A Village of Fathers

Posted by on Dec 8, 2016 in Character, Community, Culture, Fathers, Heroes, Leadership, Transformation | 0 comments

If you’ve read many of my posts in the past there’s a good chance you’ve seen me quote an African proverb I learned from a Kenyan pastor: “The boys in the village must be initiated into manhood, or they will burn down the village…just to feel the heat.” When I heard this statement it caused many observations I’ve had about our society to fall into place. It explains why fatherless inner-city gang members turn to violence. It explains why self-absorbed frat boys, with no healthy mentors, assert their will on women. It explains the profound urgency of father-son programs like Peregrine’s Passage to Manhood. Watch this remarkable clip illustrating some mentors who have their eyes on the next generation of African American young men. Man, am I glad for men like this! May their tribe...

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What is Required of Us?

Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Culture, Hope | 14 comments

Beryl and I just dropped off our election ballots in this campaign season featuring two very controversial candidates. Like most Americans, we have found the issues surrounding the main candidates to be so divisive that we found it extremely difficult to determine who to vote for. As a result, I won’t pretend to simplify it by saying who I think anyone should vote for. I respect everyone’s struggle as a personal one. But, in the cases of you who have yet to vote, I would like to mention how Beryl and I processed things, in the hopes it may help you reach your own decision. I summarize our response as citizens of this country and as citizens of God’s Kingdom this way: Act, speak and trust. 1. We Act Beryl and I have questioned not only whom we vote for, but whether we vote at all. Abstaining out of conviction is an option, and it has the potential of conveying a message, especially if unusually large numbers of voters do so. But in our case, rather than avoid any personal responsibility in the end result, we felt a civic duty (and privilege) to participate and to let our choices be known. Not only for the slot of president, but for a host of local issues. 2. We Speak How to make a choice? Polls clearly demonstrate that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the least popular candidates for their respective parties in modern history. We need to decide if the possible upside of either outweighs their evident downsides. In addition, they are not the only options to consider. There are a multitude of Libertarian, Independent and other candidates; and a write-in candidate is also a way to voice one’s opinion. No, none of these others will win. But sometimes speaking is more about making our voice heard than it is about changing the end result. In making our choice we wanted to be guided by Micah 6:8: And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Which action or vote on our part would most closely demonstrate this kind of spirit? That’s what Beryl and I tried to find. 3. We Trust In the end, we reminded ourselves of the position that we are actually voting for. We are not nominating Senior Pastor. We’re voting for a fallible Chief Executive of a flawed system. It’s unlikely, in fact, probably even implausible, that either of the two primary candidates would fulfill our hopes for bringing about increased qualities of the Kingdom of God on earth. So we set that expectation aside. In the end, our hope and trust is not based on Clinton, Trump nor on any other candidate on the list. Will this future president affect many political and moral issues in the coming years? Absolutely. Will they struggle mightily to get any of their preferences through a very divided Congress? It sure looks like it. Is it likely that at the end of their term our opinion will be something along the lines of “Well, that was disappointing”? Yes. Does he or she have the final say in the unfolding story of God’s purposes on earth? Not even close. A favorite Psalm of mine...

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A Spirit of Sadness

Posted by on Oct 4, 2016 in Compassion, God, Hope, Redemption, Transcendence | 46 comments

