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.

2013-07-03_Pirate Gateway

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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Dads, how do you fulfill Prov. 22:6?

Recently, I saw a Facebook posting that asked this question;

Dads, what are some ways you can “train up” your children? When is this job of spiritually training your kids done?

I waited to see what others might post, but nothing showed up and I forgot about the question until it was re-posted a couple weeks later by the same person.

rockwell careful-aimMy sons are presently 18 and 21 and my wife and I had committed to homeschooling as soon as we recognized that we were going to get married. Not everything we tried to accomplish or planned to do got done, or necessarily worked out as expected. Some stuff didn’t work for us that may have worked well for others. Still, I felt that I could offer some sort of response based on this life experience – if they were asking for help, repeatedly, why shouldn’t we try to address their question?

The nature of Facebook comment fields suggests that brevity should take precedence over any long-winded response, but I felt that there were many things suggested in the Bible and put into practice in family’s homes that ought to be included in the response. Here’s what I offered in my initial response to the question “Dads, what are some ways you can “train up” your children?”:

Pray for them, pray with them, read them biblical accounts and engage them with thought provoking questions about the meaning of and application of the selected passage, keep house rules biblically centered and enforce them consistently with a focus on obedience to God out of reverence instead of trying to gain favor, encourage memorization of key scriptures, love them, praise them for successful growth, encourage them when they struggle, don’t be afraid to ask for help, guide their social interaction as bad company corrupts good morals, help them adopt a worldview that tests everything against scripture (instead of testing scripture to find loopholes for permissive but questionable behavior, model Christ constantly since you are being watched by them (more closely than you may realize). Be a leader with a vision for your family’s development and prep them to become a leader of their own family if so blessed.

Family worship

I figured that this mix of suggestions could cover a wide age range from birth thru adulthood. It’s interesting to consider the cognitive development of our children – what they can do at such early ages is encouraging in that their spiritual development in learning about God can begin very early in how we respond to them, encourage them, play with them, etc. The Centers for Disease Control is a noted health organization that has listed out key milestones for development between birth and five years old. By nine months, most children understand the concept of “NO” and are ready to start learning some basic rules for safety and healthy living. I’m not suggesting that we teach 9 month olds the ten commandments, but the point is that they learn by watching us – what we care about, they’ll be interested in, too. So, do they see us engaged in prayer time, devotions, and participating in church?

By two years old, the CDC notes that most children begin to show defiant behavior. Where is this coming from? Is this man’s true nature beginning to show itself? Is it a character issue or merely a behavioral one? This can be a critical time for parents – to be patient and to think about how to communicate effectively so that our child training isn’t merely to achieve peace in the home, but to begin the foundational work of ministering to our own children.

Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales) had offered some interesting insights in a recent article titled “how to raise a pagan kid in a Christian home”:

“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore.

Do you teach your kids “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.

I want my kids to be good. We all do. But as our kids grow up, the truth of the gospel can easily get lost somewhere between salvation (where we know we need Jesus) and living life (where we tend to say “I’ve got this”). My experience is that the vast majority of parents [or scout leaders/volunteers] are encouraging moral behavior in their kids so that God will bless their (usually self-centered) pursuits. It’s the American Dream plus Jesus. And it produces good, moral pagans.

Matthew 7:21-23 provides a chilling challenge or warning. Perhaps it could apply to parents who mislead their children into believing that “acting right” is the same thing as “confessing and submitting”:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I remembered that one of the tactics we were encouraged to use with our children was catechism. Teaching our children to memorize a series relatively simple questions and answers (backed up by scripture verses) to construct what we believe and why we believe it. Informal use of catechism can begin at an early age, but many start by age 5 or 6. For our family, we started the process, but didn’t stick with it. I liked the approach, but it was hard for us to maintain our discipline along with all the other distractions and priorities. Still, it could be an unknown blessing to other families, so I took to Facebook and offered this comment:

For some families, an ideal way to train up their children in the way they Should go (as opposed to the way that they Would go) is to catechize them. Catechize = a verb meaning to instruct (someone) in the principles of Christian religion by means of question and answer, typically by using a catechism. For our family, we used the Westminster Shorter Catechism around the dinner table and during bible studies as our boys grew up. This was not the only instruction, nor the only method used, but it was one tool in the tool box that helped build a strong foundation of understanding what we believe and why we believe it.

CSB imageWe ought to encourage our children towards excellence in their understanding of scripture and desire to grow spiritually. While there’s nothing wrong with being a chess grand master, or the MVP of the local little league team (etc.), there’s also nothing wrong with being wholly invested in church history, doctrine, world view, ministry and service to others. In this video, Voddie Baucham Ministries shows how some men in the modern church may react oddly or even push back against these pursuits – don’t discourage children (or allow them to be discouraged) when they press on to become more mature Christians than we may be presently.

