Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hope for Single Dads: About Dating

Hope for Single Dads: About Dating: Let's get some feedback from readers... In your opinion, after the divorce is final, should a guy date and if so, how long should a guy...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Endorsement

What folks are saying about "I Think I'm Lost: A Road Map for Single Dads" 

Rick James, Publisher Cru Press and author of "Jesus Without Religion" and "A Million Ways to Die" says....

"I Think I’m Lost" takes us along a journey that too many have traveled and where too few maps exist. Tez’s narrative resonates and his authenticity is liberating. If I were a single parent on this journey, I’d want Tez’s comforting voice on my GPS, I really would. It’s a warm and understanding voice that’s traveled the back roads and knows where it’s going.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sharing

During the first few years following the divorce, my ex-wife and I were awarded joint custody, with the children living primarily in their mother’s house.  However, since we lived in the same town, I was able to house Sharaya and Caleb up to three or four days a week. It was a great arrangement, allowing me to keep them in church on the weekends and stay active with their school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).
However, when my former wife decided to move out of state, things got complicated. At the advice of my lazy lawyer, I had failed to address a “no-moving-out-of-state” clause when negotiating the divorce stipulations.
“We’ll worry about that if it happens” he yawned.
I trusted him and dismissed the idea.
So when the children were suddenly three states away, my ex and I both had to compromise when it came to holidays. We could no longer drive the kids to one another’s home mid-day on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Sharing was hard, especially when minor holidays (i.e. Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day) didn't merit a road trip.
Whether we live close to our child or not, rotating those special occasions will eventually be an issue. We need to emotionally prepare ourselves by having a plan, asking ourself some questions:. Should we rotate every other holiday? What special days do I consider unimportant to be with my child? How does their mother feel about this? What’s my child’s opinion? Discussing these with the ex-spouse is key.
Now its your turn....share your advice for the rest of us. What has worked or not worked for you?   


Friday, July 5, 2013

An Epic Fail?

There's something wrong with me. I love fail videos.

Thanks to the popularity they gained through America's Funniest Home Videos, fail movies are now abundant on the web. Do a search for the word "fail" and dozens of clips and photos will pop up.

I know it's terrible, but there's something about seeing some idiot messing up that makes me feel better about myself. Not a godly character trait, I know.

Let share a story with you about how I learned to trust God regardless of the outcome.....

 ----------------------------
I thought to myself: Why am I in this little town anyway? Thanks a lot God, everything’s falling apart.

Just a few months earlier I felt God’s leading to pull up my roots and relocate 100 miles away to be part of a church on the east coast of Florida. Now it was all a terrible mistake. I must have misread the Lord’s leading. What a mess. What an epic fail!

I had been given a job offer, and although I sensed God was orchestrating it—I was afraid of all the unknowns. Now, the Lord doesn't always work gently with me, especially if I am slow to respond. I don't always hear the sweet strum of harp music as He takes my hand and waltzes me into another chapter of my life. Sometimes, especially when I’m stubborn, He just nudges me into action. This felt like one of those times.

I’ve been told a mother eagle often pulls the soft lining out of her nest when the fledglings are ready to fly. The nest gets so uncomfortable for the young eagles that they stand on the edge. It is here they begin to see all the food scurrying about on the ground. It is here the wind catches their new feathers and the pull of the sky becomes irresistible. They begin to spread their wings and eventually they can’t help but leave the irritating pokes of twigs and sticks in the nest and take flight—discovering their true destiny. This career opportunity for me seemed similar.

I did end up moving and before long, I was settling into my new job.

Within a few weeks however, it became painfully evident that this role was not significant enough to warrant a move across the state. I often found myself sitting on the beach contemplating my life and future. Things continued to go south quickly. 

A month later my new boss told me he was resigning and closing his business. I felt deserted. I had not been in town long enough to feel established so I really had no reason to stay. 

Now here I was sitting on the end of the moonlit pier, my legs hanging over the edge. I could hear the whistles of the dolphins and the lapping waves. In front of me all I could see was the black carpet of the Atlantic Ocean meeting a blanket of stars. The anger in my heart seemed to add to the darkness enveloping me.

