Top 10 Rules for Dads

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1. Be a Man.  While this may seem trite to say, there are several ways in which I mean this statement: If you are a single mom, you have a very hard job!  You can be a great Mom, a great parent – but you can’t be a Dad.  You can’t demonstrate how to be a man, and you will only frustrate yourself and your child by trying to be one.  If you have a son, seek other groups/organization of good men that he can get involved in and with (e.g., check out your local church).  I also mean that being a male is not sufficient for the job – you also have to be a man!  We are about to go through a list of nine things that will require dedication, hard work and sacrifice…Man up!  “Put your man-pants on” as I am fond of saying.  Be the type of man that you want your sons to grow up to be and your daughters to grow up and marry.

2. Get Married.  See #1.  For a whole host of reasons, marriage is the best place for a child to be raised.  Remember, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”  God even indicates that one of his primary purposes for intact and healthy marriages is that he desires godly offspring. (Malachi 2:14-16)  If you cannot commit your whole life to a woman, you shouldn’t be interested in having kids with her either.  Marriage provides amongst other things: 1. a sense of permanence 2. a partner in life (including raising of kids e.g., you can get a break when you need one) 3. an example for both genders of children to pattern life after 4. financial benefit 5. someone to balance out our extremes with.

3. Love Your Wife.  The healthiest example for your children to grow up considering to be normal is that they come third in your life: 1. God 2. Your Wife and 3. Your Children.  This keeps them from becoming spoiled rotten brats who not only drive your relationships, but also drive you crazy, and it also models for them the kind of marriage they should seek to replicate.  Your daughters will inherently understand what a loving relationship looks, acts and feels like (and so won’t settle for anything less in their relationships), and your sons will grow up knowing how to appropriately love a woman.  This cannot simply be something that is assumed, it must be demonstrated in front of your children on a regular basis.  Buy her flowers, take her out on dates, hold the chair out for her, get the door for her.  Don’t speak slightintly of her to your children, etc.

4. Raise Adults.  As Stephen R. Covey put it, “Begin with the end in mind”.  We are not raising children, we are raising adults.  What kind of adults do you want them to become?  Once that is answered, do everything in your power to make sure you are that kind of adult, then set out milestones of achievement for them to conquer throughout their childhood. (e.g., They should be able to cook a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners – so start teaching them to cook, and requiring it of them well before they are out of the house)  When the Scriptures tell us fathers that we are to “train up our child in the way they should go” it’s more than just teaching them to read the Bible and pray every day.  Think of them as apprentice adults.  Train them, resource them, encourage them but don’t just yell at them for not being and doing what you want them to be/do; esp. if you haven’t trained them any better.

5. Discipline Consistently.  This is the first half of the two basic rules for discipline no matter your style of parenting.  Wrong is wrong.  Consequences should follow for what they have done.  This teaches them that life rewards good, and punishes evil.  That there is a sanity to their lives because they can count on cause and effect.  If they are punished more severely when you have had a bad day at work, you are teaching them that the world doesn’t make sense, that consequences are out of their control and that their actions have little to do with what they will realize in the future.  The same is true of a lack of discipline.  If you shelter them from all of the natural consequences of their actions they will grow up to be either a horrible miscreant that few people will ever enjoy, or a depressed puddle of a person who has a very low self-esteem.  Please note that I said “all of the natural consequences”.  There should be a gradual increase of natural consequences as they mature, just as their should be a gradual increase of responsibilities.

6. Follow Through.  If you do not have a backbone, you should not procreate!  This is the second half of the two basic rules for discipline.  Your word must be something your children respect.  You must speak the truth.  Your words must come true.  This means that you need to be in control of your words so as to never utter a threat that you are unwilling (or perhaps shouldn’t) follow through on.  If you tell them they will not be allowed to play with their friends for a week if they do X and they then do X, you had better not let them play with their friends for seven days.  This builds trust, respect and keeps you from blowing through 10 on the richter scale in anger.  Your children will not cause you nearly the stomach ulcers or headaches if they know that they know that they know tha you mean what you say, and that you only say what you truly mean.

7. Believe in Them.  If you believe in your kids, then you will set goals for them and anticipate their achievement of them, you will invest your time in their training, you will hold them accountable for failure, you will expect more and more from them as they mature, you will praise them publicly, you will be proud of them.  I love the passage in the Scriptures where Jesus is baptized, and God the Father says, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, NIV)  Note that this was public praise prior to Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.  Low expectations mean little belief.

