Saturday 31 August 2013

Better Husband, Better Dad..

For Peter.

I was talking with my son in law recently and the subject came up;" I don't know if I am doing everything I can to be a good dad.. "

It got me thinking about my own journey through fatherhood  I sometimes wonder: however did I make it to this place? I have 4 incredibly wonderful children who have all grown up into amazing adults who in their own rights are making a real difference in this world and in the lives of others.  I really am blessed.

Over the years, my wifeTambrey and I have on numerous occasions been complimented on our children and what a great family we are. While that is a great head-swelling statement, the reality is that we have never really known any different. What you see is who we are. We have
nothing to hide, we aren't any different at home to what you see at church or out in public. And, to us, we are far from perfect. 

We have our fights and arguments, our differences of opinion. In our eyes we are just an ordinary family. So it's kind of funny when so many people tell us we are different. This leads us as a couple to think; what could it be that makes us different to other families? How can we through our own experience of life encourage others to be different, and that what we have is not freakish or unattainable?

My heart has always been about family. In my life, family comes first and foremost. I purpose in my heart to make them the number one priority in my life. This is a decision, it is not something that
comes natural or even easy. The nature of a man is very much self-focused. I want what I want, and I know what I want, and all too often it doesn't include my wife or kids. The selfish me wants to go out and hang with my mates when it suits me. The selfish me doesn't want to be tidy, wash up the dishes because they are there to be done. The selfish me can justify coming home after a long day at work and sitting down in the lounge chair, watch the tv and  waiting for dinner while my wife is trying to keep it all together with little ones making demands of her, others wanting help with homework, still others looking for clothes to go out in, and dinner on the go all at the same time.

If I want a great family, it requires investment on my part. Just in the same way that if I want to succeed in my business I have to be prepared to put in the hard yards.

So what is it that I want to say to my sons in law and my own son about how to succeed in life and have a great family? How can I cram 30 years of experience into a short article? I probably can't, but I can share with you some keys that I  have learnt along the journey.

I took a call from an overseas friend the other day who told me he was having some challenges with his 10 year old being a bit obstinate and unreasonable. He was giving his parents a hard time and most likely
his siblings as well. I suggested to him that maybe his boy was trying to attract his attention. There may be  something going on in his world that he was having trouble coping with.

I gave him the following pointers that might help him help his son overcome the challenges that are facing him.

1) If you want to show your child you love them, love their mother
Nothing gives a child stability in life like knowing that their parents love each other. I have even found in business that the most stable bosses I have worked for are those that have a great marriage.
I have to put her first in my list of priorities. The old saying goes: Happy wife, happy  life. For me, that means that as part of the marriage relationship I have to pull my weight. In my home, I make the bed, make breakfast, empty the dishwasher, and clean up my mess in the bedroom. I learnt a long time ago that my wife is neither my slave nor my mother, and I should not expect her to clean up after me or do everything for me. 
I also help with the cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. We are a partnership and my wife does enough around the house. The least I can do is help her and be an example to my children of how to be a good husband. I tell my wife every day that I love her. I tell her often, and I tell her meaningfully. I tell her for 2 reasons: I tell her to remind her, and I tell her to remind myself. Do I have to remind myself every day? Well, I have to eat every day...
Moreover, I tell my children I love them as well, every day, or at every opportunity.

2) Be prepared to do your bit.
 I mentioned before, marriage is a partnership, and it takes both partners to work hard to make the partnership a success. I don't expect her to mow the lawn or take out the rubbish. There are things
my wife does better than me. She knows better how to do the washing and hanging out. That doesn't mean I can't do it, and it's not unusual for me to iron my clothes or hang out or bring in a load of washing.
People think that marriage is a 2 way street, a 50/50 relationship with 50% give and 50% take. That is not God's way. He is about 100% giving, expecting nothing in return. That is God's way of loving, and
when both partners in the marriage relationship adopt this motto, your marriage is headed for a lifetime of great adventure and success.

3) Be consistent.
When it comes to discipline it is important that both parents agree. My wife always made it a point to never disagree on matters of discipline or decision in front of the kids. I would hear about it in the bathroom though!  There is this saying that goes: "If mum says no, ask dad". That doesn't work in my family. If I disagree about a
decision, we will talk about it in private, and if we then agree on a common decision, we would go to the child. Also worth a mention here is: Don't say no just because you can. It is important to communicate with your child why you have made the decision you made. They may not like it or even like you, but they will know the reason why. And "because I said" is not a valid reason.

4) Princes and princesses.
I treat my wife like a princess. (Or at least I'd like to think I do). My wife is royalty, and I expect my children to treat her the same way. I have never allowed my children to get away with speaking down to my wife or treating her rudely. In telling them my expectation of having them treat her like a princess, I am teaching my daughters that their prospective husbands must also treat them like royalty. I am telling my son that the woman he marries he must treat like royalty. I like to think that I treat my daughters like royalty. The way a man treats her wife, and the way a woman treats her husband sets the framework for how their children will treat their spouse in years to come. We do not have to be the result of our upbringing, we can change
what we came out of. If my daughter marries a man from a dysfunctional background that does not mean she is doomed to a bad marriage. It is my privilege to be a positive influence on him and allow him to see
that there is a better way.

