day, quietly and without boasting. This is the proof of the scout. It is practical religion, and a boy honors God best when he helps others most. A boy may wear all the scout uniforms made, all the scout badges ever manufactured, know all the woodcraft, campcraft, scoutcraft and other activities of boy scouts, and yet never be a real boy scout. To be a real boy scout means the doing of a good turn every day with the proper motive and if this be done, the boy has a right to be classed with the great scouts that have been of such service to their country.

What if it said this instead?

…the final and chief test of the Husband/Father is the doing of a good turn to support forest-e-witcraft-quote-a-hundred-years-from-now-it-will-not-matterhis family every day, quietly and without needing to be recognized for each task’s accomplishment. This is the proof of the Husband/Father. It is practical religion, and a man honors God best when he helps others most. A man may wear many hats (of responsibility), win many trophies and accolades, know all the manly skills and critical familial activities, and yet never be a real Husband/Father. To be a real Husband/Father means the doing of sacrificial good turns every day with the proper motive and if this be done, the man has a right to be classed with the great Husband/Fathers that have been of such service to their country.

Certainly not a perfect translation, but it is motivational.  Giving up your time, self-interests and self-focused pursuits in order to serve your family’s needs is what’s father with childrenneeded.  Does this mean you never get to do some of the things you really desire, of course not, but it does mean that sometimes it’s going to hurt a little to make the sacrifice play at a moment in time where you may feel justified in being selfish.  Make the tough call, put your family first and don’t keep score of your perceived injustice at having to give up that golf game, fishing trip, or such.

Invest time in doing things that you and your family enjoy.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated – often the simple things work best.  Experiment, try new stuff, have fun.

Resources:

Honoring Your Dad

Austin David Farrell Jr 2

My Dad, Upon Graduation

There are 17 days until Father’s Day. Today’s Quote:

Father’s Day is hopefully a time when the culture says, ‘This is our moment to look at who our men and boys are.’ — Michael Gurian

Who is/was your Dad? Hopefully someone you love and respect, someone who invested himself in your life in a positive way. If he was unable or unwilling to be that positive role model, how have you coped, adjusted and moved on?

IMHO, Fathers can (and typically do) leave a lasting impression which can carry forward for more than one generation. Hopefully, he instilled a favorable legacy, and if not, you can overcome it, adjust and improve your parenting skills and commitment.

God wants us to break the chains of the past and walk forward in His grace and guidance.  Throughout the bible we are instructed on developing strong relationships, and our ability to shape and guide the next generation is of paramount responsibility.  We need not be perfect (I am certainly far from it) but we need to commit to give it our utmost effort.  God can take care of the gaps, hiccups, mistakes and disappointments.

  • Proverbs 23:24, (NLV) “I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
  • Proverbs 4:11-13, (NIV) “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NIV)
  • Hebrews 12:9-10 Living Bible (TLB) “Since we respect our fathers here on earth, though they punish us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to God’s training so that we can begin really to live? Our earthly fathers trained us for a few brief years, doing the best for us that they knew how, but God’s correction is always right and for our best good, that we may share his holiness.
  • Malachi 4:5-6 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he shall turn and reconcile the hearts of the [estranged] fathers to the [ungodly] children, and the hearts of the [rebellious] children to [the piety of] their fathers [a reconciliation produced by repentance of the ungodly], lest I come and smite the land with a curse and a ban of utter destruction.
Jean Leigh Farrell (Grad) 2

Mom, Upon Graduation

I was blessed to have awesome, God appointed parents.  My Dad and Mom were super committed to their family, and were willing to sacrifice personal wants to build a strong family.  Were they perfect?  Of course not.  Did they do more than “show up”?  Every day.

My parents have gone home to be with the Lord in Heaven and I miss them.  Their legacy shines through me to my children, and my wife and I depend completely on God to “fix our mistakes” and keep our children from suffering when we drop the ball.

As we move closer to “Father’s Day” you may want to evaluate your relationship with your parents with the objective of repentance, repair, and resolution like we see in Malachi 4:5-6.  What do your children know of your parents?  Do they enjoy a healthy relationship with their grandparents (if so, praise God for His provision) or do they miss out on that due to estrangement between you and your parents?

I am no expert on relationships, but there are plenty of folks you can talk to if you’re hurting over a broken relationship beginning with your pastor or spiritual advisor.

Some additional resources you may want to consider from other blogs and such:

[Children] ought to see in their human father a reflection—albeit imperfect—of the heavenly Father in his strength and tenderness, in his wrath and mercy, in his exaltation and condescension, in his surpassing wisdom and patient guidance. The task of every human father is to be for his children an image of the Father in heaven.John Piper

banner fathers and sons legacy

Father’s Day: Time for A Tune-Up?

normanrockwellfishingtripThere are 18 days until Father’s Day. Today’s quote about fathers:

A good father believes that he does wisely to encourage enterprise, productive skill, prudent self-denial, and judicious expenditure on the part of his son. — William Graham Sumner

So often we see stereotyped images for Father’s day focused on a cheesy tie delivered over a meal and “dad” mustering his most genuine show of appreciation for the gift.

