LAUNCHING THE LAST ONE: Five things I would say to myself as a young father

LAUNCHING THE LAST ONE: Five things I would say to myself as a young father

The last of my three daughters launched today, off to pursue her calling as a storyteller and begin her career as the digital video and media producer for a private university in a neighboring state. I couldn’t be happier for her or prouder. She worked hard and smart and with the grace of God achieved her goal. A biblical paraphrase comes to mind: This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased. Followed by, WATCH OUT WORLD, HERE SHE COMES!

I am, of course, exceedingly proud of all three of my daughters, each of whom loves God and others, serves their respective churches, has happy, healthy relationships, and have become self-supporting adults who will contribute much to society. But watching the last one launch reminded me of how fast it all went by and how often I wondered how it all would turn out. No human life is without trial and tragedy. Our girls did not escape serious illness, hidden trauma, and acquaintance with sudden death as they grew up.

Knowing this, many people choose not to have children, but I’m so glad we did.  With 20-20 hindsight, here are five things I would say to myself as a young father.

First, don’t wait till you can afford it. I was earning less than $10 an hour when my second daughter was born. We had maternity insurance, but still, given our conviction that my wife should be at home with the kids till they entered school, (she home schooled them through third grade), times were tough. We used the envelope system of cash management and my wife was a champion shopper. God is faithful and provided just what we needed when we needed it. If you wait till you can afford it, you can become more attached to your standard of living than is necessary to raise healthy children.

Second, be present in their lives. The best parenting advice I ever got came from a very successful friend. “Don’t let your ministry consume all of your time,” he said. “I’ve worked too much and lost touch with my sons. I wouldn’t want to see that happen to you.” It was only too true. Sadly, one son took his own life as a high school senior. Some things only a dad can do and some things only a mom. They need both of you in their lives. This will require sacrifice of other things that may seem more important. Make the sacrifice.

Third, hold the reigns loosely. Keep the picture of the mature adult you are aiming for clearly in mind and guide them toward it, but don’t over control. Don’t let the daily details—the foolishness of youth, the ups and downs of adolescence—discourage or enrage you. Hold your temper and your tongue and keep the big picture in mind.

Fourth, be the storyteller in their lives. Read to them—the Bible and other good books—before they know what a book is and manage well what they watch and read as they mature. That includes, of course, worshiping with other believers each week, living out the story of the gospel in the body of Christ. The storytellers of a culture shape the values of a culture and of a family. Discuss what you read and the sermons you hear “as you go in and out, as you rise up and sit down,” in the car and at the table, everywhere life happens. Make sure they know how to analyze every story from the biblical worldview. Then they will know how to write their own.

Finally, let them fail and learn how to stand up again. “Success is never final,” the saying goes, “and failure is never fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Life is no Disney World, and the sooner they learn how to suffer defeat and keep going, the better.

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”[1] I’m so glad I became a dad, and look forward with great anticipation to see what God is going to do next in my daughters’ lives.

[1] Philippians 3:13-14.

 

BEWARE BLACK FRIDAY

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus (Luke 12:15)

One of our church members, who worked in a well-known department store, mentioned something one Thanksgiving week that made me gasp. “I have to be at work at 2:00 AM next Friday morning.”

The next day, at the teen ministry I co-sponsored at the middle school, one of the kids said, “I can’t believe it. My mom is waking me up at 1:00 AM Friday to go shopping!”

I confess that I am not a serious shopper. I know that it is sensible to try to save money by taking advantage of sales. But let’s be honest about this, Black Friday is a Greed Fest, a singularly American celebration of buying and selling that rivals any other holiday on the calendar. (Note: Holiday is a word derived from Holy Day – a special day for celebration of the deity). Our dedication to getting THE DEAL on the latest trendy toy or 4G gadget is so fanatical that we will stand in line in sub-freezing temperatures at two in the morning and then literally run over each other for the limited supply of DOOR BUSTING BARGAINS! (Lucky for you southerners this year, the temps will be mild).

