Grab A Hand

father-son-holding-handsI’ve been volunteering at my kids’ school as often as I can. My mom did such an incredible job of this when my brother and I were kids that she modeled it well. I consider myself fortunate that I have the flexibility to volunteer and I know that the window of opportunity for this is much more limited than most of us really consider.

Last year, my oldest son signed up for running club at the school. It’s an after school program that encourages fitness but also rewards kids for pushing themselves. The gym teacher who runs it gave out little colored running shoe keychains to mark accomplishments that the students had made in their own progress.

My oldest is fairly cerebral and would much rather read a good book or play a video game than throw a ball. He’s found some activities that he likes and we’ve done our best to encourage them. So, when he expressed his interest in this, I jumped at the opportunity to encourage him by not only signing him up, but by volunteering myself to be a part of it.

Over the years, I’ve watched those who have gone before me in their parenting styles and skills. I’ve done my best to glean good practices from them that I have seen and mark those other practices that have not proved to be quite as effective. One of the practices that I’ve seen work so well for parents of multiple children is “dating” their children. This just involves taking them out one on one to do special and fun things together.

The things that I’ve chosen to do with my kids haven’t been grandiose or extravagant. Sometimes it’s just a trip to Home Depot or Goodwill. Involving them in the most common tasks can easily help them to feel important and involved. Activities like this running club have proven to be super beneficial for my relationship with my son as well.

The other day, after the club had finished and we were all walking back from the field to the gym, my son walked alongside me and grasped my hand. At that moment, I felt like the child as I glanced around to see whether or not anyone else was looking. I wasn’t embarrassed to hold my son’s hand, but I was surprised that it didn’t seem like something that was even on his radar. We walked back to the gym, hand in hand, talking about the day and his run. As we walked, I took a mental snapshot, capturing that moment in my brain because I knew that moments like that were fleeting and I wouldn’t have them forever.

I was so thankful for that moment. I was thankful that I had established a relationship with my son where he felt comfortable, even in 4th grade, grabbing his dad’s hand with his peers all around him. I was thankful that the affection that I’ve tried so hard to pour out on him was coming back to me. Not that I poured it out to get it back, but the return was an added benefit. I was thankful that it gave me a glimpse of the future relationship between my son and I, when we move from being father and son to being friends.

It was only the grabbing of a hand, but it meant a lot to me. These are the moments that legacy is made of, how we are remembered and how we remember. They happen when we least expect it and they certainly can’t be contrived or created. I’m hoping for many more, but I won’t try too hard to make them happen, I’ll just seize the opportunities, make myself available, and hope that they continue to come towards me.

Unreasonable Hope – A Book Review

unreasonable-hopeWhen I picked up “Unreasonable Hope,” I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. As Chad Veach tells the story of his journey with his daughter, Georgia, he pulls the reader into his story. He describes the emotions that he and his wife, Julia, experienced in the anticipation of a baby and the dreams that come for every couple expecting their firstborn child. Veach explains about the disease, lissencephaly, that his daughter has and explains the disease and their family’s journey with it.

It was hard to read at times because I could feel the heavy emotions that this young couple was feeling, which speaks to his ability to describe the situation with such vivid detail, enough to invest the reader into his story. Throughout his explanation, Veach never blames God. He is honest about the struggles but also sees beyond those struggles to what God is able to do through them. He shares about what God has taught he and Julia as well as those around them. He’s honest and realistic about their struggles but he also shares the hope that they have found in and through Jesus Christ.

There were moments in reading “Unreasonable Hope” where I felt like I was reading a Joel Osteen book. Veach is honest about the fact that being a Christian does not insure a pain-free or trouble-free existence when he says, “But just because Jesus is with you doesn’t mean you’re free from trials. Storms will happen when you know and love God.” While he acknowledges that, he still makes it seem as if we should be experiencing blessing and gifts from God in this life, that we should somehow anticipate that God has something more for us in this life.

While I don’t disagree that God wants to bless his children, I think the Veaches own experience is a testimony to the fact that sometimes in life, we don’t have answers that are satisfactory for the troubles that come our way, even as those who trust and follow Jesus. There were moments when it seemed that Veach got this, and it’s evident that he does, considering his circumstances, but the specifics of it weren’t as clear as I think that they could be to prevent someone for having unreasonable expectations of what our life in Christ should be like. He writes, “He’s ready to overflow our boat and give us more than we need.” I just wonder how a Christian living in the Third World might respond to reading that sentence as they are scrambling for their latest meal and watching their children go hungry.

