Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Most men start life with a “dad deficit.” That shouldn’t come as a shock; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 40% of all babies born in 2011 came from unmarried women.

Not having a dad around makes many guys unprepared for fatherhood, leading to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity as well as a lack of leadership skills.

Here’s a humorous take on “Fearing Fatherhood” from the Power of the Home blog.

For most of my childhood I had a frightening hunch that I would one day be a dad.  My hunch was frightening because I was raised by a single-mother.  What did I know about being a dad?  One day my kid would ask me questions that all dads know how to answer. All dads but me.

“Dad, how do you clean a fish?”

“Just cut his head off, son.  The rest should take care of itself from there.”

“Dad, what does a spark plug do?”

“Hey look, a butterfly.”

My senior year of high school I failed out of a trigonometry class and got put in a wood shop class. This excited me.  Trigonometry didn’t seem to have a lot to offer but wood shop would probably help me to learn some dad things.  This way, if my kid ever asked me what a spark plug did I could at least build him a bird house.  My first few days in wood shop were spent telling jokes and seeing who could hammer a nail into a board the fastest.

And then, almost as quickly as it started, I got taken out of that wood shop class.  I don’t think anyone else, in the history of public education, has ever been taken out of wood shop.  Wood shop classes exist for the kids that get taken out of other classes.  When school administrators pull you from a wood shop class, it’s sort of like getting kicked out of prison.  My fears of fatherhood remained.

So instead of wood shop, I got put in an electronics class.  I was okay with this.  Now, whenever my kid would ask me what a spark plug does I could teach him how to slide his church shoes on the carpet and electrocute his friends.  That’s classic dad stuff, right?  Unfortunately, all we ever did in electronics class was watch movies.  The movie we watched the most was Short Circuit starring Steve Guttenberg.  The good news is that I got an A in that class.  The bad news is that now, whenever my kids ask me what a spark plug does, I tell them a stupid joke and talk about the Police Academy movies.

I’m a 36-year-old father of two young boys and my worst fears as a kid have finally been realized.  I don’t know a lot of dad stuff and I think my kids are on to me.  My oldest son wants to build a tree house.  I’m really hoping Jesus comes back before that time comes.

To compensate for my lack of knowledge, I try to spend a lot of time with my boys doing what I did as a kid: playing outside, playing on the floor, praying, reading the Bible, loving mom and watching Kung-Fu Theater.  Sadly, Kung-Fu Theater doesn’t come on anymore but there are worthy substitutes.

I always pick up my youngest son, kiss him and ask him who he loves.  He’s 16 so he really hates when I do this.  No, really he’s a lot younger than that.  But every time I ask him who he loves he does the same thing.  He points at the wall, or the ceiling, or the refrigerator.  Anything but dad.

One day I was asking my son this question and he was giving his usual response when his older brother walked up and said, “Hey dad, ask me who I love.”

I sensed a Hallmark moment coming so I gladly played along.

“Who do you love more than anybody in the whole world?”

“Mom!”

For a minute I felt like a real loser.  I should have petitioned to stay in that wood shop class.  But then it hit me.

Maybe my son loves his mom so much because he sees how much I love her.  And maybe he’ll grow to love Jesus even more because of how much I love Jesus.  In a way that’s kind of intimidating but it’s also very liberating.  Who cares if I don’t know how to do a lot of dad stuff?  If I can just, by God’s grace, love my wife like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), train up my boys in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and love Jesus more than anything else (Deuteronomy 6:5), I think all of the rest will be just fine.

This week I spent some time with a senior adult in my church.  She lives alone and she says her kids are always asking her if she gets lonely in that big house all by herself.  She tells them that she never gets lonely because she’s never alone.  And then she told me about the time a tornado came through her town in the 1930s and how good of a job her dad did at taking care of the family.  The loving presence of her earthly father taught her a great lesson about the far greater loving presence of her heavenly Father.

I hope I teach the same lesson to my boys.

—–

P.S. This is how you clean a catfish –

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When I was in the third grade I was given an assignment to interview “an important person.” In our small town and monetarily-challenged family, the most important person I could think of was my school principal.

While I can’t recall his name, the principal of my small K-12 school of about 800 students was a kind and wise man with some sort of physical disability (which might have been Muscular Dystrophy). I also think his wife was the librarian. (Whoever she was, she was also sweet and helpful.)

I remember nervously sitting down in the principal’s office for the first–but definitely not the last–time. His desk was big and intimidating and bookcases tall and full of thick-spined reference books.

My first few questions were generic, while my primary questions focused on his career and the importance of an education. I don’t remember anything he said about any of that, but his response to my last question has stuck with me for 30 years.

“What is your pet peeve?” I inquired, expecting soggy cereal or cold coffee.

“A fake person,” he said.

