Ask a Pastor Ep. 46 - Father's Day Special

Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.

This episode Faith Bjorklund talks with her husband and our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund about a few topics related to Father's Day.

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Transcript

Kurt Bjorklund: Hey, welcome to Ask A Pastor, I'm glad that you have chosen to spend some time here today. Today I'm joined by my wife Faith. Faith, welcome.

Faith Bjorklund: Thank you.

Kurt Bjorklund: We did this a few weeks ago on the Friday before Mother's day, and we're going to do this again today, tied into Father's day. And today we're going to do something a little different, instead of me asking the questions, Faith is going to ask me questions. But I'm sure she'll have plenty to say along the way as well, because we just wanted to interact around some issues of parenting. Especially around some issues of fatherhood in particular.

Kurt Bjorklund: Faith, beyond serving as the mother of our four boys has also been one of the therapist counselors in our counseling center here at Orchid Hill, which is a great resource for this community for Christian counseling. We have several just really outstanding counselors who work there, and you can find out about that at orchidhillchurch.com.

Kurt Bjorklund: If you have questions that you'd like us to address in the future, you can send them to askapastor@orchidhillchurch.com, and we will be happy to dig in to those in future episodes. But for right now, Faith is going to ask me some questions. And these are not question you sent in, these are Cindy Adam's questions. So if you don't like them, you can send her an email saying, "We didn't like the questions." But she thought it would be really good for us to have an episode kind of dealing with parenthood. So, Faith.

Faith Bjorklund: First question, how do you, Kurt, balance a demanding job and being a father? And I'd like to hear how you did that from like early on through the teenage years, and into young adulthood.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, well when we talked before Mother's day, your standard response was, "Do you want to hear how I did it poorly or how I did it well?" And the truth is, I'm not sure I always did it very well. I'm not sure I had the most demanding job in the world, either. I mean, I know I worked hours, but at the same time, I have some flexibility that a lot of men and women do not have. I had the capacity to control my schedule a little bit, in ways that some other people don't. So I had the ability to be present for some things that other people don't.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, that was a real advantage for me. I think as I look back on it, I think especially when our kids were really little, I did not always understand or prioritize being present, because I was just pulled in a lot of directions. I think there was a turning point where all of the sudden I realized, if I didn't prioritize that and make time for it, nobody else would. In other words, if I said, "Well there's too much to do, there's too many demands," there will always be too much to do, always be too many demands.

Kurt Bjorklund: And so, there was a point where I said, "This has to be a priority for me, or I'm going to miss my kid's childhood, and miss some of the things I really want to be true." And some of the things I wanted to be true is I wanted to have days where we just played outside and there was no time on the backside. I wanted to do fun things. I wanted to go on little trips, even if they were just little excursions, and I wanted our kids to remember those things.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, we tried some things when our kids were little. The one was family riot week we called it, where we would try to take a week and just do fun stuff every day, even if I worked part of the day. We did something big and fun. It might just be going to the beach, it might be going to Kennywood, it might have been something. That fell apart at some point as our kids got older and all of the sudden they were like, "I don't want to go," or, "I can't stand being with all you people all week." I won't go into all of that, you remember well I think the year it collapsed.

Kurt Bjorklund: But my point is, what I think I tried to do was say, let me intentionally make these things a priority. And I'm a pretty schedule driven person. And so, one of the things I started to do was schedule family time, and put it on my calendar and make it just as important as any other meeting I had. So, once that got on my schedule, what I started to do was if somebody said, "Can you do this on this date?" My answer was, "No, I can't. I have a commitment." And, if somebody had looked at my calendar, they would have seen that I had family time scheduled in. But again, what I realized was if I didn't put that on my calendar and commit to that, that what was happening was every other need became a demand, and I started to say, "Well, I need to do that." And then my kids and you started to get my leftovers rather than my best energy.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, that was probably the thing that if I were to look back I would say was a key to balance was putting that down on my calendar, front and center and saying, "This is how I'm going to choose to do this."

Faith Bjorklund: You did that well, yeah. I felt like is our schedules even got crazier, you became even more intentional about that.

Kurt Bjorklund: That's probably true.

