Fathers Paint Beautiful Pictures

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…”

Proverbs 13:22

Fathers create beauty when they invest time, energy, love and patience into children. The investment of about two decades can result in a lifetime of blessings for several generations.

The most memorable photo I have of my father is of him at the end of the day. Dad was leaving the foundry with soot on his face. I love that picture because It captures the authenticity of who he was and the impact of Dad’s work ethic.  A traditional blue-collar guy with a strong back and grit under his nails, Dad’s legacy gave us the gift of perseverance.

Fathers with a strong work ethic cultivate in their children the seeds of persistence, a pattern of not giving up. We need people in our lives who pass along important lessons, by word or example. Fatherhood comes with rich opportunities to share inspirational lessons that last a lifetime.

Here are seven authentic lessons fathers can teach children:

1. Feed those thoughts and dreams. Thoughts and dreams need nourishment. Feed them with good information, great books, and positive people. Nourished dreams have a way of coming true.

2. Words have power; watch them. Be careful of the words you speak. Breathe life and light into children with words of motivation and encouragement.

3. Affirm their divine destiny. Every day, point children toward their best future.

4. Nurture the power of faith. Faith lets us accomplish what others label impossible. Faith fills the darkest moments with light.

5. Be grateful. More than saying “thank you,” help children cultivate an attitude of appreciation—valuing what you have and appreciating what others do for you.

6. Be Forgiving. When you let go of hurts, you remove a burden from your own heart. Forgiveness isn’t so much about freeing the one who hurt you as it is about freeing yourself. Counting wounds detracts from the powerful things you can do.

7. Love unconditionally. This last lesson is the most important. A heart of love touches and heals like nothing else in the universe.

On Father’s Day, 2013, may all of the children, mothers, and wives be especially appreciative of fathers who are willing to teach authentic lessons. The celebration of Father’s Day is always an occasion to remember what having a father really means.  And, for me, it is about appreciating a husband who was present; one who knew instinctively how to be a fantastic father.

To all of the fathers who take time to paint masterpieces, Happy Father’s Day!

Watch Your Words!

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  Proverbs 23:7

I worry sometimes that, when people walk past my door and hear me talking to myself—audibly—they may be concerned.  No need. Usually, I am speaking aloud those affirmations I need at the moment.

Positive affirmations are important. Speaking them aloud helps them to sink in better.

Did you realize that whatever you speak over your life is what happens?

Whatever you speak to yourself is the life you create.  When you speak words of healing, then, you are healed. You have the power to speak victory over every illness, every bout of depression or any negative situation.

What you say in your heart happens.  Those words that you speak to yourself internally are the words that grow out of your innermost thoughts.  When we envision something, we create our own reality.

There is a popular Donald Lawrence gospel song with the words, “encourage yourself in the Lord.”  Of course, those lyrics are based upon the Word of God.  “…but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”—1 Samuel 30:6(b) (KJV) His life was in danger. He had suffered tragedies, now mutiny. His own troops were murmuring about stoning him. If David could speak encouragement, with all of the trauma and difficulties he faced, so can you.

When you do that—when you encourage yourself in God—the Lord Himself will, in turn, encourage you.  God hears; He listens. He uplifts you with heavenly encouragement. Just take note of the words recorded in Psalm 10:17 (NIV): “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and listen to their cry.”

Watch your words because your words have the power to kill or your words can give life.  How incredibly wise Solomon was when he recorded this warning for our benefit:  “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”—Proverbs 18:21(a)

The words that you nurture are the words that bear fruit.  Your words have a harvest. You plant them by speaking them and you can be certain that whatever you plant will grow. Just like in the natural world, if you plant corn, don’t expect to harvest green beans.  With the words you speak, you will harvest something, and you don’t want your harvest to be illness and despair.

While I acknowledge that it is human to speak words of doubt when you feel that there may be a reason to give up, we should never speak those words.  Make a commitment never to say, “I cannot do this” or “I won’t make it.” We serve a God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask of Him or even think about asking. Apply this truth to your words.

Believe in your next victory. Speak it. Have confidence in the exceeding greatness of God’s power to bring what you believe to pass.

DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.  

2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV)

Let’s do an experiment. Go get that special cup of gourmet coffee (or tea, if that’s more to your liking), take out a blank sheet of paper and write down the answer to this question:  who are you?  I don’t just mean your name. No, don’t just give me your bio. Who are you…really?

Here’s a bold statement: you are not who you think you are! I am struck by this fact—many of us don’t know our own worth.  If we look at the outside, we see a common vessel–a pot made of clay–we see the external you. However, the internal you is a priceless treasure. The divine light of Christ’s presence is within you. You mirror His glory; you were made in His likeness.

What makes this treasure even more valuable is that, as weak and as frail and as fragile as we may be, we carry the transforming power of God’s grace and share it by our words, our joy, our testimony and our actions.

The PBS’s documentary, “Who Do You Think You Are? With Henry Louis Gates,” highlights celebrities whose background is traced, as cameras follow. I spoke with one of the producers of that series not long ago and expressed how I appreciated their perspective on heritage. I’ve been thinking about having that kind of DNA test done that breaks down ethnicity, even geographically. What part of Africa were my ancestors from? I’ve always heard that my maternal grandfather (he died the year I was born) was Native American, as many people have said…was that true?

Bigger than the mystery of our ancestry is the awesome truth of how valuable we are to God. He bought us, He paid for us, He bankrupt Heaven…giving up His beloved Son…to buy us back to Himself. In the art world, a piece created by Pablo Picasso or Jacob Lawrence is valued based on what someone last paid for a similar piece.  Beyond that, the great God of the universe values you so highly that He paid an incredible price.

Early in the summer, I sat in the window of a fast food restaurant in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, waiting for an appointment with an Army small business specialist to begin.  I decided to use the time to read several documents I had saved on my iPad.  As it approached midday, I looked up and suddenly realized that I was surrounded by men and women dressed in fatigues.  What struck me most was the reality of who these young people are who serve in our military.

Fort Campbell is one of the world’s largest Army installations. It was lunch time. The restaurant had quickly filled with fresh-faced, fatigue-clad men and women. Should I have been surprised at how they looked like my grandchildren? Almost aloud I said, “These are our children! We send them around the world to fight for us, and they have only been in the world for two decades.”

With that vivid picture still so fresh,  the Defense Department announced statistics on military suicides.  They now cap one a day, a record high.  A few weeks ago, I passed through the book store of the airport ain Columbus, Ohio, nd picked up the July 23 issue of Time magazine.  The cover story was:  “One A Day.” The article, by Mark Thompson and Nancy Gibbs, stated that “every day, one U. S. soldier commits suicide” and went on to describe “why the military can’t defeat its most insidious enemy.”

Are these youthful soldiers returning from combat and giving up on life? Why? Perhaps it’s because no one told them who they really are.

You matter to God!  The One who created you wants you to claim the power of your identity and enjoy life…completely.  You were meant to know God, up-close and personally, serve Him by doing the work you’re created for, be joyful every day, and enjoy Him forever after this life. So, go do that.