Of course, dads love to be appreciated and acknowledged for their role in supporting the family (hopefully well beyond delivering a paycheck to the bank weekly); however, it would be good if we could elevate or re-envision the holiday as a time for dads to:

  • reconnect with wife – setting a vision or plan for the coming year (get on the same page with priorities for each child, keeping the marriage healthy, etc.)
  • reconnect with each child – refreshing their intimate understanding of the child’s priorities, friends, interests, dreams and concerns for the coming school year.
  • commit to becoming more active in a men’s ministry or bible study at church so that they find accountability partners, learn more about their distinctive role as husband and father, etc.
  • develop (or revise) their own personal growth plan – highlighting how to integrate small groups, professional conferences, reading assignments, church participation, etc. to become stronger in their daily performance and their walk with God.
  • consider a stretch goal to become more involved in a ministry to support boys/girls in their church or neighborhood (i.e. getting involved in supporting Trail Life USA, American Heritage Girls, or similar programs)

What about work and professional development?  A man’s daily vocational enterprise is norman-rockwellreading to childrenconstantly on his mind and under development and growth/expansion. However, these other areas get relegated to a dark corner of his mind over time.  Whereas his manager/supervisor at work is proactively pushing him to improve his game “on the job“, each dad needs to build a ring of coaches who will urge him to sharpen his game when it comes to “off the job” items like personal spiritual growth, spousal relationship, nurturing and mentoring of children and healthy fellowship and learning through active participation in church functions.  Sometimes that’s his wife’s role (as primary coach/cheerleader), but it could also include a pastor, brother, bowling buddy, etc. to augment that focus.

Fire safety professionals urge us to mark one special day on the calendar when we replace all the smoke alarm batteries in our home — this could be Christmas Day, our Wedding Anniversary or a Birthday.  Why not make Father’s day a special day for tuning up Dad’s focus on his relationships?

Summary

normanrockwellfatherreadingtodaughterFor me, it’s not about getting a gift, it’s about renewing my true vocational calling to care for and lead my family with absolute love and concern for their welfare. I’m not perfect in that calling, but Father’s day reminds me of my own Heavenly Father’s faithfulness and hearty supply of grace.  I don’t fail when trying to do my duty – I only fail when I ignore my duties.  When I take at least one day a year to recharge and re-vision the direction of the family, I’m on track to build a healthy legacy of service to my wife and children.

Additional Resources to Investigate

As we approach Father’s Day, 2016, I’ll provide links to other blog articles (or books, ministry sites, etc.) that may be helpful depending on your family’s stage in life.

  • Backup files 042Here’s a link to an article on creative ways for dads to spend time with their toddlers (click here).
  • A story book you might consider reading to your younger children….The Children’s Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett —

With selections from The Book of Virtues, from Aesop and Robert Frost to George Washington’s life as well as Native American and African folklore, The Children’s Book of Virtues brings together timeless stories and poems from around the world. The stories have been chosen especially for a young audience to help parents introduce to their children the essentials of good character: Courage, Perseverance, Responsibility, Work, Self-discipline, Compassion, Faith, Honesty, Loyalty, and Friendship.

  • For men who are looking to challenge themselves with personal growth, you might consider another book by William J. Bennett — The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood

Using profiles, stories, letters, poems, essays, historical vignettes, and myths to bring his subject to life, The Book of Man defines what a man should be, how he should live, and to what he should aspire in several key areas of life: war, work, leisure, and more. “Whether we take up the sword, the plow, the ball, the gavel, our children, or our Bibles,” says Bennett, “we must always do it like the men we are called to be.

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Summer Camp Gateway

Father’s Day 2016

?????????????????????????????????????Today’s Quote about dads:

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” — Billy Graham

There are 19 days until Father’s Day. Ever wonder about the origins of Father’s Day? Check out this short article if you’re curious… http://ideafinder.com/guest/calendar/fathersday.htm

An excerpt:

The idea for an official Father’s Day celebration came to a married daughter, seated in a church in Spokane, Washington, attentive to a Sunday sermon on Mother’s Day in 1910-two years after the first Mother’s Day observance in West Virginia.

The daughter was Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd. During the sermon, which extolled maternal sacrifices made for children, Mrs. Dodd realized that in her own family it had been her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran, who had sacrificed-raising herself and five sons alone, following the early death of his wife in childbirth. For Mrs. Dodd, the hardships her father had endured on their eastern Washington farm called to mind the unsung feats of fathers everywhere. [emphasis added]

Her proposed local Father’s Day celebration received strong support from the town’s ministers and members of the Spokane YMCA. The date suggested for the festivities, June 5, Mrs. Dodd’s father’s birthdays were three weeks away-had to be moved back to the nineteenth when ministers claimed they need extra time to prepare sermons on such a new subject as Father.

IMGP6811While Mother’s day and Father’s day inevitably became commercialized and focused on cards and gifts (including the stereo-typical ugly “dad tie”) I would hope that we look at Father’s day (in particular) as an opportunity to renew our charge/calling to serve our families as men – offering leadership through love and care, commitment through becoming more accessible and more fully engaged on a day to day basis.

In short, shouldn’t Father’s day be about Dads “recommitting” to their calling?  Sure we’ll take the gifts and such, but the least we can do is to show our appreciation by setting a clear vision for our families for the coming year and reminding our wife and children that we genuinely love them.

That’s my two cents.  Would love to hear your thoughts on my humble proposal to elevate the day from a greeting card event.

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