The Thanks List

by Randy Clay.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

 St. Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV).

Paul, are you serious?  Give thanks in ALL circumstances?  There isn’t a circumstance that gets a pass?  I wish he had said ‘some’ or ‘most – or even ‘more often than not’…..but ALL?

Let me share some circumstances in my life that have challenged me to give thanks.

  • My father passed away very suddenly when I was just sixteen. I was angry at God for a long time. How could I give thanks in THAT circumstance?  Well, instead of being angry at God for no longer having a father, I started a “thanks list” thanking him for the dad I had.  He was a man of faith.  He served others.  He loved me.  He was funny.  He lived with a purpose. So, I gave thanks for the time I had with him and the legacy he left me instead of being angry for the time I didn’t have.

Give thanks in all circumstances. Here is another.

  • I’ve had skin cancer about a dozen times. Had three skin-grafts. Two years ago the doctor took off about half my scalp (not an exaggeration).  Very painful surgery.  A long recovery period.  I could sit and wallow in my depression, or I could follow Paul’s advice to give thanks. So, I sat down and did my “thanks list”.  The list looked something like this:
    • It didn’t kill me
    • I found a hairdresser that figured out how to hide the bare skin
    • It helped me not take another day for granted
    • I live just twenty minutes away from one of the world’s leading cancer research hospitals
    • I had some great conversations with doctors, nurses and other patients.

When faced with a huge or small circumstance, make a “thanks list”.  Stop and pray your list.  Pray that list several times a day. Whatever the circumstance, when you find yourself getting into a funk…. make a “thanks list,” pray it and pray it again and again!

Giving thanks in ALL circumstances…what a powerful thing!

Okay, be thankful. Today. Right now! In ALL your circumstances.


Randy Clay is the preaching minister for the Cross Tower Church in West Jordan, Utah since 1993. He loves to read, draw, watch movies (especially sports movies), cheer on his beloved Razorbacks, and visit Mayberry when he can. He and his wife Kathy married in 1984 and have three beautiful daughters. He has survived nearly a dozen bouts with skin cancer…and remains thankful.

When They Are Old They Will Not Depart… But What About In College?

by Chris Rolph.

“Start your children off in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6


Working in faith based higher education for 25 years; I have had the opportunity and privilege to meet thousands of students and parents.  In most cases, parents are not ready to let go or they do not feel their child is prepared to go off to college.  Ironically, their son or daughter cannot wait to spread their wings and leave the nest.

One concern that many parents have involves their child’s spiritual maturity.  Many of these parents have raised their children in a Christian home, were actively involved in church, and modeled Christian values.  In some cases, they may have homeschooled or had their child attend a private Christian school yet often they feel their college age son or daughter should have a deeper faith.

Many have embraced the promise of Proverbs 22:6 which says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

When I have encounter concerned parents, I have told them not to worry!  A faith-based school is the best place their child could be attending.

As one would expect, students will learn a lot in the classroom between their first year and last year of school; generally four (sometime five) years.  Nevertheless, what I truly find fascinating is what students learn outside of the classroom.  This is a dynamic time in a young adult’s life.  They will develop spiritually, mentally, physically, relationally and emotionally.

As a result, they will view their parents much differently after four years.  When these freshman first arrive, many would not describe their parents as wise, as a matter of fact, many student believe they are smarter than their father and mother.

More often than not, it is my observation that graduating students feel that somehow their parents became wiser/smarter during their four years at college but how could this be?  Did their parents become smarter while they are away at college, not exactly!  What really happens is the student actually changes and more often than not they have become wiser.  They have discovered:

  • Life is complicated
  • Relationships can be messy
  • The is world is not always black and white
  • Roommates do not always get along
  • It is difficult to prioritize homework, job, relationships, etc.
  • Juggling your finances is stressful
  • And miraculously dad and mom got wiser

While we know that mom and dad did not really get wiser, we will let these young adults think this happened.

For parents, I offer a few words of encouragement.

First, if you are still raising your children, you may not have seen the spiritual fruits of your labor, nevertheless, keep laying the foundation.  Once your child becomes a young adult, you will see how a solid spiritual upbringing affects every area of their young adult lives.

