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Drivers Wanted The Challenge of Being a Dad
The most important thing a parent can do is to ensure that their children are brought up in church and that they hear the Word of God, especially when they're young. -Robert Pressley, NASCAR Driver
He's not a bad father, he's just a stupid man doing the best job he can."
The commercial for yet another father-bashing sitcom played on network television. The hapless "father" stood by with an armful of children and a dopey expression while his "wife" ridiculed him in front of millions. I wonder what he was thinking? The actor, that is. I wonder what his impression of fatherhood was after playing the role that had been scripted for him?
Family roles are changing. It really is a new day for dads. The parenting racetrack is different now. The familiar oval is gone-the dependable, traditional role of a father. It's a road course now. There are bends and turns that dads of yesterday could never have imagined.
Do you remember Ozzie and Harriet? In their era, the fifties, it would have been criminal to publicly rebel against Dad. The newOzzie changed all that. Twenty-first-century Ozzie (Osbourne, that is) suffers the criticisms and curses of his family on network television, and the ratings have climbed higher than the volume on their profanity-filled set.
Things Have Changed
Father bashing has become something like an Olympic event these days. A USA Today article explains why: "With political correctness putting an ever increasing portion of the population off limits for humorous situations, advertisers are increasingly casting straight males as folks who can't cook, drive, or watch the kids without making a mess of it." Did you get it? Dads are getting bashed simply because there's no one left to take the hit!
In spite of the sitcom scorn, there are scores of dads who are dedicated to doing the job-and doing it right, for the most part. They're nine-to-five examples of hard work, loyalty, and love, living in a post-nine-eleven age. They are reaching deep inside for the courage, conviction, and character to be the best examples they can be to their families. And they're doing it in a road-course age, successfully maneuvering the twists and turns of a brand new day.
What's changed? Here's a survey of today's parenting landscape.
* * *
A dad is a man who carries photographs where his money used to be! -James S. Hewitt
The traditional home is about as rare today as the traditional fireplace. Hours of chopping wood have been replaced by an instant flipping of the starter switch on a gas log. The new work ethic promises-and delivers-maximum benefit for minimum effort. For example, today's fast-food employee earns more per hour by leveraging french fries than yesterday's scientists did for making lifesaving discoveries.
The family is different as well. Scenes like Robert Young and Jane Wyatt sitting around the table sharing dinner with Buddy, Sissy, and Kathy on Father Knows Best are about as rare today as a live bug on the windshield of a stock car. Twenty-first century families seem to be playing Bingo by racing to fill in the squares on the kitchen calendar.
Television-style families like the Nelsons and Andersons are history. The new family has arrived. The last government census revealed that single-mother families grew from 12 percent of all families in 1970 to 26 percent in 2000. And single-father families increased from 1 percent of the total in 1970 to 5 percent in 2000.
Some of those new family units are struggling-especially in today's uncertain financial climate. According to Crown Financial Ministries, "Most single mothers earn a little above poverty level income. And 20 percent of single fathers live at the poverty level. In 1996, when welfare reform was enacted, 87 percent of the recipients of benefits lived in single parent house-holds." So the comic spin on the Disney lyric, I owe, I owe, so off to work I go, is nearly a national anthem.
The result: latchkey kids are raising themselves, slurping Big Gulps on the way home from school and "nuking" macaroni and cheese between cell phone calls. And the home-alone lifestyle has taken a toll. Statistics on alcoholism and unwanted pregnancy now include grade-schoolers!
A TB test may indicate the presence of an infectious disease in the body. A TV test might reveal an infectious disorder in society. The TV culture has influenced the new family in an unprecedented way. Families spend from four to six hours a day watching sitcom or "reality" shows, or playing electronic kill-'em games. As a result, an entire generation has failed to learn how to speak. Have you ever listened to a TV-generation superstar being interviewed by a reporter?
The messages delivered by the entertainment media are as contagious as they are deadly. Sexy, short-attention-span entertainment is in. Advocates for alternative lifestyles don't need to buy airtime. They simply weave their godless philosophies into programs that target young minds. Gross has become acceptable and immorality the norm.
Computer "Communication" Remember the Commodore 64? No, it wasn't a singing group. This product marked the dawn of new day for thinking, writing, and keeping track of details. It ushered in the age of personal computing. And sometime after that, the computer mouse cannibalized the No. 2 lead pencil.
Life has never been the same. Banks now have a hole in the wall where people can retrieve money twenty-four hours a day, and personal identities have been reduced to a string of zeroes and ones. People can "talk" to each other without talking to each other. Porn shops have For Sale signs on their front doors-they've moved to the Internet, where anyone with a credit card can buy their filthy wares on a trial basis.
It's estimated that we send up to a trillion E-mail messages each year. There are over two billion Internet pages now available, and more are added each day. Our society has a severe case of Inflammatory Informationitis.
The result is a generation of socially deficient children. Today's kids are computer savvy but relationship challenged. They can surf the Internet with their eyes closed, but many have the personality of a doorstop. And why not? You don't have to talk to a computer monitor! The lack of communication in this Communication Age is a problem. We can load the music that used to fill a ceiling-high stack of vinyl albums into a digital device the size of a wristwatch-but we've forgotten how to whistle.
* * *
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. -Psalm 68:5
The inscription on Lady Liberty's concrete pedestal says as much about the times as it does about citizenship. "Give me your tired" could be a commentary on today's societal soup. The culture is wearily changing. Our population is becoming both grayer and more colorful-older and less Anglo-Saxon. As a result, you may observe Baby Boomers struggling to understand a hip-hop lyric or see a frustrated Burger King employee trying to explain "super size" to an English-challenged immigrant.
