Today I want to shift the spotlight – about parenting, really – to my wife. She is a wonderful woman, and has been an inspiring wife for 27 years. Today, she did something that reminded me about her deep mother’s heart – and the reason I love her so much, and why I like being a dad so much.
Some background: My wife updates her Facebook page a few times a year. A Year! Really. Today, though, she posted something that made me tear up. It’s short yet very poignant…
“24 years ago today I learned several things: the depth of my parents love for me; how possible it is to let go of “self” and think of someone else first; the incredible worth of every human being; and that the God of the universe loves me more than I could ever imagine.
All this from a newborn… with much, much more to come. Happy Birthday Dakota!
I love you,
That is quite touching! Let add my own “Happy Birthday!” to our oldest child, who turned 24 today. (What a privilege to be your dad!)
And…thanks, God, for that boy – and his wonderful Mom. What a terrific journey it has been so far.
As Autism Awareness Month wraps up, I’d like to offer some additional resources and starting points for understanding and embracing ASD (see previous posts for other suggestions).
One of the most helpful approaches we’ve found, widely embraced by the medical and special needs communities, is “ABA Therapy.” Pioneered by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas, this is an especially effective treatment for autism. Here’s his site and links to a significant number of studies about ABA Therapy.
There are many organizations offering information and networking for the autism community. We’ve found Autism Society of America (a national organization with state chapters) to be especially helpful. Your awareness of autism may have been increased by the effective advocacy work of Autism Speaks. And my friend Bob West has a wonderful website – dealing with a variety of special needs and offering hope to families, Need Project.
There are many more sources for parents raising a child with autism. I’d welcome your suggestions.
During National Autism Awareness Month, it is a privilege to have an article about our journey with autism featured in the Washington Post’s blog, Guest Voices. While I recount some of the painful, even disorienting steps we’ve taken along the way, there are some rich moments and lessons:
I’ll admit that while it is with some reluctance that I’ve embraced our status as a special needs family, God has used our precious boy in many profound ways. The lessons have been difficult, but the rewards have been far greater.
I hope you’ll read the full article here.
Also, keep an eye out at for families with special needs…we need some extra grace and patience…as we learn those lessons God has for us. Thanks.
My friend Zeke Pipher has a new book out, and I found it to be candid, engaging, challenging, and also rather convicting. Its called, Man On The Run: Helping Hyper-Hobbied Men Recognize The Best Things In Life. Here’s a quick excerpt:
I’ve lived the first thirty-nine years of my life by Irishman Laurence Sterne’s creed: “A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything.”
“Everything” might be a slight overstatement. There are a few pursuits that I haven’t thrown myself into. But then, they involve knitting needles, scrapbooks, and shopping malls, so they don’t really count anyway, right?
I’m a simple case, really. Like many men, I don’t handle inactivity well. My lowest lows—the times when I feel blue or despondent—come to me when I’m sitting on my hands wondering what to do. I keep busy in order to keep sane. On my days off, I fish, exercise, or clean the garage. In the evenings, I write, wrestle with my kids, or play basketball at the fitness center. I even started cooking because it gives me something to do during that restless hour between when I get home from work and when it’s time to sit down for dinner.
Some people enjoy large blocks of time with nothing planned. I don’t understand those people.
I need more than busyness, though. I need to be challenged. An after-dinner stroll around the neighborhood holds little appeal. But I’ll walk for hours if there’s the chance a pheasant might flush or the next swing might be the golf shot of my life. Likewise, I can’t sit for fifteen minutes and do nothing. But I can plant my rear in a tree stand from sunup till sundown, listening for the snap of a twig, the faintest indication that a deer might be walking in my direction. In order to enjoy time, I need something to do, and that something must hold the power to thrill me.
Does that description of a busy, activity-filled life resonate with you?I think most of us have far too many hobbies – many good things – distracting us from the best things.
In my own book, First Time Dad, I wrote about the need for new fathers to put away the golf clubs and instead put their free time and energy into being a good dad. It’s a radical mind-shift for some men. It was for me, as I wrote in the following admission:
About the time of our first child, I took up an extra-curricular activity. I suddenly had a hankering to attend graduate school. It occupied a lot of my time during those first couple of years after Dakota was born. In my defense, this was something my wife and I had discussed for some time, and it was in many ways a labor of love that was intended to position me for a different job. But the timing of this effort was, in hindsight, awful. With a new baby, my wife needed me home more, not less. But there I was for about two years, commuting 250 miles twice a week to work on a graduate degree. Finally, circumstances changed and I had to abandon that pursuit.
