Media confession: Beryl and I watch American Idol regularly. Because it often actually moves us.
Sometimes the performances are lukewarm; every now and then they are jaw-dropping. Recently, Kelly Clarkson, the Season 1 winner, told a story through song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks—and those of the judges and many in the audience.
We intuitively know dads matter, but in our dramatically changing family culture that often questions the value of fathers, we sometimes need a reminder. Kelly gave us a jaw-dropping one.
Her song, Piece by Piece, compares her experience with a father who disappeared when she was a young girl, to her husband who is a present, loving father to her kids. “He filled the holes you burned in me when I was 6 years old…He restored my faith that a man could be kind, and that a father could stay.”Read More
A friend in the Chicago suburbs sent me this notice today from the owner of a well-known business in that area: “I am writing to let you all know about the passing of my father. In this modern age where men are often the punch line in a bad joke, I’m here to tell you that Dads matter to sons – even when the sons are almost 50. My father died this morning from an unexpected stoppage of his heart. He had been battling cancer for about a year – and we thought we had a bit more time with him. Nonetheless, today was his appointed day – and I pray he is now at home with our Savior. I’m guessing that few of you will be able to be with us this week – but I wanted to reach out to you all – to let you know what happened – and to tell you to make the most of your days – for you never know when they will be over.” Poignant words, “Dads matter to sons- even when the sons are almost 50.” I can vouch for that. Does this prompt you to say anything to your...Read More
My mother passed away in February, 2010, and my father in October, 2012, so you might think I’m done thinking about saying Goodbye to them. No, their memory and their touch on my life lingers. I’m reminded of them regularly. They were an integral part of my life for 57 years; it’s not surprising that it takes time to get used to their absence. (Click here to see my last post about Saying Goodbye) Sadly, every now and then I’m reminded of my impatience with them as they grew weaker and slower, and as their memories failed. In the summer of 2011 my wife, Beryl, and my son, Alec, and I took my dad to the cottage my sister’s family has just half a mile from the north coast of Northern Ireland. It was a remarkable trip filled with special experiences we shared with Dad, but it was also filled with countless irritations, embarrassing bathroom forays and endlessly repeated sentences. Our return trip to the States began ominously with a long delay out of Belfast. The flight itself was a long series of “biological incidents” in the cramped forward bathroom, visible to anyone who cared to watch. We arrived at Newark Airport (if I never see it again it will be too soon) far too late to make our connections so we had to go through many steps to clear luggage, get Beryl on a flight one way, and Alec, Dad and me overnight in a hotel. It seemed that every hour of our return was filled with exasperation and complexity. Throughout the juggling of our bags, finding a hotel, lining up a shuttle, and pushing/carrying Dad around, it felt like I answered some version of, “Craig, what’s going on?” “Where are our bags going?” “Why is Beryl on a different flight?” “Why are we staying overnight?” “When will we be home?” “Where’s Mom?” countless times. At one point I was admittedly on edge, waiting yet another hour for the hotel shuttle, when Dad asked once again, “Where are we going?” I snapped. Figuratively and verbally. “Dad!! I’ve answered that question several times; are you going to listen this time?!” Looking back, I am embarrassed to admit my impatience, and I remember immediately regretting my harsh tone and cutting words. But nothing prepared me for what came next. Dad, who so often in those days disappeared into a fog of awareness, suddenly became the father again: attentive, perceptive, instructive, gracious, firm, and said softly, “Oh, Craig. Don’t do that.” I have rarely felt such an immediate sense of piercing remorse. I’ve been reminded recently of the dance that “we of a certain age” conduct with our aging parents. At the same life-stage when we are wrestling with our own sense of waning significance, and our far-flung adult children still periodically rely on us for tough advice or limited finances, our own parents become like children and we have to assume the role of adult caretaker. Until we snap like a child and our parent suddenly returns for one achingly convicting comment. Not long ago a friend sent me the following letter from an aging mother to her daughter: “My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story...Read More
If you’re a man, I have good news for you, and I have sobering news for you. The good news: you matter. Despite the questions our society often raises about the value of men, and especially fathers (think Homer Simpson), you have a deeply important calling as a man. Your presence and your words have an enormous impact on those around you. The sobering news: you matter. Your words and presence have impact, but that impact can go either way. It can bring life, security and blessing into the lives of others, especially our wives and children—or it can bring fear, shame and violence. Glory or ruin. In my work as a minister to men, I regularly encounter men who question their value and competency. In fact a deep, hidden doubt in their ability to effectively manage the requirements of their lives is one of the most common traits I see. A few years ago I met a 30-something man who seemed to have the world by the tail. He was the hotshot CEO of a growing company; he had a trophy wife, a beautiful home in the suburbs and a red convertible Porsche he drove at ridiculous speeds to work every morning. He apparently had it all. Then one morning he called me. “Craig,” he said, “I’m on the shoulder of the expressway. I’m heading into a meeting with my board. They know everything. They know my lies, my cheating and my cover-ups. I can’t pull this thing off any more. They know the truth about me—I’m ruined.” Then he burst into tears. Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) had it right when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…” That’s just as true today as it was in his time. The only difference is that the desperation is not as quiet. How else can we explain the unbelievable risks so many men take to pursue that forbidden affair, to pad their wallets while their employees lose jobs, to bilk others of billions of dollars in pyramid schemes? What’s going on here? Intrinsic Value What’s going on is that men have fallen for the lie that their value is defined by performance, position, power or possessions. Too many men believe that they matter to others solely because they have the world’s external badges that prove their worth. At the same time they know the truth beneath the surface: they wrestle with fear, anger, confusion, exhaustion. The internal conflict these men live with, the demands of keeping the secrets or keeping pace with expectations, results in men who either passively give up or violently take their rage out on those who least deserve it. You may know some men like this. You may be this man. In Psalm 139, we learn that all men and women have deep intrinsic value because we were knit together by the God of the universe. Even before we were born, God knew us and formed us uniquely, regardless of gender. But when God chose to reveal himself to mankind, he did so as a Father and as a Son. When I did training for a mission agency several years ago, my colleagues and I had the dual roles of preparing those candidates who would go to the field and holding back those who should not. Invariably, some had unhealed emotional wounds that profoundly affected their ability to relate to others in a healthy way. Over the years I saw a consistent pattern in those who were deeply wounded, whether men or women, single or married: almost always, the factor that most heavily influenced...Read More
“It’s my attempt to establish a legacy that will last beyond me.” Those words jumped out at me in the following story by John Blake of CNN. Legacy. It’s the part of us that lives in others once we’re gone. We can’t determine our inheritance—what we receive from our parents, culture, schools and churches. That gets laid in our laps whether we like it or not. Good or bad. But we can determine our legacy. Every one of us will pass something on; the key question is, Will it be primarily blessing or primarily destruction. Glory or Ruin. Here’s a story of an average guy who made that decision: Josh Ferrin’s hands trembled as he fumbled for the phone. He started pacing the floor. He was so giddy from joy that when his wife answered, he choked on his first words. “Tara,” he blurted, “you’re never going to believe this… ” Ferrin had just discovered $45,000 stashed in his new home. There’s a biblical parable about a man who found treasure hidden in a field. Ferrin found his in a dusty attic. For years, the author and illustrator had wondered what would happen if he struck it big. Would sudden wealth change him? Three years ago, Ferrin got his answer. His story began one Wednesday in May, when Ferrin was miserable. He was suffering from pneumonia and had been forced to take time off from his job as an artist at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. But things were looking up. He and his wife had just closed on their first house, and Ferrin decided to take a private tour after getting the keys. Ferrin moseyed back to the garage, where he noticed something odd: a scrap of carpet dangling from an opening in the ceiling. Grabbing a ladder, Ferrin tugged on the carpet and pulled back a celling panel leading to an attic. When he climbed into the attic, Ferrin saw eight World War II-era ammunition boxes. He delicately pried one open, dreading seeing a grenade. Instead what he saw blew his mind: wads of bills held together by orange fishing twine. He started counting — and kept counting until he eventually realized he had stumbled onto $45,000. He called his wife, already envisioning how they could use the cash: remodel their new house, repair their car, maybe even adopt. But her first response chilled those plans. She told him to call the family who previously owned the house. “I immediately knew she was right,” Ferrin said. “As much as I wanted to keep it, I couldn’t keep it. That just wouldn’t be right.” The previous owner was Arnold Bangerter, a biologist with the Utah fish and wildlife department and a father of six. His wife had died in 2005, and after Bangerter died in 2010 his children sold the house to the Ferrins. It turned out Bangerter had been squirreling away money for years; some of the bills dated back to the 1970s. Ferrin contacted Bangerter’s children and gave them all the money. Before he did, though, he had a little fun. He photographed his two boys, Lincoln, 10, and Oliver, 7, throwing piles of cash up in the air while he yelled it was raining money. Not everyone thought it was a laughing matter to give back so much cash. Some people told Ferrin he should have kept the money, that he had a legal right to it because he found it in his home. For Ferrin, something could be legal, but that didn’t make it ethical. How could he keep money intended for...Read More
Would I have acted as Joseph did? We’re so familiar with the Christmas story that it’s easy to overlook an essential part of that miracle- Joseph’s amazing response to confusing and embarrassing circumstances. To summarize, the key parts of the story as told in Matt.1: After his fiancée Mary becomes pregnant, Joseph’s first reaction is to avoid embarrassing her publicly. V. 19 Rather than accusing her, or raging at her apparent unfaithfulness, he decides to separate from her quietly. V. 19 When told by an angel that the child is from the Holy Spirit, he does exactly what the angel commanded, he took her home to be his wife. V. 24 Even then, he held off from sex with her until the baby was born. V. 25 I’m not certain that, if the same kind of circumstances happened to me, I would have responded as nobly as Joseph did. In fact, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have. Joseph was: Humble– he accepted the apparent unfaithfulness of his fiancée Loving– his response was to have her best interests in mind, even before he understood the whole story Trusting– he believed what the Lord led him to do, though it probably seemed unbelievably illogical Patient– he waited for understanding to sink in; he let the whole story unfold before jumping to conclusions We’re familiar with the rest of the Christmas miracle story. In celebrating Jesus’ birth let’s not lose site of the miraculous behavior of this man. When we face embarrassment, hurt or confusion, may we respond with the same qualities Joseph...Read More