A song by Joe South reflected my teenage disdain for those in power who seemed to not care a whit about the regular folk. I check the comments of Millenials today and I realize that not much, if anything, has changed since this song was recorded in the turbulent late 60’s.
“The Games People Play” was recorded by Joe South and here are the first two stanzas.
Oh the games people play now
Every night and every day now
Never meaning what they say now
Never saying what they mean
And they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they’re covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine
I have to admit that a bit of the anger and power of the protest was diminished with this hard-hitting chorus.
La-da da da da da da da
La-da da da da da de
Talking ’bout you and me
And the games people play
Hard to gin up a lot of “in your face” intensity and passion when you are singing “la-da-da-da-da-da-da”. My frustration with the hypocrisy I saw in my church was fueled by this lyric.
People walking up to you
Singing glory hallelulia
And they’re tryin to sock it to you
In the name of the Lord
We thought we could change the world by promoting love, hope and peace. I see the same anger directed at my generation (pretty much deserved) that we felt toward my parent’s. I read how this generation is going to change things by promoting love, hope and peace. Can you say full circle?
We thought that hope would be realized with a leader or a political party. We believed that change would come because of kindred politicians or better laws or courts that would establish justice as we saw it. We thought that the right leader would make sure that we educated every child no matter their circumstance. We hoped that this political savior would provide for the needs of every person at no cost to them. We were wrong by placing that hope on the government without putting responsibility on ourselves.
So many people are placing their hope for happiness on political candidates and parties. I do believe that leaders make a difference. I care deeply about making an informed and prayerful choice. But I never place my hope or desire for change on a politician. The word hope is used about 80 times in the New Testament. The first appearance of the word in the NIV translation pretty much lays out my belief.
“In his name (Jesus) the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21, NIV)
Paul wrote about the hope that I have in his letter to the Romans.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)
The second chorus of South’s tune has a real pearl of wisdom.
God grant me the serenity
To remember who I am
That is what I have learned since I was the frustrated and all-knowing young man hellbent on changing the establishment. I remember who I am. I am a follower of Jesus. A child of God. A servant who is humbled by His amazing grace.
I will be shocked if our leaders in Washington decide to work together for us and tone down the rhetoric. But I will not be surprised one bit if they do not. I have hope that is real. I have peace that transcends circumstance. Because of those truths I can deal with the rest of the news. I believe that no matter what happens in Washington in the coming months and years I am convinced that the following statement is true.
God is in control. And that is where my hope rests today.
Being a father is tough because we learn how to parent while on the job.
Ken Druck and James Simmons in The Secrets Men Keep discuss six major secrets men have. At the top of the list is that “men secretly yearn for their fathers love and approval.” This is often without their conscious knowledge that this yearning manifests itself in the drive that many males have to prove themselves. The authors say:
It may surprise us to know that the most powerful common denominator influencing men’s lives today is the relationship we had with our fathers …. Of the hundreds of men I have surveyed over the years, perhaps 90 percent admitted they still had strings leading back to their fathers. In other words, they are still looking to their fathers, even though their fathers may have been dead for years, for approval, acceptance, affection, and understanding.
These article is not about being a perfect dad. If it were, I would be completely unqualified to write it. I am simply seeking some ways to have a better chance to leave a positive legacy as an earthly father.
The first way to leave a good legacy is found in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (NIV, Ephesians 5:25)
The translation in The Message says this.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church–a love marked by giving, not getting.
The number one way to leave a great legacy for your children is very simple:
Love your wife.
Theodore M. Hesburgh wrote that the “most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”.
Your children watch how you treat their mother. They watch … and they are learning and forming their concept of marriage from you. You are creating a pattern, a blueprint for marriage with your children.
The second part of leaving a legacy that endures is to be an encouragement to your children. Paul wrote this simple instruction to the church at Colossae.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)
The Message translates this verse like this….
Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
I cannot remember hearing a lot of teaching on that verse over the years. It is really easy in this success mad culture to discourage your children. Nearly every dad wants his child to be successful. What is wrong with that desire? There is nothing wrong with that goal if we balance it with love, encouragement, and awareness of your child’s unique design. Sometimes we forget the journey we have traveled in our own lives. Frank Clark said that “a father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.” Ouch.
I am not talking about being a perfect father. These kids (and many of us) are simply looking for the affirmation and blessing of our earthly fathers.
When Scripture says that God is our Father, it is telling us that these needs can be met by Him. This is where our role as Christian dads becomes so important. There are no perfect earthly dads. But it is critical that we understand the impact that we have on our child’s relationship with God. Some may find it hard to get excited about the scriptural descriptions of God as a father because of the imperfect models of fatherhood they have experienced here on earth.
Some remember a father who was too wrapped up in his job, his buddies, and his hobbies to provide much support or affirmation. He might have been one of those men who believed that their only job was to bring home a paycheck, while Mom was responsible for everything else. Others might recall a dad that was demanding, cold, and unapproachable. Children can tend to transpose their father experience when they think of God as Father.
