In 1849, Betsy Bayley of the infamous Stephen Meek (no relation) expedition, lost in route to Oregon, wrote this despairing letter to her sister in Ohio:
“We camped at a spring which we gave the name of “The Lost Hollow” because there was very little water there. We had men out in every direction in search of water. They traveled 40 or 50 miles in search of water but found none. You cannot imagine how we all felt. Go back, we could not and we knew not what was before us. Our provisions were failing us. There was sorrow and dismay depicted on every countenance. We were like mariners lost at sea and in this mountainous wilderness we had to remain for five days…..people began to get sick.” (Wikipedia – “Meek’s Cutoff”)
Even now, 150 years later, the camp’s despair, confusion, frantic searching, and panic are palpable, and all because they lacked an expert. Boys, left to peers, poor role models, or to their own devices run as much risk as the historic Meek Expedition. Safe passage requires a trustworthy guide because:
- There are great impasses. – We face things greater than us. A boy will need a source of wisdom and strength beyond his own.
- It is an unfamiliar journey. – Ancient mariners followed the stars as modern pilots use instruments. Life is a more like a frontier than a familiar path. Men without a knowledgeable leader become lost and their potential parishes with them.
- Their families’ fate is tied to theirs. – We are born, live, and write into a story. Boys have roots and they will leave a legacy. How they live directly affects the chapters that will follow.
- We travel as one. – We are a universe, connected, community. My selfishness costs someone. My generosity affects someone. He is not solo and his actions are not conducted in a vacuum.
- There will be resistance. – Along with the obstacles he will face, there will be those who differ with him. Some will resist fiercely – even threaten war. He can run, resist, or repair. Each is appropriate in its moment, but which goes with when?
These “5-Keys to Manhood” are explained fully in the “Manabouts Manual” and in practical form in the online “Manabouts Course” where fathers and mentors are equipped to leas their sons in safe passage. With these five insights travel is safe and dreams come true. Without them, Betsy Bayley’s letter is prophetic and boys live “like mariners lost at sea in a mountainous wilderness.”
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We’ve been looking at the father-thing for a while, taken surveys, reviewed stacks of stats, and held interviews, and there are two consistent findings:
- Most men want to be better dads.
- Their most common obstacle is time.
“I want to be a better dad, but I just can’t get everything done!” “I don’t have enough time.” I hear these sentiments often, and I think most men, who are trying to be responsible at the job, with family, and faith can relate. Though fatigue is real and time is limited, being a better dad is not as out of reach as imagined.
Jesus’ coma-like nap in the middle of the lake-storm expose his exhaustion. Rising VERY early in the morning and working into the night reveal a full schedule. Jesus kept a full calendar. But we never hear him say, “I don’t have time or I am too tired.” Instead, He said, “I have accomplished all that you gave me and I haven’t failed on with any person.” Jesus wasn’t a dad, but he found time for his work and his followers. What can we learn?
Jesus exposed us to the secret to his and his father’s success when he said, “What I hear my Father say, I say. What I see my Father do, I do.” In the context of time together, Jesus picked up all he needed to succeed at his mission.
Jesus and His father were close because they were together.
There is a notion that it takes big slices of time to make a difference in a child, or that a $150 night at the ballgame satisfies a kid’s dad-need, but it doesn’t. Earth-shattering events are icing on the cake, not the cake. We should rethink this and opt for more of the mundane rather than the momentous. Our best option is for consistent time together rather than occasional lengthy times. Parent-child relationships benefit more from a consistent twenty-minutes after work each day than from a week of vacation once a year.
Plan A– A simple change that makes a big difference scheduling time for your kids. Like anything else that is important, you must plan for it. Those first twenty minutes after work are your best first-option. Start with a hug. Toss the phones, take the kids aside, or join them where they are. If they are small, take them in hour lap and ask, “What have you done today?” If older, both of you take a comfortable seat somewhere and start with, “Tell me about your day.” Then, listen. Just listen. Ask for clarity if needed. Show interest, and listen.