Can I ever trust myself again to hear from God? Do I have no sense of discernment?

I can look back now and see God’s hand in all of this. He obviously spoke clearly to me in order that something wonderful could be done in my life. Of course at the time I was scared that I had followed some emotion rather than hearing God’s voice.

I’m sure the disciples felt the same way when they were in the boat fighting the waves and wind. They may have been saying “What were we thinking?” However, they would soon realize had they not been in the storm, Jesus could not have displayed his power. Peter would never have experienced walking on water. Many more sick might never have been healed had they stayed on the other side of the lake.

God needed me out of my comfort zone too, in order to make some major life changes easier to swallow. He was weaning me from my nest in baby steps. Whispering and watching me move toward him. Then calling a bit more and watching me inch toward the edge of the nest. Finally watching me jump and flap my wings only to take away my wind. I was falling, spiraling out of control—wondering why I ever left the safety of my nest.


I never hit the ground. God wouldn't let me. His love and protection lifted me up so I could soar. 
You may feel at times like a decision you made failed. Maybe it did, it takes failures to find success. Or maybe you only perceived it as a mistake when its actually God's perfectly planned course for you. Trust him either way...he's got you.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Poem

DADS AND SONS
by Tez Brooks

Today my son carried his grandpa’s casket
Sliding it into the hearse, he stands there
Blankly staring.
I watch him.
What’s he thinking?
Does he realize he never really knew this man?
Is he contemplating life after death?
His own soul’s condition?
What a fine man my son has become.
But what a sad duty today
To bury a man he never knew

Who fault is it, the lack of relationship?
Only three hours apart but neither man initiated.
A missed opportunity.

Yet he is here today
Loving me enough to come.
To be with me during this hard day.
His presence endears me to him.
I’m thankful for my son.
Showing his support and love
At inconvenient times.

I watch my handsome son
Dressed in black
Silently staring from the back of the crowd
Proud of him
I want to touch him, hold him
Never let go.
Life is short
And I’m next in line
God help me
To make the most of what’s left

One day maybe his son will carry me
I want to have known him
It starts today
In this cemetery
A mound of dirt at our feet
I place my arm around my son
No missed opportunities
Not for us.


I love you Son.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Man Who Led Me to Christ Died This Morning

My 86 year-old father passed away this morning.

It's 5:30 in the morning and I'm up after receiving a call from one of my three older brothers.

It was swift for Dad. A few days ago he had a stroke that left him permanently unable to talk or swallow. When asked if he wanted a feeding tube, he indicated "No" via a hand-squeeze.

Without the ability to swallow the doctors said his lungs were filling up with his own mucus and saliva.

I went to bed last night knowing I would be attending a funeral soon.

Since my mother died when I was 18, this now leaves me without any parents.

Weird though, Im not sad or emotional....not yet. More relieved.

No surprise this life event has turned into a blog entry. After all, this entire site is dedicated to the topic of single dads.

I suppose you could say my father was a single dad, at least for a few months... until I left home for college.

I learned a lot about what not to do from how Dad handled being a widower. He married too soon after Moms death (less than a year later). Then he moved away from all of us to an obscure place that held no connection to us as a family. When Mom died there was nobody to keep our family rooted together. My brothers and I and Dad all drifted apart. Dad rarely asked questions about my job, my wife or my children. He was happy to see us, but most visits were miserably boring and un-relational. My four children never got to know him on an intimate level. He never sent them birthday cards or Christmas gifts. Their lives are lacking a potentially awesome relationship, because of his inability to know how to reach out, but they don't even know that. So it's okay.

On a positive note, Dad was the one who led me to Christ when I was only 6. He encouraged me when I felt God called me into ministry as a young man. He was the one who initiated sending me cards of encouragement during my divorce. He really stepped up there, for a season.

