Posts Tagged ‘Family’

I recently took on a lengthy Summer project of renovating an older house, in a college town where my son attends. This is probably the largest undertaking, outside of my on residence, I have ever attempted. My father, while nearing his eighties, has come along side of me to offer his encouragement, insight, and support.

Over the last few weeks, while working with my father and my son, I began thinking about many of the life lessons my father taught me. I have compiled some of the more significant here. It seems appropriate for me to release this blog post on Father’s Day.

  1. Being a model father is about the Father, not the model.

My Dad is a model father.

Of course, we all know what a model is. A model is a smaller imitation of the real thing. That’s right, when it comes to being a father, my Dad is a smaller imitation of the real thing.

Before you think I’m being too harsh toward my father, let me explain. When it came time in his life to be a father, Dad did not look to the example of his own father. Nor, did he look to the example of the earthly fathers he knew.

Instead, he sought the Scriptures to learn everything he could about how his Heavenly Father nurtures and cares for His Children. From there he learned and modeled unconditional love, passion, sacrifice, wisdom, instruction and so much more about raising and releasing his son.

I am not sure I truly understood this until I became a father myself. In one particular conversation, shortly after my first child was born, Dad put his arms around my shoulders as I held my new born daughter and said: “Son, I would much rather know that you are following God’s example than mine.”

That is when it hit me. Being a “model father” is all about THE FATHER, not about the model.

2. How hard you work is a reflection of your character.

Dad worked hard all his life. He knew the meaning of work, hard work. Often he would leave our house before I got up in the mornings and many times not return until after I was in bed. Even with working long hours and sometimes two jobs, Dad was still fully active and working around the house, or somewhere, during his off time.

I remember as a teenager and young adult realizing my Dad could and would work circle around me. He would not leave until the task was finished. Even today, with the physical limitations of age and life, he can still outwork many men half his age.

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, we see the instructions in “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Your work should be a reflection of God’s glory. In that respect, how hard you work is a reflection of your character.

3. Providing for your family is not only meaningful, it’s Spiritual.

Like I said, Dad worked hard all of his life. He worked hard to provide for the needs of his family. We did not have everything we wanted, but we had everything we needed.

Dad recognized the positive side of 1 Timothy 5:8 meant that providing for his family was as much a Spiritual endeavor and a physical one.

4. You are never too old to learn. The earliest you can ever begin learning something new is now.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is sitting in a crowded auditorium, as an eleven year old, watching Dad walk across the stage to received the College Degree he had earned. It was not until I was a little older that I realized how much of a challenge this was.

For much of his early life, Dad’s formal education had been somewhat limited. In fact, it was after he was married and became a father that he was the first enrollee and graduate from a new community technical college in our area, learned a trade that ultimately provided well for his family, and after working many days from before sun rise attended university in the evenings to earn his degree. He has lived out, the earliest you can begin to learn something new is NOW.

It is still amazing to watch how he enjoys learning something new. Even as a senior adult, he purchased his first computer and continues to learn about the technology that has passed by so many of his generation.

5. Knowing why things work the way they work is important.

For as long as I can remember, Dad has had a strong mechanical aptitude. For much of my young life, he did almost all of his own mechanic work on any automobile we had. As a young teenager, he would have me with him changing the oil, rotating tires or otherwise servicing whichever vehicle was due for maintenance. He taught me the importance of maintaining our assets. Understanding why things work (or should work) the way they work is important. This understanding helped him draw the line between doing it himself and seeking more professional help.

I have really come to appreciate this aspect of my Dad while working on my recent house project. As he has come along side, Dad encouraged me to not just replace what is broken, but to look at everything structurally connected. He has taken the time to explain how structural systems should work and how they interrelate within the construction of a house.

He has given me a greater appreciation for the importance of understanding why things work the way they work.

6. It is only failure if you quit.

Growing up, Dad required me to finish any activity I started. No matter how I much I like or dislike a particular activity, if I committed to participate, I had to see it through to completion. This was not only school, sports, or extracurricular activities. This included everyday things as well.

