Saturday, November 20, 2010

Loving your kids...

I'm watching dear friend go through the hell of divorce right now. Normally this is a pro-dad blog but the topic is universal. Using your kids to hurt your ex.
My friend is in the midst of a long drawn out painful divorce and I am watching as her husband is using the children to hurt his wife. Something we've seen far to frequently. Introducing new women into their world, (or men if we are talking about the women) being unflexing jackasses about visitation times. Limiting phone calls.
The best interest of the kids aren't even on the radar...the pain in the heart of the other party is. How anyone can say they love their children and then do this sort of thing is beyond me.
Guys...I write this for men so I will speak from the man angle here. Don't do this! Whatever you do in your interaction with your ex, where your kids are concerned, only do what is good for them. Leave your desire to draw blood and extract vengeance someplace where your kids can't see it.
They are really all that matters,
Craig

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New website...New BOOK!!

My new book is finished and will be available for shipping in 3 weeks. Taking orders NOW!

"A Ragamuffin Christmas" It's a very very different view of Christmas.

www.ragamuffinchristmas.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thoughts on being a Good Man

"A good man does the right thing even when it is the hardest thing. He does the
good thing though it cost him everything. He surrenders his own dreams for the
dreams of those he holds dear. He lets his own fire die to keep theirs
alight. He has integrity even when sacrificing integrity would bring him his
desires. He knows forgiveness, and he forgives.
...At his best, a good man is a faint glimmer of the character of God amongst us."
-Anonymous

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Info on Harry Kalas Saved My Life...

Hi everyone...
Thanks for stopping by! If you are here as a result of Stan Hochman's article in the Philadelphia Daily News, you might want to jump to http://www.harry38.net
for more info about the book and my journey from homelessness to hope, and how that wonderful Voice got me there. I miss Harry more every day it seems! Thanks for visiting!
Craig

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blessing 5..."Just Because You Are My Son"

Jesus has been baptized even though he didn't need it. He has seen heaven open, His father poured out His Holy Spirit in a demonstration that all the power He possesses is behind Jesus fully. He heard the voice of His Father proclaiming his position as Son, then declaring his approval as beloved or "you make me happy". He has heard his Father tell the world He loves Him. And all of those things happened before Jesus had begun doing any earthly ministry whatsoever. Before he had one follower.
Jesus had spent the first 30 years of his life in his father Joseph's carpenter shop. Jesus had done nothing to earn the 4 blessings he had just received. They were His by birthright. And that, is the fifth blessing. The culmination of the four, viewed through the knowledge that they came not as a result of bootstrap pulling, endless good works, a monastic lifestyle, or helping old ladies across the street. They came simply because Jesus was God's son!
That is the essence of what all truly great dad's give their children.
Sure, sometimes we hold a carrot out for our kids to get a better grade in math or do well in the violin recital, but the reality is we dote on our kids and love them and heap praise on them and bless them because we love them. We love them simply because they are our children. That's all the reason a great dad needs.
That's all the reason God needs. At the creation of the world, He was already hanging stars in the sky as a reminder of his promise to Abraham, and He hung a star for me as a reminder that I would be part of His amazing plan. When I see a starry field I can remind myself that I am up there somewhere. He has counted them and He named them one by one. He did this because he keeps promises. He promised a Spirit of Adoption and he delivered that too. I am as much a son of His now as Jesus is. I am the son He can't wait to see. His full power is for me and for my cause. He has pronounced his affections for me and announced my sonship. He loves me and I make him happy. And He has done all this for no other reason than He loves me. He doesn't love me for anything I bring to the table, He doesn't love me for my potential. He just loves me.
Just like all great dad's do.
This fathers day, if you missed having this kind of dad growing up, remember hat you do have a Father who loves you. Your Father in heaven. He is all that you hoped your earthly dad could be but was not. He is more than that. You are the apple of His eye and He has pronounced his blessing on you.
You make Him Happy!