He told me once, that he was so glad I wasn't anything like my three older brothers. Im the creative/artsy one. He affirmed me for being different, despite a family that was largely unsupportive of creative endeavors. His words from that day still ring in my heart, "I was so glad you were different from my other sons. I was hoping for a boy like you." 

Dad was older by the time I was born. He seemed tired, sometimes grumpy. He never threw a ball with me or taught me who to work on my car. But I had the privilege of having a dad who was generous with his money. He would often take entire families from our church, out to eat. I had better things than my brothers had growing up.

Dad. I'm gonna miss you. You weren't perfect, but you loved God and led me in my early years as I learned to walk out my Christian faith. Now you are in heaven. I wonder what you're doing right now during your first hour of eternity. Are you walking with Jesus? Kneeling at his feet? Hugging Mom?

Your body is restored to a sinless state. What does that mean? Do you look anything like a human? Did you get your toes back that were lost to diabetes? Are you younger than me now? We can only guess at some of these things.

Love you Dad. I'll miss you. It's not really a goodbye, because I'll be there with you one day. In your own words to me as you tucked me into bed as a child, "See ya later, alligator."

"After while, crocodile."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Stuff

TWO THINGS:

1. If you have ever been a single dad, help me finish my book I Think I'm Lost: A Road Map for Single Dads by completing this short survey.

Single Dad Survey


2. Check out my new Facebook page. Just key in   Help-for-the-Single-Christian-Dad

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kiss the Cook!

“Are we having pizza again, Dad?” My son curled up his nose.

“Nope. We’re having fried bologna.” I smiled, pulling a pan from the cabinet.

My daughter shook her head and stared out the window with a look that said, “I hate being here.”

I was very proud of myself actually. I had made a choice that week to try harder as a cook. Both kids were now living with me full-time. As the custodial parent, I needed to up my game. It was not an easy road and my kids suffered through some weird meals. With some help from grandmothers in my church and a cheap cookbook, I got by.

When it comes to meals I can be somewhat lazy. It’s much easier to whip out some toaster pastries than to make an omelet. Left on my own back then, meals for my kids gravitated toward frozen foods. The microwave oven provided easy, quick solutions. My refrigerator became a drive-thru window of sorts.

I started with boxed macaroni and cheese, then I finally discovered the wonderful magic of (insert angel choir here) the slow cooker!

Ah the slow cooker; a single parent’s dream. Fill it with food, slap on the lid, turn it on, and go to work. When you come home, dinner is served.

A few basic rules of thumb might keep you from having to buy Cooking for Newbies. First of all, use color. If all the food on your plate is white or beige, it’s probably not a balanced meal. You might think it’s balanced, but chicken, rice, bread, and cauliflower is not only ugly—it’s unbalanced. If everything is green, it might be healthy, but it won’t be balanced.

Try to go for a dinner plate that includes a variety of hues from the color pallet. Often, this ensures a more balanced meal—but not always. Use your head. Fruit Loops are colorful too, but hey . . .  
 
Next, try not to poison your loved ones. While raw beef and fish won’t kill you, raw chicken and pork might. Avoid cross-contamination when you cook by using different knives and cutting boards for different foods. If you’re like me and many other guys, multitasking isn’t a strength. If someone is talking to me while I’m cooking, he or she is pretty much gambling with his or her health. Staying focused in the kitchen keeps your kids out of the ER.

You might not be the next Food Network’s Guy Fieri, but with a can opener, a pot, a frying pan, and a spatula, you just might turn into your kid’s own famous chef. Now help out some other dads by posting your own easy dinner recipe in the comment box below

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Infamous Dog Bed!

 
One thing that makes a motor home adventure more enjoyable is the effort the manufacturer takes to make the RV a bit more like a home. You get to enjoy the comfort of beds, a shower, closets—even curtains.

During an RV trip one year my family and I fashioned treasured memories as we took our time stopping at many of the kitschy Americana roadside attractions. What made the trip more pleasant was the little things we did to help us feel at home—a favorite pillow, a family photo, or just a souvenir fridge magnet. I learned this valuable lesson the hard way.

