A Father’s (in-law) Influence

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I’m blessed with a father who is a life-long influence to me. Every day the influence of my father is evident in my mannerisms, my life view, and my drive for excellence. Without him the very essence of who I am would not be and the success I’ve achieved only a hope. The influence I receive has been extended to my wife’s father since our marriage. I am blessed with two Christian men, both elders in the church, on which I rely on for wise counsel and example.

The reality of my blessings remind me of a moment in Moses life during which he was struggling with the burden of leading the Israelites, a burden he took solely on his own. It was during an exchange recorded in Exodus 18 between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro that the power of a father’s influence is realized. An influence that ultimately enabled Moses to endure the hardships of leading God’s people as they journeyed to the promised land. Jethro instructed Moses in some of the most profound leadership principles we use today, span of control and delegation. The salient verse in the exchange reads this way:

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. (Exodus 18:24 NASB)

During this exchange Moses greets Jethro with great reverence, Jethro in turn praises Moses accomplishments, through God, before offering his counsel. Jethro’s advice was built on a relationship of mutual respect and honor without which the advice would likely have been disregarded.

Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. (Exodus 18:7 NASB)

You will notice as you read through the Biblical account that Moses’ father is never mentioned beyond his heritage from the Tribe of Levi. Rabbinical literature indicates his father was Amram who was “one of the long-lived saints whose life extended over many generations of Jews.” Maybe because Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter he doesn’t seem to have been around for Moses. Modern cultures are creating families without fathers. I’m fortunate to not be included in that population but if you are be like Moses and seek advice from the one with whom you have that fatherly relationship. If you don’t have someone, seek them.

Fathers and children alike should consider the relationship between Moses and Jethro as a strong model:

1. Build a relationship of honor mutual respect before counsel is required
2. Fathers, do not hesitate to guide your children, even if they are adult leaders of thousands
3. Children, listen to your fathers and do what they say
4. Fatherly wisdom doesn’t always come from biological fathers.
5. Glorify God together for the blessings he provides

So Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” (Exodus 18:10, 11 NASB)

 

Happy Father’s Day Dad and Lou David. You are a blessing to my life.

Lower Your Expectations

There a few phrases I use almost like mantras with my daughters. One I find using more and more is “lower your expectations without lowering your standards.” It’s a phrase born in a desperate discussion with my oldest when one of her friends had been caught drinking. The choices were to break-up with her friend or lower her expectations and maintain an influence.

The message is this, we can’t expect perfection from our friends. The trick is to not give into the temptation to join them in their poor choices. We have been called to be merciful and in doing so extend the influence of the gospel.

Some parents will not trust their children to not give in to temptation. My experience (after 19 years) is the exact opposite. When our children are empowered with permission to extend mercy they become stronger in their own standards.

The mantra: you sometimes have to “lower your expectations without lowering your standards.”

Starting at Zero

About an hour into my four hour journey home on Wednesday March 10, 2009, it occurred to me that the clothes on my back and the few things in my truck were what I had.  My thinking changed from “How bad is it?” to “What’s the recovery plan?” to “What did I have in that house?” More slowly than you might think an understanding of the situation crept up on me:  we were going to be starting at zero. Continue reading

Truthfulness

Arrogant [Eloquent] lips are unsuited to a fool
how much worse lying lips to a ruler! Proverbs 17:5-7 (NIV)

Truthfulness is an elusive habit for leaders.  We are assaulted daily by situations that beg for lies, half-truths, misinformation, deception, and withholding.  These situations arise at work from difficult communication, positions of disadvantage to us, and fear of retribution.  Within our families they arise from personal pride toward spouses, fear of children’s actions, and discomfort with admitting to wrong actions.

The mad boss asks, “Who made this decision?”
The Christian brother states, “I’m only flirting with her, I can control it.”
The inefficient employee asks, “Am I doing ok working for you?”
The spouse demands, “Where did all of our money go?”
Your child asks, “Where do babies come from?”

A Christian Leader’s response:

1.  Just tell it. The benefits of truthfulness outweigh the costs in the long run as your boss learns to appreciates your trust and candor, your spouse loves the open communication, and your children model.  Warning, blunt truthfulness will mark you as a jerk and harm your ability to influence.  Use gentleness and patience to form your communication in a way that creates an environment of appreciation.

2.  Demand it in return. My initial briefing to new employees has always included the requirement of truth.  My nature I am a trusting person, tell me something and I take it to the bank until that something is proven false.  Once you lose my trust it’s hard to get it back.   My daughters were raised with the same requirement.  I marvel at parents who severely discipline children based on honest disclosure.  Since birth we have demanded truth and lessened discipline with it.  The result, open communication… something seemingly rare in today’s youth.

