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Fathers provide innumerable gifts to their children, but the best gifts don’t fit in a box. Bryan Loritts talks about the “RITE” gifts good fathers give to their children.
Bob: When Bryan Loritts was a teenager, he used to go on ministry trips with his father, Crawford. He says he remembers a practice his dad had that left a significant impression on him.
Bryan: When we would get to a hotel room, the first thing Dad would do is he would take out a big 8x10 photo of the family and would put it in a prominent place in the hotel room. I never knew exactly why he did that until years later. I’m sitting in on one of my mom’s workshops, and she brings that up. She says pretty much my dad would do that as a visual reminder that he had a family counting on him, and “Don’t do anything stupid to let them down.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 22nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. As dads, we are always modeling something for our kids. Is it integrity?—faithfulness?—or is it something else? We’re going to talk more about that today with Bryan Loritts. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was talking to a friend of mine recently, and we were talking about men his age—he’s in his 30s—he said, “I’m watching men my age—some of them leaders/guys who are good in business—they’re aggressive guys.” He said, “I’m watching them demonstrate anger/impatience; they’re abusive to employees; they’re not sensitive to what’s going on with some of their fellow employees.” As we had the conversation, I said, “Do you know anything about those guys/about their relationships with their dad?”
Dave: I know where you’re going. [Laughter] I’ve heard this story.
Bob: Yes; over, and over, and over again; right?
Dave: Right; yes.
Bob: Almost anytime you see an angry man, or you see a man who is impatient/who is abusive, you can trace that back. There’s going to be some deficit in the father/son relationship; don’t you think?
Dave: Yes; I’m smiling—I mean, it’s not funny at all—but I was playing pickup basketball years ago—I mean, it has to be 20/25 years ago at this local college, playing with younger guys than me—and you know, I can still play in the game; because there’s a three-point line. You take that thing out, and I’m done. [Laughter] But I’m guarding this young guy, who’s really a good player/much better than me. The whole time he is just talking, “I’m this…” He’s running by me, and he just won’t stop talking. Everybody in the gym is just like, “This guy’s just being sort of a jerk”; right?
Dave: It got so bad, at one point he has the ball at the top of the key; he’s dribbling, and he’s saying, “You are this…” I literally—I didn’t even think about it—just out of my mouth, I yell, “Your father loved you, dude! Your father loved you! You are a good man!” [Laughter] Everybody looks at me like, “What are you doing?!” I just stood there, like, “What did I just say?”
I instinctively knew, in the core of this boy’s soul, he doesn’t think he’s good enough; and he has to prove it to everybody in the gym. I don’t know what’s going on with his dad, but—
Ann: Wait, wait, wait; what did he say?
Dave: He looked at me like, “Dude, what was that?!” I’m like, “I don’t know; just go by me and dunk.” [Laughter]
But it’s what you said, Bob. I don’t even know—but I’m guessing somewhere in there—was a lack of affirmation from a dad. I could be wrong, but it’s a pretty common story.
Bob: We have a friend joining us this week, talking about dads, and their impact, and influence. Bryan Loritts is our guest on FamilyLife Today; Bryan, welcome back.
Bryan: Oh, great to be with you guys.
Bob: Bryan is an author, a speaker, a pastor. He’s the executive pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, where JD Greer is the pastor. He’s written a book that is almost—I think of this kind of as a tribute. Your dad wrote a tribute to his dad/he wrote a book about his dad that was honoring, and you’ve done kind of the same thing. You’re saying to all of the rest of us: “Be a great dad,” and “My dad wasn’t perfect, but he mapped out some pretty good territory for us.”
Bryan: Absolutely. I think the book you’re referencing—of my father that he wrote—was Never Walk Away.
Bryan: I’m just, in some senses, not only blessed, but a sociological phenomenon. I’m one of a few African Americans, who can trace their roots back to pre-Emancipation Proclamation days. It all began for us with my great-great-grandfather Peter, who was a slave. The people who owned him led him to faith in Jesus Christ. Peter was married, and all of his kids came to know the Lord. One of his kids was my great-grandfather, Milton. Milton loved the Lord/had 14 kids. All 14 of his kids came to know the Lord. One of his youngest sons, Crawford Loritts, Sr., my grandfather, loved the Lord; and my dad is his youngest child. That’s kind of the legacy that I come from.
