Lessons From a Father That Was Always There (Part 1) - Crawford Loritts
Crawford Loritts discusses lessons he learned from his faithful father.
FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript
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Guest: Crawford Loritts
From the series: Lessons from a Father Who Was Always There (Day 1 of 2)
Bob: Dr. Crawford Loritts is profoundly aware of how his life was marked and shaped by a father who was there.
Crawford: My dad used to say to me as I was growing up—and particularly as I was facing difficult times and, maybe, I didn’t want to follow through on something; and I said I was going to do something—boy, he would pull me aside and say: “Son, all you have at the end of the day is what you say. That’s all you have. That’s all you have, and you better be good by what comes out of your mouth—integrity. If you say you are this, then it needs to be reflected in how you act.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 12th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. A lot of what Crawford Loritts understood about parenting came from watching a father who did the job well. We’ll hear more from him today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, we’ve often said that behind every great man, there’s a great woman or that we stand on the shoulders of others. I don’t know how often it’s been reflected on that behind great men and women are often faithful moms and dads, who did their job well and created a foundation for their sons and daughters to grow up in where those sons and daughters thrived.
Dennis: You know, as you talk about that, I can’t help but think about our guest on the program today, who gave a message at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Parenting Conference, back last August. I sat in the audience as I listened to my friend, Crawford Loritts, speak about his heritage that Crawford was given by his great grandfather, Peter, whom he described as a praying, singing slave.
Dennis: And he passed on a living faith that, now, resides in Crawford’s life and in, also, Crawford’s four children; and I think, soon, his ten grandchildren as well.
Bob: Yes; Crawford is a friend of ours. He and his wife Karen have spoken at Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways for years. Crawford is also the pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia, suburban Atlanta. He’s spoken around the world on a variety of issues, including marriage and family. His message, at the parenting conference you were attending, was a riveting message. In fact, we thought, “This is one our listeners need to hear.” So, today, we’re going to hear Part One of Crawford Loritts talking about lessons he learned on integrity from a father who lived it.
Crawford: About 20 years ago, I wrote a book entitled Never Walk Away: Lessons on Integrity from a Father Who Lived It; obviously, it was about my dad’s incredible impact on my heart and life. In fact, next to Jesus Christ, my father has had the most important, strategic, wonderful influence on my life. Who I am today—so much of what I think, and how I feel, and how I act, and, particularly, my approach to my marriage and our family—has Pop’s signature all over me.
You know, Dan Fogelberg wrote a song a number of years ago—a ballad. Part of the refrain of that song goes something like this: “The leader of the band is tired; his eyes are growing cold. His blood is in my instrument, and his song is my soul. My life is just a poor attempt to imitate the man.
“I’m just the living legacy to leader of the band.”
My father was a grandson of a slave. He was born in 1914—February 13, 1914. He was the youngest boy of 14 children. So, his grandfather Peter / my great grandfather was a slave. Peter, they say—my dad remembers him: “Peter lived to be an old man. Peter was a singing and praying man,” he said. Some of my father’s most vivid memories were seeing his grandfather rock back and forth on the old homestead there in Catawba County, North Carolina, a place called Newton Conover, where he would just sing and pray.
Peter was an illiterate man—couldn’t read / couldn’t write—but he loved Jesus, and—get this—he passionately loved the Word of God. The story is told / the legend is—he would have his children and grandchildren read him familiar passages of Scripture over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.
The old boy had committed a lot of that to memory.
Here’s what I want you to catch. Despite the fact that Peter was a slave—and let’s not glorify slavery—families were intentionally broken up. When young boys reached about 14/15/16 years of age, they bought a high price—they were studded out, so to speak. It was not our most bright and shining moment—it created a whole lot of damnable things that we are still dealing with in our culture today.
But despite all of that, I don’t know what happened to Peter. Peter developed a passion and a love for God and a love for his family. Because of his commitment to Jesus Christ and his commitment to his family, he forged generations of strong men, strong male leadership, and strong families.