Happy Father's day...be blessed

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blessing number 4..."I Love You"

I reversed the order a bit for dramatic effect. I admit it. I wanted to explain it in this order because I think the lesson has more impact to dads if we see it in this way.
Jesus has just come up out of the Jordan after having John baptize Him. The heavens open, the Spirit falls on Him, His Father recognizes him as His son, and He also says He is very pleased with Him.
In the blessing is also a wonderful little adjectival phrase..."whom I love" (the KJV renders it "beloved"). I placed this near the end because it is the most important blessing God gave Jesus. Why?
Remember at the beginning we discussed that Jesus had not yet begun his earthly ministry. In fact, this event was being used as a launch for that ministry. Jesus had not healed one person, had not fed anyone miraculously, had not cast out a single demon or taught even one word of a parable. He had accomplished nothing yet, toward plan God had for him. He did not come up out of the Jordan with a list of converts or a massive offering in his money bag. He didn't have any disciples.
He had done nothing at all except be a son.
And that is all it took...
God literally tore heaven open (according to Mark) to get to His son and pour His Spirit on him. I think He missed His son. If, as we believe, Jesus left heaven and inhabited a human body than He was missing from Heaven for the 30 years leading up to this moment. I think his Father missed Him. Why wouldn't he? I miss my daughter when she is away.
But what is most important in all of this is that Jesus had done nothing to earn the proclamation of God's love. He simply was. That is all it took to be loved by his Father in heaven.
So it is with us. Brennan Manning says "The most loving thing we can do for Jesus is to let him love us."
When my daughter was in pre-school, she made a little wall hanging for Father's day. It was a questionnaire and the teachers would ask the children the questions and then fill in the answers, no matter how funny they were. What follows are the questions and the answer she gave...
1: My dad is ______ feet tall. Her answer: "Ten"
2: My dad is _____ years old. Her answer: "7" (which is probably very old when you are 4)
3: I like it when my dad: ______ Her answer: "Chops his food" ( I am a gourmet cook and can high speed chop like Lagasse)
4: My dad always watches ____ on TV: Her answer: "News and Racing cars"
There were a few more and then there was one question that left me in tears...
10: My dad always tells me:_______ Her answer: "He loves me"
Of all the things my daughter heard me say, the thing she heard most frequently was "I love you". It began when she was still in her mommy's tummy. I would talk to Holly's belly through a paper towel tube. One day as I began to say the same thing I said each night; "Hi Morgan...it's your daddy...I love you" she kicked! It was amazing. My daughter wasn't even born yet and she recognized my voice.
That is all God was doing here. he was telling Jesus "I love you".
Dad's, if your kids don't hear it from you they will seek to hear it elsewhere. make it the first thing they think of when the conversation turns to "stuff my dad says".
Pour out this most important blessing on your kids like God did to his son. Pour out your love. Remember that Jesus had done nothing of greatness yet. God didn't wait until the end of Jesus ministry to proclaim His love...he did it first.
Men pronounce your unconditional love on your kids daily...many times each day. Let it be the biggest thing they know you by.
Give them blessing number 4...the Love of the father

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blessing 3..."You make me happy" Approval

The third blessing Jesus heard as the heavens opened and His Father spoke, was the blessing of total approval.
The "You make me happy" blessing.
God spoke it in this way: "This is my beloved Son, with him I am well pleased. God pronounces in that one statement, the words every child wants and needs to hear. "You make me happy".
The Greek for pleased is "eudok─ôsa" and it means "to be very pleased with or to think well of" God was saying to the world; "This is my Son...and I think He is amazing, I think well of Him and he makes me happy."
Dad's, our kids want desperately to hear that we make them happy. They don't need any performance tied to it. I try to convey this to my daughter by telling her over and over how happy I am just to be her dad...in fact I tend to say I am happy that I get to be her dad. I want her to know it's my privilege and my pleasure. It brings me happiness to wear that title. I am the lucky one. I am pleased. I think very well of her.
Men let me tell you she eats that up. There is no performance or demand attached, it is simply because she is my daughter that I find so much joy in her. It is self contained.
God, our heavenly Father so desperately wants us to grasp this about Him as well. And we need to know it. I need to know that God...at all times regardless of my life situation...is well pleased with me. He adores me. I bring Him joy.
Brennan Manning tells the story of walking on the shoreline of a lake outside of Dublin Ireland many years ago. His companion on the walk was an old priest who walked briskly 8 or 10 miles each morning. They walked in silence in the pre-dawn darkness saying nothing. Suddenly as the sun broke the horizon and splashed on the water and onto the faces of Brennan and his friend, the old priest spoke. "Brennan", the old man said, as the warm sun colored his skin, "The Father of Jesus is very fond of me". With that he resumed his walk.
Do you really understand how fond your Father is of you? Have you considered that we don't have to see in color? God could have made the human eye only see black and white. Roses don't have be fragrant. Rainbows don't have to captivate. The mountains don't have to be painted so magnificently. God gave us all those little "winks" to remind us that He is fond of us. He thinks well of us.
Dad's take the lead from the love of your heavenly father and find ways to let your kids know that they make you happy.
Enjoy this blessing today...the Father of Jesus is very fond of you indeed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blessing number 2...Recognition