To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. Edward R. Murrow

The Boyfriend Driving Test

It’s usually a truck or sometimes an older car.  The inside of the vehicles are decorated with a mixture of ironic photographs and/or action figures.  The drivers are the same mixture of common individuality, sporting spotty facial hair, trendy clothing (or sloppy), and a forced expression of interest. And I’m supposed to be good with placing one of my prized possessions into their care.

If you’re the father of teenage girls you are familiar with the struggle, if your daughters are too young to date you will be familiar.  The struggle we all face is how to balance the inevitability of dating with the honest desire to never let your precious girl out of the house…ever.  My solution:  the boyfriend driving test.

Before a new boy can take responsibility for my daughter’s safety they must pass a no kiddin’ driver’s test during which the boy and I (alone) drive a test route complete with turns, merges, highway driving, and attention tests.  The driving is really a secondary goal, primarily the test accomplishes several, things chief among them:  let the boy know who i am (I’m pretty big but that doesn’t matter), that I care deeply for my daughters, and to give me a platform for “the talk.”  The driver test goes down like this:

  1. Meet the boy and get in the passenger seat making a big show of buckling the safety belt.  NOTE:  If the boy doesn’t get out of the vehicle to meet you make sure to point that out.
  2. Explain the route and what you expect out of the test…start driving
  3. Start with small talk and see how distracted they are…what do you do? are you in athletics? do you go to church? etc.
  4. Halfway through the test start with the harder questions:  Do you drink alcohol? Do your friends? How do you treat girls?
  5. Right before the end of the test, when he is really starting to squirm, start “the talk.”  You will know how to craft your talk, mine goes something like this:

“[Boy] I want you to know something, my daughter is precious to me, I take great pride in her and her safety.  Throughout her life I have taken the awesome responsibility for her safety very seriously.  When you pick her up I am transferring that responsibility temporarily to you, I expect you to take the responsibility as seriously as I do.  If you’re thinking you have to do something to impress her stop that thinking, she is already impressed or she wouldn’t have agreed to a date.  There is no need to speed, peel out, or take curves too fast.  Most people like to go the speed limit plus 5 mph because the police give a cushion…I expect the opposite, drive 2-5 mph UNDER the speed limit.

You will tell me where you are going and what you are doing, if you deviate from your schedule I expect a call from you.  You will return her to the house exactly on time unless you have to speed to get her there.  If you will be late you will call and let me know,  and I will give you a grace period so you do not have to speed to get her home.

[NOTE:  The severity of this next part depends on how much of a jerk the boy seems to be] Should you not take your safety responsibility seriously and put my daughter at risk or God forbid hurt her, I will not be happy and you WILL suffer the wrath of my displeasure.”

I’ve never failed a boy during the driving test but have come close.  My favorite statement during a test so far is, “My mom is very strict on my driving, this is only the third time she has let me drive on the highway alone.”  These types of statements don’t inspire confidence, but with the right focus during “the talk” will help mitigate concerns, but they will never go away.

It’s important to note that my daughters say they hate the boyfriend driving test, but it’s apparent they love that I care enough to keep them safe.  When a boy asks them out they know to inform them about the driving test.  They have figured out that the ones who refuse to take it are not boy’s they want to be with…

Good luck and I will pray for you.

Rules for Dating my Daughters

1.  My daughters may not date until they’re married.  So unless you are my son-in-law there is no need to read further.

2.  Double dating is fine, just get with my wife and set a date when the four of us can go out.

3.  If you pull into my driveway and honk you’d better be delivering a package, because you’re sure not picking anything up.  NOTE: If you weave while you’re trying to get away there is a chance I will miss.

4.  You do not touch my daughter in front of me.  If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter’s body, I will remove them (by remove I mean sever).

5.  I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilizing a “barrier method” of some kind can kill you.  Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

6.  It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day.  Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is: “early”

7.  I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls.  This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter.  Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you.  If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

8.  As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget it will distract me from cleaning by pistol.  If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating.  My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge.  Instead of just standing there, why don’t you do something useful, like changing the oil in my truck?

9.  The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter:  Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool.  Places where there is darkness.  Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness.  Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka – zipped up to her throat.  Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay.  Football games are okay.  Old folk’s homes are better.

10.  Do not lie to me.  I may appear to be a middle-aged (6’5”, 220 lb, Army officer, combat veteran) has-been to you, but on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe.  If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  I have a shotgun, a shovel, and twenty acres behind the house.

11.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for an approaching car bomb in Baghdad.  When my Anthrax starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the weapons as I wait for you to bring my daughter home.  As soon as you pull into the driveways you should exit the car with both hands in plain sight.  Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, and then return to your car – there is no need for you to come inside.  The camouflaged face at the window is mine.