Today I’m filled with sadness. This doesn’t often happen to me. I try to go about life with a spirit of gratitude and joy. Yet, I have known for several years now that the tragedies we encounter on almost a daily basis—whether personal, related to family or friends, or on a global scale—pierce me on an increasingly deeper level with each passing year. I first noticed this deeper piercing a few years ago when I read of two local college girls, home on a brief break, gassing up a father’s SUV for a trip into the mountains, whose vehicle was hit by another car pulling into the adjacent gas pump. One of the girls was in the gas station buying snacks; the other pumped the gas, standing between her SUV and the gas pump. The collision caused a spark which became a conflagration that burned the girl alive. Paralyzed bystanders could only watch in stunned horror. All of us have witnessed or felt deep sadness in the world around us, in the lives of friends, or our own families. This past week the sadness has surfaced for me more than usual: The father of a friend, both genuine Christian men, took his own life to free himself from the agony and embarrassment of depression. A very close friend, who has experienced traumatic deaths of several friends, was told by his counselor, “I think a spirit of sadness has settled in your heart.” He cried for the first time in 6 years. A friend Beryl and I became close to over the summer returned to her home in Europe facing family issues of terminal illness and challenging relationships, in the midst of her own questions about God’s existence. 7 high school students committed suicide in my town within the last year. A few were from Christian families. One had gone through the Passage to Manhood program I provide for dads and their teenage sons. As I opened my laptop to start writing today, a calendar alert popped up reminding me that my dad passed away 4 years ago today. This series of events or reminders has left me with an aching pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I’m no longer surprised by the tragedy that surrounds us. But I’m still deeply saddened by it. You may have seen me write it or heard me say it before, but it bears repeating: This is simply not the world our hearts were made for. In the beginning God created us with profound longings for deep relationships and an unshakeable sense of significance and worth. He designed us with a longing for: Hearts- that know deep, fearless intimacy and connection with friends, a spouse or family Souls- that live in a constant, transcendent relationship and presence with God the Father Minds- that learn and grow in wisdom and knowledge, and that provide fruitful impact Strength- bodies that are healthy, alive, and serve us well in our daily lives and efforts When our fore-parents, Adam and Eve, distrusted God’s grace and goodness, and chose instead to believe the Deceiver, all was permanently changed. In addition to the knowledge of Good, mankind was now condemned to the overwhelming consequences of the knowledge of Evil: Hearts- broken, sad, and hungry; looking for love...

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Beneath the Surface of Addictions

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Character, Hope, Transformation | 0 comments

This is a fascinating, brief insight into what is going on with addictions of all types. Yet another reason for men to get out of the man cave and experience authentic community. “It’s Not the Chemicals, It’s Your Cage.” For more info on, or help with, sexual addictions go to...

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Get Home Safely

Posted by on Jul 20, 2016 in Community, Compassion, Courage, Culture | 0 comments

I never knew this before, but apparently many African American families do. Some parents of black kids have this talk in order to increase the odds that their kids will get home safely if they encounter the police when they are away from home: “10 Rules of Survival if Stopped By Police.” I never had this talk with my kids; it never crossed my mind. I’m pretty sure none of my grandchildren will ever hear this talk from their parents. But it’s considered crucial parenting wisdom for black families. I had no idea; perhaps that’s the case for others of you who are white. You who are black may have heard this talk or given it. My friends, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you live with that. One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr, emphasizes the intellectual integrity of being able to hold two seemingly conflicting truths at the same time, and respecting the elements of truth in both. It’s the opposite of the “dualistic” or “binary” thinking we often see in our society that assumes that one position is 100% right, and a different perspective is 100% wrong. Dualistic thinking leads to the kind of broadly inflammatory statements we so often see in our politics. I hold two convictions regarding this video and the sad, hard truth behind it: I’m deeply grateful for the honest, courageous police officers who put their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to provide security for the rest of us; and, Something is horribly wrong when young children from one race in particular, are taught that, in addition to fearing gang predators down the street, they also need to fear their own police. Even when they are doing nothing wrong. Surely we can embrace the truth about both of these statements, without assuming either one is always/never true. And if we do accept the truth that many black children have learned that the practices and biases of some police officers pose a threat, what do we do about that? Here are three ideas: No matter what our ethnicity as parents or grandparents, we regularly remind our children to honor, respect, and be grateful for the police, firefighters and other first-responders who increasingly risk their lives while protecting ours. For those of us who aren’t African-American, let our children know in the right way, at the right time, that some of their friends might have a very different perspective based on the still-sensitive racial issues we face in American society. We constructively and respectfully support city, county and state-wide efforts to review and, when needed, improve the enormously challenging implementation of police enforcement and protection, especially to minorities in their communities. What constructive ideas do you...

