Ralph has become a very special friend to me. It all began when he and his family began attending our church in Ohio.
One day he visited with me and shared with me his story. You see, Ralph had been a pastor, a hard working one at that. He had a heart for both God and people. His church grew. People were helped. But
One day, he told me, his oldest son spoke to Ralph's wife: "Mother, there's one thing I will never be." Upon being asked what that was, he replied, "I will never become a pastor."
When asked why, the son went on, "Because Dad is a pastor, and he never has any time at home with us. If serving God in that way means we never have time for our wife and children, I'll never do that."
On top of that bombshell, came the message from Ralph's oldest daughter. She told her mother that she would never marry either a pastor of a missionary because they had no time for their families.
My friend went on to tell me how he had this rude awakening, which led him to make some major adjustments in his life and schedule. He made time for his kids days away from the office, time just for and with them, activities designed to demonstrate that they were indeed supremely significant in his heart and life.
Why did Ralph share his story with me? He observed in me some of the same tendencies he had exhibited in his early ministry, and he warned of the possible consequences of following that course through my own life.
That leads me to the subject of popcorn, kids and pop.'
The popcorn and kids is a no-brainer.
Now to the "pop" matter. Actually this refers to the title "pop" that is frequently given to dads or fathers. You know, those guys who work, patch roofs, drive kids places when moms can't and show up at father-son functions.
This pop had to learn a new set of values, such as: a) It's all right to sit at home on Tuesday night while eating popcorn with your kids, b) The world won't end if Dad takes Monday afternoon off to go for a picnic with his family, c) It doesn't require a commercial driver's license to drive a grocery cart, but it sure helps Mom and the kids have a sense of togetherness with him.
A new poll commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream shows that what American kids really want is not more stuff, but more time with friends and family.
The study shows that 90 percent of kids ages 9 to 14 say friends and family are "way more important" than things that money can buy and nearly six out of 10 say they'd rather spend time having fun with their parents than head out to the mall to go shopping.
I should tell "the rest of the story." Ralph's two oldest children did what they said they moved away from active involvement in church activities.
But, Ralph's second son followed in the steps of his father, partially because he saw the reality of love for God in his dad, but also because of the closeness of the family bond they shared. He, along with his father, has become a special friend of mine.
What about us? How do we do at helping our children enjoy being a part of our family? If today's kids really want our time more than our money, are we making time available to them?
One of my fondest memories of my father is the time he took me along with him on a trip. On the way, we camped overnight by a river in Arkansas. I don't remember the name of the river. I don't recall what the trip was about. I do remember the special time I had with my father, who was willing to make time for me in his heavy schedule of work and responsibility.
Jesus "appointed 12, that they might be with him, and that he might send them out" Mark 3:14. Is it possible that we parents could do the same by spending no, investing time with our kids.
Let's do it!
Charles G. Thornton is associate pastor of Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. Sunday worship is at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Bible classes are at 9:30 and 11 a.m.
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