The Power of a Blessing

We haven’t been the greatest parents spiritually. I hear parents talk of how they have family devotions every evening and I just think, “We suck!” We have never done a family devotion, unless the reading of Luke 2 on Christmas morning counts. We don’t send our children to Christian School like other good Christians do. But the one thing we do is pray a blessing over our children when we drop them off at school. We’ve been doing this for 16 years but never seen the impact like we have this year with our adoptive boys.

photo

My wife Carolyn was running late to drop off our almost 4-year-old and almost 3-year-old at preschool, which, by the way, is at a Baptist Church in case you were judging us harshly. Her habit is to pray a blessing over each of them in the parking lot prior to heading to their classrooms, nothing long and pharisaical mind you, but brief and to the point. Well, on this particular day she was in such a hurry that she forgot to pray for the boys. As she dropped off Sam (our almost 3-year-old) and began walking down the hall, relieved that the morning ordeal was over and the boys had been delivered safely to their respective classes, Sam came running out of his classroom, tears in his eyes and teacher in tow. He cried out, “You forgot to pray, Mommy.” Immediately Carolyn turned on her heels, ran to our little boy, took him in her arms and prayed a blessing over him. The teary-eyed teacher watched, moved by the tenderness of a young boy longing for the prayer and blessing of his parent.

Sam has only been a part of our family for 11 months. He came to us from an environment where prayer was foreign, blessings were few, and safety and security were not a certainty. Yet in his brief time with us he has come to know the power of prayer and a blessing. He knows the comfort of a loving hand on his head and the peace of God which transcends all understanding that results from prayer.  He has come to know the love of an earthly father and mother and is learning the love of his heavenly Father.

So, for those of you who feel you don’t measure up to other Christian parents, why not try praying a simple blessing over your children each day as they head off to school or day care. It won’t take a minute, but it will affect your child immediately and change him or her for a lifetime!

From The Fairway To The Freeway

We knew it was a gamble that we’d make it to South Bend, but we didn’t plan on breaking down right in the middle of the toll booth.

My family and I were on a 4600-mile loop through the upper Midwest and into central Canada, and when you take a trip like that with seven children, a box trailer, and an 11-year-old van, you expect to have some unscheduled adventures. This time, it was a failing alternator on a cold and blustery Saturday four days into our trip. As bothersome as a toll plaza breakdown may be, what made it worse was that we had just replaced that alternator two days before, in a truck stop parking lot in North Carolina.  We were about to meet our third and fourth tow truck operators within a week.

Occasionally I have to remind myself of a simple rule from the golf course– You play the ball where it lies.  On the course, it means that even when the ball has gone where you wish it hadn’t, the game goes on. You can complain and make excuses and point fingers all day, but eventually you either continue the game or give it up.  It’s better if all your drives are straight, long, and true, but sooner or later you’ll have to recover from a sand trap or some other hazard. Figuring out how to recover is part of the game.

From the Fairway to the Freeway

I find I have to apply this rule to my daily life on a regular basis. Being an engineer by training, I tend to analyze things to death, and sometimes I can get distracted trying to find the explanation (or fix the blame) for a problem. Granted, if a problem keeps repeating in your family, you do need to get to the bottom of it. If the family car always seems to have an empty gas tank after a certain teen borrows it, that’s a cause-and-effect problem which needs a remedy!

But more often, the important thing for the moment is not who’s at fault or even what went wrong, but rather, how we get past the immediate problem and keep moving forward. Sitting on display in an Indiana toll booth, I had to make some decisions. Maybe we made a mistake when we installed the first alternator; maybe there was a manufacturing defect in the new part; maybe something else entirely was at fault. The important point there on the outskirts of South Bend, though, was getting the van and trailer out of the traffic lane, and then repairing the alternator. And that’s what we did.

Later, we might look over what happened and whether it was something that could have been prevented then, or possibly some way to avoid it in the future.  At the point of the crisis, though, it’s time to play the ball where it lies. We dads need to keep that in mind ourselves, and we need to demonstrate it to our sons.

Lights – Camera – Romance??

So here we are in February. And what is February famous for (other than being really cold)? Valentine’s Day, of course. (Okay dads, if you missed this one, this blog is probably too late to save you from spending a night or two in the doghouse.)

All the marketing around romance really strikes a chord with many women. You know … candy, flowers, a babysitter and dinner out, diamonds, cards, sonnets–and the list goes on and on–but let’s talk about how guys see romance for a minute.