Learning new languages.
Understanding new cultures.
Getting used to new clothing styles.
These days it's hard to tell whether the average man on the street is displaying a new fashion fad or whether he happened to be walking by a Goodwill store when it exploded.
Families have been mixed into this new cultural casserole. The classroom isn't the same. The workplace is different. The playground has a new look. The mall has a whole new atmosphere. And the home is feeling the effects of it all.
Face it, all the debris from the World Trade Center has not yet been removed. Some of the dust is still in the air. To say that our lives will never be the same is an understatement. Financially, politically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually, our familiar institutions have become triage centers for the walking wounded. We've been nine-elevened.
We've become a society that looks over its shoulder. Suspicion has replaced consideration. We train our children to doubt first and delight later. We ask them to grow up in a world that's waiting for the other shoe to drop, then we wonder why they see monsters under the bed at night.
Political Correctness The new family lives in an awkward time. Thanks to Jell-O-spined politicos, our kids don't even know where to pledge their allegiance. God has been given a note by the teacher and sent to study hall. And trying to say the correct thing about anyone or anything has become as awkward as clipping a centipede's toenails with chopsticks. Families wonder whose rights are right-and what rights are left! It's getting so that paying a compliment could draw a fine. Our children are confused. Political correctness has become Houdini's straight jacket. We've been turned upside down, and we're searching for the way out!
* * *
It is easier to build boys than to mend men. -Albert Wells, Jr.
Dads Are Still Winning
Fortunately, the culture cloud has a silver lining. In spite of all the changes, dads are reaching within themselves and pulling out their very best. The times may be different, but the resolve in their hearts is greater than ever. Like determined stock car racers, they're pulling onto pit road and making alignment adjustments, then making bold moves back onto the track.
Like the biblical David's inner circle of bravest soldiers, David's Mighty Men, today's dads are ready for the challenge-
* Ready to mold young minds and warm young hearts.
* Ready to trust the power and promises of God.
* Ready to give their lives to a living Christ, following Him as if nothing else matters and discovering that nothing else really does.
How are they doing it? What's their race day strategy? Here are some traits of a winning dad.
Tim Shutt, car chief for the #18 MBNA Busch Series car said, "At about twenty years old, a friend of mine asked me to go to a Bible study. I agreed and went. At that point I knew what was missing: the Lord Jesus Christ. I gave everything to Him, and it has made the biggest difference in my life to this day. I no longer search; my life is complete with Christ." Tim had grown up in a Christian home, but until he made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, he was still searching for something to trust. Secondhand faith didn't work.
Tim discovered that he had to personally accept Christ's invitation to follow Him. Tim answered the challenge with his own life, just like those who followed Jesus in Bible times. "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20).
Robert Pressley said it's important for dads to "ensure that their children ... hear the word of God, especially when they're young." He didn't drag his kids to church. He took them. It was the practice of his faith that proved his own relationship with Christ.
You may have heard people say that when they were young, they had a "drug problem"-they were drug to school, drug to the dentist, and drug to church. Faith is better discovered than "drugged." Being force fed the faith is like eating cactus. You may swallow it, but it won't feel good!
A sportswriter said of NBA superstar David Robinson: "In a profession known for its excess, the multimillion dollar man is cautious about where he lends his name and spends his fame. Jesus and his family come first, he says, then basketball. He is more concerned that his three boys learn godly character than whether they can match his top-ten ranking in the NBA for points, rebounds, and blocked shots per game. He is more concerned that his fans see him live out his faith than he is interested in talking about the time in 1994 that he scored seventy-one points against the Los Angeles Clippers."
I don't remember my dad reading any owners' manuals. I never saw him sitting in a lounge chair studying how to change the dome light of his station wagon or fix the on/off switch on the dishwasher. As a matter of fact, Dad couldn't have finished either project without the help of the entire staff of a Sears service center!
What I do remember is this: often when I awakened early in the morning, I entered the living room to find Dad sitting in his chair by the bay window, reading his Bible and his favorite devotional book.
That clear example made a lasting impression. My Dad influenced me by openly practicing his faith. First-person faith makes a second-tier impression. A past-forgiven, future-assured relationship with God can't be kept undercover. Personal faith shouldn't be kept in the garage like a semi-restored Volkswagen bus. It needs to be on the road, running hard like a diesel pickup. And that kind of faith always casts a positive shadow. Our kids will need that kind of faith-
* When buildings blow up.
* When floods rage.
* When Dow Jones dives.
* When world tempers rise.
When life is at its worst, they'll need faith at its best. Dads, you can show it to them! With God's help, you can set a spiritual example that's as refreshing as a cold glass of milk and a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies.
About an hour's drive from the famed motor speedway in Indianapolis, there is a forty-acre campground. It's a work in progress. There's a recreation building. A kitchen. Some cabins. A basketball court (almost a requirement in Indiana). Restrooms and showers. A few campsites. Soon there'll be a swimming pool and a stocked lake.
It's a camp dedicated to serving underprivileged children. The owners, a husband-and-wife team, have a clear purpose. "Our goal is to put a smile on a kid's face," they'll tell you.
Excerpted from The Winning Dad by Stan Toler Jerry Brecheisen Copyright © 2003 by The Wesleyan Church. Excerpted by permission.
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