Apr 27 2015

Daddy Daughter and God

Daddy daughter

This post first appeared on the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog last summer. With pool weather right around the corner, start making plans to do what the author did: get the book, get together with other guys, and learn to be better daddies to your daughters.

I recently started discussing the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters with a group of guys in my neighbourhood. We gather around the pool one night a week and talk through two chapters at a time while our kids play in the background. It works out great since many of us are already there closing down the swimming hole many summer nights, and this is one way to be intentional with some of that time.

The sub-title of the book is “Ten secrets every father should know.” It’s pretty straightforward: ten secrets, ten chapters. Easy reading that you can work through quickly. A perfect setup for group discussion. We began with the first two chapters, titled, “You Are the Most Important Man in Her Life,” and “She Needs a Hero.” There was a fascinating section in chapter one that has shaped the interactions with my daughter over the last few days:

Fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for a daughter’s life. … I have watched daughters talk to fathers. When you come in the room, they change. Everything about them changes: their eyes, their mouths, their gestures, their body language. Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They might take their mothers for granted, but not you. They light up – or they cry. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They hope for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration – or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.

When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence. If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both. Boyfriends, brothers, even husbands can’t shape her character the way you do. You will influence her entire life because she gives you an authority she gives no other man.

Wow. Talk about intimidating. No pressure here. As I’ve watched my daughter, I’ve thought about these words and wondered how I was shaping her life and how she perceived me. What would I unconsciously impart to her? What ways would I mark her as distinctly different from her peers?

The same day I read this paragraph, a friend shared with me that he is positive his wife would not have given him the time of day if it were not for her dad. She meant her dad was an untrustworthy individual, and my friend, though full of his own self-acknowledged challenges as a young man, was someone she could trust. She saw that he was honest. Even brutally so at times. And so she was drawn to him.

I see this at play with my wife, though in the opposite way. Her father was her biggest cheerleader, constantly sang her praises, made sure she knew she could do anything a boy could and anything she wanted to. Run a chainsaw, drive a tractor, mend a mangled barbed-wire fence, get an engineering degree. He believed in her. And she benefited from that in tremendous ways. She is one of the hardest working people I know. When she says she’s going to do something, look out. You can guarantee it will be done. He profoundly shaped who she is today. She would not be the same person without his influence.

The Daddy Daughter Connection

Fathers will leave a mark on their daughters. This is a scary reality at one level. But the other observation for me, related to this reality, is how much of our lives has been shaped by so many different influences to the point that there are many things we do, many decisions we make, that we have relatively little control over. Your immediate reaction to any circumstance is likely a complex mixture of responses that have been formed in you over the years, some of which you are not even aware. Some come from your parents, some your peers, some the books you read, your emotions, your experiences, your beliefs on religion, politics, nature, philosophy, and food. Even the smells that passively waft to your nostrils trigger a complex array of emotions and memories at the most unexpected moments. And then there is your own sin nature and sinful decisions. And boy do the stains from these ever linger.

Paul, in Romans 7:15, hits this head on when he says, “… I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Ever feel that way? Why? Paul continues … “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who did it, but sin that dwells within me”(v 19-20). Yes there are many influences at work which shape your reactions and choices, one of which is the root of sin that has been at work in your heart your entire life. But there is hope, as Paul proclaims, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

You do have a choice about how to live your life, it’s just not always the easiest to choose against those habitual attitudes that have been hard wired in your heart over time. And the hope is not in trying harder, but leaning on the proper source of power.

Tim Keller in his book Center Church says this:

Imagine you’re in an orchestra and you begin to play, but the sound is horrific because the instruments are out of tune. The problem can’t be fixed by simply tuning them to each other. It won’t help for each person to get in tune to the person next to her because each person will be tuning to something different. No, they will all need to be tuned properly to one source of pitch. Often we go about trying to tune ourselves to the sound of everything else in our lives. We often her this described as “getting balance.” But the questions that need to be asked are these: “Balanced to what?” “Tuned to what?” The gospel does not begin by tuning us in relation to our particular problems and surroundings; it first re-tunes us to God.

Let’s bring this full circle shall we? Back to the starting theme of this post: Parenting daughters. The bottom line is to make sure your heart is tuned to the gospel every day. No doubt the task of parenting a daughter (or son for that matter) is daunting. But so is keeping the law and trying to be good on your own strength. The task is beyond you, but let that reality produce comfort rather than fear. Find your comfort in the strength of Christ, who will provide the measure of courage you need to fulfil the task ahead of you.

