Our Dads Are a Bridge or a Barrier

In the weeks leading up to my father’s death, I was reminded of a previous surgery he had been through. Eighteen months prior to this most recent surgery, he had been through a similar procedure. Someone had encouraged me to “leave nothing unsaid” as we entered into that previous procedure.

As I had stood by his bed prior to surgery the first time, I considered what it was I should say and I couldn’t come up with anything. My father and I had discussions in the flow of life leading up to that point from which I knew that he knew how I felt about him. More importantly, perhaps, I knew how he felt about me.

My father had told me that he loved me and that he was proud of me with his words and actions. I had heard it from him and I had heard it through others that he had told. I also saw it in is support, presence and contribution to things I did. He proved it by being there.

  • He was my Boy Scout leader
  • He commissioned me as an Army officer
  • He wanted to see my office at various jobs I had
  • He came to court just to watch one day
  • He came to “Bold” men’s meetings I was leading
  • He came on a Quest I was facilitating
  • He was at my book signing when I rolled out my first book
  • He wanted me to come and speak to the men at his church and set up a men’s event

Really, the list goes on and on; those are just what jump out initially. I don’t have any doubts about who my father said I am. He said it and he showed it. His investment positioned me to receive the Truth.

God’s relationship with us is as Father. He wants to be “Abba” to us; not a distant or angry Judge. The realization of His identity as well as ours comes from Him but it is easier to realize when/if our dads agree.

From the affirmation that my father gave me, it was easier to know of the love that the Father has for me. From my dad being there, it’s easier to know that my Dad is always there.

Your father is either a bridge or a barrier to the Father, but the target for all of us is the same no matter if we had a good dad, bad dad or absent dad. The target is to hear from Spirit to spirit that “you’re a son.” Once you hear that, the good, bad or ugly of your earthly father has its proper context and you have your eternal perspective.

We Need More Dads

We are working from behind as there is a shortage of fathers. It doesn’t help our efforts to overcome this shortage that there is a lack of appreciation for the value of fathers. The problem compounds as generations are raised up with no dads. The results in society are catastrophic and even within the church the impact is significant. While the impact in society may be so enormous that there is not a plan that could successfully address it, the solution resides among the community of believers that call Jesus “Lord.”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.”

So, since the time of Paul in the early church, there have been plenty of “guides.” The original meaning of the word for “guides” is defined as tutors or guardian of boys. These guides were men entrusted with oversight of boys that would instruct them in their upbringing by accompanying them everywhere to supervise their morals. They taught the boys right and wrong.

That word which is used to describe the tutors or guides is also translated in other areas as “schoolmaster” in reference to the law. That is, the law is referred to as a “schoolmaster” which guides students by imposition of boundaries with enforcement of rules. The schoolmaster acts as a guide and the law plays that role, as well.

We can’t please God with keeping the law, however, but only by faith (Hebrews 11:6). It’s not the presence or adherence to the guide’s direction which we ultimately need, but it’s the few fathers that Paul refers to which brings value to sons. The countless guides are always limited to correction to enforce a standard of conduct. All they can do is discipline according to the behaviors they observe. Their teaching is performance based.

The deficit is not in a lack of guides that want to correct behaviors, but in the lack of fathers that want to invest in lives. The correction of others based in an interpretation of the law versus their behaviors is easy. Fathering is not.

Fathers are an originator of a legacy, not simply a guardian of conduct. Fathers invest life on life to raise up others that will invest in the same way. It’s life-giving and multiplying to transform sons into fathers in a way that a schoolmaster is not equipped or expected. Where the cycle of fathering and sonship is fostered, it will reproduce itself.

Greatness Just Is

Several years ago, I was with my family at the airport trying to get on a flight that was oversold and it didn’t look like it was going to happen. They issued a boarding pass but then took it back. The way it played out left us literally standing at the gate with our luggage in hand ready to head down the ramp at a moment’s notice. My dad had dropped us off at the airport and was waiting in the baggage claim area outside of security, watching through the glass. I looked over at him as we waited at the gate and realized that his oversight was a great comfort.

There he was, standing patiently and watching to see if we were going to get on. Nothing particularly dramatic about it, but it was a great snapshot of what he has done for me my entire life. He’s been there, watching and waiting, ready to help if needed. There was nothing he could do about getting me on that flight so it wasn’t a matter of fixing things for me. It was his presence that was the offering which brought me comfort. He’s a great dad.

The power of presence is often underrated. Just being there offers confidence, security and support among other things and is the greatest gift we can often offer another. In fact, just being there and supporting when there is nothing else we can do to “fix” something is the kind of love that allows those that we love to work through things with the comfort of knowing that if they can’t work it out they still won’t be alone. It assures them of a place at the table of family and community which allows for living.

My Dad is always there. I can walk with the comfort of His presence even when He is letting me work through the details of my choices and the consequences of those choices from a safe observation point. The oversight and invite are an assurance of my place in the world during times when the world seems to offer no place. The consistency of His offering is that when I draw nearer, there is a peace in the middle of the questions of life. There is acceptance among rejection and strength for the next step. He’s a great Dad.

