Wednesday, January 21, 2009

H.O.F. dads part 2 took me a while to get back here to this article. I traveled this weekend and didn't get the chance to finish up. So without further ado, here is my next installment of H.O.F. buddy Patrick Berger...
Patrick is probably my closest friend at my church, ( are a close second)
and his daughter Clancy is my daughters best friend. Patrick and his wife Marianne have two children, the aforementioned Clancy and son calvin. Their son Calvin is "all boy" and I always get a kick out of his latest 100% boy escapades. One day he might be shooting a bow and arrow, the next building a tree house with his dad. Last Sunday I stopped over to visit and they were putting the finishing touches on a mini bike that they had built together over the past few years. They share a love for hockey and I've spent a lot of saturday mornings on the ice with the two of them.
Patrick grasps Calvin's boyhood fully and does a wonderful job exploring Calvin's heart. They are always doing things together, but not just Patrick dragging Calvin along to do something only he wants to do. Patrick invests himself in the things that bring happiness to Calvin and Clancy. That is a hall of fame dad. Most guys in their 40's don't really want to build a mini bike or a tree house but the great dads know that their kids want to do that stuff so they throw themselves into it with full force and reckless abandon. Patrick does this regularly. I admire from a distance, the bond he is building on a daily basis with those two wonderful children.
There is an element to their story that I won't share here but it makes the situation more wonderful and the love of Christ more evident. Patrick and his wife are special and their job has required more than the usual amount of research, prayer, self improvement, prayer, patience, prayer...and prayer. I've prayed with Patrick for his kids so I know his heart. He has the love of a real dad. He has challenged me at times in my own fatherhood, without even realizing it. He has the kind of loving determination to overcome the issues that present themselves to his children, that all Hall of Fame dads possess. I'm glad he is my friend and I'm glad he has allowed himself to be the other half of the "Iron sharpens iron" equation in my life on many occassions.
As I thought about this post and the previous one about my friend Chris, I was inspired by the number of additional dads I personally know that I could add here. So I believe I will expand this over the next few days.
For my divorced dad friends...nothing is stopping us from being H.O.F. dads too. Ours is certainly a more difficult task, but for me...if it means I need to get out of bed a little earlier to pray, or pay a little closer attention to how I live my faith in the little things, or just making it a point to be a good steward of those precious moments I get with my daughter, I have the chance to be a great dad. Even a Hall of Fame dad.

H.O.F. Dads

This week there was some talk about the baseball Hall Of Fame announcing several new inductees. Amongst them were Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice.
Being a lifelong Red Sox fan..second only to my beloved fightin Phils...I loved watching Jim Rice at the plate. He was a fearsome hitter who worked the count and hit bombs that made your jaw drop.

