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!

Bring the Bible to Life!

I have fond memories of acting out Bible stories with my family as a kid. Back in those days, Sunday afternoons were often spent re-enacting the plagues of Egypt, the defeat of Jericho, Zacchaeus climbing a tree to see Jesus, and more. For me and my brothers, the stories of the Judges were always our favorites, like Gideon’s nighttime attack on the Midianites, Ehud burying his dagger in King Eglon’s belly, and Samson taking out masses of quickly re-spawning Philistines with his stuffed-sock “jawbone.”

Bringing the Bible to life

Now that I have kids of my own, I’m discovering that Bible drama is one of the best ways to get young children excited about the Bible. They may not sit still for Bible reading very long, but if you give them a chance to get up and act out the story themselves, they will engage with God’s Word on a whole new level. If you haven’t tried Bible drama in your home, there are many reasons to give it a try, especially if you have young ones in your family.

How Bible drama can benefit your children:

  • It can help them pay better attention and listen for details when you read the Bible.
  • It may lead to questions and better understanding of the stories.
  • They will remember the stories much better after acting them out with you.
  • It helps them to see the character of God and the pattern of His faithfulness throughout history.
  • They’ll see the consequences of man’s decisions as played out in Scripture.
  • It helps them think through and better understand Scripture passages (especially the Proverbs).
  • Acting out stories is often more engaging for everyone, especially boys, extra-active children, and kinesthetic learners.
  • Drama brings the Bible to life! Children realize that the people in Scripture were real people living real lives, just like us.
  • You’ll create fun family memories as everyone learns and plays together.
  • As your children grow older, they may also find ways to bless others through Bible drama, including mission work, outreach, and church programs.

While you’re having fun with Bible drama, remember the ultimate goal. We want our children to know God – as He reveals Himself in His Word – and believe in Him. This is why God tells us to instruct our children. This is why He gave us such rich stories to share. That’s what I’m praying for, for my kids and yours.

 

Do your boys enjoy acting out Bible stories? Do they have a favorite story?

You may also enjoy Get Kids to Love Bible Study or Doorposts’ Bible Drama Video Contest.

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!

Celebrating The Word Made Flesh

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1

This is the story of Christmas, in the shortest possible form. The Word became flesh; God became man; heaven came to earth. Christ came, and He brought with Him all of God’s glory, but veiled in flesh, so that we could stand to look at it.

Once again, the Word spoke into darkness, and light came. The first time was the Creation of the world, where, John writes, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3). The Word created all things; the Word spoke light from darkness; the Word brought about the very beginning of all things.

And now, the Word recreates us, and will recreate all things (2 Corinthians 5:17); the Word speaks light into our spiritual darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome Him any more than it could when the first shaft of light rent the darkness of the world in the Creation; the Word brings about new beginning- a rebirth- for all those who receive Him (John 1:12). The very Word, who was with God and who is God, Who created all things by simply speaking, has spoken into our dark world, and brought light and life.

When God first spoke the world into being, His words carried consequences: He spoke, and what He spoke became reality, never to be removed except by His word. In the same way, when the Word was spoken into our world, there were lasting consequences: the Word came, and dwelt, and remains. Christmas celebrates a moment in time- when Christ was born; but it also celebrates that God is now with us, far beyond that day in Bethlehem. And it celebrates not just the birth of Christ, but the reason for His coming: that all of us, sinners held back from a relationship with God, might have the opportunity to know Him. That we might behold His glory, His grace, and His truth. And that we might be changed, from dead to living, from far from God to near to Him, from living in darkness to living in marvelous light.

Dads, if you do nothing else this Christmas- if you give your children no other gifts- make sure they understand this: Christmas is very literally the celebration of God communicating Himself to us through Jesus Christ. It is Him interrupting our aimless wandering, our searching for reasons to celebrate and hopes to cling to, and setting before our eyes the only true Joy, the only hope that does not disappoint: God made man, Christ taking on flesh. God with us. May you rejoice in Him today; may your words celebrate the Word that told the grace of God.

Happy Christmas!

Boys and Integrity

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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.

Show Some Heart

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Boys need to see the heart of their father.

It may be something you do very naturally with your daughter, but struggle with your boys. Remember, we need to be tough for our family, not tough on them…especially our sons.

See, before the Industrial Revolution, boys spent the days with their dads in the fields. A son saw the best hours of his dad’s day. They saw his strength and work ethic. They spent time with dad pouring his life and energy into his work. All that changed once men went to work in factories, and the only part of dad a boy would see is what was left when they got home from work (which was usually just enough strength to sit in a chair, read the paper, and have a drink). It began a trickle-down effect that put women (wives, school and Sunday school teachers) spending more and more time with boys. As men began to throw their lives into work, they quit calling their boys to manhood, and boys had to grow into men without anyone modeling it for them.

OK, all of that’s a bit of a rabbit trail (maybe for another time) from where I really want to go with this, so let me re-focus.

It is important your boys see you work. They need to see you get passionate about things (not just cussing and angry, but passionate). They need to see you problem solve. They need to see you love their mother.  They need to see you come alive. They need to know it is OK to get “fired up” about Stuff. Fun Stuff and Important Stuff.

They need to see your heart.

Not only do they need to see your heart, but, as importantly, they need to feel your heart.

You need to tell your boys you love them. They need to hear you say it. They need to know it is alright for them to show love towards each other. They need to feel your strong hands hug them and show them love. Rub their backs while you hug them. Cuddle with them. Run your fingers through their hair. Touch them gently.

