About the Guest
Dan Dumas, special adviser on adoption and foster care to the governor of Kentucky, talks about the adoption process he and his wife walked through with their two sons. Dumas shares his burden to see kids head in the right direction and find their purpose, which begins by teaching them to live a life of surrender.
Dan DumasDan Dumas has served as a college pastor for fourteen years with extensive experience discipling young people. Dan serves as a senior vice president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches and provides leadership for youth conferences (RENOWN and D3). He also teaches classes at Boyce College. Dan lives with his wife and children in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dan Dumas talks about the adoption process he and his wife walked through with their two sons. Dumas shares his burden to see kids head in the right direction and find their purpose.
Bob: Have you thought through, as a parent, the important lessons you want to be intentionally teaching your children as you raise them? Dan Dumas has; and one of the lessons he wants to make sure he teaches his kids is: “Don’t be a quitter.”
Dan: Whatever we start, we finish—because, I mean, that’s all of life; right? It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish—it’s the end. So, I want them to learn that they can’t quit; and to quit is not healthy and not good. They need to be resolved, and they need to be intense—they need to do that. Whatever they start, they finish. Whether it’s a small project—putting together a kit of some sort or whatever it is—they start, and they finish.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; and I’m Bob Lepine. There are lots of big ideas / big lessons that we need to be teaching our children as we raise them, and we need to be purposeful about that.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. There’s this word that has been kind of emerging as we’ve been talking this week. It’s the word that is used to define you by your children—when I talk with your children about the one word that would sum you up, the word, “intentional,” shows up quite often. That’s the descriptor they have of you.
Dennis: Well, I didn’t like it, at first, when they described me that way.
Bob: Why not?
Dennis: “Can’t you get a better word?!” Intentional doesn’t have any—
Dan: Strong word.
Dennis: Well, it is a strong word; but I was thinking something nobler.
Dan: It’s a little sterile.
Dennis: Yes; it’s a little—that’s okay.
Dan Dumas is our guest today, and he is an intentional guy and has written a great book called Live Smart: Preparing for the Future God Wants for You.
Welcome back to the broadcast, Dan.
Dan: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Would your kids describe you as intentional?
Dan: I hope so.
Dennis: You’ve got two kids / been married 25 years.
Dan: Yes; but they don’t describe a whole lot at eight years old. They just kind of—they’re just living life. [Laughter]
Bob: But you are thinking, intentionally, about them—more intentionally than your parents were thinking about you when they were raising you.
Dan: Oh, a multiple of intentionality.
Bob: Because you see life differently than you saw when you were growing up.
Dan: Yes; and partly, could be a little bit of a generational thing. I mean, I think that because of influences, like FamilyLife—I just think a lot of dads are a little—it’s on the radar to be intentional.
I don’t know if my father would have ever heard that, or listened to something, or been challenged or called out if he wasn’t intentional; where if you are sitting under your local church and your pastor is teaching, then, it’s going to come up; you know? In the course of good, faithful exposition, they’re going to bring this stuff up, and call you up, and call you out—kind of thing.
Dennis: You have recently been appointed by the governor of Kentucky to head up a new office for the state of Kentucky—the office of being the czar of adoption and foster care. You and your wife Jane have two children that you’ve adopted. You mind telling us a little bit of that story, and how you ended up being the parents of two?
Dan: Sure. We couldn’t have children—we tried for 12 years. I came home from a ministry trip, and my wife met me in the driveway. Through the course of a friend—they said there was a boy going to be born in about two months, and they called us to see if we’d consider adopting him. He was in Kansas City. Of course, we jumped in the middle of that. You know, you had to expedite everything—home-study / the whole package. It’s a—
Dennis: Had you talked about it?
Dan: Not in depth. It was kind of like I got T-boned. It was just reflexive to kind of: “Alright; let’s do it!”—you know?
Bob: Well, 12 years of marriage / 12 years of infertility—
Bob: —you’d obviously gone through the heartache of that, and that’s a long season of heartache.