I stand here just humbled—I don’t take credit for any of this. I don’t know why I was born and raised in a household, where my dad showed up, and where he loved the Lord, and he loved his family, and he left his signature over us. Why wasn’t I born in a situation where he wasn’t there? Why wasn’t I born with huge deficits in my heart and life?
And what I want to say today, and underscore before us, is that we—one of my great concerns where evangelicalism is going today is that—somehow or another, in our desire to become intellectually palatable, and acceptable in the marketplace of life, and to broker influences in the corridors of power, and to not be looked at as dumb and stupid Christians—part of my concern is that we are wandering away from the spiritual core of who we really are and the power that’s necessary and needed.
Don’t ever underestimate the gospel, and don’t ever underestimate the power of the Spirit of God, and don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer to change your life and future generations—that is to be the centerpiece of parenting. It’s not the quid pro quo, or the various strategies and coping mechanisms—although they might be important—and the tips that we get in the books that we read, and the blogs that we read, and podcasts, and that kind of thing—absolutely wonderful. At the end of the day, the thing that is going to shape your future—shape your family / help your child to make it home before dark, spiritually—is a few callouses on your knees, with an open Bible, and a walk before God. That must never be forsaken. That has got to be the centerpiece of what we’re really, really all about.
Pop always showed up. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a man of impeccable integrity—impeccable integrity.
My father—this is not Pollyanna-ish / I’m not revisiting history—but my dad never made a promise to me or my sisters that he did not keep. Now, he may have said, “Son, I will be at your ballgame,”—and he discovered he had to work and had to work something else out—but on balance, he never made a promise that he didn’t keep. His word was his bond.
He was a little bit paranoid about showing up. In fact, I couldn’t even quit a part-time job that I had as a teenager—I better have a good excuse for that—because he said, “If you told that man you’re going to show up, you show up.” And we’ve kind of raised our kids the same way, especially our boys. When they were playing sports—my rule around the household: “If you play, you stay. You don’t quit because it’s hard. You don’t quit because it’s difficult. You don’t quit because there is a little bit of opposition. You don’t quit because you don’t like this situation. You show up. You finish the endurance ride.”
The essence of parenting is to be a portrait of the desired destination.
The essence of parenting is not necessarily great insights and tools. The truth of the matter is that the power and the authority that we have to shape the next generation is lodged in what we model and what they see in front of us and not necessarily what we say.
In fact, that is what the Bible is all about—the Bible is into prophetic leadership; that is, if you are going to lead anything in the Scripture—and this is the reason why character is so terribly important—if you are going to lead anything in the Scripture, it’s not about your ability to plan, and to have insights, and to line things up, and to recruit, and to develop the resources, and to think outside the box—and all of these things that we celebrate today—but if you are going to lead anything in the Bible—anything that has God’s name over it / anything that stewards what God wants to do from one generation to the next—then you have to embrace the reality that you’ve got to be the portrait of the desired destination.
There’s no other way!
Whatever I want my children to be, they have to see it in me. They have to see me aggressively moving toward that because they were born—they were born to be drawn toward what they see—what they see.
Now, my daddy—he didn’t have a college degree / he was a salt-of-the-earth kind of person—but his understanding of the Word of God, and his understanding of what it took to be the leader in his household, and what he saw from his father Milton / my grandfather and his great grandfather Peter, he passed on. He realized, if he didn’t want his children to lie, he better not be telling a bunch of lies. He understood, if he wanted his children to be people who would stand up and look people in the eye and tell the truth and follow through on their commitments, then he had better do the same. If he wanted kids that would love their wives and husbands—
—and put them first in their lives—then he better not dog out my mother and put her down or disrespect her. If he wanted us kids to go to church, then he needed to make sure that he was there, leading the way—integrity, integrity, integrity. Integrity is a state of being whole / undivided moral predictability—behavior and choices that reflect your core beliefs and convictions. That’s what integrity is really all about.
My dad used to say to me, as I was growing up—and particularly as I was facing difficult times and, maybe, I didn’t want to follow through on something; and I said I was going to do something—boy, he would pull me aside and say: “Son, all you have at the end of the day is what you say. That’s all you have. That’s all you have, and you better be good by what comes out of your mouth—integrity. If you say you are this, then it needs to be reflected in how you act.”
