Where are the Godly Men?

“Help! Godly men are fast disappearing.  Where in all the world can dependable men be found?” (Living Bible) Psalm 12:1

by Stephen L. Meeks

I tried, patiently, courteously, plainly, and finally almost rudely, but the guy never got what I was saying. My counselee’s tone with his wife remained defensive despite prodding him to show tenderness and understanding. Yet, he persisted in taking her every word as a personal assault. He just could not seem to think of her. Finally, I gave up and ended the session as positively as I could, knowing that they were leaving as they’d come—a wounded woman and a self-centered man….and this was a Christian couple!

I had encountered three similar situations the same week in which a good woman was married to a selfish, out-of-control, mean, critical or immature man who appeared incapable of seeing his own faults, and blamed their wives as the cause of their unhappiness. Ironically, every one of these men attends church regularly — some are church leaders!  As the Psalmist lamented, “Where in all the world can dependable men be found?”

It’s a good question. If you’ve been paying attention, there aren’t even any good men left in our imaginatons. Watch the sitcoms, the major motion pictures, and almost any Netflix series and you’ll find the great men have disappeared. God men, godly men, chivalrous men have been replaced by hulks, perverts, idiots, 30 and 60 years olds stuck in adolescence, emotionally thin weaklings, sex-a-holics, males in need of their woman’s rescue. Women are stepping, running, flying, and boldly risking their lives to come to their aid. The roles have reversed; men are the new ‘blondes’. Real men–not fictitious heroic males like Batman or Superman, but flesh and blood men — are abdicating their posts; willingly withdrawing to the game room, the stadium, the bar, or the couch instead of investing in the welfare and leadership of their wives and families.

It’s been subtle, but the evolution of the self-centered/extended adolescence/take-care-of-me male is evidenced in so many small, but significant ways. Because they’ve been intimidated by the girls, guys hesitate to pull a chair for a lady. (Weaklings! Do the right thing, whether or not she understands you are expressing value to her.) Training in gentlemanly courtesies such as opening doors, walking on the curbside of the road, opening her car door (Instead of honking the horn and waiting in the car…IF the guy is even the one doing the picking up!), honoring her by restraining oneself from touching her are not only practically non-existent, they are looked down on! Ironically, this is all in the name of elevating women to the level of equality with men, when in fact, it’s a huge demotion.

The role of bread-winner has resulted in an abdication of responsibility to win or invest any effort when it comes to a woman, her needs, or her care. Guys are increasingly content (even expectant…an interesting thought considering women use to be the ones who were ‘expectant’) to allow the girls to work all day, deal with the kids, be in charge of “church-stuff”, keep up the house, arrange the holiday schedules, call the plumber, look like a model, and perform like some porn-star fantasy he has! (Hey, don’t roll your eyes if you think this is too extreme…I know guys exactly like this.) Meanwhile, men are falling deeper into the arms of their porn-mistresses, battling with video-games, and spending more time on the couch or with their buddies than with their wives, their kids, or their LORD.

Where are those fairy-tale knights ready to drop to a knee in the presence of a lady, cast their cloaks or their own bodies to the ground for the sake of a woman’s protection? Is chivalry completely dead? What happened to stable, sensible, wise, controlled, kind men who knew God, understood life, and devoted themselves to the consideration and safe-keeping of their wives?

This is a sobering moment in our history. “Where are the godly men?” is a question we ignore at our peril, and do well to answer before there are none. Society, freedom, our children’s futures depend on our responses.

I have painted a dark picture and presented a bleak situation. I don’t believe it is exaggerated—hardly. However, it is not the total picture and thankfully it is not beyond remedy, though a better outcome will come at a price to every man who dares fight against the current to reach the headwaters again.

To restore the healthy dignity of women, men must restore themselves to their God-created nature. This means a return to what God intended us to be in Adam, but what we actually find in Jesus. Now, that’s not as simple or straightforward as it may appear. There are battles, internal, ego-related battles that must be fought by each male. And, to be honest, the larger fight for the return of Godly-men will be fought hand-to-hand. There will be no ‘movement’, no ‘large-scale assault’, because this is not a revolution, it is a renewal—a return to our places. Neither will it happen in the public arena or political battlefield, rather, it will happen one man at a time, in the private closet of his own heart and will.

