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Read A Sample
This is not a typical devotional. Sorry to disappoint.
I set out to be all serious and preachy, but I just couldn’t do it. All the dads I know already have enough stuff in their lives clawing for their attention. I didn’t want to burden you with one more task on your must-do list.
So instead, I did what I do best. I took a serious project and had fun with it. The book is filled with truths critically needed by all dads everywhere. But the process of taking them in and putting them to work on behalf of your family will not be a painful proposition. I promise.
This book is a twofer. It’s a devotional for you, Dad. But the chief beneficiary is going to be the kids you love so much.
Having spent more than 25 years researching and writing for fathers, I know that no two dads are alike. Some men are natural connectors. Some men are lone wolves. Some dads feel like they’re looking in a mirror when they see their sons. Some dads think, Where did he come from? Maybe your daughter is Daddy’s little princess. Maybe she’s a tomboy, a bookworm, or a free spirit.
In every case, my first wave of advice is the same. Be there. Enter their world. Invite them to enter yours. That’s the only way you’ll know your son’s or daughter’s gifts, talents, and dreams. How they’re wired. What makes them unique. That information is tremendously important as you come alongside them as the primary person God has assigned to help them reach for the stars.
How to describe these 140 devotions? Each one stands on its own. There are thought starters and idea finishers. You’ll dig through memories that look back and discover big-picture thinking that will help you look forward. Included are references to movies, TV shows, books, sports, current research, historical events, parables, heroes, and biblical passages. Some you’ll find familiar. Others, not so much.
Every time I sat down at my keyboard, I asked God to help me give dads something they would actually use. Along the way, I smiled, grimaced, laughed out loud, brushed away a tear, and made some new personal discoveries.
If you let it happen, you just might be challenged, equipped, humbled, encouraged, inspired, and refreshed and gain a new sense of gratitude and awe when it comes to God’s plan for fathers.
When you’re done, you’ll be a better dad. I know because I am a better dad for having written it.
To a four-year-old, a dad should be a bit of a superhero. Young kids need to feel safe and secure. Dad needs to be the strongest, smartest, bravest guy in the world.
When that four-year-old becomes a teenager, you will want to relinquish your mythological superhero status and become human. You’re still an authority figure. Teens still depend on Dad for protection and provision. But the relationship shifts from fiction to fact. For fathers of teens, respect comes not from being invincible but through your ability to lead, solve problems, persevere, overcome challenges, and even admit when you don’t have all the answers.
As you and your children begin to establish an adult relationship, the goal might even be mutual respect. And teens need to feel respected.
Too many parents buy into the myth that raising teenagers is seven years of thankless toil and mutual contempt. Don’t believe that lie.
Done well, the teenage years are just the beginning of a give-and-take relationship between fathers and their growing children. Having a sustained one-on-one connection with your adult child is even greater than opening a report card with straight As or watching your son or daughter hit a walk-off home run. Really. I’m not kidding.
What about you?
Parenting doesn’t end when kids leave the nest. If you’ve laid the foundation properly, fathering just gets better and better. It’s more joy for less work.
A Little At A Time
Over the years, you have picked up a handful of truths, some core values, and a few strategies for surviving this world and thriving in the next. Some you were taught. Most you learned the hard way. All of which you want to pass on to your children.
How does a dad convey these lessons without lecturing or facing a barrage of blank stares or eye rolls? The secret is to deliver those truths a little at a time as life unfolds. Don’t wait for just the right moment or the perfectly planned weekend to transfer all your bits of collected knowledge in a single grandiose and laborious speech. Instead, gently and consistently “impress them on your children.” Notice that the command isn’t to bash them over the head or shriek into their skulls. It doesn’t say nag, cajole, or fume. The word “impress” suggests images of lovingly leaving a permanent, noteworthy imprint or trace. Having made your mark in their life. Almost like an artist signing a fine oil painting.
How? It’s spelled out nicely in the verse. Talk to them during the regular course of life. At the kitchen table. During commercial breaks. Strolling down a dirt road. Tucking them in at night. Chatting over waffles.