The only thing that has to do with today's post is the H.O.F. aspect. I was thinking, today, about two dear friends whom I consider "Hall of Fame" fathers. My friends Patrick Berger and Chris O'Neal.
Today I want to give them a little public lovin' and hit on a few points that make them special men. Today we'll look at Chris..tomorrow it's Pat's turn.
Chris O'Neal is a relatively new friend of mine. His son Declan is one of the hundreds of kids I've had the privilege to coach in hockey over the years. Declan is on my very very short list of my favorite kids I ever coached. I loved every one of them, but a handful were so passionate about the game, so willing to work hard at it, and so eager to be better, that they made it so much more enjoyable for me.
Declan will...unless something derails his passion for the a pro player one day. I don't say that lightly because I have such respect for hockey players. But this kid eats drinks and breathes it. He improves exponentially every week.
I am amazed sometimes at the maturity and hockey smarts he possesses. I take full credit! Not really.
Chris and his wife Amy have two other children besides Declan, (and another waiting for them in Gods care) and they could not be more different from each other. Declan is an introspective, constantly self-assessing perfectionist who tends to remain slightly on the quieter side. His brother Liam is a loudly funny, cantankerous, jokester. If Declan is a Thoroughbred, Liam is a Clydesdale. If Declan is Formula 1, Liam is Nascar...or demolition derby. Liam's sense of humor is pure slapstick. Nobody is more fun to sit in the stands with and watch his older brother play, than Liam...depending of course on what he ate recently. The boys have a little sister, Teah. Teah would best be described as a 25 year old first grader. She has the fashion sense of a model. She is precocious and instantly "the star" in almost any situation.
I had to give you the descriptive because what makes Chris a Hall of Famer to me is his innate ability to be exactly what each of his kids needs. I watch in amazement as Chris relates to Liam in a totally different way than he does Declan or Teah or vice versa. Not in a better way, one to the other, but specific to each child's personality. He knows that Liam is a big lunking goofball. If Liam was a cartoon character, he'd be a bear in a Disney cartoon. Big, happy, smiling and lumbering. Chris' interaction with Liam fits his son perfectly.
His interaction with Declan is totally different. Where Liam shows his affection by hurling himself at you or playing a joke on you, Declan is the one who is analyzing his game before he even gets off the ice. He could talk hockey with you until you cried "Uncle". Chris knows this as well. With Liam he roughhouses, with Declan there is more discussion. With Teah...well little girls have a knack for "owning" their daddies, and Chris is no exception. That Chris has the ability to reach into each of his kids' hearts and see the greatness and pull it out, is a tribute to one thing...he knows his kids. Really knows them. He knows Declan's favorite teams, favorite players, numbers, colors, name it. He knows where Liam is in Karate and what each move means. He knows what he dreams of and wishes for. He showers Teah with affection and the self confidence that little girls need at an early age. If a dad gives that to them early on, they grow into adult women not easily taken advantage of by men of questionable character. (that's a nice way to say they don't take any ones crap)
Chris has invested himself in his kids in order to really, deeply know them. They sense this and it means everything to them.
Dads...these are examples of how to do it right! Really right. How well do you know your kids? Are you applying "Basic Fatherhood 101" to all your children? Or are you investing the time it takes to know each one where they are and being the dad each of them need you to be? Divorce makes it harder but more important than ever. We have gaps in our time together so we need to really know our kids so they never get the feeling we are beginning to forget them.
I don't just want to be a good dad..I want to be a Hall of Fame dad!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Love Yourself...and keep your tank full

Just sitting here at the computer. In between watching history being made in Washington, and originating some loans here at my desk, this was a busy day. It's good to be back in the mortgage business. I didn't realize how much I liked it and missed it.
I was, of course, thinking about my daughter. I've been having discussions recently with various guys who've read my book and we will always come back to the effect it has on our kids. I am big on doing my best in front of my daughter. A friend once gave me some sage advice when he said "your daughter is watching you, and watching how you handle this". This is very true, and for years she didn't see much in the way of victory or hope from her daddy. As things have progressed recently, I've become happier and more fulfilled with the shape my life is taking. That fills my tank and gives me something to give back to her. For a lot of years I was sad, sorrowful, and I let her mom do some fairly unkind things to me and I took them in silence for a number of reasons. But those days are over and not a moment too soon.
The bible says "let each of us value others more than ourselves." That presupposes that we should value ourselves! I am learning that if I don't have self respect, and more than that if I don't have respect for my own standing as a child of God, I have little if anything to impart on my daughter. If my love reserves are running low, I have none for her. I have to daily get myself into the position where I am receiving from God and then letting it overflow onto my daughter. That is how a dad blesses his children.
Men, if you've failed...and who hasn''s time to receive the forgiveness God offers, and get yourself back into the place of receiving His love and blessing for you each day. Stay there in that place until you are overflowing and then your children will be blessed by the overflow. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." You can speak blessings or curses...but you can ONLY speak what is abundant in your heart. Forgive yourself for your failures...big and small...and begin to let God fill you with goodness and grace. Then pour that all over your kids.
Have a great day, dads!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"...Because You're my Daddy"