My first trip to the emergency room for sutures came not long after learning to ride a bicycle on two wheels. I drove off our drive way on to the tar and gravel road we lived on only to have a patch of loose gravel shift under by back wheel, sending me face first into the street. After a few sutures to close the wound on my chin and we were back home, the first thing Dad did was repair the damage to my bike and that afternoon he made me get out and ride again.

Falling down after taking the training wheels off is part of the process. Every result is something you can learn from. It is only failure if you quit.

7. Responsibility is something you live, not something you take.

I never once remember hearing Dad say he was “taking responsibility” for anything. Oh, he was responsible. He was a very responsible person.

Like work, Dad saw responsibility as a reflection of his character. He recognized that if responsibility was something he could take, that meant that it was something that could be taken away. But, if he lived responsibly, God guided him in his areas of responsibility. Therefore, Dad never “took” responsibility, he just quietly lived it.

8. Being a man is biological. Being a gentleman is optimal.

Growing up, Dad always taught me, you don’t have a choice being a man but you do have a choice being a gentleman. He modeled for me the importance of being kind to those who could do nothing for you in return.

Even now, I cannot help but inwardly chuckle as I watch him open doors for people significantly younger than himself. He is absolutely beaming and smiling as they walk through. Many appreciate his effort, but even when some do not, the blessing still belongs to him. Being a gentleman is optimal.

9. When more of your days are behind you than ahead you realize the importance of legacy.

Dad has really embraced this in the years since he became a grandfather. I am almost envious of the relationship he has with his grandchildren. He is one of their biggest fans and cheerleader. He has embraced teaching them at every opportunity he can. More than anything he desires their lives to be richer and more vibrant because of the investments he makes in each of them.

More than anything, he is living our Proverbs 13:22 by building an inheritance for his children’s children.

10. A Godly father nourishes his family tree for branches he will never see.

More than ever, I believe Dad realizes the direct impact he will have on future generations is limited. Time and age have a way of making one realize that. Dad has embraced this realization. With it he has recognized that he can have a positive influence in his family tree for many generations to come by how he invests in and fosters the relation with the generations he knows. Dad has taught me: A Godly father nourishes his family tree for branches he will never see.

Thank you Dad for these and many more life lessons.

From a son and a father, to all the fathers’ children reading this, Happy Father’s Day.

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As a parent, I have at times told my children “no” when they made a request. Sometimes, they would continue to ask for the same thing, as if thinking I might change my answer. As their father, I have always tried to answer “yes” but occasionally “no” is the answer that is for their best benefit.

Occasionally, I would feel the need to say: “‘No’ is a perfectly acceptable answer.” They understood that my “no” was not changing and it was time to stop asking.

Our Heavenly Father, in much the same way, may tell us “no” when we pray our requests to Him. Unfortunately, I don’t always readily accept that “‘NO’ is a perfectly acceptable answer” when I pray. I’m guessing I am probably not alone in this regard.

We do not always like it when God tells us NO.  It can help to realize a couple things.

We are in good company:

Job: Job was a Godly, faithful man. He refused to curse God. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health. He was covered with boils and sores. All he asked God for was some relief from his suffering. Job’s comments on God’s answer, (Job 30:20) “I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me.”

King David: David was a man after God’s own heart. David is an ancestor to Jesus Christ. He was the King of Israel and a writer of Psalms. When his son was sick, David fasted and prayed for seven days. He was so intense in his prayer, his servants feared for the King’s life. But, God said NO and his baby died. (2 Samuel 12:16-23)

The Apostle Paul: Paul wrote most of the New Testament. He experienced miracles from God and was able to perform miracles. On many occasions God saved Paul from death. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul writes about his “thorn in the flesh.” We know the thorn was painful, evil, chronic and frequent. Paul was desperate for relief. But, God said NO. When God tells him why, Paul was able to handle it.