As men return to the pursuit of their ‘first-love’, the God of Heaven, they will be transformed. He, God, will change their hearts, and from within they will rise to their places and return to their duties. There will be no fanfare, no rallies, no pomp. Godly men don’t require such, and the sure sign that such men are again in the land will be the rising up of women who call themselves, “Blessed!” 

I’m Raising Bulls not Lambs

Why we discipline our boys

By Stephen L. Meeks

Josh, my 17 year old, volunteered unexpectedly, “I’m sorry Dad.”

“For what?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t always show respect when you correct me. Sometimes it just seems sort of strong and your maybe a little too restricted, but I know it is for my best. I just don’t always show it.”

Every once in a blue moon a lightening strike of insight and wisdom connects with my brain and I actually say the right thing. It happened in that moment Josh made his confession.

“Son, do you know why I discipline you boys the way I do?”

“No.”

“I do it because I’m raising bulls and not lambs.”

He looked directly at me, reading my face, trying to unpack that statement.

“You boys are going to wield power, be given authority, and live off my leash one day. When I buy cattle they weigh 600 pounds and come to the farm without any idea of our boundaries. I start by putting them in a small corral made of strong posts, wood and steel wire. Across the center of the coral, I place a single 1” wide strand of electrified tape. They learn that the fences cannot be pushed over and they learn not to touch the tape. Once trained, I turn them out onto our pasture knowing that they will not push through the perimeter fences and wander on to the highway or the neighbor’s property. I can guide them from lush field to field by simply stringing up a line of the white tape. I’ve seen untrained bulls dash from my trailer at a full run and rip deep gashes across their chests and necks as they burst through three strands of barbed wire as if it were thread.

I don’t want you hurting yourself or anyone else. That’s why I have strong boundaries and train you in what to avoid, what to respect, and to trust my guidance.

I asked, “Do you understand?” He did, and he added, “Yes. It kind of makes me want it more now.”

Boys don’t want to grow into lambs. They grow in power. They are given authority. They are either released or break their leash. Better to train them when they are young than to try and coral them once full grown, because, by then, your words will be like strands of barbed wire before a charging half-ton bull – ineffective.

Dancing with Daughters….and other fatherly acts of love and courage.

By Stephen L. Meeks

The most viewed Facebook post on fatherhood in 2018 was of a dad who jumped up on stage at his little girl’s dance performance and joined her when stage fright caused her to freeze. A dad coming to the rescue of his child is always a heart touching scene, especially when it is to his daughter’s side.

I believe most men want to be that kind of dad.

Years ago, I met a guy on a construction job. Friendly, even jovial, unless you crossed him. He went by the nickname of “Hammer,” and not because of his carpentry skills. Hammer had been on the job only a few days when he started opening up about his recent efforts to overcome a drug addiction. I cheered for him and made a comment about the importance of maintaining his freedom from drugs to provide a powerful example to his young son. That’s when he cried.

Men generally don’t cry in front of other men; even less so when it’s a crew of construction workers, but Hammer laid down the hammer on tears to the point that everyone was uncomfortable witnessing it. When he calmed down a bit to catch his breathe and speak, he revealed his heart’s center, “I want to be a better dad.”

Most men want to be good dads and all of us know we can improve. Some us, like Hammer, know some specific thing we need to do, but, down deep, we also know there is more, and that those deeper things are matters we probably need some help seeing and improving. And this is where the men who become great dads are separated from the ones who only wish to be.  The men who become great dads, like that father who rose from his seat to leap onto the stage, lay down their pride and take action.

I told Hammer that afternoon, “You can be a better father. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can start today.” Today, let is start for you with one simple new habit: commit to seeking daily wisdom from fathers who have experience. Talkabout Podcasts are perhaps the most accessible start point, and you can build from there, but above all, don’t stay in your seat; jump onto the stage and be strong for your sons, and dance with your daughters.

PRESENT IN THE FACE OF THE ENEMY

“How a man keeps his wife and children safe.”

