Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Be the Dad

Being a father is hard work, especially as our children face unprecedented trials and temptations. Today's children have access to more information than any other generation in the history of the world. Today's children face an uncertain economic future loaded with escalating financial burdens for education, taxes, healthcare and a rising cost of living. Today's children live in a world where the church is deemed unimportant, irrelevant and intrusive. It is hard to parent as we were parented, for we are living in a new world.

Recently, Universal Music Group vice president and father of three, Tom Sturges, who recently penned the book, Grow the Tree You Got & 99 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Adolescents and Teenagers, shared a few of his golden rules for staying close to your kids in Spirit magazine:

Embrace Kindness. "Be nice every chance you get," says Sturges, whose own father, the legendary film director Preston Sturges, died when Tom was just a boy. "Even if your child did something that disappointed you, or he's in the middle of studying, walk in and give him a hug."

Keep It Down. "You're going to get upset with your children. But when you do, whisper rather than yell. I always try to show the greatest respect in everything I do, and by whispering when I'm upset, I believe I underscore how much I do, in fact, respect my child."

Build Seven Bridges. "Parents need to have more than one route into their child's life. You can't leave it at 'because we live together we're close.' Strive to build at least seven bridges into your son or daughter's world. Maybe that's a team you root for together, a hobby you both enjoy, or a spiritual element you share."

Let Them Be Beautiful. "However your children feel beautiful, let them be. If your son wants to grow his hair past his collar, say, 'OK.' If your daughter wants to wear camo, let her choose her beauty. It's the parents' job to help their child figure out the person she's meant to be, and then help her become that person."

I would offer one more suggestion to his list:

Build a solid foundation. Read the Bible to your child, Talk about the personal, significant parts of the Bible, share how faith is important to you and pray for your children -- and with them -- aloud.

Much of being a dad is being there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


With the majority of the country under an Excessive Heat Warning, Red Flag Warning or hazardous weather outlook it will be ridiculously hot in the days ahead. This week's severe heat wave will likely set new records in the burn zone as daytime temps in more than 40 states are expected to crest the mid-90s -- or higher! Once the humidity is factored in, it will feel like it's somewhere between 105 and 110 degrees out there. Hello summer!

Weather extremes have been the unfortunate norm lately: record winter snowfalls, severe spring rainstorms, floods and tornado warnings have now given way to scorching heat. The damage to crops, real estate and the economy is brutal, but it pales when compared to the loss of life inflicted by these events. Adding to death tolls from this winter's and spring's weather events, it's expected at least 200 more people will perish on account of this summer's oppressive heat. Both the elderly and the very young face increased risk this time of year. And what's more tragic -- and more avoidable -- than the death of a child left alone in a car while his or her responsible party runs an errand?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "a locked car sitting in the summer sun quickly turns into an oven, with temperatures climbing from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes and to 125 degrees in 6-8 minutes." Children's body temperatures warm at a rate three to five times faster than an adult's, and it only takes a core body temperature of 107 degrees to prove deadly. A young child can perish in a very short time locked in a hot car. And that goes for pets too.

Men, weather warnings and heat-index ratings are given to protect life and minimize injuries. There have been so many warnings this past year we might be starting to downplay or even ignore their severity. We do so at our peril. In this world where alarms of all sorts are increasingly common, be sure to stay sharp to the realities of a blistering summer sun and the suffocating heat that can build up inside a car in only a few minutes -- even with the windows cracked.

Men, I cannot imagine what it would be like to cause the death of a child who has been left to suffer in a hot car. I would not want anybody to endure that loss. Think about the life of that kid who's riding with you. Probably the last thing on his or her mind is their personal safety.

For that, they're counting on you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

All Stars

Thousands of fans from around the world will descend on Chase Field in Arizona tonight to watch the 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star game between the best of the best from the National and the American League team rosters. With the National League holding a slight advantage in wins (40-38, with 2 ties and no game played in 1945), the boys from the American League will look to better their record, while the National League sluggers will go for the win and increase their margin. It promises to be a fun, good-natured rivalry and a chance to see the best players showcase their talents. It's also a time we can pause and remind ourselves there just might be a few heroes left in the world for kids to look up to.

Down through the years young boys have shared one common dream -- to be just like their favorite baseball player, hitting home runs, striking out powerful sluggers, stealing bases and snagging fly balls to the wild cheers of the crowd. Pitchers and fleet-footed runners are exciting, but the homer brings the fans to their feet. The names may have changed through the years: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols, but the long-ball hitters are the guys boys want to be like.

But alas, summer does not last forever. Once the leaves begin to fall and the air starts to chill the boys of summer start to fade. Though kids may still tack up posters, trade baseball cards and re-hash the season just past, they'll have to wait months before they're outside again throwing sliders, catching grounders, and hitting home runs. As they wait for next spring's green grass, they can lose sight of the traits their hero passes on: hard work, dedication, loyalty, teamwork and commitment.

It's not just MLB players that have those traits: dads, step-dads, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, brothers-in-law and others go quietly about their day demonstrating hard work, dedication, loyalty, teamwork and commitment. They may not be batting .375, have an ERA of 1.2 or have a Gold Glove Award. Still -- and more importantly -- they step up to the plate every day serving their families and doing what it takes to make a positive contribution. They don't work for headlines, trophies, titles or endorsements; they labor for the good of their communities, their churches, their employers and, most of all, their home teams.

These guys are the real All-Stars, and we salute you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Road Less Travelled

When I was a freshman in high school my Dad came into my room one evening and asked if he could talk with me. He shared a little from his life in high school, you know, what it was like "back in the day." He spoke about his favorite subject, his teachers and his dates. We reminisced for awhile, and then he delivered some lines of poetry he learned in his high school class. It was a poem by Robert Frost. You may have read it yourself. It's called "The Road Not Taken."

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

My Dad hesitated on the last stanza. I thought he had forgotten the words, but he spoke them loud and clear. He paused and then recalled some of the roads less traveled he had trod in his own life.

He then asked something of me that to this day strikes me as profound. He wanted me to remember the road less traveled -- though it may appear hard and lonely -- is one that charts new territory and moves to the beat of a different drummer. And while it may appear to wind away from the crowds and the familiar, it is -- for that reason -- traveled in honesty and guided by one's own compass.

Over the years I have gratefully remembered that night and, because of it, often taken the road less traveled. And while there may have been an easier passage, there was none truer.

I pray each dad will share with his children that the road best taken might just be the road less traveled.