Veach has an engaging writing style and, as I said, he draws the reader in with the honesty of his story. While I admire the honesty and transparency with which he writes, I feel like he misses the boat a little when it comes to explaining that sometimes the hope that we have in Christ won’t be fulfilled until the day when we meet Him face to face.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

How Do I Keep From Crashing?

crashImagine yourself, relaxing, sitting back and just taking in every moment. There is nothing pressing for your time as you move slowly through the day. Your phone isn’t ringing, there is no one vying for your time and attention. You’re a little bit off the beaten path but feeling as if you’re completely disconnected (in the best way possible) from the real world.

Times like this may be few and far between for you and for me, but what happens when we find them and experience them? How do we react in the moment? How do we react when we leave that moment?

During my time away last week, I had a good deal of down time to myself. I was able to read, write, and relax without much distraction. If I was tired, I could rest. If I wanted to watch a movie, I could watch a movie. There was no one hanging on my heels, asking me boatloads of questions, and needing my undivided attention for every minute of every hour.

It was peaceful!

But I knew that there would come a time when I would have to go back to reality, when I would have to face the responsibilities that surround me on a normal and average day. I also knew that facing that reality would most likely hit me like a brick to the side of the head, hard, painful, and leaving me worse for wear.

No matter how hard I could have tried, I don’t think anything would have prepared me well for my reentry into the real world after my time away.

After sitting in my car for six hours (even my lunch was purchased at the drive-thru, a mistake I don’t know that I will duplicate), I arrived home to smiles on everyone’s face. One child was playing in the cul-de-sac, one child was watching TV, and one child was hanging on Mommy’s heels. Everyone exchanged hugs and I sat down to do my best to catch up with my wife.

Now, let me add a parenthetical detour here and say that my wife and I do our best to communicate as often as we can. I have found that face to face communication isn’t very easy with three children. There seems to be a radar on these little ones that goes off as soon as some amount of meaningful conversation begins to take place between the two adults in the house. It doesn’t matter whether kids are happily engaged in activities at the commencement of said conversation, somehow or another, as soon as the first meaningful words begin to emerge from either of our mouths, the interruptions commence!

We pushed through our conversation and into dinner, doing our best to be gracious through all of the interruptions and distractions. I kept my voice calm and even, all the while I was mentally reminding myself of the fact that in five or ten years, these kids will have turned into two-headed monsters who may or may not care what their mom and dad thinks.

Now, I had changed my plans to be back for my daughter’s pre-school program. My wife took her and my oldest to the school to get ready for that, while I took my younger son to baseball practice. He was none too happy about going to practice for some reason or another, and it eventually reared its ugly head.

After being asked to sit in the dugout because of his reaction out of frustration to a drill his team was doing, I grabbed him and we went to the car to try to ensure a decent seat at his sister’s program. My own frustration was more than brimming to the surface. I was ready to spill out any moment and the thing that caused the spill to take place was my son’s coughing to the point of spitting up, right in the back of my car, right when we got into the parking lot of the school for the program.

I called my wife to tell her of the latest development and of our impending lateness. As I drove home, my phone vibrated with a message from her asking how my son was doing. Still not having sufficiently cooled off, my text response was inappropriate. Unfortunately, in the close quarters at the school program, my oldest glanced down at my wife’s phone and saw my inappropriate response……[sigh]

Ugh! How many parenting fails could I possibly achieve in one evening? I thought that I might be setting a record for fails per hour considering that I had only been home for about two and a half hours at this point.

By the time we got back to the school, the program was over and we had missed it. Of course, this just set me off even further. I can’t even imagine what my blood pressure was at this point. I thought to myself, “Weren’t you just really calm for the past few days? How did the wheels come off so quickly?”

I’ve obviously not found the remedy for reentry. In my experience, it seems that the more relaxed and unwound that I get, the greater the challenge for me as I reenter the world of my own daily grind. They almost seem exponentially connected. The further retreated from reality I get, the harder it seems to get back into that reality again.

I’ve still got some time to work through this, to see if I can find a way to ease through the constant reentries that I will face in life. I am hoping that over the course of my sabbatical, I can work on reentry more. We’ll see how it goes.