I do not speak for all of us guys, but thinking about the action movies I have seen–yep, there have been many–they have a couple of things in common: lots of action, a noble cause, and the damsel in distress. Without the damsel to rescue, it all seems sort of pointless, doesn’t it?

 

RescueThis makes me think of the Bible. To summarize the Bible, I will borrow from a friend who says the Bible is the “ultimate romance novel.” You have the damsel locked in the tower and oppressed by the dragon. The prince, and son of the king, is challenged with a mighty quest to slay the dragon, rescue the princess, and take her back to his kingdom where there is a mighty feast and wedding, followed by happily ever after. This makes sense. This is an action movie at its finest. And it just oozes romance.

Who is Jesus Christ to me? Who do I tell my sons that He is? He is our knight in shining armor; He is our rescuer. He overcame the dragon for us, and He is worthy of loyalty and service. We are the damsel, and Christ rescued us.

Within the last month, my wife and I brought two more children into our home. They have been in the foster care program in our state for a couple of years and desperately wanted a forever family. We felt the call on our lives to expand our family and love some additional children into our family.

In a divine encounter that only God knew was coming, our lives and the lives of these two children changed forever. A sacrificial love that we learned from the greatest lover of all. A love that says, “get out of your comfort zone and try a little romance.” Not Hollywood romance. Not Harlequin romance. The romance that says, “I chose you. I promise to love you forever.”

Without the rescue, the rest is pointless.

Disclaimer: While I did serve in the Marine Corp and trained in demolitions, true romance does not require anything to be blown up. Despite the popularity of explosions in many of my favorite action movies.

John Goyer is a husband, dad, grandfather and computer geek with a passion for families and marriage. He is the father of 6 children (ages 23 to 2), 2 of which he adopted and 2 which will soon be adopted. By day he serves at FamilyLife (www.familylife.com) and by night he chases, tosses, tickles, bathes, loves and leads his children towards a faith in Jesus Christ.

Empowering Creativity in Our Sons

I love watching my son create- seeing him scribble all over a piece of paper and promptly declare that the Jackson Pollock-worthy piece is “Daddy.” Or watching him form pieces of play dough into balls, or seeing him build towers out of Duplo pieces. Most of all, I love when he finds my percussion lying randomly around the house, and starts to sing to his own accompaniment.

And I am reminded that this boy is, every day, a creator. Whether he knows it at this stage or not, the little man is demonstrating the very nature of God.

You see, we are created. Made, formed, shaped- however you like to say it, God created us. And when He did, He left the imprint of Himself on our nature. In short, God made us to relate to, and to mirror, Himself. Part of Himself that He implanted in us is the ability to create- just like He did.

empowering creativity in our sons

Children have an innate grasp of creativity, perhaps partly because they are learning so much every day. They live in an undisguised sense of wonder, in an uninhibited (if unaware) appreciation of the beauty of Christ. Everywhere they look is a new mystery, a thing to be uncovered and understood. This is a representation of God’s nature in His creation: Always a new mystery; always a new understanding.

But it goes further still. The beauty of God is in Christ. I rarely think in these terms, to be honest. When I think of who Christ is, I’m not sure my first thought has ever been, “Beautiful.” Think with me, though: God created the world, and declared it good. He filled everything He made with beauty. He created us; thus, in us, there is beauty. But we are broken, sinful, and dead because of our sins. Yet 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Our beauty is restored because Christ has recreated us. Creation brings beauty. The Creator gives His beauty to us. And we, in turn, can give that beauty to our creations.

We learn so much of the nature of God in creativity. We see His wisdom; we see His imagination. We come to understand that God pours Himself into us- His love, His heart, His passion- just as we pour into our creations. And it gives to us such a sense of security, of resting in the Hands that formed you, formed you not impassively or coldly, but with the greatest care and the most sincere desire for your good. When I create, I discover what it means to be loved by the Creator.

I want my sons to find these treasures, to find safety and security in knowing Who made them and the care He took in making them. And I want them to experience for themselves- to find a passion for creativity, in whatever manifestations, that will allow them to explore and make and feel the nature that comes from God Himself.

It would be so easy to impose my understanding of creativity on my sons. Music, literature, and story strike deep, resonant notes in me that lead me to pursue God’s beauty. But it may not be so for them. Their passions may lie more analytically, more physically, than mine do. “The Arts” as we know them don’t monopolize creativity. And it is my job, as their father, to steer them not toward my sense of creativity, but toward their own- wherever that may lie. To steer them toward that passion in their lives that will cause them to pursue the beauty in this world, and- more importantly- the Beauty that put it here.