Good morning again my friends. I wanted to write something this morning that maybe will extend a little hope. Yesterday I spoke of finding our hope and then throwing that lifeline to someone else. So today I feel the very strong urge to follow my own advice.
I know for me, probably the biggest fear I had in the years immediately following my divorce in December of 1999, was the fear of how this would effect my relationship with my daughter. Few of you know me so you don't have any reference point or insight into what type of father I am. You'll have to take my word on it when I tell you that my daughter is everything to me. I live my life with two things in mind: Does this please God? and How will this effect my daughter?
Well, my ex wife met the man she is married to now, about 3 years after we divorced.
I will avoid telling stories on anyone and simply say I don't care for this guy and he feels the same way. However, I will run the risk of being a tad unattractive and tell you also that he deserves the opinion I have of him and I do to a far lesser degree, deserve whatever he thinks of me. He is a type A guy, who deep down inside, can't stand the fact that she is his first wife but he is not her first husband. They had a child together and it eats at him that this is his firstborn but not hers. He is threatened by my presence, if not by comparisons, than by simply the fact that he hates being second at anything.
That said let me tell you my story and give a big vitamin dose of hope.
When my ex wife married her husband in May of 2004, the weekend after the wedding my daughter came to my house for her regular visit. At dinner that Friday night I asked her about the wedding, not because I had to know any details, but I wanted her to know that she could talk to me about anything she wanted to even if she thought it was painful for me. She was excited to be in a wedding and I knew that. She also didn't want her mom to marry this guy because, as all children do, she dreamed of us reconciling.
She told me about the wedding and about the trip to Florida etc. Then she told me her mom was "Changing her name to XXXX, but I'm not going to." I asked her what she meant and she said her mom had benevolently told her that if she also wanted to take the new husbands last name she could. (I do not need to add any comment here) I was deeply wounded but I hid it and asked my daughter if she wanted to change her name to her moms new name. She looked at me incredulous and said "No" rather forcefully. I told her it was okay and I'd understand, not wanting to put her in a place where she avoided a decision to spare the feelings of an adult. She said "No Daddy...mommy told me I can call #### anything I want, and if I want to call him "daddy" I can, but I told her no I am not calling him that I will call him by his name ####" I asked her if that would be confusing because she'd be living in two houses with two adult men. (Hoping of course she'd say no, but wanting to spare her the hardship) then she said the most amazing thing. I said to her plainly, "If you want to call him daddy or change your name it's okay" She looked almost hurt. She refused again and when I asked her reason she said "Because you're my daddy, not ####!) The way she said it was like "You should know this!" I had tears in my eyes and many more flowed that night after she went to bed. Because I am the Daddy! I will tell you men that from that very moment, my ex and her husband lost most of the power they'd had over me. Beneath all the acrimony we'd come to develop between us, was the underlying fear that they'd change her love for me and I wouldn't be the Daddy anymore. I was as wrong as a man can be. I had properly invested myself into my child and I had long established that I was the daddy. She didn't want or need a replacement and she wouldn't abide someone trying. She was quite happy with the daddy she had, thank you very much! the dads you dreamed of being before the divorce. In fact be better! Don't let this thing strip you of your fatherhood because the fact is, your child sees you as the daddy. Not some man who married their mom. He might be a great guy. Thank God for that. But he isn't Daddy. I used to worry about the things my ex was saying to my daughter about me. She would ask me sometimes and I would simply respond by saying, "You know you think I could do something like that? She would always answer "No". it's hard not to defend ourselves guys. But believe me when I tell you that you have less to defend against than you think. Be the dad your children need and then trust God to uphold righteousness and integrity. He promises to do that.
YOU are the Daddy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Look for Hope and pass it on...

