Posts tagged leaving a legacy

More than a national championship coach



EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, another college basketball season is in the books. With Duke celebrating the national championship with their win over Wisconsin, it seems like an appropriate time to remember back to a man who was synonymous with national championships. 

Long-time UCLA coach John Wooden was interviewed on the FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast more than a decade ago. For Dennis Rainey, it was more than just an opportunity to interview a basketball legend and a childhood idol. It was also an opportunity to talk to a man with a championship legacy in his personal life.

WoodenNetOne of my heroes growing up was John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood.” He won 10 national championships at UCLA and is considered the greatest basketball coach of all time.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Coach Wooden a few years ago for a series of broadcasts on FamilyLife Today.   The only thing that betrayed his age was a cane that he used to balance himself. Everything else about Coach was sharp and steady. His daughter sat in on the taping of those broadcasts and said later it was one of her favorite interviews because my co-host and I didn’t just “talk to Daddy about basketball.”

Before I get to the essence of that interview, I have to share with you what happened at the end of our time together. Coach Wooden had a way of making you feel like he really liked you … at least that’s how I felt as we wrapped things up. He signed his book and handed it to me. Being a basketball player who played on scholarship at a small junior college team during the “Wooden Era,” I smiled and handed it back to him and said to him, “Coach, you don’t know this about me but I still have the school record in high school when I scored 44 points. Why don’t you just write in the front of the book, ‘Dennis, you could’ve played for me at UCLA!’” He got a sly grin on his face and took the book back.

I watched as he smiled and scratched out a few words and closed the cover. He looked up and handed me the book and said with an even bigger grin, “Dennis, I’m a man of integrity.” After I thanked him and said goodbye I sneaked a peak at what Coach had written to me. 

Thank you Dennis,
Since I never initiated contact for an out-of-state player, why didn’t you contact me?
John Wooden
8/12/2002

After more than 3,000 interviews, my time with Coach remains one of my great favorites.

The story of Joshua Wooden

After John Wooden died earlier this month at the age of 99, a chorus of tributes arose from former players and writers. It’s hard to think of a sports figure more admired.

Few of the tributes mentioned Wooden’s father, Joshua Wooden, and that’s the story I’d like to tell. When you read about Joshua Wooden, you realize that lessons taught during childhood can reverberate far into the future.

Joshua raised four sons on a small Indiana farm in the early part of the twentieth century. Life on a farm was not easy in those days—there was no electricity or running water, and the family had to grow most of what they ate. To keep his boys warm on cold winter nights, Joshua would heat bricks on the family’s potbelly stove, wrap them in blankets, and place them at the foot of their beds.

From the beginning, Joshua knew he was not just raising boys but also building men. The boys could play, but only after they had done their chores for the day. You can imagine that on a farm with no electricity or running water, where the family grew most of what they ate, there was plenty of work for four growing boys to do!

Joshua was a strong man—“strong enough to bend a thick iron bar with his bare hands,” one of his sons wrote—but also gentle. Each night, by the light of a coal-oil lamp, he would read to his family from the Scriptures, and he also read classic books and poetry.

He believed in building character, and continually emphasized the importance of making right choices. Two of his favorite phrases that he taught his sons were:

  • “Never lie, never cheat, and never steal.”
  • “Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t alibi.”

When his third son, John, graduated from eighth grade in his small country school, Joshua gave him a card and said, “Son, try to live up to this.” On one side was a verse that read:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was a seven-point creed that read:

Be true to yourself
Help others
Make friendship a fine art
Drink deeply from good books
Make each day your masterpiece
Build a shelter against a rainy day
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

John kept that card in his wallet for decades until it fell apart. Eighty years after receiving it, he still knew the words by heart.

Joshua lost his farm during the Depression and wasn’t able to pay for his sons’ college education. But all four of them graduated from college with English degrees. Every son but John became a school administrator. John became a teacher of another sort: a basketball coach.

One of the reasons I would have liked playing for Coach Wooden was that he was more than a national championship coach. He was a teacher of character. He built men, not just players. He was a friend and mentor to his players. He called them to step up.

He developed what he called the “Pyramid of Success,” which he taught his players every year. Looking at this pyramid today, with its building blocks of industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, cooperation, loyalty, etc., you can’t help but realize that this is a man whose entire outlook on life came from the influence of his father.