A Broken Toy Christmas

Christmas with Steve and Jon-2I’ve had so many people make reference to this story that I’ve shared personally, via sermons and my old blog, that I felt the need to dig it out, dust it off, and retell it for the sake of those who have never heard it before. Maybe also for the sake of those who have heard it because sometimes a retelling can make you notice something else.

One year, when my brother and I were probably about 11 and 7, respectively, we had been pretty terrible in the months leading up to Christmas. We were constantly fighting and getting at each other and my parents had constantly warned us that if we didn’t stop, “Santa” would be bringing us nothing but broken, old toys for Christmas. Now, regardless of the fact that we didn’t believe in Santa Claus (nor had we ever), we still used that language for whatever reason. My parents knew that both my brother and I were not believers in the big, fat guy in a red suite.

My parents were jokers, although not many of our friends and some of theirs didn’t believe it. They could joke with the best of them and I think my brother and I thought that they were kidding in this instance too. Our parents would never dream of withholding presents from us at Christmas, right? After all, everyone should get presents, right?

Regardless of their constant threats, Christmas morning approached with little to no improvement in our behavior. I guess we were just stupid enough to believe that our parents would never dream of holding out on us.

Christmas morning finally arrived and we woke up with excitement to see what might be waiting for us under that tree. Imagine the surprise on my brother’s and my face when we arrived at the Christmas tree to find that the only thing underneath it was a pile of broken and old toys with a note that said something to the effect of, “You’ve been naughty, and here’s what you get!”

My brother and I were devastated. Me being the younger of the two of us, I think that I was probably more so. I remember whining and crying and trying to convince my parents that this was unfair and unjust (trying to capitalize on the biblical notion of justice, because that’s what pastor’s kids do to win an argument, invoke the “God” excuse).

I’m not sure how long my parents let this whole thing go on. Like most things that happen when you’re young, it probably went on for far less time than it felt like it had gone on. Finally, after my parents had felt that their point had been sufficiently made, they went to a closet and pulled out all of the “real” presents. Replacing all of the broken toys under the tree were these beautifully wrapped presents. Of course, my brother and I played it up as if we knew our parents would do this all along. We were overjoyed by this gracious act, telling our parents that we knew all along that they would never do this to us, while secretly taking in a deep sigh of relief.

No matter how far I get away from this story, I just can’t forget it. Years go by, both of my parents are gone now, but I still remember the Christmas which has affectionately become known to my brother and I as “The Broken Toy Christmas.”

Parenting experts may call the exercise cruel and unjust, some people may think that it was harsh, and to be frank, I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about it. My leaning is towards the fact that my parents showed my brother and I an incredible amount of grace. What we deserved, based on our actions and behavior, was the broken toys. What they gave us were the presents that showed that despite our imperfections, they loved us. My parents had shown grace in a way that rarely gets seen in this world.

Too many people cower to the whines and complaints of their children. There rarely seem to be consequences when behavior that is less than stellar is displayed. Instead, parents idly threaten their children and then give them what they never deserved with no hesitation.

I didn’t have to go through years of counseling to get over this and yet I still remember the Christmas vividly. In a lot of ways, I can’t help but connect what my parents did to what God did for us when he sent Jesus to the world. The history of God’s people is full of stubborn and obstinate people who thought that regardless of their behavior, a loving God would never turn his back on them and would never mete out justice on them. They were right, but someone still had to pay the price. That someone was Jesus. He is the gift of grace that God gave to us. When we deserved nothing but “broken and old toys” God gave us the best thing that he had to offer: his only son.

As I raise my kids, I hope and pray that I can instill in them the fact that Christmas isn’t about getting what we deserve, it’s about receiving the gift of grace from God. Christmas isn’t about all the commercialism that is preached at us from Black Friday on, it’s the realization that no gift could ever compare to what we receive in and through Christ.

May we come to the realization that the best thing that we can get and give is the news of this gift of grace. May our hearts always be reminded of what we deserve and be thankful of what we receive instead through grace.

Merry Christmas!


dollhouse-newSometimes, I feel lost. Sometimes, I feel as if I’ve lost something.

Star Wars was big when I was a kid. I collected all the figures and trading cards. I would spend hours upon hours using my imagination to create scenarios with blocks and figures. I didn’t need a screen to show me what to do. I didn’t need someone to show me how to pretend. I just did it!

