The Best Job

June 15, 2018

We often ask a little boy or girl, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My childhood answers included cowboy and fireman. As you get older, it is easy to entertain many job and career paths, but we eventually choose. Work is honorable and God-given. Work existed even in the Garden of Eden. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, ESV).

When I was making career choices, my thoughts were not on fatherhood. In the back of mind, of course, there was the idea that someday I would marry, and we would have children. I even took a college course, “Marriage and the Christian Home,” just in case. But job was foremost in my mind.

Work is rewarding. At the bare minimum, there is a paycheck. We may feel satisfaction in creating, producing, growing, or problem solving. (And yes, every job has its drudgery. It is part of the curse on the ground, Genesis 3: 17-19). Employers may reward years of service or ideas to a suggestion box. Although I have personally found work satisfying, how do the rewards compare to fatherhood?

Certainly, fatherhood like everything in life has aspects that don’t seem quite like reward: dirty diapers, crying children in the middle of the night, a defiant three-year-old, or an angry teenager. Yet despite some of the drudgery and struggles that life always brings, I reflect on fatherhood (and now being a grandfather) as the best job in the world.

I’ve witnessed two, wondrous births. Wonder is the right word for it. The stress of labor gives way to those first breaths and that little cry that announces to the world, “I’ve arrived.” A newborn is so small and helpless. You feel the responsibility but also the joy.

I’ve experienced the thrill of first steps and first words. The child begins to stand up alongside chairs and sofas, and then there are those first halting steps. Before you know it, you are racing to keep up. We repeat “Momma” and “Dada” hoping they will be first words. But there is even greater joy when hearing from your child for the first time: “I love you.”

Proud moments are found in sporting events, graduations, and first jobs. Joy is shared in weddings and the birth of grandchildren. But one of the most important and moving moments for me was my children’s baptisms.

Job is important. We spend a lot of time at work. But I’m convinced the best job of all is father and grandfather. It has the greatest joys. We live in a world that sometimes disparages the role of father. We have too many absent fathers. The world needs fatherhood as God intends. We need such fatherhood modeled. Much of society’s ills would find solution in fathers and mothers as God desires. Men need to catch this vision of fatherhood. It’s the best job in the world.

P.S. Yes, I know that mothers have the best job too.


The Storyteller’s Parable

April 27, 2018

With a twinkle in his eye, the Storyteller began his tale:

“There were two families that were very much alike — parents, children, a house, and many material blessings, but there was one very big difference.

The first family was very close to one another. Since the time the children were very small, a concerted effort had been made for the family to have time together. Meal times were special as each shared their day. Family outing were always eagerly anticipated. Certainly, each family member had his or her own interests. No two family members were exactly alike, but they had learned to enjoy one another’s company.

As the children grew, the stresses of busy and competing schedules were felt, but the family was resolute in setting certain when all were together. Sacrifices were made so that the whole family could have that togetherness.

The second family was not very close. They had not seen the importance of time together. In fact, as they grew up they found it increasingly hard even to have a conversation with one another, and what was worse, when problems came, it was hard to share the burdens for feel real support.”

Pausing, the Storyteller asked, “To which kind of family would you want to belong?”

“The close one, of course,” I replied, hardly thinking that it was much of a question.

As the Storyteller turned to leave, he said softly, “Your spiritual family has set aside times to be together, and they’ve requested your presence. Which kind of family do you want it to be?”


My Wish for All

December 22, 2017

My generation had a wish book, the glossy, colored pages of the Sears-Roebuck toy catalog. Its arrival marked a season of dreaming about what you wanted. It was a time of making your wishes known. It was a time of eager anticipation.

My childhood desires have faded, but not my wonder, anticipation, and joy. I was never meant to stay in childhood; I was meant to mature to learn lessons from the gifts I received. The adults in my life found joy in giving. I was to learn from them to follow the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As I grew older, I realized that for some the wish book was a hollow dream. That this season of the year could bring sadness as well as joy. It could unfortunately illustrate greed as well as exemplify generosity.

My adult desire is to be generous. In my gift giving for family, I have also learned to give to others. In this desire to go beyond my immediate circle, I’ve found the greater joy. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

My adult desire is also to appreciate and enjoy time with family. My family has many traditions that we have developed over the years. Traditions have a way of growing. You do something once, that’s nice. You do it a second time because you enjoyed it before, and you soon find yourself with a yearly tradition. But they function as ways of making lasting memories. My desire for everyone is to make memories with your family. The joy of family need not be expensive. Simple things can bring families together. The years fly by, but our memories are precious, and those memories are a part of the life of joy.

My adult desire is to know Jesus and to make him known to others. And here is the rub: the New Testament teaches us about the birth of Jesus and its importance. Without the incarnation, there could be no atonement. Yet, the New Testament never commands a celebration of Jesus’ birth, which is not likely to have been on December 25th, but does command a weekly celebration of his death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper. If people feel pain by this season of the year, it is not from what Jesus or the New Testament teaches. They are the unintended consequences of human efforts.

The polls indicate that a majority of Americans celebrate Christmas now as a cultural holiday. Two-thirds believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, compared with 73% in 2014. 75% believe he was laid in a manger (down from 81%). Belief in the wise men guided by a star and bringing presents has also declined. (And for those who take the Bible seriously, the arrival of the wise men was likely months after Jesus’ birth, and not on the night of the shepherds’ visit.) Only 57% believe that all of these things actually happened.*

My wish for all is to know the blessings of generosity, family, and most of all Jesus. But we must go beyond the cultural trappings to the Jesus revealed in the New Testament. There are reasons for belief even if polls show a decline. For those who seek him, he can be found. And when he is found, he is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14, 19:16) which is not a seasonal occupation. With Jesus as the Lord of my daily life, I find an unfading joy: joy in giving, joy in family, but most of all, joy in Jesus Christ, my Lord.

