Mending Relationships

In 1956, I was appointed pastor of a church in New Westminster, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia. Kathleen and I packed our belongings and four children into our turquoise Plymouth hitched to a springless trailer and drove all the way from Kentucky to our new assignment.

The Reverend C. W. Burbank was my conference superintendent. He was not a seminary-trained man; back then, many pastors got their theological training through substantial correspondence courses. He was an urgent preacher, well respected by his peers, and a man of down-to-earth common sense — derived, I was told, from his earlier years in the logging business in the Okanagan Valley of Washington State.

During one of my first conversations with him he shared a bit of wisdom. (It was intended for pastors, but seems to me applicable to everyone, especially in these days of strife.) He explained that some ministers are more skilled at mending fences than others. He meant that when a misunderstanding developed such pastors seemed to have a knack for promptly restoring trusting relationships.

Others, he said, leave the rift unaddressed and allow it to take on a certain permanence. If this happens with one family, and then another, Rev. Burbank explained, the sum of the misunderstandings destroys the trust of the congregation as a whole. This can end a pastor’s ministry in that church.

Rev. Burbank didn’t say exactly how to recover healthy relationships. Nor did he mention what to do if a pastor’s efforts to keep fences mended are rejected. Sadly, there are such situations.

Here are some practical relationship-mending comments for pastors to consider:

The greatest hindrance to correcting wounded relationships is a universal problem: pride that makes us overrate our worth or abilities. Wounded pride must be acknowledged, managed, and even repented before repair is possible.

Once a rift happens, anger destroys relationships. Anger must be faced and dissipated. Often only the indwelling Spirit of Christ, and the spirit of humility He gives, can save us from anger’s destruction. It may help to meditate on James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

Wise pastors will know that, once in a while, a relationship may seem beyond repair despite their earnest attempts at restoration. Agreement may not be possible regarding a policy or board majority decision. In these cases, ministers should labor on in the hope that their continued faithful service will bear fruit and melt hearts.

We are much more likely to navigate rocky relationships if we remember that ultimate accountability is to God. The first impulse should be to please Him, since it is to Him all will finally answer.

Mending fences is not just a challenge for ministers. Broken relationships are a universal peril. Ministers and laymen alike need strength and grace to help in the arduous task of living openly and charitably — insofar as possible — with all. Praying for increased sensitivity to the opinions and needs of others for Christ’s sake is the starting point.

Many years after our conversation, Rev. Burbank’s counsel to keep fences mended remains current. His advice has been a lifelong gift to me, not always exercised to the greatest effectiveness, but always treasured.

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Photo credit: Ivan Radic (via flickr.com)

Re-post: Reflections on Fatherhood

Photo credit: jonboy mitchell (via flickr.com)On Father’s Day, June 21, 2009, I preached at Wesley Chapel in Toronto. In the sermon I included a tribute to my father as follows:

It is now 42 years since my father died, but I still think of him every day. Sometimes when I’m shaving, I see a likeness to him in the mirror. Or in the flow of the day I’m reminded of some ways in which I’m like him by temperament.

What a potent force fatherhood is if a father’s influence can remain active in a son’s memory and make-up for nearly half a century after his death!

My father was a small man, 5’4” tall and no more than 125 pounds even into his old age. But he was every bit a man, physically strong, agile, and one who faced life as a warrior.

He was not refined or cultured and for good reasons. At 13 years of age back in Lancashire, England, his father took him into the coal mines to mine coal. Imagine, at that age having to get up early, walk a great distance above ground to the mine entrance, and then walk a further distance under ground to the active section of the mine, there to put in a full day’s work. In the winter months he saw daylight only on Sundays.

He didn’t fare much better in formal schooling. At five years of age he was sent to school, but after six weeks he contracted scarlet fever and was taken out. He was never sent back. The family does not know how he was taught to read and write but I remember that he could write an adequate letter with no more misspellings than an average high school student’s, and he was an avid reader of the editorial section of the daily paper — in spite of his educational deprivations.