I also grew up with an older brother. It was just the two of us, no sisters. So, other than my mom and my wife, the idea of relating to a woman in the same house as me is a bit foreign.

I can pick up a football or a baseball or a Frisbee and throw it around with my middle child. He’s content to throw back and forth for hours. I hope that more conversation will develop as we spend time doing that in the future. It’s something that I never really shared with my father, so I’m excited to be able to share it with one of my kids.

If I bring home a new video game or book, I can spend time with my oldest talking about the game or the book. I can hear his perspective and let him try out his strategies on me before he actually tries it out in the game. We can sit on the couch and play through a videogame and be perfectly content. It’s also something that I never really shared with my father, so I’m excited to be able to share it with him.

My daughter’s a different story. When I play with her, I begin to wonder what happened to my imagination, what happened to my childhood. She can sit there content with her dolls for hours upon hours and in five minutes, I’ve checked out and lost my patience. I muster up enough to continue playing, but then I run out of steam. I find some excuse to get up and check on something else.

I was never like this. I never had a hard time using my imagination. I never struggled to relate to my own flesh and blood.

There are plenty of places where we connect. She loves to cuddle. She loves to have me read her stories. She loves to be part of the things that her big brothers are part of. So, the struggle with relating isn’t as great as it feels, but it’s still there.

In the midst of my urgency to be moving and my discomfort in pretending, I realize that there is a stillness and quietness that I need to find. It might not be so much my imagination that’s been lost or my sense of pretending, but my sense to know and understand how to simply sit and be, enjoying the company and presence of this precious gift that sits just feet away from me.

I think I can keep pretending and make up stories, it’s the stillness and stopping that I need to work on the most. I am grateful that kids are resilient, they keep coming back even if we don’t “play” right. So, here’s hoping for second chances at helping with princess dress-up, to imagining a kingdom made of blocks, to seeing mermaids swimming through an imaginary ocean, to dollhouses that are strangely inhabited only by children. If it can be imagined, we can play it, and I’ve got to just let myself go.

These moments are precious and fleeting, they won’t be around forever. The last thing that I want is to wish that I could play dolls again, not only because that’s just creepy for a middle-aged man to wish, but also because the day will come when my daughter won’t want to play with them anymore. Until that day comes, here’s to seizing the moment!

Papa Bear

When I was a little boy, I was the youngest kid in the neighborhood. Most of the kids were at least a year older than me, if not more. Even my brother is four years older than me. While I wasn’t a small child, I was still the youngest.

There was a kid down the street who might have been labeled the neighborhood bully. He was the one wearing the heavy metal T-shirts. He lived with his mom, and to the best of my knowledge had no siblings. He had a reputation, at least with my family.

One day, I was being a four or five year old kid, riding my little plastic, orange push motorcycle and the next minute, I had gotten clocked in the head with it by this kid. Naturally, I cried and ran home.

As the youngest child, I was always the one to get sympathy. I was the baby and there were plenty of times that my mom would coddle me as the baby. On this day, I don’t know if I ever saw my mom so mad in my life. While all of the details remain blurry, I do remember being dragged down the street to this kid’s house. I remember his mom answering the door and my mom showing her the welt on my head from my plastic motorcycle. It seems to me that my mom’s concern was met with indifference from the mom, but don’t quote me on it.

I learned an incredible lesson that day: most parents love and care deeply for their children. In fact, they will do just about anything for them and when you mess with those kids, the hackles will come out and you’ll find yourself facing a very angry animal.

As a parent myself now, I can understand better my mom’s reaction. If you want to see the bear claws come out, mess with my kids.

I’m not naïve enough to think that my kids are perfect. Heck, I’ve spent fourteen hours in the car with them, if there’s anyone who knows better than me (other than my wife) that they are fallible and imperfect, it’s me.

But I know my kids. I know how they usually act. I know how they usually talk. I know when things just aren’t right. When I see something done to them that was not justified, when I see them being treated unfairly, when I see them hurting, I will respond.

At the end of this past little league baseball season, I wrote an email to the coaches for my older son’s team. I wanted to thank them for taking a kid who isn’t the most athletically gifted kid in the world and doing their best to make sure that he was encouraged, that he was educated and taught the game, and that he had a good time and enjoyed himself. I was grateful for their time and efforts and the investment that they had made in my son.

