Practical Ways a Father Can Have a Lasting Legacy

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Let’s do a bit of an exercise. At first, it’ll seem a bit morbid, but hang with me because I think it’s eye-opening.

This exercise isn’t something I came up with, it’s been around for a while. It’s called The Eulogy Exercise. It comes from the book by Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey walks the reader through this hypothetical scenario:

Imagine you are going to a funeral. 

You pull up to the parking lot where the funeral location is (a church building or a funeral home ). You park, get out of the car, walk into the building as other people who are dressed up are walking in. You smell fresh cut flowers as you enter into the lobby. There’s a fresh aroma sprayed all over the room. You take a free mint offered. 

You look around and you begin to recognize people. And not just acquaintances, but close friends and family members who are also at the funeral. 

It’s visitation hours, so people are in line to walk by the casket of the deceased to pay their respects. You get up to the casket and when you look down, it’s you that is laying there, dead.

You are attending your own funeral. 

The date on the program isn’t 50 years from now. This funeral, your funeral, is just three years from today.

You go into the sanctuary where people are sitting awaiting for the ceremony to begin and as you look on the program, there are going to be four people who will be speaking at your funeral.

Four people will be sharing about you and how you lived your life. 

Person #1: A family member

The first person that is going to speak at your funeral is a family member. It could be a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling. It will be a family member who knew you very well. 

Person #2: A close friend

The second person that is going to speak is going to be one of your close friends. Maybe a childhood friend or a friend from high school, a college roommate, a friend from the neighborhood. They’ve spent time with you and know you. They’ve been through the ups and downs with you. 

Person #3: Someone from work

The third person speaking will be someone from your job, or if still in school, a teacher or a coach. It’s someone who sees you during the week. They’ve seen how you celebrate and encourage others. They see how you handle stress.

Person #4: Someone from church

The fourth person to speak is someone from your church, if you have a church family. They see how much you choose to attend. They see how you serve. They’ve watched how you worship. 

Four people.
A family member.
A close friend.
A co-worker.
Someone who was in the same church as you. 

And the big question is: What would you like each of these people to say about you?

This is the point of the exercise: Covey coined it as this: Beginning with the end in mind. 

If we think of what we would want those in our daily lives to say about us when we return to dust, we then can look at how we are living in the present to go after that desired legacy. 

Here are some practical steps every dad can take to cement a life-changing, positive legacy with his children: 

Smile in photos taken with the family. 

What is it with dads not smiling in family photos? Dad looks grumpy with his wife. He looks serious with his kids. How he feels towards his loved one is not how he shows it in pictures. Sure he loves them, but in pictures it doesn’t seem that way. 

I don’t care if dad was in the military, or still thinks he’s taking a football team picture, or if he thinks he has bad teeth or if his favorite team just lost or if he’s had a bad day – smile. 

Send the message from your heart of love towards these people to your mouth when pictures are being taken. 

Because, when dad dies, his kids will only have pictures to look at to remember him. If those pictures look like dad was serious or harsh because he didn’t smile, that’s the legacy he’s going to write long after he’s gone. 

Have evenings of focused one-on-one time.

Life is full. Life is packed. Kids grow fast. When the child gets off the bus or when dad gets home from work, there isn’t much time together. 

What a dad can do is carve out intentional, one-on-one time with the child. 

Whether it’s father-son or daddy-daughter, nights out or date nights need to be set and kept. 

Every year, 12 times a year, once a month, I take each of my children out separately. Just me and them. Sometimes it’s dinner when we get dressed up and all fancy. Sometimes it’s ice cream. Sometimes you go bowling with them. Sometimes I surprise them at their school and have lunch with them. Sometimes it’s a long walk so we can talk and catch up on their view of the family, of God, of life, of their emotions. 

When I am just with them, we’ll laugh and talk about our day, but, there are also some heart-to-heart questions that I ask. 

How are you feeling being a part of this family?
Do you feel included?
Do you feel heard?
How is school going?
Is there anything challenging happening?
Are there any frustrations in your life right now that I can offer some advise on or pray about? 

And you let them talk. And after you are gone, dad, they’ll remember the time spent and the wisdom shared. Your legacy will live on. 