When God tells us NO, we have His promise of Grace.  It is reassuring to realize we are in good company, with people like Job, David and Paul.

God knows what is best for us:

God has promised that he has a plan for us. His plan is for our good, not our harm. God’s answer to our prayers will always be in agreement with His plan for us.

Jeremiah 29:11“For I know the plans I have for you,” says he Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God knows the results of both His “yes” and “no” to our requests. God only desires the best for us. His answer to our prayers will always lead to His best for us.

This morning, I’m thanking God for some of the “NO” answers. Because, I can now see in hindsight what He knew in foresight. His “no” really is for my good.

Many years ago, Mama Bird and I made a commitment that we would strive to celebrate and enjoy every stage of our baby birds’ lives.  Having two baby birds as close as we do has caused each major mile stone to come back-to-back like a series of one-two punches.

Recently, there has been another rustling in the nest. Mama Bird and I are again (seemingly all too soon) feeling a rustling in the nest as another baby bird is spreading his wings and learning to fly.

There is a sense of restlessness.  Mama Bird and I are sensing another rustling in the nest.  It is the rustling that seems familiar, yet different.  The rustling is comforting yet confusing, exciting and exhausting. It is the rustling that reminds Mama Bird and I our days are drawing near to having our baby birds fly and leaving us with an empty nest.

This past year seems to have past extremely fast. Having one baby bird away in college and another grinding through his final college decisions, we have learned a few lessons about trusting God with our (almost) adult children. These lessons have not always been what we have wanted to accept or learn, but each has been real nonetheless.

  1. Mama Bird and I dedicated baby birds to God. We have no right of recall. – Deuteronomy 6:4-7 – Mama Bird and I promised to raise young adults.  Starting with baby birds, we committed ourselves to teaching and molding our baby birds toward maturity and spreading their own wings as young adults.
  2. God promises to make Baby Birds’ paths straight, as they continue to commit their ways to Him. – Proverbs 3:5-6 – Mama Bird and I have watched as each of our baby birds has committed their lives and eternity to following God’s plan.  Mama Bird and I are rejoicing as we see God make their paths clear.
  3. A Baby Bird’s path is not going to always look like the path Papa Bird would have chosen.  As long as they are following God’s path, Mama Bird and I will celebrate the milestones.  We will trust God and rest in knowing His ways are far better than anything we would design. – Isaiah 55:8-9 – Mama Bird and I have to understand God’s ways are better than anything we could conceive for your baby birds.  God’s ways are higher than our way, so Mama Bird and I are going to trust Him with the plans He has for our baby birds.
  4. As our youngest Baby Bird begins to step out of the nest along the path God is opening before him, Mama Bird and I are confident knowing he is walking in truth. – 3 John 1:4 – Baby Bird is secure in his relationship with Jesus Christ. He has committed his ways to an all powerful God, who always keeps His promises.
  5. Baby Birds are confident that God is mindful of them and God has a plan specifically designed for each of them. – Jeremiah 29:11

Yes.  There is another rustling in the nest. Mama Bird and I are not finding it much easier this time around.

This month, my wife and I are celebrating our twenty-third wedding anniversary.  In the nearly twenty-four years since I first asked Susan to marry me, I have from time to time voiced the same simple and profoundly challenging question.

“Will you marry me?”

Regardless of what life is throwing at us at the moment, her answer is always the same: “Yes.”

All these years later, we have a clearer picture of just what that question and answer really mean.  Yet, we are still learning.  We have learned that after the initial “Will you marry me?” a whole lot of effort goes into making a successful marriage.  We have learned our marriage is worth the effort.  We have also learned there are some amazing benefits to my continuing to RE-ask and Susan continuing to RE-answer that same question.

RE-asking and RE-answering:

  1. Reminds me to keep our relationship center focused.
  2. Reassures her I’m fully invested in her.
  3. Rekindles the excitement of the first time she answered.
  4. Reconciles us as one, TOGETHER.
  5. Reanchors us during life’s storms.
  6. Refreshes our memories of God’s faithfulness in our marriage.
  7. Refocuses our priorities within our relationship.
  8. Reconfirms our commitment to and with each other.
  9. Resets our focus on the best for our marriage.
  10. Reclarifies the value of our relationship.