May I never be guilty of imposing my understanding of God’s beauty on my sons.

May I never so force them into my own mold that they give up the pursuit of becoming beautiful as He is.

May our sons ever be in pursuit of the Divine Beauty, creatively exploring how the Beauty has imprinted Himself in this natural world, and seeking an ever-deepening knowledge of Him through His perfect creative acts.

 

Image Source

Freedom & Choices

One of the toughest jobs we face as parents can be balancing giving our children freedom and then setting parameters/boundaries. It can be especially challenging as they grow older into adolescence. Whether naturally or by force, responsibility is an inevitable fact of growing up. As the old saying goes, “With freedom comes responsibility.” So, how do I walk this line of knowing when and where and how much at the right level?

Let’s begin with a simple fact…God created mankind to be free (Gen. 1-2). Think back to Adam and Eve in the Garden: what made that environment free? To begin with, there had to be a choice. Thus, God set a limit on what they were allowed to have by introducing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil into the Garden. Without the option of making a poor choice there could not have been absolute freedom. Furthermore, the purpose in God doing this was to express His unconditional love for them. God did not want robots—“do as you’re told”—He wanted authentic relationship that reflected the relationship found in the Triune God, one that was not based in fear or control. This is crucial in understanding our relationship with our loved ones, namely, our children. When considering this type of relationship some might question why God did such a thing to Adam and Eve. Did He set them up for failure? Why not place the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil right next to the Tree of Life to make the better choice more obvious…or place it far away, out of sight, so that it’s much more difficult to find? If I really cared about my beloved creation and wanted to prevent anything bad happening to them, that’s what I would have done, wouldn’t you?

This logical way of thinking determines much of how we parent as well. As parents we have a tendency to train our children in “serious” limitations so they will not sin. Sound familiar? I can think of the many ways in which I’ve parented out of fear of my boys making mistakes. Quite honestly, I think it’s a little tougher raising boys because they seem to push those limits earlier and more aggressively.

Freedom and Choices

With 3 boys in our home, God presents me with plenty of opportunities to practice this idea of giving choices and helping them with responsibility. My wife and I are constantly navigating the murky waters of protecting them, respecting their privacy, allowing consequences to their choices, and granting freedom for the sake of maturity. Having a 15 year old makes it even more challenging.

As I reflect on how God dealt with the possibility of Adam and Eve failing—and they failed…BIG TIME!—I realize a lesson for me in parenting my sons. If I’m afraid of sin, failure, mistakes, or poor choices in my sons, then I am prone to parent out of fear rather than love. I will tend to develop an expectation that they live a mistake-free life. In reality, the goal of this way of parenting is compliance and obedience without love and heart connection. It’s interesting to think how hard I work to eliminate poor choices in my sons’ lives, yet God actually introduced one in the Garden. What does this say about how I should view freedom, choice, and consequences in my daily life as a parent?

God had a plan for the failure of Adam and Eve—Jesus (Gen. 3:15). He brings peace and purpose to all situations, good or bad, clean or messy, success or failure. God uses our freedom to invoke trust, to take the ups and downs of life and cultivate a life of dependence on Him. His attitude towards our sin and failure is, “Yeah, you messed up…not good…and there’s a consequence. But, I love you, I’m here for you, and I need you to trust Me.” In his book Loving Our Kids On Purpose, Danny Silk says, “…at the heart of godly parenting is the conviction that the mistakes and failures of our children are not the enemy. The real enemy is bondage, and if we don’t teach our children how to walk in and handle freedom, they won’t know what to do with it.”

So, how are you handling the challenges of freedom, responsibility, choices, and consequences? Are you afraid of where your child might sin, fail, or make a poor decision? Where might you be too restrictive or controlling? Is it tough for you to allow your child to fail…in a safe and loving environment? Ask God to give you wisdom in the way you trust Him, so that you might guide your children in trusting you.

 

Image Source

Not Just a 90’s Thing

Todd and DebbieHey Dad,

Let me just say up front that when I think about the topic, “the Beauty of Christ”, the thought “girly-man topic” crept into my mind. It’s not that I think the beauty of Christ is a girly topic. It’s just that it seems like a touchy-feely, womanish thought, kind of like the idea that my mom used to think her sons hated each other just because we pounded each other–when, in fact, that’s HOW we showed our love.

But being a 90’s kind of guy, I knew I could get in touch with my ‘softer’ side. So I started chewing on the topic and then…it came. The truth is we demonstrate the beauty of Christ when we love our wives OR we fail to demonstrate it when we don’t.