*http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/18/5-facts-about-christmas-in-america/


Tactics for Handling Conflict

September 30, 2014

Dr. Nick Stinnett spent twenty-five years studying successful families. Yes, every family has conflicts even successful ones, but successful families develop strategies for dealing with conflict. Here are some tactics to use in developing your own successful family’s conflict resolution skills.

Tactic #1 – Deal with Conflicts Quickly.

  • “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” Ephesians 4:26
  • “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31
  • As a practical matter, you may have to schedule a time for a discussion.

Tactic #2 – Deal with One Issue at a Time.

  • 68% of both husbands and wives say that disagreements are seldom resolved.
  • Blaming and bringing up other issues will cloud the situation.

Tactic #3 – Be Specific.

  • The real issue in an argument can be elusive.
  • State the offending action or situation, your feelings, and possibly impact.

Tactic #4 – Become Allies.

  • Attack the problem not each other.
  • One strong family member states it this way: “It would be silly to get caught up in personal attacks when we fight. All that does is hurt feelings and fan the fires. We try to see ourselves as being on the same side–as a team. The enemy is the problem. We fight it—not each other.” Stinnett & Beam, Fantastic Families, p. 92

Tactic #5 – Ban the Bombs.

  • “I know more about my husband and children than anyone else does. I know their fears, their vulnerabilities. I have power to hurt them. … I feel that it would be a serious violation of the trust we have in each other to use our knowledge, or closeness, as weapons. Even when I get very angry, I keep sight of that. To use sensitive areas as attack points is a good way to destroy a marriage or parent-child relationship.” Fantastic Families, p. 92-93
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Eph 4:29 NIV
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph. 4:32, NIV

Tactic #6 – Open Up Understanding.

  • Be an active listener.
  • Check out and confirm what is being said. This involves repeating back for evaluation what you think the other person has said.
  • Many arguments are solved simply by coming to an understanding.

Fatherhood Is Important

June 14, 2013

Fatherhood is on-the-job training. To drive a car, I went through driver’s training and had to pass a test to receive a license. I must confess there are times when I see or read about certain cases, that I think this person shouldn’t have been allowed to procreate without passing a test. But real life doesn’t work that way. We become fathers and then muddle through with on-the-job training.

Resources, however, do exist to aid us. I’ve been blessed with some wonderful examples of Christian manhood and fatherhood. We learn a great deal from seeing it done well. (I suspect that some of the cases in the previous paragraph that I wish had needed a license lacked good role models in their lives.) There is a place for the older to train the younger, to share with the younger.

Books and magazine articles can also help. As a young man, I learned a lot about fatherhood from the books of James Dobson as many of my generation did. The books giving the developmental stages of childhood were also very helpful. It helps to know what to expect at 6 months, a year, and so on. But the greatest help, if we will let it, is the Bible. It contains wisdom: wisdom for being a father, wisdom for life, and wisdom for salvation.

Fatherhood is not always perfect, but it should be principled. I learned there were times I needed to apologize to my children. I’m sure there were a lot of things I could have done better, but I hope there were some principles reflected in my imperfect portrayal of a father. The principle to provide for and protect my family. The principle to love my wife, their mother, as Christ loved the church. The principle to raise our children in the discipline and nurture of the Lord. The need to love my children and be there for them.

Fatherhood is a time sensitive role. Yes, it involves on-the-job training, but there is a real need that we get it together for our children. They are only with us for a short time. Eighteen years seems like a long time until you are in the midst of it. First tooth, first word, first step, first day of school, and all those other firsts pass quickly. Much of what we teach about morality is learned in the first six years. Much of what we teach about spirituality is learned in the first twelve years. Fatherhood is time sensitive.

Fatherhood is a life long role. If you have done your job reasonably well, the relationship with your adult children is a wonderful and rewarding season of life. In most cases, it also leads to a new role: grandfather. May God bless the fathers among us. Fatherhood is important.


Rules for Good Communication

April 5, 2013

Good family relationships require good emotional and spiritual health coupled with the ability to communicate and solve problems. Unhappy families report either a lack of communication or bad communication. Dr. Nick Stinnett spent twenty-five years studying successful families. His research found six rules for good communication.*

  • Rule #1 – Allow Enough Time. Talking may be spontaneous as chores are done or it may be planned. Time is needed to talk about the pleasant things of the day. Even when talking about a problem, what starts the conversation may not be the real issue, but it will be reached as the conversation proceeds.
    Rule
  • #2 – Listen. All of us have probably heard the old adage God gave us two ears but only one mouth. James warns us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Listening should be active and not passive. You shouldn’t be racing in your thoughts about what you will say next—listen to the person who is talking and also watch for the nonverbal cues, facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
    Rule
  • #3 – Check It Out. Sometimes we need to check out what the other person means by their words, moods, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. We can’t read minds, and we may miss something communicated indirectly unless we check it out.
  • Rule #4 – Get Inside the Other Person’s World. Each of us has his own unique experiences. These experiences are a lens through which we view the world. Successful communication requires empathy – understanding the other person’s perspective.
  • Rule #5 – Keep the Monsters In Late-night Movies. Successful families with good communication avoid communication killers. They keep the “monsters” of communication locked up. The “monsters” are disrespectful judgments. Critical and demeaning behaviors are caustic to relationships.
  • Rule #6 – Keep It Honest. Strong families have openness and honesty. They also avoid manipulation. Honesty occurs in an atmosphere of kindness and love. Courtesy and consideration are practiced with openness. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ… Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:15, 25, ESV).

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*Dr. Nick & Nancy Stinnett and Joe & Alice Beam, Fantastic Families, pp. 77-88