Introduction and Questions by Marilyn Tinnin
We have looked for a few wise men here in Mississippi Christian Living’s Annual Man Issue. We have loved gathering these stories and getting these guys to put words to the heart issues of priorities, relationships, and the way their faith in God impacts their every day. These are men of influence, and they are seeking to serve the Lord in the place He has assigned to them.
Knocking dangerously on 40’s door.
Married to Maggie Parker Ingram (15 years)
Dad to Caroline (12), Parker (10), and John Harmon (5)
Work Background: Pediatric Neurologist
What is your favorite thing about being a dad?
Hands down, my favorite part about being a dad is learning the evolving personalities and senses of humor in my 3 little humans, who change and grow and turn into new people with each passing year. Watching them grow up and be their own people who are so different from me, or their mother (and each other), is so rewarding and must be such a reflection of how God must feel about us as his children.
What are the most significant things you hope to impart to your children?
For this, I will borrow heavily from my own father, a constant source of paternal wisdom—learn to love Jesus and make sure that they get a good education. Dad has described his job as a father to me that way for 35 years, and I think it’s true. But I don’t think that he was always describing two disparate goals when he would say that to me. I want my children to grow up in a home where God is a constant presence, and not a relative we just visit on Sundays. I want them to see a Christian marriage that’s modeled before them, not in its perfection, but instead displaying His strength in our frailties. I want them to know Godly men and women who testify about God’s presence in their life. I hope they learn about what it means to be in a relationship with their Heavenly Father and I yearn for them to understand that their chief purpose is to glorify God.
I also want them to know that loving God isn’t always easy and that the world isn’t largely made of smooth edges and protected harbors. My job is often not a happy one, and I deal largely with children with broken bodies that can absolutely radiate with the presence of God. I want my kids to see suffering and poverty and sadness, not to scare them, but to allow them to wrap their heads around the realities of our fallen world. How will they ever know who the Living God is if everything in their childhood is always shrink-wrapped in sunshine and rainbows? How will they cope with their own times in life’s valleys if they aren’t aware that He is in there with them? And perhaps most importantly, I want to raise children who run to share the good news with those in need and are not scared by difference or sadness or sin.
How does your faith influence your multiple “roles” as husband, father, and physician?
My life has had a particularly common struggle for men of my age with the concept of work/life balance. I was in school or residency until I was 35, so I was late to the whole “grown up with a job” game. For the first 12 years of my marriage and adulthood, my job and its time requirements came first more than I would like to admit. Maggie was an absolute superhero and allowed me to focus on my career during some of our most formative marriage years and the early years of our kids’ lives. We lost a parent and grandparents and uncles and aunts and unborn children during those years. Now with time (and a little more gray hair), I look back on that time with some degree of regret over the lack of my own active engagement in those experiences. But with age also comes perhaps a bit more wisdom. The past 5 years have been a time of relearning who I am, and who we are as a family outside of those time requirements.
I’m blessed to be married to an absolute powerhouse of a woman. I think those early years forced us to shorthand our communication. There was no room for drama or grudges. But neither of us would tell you that I’m a naturally easy person to live with, and I hope and pray that God will continue to grow me up as a spiritual leader for Maggie. I learned a long time ago in our relationship to not fix things between us, but accept my weakness and point us back to God’s will for my life and our marriage. As for the children, I’m my best as a father when I’m operating from a place where I’m behaving as God has called me to—being a Godly husband who is leading a household rooted in the Fruits of the Spirit. As I get older, I am becoming more and more conscious of my spiritual responsibilities to Maggie and the children and am realizing more acutely how important their priority in my life is. It is my sincere prayer that the children will remember older and wiser dad, and not the distracted young man of their youth.
This publication would struggle to contain all the ways that my faith affects my role as a physician. Medicine never stops being hard to do well. And pediatrics (especially special needs pediatrics) is particularly humbling. It’s a world where we celebrate the highest highs and mourn the worst imaginable lows, sometimes back to back from one room to the next. There isn’t a lot of space for me to carry that around on my shoulders. But I am often reminded that in the midst of all that, I can represent something bigger and much more important than our corporeal bodies, and it’s my role to walk with these children and families through their illness.
My favorite verse in high school, a time when I was sick myself, was Nehemiah 8:10, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is my hope that in my marriage, my parenting, and my job, that others would only see the joy of our Lord shining through. I imagine that’s more than anything I could provide to any of them myself.
