Day 99: Brightly Beams

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Brightly beams our Father’s mercy

From his lighthouse evermore,

But to us he gives the keeping

Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning;

Send a gleam across the wave.

Some poor fainting, struggling seaman

You may rescue, you may save.

This is the text of a hymn I’ve always liked, because of its beautiful message. The way I look at it, there are two ways you can see the words. The first way is that our Father in Heaven is the lighthouse, the great light that points people toward the shore. We, as his children, can be the lower lights. These are the lights that are closer to the actual outline of the boundary between land and sea so the ships do not crash on their journey. Our lights are not nearly as bright as our Heavenly Father’s, but they are similar in nature and they’re both essential to guide others home from the stormy seas into the safe harbor.

On the other hand, we can also see this in our own families. As parents, we can be a lighthouse and our children the lower lights. Together, we can help and serve others as mother and father set the example and the children pitch in, in their way.

One way that we did this in my family occurred around Christmas time. We all pitched in, making homemade treats and bread and wrapping them carefully on plates. We would go to our friends, but also to those we knew we needed special boost because they were experiencing hard times. We would deliver the bread and treats and sing to them on their doorsteps, letting them know that we care for them. The entire family was united in an effort to serve others and I think that this is the best way to make it happen.

Day 92: Children are an Heritage of the Lord

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Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

-Psalms 127:3

It is sometimes difficult for me to turn on the news these days. When I do so, I see stories about children who’ve been harmed, neglected, or even killed. It saddens me deeply that some people are choosing to not let their children be born at all.

One of my own children is from a group of people that many choose to abort. If we had found out about his Down Syndrome before he was born, however, we would not have even considered it.

We see our son for what he is: a treasure, a gift and a heritage from the Lord. We have had many difficulties raising him and he has had some medical problems, but I feel we’ve been strengthened and blessed in order to deal with these. The sweet and loving spirit that he brings to our home far outweighs any trouble we have to go to care for him.

Every child, no matter his or her circumstances deserves to be loved and treasured for the heritage they are.

Day 85: Thy Will Be Done

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Sometimes our fathers ask difficult things of us. However, the task that our Heavenly Father asked his Son to accomplish was greater than them all. Atoning for the weight of the sins of mankind is simply something that we can’t imagine.

It’s too much to comprehend and it was difficult to face, even for Christ. But he prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before his crucifixion, he prayed “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Here he humbly asks his father if there is an alternative, but recognizes that He is not the one in charge. He understands his place and his relationship between Him and his Father. This means that when faced with a monumental task, Jesus submitted his will to His Father. This was surely a decision made out of love and respect for his Father. Jesus surely knew that this would be agonizing ordeal, and still obeyed his Father’s will.

This is a great example to us in the roles of fathers and sons. As fathers, we really do need to find what is best for children, to be wise and see the big picture. We need to have a loving relationship and the respect from our children so that when we ask them to do hard things, they will listen and obey even though they may not want to.

As sons can teach us how we are to love and respect our fathers and to humbly submit that to their righteous requests.

Question: What can I do to teach my children to love and respect my will when it is righteous?

Day 71: A Fatherly Lesson in Forgiveness

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If you’re human, then the following lesson probably applies to you. I know that does to me. We all do things that we regret. We all face moments when we must ask forgiveness of others. Chances are, you’re like the rest of us and are not yet a perfect father. There will be many times we need to ask forgiveness of your children for your shortcomings, and likely there will be many times when your children should apologize to you.

I was fortunate to have a forgiving father who taught me the value of forgiving even when you don’t feel like it. The person asking forgiveness doesn’t always necessarily deserve it, but you always deserve the peace that comes from granting another person forgiveness who has wronged you.

My dad introduced a powerful lesson about forgiveness on the family night we had long ago. He filled a clear measuring cup that held about 2 cups of water to the brim. He then applied several drops of dark red food coloring. We watched in fascination as tendrils of colors snaked through the water, eventually turning the entire contents red. “This is what happens when you do something wrong. It may seem like this water that is never going to be all right again. Do you think that there is any way that we could turn this water clear again?”

We all shook our heads. Obviously, the food coloring had spread throughout the whole glass of water and this was something that couldn’t be undone.

My father then took a small glass which contained bleach. He poured it little by little into the red stained water. Slowly, the color in the water lightened and then, to our astonishment, disappeared altogether.

The water returned to its clear state with no indication of the deep red dye that had permeated it. “This is the power of repentance and forgiveness,” he said. He likened it to a scripture from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. “Through your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18, King James Version). This seems an appropriate passage for what we had just witnessed.

Red, crimson, scarlet. These are no easy things to make go away. Anyone who’s ever gotten a drop of blood on his clothing knows what that’s like. Ultimately, what my father taught me was that it was our duty to forgive others so that we might be forgiven by each other and by our Heavenly Father. That is a lesson I hope to instill as powerfully in my own children.

Day 64: A Good Man’s Inheritance

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A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.