Parenting is all about preparing a generation for a time that you cannot see, and that’s the driving force behind all of us. One of the great benefits of suffering and one of the great benefits of Jim Crow—interestingly enough, in the sovereignty of God, is they didn’t have a lot of margin / they didn’t have a lot of filler / they didn’t have a lot of applause from the broader community. My great grandfather, my grandfather, my dad, and my uncles—who grew up during Jim Crow—they realized that all they had was one another, and all they had was home. They were passionate about things becoming better, and they had a vision for you doing more than what they were able to do.
Parenting takes a look at where things ought to be, and where that child could be, and leverages the moment in history to get them there—
—that’s what parenting is all about. Your child is just passing through, and our job is to point them toward God and point them toward the door—that’s what our responsibility is. Thank you, Jesus! [Laughter]
When my father was dying, back in 1995—he had congestive heart failure—and the last three years of his life [were] very difficult for me, because here’s a man who worked hard his whole life. My father worked—he usually was working more than one job and took care of his family. His great joy was being able to provide for us. To see him go downhill was just—I mean, it was just gut-wrenching for me—strong, yet he could barely make it.
Well, the end was coming, and he was dying. I’ll never forget this—it was a poignant moment. I was standing next to his bedside; and he just looked at me in a moment of lucidity and said, “Boy, I did the best I could.”
I said, “Pop, you did a great job!” He said, “Son, I want you to take care of your mom and your sisters.” What was he doing?—he was passing a torch / passing a baton—“The race is over.”
My whole life, I’ve always wanted to be like him—my whole life. I always wanted to think like him—my whole life. I’m in leadership now. I tell people all the time: “You know, my greatest lessons in leadership—sorry, I mean, I should have read your blog [Laughter]; and I didn’t read your book—sorry! [Laughter] But my greatest lessons in leadership came from the grandson of a slave, who—
—“day in and day out, and day in and day out, every day of his life—showed up. When he would blow it and mess up, he’d make it right.”
I’ll tell you this quick story before I slide into 1 Kings, Chapter 2, and talk about the handoff; and I’ll be done. When I was 12 years old, you know, I was a typical 12-year-old guy. I had a number of brain cramps. [Laughter] On the way to school in the spring, we would walk past this factory that made these chains. I don’t know why I did this; but I was with some friends of mine—we would—there were some open boxes, and we stole some chains. It was like chain necklaces and stuff. We stole them and thought we had gotten away with something.
This was the absolute worse day of my life, though, because of what happened. My father used to work nights, but he rotated one evening a week that he was off. He happened to be off that evening, in the providence and sovereignty of God. [Laughter]
The telephone rang at the house, and it was a policewoman named Mrs. Brown. Yes; I don’t want to say some things; this is being recorded. Mrs. Brown—let’s just say she was tough. [Laughter]
There was this kid by the name of Stanley that looked just like me—believe it or not. I know it’s impossible—we could pass for twins. Well, when Mrs. Brown called the house, my mother gave the phone to my dad; and my dad’s listening. As she’s talking to him, he’s looking at me; and I’m saying, “This is not going to end well.” So, she told him—well, Stanley had told Mrs. Brown where to go, where she didn’t need an overcoat; okay?—you got that picture? She thought that I told her that. Now, I have to confess, I felt like it on a number of occasions; but I didn’t do that—didn’t do it.
Pop hangs up the phone. He looks at me and said, “Boy, have you lost your mind?!” I was talking fast: “Pop, I didn’t do that. I didn’t disrespect— I didn’t do that.”
Right after that—I kid you not—there was a knock on the front door. He opens the door, and there were policemen there. What had happened was that my friends, who had stolen the chains—and I was a part of that group—told on me—they had gotten caught. This was the worst night of my young life.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the story, but I will tell you this—at the—we went down to the factory and got the liver scared out of us. Pop dropped a couple of those boys off—they didn’t have dads in the home. When we walked into the house, I had not seen my dad cry, except for at funerals of his siblings. I’ll never forget this—he looked at me, and a tear began to trickle down his cheeks.