A game drive through the Great Serengeti National Park in East Africa was always the highlight of any vacation of ours when we lived in Kenya. Not every game drive was successful. Often, the mere glimpse of a male lion was a highlight, making one particular sitting we had the most memorable of all.

If the noble lion is king of the beasts, Cape Buffalo are the meter thick walls of neighboring kingdoms his great strength rarely topples. Buffalo bulls weigh close to 2000 pounds and stand five feet or greater at the shoulder. Armored across their broad necks and shoulders by thick folds of tough hide, these brutes brandish spiked horned helmets over a meter wide! Despite the King of the Beast’s intimidating prowess he is certainly matched by the fearless bravado of this top rival – the Cape Buffalo.

Once, my family and I happened upon an amazing moment—a lone buffalo under attack! We slowly approached in our off road vehicle to witness a lioness facing off with a buffalo mother who had just calved. As we came near, the lioness’ mate, a fully-grown male, shadowed our vehicle, shield it’s approach. Then, as if practiced, the female drew the cow’s attention away from the crouching male while at the same instant, the male, now on the cow’s blindside, made a full charge toward the rear of the preoccupied cow. He leapt onto her back, sinking teeth into her spine and ripping hip muscles with his claws. In a split second, the lioness snatched the newborn calf from between its mother’s legs and dragged it to a thicket nearby. The shocked mother spun round in panic but the calf was gone. The male lion, now solely focused on killing the cow, became her concern. With the calf lost, she was not fighting for her life.

The lioness returned a few minutes later to tag-team against the lone buffalo. Several times we thought she would die in the pair’s grip, but she refused to go down. With every blow of her massive horns we cheered, and in the end, it was the cats who retreated, leaving the bloodied, heart broken victor defiantly standing.

The Africans have a tale they shared with us about the buffalo. It told of a trio of buffalos surrounded by a pack of lions. Standing tail to tail the three defend themselves by facing their attackers. In this formation, they could not be caught off guard. The fable continues, however, that the lion pride met to discuss this situation and devise a strategy. “If we may divert one or more from the trio, we will eat them all.”  It worked and as a result, a pride’s common assault method on buffalo is to divide them, drawing one away from the rest, because they stand no chance against a united herd. The African parable concludes with the saying, “Kipagenge ko gimno” or “In unity there is strength.” For the Cape Buffalo, his strength and hardware not withstanding, standing together, facing his enemies is his greatest defensive weapon.

Now, let’s turn from the Serengeti game drive and enter into your personal domain. Fathers, you are warned that you have an enemy. He roars and prowls like a lion. He wants to maim, to kill, to destroy your life. He wants to destroy your children’s lives like those lions did that Cape Buffalo cow’s calf and end your lineage using the same technique as Serengeti lions.

As a man, you are strong and smart. You have a lot going for you. You’re a “bull” in some respects, but your kids and wife are safe only if you are present. Where can we suppose the Cape bull was that afternoon? Grazing on green pasture? Mixing with the herd? Chasing the cows? What we know with certainty is he was absent. Had he been with his cow, defending his calf, it would have survived and its mother would not have suffered her wounds. There is a very close parallel in human families.

Steve Farrar in his excellent book Point Man: How a Man can Lead his Family wrote:

We are in the greatest danger of all when we think we are safe. When a guy begins to think that this (sexual immorality) could never happen to him, then he needs to think again…. Our enemy is so cunning that he will wait forty or even fifty years to set a trap…That’s why we can never deceive ourselves that we are somehow “above” sexual sin. The moment you begin to view yourself in that light, you can be sure your carcass will one day be hanging in cold storage.

He goes on to recount a story of a man who had thought himself above temptation, only to fall. Steve wrote:

Another discarded wife. Two more shattered children. Another family for the casualty list. Why? Because he bought the lie that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence But it never is.

 The problem is this: When you leave your wife to commit adultery with another woman, you take yourself with you.”

Every week I counsel men in recovery from addiction. The one common constant in all their stories is an absent or emotionally disconnected father. I’ve NEVER had a single counselee with a father who was present and engaged emotionally with his son….not once in almost 10 years of practice! Boys (all children for that matter) who have an engaged father are as safe as a Cape Buffalo calf in a united herd. Such kids are protected from attack by Daddy bull’s presence.