8. Freedom and Responsibility.  These are two sides of the same exact coin.  You cannot hold someone responsible for something that they were not free in, and you cannot give freedom to someone without them being responsible for their use of said liberties.  As has been mentioned earlier, there should be a gradual increasing of these paralleling their maturation.  As they get older, they should become more responsible for more areas of personal freedom.  This is the age old battle of wills between parents and children.  Child screams, “You treat me like a child!” and Parent retorts, “If you want to be treated like an adult, then act like one!”  Where freedom and responsibilitiy are not increased together, resentment or irresponsibility will result.

9. Bless Them.  The Apostle Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians 12:14, “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.”  Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”  Find ways to bless them beyond what they have earned.  Our heavenly Father has certainly done this for us.  Once you decide to have kids, you decide that your life will no longer be about you anymore.  If this means giving up that new four-wheeler you have been dreaming about, or that Lie-Nielsen bronze #4 smoothing plane for them – then do so; but don’t keep it secret!  They need to know that you are blessing them because you love them more than you love yourself.  And they need to know that being a parent means sacrificing for their kids.  This will teach them humility, gratitude and giving.

10. Lead Them to Jesus.  While I do mean that you should make their eternal salvation your top priority, I also mean that you should be the one who leads them to read their Bible, to pray earnestly to give charitably, to live a Christian life.  You should make godliness attractive and synonymous with being an adult.  If the father is active in his faith, 87% of his children will also be active in their faith throughout their adult lives.  There is no other corellary so strong in the entire world for predicting the spiritual life of an individual.  You are the spiritual leader of your house, whether you are leading them toward Jesus or away from him.  Lead well.

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Where’s Grandpa?

A nice game of chess

A nice game of chess (Photo credit: Wouter de Koning)

Having lived in Western New York for almost 10 years now, I have heard many reasons for the economic decline of our region – and they all have some merit:

1. Taxation

2. Government policies that overburden the corporate and small business sectors (not to mention the average worker)

3. NAFTA (as well as the move to southern states by our businesses)

4. Increase of government to private sector ratio of workers

5. Salt on the roads instead of sand (or coal dust)

6. Cost of litigation and legislation

But I would like to add another one that most people don’t ever think about – retirees.

According to the US Census Bureau, the average age when people retire is 62, and they live for an average of 18 years in retirement.  If those same people plan on a $3000/month income from retirement for those 20 years, they would need approximately $500,000 in their nest egg (liable to wide fluctuations of course due to annualized rates of return, etc.).

Now imagine these people earning a living in WNY for 30+ years, building up this nest egg, then retiring to where else – sunny Florida.  Florida then becomes the recipient of this half a million dollar nest egg in the form of cost of living over the next 20 years.  WNY’s earned income becomes Florida’s revenue.

Is it any wonder that the economies of Southern states have been faring so much better than northern ones over the last 30 years?

Now imagine that nest egg being spiritual insight, wisdom and influence in a local congregation of believers.  Move down south to worship with hundreds of others in the same boat you are in, and the enjoyment and entertainment values are high – but ministry potential is low.  No one there needs what you have, and the needs they do have – you can’t supply.

It is diversity of gifts and life stages and situations that create a healthy, sustainable Body.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (I Corinthians 12:17-20 NIV)

It’s hard to mentor the younger generations in a retirement community.

Reinvestment instead of Retirement

English: Photograph taken at the Washington Na...

English: Photograph taken at the Washington National Cathedral of the Moses window by Lawrence Saint This window depicts the three stages of the life of Moses, each of them being 40 years long. The first 40 years is depicted in the left panel, when Moses is a prince in Egypt. The next 40 years is depicted in the right panel, which is Moses before Pharaoh. The last 40 years depicts Moses with the 10 Commandments, representative of his time with the Israelites in the wilderness as a lawgiver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noah began his approximately 75 year process of building and supplying the ark at around 525 years old, Abraham left Haran for the Promised Land at around 75 years old, Moses started the 40 years of leading the nation of Israel at 80 and Joshua started conquering the Promised Land (a 50 year process) at approximately 60 years of age.

According to the US Census bureau, approximately 77% of our countries’ wealth is in the hands of those 50 years old and older.

Jeremiah and Timothy had to be encouraged to lead despite their youthfulness.

All of these things seem to point in the same direction…back to work.

