Saturday, June 30, 2012

Caesar Rode into Annapolis

Caesar rode into Annapolis, Maryland on December 19, 1783. At least that is what many were hoping for and others feared. However, the man who rode into Annapolis that day wasn’t Caesar; instead, he turned out to be George Washington. So many of us Americans are grateful he did. He was the most admired man in the country, and if he had demanded to become king, he could have had his way. Washington had something else in mind —a democratic republic. He came that day to surrender to Congress the commission he had accepted eight years prior. He could have done so in writing, but he wanted to make a point. Washington recognized the importance of his resignation as commander in chief, and he was also aware of the critical dangers the newly founded nation was facing. As so many nations before it—the young America, too, was surrounded by influences that advocated a monarchy. Just for this reason, Washington was there to reaffirm the uniqueness of a nation in which a congress held more power than a king or his army.

General George Washington went so far as to meet with a group of officers who, in alliance with some politicians, were ready to attempt a coup. These officers had their grievances, and there were many. Washington made it clear to the men that the Revolution itself was at stake, so he urged, “to rely on the plighted faith of your Country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress. . . . And let me conjure you, in the name of our common Country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the Military and National character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the Man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our Country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood Gates of Civil discord, and deluge our rising Empire in blood.” [1]

On July 4th America celebrates its 236th birthday. Ours is the first nation whose birth certificate is also a great philosophical document. The Declaration of Independence declares our God-given right to liberty. America has, from the beginning, acknowledged her liberties as a gracious endowment from a loving God.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

[i] Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, (Oxford History) Location 10542-10565.

Friday, June 22, 2012

First Things First

Keeping first things first is a challenge for most of us. Our work, our families, and our devotion to God all compete for our attention. Sometimes our priorities get mixed up, and we have to do some realignment to get them back in line.

My priorities in life have been, and continue to be, to keep God first and then my family above all other interests. That means I try to put my family above my work. That is not always easy. In fact, it can be one of the greatest challenges any of us face.

I would like to share an example of someone who was very successful in his career as a professional, but was a failure to his family. His name is John B. Watson. He is one of the most famous psychologists in the history of psychology.

Watson appeared to have it all—talent, good looks, charismatic personality, and a successful career. However, his life is a study in personal disaster. Nowhere is the tragedy more obvious to me than Watson’s life. He wrote many books that were widely received, but the one he wrote on parenting was a real financial success. What an enigma that Watson authored a book on parenting while he himself was a failed parent. He had multiple affairs, a problem he seemingly could not control, with one of them being a notoriously public affair that ultimately led to his divorce and termination from John Hopkins University. However, the most deficient part of his credentials was his own parenting skills. Both his sons suffered serious depression. One son committed suicide, and the other had a mental collapse after fighting suicidal impulses. Watson’s daughter suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts and attributed her depression to have begun around the same time as the scandal in Baltimore.

Two of Watson’s granddaughters had problems. One committed suicide, and the other suffered from depression, alcoholism and suicidal thoughts. Although Watson was a brilliant scientist and made an enormous contribution to psychology, he was, at the same time, an abject failure as a husband, father and grandfather.

Watson is the ultimate example of wasted talent and mixed up priorities. I personally believe that next to my relationship to God, my family is my most important endeavor in life. I have learned that priorities never stay arranged for very long. That’s why we must constantly evaluate what the first things are and then keep them first in our lives.[1]

[1] Schultz D. & Schultz S., (2012). A history of modern psychology (10th ed.).  Belmont, CA Wadsworth. PP. 217-218.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reflections of a Father

This coming Sunday is Father’s Day, and I would like to encourage all of you dads who are faithfully being a loving father to your children. You couldn’t be doing anything that matters more in this life than what you are doing as a father. I know it gets tough sometimes and it can be complicated, but don’t give up. The rewards of being a good father are many. Here are a few of my reflections:

Being a father is an exciting enterprise in so many ways. This excitement and the challenges begin even before the little one arrives. You wait with your wife for this moment of arrival, not knowing exactly what’s in store. Then, it comes. It is both grueling and painful for your wife and yet exciting to welcome into this world this life that is part you and part her. The first two or three years of a child’s life can be both difficult and rewarding. You watch with rapt amazement as this little child learns to walk, talk, and follow you around. You ask God, “What will this child be one day?” Then you ask God to help you be a worthy example for your son or daughter.

One of the gravest responsibilities of being a father is the day you realize this child is watching you. Once it dawns on you that, in some ways, his future is in your hands, you feel overwhelmed. He watches how you treat his mom and how you honor her. He listens to your conversations with other people. It’s scary when you understand that he is mimicking your words, gestures, attitudes and actions. When you see your weaknesses on display in your child, it’s like having a bucket of cold water thrown in your face. Nothing can bring you to your knees any quicker than thinking that you may have hurt this tender child. So you ask forgiveness from God and your family. No reward, however, can compare to seeing your sons and daughters grow into mature adults. They are controlled, respectful and mature, and you thank God for this amazing transformation.

I look at the three children God gave me, and I say with swelling pride and gratitude, “They are mine.” I now watch with delight as they raise their families, and I am privileged to have four little lives call me “Grandpa.”