Faith Bjorklund: Like, you became more structured as far as like, "No, this is reserved." And one of the ways that you have done that, especially in the last few years is just time with the boys on the trips that you've taken with them individually, which you have scheduled way out in advance. But talk for a minute about that, because that's been significant.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, when our oldest son, Drew was probably going into sixth grade, seventh grade, he said, "Dad, can you and I just go away for a night together and camp." And I was like, "Oh, sure." So I worked a normal day, went and picked him up, we went and camped at a little campground here. And took him home, and I think I went back to work the next day. So it was really a short... It was just, we stayed overnight at a campground. And he was like, "This was awesome, I want to do it again. We're going to do two nights next trip." I was like, "Sure, sounds great."

Kurt Bjorklund: And what I didn't realize, and so I fell into this, and my point in telling that story is, I would love to say I had some grand intentional plan and I was really smart and knew how to do this. But my son kind of pushed me. But what I didn't understand is with four boys, is whatever you do with one, you better do with two, three and four, or they feel jipped.

Kurt Bjorklund: And so, we started a process of increasing man-trips we call them, where it went from one night to two nights to three to four, until when they graduated high school it became a week long big deal trip for me and one of the boy's. But what I found is when I had four boys, all in the man-trip era, if I didn't schedule them and put it down in the calendar months ahead, I couldn't find enough time to actually get away with the boys. And so again, that became a huge priority in our summer scheduling.

Kurt Bjorklund: And your support was huge in that. I couldn't have done that if you weren't willing to say, "I'll be home with the other three." And there were a few summers where you were like, "Let me go on a trip," and I would always say, "You should go." But that was... You gave great support that I was able to spend that time with our boy's, and still am.

Faith Bjorklund: It would have been harder if you'd gone to a spa instead of a camping and the wilderness with mosquito's and wild animals.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, that's so me, the spa. So, all right. So, what else do you have there?

Faith Bjorklund: What would you say to yourself, if you were going to speak to the younger Kurt, the starting out 30-year-old parent, what would you say to him?

Kurt Bjorklund: Huh.

Faith Bjorklund: What would you do differently?

Kurt Bjorklund: There's a lot of things you'd do differently, obviously. There's a lot of things you'd do the same, as I look back there's a lot of things I'd do differently. I think I would probably try to have even more free nights at home. Even though I scheduled it, a lot of my parenting time became running around to kid's sports and kid's activities. And looking back, I feel like that robbed us of a lot of good time that we could have had as a family.

Kurt Bjorklund: In other words, I would have some weeks where I was spending three, four hours a day on kid's activities. But what I was doing was I was driving kids to events, standing on the sideline while somebody else interacted with my kids.

Faith Bjorklund: I was there with you.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, usually you were somewhere else. We would divide and conquer.

Faith Bjorklund: We did have to divide and conquer.

Kurt Bjorklund: We were driving different places, is what was happening.

Faith Bjorklund: That was our life, yeah.

Kurt Bjorklund: Because we had four kids, and there was no way to have them in everything. And so we would pass each other, and that's what I'm saying. I think we would have done better to have done a few less activities and have-

Faith Bjorklund: How do you do that though, that's the-

Kurt Bjorklund: -and have been home just with nothing on our calendar more often.

Faith Bjorklund: I agree. How do you decide-

Kurt Bjorklund: I don't know. Good luck. If you're a young parent, good luck. But if you ask what I would say to my younger self, I would say, "Find a way not to be so beholden to every activity that's out there. Find a way to just have space in our home and life that you're not always scheduled." Because from the time probably our oldest son was what, fifth grade, fourth grade, until probably this year, last year, it felt like we were... What was that, a 10 year window? Probably more than that. Probably a 12 year window. It felt like we were just running non-stop.

Kurt Bjorklund: And now that all of a sudden has changed. We have two still in high school, and the two in high school are able to drive and get back and forth, and it doesn't feel like we have the same level of that.

Kurt Bjorklund: As far as things, the other thing I'd say to myself... I think, around parenting is early discipline pays off. And I think that's something that by God's grace we did well at. And I would reinforce that. So, as much as I would say protect your family time even more, I would also say discipline early.

Kurt Bjorklund: And we've talked about this before in different context with people, but we learned a concept somebody taught us called first time discipline. And I think that was really substantial.

Faith Bjorklund: First time obedience.

Kurt Bjorklund: First time obedience, yes, sorry. Where the kid does something and you say something. And rather than saying, "I'm going to say something again until they get it," that if you say it once, enforce it and be done. We did that when our kids were little, and I think that was really good.

Kurt Bjorklund: And what I'm referring to is the... you know, if you've ever been in Wal-Mart or somewhere, and you see a parent whose like, "Hey, Billy don't do this. Billy, don't do this." You happen to just model them in-

Faith Bjorklund: "Billy, one, two."

