Friday, 15 January 2016

Everyday Hero

What makes a good father?  As the father of five boys most people seem to think I have this particular question nailed.  I don't.  But I do spend a huge amount of time thinking and praying about it.  Over the last 17 years I have made a lot of mistakes, shed a lot of tears and had the privilege of a very patient wife and five long-suffering sons who still love their Dad (even when he messes up).  I also talk to lots of other Dads who struggle with all the same issues I do; juggling all the pressures of work, family and church, trying to pay the mortgage while always trying to nurture our own relationship with God.  I've written before on my own upbringing and reflections on my own father in 'Reflections of a Forty-something Father' which you can access here.




Obviously our parenting style is heavily influenced by our own parents.  I had a really happy childhood but it was overshadowed by the death of my sister, Lynda in 1980.  You can read about my reflections here.  Watching my parents cope with this trauma taught me a lot about resilience and faithfulness in difficult times.

A few other things stick out in my mind that helped me form my own view of parenting.  One was when I was out in America in 1992.  My Dad was ministering in Detroit but we had the chance to travel around.  We visited some friends up in Lamont called the Lannings.  I remember being incredibly impressed with Ray and Linda and how 'normal' their kids were.  As a family they loved Jesus, they had fun, they loved sport, they were involved in their community and they all seemed to get on as a family.  I guess it felt very 'holistic' or 'joined up'.  I remember, as a 19 year old, chatting to Linda about raising kids and she said something I never forgot.  She said that she had agreed with Ray, before they even had kids, that they would parent in such a way that they would enjoy their children and wouldn't have to spend their all their time disciplining and correcting them.  This meant setting down the ground rules early, communicating expectations and then covering everything in lots of love and prayer.

For us, this means putting family worship, at the centre of our family life every day. Reading the Bible, prayer and singing the Psalms introduce a whole set of values to my boys on a daily basis. Most importantly they learn about Jesus, the greatest example who ever lived.  People seem to think that worshipping as a family is really difficult.  But it doesn't need to be.    This year we have been reading through Kevin De Young's 'The Biggest Story - How the Snake Crusher brings the Garden back to Life'.  It is beautifully illustrated by Don Clark and is made up of short chapters that take you through the whole Biblical story. We are also using Tim Keller's new book 'My Rock My Refuge' which is a lovely meditation on the Psalms.  Either would be a great place to start worshipping together as a family.  We've also really enjoyed the 'Jesus Storybook Bible' by Sally Lloyd-Jones for the younger kids.  Our latest book is 'Exploring Grace Together' by Jessica Thompson which is short but has good solid Biblical content.



I'm a great believer in bringing up boys to be boys.  I encourage my boys to play shinty, football, attend army cadets, get muddy and occasionally have a wee scrap (they can almost take me when they jump me at the same time).  I try and keep them off the Xbox and other devices as much as possible and make sure they treat their mother and brothers with respect. Most of all I want them to grow up knowing and loving Jesus.  We have that great promise from Proverbs 22 v 6 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.'

I hope (and pray!) that my boys look on me as some kind of example albeit a very imperfect one.  I guess I would love to be their hero - maybe not a super hero but I would just settle for an everyday hero.






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