Proverbs 13:22 ESV

When you speak about inheritance, most people think of the worldly wealth or property that we will leave behind to our heirs when we die. While this scripture certainly could be applied to being a wise steward of your wealth, I believe it has a deeper meaning.

Fathers leave much more to their children than money. I know I have gotten many of my attitudes about life, my habits, my mannerisms, even some of the phrases I often use from my father.  I’m grateful for these, as my father set a good example, one that I’d be glad to pass on to my children. The reverse can also be true, however. Bad habits and behaviors can also be passed down, not just to your children, but to generations thereafter.

My father was a pilot who traveled the world, and from a young age, he instilled me with a love far off things and places. His stories sparked by young imagination, cultivating a love for reading and writing. Today, I enjoy and supplement my living from writing, and hope to pass that on to my children.

Question: What kind of inheritance am I leaving for my children? Is it the kind of inheritance I want to leave them?

Day 57: Encouraging Your Children

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Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Colossians 3:21 ESV

As adults, it is sometimes hard to remember how frustrating it could be to be a kid.  It is hard to remember how your mind worked as a child, and from an adult perspective, children’s decisions can seem incomprehensible.

Hounding your child and putting them down for their mistakes, even though they may seem foolish is counterproductive. The world will inevitably put them down as they grow up. People at work, at school, and other places will tell them that they are not good enough or that they don’t belong. As a father, yours should be a voice of encouragement that helps guide them through mistakes in a way that keeps their self esteem and their motivation intact.

Teaching me to drive must have seemed like a near-death experience for my father. Especially at the beginning, I just wasn’t catching on, and in one infamous incident, mistook the gas pedal for the brakes and nearly rammed into an oncoming car. Instead of berating me for my dangerous mistake, my father reassured me and didn’t give up on me. I’m happy to say that I have a clean driving record to this day.

Question: What can I do to be encouraging to my children?

Day 43: The Benevolent Blacksmith

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Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 13:24 ESV

This verse is not so much about what method of discipline to use, and is certainly not saying that we should physically strike or abuse our children. It does highlight the fact that righteous discipline is not an act of hate, but of love. God, our Father in Heaven, disciplines us not to destroy us, but to temper and refine us.

A blacksmith takes a raw hunk of metal and turns it into something useful, a tool, a weapon, or even a horseshoe. Turning the metal from its native state into something useful, however, requires a great amount of heat and many strong strokes from the blacksmith’s hammer to shape it. The impurities are burned away and what was hard and unyielding becomes pliable so that it can be reshaped.  The blacksmith does not despise the metal he is trying to shape, and only subjects it to these conditions in order to improve it.

In the same way, our Father in Heaven puts us through the heat of trials and the hammer blows of corrections to mold us into something better than we could ever hope to be on our own.

Question: In what way does righteous discipline help shape people’s lives? How can you make sure you are disciplining your children in the right way?

Day 36: Reigning In Anger

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Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4 ESV

Children can be frustrating. I know when I walk out in the living room and my son has dumped an entire box of Cheerios on the carpet and is shoving them in his mouth by the handful, I have to bite my tongue.  Also, I think it should be illegal to own permanent markers and have children under eight in the same household. That would probably improve the mental health of parents everywhere.

In all seriousness, it is necessary to discipline our children as our Father in Heaven disciplines us—not out of anger, but out of love and a genuine interest in our well-being and growth.  Yelling may provide a temporary release, but it also provokes our children and can lead to remorse and hard feelings, especially when carried out over time.

There are many alternatives to yelling, all that can be done in what my children’s teachers refer to as our “inside voices”.  Whatever your discipline plan is, make sure your children know it and that it is consistent.

  1. Withhold privileges.
  2. Enforce a time out.
  3. Expect them to apologize, make it better, and provide extra service to the person they have wronged.

Question: What are some ways you can discipline your children without yelling at them? What haven’t you tried yet, and how could you implement it?

Day 29: Footprints in the Snow

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The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!

Proverbs 20:7 ESV

Your actions, whether you like it or not, will affect those who come after you, most specifically, your children. Like leading a group of children across a field deep with snow, those following behind you are most likely to step in the large footprints that you leave behind. Make sure you are leading them in the right direction.

Someday, many of them will be parents too, free to place some footprints of their own.

Question: What direction am I leading my children through example? Is there anything about the example I’m setting that I’d like to change?

Day 22: It Worked for Martin

“Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.”
― Martin Luther

Now, of course, I don’t know him personally, but Martin Luther seems like he must have been a great dad!  His advice, those hundreds of years old, is still great for day: fatherhood is about service.  Not only that, but “father” is a title that even God keeps for himself. He provides for us in small and great ways every day, serving His many children however they each need help.

There are those who might say that some aspects of fatherhood, changing diapers included, aren’t “manly”. Those who do this forget what they are actually mocking: godly service, doing things for others that they simply can’t do for themselves. I don’t think there’s anything more “manly” than that.