I know some of you are listening, and you don’t have that legacy. I would say, “Start one. Start one, by the grace of God, so that, 150 years from now, your great-great-grand-whatever is saying, ‘Let me just tell you my story.’”
We just feel incredibly blessed; and because of that, in my direct line, there’s no such a thing as a man, in my direct line on my dad’s side, who didn’t love Jesus or who divorced his wife. Because of that, I just feel like I’ve just been fast-tracked on this upward trajectory through life. That doesn’t mean my life’s been easy. Even though it’s had pockets of turbulence, I’ve felt this tailwind that’s been pushing me.
Bob: You and I talked one time about other guys in high school, or junior high, in your neighborhood in Atlanta.
Bob: The Loritts home/your dad kind of became the surrogate for them. They instinctively knew they needed a father figure like this in their life.
Bryan: Absolutely! My best friend in life is the oldest of 16 kids. They grew up in the projects, and my dad took him in. He lived with us for awhile. My dad helped him get through Bible college, and now he’s a pastor today. He would say, “I’m here because of the influence of Crawford Loritts.”
My dad just kind of had this extra-plate-on-the-table mentality—you know, that God’s blessed us—so our dinner table was always filled with people, who didn’t share DNA with us. Most of them were African American; and they would sit there, baffled at several things: one, that you have this father and mother, who are still together—my parents just celebrated 49 years of marriage—they both love Jesus; and here Dad, at the end of dinner, is taking out his Bible and having family devotions.
That’s not to say the black community has a monopoly on fatherlessness. We know that that transcends every ethnicity. But the vision of that—and the possibilities it painted for my friends—they still talk about that to this day.
Dave: Bryan, you may not even know this, but I’m sitting here today, even though I never sat at your dinner table, but your dad changed me. I didn’t have a father. I came to Christ in college. I start the Christian journey, and one of the first things you do is go to conferences; and who do I hear? I don’t know who this guy is—some dude up there—Crawford Loritts. He literally gave me one of my first visions of what a godly man is and a godly husband and a godly father. I’m sitting here today, in some ways, a disciple. What’s really cool is—I’ve gotten to sit under your teaching at different conferences; we’ve been together as speakers—and listen to now Crawford’s son impact my life.
People in my church would say they’ve been impacted by me and my younger son, who’s a preacher with me. It’s like: “Look at the legacy God can do if you just give Him everything.”
Bob: I’ve had your dad say to me, “It’s an amazing thing to sit and listen to your son preach the Word of God and go, ‘He’s ministering to me.
Bob: “’He’s teaching me stuff. He’s pointing me to truth I haven’t thought about before.’”
Bryan, you talk about a dad’s responsibility and kind of break it into four buckets. You have an acronym you use in the book. Tell us about the RITE that you associate with what a father’s supposed to do and be.
Bryan: Yes; it’s “Fathering RITE.” The first gift is Relationship; then it’s Integrity; then it’s Teaching; and it’s Experiences.
I think it’s apropos that the first gift is relationship. You know, one of the things you learn quickly about leadership, whether it’s as a dad or in the workplace, is you can’t lead anything effectively that you’re not really connected to intimately. Relationship is huge—and it is showing up; it is presence; it is time; it’s being there—Dad gave us that gift.
I mean, there were times Dad would actually cut trips short just to show up and be there; because he felt like it was really important. I still have visions of stepping into the batter’s box in Little League—you know, nine/ten years old—and looking down the first base line, and there’s Dad; he’s just rushed in from work, his tie’s loosened, and he’s cheering me on. I don’t remember how I did in baseball, but I do remember my dad being there. Relationship is key to any kind of effective leadership.
Dave: I know it’s interesting—you know, when sons or daughters become teenagers—it’s easy, at some point, to let that go; because they start to pull away.
Dave: I know a lot of dads, and there’s a tendency in all of us to think, “Okay, they’re pulling away; that’s what they do.”