Recently, something happened with one of my children and I responded. As I reflected on my reaction, I think that I was a little surprised at just how much love that I have for my children. I’m not surprised that I love them, I was just surprised just how much I felt the burning within me at the thought of anything bad happening to them.

Continuing to reflect upon it, I thought about that love that I have for my children multiplied. How much does God love us? If I respond so passionately when someone messes with my kids, how much more will God respond because of his great love for us?

As a friend of mine said the other day, “Parenting is the most rewarding thing in the world.” He followed that statement by admitting how incredibly difficult it is as well. Your kids will challenge you, they will love you, they will test you, they will show you just what’s inside of you.

I’m grateful for my children, but I’m equally grateful for my parents, the ones who stood up for me, who loved me, who went to the mat for me. I’m also grateful for a Father who still does the same day after day!

Monkey See, Monkey Do

monkey-seeYou can tell an awful lot about someone by looking at their kids. That’s a hard truth that I am learning more and more every day. Whatever I value, whatever I despise, whatever I love, my kids will not be far behind. They live with me, they watch me, they see me every day, so it should be expected that the behavior that they are most likely going to emulate should be my own.

That’s all fine and good when it comes to good behavior. But what happens when the behavior is not so good? What happens when they help in a home improvement project that involves hammers and Daddy hits his finger? What happens when Mommy and Daddy are talking about an issue and assume that the kids are preoccupied? Kids will copy what they see.

I’ve been pretty disappointed in the last few years when I have seen this over and over again, not only in myself, but also in others. I’ve watched children (younger and older) begin to espouse an ideology that I couldn’t figure out………until……….I looked at Mom and Dad and realized that the apple hadn’t fallen too far from the tree. I read emails that had been written or comments that had been made. I heard questions that had been asked and criticism that had been lobbed, and I could tell that it had most likely come from somewhere else.

What an incredible reminder it has been to me to be cautious about the things that I am promoting. How am I treating my wife? Am I using kind words? Am I a help to her or a hindrance? My sons will look at me to determine how they ought to treat their future wives. My daughter will look at me to hold up expectations of how she should be treated by her future husband. If I am doing a good job then those expectations may be high. If I’m not doing such a good job, I shouldn’t be surprised when I see behavior that I might loathe, only to find out that it started in me.

When I was a little kid attending Sunday School, there was a song that we would sing that said, “be careful little eyes what you see…..” It went on to say, “be careful little ears what you hear….” And so on and so on. I guess there could be a song for adults that says, “Be careful big mouths what you say….” In fact, my cousin and his wife have a sign in their kitchen that says, “What shouldn’t be heard by little ears should not be said by big mouths!” How appropriate!

My kids will act out what they see, so I had better be asking myself how I am doing in that area. If I really want to know how I’m doing, I don’t need to ask anyone else, I just need to look at my kids and just watching them will tell me volumes enough.

Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions – A Book Review

Answering Your Kids Toughest QuestionsAnyone who has spent significant time with children knows that they can ask a lot of questions. The kids don’t have to be your own, they just need to be kids, and you can be sure that they will let their inquiring minds do some walking in all kinds of different places, searching for answers to questions that have emerged from the confines of their minds. Anyone who has had to field those questions knows that those questions are seldom easy to answer and often require a whole lot of thought.

What is sin? Why do people die? Why do people get divorced? What about sexual sin? Why do people fight and kill? Maybe you have had to field these questions and others just like them. Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson have most likely had their fair share of experience with fielding these kinds of questions and they have come together to create a resource for parents who may have to face these and other such questions themselves.

From the beginning, Thompson and Fitzpatrick let their approach come at the reader humbly, not claiming that they have all the answers but just suggesting that they’re coming from the “I’m in the same boat as you” perspective. They acknowledge that there is no answering the questions posed by children without first having wrestled with the same questions yourself. Children are much smarter than to accept trite answers or answers which have no thought behind them. They seem to have a knack for smelling answers that lack experience or thoughtfulness. In fact, the authors say that admitting to all the answers can actually demonstrate a pride which has the potential for creating a wedge between parents and children.

Thompson and Fitzpatrick provide some typical questions with thoughtful advice in the various chapters. At the end of each chapter, they provide sections based on the age range of children with whom you are dealing. They do a good job of thoroughly answering the questions and bringing biblical content to support those answers. While the ends of the chapters are mostly helpful in fielding age specific questions, they can have a tendency to be overly exhaustive rather than concise.

