Hurt Feelings, Bad Days, and Little Boys: A Letter to My Daughter About Manhood

You came in the other day and said, “Ask me about my day?” I knew something was up because when I normally ask you say, “fine.” Knowing you had something to share I put my stuff down and quickly got out of my grumpy dad coming home from work routine and sat across from you in the kitchen. You shared about how an older boy kicked a ball at you and called you a bad name. There were tears in your eyes as you relived the moment and felt a shame that wasn’t yours to own.

Fear gripped my heart and I pressed in to give you a hug. I wondered how deep the would was? I wondered if I could mend it with my words, my hugs, or even my tears? Part of me was desperate to mend your brokenness, part of me was wondering how I might break the boy who made you feel this way, and part of me was glad that you had shared it with me.

The part that wanted to heal your brokenness jumped in first. We talked about how this boy was wrong and how you had done nothing wrong. We talked about forgiveness and cleaning the bitterness out of our hearts. We talked about the gospel and how Jesus had loved us and died for us while we were still sinners. We talked about how hard it was to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but we knew that if Jesus commanded us to do that, we could do it in his strength and power. So we prayed for him.

Then I came back and let you know that I was jealous for you. As you father when that boy called you a name, he called me a name. That you are my princess (not the word he called you) and that should it ever happen again he would answer to me when I go to have a conversation with his parents. I let you know that you had a bigger advocate who was willing to take on this older boy who seemed so big and brave on the playground but was tiny compared to your father.

Then I was glad that you had shared this moment so we could walk through it together. You gave me the gift of allowing me to be your dad, to hug you, to guide you, to model maleness different than what you experienced on the playground. My prayer is that you forget this incident ever happened and when you come back to read this you have a hard time recalling the event… but that your character has been impacted by it so you are quick to forgive, know deeply you are loved, and walk confidently into womanhood.

There is a kind of boy who pushes shame on others through his words, his actions and even his stares… There is also a kind of man who removes shame that is not yours to carry, who loves you and will give his all for you. I’ll never stop being your dad, but when another man like that enters your life it will be my joy to walk you down an isle to him and give you away. You are my princess.

A Story of Restoration and Hope for the American Family

978-1-4143-6394-3I read Road Trip to Redemption: A Disconnected Family, a Cross-Country Adventure, and an Amazing Journey of Healing and Grace a while back and was greatly encouraged.  The Author, Brad Matthias, shares a detailed story about his family’s breakdown and reconnection. The book chronicles a road trip that the author and his family took in search of healing.

I grew up in the general area where most of the road trip takes place (the North West US and Southern Canada) and I remember traveling to some of the same sights with my parents and grandparents. So I have to admit that part of me was longing to go on a similar trip just to re-live part of my childhood.

The real gold to the story though wasn’t the tale of the open road (though the Matthias family does encounter a few obstacles and victories along the way), but of how the family reconnected throughout the journey. I appreciated the insights shared by the all the family members in their journals and was blessed to be able to share in their journey in a small way. I don’t think this book was intended to be an instruction manual as much as an encouragement. The author is transparent in his struggle to illustrate that he hasn’t always been there for his family like he should, but even broken families can be restored and brought back together through the power of the gospel.

I really liked this book and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good non-fiction read. It’s especially good for dad’s who are looking at how to reconnect with their teenagers. It’s really not a “how to” manual, but it does provide some solid advice in the form of a story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Is Church Designed for Sissies?

  Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow is a compelling book about the gender gap that is growing in congregations world-wide.  Women outnumber men in some congregations with the differential ratios as high as 63 to a measly 37 percent.   In his newly revised ground breaking book Murrow attempts to explain the feminization of the church and what pastors and leaders can do to restore the masculine appeal.

The thing that piqued my interest most about Why Men Hate Going to Church is that way that Murrow lines out his argument for masculine church being a Biblical model.  According to Murrow (and he has some interesting stats and historical data on his side), the church (in general) has slowly drifted into a feminized form of Christianity which by nature appeals to women and excludes men.  The most damaging element of the slide into gender favoritism is that Church has historically appealed to men.

I really enjoyed reading this book and give it a full five stars. I can see it being useful to pastors and ministry leaders who are looking to restore some of the biblical and redeemed cultural initiatives that appeal to men.  For women who are interested in helping men find their way back to church, David Murrow has written another book that you may find helpful as well, How Women Help Men Find God.  You can find out more about author David Murrow and the book Why Men Hate Going to Church on his website: churchformen.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Letters to Young Men: Integrity in your Relationships

Dear Friend,

I hope this letter finds you doing well and growing in your relationship with God.  Last time we spoke, we talked about being in the word of God.  I want to encourage you to keep up your commitment to reading the scripture.  Along those lines please read the scripture passage I have enclosed.  This week I want to share with you what the Bible says about being the husband of one wife and how to best prepare yourself to lead in your marriage one day.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you– if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (Titus 1:5-8)

I know that this passage deals primarily with appointing pastors and elders, but think with me for a moment.  Do we expect more of our pastors than we do of our people?  Is it right for a believer who is not the pastor to be sleeping around, getting drunk, quick tempered, rearing children that hate God, greedy, and undisciplined? No!  We expect Christians to act like Christians and we expect our pastors to model the Christian life. (As a pastor I pray that you have seen Christ modeled in my life along the way.)  So while this passage is about pastors… It also out a picture of what a mature Christian man looks like.  That being said, you are to aspire to be a mature man in Christ.