I have talked to many adult men who are still desperate for the approval of their fathers. And I know that is true for women as well. Jim Valvano, the now deceased coach, said “My father gave me the greatest gift that anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
The third way to leave a positive legacy as a dad is to simply be present and enjoy every mile of the journey as you model being a man to your children.
In his book, Being a Good Dad When You Didn’t Have One, Tim Wesemann gives his readers a two-word piece of advice: “Lighten up!” He says that adults laugh an average of 15 times a day while children laugh 400 times. “Sometime between childhood and adulthood, we lose 385 laughs a day! That’s a great loss!” Wesemann says. “Maybe we need not only the faith of a child but the funny bone of one as well.”
I agree. One of my favorite moments happened on a family trip. Brett is several years younger than his siblings. I was addressing his older brothers’ behavior when I snapped at the boys and said in my best dad voice, “You are acting like children.” Brett was only five, and he thought I was including him in the accusation. He pondered the comment and then said, “But I am a children.” The laughter from the backseat derailed my dad authority and it definitely lightened the moment. The family that can laugh together has a huge advantage in the journey.
The Psalmist wrote these words: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Sometimes it is hard to remember what a blessing those little ones are when they are throwing down a tantrum at Target. I encourage parents to enjoy every phase of their children’s journey. And I learned that what your children take away as favorite memories may be surprising. One of the questions I asked my sons was their favorite memories of time with me. I expected that they would remember the big trips we took together or some expensive outing. I was humbled by their responses.
Firstborn son Matt: “My favorite memories are throwing the baseball/football in the front yard of our Pecan Valley house, going to baseball games and growing up around sports.”
Second born son Scott: “Playing catch in the backyard for hours on end, even when your knees hurt. Going to cut down Christmas Trees every November and stopping at the Dairy Queen on the way home.”
Youngest son Brett: “You coaching my sports teams and going to cut down the Christmas tree.”
It was the little things that counted for them. The memories that really mattered to them were things that cost me only time. Each one of the boys felt valued when they felt I had sacrificed or made a special effort to spend time with them. I thought the big things mattered the most but I was wrong.
Model what you are teaching. Here is a powerful quote from Clarence Budington Kelland: “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.” Wow. I have seen that prove out in my own life. I can tell you exactly what my father modeled for me, but I would have a hard time remembering any of his lectures. I believe that is an overlooked component of the wisdom expressed in Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” That training should include being a role model and then the verbal training will sink in. Being an authentic role model makes the message effective.
You are a role model for your children, like it or not. Your children will, to one degree or another, model their lives after you. You most likely have inherited some of your father’s characteristics and your children are inheriting some of yours. These are three principles that will give you a much better chance to leave a positive legacy as a dad.
- Love Your Wife
- Affirm You Children
- Be present and enjoy each moment
What if we are stubbing our toes on the sacred every day and not realizing it?
That is one of the taglines promoting my book Waking Up Slowly. The book proclaims that we are the most connected culture in history but arguably the most disconnected from the awareness of God’s presence. I examine twenty-one different attitudes and actions that cause me to miss the sacred moments that I believe can be found in every day.
But like the believers of the early church at Galatia I have an amazing ability to forget what I have learned (and written). Paul could have addressed this to me in recent weeks.
You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for He is the one who called you to freedom. (Galatians 5:7-8, NLT)
I run along smoothly for a day. Sometimes two. Then I forget who I am. Not my actual name. I generally can recall that. I forget who I am in Christ. I forget that God has my back and my future. I fret about nothing. The answer to Paul’s question about who has held me back from the truth is simple and convicting. That would be me.
And then I get a postcard from God in the most unexpected way.
During our annual beach trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama I was wading in the Gulf with daughter-in-law Holly and almost two-year-old Madeline. Nestled in her Mom’s arms she giggled when the waves crashed around her. Suddenly we heard this frightening bombshell from Madeline.
Her beloved pacifier had fallen into the Gulf. Parents and Grandparents know this moment of abject panic and Madeline was predictably unhappy. I began frantically searching for it but Holly assured me there was a backup and a backup to the backup at the house.
I decided to go to edge of the surf anyway and see if it might wash ashore. Nothing. A few minutes went by and I gave up the search. I walked a few yards down the beach and explained the story to our neighbors.
“If you happen to see a pacifier wash up on the beach you can be the hero of the week! We are in the yellow house over there.”
They laughed and we chatted a bit more. I started to leave with this line.
“If Jonah’s whale spits up the pacifier let us know.”
As I turned to rejoin the family I looked down. To my sheer amazement I saw this incredible sight two feet from my two feet.
I am not proud of my reaction.
“I think that is her pacifier,” I said knowingly as if pacifiers routinely roll in with the tide and I had to double check to make sure this one was hers. The couple was amazed. A young man in his twenties had been listening to the exchange and he responded with the most honesty.
“How the H*** did that happen?”
I just laughed. I had an idea that God had just sent a postcard to his forgetful child in the most playful way. I had written from Psalm 139 that God knows everything about me. That He is everywhere I am. And that God ordains everything about me.