Was I actively seeking an escape from the demands of being a new dad? Really, I was not trying to get away from those new responsibilities. However, I wish someone had told me about the importance of being more involved in my child’s life, especially during those early years. Old family photos and videos reveal that I was there for Dena and Dakota – just not as much I now wish I had been.
And, lest you think setting the right priorities is an easy thing to master, despite the strains on our family from that earlier educational effort, I found myself back in grad school a few years later, pursuing that degree one more time. This time, though, we had four children. While the stress of that commitment damaged our marriage, it also took a bit of a toll on our children. I was an absent dad, in many ways. And I worked for a global family ministry!
Ouch. It is somewhat painful to revisit the wounds I caused with my pursuit of an advanced degree.But I hope it catches your attention and causes you to consider once again what is most important in your life. Does your calendar reflect your priorities?
Here’s a suggestion: As a man, you are driven. That’s not a bad thing. God wired men to seek adventure, challenges, victories. Driven men have accomplished much in this world. But as Zeke points out so well in his book, and I addressed this in mine, we have to channel that energy, passion and drive into the right things. Things that matter most. Ultimately, that means pursuing God and others more than a trophy catch, or a season championship, or a personal record. Instead, go after, with your whole heart, your family. Your wife and kids. You’re irreplaceable in their lives, and your investment in time, energy and heart to make them number one won’t be wasted.
The unexpected “John 3:16″ commercial aired by Focus on the Family on CBS last Saturday during the Broncos-Patriots game certainly generated some buzz.
Amidst the talk show conversations, the increased traffic to the Focus website, and the many online articles about the ad – and Focus on the Family – as Focus president Jim Daly noted on his blog, some numbers are more important than others:
What touched us most, though, was this simple tweet from a man watching the game with his family: “Both my sons just saw your commercial and gave their lives to Christ as a result. Thank you. #John316″
You may think of Focus on the Family first and foremost as helping couples strengthen their marriages, raise happy, healthy children and engage the culture with biblical truth. Those are all important priorities for us, to be sure, and we’re humbled and honored by the opportunities the Lord has given us for 35 years to help families thrive in these areas. But our overriding aim, as a Christian ministry, is to share the Gospel of Christ. Offering family advice is not enough. To make a real, everlasting difference, we have to introduce people to the Author of family.
We’re grateful for all the media exposure created by the spot, the many Google searches for Focus on the Family, and even the tens of thousands of people world-wide who looked up the Bible verse as highlighted by the commercial. But most important, we’re thankful that God was pleased to use His word, as so beautifully expressed by those lovely children, to bring someone into a new relationship with Him.
In the spirit of the season, with everyone and his brother making “Top This” and “Top That” lists of new and notable items in the past twelve months, I humbly offer my own list. Here are the five books I didn’t read in 2011 – but wish I would have. Don’t misunderstand – I like books, have a lot of them, and seem to receive new ones almost daily from publishers and friends. I cannot read every book on my shelves, and at times feel guilty for having so many unread books. Still, there are many good books I intend to read…some day.
So, the following are the starting point for a “Top Books of 2012 – Which I Actually Read” list…which I’ll try to post in about twelve months.
- All is Grace, Brennan Manning – Memoirs of a fascinating man who found God’s grace…everywhere. I am eager to get to know Manning better.
- Prayer, Philip Yancey – Started, just need to finish this fine book. Philip has been a favorite writer since I started reading his columns in Campus Life magazine during high school. That’s quite a long time!
- The New Testament – Various (human) authors. Chuck Swindoll has challenged believers to read through the New Testament this year. I think that’s a great idea – and plan to add in the Psalms and Proverbs, as well (see this reading plan). Why not join me?
- War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy’s epic. If three of my kids have read it, why haven’t I?
- The Meaning Of Marriage, Tim Keller – We’ll be interviewing Tim and his wife Kathy for a Focus broadcast soon, and I am always glad for an opportunity to read this wise man’s perspective on life.
I’ll try to gather up the best books I’ve read this past year in a future post. Meantime, what books are on your “didn’t read – yet” list?
ADDENDUM: Just today Danny Heitman writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only, sorry) about this very matter. I appreciated his perspective, which affords some comfort:
The truly cultured, (author Gabriel Zaid) says, “are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or desire for more.”
Further, Heitman adds,
Unread books…can be noble evidence of aspirations not yet met but still worth embracing.
Somehow, such thinking gives me permission to go through those stacks of books which I have not yet cracked open, or which was started but never finished, on bookshelves both at home and at work, and dare to pick one up…and read.