Ann: —especially with daughters and their fathers.
Dave: Yes; I remember an older father saying to me, “Pursue, pursue, pursue in that moment. Even though they’re pulling away, and that’s natural and they should, they still want a relationship with you. It’s going to look different, but go after them.” Is that something your dad did/something that you’re doing?
Bryan: Yes, a couple of thoughts there. I think that’s a huge point that you do bring up. I don’t know how you all feel about this—but our kids are driving now; they have friends; and they have jobs—we’ve literally had to mandate, at this stage, “Hey, when you look at your schedules, I really need Sunday afternoons”—or whatever the time is—“for us to just be together.” The other thing is finding things that they’re interested in and trying to join in on that. I’ve found that to be helpful.
But here’s the thing that, as I’ve gotten older and out of the house [from my parents]—and actually, Dennis Rainey helped me with this—I went through a period with my dad, where I’m like, “Man, he’s not pursuing me anymore. What’s going on?” He’ll call, but I’m not getting invited the way I used to. Dennis says, “You’re at the stage now where he’s waiting on you to pursue him. He doesn’t want to be an intrusion in your life.”
At some point in time—you know, as dad’s been pursuing the son—at some point, that gets flipped around; and we now have to pursue them.
Dave: I’d say that’s a great point. I remember one time Ann was on me—because like you, Bryan, I’d done a lot of traveling/I’d been gone—and my sons [were] now teenagers; and my youngest [was] turning 16, going to get his driver’s license. A buddy of mine—
Ann: Wait, let me give a little backstory.
Dave: Wait, wait, wait; what?!
Ann: We traveled a lot; so we missed our boys’ birthdays all the time. Our youngest always brought it up—like: “Oh, you weren’t there for this big game,” “You weren’t there for this birthday.” He’d always bring that up, and I was feeling intense guilt.
Dave: So this buddy—it’s a long story—has this opportunity; and he invites me to jump in a private jet, fly to L.A., and spend the afternoon with John Wooden—John Wooden!
Ann: Look at Bryan’s face right now!
Dave: I said to Ann, “You won’t believe this! Danny just called; and he has this audience with John Wooden, with just one other guy; and he said I could go, so we’re going.” She goes, “It’s Cody’s 16th birthday tomorrow!” I’m like—
Bryan: Take him with you!
Dave: —“Who cares?” [Laughter]
Ann: We didn’t think to bring him with.
Bryan: You should have brought him with.
Dave: Oh, I asked; I tried. He wasn’t getting on that plane. There was room for one more, and it was me or nobody.
I’m like, “Who cares if he’s getting his drivers’ license? [Laughter] It’s son number three—what are we going to do?—sit in there and watch him drive away? Who cares?!” [Laughter] We got in a big argument. I finally called Danny and said, “I can’t go.” John Wooden died a week later! [Laughter]
Bryan: Are you serious?
Dave: Yes, he died a week later! I still hold that on him.
Ann: I feel so bad about it.
Dave: Even Cody’s like, “You”—he didn’t know that—he’s like, “You missed John Wooden for—I don’t even remember you being there.” [Laughter] Sometimes you can take it a little too far; right?
Bob: Let me ask both of you, because both of you have enough frequent flyer miles to evidence that you have/and your Marriott points are high enough to [prove] that you’re not at home all the time. Bryan, your dad traveled a lot; you talk about that in the book. Some of us have to because of the jobs we have; some of us need to because of what God’s calling us to—that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be good dads. Are there ways/are there strategies for dads to continue to have a good relationship with their kids while they do the travel thing?
Bryan: With my dad, again, it goes back to the intentionality. He really took me and my brother, a lot of times, on these one-on-one trips with him. He would get the calendar out, and we would do anywhere between two to four trips with him a year, each of us. He’d schedule them way in advance. What that did was—it gave us something to look forward to, which also allowed us to give him a pass on his other trips, if that makes sense. I’m not saying he did it for that reason, but he really included us in on a whole lot of stuff.
In fact, I remember KC ’83—I don’t know if you guys remember that conference that Cru® put on—
Dave: I do.