During the first weeks of my divorce, it took only a few nights to realize I was neglecting the importance of a welcoming environment for my kids.  I made the mistake of being a little cheap and buying a dog bed for my son to sleep on. Yes, you read that right—a dog bed! You know, the large round kind you buy for a Labrador retriever or German shepherd.

I’m such an idiot.

The pooch cushion was new, clean, and comfortable. Caleb was young enough to enjoy the idea rather than be disgusted. He would lie down on it, wrap it over himself like a giant taco shell, and giggle himself to sleep. He never complained, but when I tucked him in and saw him on the ground sleeping in a canine cot I knew it was an absurd idea. I was getting weird and my kids were paying the price. I quickly got a real bed for Caleb.
The point I’m getting at is this: Men, in the midst of chaos, we need to make life for our kids as normal and homey as possible. We must create the illusion of something more permanent so our kids don’t feel they are camping out for the weekend in our man-cave. At the very least, we should make it a motor home experience, if not something better. Allowing our kids to live out of a piece of luggage every other weekend probably shouldn’t be a long-term option. Nothing speaks “This isn’t your home, kid” louder than a fridge that only contains moldy cheese and a bottle of beer.
Making your place a warm and inviting environment is all part of parenting. Our kids need us to be the dad, not a fun single uncle. When you can replace your Gladiator poster with a framed portrait of Grandma, your kids will experience an underlying sense of being home when they are with you—whether for a weekend, a summer, or full-time.
Ask Yourself:
  • When you’re around your kids, are your words or actions reinforcing a sense of camping rather than permanence?
Learn to laugh at yourself. Tell us one of your mistakes in the comment box.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Time for a Tune-Up (PART 2)


             Last week I shared my thoughts regarding the importance of mental health for single dads. Let’s continue with some other areas that may need attention.

EMOTIONAL HEALTH
Pastor Thomas gently smiled at me. “When did you last cry? I mean real tears.”
I shrugged. The divorce was six months behind me. I wasn't really upset about the breakup anymore. I had accepted that, months ago. It was more about the kids now. I was angry they would not have the childhood I’d dreamed they would have.
If I allowed myself to grieve, that would be embracing the irreversible. If I stayed mad, I could maybe change things—force my ex to correct some wrongs that impacted my children.
“Your family situation is what it is, Tez. Staying mad won’t fix your children’s futures. Before our next session I want you to go somewhere private, put your face on the floor, and pour out your heart to Jesus. Just bust your guts mourning. Because turning it into anger, Tez, just makes you end up sinning in some way or another.”
He was right. My anger wouldn’t change things for my kids, at least not for the better. Later that night I released my resentment and began grieving over my kids’ losses—things they would never know they lost.
I grabbed a roll of toilet paper—because it’s manlier than a box of tissues, right? I began repenting to the Lord, then mourning over my children.
I thought about all the norms that would never be. The family vacations without a mom, the holidays without a dad, the everyday conversations that usually happen over dinner or while driving to school. The little teaching opportunities while taking walks or working in the yard. Conversations about manners, finances, romance, and heaven. I knew these moments would still happen, but not in the fashion I had hoped. One parent would often be missing from these discussions.
I was finally letting my dream die and realizing this new reality wasn't really going to make a difference to the kids. For them, life would be what life would be. This dream had been more about my needs than theirs. Maybe that's why I was so furious. It had become all about me, and I was annoyed because nobody around me seemed to need what I needed so terribly.
My selfishness now revealed, I began to weep—slowly at first, then like a levy in a hurricane. Thirty minutes later, I found myself on the floor of my bedroom earnestly petitioning God—mediating on my children’s behalf. At one point I remember taking their photos off the dresser and waving them in the air—lifting their names to the Father, in prayer. I interceded for them so passionately; I thought my neck veins would pop. When I was too exhausted to go on, I took a deep breath for closure, went to the mirror, and laughed at myself. I looked like a Botox junkie, but my junk suddenly felt a lot lighter.
           
