My Son – A Graduate. Time Flies…

imageThis past weekend my son received his high school diploma.  13 years of school have come to a close, and we could not be more proud of his efforts.  Over the past 13 years, we have exposed him to three different education models, and he excelled in all of them.  The last two years he has been dual-enrolled in college at Cedarville University via on-line courses, and has done an amazing job there as well.  He will walk on campus as a sophomore this fall.

There are so many events in our lives that we want to remember.  Milestones exist so we can look back and see where we have been and how far we have come, and I have learned that those moments need to be recognized.  We need them as confirmation in our lives that we are moving forward – achieving goals.

I have been blessed to be in a small men’s group where I learned the importance of taking the time to recognize these moments and commemorate them with a tribute.  When we take the time to write something down from our hearts and give it to someone, it creates a lasting impression.  Those encouraging words will endure long past the moment and will be a touchpoint we can go back to when we are feeling the weight of the world.

Sitting on my desk is a framed copy of a letter I received from my mentor for my 40th birthday.  Aside from the words of encouragement I have receive from my Dad, it is probably the most prized collection of words I have received from any man on earth.  It has made an impression on my life because of the relationship that we have.  Men need to hear words like that and be reminded that they are doing good things – the right things.

So, it is with example from Lou that I put together this letter to my son on his graduation day.  I read it to him at the graduation ceremony, and there will be a framed copy of it for him to take to college this fall so he will be able to see that his Dad believes in him, is proud of him, and prays for him.

I hope that reading this will give you an encouragement to recognize those milestones with your family and close friends.  It may seem like it is only a letter as you write it, but I can tell you that when the relationship is there, the impact of a letter like this will last for years.  Take the time to do it.  It’s worth the effort.

Zachary,

I’ve wanted a son as long as I can remember, and I wanted that son to be just like me.  When you came into my life, I thought I was getting that gift, but your Mom and I got more than that.  We received a son that was a unique blend of the two of us.  Your physical and personality traits seem to morph and shift back and forth so often, but there is no doubt that you are ours.

One of the things I have learned as your Dad is that as much as I wanted a son to be like me, I am thankful that you are an individual, and I have been learning, albeit sometimes slower than either of us would like, to appreciate you as that individual.  You often hear that you are “just like your Dad”, but you and I know that there are a number of differences that make you an “individual”.

Your Mom and I are so proud of the young man you have become.  Our goal as parents has been to equip you to take on the trials of adulthood, to stand as a man of God in a world that needs men who know how to stand.  You have had opportunities to learn and grow in your faith, and have had to learn to lean on God during those times, and I am happy to see how you have developed.

You have made us very proud in your dedication to your studies, your love and devotion to your family and friends, and your desire to squeeze the fun out of life.  You are a thinker, a processor and yet still manage to be spontaneous.  A nice blend that has kept us on our toes.

Our dream is that you will be that man mentioned in Micah.  We have seen the beginnings of that man as you seek to do what is right, show God’s mercy and grace to those you relate with, and maintain a humility in your relationship with God.  We pray for those attributes to continue to grow as you enter the college campus this fall and begin the next steps toward what God will have you to do.

We have offered many prayers for you over the years, and today I want to offer this one more written by General Douglas MacArthur.  It is titled “A Father’s Prayer”, and I cannot think of words that would make it any more my prayer for you as your Dad.  Your Mom and I love you very much and will always be here for you when you need us.

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

—GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, “A FATHER’S PRAYER”

Be Relentless in your parenting. Build into the hearts of your kids and share with them how you feel about them.  They need it, and coincidentally, so do you!

Happy Birthday, Zach! I love you!

So, this morning I wake up and I am the father of a fifteen year old son. Amazing! I decided that I would give a tribute to my son, Zach as I did for his sister in January. Harder to come up with touching and sweet when you have a kid so much like yourself. This was his Facebook status this morning:

1660968_10202940390941805_14487435_nCannibal – (Noun) – Def: someone who is fed up with people

Yep. My kid! So, settle in if you want, but this is for my boy.

Zachary,

I can’t believe the years have flown by the way that they have. It seems like only a blink ago that you were a squirmy, smelly little thing scooting around the floor in the house. We could put you down and you would find all sorts of things to amuse yourself. Whether you were standing in the cupboard looking for a snack, rooting through the fridge looking for a snack, or digging in the couch cushions looking for a snack, you always had a smile on your face.

You used to give us heart attacks the way you would come down the stairs. So glad that we taught you to do it on your belly, but you could come down the stairs so fast it always made us think that we were going to find a maimed little boy at the bottom by the time we sprinted over there, but all we ever found was a smiling kid ready to climb back up and do it again.2014-05-29 06.32.46

I remember you wearing the colander on your head as you sat and watched Rolie Polie Olie and how you liked to run around the house with it while looking for a snack. I remember the early morning whispers at the side of my bed:

Zach: (Loudly whispered like only a kid can) Dad?
Me: (Grunting myself awake) Huh?
Zach: (Again in the loud whisper, but now three inches from my ear so his sleepy dad can understand him) Can I have a piece of cheese?
Me: Yes
(5 minutes later)
Zach: (Now with less whisper because well, why bother?) Dad?
Me: What?
Zach: Can I have a Gogurt?
Me: Yes, just go be quiet

2014-05-29 06.30.42I would get up a few minutes after that and go out to see you sitting in my recliner, usually with a bowl on your head while you watched TV. A few years later we gave that recliner away and when we were moving it I saw some plastic and when I pulled it out I found about 30-40 cheese wrappers stuffed into that chair along with a few gogurt wrappers. Glad you finally got that trash can thing down!