Here’s to a growing collection of unread books, and to a year ahead of great reading!
If you’ve ever supported the work of Focus on the Family, through prayer and/or a financial contribution, you are a part of a dynamic outreach to those who need a good word! The following note was encouraging for us, and I hope it’ll be so for you, too:
I just wanted to say how great it is to be able to listen to Focus on the Family’s daily broadcasts online. I’m in the military, and…most of the people I work with are not Christians, which is apparent in their lifestyles and vocabulary. I listen to your programs at work. Sometimes people aren’t quite sure what to say when they ask what I’m listening to and I tell them ‘Focus on the Family.’ However, it is a good way to spread the word about the Lord and tell people about your ministry. It’s always nice to know that I can hop online and gain encouragement from your broadcasts (it is especially helpful on deployments when my surroundings are strange and scary).
Despite knowing Jim Daly for 20 years, I had never heard about the encounter, which happened when he was only 10 years old. And when Jim shared that short personal story on today’s Focus on the Family radio program, I was rather shocked. It revealed yet another reason why he is such a passionate advocate for children.
Tune in on your local radio station, or listen here, and you’ll also hear some unique perspectives about the Penn State situation from our guests Bob and Dannah Gresh. They live in State College, PA and also have a son who is a student at Penn State. They’ll tell about the reaction of the local community, and offer insights about the need for every one of us to stand up and do the right thing when we see — or even when we suspect — evil-doing.
Finally, Focus on the Family offers counseling and resources for those who were a victim of childhood sexual abuse. You’ll find those, along with blog entries from Jim, Dannah and others about Penn State, right here and also here.
I’m listening right now to a review copy of Michael W. Smith’s new instrumental album, “Glory.” It is a beautiful mix of reflection, inspiration and calm.
There are a number of tracks that seem to be right from a film score (Forever, Glory Battle). Others stand alone as songs that seem to be borne out of a quiet moment the composer enjoyed with God (Joy Follows Suffering, The Blessing). The final track is one you likely already know, “Agnus Dei,” with a refreshing new take on the melody.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing this a lot in the days ahead. Every morning my wife spends her devotional time curled up, Bible, journal and cup of tea in hand. She also has some meditative instrumental music playing softly in the room. “Glory” is going to be a most welcome addition to her collection – one that is certainly going to be a favorite in our home, enjoyed when we need to refresh, retreat and reflect.
Pre-order “Glory” here.
Today as we honor those who have served in our military, a story, a few links and a suggestion.
First, some feedback from a listener:
“My husband is a soldier; he’s been deployed overseas to the combat zone and will hopefully be returning soon. About a week ago I called Focus to ask some questions related to welcoming him home. A chaplain from your staff called back, offered helpful suggestions and prayed for our family. You also sent me some materials that offer information and encouragement. I can’t tell you how much your kindness means to me. I am very proud of my husband, and it has been wonderful to hear him describe how he has been witnessing to people while deployed. We both know this was where God wanted him. Thank you very much for all the help and prayer that you offer military families. It is only by God’s grace and the prayers of His people that we are able to continue on with joy and thanksgiving.”
We LOVE hearing from someone we’ve helped. And if you donate to Focus on the Family, you played a part in reaching out to this family in a time of real need.
If you are military, or like me have friends who serve, you should know about some of the practical things we offer families. Let me start by pointing to Dr. Gary Rosberg and his wife Barb, who have a great outreach to military families. Here’s a radio conversation with them about common issues of communication, control and coming together for deployed families.
Related, here’s an article with firsthand insights about some of the challenges couples and parents face when returning home.
In this two-day series, Retired Maj. Gen. Doug Carver and retired Capt. Mike Langston discuss their experiences as military chaplains and their ministry to soldiers on the battlefield. They have some dramatic stories and huge hearts for the men and women they worked with as chaplains.
Here’s a radio program about the realities of life with PTSD, featuring an incredible story of survival and the on-going difficulties. We also offer trusted counseling advice to help with some of the basics for those returning from battle – and those awaiting them.
Alright, now for a suggestion (two, actually). Practically, one way to support our troops in the most important aspects of their service – their faith in God – we’ve got an easy and significant opportunity. Give a dramatized audio Bible to a soldier on the field…and offer them God’s Word. Details here. So far, your financial help has helped hundreds of these unique and powerful tools be ‘deployed.”
Finally, a reminder to take a minute to thank a veteran, and to thank God for the privileges we have in this country.