The authors pull no punches in providing answers to the difficult questions that they expect from children of all ages. They emphasize the need to address the realities of life without entering into dialogue about specific life issues too soon for children. Life is messy, life is tough, there is no hiding it from children, but there are certain subjects that can wait until they absolutely need to be addressed rather than forcing the issue before its time has come. If we fail to provide answers to children, they won’t just remain without answers but they will find the answers on their own.

Throughout the book, the authors emphasize some very important biblical and theological concepts. For one, they emphasize the sovereignty of God. There is no dealing with difficult questions without a firm belief in the fact that God is in control and is not surprised by anything, not death, not tragedy, nothing. They also emphasize the fact that parents are not the end-all-be-all for answering children’s questions. Parents will do their best but they are still only human and incapable of having every answer to every question, acknowledging this is a good first step to relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of our children.

I so appreciate the honesty of the authors. Their humility is refreshing and they admit that allowing children and young people to raise questions allows them to know that Christianity, “can stand up to any challenge.” While this book may not contain every question that a child may ask, it’s a good start and a good resource for parents. It’s a helpful reminder to parents that they have a duty and responsibility to their children but that in the midst of fulfilling that duty and responsibility, they are not alone and powerless but have the power that God alone gives to his children.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Bethany House Publishers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

I Wish There Were A Sequel

Ever watch a movie and as the end approaches or comes upon you, you think to yourself, “I really wish that there were a sequel to this?” That happened to me the other night while watching a movie called “What Maisie Knew.”

For all the movies that I watch, some of my favorite movies are the ones that I watch where I know nothing about them in advance, obscure films that somehow eluded me as they journeyed through the theaters. Of course, nowadays, that seems to be a much easier feat as the journey from screen to DVD or Blu-Ray is much faster than the days of waiting years for the VHS price of a movie to drop below $50. But I digress.

Without giving up too much of this film, it’s an adaptation of a book about a little girl whose parents are in the midst of a custody battle for her. Her mother, played by Julianne Moore, is a struggling rockstar, desperately insecure and aging in a business where the young thrive and the old just fade away. Her father, played by Steve Coogan, is an art dealer who is constantly traveling internationally. After their divorce, they both quickly find engage in new marriages of convenience to find someone who can watch Maisie, their six year old daughter.

The whole film is portrayed from the perspective of the little girl, which makes it that much more painful to endure. As you catch the one-sided phone conversations that she hears, the arguments that ensue within earshot, and the downright awkward moments when she finds herself somewhere, left for strangers to care for her, it makes your heart break for this little girl who is caught in the middle of two people who can’t seem to figure out that there are other people in the world besides themselves.

As I watched the movie, it reiterated the feelings that I have had in the past when I have wondered why there are certain people who so desperately want to have children who are unable to while others who seem to care little about their own flesh and blood children seem to conceive if you look at them funny. It’s hard to find justice in that and I’ve had many a conversation with God over instances such as these in light of close friends who have been on the receiving end of this injustice.

One of my all time favorite films is Ron Howard’s “Parenthood.” While it probably did fairly well at the box office, I’m not sure that it ever got the recognition that it deserved, although it did recently spin off a television sitcom which probably has little resemblance to the film. Many actors and actresses star in the film and many newcomers seem to have propelled their careers along. A very young Joaquin Phoenix can be seen (going by the name Leaf Phoenix) as well as a young and goofy Keanu Reeves.

In the film, Keanu Reeves’ character, Tod, has struggled to find his place and his family life is far from functional. His girlfriend’s mother wants to find out what’s going on in the life of her son, who desperately needs a father figure in his life. Tod describes his own experience with a father to her and says, “You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming a_____e be a father.” It’s a line that has stuck with me since the first time I saw the movie and resonates with every additional viewing.

But as I watched “What Maisie Knew,” I wondered how it would turn out for this little girl. How would her character be impacted by the turmoil that she was experiencing at such a young age? How would this divorce and custody battle between two selfish people play out in her self-image? What would she look like years after the events in this film?

We live in a transient society, things are constantly changing, people are constantly moving, tastes and styles are always changing. We hear of celebrity couples who, if they made the jump to even get married to begin with, come to the end of their relationship and call it “conscious uncoupling” rather than what it really is: divorce. Why can’t we call it what it is?