PHYSICAL HEALTH
Seven years later I found myself working night shift and sharing a house with a good friend, Derek. My son, Caleb, (now eleven years old) was also living with me full-time. It was like a godly version of the sitcom, Two and a Half Men. On school nights, Derek would wake up Caleb as he left for work. My son got ready for school with no adult supervision. I hated this and beat myself up for it daily. I would arrive home just as he was walking out to meet the school bus. Intoxicated with guilt, I’d kiss him goodbye and sleep until he returned. Then I’d make dinner, help Caleb with homework, watch a little television with him, tuck him into bed, and leave for work.
Thankfully Derek had an incredible servant’s heart. He was willing to forfeit any social life he might rather have, in order to stay at home all night with my son. Together with the help of our church, we provided Caleb with the male companionship he needed during this crucial time in his life. With Caleb’s mother three states away, many of the women at church doted on him. Caleb seemed to especially love that. It wasn’t the best situation, but it’s all I could offer as a single parent.
  Sometimes I wondered, What am I thinking? Sure the graveyard shift offered better pay than more traditional hours, but at what cost? By working nights, was I forfeiting relationship with my boy, as well as safety and the protective care of a parent? Derek had a fantastic heart, but he was not a dad. He was a single guy with no parenting experience. Meanwhile, my overall health wasn’t responding well to this nocturnal lifestyle either. Caleb never complained, but I knew I was physically becoming less and less able to care for him like I should. I relied heavily on my small group and the singles ministry to help me raise my boy. My neediness doubled when my daughter visited.
There’s no way I can care properly for my children if I don’t first care for myself. 
So tell us, what part of you do you feel most needs improvement?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tune Up - PART 1


Traveling by plane doesn’t seem complicated these days. However, when the flight attendant begins giving instructions about crisis procedures, you realize things are very different from earthbound travel—the drop-down mask in particular. No other form of public transportation requires oxygen in case of an emergency. Clearly, you are to take care of yourself first, before attempting to care for any children. It makes sense. How can you help anyone else if you aren’t getting oxygen to your brain? You can’t think straight or formulate sensible decisions when you’re on the verge of passing out. It’s the same with parenting alone. How often I have seen single parents attempt to care for their children when they themselves are obviously in need of some quiet time, a little community, or counseling.
It was 1995, I was thirty-two, suddenly single again, and losing weight. I wasn’t trying to find a woman. I was just forgetting to eat. There was a lot of stress in my life and some things were neglected in order to cope. I was only able to keep a few essential things in focus—my kids’ welfare, my job, and the search for basic shelter. My hygiene was cut back to a shower and brushing my teeth. I often forgot to shave or put on deodorant. I didn’t always feel the need to get dressed on the weekends either. It took all I had to juggle the basics. I ate to stay alive. A bean burrito and a cup of water at the drive-thru fueled my body. My car interior became my second apartment. Life was dismal.
Before long, it was evident I was becoming weird. I needed to stabilize my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical lives. Here’s my philosophy about us men: if we don’t maintain some type of community with others, we digress. To better understand, let’s hear from you about some of those areas. How have you found yourself needing some mental tune-ups?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Idols