Bryan: —it was right after Christmas. I had been begging for Christmas for his Nerf® basketball goal that attached to the top of the door.
Bob: —where you could dunk on that thing all the time.
Bryan: Yes; absolutely. They gave it to me. Dad takes me to KC ’83; I take the Nerf thing with me. I’m ten years old; and Dad goes/after he speaks, he goes, “Hey, you want to hang with Billy Graham tonight?” I was like, “No way; I’m playing Nerf basketball in my room.” [Laughter] You know, but stories like that are just legendary/of just hanging out with my dad and doing life with him.
Then, I saw a different side to my dad; I talk about this in the book. Now, this is in a pre-iPhone® day; but when we would get into a hotel room, the first thing Dad would do is he’d take out a big 8x10 photo of the family, and would put it in a prominent place in the hotel room, usually in the mirror. I never knew exactly why he did that until years later. I’m sitting in on one of my mom’s workshops, and she brings that up. She says pretty much my dad would do that whenever he would get into a hotel room as a visual reminder that he had a family counting on him, and “Don’t do anything stupid to let them down.” Me, being able to see that side of him, was huge in my own development.
Dave: I love—there’s a beautiful story you tell about having to apologize to your son, Myles, for being away. It sort of hit you—and it’s hit me—“I shouldn’t have taken this trip.” Talk about that.
Bryan: Absolutely; well, you know—and I really got that from my dad—my dad was just notorious for apologizing to us. There were times he’d drive up to the school—and would pull us out of class and would look us in our eyes—and say, “Son, I yelled at you, and I shouldn’t have; I thought you were lying, and you were telling the truth.” He would own up to it.
That’s one of the things that I’ve tried to carry on with me. My son graduates from eighth grade—I’m like, “Eighth grade graduations? I didn’t grow up with eighth grade graduations!” [Laughter]
Bryan: “He did a sixth-grade graduation, a kindergarten graduation; he won’t miss eighth grade!” I’ll never forget seeing an Instagram® photo that my wife posted of just her and him. My heart’s sinking as I was out of town, and coming back and going straight to his room, and just saying, “I blew it; would you forgive me? I just messed up.”
Without even thinking about it, he goes, “I forgive you, Dad.” He extended grace. I mean, he could have asked me for a round of golf at Pebble Beach and I would have made it happen. [Laughter] But it’s not just our kids who need grace; we dads need grace too.
Bob: I think the point for any dad listening is: “You have to be”—we’re back to the word, “intentional”—“you have be purposeful in those things that will establish a relationship, whether it’s taking kids on trips with you, whether it’s the breakfasts that your dad did with you and that I did with my boys when they were growing up.” We’re talking about fathers and sons because we’ve had those, but it’s important for fathers and daughters too.
Ann: Yes, I was going to say, too, I think it’s not only intentional, but in today’s society, we have to fight for that time. Everything’s pulling us away from family, our spouse, and our kids.
I was just cleaning out some drawers the other day, and I came across a letter to one of our sons. He was in high school; it was this two-page letter. I said, “I feel like we’re drifting apart.” He used to want to be with me all the time; but as a teenager, I could tell that he wanted to be with his friends, which is totally normal. But in the letter I was saying, “I want to fight for our relationship. I want to fight for time with you. I’m wondering if we could just have one lunch every two weeks to catch up.”
I think that’s important for our kids—he’s like, “Whatever; okay,”—but I think we have to really fight for that time. Especially with you, Dave, I watched you, when the boys were with you, they were thrilled; because they knew that your time was important, and everybody wanted you. When you gave that time to them, it mattered.
Dave: I think, even as I look back—I don’t know, Bryan, if you feel this, or Bob—I think my sons would say, “Dad did a good job with the relationship; he pursued us.” I think they would also say, “But often, he didn’t go there in conversation with us.” We’d hang; we’d play—
Ann: You were good at playing.
Dave: —yes; but “Okay; we should have a conversation about this.” That’s where it could be easy to be passive, and maybe even fearful, to say: “Okay, how are you doing with porn?”—
Dave: —“How are you doing with your girlfriends?” “How about your thought life?”—any one of those—like, “I’m going to step into something.”