Lifelong lessons

John Wooden’s desire to influence others remained strong for another 35 years after he retired in 1975. Many of his former players called him regularly to seek his advice on everything from raising children to coaching to battling cancer.

One of those players, John Vallely, recently said, “The interesting thing about playing for Coach was not necessarily the championships, but what he taught us about living life was far more important. I just recall the importance of the Pyramid of Success and the characteristics. What he taught us were lifelong lessons. So much of what he was teaching really had a parable of how you live your life.”

Let me close with one more choice verse Joshua gave to John, this time when the Coach’s son was born in 1936:

A careful man I must be;
A little fellow follows me.
I know I dare not go astray;
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.
He thinks that I am good and fine;
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
This little chap who follows me.
I must be careful as I go;
Through summer sun and winter snow.
Because I am building, for the years to be;
This little chap who follows me.

I can picture the Wooden household on those cold Indiana nights, when Joshua would read from the Bible to his family. He had no idea what influence he would have far beyond his death—all he knew was that he was raising sons to become men.

What a father.  What a son.  What a legacy.

Copyright © 2010 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Dennis Rainey’s post “More than a national championship coach” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“True Success: A Personal Visit with John Wooden” is a FamilyLife Today interview with the Wizard of Westwood.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistStepping Up’s John Majors is “Leaving a Legacy to Pass On to His Children.” If you don’t have a legacy to pass on, start one.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass along character to your sons. Listen to Bill Bennett talk about “The Book of Man” on FamilyLife Today.

Grandfathering: A dad do-over



I walked into the living room, looked into the sweet eyes of my daughter Shannon, and instantly she began to cry.

She seemed overcome with fear and her eyes gazed at the floor while tears streaked her cheeks. Through sobs, she said, “Dad, I’m pregnant.”

My wife Cathy sat beside me as Shannon’s sobs broke my heavy silence. I sat there bewildered as the waterfall of thoughts rushed through my head. My daughter had recently graduated high school and was beginning her walk into adulthood.

Travel weary, I had just returned from training in Denver, after recently being appointed as Promise Keepers’ regional director for the Northwest. I was just 44 years old, and a pregnant teenager was not part of my five-year plan.

Thankfully, my heavenly Father quieted my inner turmoil and not a word of my initial thoughts was breathed. In a still small voice He spoke to my sprit: “Tell Shannon what I have told you time after time. This is part of my plan for her life and I am with her. This child will usher in the beginning of a new and rewarding life for you and Cathy.”

I must have been quiet for an extended time, because Cathy shook me out of my bewilderment when she said, “Say something!” I expressed to Shannon our commitment to be there for her and her baby. I told her, “There was a God in heaven who loved her unconditionally and there was a dad on earth who did too.”

God was right! It began a journey of grandfathering that changed my life. I have to admit that I was a preoccupied father. I struggled with my own insecurities, seeking to please others, and I often lost sight of those people in my life that really mattered most. I often allowed the “whats” in my life to determine my identity and significance. This affected how I related with the “whos” in my life – my wife and children and now grandchildren. In many ways, through my grandchildren, I got a “do-over” and a fresh start.

grandfathering

Photo by Tina Vanderlaan

Shannon gave birth to our first grandchild, Gabrielle, who we affectionately call “Gabby.” She is now 19 years old, going on 25, and working her way through college.

God allowed Cathy and me to become part of a moment in their destinies. That moment in 1994 could have gone quite differently. I realize now that God was testing me. He already knew what he was going to do. He was giving me a fresh start; He was giving me a do-over.

Shannon would get a do-over too. She married a wonderful man who adopted Gabby, and they gave me four more grandchildren. My younger son, Doug, found a beautiful lady and gave me two more. God has blessed me with a full quiver. My God, my wife of 43 years, my two kids and my seven grandchildren are the loves of my life. Apart from God and them I am nothing.

Family is the true expression of the heart of the Father.

I have determined in my heart and spirit, with the help of God Almighty that I will live a life that will leave a legacy, one that will echo now and for eternity.

Whether you’re a grandparent or not, you too can leave a legacy in the lives of those who matter most to you. Today can be the beginning of the rest of your life.

Maybe you can identify with me; you also need a do-over. I want to stir up and call out of all grandfathers (and anyone else who is reading) the belief that they can make a difference, that they can leave a legacy through grandparenting.

We should not fear failure. We should fear that we would spend our lives succeeding at what really does not matter.

