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How to be a great dad

by Janet Denison
Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Ryan Denison and his daughter, showing off their new Atlanta Braves baseball hats, pose for a photo (Credit: Denison family) I thought about writing a Father's Day blog post, but I was afraid it would get lost in holiday, and the subject matter is too important. This was my first Father's Day since my dad died. I was surprised by my sadness. I'm so glad Dad is in heaven and whole again, but I really miss him.

At the same time, my oldest son Ryan celebrated his first Father's Day. Those of you who know Ryan remember that he was rarely seen without his Atlanta Braves cap. He still wears it whenever he can. For his first Father's Day I ordered him a new Braves hat with a matching one for Axia. The picture today is of the two of them, each grinning in those caps. (Time to buy another frame!)

Dads matter – a LOT! I want this to be another "conversation blog post." I want you to think about the best lesson your dad ever taught you, and then share it with the rest of us. I want to help dads, like Ryan and your sons, to be the strongest generation of fathers our country has seen.

Jim's Father's Day sermon was so good. He gave several statistics that I thought were very interesting and encouraging about the importance of a dad's role in the family. Jim said:

  • On the fathering front, there is good news to report. A recent survey reports that fathers are more involved than ever with their children. About 75 percent of fathers say being a dad is their most important job; 61 percent say they are more involved with their children than their father was with them.
  • 73 percent of parents say "a real man knows how to express emotional support to his children." According to Pew Research Center, the amount of time fathers spend on childcare and housework has grown from 6.5 hours a week in 1965 to 17 hours in 2011.
Jim also spoke about the importance of dads to the spiritual life of their children. He said:

  • Christianity was founded by a man and 12 male disciples. Men were engaged in the faith from its inception. But in the 19th century and the industrial revolution, more men began working in mines, mills and factories, far from their home and church. Women stayed behind and began doing most of the church work. Over time, church became a place for women, where men attended on Sunday morning, if at all.
  • Today, only one out of six men goes to church. In a typical church service, only 39 percent are men.
  • It's a shame that many men don't connect with faith and church, because churchgoers are more likely to express a high level of satisfaction with life.
  • Worship attendance is the most important predictor of marital stability: those who attend worship are 25-50% less likely to divorce than those who don't.
  • Religious involvement helps men be more engaged husbands and fathers. And teenagers who have religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with them.
Jim has always been a busy dad, but he always found a LOT of time for our sons. Most nights, when the boys were young, I would listen as Jim told Ryan and Craig a Bible story. Then he prayed with them, and tucked them in. On the nights he was gone, I did that job. We did that with our boys for many years, until gradually handing them the responsibility for their own relationship with God.

One of my favorite verses in the Psalms is 131:2. It says, "But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me."

My word of advice to dads (and moms) comes from that passage. Our most important job as a parent is to teach our children how to have a personal relationship with God as their King. They begin that relationship by listening to us tell them Bible stories, then teaching them what those stories mean. But eventually, we need to "wean" them spiritually to read, study and interpret the Scripture on their own, with the Holy Spirit's guidance.

A calm and quiet soul is found in a person who walks with God, and loves God.  That relationship requires a deep knowledge of God. Too often we go to God for what we can get or for what we need, instead of going to him in love, simply seeking his Presence. An unweaned child goes to its mother when he or she is hungry. We need to wean our children spiritually, like we weaned them physically. Parents can teach their children to go to God, simply because they love him and want to spend time with him. But moms and dads must share the job of "feeding them." In fact, the older the children get, the more important a dad's role in feeding them becomes.

Please use the comment section below to share your own thoughts or advice about what it means to be a great and godly dad. I'm hoping that this blog will help a lot of men be the best dads they can be!