I did it; but there were times, where I was like, “I’m going to—no, I’ll do it tomorrow.” That’s part of the relationship, too, where they want to be known; and yet it’s a scary time, sometimes, to step in there, as a dad; but we have to.
Bob: Or for a dad to say: “Son, let me tell you what I’m struggling with,” “Let me tell you about the journey I had,” “Let me tell you where I blew it last week,” or “Let me tell you what I’m learning from God’s Word.” It’s not just the—“Let me ask you the hard questions,”—but “Let me reveal what’s going on in my own life.”
I’ll just say, as the only dad in the room that had daughters, it was easier for me to pursue and to find activities to do with my sons during their junior high and teen years. With the girls, I could do that when they were little; but when they became teenagers, there was almost something like, now it feels strange to say, “Let’s have a breakfast father/daughter once a week,”—like: “No, you do that with your boys; you don’t do that with your girls.” I’d look back and I’d go, “If I was doing it again, I’d be just as intentional about those kinds of times with my daughters.”
Ann: That’s a great point, because I had two brothers and a sister. My dad was a coach, so he spent all of his time with my brothers; and I didn’t have any time with him. I felt a real gap and a real loss in my life.
I just wrote this in our parenting book: “The time that marked me the most with my dad and impacted me is when my uncle had cancer. My mom was gone, taking him to these chemo appointments; and my dad would say” —I think I was 16—“‘Hey, we’re going to meet at Bill Knapp’s for dinner.’” I had never had a conversation with my dad.
Bob: Is that a restaurant, Bill Knapp’s?
Ann: It’s an old restaurant; yes.
Ann: You’ve never heard of it?
Bob: No; no.
Ann: “So he sat down, and I felt awkward/I felt, ‘This is weird; I don’t know him’ I’m ready to bounce out of that place as soon as we’re done eating. He’d order another cup of coffee and he’d say, ‘Tell me about what’s going on in your life.’
“At first it felt awkward; I didn’t know what to do or say. It became a marking point in my life, of feeing like, ‘Wow, he really sees me; he cares about me.’ Those dinners became my favorite time.” I think that’s really important, especially for dads, to pursue their daughters when it may not feel as natural.
Bob: We mentioned that this is one of the four gifts that a dad needs to give to his children/one of the four gifts, Bryan, that you spell out in your book, The Dad Difference: The 4 Most Important Gifts You Can Give to Your Kids. We’re making your book available this week to FamilyLife Today listeners. Anybody who can help support the ministry with a donation, get in touch with us and we’re happy to say, “Thank you,” by sending you Bryan Loritts’ book, The Dad Difference. Know that you’re making a difference with your donation as well.
FamilyLife Today is committed to effectively developing godly marriages and families who change the world one home at a time. Your donations to this ministry are an investment in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every day, who connect with us via FamilyLife Today, on our website, through our events and our resources. You make that possible every time you donate; so thanks, in advance, for whatever you’re able to do today. Again, ask for your copy of the book, The Dad Difference: The 4 Most Important Gifts You Can Give to Your Kids. Thanks, in advance, for your support of this ministry.
If you have not yet gone through FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting® video series—or if you have not taken younger couples through this series—you know, if you’re empty nesters, I have a challenge for you: “Get three or four younger couples, who are in the middle of raising a family, and bring them in. Figure out a way to do this socially-distanced or online some way; but walk them through a parenting series like the Art of Parenting that features insight from people like Alistair Begg, and Dave and Ann Wilson, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Bryan and Korie Loritts, Tim and Darcy Kimmel—so many who contributed to this. The Art of Parenting video series is a great tool for you to have an impact in the lives of others.”
Find out more when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Think about how you can connect with couples and help sharpen their parenting skills and your skills, if you’re still in the middle of raising your kids. Again, find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com; and think about how you can use the Art of Parenting to invest in the lives of others.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation about the gifts that dads can give to their children; and we have a little surprise ahead for Bryan tomorrow. Shhh; we won’t tell him now, but we’ll surprise him tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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