Who do you think you are?

Recently I had the chance to work a large AAU basketball tournament with teams from all over the country. There was some talented young kids there and there were coaches from every Big 10 school, several SEC, Big 12, and dozen of mid-major colleges there to watch these 15 and 16 year old players. It was obvious the kids lived and breathed basketball. In watching them on the floor, in between games, and walking the halls, it was obvious their entire identity was wrapped up in that sport.

OK, that’s fine. They are 16 and, for the most part, don’t have a clue about what their life will be like in 5 years…or what living in “the real world” will require of them.

Then I saw their parents. Ah…that explains it. I was amazed at how many of those parents yelled, screamed, kept stats, and took notes while their kid played. I understand it can be a big deal if your kid is one of the few that may have the ability to play in college and earn a full scholarship, but it was apparent that their entire life was wrapped up in basketball and their kid.

What’s wrong with that? What happens when Johnny doesn’t get an offer to play college ball? Or blows out a knee and never plays again? Or is burnt out and doesn’t want to play anymore? Who are those parents then? Odds are they become angry, bitter, and who knows what else.

Here’s the bigger idea: Be very careful where you have your identity, because if something happens to that, you are left trying to figure out exactly who you are.

I was working with a small business owner who was thinking of selling his business and retiring. On his notes he wrote, “What am I without the store?” The question hung there like a huge weight around his neck. He had no identity outside his work.

We all have this void in our life where we place our self-worth and self-esteem. The problem is we all try to fill the void in our life with so many different things:

Job (most common for men), kids (most common for women), our marriage, our extended family, our hobbies, or even our church/religion.

So what happens when we lose our job, our kids go off to school, our wife leaves us, or our church upsets us?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “…He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

See it? The problem and the answer are both right there. The void we are trying to fill is this longing in our heart for eternity. The answer isn’t my job. It isn’t pushing my son to be an all-star athlete at age 8. It isn’t completely focusing my entire life on my wife. It’s eternity. The problem is we can’t fully fathom what God has done, which means we have this burning desire for something we will never be able to fully understand. But, the answer in our heart can be satisfied by having a relationship with Jesus because only in Him can we have a secure knowledge that a longing for eternity is met.

Without that kind of foundation, as soon as that area of our life we’ve staked our identity cracks, crumbles, or disappears, we don’t know what do. We’re lost. And when that happens we try like mad to hold it all together or completely give up on life…because we have no other option.

Now, none of those things I mentioned (job, kids, etc) are bad. In fact, we need to be passionate about them and pursing them to get the most out of this life. But, those things can’t be who we are or what we are most known for. Think of it like this…what do you want to be know for when you die?

Me? I want to be known as a loving father, great husband, good friend who had a passion about people and helping men be all God made them to be.

All those things can only happen if my foundation is my personal relationship with Christ. Because, without Him, none of those things will ever be what I want them to be. Why? Because I can’t do it on my own…and neither can you.

Boring is Not Allowed

Jack London, author of the book “White Fang”, when asked about purpose in life, responded by saying: “The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Our boys must understand that they have incredible adventures ahead of them. They must also see that lived out in our lives. I have yet to meet a boy that wants to grow up and be boring. God designed boys and men with adventuresome spirits. We men often love to explore, take risks, and play and invent games in which we are challenged and pushed to the edge.

This sense of adventure, however, can be misguided during the teenage years. Some adventures could lead down a path towards things like alcohol, drugs, vandalism and sex outside of marriage. These paths should be avoided. It is our calling as dads to tell our boys that many things are out of bounds. When we give those restrictions, it is important for our boys to know that we are preparing them for the future, even if they feel like they are missing out on an adventure that other teenage boys are having.

This does not mean that there are no adventures left to enjoy. Your life is not meant to be boring and empty, and neither is your son’s. Author Wilfred Peterson says, “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends and taking up new hobbies.” Men should never fall into the trap of believing that a life of adventure is over at a certain age. God called men of all ages and stages to a life of adventure.

As we learn more about the character of God and His Son Jesus, we will come to see God as sending each of us on a great adventure when we become a follower of His. Jesus lived a radical and adventurous life, and He calls us to live the same way. Real men embrace the right kinds of adventures.

My prayer is that our sons will know very clearly from both our words and actions that a life lived for the glory of God is a life of adventure.

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

The Path to Self-Control

I’ve been enjoying and old book called The Children for Christ, by Andrew Murray. Being over 100 years old, these daily readings on godly parenting are sometimes slow going, but I’m also discovering some great nuggets of wisdom.

These words on the fifth commandment are especially relevant to our day:

“Man was created free that he might obey; obedience is the path to liberty.

“On this point parents often err; they often say that to develop the will of the child the will must be left free, and the child left to decide for himself. They forget that the will of the child is not free—passion and prejudice, selfishness and ignorance, seek to influence the child in the wrong direction…

“But are we not in danger of repressing the healthy development of a child’s moral powers by thus demanding implicit submission to our will? By no means. The true liberty of the will consists in our being master of it, and so our own masters. Train a child to master his will in giving it up to his parents’ command, and he acquires the mastery to use when he is free. Yielding to a parent’s control is the path to self-control, and self-control alone is liberty.

