Boys Club

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting by myself and having lunch. I was reading a magazine, watching sports on TV, and checking email on my phone. At the next table, there was group of 3 guys talking; and I wasn’t really listening until one of them said this:

“There’s no way my wife could leave for a couple of days. I don’t think I could handle it with my kids. All the meals and baths and stuff. It’s more than I can deal with.”

I stopped. I wanted to get up, walk over, sit down, look at him and go, “REALLY?!?” (and then slap him). You couldn’t handle having the kids for a couple of days? Really? You couldn’t handle being the sole care giver for 48 hours? Really?!?

Listen, if you are a dad and you couldn’t be solely responsible for your kids for a couple of nights, without…

…your wife preparing all the meals
…your wife writing out instructions on which kids get which medicines, etc
…your mommy coming over to watch them so you can go golf or to help get them to bed
…just putting them in front of the TV, Wii, or Game Boy for a couple days…

…then you aren’t doing your job as a husband and father. You’re immature at best, selfish at worst, and I guarantee you cause your wife more stress than anyone else in her life. It’s time to grow up.

Your kids need alone time with you. They need to bond with you without their mom around. They need to see how you handle dinner (and carry out doesn’t count…cook something!) They need to see how you do bath time. They need to see you doing dishes, picking up, and keeping the house in good order. They need to see you take them to swim practice, to their basketball game, and to church on Sunday! Quite simply, they need to see their dad being dad.

My boys love Boys Club. In fact, we are just coming off a Boys Club weekend this weekend. That’s what we call it when when my wife is gone for a few hours or for the weekend. They look forward to it. I look forward to it. She really looks forward to it!

Here’s the point: Be engaged AND intentional in the life of your kids. Don’t just be a paycheck.

40% of babies born in White families today have no father in the home. The number jumps to over 70% when you talk about babies born in the African American community. Those are homes where there is no father at all. That doesn’t count the homes where a dad is physically there, but in all the ways that matter he’s not there!

Here’s the challenge: Be alone with your kids for an overnight or for a weekend. Send your wife away somewhere. I’m guessing you won’t have to twist her arm!

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Now, in case you are a mom reading this (or you men want to show her this post when she looks at you funny for suggesting she go away for a night), you need to understand your husband is not a mom. He is not going to do things the way you do.

He’s not going to feed them the way you do. That’s OK.
He’s not going to treat them the way you do. That’s OK.
He’s not going to do bedtime the way you do. That’s OK

Why? Because he is their father. He loves them, cares about them, and will protect them. They will still all be there when you get home. Let your husband test his own parenting skills. Only doing everything you tell him to do when it comes to the kids isn’t having an engaged father/husband…it’s having a male nanny that brings in a paycheck.

You want and need your husband to be engaged in your kids’ lives. You need him to be willing to take them off your hands for a change. You need time away from the kids, and just as importantly, they need time away from you.

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OK, back to the men. I think it’s time more of us men Stand Up, Step Up, and Suck It Up when it comes to being actively involved in the raising of our kids.

So, don’t tell me you don’t think you could handle your kids alone for a couple of days while your wife gets a much needed break.

You can do it.

It’s called being a dad.

Do You Have a Plan?

The engines roar so loudly you can feel your whole body shake as the fighter jet accelerates down the short runway on the aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can smell the burning fuel. Standing on the deck of the carrier, you can’t even see the fighter pilot inside because his plane is racing by at such an incredible speed. You can, though, sense the power of the great plane and the intensity of the takeoff. Just seconds before, the jet was calmly stationed at the end of the carrier, along with a few other ones. But now, just seconds later, amidst burning fuel and an awesome display of speed, it’s at the end of the runway and quickly airborne, racing up into the blue sky.

But where is the plane going?