His answer puzzled me, so I asked him what he meant (I was only eight or nine at the time).

He said something about how people act one way but really are someone different. He talked of liars, cheaters and brown-nosers.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I sensed authenticity. This authentic man earned his level of leadership and respect through his kindness, firmness, wisdom and integrity not through pushing his positional weight around, bullying, lying or cheating.

Unfortunately, authentic men are rare these days.

For many, this week was a tough one as their hero, champion and idol has fallen. People thought he was the “real deal,” an authentic man beating the odds professionally and personally.

Success in this world is hard-fought and earned, and no one likes cheaters. I’m grieved for those who had (or still have) deep admiration for the man who built his legacy and success on a lie.

Men, this is yet another example of how we are all subject to temptation and how we all fall short of perfection. Even if we never jump from space or make this list we can give in to the temptation to be something we are not.

What we are meant to be is authentic leaders. So, let’s learn to lead from authentic leaders, like Jesus, like Jerry Jackson, like my school principal.


Other Authentic Manhood posts…

Guys, you’ll never jump from space, but you can still live an awesome life. Read this post from my friend Dan Kassis called, The Baumgartner Effect.

One way to lead your family is through intentional prayer. Third Option Men asks, Are you a Prayer Wimp?

With election season upon us, one element missing from the discussion is fatherhood. In this All Pro Dad post, Tony Dungy asks for your signature to change that. Sign Coach’s petition today. It takes two minutes.

I have several friends with multiple sons and no daughters, so this link is with them in mind. Check out this advice for raising boys.

SUPER FUNNY VIDEO (that’s why it’s in all caps).

I had two moms growing up. One before she got sick, and then one after. The years of strokes and mini-strokes, aneurysms, brain surgeries and seizure medication took a toll.

I loved them both but wish I had more time with the first. Three years ago this week, my mother died. Her cancer had a quickness and ferocity that left me wondering if it was an act of vengeance or mercy.

In her last days and hours, all six of her kids stayed at the nursing home, and one of us was by her side nearly continuously. I went in to visit with her many times, holding her hand, praying for a pain-free and peaceful transition from this life to the next and talking to her about random stuff as she quietly rested.

The morning of her passing, I woke up and offered to go pick up breakfast for the family. After taking all the orders, I got in the car and as I pulled out of the nursing home parking lot, my phone rang. My oldest sister said, “She’s gone, Bubba.”

Mom finally let go at a rare moment when none of her kids were in the room.

I thought this fitting, as she had devoted her life to her kids.

It was a relief, really. I had seen my mom’s struggle, sicknesses and sadness.

In the introduction of this post, I shared a small glimpse into her sicknesses, but her sadness and our struggle started before I was born.

My beautiful mother with her first husband.

When my mother was fresh out of high school, she married a man I never met, but who nonetheless had a tremendous impact on my life. In her 20s she was widowed with three kids and one on the way after her first husband was killed in a tragic coal-mining accident. His sudden departure sent ripples tsunamis through my family for years to come.

Within a short time after his death my mother married that man’s best friend, and they had a girl together. That marriage fell apart, and within a few more years she married my dad and they had me.

To sum it up, I have three older brothers and two sisters on what I call, “Mom’s side of the family.” On “Dad’s side of the family,” add two more older brothers, a younger sister and two step-siblings, rounding out just my immediate family at six brothers and four sisters from four different dads. (Confused yet?)

I believe my mother knew the importance of us having a father figure; for most of her life it seemed she tried to find us a replacement dad. Even though uncles, father-in-laws, coaches, pastors and older brothers tried filling the void, every one of my siblings has had to or is still trying to overcome the “dad deficit.”

Growing up I didn’t realize the leadership vacuum in our home. I didn’t really know any different. When I looked around at other families in our small community I saw fatherless homes. This leaves me thinking about what choices, what mistakes, what memories did we make or miss?

For at least one of my siblings there are no memories of his dad. A few have some memories. Many have few positive memories. For one, there is just a little time left for restoration.

I am thankful for my older brother who taught me how to catch baseballs and fish, who showed me how to ride a bike and find a good wife. Other brothers taught me about music, cars and girls.

It was only after I gave my life to Jesus and started faithfully attending church did I begin to see solid examples of fatherhood. One of my best friends, Richie, is blessed with a godly, funny, wise and loving father. I am thankful for their example and Rick’s intentional prayers and discipleship. Others, like Scott Wagner, Jimmy Lewis and Ted, Gary and Bill retaught me about real earthly fatherhood.

While this week reminds me of Mom’s passing, it’s difficult to not reflect on the dad deficit as well. I ask for your prayers for my family, especially for my sisters. But most of all, if you are a parent I ask that you take a serious look at the legacy you are leaving to your children.