“The child who is taught by a wise parent to honour him and his superior wisdom will acquire, as he gives up his own way, the power over his will, as he never can who is taught to imagine that he need do nothing unless the parent has first convinced him of the propriety of the act, and obtained his consent.”

Andrew Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 111-112.

This inspires me to recommit to requiring first-time obedience from my little ones. Besides learning obedience to both their earthly and their heavenly Father now, my children are acquiring the tools needed to make their own decisions and live in obedience to God long after they have left my home.

Boys and Integrity

Boys-and-integrity

The evening was coming to an end and so were my wits. My oldest was crying in her room. As I went to see what was wrong, my son scurries out of the room avoiding eye contact with me, leaping into bed with guilt dragging behind him. I ask her what he did and in between gasps of air she belts out, “He’s exasperating me!” I ask her how he’s exasperating her and she proceeds to explain he sold her a pen for a dollar and now wants another dollar after she had already given him the money.

I call him into the room.

He peers ever so slowly from around the corner. His head is down. Our eyes barely meet.

He tells me this is true of what happened.

He’s hardly remorseful and more concerned that he didn’t get more than what he sold it to his sister for.

The words, “You need to give your sister back the money she paid for the pen…and she’s keeping the pen too,” rolled off of my tongue.

You would have thought I took all of his toys and burned them with the look I received from him.

I explained the meaning of integrity and what it means to keep your word. I explained there are few men who have it and having integrity is a noble characteristic.

I want him to know what integrity is. I want integrity to be his best friend. I want it to be my best friend too. I turn to him and give him permission as man to man that he can call me out on anything that I’m not doing with integrity.

It’s a two-way street.

I have seen men fall from high places from a lack of integrity. And no man is above falling.

I want my son to know I have his back. And I want him to have mine.

If he loses everything and has God and integrity, then he really hasn’t lost anything at all.

Holidays + Families = Fun?

Finding-joy-in-holidaysI know that having a family with young kids can be both wonderful and stressful at the same time. Add the joys of all the holiday reunions and “wonderful” goes way down…and “stressful” goes way up!

As dad and husband, we have a major responsibility to lead our families well through this season, no matter what it brings! With the Holiday season ready to hit full stride, and stores already full of Christmas music, here are 3 suggestions to think about as you plan your “over the river and through the woods” trips this season:

Family First

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Your first priority needs to be your wife and children. You need to work to create and preserve your own family time during the holidays. It’s OK to tell that family member (your mom, her mom, your grandpa, etc.) that the way you have always celebrated the holidays may not be how you celebrate them now that you have kids. I promise there will be some initial push back, angry looks, and even guilt cast upon you. That’s OK. Your wife and kids need to be the most important focus.

Now, remember, you are called to honor your father and mother, so you need to work with them so you can enjoy the holidays with them, but only children are called to obey their parents. You are not a child. You are grown man with a family. Stand up for them (and for yourself) to make sure you put them first!

Traditions

Christmas traditions are great! Singing your favorite Christmas song. Watching Christmas Vacation. Hot Chocolate on the first day it snows. Those amazing peanut butter balls!

Be sure to pass down some of your (and your wife’s) favorite traditions. It’s a great chance to share with your kids about what you enjoyed growing up and the blending of your traditions with your wife’s will build some great, lasting memories for your kids.

But…don’t forget to create some new traditions unique to your family as well, so your children can pass them down when they are older!

Focus

More than ever, it is so easy to get wrapped up in materialism this time of year. It seems our mailbox is filled everyday with a new toy catalog. It’s easy for kids to think Christmas is only about getting presents and running from family member to family member to see what they get.

It is important to lead your family closer to Christ. Tell them the real “reason for the season” and then make sure you live it out in your own life! So here’s a question: What do you do with Santa? That’s a tough one.

There was a real Saint Nicholas from which the legend of Santa Clause grew. Don’t be afraid to talk about St. Nick, who he was, what he did, and how the story of Santa Claus came from this real person.

This year, we are planning to have gifts “in memory of St. Nick” instead of “from Santa”.

Now, all that being said…I don’t get too worried about it right now. Why not? Well, let me ask you something: How much can you remember from when you were 5 years old?

Exactly.

So, for my 6 and 4 year old, I’m not going to freak out if they get excited when they see deer tracks in our yard and think that Dasher, Donner, and Blitzen have been spying on them.

But, as they get older, we talk about it more and make sure they understand Christmas is God’s plan of Salvation put into motion, and ends with an empty tomb come Spring.

Ultimately, celebrating Christmas with your kids should be an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. That should be the focus!

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The holidays can be a great time of family bonding you wish would last a bit longer. They can also be pure misery that can’t be over with soon enough. The great thing about them though? You are absolutely in control of how wonderful (or not) they are.

Let me be the first to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!