Dear Dads, Please Stay

Growing up in the 80’s MTV used to be music videos all day long. I have always had a fascination with music videos. I could watch them for hours the combination of music and story is utterly compelling to me. I haven’t watched that many recently but yesterday I stumbled upon Coldplay’s newest music video. I was sitting in the Airport in Dallas I nearly missed my flight home because the video was so emotionally compelling. It’s a single called Daddy from their forthcoming album and is probably the most moving music video I have ever seen.

The music video is shot in a stop-motion cartoon style and tells the story of a small girl whose dad has left her. It is utterly heartbreaking. I scrolled through the comments and wept because the song hits a nerve we don’t address often enough. Fatherlessness.

Fatherlessness is an epidemic in our country we often don’t have the courage to discuss. Gun control is more politically satisfying yet every mass shooter with only one or two exceptions grew up without a dad. The chances of kids dealing with depression, anxiety, and mental illness skyrockets when dad isn’t there. We ignore it because it is too pervasive too painful, and we feel powerless to change it.

In two decades of pastoral ministry to kids and families, there are few things more painful I have had to do than to sit in a living room with a mom and her kids and tell them their dad is never coming home. The pain in their eyes is beyond description. The wake that event created in the lives of those kids is so pervasive that everything is marked by it.

Divorce is a painful reality that is often thrust upon women by men who leave. Dads who think they deserve something better than what life has given them. Divorce in scripture is not an unpardonable sin. It is, however, something that should be entered into rarely and after every path to reconciliation has been exhausted.

One of the biggest lies people believe is that kids are better off with parents divorcing rather than fighting. This is a lie adults tell themselves to make themselves feel better. Every kid I have ever talked to from divorced families cry themselves to sleep at night praying their dad will come home. No dad is always worse than an angry distant dad. If you are a dad who is divorced fight to be there for your kids. I know you want to move on but don’t leave your kids.

Dads hold your kids close. Put down your phone. Show up when they don’t ask you to be there. If they ask you to be there make sure you do your best to be present. Love your kids enough to show them a love that isn’t perfect but a love that perseveres a love that is faithful because God in Christ loved you when you were unfaithful. Model to your kids the love God has for them by imperfectly loving them the best you can and at the same time point them to a perfect father who is never far away. The gospel doesn’t demand perfection it models it and provides forgiveness. Something every dad needs to hear.

Dads the cards are stacked against you in many ways. I beg of you please stay. Please stay. Pray that God will help you to be faithful when you feel like running. When everything in your head is screaming run. Stay.

Family Devotion Resources

Here are the resources that I recommend that will help parents be more intentional about family worship and raising their kids to love and trust Jesus.

Family Worship Bible Guide

Leading and nurturing your family as you seek to glorify God and encourage spiritual growth in your home is both God’s command and your privilege. One of the best and most effective ways to do this is through intentional, worshipful, daily family devotions where the truths of God’s life-changing Word are openly discussed chapter by chapter. Hand in hand with your Bible, this Family Worship Bible Guide presents rich devotional thoughts on all 1,189 chapters in the Bible, including searching questions to promote conversation, to help you with this responsibility. Use this resource every day alongside Scripture to read each chapter’s major takeaways aloud and then discuss them with your family. With the Holy Spirit’s blessing, this book will transform you and your family!

THIS BOOK IS COMPRISED OF FAMILY WORSHIP THOUGHTS EXTRACTED FROM THE REFORMATION HERITAGE STUDY BIBLE.

 

New City Catechism Devotional

In centuries past, the church used catechisms to teach foundational Christian doctrines. In today’s world of shifting beliefs, this communal practice of learning biblical truth via questions and answers is more needed than ever before.

Seeking to restore this ancient method of teaching to the regular life of the church, The New City Catechism Devotional is a gospel-centered, modern-day resource that not only summarizes important Christian beliefs through fifty-two questions and answers but also helps readers be transformed by those doctrines.

Each question features a relevant Scripture reading, a short prayer, and a devotional commentary written by contemporary pastors (including John Piper, Timothy Keller, and Kevin DeYoung) and historical figures (such as Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and many others). Designed for use in a variety of contexts, The New City Catechism Devotional is a valuable resource for helping believers learn and meditate on the doctrines that stand at the heart of the Christian faith.

 

First Step Next Step Cards

Parents need easy first steps and clear next steps. They are busy the world is noisy so it is our job as those who pastor families to not add to the noise but bring clarity in the midst of the storm. One of the things that always amazes me about the story of Jesus asleep on the boat in the middle of the storm was he didn’t wake up and tell the disciples how to sail better He woke up and spoke to the storm. It can be very easy and very tempting for us as pastors to tell parents how to sail better and more effectively when really they need God to speak to their storm. Peace, be still. One way we can do that is to have easy first steps and clear next steps. This is something I am excited about working on for the families in our church.

Here are some of the questions that create storms in families that we are going to try to create simplicity and clarity around.