Although summer is not yet in full swing, it’s not too early to pick up the book and gather with a group of dads and discuss how you can be intentional in your efforts to parent your daughter. Some say it takes a village to raise a child, but at the very least it takes a pool to gather the men who make up that village who will raise that child.

©Noah Gets a Nailgun. ©John Majors.  All rights reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com .  John is a key creator for Stepping Up. Images, logos and brands may also be subject to copyright.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright. 

May 31 2014

You are the most interesting man in their world


You are the most interesting man in their world

You’ve seen the commercials for the most interesting man in the world – he starts the morning saving endangered alpine birds, followed by a dominant performance at the international polo competition in Dagestan, then wrapping up the evening mending flaws in the theory of relativity over a cup of an exotic beverage he brewed the night before from seal scrotums, polar bear teeth and arctic ice. Quite a list of accomplishments for any one lifetime, yet just an average day when you are… the most interesting man in the world.

If the characterization wasn’t so over the top, I’d find my man card status threatened by the mere existence of such a person. But you don’t have to drink Dos Ickies to be found interesting. You don’t even have to be the most interesting man in the world. A much more attainable goal is to become The Most Interesting Dad to Your Kids. How do you do this? Start with pursuing things you find interesting.

Robert Lewis, author and founder of Men’s Fraternity, talks about the importance of a man having something to look forward to everyday. A man needs productive interests in his life, things that make him a better man. Too many guys in their 30s, when work gets hot and heavy and the kids get smelly and sticky, they give up all the activities that they found fun and interesting in their 20s. They pour their life into their job, come limping home to try to make it through one more night just barely enduring the kids, hopefully not checking out too long or blowing up too often, and then falling into bed in yard work clothes with one thigh hanging off the mattress, too exhausted to shower away the grass clippings. All merely to wake up and repeat the cycle again tomorrow. What joy. And by the time the weekend comes along, little league and dance parties consume any remaining energy. The only rest seen in a given week is their ritual seven minutes on the office toilet. Even that gets interrupted by the guy in the next stall calling his mom to wish her a happy birthday.

But as Robert Lewis said, it is important to do something with your life that is interesting, even if only to you, something that gives you energy and makes you look forward to the next day. Even if you think you don’t have the time. You must come to believe that it really is worth the time. Why? For you own sanity, for the sanity of your wife and kids, for opportunities to sharpen and be sharpened by other men.

For your own sanity

Before we had kids I did a fair amount of fly fishing. At the time I had a friend who said two very important things to me, he said “I’ve explained to my wife that fly-fishing is cheaper and more entertaining than counseling.” Meaning, if he didn’t have some outlet he would probably go insane. He also said, “And if I ever get bored of fishing, I can just stop and fiddle with my gear.” Meaning, half of the fun of the sport for him is the acquiring of and learning how to use the gear. There was an artistry and cathartic aspect to just getting ready to fly fish that was interesting in and of itself. The tying of the flies, the practicing of the cast, the community and friendships that developed, all of this gave him joy. He didn’t have to be on the river to be enjoying the sport. But more than anything he understood that he needed this outlet to keep from going crazy. He had to have something like this in his life to keep him healthy.

I’ve seen a number of guys lately who are able to sustain the maddening pace of work/kids with no other outlets for a few years, mostly because the allure of their job keeps them going, but once they reach the pinnacle or plateau of their career, they look back down the hill and think “I shaved my face for this?” They’ve not fostered any part of their personal life and have thus become very un-interesting to almost everyone, including themselves.

Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” It’s interesting that we still know very little about the deepest parts of the ocean. We’ve been x thousands of miles away to the moon and explored the outer limits of the solar system, but can’t go seven miles down into the water. The pressure is so intense at that depth that if you were to inadvertently pluck a nose hair, your brains might shoot through the exposed follicle. Actually, people can’t even go to those depths, only unmanned vehicles.

But no worries, because this verse isn’t referring to the ocean (and none of us are that deep anyway), as an ancient Hebrew person couldn’t afford a full SCUBA system. And without oxygen and neoprene, it’s hard to get deeper than a dozen feet.

The Hebrew word for “draw it out” refers to the act of getting water out of a well, of drawing up a bucket. And it comes from a word describing, “lowness as a state or goal.” Remember the cartoons where the well bucket would drop and send the rope spinning, causing the crank handle to do a Mike Tyson on some pour soul’s face? The bucket drops in a hurry. In fact, the natural state of the bucket is lowness – is to settle in to the bottom of the well and stay there. But when you’re low – whether you meant to get there or not, you’ve got to draw it up. When tempted to vegetate, you’ve got to pull up the bucket!