Like the fighter jet, you, too, are about to accelerate down a short runway and take off on a great adventure with many possible missions and destinations. During your childhood, your life has probably been pretty steady and stable for the last few years. Sure, there have been ups and downs and you’ve changed and grown as a boy, but boyhood is usually marked by very slow and gradual development compared to the upcoming season in your life. But soon, instead of just hanging out at the end of the runway with the other fighter jets, instead of slowly taxiing back and forth on the runway, your life is about to accelerate in a very intense and rapid period called adolescence. And at the end of adolescence, you will take off into the sky for an even greater adventure: manhood.

Any fighter pilot will probably tell you that good preparation before the flight is essential to a successful mission. He has spent thousands of hours learning to fly. He has considered problems he could encounter and maneuvers he could use in those dangerous situations. He has tested and serviced the plane. He has filled it up with fuel. He has studied the specific flight plan, considered the weather, and learned the goal and details of the mission. The takeoff is but a few seconds; the mission is but a few hours; but the preparation is years in the making.

The preparation is years in the making. Do you feel the weight of that challenge? It is up to us to make sure that we are being proactive with our sons as we cast vision for it means to be a godly man. We have to give them the Flight Plan well before their flight takes off. That requires work on our part. Are you willing to put the time and effort in now so that your future pilot can fly on the journey himself? The challenge is set before us. The question is whether or not we are up for it!

Don’t Let “Oops” Define Your Parenting

There are several people in life that you don’t want to hear say “Oops!” Your barber, your mechanic, and your surgeon come to mind. Another is your parents. None of us want “Oops” to sum up the influence we’ve had on the lives of our children. Sadly, I am hearing more and more of that from dads. It is crucial for us to become intentional about what we are giving the next generation in the short time they are in our care.

If you don’t know this, time sneaks up on you. At first it was sleepless nights and leaky diapers. Exhausting and disgusting, but a fair trade off for getting close with such a little bundle of joy. Then they raise the bar with bumps and bruises, dinnertime spills, crayons on the walls, and the word “No” in response to, well, everything. The trade off seems a little less fair. Before you know it, you pole vault over issues you never thought were part of the parenting package- that first cuss word, awkwardly trying to explain sex, or working through that first time they are picked on or excluded.

It is our job as dads to give them a biblical framework for living. We are called to equip them with a strong sense of identity that comes from knowing who made them, who they are, and how they fit into the larger story of life. We must help them understand their story from the Author’s perspective, to enjoy the wonder that comes from knowing that with God everything is sacred and nothing is meaningless.

Dads must lead the charge in this battle for truth and teach our kids about:

A personal, loving God who created them for relationship.
A sense of purpose and meaning that transcends the often confusing and painful experiences they will endure.
Timeless truth that frames the choices they will face and explains the seemingly hapless circumstances of life.
A profound hope only found in Jesus Christ that can overshadow the deepest despair.

Don’t let this opportunity slip by. The curtain is up and you are on stage. It is time to act!

Step Up: Serve

Step-up-serveLet’s face it: we men have difficulty serving.

I work hard to provide for my family. I pay the bills, and I keep the cars maintained. I change light bulbs and fix leaky toilets. I make sure the trash is taken out. I wash dishes fairly regularly. I even get the kids ready for bed most nights.

But do my boys see me serve in church? Do I tell them I serve my Lord and Savior, but only in words and not in deeds?

I came across a website that included some interesting facts about men and their service in church. There are quite a few statistics, and feel free to go to the website (click here) to get all of them, and see their footnotes. I will include just a couple:

  • This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.

  • Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.

  • Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.

  • Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.

  • A study from Hartford Seminary found that the presence of involved men was statistically correlated with church growth, health, and harmony. Meanwhile, a lack of male participation is strongly associated with congregational decline.

Even more than attending church, we need to serve. I find it a little funny how we refer to our Sunday morning gathering as a “Church Service,” yet so few of us serve there. I am challenged to look at the “Service” as a verb and not a noun. How I serve others in the church body is a response to how I understand the heart of Jesus Christ. On his final day, before He was crucified, Jesus served.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13.3-5 (NIV)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13.14-17 (NIV)

What a great picture of the master serving others! Our sons need to see us serving. Maybe it is serving as an usher. Maybe it is serving as an elder. Maybe it is serving as a janitor. Maybe even serving in the nursery (doesn’t sound very manly, does it?), but we need to serve. We are called to serve. We need to validate our words.