What are the odds of a pacifier depositing itself two feet from me on the beach several minutes after it went in the drink? By the way, the current was very strong that day. I know it is possible. I know that some will write it off to coincidence. I am choosing to believe that a loving Father decided to have some fun with His child. The God who created the Heavens and earth can no doubt direct a little piece of plastic to a predestined destination. I don’t mean to compare my little water miracle to the deliverance of the children of Israel but I can proclaim His greatness.
“Who is like you among the gods, O Lord—
glorious in holiness,
awesome in splendor,
performing great wonders? (Exodus 15, NLT)
You should have seen the look on Holly’s face when I returned with the treasure. Even better was the joy on Madeline’s countenance. She may not get the theology yet but she sure understands gratitude.
Call it luck if you wish. I call it something else. A postcard from God.
(I wanted to share a little excerpt from Waking Up Slowly. I hope you enjoy it!)
I have everything I need as a follower of Christ to be content. Yet I wander looking for something new or the latest trend in the church. What I was looking for in every book, program, study, and event was the sweet Gospel of unconditional love, unmerited forgiveness, and complete acceptance. I was looking for grace. This line from poet Nancy Spiegelberg may be the most indicting summary of my misunderstanding of grace for decades.
Lord I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better I’d have come running with a bucket.
I wish that everyone who hears the gospel message would comprehend the love that God demonstrates to everyone who will receive that love. Instead of turning His back on sinners who deserved just that, God chose to reach out to you and me with a radical plan for forgiveness. A plan that is unlike any other religion in history. Manmade religion always demands something to earn salvation. God’s plan of redemption requires the lost to bring nothing to the table other than sin and need. Nothing. Any other presentation of the sweet gospel of Jesus Christ is a lie.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Not a single requirement other than believing. A gift of grace. Grace that is so vast and inexhaustible that no sin or sinner can exceed the scope of this amazing grace to cover their sin and offer redemption. I coined an acronym for grace that only partially captures the enormity of God’s love.
God’s Radical And Complete Embrace.
God radically offers complete forgiveness embraces me as His child. That is exactly the picture that Scripture paints in the story of the Prodigal Son. The son rebelled, sinned, and suffered the horrible consequences of his actions. The son realized his sin and in humble desperation decides to throw himself on the mercy of his father, believing he had lost all his privileges of being a son.
But nothing had changed for his father. It reads like a Hollywood story of tear-jerking redemption. A child who is lost and hopeless. A father who never quits believing in and loving his son. The son trudging toward an uncertain homecoming with eyes downcast. Hearing a commotion down the path that sounds like distant shouts of joy. Is it a party at the home that was once his? Then the sound of sandals pounding on dirt causes the lost son to look up. What he saw was one of the most remarkable grace stories in history.
And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
The father placed the finest robe on his wayward son, most probably his own. The robe that was worn on the most special of occasions. The custom would have been for the son to bathe, don clean clothes, and then put on the robe. But in a stunning gesture of compassion, the father placed his robe over his son’s filthy garments. What a gift of unconditional acceptance. Brokenness and all hope of self-salvation stripped away. We all fall on grace when we are completely honest with our hearts.
The story is the same today. The Father ran to forgive me when I acknowledged my sin and need. While I was still dirty and clothed in filthy garments I was forgiven, accepted, justified, and wrapped in the robe of righteousness. I was no longer condemned. Satan would have me forget that the robe of righteousness is wrapped lovingly around me. The author of lies reminds me (constantly) that I still wear dirty clothing. He suggests that I don’t deserve to wear the robe until I clean myself up. That is the power of this story. The robe of righteousness is never earned. It is a gift of grace. On my worst day the Father wraps me up in this precious garment because of His Son Jesus.
How differently I would live if I remembered that truth every day. I am a saint. I am wrapped in the robe of righteousness. I am a new creature who is forgiven, accepted, and wrapped in this incomprehensible gift of grace. Even in my failure Jesus loves me anyway and just as much.
Life gives me sadness, loss, and loneliness, but when I trust Jesus I have hope in the darkest storm. It is hard to live in a community of grace. Legalism is so much easier than grace because it allows me to assess the situation and apply a verse or assign a task. If that person rejects that biblical admonition or task, then legalism allows me to withdraw because he or she is disobedient. Grace does not give me that option. Grace demands that I move toward the struggle of my brother or sister and not away in judgment. No wonder grace is a tough sell!
Grace wears me out and lifts me up. Grace is frustrating and exhilarating. My old nature screams that people who make bad decisions over and over get what they “deserve.” They don’t “deserve” to be pursued and loved and restored. They made their bed—now let them lie in it. But there is a small quiet voice in my heart that tells me that they have value. That they are loved by their Creator. And that voice asks who am I to decide who “deserves” anything?
Would you open the outrageous gift of grace and accept it as a mind blowing outpouring of love from a Father who delights in you? Whenever you feel sad, unworthy, stressed, angry, frustrated, or unloved, return to that open gift of inexhaustible grace. And bring a bucket this time.
Taken from Waking Up Slowly by Dave Burchett copyright © 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.