Kurt Bjorklund: -start counting. What has happened is the parent's train the child that they don't really mean it until they start to count, or until they lose their stuff, or until something happens. Whereas what we tried to do is as soon as we say it, we mean it. Let's follow through.

Faith Bjorklund: That involves the principal of getting out of your chair.

Kurt Bjorklund: Absolutely. We used to say that to each other.

Faith Bjorklund: That was another thing we lived by.

Kurt Bjorklund: Do you want to get up, or do I need to get up?

Faith Bjorklund: Right, somebody needs to get up to help this child follow through on what we just said.

Kurt Bjorklund: Right. But if I were to go back and do it again, or if I were to say something to myself I'd say that will pay bigger dividends than you probably think it will.

Faith Bjorklund: Yeah. So teaching your kids to really listen to your voice. Your voice, you mean it. If you say it, you mean, and you're willing to show them.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yep, yeah. I'm sure I could go on and on. What would you say to your younger self as a parent? That you would do differently or do the same?

Faith Bjorklund: You know, you've heard the days are long, but the years go quickly. You do not believe that when you're at home, and you're surrounded by diapers and babies, the needs of especially pre-schoolers. It's intense. And there were times when I wished it away. Like, I can't wait for the next thing, I wish they could tie their shoes, I wish they were potty-trained, I wish they could get in the car, I wish we didn't have to deal with car seats.

Faith Bjorklund: And you know, and I was always hoping and looking to the next thing, and it's hard to do, but if I could talk to myself at 30, I would say, "Be present. This is fleeting. You don't believe it now, but this is precious, and this moment is precious. You don't know the last times that you will rock them in the rocking chair. The last time you do the bedtime routine with them." Which seems like such a drag sometimes.

Kurt Bjorklund: And then it's gone.

Faith Bjorklund: And today we look back and think it's gone, and it was really precious. So, to have those eyes and to ask God to open your eyes during those times when you're tired and stressed, and ask for that help in living in the moment and embracing it and being grateful for it.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, no that makes sense. I heard somebody say years ago, and I think this when I talk about kind of having a turning point for myself in terms of prioritizing. He was older parent, had kids who were college, young adults. And he said, "I would trade a thousand days of my life to have a single afternoon back with little kids."

Faith Bjorklund: Okay enough.

Kurt Bjorklund: Choked up just thinking about it because you don't believe it when you're in the middle of it. You're like, no way would I ever do that. Now I'm there, and I might trade a thousand days.

Faith Bjorklund: For one afternoon.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, for one afternoon of all four boys just being carefree in the yard playing, and having a day. All right, what's the next question.

Faith Bjorklund: How did you set a spiritual tone in the family? And yeah, it says did you do family devotions? How did you approach church?

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, we definitely did that together, first and foremost. I think that was certainly not something that I did. You were very instrumental in bible stories, reading, making it part of our every day conversation. And for us, that was probably our biggest thing, I would say. Was making it part of every day conversation, part of our way of doing.

Kurt Bjorklund: I think a lot of times, I get this question from dads, "How do you do devotions?" And it's good to do devotions. I'm pro-family devotions. But family devotions will be counter-productive if you don't have the conversations all the time. And the reason I say counter-productive is because then it's like, well we segment God over here, but we don't talk about God the rest of the day, and sometimes people think well if I do devotions, then I did my God thing. And it really needs to be part of the conversation of everyday life, rather than this formal thing.

Kurt Bjorklund: Now, when our kids were little, we definitely did some of the story book bibles. We used to do the bible theater we called it, where we had the kids create a play around a bible story and perform it for us. And different things to try to get the... and then we through a period where we did a little bit at the dinner table.

Kurt Bjorklund: But I heard Charles Stanley once say this, he's an older pastor if you're not familiar if you're listening, he's probably in his 80s now. And he has a son, Andy Stanley, who's probably better known than he is. But I heard him once say that his way of handling family devotions was not to have family devotions. And he said, "Because I'm a pastor of this big church, my kids expected me to preach to them." And he said, "I just found that that wasn't that effective." He said, "So what I do is I would sit down at the dinner table and I would say, 'Hey, how did your days go? What happened?'" And he said, "And then as things would come up, I would say, 'Well what do you think God says about it?'" And he said, "And then I'd pull my bible out, and we'd have all this great inductive bible study with never a formal family devotion."