Jesus has just been baptized by John. As he comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends on Him and then a voice is heard. The voice is his Father God and He pronounces the next 4 blessings on His son in two short sentences.
In those sentences we find the essence of all the blessings we desire from our earthly father...and our Heavenly Father. The voice says "This is my Son, whom I love. I am very pleased with Him"
There are four blessings at work here and we will look at each one individually.
Today's is the blessing of recognition.
God said "This is my Son..."
This...is my Son! Here is what that means in picture form. You just hit a winning home run in little league. You are ecstatic. You can't believe you just hit a ball over that fence. You are in your home-run trot and as you are rounding third heading for home your team mates are all there cheering and waiting to celebrate and slap you on the back. In the midst of all that glorious commotion a voice booms over everyone else..."That's my BOY!!"
Or imagine you are a little girl in your first piano recital and as you finish your last song and the audience applauds politely, the tall handsome figure of your daddy comes out out the shadows created by the stage lights and he is beaming. He carries a dozen roses and he hands them to you and holds your hand as you walk off the stage and up the aisle to your seat. As you walk together, your daddy leans over and in a voice loud enough for those around you to hear it he says "That was wonderful sweetheart! That's my girl! You were amazing!"
That is the image portrayed here.
Jesus had just officially launched his ministry and had been baptized in order to be obedient to the will of his Father. His Father's response was to verbally exclaim His love and recognition of his son.
"This is my son!" You are my child. I see you, I claim you as my child. I want the world to know you are mine. I am very proud to be your dad."
Dad's...make no mistake, every child seeks this affirmation. I assure you, as a man who has literally had questions to answer about his own lineage, recognition as a son or daughter is crucial. Knowing that your dad is proud to be your dad, that he is proud of you, not for anything you did but just for being his child, is elemental.
We seek it, we need it. Our kids need it.
Jesus' earthly ministry began with His father declaring his sonship and doing it in a manner that left no doubt as to how much he loved being his Father. How about you? Do you ever tell your kids that you are blessed to be their dad. That it is a privilege? That you consider it the best thing God ever did for you? Do they know how full your heart is when you see them coming to meet you when you get home at night or when you see their car pull up after school? Do they know their position in the family and what it means to be a son or daughter of yours?
Discovering our value as sons and daughters begins with being recognized by our fathers. Being declared his children. As Floyd McClung wrote in his classic little book "The Father Heart of God", we all transfer onto God the feelings we have for our fathers. If we are afraid of them we fear God. If our dad's were harsh and unapproachable, we seldom become people of prayer. If our earthly fathers didn't recognize us as their sons or daughters we grow into Christians who are never quite sure of their standing as children of God. What rights do I have? What blessings does He want to give me?
Dad's do your kids know hat they are the center of your world? Do they feel celebrated? Do they know what being your son or daughter means. Are you building an impenetrable wall of confidence around them with your open, pubic, bold, proud declaration of their position as your child?
Have you blessed your child with the blessing of recognition?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The First Blessing..."I am on your side!"

Jesus has just gone down to the Jordan to persuade John to baptize Him. It wasn't required, but He was being supremely obedient. John hesitates, not wanting to baptize the man who should be baptizing him instead. But Jesus insists and John relents.
Jesus is baptized and as he comes up out of the water, the heavens open, (Mark' gospel renders it "torn open" Mark was dictated by Peter and Peter had that sort of extreme view of things...I always loved him for that) and the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove. Why a dove? I don't know. (How's that for exposition?)
What I do know is that Jesus received the ultimate gift from a father to a son...his everything. The Greek word for "spirit" is "pneuma". It connotes breath. Not just breath, but the breath that gives life. It is the same word that would be used in the story of God breathing life into Adam. The Holy Spirit is the very power of God Himself. Only the essence of God could make a dirt-man come alive.
God took that power and let it rest upon His son Jesus. That gift was the ultimate statement of "I am fully on your side" from a Father to a Son.
As dad's, our children desperately need to know we will be there for them and we will do everything possible to see their dreams come true and their vision complete. In Jesus' case, of course, it was God's vision but still the father opened the very heavens and poured His spirit on His Son.
My daughter has dreams that are changing and evolving as she grows older. She wants to sing and write and create. She wants to be a veterinarian too. My job is to harness my power and my resources and pour them on her in order to see those dreams come true. It isn't about money necessarily. It's the statement that says "My Child...I see the dreams in your heart and the visions for your life. I know the things you lay awake at night hoping for. I am "All In" where those dreams are concerned. You have everything I have, I will open every door, call in every favor, do anything I can to see your life become what you dream of it becoming."
Just as our children desire this from us, we desire it from God. Our heavenly father has said "If God be for me who can be against me?". He has poured out the very same Spirit on each of His children. The first thing our kids want to know is that they have the best efforts of their daddies in their corner.
The dad-shaped hole starts to fill when we begin to understand that God is fully on our side.