If you are sending your child off to a faith-based college, be patient, you will see big changes in just a few more years.  Most importantly, pray for your child while they are away at college.  They can still get side tracked even at a faith-based college or university.

Thanks for laying your child’s spiritual foundation and it is my prayer that you will see the fruit of your labor.


Chris Rolph CPA is Vice President for Finance and the Chief Financial
Officer for University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky. He has two
grown sons, took his wife skydiving for their anniversary, and has the
quickest wit of anybody you’ll ever meet. Chris has played a significant
role in the formation and launch of which he continues to
serve and encourage.

If The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning, Here is Where to Start.

By Gene Frost.

“The Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:7


Do you want your son to have a better life than you?  I believe the majority of dads do.  They want it better for their sons but here’s a bigger question.  How do you do that?  How do you prepare your son to have a better life than you?


The answer lies in Proverbs 1:7 which says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  We don’t know anything until we are taught.  This verse says THE beginning of knowledge starts with the fear of the Lord.  What is the fear of the Lord?  Are we supposed to be afraid of God or Jesus?  Not at all!  The root of the word fear in this verse means to worship and show respect.  So dad, the beginning of knowledge on how to give your son a better life starts with you worshipping and respecting your Creator and Savior.


When you worship and respect someone, they become a very strong influence in your life.  As a boy, you might have worshipped an athlete or a famous person and this led you to imitate them.  I had a favorite baseball player growing up and I would throw like him, catch like him, bat like him and even spit like him.  I wanted to be like him.  The book of Proverbs tells us the beginning of knowledge starts with us imitating our Lord Jesus Christ.  So we need to study Him and learn how He lived so we can imitate Him, so we can worship Him and live a life that respects Him.  When we do this, the knowledge we need to pass on to our son, regardless of his age, is given to us.  “The fear, the worshipping and showing respect, of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge …”


And let’s not forget the rest of the verse.  The second part of Proverbs 1:7 says “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  If you reach a point in your life where you stop learning, you are a fool.  If you reach a point in your life where you know it all, you are a fool.  If you reach a point in your life where you don’t constantly seek the advice of other men, you are a fool.  And this is not my opinion, this is what the Bible says.  “But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”


I grew up without a father active in my life.  I now have three sons who are 22, 20 and 18 years of age.  How in the world am I supposed to know how to raise my sons?  How in the world do I give my sons a better life than I have?  Proverbs 1:7 says the knowledge I need to do these things starts with me fearing my Lord and Savior.  It starts with me worshipping and respecting my Lord and Savior.  Thanks be to God for His Holy Word.


Gene has written a manhood curriculum for young men 12-19 years of age titled Adam 2.0 that provides a Biblical path to real manhood for young men.  He has also had the tremendous honor of leading over 3,000 men into authentic manhood.  Be sure to listen to the audio file titled “A Manhood Revolution” on his website

4 Things Learning to Sail Has Taught Me About Correcting My Kids

by Matt Miller.

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. (Proverbs 15:31)


This past summer my 17-year old son Aidan and I had the amazing experience of learning to sail a 50 ft. boat off the coast of Florida. The feeling of a boat keeled over at a 45-degree angle, the sails full of wind as we raced over the waves was amazing! In addition to being a great father/son experience, learning to sail has given me a useful metaphor for raising my kids, especially in the ever-challenging arena of correction.


Correction implies direction

Sailing a boat requires constant course corrections—but these corrections assume that a direction has been set.  In the same way, a foundation has to be laid in the lives of our children that defines the heart we want to see in them. Thankfully, this foundation does not have to be complicated. Jesus said that two commands—love God and love people—sum up all of the law and the prophets (basically meaning the whole Bible). Think about the 10 commandments—all of them can be boiled down to one of these two ideas, and all of the principles or rules for a healthy household can as well. In our family, loving God and loving people sets the life direction we expect to see in our kids, and whenever we see them straying from one of these core commands, we know it is time for a “course correction”. Without laying this foundation, can we really expect to be able to correct our kids? Without a clearly communicated standard, correction can seem arbitrary and lead to frustration and rebellion.