Imagine the possibilities!

ErricksonDanMugDr. Dan Erickson is the author of “Grandfathering: Live to Leave a Legacy,” and leads People Matter Ministries. He is a former executive director of the National Coalition of Ministries to Men, and a former national director of PromiseKeepers. He has two children and seven grandchildren.

© 2014 by Dan Errickson. All rights reserved..

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading a guest post by Dr. Dan Errickson, “Grandfathering: A dad do-over” on Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat would you do over about parenting? What kind of legacy do you want to leave your family and grandchildren?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead “Creative Ways to Teach Your Grandchildren About Life” by Jack and Lisa Hibbs on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistBegin writing or recording stories you want to pass on and values you want to instill. It’s never too late (or early) to start.

Five generations of fathering



This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Five generations of fatheringThis is a picture of five generations of Nagels that I keep in my office. Moving left to right is my great-great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, father and on the far right is the one guy not in a coat and tie — me. The verse on the framed picture is from Proverbs 17:6b.

“The glory of a son is his father.”

I’ve been blessed with a strong Christian heritage and am at a point where I’m understanding how valuable this is and have become more and more grateful for it.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

The generations before me have kept His commandments and have passed them on to the next generation. Now it’s my turn.

Maybe you have a similar spiritual lineage. Or it could be you’re a first generation Christian. Either way, as a dad, you now have the responsibility to teach your kids about God. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” (5-9)

Five generations of examples

Instead of giving you a list of church answers of things to do with your kids like have family devotions, pray before bed, love your wife, go to church, etc. I want to give you three things: one thing that impacted me as a young boy watching my dad and two things that go hand in hand that I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. One of my earliest childhood memories is coming into the living room and seeing my dad either reading his Bible or on his knees praying. He didn’t start his day reading the paper or figuring out what was on his work to do list, he started it by connecting with God. There’s something powerful and contagious about seeing your dad in God’s Word. I want to pass this along to my kids too.
  2. I’ve got an impressive list of things I’ve done wrong as a dad. My kids know I’m not perfect, but they also know I’ll ask forgiveness when I need to. They were driving me absolutely crazy earlier today while I was in the midst of unsuccessfully trying to fix a minor issue on an appliance and in my frustration I said some things to one of my kids that were not called for. Once the dust settled I took the child off to the side, told them what I did was wrong, didn’t make excuses, and asked them for forgiveness. Your kids know it when you mess up and they know it when you blame others, make excuses, or just flat our refuse to admit you were wrong and say you were sorry. I know people like that and honestly I want nothing to do with them. You don’t want your kids feeling that way about you. Admit when you made a mistake. Your kids will forgive you and they’ll love you even more for doing it.
  3. On the other side of that coin, I always want to be quick to forgive my kids when they ask me for forgiveness. Their view of God as Father is going to be most impacted by me, their earthly father. I don’t ever want them to think their heavenly Father won’t forgive them and that means I need to immediately accept their apology and not bring up their past infractions time and again. I have a child who continues to do the same things over and over and when they ask for forgiveness my flesh wants to respond in anger by saying something like, “I know you aren’t really sorry because you keep doing this. Until I actually see you make an effort to stop acting this way I’m not interested in hearing your apology.” Obviously this type of response will have serious affects on how they view God’s forgiveness. In that moment I have to say a quick prayer telling God how I’m feeling and ask Him to enable me to respond in a way that reflects His nature and not my flesh.

I realize this is just scratching the surface of things we can do as dads to help pass on a godly legacy to our kids. What are some things you learned from your dad, or have done as a dad yourself, to pass on the faith to your kids?

Father/son camping: Building relationships



For about five years now, I’ve been gathering with two friends from my college days for a father/son camping trip. Though we attended the same college, pursued the same degree, even shared 90 percent of our classes together, our friendship was cemented when we began gathering for a Bible study during our masters program. From there we began to grow closer and challenge one another to pursue Christ, which led to life-long friendships. Since college ended we’ve continued to keep in touch. What began as the occasional couples’ gathering (before kids) transformed into men-only camping trips, and as the boys grew older, became a father/son camping trip.

Enjoying a father/son hike

Enjoying a father/son hike

And though we no longer share occupations or state residency, we value the time together because of the ability to go deep quickly. The years of abuse and heckling we’ve given one another act as a base of shared experiences that, even though we only occasionally talk during the year, enable us to catch up quickly and press into each other’s life from the first moments together.

