Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Life Lessons From My Father


Growing up with a Dad as a pastor, our lives were always under a microscope, being construed and misconstrued. There was no shortage of voiced, or unvoiced, expectations from members of the church, the community, even those who didn’t personally know us. It was a difficult reality, but it taught me a lot about people. More importantly, it taught me a lot about the character of my Father.

We donned the church doors each time they were open, and just as frequently when they weren’t; twice Sunday for church (sometimes Sunday afternoons for service prep) Wednesdays, Thursdays, even Saturdays for the occasional wedding or funeral. Dad worked as a bivocational Pastor, which means he had a regular 9:00 to 5:00 job to put food on our table and keep the lights on at home. I didn’t get to see Dad a lot during the week, and had to share him with 100+ others when he was home, but I knew he was there. He was always there.



I’ve heard my Dad give countless sermons. He somehow always found time to prepare with his 60+ hours of combined work. I remember this ongoing joke Dad used from the pulpit in each church he served, that Sister Moss (my Mom) had heard him preach enough that she would sleep during his sermons, and not to worry if anyone heard her snoring. It always got a laugh. Mom would peer at Dad through the top of her reading glasses with a half grin, letting Dad know she heard him, again. Those were some fun memories. Still, through years of sermons and services, Dad’s words aren’t what impressed me.

Being a ministry family, we would have to find creative ways to get by. I think the current cultural term is “Life Hack”. Our clothes were yard sale specials. Our vehicles were at least 10 years old. If something was broke, Dad would just fix it, or we’d make due. Like the time the reverse went out in our ‘88 Olds, and we had to park on an incline wherever we went to ensure we could back out without having to push. I don’t remember those times as “hard times”. That was just part of life. So it only made sense to me that Dad would pull over behind a stranded vehicle and help, even if we were headed to church, or stop to help change a flat tire in the rain for someone who obviously couldn’t. “It was just a divine delay.”, he would say. But he knew it was more than that. He knew it would have been a missed opportunity to serve others.

What I learned from my Dad didn’t come from words behind a pulpit. It really didn’t come from words at all. The lessons he passed on to me came from seeing him put others before himself. He taught me that you do whatever you have to do to take care of your family. He taught me that giving is always better than receiving. And he taught me to never pass up an opportunity to show love to those who need it most.


I love you, Dad. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What My Dad Taught Me


Sometimes dads are just dads. They don’t think about how they influence their children, or more clearly, how their children learn from them. We men often go about our day with our heads in the clouds or our minds entangled in some issue, all the while we are being watched. Kids absorb as much or more through observation as they learn formally. So while you tell them to be kind to people, they really learn how to treat people by watching you. You can explain the value of reading, but if your kids never see you reading, they may shrug their shoulders the next time it is mentioned. “Do as I say, not as I do”, really never works.

Dads and moms are teaching by demonstration twenty four hours a day. And because no one can fake who they are 24/7, the good things and the not-so-good things will be on display for your kids. Kids will emulate you because they love and trust you and that is usually, but not always, good. Which brings me to what I learned from my dad.


I loved my dad. He was so interesting and mysterious. He had adventure in his heart and did things I wanted to do. He had been to places I wanted to see. Stories of his travels had me breathlessly hanging on every word. I longed for his attention and waited for him to come home - sometimes for hours, sometimes for months, even years. My Dad was a contradiction in himself. He was slight in build but had very strong hands and a stubbly beard. He was a real gentleman, charismatic, very intelligent, and well-liked by most people most of the time. There was just one huge problem, my dad was a raging alcoholic, and he changed into someone else when he was drinking. And it wasn’t pretty.

I discussed learning from my dad in my book, “The Power of Dadhood”. As follows,
“I learned so much from my father. I learned from him that I needed to get an education. I learned that people would judge me by my actions and react to me according to my attitude. I learned the importance of reliability and trust. These things I learned from him because he demonstrated how difficult life can be without them.

Unfortunately, I also saw how dependence on alcohol and drugs could steal my father’s charm and waste his intelligence. Yes, I learned quite a bit about life from my father, but what I didn’t learn was difficult to pick up on my own. Among those lessons missed early on were simple skills and pleasures of standing up straight, manners, confidence, physical competition, love of reading, and being comfortable in my own skin. Yes, my dad graduated from the School of Hard Knocks, but it is not exactly in the Ivy League of Childhood Mentoring. Too easy to get accepted into, his school lacked standards for graduation. “

I worked hard in school and earned a scholarship to college. That allowed me to become an Air Force officer and to work my way out of poverty. But I was still unsure of myself and never stood out. Not until I was in my forties did I begin to flourish, after years of spinning my wheels, by reading self-help books. They do work for those that need them.


