Summary: Father’s Day message

Father’s Day sermon: “A Checklist for Dads”

Pastor Bob Leroe

Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts

I’d like to start off with a Top Ten List for Dads: The Top Ten Ways to Intimidate Your Daughter’s Date When He Comes to Pick Her Up:

10. Sprinkle some dust on your daughter before she leaves. Explain, “It makes fingerprinting easier.”

9. Challenge him at arm wrestling.

8. Introduce him to your good friend Tony Soprano.

7. Answer the door wearing a police swat team uniform.

6. Casually show him your collection of five shrunken heads, then yell up to your daughter, “Number six is here!”

5. Come to the door bare-chested. Do a lot of flexing.

4. Introduce him to the family by calling each family member to the living room using a whistle, then making them stand at attention and salute.

3. Have the funeral home director over to measure the young man.

2. Answer the door in a straight-jacket.

1. As they leave, speak into a walkie-talkie: “Subject is wearing khakis and a blue polo shirt, driving a green Ford.”

-I haven’t used any of these…yet!

Here’s a more serious Top Ten list. A survey of elementary children was conducted a few years ago which indicated the ten most appreciated qualities for Dads:

1. He takes time for me.

2. He listens to me.

3. He plays with me.

4. He invites me to go places with him.

5. He lets me help him.

6. He treats my mother well.

7. He lets me say what I think.

8. He’s nice to my friends.

9. He only punishes me when I deserve it.

10. He isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong.

In a New Yorker magazine cartoon, a young child interrupts his dad’s reading of the evening paper with a question: “Dad, am I experiencing a normal childhood?” We dads might ask ourselves, “Am I a normal parent?”

In the survey of schoolchildren I read, the top five qualities involve time. For a child, “love” is spelled: T-I-M-E. According to family psychologist Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family), the average father spends less than a minute of face-to-face communication with his children per day!

Children need time. We devote time and energy to the people and things we value the most. Children conclude that, “If you don’t have time for me, then you must not care about me.”

Dr. Dobson made a video for the Army many years ago, at the request of the Army Chief of Staff, General Wickam. The title was “Where’s Dad?” and it dealt with the failure of dads to spend enough time with their kids. I showed this video at an Officer Development training session. My Commander, who admittedly neglected his family looked at me as he was leaving and said, “Chaplain—I feel like I’ve just been beat up.” I replied, “Sir, that was my intention.” He later made General, but at a cost. An anonymous father wrote: "One Hundred Years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

I read of a dad who promised his two sons to take them to the circus. But early that morning the phone rang; an urgent business call required the dad’s presence downtown. The two boys braced themselves for the disappointment. Then they heard their father say, “No, I won’t be down; it’ll have to wait.” When he came back to the breakfast table, his wife smiled. “The circus keeps coming back, you know,” she said. “Yes, I know”, replied the father, “but childhood doesn’t”. Dads are entrusted with the task of making memories.

No amount of success can compensate for failure in the home. What priority do we give our children and grandchildren? A group of children were asked, “What is a dad for?” Some talked about how their dads made money or fixed things around the house. One of the best answers was: “A dad is for spending time with.”

When my son was very young, he asked me one evening to read him a book which was too long to read in one setting. After reading two chapters, I put it down and said, “Well, maybe later we can find out what happens.” Then I was told, “Oh, Mom’s already read me that book twice.” What did my son really want? To hear a story, or to spend time with me? Kids crave—and deserve our time and attention.

We dads also need to listen more. If we spoke less and listened more, maybe we would exasperate our kids less (verse 4). We need to be approachable. Sometimes we don’t make it safe for our kids to say what’s really on their minds. We need to hear the things that are important to our kids: their likes and dislikes, their opinions, and even the seemingly trivial things—without impatience or interruption. It’s been said that “a child is an island of curiosity surrounded by a sea of question marks.” The average child will ask 500,000 questions from the time they’re talking to age 15. Answering questions is only part of what we convey. Much of what our kids learn is caught rather than taught—they learn from what they observe. This means we can’t afford to cheat on our taxes, lie to our boss, or be rude to a salesperson. Our lifestyle is the lesson.

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