He said, “Son, you hurt my heart.” Then, he did a few other things to make sure my behavior would line up with the expectations. [Laughter] So “Yes; you weren’t hurt that bad.” [Laughter]
That crushed me—it broke me / it broke me. I forgot about the other exclamation mark, but the reason why it broke me is because I always wanted to be like my father; and he would not have done that! He said: “Son, if you want something, you ask me. You don’t ever have to steal anything. You hurt my heart.”
Bob: Well, we’re going to break in here. We’ve been listening to the first part of a message from our friend, Crawford Loritts, talking about the important role that his father played in marking his own life.
I don’t know that we, as parents, understand how our example, our model, our words, our actions—they are indelibly imprinting things on the hearts and minds of our children—things that will live with them for decades.
Dennis: And turn them from doing what’s wrong—
Dennis: —to do what’s right. I know we’ve been talking about the power of a dad, who has integrity; but moms are powerful too, as well, Bob. I just want to encourage moms and dads today to assume your office—the great privilege of being a dad and a mom—to assume it with integrity and to make sure that your words / as much as possible that your words match up with your life. In other words, you do what you say you’re going to do—you fulfil your promises.
I look back on my dad, and my dad didn’t need a bunch of lawyers to be tied up to make sure he fulfilled his promises. All you needed from my dad was a handshake, and it was good. If he gave his word, he was going to do it. Bob, I don’t know who I would be today if I had not observed a man, who came from a broken home—my dad’s father abandoned his eight children back in a time when it wasn’t culturally acceptable in anyway whatsoever—yet, my dad was not a victim. My dad earned his living and grew up within three miles of the log cabin where he was born, and he died with a good name.
I can just say to you, as a listener: “One of the greatest gifts you will give your children is that of a good name—a father / a mother, who lived out what he or she believes in front of your children.
“There’s a great need for that as never before.”
Bob: You know, we’re about six or seven weeks, now, from releasing a resource that we have been working on for more than a year now that, actually, Crawford’s son, Bryan, and his daughter-in-law, Korie, are a part of. It’s a video series called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™, eight sessions that you can go through in a small group; or there is going to be a digital experience of The Art of Parenting, something you can go through as a couple, online. All of this is designed to help moms and dads understand what the biblical priorities for parenting ought to be.
In fact, we’re kicking all of this off with a movie that’s going to be in theaters for two nights only—May 1st and May 3rd—a movie we’ve produced called Like Arrows—got help with this from our friends, Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Alex has a role in the film, and it’s all designed to raise the issue of parenting.
We really want to begin a movement of intentional parenting in our culture, and that’s what these resources are all about. You can find out more about what’s coming when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the parenting link you see there. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me also mention—Dr. Crawford Loritts has written a book about his father—a book called Never Walk Away: Lessons on Integrity from a Father Who Lived It. It’s a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, as well, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I mentioned this new emphasis on parenting—one of the things we are working on is a strategy to get this material into the hands and hearts of people who don’t listen to FamilyLife Today—
—folks who may not be actively involved in a local church—but people who would be open to understanding what the Bible teaches about how we raise the next generation. We believe there are a lot of folks like that. We are developing strategies, right now, that will help us get this material into their hands. We’ve calculated—it’s going to take us $10 a home to be able to reach someone with this content and get them engaged with what they’re hearing. Of course, they’ll have the chance to hear the gospel as we do that.
We’d love to ask you to help support the work that we’re doing to help us reach more people with God’s design for marriage and family. It’s easy enough to do. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you get in touch with us and make a donation, as a way of saying, “Thank you,” we want to send you seven prayer cards. These are designed so that you, as a parent or grandparent, can be praying more purposefully/more intentionally for your children or your grandchildren.
They tuck right into your Bible—they are our gift to you when you donate to help us reach more folks with practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. We look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for your partnership with us.
And we hope you’ll join us back tomorrow when we are, again, going to hear from Dr. Crawford Loritts about the priorities of parents. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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