In the first decade of the Twentieth Century he brought his young bride, my mother, to the sparsely settled prairies of southeastern Saskatchewan. He started work there as a coal miner in a place called Roche Percy, Saskatchewan, because coal mining was all he knew.

He soon had a government-awarded homestead three miles south of Estevan and began market gardening. Then, while continuing that, he also sold Watkins Products in the area and, as a third job, continued to take coal from a mine in the side of the hill on his property. He eventually built a small bakery in Estevan which later, under the management of my older brother, Wilfrid, became a Red and White grocery store on the main street, owned by my father. Later still he established a second-hand furniture store—what was then called a furniture exchange.

He obviously was ambitious and entrepreneurial and I think he passed a portion of those traits on to me. He also worked very hard right to the end of his life and I think I gained from his example. Most importantly, although he was not an active believer until late in his life, he went to church regularly with the family. This reflected a value he held and it was because of that value I was kept under the influence of the gospel while I was growing up. To this day I am a beneficiary of his decisions.

My father was obviously limited in certain ways because of the poverty and dearth of social niceties in his upbringing. But he also had admirable natural qualities that were God-given, and from those I have gained immeasurably. I know that what he had he gave me without reservation and for that I salute his memory.

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Helping Children to Listen to Their Conscience

481064169_03dc6507e6_mMy memory for this one winds back 58 years. The place was a parsonage in New Westminster, British Columbia.

Bobby, our first grader, and Donnie, our third grader, were settled in bed for the night. I went upstairs to their bedroom, as I often did when at home, and sat down on the braided rug between their beds for a few minutes before lights out.

It was a good time for reflection, and sometimes significant issues bubbled to the surface before sleep came.

How did the day go? I asked. Anything special happen for either of you? I then prayed with them and went downstairs, stopping in the kitchen for a glass of water. The house was quiet.

Breaking the stillness, I heard footsteps descending the stairs. Around the corner into the kitchen came Donnie. He had something he wanted to tell me.

“Remember the money you asked the people to give to the missionaries last Sunday?” he asked his pastor father. “Yes,” I said. “Well,” he explained, “I went to some neighbors and asked for money for the missionaries but I really was going to keep it for the bike I want.”

“Did you get any money?” I asked. He said Mrs. Bird had given him a quarter.

“Do you want me to go with you to take that money back and say you’re sorry?” I continued. He thought he could do it alone. With that he turned and I heard the sound of his bare feet mounting the stairs.

Almost immediately I again heard footsteps descending. Around the corner into the kitchen came Bobby. He too had something he wanted to tell me.

Apparently his first grade teacher had placed some attractive packets of blank paper for classroom use on a table near the classroom door. Upon leaving school in the afternoon Bobby had picked up two packets and brought them home.

“Do you still have them?” I asked. “And are they unopened?” To both questions the answer was yes.

I remember thinking to myself: it’s a pretty stiff assignment for a first grader to go on his own to his teacher and face his wrongdoing. So I asked if he would like me to go to the teacher with him. He replied that he could do it by himself.

I waited a couple of days and then phoned Mrs. Bird. She confirmed that Donnie had been to see her and had returned the quarter with an apology. I also phoned the teacher and learned that Bobby had carried out his assignment by returning the two packets and saying he was sorry.

A father’s interest in the daily experiences of two boys had moved each to own an otherwise concealed wrongdoing. Two developing consciences had been quickened. The offenses were never spoken of again during their childhood.

I recognize that one such encounter will not bring about the full ordering of a child’s conscience. There must be many prompts, given by at least one external authority on that child’s pathway, preferably a parent. This will encourage honesty and give positive stimulation to the child’s developing moral signals.

As well, there must also be many occasions when such authorities in a child’s life help the child to say “I’m sorry,” or, make amends. Saying I’m sorry is a factor in teaching growing children to know right from wrong, and to understand the principle of “consequences”.