What’s the most amazing and exciting thing after twenty-three years of marriage?

That’s easy…

She still says: “YES!!

My daughter is the Valedictorian of her graduating class for 2014.  During her Graduation Address, she gave some great advice for her classmates. I asked her permission to include the transcript of her speech as a guest blog.


Family, Friends, Faculty, Staff, board members, and Mr. John David Phillips, thank you on behalf of the class of 2014 for coming and celebrating with us on all of our accomplishments.  Thank you, Mr. Phillips, for your inspirational message.  If it were not for all of your love, encouragement, and support through the years, we probably would not be at this point in our lives.  To the Class of 2014, it is my honor and privilege to be among the first to address you as GRADUATES of Faith Christian School.

Now, classmates, over the years we have experienced many changes through teachers, staff, and classmates that have come and gone.  We have also seen the school grow and the campus change.  When we were in elementary school, we played on a playground which is now a parking lot and were picked up by our moms where the office is now.  We have seen our long hope of finally eating lunch in a lunchroom be fulfilled.  We have adapted through all of the changes and have become closer together.  Especially in the last few weeks, we have begun to notice that “Sometimes we are all too quick to count down the days that we forget to make the days count.”  But now this is the night we have dreamed about and thought would never come.  It is here we complete our mission at Faith Christian and must head on to become doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, military leaders, or whatever career we choose.

Like a jigsaw puzzle contains many pieces and is not complete unless all pieces are put together.  We are a class and when one is absent; it is like a piece is missing from our class.  In a puzzle all of the pieces must be arranged correctly to reveal the picture which is its sole purpose.  Looking at you I see athletes, artists, some who are laid-back, some who are highly motivated, friends, and most important of all; I see family.  All of us are unique individuals –or puzzle pieces– that have come together to form our small, unique class of twenty three.   Our entire life and career at Faith has had one goal which was to prepare us to go on to adulthood.

I know that everyone is trying to give us advice and it is probably confusing us more than helping, if most of us have even listened to it at all.  We have been like a chain where each link represents every one of us, classmates, our teachers, family, and administration.   A chain can be used for many purposes, but all the links must work together to be successful. Our ‘chain’s’ purpose has been to prepare us for tonight, High School Graduation.

But I have one thing to tell you before we complete our journey at Faith.   Just like we have been like a chain for all these years, we are still a link even as we go our separate ways.   Even though the chances of all of us being together again are slim, we are still a link in that chain.  The chain is our high school career and each of us is still a link in it.  Tonight seniors, I have a gift for you to help you remember what I am telling you.  This is the surprise I have promised you.  I have a set of carabineer clips for you and your parents, like the chain has many purposes.   It can be used for hiking, holding your keys, hooking ropes together, and many other purposes as well. These clips can be linked together to form a chain.

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You are probably wondering how this clip relates to me.   Well, like a carabineer clip has many purposes, we each have a purpose that is unique to each of us.  In Proverbs 16: 9, the Bible says, “In their hearts humans plan their course but the Lord establishes their steps.”  God has created us with a special plan and purpose for each of us.  But it is up to us to discover our purpose and to follow it.  Most of us have an idea of where we would like to be whether it is owning a business, working in a hospital, or working for a great company far away. That may be our plan, but God may also have another idea which will be greater than any of our selfish wants or desires for our lives.  We must remember what we have been taught for the many years here at Faith, and follow God’s plan for us. Like Mr. McDaniel said Tuesday at Baccalaureate, Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “   Each of our plans is unique.    I have given each of you seniors a carabineer clip so that you can remember not only our special class, but also to fulfill your purpose.  You can use this clip however you choose, even though I do not suggest using this one to climb with it.  I challenge each of you that every time you see this that it will remind you of our class and to follow your purpose.  Always remember you are a link in the chain.