I know a guy who hates his job. I mean HATES it. I felt sorry for him for the first year or so, but now I don’t want to hear about it any more. I don’t ever ask him about it. Because if he still hates his job, it’s his own fault. Only he can make that change. He has to find something interesting. But that’s no easy task. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things a man can do. It takes intentional, hard work to get to the heart of a man. But a man of understanding, or, for our purposes, an “interesting” man, will draw it out.

For the sanity of your family

When I was a kid, my dad often amazed me. He seemed to be the strongest, fastest, smartest person I had ever met. There was nothing he seemingly couldn’t do.

Was my dad super man? No, though it sure seemed like it at the time. Did he have all kinds of crazy extra time to foster tons of hobbies? No, between his work as an Attorney and the Army, he didn’t have much margin left, but he made the most of it and stayed interesting. He was interesting to me and I loved that he did interesting things that I was proud to tell my friends about. And you know what? We were all better because of it. When dad was pursuing things he loved, he became a better man. And he was around men that helped make him better.

Of course any hobby can become an unhealthy obsession. You can’t let it tank your family. There are only so many hours in a day and you can’t do it all, so you will have to make some hard decisions. But this is actually a positive thing; It forces you to focus. Do fewer things and become better at them.

To sharpen and be sharpened

Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” If you are not spending time around other men in sharpening relationships, then you are getting isolated, and that’s a bad place to be. And too many guys who are absorbed with work end up here: Without friends or men they can trust and who know them.

have to have other guys in my life I can trust who will help make me a better man by calling me out for sin, but also celebrating my victories. There’s group of guys I ride bikes with. They make sure to let me know when I’m dogging it, but they also sing my praises when I show up strong. But it’s because of the time spent together on the bike and the common bond that we share that we can share other moments. Character gets exposed over time, and these guys are willing to press in when they see character issues. And though it hurts, I’m ever so grateful for it, because they make me a better man.

Your Interesting Self also opens doors for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with other guys. Fly fishing, guitar jam sessions, model airplanes, rock climbing, chess meet-ups, or whatever, all of these build relationships that aren’t as likely to occur at work, and will probably never happen at church. I used to play basketball with a group of guys (before a knee injury). Those shared experiences led to many gospel centered conversations – at the gym, but also over lunch, or at our house over dinner, or even the hospital (ankles pop in a hurry after 40).

Go forth and be interesting

So be emboldened to venture into something interesting. Maybe it’s something dramatic like learning to fly a helicopter, or something practical like getting a masters degree in something that would make you more money. Or maybe you go after something that has always fascinated you like restoring a classic muscle car, or finally launching your professional music career playing the Glockenspiel. Whatever it is, you have it in you to become the most interesting dad in the world. Or at least to your kids. And when life tempts you to get low, to drop to the bottom of the well, do what it takes to pull up the bucket!

©John Majors.  All Rights Reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com   ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright.

Dec 26 2013

21 things a man needs to know about marriage (part 2)

Things a man needs to know about marriage

This is the second in a three-part series. The full first part of 21 things a man needs to know about marriage is here, but we’ve listed the first seven things from that post here.

  1. A man needs to know that the ultimate team is marriage.
  2. A man needs to know the difference between being a consumer and an investor in life, in relationships and marriage.
  3. A man needs to know the Christ-like role of servant, husband and lover.
  4. A man needs to know that marriage is meant to mature a man into Christ-like character.
  5. A man needs to know the meaning of love.
  6. A man needs to know that a marriage and family depend upon God as their maker.  
  7. A man needs to understand sexuality as God’s good creation, distinct from its counterfeits.

8. A man needs to know that the key to great sex is exclusivity.  The modern consumer mindset tricks a man into thinking that more sources of sexual stimulation will satisfy him.  But like a drug, they thrill but do not satisfy.  Sexual entertainment, images, and illicit sex erode rather than enhance sexual joy in a marriage.

To be a great lover is to practice with only one woman for life.   It is to be generous, exclusive and serving; not greedy, distracted and taking.  A great relationship and sexual relationship are connected in marriage, and that only happens when a man’s sole target of sexual affections, imaginations and enjoyment is his wife.

9. A man needs to know that marriages typically have a one or two year “honeymoon era.”  This is a period of semi-blind euphoria that makes the relationship magnetic and easier. It’s as if our Creator gives that to us humans to get us jump-started in marriage.  Couples should know that when the euphoria wears off and they eventually settle into normality, the different feelings they experience do not indicate that they married the wrong person or are not “in love” anymore.