Blessed is the growing child who has at least one parent to lead the way — a parent with a healthy conscience, warm but firm relationships with the child, and the will to persevere when the issues are clear.

Parents must be careful not to laugh at a developing child’s little deceptions or brush them off as cute. They are stuff to be directed toward character development.

Even the most careful cultivation of a clear sense of right and wrong in a child cannot promise with certainty to bring the right long term results. God has made us all with wills that can resist goodness. Yet the odds are very high that faithfulness in training will have its positive effect in character formation.

It’s a joy to us that, “Donnie”, now “Don”, is today a father, a grandfather, and a churchman. As an editor he has dedicated the whole of his vocational life to making words speak clearly and he is the owner of Bastian Publishing Services in Toronto.

To God be the glory!

And it is an equal joy that “Bobby”, now “Bob,” is an active Christian, a husband, parent, and laryngologist who owns and practices in the Bastian Voice Institute in Downers Grove, Illinois.

To God Be the Glory!

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Photo credit: Mandy Frediani (via flickr.com)

Marriage: A Lifelong Building Project

Building blocks_8222868268_419dfbaf1f_nKathleen and I have been married 65 years, and we both look upon marriage as a lifelong building project.

What exactly do married couples build into a marriage? After our decades together, here are some of our thoughts.

TRUST. We knew each other very well when, on December 20, 1947, we made lifetime pledges of love and loyalty. Mutual trust was real from the outset. But beyond engagement, marriage is a fully shared life and the mutual trust had to be applied in a whole variety of new experiences. Putting that initial trust to the test enriched it.

SHARED FAITH. For us, marriage has been a prayer-based life together. From our first days in our one-room apartment, each morning after breakfast I would read a portion of Scripture and then we both prayed, committing our precious union to the Lord. It was at first a learning experience, but a practice we have continued to this day.

FAMILY. Marriage is solid ground for the building of a family. Our daughter, Carolyn, arrived ten days before our first anniversary. We were young and declared that we would incorporate our first child into our youthful lifestyle. But reality dictated otherwise. So we reshaped our program to fit the new reality. We had now to address the task of building a family.

Eventually there were four children — Carolyn, Donald, Robert and our youngest, John David, our special needs child. For John David, family adjustments had to be made and as months rolled into years necessary changes were painful. We made them together. We would not let our heartache adversely affect the wholesome development of the three older children.

We continued to build a family with the children God had given us — enlarged over time to include our children’s spouses, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren.

REPUTATION. Marriage is a challenge for the building of a reputation. This is unavoidable. What do growing children see from the inside? What do onlookers see from the outside? Do they all see a strong and stable marriage? Is it bound together by a durable love?

Do we continue to respect one another even in stressful times? Christian marriage is about more than personal happiness. It is also, inescapably, about building a reputation that can serve as a beacon to couples nearby who may still struggle.

AN ESTATE. Marriage involves the building of an estate. “Estate” doesn’t mean a fortune. It means whatever joint possessions have come into being through the shared work and careful accumulations of husband and wife together. Estate may be only a bungalow and a modest bank account. Or it may be additional possessions, savings and investments.

In this area, Kathleen and I build with three purposes in mind: personal security for the closing years of our lives; gifts of love to leave the children; and something to bequeath to Christian causes we have supported in life and wish to continue to support after we have gone to be with the Lord.

To think of marriage as a lifetime building project gives long-range perspective. It puts the present moment into a grander framework. And it keeps our thinking about the future unfogged by pressures that come and go in our day-to-day life together.

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When Unsatisfactory Marriages Are Made in Good Families

Susanna and Samuel Wesley

Samuel and Susanna Wesley attempted to shape their children in deep Christian learning and devotion. You would think that each would grow up to marry well and establish their own devout Christian families. It didn’t work out that way.