If possible, find opportunities for you to serve with your children. Let them see you actively serve, and give them a chance to pattern their lives after yours, and find the joy in serving your church as a family.

Is God worth serving? Or do I have other things in my life that I would rather serve, that take priority over God’s command to me to serve? Our sons will see right through our words, and either they will believe us when we say we serve the one true God, or they will see us serving something else.
It is not easy. It may even seem awkward. But it is time to step up, and serve.

A letter to New Dads, Old Dads, and New Dads That Feel Old

A-letter-to-new-dads(Note: This is really a letter to new fathers, but if you’ve been a dad for awhile, I hope this will have some meaning for you as well.)

Dear New Dad,

I know, I know. The baby is finally quiet and the last thing you want to do is read this letter. You want to sleep. Actually, you might be too tired to sleep, so collapsing on the couch in exhaustion may be more like it. Relax, it could be worse: You could be the new mom!

But, while you have a minute I wanted to write you this note. I remember so well the day my first son was born. I had no idea the impact him coming into the world would have on me. Looking back, I want to give you 4 things to tuck away and remember. Even with 4 boys (ages 10, 8, 6, 4) these are things I still need to hear too. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Pursue God more now than ever – Don’t lose sight of the fact your most important relationship still needs be with God and His son, Jesus. In fact, now that you have a child of your own, I bet John 3:16 (…his only begotten son…) looks a bit more real to you. You understand how much God must love you to put His son on the cross to die for you. Remember, He doesn’t want your money. He doesn’t want you just going to church. He wants a relationship with you. As a new father, you are going to need His strength now more than ever.

2. Love your wife – It’s so easy to get in the habit of raising kids that, if I am not careful, I can begin to interact and treat my wife as a business partner. No doubt sometimes it feels like Kaehr, Inc. instead of The Kaehr Family, but I want to be married to my best friend, not a business partner. Create space for just you and your wife. Create moments where you can be close to her, talk with her, and spend time with just her – remember, loving her means leading her. Now more than ever, she needs you to step up as the Godly leader in the home!

3. Check your blind spots – There are going to be areas of your life that were never an issue before and now that you have kids, those areas may become blind spots (things that are affecting you that you just don’t see). You need to be meeting with other men in discipleship/accountability to keep your life in check. You also need to have a mentor you can lean on for wisdom. If you don’t have these men in your life, now would be the time to get them. You are going to need other men to share with and help you down this path.

4. Enjoy it – Children are gift from the Lord. Enjoy the new blessing in your life. Remember, don’t just enjoy them now (when they are sleeping). Enjoy them in the middle of the night when they are screaming. Enjoy them when they throw up all over you. Enjoy them when they begin to walk or say “da da”. Enjoy them when they poop out of their diaper all over your jeans at the restaurant. Don’t ever stop looking at them like the miracle you keep saying they are right now. Believe me, that is SO much easier to write than say, but it’s true!

I could probably go on and on, but I won’t. Enjoy the quiet. Give your wife a back rub. Rest. You are going to need it.

But, let me tell you: If you will be an engaging husband and father, if you will pursue God, love your wife, share the experience with others, and enjoy the moments…there is no greater job or reward this side of Heaven. Absolutely nothing!

To quote a PBS legend, “Red Green”…Remember, I’m pulling for ya’. We’re all in this together.

Congratulations!
Dustin

From Obedience to Passion

From-obedience-to-passion

It seems that, at least in my generation, there is a very strong emphasis on passion: on living sold-out, in love, passionate about a relationship with Jesus. It’s not about rules or religion: it’s about a relationship.

There is, no doubt, a great deal of truth to this. Many current books have been written, songs released, sermons preached on the importance of clinging, not to an ideology, but to a Person. Relationship, passion, love.