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Now, classmates, we have spent most of our lives in one place.  If nothing else, we have learned this year that time flies by quickly.  This past week as we were hanging out at the lake and working around school we all realized that we could not spend enough time together.  Do not take time for granted.  Do not miss an opportunity to fulfill your purpose.  I am not saying it will be easy all the time, but as E. E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  We cannot fulfill our purpose on our own.  We must rely on God for help, but that also requires work from us.  We must always strive to do our best at everything.  As one of the fastest runners to ever live, Steve Prefontaine, said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”  Do not sacrifice the opportunity to fulfill your purpose, you may not have another chance.

Now, classmates, we have spent the many hours of studying and preparing ourselves for the next stage of life. We have turned in our final tests, quizzes, papers, and assignments to Faith.  We have spent the countless hours together in class, sports practices, athletic games, club meetings, choir concerts, and the many other afterschool events.  I urge you to not forget the great times together and all of the sweet memories this school has brought to us, like singing and jamming out with all of the teachers.  We are off to continue our lives and fulfill our perfect purpose planned by God.  Remember to rely on Him and He will reveal the way to go.  Classmates, Dr. Seuss says it best

“You’re off to great places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

Classmates, let’s get on our way to finding our purpose and living the rest of our lives. Do not forget that our chain does not break tonight because we are all going our own ways, but instead each link is fulfilling its purpose. Remember you are a link in this chain and now, we must get on our way.


Now it is your turn. What words of wisdom and great advice do you have for the Class of 2014?

In my quiet time one recent morning, praying for the children with which God blessed Susan and me. Remembering some of the fateful, sometimes difficult prayers God has led me to pray for them during this time in mornings past.

The harsh and difficult time when God told me to never again pray He would heal Rebecca’s hand. The anger I felt, as her dad, when God told me to instead pray that He will use this for His glory. I remember Susan and me holding each other as we cried, knowing what we had to do. Then watching in amazement a few days later, as our little girl, toddles over to another child at Children’s Hospital Orthopedics, sits down, shows the scars on her hand and tells her new friend: “they have very good doctors here and they will take good care of you.”  We watched the fear, like we had felt during our first visit there with Rebecca, melt away from this child’s parents.   Praying God’s prayer for our daughter is not always easy, but that morning we began to realize His purpose is greater than we can imagine.  Today, I see a young lady with a compassion for people and an impassioned desire to help others.

I remember the morning, when Susan was about six months pregnant with our son. We already had a name chosen and were confident we knew what our new son would be called. Early that morning God impressed on me, his name is Michael Andrew (neither names we had chosen). As I told Susan, she asked why. Michael means “one who is like the Host.” Andrew means “one who represents God.” Since that morning, I have continued to pray that Michael will live in the fullness of his name. Today, I see a young man with a passion for people, a passion for Christ and a desire to live a life that makes a difference.

We did not know then, what those prayers would mean. Today, Susan and I see how God has blessed us with two terrific teenagers. Both love Christ with all their heart. Both have a love for people. Both have a desire to honor God with all they do. As teenagers, they are far beyond anything I ever imagined when I was praying for them in the womb.

I will be honest. Having a daily time alone with God is not always easy.  It is not always fun. It is many times painful and uncomfortable. But, when I look back at how God has used that time to guide our family and I am reminded of things like the stories above, I would not change a thing. I would not trade this time for the extra hour sleep.

Why do I have a daily quiet time?  I NEED IT.  I cannot be an effective husband, father and leader without God’s help. Everything I have learned about love, compassion, parenting and leadership has been found, strengthened and confirmed during these times. All because God is faithful to keep His promises when we seek His will, early in the morning. (Psalm 63)

Today (April 3, 2014) is the 18,262nd day of my life on this Earth. When you consider I have completed my first half century, it seems like a long time. The Bible equates a full life to 70 years. That is approximately 25,567 days. That means I have something slightly over 7,000 days remaining to fulfill the mission God has given me.  Anything beyond that time is simply His grace and favor.