This is the first year we’ve really tried to be intentional with our sons in terms of casting a vision for manhood. We’ve found that three nights is essential to really connect with one another and our kids. We spent the first night (Friday) getting set up, and then started with a talk on manhood in general Saturday morning, breaking down I Corinthians 16:13-14.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

That verse served as the basis for our other talks on courage and what it means to be a man. We also talked Sunday morning about what it means to “stand firm in the faith.” Throughout the fire-side chats, the boys were surprisingly attentive (ranging in age from 12 down to 4).

Natural Bridge, Powell/Wolfe Counties, Kentucky

Natural Bridge in eastern Kentucky

We spent the mornings and evenings around the campsite, and each afternoon on some kind of adventure activity. The first day we hiked up to Natural Bridge, which is an arch in a geological area in eastern Kentucky spanning over 100 feet. It is an amazing site and is surrounded by many other natural wonders.

But as important as the time is with our sons, the most valuable part of the weekend by far in my mind is the time around the campfire with just the men. That’s where we talk about the issues and struggles we’re facing and start to go deeper. And it really takes a few nights to get there, which is another reason for having three nights around the campfire.

No doubt it is REALLY hard to find other men you trust, have deep connections with, and can share very personal things with on a regular basis. If you don’t have any guys like this in your life, or if there are some guys you’d like to go deeper with, having a father/son camping trip is a great way to open the door to this type of friendship.

David English, the guru of all things manhood and life-stage growth, says that men should find a couple of guys in their life stage and commit to gathering a couple of times a year to “process life together.” He’s written a number of studies that walk through the stages of a man’s life in great detail. Very helpful.  I’d recommend grabbing some of his content and working through it with a group of guys, or maybe gathering a larger group of men at your church and talking through one of his books.

Check them out here: http://www.gravitationstudios.com/phases/books.html

After the trip we have already begun to plan ahead to next year — just talking about big picture items like where we might want to go and some of the things we might want to do. We also decided to read through a book together and discuss it some, over the coming year. Great friendships really only grow stronger through time together, and camping with your boys is a great excuse to carve out the time even during a really busy stage of life. Get out there — and let us and others know of any great camping spots in the comments.

If you had an hour to live



It seems like yesterday, but it was 12 long years ago that my Pappa, James Melvin “Bucky” Waters, passed away.

JoelWatersPappa

“Bucky” Waters and son Joel with their World Series tickets

Pappa was from a very large and athletic family, raised on a working farm in rural Yazoo County, Mississippi. Growing up, my two other brothers, Jim and Wyatt, and I watched Momma and Pappa model for us how a loving couple should act. In the early 1960s we lived in the small town of Florence, where Pappa was the coach and principal of the school and my Momma, Lucy, worked also.

It was a beautiful spring day. Pappa was outside raking up the leaves from the recent winter into the ditch to burn. He was also trying to get rid of the fire ant beds that had popped up from a hard rain overnight. The way we did it in those days was to pour gasoline on the fire ant bed, toss a match on it and run out of the way of the flames.

On this particular day, I was supposed to be inside with my Momma. But being the rambunctious two-year-old that I was, I had slipped out and was standing mesmerized, watching my Pappa burn those fire ants without him knowing I was there.  I got too close and caught fire myself. Without thinking of himself, Pappa instantly went into the fire and rescued me, but in the process of  getting me out of the fire he was badly burned. It’s one thing to say you love someone.  It’s a powerful lesson to have someone show their love in such a way!

Our house was on a short, dead-end road, so not many people drove down there unless they were visiting someone. I honestly believe that Harold Lusk was an “angel” sent directly from God as he drove down and saw the commotion. He immediately went into action, taking my Pappa and me to O.E. Perry’s Rexall Drug Store for some immediate help, then on to the Baptist hospital in Jackson another 20 minutes away. It would be the beginning of several painful months of multiple surgeries for the both of us. My Pappa’s hands were badly burned. In addition to my internal burns, I had third degree burns mostly from my waist up, requiring many surgeries and skin grafts over the next 14 years.

As a boy I remember it as a very hard and trying time of adversity for me and my family. As a father now, I can only imagine the pain and grief my Pappa felt. It was also a lonely time for my brothers who went to live with my grandmother way down in Hattiesburg while my Momma stayed to care for us in the hospital. But through the pain came an awesome blessing as I was raised to believe that God had saved me, and that He had saved me for a reason – something I believed with all my heart!