I observe a similar occurrence with women. In my career, I’ve never counseled a married woman who had a husband that was present and protectively caring for her heart. Such women don’t need counseling. Women come to me come because their husbands are physically or emotionally absent, detached, or distractedly chasing something else. A woman who’s man has taken himself away from her to pursue work, entertainment, or a woman falls prey to the lions of depression, fear, anger, adultery etc.

Kipagenge ko gimno! There is safety and strength in unity. Men, don’t stray. Stay with your family. Make them your priority. Seek the aid of God and a few men with whom you can be candidly accountable — the rest of the herd. Focus and stand your ground. Make certain that not one of you little ones is lost by ensuring that YOUR bride never knows the pain of facing the Lion alone. Be strong. Be a fortress. Be their protective wall and sanctuary. In short, be present!

Three Sure Ways to Build Confidence in Your Boy (and two ways to destroy it)

I couldn’t believe what happened. As described to me, a 6’ plus, 250 pound plus, high school graduate male was hiding behind his 5’ mother’s skirt! If you let that image develop, I think you’ll share my mortification.

 

The story was that a young man had been charged a bank fee for his checking account, but he had understood it to be a free-checking account. Upset at the charge, he went to his family for help. So far…. I’d say things were on a healthy track. However, this is where the train jumped the rails.

 

His dad listened to his story and promptly punted to mom. He instructed his wife to go with their son to the bank, see what was going on, and work it out for him. This is where I say, “Big mistake!”

 

If he were an 8 year old, or a 10 year old, sure, have mom take him to the bank. In fact, even better if dad takes him, but…… not at 18! Why not? Because of the damage it delivers to his confidence and the weakened view of himself that results.

 

Boys need to interact with the physical world. That’s why they need to build forts from branches or old boards, dam streams, disassemble perfectly good bikes to make new versions of their own design, and wrestle, punch, and race each other. This push and shove against the elements, and even other living things, informs them who they are, that they matter, and that they make a difference…. thus football, bull riding, surfing, caving, and the like. Remove that interaction and you create uncertainty, low esteem, and you rob them of opportunities to build confidence.

 

I suggest that a better approach would have been for dad to give his son instructions and then allowed/encouraged him to test them (and himself) in the real world.

 

“Son, go to the bank. Talk to one of the tellers and explain your concerns, just as you did to me. Listen to what they say. If you still don’t feel the charges are appropriate, ask to see that person’s manager. Then, politely explain the situation to that person, just as you have to me. If still dissatisfied or unclear, ask for that person’s manager. Keep going until you get an answer that settles the matter or until you run out of people to present your case to. If any questions, or you don’t know what to do or say, you can call me and I’ll walk you through it. You can do it, and I’m proud of you for trying. I know it isn’t comfortable, but men tackle things that are uncomfortable. You are made for this. You’ll do fine.”

 

Hidden in the sample conversation above are three ways a father (or mother) can quickly build confidence in a boy.

1. Expect the boy to try it himself.

 

Expecting him to try it conveys the notion that you believe he CAN do it. That alone is a boost to his confidence. And who wants to let down the people who have confidence in them? So, not only does the expectation that they will handle a matter on their own convey confidence in them, it motivates them to fight against their own self-doubts in order to preserve your belief in them.

 

Actually, this works for children of much younger ages. Practice giving children ability-appropriate opportunities to tackle challenges and new experiences on their own. There is no reason an 8 year old can’t be responsible to keep the trash bin emptied and tidy, be responsible for their own room, or wash the car. I know 8 year olds who can drive skid loaders, a 10 year old who drives the farm truck around at hay-bailing time, and an 11 year old who works a team of 1000 pound mules! (no, I am not joking). Kids can do much more than we have come to expect them to …and it’s hurt their confidence when we rob them of the chance. That said….it isn’t a good idea to strap a youngster to a harnessed mule without good instructions and supervision….which is my next point.

