Archive for June, 2010

Thoughts on Father’s Day

Sunday is Father’s Day, and I have been thinking a lot about fathers lately. Like Mother’s Day, this holiday often raises a flood of mixed feelings. One friend of mine is mourning the recent loss of her very precious dad. He was probably, next to her husband, her best friend. Others mourn the father they always wished they’d had—or the one they never really got to know. Still others find themselves wishing that their children had a father in their lives—or a different father, one who really cared about his children and let them know it.

Yet many of us have been blessed to have wonderful fathers. And blessed to be married to men who are fabulous dads. The two dads I’ve known best—my own father and then Woody, the father of my children—have both been wonderful fathers. And as I celebrate them in my heart this Father’s Day, I am struck by what very different personalities fathers can have and yet be great fathers.

What is it, actually, that children need most in a dad? Put in the simplest words, I think kids need to know two things: That Dad loves God, and that Dad loves them. Fathers may communicate these things in a host of different ways.

When I think of my own father, whose birthday was this past week and who went to be with Jesus nearly five years ago, three pictures immediately spring to mind: a living room chair, a dining room table, and an open door in a study at the top of the stairs.
Some of my earliest memories involve mornings when I would get up early and tip-toe into our tiny living room. There, on his knees at a worn chair in the corner, would be my dad, beginning his morning with his God. It was the way each day started. And we knew how important his God was to him. I never knew just what he talked to God about. But I bet my brother and I figured into the conversation.

A second memory is the lively conversations that occurred around our dining room table in another house when I was in my early teens. My brother and I both tended to have lots of questions about all kinds of things—and strong opinions as well. I particularly remember one time when I had listened to a teacher who seemed to know all about the end times, and could explain everything with pictures and charts as well. As I was enlightening my family on this mysterious subject, my dad, who was a Bible scholar, an ordained minister, a professor, and a highly educated man, listened respectfully for a really long time before he began to ask me questions. Of course I couldn’t answer them, and the dangers of oversimplifying were rapidly revealed. But Dad never rejected our questions. He listened, he asked questions of his own, and he loved us with a no-matter-what love through it all.

In a third house where we lived in my older teen years, I remember Dad’s study at the top of the stairs. The door was always open. You could tell that no matter what he was doing, he was just hoping that my brother and I would pop in on our way up the stairs and flop into the chair opposite from him and tell him about our day. He always seemed so interested in what we were doing, so proud of us, cheering us on through any and every thing that came along. Clearly, my dad loved God deeply. But I wonder how much of that love he would have passed along to us if he had not so clearly loved and cared about us.

My own children are fortunate to have a dad who loves God with all his heart and who loves them, his children and their spouses and his grandchildren, passionately. Yet Woody’s ways of expressing this have been completely different.

Instead of being on his knees at a “prayer chair” in the morning, he has been in the hospital making rounds. But before he leaves, he always makes his own rounds through their rooms (in the past, patting their sleeping bodies; now, patting the stuffed animals representing them in the rooms they sometimes visit), praying for each of them and their families. And he prays for them on the way to work, often Jesus’ “John 17 prayer”—that they will learn to live well “in the world but not of it.”

Woody was not often home at dinner time, either, when the kids were young. Nor was he sitting at a desk in a study when they came home from school. But he was there for them in the deepest sense of the word—and they knew it. They have memories of his showing up at nearly every game they ever played—not usually at the beginning, but as soon as he could possibly get away from his office full of patients. They have memories of Saturday morning trips (several a month, usually, the ones not on call) to the rocks off the coast of Gloucester to make imaginary villages in the tide. To the Concord River to throw pebbles or branches as far as they could into the current. To the sledding hill to attempt “death defying” descents (almost literally, in one case with Lars) no matter how icy the slopes. Daddy was fun! Daddy was a little dangerous at times (What mother would take her kids up on the roof one fine Saturday?!) But above all, Dad loved God. And Dad loved them. And they knew it!

My father and my children’s father: Two very different men. But in completely different ways, they gave their children the same message: I love God, and I want you to. And I love you—always and forever.

Which brings me to the really good news about Father’s Day. Whatever dad you—or your children—do or do not have, you (and they!) have a Father who will love them always and forever.
Perhaps the verse Woody often typed and laminated for our kids when they were in college, on mission trips, or moving into a new venture sums it up: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields [them] all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)

Sounds like a Father to me!

Favorite Parenting Books

Someone recently asked: “What are Linda’s top 10 or 20 books on parenting and spiritual growth for moms? “ Great question!

Problem: On this one, I have too many answers—way too many!

But let me give it a try anyway.  I will limit myself if you promise to understand that this is by no means an exhaustive list.  In fact, it is somewhat random—a combination of all-time favorite “classics” on parenting and spiritual growth and recent good reads.  They are coming to you in no particular order.

Parenting Books

439124: How to Really Love Your Child How to Really Love Your Child
By Ross Campbell, M.D. / David C. Cook
A short, common-sense classic that is possibly my all-time favorite if you can read only one book on parenting.
905480: Grace-Based Parenting Grace-Based Parenting

By Tim Kimmel / Thomas Nelson
A grace-filled book that helps us see our kids through the eyes of grace with which God see us. It’s all grace, sisters!