So now what about that “husband of one wife” phrase?  How doe that apply to you as an unmarried man?

The idea being communicated in the text is that of “a one-woman man.”  How does a single man make sure that he is a one woman man? … You guard yourself from craving of soliciting the attention of a plurality of women. In short, if you like a young woman, tell her.  It doesn’t have to be awkward, but it is important to define the relationship sooner rather than later.  If you don’t, you may end up leading someone on. If you aren’t interested in marrying a young woman, don’t flirt with her.  If you think that she likes you and you don’t like her, remind her (and act towards her) that you are just friends.

I remember early late in college around the age of 21, I found myself newly single and eager to share my insights on life with anyone of the female persuasion who would listen.  Little did I know that I was leading people on more than I had planned. All the girls I had been “flirting” with told the one girl I really liked that I flirted with everyone and I got dumped before the relationship ever began. In the long run it ended up working out well for me in that I sobered up to how I was leading some young women on, learned more about biblical manhood and womanhood and  was careful to define relationships.  I hope to spare you some bumps and bruises along the way by weighing this scripture and my advice.

Are you living like a one woman man?  Are you leading anyone on?  Remember sometimes women can put more stock in a friendship than we do. Is there a relationship that you need to define?

The wait is worth the reward.  Have I shared with you before about how I courted my wife? It’s a good story.  You should look it up if you are interested.

Your Friend,

Pastor Jonathan

Letters to Young Men

I’m starting a new blog series entitled, “Letters to Young Men.”  I hope to post on this topic once every other week or so. Though I’m not particularly old, I have been blessed and encouraged to share insights with several guys in their late teens to early 20’s in regard to life and ministry.   Some of you live in far away places and we talk only a few times a year; most of your mentoring is behind you, yet we check in from time to time.  Others of you live in closer proximity and we meet on a weekly or monthly basis.  Many you who read this post won’t know me, but hopefully you will be blessed through the series, feel free to contact me.

Many of the lessons I will share here I learned the hard way.  When appropriate, I will share my failure in hopes that you will miss a few bumps along the way. A precious few lessons I learned under the hand of various mentors in my own life and thus avoided the scars and bruises I would certainly carry apart from their influence.  When appropriate I will give them credit and honor for their influence in my own life.

I publish these thoughts to honor, educate, and encourage young men through the trials of life. I will write them as letters.  They will be addressed, “Dear Friend.”  My intention is not to share particular conversations that have taken place in private.  The letters will address subjects that are in some way particular to young men and have developed over many conversations with many people.  My goal is to produce letters that appear personal in nature and cover themes that are certainly relevant.  My prayer is that these open letters are a source of strength and encouragement to you.

I mean no disrespect by the use of the phrase “young men.” By many accounts, I myself could still be considered a young man.  I use the word “young” only in terms of comparative age; I use the word “man” in terms of maturity.

I welcome comments, feedback and input all along the way, but chose the right to delete or edit comments that I deem as disrespectful, rude, or not-profitable for discussion.


Discipleship 101: Be Teachable

So through the years God has blessed me to be able to be in a mentor/ coach/ lead/ disciple/ pastor or whatever the next buzz-word will be, several men.  For the first several years I didn’t recognize much of what was happening other than the guys who were hanging around me began asking great questions and I was able to teach from where I had been and what I knew to be true from God’s word.  These days I’m a little more intentional and I move forward with a larger game plan to develop and strengthen the gifts and talents that these men posses in the Lord.

Regi Campbell shares in his book Mentor Like Jesus that he generally picks the guys that he is going to mentor.  I tend to agree Regi’s line of thinking on this.  The disciple maker should choose the disciples.  For the longest time I didn’t know why I held this as a default position other than the fact that through the years I’ve rejected some folks who wanted my input and sought out others to influence.  Then it dawned on me… The guys I picked tended to have one quality in common… They were teachable.

Be Teachable

I learned a long time ago that not everyone who came to me for discipleship really wanted to grow.  Sometimes people sought me out for opportunity or endorsement; they didn’t always want to learn what I might have to teach.  As a pastor I know that my greatest work for the moment with these type people will not be actual discipleship, but in bringing them to a place of being teachable (which usually involves allowing them to fail repeatedly until they come to a place of frustration and through their frustration they overcome their pride enough to ask for help).