I don’t mean that you have to continue at the same job until you drop, but if you are a Christian who is looking at the retirement years as a candy store of your favorite hobbies and interests…you might have missed the boat.

The life of a Christian is to be an investment in the Kingdom of God and in eternity itself, not a nest egg that we wontingly spend on ourselves.

This is the 4th Quarter of your life – it is win or lose time.  This is the time in the game that you pull out all the stops, not stop from all the pulling.

God is not finished with you yet.  In fact, the most significant days of ministry are in front of you.  You now have your greatest supply of time, talent, relationships and resources – use them for the Kingdom don’t blow them on yourself.

What is God calling you to do with your next 20 years?  You have raised your family, you have created an independent wealth in which for the first time in your life  you don’t have to do someone else’s work to support yourself.  It’s time for you to enter your own Promised Land… and to conquer it one step at a time as you follow your Lord and Savior.

Don’t retire, retreat or rest.  Our rest will come when we hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

The Disarming Power of Honesty

Reading glasses

Reading glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:15 NIV)

In the arms race of far too many conversations nowadays, where each is vying for their due homage from the other, there is a better way to communicate, build unity and move forward (either as an organization or as individuals in life).  This will be mind-alteringly brilliant, but hang on:

Fall in love with the Creator of the other.

A couple of simple observations:

1. God made them.

2. God didn’t screw up.

3. God made you.

4. God didn’t screw up on you either.

Within this simple matrix of beliefs, the capacity for appreciation of the other is possible without lessening your own self worth.  This person is neither my enemy nor my competitor, they are my unique equal.  Using this newfound respect, begin to look at them with the eyes of He who made them.  Begin imagining His purposes in doing so.  Call forth their magnificent potential.  Speak life-giving truth into their day.

This works well in all situations, including the escalating types, but it works best like a sucker punch – out of the blue of normalcy comes an insightful compliment, a poetically placed truth that inspires the other to be who God created them to be.  They are changed.  They exist in an elevated state for a while as the reality of another’s belief in them saturates their soul.

Nina is graceful.  Her carriage, her conversations, her soul.  It is as though she walks in a beauty pageant her every day.  She exudes and gives grace to those around her as though sowing seeds without awareness.

Scott is caring.  He loads his own back to lighten yours.  He walks lightly while carrying great weight that his family, friends and village would not notice his burden.  He is simple in these guestures without fanfare or bombast.  He smiles as he picks up some of your load, and his joy is increased.

In truly beginning to see others, you will see yourself more clearly.

Change someone’s world today.  Speak the truth in love.

Venison Stew – a Leadership Recipe

鹿シチュー venison stew

鹿シチュー venison stew (Photo credit: CookieM)

I was recently reading a wild game cookbook and came across a recipe for Venison Stew that perked up my leadership radar.  The recipe began with “procure a deer”.  Needless to say, this got me thinking about the process necessary to share a great meal with family and friends.

1. Prepare to hunt. (be of legal age and residency, take and pass required course(s), purchase necessary equipment and become proficient in scent-control, stand location, the art of silence and marksmanship.

2. Go hunting. Repeat as necessary until successful.

3. Field dress, hang (preferably for about 4-7 days in a 35-38 degree environment) and butcher said hart.

4. Roast appropriate cut of meat and de-glaze pot/pan/skillet.

This is quite a lengthy process, involving a multitude of skill sets, and not a little bit of luck, and we haven’t even started the stew yet.

The second phrase that caught my attention was, “allow to simmer for several hours”.  You can cook all the parts of a stew separately if you so desire, but at the end you will not have stew, but a hodgepodge of ingredients.  It is the comingling of ingredients over time with a gentle fire that creates a wonderful stew.

Ministry teams are much like a good stew.

Each team requires a multitude of gifts (administration, promotion, recruitment, set-up and tear down not to mention the frontline gifts for that particular ministry), a long-term commitment and a coming-together over time with a little bit of heat in order to be truly great.

Stews can have differing ingredients and still be delicious, ministry likewise, can take differing shapes and flavors, but they all require shared mission, a unique contribution from each part and time for mutual seasoning.

Canned ministry and canned stew simply cannot measure up to the real thing.  Stew on that for a while.

How to Be at Peace

Peaceful lakeview1024

Peaceful lakeview1024 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peace and Joy are probably the two most sought after commodities (if we can call them that) on the face of the earth.  We might call them significance, being respected, self-esteem or having “made it”, but the reality that is sought after is Peace and Joy.