To sail straight, you have to keep your eyes on something fixed

As we were learning to sail, one of the greatest challenges was keeping the boat on the correct heading. It was so easy to become distracted by something happening on deck or something on the water and realize that the boat was no longer heading in the right direction. My friend Paul, who organized the trip, gave some wise advice. He told us to pick some stationary feature far off on the horizon, such as a bridge or an island, and keep the bow of the boat aligned with it. This made it much easier to hold a course.

Rules can be an important part of raising kids, especially if those rules are based upon a Biblical standard. But for our children to truly keep a course towards a Godly life, they need something to fix their eyes on that goes beyond any particular rule—they need to be captivated by Jesus. It is easy to develop a set of rules for the family, teach them to our kids, and try to hold them to them, but if our kids don’t understand the reason for those rules, they may not be able to consistently keep them. Do you have a list of family rules? How do they connect to the life or characteristics of Jesus? We are raising our kids not to follow a particular moral or religious code, but instead to follow a person—Jesus.


Even the captain makes mistakes

Something unexpected happened early in our trip that help us “newbies” feel a little better about our mistakes. When our captain was pulling out of the dock, he miscalculated and nearly sheared off the box containing our life saving equipment. We were able to salvage the box and laugh off the mistake, but more importantly, we realized that there would be grace for mistakes and even our captain would make them!

Our kids need to know that we are not perfect, and we have to be willing to apologize when we do something wrong. I remember a particular time when I corrected my son in anger. I don’t remember what he did, but I do remember lashing out against him verbally and physically in a way that I immediately knew was inappropriate. Instead of giving “live-giving correction”, as the proverb says, my correction was harsh and shaming. I had broken one of my own parenting rules—never correct in anger, rather correct in love. After taking a couple of minutes to calm down, I returned to my son and apologized for the way I treated him. This led to a conversation in which we were able to talk about the root issues of his behavior and in which I was able to share with him my imperfect journey of trying to be like Christ. The result was correction in both of our lives.


Sometimes you have to drop anchor and play in the water!

Some of the most enjoyable times during our trip were when we furled the sails, dropped anchor, and dove of the boat into the water. It was important to have moments to rest from the rigor of constantly working the sails and helm to keep the boat on course and just have fun!

Our kids also need time to enjoy being with us—time to laugh and play. The relational capital that we will build up through such times of light-hearted play will help keep our kids hearts soft when we need to speak a word of correction to them.

I hope these insights from our sailing journey will be a blessing to you as you continue the challenging but rewarding journey of raising your children!


Matt Miller is the husband of Andrea and father of 4 amazing kids—Abigail (19), who is a Freshman at Lipscomb University, Aidan (17), who is a senior in high school and a young entrepreneur who just opened the first specialty coffee shop in our city, Asher (13) who is an avid reader and writer, and Anna (10) who loves art and baking. Matt is the director of Virunga Valley Academy, a Christian international school in Musanze, Rwanda, which is a platform from which the Miller family serves the people of their city. Matt and his family value creativity, community, and discovering how to follow Jesus. When they are not working with the next generation of Rwandan leaders at VVA, they enjoy encouraging and learning from an amazing group of disciples of Jesus in Rwanda who have started over 1,000 house churches over the past 7 years.

The Code of the West

by Terry Bartlow.

“What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” Proverbs 19:22

 When Daniel Hackett heard Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry speak the “Code of the West” then saw them model it in the movie Tall Tale, he bore witness to an extremely valuable and fundamental lesson in becoming a man. Not just any man, but a man who is able to influence those around him and to bring honor to his relationship with God. The “Code of the West” gave reason for and defined the character of the men who were speaking it and those who gave their allegiance to it.

Many men throughout history have demonstrated the power of living by these codes, these directives that guide our hearts and actions. Somehow, in some way we know and have learned the value of being generous, caring for the poor and of considering the weak. These three opportunities and directives to fulfill are in no short supply in our world. They are all around us and they need to be recognized and responded to by you and I. The world has always needed men to accept their role, men willing to fight the battle first in becoming intentional warriors for God and then living as one.