A divorce is much like a ten-car pile up. It affects not just two vehicles but a whole slew of perimeter vehicles that get caught in the chaos. Not even innocent bystanders come out unscathed.
So you might feel totaled, like a pile of scrap metal. Take heart; you’re not beyond some bodywork and a little loving care. In the right hands you could come out in better shape than before the crash.
Usually, the first thing you see when you climb out of the car is the damage. You know you’re okay, but as steam pours from your radiator you hear a ka-ching in your head as you survey the needed repairs. With a divorce, it’s a sinking feeling we call dread.
Much like being in a car wreck, during the months following my divorce I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness chewed on the back of my mind.
I didn’t know it at the time but the reason I felt this way was that I had put my confidence in what I had acquired, not who I was in Christ. I thought my identity was in the things I had attained, and they were slipping away from me—my wife, my kids, my house, my cars—all of it.
Looking at my life as if it were a listing on the Kelley Blue Book website was a mistake. When I entered all my features into the fields and clicked on the “appraisal” button, I didn’t like the amount it calculated. My self-worth was way below the world’s market price. This stung.
As I embraced the world’s mentality, my actions followed suit. Desperate, I attempted to prove to the universe that I was an excellent father, a great employee, and a successful and desirable man. But it was all in vain because I really didn’t believe it. After all, how could I argue with the calculations from the internal appraisal I kept pondering?
In my feeble attempts to appear respectable, the opposite began to happen. I needed to pay the mortgage on the house my wife was living in while paying rent on my own apartment. As a result, I lost my car to the repo man, got fired from my job, and had to move to a seedy part of town in order to afford the rent. Worst of all, the kids didn't enjoy living with me during this season.
My transmission was slowly slipping as I went down the road to becoming one of those clueless fathers you often see in films. I could feel failure encroaching upon my dignity like an infection. Obviously, I lacked understanding for why I’m placed on this earth. In all my years of living for the Lord I somehow missed that it was about Him and not my own happiness or success.
It was in the midst of this when I called out to the Lord for help. I was tired of my journey. All my life had been an uphill climb to accomplish little more than a few trophies that had been wiped out. Life was vanity, nothing but striving for petty ghost treasures.

I saw how chaotic my life was because I had placed idols on the throne of my heart rather than allowing God to sit there. Idols like having a wife and kids, a house with a picket fence, the American dream. Those were my idols. 
I repented, asking Christ to take His rightful place on that throne. Then I prayed for the Holy Spirit to rearrange my priorities, placing them under the control of the Father instead of me. The late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, calls this “spiritual breathing.” Rightly so, because when I exhaled my sin and inhaled the Spirit of God, I could suddenly breathe a lot easier.
As followers of Jesus, as children of God, we don’t need to calculate our worth by the world’s standards. When we understand our significance and security come from who we are in Christ, it defeats thoughts of failure. Why should we fear trials and tribulations when He has not given us a fearful disposition (2 Tim. 1:7)? These trials are perfecting us into mighty men of valor. His heart is toward us with loving kindness and compassion (Lam. 3:21-23). So should we feel alone, confused, or even cursed? If we do, He wants to whisper in your ear, “I love you. I revel over you, favored one.”
Take heart friend, He likes us—a lot!
What are your idols?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Fork in the Road