The following are 10 ways that I have found to increase my peace.  Feel free to add your own.

1. Learn the art of saying “no” graciously.

You can never truly say “yes” without saying “no”.  We all are limited to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  We cannot do everything, but we must do something.  The key to peace is doing the right thing with our lives.  When we know what we are supposed to say “yes” to, the “no” becomes easier.

2. Don’t wait for a vacation.

Don’t live your life so frenetically that a vacation is required to bring peace.  Our daily lives should be filled and overflowing with peace.  We were created to work 6 days and rest 1.  A vacation should be about focused time with family, not a needed to break in order to keep going.

3. Integrity.  Always be who you are.

Peace in some ways can be defined as a lack of war.  Seems obvious, I know, but let’s follow that thought through: Integrity is all about being whole/one/complete (comes from the same root word as integer – shout out to all the math fans out there).  If you are someone different at work than you are at home, than you are at church – who are you really?

4. Improvement.  Get better daily.

Perfection is impossible, but improvement is essential.  If you are not growing you are dying.  Not only should our existence in the world make it a better place, but we ourselves should be better for having lived the day before.  Do not accept that status quo.  Know where you are, where you are going…and keep walking.

5. Systems.  Systematize areas of weakness so they cease to be worrisome.

We all have weaknesses.  Blindspots.  Systems have the potential to remove that nagging worry from the back of your mind that you are forgetting something…that you have left something undone…that you are about to fail.  This could be as simple as sharing a calendar on google with your spouse or as complex as an annual checklist of facilities maintenance items.  Whatever troubles you – create a system (with accountability) that will handle it.

6. Clean your desk.

For those who work at a desk this is literal.  For those who do not, it is figurative.  My day off is Friday, so by the end of every Thursday I work to leaving my desk clean.  I don’t mean dust free (though I should probably do that as well), but everything that came to my desk has been dealt with, and therefore doesn’t have to live on in my mind over my “weekend”.

7. Reduce debt…reduce stress.

No explanation necessary.  Just get it done.

8. Communicate with your spouse.

This person shares your life.  Stop abusing them by leaving them in the dark, and you will no longer feel at odds with them and guilty for causing the problem.  Share calendars, checkbooks and constantly update each other on both.

9. Finish things.

Unfinished projects are a necessity in order to prioritize your family over your work, but they should remain at the top of your to-do-list until they are completely done.  They will nag, worry and frustrate you until you close the file on them, so break down big projects into achievable steps so that “progress” and “on schedule” are the way you view them.

10. Be centered on the center of the universe.

Try throwing a clay vessel without centering the clay first.  It can’t be done.  The vessel will pull itself apart as the wheel speeds up.  God is the only healthy center, every other focus of life will tear you apart as life speeds up.  Start on your knees, in His Word and the rest of the day will fit instead of fight.

Freedom or Equality

USA Flag Map

USA Flag Map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a political post.  I say that in fair warning.  Not that I am running for an office, or trying to convert my readers to a different party; but simply that it will be about politics.  So if you love politics, read on.  If you truly hate politics, read on 🙂

Instead of trying to bash one side of the American political spectrum while praising the other, I am going to try to share what I see as the best aspects of each, and begin a conversation about a possible better way forward.

The Republican party seems to primarily be about individual freedom and its corollary of individual responsibility within a community governed by law.

The Democratic party seems to primarily be about equality of all persons and its corollary of social responsibility within a community governed by law.

We could, if we wanted to pick straw men of each party and bash them in general, but I have found many people whom I respect on either side of the proverbial aisle.

These two perspectives are both noble, both grounded in our earliest documents and are both attempting to create the best possible world as they see it.

Freedom taken to its logical conclusion leads to anarchy, self-centeredness and ultimately tyranny of the strong over the weak.

Equality taken to its logical conclusion leads to mediocrity, loss of self and ultimately tyranny of the government over the individual.

Neither option is bad in its motivation.  Neither option is good in its destination.

The greater the personal freedom, the greater the inequality.  The greater the equality, the greater the loss of freedom.  Freedom priveleges the strong, the hard working, the intelligent, the “best and brightest” among us.  Equality priveleges the weak, the disabled, the dull, the “least of these”.

The question is how do we in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” honor the belief that “all men are created equal”?

Tomorrow’s post will posit a way forward, but first I would like to hear your thoughts.  Do you see a via media?