One difficulty I faced in the past was in recognizing these three areas and feeling how I could best address them. About fifteen years ago a Psalm came to my attention and has guided my morning prayer and daily intention since.

“In the morning Oh’ Lord I order my prayer to you and eagerly watch all day long.” Ps. 5:3 opens my day’s journey into seeing moments where I am being called to practice generosity to care for the poor and to consider the weak. Recognizing these three openings into another person’s life has served as an incredible threshold for my own personal development. For a long time I relegated these three phrases as a guide and motivation for financial giving and service and while I believe that is valid, I would also submit to you that it is so much more.

Being generous can mean generosity with your time, your affection, your service and use of your talents. Sometimes I will invite one of my students to come in for hot chocolate before school just to chat and to connect. On one more than one occasion their response has been, “I will bring some hot chocolate to pay you back. Thank you.” My typical response is, “Oh’ by no means. This is my treat.” The reward is always mine when I see manifest such grateful hearts.

Caring for the poor certainly means to help financially, however, the poor “in spirit” seem to be in greater abundance than the financially poor. I daily meet a student, colleague, friend or family member who is spiritually and or emotionally bankrupt and in great need. What do I do? Listen intently and hear. That often leads to some action but not always. I’ve come to know I can’t fix every situation but I can walk along and perhaps in a small way lift some of the burden.

Considering the weak requires some discretionary judgment and insight and is often recognized through our listening. Just this morning I was visiting with a gentleman whom I have viewed since I‘ve known him as very competent, capable and sure of himself. He has been a police officer in New York, directed a funeral home for several years, restores cars as a hobby and has an incredible ability to encourage and empower others. When he shared with me the statement that he is “afraid of failing” I was astounded. Never would I have imagined. We are surrounded by people held back by all sorts of fears and doubt.

Men who are leading the charge of God and modeling life for their sons are expected to listen, see and step into moments they are given. Like Daniel Hackett, we must be men prepared and willing to fulfill our roles with others that our sons may see.  While I will not spoil the movie [“Tall Tale”- Nick Stahl (1995)] for you – the “Code of the West” is really summed up in the call to treat others kindly, show respect to them and do what you can to lift a burden.

Consider sitting for an evening to watch the movie with your son(s) and discuss the merits it has to offer.

Blessings on your journey!


Terry Barlow is a fifth-grade teacher in Loveland Colorado. He has been a
youth pastor, attracts the greatest and most interesting people where ever
he goes, hikes fourteeners in the Rockies, and built his own wood-strip
canoe from scratch. Read more about him and his current mission at

Words Have Power

by Kirk Hayes.

“Son, I love you and am so proud of you.” It’s easy to see the power of those words. Perhaps you heard them from your father. If not, I pray you have said them to your own son (or daughter).

This is basically what the Father said to Jesus at his baptism: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, and again in 17:5 on the mountain). The fact that our heavenly Father felt it was important to verbalize his feelings towards his son should be a shout-out to us that we need to do the same.

Have you reflected on the power of words to shape the world? Consider a couple of well-known scriptures:

“And God said, ‘Let…’” (Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24).

“In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1).

Words are so powerful that God used them to create. Similarly, our words have a profound influence on our families—on our wives, sons and daughters.  As a father, I am sure you are much like me in that you have moments you are not proud of, but to be fair, there are times you get it right. When you botch it, don’t lose heart. You may be dealing with baggage handed down to you from your parents, who got it from their parents, and so on. While this does not give you permission to pass the baggage on to your kids, God is understanding.

It is not healthy nor helpful to practice self-flagellation by beating yourself up. The words you speak to yourself have power to shape your own heart. So be kind and gentle with yourself. After all, Jesus said the greatest command is to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The more kindly you speak to yourself, the gentler you will be with your family. You need to love yourself. One brother in Christ, Wesley Hill, has said, “Be patient with all that is unfinished within you.”  I believe it is accurate to say that God is more patient with our shortcomings than we are with ourselves.