Dads, you have incredible power over the self-esteem of your daughters and egos of your sons. You can break them for life if you mishandle the most precious gift you’ve been given.

Let’s be authentic men who are authentic dads.

For helpful articles from experts, be sure to read the links on my Beta posts

Cloud Machines

Recently, I sat down with a 3-year-old to discuss some important issues. It’s interesting how she understands basic abstracts. Let’s get started…

LtL: What’s your name?

I have food in my mouth. 

LtL: What’s your name?

My name is Anna Kate.

LtL: How old are you?

I’m eating. (Pause) Three.

LtL: What’s your favorite toy?

A Plex doll. It’s this tiny little robot who can sleep in my bed. 

LtL: What is Yo Gabba Gabba?

A TV show. A cartoon.

LtL: Who is your favorite friend?

I think…Bailee.

LtL: Why is Bailee your favorite friend?

Because I love her and she “dos” a race. (We recently attended a cross-country race to cheer Bailee).

LtL: What is your favorite thing to do with daddy?

Go to Monkey Joe’s.

LtL: What is Monkey Joe’s?

It’s where the bounce houses are and you get a free toy. Whenever you get a toy, you go home.

LtL: What is your favorite thing to do with mommy?

Paint.

LtL: What’s your favorite snack?

Strawberries and blueberries and yogurt.

LtL: Now for some tougher ones. Where do babies come from?

Momma’s chest.

LtL: What does it mean to be married?

I don’t know. Like Eric and Tiffany. And Mommy and Daddy.

LtL: What do you know about God? Who made the world?

Jesus did.

LtL: Who is Jesus?

A person.

LtL: What kind of person?

One time we saw someone dressed up like him.

LtL: What did Jesus do for us?

He died on the cross.

LtL: Why did he do that?

Because He loves us.

LtL: What happened because He died on the cross? What did He take away?

Our bad things.

LtL: What kind of bad things?

That we say and do. 

THE TABLES TURN

Why did He have blood on Him? 

LtL: Because people were mean to Him.

Did He get hurt? 

LtL: Yes.

Where did He get hurt at?

LtL: On His head, on His back, on His side. They put a crown of thorns on His head. They were making fun of Him saying that He wasn’t a king, but He’s the king of the whole universe.

Jesus got whipped on His back. Like He got a spanking for us. Like a bad spanking. He took those stripes for us as punishment. They poked His side with a spear.

Then they put these nails through His hands and feet and they nailed Him to a cross. On like a tree.

(Long pause) Awwww.

LtL: He took a bunch of boo-boos for you.

LtL: What do you know about rainbows?

God made them.

LtL: Yup. Where do clouds come from?

From machines.

LtL: What kind of machines? 

Cloud machines. Someone’s gonna work on the cloud machines in Tennessee. Do you know his name?

LtL: I think it’s called TVA.

Uh-uh. We saw Linda. She has a husband named Mike who works on the cloud machines in Tennessee.

LtL: I wondered where this story was going.

There are some doozies on this list of 12 Questions for Fathers from @PastorBreaz. Which one is most challenging for you? Is it No. 2 or No. 5?

Another helpful read about seven traits of a godly man. Which one is your strongest trait?

A National Institute of Health confirmed that sexual images lead to earlier sexual behavior in kids in this Baptist Press article by Erin Roach.

Focus on the Family has great series of articles for parenting and other family ministry areas. Here’s one about helping your children become life-long learners. This relates to an earlier article from Ron Edmondson I linked to in this Beta post.

As a leader I’ve found that It’s much easier to educate a doer than it is to activate a thinker. –Andy Stanley

Good news from The New York Times (I think), Dads are Taking Over as Full Time Parents.

Since some ladies read this blog. The following message (below) is a public service announcement from the men of America…

First, let me say thanks to all the readers of this blog. I really appreciate the visits, the comments and the opportunity to share a part of your day and life through this creative outlet.

If you are new to Learning to Lead, I post weekly links to parenting experts’ articles, and I call them Beta. Beta is a climbing term. Here was my first Beta post.

To be a wise person and leader you must keep yourself exposed to as many diverse sources of information as possible. — Rick Warren tweet

All Pro Dad always has informative, list-based articles. Check this one out – 5 Toughest Things for Children to Talk About with Their Parents

I couldn’t agree more with Eric Geiger on his recent post called Experiences Not Toys

Here are two fascinating health articles to read, which got me thinking more about my children’s diets.

  1. This is is from Fast Company–with a nice infographic–about the benefits of breakfast.
  2. This health article from The Atlantic discusses how immediate gratification can be a predictor of adult obesity.

As my children begin to age I am more and more intentional about sharing my faith in Jesus Christ with them. I found this article helpful, and I hope you do too.

This funny image below explains a lot these days…