As I sit here this morning, I am filled with the memory of my quiet time journey, a decade ago, during my 40th year.  See, at 40, I was perfectly willing to accept that I had crossed over into “middle age.”  So, the every day of my 40th year, was highlighted by a common theme during my morning quiet time.  That theme:  “God:  How do You want the last half of my life to look?”

During that year, my life focus began to shift… from practice to purpose… from success to significance… from life to legacy… from generalities to generations.

There are many great lessons and memories from those morning devotionals.  One that probably stands out above most was the morning I came to Psalm 90.  The thoughts of that day impacted me in such a way that this has become a recurring theme each year on my birthday.  Psalm 90 is a Psalm of Moses.  As we approach verse 12, Moses voices this prayer to God:

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (NIV)

At first, it appears that Moses is asking God to let him know the number of days he has to live so he knows how long he has to learn. As I meditated on this passage, I began to realize that Moses was not asking God to show him how to count the number of his days.  Instead, he was asking God to show him how to make the number of his days count.  In making the number of his days count, he will gain a heart of wisdom and leave a legacy for future generations.

As Believers we are challenged to live our lives is such a way that when the number of our days is complete, the numbered days count. We are given many examples of people who have done just that.

Noah was over 100 years old when God called him to build the Ark to save the human race from extinction.

Abraham was 99 when he realized God’s promise to make him the father of many nations, through the birth of Isaac.

Daniel and his three friends were young teenagers when they entered Babylon captivity and stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar.

Joshua and Caleb were in their eighties, and the last of their generation, when they fought in the final battle of Jericho.

Esther was a young lady when she married the king and saved Israel.

Moses lived 40 years in Egypt and another 40 years in Midian before God called him to free Israel from Pharaoh. It was another 80 years before he wrote what we know as Psalm 90.

Each of these examples teaches us we are never too old or too young to fulfill God’s call.  Regardless of their age, these people knew that fulfilling God’s call to leave a legacy required diligence and purpose.

There are countless other examples, even in modern history, of people who have made a major impact on the world.  All because, they had a vision beyond their own lifetime. They choose to leave a legacy bigger than themselves.

Our family recently had the opportunity to visit Spain.  In Barcelona, there is a basilica, La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family).  The church was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi (1852–1926).  Construction began on this church in 1882 and continues to this day.  The stark contrast of the massive ancient design and the modern construction equipment and processes is interesting to behold.  Project leaders now hope to complete this construction by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  How great of a visionary did Gaudi have to be to envision something so massive that it could never be completed during his lifetime?  In fact, many of the tools currently used in the construction of the project were not even conceived at the time of the building’s design.  Gaudi certainly had a vision and desire to impact a world beyond his own life.

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La Sagrada Familia

In my life, I have wasted too much time on things that won’t last.  I have no idea how many days I have remaining, only God knows.  Today, as I enter my second half century, my prayer is the same, just more fervently, as Moses taught:

Lord, I trust you to count the number of my days. Please teach me to make the number of my days count.

At 40, I prayed I would be a role model for my children.  I prayed that God would specifically call and equip each with everything each needed to fulfill the purpose He has set before them.

Now, at 50, I am amazed to see how God is using and equipping each of my children individually.  I am thankful for and affirm the calling God has placed on their individual lives. My prayer is that I will be the coach and councilor each needs to continue to grow in His likeness and fulfill His purpose.

When life is over two dates will define the number of one’s days, the date born and the date died. The dash in between will measure the number of days. Whether the number of those days counts for anything more than a dash on a tombstone will be determined by the legacy one leaves.

I want the legacy God allows me to leave to far outweigh the dash on my grave. I can only do that if I allow Him to give me a heart of wisdom, a vision of His kingdom and a love for His people.

As long as God continues to give me days to number, I want to make the numbered days to count.

Let’s go make this numbered day count for something bigger than ourselves.