Married to Tammy (41 years)
Dad to Adam (35), Whitney (32 ), and Austin (27)
Work Background: After graduating from Baptist Bible College in 1979, I served as music minister and associated pastor in Wyoming, MI, for 7 years. In 1986, I moved to Mississippi where I started a church and pastored for 3 years. Feeling God wanted me in secular work, I began seeking out a career in the insurance field. After trying various lines of insurance, I settled in the health insurance field. In 2001, I helped create a startup group agency with Northwestern Mutual Life. In 2013, my son Adam and I purchased the agency and changed the name to Creative Group Benefits. In 2017, my youngest son, Austin, came to work with us making this a true father-and-son business.
What were your priorities as a father when your sons were growing up?
My first priority was to teach them about the love of Christ and how He longed to have a personal relationship with each one of them. I wanted them to see that their dad really did love Jesus and it was not just a Sunday thing, it was a 24/7 thing. I believe that more things are caught than they are taught. I wanted my boys to know serving God was important to me in leading my family and should be important to them in leading theirs. I hope that when it’s all said and done that there were some important things that were caught from their dad.
How has your role changed now that they have families of their own?
I realize my role is to support my sons as they strive to be godly fathers to their sons. We don’t always agree on every issue of parenting but we don’t have to. My job is not to correct them but walk side by side with them and be a cheerleader and an encourager to them as they lead their family in the way God would have them. I still get to spoil my grandchildren and send them home. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Married to Cayce Ann (9 years)
Dad to son Grayson (3 1/2 years old)
Married to Hannah (3 years)
Dad to son Shepherd (16 months old)
What was the best thing about growing up as your father’s son?
Adam: I would have to say one of the best things about growing up under Dad’s roof is that we always had fun. It didn’t matter what life’s circumstances were, we always made the best of it. There were many times we made lemonade with life’s lemons—but that was okay. Another great thing about my Dad was he always practiced what he preached (I would have said this even if he hadn’t actually been a preacher). What I mean by that is if he laid down a list or rules or things that shouldn’t be done in life, he lived it out himself as an example. There was never a double standard for us to be confused over. I think the older I get, the more I appreciate that aspect of childhood.
Austin: Oh man, there are a lot of things that were great about being my father’s son. Probably the most influential thing was watching him do what he was passionate about and bringing the Gospel with him. One of the fun ways I experienced that was waking up at 5:30 in the mornings to play basketball with him and a group of men. Before we would begin, I would hear him share a Word and pray for the families represented in the circle. Another way was watching him serve as the chaplain for the Jackson Senators, Jackson Bandits, and Mississippi Braves. It was very cool to have these athletes who also were doing what they were passionate about and serving Christ the whole time too.
What things did your dad teach you that you want to be sure to impart to your son?
Adam: I would have to say faith in God even (maybe I should say especially) in the hardest of times. This is one of those lessons that he definitely talked about but the true impact came from seeing him live it. I see people that say they have faith in God but once tested it shows how shallow their faith really is. I hope that as my kid(s) grow up I can live the kind of faith that, even if I don’t talk about it all the time, it’s so steady it sticks with them. I would also say how to take care of yourself. We didn’t always have the finances to hire someone to fix things around the house or to take a vehicle to the shop. It was a rare moment when we didn’t fix something ourselves or at least call on good friends to come help. I hope to pass on the ability for him to take care of himself and also the importance of good friends.
Austin: He has been very candid to me about the earlier days about how he didn’t know how he was going to pay for his car to be fixed or how he was going to provide for three kids. He’s shown me how you can’t out-give God and how to do big things for the Kingdom. He’s taught me what it’s like to be faithful to God through the highs and lows of life, and that’s something I want to pass on to my children. Also, he was always there. Whenever there was an event or something that meant a lot to any of his kids, he would do what he had to do to be there. My father being present was so influential in my life and I want to be that kind of intentional father.
Why do you think the three of you can work so well together?
Adam: Ha ha, that’s simple—we aren’t different than any other family. We definitely have times when we get frustrated with each other. We always joke that if we are getting too frustrated with each other we need to get out and sell more business and we will have less time to worry about unimportant things. The truth is we are blessed to be pretty laid back. We don’t hold grudges and we move on with life if there is something we don’t like. It also helps that we all recognize that each of us has something to bring to the table. We all get it our way from time to time so there is no ill will towards any one person.
Austin: I think a large part of it is the way Adam, Whitney, and I were reared. My parents instilled a high value on faith, family, how to treat others, to have a high work ethic, and to have a healthy view on success and failures. In our business, it is no different. We value our family relationship and try to create a work culture that feels like family. We suggest a prayer before a meal with clients and have open conversations about our faith when we can. We set high quarterly goals as a company and individually, and encourage each other along the way. Other than that, we just like being around each other. We don’t always agree, but we all have a chance to talk about it. If one of us doesn’t get our way, I guess we drop our pride outside the door at the end of the day and don’t bother to pick it back up in the morning.