I am in a very good place in my life now. But it took me a while to get here, mostly because my lack of self-confidence kept me from taking chances and a feeling of not measuring up to others made me a bit of a loner. Those are heavy anchors to pull around as a kid, and even as an adult. I believe my dad could have helped me with that. My mom was raising six children alone and had her hands full. Beyond that, she’s not a male and I needed a man in my life.

Not all kids would have reacted the same way. Some would have become tougher on their own, others would have never recovered. Fully a third and maybe up to 40% of kids are raised without a father in the home. Those with fathers have a distinct advantage even if their dads are a bit clueless. So a takeaway here is that you, Dad, can teach as a good example or a bad example. If you are lucky, they will know when your examples are not to be followed. The worst case is when they don’t know any better and are misled. Another takeaway is to occasionally ask yourself what you are doing to guide your children. That simple question, asked every so often, can make all the difference. Dads do teach quite a bit. What and how they teach is so very important.


Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at mike@michaelbyronsmith.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What I Learned from my Dad


When I was growing up, my dad was a man of few words, but many actions. And in my 13-year-old opinion, far too many actions. Case in point: car washing. It took my dad forever to wash and clean out a car. He painstakingly, meticulously detailed each nook and cranny, until the automobile was practically back to show-room worthy. He wasn’t slow, he was sure. He was sure to do things right, or at the very least, do his best to do things right. He worked hard, kept his word, took care of things, and took care of me. And at 13, or even six or 16, I don’t know if I quite appreciated the way my dad always got things done. I would have rather he, like so many other adults, just talk about doing them, or take shortcuts to get them done in a more timely manner. However, neither of those options were ones my dad was willing to take. So, I continued to watch him do things, and do them well. Regardless of the amount of work, patience or time they took, and much to the chagrin of his young son.

Then, something happened. As high school was winding down, and life out in the big world for me was winding up, I realized something: I could do things. A lot of things, and a lot of things a lot of my friends couldn’t do. Whether it was small home improvements, car repairs, reading the financial section of the paper and somewhat understanding it, or driving a combine, I was your guy. I hadn’t gone to school for any of these things, and I certainly had not done any sort of formal apprenticeship. I simply had the privilege of having a front row seat, watching a one-man, life-long, almost silent infomercial of how to do things, to the best of one’s ability. To do them well. To do them right.

Fast-forward to my own home of a few years ago, full of rambunctious boys, restless and a little frustrated at the fact the tools had to put back in their places, or the expensive shoes their grandmother bought them couldn’t be left in the middle of the floor, or that we periodically stopped what our family was doing to take a few minutes to help a family less fortunate than ours. 


Now, fast-fast-forward to the home of my son, as I sit and watch him with his son, my grandson. Every puzzle piece is put back in the box. Every toy is put back on the shelf. Every chance to help a neighbor or open the door for an elderly person is witnessed and endured by an energetic, playful, three-year-old. Will it matter? Well, we’re into our fourth generation of running on the fact that it most certainly has.  

Teddy Roosevelt once said,  “It is no use to preach to children if you do not act decently yourself.”  Thanks for the vacations, ball games and days at the lake, Dad. But, most of all, thanks for doing, and doing well right.  It stuck!!

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Portrait of My Father


As Father’s Day approaches, I’m taking time to reflect on what my Dad taught me.  My Dad was and is a Great Dad, even though I haven’t lived under his roof since 1995 and only get to see him a half dozen times per year.  The lessons he passed on to me are simple and powerful.

Like many well-meaning Dads—me included—he was successful at some things, not so great at others, and occasionally felt like a miserable failure.  Every Good Dad I know is his own hardest critic.  It’s part of what drives us to be excellent: the constant desire to improve for the sake of those whom we love.

What He DIDN’T Teach Me
When we think of Dads, often we think of typical guy things: sports, power tools, beer, golf, fishing, and BBQ grills.  Those are the images commercial retailers want us to have so we can spend lots of money on Father’s Day gifts.

My Dad didn’t play any sports that he’s told me about.  He likes to watch college football, but otherwise we were a sports-free house as I was growing up.  He showed me some basics like how to catch and throw a baseball and that was about it as far as sports training.  This has worked out well for me, since I’ve never had much interest in playing sports, although I do recognize and appreciate good athletes for their hard work and sportsmanship.

He also wasn’t much of a handyman.  We didn’t do any father/son projects like building a tree house or changing the oil in the car.

He didn’t drink much while my brother and I were growing up.  I can count on one hand the times I saw him have a glass of wine with dinner.

We did go fishing, and he was pretty good at hauling in crappie, blue gill, and the occasional bass.  But this was something we learned together mostly as a family.  We were not “Bass Masters” by any stretch of the imagination.

Neither my Dad nor I play golf.  The closest we got was the putt-putt green.