Of the three boys, Samuel, the first-born, had a warm, nurturing marriage, and so did Charles, one of the youngest of the 10 Wesley children who lived. John was not so blessed. Later in life he married a widow named Mary Vazeille. She was 41 and he 48. He writes that until then he did not think marriage was advisable, given the work he was called to do. But his views changed and when he married, his early notes to Mary are warm and tender.

However these notes began to reveal an unforeseen state of affairs.

Historian Henry Rack reports that “For over twenty years Wesley’s letters to his wife show (in her) a depressing, at times touching, picture of pathological jealousy, suspicion and uncontrollable rage, and (in him) patient attempts at reasoning, expostulation, claims of husbandly authority, answers to slanders, and various ultimatums as the price of reconciliation….” Perhaps his many travels were hard for her to deal with, and there is evidence that she did not fit well into the Methodist connection. But these do not explain her often raging and physically abusive conduct.

Of the seven spirited and brilliant daughters of Samuel and Susanna, five had marriages that were unsatisfactory, and at least two were disastrous.

History reports that Hetty, in a rash moment, ran off with a man and after being away for some time returned home pregnant. When her father found out her condition, he was enraged and unreconcilable. Hetty, half contrite and half desperate, volunteered to marry any man her parents chose. This was to cover or in some way redeem her indiscretion.

Her father unwisely approved her union with a drunken and illiterate plumber, a Mr. Wright, though her father would not marry them. Four months later the child was born but did not survive. Her other children also did not live. Her life was an ever-deepening tragedy.

Rack covers the family details quite fully but notes that in spite of family troubles, in the children’s early years “Epworth Rectory was not a scene of unrelieved gloom. The children carried on a lively correspondence and shared the affairs of the heart.” And when son John was at home his diary reveals a thriving social life.

There were moderating circumstances contributing to the disappointing outcomes: grinding poverty for the family, a deprived social environment, a scarcity of eligible mates for refined young women, and a father who was rated a serious and competent rector of the church but one who lacked judgment for the regulation of home and family.

In spite of Mother Susanna’s remarkable homeschooling and deep Christian piety, it was less than a model home or community environment. But then, as now, children are to be held responsible themselves for matrimonial decisions they make.

In spite of all this, from this home came John Wesley, in essence the founder of Methodism, and Charles Wesley, the incomparable hymn writer whose hymns still brighten congregational singing around the world more than two centuries after his death.

In amazement and perplexity, we can only say, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.”

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A Tribute to Fatherhood

Father and son
Yesterday Kathleen and I attended the funeral of a longstanding friend, Al Hill. During our trip home, we pondered his life as it informed the term, fatherhood.

It was evident that Al had a large circle of friends; the church was packed. He had also distinguished himself as a churchman and educator. Yet, it was his success as a father that lingered with us.

It was obvious that Al and Grace had raised three stalwart sons, all now in stable marriages with children to bless them and their grandparents. All this stayed with us as we drove.

One son’s tribute stood out. He said that his father had insisted that under all circumstances he and his two brothers respect their mother. The point was made repeatedly while they were growing up. The three boys were apparently reminded even in adulthood to “look after your mother.”

This reminded me of an episode with one of my own sons who in early adolescence had begun to show moments of veiled disrespect for his mother. I spoke to him about it. “She is not only your mother,” I told him sternly, “she is my wife, and I insist that my wife be respected.” The message given in that novel way registered. Today, this son and my other two children could not be more loving and solicitous of their mother’s well being.

Fatherhood should be more elevated in our world than it is for a variety of reasons: it is a divinely ordained assignment, a role deeply rooted in history, a widely-used positive metaphor, an honorable title, an art, a crucial social role — and a joy.

I will remember Al for his churchmanship. I will remember him for his good ideas. I will never forget the favor he did for our family when, as a school principal, he facilitated our daughter’s return to Canada to teach.

But, after the tributes we heard yesterday, I will honor him foremost in my memory for the way he embraced fatherhood as a sacred trust. And he did it well.

(More next week.)