Shame-Free Parenting Shame-Free Parenting

By Sandra D. Wilson / Intervarsity Press
In order to be good parents, we must first be whole, healthy women. Sounds a little like Mom to Mom, yes?

47343: Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls

By Gary L. Thomas / Zondervan
I often think of parenting as the “ultimate spiritual discipline.” So I love Thomas’ subtitle: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls.

73652: The Five Love Languages of Children The Five Love Languages of Children

By Gary Chapman, Ph.D. & Ross Campbell, M.D. / Moody Publishers
Great help in “becoming a student of your child” and how he/she best receives love.

Family Building Family Building: The Five Fundamentals of Effective Parenting

By John Rosemond / Andrew McMeel Publishing
Good basic principles on common-sense parenting which establishes healthy boundaries on “who’s the parent here.”

69945: Temper Your Child"s Tantrums Temper Your Child’s Tantrums

By James C. Dobson / Tyndale House

Not really just a book about tantrums, this is a short, helpful distillation of a few basic Dobson principles.

731050: Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, repackaged edition Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, repackaged edition

By Dr. Kevin Leman / Baker
Don’t you love the title? Typical Leman—funny (sometimes very funny) but very practical on “reality discipline” which helps consequences do the talking.

513690: Boys Should Be Boys Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons

By Meg Meeker / Ignatius Press
Very realistic but encouraging reminders of the really big difference YOU (yes, mothers, too!) can make in your child’s life even amidst our cultural maelstrom.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know

By Meg Meeker / Ballantine Books
Another great book by Meg Meeker.

0811960: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

By Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish / HarperCollins
A secular book which was a great practical help to me in communicating with my kids—and my husband, extended family, and friends!

Happy Sleep Habits, Happy Child Happy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

By Marc Weissbluth, M.D. / Ballantine Books
And happy mother, I might add! I wish I’d had this one with my babies! An indispensible help to all my kids in parenting their newborns—and toddlers and beyond.

Two Favorites for Moms with Older Kids:

071553: Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait

By Ruth Bell Graham / Baker Books
A wonderful triumph of a book which pours encouragement into the hearts of those still waiting . . .

074201: Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt

By Leslie Leyland Fields / WaterBrook Press
A realistic and biblically grounded perspective (except for the omission of my favorite Deuteronomy 6 passage on parenting!) on our role—and God’s—in raising our children. Their role, too. Good doses of reality, hope, truth and grace.

A Few Favorites That Have Nurtured My Soul (in addition to the Book)

The Seeking Heart The Seeking Heart

By Francois de… Fenelon / Seedsowers
An all-time favorite. I should re-read it once a year.

835160: The Attentive Life: Discerning God"s Presence in All Things The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things

By Leighton Ford / Inter-varsity Press
I love this book—I re-read it as soon as I finished it the first time!

950790: The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith

By Timothy Keller / Penguin Putnam Inc.
A fresh look at a familiar parable. Read anything by Keller.

829541: Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers

By Eugene H. Peterson / Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
A fresh look at the language of Jesus in parables and prayers which will revitalize your language. Read anything by Peterson.

46952: The Life You"ve Always Wanted, Expanded Edition The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Expanded Edition

By John Ortberg / Zondervan
I really enjoy Ortberg’s writing. This one is a very well-balanced book on spiritual disciplines.

253497: God Is Closer Than You Think God Is Closer Than You Think

By John Ortberg / Zondervan
Practical advice on how to experience the presence of God in the day-to-day routines of life.

253518: Faith & Doubt

Faith & Doubt
By John Ortberg / Zondervan
Another wonderful book by John Ortberg; in fact, I recommend anything he writes, really.


54061: Daily Light Devotional (NKJV), Bonded Leather, Burgundy Daily Light Devotional (NKJV), Bonded Leather, Burgundy
By Samuel Bagster, edited by Anne Graham Lotz / Countryman
601864: My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today"s Language My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today’s Language
By Oswald Chambers, James Reimann / Barbour Publishing
282754: Streams in the Desert Streams in the Desert

By L.B. Cowman, edited by Jim Reimann / Zondervan

Reliving the Passion Reliving the Passion (for Lent)
By Walter Wangerin Jr. / Zondervan
06448: Preparing for Jesus Preparing for Jesus (for Advent)

By Walter Wangerin, Jr. / Zondervan/HarperCollins Publishers

061059: The Message Remix Solo: An Uncommon Devotional The Message Remix Solo: An Uncommon Devotional

By Eugene H. Peterson / NAV Press

OK, I knew it.  This is getting too long.  And I haven’t  even gotten to my “study mentors”—the sections on my bookshelves for Philip Yancey, Walter Wangerin, Frederick Buechner.   I’m really just getting started.

You may be surprised that there are not more specifically “mom” books.  Maybe another time . . . But one thing I found crucial to keeping my sanity as a mom was to continue to nurture and grow my whole self—my soul.  These are just a few of the books that have helped me do that.

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