Fast forward to a single moment in 1999. I was at home reading a message in the church bulletin by John Case, my pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson. The message was short, simple, to the point. It said:

IF YOU HAD AN HOUR TO LIVE …
Who would you call?
What would you say? and,
WHY HAVEN’T YOU SAID IT?

That simple message touched me as I thought back to that life-altering moment decades earlier. So I sat down and wrote my Pappa a two-page letter telling him how much I loved him, how much I respected him and how I appreciated the way he and my Momma had raised us. I told him that I hoped to be as good a husband and father to my family as he had been to us. Pappa was a man of few words – putting that love into words was not something that was required in those days. But I knew he loved me by the way he treated me. His actions spoke.

For some reason I felt the urgency to get the letter in the mail that day. The carrier had already come, so I drove to the main post office downtown and put the letter in the drop box. My father got that letter in the mail the next day and read it. I know this because my Momma called me and said that was a nice letter that I had written, subtly pointing out that it was addressed just to Pappa. I told her I felt the need to write Pappa and share with him these things, and that seemed to satisfy her curiosity as to why I hadn’t included her.

The next morning Pappa had a massive stroke that left him unable to talk for the rest of his life.  But I felt that I had been blessed by God by acting on His message and writing that letter to Pappa. It gave me the strength to go on during those final two long and trying years of his life. Often I wish I could talk with Pappa just one more time, but I feel so blessed to know that I shared with him how much he meant to me, how much he has molded me and how much I loved him. I can’t imagine what I would have been feeling if I hadn’t.

I have a favorite saying that guides my life and actions: “What’s it all about? LOVE!” Share and show your love for others! Please, take the time right now to let those special people in your life know how you feel. You never, ever know if  you will have that opportunity to do it again. ForgottenCommandment

Carpe diem … seize the day!

 

If you’d like to know how to do a tribute to a parent like Joel did, check out The Forgotten Commandment by Dennis Rainey. This FamilyLife resource will walk you through the process of honoring dad or mom in a special way.

Joel Waters has carried on the athletic and parenting legacy of his father. He played baseball at the University of Southern Mississippi and lives in Jackson where he attends Christ United Methodist Church. He has been married to Susan Steel Waters for 32 years and their children are Sam, Swayze (kicker-punter for the Toronto Argonauts) and his wife Kendal, and Shelby Waters.

A character cheat sheet



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

CarverEdwardsWooden

We talk often on this blog about leaving a legacy. Honestly, that can feel pretty daunting, esoteric, and enigmatic. And if that isn’t clear enough, you might feel obfuscated by such pleonastic redundancies.

No doubt “Leaving a Legacy” is a big task. But where does one start? Leaving a legacy is simply the daily living out of your core convictions. More than likely, the people you admire were good at living out what they believed, in very small ways, day after day, moment by moment. They were consistent, stable, and people of integrity. They could be counted on to do the right thing at the right moment.

But here is the challenge of living that way: To live out your core convictions, you have to know your core convictions. Steven Covey says you have to “begin with the end in mind.” He isn’t talking about reserving funeral plots and picking out caskets, but knowing where you want to go before you leave the driveway. Most men struggle to live consistently because they have a moving target. They are not even sure who they want to be. So you have to start by identifying these convictions and dwelling on them regularly. And since nothing is manlier than a solid shortcut, after identifying your core convictions, your operating principles for life, you should jot these down on a 3×5 card.

Ok, I already hear the objections. “Hey … if they are ‘core convictions’ shouldn’t you be able to remember them without writing them down?” Good word. In theory they should always be at the front of your mind, but in reality, we often behave differently than we know we should. Usually more base interests like food, sex, sports, and Shiny Objects With Flashing Buttons move to the front of my mind, pushing aside all other thought or reason. In these moments, a short list serves as a great reminder of what I have convinced myself of in a saner moment. Because we all suffer from temporary insanity at times, having a crib sheet will help you through those character tests.

Not only is this decidedly manly, but a few prominent manly men have led the way with their examples.