 

2. Give Him specific steps to follow; also be present through his first attempts.

 

In the improved banking scenario above, the father explains the process of ‘appeal’ and gives examples as well. This is CRITICAL! If you send him on a mission without adequate instruction, you are sentencing him to failure. Failure at this stage means a LOSS of esteem, and can destroy his confidence. So, make sure he understands the process thoroughly before sending him out. Understanding the process (or tools) provides an initial confidence that experience will strengthen.

 

Follow up your instructions with your presence. This doesn’t necessarily mean your physical presence but access to you if needed. In the scenario above, the dad offered for the boy to call him if needed. On the other hand, driving a truck or plowing with mules requires a parent’s physical presence until the boy masters the equipment. Having dad available is different than having dad do the job. Better to supply instructions, remain available, and let them try. When he’s done his best, whether the result is a success or a disaster, encourage him with lavish praise for having tried his best.

 

3. Provide ample encouragement.

 

As I counsel men regularly, I hear a constant refrain from men whose dads belittled or ignored their boys. Nothing seems to tear down a boy like his father’s ranting and belittling in anger. On the other hand, the power of praise and encouragement from a father is perhaps the most powerful image-building fuel a boy can receive during his formative years.

 

In our scenario above, the dad sends his informed son to the bank with the added assurance, “You can do this. I know it isn’t easy, but you can do it, and I’m proud of you for trying.” Wow! A perfect confidence-charge if there ever were one!

 

Pats on the back, words of encouragement, affirmations, and expressions of confidence in a boy supercharge him for action—even actions that he may dread or fear. When combined with appropriate instruction and the assurance of your presence, it is a winning recipe.

 

Boys need challenges, but even more, they need to know they can overcome them.. An emotionally neutered male will withdraw from adult responsibilities and lean on others if not given real-world instruction, interactions, and your personal support.

 

Today, I see two things neutering our boys’ confidence in manhood. We introduced the first of these ways at the opening of this post, but I believe that video-gaming does it faster than a 5’ momma doing for a boy what he can and should be doing for himself. Of the two, personally, I’drather he step behind mom’s skirt than in front of a video screen.

 

So Dad, consider what are you doing to build your son’s confidence? And, what are you doing that may be damaging it? If any corrections are needed, act on them today.

 

NOTE: Mom’s are amazing! So many are going beyond amazing as they try to ‘fill in’ for absent or distracted fathers. The sentiments expressed in this post are in NO WAY disparaging of women or of mothers. In fact, the opposite is true – it is more like I’m shaking my finger in the faces of dads who are leaving it to Mom to deal with things that Dad ought to be taking the lead on. So, please understand, ladies; this one is about men who aren’t giving their kids the attention, instruction, encouragement, and supervision they’ll need to be strong and confident in life.

Surprised by Glory! (…by the rippling impact of a man on his community)

It’s the surprise, the unexpected turn, the “where did that come from?” moment or event that catches our attention and holds it.  Yesterday surprised me.

 

The room was full with men, women, and peers at the Re-Entry Party Hunter’s mother threw for him to celebrate his Manabout experience. Food was great and music too. Chatter and laughter filled the air as the program began to unfold.  All was predictably going as planned until Jim spoke.

 

Jim, hadn’t planned to speak. I know because he’d told me so beforehand. But as man after man in the room shared with Hunter words of affirmation and advice, Jim could not remain silent.

 

He started, but less than a full sentence into his speech….his lip began to quiver and his body shook with emotion. Swallowing hard to calm himself he continued as the room sat riveted,  anxious for his thoughts.

 

“When I was a boy, I believed that when I left home, got out on my own, and could do as I pleased that would begin my glory days. And I followed by belief. I left as soon as I could and I did whatever I wanted to do…for me…for myself. It was great for a time, but it didn’t find what Hunter found. It wasn’t until later in my life, when I started giving, living for others, thinking of someone besides myself that the real glory days began.”

 

We were moved by Jim’s insight. I don’t think anyone saw that moment coming. Derek, Jim’s friend of many years, didn’t foresee the stirring in him to approach me after the meeting and say, “Hey, I’m thinking I’ll take my son next summer on this.” The young women present were surprised by how caught they were by the image of a truly selfless man. None of the boys and college age guys there had their guard up.  So, they were taken by surprise at the swell of desire in their deep center to know and experience this transformation for themselves.