The real beauty of Christ is in the way he sacrificed Himself for his BRIDE even when she (we) did not love Him. Wow. I love that picture, except when I hate it!!! That means that the way I treat and love my wife is way bigger than me and her.

When I love my wife selflessly even when she is crabby and bent out of shape (sometimes it happens), I demonstrate the beauty of Christ to my children. That kind of love gives without expecting. It is patient, long suffering, kind, gentle, and never-ending.

We call it unconditional love and it means…no matter what. Even as I write this, I know I have failed at this lately. I’ve been loving conditionally…in hopes of smiles and warmth in return. That doesn’t show the beauty of Christ, just the selfishness of…ME.

My boys need me to show that kind of love…because one day they’ll need to show that kind of love to their bride. One day their wives will be crabby and bent out of shape and they’ll need husbands who show them the kind of love that Christ demonstrated towards us.

That’s a pretty weighty responsibility…but I’m glad that it has been entrusted to me…and to you, Dad.

Man, I feel like I need to go out and pick flowers or crochet!!!

You ‘da dad,

Todd

Check out Today w/ Todd

Speaking Over Our Children

This past week, a team from our church had the privilege of serving with Compassion International in Ecuador.  Our mornings were spent doing light construction on a sponsor church, while our afternoons were spent working with the children of Las Brisas.  Through soccer games, bubbles, jumping rope, crafts, and stories, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these children had never had words spoken over them.  Certainly they have had plenty of words spoken to them, but what about words over them?

Barely knowing the language, I asked our translator to tell me how to tell a child that they are God’s treasure.  He scribbled these words in my journal that I would later have the opportunity to speak over several children, trusting that God would impress them on their hearts.

“Eres un Tesoro de Dios – You are God’s treasure.”  Simple words spoken, not just to them, but over them.

Speaking Over Our Children ~www.boydads.com

Sadly, I too often speak to, and not over, those I treasure most. My words can easily be used sharply, critically, self-righteously, and carelessly.  Like wet cement, my words have left a fair share of marks that, if not smoothed out, quickly harden.  How true it is that “the tongue can bring death or life” (Proverbs 18:21)

I have also sinned by withholding words. Sometimes it’s not what we say, but rather what we don’t say: feelings of appreciation, approval, and encouragement left unspoken.  Both the spoken and unspoken have the potential of doing damage far beyond measuring.  So often, I can speak to and not over those I love most.

For most men, words don’t come easily.  We’ve all heard or read the statistics; women use more words than men.  Men would often times rather sit shoulder to shoulder, grunt, cheer, and occasionally offer a fist-bump.  Not exactly meaningful or sophisticated, but we still call it communication.

But words don’t have to be weapons that wound.  And they certainly don’t have to be pointless, either.  As fathers who image our Father, we can use our words redemptively.  Like instruments, they can be used for good, life, joy, wisdom, and encouragement.  After all, words belong to God.  They are not ours to use as we please or purpose.  We speak because God speaks.

One of the things we learn at the very beginning of the Bible is that God speaks.  He not only uses words, but He is the author of words.  Unlike us, in our fallen and sinful state, when God speaks, He does so in a truly instructive and redemptive way.   In Genesis chapter 1, the very first chapter and book of the Bible, we see the phrase “And God said” nine times.

God speaks into and over His creation.  With purpose and power His words create out of nothing.  His words are instruments of life, truth, grace, and beauty.

Light bursts forth from darkness.

Beauty springs up out of the chaos.

Order emerges from disorder.

God speaks words of life.

But in Genesis 3 we learn that God is not the only one who speaks.  We see that there is a “war of words” going on in the Garden.  Satan uses words too.  But unlike God, his words bring death, pain, deception, separation, and ultimately the loss of Paradise.

As image-bearers of God, one of the ways we glorify Him is in our speech.  We reflect his image by the use of our words. God speaks over us as our Father.  He calls to us, and speaks over us as His children – adopted, treasured, lavished by His love, saints, citizens of heaven, and the list goes on. He speaks to us what He intends, but not without speaking over us our identity in Him.

One of the great gifts we can give our sons is the gift of our words.  I encourage you to be a father who doesn’t just speak to your sons, but speaks over them.  We never know the full impact, for good or bad, that our words will have.  May the words that our Father speaks over us be words we speak to and over our sons – words of life, joy, approval, hope, wisdom, and encouragement. 

Blessings,

Patrick Schwenk, The Dig for Kids