Before we knew it you were in school and we found out that you were a smart little fella! It has always been a treat to see your grades when they come back. Sometimes the work was very easy for you, but when it wasn’t, we would talk to you and you would always buckle down and give us your best, and you always saw a victory when you did that. I hope you never forget the lesson that God doesn’t ask us to be perfect, but He asks for our best.

Mom and I were so happy when you accepted Christ, and how even at a young age we started to see the change that comes from having Christ in your life. As you have grown I see more and more of that, and while you are not perfect (as your father’s son), you are growing, seeing the need for God, and I have been very happy to hear some of the questions that you ask. Don’t be afraid to ask, and never be afraid to dig deep into God’s Word for the real answers.2014-05-29 06.31.58

542431_3590688134928_605155567_nIt wasn’t very long after you were born that we began to see just how much like me you were going to be. I apologize for that. Seriously though, you got my sense of humor, your sarcasm, your ability to memorize things, some of my physical features, and the way that you think. I’m not sure why God made our brains work in such a similar fashion, but it really is something, and you know what I mean. Sorry that has made it easy for me to know what you are thinking more often than you would like!

You might be like me in a lot of ways, but I am so thankful that you are like your Mom too. Your musical skills are so definitely from her, and it is so neat to see how much you enjoy playing. I know it makes her heart swell with pride as she knows that is a bond that the two of you share. You also got her good looks, so again, you are welcome!

1390705_10202174021543049_2122419166_nI love watching you out on the soccer field, and even with all of the hassle of schedules, driving, and all of that, you know that when I get sat down in my chair at the edge of that field I am all in, and I am not only your biggest, but your loudest fan. Seeing your skills develop over the years has been awesome, and I can’t wait for another season. It is fun to see you play, and to remember how much I loved playing, but even better is sharing the love of the game with you.

Another thing that just fills my heart with pride is how you have stepped up as a leader in the youth group with the band. Not just to play, but to sing as well. Now you are even writing songs, and that is a blend of the gifts you got from me and Mom. You can’t even imagine how great it feels to watch you pick up your guitar and use the talents God gave you whether it is in the living room, the youth room, or by a camp fire. I love it!534754_4523631847337_1474451275_n

Zach, you are now 15. Hard to think that our time with you as a “kid” in our home is coming to a close. You are well on your way to becoming a young man. I expect over the next few years we will have some tense and tough moments together. Please remember that my goal is not to hold you back, but to strengthen you for what is to come. At times you might feel like I am keeping you from things, but in reality I am keeping harmful things from you. You might not want to talk to me about the things that I want to talk about, but they are necessary to help you think for yourself when I am not there. You might feel like you are all alone sometimes, but I am always there if you need me.

1004687_10201251091417799_255220507_nOver this next year I am going to challenge you. There are some things that I am going to ask you to do to help you develop some good and godly habits. There are some things that I am going to challenge you to do to develop some life skills. I am also going to do something else. I am asking a few men to take an interest in your life. They have agreed to reach out to you and to check in with you to see how you are doing. These men will ask you some tough questions from time to time, and I want you to feel free to answer them. I trust these men, and I trust them to speak truth to you and share their life perspectives with you in a way that gives you an opportunity to take that wisdom and apply it in your own life.

As your Dad, I have a responsibility given to me by God to raise you, teach you, discipline you, love you, protect you, correct you, cheer for you, rebuke you, comfort you, but most importantly, to prepare you for your life. We have had the discussion before that I am not supposed to be your friend right now. I have a weightier and more pressing role as your Dad, but I look forward to the day that I can just be your friend and a trusted advisor. I see that day is coming, and I get glimpses form time to time on how it is going to feel. I love it!

So, as your Dad, I want to give you a little advice right now. It has taken me most of my life to understand this point, but I think you might have a better handle on it than I did at your age, and I my prayer is that you will take this advice and use it as the foundation for your life:

Spend time in God’s Word

You are a Christian, and in this world that can end up being a confusing title at times. You will have people that question he things that you do in light of the fact that you are a Christian, but if you want to really understand what it means, what your identity in Christ really is, you have got to spend time in God’s Word.

It can be work to get in there some days and see what He has for you, but I promise you that you will always get something out of it if you go into it knowing that you need it. Hunger for it. Devour it. Memorize it. Make it a part of who you are. It is a shield against the things of this world that will pull you down. You can hold it up to the confusing issues of this world to see them for what they really are in light of its truth. You can rest in it, behind it, and under it when you feel tired and worn down by people, pressure, and pain. It pushes through the things that will try to tangle you up and make you fall. There is no greater advice I can give you as my son, but to seek God out in His Word regularly.

The second piece of advice is to be a leader. Don’t be afraid to stand up and do the hard thing when it is the right thing, and it usually is the hard thing. Take the principles you get from your time in the Word and use them to become a leader like Christ. Be a servant leader, willing to step out, but also willing to help others along. A leader cannot al2014-05-29 06.31.01ways be the man out front. If he is, he will eventually see that he is taking a walk by himself.

Zach, I love you, I am proud of you, and I want great things for you. God is going to use you for something big (until then, take this pill), and I cannot wait to see how you are going to use your life to bring Him glory.  Be committed to Relentless Growth in Christ!

Dad