10. A man needs to know that living together and having sex before marriage uses up a good portion of the “honeymoon era” euphoria. It often causes the onset of reality after marriage to begin almost immediately after the wedding, depending on how long the couple had been living and sleeping together.  Research shows that divorce and issues of mistrust are more common for those who cohabit before marriage than for those who do not.  Cohabiting is not a “smart start” or “good practice” for marriage.

11. A man needs to know that commitment is a key to success in all of life, and especially in relationships with a woman.  One way of defining commitment in marriage is that it means never considering divorce. If you know that you won’t be leaving or divorcing, it forces you to face differences and problems and work through them.

In marriage it is the security of commitment that allows a woman to feel peace in the relationship.  The assurance of a husband’s commitment helps a woman entrust herself to him emotionally and sexually.

12. A man needs to know that marriage is not easy.  Marriage is not automatic, and it’s often difficult.  The euphoria of romantic infatuation in the first years of marriage fades, requiring the mature resolve to behave lovingly and invest relationally to build a deeper bond than infatuation.  Marriage will take intentional and continual effort.

13. A man needs to know that the purpose of marriage is less to make you happy, than to make you holy.   Now it’s true that a good marriage to a good woman can make you happier than most anything else on earth.  But if your goal is to be happy, then you will be focused on yourself, and you will damage your character and your relationships.

If you aim to be holy—like Jesus, not like a monk—you will invite God to change you.  You will allow your marriage relationship to change you and crush your selfish will and defensive pride. You will experience true oneness in your marriage—you’ll be deepest friends, intimate allies, generous lovers, caring providers, complementary partners, spiritual enhancers. (Thanks to Gary Thomas for the idea)

14. A man needs to know that God gives authority and responsibility to a husband to make the marriage thrive and last.  He is to steward and shepherd himself and his wife’s union.  He is to be proactive at assisting God in healing her past wounds, creating oneness in their bond and assuring her (and their children) of his love for her.

Women are natural responders when men initiate in love, prayer  and humility.  Men must not be passive, arrogant, distracted or controlling.  A man will not point the finger at his wife’s behavior or shortcomings, but will examine his history as a husband and ask God to change Him.  His heart, his care and his initiative is the key to his wife’s response and the marriage’s health.

Be watching for part 3.

©Jeff Kemp.  All Rights Reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com .  Jeff Kemp is a vice-president at FamilyLife.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally.  Please respect copyright.

Dec 15 2013

21 things a man needs to know about marriage

Things a man needs to know about marriage

In a culture of counterfeits and mistruths, marriage needs to be re-branded as an awesome, noble, and challenging adventure.

Guys have been blindsided in our culture.  We don’t see the path to manhood, and we often don’t know how to view women, sex, relationships, marriage and our role as husbands.

A key to the problems guys and men face is that we don’t understand the North Star of relationships.   It’s the gold standard of selfless love, the blueprint for building a family and blessing your children.  What’s that North Star?  Knowing Jesus Christ and His purpose for marriage, and trusting in His strength to make a lasting relationship possible.

Marriage needs to be re-explained.  It needs to be re-branded as an awesome, noble, and challenging adventure. Our manhood, our happiness and our children’s future depend on marriage—yours, mine and everybody else’s.

In a culture of counterfeits and mistruths, it’s important to understand what marriage is about.  As you read through the following list, ask God to remake you and understand what it means to be a man and a husband.  Let’s value marriage and relate well to our wives, whether we’re married yet, or preparing for that woman.

1.  A man needs to know that the ultimate team is marriage.
It’s the union and oneness of man and woman in lifelong covenant.  It’s the team that anchors a family.   It’s a bonded relationship that mirrors God’s sacrificial, unconditional, lasting love for his children (those who by faith have accepted His sacrifice and adoption into his eternal family).

2.  A man needs to know the difference between being a consumer and an investor in life, in relationships and marriage.
Don’t let an advertising-saturated consumer society make you act like a consumer in relationships.  Decide to add value to a wife, not take value.

Just like great quarterbacks serve receivers, and great receivers serve quarterbacks, we need to be investors, not childish consumers, takers, or complainers.  We are to be modeled after Jesus, the ultimate relationship investor.  He is the definition of a man … responsible, initiating, courageous, self-sacrificing, healing, peacemaking, justice-doing, other-centered, not self-centered, loving others in ways that adds value and nobility to them.

Before he is married, a great husband will be a relationship investor who will build friendship that adds value into the life a young woman, her self-esteem and her potential to serve God.  He will channel his sexual desires and expression into devotion to God and commitment to one wife for life.  He will marry and be sexually exclusive—only having eyes, imagination and sexual intimacy with one wife.  Ask yourself this question daily: “Would I want to marry me?”

