Due to unforseen circumstances Patty Laroche's column was unavailable this week. This is a column from 2009.
A Sunday school class of first-graders was asked to draw a picture of God. When the pastor stopped by to inspect their work, the children were happy to show him their drawings.
One child had drawn God in the form of a brightly colored rainbow. Another had drawn the face of an old man coming out of billowing clouds. One drawing looked a lot like Superman, but perhaps the best picture was the one proudly displayed by a girl who said, "I didn't know what God looked like exactly, so I drew my daddy." If you are fortunate enough to have a daddy who emulates our Heavenly Father, you are blessed.
This past year as we studied self-concept in my speech class, my students listed five "significant others" who have been either positive or negative influences in their lives. Far too many drew a minus sign beside the name of the father figure.
The reasons? These teenagers are "never good enough" or "nothing but trouble," or their dad has "found someone else and wants nothing to do" with this boy or girl. Why is it so difficult to father the way God desires?
In the late '70s my husband pitched on the same baseball team as Frank Tanana, and he and his wife and Dave and I became close friends.
Frank and his wife Cathy were extraordinary parents who raised four daughters, each of whom grew to marry a godly man. I called Frank this week and asked what suggestions he would make to men whose desire it is to raise their children for the Lord.
This was Frank's advice: "No. 1: Be a Christ-centered man. That means that you, as the father, are disciplined in prayer and Bible study, faithful in fellowship and worship and that Christ is the top priority in your life. Your children must see how real the Lord is to you."
I asked Frank what he would say to encourage other men to make Jesus real and not just an insurance policy for Heaven.
It took him no time to respond: "I would tell them that no one or no thing is worthy of all their passion, zeal or enthusiasm ... except for Jesus. They need to get into the story of the crucifixion of Christ and experience that death because they are the guilty ones who should be hanging on the cross. There they will experience their death and Christ's life.
Once they can do that, they will fall in love with Him, and they will no longer be a casual Christian. Their relationship with Him will be real."
Frank continued with his list. "No. 2: Those disciplines to be Christ-centered must be a commitment. For example, when driving my daughters to school, we would sing worship songs together. We always prayed-in the car, before meals, in the evenings. Sunday church was a priority and that evening was family time. Granted, it wasn't etched in stone, but we really worked to spend time together as a family."
"No. 3: Be a triple-A dad -- affection, attention, affirmation. You must be excited about your kids and let them know how awesome it is that you are their dad. Tell them how special they are and look for ways to build them up."
Frank continued, telling me that his girls always knew his wife came before them -- she was the most important person in his life. They were products of the love he and Cathy shared, and his girls always needed to see that their mother was his earthly priority.
That meant he and Cathy always made special time for each other. The girls would have a babysitter occasionally so that their parents could continue to work to keep their relationship alive and healthy.
As for disappointments? For this question it took Frank a long time to answer. (I would have had lists).
"Probably that I didn't take them to the golf course more often. I wish they loved golf like I do," Frank laughed.
Over the years when I visited the Tanana family, I was always in awe of the fun they had and the love they showed for one another. Never was an unkind word said, consequences were fair and understood and they laughed ... a lot.
It's no surprise that Frank's four daughters hold him in such high regard. They know they had an extraordinary father.
No doubt if asked to draw a picture of God, each of the girls would sketch a 6'2" man with sandy brown hair, a wide smile, with a golf club in his left hand.