 
I come from a long line of Christians. Because of such a godly heritage, I never considered divorce would touch my family. I had been taught that God hates divorce--that couples can work through anything with Christ’s help. My plan was to raise the kids who would probably grow up to be in some type of ministry. Then we’d spend our empty nest years spoiling the grandkids, celebrating holidays at large family reunions, and planning vacations together with everyone. I assumed I’d grow old with the wife of my youth—sitting grey-haired on a front porch swing, reminiscing about the decades of our life together. I didn't know my wife was having affairs. I thought we were fine.
Once she filed for divorce it all crashed in on me. Over the next few months my life was consumed with lawyer consultations, comforting my children, looking for an apartment, and discovering which friends were hers or mine. All the while I continued to hope for the best.
Some days I was in denial, other days angry or depressed. I felt challenged in my manhood and self-worth. Nightmares of my wife with other men interrupted my sleep. During the day, I was consumed with thoughts of my kids climbing into another man’s lap, enjoying a better life with a guy who had won them over somehow. I imagined this man moving into my home and kissing my children goodnight. In these vain imaginations he was younger, stronger, better looking, and richer than I could ever be. I couldn’t keep my thoughts captive, and it ate away at my ability to reason properly.
My crisis came to a head one terrible Sunday night wile returning my kids to their mother. As I arrived, I noticed the lights were out. Although her car was there, no one seemed to be home. We sat in the driveway and I dialed her mobile. Perhaps she had walked over to a neighbor’s house for a moment.
Before I could finish dialing, a black convertible Jaguar pulled up to the curb. The passenger door opened and the interior light revealed my wife and the driver inside, a handsome, much younger man. Not yet noticing us, she leaned over and kissed him, got out, then waved goodbye. In a flash, he was gone. She noticed my vehicle and froze.
What just happened?
I sat there, in the darkness of my vehicle as my jaw dropped. In these months leading up to our court date—even with the nightmares—I remained hopeful that we’d be able to salvage our marriage. I never considered my fears might materialize even before the divorce was final. Did he know she was still my wife? How dare he? My stomach hurt and my throat went dry. I was trembling and getting tunnel vision.
My children saw it all and one of them asked, “Who was that Daddy?”
The question snapped me out of my stupor. “I don’t know kids, but you need to go—Mommy’s here.” I rushed them out of the car without saying goodbye and squealed the tires as I left. I wanted to catch that guy.
In the rearview mirror of my dented mini-van, I saw my wife and children standing in the middle of the front yard in confusion. Tears welled up under my eyes and began to drop as I beat my fists against the steering wheel. Then I screamed out, “What is this! What are you doing, God?
I could hardly see to drive, but I knew this home-wrecker could only be a few blocks ahead of me. I was gaining on him, but I was uncertain exactly what I would do when I caught him. Scenarios ran through my head—maybe I would run up to his vehicle with a crowbar and start breaking his headlights. Then I’d pull him out of the car and punch his face over and over again until no one could recognize him. Perhaps I’d take the high road and, like a gentleman, calmly ask him to leave my wife alone. Maybe I’d even share the gospel with him…or just kick him with my steel-toed boots right in his crotch! Yeah, the low road seemed more fulfilling.
As I turned a corner I saw him only a few blocks ahead of me—in that stupid convertible. How impractical. He slowed, and, ignoring the stop sign, turned left at a crossroads ahead of me, away from town. I rolled up to the T-intersection trying to calm down. My hands were tingling and numb. As I looked at the fork ahead of me I had a revelation. I was in trouble. Smoke was pouring out of my life, and I could no longer deny that my marriage and my heart had thrown a rod. I had a choice to make. I could turn right, go home, and abandon the chase, or I could turn left and continue chasing after…what?
I wiped my nose on my sleeve and turned right.

So let me ask you, although we can’t always protect our kids from everything in life, what are some ways you can protect your children from seeing or hearing things above their comprehension level? Would love to hear your responses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Those Flashing Lights


I was nineteen—old enough to know better. My yellow Maverick was a clunker and needed more attention than I was willing to give. In a hurry to get to work, I cranked the engine, threw the car into reverse, checked my mirrors, and backed out into the street. I turned on my favorite Hall and Oates tunes and raced through town.  Over the music, I never heard the steady ding ding ding and the red light flashing on the control panel. However, once I got on the highway, I noticed the smoke pouring out from under the hood. By then it was too late. The engine block had cracked. I learned a valuable lesson that day—glance at my dashboard from time to time.
Now jump with me 10 years ahead.
 My friend Rick made a similar mistake in his personal life. He overlooked the warning signals of an impending disaster.
He whined, “It takes 80 percent of my paycheck for child support. I have to move in with my sister. It’s not right, man. It's oppressive. I’m already a month behind and my ex is complaining that she can’t afford school supplies for Heather.”
Society might call Rick a deadbeat dad, but they didn't know all the facts. He had been a decent Christian father for years. He brought his daughter up in church, attended her recitals, clothed and fed her well. But when his marriage ended, he found himself paying a mortgage for a house he no longer lived in and paying court-ordered child support far above the standard of living he had provided for his daughter prior to the divorce.
Over the following months I saw him become bitter and resentful toward his ex-wife as well as the courts. When he turned to his church for moral support, he was met with indifference. After a while he stopped going to church. He began drinking more and visiting his daughter less and less. Rick eventually lost his job, was arrested for a DUI, and lost all visitation rights with his daughter. Within five years, he had become exactly what society had labeled him: a deadbeat dad.
His trouble wasn’t the lack of income. It wasn’t the fault of Rick’s ex-wife or his church. It wasn’t even his drinking. The root issue was that Rick refused to stop and look at some warning signs. He never checked his dashboard to see that his forgiveness gauge was in the red. Had Rick noticed these issues early on, he might have been able to avoid a disaster.
As I went through my own divorce, I often forgot to add the oil of gladness to the squeaks that annoyed me. I forgot, at times, to filter my tongue or take time for something as simple as refueling. Sometimes the engine light was flashing like crazy, but I was too busy staring into my rearview mirror, fixating on past events I could not change.

