To God Be The Glory

To-God-be-the-glory

This month, I have been on an amazing journey with God. My wife and I are beginning a book by A.W. Tozer that challenges us to look beyond our man-made view of God and seek to know His greatness. As I read, I felt very convicted that I am guilty of my man-made view of who God is. Because of this, I am on a quest to catch a glimpse of the glory of God.

You see, anytime we put limits on God, we are falling into the idolatry of making a god in our own image of who we think He should be. How can I tell if I have done this? I just need to take a look at where I spend my time, how I seek my own comforts, how I look for someone to blame when things do not go according to my plan.

When we place our focus on the magnificence of God, the other things take their rightful place in our lives. God is forgiveness, so what does forgiveness challenge me to do? If God is merciful, how am I supposed to show mercy? If God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, how am I supposed to love my wife sacrificially? If God is patient with me (His child) then where is my patience towards those children He has entrusted me to raise?

The glory of God is greater than our universe. There is nowhere that He is not. (Read Psalms 139:1-18. David understood this.) His presence fills every place where I am. With each breath I breath, I take in His glory and inspiration. Should not I breath out His praise?

The beauty of the quest I am on is that God is not hidden. When we praise Him, He is here with us. When we are troubled, He is here to comfort us. God is at work in our lives constantly. The question I have challenged myself with is, will I seek to see God at work? Not just live out a mundane existence and deny His fellowship, but look today, in expectation, to what God is doing all around me?

My sons need me to truthfully seek the glory and presence of the Lord. I need a genuine, daily, expectant relationship with God, and my boys need to see me live that out. I am challenged that just giving God a passing acknowledgement in my days is idolatry, and I am teaching my children to bow before an idol of my making. God desires so much more from us. We need so much more from Him than we can ever imagine.

My accountability partner agreed with the challenge I feel, but then he asked…

“How do we get there?”

Great question. Seeking the greatness of God is a lofty goal. One that is too big to fulfill in this life. So what are your thoughts? If you are on this journey, where are you headed? What has God shown you in your quest to see God?

To God be the glory!

I’ve Dropped the Moon He Thinks I Hold

 Boydadsmoon

 

Photo Credit: jessehoover.com

I step through my front door. Another work day has concluded and the first thing I think about is sitting down, soon followed by how many hours till I get me time. Meaning, how many hours ‘till the kids are in bed, until I get to have an hour and half to myself before I set the alarm for another grinding day at work.

Guilt ensues after I look at this thing called fatherhood as just an hour glass waiting to be turned. 

My son approaches and greets me at the door and says, “Hey daddy, did you have a good day? I hope you had a good day.” I betray him with a smile to hide my discontentment at the day. I’m invariably hoping he doesn’t ask me to play with him in that instant.

More guilt consumes me.

My guilt reveals my true colors of selfishness.

It’s funny how parenting does that to us, shows us what we are made of.

It has showed me how I can be a selfish jerk.

I battle constantly inside with my selfishness. I hate that somedays I look at my son and can’t wait for him to be more independent so he doesn’t need me as much. 

It’s painful even writing those words.

I feel like I’m racing to the finish line, and not the finish line Paul was talking about.

This finish line of comfort wrapped up in selfish vain conceit.

To my son, I hold the moon.

I wonder how long it will be till the moon dissolves through my fingers and I’m left empty handed?

I want to be the moon holder.

I want to be all that is grand in his eyes– the way he sees me.

God, help me look at my son as an opportunity to raise a godly warrior for You. Change my selfishness. 

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”  Mathew 18:10 

Son, I want to be your moon holder. I want to live up to all that you see me as. Let me guide you by the hand and joyfully walk with you as you become the man God already sees you as. You are filled with a vibrant passion that is contagious. I pray that my selfishness will not forbid me from actively and purposefully pursuing your heart to see the man you will one day become.

Don’t ever give up searching for the moon in me, nor will I ever give up on holding it.

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You can find Jesse writing about his attempts (and failures) at being a good father, husband and follower of Jesus. The good news is, Jesus is the redeemer.  And that is what he clings to.  There is no amount of failing or screwing up that He can’t redeem.  He writes on his own blog here.

Twitter: @jessemhoover

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessehooverwrites

About

Fathering Well

The man who has coached me for the last 23 years is known for making simple, yet profound, statements. Let’s explore one of them. I can still hear Loren’s voice as he gently told me, “You’ll never father well until you have been fathered well.”

F

I became a Christian 29 years ago, at age 30.  I had already destroyed one marriage with my selfishness and  had no intentions of repeating that. I was raised in a home where my father wasn’t involved with my life.  I played varsity sports throughout high school and hoped to play tennis in college.  With all of the tournaments, travel, and practice involved, I can’t remember my dad ever watching me play.  My parents divorced in my senior year of high school, leaving my mom to raise five kids, the youngest less than a year old. At 18 years old, I regularly said I would never be like my dad.  To my dismay, by the time I was 25, I was just like him.  I had caught his version of manhood; not because I wanted to, but because his was the type I was exposed to.