But, beyond being patient with yourself when you fail, move forward and set realistic goals for how you can use your words to build up your family (Ephesians 4:29). I am 57 now, and back in my early 30’s I heard that we should have a 10-1 ratio of encouraging over critical words. While I did not keep a daily tally, over the years that suggestion helped me. My natural tendency was to be more critical than encouraging. I could fixate on things that bothered me with our three sons. I could major on the minors—make mountains out of molehills. In fact, during one such period, I had a very calm and realistic dream that one of the boys died. I woke, and with tears, had the clear impression the dream was a gentle rebuke from our loving Father to cherish and enjoy the boys. I wasn’t flawless after that, but I did better.

One other helpful dad tip I received concerning the power of words was this: don’t wear your kids out with them, i.e., consider the best words for the issue at hand, and then speak them kindly. Even if you are “a man of few words,” those few words of encouragement, or gentle rebuke, can powerfully impact your kids.

Let’s finish with this question: where in the world do we get the power to use our words constructively? Well, that gets to the heart of the matter. While it’s not impossible to control our tongues apart from the grace of God in our lives, the consensus of many good and wise people who have gone before us is that ultimately, we can shape and transform our sons and daughters only when we submit to the lordship of Jesus, and have his Spirit living in us.



Kirk Hayes is the President of South Houston Bible Institute
( Formerly Bible & Missions Instructor and Spiritual Life
Minister at Lubbock Christian University, Kirk also has over 15 years of
missions experience in Kenya. Kirk and his wife Susan live in Houston, and
their three sons and families serve as missionaries in Malawi and Uganda.

How to Teach Your Children Generosity

by Kristopher Hatchell.

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverb 11:25

So, as I sit here in front of this blank white page I wonder what I might be able to share with you, my fellow fathers.  I fear that what might continue as black letters, forming into words on this page, will be a discombobulated string of consciousness as my physical body and spirit are running low on energy.  Work deadlines, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season and being the father of two young boys, ages four and 18-months, has begun to wear on me.  Add to the mix, my wife and I are in the process of purchasing a house and packing up to move from Nashville, TN and to Knoxville, TN just after the first of the year.

Regardless of all that is going on, my family is participating in a special season – the season of Advent followed by that of Christmas.  For those of you who might not know, Advent is the first part of the Christian calendar and is a four-week preparation and anticipation of the coming of Jesus.  Christmas is a twelve-day season following Advent reflecting and delighting in the arrival of Christ.  A focus on these seasons helps my family and I battle the materialism of our culture and help remind us that life is more than just about us.

It has always amazed me that regardless if you are a believer or not, this season always prompts us to look outside ourselves and how we might be generous to others.  But how do we teach this to our children who are so inundated with the expectations of receiving?  The other day my wife purchased a few monster trucks to give to some of my oldest son’s friends and when we were wrapping them up he got upset that these were not for him and his little brother.  Why did he think they would be his?  What can we do to train our children that being generous is more rewarding than receiving?

Here are a few ways that I (and my wife) are trying to train our boys this season to be generous: 

  1. Serving a meal at the local rescue mission – For the first time in our family’s history, we are going to give of our time and help the local mission serve a meal. We have talked about doing this almost every year around the holidays, but this year we finally got our act together and made it a priority.  The day after Christmas we will travel downtown and serve a meal together as a family.
  2. Making a care package for those in need – While driving around Nashville it is not uncommon to see someone on the side of the road asking for help. Over the years, my wife and I have always made an effort to give something and we typically roll down the back window and let our oldest hand out an orange and apple or a pack of those cherished goldfish.  To be a little more prepared and thoughtful in the days to come, just the other night we ran out to the local store and picked up a few items to make care packages. This way whenever we see someone we can show our boys that we can be generous by providing a little care package.  If you are interested, I’ve provided a list below of what we put in our care packages.  We made twelve packages for about $150.  You can do more or less.  This is just what we did and then in lieu of play time one morning, we will set everything out and pack-up these packages as a family.
    • 1 – gallon zip lock bag
    • 2 – bottle of water
    • 1 – pack of wet wipes
    • 1 – pair of socks
    • 1 – pair of gloves
    • 1 – tube of toothpaste
    • 1 – toothbrush
    • 1 – Clift bar
    • 2 – packages of crackers
    • 1 – Chapstick
    • 1 – bottle of lotion

When we arrived at home the other night after getting the stuff for our care packages we got a glimpse of hope when our oldest son said that the Christmas tree in our house, with the few presents under it, reminds him of giving.  So, how to teach and train our children that giving and being generous is more rewarding than receiving is by setting an example.