What is your initial response or cycle of thought when things spin out of control? How do you usually react to these “breakdowns” in your life?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Control Freak

 
I hate carpools. If I agree to share a ride to work, this means I give up control to some degree—especially if I’m not the driver. After all, what if I want to grab a coffee at the drive-thru? What if I need to leave work early? There have been times when I decided to forgo the blessing of fellowship just so I could be the one in control.
At times I’m a control freak, or least I can be when I’m not moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. When I allow my Lord to take the wheel, things suddenly become much more organized and manageable.
Driving around town can be a lot like my life when the Lord is not in control. I encounter self-imposed stimuli like the radio, conversations with my six-year-old, the temperature in the car, the GPS chatting at me, my cup of coffee calling for my attention, and my smart phone ringing.
But there’s more. I also have outside complications. Aggressive drivers whip in and out of my lane. Traffic cones, school zones, and potholes mock me along with a million traffic signs, which I must immediately recognize by shape and color and then obey. Sometimes it’s even raining.
I have an ongoing battle with my pride. I often tend to work out my problems on my own, without asking Jesus for help. My family of origin taught me independence was a desirable trait to strive for. My childhood circumstances and most of my young-adult years reinforced this. I learned I could not rely on people to help me in certain situations. This has at times hindered my dependence on God. I need to be deliberate in chasing after and killing my independence. Without Christ I can do nothing. I might try to fix circumstances on my own. It might even work out okay. However, this isn’t biblical and it doesn't reflect a heart of trust or reliance on God. Taking the wheel from God is a huge mistake. Each time I try to move in my own skills—my know-how—what I’m basically saying is, “God, I don't really believe You can help me. I can do it better.”
I finally learned that a life directed by God was the only way to succeed. This was the only way to be the man of God—the father—He wanted me to be. Still from time to time I want to take the wheel, or at least attempt some back-seat driving, trying to help the journey with a shortcut.
So... what triggers control issues in you?
In what ways have you tried to fix your broken family on your own?

I think I'm lost!

 
Her name was Babette—Babs for short. She was my first Global Positioning System (GPS), and I loved the way she made my life so easy.
After a few years, however, I noticed I couldn’t always trust her.  One day while I was driving, Babs broke beyond repair. Our relationship was over and I felt, lost.
I grabbed an old map from under my car seat, pulled off the road, and navigated to my destination. This method wasn't as convenient as Babs, but I made it with the help of a good road map.
In a similar manner, my unexpected journey as a single parent also found me lost. I was at a crossroads in my life, and I needed to make a decision. Just a few weeks after my wife and I separated, I realized I had to stop and regroup. I could continue wallowing in my self-pity, eating cups of noodles, and renting movies every night. Or I could man-up, learn how to cook, and spend quality time with my children as often as possible.
I often encounter men who are in various places on the single-dad journey like I was, without a map. They drift from one roadside attraction to another without direction, letting life’s highway take them and their children wherever it wants.
Don't get me wrong—at times I too drifted. I still do sometimes. However, men don’t always have a chance to direct the route life takes them, especially in divorce or the death of a spouse. Despite this, we can still redirect our path and, if need be, pull into a rest area in order to reestablish a game plan. Although outside influences may detour me at times, I never want to embrace a fatalistic attitude about parenting the little ones God entrusted to my care.
So let me ask you right now...why are you reading this blog? What are some of the ways you feel lost when parenting? Tell us about them.
Do you consider yourself a Christ follower? Why or why not?