Dragon Slayer

~ On this Father’s Day I honor my father, a man who slew many dragons on my behalf. ~

More than seventeen years ago, I was blessed with a hope made real.

Joy, wonder, expectation, anxiety, laughter, uncertainty.


I became a father.


Never can I shed that role. Five children will always know me as ‘dad.’ My attitudes and actions and words and thoughts and choices and proximity cannot separate me from my fatherly call. For sure, many things will quantify the quality of my parental effectiveness. But inherent with the procreative and adoptive acts that have made me a father is the unrelenting, uncompromising charge to provide and protect. To serve and to lead and to model and to nurture.

As a dad, I’ve been tested, abandoned, tempted, and tired. Celebrated and commemorated. The butt of jokes and the recipient of respect. I’ve been asked to do things I can’t and done things I shouldn’t. I’ve see my hard work ignored as demands for ‘more’ flow unceasing. I’ve been silent when my words needed voice. And there’ve been times when I spoke – and said too much.

Fatherhood is no fairy tale. Sure, our world is fantastic with real and metaphorical kings and queens and castles and feasts. Games and celebrations. Wonderful stories. We live in a Kingdom that’s here in part – with more to come.

But in the Kingdom are dragons.

Hoards of dragons. Devious, dangerous dragons that titillate our senses with the promise of personal peace and affluence. Life-stealers clothed as sex, money, and power. Villainous monsters with no bias or prejudice. Their breath is discouragement. Their claws sharp, eager to plunge deep and infect with despair. In their wake tumble wounded souls left to whither and die.

I hate dragons.

And dragons hate fathers.

Authentic fathers. Father’s who accept their role with gladness. Dads who shield and sacrifice. Engage and relate. Laugh and learn and listen and cry. Fathers who thwart the diabolical thirst for a child’s tender heart and the rending of the marital union. Men who use truth and love to push back the poisonous blend of lies, deceit, and discontentment that seeps from our scaly foe. Manly men who fight and get dirty and bloody and scream at the evil that is the dragons.

I’m a father. And I love it.

Dragons hate me. I love that, too.

I’m eager to slay some dragons.

Are you? 

Best Seat in the House

My hand glides lightly over its velvety fabric. Many hands – sticky and rough and small and greasy and snotty and delicate and yes, even some clean ones – have traveled a similar path. It beckons for touching. Few can resist the temptation to caress its surface as they round the corner into the open room.

Then a year ago, change came.

I still glide my hand along that fabric and receive a tickling of my palm. But now, I pause my routine. I press my hand down into the softness and squeeze gently. My fingers curl deep into the plush fabric-bound stuffing, releasing strong and savory memories. Memories of lavish Thanksgiving dinners. Of gut-churning U of M football games and associated outbursts. Of a dozen grandchildren whipped into raucous Christmastime excitement. Of casual evenings of take-out pizza and conversation. Of pleasurable bratwurst smokiness wafting in from the grill on the porch.

I release my squeeze on the thing privy to it all. A greyed-blue friend. Unobtrusive, yet alluring. It’s the epicenter of the room and hasn’t moved in years. It rests in quiet readiness. Expectant, with arms spread wide.

Those arms serve mostly as perches for little people these days. And that’s okay. Those little ones should be there, nestled in the warmth of a beautiful legacy. They need to soak in the pages of Scripture read there. They need to feel the wetness of tears that rolled from joy, and sorrow. Their ears must reverberate with the historical echo of petitions poured-forth from an anguished, hopeful, satisfied, pleading soul. The soul of a man who once sat where they now sit. A man who left us, and cannot return.

His leaving was not from offense, or disgust, or something said wrongly. It wasn’t from a relationship that cooled. The leaving was required. Expected, really. But this type of exit is always too soon, and never without horrifying pain. 

Dad is gone.

But his chair stays with us.

It’s seems strange to crave the sweet and bitter emotion that chair evokes. Yet I’m comforted when I see it. Touch it. Smell it. I don’t care to sit in it…much. It was dad’s chair. And when he reclined, all felt settled and right and good.

I long for my dad. My kids miss their grandpa. My mom grieves the pain of a severed oneness. So we pray. And beg for joy – because we can, and should. I’m grateful that God is gracious in his supplying.

Dad left a year ago. Remembering freshens my grief. Tears, again, trickle along familiar paths.

Yet, I smile.

At a chair.

For the memories it holds. And the person it held.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, ESV)

*My father died February 13, 2012. Here’s the eulogy I gave at his funeral.

Feeling Fruity

I’m a detail guy. Mr. Neat. A place for everything and everything in its place. A bit obsessive at times (I prefer meticulous). Thorough, for sure.
I’ve previously confessed such things, affectionately categorizing myself a recovering perfectionist. Each day I go hand-to-hand with my urge to control. Although I don’t completely trust self-evaluation, I do think I’m lessening my grip on ‘perfect.’ I drive a dirty car. The walls of my home are pocked with dings and scrapes and scratches. My lawn is peppered with weeds and I given-up rolling the toothpaste tube with NASA-like precision. Baby steps.

Recently I was ‘blessed’ with another opportunity to face myself.

It was a Sunday morning (isn’t it always?) and we had just arrived at church. My gang was piling-out of the car when my super sensitive dad ears detected the “snap-slap!” indicative of something plastic meeting a sudden death. Instinctively my probing eyes flashed to meet those of a child. Together, our gaze panned to the seat from which said child had seconds ago propelled themself (because stepping out of the car would be too simple). Before us laid a scene of woe: plastic trim – cracked and dangling, taunting me with a subtle bob and weave. That shattered trim was a dagger in the heart of ‘Mr. Perfection.’

Such scenes have been played dozens of times with various characters and props in my 16+ years of fatherhood. Each one adds grey to my crown and something to the ‘fix-it’ pile on my workbench. It makes me weary. It’s difficult to be reminded over and over how this life isn’t going to meet my expectations. From the school for recovering perfectionists I’d like to hear “class dismissed!” I’ve told God as much. But things keep breaking. The weeds keep growing. My boys are still boys. And now the dog has seasonal allergies. Seriously?


Because I need pruning.

Despite my self-proclaimed progress, I’ve still got work to do with killing the idol of perfectionism. Each day is a resubmission of my desires to Jesus Christ so that He might rule my thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions. I want that. God does too. And He promises to help: ““I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1–2, NIV)

So, as dirty hands make dirty walls and air soft guns poke holes in my vinyl siding, God prunes away my perfectionism. Plastic trim tragedies and soda-stained carpet are much more than moments to practice anger abatement or bemoan crushed desires for a perfect world. Rather, they are well-placed cuts that sever unproductive behaviors so I might be fruitier. It’s a wonderful, painful paradox.