This semester for preaching class, AJ Swoboda had us read a book that included a chapter from Wesely Allen. Allen suggests that all of us pastor types craft a “signature sermon.”

“A signature sermon is a sermon that is uniquely your own…If your grandchildren forty years from now were to find a copy of that sermon in a chest, it would answer their questions—who was my grandfather, what did (he) believe, what did (he) do?”[1]

Well, I do not spend much time writing sermons these days, but I do get to blog on a regular basis. So….I thought I might try my hand at crafting a signature blog post. Here goes.

My father raised me with a keen awareness of vicarious living – trying to correct our irretrievable errors through the lives of others. Dad made avoiding it seem so simple. He artfully walked the incredibly fine line between over and under parenting with deft confidence.

When things got murky, dad choose to parent less. That left me with plenty of bumps and bruises from mistakes he could have steered me around. However, I owned my successes and failures. I grew up knowing that my dad trusted me to stand back up when the world knocked me down. I knew who I was and possessed a confident understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.

Like many fathers, I set out to do what my dad did . . . only better. After spending thirty-five years under my father’s excellent tutelage, nineteen raising my own son, twelve with my daughter, and eight years of graduate school, here are some of the things I believe and how they define me as a father:

  • Parents must allow their children to experience their own mistakes, the repercussions, and the joy of overcoming them. This includes kids who are “perfectly capable of getting straight As” and those who “ought to be playing short stop.” Kids who earn their own As, Bs, and Cs; and those who spend plenty of time further down the line-up; are far better prepared for success than those whose parents orchestrated their 4.0 or lobbied them ahead of other kids.

Resist the urge to tell your kids, their coaches and teachers, and yourself that they are better than they actually are. Kids who get more playing time and better grades because their parents worked the system more skillfully are pathetic and sad. They tend to quite when gratification is delayed or when mom and dad stop running interference.

  • We cannot and should not shield our kids from the bad, nasty, and evil components of life. Ugly is all around them, especially when we are not. Better they encounter the filthy stuff in our company then on their own and under pressure to be cool. Making bad language, sex, drugs, and/or violence taboo eventually makes it more fascinating and powerful.
  • It is not healthy for a parent’s self-image to get wrapped up in how their children preform. That makes it awfully difficult to give them space to fail and places enormous stress on the child. Raising our children is not the most important thing we do with our lives; it comes in third behind our relationship with God and our relationship with our spouse, but ahead of ministry and service.
  • I sometimes shudder when I think about what we teach our children when we put their ancillary needs ahead of the basic need of others. I am also uncomfortable with placing school, sports, and activities ahead of participating in church community and serving others. Grades are not more important than living out your faith.
  • Our kids need to know that we are vulnerable.
  • Our kids need to see that other people think, look, and live differently than we do in a way that honors that diversity and invites our kids to challenge what they believe and how they act. Our families must be one excellent example among many.
  • I believe that all of these things will foster not only resilience in our offspring, but also the potential to live in peace and joy based on faith while proving abiding love and radical grace to the people around them. That is living like Christ— the goal I hold out for myself and my family.

Peace, joy, love, faith and hope to you!


[1] Allen, O. Wesley; Allen, O. Wesley (2010-04-21). The Renewed Homiletic (p. 53). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

photo credit: searching4jphotography via photopin cc


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