Make it an ongoing conversation. Leave ’em wanting more. If a question comes up you can’t answer, that’s okay. They know you’ll weave in and out of their days with fresh insight, thought-provoking follow-up, and a listening ear.
What About You?
God wants to talk to you the same way, Dad. Sitting at home. Walking along the road. When you lie down. When you get up. Are you listening?
John Marshall (1755–1835)
Want to communicate to your kids that you care? Listen.
If you think you’re pretty good at listening, you shouldn’t be afraid of this little test. Ask yourself, When’s the last time my child came to me with a question or problem?
If you’re not a very good listener, your children may have learned long ago not to bother you because you don’t really listen anyway—all you do is lecture and then go back to what you were doing before you were interrupted.
Maybe that suits you just fine. You don’t want to be a dumping ground for their problems. But be warned. If your kids need to talk about something, they are going to find someone to talk to. They will find someone who will listen. And that person will offer advice. And it could be bad advice leading to tragic results.
It may be that listening doesn’t come naturally to men. It feels like a passive activity, and we’re action oriented. The solution? Practice active listening. Ask questions. Nod. Make eye contact. Get clarification. Rephrase their words back to them, so they know you really hear what they’re saying. Don’t be too quick with answers. Make it a point to pause before giving advice.
The art of listening may be one of those secret parenting skills that moms are more likely to have than dads. But with a little practice, you can do even better than her.
Speaking of your children’s mom, listening is a good way to communicate that you care about your wife as well. But you already knew that.
What About You?
Maybe you’re the kind of guy who likes to lecture. That can be an effective parenting style, especially if you lecture from an informed perspective. And how do you get informed? You listen. In other words, listen first and your lectures will have much more impact.
Let 'Em Fly
Psalm 127:3-5 NLT
This is an image on which you could meditate for hours:
You’re an archer. Committed, strong, and confident.
You reach over your shoulder and extract a single arrow from your quiver. You crafted that arrow with care, so you know the shaft is straight and true, the feathered fletching precise. Still, you slide your fingers down the narrow cylinder in preparation for a flawless fight.
You’ve spent many hours disciplining yourself, and so it feels natural to slide the notch of the arrow onto the bowstring. Combining strength and gentleness, you pull that arrow toward you. Close to your heart.
With great care, you choose a target that’s exactly right for this exact arrow. You remain steadfast, feet planted firm.
For just a moment, you hold your breath, anticipating the final bold act of release. Destiny is a moment away. With a slight smile, you let the beloved arrow fly, your assignment as a warrior complete.
That was so much fun. You do it again. And again. With each one of your kids. Until your quiver is empty.
Just as God planned.
What About You?
Open your Bible and read all of Psalm 127. It’s a stunning opus dedicated to all you do and all you are as a father. Here’s an idea: It’s only about a hundred words. Memorize it and you can meditate on that psalm anytime you like!
Practice Makes Perfect
When was the last time you led someone to Christ? If a conversation with an unsaved friend turns to spiritual matters, do you have a script in your head explaining the simple yet profound doctrine of grace? As believers, the ability to speak coherently about Jesus is in our job description: “We are… Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The facts are readily available.
Everybody sins. Sin separates us from God. Somebody has to pay for our sins. God loved us so much that he sent his Son to pay for our sins. Jesus accepted that burden—taking the sins of the world to the cross. It cost him everything. But to us, grace is a free gift. All we have to do is believe and accept it. There’s not much more to it than that.
With a little effort, you could find some supporting Scripture and be ready to deliver the plan of salvation to anyone at any time and any place. All you need is someone to practice on. Hmmm. Do you know someone who looks up to you and will listen to you while you get the words right? Maybe someone who needs to know about grace themselves?
Dad, your kids need Jesus too. And it’s a rush—and a privilege—to be the one who helps them take that step of faith into God’s kingdom.
What About You?
If you didn’t know, this is the most important devotion in this book. For you. And for your kids. And for your neighbors. And for your enemies.
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