  1. How do I talk to my kids about sex?
  2. What is the gospel?
  3. Why do bad things happen?
  4. How do I do devotions with my family?
  5. What is a Catechism?
  6. Why do kids need systematic theology?
  7. What Bible should my kids read?
  8. What devotion books should we use?

Parents want to do the right next thing but don’t know what to do. We can’t force them to want to know what to do but we can be prepared for when parents reach out. Have a plan for a simple first step and a clear next step.

 

 

 

Are You A Protective Parent or A Pro-active Parent

How to shape the loves your child's life.

Most parents have a built-in instinct be protective of their kids. This is God-given and important. But like all good things, it can be excessively adhered to, in modern American life, I believe this is true. There are more products than ever protecting kids from putting things in electric sockets from bumping their heads on coffee tables, to the locking the cabinet doors the contain unsafe itemes.  In our right desire for protection, we have become obsessed with physical wellbeing to the neglect of the inward life of our children. The reality is that most formative thing that impacts our kids is not the physical dangers from without but the formation within them of the things they love most.

Mom I’m Bored…..

What Boredom Teaches Us

Andy Crouch

One of the things I am grateful for in our world today is the attention given to the loving nurture and care of children. We see more and more products being made, articles being written, and churches being built, with children in mind. We see mom’s and dad’s more intention than ever about the physical and social wellbeing of their children. These are all good things. When our kids have a need we not only try to meet it we anticipate it and try to meet that need before they ask. So when our kids say they are bored it is not a warning sign in them it is a perceived deficiency in us. We didn’t anticipate the downtime they would experience and bring the devices or tools to occupy their minds to keep them from being bored. This wasn’t always the case I grew up in the Jurassic period before cell phones, cable and video game systems. We got bored… a lot.

Andy Crouch has written an excellent new book that discusses the joy of boredom in the world of anti-boredom devices. His new book The Tech-Wise Family is a must buy for every family that struggles with screen time and bored children (so basically everyone). Andy says that:

The technology that promises to release us from boredom is actually making it worse— making us more prone to seek empty distractions than we have ever been. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more you entertain children, the more bored they will get.

This rubs against the very grain of what we have been taught and indoctrinated within the past 20 years, yet rings strangely true for those us old enough to remember what it was like in the “Old Days”. We have an unspoken rule of thumb in our family. If our kids don’t say “I’m Bored” often something is wrong. We start assessing our schedules, we evaluate screen time. Boredom is a warning sign and is actually the beginning to doing something meaningful rather than achieving the next level in a game that doesn’t matter.

Boredom is actually a crucial warning sign— as important in its own way as physical pain. It’s a sign that our capacity for wonder and delight, contemplation and attention, real play and fruitful work, has been dangerously depleted…. We now have the technology to be perpetually distracted from boredom, and thus we never realize how bored we really are.

Andy Crouch

Dear Pastor: Stay Where You Are.

The power of staying where you are in a transient world.

The blog post is part of a two others. My friends Kenny Connely and Carey Nieuwhof both wrote blog posts today around this idea. I wrote about the importance of staying, Kenny is talking how to leave well and Carey is addressing when you should stay and when you should leave. This is a conversation that needs to be had because of the ramifications it has on the local church. I hope you find each of our posts helpful, encouraging and challenging.

We live in a transient culture. The US Census Bureau found in 2007 the average person moves 11.7 times in their lifetime. Growing up in the home of a Bio-Vocational Pastor I moved a bit more than that, leaving your home and your network of friends to start over is not easy it takes courage. I have now lived in the same town and worked at the same church for 19 years and I can tell you staying takes as much courage as moving.

One of the things I missed by moving so often as a kid was seeing people get older. I always saw everyone in one stage of life. We moved every 3-5 years I saw people in snapshots of their lives. I didn’t attend my first funeral until I was 19 years old. I was never around long enough to either see people suffer or know them well enough to know they were suffering. When you have walked through life long enough with friends to both teach them in kids church, watch them get married and then dedicate their babies the relationships are deep. The beauty and the pain of deep relationships is that the further deep the relationship goes the more painful and bittersweet the sorrows of life become. Some would say why invite pain and sorrow into your life? But it’s not that way. Pain and sorrow need no invitation they visit each life those and those who know you see. I have found that more than any conference I have attended or speaking invitation I have accepted what has changed my life most is holding the hand and praying for a dear friend in the last moments of their life. To care for people deeply enough, to allow them in, to walk through life with them and to watch them as Paul says “Be swallowed by everlasting life” is an honor and a privilege. Two weeks ago I held the hand of a dear saint the night before she passed. I told her the beauty of the Christian hope is we never have to say goodbye only see you later. She gave me a hug and told me to keep taking care of the church. I hugged her goodbye, and she looked at me and said: “See you later.” What they don’t tell you in Seminary, in books, and on blogs, it’s moments like that when you see the grace of God in the face of old friends you realize the pain of the courage to stay is worth it.