Children Don’t Interrupt Our Purpose; They Embody It

photo 2-1croppedA few months ago I was preaching and something outside of the ordinary occurred. My wife and daughter were traveling so it was just our eight year old son and I at church. He got up in the middle of the sermon and walked up to the front. I was surprised to see him, but not at all upset with his interruption.

“Hey, are you OK?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “I just want to give you a hug.”

Of course I hugged him and asked him, “do you want to stay up here or go sit back down?”

“I’ll go sit back down,” he concluded.

That was it. Simple and sweet and child like. As I reflected on this interaction, I was thankful that the place we go to church is an environment where it wasn’t weird even through it was abnormal. As everyone was watching, a pause to interact with my son was natural. I hope and believe he felt no sense of shame or guilt for the interruption and saw me first and foremost as his dad.

I don’t want my kids to think ministry is more important than them because they are my most important ministry. I do this for a living now, but no vocation takes the place of our primary calling as disciple makers to our children. The practical details of how to walk that out are not always easy or obvious, so the heart of intention better be.

Someone shared with Julie that interruption for a hug was a picture of how God receives us. I like that and am thankful for the ministry that apparently occurred from this simple act. I didn’t, however, intend to minister to others as I received my son. I simply received him because I love him. He was my first priority in that moment, even though it took me by surprise that he had a need or a want in that particular moment.

We aren’t always going to get it right with parenting. There are demands and variables that challenge our desires regarding our children. Many of us have times and areas of parenting which leave us feeling inadequate. I know that I do.

I pray today that the spontaneous reaction of that day be a picture of meeting my kids in the moment every day. I pray that I always stop to make them first over any others that also may need ministry. I pray they always know that they are my ministry, no matter what demands my vocation may present.

Prime Factor

dadIf we tend to the main thing, we’ll impact the other things. Finding the one factor that can change the other factors the most brings multiplication.

Men walking in their proper places will have a multiplying effect. If men will stand in their place as the head of families, the families can enjoy the benefit of the sacrifice. When a man properly serves his wife and family, it fosters a culture of honor where every member of that family is released to walk in their identity.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with various programs for every conceivable branch of the tree; we just need to tend to the roots. It is important for men to know they are the head of the home and that doesn’t mean that they are to rule over those that live there. It means that they are commissioned to make a way for the benefit of those that have been entrusted to them.

If we will call men into their place as the head, where they sacrifice for the benefit of others and foster honor by offering honor, the rest can fall into place. We won’t have to have nearly as many remedial or tangential efforts to try to manage consequences of homes that are out-of-order. We can simply go to ones that are called to tend to others and equip them for the multiplication that is available house to house.

Our services and programs have to be based in recognition that they exist for the equipping of others and not validation of the ministers. They need to call to hearts that are open to transformation and not intended to simply attract those seeking entertainment. Men will sit passively being entertained until and unless they are actively compelled to step into their place.

Their place is entirely about their hearts. They need a jump-start at a heart level much more than they need more information. Information is safe and easy while it can be managed to maintain the status quo. Going deeper won’t be their first choice, but without an option they will sit and observe where they are intended to be quickened to carry.

Want to minister to marriages? Minister to men. Want to minister to families? Minister to men.

Commission them to tend to their homes and release them to be the priests and kings they are designed to be. Women won’t feel left out, they will feel alive to follow in the wake of the way that is made safe for them. Children won’t want for entertainment, they’ll have a model and champion advocating for them.  Dads will show them the way to go instead of just talking about it, or worse, delegating the talking to a Sunday morning professional.

Leadership Lessons of Christmas Shopping

13393428013895Just before Christmas, I was out at a town square style shopping area with my two kids and a friend’s five-year old son. His mom and my wife were doing some other things and I was responsible for watching the kids. Being the week before Christmas, it was extremely busy. We parked the car and made our way towards the store we were targeting.

Traffic was crazy and people were everywhere. I was walking us towards a particular store, but in the middle of trying to figure out exactly where that was I had to be sure the kids were with me and safe. My head was on a swivel as I made my way with the kids across cross walks and along sidewalks. I was constantly looking for threats (cars) and doing head counts to ensure that we were safe and intact.

As this was unfolding, I saw it as a great snapshot of what leadership is. I considered the following leadership characteristics applicable with a greater application than three kids in a shopping center:

  • Leadership Requires a Destination – Leaders need to know where they are intending to take the others nobody will drive the group towards a goal.
  • Others Might Not Be As Focused – The seven year old and the five-year old with me were certainly not as focused on the task at hand as I was.
  • Others Require Reminding – My reminders of waiting at intersections, wait for the group, etc. were consistent with the two young boys. Consistent, clear and even redundant communication keeps the group on point.
  • Direct Instructions From Station to Station – Five and seven-year old boys don’t always remember where we are going or why we are going there. It’s OK; I just have to get them from station to station at times. That can require direct feedback and instructions of what to do next.
  • Hearts Know – It was a pleasant outing despite the challenges and even though I gave direct and unilateral instructions at times. The younger boys knew I was for them and was looking out for their best interests so there was no issue with direct feedback.
  • Fun Is Included – There is no reason not to laugh and play along the way. Many of us spend significant amounts of time working and relationships which accommodate laughter along the way can only add to the job satisfaction.

Simple stuff, I suppose, but they were good reminders for me. Mastering the basics provides the practices necessary for sound leadership no matter the task at hand.