Carver’s 8 Cardinal Virtues

Famous American scientist, botanist, educator, inventor, former slave, and all around renaissance man (dubbed the “Black Leonardo” by Time Magazine) George Washington Carver had his own list, what he called his “8 Cardinal Virtues”:

  1. Be clean both inside and outside.
  2. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  3. Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  4. Win without bragging.
  5. Always be considerate of women, children and old people.
  6. Be too brave to lie.
  7. Be too generous to cheat.
  8. Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.
John Wooden’s 7 Point Creed

The famous basketball coach from UCLA, the “Wizard of Westwood” (anyone with a nickname involving the word “wizard” must be manly) holds the record for most NCAA championships by any coach by a long shot (10 championships in 12 years, 7 of those in a row). Wooden was given a seven point creed to follow by his father. Seven points and seven championships in a row. Coincidence? I think not.

On one side of the card was a poem from Henry Van Dyke, and on the other side was the list his father developed. First the poem:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was the seven-point creed:

Be true to yourself.
Help others.
Make friendship a fine art.
Drink deeply from good books.
Make each day your masterpiece.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

Even into his 90’s, Wooden could rattle off both sides of the card from memory. No doubt these items had a profound influence on shaping his character and life.

What was the power in these lists? They were short. Which means memorable. Yes, some over achievers like Jonathan Edwards went for the long ball, weighing in with a whopping 70 resolutions, but there is definitely power in brevity.

So what is your list of “Core Convictions” or “Cardinal Virtues?”

If you had to write down what guides you on the back of a 3×5 card, what would be your list? We’d love to see your list – leave it in the comments below. Try to keep it under eight. Shoot for seven if you coach basketball. Just in case.

And consider writing these down and handing them over to your kids on their 16th birthday or before. You’re giving them a character cheat sheet, because in this case, cheaters really do win.

Thanks for commitment and love



In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.).  If you want some guidance to do one yourself, check out “The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents,” or the link above to purchase the book. In the meantime, here’s the tribute one man wrote for his mom.

Tribute to Eileen Butler from her son, Dempsey:

In 1955 providence was giving you an unexpected addition to your ideal sized family of four. You left Florida for your hometown of Boston, so at least one of your kids could be a damn Yankee like you. After nine long months I was born, in the sweltering July heat. You did all that with Dad on deployment. Thanks for commitment and love.

For me, our kitchen was the most secure place in our house … the busiest place in the house, and always the neatest. I remember coming downstairs on Taylor Avenue to the smell of “beggs and acon” in the frying pan. You always tried to send Trudy, Gayle, and me on our way with a hot breakfast and a brown bag lunch (I always hoped for Fritos). It’s the place where you and I frequently reviewed the days events with Chips Ahoy and milk. When you worked the 3-11 shift at Circle Terrace, you made sure I still had snacks! In the summertime there was always a pitcher of presweetened and lemoned iced tea in the fridge … a welcome sight when I’d come home on a hot August day in Alexandria.

You were so generous with your hospitality and love … always having a spare bed and enough food for the lost Midshipman or Naval Aviator who showed up, even at dinnertime. You’d smile and serve them, but we knew the lesson … if we ever showed up at someone else’s home at meal time you’d give us what for.

Between graduate school and the Vietnam War, Dad was gone a lot, from the mid-60s until we moved to Annapolis in 1972. I didn’t know the difficulties you faced raising us while Dad was deployed. Nor did I imagine the stress you were under with all that responsibility and having to deal with the possibility that Dad might not come home. But I was never worried that you didn’t love us or that you wouldn’t be able to find a way to take care of us.

You loved us too much to use Dad’s absence as an excuse for us not being good kids and growing up to be responsible adults. While I really missed Dad too, I also liked being your snuggle buddy under the electric blanket on those quiet nights on Kobe Drive. Remember when all of us would sit down to listen to the 2-inch reel to reel tapes Dad sent us from WESTPAC? I recall the emotion in your voice when you told us how, while on a stopover on your way to Hong Kong to see Dad during a break from Yankee Station, you heard that a D. Butler had been shot down over North Vietnam. It was some time before you knew it wasn’t Dad. It was your faith and trust in God that got you through that time.

I never doubted your strong faith in God. Without it, I don’t know how my life would have turned out. You made sure I attended all those catechism classes and became an altar boy with Father O’Connor when the mass was still said in Latin. (Thanks!) God works in strange ways though. My faith today is much stronger because of what I begrudgingly learned about the basics of a Christian’s faith in classes at St. Edward’s and St. Rita’s.