If your boys are like mine, they love to wrestle and test their strength against mine. That is great and can be a lot of fun! Until they get too old and then I am going to worry they may hurt me!

I came across a song by a folk artist named John Smith.  He has a song called Father’s Day.  The song is about the first time he heard his dad say, “I love you.”  (You can listen to the song and read all the words HERE).  But the last chorus does a beautiful job of capturing why it is so important to tell your sons you love them.

The Strange thing, about it is

I never knew I had a hole inside that big
But I guess I did, because there it was
Cryin’ right out loud, saying fill me up
Yea so now I try, to do my best
To tell my kids I love ‘em every chance I get
Funny how a few small words, can run so deep
Make a baby smile, make a grown man weep.

I love the line, “funny how a few small words, can run so deep.

How true.

Those words (and the heart behind them) will give your boys the strength they need to be boys.

Boys that, with their father as their guide, will grow into authentic men.

The Beatitudes and Boys

The word Beatitudes is translated, “blessed are.” The word means “happy.” The idea is not that we are simply happy in the sense that we are happy after a good meal or after we have laughed at a funny joke. It refers to a deeper happiness, a happiness that comes from peace with God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his listeners and us as well. As you read the Beatitudes, you might be thinking that it is an odd list of traits.

Typically, Christians want things like the fruit of the Spirit or other traits such as honesty, humility, and reliability. Those are definitely traits that we should strive for. However, the list that Jesus gives in the Beatitudes is quite different. This should lead us to ask, what is Jesus really saying here in this list? Is Jesus saying, the blessed person has these eight traits: they’re poor, they mourn, they’re meek, they don’t assert themselves, they hunger and thirst for righteousness, they’re a peacemaker, they’re pure in heart, they’re merciful, and they’re persecuted?

This is not a list that you hear fathers talking about with their sons.
“Great job being poor in spirit today, son!”
“Excellent work being merciful today, son!”
“I am so proud of your peacemaking skills!”

You don’t hear this because we are wired as a society to raise boys who are tough, hard-nosed men. While those are not necessarily bad things, they do tend to take our attention away from other critical areas. As fathers, we need to be raising sons who are aware of their sin. Jesus says in the beatitudes that the starting point in the kingdom is to know that you cannot rely on yourself, to know that your spirit is poor. You cannot be good enough, strong enough, righteous enough to make it on your own before God or in His kingdom. If you recognize your own spiritual poverty, you will mourn over it, and that will lead you to be meek. Our sons need to be taught this and they must see it in our own lives.

Are we more concerned about raising athletes and students than we are about raising future men that hunger and thirst for righteousness? Are we modeling a life of mercy because we have been shown mercy by our Savior? Are we waging war with the culture to make sure our boys are striving to be pure in heart? I pray that we do not get so wrapped in the world’s picture of manhood that we forget what Jesus values as important.

What are some creative ways that dads can teach the Beatitudes to their boys?

A Steward of God’s Blessings

In the church I’ve grown up in, we have a tradition. Before a wedding, the men will gather for a “men’s advice night” and share lessons, stories, and marriage wisdom with the new husband-to-be. I just participated in one such advice night for my new brother-in-law and another friend who was also about to be married.

Godly men who’ve been married ranging from 1 month to 30 years shared stories of their mistakes and discoveries. They gave advice like “Read the Bible together daily,” “Start your own family traditions right away,” “Take adventures together,” and “Let her know you are thinking of her throughout the day.” We all wanted these young men to learn from our experiences and start marriage out on the right foot.

A-steward-of-God's-blessings

Photo credit

That night, also I heard several men say “I wish I’d had this kind of advice when I got married.” Not all of the men gathered had a Christian upbringing, godly parents, or even godly friends when they got married. And yet, God graciously worked in their lives, even through the rough times, and today God’s grace is clearly demonstrated in their lives and marriages.

This made me stop and think about all the blessings God has given me. I’ve experienced God’s grace, mercy, and blessings in more ways than I can count.

We need to be wise stewards of the blessings God gives us. We aren’t blessed just so we can be comfortable and happy; we’re blessed so we can praise and thank God for His grace. We’re blessed so we can share that grace with others around us.

How has God blessed you?

Were you blessed with faithful, godly parents?

Were you taught the Word of God and raised in the Christian faith?

Do you have a heritage of godly grandparents and ancestors you can look up to?

Are you a survivor of a rougher, less godly upbringing? God’s grace is still at work. No matter how you were raised, I’m going to assume, if you’re reading this, that God has brought you into a saving relationship with Him. You have a unique story to be thankful for and to share with others.

Are you blessed with a godly wife? Are you growing and learning in your marriage?

Are you part of the body of Christ, the Church? How has this been a blessing to you?

Do you have godly friends who care about you?

Have others invested in your life? Parents, teachers, friends, pastors, mentors… we’ve all learned from other people God has put in our life.

What about God’s provision? Have you seen God’s hand at work times of financial difficulty?

Has God given you success in your calling?

When has God answered your prayers, or given you wisdom and guidance?

You may not have experienced all of these blessings, but look around you. God is at work in your life. What blessings can you see?

What you do with these blessings matters.

Thank God for them. Tell the stories to your children. Mentor someone else who needs help. Share these blessings and be a conduit for God’s grace, reaching others around you who desperately need it.

If we gratefully steward God’s blessings in this way, we’ll be a strong influence for good in the lives of those around us, especially our sons.

 

Daniel Forster is married to Katelyn, father to three little ones, and the manager of Doorposts Publishing. He also writes for the blog Doorposts of Your House. You may enjoy his blog post How Grandpa Influenced Me.