+1 # Nealei Smith 2014-06-19 10:19
I think one of the most important life lessons my father taught me was one morning that I was home visiting from college. I had stayed out a little later than I should have. He woke me very early and had me follow him to the garden. Once there he made me begin to pull weeds. There he gave me the life lesson on sin and weeds. He explained how the roots of sin sow are deep and hard to pull out. He explained the importance of getting rid of sin at the root. At the time I was very irritated for being woken up so early to pull weeds. But now, I look back on it and realize the importance and truth of the message. Im so thankful to have such a Godly man as my earthly father. Love you Dad!
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+1 # Marylyn 2014-06-19 10:32
My truck driving dad loved his job. It didn't matter that the pay was close to meager or that it wasn't a prestigious job - he loved what he did. His acceptance of his role was an example of loving what you do. Part of his legacy to me is teaching me to love what I do - not for any reason except this is where God has placed me for this day and this season of life. There is joy in answering God's call, regardless of what it is, with an affirmative "Yes!".
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0 # Deberah 2014-06-19 11:31
First I'm thankful for my dad because he loved my mother very much and God gave me to both of them. However, like so many young men of WW2,they had to grow up fast, seeing many grizzly things. Mom said he was not the same man when he returned, allusive, but she loved him and he, her...we were never very close, but once when my young adult heart was breaking from a broken engagement, Daddy came into my room, pulled me from my crying-bed and held me like a that moment, he said more to me than any conversations I could number today. There were never any accolades that I can recall and when he was very ill and I asked him if there was anything he needed, that I could get him, his words still clear today, "all I need is your mother" say it didn't hurt me would be a lie...but I chose to go back to that time in 1966 when he held me, when he spoke volumes yet not saying a word, I knew then, I know now and forever, he loved me, and I'm so grateful for that. I love you too, Daddy.
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+3 # Wayne Webb 2014-06-19 11:38
I have a "fish" symbol on the back window of my car. It's not there to tell other people that I'm a Christian. Rather, it's to remind me, every time I look in my rearview mirror, that I'm a Christian and that I have to drive like one.
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0 # Peggy 2014-06-19 11:58
Dad (my stepdad) taught me how much he could love even though I was not his biological daughter. He was one terrific dad; always involved with us kids and working so hard to support us. He taught us fun could be inexpensive and that family connection was important. Miss you, Dad, even after all these years!! Thanks for being there when we were growing up.
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0 # Reagan White 2014-06-19 15:02
While I was in High School I came home late from a Saturday night date in the family car. Dad was waiting and we had words, not sweet words, but angry words. I went to bed with all the anger a young self-righteous man can have. I'm stewing when I hear my Dad come into my room. He bent over me and kissed me on my forehead and said Reagan I love you.
That one show of love and wisdom has helped me all of my life. That was over sixty years ago.
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0 # Jerry Castleberry 2014-06-19 15:18
I think my deep appreciation of the value of Fathers comes from not having a dad although a biological contributer lived in the house. I spent a lot of years trying to get over not having a dad and later in life learn the value of being a dad from the example of others. Later in the ministry this gave me a better understanding of why some could not relate to God as our loving, caring Father because they did not have such a loving experience with their dad. 70 years later I am still moved when I read the good reports of those that lived the example of love in their childhood. I learned from others how to be a better dad in accepting my relationship to God as my Father and how to be a loving, encourager to my children.
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0 # Pat Patterson 2014-06-19 19:03
I praise my Lord for giving me the best dad in the world! He was kind, understanding but not adverse to using his razor strap on my bottom when I crossed the line. But he taught me right from wrong, good from evil and who Jesus Christ was and how I needed Him in my life. Thank you for those lessons, dear dad. I wish he were still with us, but I know we will meet again in heaven. I can't wait to tell him that because of his patience and love, he lead me to Christ and I have promised him and my Lord, I will praise and glorify Him the rest of my life!!!
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0 # Gail Thompson 2014-06-20 00:03
My Dad was a Godly man that loved his God, his wife and his two daughters. God took him home much too early to me, when I was in the 8th grade. He taught me so much but I distinctly remember one of the very last lessons. I was playing basketball and fouled out according to the referee, but I didn't think so and showed my anger by throwing the ball to the referee much too hard. My Dad came down from the bleachers and walked right across the gym floor, in his street shoes! He walked right up to me, took me by the arm and marched me right back across the gym and out the exit. The gym was silent and so was I. I never loss my temper playing ball again.
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