 Kristopher (Kris) Hatchell loves to build. His trade is engineering, his
passion is making disciples. He and his wife, DeeDee spent several years
in Guatemala involved in water development and the construction of a
bridge. During that time they also constructed bridges between villagers
and God. Kris is a marathoner and the proud father of two young sons. They
have recently relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Why It’s Good to Make Plans Even When they Don’t Work Out

by Noah Sanders.

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes to poverty.”  —Proverbs 21:5

When I was close to finishing high school I wanted to start a small farming business. So my father gave me an assignment to write a business plan. I didn’t really know how to go about it. But I researched it and wrote descriptions, goals, production schedules, infrastructure needs, budgets, and marketing strategies. The next year I began executing my plan during my first season of commercial production. And not surprisingly everything didn’t go as planned! For example, my plan was to have vegetable production be my core enterprise, with pastured broiler production second and egg production third. But the garden flooded and was my least profitable enterprise. Then I ended up buying out another farmer’s layer operation which made eggs our core product. So my strategy didn’t go as planned, but I ended up reaching my income goal for the first year of my farm anyway!

I am grateful for my father encouraging me to take time to plan. It is something I ‘plan’ to teach my three sons how to do. As some of you may consider helping your sons or family learn how to plan here are a few lessons that you could consider sharing with them.

  1. Planning is Important

Even though the first year of my farm didn’t work out exactly as planned, I believe that the time I took to make a plan enabled me to reach my income goal. Planning enables us to bring the future into the present and be purposeful rather than just drift and react as things come along. In the book of Proverbs we read, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5) In order to spend our time, days, weeks, and years profitably we have to make an effort to do everything on time, to a high standard, and with minimal waste. It takes effort and forethought to be able to order any area of our life this way and planning is essential for doing this.

  1. Plans have to be Flexible

It is easy to get ‘married’ to a plan. But we live in a world of uncertainties full of things out of our control. Just like I had to with my farm plan, we have to learn to expect that our plans will require adjustment. The key is to not let the adjustment of our strategy discourage us from our goal. If we can differentiate between our goal (where we want to get to) and our strategy (how we are going to get there) then it can help us to know what to stick fast to and what to be flexible in. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” In my life, I have found that God honors my faithfulness in planning. But He often directs my steps in a way that keeps me humble and requires me to step out of my comfort zone.

I encourage you to take the time this year to help your family chart a course for 2018. It will be an exercise that could shape the rest of your lives. Here are a few suggested steps:

  1. Take time to review the expectations, wins, disappointments, and lessons from 2017.
  2. Write down your ideal destination for 2018 in your spiritual life, relationships, work, education, physical shape, etc.
  3. Come up with a short list of specific goals and a few first steps for each one.
  4. Set up a time to regularly review your goals.

In conclusion, I would like to offer a warning against a pitfall that can come with planning. Don’t let your planning become a fancy way of procrastinating. Just get a clear goal and do the first step. Proverbs 14:23 warns us “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Often God doesn’t show us the next 10 steps, just the next one. If we are faithful to obey that one, then he will show the next one. What we can’t do is let our excuse of not knowing how we are going to reach our goal prevent us from beginning to make progress toward it. Let’s stop drifting through life this year, and chart a purposeful course with the full knowledge of the wild adventure that may lay ahead!


 Noah Sanders is a farmer, homesteader and author in Goodwater, Alabama. He is a passionate follower of Jesus who desires to know him more and make disciples through his daily life. Together with his wife, Dorothy, and three young sons, Noah runs a small farming operation producing vegetables using all-natural techniques based on the design of God in Creation. He is the author of Born Again Dirt: Farming to the Glory of God. You can find his blog at

Old School Technique that Gets Sons to Work

II Thessalonians 3:10 “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

Prov. 14:23 All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty

II Thessalonians 3:8 we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.