Soon after accepting the salvation that Jesus offered, I began struggling with who I was as a father, husband, and man.  For years, I read the latest books on “Christian manhood”, attended seminars and conferences, and tried every step-by-step process I found.  I used to drink my morning coffee from a Promise Keeper’s mug with the “7 promises of a Promise Keeper” etched on the side.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, I worked through those promises and focused on incorporating them into my life.  I’d get one of them down and move on to the next, only to find myself slipping in one of the earlier promises all over again.  It was a constant process of two steps forward, one step back; or, in many cases, one step forward and two steps back.  After seven years of trying, I got so mad at God that I told Him I simply couldn’t make myself be the man he wanted me to be.   Interestingly, that confession was exactly what God wanted me to realize.  I was totally incapable of making myself into a godly man.

My earthly father had fallen short and provided me with a model of fatherhood that was anything but ideal.  Yet for the first time in my life, I was positioned to change, and was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.  But that road has been long. The changes have not come overnight.  It has been a process of learning who my heavenly Father is and how He really fathers me.  Only in the last five years have I realized how lovingly the Father cares for me as his son.

For years, my image of Father was of a stern taskmaster who stood ready to send lightning to my life whenever I slipped out of line.  I was convinced that he expected me to perform well, and when I did he blessed me; but when I fell short, he withheld his blessing.  I have also learned that we father our children the same way we believe God fathers us.  My children ended up with a father that expected them to perform well and was willing to apply a little lightning when they didn’t. I blessed them when they performed well and withheld my blessing when they fell short.

Over the last five years, I have learned that Father really is Abba (Daddy).  His love is unconditional and isn’t motivated by my performance.  As we have walked more closely, I have received a glimpse of his heart of compassion and grace for me and those he sends my way.  For years, I preached that there wasn’t anything you could do to make God love you more, or anything you could do to make him love you less.  Today, I know that is true not only for me, but for you, too. Learn who Abba really is and how he fathers his children with love and compassion. Stop trying to gain his favor by your performance and recognize how much he loves you regardless. As you learn how Abba fathers you, your own fathering will be transformed. Your children will respond dramatically and be drawn to the real God we serve.

Try it and watch what happens.

For the Father Who Fails

For the Father Who Fails ~www.boydads.com

I am a failure.  Everyone around me knows it, but it’s still a little embarrassing to admit it.  Though none of us should be content at failing, we shouldn’t be condemned by failure either.

For most guys, failure is about as well received as a dentist appointment.  We hate it.  The tendency and temptation when faced with the fear of failure, is to become angry, grow distant, work hard at faking it, or just flat out deny it.  But at some point, we need to let the grace of God free us from trying so hard to be a faultless father.

I sin.
I don’t always do devotions every night.
I am not always kind.
Patience and joy are sometimes elusive at the end of a day.
I don’t always listen intently.
I have to fight to be fully present at times.
I am a failure.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not a deadbeat dad who doesn’t love or lead his family.  I certainly do plenty that’s right – more than my wrong (I think).  But the good news is that we have a Savior who parents with perfection.

He always does what is good, right, and wise.
His character never changes.
He is slow to anger, compassionate, and abounding in love.
He turns His ear to us when we call to Him.
He came to be with us and for us
By grace, and through faith, His record becomes ours.

“It is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.” -Charles Spurgeon

I will never be a perfect father to my sons.  But the good news is that I can point them to a Father who is.  He is a Father who loved me in the middle of my sin by giving me His son (Romans 5:8).  In Christ, I boast about Jesus’ record, not my own.  I boast about a Father who did not withhold His own Son so that I could become one of His very own.

May God’s faithful and faultless love for you lead you to walk more closely, depend more deeply, and trust more completely.  As you remain and rest in His affection for you, may His heart and character become your own.  And may you be a dad who continually leads your sons to the “throne of God’s grace,” so that they too, may find mercy and grace in their time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Blessings,

Pat, The Dig for Kids

When An Iron Fist Turns Soft

 

When an Iron Fist Turns Soft

My six-year-old son follows me into the cool room; last bits of sunlight cascade onto the brown couch where we sit down. Looking down at my son I search for the right words to speak to him.

I quietly pray, “God, help me not lose my temper. Help me talk to him gracefully and not become angry.”

There is a fine line with my son when speaking to him.

Through many failures of my own, I have sharpened the tipping point. If I am too harsh and yell when he screws up, his heart shuts down towards me, rendering me useless in getting through to him.