To be honest, though, I struggle with this concept of faith. I butt up against this image of a Creator who wants us to just be passionately “in love” with Him, and passionate about seeing others in love with Him. As a man not given often given to strong or enduring emotions, I find it difficult to come to that place of passionately pursuing God, of desiring only Him and His word.

Don’t misunderstand me: I love the Lord and want to know Him and His word. But it seems that, perhaps, in our Christian culture, sometimes we may put a new face on legalism, based not on a set of rules, but the strength of a person’s emotions regarding their faith. We venerate those who become visibly excited, who speak of being in love with Jesus, who want to go “all out” or live “sold out,” who want to make a bold and courageous demonstration for the sake of Christ.

What I want to postulate, though, is that perhaps our energies are misdirected when we seek to live passionately for God. Perhaps we are missing some of what it means to be a follower of Christ when we focus primarily on being in love with Jesus. What about those, like me, who struggle to even maintain a regular quiet time and active prayer life? I’m not suggesting that we do away with passion, or with seeking to fall “in love” with Jesus every day; I’m merely suggesting that it is not the place to start.

C.S. Lewis used to encourage new believers who wrote him letters regarding the emotions that they thought should surround their conversion experience. Many did not experience the joy or surge of love for the Lord that others had found so readily. His advice, I think, applies not only to the new believer, but also to those of us who sometimes feel like we’re just plodding along, seeking the Lord but not feeling “on fire”: he told them, only obey. Obey what Christ commanded, and if God wills for special joy and emotions to follow, then they will. If not, remember, we are called only to heed His voice and follow.

And that, I think, is perhaps where the mark is missed. I’ve read, and heard, often that obedience should not be cumbersome or difficult because of the love we should bear toward Jesus. But what if our love for God, for His ways, grows out of our obedience, not the other way around? What if, instead of seeking first to feel the way we should toward God, we seek first to act the way we should toward God?

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul reminds us, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more… For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

God is not concerned that we first feel like loving Him, and feel like serving others or sharing His gospel: God is first concerned that we choose to obey Him, knowing that, as we follow step by step in obedience to Him, we grow to understand that, as for God, His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), and He is not slow in keeping His promises (2 Peter 3:9). When we follow first in obedience, then we experience His joy,  because we see that the results are just as He promised. And our love grows, our passion grows, our obedience grows.

So pursue God wholeheartedly. Live with passion. Seek Him first in all things. But remember that zeal for His name, for His house, for His heart, for His word, come first through obedience.

Finding Meaning in Work


I aspire, as I’m sure you do, to instill in my sons a strong work ethic. To take seriously the call of the apostle Paul: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

God has called us to work hard, to put our all into everything that we do, doing it “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In the context of Colossians 3, Paul is describing the marks of the Christian life, the list of things we are to “put on” after we have “put off” sin. A strong work ethic, a life which moves away from inactivity or laziness, should be a distinctive feature in the life of every follower of Christ. This call to work hard is sandwiched between two commands for us to express thankfulness to God. Without extrapolating too far, I think it’s safe to say that God has given us the privilege of working: that even though the work we do may not be fulfilling to us, it is a gift from God to be able to work, to accomplish and succeed. Work is a gift.

Finding-meaning-in-work

To be frank, I don’t always (or often) recognize that. Perhaps, like me, you’re in a job that’s got nothing to do with your training or abilities, that is seemingly menial or insignificant. A job that just (sort of) pays the bills. A job that you do just because, well, you need to work.

How do you give thanks for that?

At the beginning of time, when God first created the world, He instituted work for man: tend the garden, see to it, work the ground. I can only assume that this work brought satisfaction to Adam, the first man. I can only imagine the feeling of accomplishment he experienced after a day of labor, tending to the garden in which God had placed him. Of course, Adam and Eve sinned, and work became difficult, even painful, for mankind.