Jack: I believe the key is mutual respect for each other. We’re still going to be who we are, and the Lanes are going to have fun at work. We tease each other and challenge each other to be the best we can be. We all want to honor God and we want to build this business in a way that brings glory to Him. We all pitch in to help even if it’s someone else’s account because we are a team and we are family.
Married to Elizabeth (8 years)
Dad to daughter “MayMay”
Work Background: Financial Advisor at Raymond James
What has been the biggest surprise for you about being a dad?
Being a dad gets even better the older my daughter gets! I didn’t think it was possible to love her more than the first time I held her. Now she is two. It still amazes me how being her dad literally gets more fun every week.
As one of three boys, you didn’t have a chance to grow up around sisters. Do you think rearing a daughter is going to require learning a whole new world of interests, communication and relating?
As one of three boys, I must say “girl world” is 100% different! I am fortunate to have two sisters-in-law who helped give me a head start. In all seriousness, my wife Elizabeth has taught me so much about girls. I would be WAY behind the curve without her. My daughter is helping me get the hang of it with the daily tea parties, running AWAY from bugs instead of towards them, and playing “princess” dress up with all of her dolls. Luckily, we have not spilled too much fingernail polish, and the lipstick on the furniture has been minimal.
What is your greatest priority as a husband and a father?
My greatest priority as a husband and father is pointing my family to Jesus. If, by God’s grace I can get that right (LOTS of sanctification needed on my part), the other priorities should fall into place. I want my wife and daughter to be loved well. Thankfully, I have many great role models to emulate!
Married to Leanne (7 years)
Dad to son Rush (3 years old)
Work Background: Educator for 10 years
What is your favorite part of being a dad to Rush?
I think my favorite part of being Rush’s dad is getting to watch him interact with other people. From when he couldn’t talk and just looked at people, and now that his personality is definitely out front, I love to watch him be around people and learn how to treat them. From the ones that he likes to people he’s never met, I have a burden to teach him how to treat people. So I enjoy watching him being around others and teaching him the lessons that will help him develop a love for people.
What are the most important things you want to impart to Rush as he grows up?
The most important thing that I want to impart to him is to understand that he is a sinner that owes a sin debt to God that, because he is a human, he cannot pay by himself. The only way to do that is by placing his faith in the perfect sacrifice of God’s son, Jesus Christ, who died a death that we deserved because we are sinners. By God’s grace, people can place their faith in Christ and His righteous sacrifice and, since he is the Son of God, his righteousness is given to those that believe. By receiving his righteousness, we can then be in a right relationship with God, which we could never do on our own.
The second thing I hope I am able to impart to him is that other people are just as important as him. Since there is no partiality in God’s sight, we should not be partial to one group of people or another.
Third, all choices, good or bad, right or wrong, have consequences, and you will live with those consequences once the choices are made.
Fourth, Hail State.
As a coach and teacher, you spend lots of time with young men. How does your faith impact your professional role there?
My faith in Christ has impacted everything that I am and that I do. It has helped me to intentionally develop relationships with these young men and women, and try to help them understand who they are in front of God. For some students, they have never had someone in their life that wanted to have a relationship with them and not have any strings attached. I have seen many students think that I am going to expect certain things from them, or that they have to be a certain way to be accepted. And the truth that I hope for them to see is that they were created, by the Creator of the universe, with certain traits that no one else possesses and no one else can use. How they use those traits is a decision they get to make, and it is a fun thing for me to be able to get to walk beside them as they begin to figure that out. I believe that the only way they can fully develop those traits is in a relationship with Christ. So my professional role is impacted by my faith, and my professional role takes on its greatest meaning because of my faith.
Married to Liza (15 years)
Dad to son Caiden (10), and daughter Caroline (7)
Work Background: I have worked for the Ridgeland Police Department for 16 years. I also started a non profit called Mettle Sports and serve as the President and Executive Director. Mettle Sports is a vehicle for mentoring and building strength and character in young athletes. (www.mettlesports.org)
What is your favorite way of connecting with your kids?
I enjoy playing outside in the backyard and being silly with my kids, and also sitting and hearing about their day.
What has so far been your greatest challenge as a father?
Watching my kids work through disappointment. I don’t jump right in and rescue them, but I try to guide them and comfort them. Liza is better at the comforting part than I am.
When you look at the world as it is and think of your children’s future, what are your prayers for them?
I pray that they come to know The Lord and not become distracted by the worldly interferences. I also pray for their health and safety.