I had just found out that he had done something quite harmful; sinful.

My wife called me at work to let me know what had happened, asking me to talk to him when I arrived home.

Anger, frustration and uncertainty clouded my mind through the remaining hours of the day. I was uncertain about how I should handle the situation.

Should there be discipline?

If I go soft on him, will he not take me seriously?

Doubts of my own ability to handle the situation creep in.

Sitting on the couch with my son, looking at him, his body language telling me he doesn’t want to be there. Fearfully he sits, quietly, intently waiting for me to explode.

Processing through my mind I realize (insert God telling me because I am utterly helpless in this area) that if I come down hard on him, yell or be insanely firm, he will throw walls up and I will lose his heart.

His heart.

Often I have bought into the lie that if I am soft on him, he will grow up to be wild and out of control. I have allowed my fears of my son not being an honorable, upright, truthful follower of Christ, to guide my fathering of him.

Fear.

I have been parenting most times out of fear.

Because of my fear, the very thing I am fearful that my son will become, I have parented out of. I end up fathering him dishonorably and untruthfully. Through being quick to anger, ruling his heart with an iron fist at times, and not extending much grace to him when needed, I am the one who is then repelling him to the very things that I fear most he’ll be.

I turn to my son sitting on the couch and by the grace of God, softs words come out towards him. I see him ease into me. Because I am being soft to him, he softens his own heart to me.

And we talk.

I listen.

And he hears me.

As time passes he inches close to me and embraces me.

Through the softness I had once feared would turn him from the Way, it has now steered him towards the Way.

I squeeze him tight.

I quietly thank God for His own graces with me and for this moment with my son. I thank Him for being soft with me, working with me patiently to see the errors of my ways so I can have restoration with my son.

 

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You can find Jesse writing about his attempts (failures) at being a good father, husband and follower of Jesus. The good news is, Jesus is the redeemer.  And that is what he clings to.  There is no amount of failing or screwing up that He can’t redeem.  He writes on his own blog here.

Twitter: @jessemhoover

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessehooverwrites

About

Our Children Need Forgiveness

Our Children Need Forgiveness

The other night our now 4-year-old was frustrated by his little brother’s unwillingness to give him the Lightning McQueen Car that he was riding. And so, being the bigger and stronger of the two, he simply pushed his little brother off and took it for himself.  The younger one sat crying on the floor, frustrated and physically injured from the fall. That’s when I sprang into action as the defender of the downtrodden. I took hold of the 4-year-old and demanded an explanation, knowing full well why he did what he did, but wanting him to admit his wrongdoing.

Now, one thing I will say for our 4-year-old, he has learned to own up to his inappropriate behavior. He confessed that he pushed his little brother off the car because he wanted to ride it and wasn’t willing to wait for his turn. While I was still enraged, his honest response softened me and instead of inflicting a severe punishment I exiled him to the family room, away from Lightning McQueen, his brother and the rest of the family. Little did I know that this punishment would be more impactful than a typical time out or the loss of some privilege.

So after consoling our youngest son, telling him to ‘suck it up’ (but in more age appropriate terms), and placing him back on Lightning, I headed upstairs to change into some sweat pants and gather up some laundry (yes, even I do laundry when I am desperate for clean underwear). I then heard my wife Carolyn calling, “Daddy.” This wasn’t some affectionate use of the term, but a call on behalf of a needy child. I emerged from the bedroom at the top of the staircase to see her standing with our 4-year-old. He was sobbing and distraught. I looked at him with eyes of compassion and asked, “What’s the matter?” Carolyn responded, “He needs your forgiveness.” I invited him to come up the stairs where I was waiting with open arms. Forgiveness was already his without even asking, but I realized that he still needed to ask for it; and so, between sobs he whimpered, “I’m sorry, Daddy.” I wrapped my arms around him, began to kiss him on the cheek and told him, “I forgive you and I love you soooo much!” His sobbing ceased and relief came over his face. He then went back downstairs, restored and at peace because he knew the love and forgiveness of his father.

This was a great reminder and lesson for me. Our children need to know that they are loved unconditionally and forgiven when they mess up. They need to learn the humility that is required to ask for forgiveness. This will serve them well throughout their lives in whatever arena they find themselves. It also reveals an innate need for reconciliation with God and man.   So let this be a reminder to us as parents and people that while ‘Lightning’ is powerful, it lasts only for a moment; but forgiveness is more powerful and lasts for eternity!

God’s Grace in Dad’s Failure

I am a screw-up.

This is one of the many valuable lessons I took from my high school youth group. That, and the indispensable knowledge of just how many marshmallows I can fit in my mouth and still say, “Chubby Bunny.”