As best as possible at night, ignore screens until the kids are asleep. 

If children are great at one thing, they are great at exaggerating. Children naturally use words like always and never. 

So, if dad is on his phone for work or for fun, when a child wants to talk to dad or play with dad, all it takes is two instances where the kid sees dad looking at a phone and then the child thinks, Dad never plays with me (even when he does), or, Dad is always on his phone (even though he’s not).

Perception is reality to them. 

My family and I attended a volleyball game at a junior high school a few months ago. Some friends of ours were playing in and attending the game. We were there to cheer them on. 

Two rows in front of my wife and I was a father of a child playing in the volleyball game. And for the majority of the game, he was watching on his phone his favorite college football team play their game. 

And I saw his daughter look at him multiple times as he was looking at a screen. She saw that he would rather watch strangers play a game than his daughter play in hers. 

Dad, be present. 

Yes there is work. Yes there are emails. Yes there are fun things to watch on TV. Yes we have the habit of checking social media every five minutes. Those can all wait (they might be highjacking your legacy at home). 

From the time you get home to the time they are finally asleep, try to look at them, not a screen. 

Treat his wife with kindness and respect. 

The way dad consistently treats his wife shows any son he has how to treat women and any daughter he has how to be treated by a man. You’ve heard that. 

But, in addition, when there is unrest in the home, the children internalize it. They invite the stress of a marriage into their life and it goes with them into their school, activities and relationships. 

It’s when dad yells at his wife. It’s when dad puts down his wife. It’s when dad is giving the cold shoulder to his wife. It’s when dad would rather have nights out with his buddies than take his wife out. The children see this. They feel it. They think it’s normal even though they don’t like it. 

Dad needs to serve his wife. He needs to uplift her with words of encouragement. He needs to thank her in front of the children for all she does in the family and in the home. He needs to come alongside her when she makes decisions for the children. He needs to take her out on dates and text her romantic stuff during the day because a happy wife and mother also has a key impact on the children. Dad can help with that. 

[Sidenote: If dad is divorced/unmarried to the child’s mother, he must not speak ill of her. Even if she takes the low road when speaking of him. Without her, dad doesn’t have the joy of loving his children, so even when difficult, uplift the child’s mother.]

Put God first in his life and in the home’s life. 

After dad has died, it leaves a hole in the heart of a child that never fully heals. It is difficult to lose a parent. You think about it every day. You miss them every day. For me, with a father gone for over 6 years, the only thing that has gotten me through it is leaning on God, my heavenly Father. 

I have that relationship with God because my father did first. My father wasn’t the person of love he was because of his self-effort. He was loving toward me because of God changing his heart and working through him to effectively serve and graciously care for us kids. 

God is first in our household. I am not the leader of our home. God is. I am not the decision-maker of our home. God is. When we are hurt, we pray. When we are stressed, we open the Bible and write verses on our bathroom mirrors to calm our anxiety. When we are afraid, we remind each other to trust God. 

Our schedule doesn’t get in the way of family dinners where we pray and talk about what we’re grateful to God about. Our hobbies do not get in the way of worship on Sunday mornings. As a family, we actively serve in the church we are involved in. Our children know that my wife and I read our Bibles each morning. 

After dad is gone, his legacy of how he leaned on God daily in his life will be the driving force they need to press on into the life God has in store for them without dad. 

Smile in photos taken with the family.
Have evenings of focused one-on-one time.
As best as possible, no screens until the kids are asleep.
Treat his wife with kindness and respect.
Put God first in his life and in the home’s life. 

Doing these things consistently, by beginning with the end in mind, allows dad’s legacy to be a positive one that outlives his physical life into generations of his family. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Real Housewives, Tim Tebow and Telling Your Kids “No”

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Flipping channels I came across the television show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. One of the wives on this show, her name is Kyle. Looking it up, she has over 2 million followers on Instagram. Besides her amazing acting skills on reality TV, she’s an author. One of her books has made The New York Times Best Sellers List.

In this best-selling book she writes, “If you cheat on your spouse don’t tell your spouse. Everyone gets one free pass.” – Kyle Richards

This is her advice.