Hey are we this morning?
Writing specifically to those dads amongst us who have been divorced for a while now and have begun to find some hope in the middle of it. Tuesday night in a series of unlikely turns I can only attribute to God working his will, I found myself in a conversation with a guy who had a friend in dire need of reading my book. The man in question is the ex husband in a very high profile divorce. Very high profile. If I dropped the names you'd know for sure. The guy I was talking to knows the guy very well and they are good friends. He related to me how his friend was so deeply wounded by the vicious attack of his ex wife and her legal posse. To get what they wanted and still try to come out looking like the victim, they left nothing untried.
Under all the anger and bitterness that this guy felt on behalf of his friend there was this nugget of truth. During the conversation he mentioned how deeply wounded the guy is and how much he loved his wife. He misses her still, he will always love her because she is the mother of their children. She was the only woman he'd ever asked to marry and he planned a lifetime of dreams to be shared only with her. Now she is gone, his fatherhood is restricted, and his heart is broken.
The man I was talking to asked me if he could have a copy of my book to give to the guy. I gladly agree and happened to have one with me. I hope this man reads it and finds some measure of healing. I want him to find the hope I found after so many years of pain and terrible wounding. God walked with me every step of the way, even when I didn't think he was there and even...especially...when I tried to run Him off with my angry outbursts and screams of hatred. The hope He granted me was a gift to an unwilling recipient. I need to pass it on.
So do you.
If you know a guy going through a divorce, then you are the one man who knows exactly how he feels. You are the one man who gets it when others only think they do. You are the one man who knows how much he lost and so would never say something as stupid as "get over it". You are the lifeline that God wants to throw him. Look for your hope, and when you've found it...pass it on. Nobody recognizes the cries of that kind of drowning man, like a man rescued from drowning.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Big News

Hey Dads...
I formed a group on Facebook called..."Sometimes Daddies Cry".
I am beginning to really like Facebook! None of the garbage of MySpace and the addition of pictures and notes is so easy. The group is open to anyone. We can swap stories or photos or whatever. It's predominantly a ministry launch site for me, but it serves a multitude of functions. Stop by and see.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I will Gather No More of Your Bitter Fruit

"(Heb 12:15) watching diligently that not any lack from the grace of God, that "no root of bitterness growing up" may crowd "in on you", and through this many be defiled;" LITV
Yesterday I was in an "e-conversation" with some folks and the topic arose about a certain judge here in Nashville who hears all the divorce cases, but who shall remain nameless. She also heard my divorce 9 years ago and all the motions hence. She is retiring after 30 years on the bench. I'm not going to comment on Her Honor except to say she is certainly a polarizing figure and she has certainly left her indelible mark on the lives of thousands of folks through the years. Each one of those people would tell you a very different tale I am sure. Some love her, the truth is most do not. I am neutral, at least right now. I have a life to live and 7 more years under the regulation of that court and I don't need to put myself in danger of tainting future decisions by saying the wrong things.
I was reading some comments online last night at the website of a local "scene" newspaper and the topic was this judge. The bitterness was palpable and the stories were very sad. Lots of people, men and women, who she had ruled against, were venting their frustrations and anger with her perceived wrongs in their respective cases. Someone I was communicating with asked me via e-mail why he was more angry about this stuff than I was and he had never been divorced, nor been in her courtroom. I didn't have an answer for him except that I wanted to be careful what I said in the public domain because Nashville is a small town and you never know who might cut and paste.
But the truth is that, while I have often been bewildered at some of her rulings, and her most recent one all but ruined my life for a while, I am not bitter and I don't hate her. Maybe I should. Lord knows I've gotten the wrong end of a lot of her decisions. but through the 9 years since my divorce, I have had to be careful about crossing the line between wounded and hurting...and bitterness.
Bitterness is that thing that gets inside you and sets up a job trailer as it starts construction on a castle. Bitterness needs to even the score and right every perceived wrong immediately. Bitterness overlooks my faults and failures because I am so angry at yours.
I love the LITV interpretation of that verse above, the image of the root of bitterness growing up, and crowding in on you in the process. If you let it, bitterness will take every square inch of your heart. The end result is those tragic men we see who show up at the home or workplace of their estranged ex wife and kill her, then the kids, then themselves. Is that automatically your lot if you stay bitter? No. Of course not. But I am certain that tragic ending has it's beginning in a bitter root left unpulled. The more likely scenario is we begin to become more outwardly bitter as all the internal room is used up. Our speech, our temperament, our actions, our social skills. They all begin to ooze a palpable bitterness that isolates us further and further from others at a time when others are exactly who we need. If you let this go on and on it becomes ugly to our friends and our kids. Lots of kids don't want any sort of a relationship with one or both of their parents after a while because there is so much visible, tangible bitterness. Dad has become "the grumpy mean old man down the street" and they don't really want to see him anymore. We can end up losing that one precious thing we love above all else...our children.
So what is the secret? I guess I had it and didn't even know it. That sounds pious, so let me explain further. I certainly wrestled with bitterness almost on a daily basis. I still do. The verse, upon closer examination, doesn't say there shouldn't be any bitterness, it warns against letting the root of the bitterness grow unchecked. My ex does things on a weekly basis that throw fertilizer on that root. If not for the first part of that verse I'd be over the edge by now. believe me, I've come close. But read the opening line of that verse.
"watching diligently that not any lack from the grace of God,". It's the Grace of God! God's grace is my only defense against the bitter root that wants to run wild in my heart and choke out the fruit of the Spirit. Left to my own devices, I'd be a nut in a clock tower with an assault rifle. If not literally than at least figuratively. So the answer to my friend, as to why this judge is not in my "cross hairs" of hatred and bitterness is simply that God's grace is sufficient. I don't know how. God knows my temper is incendiary at times. I think part of His grace was letting me see how I need to surrender the hurt to Him and let Him make something beautiful from it. It was a harder choice than it sounds. I didn't like letting go of my anger and bitterness. The high road isn't very satisfying if revenge is your goal.
Listen dads...I know there are a lot of you out there who have been deeply wounded by your ex wife, her boyfriend, the way she tries to turn the kids on you, and especially the inequities of the family court system. "Disenfranchised Father Syndrome" is real and it hurts everyone. But your choice is either deal with the bitter root by applying the grace of a loving God...or give it room to grow and watch everything else eventually die in it's place. God does care! He hurts along with you. All I can tell you is what worked for me...take responsibility for whatever your portion of the marital failure was, don't expect your ex to take responsibility for hers because you don't need that to happen in order to move on (no matter what your heart tells you). Forgive yourself! That's the hard one. I wrestled with that for years. Both parties sinned against each other...unless yours is an extreme circumstance. Then ask God to apply His grace generously. Be honest with Him about your hurts and watch the change begin to take place. Your kids are watching you, Dad. They will deal with future setbacks and disappointments exactly the way you do now. Show them a mature, forgiving, gracious father who overcomes and rises above. Show them Jesus and his Grace.
Have a great day dads!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Great Return on my Investment...