Dan: Right; and I think we were just hopeful that something was going to work. I’d had a few surgeries. We’d tried everything known to medicine to kind of fix the problem, but it didn’t seem to work. So, we were kind of at the end of that line; but we were content: “Maybe, God doesn’t want us to have biological children.” So, we were moving down that path. We are gospel people—so, it’s certainly in the text of Scripture. We—orphans are there / everywhere. We were starting to see it, because we were thinking it together and talking about it collectively. I just wouldn’t say it would be the normal course of conversation over every meal.
Dan: It wasn’t that intense, because we were still kind of wrestling with the infertility piece; but then, someone called, and we jumped in, both feet.
Dennis: Yes; Bob and I have been in radio for more than 25 years. We’ve talked about adoption, orphan care, [and] foster care numerous times. I don’t think we’ve spent a lot of time talking about infertility and its impact on a couple in their marriage. Any advice you would give a couple who are struggling with this right now?
Dan: Yes; I think what happens is, as you grow up—especially for my wife—you kind of have a picture of what your family is going to look like. It could be a little, quaint house with a white picket fence and 2.5 children—or whatever. You know, you’ve kind of got this in your mind—an image. So, it is image-shattering, in that sense—that’s the hard part of it.
Then, you kind of work through a process of emotions / then, you check yourself and make sure it doesn’t become idolatry or something that’s entitlement; because, certainly—it wasn’t the case for us—so just working through the emotions of that. But kind of your view of God—God’s sovereign. You pillow your head / in adversity, you pillow your head on the sovereignty of God every single night.
Dennis: So, you adopted the first little guy at birth.
Dan: Yes; in the room. I stayed out, and they called me in. Yes; we got to experience the whole piece—had him from—brought him home two days later.
Dennis: How did the second child come to you?
Dan: Through friends in a local church down in lower Alabama. They called—there was a grandmother in their church whose granddaughter—I believe it was; yes—had gotten pregnant and was considering giving up the child for adoption. They said, “Would you like to be considered for that?” We said, “Absolutely!”
Dennis: One of the themes of your book is surrender. Was it surrender to God to do the adoption / go the adoption route?
Dan: Yes; I mean, you just wonder, like, “Will we love them like we’d love our own biological?” You just have wonder there, and you’re not—you’re getting a different DNA set. There’s a surrendering to that; but then, you live out the gospel every day. It kind of just shatters all that—you say: “You know? God is in total control, and I have every reason to surrender. He’s always provided for us. There’s no reason to doubt Him now.”
Bob: One of the people with whom you have worked closely is Dr. Russell Moore, and he’s an adoption advocate. I remember him talking about his own adoption and about people talking about background, and heritage, and history.
He made the statement—he said, “God knew that our kids would be Moores from the point of concept—from before the point of conception.” So, we’re looking at how it unfolds in our lives; but this is not something that God came up with a Plan “B” for your kids to be your kids; right?
Dan: No; absolutely. It’s an adventure. I mean, the whole Christian life is an adventure; right? I mean, it’s—
Dennis: It is.
Dan: —it’s really a joy-filled, at times tearful, adventure. You’ve just kind of got to bounce, and pivot, and change. You’ve got to be careful not to let ideals become idolatry. So, you counteract that with, all the time—preaching the gospel to yourself. We’re always getting up in the morning: “I’m the worst sinner in the room / I’m the worst sinner I know. I’ve got to put on faith / put on the armor of God. It’s a spiritual battle, and I’m here for a reason. We’re a people of destiny—Psalm 139”; and that’s how we approached it.
Bob: You have a burden—in fact, I think it’s a burden that helped lead to your writing the book, Live Smart. You want to see young people, at an early age, get pointed in the right direction and to start living life with wisdom—not wait until you’re 25 and then say, “Okay; now, I’m going to live like a smart person,” but to start living smart from the time they are 12 and 13; right?
Dan: Absolutely. I think procrastination plagues young people. They just don’t think about all the consequences of their decisions as they’re young. So, procrastination, I think, is a big problem for all categories.
Bob: And you’re not just saying procrastination, as in: “I’ll do my homework tomorrow”; but you’re talking about putting off adulthood until you’re at a certain age. I read an article recently in The Wall Street Journal that talked about “adulting” being a verb now.
Bob: When a young person does something responsible, it is #adulting:
“See, I didn’t binge-watch Netflix; but instead, I cleaned my apartment #adulting.” The author—the guy who wrote the article was saying, “This is a generation that has delayed the whole idea of embracing responsibility and embracing what it means to be a grown-up.” That’s part of what you’re trying to address in the book, Live Smart; right?