5) Quality Time.
I have a wife,  3 daughters, 1 son. Each of them have different likes, needs, desires and dreams. I found especially when the kids were younger every now and then it was important to take them out on a date. The girls loved the Papa dates. We would go somewhere to eat, buy some clothes, and hang together. As they got older my wife would take them for coffee on a Saturday morning, somewhere nice. Recognising their individuality and acknowledging it is very important to a person. My son and I love doing life together. When he was about 14 he came to me and asked me if I could teach him how to be a man. We do man stuff together, and I can honestly say that I couldn't be more proud of how he has turned out. Quality time is when we can be driving 1000km to somewhere and spending time talking, sharing, laughing together with the opportunity to speak into his life. I love those times. And, by the way, I love doing the same with my sons-in-law, who I refer to as my boys.

My beautiful wife also needs quality time. Infact this is her number one love language. There is nothing she loves better than just being together, whether it is in front of the tv, holding hands, cuddling or going on a road trip together to anywhere. For her it's not about how much money I can spend on her, it's about how much time we can have together.

I am blessed. I started out with 3 daughters and one son. I now have 3 daughters, 3 sons, and 2 grand children. God is good!

6) Words of affirmation and celebrate success.
Everyone wants and needs to be acknowledged for a job well done. I love being paid for the work I do, but I glow when the boss says "Well done!"

Peter and Lachlan are my amazing sons in law. When Peter got his first appointment after finishing his Uni degree, I piled my wife and daughter and son in the car after work and drove one and a half hours to the town they are living and took the whole family out for dinner to celebrate. Then we drove home again. Some months later when Lachlan got his job after finishing his degree we did the same thing again.

They were both stoked that we would go to such an extent to help them celebrate their achievement. To me, I was stoked at what they achieved and wanted them to know how proud I am of them. I often tell my wife and kids I'm proud of them. I want them to know that I value the effort they put into life. The result? It builds
them, and encourages them to do even better.

7) Be honest.
It's important to be honest with other, to have an open book policy in the home. In our family we really don't have any secrets from each other. Not the important stuff, anyway. If my children got into trouble at school, (on the rare occasion ) they would usually blurt it out to their mother as soon as they opened the door. My kids have always shared every thing with us, but we also have been honest with them it has saved us from a lot of heart ache and trouble. My wife is always an especially good listener, and very slow to judge. The result
was that the kids had not trouble in sharing their feelings or problems because they knew they would find the support they needed to get them through the crisis, whatever it was.

I titled this article better husband, better dad. I want to be both, and I want every husband and father to aspire to both. A past Australian Prime minister once said "Life wasn't meant to be easy". He may have been right, but life was meant to be lived and enjoyed. Jesus said:" I have come to give you life and life to the full."
God wants us to enjoy the fullness of what we have been given. If you want to be a better Husband and a better Father, love, be consistent, be prepared to share the load; Treat your family like royalty, and expect nothing less from them;  spend quality time with your loved ones and give praise when it is due, celebrating every success. Most of all, be honest with each other.

I guess when it's all said and done, the key to being a better husband and a better dad lies in the relationship to have with your loved ones. It's not about a formula or technique, it's about unconditional love and trust.
Do I have all the answers? No! But I do have a relationship with the One who does, and I am constantly in communication with Him, and I am always open to learning how to be a better husband and a better dad.

Have a great week!
Oh, and Happy Father's Day.


Wednesday 14 August 2013

Why do bad things happen to good people?

I often hear the question asked: "Why do bad things happen to good people? "
And for Christians that seems like a fair question. After all, once we are saved, aren't things supposed to go all our way? Shouldn't we be without sickness, prospering financially, never having to worry about another thing?  Unfortunately, even though this is sometimes taught in some churches, this is not scriptural or correct. The fact is; bad things do happen to good people!


My father passed away when I was 24 years old. He had battled cancer for about 4 years when he died. We (my family and many Christians around the world) had prayed and believed for his healing, however it didn't come, at least not in the way we expected it.

I have seen people live through, and die as a result of tragedy, heartache, poverty and sickness and wondered that very question: Why? There are plenty of examples both in scripture and in church history of people who weathered the storms of life. Some never made it out the other side. One great example is the prophet Elisha, who, even though he had a double portion of the anointing of his predecessor Elijah, was not taken up in a horse drawn chariot into heaven. Instead he became ill in his old age and died. (See 2 Kings 13:14).

You only need to think of the faithful thousands who lived (and died) in the many Wars we have witnessed in our history. Many of them innocent civilians who had no choice and no option in the decision or consequences of war.

Every day we are confronted with tragedy, heart ache and disappointment. I have witnessed Godly people taken from this earth or permanently adversely affected as a result of car accidents, plane crashes, cultural violence, religious zeal, the list goes on. And still we ask: Why? Why do bad things happen to good people?