Let’s not kid ourselves. This is worship. Worship includes sacrifice, adoration and celebration. Fanatical dedication to Black Friday shopping has all the ingredients. There is sacrifice. Can you remember the last time you got up at two in the morning to pray or give or serve or go to a worship service? There is adoration. “Wow! I’ve always wanted one of these!” And there is celebration. “Can you believe it? What a DEAL I got!” We don’t like to admit it but this kind of activity is what worship is made of. It is the great American sin that we never condemn. But the apostle Paul puts it right up there with the sins we do condemn.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these…( Col 3:5-8 NIV)

One day in the department store is no different from any other. Shopping on Black Friday is not a sin. Looking for bargains is not transgression. And if you are going shopping on Friday I hope you find what you’re looking for. But beware the ethos of Black Friday — the culture that celebrates the abundance of possessions as life’s highest good. There is much, much MORE to life than finding Friday’s best bargains.

ADVICE TO AUTOMOTIVE WIDOWS & ORPHANS

 

You know your kids are growing up when they write and say, “Dad, I’m beginning to see the wisdom of a mini-van. How can I find a good one?”

My kids aren’t the only people who ask car questions. I’m meeting one of our congregation’s widows today to advise her about her next car. Last week I checked out another member’s car, one of the most terrifying examples of automotive inspection malpractice I’ve ever seen.

My church knows that I was an ASE certified technician before I was ordained. I like helping people with their cars and I really hate it when unscrupulous dealers and technicians take advantage of my friends.

Car buying is one of the most stressful things Americans do. It is also one of the most costly. If you’d like to know how to save money and get an excellent used car, this article is for you.

The first step to saving money and having an excellent ride is, well, saving money.

Pay Cash If You Can, Borrow Smart if You Can’t

The late Larry Burkett had a great maxim for car buyers, “The cheapest car you will ever own is the one you’re driving right now.” I’ve seen the exception, but the exceptions prove the rule.

The costs of operating a car in this country will continue to rise. Borrowing money to finance a new car over many years will cost much more than the average repair bills for the same car if you keep it five to ten years after it is paid off.

Cash is the best way to pay for a car. Driving isn’t free, so why pay the bank and kiss off all that interest? Make car payments to yourself, even after you pay off the one you’re driving now. In five years you will be able to afford a nicer used car. If you can’t pay cash, borrow smart. Home equity loans usually have better interest rates than car loans. Credit Unions are also good bets. Shop the lenders and remember most used car lots that provide their own financing make more money loaning money than they do selling cars. The interest rates are exorbitant. You don’t have to pay them if you’re willing to shop.

Shop Smart

Most private sellers have migrated to CraigsList. My two favorite sites are Autolist, which has a very usable smartphone app, and AutoTrader, which doesn’t.

Tap the net for reliability ratings. Consumer reports.org offers a one-month subscription to its auto ratings web-site. Their reliability ratings are the best and most objective in the business. Look for red bubbles under engine, transmission, brakes, and air conditioning, as these are the most expensive repair items. Stay away from any cars with black bubbles in those areas. The higher the rating, the less the car will cost in the long run. Also, the higher the mechanical reliability, the higher mileage car you can purchase. A ten-year-old car with 110,000 miles on the clock can be 25% less than a six-year-old car with 90,000 miles on it, and the difference in quality and reliability is negligible. Older cars are also cheaper to insure and incur lower taxes.

Look for ‘One-Owners.’ When buying from a dealer check the CARFAX and look for one owner cars with no damage history, clean titles, from low corrosion, low flood probability parts of the country.

The best used cars come from the best owners. A guy who bought it new and had all the maintenance done as per ‘the book’ is rare, but he is the best because he can substantiate its history.

Talk to the owner. The seller’s character is as much a part of the deal as the new tires he may have installed as incentive. Take someone along who is a good judge of character if you aren’t. You aren’t just buying a car; you’re buying a maintenance history. After I’ve picked a make and model I shop for the guy who’s been taking care of it for me for the past six or eight years.

Run Smart

Have it inspected by a competent technician. Have him provide a list of potential problems and costs. If he has any serious reservations, walk away from the deal. Also, use him for regular oil changes and ask him to keep an eye on critical systems. He will save you money and increase reliability by doing required maintenance that can be budgeted and scheduled, rather than waiting for an expensive breakdown.

You can save thousands of dollars per year on the costs of driving. You don’t have to be a mechanic, and you don’t have to drive a ‘junker’ to do it. All it takes is a little homework and a little discipline and you can enjoy a great car as well as a higher standard of living.