Plan B- What about those days when you have dinner guests coming or a scheduled school event presses too closely against your Plan-A? The answer is “Plan-B.” For younger children, “Plan-B” happens just before bedtime. Reading or storytelling are great options at an hour when your brain is probably fried and creativity is difficult. Tucking them in, an “I love you,” and a prayer end the day beautifully …. and memorably. For older kids, it means a quick check-in before you crash. “Hey, sorry I missed our time this afternoon, but catch me up, what was the biggest thing in your day today?” Undivided attention and listening open your child’s heart and are the difference between “wishing upon a star” to being one! Parents can create Disney-moments out of Legos-on-the-floor by simply being intentional.
Yes, vacations and the epic journey-type events are awesome, but it is the impromptu conversation and unplanned interaction that become the greatest moments in a child’s life. Sure, kids remember Disneyland’s enchanted phantasy world, but they are shaped by your undivided attention to them on the floor building block castles with Legos, because Disneyland is about the wonder of Disney; time with your child is about the wonder of them. Just as your Father in Heaven impacted his son, you influence your child by what you say and do together every day. You have the time. You can be a better dad. Plan on it.
by Randy Clay.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
St. Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV).
Paul, are you serious? Give thanks in ALL circumstances? There isn’t a circumstance that gets a pass? I wish he had said ‘some’ or ‘most – or even ‘more often than not’…..but ALL?
Let me share some circumstances in my life that have challenged me to give thanks.
- My father passed away very suddenly when I was just sixteen. I was angry at God for a long time. How could I give thanks in THAT circumstance? Well, instead of being angry at God for no longer having a father, I started a “thanks list” thanking him for the dad I had. He was a man of faith. He served others. He loved me. He was funny. He lived with a purpose. So, I gave thanks for the time I had with him and the legacy he left me instead of being angry for the time I didn’t have.
Give thanks in all circumstances. Here is another.
- I’ve had skin cancer about a dozen times. Had three skin-grafts. Two years ago the doctor took off about half my scalp (not an exaggeration). Very painful surgery. A long recovery period. I could sit and wallow in my depression, or I could follow Paul’s advice to give thanks. So, I sat down and did my “thanks list”. The list looked something like this:
- It didn’t kill me
- I found a hairdresser that figured out how to hide the bare skin
- It helped me not take another day for granted
- I live just twenty minutes away from one of the world’s leading cancer research hospitals
- I had some great conversations with doctors, nurses and other patients.
When faced with a huge or small circumstance, make a “thanks list”. Stop and pray your list. Pray that list several times a day. Whatever the circumstance, when you find yourself getting into a funk…. make a “thanks list,” pray it and pray it again and again!
Giving thanks in ALL circumstances…what a powerful thing!
Okay, be thankful. Today. Right now! In ALL your circumstances.
Randy Clay is the preaching minister for the Cross Tower Church in West Jordan, Utah since 1993. He loves to read, draw, watch movies (especially sports movies), cheer on his beloved Razorbacks, and visit Mayberry when he can. He and his wife Kathy married in 1984 and have three beautiful daughters. He has survived nearly a dozen bouts with skin cancer…and remains thankful.
by Chris Rolph.
“Start your children off in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Working in faith based higher education for 25 years; I have had the opportunity and privilege to meet thousands of students and parents. In most cases, parents are not ready to let go or they do not feel their child is prepared to go off to college. Ironically, their son or daughter cannot wait to spread their wings and leave the nest.
One concern that many parents have involves their child’s spiritual maturity. Many of these parents have raised their children in a Christian home, were actively involved in church, and modeled Christian values. In some cases, they may have homeschooled or had their child attend a private Christian school yet often they feel their college age son or daughter should have a deeper faith.
Many have embraced the promise of Proverbs 22:6 which says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
When I have encounter concerned parents, I have told them not to worry! A faith-based school is the best place their child could be attending.