Maybe you feel that difficulty every day of your work life. Maybe your work seems trivial, or your circumstances stifling. Maybe your job isn’t enough to cover your bills each month. Take heart; you are not called to be successful, or to be fulfilled by your work, or even to enjoy it. Only to offer it to God. To work at it with all your heart, as working to the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Sometimes, that is a small comfort, or perhaps no comfort at all. But if Scripture tells us one thing throughout its entire narrative about work, it’s that God rewards faithfulness. To the one who is faithful in the small things, He entrusts the greater things.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about work in the past few years is this: No work is meaningless. Even if it’s cleaning pools, finishing basements, being a security guard (all of which I’ve done), or something else that doesn’t display significant results. No work is meaningless.

That is, if it is rendered to God. If it is done for His glory, seeking His ends and how He would use us in whatever situation we find ourselves. God is not concerned with the title of our position; He is concerned with the position of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).

One final note, something that hit me only yesterday. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He looked at His work and declared it good. The results of His work were good: they were worthwhile and significant. Do you know, fellow father, that no matter our jobs, we can say the same thing for our work? When we strive to bring God the glory through our work, when we work without complaining (Philippians 2:14), when we offer our work as a sacrifice to God…

We can look at the most difficult, or insignificant, or overwhelming task, and say that it is good.

 

Teaching Your Son What You Don’t Know

How do you teach your kids something you don’t know?

Or, more generally, how to you help your kids excel in areas where you don’t? Where, perhaps, you’re an abysmal failure?

teaching-your-sons-what-you-dont-know

It’s hard enough to pass on those values, skills, and ideals we possess in abundance. I can teach my sons how to be kind, patient, forgiving, faithful, and so on, because these happen to be some of my strengths; and even these will be transmitted to my boys only by concerted effort, diligence, endurance.

Harder by far is it for me to teach them decisiveness, strength in leadership, financial intelligence, even healthy aggression, because these are areas of weakness for me–areas where all my best efforts and concentrations are hardly enough to propel me toward any noticeable growth. But they are qualities I admire, aspire to, and desire for my sons. I want them to be well rounded, strong in the areas where I am weak, protected from my own shortcomings.

But how, exactly, am I supposed to pass that on to them? If I don’t possess certain abilities or character traits in abundance, how can I teach those things to my sons?

Being keenly aware of my various and colorful shortcomings (as you probably are of yours), I’ve thought a lot about this question. And, as a young dad, I’ve thought of several ways to help address the issue—ideas that are helping me as I implement them, and which I believe are applicable to fathers from any life stage. So, here goes: My list of How To Teach Your Sons What You Don’t Know…

1. Become a student

Come up against an issue that baffles you? Something outside your comfort zone, and beyond your strengths? Read up on it; study the issue in Scripture; begin trying to work it out in your own life. Experience, it’s said, is the best teacher. So, for example, if you struggle with making wise financial decisions, start by reading sound financial advice from a biblical perspective—then put it into practice. Always be willing to learn—for your benefit, and for your sons’.

2. Surround your sons with mentors

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” From an early age, our sons need to understand that we, their dads, don’t have everything they need: we are not perfect, not able to completely prepare them for all that life brings. We are their primary teachers, yes: God has designed it that way, and we should never shrink from that responsibility. But, let’s help our sons one more step along the way: let’s help them learn to be mentored. By accepting mentoring in our own lives, and by surrounding ourselves—and our sons—with godly friends, they will see a more complete representation of God-honoring masculinity.

3. Seek wisdom from God

James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The greatest tool we have for fathering, and especially for teaching our sons the things that are beyond our capabilities, is the wisdom of God. I believe it’s possible, through our inexperience and failure, that God can help us find the teachable moments our mess ups create. We can teach our sons through the dumb things we do, if we’re willing to admit our mistakes and seek the better path for next time. Even better, God can grant us the supernatural wisdom to understand that which is beyond us, and to make the wise choices. We can allow the Spirit of God to lead us, even in situations where we have no experience or aptitude, into victory.