 

I admit, that though I’d written the material and designed this part of our 4 C.O.R.E. elements in the Manabout… I also was caught off-guard by the rippling impact on community when a man (even if he is 15) lives out his manhood as God intended. Imagine what will be the outcome when tens of thousands of others begin to do the same!

 

Mothers, begin to pray for your husband or for a mentor. Dads, uncles, mentors take action, now.  Lead him on to take this leap into manhood and so let his glory days begin!

I’m Convinced that Men Want to Be Better Dads (Here is how they can be)

Building our house was more work than I’d imagined—a lot more. At 37 I thought, “I can figure it out.” So I began to read and ask questions about the process of building my own home. That was 20 years ago. The house is not 1005 complete, but we’re pretty well there, but I got more out of the process than I had expected—a lot more.

 

We started out pretty naïve and optimistic, but eventually, I hit roadblocks. Most of the work I managed to learn or figure out on my own, but some things were better left to experts. Drywall was one of those, but I didn’t learn my lesson the easy way on that one and managed to do most of it myself (Unfortunately, you can see what I did and what the pros did.) When it came to block and concrete work, I surrendered before making a mess of it. I’m happy that I did. On some jobs I needed extra hands, but my kids were able to help me on most of those. However, some jobs required extra hands AND experienced skill — at an affordable price. I found all of that in two neighbors John and David.

 

Our house is made mostly of logs we had milled on our place. So, my “expertise” was in log stacking, which required little more than a level and a three-pound sledgehammer. Framing, on the other hand, intimidated me. So, I hired the framing of my porches out to John and David. And they did an excellent job, but our association grew beyond a business arrangement – we became friends.

 

David was especially likable. Constantly giving back-handed compliments to everyone around him, jovial, always laughing. Often slacking a little on the job as he entertained us, David kept the workplace fun. He was worth every nickel he ever cost our boss (Easy for me to say, right?). We all enjoyed his lighthearted ways, but David had a tender heart beneath all his exterior that begged to differ.

 

Big David’s nickname was “Hammer” because, despite his general upbeat attitude, he could be tough. One morning, during break, we were talking about kids and in the middle of our conversation “Big Dave” started talking about his little boy and then…..he wept. A crying Hammer was unexpected. Yet, behind big tears and through gasping sobs he choked out, “I just want to be a better Dad for my little boy.” Immediately, the moment became very real for us and  several of those tough old birds turned to brush away their own tear. I think most, if not all men, want to be better… if not the BEST dads. It’s always been that way.

 

The biblical King David, busy with work (and truth be told, with women) looked back on his life wishing he’d been a better dad to his son Absalom. I think he tried to do a better job with his younger son Solomon.  It seems he spent more time with him. You can hear it as Solomon reminisces, “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding…. I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said, ‘Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.’” Proverbs 4:1-4

 

Adam must have felt his heart tear when one son killed the other. Abram loved Ishmael, but knew he’d failed to train-away the eldest’s animosity toward the younger Isaac. Saul failed Jonathan. Eli let both his boys down. Surely the list is long of good dads who wished they’d done a better job of raising their sons. What advise would they give us now, if they could? I think we can know; at least some of it.

 

1- Start when they are young. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

 

2- Provide strong boundaries and guidelines. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame on his mother.” Proverbs 29:15

 

3- Involve God and His ways in their (and your) everyday life. “Teach the commands diligently to your children, and talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:7

 

There is more advice for us in Scripture from fathers who lived before us, but these are a good starting place, and where I suggested my friend David invest himself.

 

It’s been 20 years since John and David built our porches. My sons and I have continued to cobble away at our project. Working together through the many years my sons and I grew close. Now, they love to come home –to house and family.

 

I was pretty green in the beginning, but I’ve not only learned how to construct a house over the years, but also how to build a home. Looking back, I see where I could have done better with the house and with my children, but I have no regrets for getting and following the advice I did get along the way. In fact, I’m very, very happy I sought expert help…on both fronts.

 

Any man who wants to avoid regrets and become a better father will benefit from the advice of the Biblical Patriarchs.  The results of applying their instruction will be satisfying; like the completion of a house patiently, painfully, prayerfully crafted with your own two hands.