Hmmm.

I’m going to sound like a really, really old man when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: 25 years ago, that line of thinking was not normal. And now it’s a best-seller?

Contrast the worldview of Kyle Richards with the convictions of Tim Tebow.

This is a guy committed to guarding his virginity. It’s someone who is raising and giving away millions of dollars to help orphans around the world and special needs children in this country. He smiles when his team loses and gives his teammates credit when he wins.

Tebow is antagonistically asked all the time why he talks so much about his love for Jesus. This is his response, “If you’re married and you have a wife and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife, “I love you!” the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up at every opportunity? That’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the most important relationship in my life. I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity I can get to let him know that I love him.”

Boom.

This sounds normal to me. It’s foreign thinking to the world.

There’s a high school in America where you can take a class on transgender pornography. It’s an elective. In this same high school the teens are not allowed to pray in the cafeteria. And if you say the name Jesus during a graduation speech they’ll keep your diploma and expel you.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12).

Do you know when I feel this cultural drift-effect the most? I feel the pull this world has on me the most when I’m trying to make a good decision for my kids.

I know as my daughters get older, they’re going to see a bunch of really nice stuff their friends have that they don’t own. Christmas lists’ are going to get expensive. Birthdays are going to be big deals. Already I can’t get home from a business trip without my three year old asking what I got her before she hugs me. It starts early.

My wife and I are already thinking about what to do when our daughters start asking for expensive gifts. It’s not that the money isn’t there – and please don’t read into this, I’m not telling you how to parent because I’m very wet behind the ears still – but just because we can afford to buy something that doesn’t mean we need to buy it.

I am convinced our goal as parents is not to get children more and more stuff or plan more and more activities for them. Already we see that doesn’t suffice. It’s all temporary until the next thing they can get or do.

Our goal as parents is to raise children to be more like and to depend on Jesus each day of their lives.

That’s not typical today. The majority of families are all about the stuff and the activities.

Which families, in their daily choices, are all about Jesus?
Which husband prays with his wife, asking how he can pray for her?
Which parent prays when their kids are afraid?
Which kids are asking their parents how can they pray for them?

Where are the families reading their Bible together, attending worship together, loving their neighbors together, forgiving each other, baptizing each other?

My six-year old child knows kids her age with an I-phone. She wants her own I-pad for her birthday. As a family we have one already. She likes the thought of using make-up. When she sees her friends get into this stuff and get these things from their parents, we will teach her to be excited for them and not jealous of them or even angry at her mom and I for not getting her another thing, but to be grateful she has a warm home to sleep in and a full belly and a clothed body and a family that is centered on Jesus and full of laughter and joy.

We will go through seasons of getting things for our girls or not getting things for them, but we both believe it will be good for them to hear us say “no, you can’t have this.”

I’m not a mean father, but every so often my children need to hear “no” from me and here’s why:

I hope that someday my daughters are going to have a relationship with Jesus that is their own. They’ll be introduced to this awesome daily thing called prayer, where they can have a real live conversation with the Creator of the universe at any point during their day. And they’re going to ask God for something they think they need or something they really want and God, who sees the future, protects His children, knows better than they do about what they need, He’s going to say “no” to them at times.

I don’t want my children to be spiritually confused, or so physically spoiled, that they get angry at God for not being the genie they expect Him to be because I, as their earthly dad, didn’t say “no” to them while they were growing up. It’s normal to whine. Who’s living simply, patiently, gratefully?

Let me be even more vulnerable as a parent: When I say “no” to my of our kids, for some reason I feel guilty for not getting that thing or that activity for them.

WHY?

Why do I feel like I should cave in when my girls give me the droopy-lower lip, or the tear down their eye, or when they don’t feel like they fit in with their friends?

It’s this cultural undertow that screams our kids deserve the best and it’s tempting us to forget that gratitude, simplicity, generosity, Jesus and His ways are really what’s best for them. Not the next thing their friends may get or what the commercials show. Deep inside we know what everyone else is doing isn’t working.

The only way to live a better life is to live a different life.
Let’s not be so obsessed with being 
happy. Let’s be holy.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z