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Countering the Divorce Scourge: Part 2

When one has a close-up look at the price many pay for the dissolution of a marriage, divorce can be accurately called a modern scourge. My last counseling contact before leaving the pastorate years ago to answer my church’s call to denominational leadership was with a woman who was not a member of the church but had been sent to me by her friends who were.

She reported that her husband had recently shocked her with the unexpected announcement that he didn’t want to be married to her any longer. No reason was given other than that. Divorce proceedings were immediately underway. Since that day, she had lost more than 40 pounds, and even with her doctor’s help she could not seem to stop the loss.

My conviction is that the great number of congregations across the whole spectrum of Christian faith across this land should be the first line of defense against this scourge. In that connection, in my first instalment I spoke in favor of the empowered pulpit to lay the groundwork for the life of the congregation on this issue. Following closely on that I added the Sunday School or the small group ministry to engage young and old alike with biblical truths that support marriage and family life. Here are three additional suggestions.

III. GODLY EXAMPLE and / or TESTIMONIALS. If there is a couple in the church who have been married 50 or more years and who still manifest a gentle love for each other, why not a five-minute interview as a part of a Sunday morning or evening service? This could be done at least twice a year. But such interviews should be rehearsed ahead of time so the couple knows what questions to expect. An unplanned interview may be worse than none at all. For sure, school-aged children should be present because the seeds of successful matrimony are planted early.

IV. WEEKEND RETREATS. Good things happen when young couples are taken away for a well-planned weekend retreat, undergirded with prayer. The same can be said for teenagers or single young professionals. Outdoor activities, some competitive games, good food, laughter, and an effective Bible teacher can be used of God to give fresh insight, prompt repentance where needed, renew hope, and set some who attend on a whole new course.

For small churches this may require a joint effort involving several regional churches. Whether for couples or teenagers or any other group in the church, a well prepared weekend away usually proves worth the effort and can be made to reinforce biblical truths bearing on the crucial but troubled domestic issues of modern life.

V. COUNSELING. The kind of ministries I’ve set forth are sure to bring forward needs that require counseling. It can be assumed that there are troubled couples in every congregation who are looking carefully to see who they might be able to talk to, whether a pastor or staff person or even a respected older lay person. I can’t forget the layperson who said to me, “I’ve watched you for eight years to decide whether I could talk to you.”

There are also couples in every congregation who can be carefully screened and equipped to give elemental help to those in marital difficulty. One pastor reported that when he divided his congregation into small groups the personal requests for his counsel diminished. It seemed that some people began to get the help needed in the intimacy and trust of small groups.

There are perils in concentrating on marriage and family ministry in a particular church. The congregation should have a clear focus but should not become a one-ministry church. For example, singles in the congregation, of whom the number is growing everywhere, must be ministered to in appropriate ways or they may come to feel like “second class citizens.” And those who have had a failed marriage, or are single parents, must not get any sense that they are being pushed to the sidelines for the same reason.

Even so, marriage and family are under such attack at this time in history that local congregations should be aware of the high priority need to serve and support the family.

The point is that the resources of the congregation should be marshalled to counter the divorce scourge and hold up the standard of marriage as a gift from God to be nurtured and, when necessary, healed. When this is done with devotion and in the power of God’s Mighty Spirit, the life of the whole congregation should feel the health-giving effect.

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Countering the Divorce Scourge: Part 1

During one week a month ago, I received three telephone calls from men who were being carried along unwillingly to a divorce they did not want. All three candidly admitted that to one degree or another their negligence was a factor. The three were not connected with one another in any way, and so far as I know they were not aware of one another.

Each was in deep distress. A harsh new reality had broken upon them in full force when the divorce papers were served. And all three seemed ready to fight for the recovery of the marriage though they each feared that their marriage might be beyond saving.

Three such calls within a single week bring home to me how pervasive divorce is in our culture. And they remind me yet again how painful it is to dissolve a marriage. But they have also made me reflect on the church’s calling in helping to reduce the number of dissolved marriages by fostering healthy marriages within a domestically healthy congregation.