 

 

No Agendas Fathering: How to move from a rocky start to smooth sailing with your son

My name is Luke Rolph, I am in my mid-twenties and just starting to hit all the “fun” parts of being an adult – insurance, renting, bills, ect. I come from a family of 4 (mom, dad, brother, and myself). I graduated and work in the field of nonprofit organizations, and I do some landscape contracting on the side.  I am associated with Barren Heights, which you should check out!

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My father and I have had a rocky past. Our relationship has been strained for multiple reasons the largest however is because of my brother. He was diagnosed with Autism when I was still in elementary school. For those of you who don’t know one of the many traits of Autism is a tendency to fixate on certain activities to the point where anything else is distasteful. My brother fixated on activities my father couldn’t relate to and as a result he found himself unable to spend time with me without feeling guilty. I can’t say that I can blame him, as I mature more and more each day I find myself in awe of what my parents went through. How could you not feel guilty spending time with one son and enjoying it while the quality time with the other child often feels like a chore. Unable to be there for us in this role my dad poured himself into work. Focusing on care-taking as opposed to maintaining a healthy relationship with his children. Eventually from my perspective it felt like he was just throwing money at me and my brother to keep us pacified, but he had otherwise checked out of our lives.

At the time I never realized how much I was yearning for a relationship with my father. I sought to fill the void in my life with other things. The moment I realized just how much I was missing this relationship was when our family went to a place called Barren Heights Retreat Center. They seek to minister to families with a child(s) with a developmental or physical disability. At this three-day weekend we had dozens of volunteers loving on our family. For the first time in a long time my dad could spend time with me without feeling like his other child was being neglected. We flew his R/C plane I had got him for Christmas in yet another effort to spend time with him. Watching him fly this plane around, just bantering, and talking about life – it was incredibly healing. By the end of the weekend I felt like a little kid again. After that my father has been more intentional about spending time with me and we are closer than ever. It has allowed me to open up to him in areas that I had shut him out of. Now I feel comfortable talking to him about work and relationships – especially the latter that I never thought I would ever let him have any say about.

I guess the take-away is if you have a troubled relationship with your son… just get some time for you to get away. Don’t do anything too fancy – just go to a park and throw a frisbee or sit down and play a board game. No agendas – just investing your time into their life.

 

 

Campfires & Flat Tires


For Mark Brazle, a passion for missions found its root as he grew up in Montana, Oklahoma and Saskatchewan, one of six children born to church planter/evangelist, Clinton & Faye Brazle, reading Scripture through the lens of real live missionary stories at the dinner table. Having spend 40 years in ministry in Canada, Belgium, and Ohio, Mark and his wife Jill now serve caring for missionaries around the world by informing churches on how to best care for those in the field. With 5 children and 12 grandchildren, encouraging dads to be dads that looks more like our Father every day is very important to Mark.

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If it had only happened once, it might not have been that memorable. But I remember my Dad doing it several times. Repeated powerful word pictures usually stick!

Going to camp in the summer time was one of the best things that could happen to four brothers! Can you imagine the trouble we could get into?! With Mom focused on cooking for over a hundred people and Dad concerned with keeping the wheels of progress turning, who would notice if we wandered off to play down by Mill Creek or up the switchbacks on the logging road behind the camp. Did I mention we were about 40 miles north of the North entrance to Yellowstone Park set up at an elevation of 6k feet between mountains and surrounded by creeks on 3 sides at Yellowstone Bible Camp on the campus of the Bow & Arrow Ranch. As an Opa (What the grandchildren call me.) now I wonder, “What were they thinking?” But that was the place we learned to fly fish for rainbow and brown trout. There we learned the joy of singing with the crew while helping wash dishes. (Yes, there was motivation, because the best crew got to be inducted into “Eta Beta Pi” – and we did too! Mom made the pie. That was her idea.) That was also the place where the first living stones of faith were laid in our hearts.