3.  A man needs to know the Christ-like role of servant, husband and lover.
He is to be an investor in his wife, and he sacrifices himself for her best. He defines his manhood as pursuing purity in Christ, chastity before marriage, and enthusiastic fidelity in marriage.

4.  A man needs to know that marriage is meant to mature a man into Christ-like character.
It can help conform him to the image of Christ, reshaping his will and identity into union with, and deference toward, his wife.  This is like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who honour, defer to and glorify each other.

The friendship of marriage helps each spouse become a better version of themselves, closer to what God designed and redeemed them to be.  They must face the truth about themselves—their strengths and their imperfections.  They will face conflict and difficulty and must grow empathy and teamwork.  Selfishness must melt away if they are to become healthy, strong and mature together.

5.  A man needs to know the meaning of love.
God defines love not by how much you want to receive, but by how much you are willing to give of yourself—your will, your freedom, your time, your emotions, your forgiveness, your resources.  The model is Jesus, who demonstrated love for us by dying for us while we were yet sinners.

A husband does this by choosing his wife as a priority in his life over all other pursuits, possessions and distractions – regardless of whether she is kind, lovable or respectful.  Love brings out the best in her.  A man initiates love, rather than waiting for or demanding respect or kind treatment.  Love is not dependent upon feelings.  Decisions and choices to love can regenerate the feelings of love.

6.  A man needs to know that a marriage and family depend upon God as their maker.
God is the authority.  He provides the blueprints for marriage and the power source of love, wisdom and health.  God can heal any marriage if the persons submit themselves to God and let Him change them.

7.  A man needs to understand sexuality as God’s good creation, distinct from its counterfeits.
He understands that sexuality makes sense in the context of union to God and the union of marriage.  Outside that context it’s often reduced to moralism, rules, suppression, secrecy, illicit imagination, temptation, and shame.  Or, commonly it is reduced to a consumer experience – materialistic self-interest, physical gratification, entertainment, techniques.  This causes shallow, stunted human bonding, untold stories of abuse, damage, abandonment and fragmented families.

Watch for Part 2 next week.

©Jeff Kemp.  All Rights Reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com .  Jeff Kemp is a vice-president at FamilyLife.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright.

Nov 20 2013

Fan the flames of faith, fathers

Fan the flames of faith, fathers

Photo by Jesse Millan

Building a simple fire pit in the backyard was key in building up the spiritual condition of our children.

Barbara and I have been blessed with six children. Sitting in the auditorium the afternoon that our youngest, Laura, graduated from high school, my heart swelled with a mixture of delight and sadness. Sure, I was thrilled at her accomplishment. But my mind couldn’t let go of the fact that it was just yesterday when I, the proud daddy, held Laura in my arms for the first time. As she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, I remembered when she took her first steps. As she adjusted her cap and gown, I recalled her first day she played dress-up.

Talk about a bittersweet moment.

Sometime later I was thinking about the implications of her graduation. A school official had handed Laura a diploma certifying she had completed her studies. She had learned her lessons well. She was ready to move on.

Or was she?

Actually, yes. While I knew that piece of paper wouldn’t sustain her when the storms of life thundered in, Barbara and I worked hard to instill in her something that would: a heart for Jesus. And you know what? One of the single best things I did as a father to enhance her spiritual heritage, as well as that of each of our children, might surprise you.

I built a fire pit.

That’s right. A good, old-fashioned campfire pit in our backyard. The kids loved to sit on a log or on a stone around the flames as we’d swap stories, share the Scriptures, talk about the day, or sing a favorite song. With the crickets adding their serenade, we’d roast hotdogs, marshmallows … and occasionally s’mores.

One thing is sure. Those countless visits to the campfire sparked the fire of faith that burned brightly in Laura’s eyes as she walked the aisle.

How about you? Do you want to pass along your faith, your values, and your heart for God to your children?  This summer, why not consider something as “low tech” as a campfire. As the Apostle Paul said, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2Timothy 1:6a).

A week after her graduation I stood by the fire pit and pondered: The days of fanning the flames of our children’s faith are not over—it’s just a new season. Our children will never lose their need to be cheered on in the race of life by their parents. I pray that my life “glows” as one who continually points them back to the Savior.

Fan the flames of faith, fathers.

©Dennis Rainey.  All Rights Reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com .  Dennis Rainey is the President of FamilyLife.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally.  Please respect copyright.