There are congregations that are accepting this mandate. But I believe many more should self-consciously do so. In fact, thousands of Christian congregations on this continent are still in the position to be the front line defenders and protectors of the institution of marriage.

What can these congregation do to develop a sub-culture in which marriage continues to be held in honor while some among them who have experienced the dissolution of their marriage through unfaithfulness, desertion, or some other cause are being ministered to? Can marriage be affirmed and individuals whose marriages have failed find real healing within a loving congregation? If so, how?

I. SERMONS. The Lord’s people must never underestimate the power of their pulpits. Every great Christian forward movement in history has been advanced by empowered preaching. If sermons are mined from the deep veins of the Scriptures, are well prepared, seriously undergirded by prayer, and preached with passion, they have the capability, under God, of strongly reinforcing human marital commitments.

But one sermon a year will not be enough. If we will allow them, the Scriptures will bring us often to some aspect of this truth about marriage and family. However unrelated to marriage they may seem on the surface, sermons on God’s covenant love in Christ, the grace of loving relationships, the power of forgiving and being forgiven, the grace of putting others first, repentance, bearing one another’s burdens, etc., — all such anointed sermons will have a substantial bearing on this precious relationship called marriage.

II. SUNDAY SCHOOL OR SMALL GROUP MINISTRY. Sadly, Sunday School has fallen on hard times in recent years. But where it is still carried on seriously, it provides remarkable opportunity to bring home to young and old alike the same timeless truths mentioned above locked into the sacred Scriptures. Due to the more informal, relational nature of these ministries, in a Sunday School class or small group, truth can be delivered in bite-sized chunks, reinforced by dialogue, and released into person’s lives by spoken commitment.

Consider key Bible passages that are able to shape the understanding of young and old alike. The story of Adam and Eve -– always the starting point — shows what God intended marriage to be at the time of Creation (Gen. 2). The search made by Abraham’s steward for a wife for Isaac was at every point God-guided (Gen.24). In the Proverbs there are the warnings to the young against sexual promiscuity (Prov. 7, etc.). On the other hand, there is the beauty of physical love under the right circumstances set forth in the Song of Songs.

And in the Gospels we have the sobering words of Jesus about divorce (Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12: Luke 16:18). Epistles give us laws for the Christian family (Eph. 5:21-6:4). And in various other places in the Bible, marriage seems the ever-present metaphor to show us God’s covenant love for his people.

The pulpit and the Sunday School or small group – what a strong alliance for the shaping of a congregation’s views and practices relative to the institution of marriage! What a wonderful provision for the union of preaching and teaching! These are two good starting places for war against the destructive forces that attempt to plant shallow or erroneous views about marriage in the minds even of believers every day in our world.

If troubled partners from three dissolving marriages should seek my prayers in one week, retired as I am, this is enough to awaken my prayers afresh for churches everywhere to mobilize their spiritual resources in the realm of marriage and family.

Later this week I will continue my thoughts on this crucial subject. Please check in again on Thursday. And feel free to add your comments or questions to this posting.

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Thou Shalt Respect Thy Mother

Enough time has passed that the truth can now be told – with permission: I have a son who was gifted with words from his earliest years, but when adolescence arrived, a hurtful side of that gift manifested itself.

It wasn’t that he became openly rude or defiant. It was more that he showed an ability to sting with veiled scorn at the mention of something he didn’t agree with. This registered first as disrespect for his mother as a woman and a mother.

In response, my wife reminded me behind the scenes that she would not take disrespect from any of her children. This was not a negotiable issue. Her words were firm and heavy with emotion. I knew she expected me to go into action.

Soon after that exchange the veiled scorn appeared during an evening meal. It was directed toward something my wife had said. I interrupted the meal to march him to his bedroom where I delivered myself of a lecture that, though many years have passed, still strikes me as right.