Dan: Absolutely; I mean I—when—I’m a lover of Proverbs; right? So, Proverbs—it’s probably the [densest] parenting section of all the Bible. Proverbs 1:1-9:18 is, really, a father sitting down with his son and sharing 15 different discourses of things that they need to think through and have in order. Well, the first is: “Fear God”; right?—Chapter 1. Then, it says, “Honor your parents.” Then, it says: “Choose your friends wisely. Don’t let sinners entice you.” Fourth is: “Obey God, immediately.”
So, if you remember—Solomon characterizes wisdom as a lady / a striking woman on the corner—
—she’s calling out. Well, I think that’s the spiritual procrastination / they don’t have an urgency. There is an assumption that: “Everything, at 25 or 35, will be okay; even though I sow my spiritual oats or don’t,”—and you’re going to be all right.
So, I just say, “No.” The counter to the spiritual procrastination is this high intentionality, and to not play it safe, and kind of take the necessary risk and grow—and start at a young age—start forming these habits. In particular, I’m concerned about their spiritual disciplines. That’s why—kind of making sure they’re reading their Bible, they’re praying, and going to church and loving the church—not just going to church—but actually loving/engaging the church—serving in the church.
So, starting to—if you want to be a great man, you’ve got to be a great boy. You’re not just going to wake up today—the light’s going to come on; and you’re going to be at full-scale, progressive, growing, [and] mature in faith kind of Christian.
Bob: So, how do parents—how do we get our kids to want to be purposeful when they’re 13, because most of the kids don’t want to. We can put together a checklist of: “Well, you’ve got to do this discipline, and this discipline, and this…” but we’re just manufacturing a burden for them, not something that they’re doing as a delight.
Dan: Right. I think a lot of it is a modeling—example. I mean, I think the truth is—a lot of people come home, and they’re faith is on Sundays. On Monday, something happens, you know—or doesn’t happen, maybe—I think that there needs to be a consistency so that I’m the same on Sunday as I am on Monday, and I’m very predictable in how we live our lives.
So, for example, with the discipline of prayer, we—in our home, the way we do discipleship with the boys—it’s not like a set time. We have a few of those, but it’s just organic / it happens all the time—if I were driving down the road, and we saw an accident, and I said, “Let’s pray,” you’d see all the kids—everybody would bow.
It would be completely normal in the course of our lives to just pray and to do those things.
If I were to stop and say: “Hey, I want to read this paragraph. I came across it in my quiet time this morning,” at the table, they’d just immediately stop and listen—you know?—because it’s by example. It’s more caught than it is taught. So, I wonder when we’re seeing disconnect there—is it being modeled by their parents? And if you think about the totality of Scripture and parenting, there [are] relatively few verses on parenting. Most of the Scriptures are pointing at you, as parents.
Dan: You live out your life. You live an exemplary life. Then, the kids are going to follow you. They’re going to learn about God the Father by your being a good father. They’re going to learn by your example; but I mean, you go to the New Testament—I mean, you guys know this—there’s not a ton there. You know what I’m saying—okay, you’ve got one in Colossians, Ephesians—
Bob: Yes; those Ephesians verses; right.
Dan: Yes; you’ve got a few in Ephesians. Then, you’re like: “Revelation?”—“No; none in Revelation.” [Laughter] “Jude?”—“No; he’s angry at Jude.” [Laughter]
You know, I mean, you’re kind of like: “Wow!” You’ve got Deuteronomy 6 / you’ve got Proverbs 1.”
Dan: I mean—but it’s relatively scarce. The emphasis, in Scripture, is on being godly parents. So, I’ve got to be that example.
Dennis: I’m watching this happen with our adult children, who—five of the six have children. One couple just got married; so they’re enjoying their first year of marriage; but they’re all doing a pretty good job of what you’re talking about.
Last night, I got a text from one of my grandchildren. I’ll leave this child’s identity anonymous at this point, but I called this child back. I said, “So, what’s up?!” I’ll use the male pronoun here—he said: “Well, Poppa, I’ve just been thinking about our community and the town we live in. I’d like to ask the churches in this town”—there has to be a hundred of them—“to get together and be unified, and to get together, and pray and talk about how we can care for this community.”