My dad, Richard F. “Rick” Williams, was a living example of Paul’s admonitions recorded in II Thessalonians when he commanded them (and us) to “mind your own business and work with your hands.” And for my benefit, when he thought it was fitting, dad would remind me of Paul’s further instruction, “if a man is not willing to work, neither shall he eat”. Well, he fed me pretty well, and I was expected to remember that when it came time to mow the grass or wash the family car.

Dad was often called “Big Rick”, and was big in my eyes even after “Little Rick”, (me) was his size and a bit more. As a boy, during the Sabine River Flood ’66 I watched him work with all his might to save our school’s custodian’s possessions from the river’s rising water. Mr. Shoemake lived in a small ramshackle house much too near the river and was about to lose what little he had. But, using our old aluminum river boat, its small outboard and a rope, dad tugged each of Mr. Shoemake’s cows across deep water to higher ground, and ferried his few valuable possessions to our waiting pickup truck as the water invaded the little house and covered all the land in sight.

It was dangerous and hard work, but hard work Dad was used to. As butcher, truck driver, mechanic, wood worker, and welder-fabricator, he never found an easy way to make a living, but he never failed to make one and was always a good provider.  As he got older, he continued to work hard but gave away more of his earnings to those who he thought might need them more than he did.

In his seventies, dad could be found cutting firewood for an “elderly” lady who lived a few miles out in the country and warmed her little home with a wood burning heater.  I was still eating well, though not at his table, and dad would draft me to help with splitting and stacking the firewood for her, all completely free, but providing very good exercise for us both.

Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.” My dad didn’t talk that much, was not a preacher or even a bible school teacher, but he taught by example and following his example his two sons never had to worry about poverty. Both have made more money than he did, but it was dad who taught us how to work. He showed us how to be a man and not just talk about doing something, but to actually go out and do it.

Since his last ten years were spent working with me, in our family business, my sons were also exposed to his amazing example. Dad could tolerate semi-retirement, if his time off involved a good deal of fishing, and could get as much done in a half a work week as younger men would do full time.

Now, just like my father, I believe that when we learn to work, and learn the value of working, God makes it as enjoyable as any other part of life. All work is good, whether as a custodian or a company president. There is great value in “doing what our hand’s find to do” and doing it “with all your might”. (Ecclesiates 9:10).

Teaching this to my sons was made infinitely easier by the example set by their grandfather, and we were all blessed to be close to him, and for his long and productive life which we all believe was greatly extended because he had a reason to get up each morning.  He had work to do, to provide for his family and to serve God and His children. And he also enjoyed working so he could put gas in his thirty year old fishing boat and the equally old truck that towed it to the lakes and rivers of northeast Texas.

Now it is my turn to set that same example for my sons and grandsons, for this is one lesson that must be taught by doing more than talking. And it is a matter of setting the right example, not of just being a “workahaulic”, providing the material things in life, but not taking the time to be a real father, an involved and caring father, and faithful servant of the Father of us all.

Perhaps it is your turn, too. I know there is not a much more important job in this world for me than succeeding at this task. And following my dad’s example, I intend to do just that for my two sons and four grandsons, leaving a continuing legacy that they too will be a part of. Thanks, Dad, for showing me how.


Rick Williams is a hard working guy. He met his wife in College and married her after graduation and built their house (with his own hands) while launching a small sign business that’s grown into two commercial enterprises — Rick’s Sign Co and WPC Services. He’s been a writer for Sign and Digital Business Magazine for 25+ years and a Column writer for National Business Media since its first issue in 1986.

He works alongside his two grown sons who have sons of their own.  First and foremost Rick is a Christian. He serves as a Church elder and teaches a growing Senior’s class.

Rick’s Sign Co.

WPC Services

Rick’s column articles at NBM

A Father’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees

by Brackin Kirkland.