First I let him know that the kind of disrespect he was showing would not be tolerated in our home. I delivered my message with conviction. This was a high intensity engagement.

Then came the key moment of our exchange. I explained that I might not be able to curb the disrespect he showed his mother within his one-on-one relationship to her. But I let him know that she was my wife and I would not tolerate any disrespect I witnessed or became aware of after the fact towards the woman I had pledged at the marriage altar “to love and to cherish.”

That appeared a new thought to him and the message sank in. There was genuine remorse. We ended the meeting kneeling side by side at his bed and engaging in a heartfelt prayer for God’s forgiveness and help. After all, it is God who decrees that children are to “Honor father and mother” — even though it is a father’s responsibility to enforce that commandment when it is violated.

I recall a similar situation a father of my acquaintance had with an obstreperous daughter. She was only four years of age but she was already using newly-acquired vocabulary and a sharp tongue to make life miserable at times for her mother. The father shared with me that he came home one day to a distraught wife who had received this unpleasant treatment off-and-on during the day

Upon learning this, he told me, he went into a drill of his own. Taking the little girl aside he confronted her with intensity, making sure she realized her conduct had ruined her mother’s day. She listened in tears. By the time the meeting was over that girl knew that her developing misconduct was out of bounds in that home. The father now tells me that that and other talks over her developing years were powerful in recruiting her own will to the task of respectful behavior.

I am aware of objections to my insistence that fathers have a special duty to enforce in children respect for their mothers. It may be that in some homes no father is present. Or that a father may be feared too harsh in dealing with such matters. Or that a step-father’s intervention might not be accepted, possibly making things worse.

I realize also that some may contend that a mother should have the skills to command the respect of growing children by herself without calling for a husband’s help.

But a father can do wonders by standing up relentlessly to protect the well-being of his wife when a child seems committed to destructive disrespect. In the process, he is likely also to win respect for himself and peace for the family.

Both of the above scenarios happened many years ago. Whatever became of those children? The son skilled with words is now the father of married children himself, and channels his gift with words into his lifetime work as a publisher and editor. I can witness that he could not be more solicitous of his mother’s well being. And he himself has raised a mutually respectful family.

Of the girl, now a working adult, her father tells me that her relationship with both parents is warm and collegial. I can bear witness from occasional personal contacts with that family that the cohesion and respect among all members of the family is a delight to behold.

I may be old-fashioned in my views about the father’s role in such situations. As I see it, he is to be the authority figure and thus if growing children show insolence or impudence toward their mother, he should carry primary responsibility to curb that misconduct.

My observations across a lifetime of ministry is that families benefit dramatically when a father takes responsibility to foster such respect – respect that goes both ways, child-to-parent and parent-to-child. Such families experience playfulness and mutual enjoyment in the good times, and “store up” sufficient goodwill to achieve recovery in times when someone falls momentarily “below the line.”

Blessed is the mother who has such a champion during the tough times when children are growing up. And blessed are the children who have built into their characters such standards of respect — for the pressing needs they will face in their own adulthood.

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A Fresh Wrinkle on Child-Rearing

Now here’s a fresh wrinkle on child-rearing, well worth posting in the literature.

Our friend and former parishioner, Melli, has spent much of her adult life in Burundi, Africa, along with her husband Ken. Together they’ve seen the enormous need of children left orphaned in great numbers there, and out of the compassion of their hearts have taken ten such children and are in the process of adopting the last six of them.

At the present, Melli is living in Lakeland, Florida with this little brood. They are in the United States principally for long term speech therapy for Samuel.

Melli writes that earlier that morning two of the children were squabbling over a little toy car and she was sure the whole neighborhood could hear the goings-on, So she commanded, STOP EVERYTHING AND QUOTE KING DAVID: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14)

She doesn’t report the results but I can guess that they were electric. And from the perspective of a great-grandfather, I can commend the solution to the literature and to the use of harried parents anywhere when their little ones squabble. Except that the children must be helped to memorize the prayer in advance of the strife.

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