When Jesus called the first few disciples he said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  The key to becoming fishers of men was to follow Jesus in such a way that he could transform them.  In essence they had to be teachable.  If you were to ask me to teach you how to fold a paper airplane and I were to repeatedly demonstrate very basic folding patterns while talking about how airflow over a certain shape were to create lift, I would expect you to follow at least the very basic folding patterns even if all the talk about airflow went in one ear and out the other.  However, if you were unwilling even to follow my basic folding patterns and try to attempt your own very flawed designs with no regard to how airflow creates lift I would call you unteachable.  My best hope at that point would be to move on and teach those who are teachable and hope that after 1000’s of failed attempts to make your plane fly that you would come back for some help with at least the basic folds.

But what if you were teachable?  What if you came to me and I taught you paper folds while talking airflow and while at first you didn’t understand airflow you did understand the folds?  Then you tried some modifications to my design and some worked and some didn’t.  What if then as we talked through why some of your modifications failed and succeeded you all of the sudden grasp what I was saying about airflow and this information fuels modifications and changes that work?  Then I would say that you are teachable and soon you will be able to teach others.

So it is with discipleship.  The first thing you must do is be teachable.  If you are not teachable, all bets are off.  I can’t make you into anything.  I can’t help you succeed.  Your own pride will hang you before we ever get started.  You must be willing to listen.  You must be willing to learn.  You must be willing to attempt under supervision.  You must be willing to discuss failure as well as success.  You must be teachable.  To not be teachable is to not be transformed.

The truth is that to really be a disciple, you must be teachable.  Are you teachable?

Even as a leader I strive in my own life to fight pride and to be teachable.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dads, Daughters and Date Days

Right around 5-years ago I became a dad.  The nurse handed me this precious little baby girl and I knew that it would all be different from that day forward.  My life had changed and all the sudden I felt the pressure to not to drop the ball.

Now She is almost 5-years-old and smarter than I ever imagined a 5-year-old being.  She knows me well.  To be honest, sometimes its uncomfortable.  She doesn’t come with a filter.  In fact that’s what a lot of parenting is… introducing a filter.

Just being gut level honest… It’s not easy to introduce a filter and help your kids process life.  Most of the time the easy thing to do is to go cut the grass (because its over due and you wonder what your neighbors are thinking about your un-kept yard), or read a book (because you need some quiet time after they have tugged on our arm and said, “Dad” a million times in a row just to get you to look at their newest drawing and act like its the best thing since Michael Angelo), or Watch TV while your kid takes an hour long bath and shrivels up like a prune (because you’ve had a long day dealing with other peoples problems… not to mention your own).  Its actually quite easy to just show up, give out a hug, maybe play a token game or two with your kid, talk to your wife, go to bed and do it all over again tomorrow without ever really parenting.

To be completely honest.  I don’t always succeed at taking advantage of all the “dad” moments that I could.  But I know I need to.  I know that I love my kids (no matter how many times they say “dad” in a row while I’m trying to figure out the algebra problems I’ve created  in the check book). I know that they need me.  I know that I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now living with regrets on how I wasted these formable years because someone else said, “that’s normal” or “that really never messed up my kid.” (After all they aren’t accountable for how I raise my kids).

So we have set some things in place in my family in order to capitalize on these younger years with my daughter.  I tuck her in bed most nights and read 1 or 2 stories to her from her Jesus Story Book Bible .  We also pray together.

On some Sunday afternoons we are more intentional.  We have this 105 picture set of pictures describing events in the Bible.  She picks out several pictures and I walk her through the story and how it relates to Jesus and obedience to God.  She looks forward to our time on Sundays and its often in this context that we process how the stories tell us about who God is and how we can relate to Him through our decisions.

My favorite part of the week is taking her out for breakfast once a week before school, we call it a Father-Daughter date.  The regular scheduled time gives me a solid hour of quality time with her.  We do everything from eating pancakes, talking about our her week, sharing ideas on how to color a picture, reading books, to picking up a small gift or surprise for my wife and her mom.  Its often in the context of this date that I get opportunities to share about Jesus with folks we meet there.

Its the date days that I really think my daughter gets to see the fullest picture of her dad.  There is no topic off limits and she often brings up some great questions.  We process life together and I intentionally help unmask the world around her through the lens of scripture. Sometimes we talk to people, sometimes we pray with people, and sometimes we just enjoy pancakes and a good story.

You see, here is what I know.  My daughter reads my actions better than my intentions. So it makes sense that I would be intentional about my actions.  I say that church is a family event, yet when we get there I am pulled a million different places (as I should be) because I’m on staff at the church.  So we arrive together and leave together on purpose (even though it would be more convenient not to).  I say I love her, so I am intentional about spending quality and quantity one-on-one time despite having a hectic and busy schedule.  I say I love Jesus, so I intentionally help her process her world through the lens of scripture.

I want her to know me.  I want her to know that I love her.  I want her to know that I am proud of her.  I want her to know that as a father I will do what is best for her.  Its really not about my good intentions, its about intentionally being a dad. I hope one day she looks back on her childhood and treasures the times we talked over pancakes as much as I do.

What about you?  What are some of the things that you are intentional about with your children?