I got a chance, in the next 15 minutes, to just interact with a grandchild about a burden that has been passed on, by the parents, to this grandchild.
Now, he caught this from his mom and dad, who are thinking about and demonstrating how to reach out to the community. That’s what we want to see and need to see for the next generation. We’re raising the next generation of messengers for the gospel of Jesus Christ for compassion, for kindness, for good in the community. This is really an important piece of the fabric of our nation.
Dan: Absolutely; especially like—so, go back a thousand years—you’re an agrarian culture. Sons and daughters would grow up around their family farm. I think it just happened in the course of the day—things just took place, and discipleship just happened. I think because of our busyness and the pace of culture, we have to be highly intentional; or it won’t happen.
It’ll be: “Tomorrow, I’ll do that,” or “The next day, I’ll do that.”
Even before I left on this trip, I dropped off two books to my son that I’d stumbled across that were at KFO—the conference—and I wanted him to read. I say: “Hey, I picked up a couple of books. I’d like for you to read about it and kind of think about it. We’ll talk about it when I come back tomorrow night.” So, I’m just constantly resourcing him / making him think through different things—exposing him to the vulnerable / exposing him to compassion.
The other day, I was driving down the road—and I’d come back home before I picked up my son to go to an event—and I saw that there was a car, on the side of the road, kind of overturned. So, I—when I grabbed my son, we were going back the other direction. I got in that lane intentionally; and I said: “Oh no! It looks like a car is overturned.” He said: “Okay; quick. Pull over. Let’s do something.” Well, that’s an instinct; right? He’s learning compassion. He knew that we don’t drive by cars that are rolled over and people are suffering—we stop.
We give aid—get a blanket / help them with shock. We walk through what triage would look like.
I used that opportunity of that car broken down on the side of the road—and it had some yellow tape on it, so I knew it’d been there, maybe, a day; you know? But I wanted to use that opportunity, because I wanted to see what his instinct would be like in demonstrating compassion.
Bob: I’m just surprised that you could drop off a book and say, “We’ll talk about it when I get home tomorrow.” I had to pay—my deal was: “Here’s a book. I want you to read it. I’ll pay you $10 to read it, but you have to write a book report at the end of reading it.” Now, best $10 I ever spent getting them to read books and write book reports like that. I couldn’t just drop it off; you know? If I said, “I want you to read this book,” they’d say: ‘Well, I’ve got a bunch of other stuff, Dad. I’ve got to read that first; and then, I’ll get around to the book you gave me.’”
Bob: So, I could have learned a few things from you.
Dan: Yes, but I’m not confident he’s going to actually read it. [Laughter] So, trust me; it sounds good on the microphone.
Dennis: One of the themes that you write about it your book, Live Smart, is that we, as followers of Christ, have to learn how to submit to one another / how to submit to God.
How are you teaching your sons to live a life of surrender to Jesus Christ and submission to other people?
Dan: Yes; submission is a critical lesson for us—in particular, raising boys; right?—because they don’t want to submit / they want to throw off submission. It’s kind of connected to the fear of God. So, it’s a fear of authority structures—it doesn’t matter if it’s governmental / police officers—whatever it is. They just struggle with submission and self-control. Those are the two—I think those are the two big issues. So, they’ve got to learn to submit to them and see them as valuable and honor them. That includes their pastor / the elders. I mean, there is submission in every category.
I consciously teach them: “Look, I’m under submission. I’m under submission to the governor of Kentucky. He is my boss, and I have to do what he says.” They never see—even in my own example—that I’m constantly / they need to see that I’m constantly submitting. Even my wife and I—and how we come to a resolution—
—we’ve never fought / we just have intense fellowship; right? [Laughter]
Dan: So, they are seeing that—like: “How does that / what does that look like, and how do we mutually submit to one another and come to a resolution on something or something we need to buy, whatever it is?” I just think that that’s a critical part for a young person to gain—is submission to authority.
We start by teaching them theology. We start with Philippians 2:5-11 and the kenosis: that Jesus submitted Himself to the Father. They’re equal / co-equal; but He submits Himself. And that’s the marvelous side of Christology; right?—that He would leave heaven and come to the slums of earth and demonstrate submission. And right before Philippians 2:5-11, he [Paul] tells them—because they have disunity in the church—he says: “Listen, submit to one another. Esteem others as better than yourself.”