 

Dad would be there to close out our day by the campfire, more songs, pointing out how we had seen God all around us that day. He would take a long stick and pull a glowing hot coal off by itself out of the rest of the fire as he talked about the joy, excitement of being at camp and the importance of seeking fellowship, companionship, friendship with those who would encourage us away from the warmth of the fire at Bible camp. As he talked about how God had worked in his life and the way he had found rekindling away from these circles we looked back at that hot coal that by now had now grown cold and lifeless, away from the fellowship of the fire. God was at work for the good in those moments setting the stage for life lessons later.

 

The summer before I turned 12, we would move as a family to Saskatchewan, away from our beloved Montana mountains. It was a tough move that would bring tears, no, sobs from my older sisters and bewilderment to the boys. We had spent a year in Tulsa, OK. As we drove north through Kansas, watching the sway of the cotton trailer behind us, sitting in the rear-facing back seat of the white, 9-passenger ’61 Dodge. As I remember it, we didn’t even make it to Wellington, where Grandma and Grandpa Guinn lived before we had the first flat. It turns out that cotton trailers were made for hauling cotton!? Who knew? And the tires that would have served well to get that cotton from the field to the gin on those lazy dirt roads would not get all of our families heavy belongings going faster that 45mph up US-81. If I remember right there were 8 flats on that trip. No, we didn’t have that many spares. It was a lesson in asking for help, waiting on God, and a welder welding the hitch and the tire repairman. Finally, some great friends in Pierre, SD suggested we load everything into a 3ton grain truck to get is the rest of the way north. That was also the summer of Dad’s sermon on “Prayer and Providence” that we heard at several churches along the road north. God working “in all things for the good of those who love Him” was pointed out along the way: safety on the road to Saskatchewan, a welder for the tongue of the trailer, tire repair and/or replacement, fuel, food and housing and health for 8 travelers. Because every obstacle was faced with faith and fellowship, lessons learned at those campfires were underscored.

 

The next summer at the close of that first week at Clearview Christian Camp on Kenosee Lake in south eastern Saskatchewan, when Dad took a long stick and fished a red hot coal off by itself from the closing campfire, we already had a pretty good idea what he was going to talk about.

 

 

Yes, You Can!

 

Britt Farmer is the Senior Minister at the West Freeway Church in Fort Worth, TX. He and his wife have been married for 40 years and have four children, seven grandchildren and one great grandson. Britt has been published in several newspapers with his “A Little Good News” weekly article and in the Howard Publishing magazine “His Image.” He blogs at Farmer’s Harvest, and conducts the Spiritual Seminar “The Greatness of God’s Love”

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There is one thing my dad shared with me before he became a Christian that influenced everything else I have ever done. I am not sure where he learned it, but it was a very Biblical principle. It was something that he believed throughout his walk in life and became reinforced when he began his walk with God. It carried me personally through my early years and I’ve handed it down to my sons as well.

He said to me, “You can do anything that you set in your mind to do!”

That is what he shared with me as a young elementary school student, and then again,  later in life, he reminded me of what he had said when I asked his advice on a move I was contemplating for my family.

Once I had the opportunity to return the same advice to my dad. Both of my dad’s parents died within a year of each other, and when we got word of his dad passing he grieved and mourned with me immediately. He was also facing the weight of family problems at home.

“I don’t think I can handle this,” he said as he spoke through tears and the pain after his father had died.

“Yes, you can, Dad! Remember what you have always told me. You can do anything you set your mind to do!” I spoke with a broken voice through my own tears as we embraced. He thanked me for being there and reminding him of his own advice to me.

In our society today I am afraid that we do not spend time encouraging our sons to succeed in every area of life; home, work, or our spiritual walk. I believe that we can do a better job of making our children’s walk in life a little more encouraging.

  • Get to know your children.
  • Talk to them about your walk with God.
  • Sit and talk with them about their place in this world.
  • Challenge your children to grow in every aspect of their lives.
  • Give them attainable goals to strive toward.
  • Give them hope that they can accomplish good things in their lives.
  • Help them know that they are special to you and their heavenly Father.

Too many times our children are given to the world without good advice or direction. For our children to be what God intended, fathers must play a part in the direction they go in as they leave home.

I admire how plainly J.B. Phillips translated Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, don’t over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Bring them up with Christian teaching in Christian discipline.”

“You can do anything you set in your mind to do. Yes you can!”