Are You Producing Good Fruit?

Last night my two sons and I got into a fight over a basketball game we were playing in the front yard. It was them versus me and first team to 50 wins. They were up the whole game, but then Dad started to close the gap and soon it was tied up at 39. Connor (10) does not like to lose and when games get close, he gets chippy especially towards Bryce (8). He started getting on Bryce pretty good when he missed some buckets and said some things that were not very nice.

Things escalated and I decided that I had heard enough and banged the game before it was over due to unsportsmanlike conduct. My wife was already getting mad that we were late for dinner and Bryce was getting his feelings hurt. The fight spilled into the house and after quite a bit of “intense fellowship” (that’s what some Christians call arguing), dinner was cold, and Mom was very unhappy. I verbalized some things to Connor that are usually reserved for a locker room with my peers, minus the cursing, and now I felt like crap.

After a little while when everyone chilled out, apologies were made and the three of us ate cold meatloaf- yummy. Taleen did not wait for us and I can’t blame her. We were acting like jerks while she busted her butt making us a nice dinner. The good thing that came from it was a conversation the boys and I had later that night about what it means to produce good fruit. It can be difficult to relate something like this to an eight year old, but thankfully we have two orange trees in the backyard, so I pulled it off with some visual help

A tree is known by its fruit

Being a dad is the best and hardest thing I have done to date. The boys are my pride and joy, yet there are days when I want to stuff them in a FedEx box and ship them to Antarctica. I love to play with them, but I hate it when they fight. It drives me absolutely bonkers. They get all fired up over nonsense, I engage with them emotionally, and then start to yell. Every single time this happens I feel guilty afterwards and realize that they are paying attention to everything I do.

Kids are very observant. I know this because I have been coaching them for nearly 25 years. They are copycats by nature. They imitate batting stances of pro players and mimic performing artists who are on the stage. They also watch every single thing we do, and it shapes them. I believe that I have a very impactful position in my son’s lives. The way our kids develop into adults is a direct reflection of the job we are doing as a father. It says it right here in the book of Luke:

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasures produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:43-45 ESV

I am constantly talking to friends and parents on how they resolve conflict in their homes because I want to get better. I read encouraging books that stretch me as a man and give me wisdom on fatherhood and being a better husband. I have no idea how to be a dad and unfortunately, I don’t have a lot to draw from. My parents were separated when I was 12 and divorced a two years later. My mom and I moved 2,000 miles away and I saw my dad two weeks per year during the summer. There are days where I feel like I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, but by God I’m giving it my best effort to try and get it right.

Being others minded

Last Thursday I attended the funeral of James Rubio. We were football teammates at Cactus High School and became friends our senior year. We didn’t really hang with the same people, but we were always cool with each other. When we were in our early 20’s, James became roommates with two of my best friends, Troy Browder and Brendan Donnellan. It was in that apartment that we got to know each other better, but still didn’t spend a lot of time together.

Years went by and the last I heard, James moved to Boston. The last time I remember seeing him in person was probably over 20 years ago. I didn’t even know he moved back to Phoenix and the saddest thing is that he was a youth baseball coach for the past decade. I have run a youth baseball training academy for the past 13 years and we probably live less than 30 minutes from each other. I had no idea. We could have done some great things together and after listening to people speak about James, I realize how much I really missed out on.

James was a great example of a selfless man. That was the echoing sentiment from everyone who stood at the pulpit and spoke about him as a husband, father, son, brother, coach and friend. He went out of his way for so many people and it crushed me to watch grown men and children sob as they spoke about missing him. You see James produced a lot of good fruit because he was a good man.

Re-connecting with the past

I was fortunate to meet up with seven of my old friends at this celebration of life for James. These are guys that I have known and spent a lot of time with since I was in eighth grade, the year I moved to Arizona. Chris Sylvester, Rich Geisler, Eric Bartlett, Jeff Jarvis, Dan Perry, Brendan and Troy were all in attendance. We experienced a lot of great things together and as Rich once said while we were growing up, “I would take a bullet for any one of you.”

Our friendship ran deep, but over the years some of us grew apart. I pissed off a few of them by the way I acted ten years ago, and it left a pretty deep wound that took a long time to heal. I prayed quite a bit going into this event realizing that there was a good chance I would see some of these guys. The eight of us went out to dinner and had a great time re-hashing the past decade of things we missed out on in each other’s lives. It felt like old times and like the Grinch I felt my heart grow inside my chest.

On a day where there was so much heart-ache over the loss of James, there was a blessing that came out of it. Eight men had the chance to get to know one another again. It is my goal for the 8 of us to stay connected in each other’s lives even if it just means text messaging and random phone calls. Our friendship was too strong for too long for us to not stay in contact with one another the rest of our lives.

I have no idea why God called James to come home. I do know that James was an excellent example of a man who produced good fruit and I learned something by listening to the people he impacted. So, listed below are some points for you to consider in being a husband, a father, a leader and a friend.

  • Demand excellence from yourself in everything you do
  • Go out of your way for people
  • Think before you speak
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Love those close to you and never take their existence for granted

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