These are general ideas, yes, but they are ones I’ve found extremely helpful as I consider my many shortcomings and how to raise my sons to avoid them. Become a student of the areas where you fall short, surround yourself (and your sons) with godly mentors who have different strengths than you do, and, most of all, seek God’s wisdom through HIs word.

Dads, what are some ways you’ve found to teach your sons what you don’t know? How do you pass on what you don’t have?

Training Wheels

Training-wheels

Train up a child a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

I was reminded of this verse when I was out for a run and my 4-year-old wanted to ride his bike. He was ahead of me, wobbling back and forth. More than once, I had to catch him from tipping completely to the ground as he leaned too far for even the training wheels to help.

The idea of “train up” really means “to initiate” or “discipline” and gives us as dads good, foundational guidance on how we interact with and raise our kids. But, as I thought about that popular verse and watched the little boy in front of me, I realized something. Riding a bike with training wheels and my job as dad has some real similarities (see if you can make the connections):

 

  • It is his job to pedal; I cannot do it for him – I need to give him instruction, guidance, and help, but I cannot sit on the bike for him.
  • He is so focused riding, I need to be looking farther down the road – He is so intent on peddling, looking around, and having fun that if I am not looking ahead, he would surely wreck or end up somewhere he shouldn’t be.
  • When he knows I am behind, he does not have a care in world – The confidence he has knowing I am right there “just in case” is all he needs to move forward.
  • If he could, he would keep the training wheels on longer than he needs them – There is little risk with training wheels, but I know he cannot keep them on forever, and sooner or later, he needs to trust himself to ride!

For dads, there are some valuable lessons there. We are responsible to God for training up our children. We need to guide. We need to advise. We need to share our experiences so they can learn from our mistakes  and successes. But, if we simply do all the work for them, not only do they not learn anything, they miss out on all the joy.

This does not mean that someday, training wheels or not, they are not going to wreck. That is when we need to be tender, loving, and compassionate.

So, regardless if you have boys who are still using training wheels or boys with the trainers off looking for the biggest ramp around, make sure you remember your job as dad.

If you do, the Proverb has a great promise for us: “…even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

No Re-Dos in Raising a Man

No-redos-in-raising-a-man

His hair is long.

Ruffled over and past his ears reminding me that I need to do something with this ‘mop’ that has taken over his head.

He grabs the sides of his hair and pulls them down even further past the tops of his ears and says to me,

“ Daddy, I need a hair cut. See, my hair is really long.”

As he leaves the room to get his change of clothes for church, I reassure him that I’ll cut his hair.

Oil runs down my fingers as I prepare the clippers that will soon plow through his numbered hairs like a combine that harvests corn.

My son returns into the room, his arms overflowing with his brand new suit. A wide, proud smile consumes him as he belts out confidently,

“Daddy, I’m a man now. I’m not a boy any more.”

Apparently my responding look was not convincing enough for him and he repeats himself just as if I didn’t hear him the first time.

I reaffirm this six-year-old self-described man-child.

He’s a man. My little man.

How easily I forget.

His small frame, boyish ways, and innocence all wrapped up in six years old. But, he will be a man one day. The time I take with him day in and day out (or lack thereof) will no doubt affect the man he becomes.

I often see him as he is and not as he will one day become. I fail to remember how I need to remain persistent in chasing and pursuing his heart. To never cease winning his heart, because one day he will become a father, husband, and a full-grown man accountable for himself.

What I choose to do with my son in how I raise him greatly affects the man he becomes. Persistence, in the days that seem too hard to put in the effort, is needed.

There is only one shot at fatherhood. There is no rewind and no redo. There is no guarantee that things will turn out great in the end, but there won’t be any regrets either.

I say to you (and me), don’t give up pursuing your son’s heart. Even when the days seem long, when you’re too tired to spend the extra time at his bedside and when another book is too much.

Just say to him what he tells you,

“One more minute.”

“One more book.”

“One more throw.”

You can do this; we can do this.

We need a few good men for the next generation.