I’m not trying to come across as perfect, I fall far from that qualification, but watching films like this and wondering how stories like this play out in real life certainly makes me think through the impact that my own decisions have on those around me. Despite popular belief, the decisions that I make and the impacts of them are not limited to me. How will the good or bad decisions that I make have an impact not only in the here and now but in the future as well?

I love films that make me think, I love films that evoke some strong emotion from me. While mindless action or comedies might have their place, I would much rather watch a film that causes me to think, that stretches my thinking, and that makes me ask questions of myself and others. I would much rather watch a movie that begs for a sequel so that I can find out how it all turns out in the end. How about you?

Scheduling a C Section?

boomer-esiasonIn case you haven’t peeked into what’s trending in sports news lately, Daniel Murphy, second baseman for the New York Mets, has come under fire from certain sports radio personalities and sports commentators for his decision to take paternity leave after the birth of his firstborn child. Major League Baseball allows for up to three days to be taken and Murphy has exercised that option.

The most notable criticism against Murphy has come from Boomer Esiason, former NFL player, whose journey through football included a stint on the New York Jets. Esiason said that if he were Murphy, he would have told his wife to schedule a C-Section prior to the start of the season. He continued by saying, “this is what makes our money, this is how we’re gonna live our life, this is gonna give my child every opportunity to be a success in life, I’ll be able to afford any college I wanna send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”

Now Esiason and others, whose criticisms did not seem quite so harsh (in my opinion), have come under fire. Should men be allowed to take paternity leave?

First off, Esiason’s professional sports background is very different from Murphy’s. The NFL has a 16 game regular season while Major League Baseball has 162. 162!!! Seriously, from a context standpoint, Esiason doesn’t have a leg to stand on here as his season is 1/10th the length of a MLB season. While he may have made that decision since every game is crucial in the NFL, the MLB season lasts nearly six months and at the beginning of the season, games are hardly crucial.

That’s not to say that these games are unimportant, but players go on the 15 or 60 day disabled list in MLB. Injuries can sideline players. Backups are called in. It’s not like the Mets are in the playoff hunt, at least not at this point in the season. Missing 3 games out of 162 in a season for an important life event seems like a fairly reasonable request. If this was October and the Mets were in the hunt for a playoff berth, that might be a little different. But that’s not the scenario into which Esiason has spoken.

Besides the professional aspect of this, Esiason’s comments give me pause to consider his priorities and what he thinks is most important for his family and, more specifically, his children. I’ve always heard it said that LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E when it comes to your family. Based on his comments, one would think that LOVE is spelled M-O-N-E-Y in Esiason’s book. Will making millions of dollars and being separated from your child really afford your child every opportunity to be a success in life? Would your child rather have lots of money or would he/she rather have you?

Kids don’t need money, they need you. Sure, professional athletes will be gone from their families for a significant amount of time, but this is Murphy’s first child, why start off on the wrong foot? When you have the opportunity to make the most of time and the possible repercussions are much less significant, why not seize that opportunity? Maybe I’m crazy and I’m missing something.

While I’m certainly not a professional athlete, as a pastor, my job isn’t a 9 to 5 kind of job. It’s easy to bring work home with me, to allow for family time to be infiltrated by the demands of the profession. That’s not a complaint, it’s just a reality, but I have a choice as to how much I let that infiltration take place into the life of my family. How easily will I allow my time with family to be compromised by what I do? I have the opportunity to set up boundaries and then stick to those boundaries

Growing up the son of a pastor, I saw my dad giving everything to his job. He was trained to believe that his responsibility was to the church while my mom’s responsibility was to my brother and me. I remember many a night that he was out and my constant question was, “Do you have to go out tonight, Daddy?” Years later, that question still echoes in my head and I am constantly aware of it with my own children. So, I have the choice to make things different, to find ways to compensate for the time away, not by throwing money at the problem, but by carving out time somewhere else to spend with my children and family.

I’m not going to blame all of society’s issues on absent parents, but I would gather that the psychological data would tell us that there’s more to it than we might think. No amount of money and opportunities can make up for the nurture and training that can be provided by a parent. Our children don’t need our money as much as they need us and our attention. Hey, Boomer, your kids need you, and I hope when they ask for you, you don’t just throw money at them and say, “Get over it!”

Would love to hear some other thoughts on this.

You can watch Dr. Drew’s panel discuss this issue on Headline News by clicking here (Warning: may contain offensive language):