Monday, May 17, 2010

5 Blessings for Fathers Day

Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
14 But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
15 Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

Father's Day is June 20th this year. On that particular Sunday I will be speaking at Crossroads Bible Church in Elkton, MD. I'm excited for a few reasons. It's my home church when I go back to my hometown to visit. It's attended by a lot of friends from my childhood and the Pastor is a lifelong friend and sort of a big-brother figure to me. It's indeed an honor and a thrill to be asked to take the pulpit for Pastor Tim that Sunday.
I am especially excited because it is the first time I'll be bringing a teaching I have been working on and researching for a while now. I call it: "Filling the Dad- Shaped Vacuum...5 Blessings From Your Heavenly Father"
The core of the message is receiving the 5 specific fatherly blessings found in the narrative of the baptism of Jesus. I used the version from Matthew 3 here but the event is captured identically in the synoptic gospels while John does not mention the event. It's a lot of material, so I will make this a series here on this blog.
Today will be a background. I suggest you read the passage a few times as we dig into it over the next week or so. Dad's...there is some real meat here and a really beautiful view of the blessings God the Father bestowed on His son Jesus. It is a model of the blessings our children all desire from us, and also of the blessing we so desperately seek from God, and which He so desperately wants to bestow upon us all.
The narrative opens with Jesus approaching John the Baptist who was, at that moment, baptizing in the Jordan River. Note here that John was called "the Baptist" because he was baptizing, not because he was an SBC member. Nor do Baptist churches find their doctrinal origins in John. (you'd be surprised how many people think otherwise, and how necessary that explanation actually is)
It was traditional for a Hebrew priest to begin his ministry work at age 30 and to begin it with baptism. Jesus was, in fact, 30 years old at this event.(Luke 3:22)
Jesus was not in need of baptism as the others were who were there that day. But He chose obedience to the will of his Father. So after some persuasion, John agrees to Baptize Jesus.
The bible says that as soon as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened and a dove (the spirit of God) descended on Jesus and landed on Him. And then God spoke those Five blessings that we all need to speak to our children and all need to receive from God the Father.
Tomorrow we will discuss the first blessing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stolen Moments

"Don't ya know we're living in stolen moments
You steal enough it feels like we're stopping time
These days are gold we're living in stolen moments
Just grab hold and feel your way
These days are yours and mine"