Kurt Bjorklund: That can be a cop out for not having a family devotion, but I love the attitude of it, of saying, let's talk about what's real in our lives and then have a conversation about what matters, spiritually, how God is at work, what the bible says. I think we did that, tried to do that. Certainly, church was a priority, which counter-intuitively may have been harder with kids being pastor's kids. But that just was never a negotiable when they were little. They just did it, and that was part of life, and I think by not letting it be a negotiable, it's just something we do, you're going to come and this is part of the equation. It became such a fabric in their lives that it really... Orchid Hill has been a great influence in our kid's lives. The student ministry, the kid's ministry, the people, the way people have loved and cared for them.

Kurt Bjorklund: And what's amazing is I find people all the time in the church who will say, "Oh, I didn't realize that was your son." Like, I knew him as Nathan, I knew him as Ben, I knew him as... and so what I'm saying is it's not like people loved our kids more than other kids who are here. That's one of the great things that's happened here. Is people, if kids are here, there's people who love and point them to Jesus. The small group leaders, the band leaders, the kid's fest things. All of that has just been absolutely outstanding.

Faith Bjorklund: And it started, for our kids I think it really started with kids fest, honestly, and [inaudible 00:17:58] and being involved in that. And then what I've appreciated so much about Orchid Hill is how they get kids serving and connected, and they create a vision for what does it look like to be a leader in kids fest, and then that's something that the kids want to try out and do, and then they experience the joy of ministering to kids, of growing in their own spiritual lives, of becoming leaders. And it just... I felt like it really worked with us.

Kurt Bjorklund: Right, absolutely. It was a partnership.

Faith Bjorklund: It showed our kids like, we can minister too. This matters, these are our family, this is my mom and dad's values, but these are my values too. I'm living it.

Kurt Bjorklund: Right, yeah, absolutely. Really a big-

Faith Bjorklund: I love that, I'm so thankful to Orchid Hill.

Kurt Bjorklund: Big win. So, we have a couple minutes left, and this wasn't on the script, but let me just ask you another question. And then-

Faith Bjorklund: Wait, this is your question time.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, if you have a question, I was just trying to move us along because I thought... If you have something.

Faith Bjorklund: No.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, how have you and I, from your vantage point kept our marriage or made our marriage a priority in the midst of trying to raise four boys, and both working outside the home?

Faith Bjorklund: Badly, or?

Kurt Bjorklund: I knew you were going to say that.

Faith Bjorklund: Or what we did well.

Kurt Bjorklund: Both.

Faith Bjorklund: You and I, I think have never lost sight of... At the end it's going to be you and me again. Like, we have been well aware I think that we don't own these kids, we steward these kids, and now we're experiencing like, okay oh my word we have two more years with these guys in high school, and then they're going, and it's going to be you and me again.

Kurt Bjorklund: Although some of them come back.

Faith Bjorklund: Yeah, they do. I don't think we've lost sight of that. And I don't think that whether it's early morning coffee together, finding each other in the middle of the day, a phone call, late at night out on the patio, let's get away from the kids. Like, we're always looking for some way to connect. And I think that has been our priority. We go away. I mean, you make that happen every single year. We go away. And it gets us back on the same page. It reminds us like, "Oh yeah, I really like him. I really like her." I think it's been that decision to make that happen every year that's helped us too. Because life does get busy, it gets really demanding.

Kurt Bjorklund: Right. I think as the kid's get older too, as much as parents think that the young years are hard, and they are hard, especially physically. Emotionally, relationally, they're more demanding as the kids get older, because you have to actually know and check in with and attend to your kids. And so, you know when they're little, at least for me, felt like I could throw them around for half an hour and they were like< "Oh dad, life's awesome." But when they hit a certain age, you have to actually take time to ask hard questions, to pursue them, to understand their hurts, their joys, their concerns. And so it takes relational intention and work, and I think it's really easy in those years to not put as much relationship effort into the marriage because you take that for granted. And I think a lot of couples get to the end of that and say, "I don't know this person," or, "I don't like this person anymore."

Faith Bjorklund: Absolutely.

Kurt Bjorklund: And I think you're right, just to simply be aware of that and try to say we don't want that to happen, so we're going to keep investing. Just even that alone is half the battle on that. So well Faith, thank you for making time to be part of this conversation. Thank you for giving some time to this conversation today, I hope it's helpful. You can send questions to askapastor@orchidhillchurch.com, and we will be happy to address those in the days ahead.