People have complimented my family many times. They say things like, "You have a wonderful family." Well, yes I do! God is good! I have great kids, and they have great spouses, and they have great children.
People ask me, "How did you do it?"
First, I must give thanks to God. He has blessed me in spite of myself.
Second, I must recognize my wife, Deborah. She has been an incredible mother! While I was busy pastoring churches, she was devoted to our children. Every night she prayed with them. I wish I could say we had family devotions everyday... but we did not. We tried it a few times. But I would have had to tie my kids down with duct tape or beat them senseless to get through it! But I thought it counter-productive to kill my children in order to read the Bible to them. (If someone has a way to make children sit attentively and obediently while the Bible is being read, please share that information with the world).
But what we did do... I believe... is we lived our faith before our children. We lived out our faith in the gritty reality of life. I say "gritty" because it has not always smooth or clean. My kids have seen me lose it too many times. They've seen me frustrated and discouraged. But they've also observed--I think--that we never let go. We hung on to our faith. Children learn by observation. The ONLY way they can learn the value of faith is to see it displayed in the lives of their parents.
We have to ask ourselves: "What kind of people do I want my children to grow up to be?" Many years ago I read a book by Kay Kesler entitled, Ten Mistakes Parents Make With Teenagers... And How To Avoid Them. (You can purchase copies on Amazon.com) In that book Kesler made a statement that I consider to be the best advice on parenting I've ever seen anywhere. My copy is packed away in the basement right now, so forgive me for having to rely on a stale memory. He said, in effect, that we should not waste our time trying to mold our children into who we want them to be--artists, ballplayers, scholars, etc. By the time our kids become adults they will have adopted our values to the core and become almost identical copies of ourselves. So here is Kesler's advice: "Live your life in such a way that, when your kids grow up to be like you, you'll be proud of what they turned out to be."
How can you do that?
- Pray... a lot! Ask God to give you wisdom raising your kids.
- Be there. Don't bail out on your kids. I mean, stay together. God rigged it so--if possible--children need both parents.
- Be present and be involved in the life of your kids. Deborah and I tried to go to everything our kids were involved in. I don't regret whatever else I missed to do it.
- Start with yourself. If you want your child to grow up to be the right kind of person, then you start by being the right person.
- Dad, love your wife. Wife, love your husband. Whoever said parents should not display their love for each other in front of their children was a FOOL! Dads, do your job and kiss your wife in front of the kids.
- Did I mention prayer? Can't do too much praying for your kids.... even praying for things like their future spouse when they are still infants. Like E. V. Hill said, "You can't get no race horses from no mules!"