Favor (1 of 3): Building Skills | Devotions with Dad

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Favor (1 of 3): Building Skills

For dad only:

Take Your Boys Behind the Woodshed

In the old days, going out behind the woodshed meant you were getting a whipping. However, I have been taking my boys out back of the woodshed for a different reason.  You do not raise great kids because you spank them. You inspire greatness, not beat it in. Working with firewood, my boys and I are learning teamwork, unity, and the joy of work.

One day I got inspired and pulled down my old two-man saw and said, “Boys, let’s see if we can cut wood the way the old-timers used to.” It took us a while to figure out how to sharpen the teeth and file down the rakes, but we got it in shape and started making memories. My chainsaw sits by the workbench while we bring in pickup loads of firewood.

I discovered technology was distancing me from my family. I would cut wood with the chainsaw while my boys played somewhere else. Not so with the two-man saw (actually it is more like a one-and-a-half-man saw because I do most of the work). We can laugh and talk while learning cooperation and togetherness instead of the old dad-works-while-the-kids-get-on-his-nerves scenario. The boys are learning focus, skill, and the value of strong muscles.

I have tried doing exercise routines with my kids but they always saw it as boring. Now they are beefing up without realizing it. They have a goal to work for and they enjoy the challenge to see how quickly we can cut through a log. Now they are begging for a turn to split the wood.

Boys in the field

Boys need to learn to work in the field. They need dirt under their fingernails. They need sweat on their faces. Too many boys just sit around the house doing nothing.

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house. (Proverbs 24:27)

Boys still need to learn the adventure of work.

You will kill your child’s work ethic if you do like I used to. Give them a job and then nag if it does not get done correctly. Why not jump in with them and let them learn. Build their confidence instead continually tearing it down.

My dad involved my brother and I in stacking the wood before every Minnesota winter. I thought it was fun to be part of a project with dad. He even let us load the splitter and push the lever. We thought we were privileged; he probably enjoyed the break.

I have been looking for any opportunity to work alongside my sons instead of just doing a job while they watch. Firewood keeps us busy only a few weeks of the year, but we find plenty of activities to keep us involved as a team: fence building, truck maintenance, and home repair.

Boys need the joy of doing a certain thing well. They will not follow all my interests, but they need to be good at something. If they do not find favor with themselves, they probably will not find favor with others, either.

Girls around the house

Don’t leave out your little sweethearts. Encourage mom to involve them in her daily tasks. Brag on them to visitors and challenge them to make special meals. Girls should not grow up thinking the boys have all the fun. Once, I helped them wash the dishes just to share time with them.

My daughters see the blisters and splinters us guys get and just gloat that they have the safer job. The boys brag about what they have done behind the woodshed. And both the boys and the girls are developing strong, gender-specific identities and a healthy work ethic.

Young David impressed King Saul so much that he had to find out about his dad. Raise kids who get kings to look you up, not the cops.


Read this to the kids:

Knowing What to Do

Rusty had been working all morning in the garage. Misty came out to see what he was doing. Rusty was bent over a red wagon, tightening a nut.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Finishing my wagon. After Dad and I painted it last night, all we had left to do was bolt the axles back on.”

“Too bad Dad couldn’t be here to help you get it all together,” Misty said.

Rusty shrugged. “It’s okay. This part is easy.”

“I’m glad you know what you are doing,” Misty said. “I’m helping mom make brownies. I had better go check on them.”

“Sounds good,” he said. “I will be ready for some when I get done here.”

The sun was shining in the open garage door and Rusty moved closer to the light to finish his project. The red wagon glowed brightly in the sunlight. With it standing up on edge, he pushed a bolt through and tightened on the nut.

“Oops,” he said, “I forgot the lock washer.” Rusty took the nut off and put the washer in place.

He was tightening up the last nut when he heard footsteps behind him. He turned and saw Mrs. Smith from down the street. She was walking her Scotty Terrier.

“Hello, Mrs. Smith,” Rusty called.

“Hello, young man.” She stared at what he was doing. She stopped. “Now what are you doing there?”

“I am restoring this wagon. I bought it at a garage sale but it was a mess. My dad helped me sand it down and repaint it. Now I am just putting the wheels back on.”

“Well I’ll be. You youngins are gettin’ smarter and smarter, ain’t ya?”

Rusty smiled. “I hope so.”

“Would you consider selling it? I would pay you well for it.”

Rusty shrugged. “I don’t know, ma’am. I guess I had not thought about it.”

“Well, you weren’t going to ride it yourself were you?”

Rusty smiled. “No, ma’am. There’s no good hills around here.”

“Well, I have my grandchild coming up for a while and I need something for her to do. Would you sell it for 65 dollars?”

Rusty raised his eyebrows. “Can I think on it for a while? Let me talk to my parents.”

“Okay. You know where I live.” She started walking down the sidewalk again with her little dog trotting around, sniffing at everything.

Rusty set the wagon upright and pulled it around. It looked nice now that it was finished. The wheels ran smoothly with the fresh grease he had given them.

He went inside to tell Mom and Misty he had finished and to see if he could grab a couple brownies. Halfway through his second brownie, Misty asked, “So are they good?”

Rusty nodded and washed some down with his glass of milk. “Very good! We better save some for dad.”

Just then, they heard a vehicle in the driveway.

“I bet that’s him,” Rusty said as he dashed for the door. “I wonder what he’s got.” As he came out the door, Rusty said, “Whoa! Cool!”

“You like it?” Dad asked.

Rusty walked around looking at the old truck on the trailer. “What is it?”

“It’s an old Chevy step-side. It needs some work, but after seeing how quickly you learned on that wagon, I figured you might be up for the challenge.”