What He DID Teach Me
As far as practical stuff, my Dad taught me the joy of reading, studying the Bible, and music.  He also showed me how to play chess and Monopoly, and he let me win often enough to stay interested and get decent.  He also taught me about having the courage to walk away from a situation when you know it’s wrong.  He learned this lesson himself at great personal cost.  Although he never sat down with me to hash out all the details, I’ve picked up enough from observation and conversations throughout the years to know that sometimes being right makes you almost wish you could live with being wrong.  However, there are no compromises when truth is on the line.  I’d like to think I’ve lived up to his role model in that way.

He also taught me that in spite of our best plans, life often turns out differently than we anticipate, and that’s okay.  Different results do not equate to failure.

Ultimately, the best thing my Dad taught me is that my spiritual walk is the most important thing in my life.  Today is a glimpse of what’s coming forever.  With that in mind, I know how I should treat the people around me each day and where my goals should always be leading me.

Putting Lessons Into Practice
As an aspiring Good Dad to my kids and husband to my wife, I am tasked to be a role model.  There are days I don’t want to be a role model.  Sometimes I’m grouchy, tired, lazy, self-centered, and act like a jerk.  The words I say and actions I choose can heap misery on my family. 

My Dad had the same struggles, I’m certain, but I’d never knew it since he was a master as a role-model of patience, kindness, and smiles.  I’m sure there were days he wanted to quit his job and go fishing or sit on the couch and read a book.  I know he endured sleepless nights of diaper changing, feeding, and wiping up barf.  Just as I did many years later with my own children, he probably wondered what he’d gotten himself into when deciding to have kids.  I think this is where his love of coffee began as well.  Yet through all of this, I never got a hint that he was tired, stressed, or unfit for the task.  His love for my Mom, my brother, and me was always clear when we talked, played, ran around, and worked together.

A Champion Dad

Whatever skills, joys, lessons, or tasks my Dad succeeded or failed to teach me, he taught me that a Good Dad loves his family.  We can have a multitude of minor successes and failures in life, but loving my family well is always the most important job I have.  

Sid Whiting is the father of three and the husband of one. He lives with his wife Gail and their children in Springfield, Missouri. He also enjoys real estate investing, serving in the 135th Army Band as a percussionist and bass guitarist, and plays in the Praise Band "Soul Purpose" and the "Hallelujah Bells" hand bell choir.  He can be reached for comment or question at sid.whiting75@gmail.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WiseSteward).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What I Learned from My Father



Some year ago Budweiser beer had a marketing campaign in which they profiled the not-so-average “Average Joes.”  These Great American Heroes were humble, hard-working women and men who often go unnoticed but who make the world better.  The commercials ended with a hoisted glass of frosty brew and saying, “Here’s to you.  This Buds for you.”

My Dad, Don Sippy, was the guy in these commercials.  He was one of the great American heroes who made the world better -- and not just for my family and me.  My Dad truly made the world better.  He was a “Good Dad.”  My Dad taught me that I can be a “Good Dad,” too.

My Dad worked 44 years for the Boeing Company. He was a factory worker.  It was not great or glamorous work.  It wasn’t fun work.  But it paid the bills and provided for his family.  For my Dad, family always came first whatever the sacrifice.    

The day my Dad retired I asked him, “Do you ever think you will miss working for Boeing?”  We were drinking a beer, though not a Budweiser; it was a Pabst Blue Ribbon, I believe.  My Dad just about choked.  “Are you kidding?  I worked for Boeing for 44 years because I loved my family not because I loved my job.”  Point made.

My Dad accepted people as they were.  He was patient and forgiving.   I never heard my Dad say anything bad about anyone – not a preacher, a politician, and most certainly not my mother. 


When I was 14, my Dad and Mom found me drunk in the woodshed.  I don’t remember if I had been drinking Budweiser, or what.  I do remember my Dad’s quiet disappointment.  His heart was broken.  But it was not because I was drunk.  He was heartbroken because I had stolen the beer.  “Get drunk if you must,” My Dad explained.  “It’s foolish.  But you never lie or steal.” 

My Dad loved the sea.  He always dreamed of owning a sailboat someday.  He never did.  When you are a good dad you make sacrifices.  Your family comes first.  But he did decorate the house in nautical d├ęcor, a ship’s wheel, and a replica of “Amanda Fenwick” on the wall (Google her).  My Dad was content with simple things.



I learned to sail a few years ago.  I even bought an old boat.  Sailing has become for me a thousand metaphors and memories of my father.  I don’t pull on a jib sheet without my Dad pulling at my heart.  My Dad is still there for me.  I am an average man, at best; sometimes a little less.  But my Dad was a “Good Dad.”  He is teaching me I can be a “Good Dad,” too.     




So here’s to you Don Sippy and Good Dads everywhere, with sweet thoughts of Amanda Fenwick and childhood memories: This Buds for you.

Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at jsippy@rlcmail.org.