Dan: So, I’m really trying to teach them that everybody in the room is better than you are—and you take a posture, and you step back from all of that, constantly—
—like just, “You don’t have to be number one.”
Dennis: You practically taught submission in some ways that might be unusual for parents to think about, but one of your kids was on a sports team and wanted to quit.
Dennis: You talked pretty straight to him about that, and it really had to do with submission; didn’t it?
Dan: Yes; whatever we start, we finish: “You may not like it, but you will finish the season”; you know? “You may choose to not continue to play whatever that is or whatever you are going to do; but whatever we start, we finish”; because, I mean, that’s all of life; right? It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish—it’s the end. I want them to learn that they can’t quit, and to quit is not healthy and not good. They need to be resolved, and they need to be intense—they need to do that. And whatever they start, they finish—whether it’s a small project—
Dan: —putting together a kit of some sort or whatever it is—they start, and they finish.
Dennis: And when the team’s not winning, which was the case in the sports team; right?—
Dennis: —they wanted out of there.
Dan: Oh, it was abysmal / it was embarrassing. I was—it was bad; you know? But I said, “No; we finish this season.”
Bob: Well, that’ll also help them count the cost before they sign up for the team; right? If they know: “Okay; I’m in this for the year. There’s no escape clause from this. I’m going to be in the play,” or “I’m going to be on the team,” or “I’m going to do this project,”—they’re counting the cost before they make that decision; aren’t they?
Dan: Yes; I want their submission to erode their desire to be number one or to be victorious. I want to—that submission trumps personal gain, or personal pleasure, or personal whatever—fill in the blank.
Dennis: Yes; if you’re going to be successful in a marriage relationship, you have to learn to give up your rights. You’ve got to learn to die to self—
Dan: —every day.
Dennis: —and meet the needs of the other person. And where are your children going to learn that? First of all, by observing how you two—you and your spouse—relate to each other; but secondly, you’re going to have some opportunities to teach them some really valuable lessons about how team sports demand death to self.
It’s not about you—it’s about the team.
And if you’re looking for some ways to help your son or daughter grow—maybe, they are young adults—this book, Live Smart, I think, would be a great gift to, maybe, give to them and then offer to talk with them about it. In fact, when we’re done here, I’m going to ask you to sign this to one of my adult children—I’m not going to say who.
Dan: Sounds great.
Dennis: But I think this will make a great book for this one adult child; and I’m going to double back and see if they want to talk further about it, because I think it’s a great book.
Bob: Yes; this is one of those books that I would—I’d pay my kids the $10—I might even go to $15 to pay a child to read a copy of Dan Dumas’s book, Live Smart. It’s a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of the book. Again, it’s called Live Smart: Preparing for the Future God Wants for You. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com—
—you can order from us online—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY 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, we have the opportunity, from time to time, to be out visiting with listeners, whether it’s at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways or at an event where we’re speaking. It’s always interesting to me to hear the stories of how God has used the ministry of FamilyLife in somebody’s life. Folks will come up, and they’ll share about marriage challenges or parenting issues. I had somebody recently who just said, “You’ve helped us raise our kids.”
Our goal, here, at FamilyLife is to effectively develop godly marriages and families; because we believe those godly marriages and families can change the world, one home at a time.
And I just want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who help support the ministry / help make all of this work possible. What you do every time you donate is—you help us reach more people with practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family.
In fact, recently, we were doing some calculations, and we saw that it takes about a little over $8 to reach 1,000 people with this program. That doesn’t include the folks who are listening online, or through podcasts, or through our app. Your investment really does go a long way when you donate. And this month, when you donate, the investment goes even farther; because we’ve had some friends of the ministry who have come along and they’ve said they’re going to match ever donation we receive, during the month of August, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $800,000.
We have not yet taken full advantage of that matching-gift opportunity. So, today would be a great day for you to go online and make a donation. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue talking about the important lessons that our children need to be learning during their teen years. Dan Dumas is going to be back with us again tomorrow. I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, with special help today from Mark Ramey. 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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