“It (wisdom) will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words,” Proverb 2:16

From a Father of Five Boys

As a father of 5 boys, I am painfully aware of my need to teach each one of them about purity and chastity. Personally, I struggled with these issues as a young man – and if you’re a red-blooded male with breath in your lungs, you know that the struggle against sexual sin is all too real. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that teaching our sons about purity and chastity is not the most effective way to deal with these issues of the eyes, hearts and hands. Let me explain…

My Dad’s Approach

When I was about 14 years old, I remember an awkward day when my dad took me to the local county fair. It was supposed to be a father-son outing, but honestly I just wanted to be with my girlfriend instead. As we pulled into the parking lot, my dad stopped, retrieved a small box from his pocket, and began to share with me the importance of not “fooling around with” my girlfriend – and that we should wait until marriage to become intimate with each other. [Whoops…too late for that.]

Toward the end of his admonishment (which I had heard countless times before from the pulpit and elsewhere), he opened the small box to reveal a very manly looking “chastity ring” for me to wear as a reminder to remain pure. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed by the whole ordeal, but in hindsight I greatly appreciate my dad’s love toward me and his desire for me to remain pure until marriage.

The problem with this approach, however, is two-fold. First, it was too little, too late. And secondly, this approach only targets the symptoms of sexual sin, and not the root itself.

Too Little, Too Late

Honestly, I don’t ever remember having “the conversation” (you know…the birds and bees) with my dad. He may have said something at some point, but obviously it didn’t make an impact on me. I do, however, vividly remember a sex-ed video we watched in the 5th grade and the many colorful conversations that ensued with my school-yard peers.

I personally feel very strongly about teaching my boys about physical intimacy from both a biologically reproductive perspective (we have livestock, so this shouldn’t be too difficult) and from a biblical covenant perspective – I believe that teaching one without the other will only leave room for the enemy to distort God’s intended design for a man and a woman.

These may be uncomfortable conversations to have, BUT they are going to learn it from somewhere, and the alternative is…well, sketchy at best.

Getting to the ROOT of the Problem

So if the first step is to talk about the natural role of sexuality in a married man’s life, then the second GIANT hurdle it to get them through adolescence without falling into TEMPTATION prior to marriage. This is the area where my dad (bless his heart) did not prepare me. We had the “purity” talk, but I was completely unprepared for what to do with and how to handle my pubescent urges.

I won’t criticize my dad for what he could have or should have done. But I can learn from his shortcomings and hopefully guide my boys through that critical and snare-laden stage of life.

The Wayward Woman

The snares they will encounter are detailed vividly in Proverbs 7:

“There a woman met him, with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. She was loud and rebellious; her feet would not stay at home. At times she was outside, at times in the open square, lurking at every corner. So she caught him and kissed him…”

And it goes on and on, as a dire warning.

Obviously the writer is using this harlot as a metaphor for being lured away from God’s law and His heart, but there is also a literal warning to be wary of women who will drown our souls – or the souls of our boys – in perdition.

This passage perfectly illustrates the devil’s finest art form – temptation. He doesn’t have to tell us lies or convince us that chastity isn’t worth “worth the wait”. All he has to do is have “her” (that figurative harlot) bat her eyelashes at us, and we melt.

To reiterate: The “purity” conversation is not enough, because the enemy’s weapons are STONGER than our desire to remain PURE.

Attacking Temptation at the HEART

The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in EVERY way that is common to man. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He did not concede – instead He fought temptation with the Word of God and got the VICTORY over Satan’s only strategy.

If Jesus can do it – and if we are born-again and thus empowered by His Holy Spirit – then we TOO can overcome temptation with God’s help, and TEACH our boys how to do the same.

THIS is the secret weapon in our arsenal against sexual sin – the POWER of God. We need to teach our boys how to practically and spiritually harness the Word of God against the devil’s fiery darts and snares. We need to EMPOWER them to remain pure from the INSIDE out, not only addressing the outward symptoms of temptation, but also preparing them to do battle with the enemy on the front-line of their hearts!



Brackin Kirkland is a true renaissance man. He makes bio-fuel from used cooking oil, flips RVs, is a woodworker, technician, songwriter and musician. Almost 40, 000 people subscribe to his weekly YouTube music videos and vlog “Tiny Notes from Home,” Brackin is passionate, and real, about family and faith. He has four sons.