John Hiatt wrote those words on an album entitled "Stolen Moments". It's a wonderful snapshot of life as he saw it...not exactly as he thought it'd be but irreplaceable in it's own right. I love Hiatt's work. he's one of my favorite songwriters of all time. I especially love this song and the last few days I have been humming it to myself and thinking a lot. Great writing will do that...inspire thought and introspection. Not all great writing has to...some of it is pure fun. But there is a certain thoughtfulness that the best writers possess, whether they write songs, books, or blog entries.
As a dad, I especially relate to this song, in some bittersweet ways. My daughter will be 12 years old next Friday. I have been divorced for 10 of those years and so my fatherhood is physically interrupted by custody guidelines and visitation parameters. I say physically interrupted because nothing can stop or hinder my fatherhood, only my physical presence. Coupled with my limited time by judicial fiat, I also now officially have...*gulp*...a teen aged daughter. My little girl who was for years content with hanging with Daddy on Friday night and watching The Powerpuff girls, now wants to spend the night at her friends house, and wants me to take her shopping. Shopping! I feel like a failure! Okay no I don't. But I do realize that my time with her is accelerating exponentially now toward a permanently diminished state. I'm not as much fun as I used to be. Because she isn't 5 anymore. These days I have to rely on Stolen Moments. I steal them every chance I get and they add up to "stopped time" as Hiatt says. I try to stop enough so that it adds up to special times with her. Listening to her when she talks. critiquing her drawings...encouraging her endeavors as a singer. (She is gifted with a beautiful voice and has finally overcome the awkwardness of singing publicly and is entered in her school talent show this year. The moments we steal matter very much to our children. Just being there and being involved. Asking specific questions about their days and knowing who their friends are and what their friends are facing in life. Knowing what songs my daughter listens to and knowing the words. Talking to her instead of giving orders all the time. She is almost an adult now and adults don't make rigid demands of each other without at least explaining the reasoning behind them.
Divorced dads especially have to become time thieves. It's sad but true. Most of the time we become afterthoughts to the system and to our former wives. The temptation can be to just fade away because it so often feels like the efforts we put forth are unnoticed and unappreciated and unwanted. But our kids need us, those stolen moments matter. It's what they'll remember when they are grown. Not that dad showed up once every few months with a bunch of gifts and spent the afternoon, but that every time she looked out into the audience at her violin recital she saw her daddy snapping as many pictures as he could and smiling like a goofy idiot. She will remember that he was never more than a phone call and a ten minute drive away when she needed him to come and get her. That he always had time to talk and not only when he "had time". That he asked about her grades and that he also helped her with a plan to do better. That he threw himself recklessly behind her dreams, sometimes at the expense of his own, and gave her the best push up that hill that he possibly could. Those moments seem stolen but they are, in fact, earned. They collect and pool together until they form a wonderful mosaic of the life of a dad and his child. Stolen moments matter. "You steal enough, it feels like your stopping time."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Priorities...

It's been far too long since I worte anything here. Life has been hectic and I have not had the time or the energy to write. But I penned an entry on the shinny and shavings blog this morning and felt revitalized. I love writing and I missed doing this. So hopefully, between interviews for the book, schoolwork that threatens to swallow me alive, and traveling home this week to spend the weekend with Morgan, I will resume regular posts here.
Today I want to say a word or two about priorities. What really matters? What will remain when I am gone and my books are dust? The one and only measure of my manhood is my fatherhood. Period. My daughter is the ten talents God has given me. I simply HAVE to return him a better person than he blessed me with in the beginning. I could sell a million books but I am a failure if I lose my daughter. She has to know...every single day...that I love her, that she is the single most important thing in my world, and that no burden is too heavy and no job too hard that I wouldn't do it for her if need be. She has to KNOW in her soul that her daddy loves her. She has to know it so deeply and so securely that it doesn't even occur to her to question it. That isn't done with dollars...it's done with time and love and investing myself in what SHE loves. Not dragging her along to something only I care about.
So Thursday I will drive that arduous drive back to Tennessee for 3 days and spend it with her, then turn around and come right back here again for another 10 days of media work. I need to sell books to take care of her...I know that. But I need to be a daddy first, before I am anything else.
Or else I am nothing at all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The most important words you can say

Men,
I apologize this blog has fallen by the wayside. I have been crazy this year and this blog suffered for it. I am taking steps to get this back to normal and have entries at least several times each week. Hang in there!
Now...
I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and a startling truth was revealed. We were talking about how frequently her dad told her he loved her and how often he showed his love. The answer was "not often at all." My friend is in the same age bracket I am, and I see an adult woman who bears the marks of a dad who seldom spoke his love and his blessings. It breaks my heart.
My friend Ed Tandy McGlasson bases his entire ministry around this sad truth...that dad's define us as men or as women and without his blessing we drift through life trying to fill a hole that we never can quite fill.
I was explaining to my friend about a Father's day gift my daughter made for me when she was 4. It was a questionnaire. One question: "My daddy always tells me____"
My daughter's answer: "He loves me". My daughter knew, as early as 4 years old that here daddy loved her. The first thing that popped into her head when asked what phrase she hears the most form me was that I love her.
In the years since my ex wife remarried, my daughter has endured a lot of bad things. Her mothers husband is not a good man. Their situation is volatile and overbearing. But my daughter has gotten through this with her self esteem intact because she always knows her daddy loves her.
Men...you cannot put a price tag on this. You can't fake it, you can't bypass it, and you can't substitute for it. And you seldom can undo the damage done in the lives of adult children if you withheld your blessing and your love. Conversely, if you give it, if you say it, and if you show it...you build a strength and a reserve of confidence in your children that nobody can take away.
You don;t have to be there everyday to do this. You can call, you can send notes and letters. If your divorce situation precludes you being with your children every day you can still make sure they know. NOBODY can stop you from saying it, and showing it. Nobody except you.
Love your kids...