This is not a sign of the times. We live in a broken world. The Bible says death is the result of sin; Sickness and disease from our disobedience to God. This is what we are born into...
The apostle Paul, one of God's greatest advocates responsible for 2/3 of the New Testament suffered much at the hands of man and nature. Listen to his sufferings:

Corinthians 11:24-27
"From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness"

And yet his concern was not for himself, but for seeing the good news of the Gospel made available for all people.Did bad things happen to him?

What about Job? His wife told him (Job 2:9-10)

"“Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips."

Note Job's response? In all this he did not sin with his lips. Did bad happen to Job?

Death, sadness, sickness, tragedy, all these are a part of living in this broken world. I really think to a large extent Christians are not going to be exempt from this. However, there is one major difference between those who walk with The Lord and those who don't.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians gives instructions on how to overcome these trials that come our way:

Philippians 4:4-8
" Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

This doesn't mean we don't acknowledge the bad things when they come to us, but don't stay there... Don't dwell on these things. Often when people are confronted with a terrible tragedy, they can't get over it. They find it difficult to move on. I have seen people become so absorbed in their pain, that they have been incapacitated by it, totally unable to get on with their life, and missing out on the best life has to offer. Their suffering has become the focus of their life. But remember Philippians 4 say?

Joni Eareckson Tada writes in "365 days of Hope":

"My wheelchair is a suffering that came from the sovereign purpose of God. And since that time more than three decades ago, I've also suffered things that have come upon me as a result of being in the kingdom. I have chosen to flee temptation, to drag my body from church to hospital, to endure the scorn of those who don't know God. And I have suffered as a result. Such is the will of God for my life.
The result? The common suffering he comforts. The godly suffering he rewards. And I wouldn't want to exchange either for anything."

At the beginning of this article I talked about the death of my father. As I watched his lifeless body lying there in that casket, I called out to God :"Why? Why did you let him die in this way? Surely he was a good man who loved you, whose children all love you, who didn't do bad things to anyone?"
And as clear as the day came the response from my Heavenly Father: " Son, will you trust Me?"

Finally I leave you with the words of the hymn written by Horatio Spafford, who literally lost everything, finance, business, his home and later his daughters in a terrible shipping accident, and was still able to pen these beautiful words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Have a great week!

Thursday 8 August 2013

Praying Together


One of my favourite times if the day is breakfast. Not because of the food (although lately I have been enjoying various arrangements of bacon and eggs...)  No, because in my family breakfast time is family time. This is the time when we are all together at the same time in the same place.



We began the family routine thing many years ago when our eldest daughter Zoey started going to school.  We found out the hard way that waking her up half an hour before catching the bus was no way to to get any of us off to a good start of the day.  I was taught at a young age the importance of starting the day with God, and I knew I needed to instil this same value in my children, so I began the routine of getting our children up earlier each day so that they could be ready and awake enough in plenty of time for their body to receive food; both physical and spiritual. We would all come together at a set time in the morning and enjoy that half hour together over breakfast.
The breakfast table was where a lot of our family fellowship occurred. This is where we not only ate, but we talked. In our family we don't need much encouragement to talk, conversation flows freely, and especially at the meal table. Challenges are addressed, problems solved, victories celebrated and instructions given.

We would end the meal with a devotion, normally picked by my wife, Tambrey; something suitable for the kids to take with them into the day, and then we would pray together. Prayer is something we encouraged our children to participate in, at mornings together at the table as a family, and evenings, one on one with just parents and individually.

The interesting this I have found about praying together is that everyone has a different view of life, and therefore sees and prays from a different perspective. As such, I don't think there is such a thing as a bad prayer, especially when it comes to young ones. Sometimes we need to guide their thoughts and emotions so that they can learn to pray in accordance to the requirements as laid out in scripture. Obviously if my little son or daughter prays that the bully will shrivel up and die, God is not going to grant that prayer, but at that point we can take the time to not only teach them what to pray, but also talk about why the bully is a bully, and maybe address the issues that are going on in his life.

Our children are no longer children. All are adults, some have married and left home, I'm now a grandfather of 2, and the 2 remaining young adults in our home live very different time tables according to study, social and church commitments. But one thing we all still have in common, is that time around the table. We all pray. And when the occasion requires it, we pray together.

Tambrey and I pray pray together every day still. It has been our routine since before we were married nearly 30 years ago. What I love particularly about when she prays is how incredibly specific she is in her prayer. She details people, situations and circumstances and prays them through. I sit with her, we hold hands and agree in prayer, together. We have witnessed many prayers answered over the years and give God the glory for each one.  And we are greatly encouraged to see that the habit of corporate prayer has been taken into our young people's families and they too are making it a daily practice.

The bible says in Psalms 133:

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore."

And in 2 Chronicles 7:14

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

And in: Matthew 18:18-20

“ Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“ Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Shall we pray? Together?
Have a great week!