“So we are going to repaint it?”

“Yep, and fix some spots on it.” Dad was releasing the chain binders holding the truck onto the trailer. “And,” he said with a groan, “we gotta’ get the engine figured out. It is not running right.”

“You mean we have to rebuild the whole engine?” Rusty said, backing up.

“No, I don’t think so. It is supposed to have been rebuilt not long ago. But it just isn’t running right.”

In a few minutes they had rolled it off the trailer and into the garage.

“Nice wagon, by the way,” Dad said.

“Oh yeah,” Rusty said, “Mrs. Smith wants to buy it. Do you think it is worth 65 dollars?”

“Hmm,” Dad said looking at it again, “I’m sure it is worth at least that. But do you think it is worth 65 dollars. Or is it worth more to you to keep since you put so much work into it?”

“I don’t know,” Rusty said. “It is a good price. And she said she needs it for her granddaughter.”

Mom and Misty came outside.

“What is that?” Misty asked.

“Their new project,” Mom said.

“Oh boy. That looks like a lot of work,” Misty said.

“We have to get it running right first,” Rusty said, opening the driver’s door.

“Oh yeah?” Mom asked. “You are moving up to a bigger project now, huh, Rusty?”

Rusty nodded, looking under the dashboard for the hood release lever. He pulled it, and the hood popped up.

“Okay,” Mom said, winking at Dad. “But you better figure it out before supper or you guys don’t get any.”

“Hey,” Dad said with a laugh, “that’s kind of hard on us, don’t you think?”

Rusty opened the hood. “I think we can get it. C’mon Dad, we better get working.”

Mom and Misty went back in the house while Rusty and Dad poked around under the hood.

Dad got in the truck and tried starting it a couple times. It turned over, but it would not go. They looked under the hood and scratched their heads for a while.

Dad explained how the engine ignition system worked, sending electricity to each spark plug. Rusty asked, “Could one of the spark plug wires be bad?”

“If just one of the wires were bad, it should still run. It has to be more than that.”

Rusty stood up on the tire and leaned way in. Back at the distributor cap, he tugged at a wire. “Hey, look at this.”

Dad came around to look. “Look at that, it is broke clean off. That is the main wire. None of the plugs will get a spark if that one is not working.”

“Cool! We fixed it.”

“Well, we found it. Now we’ve got to fix it. We will have to run down to the parts store. C’mon.”

A couple hours later, the two guys had given the truck a tune up with new spark plugs, wires, and filters. Dad jumped in the cab and turned the key. It turned over but did not fire. He tried again. This time it fired up and started running. It put out dirty smoke so he let it run for another minute before shutting it off.

“We did it!” Rusty said.

“Yes. It’s running now. But we need to rebuild the carburetor for it to run better.”

“How do you know the carburetor is bad?”

“Did you see the gas leaking out of it?” Dad asked, showing him a wet spot. “The carburetor needs new gaskets and stuff. It will idle much better afterwards, too.”

“Cool. Can we start now?”

Dad looked at his watch. “Well, your Mom said we had to have it figured out before supper. We have it figured out and it is running okay for now. Let’s come back after we eat and tear into the carb. Deal?”


When they walked in the door, Mom and Misty were setting the table. Mom said, “We figured you be in soon, we heard the truck start up.”

Dad pretended to wipe sweat from his forehead. “Whew, it’s a good thing. I am starved, too.”

As Mom heaped Rusty’s plate with food, Misty asked, “Mom, you would have let them eat even if they didn’t get it running, right?”

Mom smiled and said, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”


Now discuss it!

How do you think Rusty felt about completing the project on his wagon?

Why do you think he is excited about working on his dad’s new project truck?

What kind of projects do you like to do?

What did Misty do that she was proud of?

What skills are you learning now that you may use later in life to take care of your family?

What abilities would you like to learn?

What is more important than skills, talents, and abilities, and lasts longer than any of these?

Character. Who you are inside will last forever. Your skills will not enter heaven; only your morals.


Read God’s Word together:

Skillful Advantage


Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.

Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.”

“All right,” Saul said. “Find me someone who plays well, and bring him here.”

One of the servants said to Saul, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him.”

So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the shepherd.” Jesse responded by sending David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine.

So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer.

Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.”

And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away….

One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers. And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring back a report on how they are doing.” David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.

So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts, as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries. Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army. David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel.

As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright. “Have you seen the giant?” the men asked. “He comes out each day to defy Israel. The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!”

David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.”

But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”

“What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.

“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.

Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.

David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head.

(I Samuel 16:11-23; 17:17-51, NLT)


Let’s talk about it!

What skill had David developed?

Throwing stones with his sling. Killing wild animals. Raising sheep.

Why were his skills valuable when taking care of the sheep?

He protected them from lions and bears.

How were his skills later useful to God’s cause?

Defeated Goliath, the enemy of God’s people.

What musical skills did David learn?

To play the harp, sing, and write songs.

What skills are you learning that God can use? How?

What musical instrument do you want to learn to play?

What does Proverbs 24:27 say about putting responsibility before relaxation? How good are your priorities?

What does Proverbs 14:23 say about valuing work more than talk? Which do you do more of?


Role play: Your uncle is in town and wants to teach you how to make a neat project with wood. Your cousin, however, just wants you to play video games with him. Which one will you follow?

You have just enough money to buy a cool toy everyone else has. You could spend the same amount of money on a tool or instrument to help you get better at your skills. Which one will you buy?


Memorize it!

Proverbs 24:27

Prepare thy work without,

and make it fit for thyself

in the field;

and afterwards build thine house.

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