I always knew you were proud of me, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. That pride you exuded and the love that you showed to me then, has given me the confidence and encouragement to strive for success. I remember visiting you once in Carmel when you took me to lunch at the Beach and Tennis Club. You must have known everyone in the place … and you made sure you introduced your son, the Navy Lieutenant, to each of them … including the busboy. I’m not sure we got around to eating that day.

You taught me responsibility, the value of hard work, compassion, loyalty to friends and family, and the value of saving for the future. I’ve also learned what a great MOM you were. The advice, books, seminars, and tapes on parenting we have today weren’t around in the 1950s. You did what your folks did, the best you could. Dads worked, moms stayed home to raise and train the kids. Now there’s some eternal wisdom. Thanks for placing your nursing career on the back burner when we were young. You knew your skills would slip, but you made it clear your priority was at home with us.

Being a parent for the last seven years has given me a keen appreciation for the task you faced with Dad gone so much, meeting his responsibilities. You did a great job. I’m proud to be Eileen Butler’s son.

Thanks, Mom. I LOVE YOU.

Dempsey

I am who I am because of you



In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.).  If you want some guidance to do one yourself, check out “The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents,” or the link above to purchase the book. In the meantime, here’s what one man did.

Tribute to Alan Nagel from his son, Todd: 

Dad,

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for blessing me with a dad like you. There are so many memories that flood my mind and so many godly qualities that I see in you that I desire for my own life, but there are two things that have impacted me the most:

The first one I remember is how I would come downstairs in the morning before school and see you in your chair having your quiet time or on your knees praying. How many boys get to see that? Not many. That is one of my earliest childhood memories and you continue it to this day. I know that has been used in my life to help shape my walk with the Lord.

The second is this: Always hearing how proud you are of me and how much you love me. Those words have enabled me to expand my borders because I always knew there was someone who believed in me.

There are so many other memories with you … fishing, catching passes from you in the backyard as I wore out the grass from running back and forth, throwing the baseball, kicking the soccer ball around, playing basketball, tennis, and golf. Some of my favorite memories are from the golf course.

Although you traveled a lot, I still knew we were a priority and I won’t forget how we would run down the ramp at the terminal gate and jump on you. And then we would get our “present” that consisted of the candy you had bought during your last layover!

When you were in town, which was the majority of the time, you did always make it a point to be at my sporting events. Thank you for being there to watch me play Little League baseball, basketball, and flag football. Then you were there to watch me run cross-country, play soccer, and tennis in high school. And then you made a few trips to watch me play tennis in college. A lot of guys never had their dad there to watch them play, but I did and it meant a lot. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

I also remember our family trips snow skiing, the farm, trips to the beach, Colorado, and the countless other places we’ve been. One trip that stands out in my mind is when we went snow skiing in Switzerland. That’s one of my favorites! Thank you for the sacrifices you made to make those trips happen.

It’s because of you that I am where I am today. You have ingrained many character qualities in me by your patient, insightful, and wise instruction. You taught me how to control my emotions in sports (which has definitely carried over into the real world!), the importance of quality work, to do my best at whatever I’m doing, and how to persevere.

I have had the privilege of being around many incredible Christian leaders, but I have not found one that I think more highly of, respect more as a person or leader, or would rather have as a father, mentor, and friend than you. I am so proud to call you my dad!

There are so many character qualities that I admire about you. Your wisdom, consistency, endurance, patience, sound judgment, inner strength, integrity, knowledge, understanding, self-control, your “get the job done” attitude, doing what is right no matter what the cost, and how you see everything in light of eternity. It is neat to see your natural leadership come through in every situation. You are one of the rare people who live out their Christian faith in every aspect of their life. You always have an encouraging word and a motivating spirit. You have laid a foundation in my life that will take me to heights I never would have been able to reach otherwise.

I am truly blessed beyond what I could ever have hoped for or imagined when it comes to having a dad. Thanks, Dad, for everything!

Your Son,

Todd

Copyright © 2004 by Todd Nagel. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

A Father’s Prayer from Gen. Douglas MacArthur



In June, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur was named National Father of the Year. The honor came just three months after he moved his family to the Philippines to lead the U.S. Pacific campaign of World War II, a level of honor and responsibility realized by few men. His statement in receiving the award truly revealed his heart and priorities.

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“By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder — infinitely prouder — to be a father.

A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life.

And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, ‘Our Father Who Art in Heaven.'”