Well with all the news about the economy and the stories within stories out there it had to make it's way here eventually. Bailouts, Bernie Madoff, stimulus packages. It's on everyone's mind. I was thinking about it for the past few days but in a slightly different arena. The investment we make in others...particularly in our kids. How much do we invest and what is the return? Have we run a "Ponzi scheme" where we kept robbing from Peter to pay Paul with our kids. "I'll spend twice as much time with you next weekend son" or "I'll come to twice as many games next season" or "twice as many recitals" "We'll talk as long as you want when I get back in town". Only it never happens like that for lots of people. Divorced dads are especially vulnerable to this trap. We get a limited, prescribed amount of time with our precious children and we can get caught up thinking about what we'd do with a few more minutes in the office. Then we make promises we don't end up keeping. Dads...get back to whats important and STAY THERE! Your kids come first and they must stay first! Period. You can't invest haphazardly in their lives any more than you would your 401K and expect a good return. Be there. Let them know your word is always good. Let them know NOTHING means more than every single second with them. Forsake not one minute for something earthly and temporary. The real return on investment comes when they know you will always pick up that phone, always be there for the violin recital or the baseball game or the banquet. You will always keep your word. It becomes one thing in their already tumultuous lives that they can count on being stable. It's YOU! Invest YOURSELF in your kids. Divorce is no excuse. if you think about it...we all have a set amount of time with our kids...divorced or not. Life moves on at breakneck speed and we need to catch it, grip it by it's throat, wrestle it to the ground and inform it that it will NOT leave our children and us in it's wake. Ultimately we still have a choice about how we spend our lives and what we INVEST in. I am going to pour myself into my daughter and watch the amazing thing that God has inside her just waiting to begin to break the soil and grow. She has the world at her feet and I intend on being the stake that the vine is tied to, giving direction for growth and support as fruit begins to be borne.
How about you?

This is a first...on my other blog, I am going to right a parallel post on the same topic but with a different slant altogether. Check it out.
God bless you men!