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Value Your Values

Posted by on Jul 20, 2016 in Character, Courage, Culture, Heroes, Legacy | 0 comments

“I violated my values and it was wrong. I behaved shamefully.”

Those are the words of Christopher Correa, the former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, recently convicted of hacking into the player personnel system of another major league team. He has lost his dream job, faces 46 months in prison and has been ordered to pay a fine of nearly $280,000.

What he would do if he could only turn back time and make another choice when faced with temptation to further his reputation as a winner! Too late; the secret is out.

How sadly often it is that we read very similar stories in the news:

  • imagesHead football coach Art Briles, a man of faith, whose decision to ignore, hide or discredit the stories of numerous women who reported sexual assaults by his football players, cost him his job and has cast a dark shadow over the outstanding reputation of Baylor University. He is not an exception; he is only the most public and recent of coaches to betray their own beliefs, and those who trusted him, for the sake of success.
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Black Lives Matter; Blue Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Community, Compassion, Courage, Culture, Forgiveness, Hope, Redemption, Transcendence | 19 comments

Once again, I’m stunned at the video footage that confronts all of us:

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • 49 patrons of an Orlando dance club are brutally slaughtered by a man who apparently hates gays, non-Muslims or both
  • A black man in Louisiana shot twice in the chest as he’s wrestled to the ground by two officers
  • A black man in Minnesota is shot four times after getting pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, as his wife and 4 year-old daughter watch in horror
  • A protest in Minneapolis turns into a virtual riot as firecrackers, Molotov Cocktails and bricks are thrown at police, who then response with smoke and tear-gas. Dozens on both sides are injured
  • A peaceful protest in Dallas, in response to these shootings, turns into a sniper attack where a black man kills five police officers and wounds several others

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A Do-It-Yourself-Psalm

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in God, Hope, Redemption, Uncategorized | 0 comments

diyI’m not much of a poet, but Psalm 124 provides a template that even I can follow in writing a personal expression of praise.

If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
2 if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters
would have swept us away.

6 Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

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Who’s In Charge Here Anyway?!

Posted by on Mar 18, 2016 in Character, Culture, Hope, Leadership | 9 comments

trumpcruzHave we seen a more circus-like political process in our lives? I haven’t. I doubt you have.

We are all familiar with the boorish, demeaning, literally below-the-belt accusations flying from one candidate to the other in the current marathon race for the U. S. presidency. Each day brings another series of bewildering headlines revealing head-scratching results and stomach-turning behavior that seem to represent the worst of American politics. I’m saddened by it and ashamed of it.

In a recent conversation with a group of friends we carefully shared our frustrations, as well as our hopes for how this might end. I say “carefully” because we’ve probably all learned that there is no telling which of your friends is going to launch into an angry rant about his favorite candidate, or against any that you might entertain. We’re walking on eggshells. And that’s with friends.

The depth of emotion in this caucus season reveals the long-simmering disappointment so many feel with our system and our leadership. OK, fine. That doesn’t excuse violent behavior or relationship-killing words.

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Dads Matter; Piece by Piece

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in Character, Fathers, Legacy, Significance | 6 comments

clarkson husbandMedia confession: Beryl and I watch American Idol regularly. Because it often actually moves us.

Sometimes the performances are lukewarm; every now and then they are jaw-dropping. Recently, Kelly Clarkson, the Season 1 winner, told a story through song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks—and those of the judges and many in the audience.

We intuitively know dads matter, but in our dramatically changing family culture that often questions the value of fathers, we sometimes need a reminder. Kelly gave us a jaw-dropping one.

Her song, Piece by Piece, compares her experience with a father who disappeared when she was a young girl, to her husband who is a present, loving father to her kids. “He filled the holes you burned in me when I was 6 years old…He restored my faith that a man could be kind, and that a father could stay.”

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