Anyhow, like most people, I am painfully aware of my mistakes — often even as I am making them. This awareness of my failures and flaws often leads me to a place where I believe I’ve disqualified myself in God’s eyes. Not that I’ve lost salvation or taken myself out of His family, but that I have acted in such a way that He can’t, or won’t, use me.

The sense sometimes becomes overwhelming that I, because of mistakes, because of willfully following my own desires instead of God’s, can no longer live and serve effectively. As if I could nullify the grace of God. As if I became exempt from serving God because I could not maintain perfection, or committed a “big” sin. As if I have the authority to sideline myself because of my own self-disdain.

And I’ve found that this kind of mindset bears a direct correlation to my parenting. For, after all, if I am not suited to serve God, how could I be suited to fatherhood? The thinking goes something like this: I am flawed. I have failed countless times, even today. How can I have anything to offer to my sons, to ensure that they will grow up to be godly men?

I guess what I’m talking about here is guilt; guilt that paralyzes us, instead of catalyzing us. Regret that holds us back from action, or causes us to think we have to make up for our past mistakes. Sorrow that causes us to withdraw, and hide away that broken part of ourselves.

God's Grace in Dad's Failure

And all the while, we ignore the grace of God and the intercession of Jesus Christ. 1 John tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness… If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 1:9, 2:1)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle accepting grace and forgiveness. I have a hard time believing that God truly remembers my mistakes and failures no more. I hold onto them, internalize them; and they become ingrained into who I am. And my inability to receive grace sets an example for my sons: that though they have confessed, though they know Christ, though they turn away from sin, it’s still not okay.

Our children need to see grace in our lives. Not just our grace toward them, but also God’s grace toward us. In other words, it is fine for us to tell our children that God is gracious, that He forgives sins and doesn’t count them against us because of Christ; it’s an entirely different thing to live the grace of God for our children. If they see us constantly downtrodden and defeated because of our past mistakes and failures, how can we expect them to learn how to get back up and move on? How do we expect them to learn that Christ, rather than failure, defines them? And how do we expect them to learn not only moving on, but growing up, through their mistakes?

It is in our failures, our willingness to accept grace, and our striving to become more like Christ, that our children first see the grace of God being worked out. It is when we allow them to see, at least in part, some of our struggles, and the power of God in transforming those struggles into victory, that they gain a sense of God’s greater redemptive work, and His desire to effect it in their lives, too.

Our failures as dads and men don’t disqualify us, as servants of God or as parents. No, they are not to be sought, or desired, but they can be redeemed, and that redemption will change the shame of failure into the beauty of grace.

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.

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.

 

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No Fear in Failure: A Lesson from Armadillos and Spiders

I have lived in Little Rock for a couple of years now. The wildlife is a bit different than when I lived in Montana. Rumor has it that we have some animals here that you just don’t see up in the Northwest, like tarantulas and armadillos. I say rumor, because I have yet to see any live ones yet. I have seen a few armadillos dead in the road, but either there is some big conspiracy to stage dead armadillos on the road, or there really must be some live ones (I can’t say for sure if there are any dead tarantulas on the road. They would have to be pretty big to catch my attention).

nofearinfailurearmadillos

My guess is there are lots of live animals that no one sees, roaming around just out of eyesight, all the time. What it would be like to be able to see through all the brush, leaves, dirt, rocks, etc. and just see all the wildlife that I normally cannot see?

This made me think about God. He can see all of the animals, even the ones we can’t. The God who created the universe knows how many hairs are on my head. He knows how many tarantulas are hiding in my neighborhood. He knows how many armadillos are just waiting for their chance to bravely cross a busy street.

Yet this same God, who knows everything about everything down to the smallest detail, knows my faults. He knows all the bad things I have done, even the ones I had a fleeting thought about, yet he loves and forgives me of them all. If you are anything like me, you have a bunch of things you are not proud of either.

Sometimes, the knowledge of my faults and the fear of failing again keep me from leading my family in the ways of God. Sure, I know I should and will get around to it sometime, but why not risk failure tomorrow instead of doing it right now? You know, things like leading my wife in daily prayer, sharing a short devotional time over dinner with my kids, loading the washing machine. But rest assured, God is more interested in our attempts than in our successes.

How can a God who knows everything about me love and cheer me on?  I wish I truly understood how, but for now I will just rest in knowing He does. Do you feel a tug from God? An urging to lead your family? I know you do. And my encouragement … “Go for it!”

And if you were wondering, I am still waiting to see that live armadillo. Until then, I reserve the right to declare that live armadillos are the Bigfoot of Arkansas. No confirmed sightings yet.

Disclaimer: I am not an Arkansas native, and I am sure others have seen this mysterious armored animal. And for the record, I am not a big fan of spiders, so the Arkansas tarantula can stay hidden and I will be just fine.