In the early days of that war and campaign, MacArthur acknowledged his dependence on a Heavenly Father when he composed “A Father’s Prayer”:

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

“Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. 

“Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail …” 

“Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

“And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.

“Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

“Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.'”

What is your Father’s Prayer for your children? You’ll probably never achieve the level of accomplishment of General Douglas MacArthur, but when all is said and done, what will make you whisper “I have not lived in vain”?

Inside the Manning legacy



Back in October, Scott Barkley at Fishers of Men blog had a particularly outstanding post about how one man took his ache for a strong father-son relationship and turned it into a great legacy. As we enter Super Bowl week, he’s given us permission to re-post this story of the Manning legacy. We hope it encourages you to make the little decisions that can make a great impact on the next generation. And if you haven’t seen The Book of Manning film by ESPN, we highly recommend it.

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The Manning quarterbacking legacy. From right, dad Archie, and sons Peyton and Eli. Photo by Bill Frakes.

After his sophomore year at Ole Miss, Archie Manning had everyone’s attention. For starters, he’d just led the Rebels as quarterback in only his second year at school, a feat which didn’t happen a whole lot back then. In addition there was something in the air about the football team at the school – hope for a successful year.

All that would be challenged when he returned that summer to his hometown of Drew in the northwestern part of the state.

One day Archie came home and discovered the body of his father, Buddy. As it would for anyone, the moment and days to follow were defining in Archie’s life and as it would turn out, for so many more than he could possibly imagine. A good son, Archie felt his responsibility was to stay home and take up his father’s cotton business. This would be the same business that had fallen on hard times for Buddy Manning; the same business that demanded his time away from Archie’s athletic exploits at Drew High — the same business that Archie would surmise decades later in an ESPN Films special would play a part in his father’s decision to end his own life with a gun.

Jane Manning would have nothing of it and persuaded her only child to return to Oxford for his junior year. Helping Archie work through the return to Ole Miss at a time when school and football just didn’t seem as important was his girlfriend Olivia, who would later become his wife.

We never know what moments in time hang by a thread and how crucial they are to where things go. If Archie Manning stays home the likelihood is he grows up to be a decent cotton farmer who threw the prettiest spiral you ever seen at Drew High School. Maybe he ends up marrying Olivia, but there’s a good chance he doesn’t. Gone are those magical seasons at Ole Miss and the grainy films of Manning slithering through the backfield between would-be tacklers before connecting with a receiver downfield. Gone is the pro career and the all-Pro, Super-Bowl-winning sons. Gone would be the Manning legacy as we’ve come to know it.

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What we can learn from the aforementioned film “The Book of Manning” is not just what roads come from success and hard work, but those that appear through grief and disappointment. Archie Manning wouldn’t know how every time he saw an empty seat in the high school bleachers beside his mother – because his dad had to tend to business – that it would drive him to be the exact opposite. It wouldn’t become obvious until he was suffering through those awful seasons in New Orleans while Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw were enjoying the benefits of being surrounded by Pro-Bowlers. Even in those times, Archie considered himself a father before he was a professional football player.

And while many assumed his boys would be football players themselves, Archie contends that was never his plan. Sure, the home videos show them running through the backyard with their tiny-mite helmets and shoulder pads nearly swallowing up their bodies. That wasn’t Archie steering them, though, it was boys wanting to be like dad.

Which brings us back to small decisions, and the reflections that follow.

It’s easy for fathers to not remember little eyes are watching. After all, it seems they’re usually watching something else – the TV, their brother trying out his new rollerblades, the dog chase a squirrel. We can get lulled into thinking what we’re doing is slipping by unnoticed; the effect we’re having isn’t too big.

One of the biggest challenges for me as a father is making sure I spend enough time, real time, with each of my kids. So many other things at home demand my attention, not to mention that part of me declaring I deserve some time to myself. Doing the math brings it back into focus, though. My oldest is 11. At 12 years old your child starts pulling away from you. Friends, school, and the like increase their pull. She’s still in your home, but she’s less your little girl. At 18 she’ll probably be out of the house and in college. Your influence is still felt, but at that moment she’s largely in the world making her own decisions.

Legacies aren’t established in an instant. They take time and are built brick by brick through the small decisions we make every day, the way we respond to life.

ScottBarkleyScott Barkley is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., where he maintains and writes for the men’s ministry website at Matthew419.net. He and his wife, Amy, have four children. You can find Fishers of Men on Facebook.

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