With regard to developing healthy social skills and interaction, we should keep a watch over our children – to protect them without stifling them, either. In my response chain I offered the following suggestions:

IMGP6935Getting your children strong opportunities to socialize and develop social skills is important, but we have a duty to oversee that process to appropriately protect them (not prevent them from ever making a mistake, etc. but to set reasonable boundaries as they grow and explore). Is our first choice to send them to a secular summer camp at age 6 in order for them to learn to witness? Probably not. Jesus stuck with his family while he was young (Luke 2:40-52 states he hung around the temple and with his family — not seeking the lost, the last and the lonely until much later in life). So we may want to balance their independence (their choices on areas of interest, our leading on where, when, how to accomplish those interests). After all, misalignment of organizational goals could be in conflict with your family goals, too. In example, our sons wanted to learn mixed martial arts, so we found a studio that did not teach them Far Eastern Religion while developing their discipline and strength. In scouting we chose to participate in units that were like minded in our expression of faith in order to reinforce our belief system instead of challenging it. Consider this article, https://troop113.wordpress.com/…/misaligned-objectives…/

skisLastly (for now at least – I keep remembering additional things to offer) I would encourage Dads and Moms to work on their genuine devotion to God – be excited by the fact that the creator of the entire universe loves you, individually, by name, and wants to have a relationship with you. He provides a mechanism for escaping our prior slavery to sin and it came at great cost.

Our children get excited by what excites us. If we treat our faith like a mundane, burdensome exercise of futility, they’re likely to see it that way as they become adults, too (or be more easily swayed by peers that it should be viewed in that manner). Consider Psalm 78 (in it’s entirety, but I’ll highlight verses 2 thru 8):

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God. [emphasis added]

Here, we see that we should be getting our children into God’s word as early as possible, and increasing the depth/complexity of the passages, doctrine, history, etc. as they continue to mature. It takes a lot of work to delve into the Word, but you do not need to be a reverend with a PHD in Divinity – we are equipped with the Holy Spirit and the promise found in Isaiah 55:11 “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” God will make it plain for us, we need to do our duty and make it exciting to our children.

So readers, what have I completely forgotten to offer as practical advice on training up our children in the way that they should go so that in their increasing age they will not depart from it?  While it may be too late for me to implement with my sons, I’m still working with them to prepare them to raise their own families someday, too.

P.S. I have a strong bias towards involving our children in “scouting” type activities and organizations for a whole host of reasons that could fill more than one blog article! I encourage Dads and Moms to get involved as adult leaders/supporters instead of merely dropping your children on the doorstep. Your family will grow more because of your commitment and involvement than if you “drop and run”.

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Consistency Matters

IMGP7151Over the past three years I’ve heard many men discuss their vision for, or understanding of, Trail Life USA. Some I met while helping build curriculum, some I met at the National Conference and many I met through social media by blogging and responding to feedback on my blog articles.

Each of us came from varied backgrounds, contributing a unique perspective based on personal experiences, family heritage, and distinctive doctrinal positions. In common, we all share a love of being outdoors, camping, hiking and adventuring. We also admire the design of the scouting methods – their ability to teach young men to develop resilience, respectful assertiveness, selfless service, a fire for personal growth and pursuit of a meaningful relationship with God.

At the end of each conversation, we recognized that we had more in common about things that really matter and our differences were mainly in style or habit. This was a marked contrast to our prior experiences in a well-intentioned organization who left the IMGP6935definition of “God” to the individual.

This is one of our organization’s greatest strengths. We share a common yardstick – defined by God, not us.

How is this helpful in deploying our program?

First of all, all youth are welcome to participate. We don’t require participating youth or their immediate families to believe our tenants of faith, but simply acknowledge that we will present our faith as part of how we operate our program. Our faith is, or at least ought to be, central to how we live our lives and while I’m not perfect in my understanding or execution of my faith, it is part of my identity and my struggle to grow.

There is something genuine to letting trailmen know that I struggle to grow as an  individual – that there are times when I would rather do the convenient thing than the  right thing. More importantly, when I choose right over convenient I also reap a greater reward than I would have imagined, and when I choose poorly, there is a road to reconciliation with God called repentance.

Secondly, I appreciate the opportunity to share my faith practice as part of the expressive message of our program, and I will respect each individual’s own heritage and tradition, too. This is in line with other church ministries – all are welcome on Sunday morning, but we might not elect to appoint someone who doesn’t share our beliefs to become our pastor, priest or ministry leader. Why not accept “good people” just because they don’t believe the same things? Because faith matters transcend agreeing on how to set up a IMGP6811campsite. It’s not a matter of taste or style, it’s a matter of eternal life or death. Leaders are influencers who craft and communicate a shared vision.  If the leadership team doesn’t agree, it’s effectiveness is undermined and chaotic.

Third, by focusing on our common Christian faith, the message consistency is greater, the practice is natural (sincere) and far less messy than creating a new brand of religion called “interfaith” which manages to  pretty much offend everyone while satisfying no one. Pluralism (all paths towards understanding God not only may contain truth, but are equally true) leads to confusion. When each and every individual defines morality for themselves, we each create our own measuring stick. Suddenly a “yard” isn’t simply 36 inches, but 32 for one person, 37 for another, 35 for a third. Under that scenario, agreeing on the simple definition of the square footage of a room will yield a divergent range of results since we’ve each defined the dimensions differently with our unique yardsticks.

Fourth, each unit has flexibility to adjust the volume of the faith development  components of the program. Some will emphasize it more than others by incorporating more of the “optional” programs and others may focus more on the camping and hiking. I characterize this as adjusting the volume, not choosing to incorporate faith or not – faith IMGP5238
is “baked in” to the program just like carrots are  incorporated in carrot cake (it’s woven into the very fabric of what we do.)

At the National Convention, we embraced the phrase “Honoring the Legacy, Raising the Standard.” We acknowledge that the genesis of Trail Life USA grew out of our shared experience from the prior organization, but we’re  trailblazing into new territory with God as our supreme trail guide. Let’s continue to raise the  standard as we move forward into this new season of outdoor adventure and as we continue to welcome new families into the program.

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