As one would expect, students will learn a lot in the classroom between their first year and last year of school; generally four (sometime five) years. Nevertheless, what I truly find fascinating is what students learn outside of the classroom. This is a dynamic time in a young adult’s life. They will develop spiritually, mentally, physically, relationally and emotionally.
As a result, they will view their parents much differently after four years. When these freshman first arrive, many would not describe their parents as wise, as a matter of fact, many student believe they are smarter than their father and mother.
More often than not, it is my observation that graduating students feel that somehow their parents became wiser/smarter during their four years at college but how could this be? Did their parents become smarter while they are away at college, not exactly! What really happens is the student actually changes and more often than not they have become wiser. They have discovered:
- Life is complicated
- Relationships can be messy
- The is world is not always black and white
- Roommates do not always get along
- It is difficult to prioritize homework, job, relationships, etc.
- Juggling your finances is stressful
- And miraculously dad and mom got wiser
While we know that mom and dad did not really get wiser, we will let these young adults think this happened.
For parents, I offer a few words of encouragement.
First, if you are still raising your children, you may not have seen the spiritual fruits of your labor, nevertheless, keep laying the foundation. Once your child becomes a young adult, you will see how a solid spiritual upbringing affects every area of their young adult lives.
If you are sending your child off to a faith-based college, be patient, you will see big changes in just a few more years. Most importantly, pray for your child while they are away at college. They can still get side tracked even at a faith-based college or university.
Thanks for laying your child’s spiritual foundation and it is my prayer that you will see the fruit of your labor.
Chris Rolph CPA is Vice President for Finance and the Chief Financial
Officer for University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky. He has two
grown sons, took his wife skydiving for their anniversary, and has the
quickest wit of anybody you’ll ever meet. Chris has played a significant
role in the formation and launch of Manabouts.com which he continues to
serve and encourage.
By Gene Frost.
“The Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:7
Do you want your son to have a better life than you? I believe the majority of dads do. They want it better for their sons but here’s a bigger question. How do you do that? How do you prepare your son to have a better life than you?
The answer lies in Proverbs 1:7 which says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We don’t know anything until we are taught. This verse says THE beginning of knowledge starts with the fear of the Lord. What is the fear of the Lord? Are we supposed to be afraid of God or Jesus? Not at all! The root of the word fear in this verse means to worship and show respect. So dad, the beginning of knowledge on how to give your son a better life starts with you worshipping and respecting your Creator and Savior.
When you worship and respect someone, they become a very strong influence in your life. As a boy, you might have worshipped an athlete or a famous person and this led you to imitate them. I had a favorite baseball player growing up and I would throw like him, catch like him, bat like him and even spit like him. I wanted to be like him. The book of Proverbs tells us the beginning of knowledge starts with us imitating our Lord Jesus Christ. So we need to study Him and learn how He lived so we can imitate Him, so we can worship Him and live a life that respects Him. When we do this, the knowledge we need to pass on to our son, regardless of his age, is given to us. “The fear, the worshipping and showing respect, of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge …”
And let’s not forget the rest of the verse. The second part of Proverbs 1:7 says “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” If you reach a point in your life where you stop learning, you are a fool. If you reach a point in your life where you know it all, you are a fool. If you reach a point in your life where you don’t constantly seek the advice of other men, you are a fool. And this is not my opinion, this is what the Bible says. “But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
I grew up without a father active in my life. I now have three sons who are 22, 20 and 18 years of age. How in the world am I supposed to know how to raise my sons? How in the world do I give my sons a better life than I have? Proverbs 1:7 says the knowledge I need to do these things starts with me fearing my Lord and Savior. It starts with me worshipping and respecting my Lord and Savior. Thanks be to God for His Holy Word.
Gene has written a manhood curriculum for young men 12-19 years of age titled Adam 2.0 that provides a Biblical path to real manhood for young men. He has also had the tremendous honor of leading over 3,000 men into authentic manhood. Be sure to listen to the audio file titled “A Manhood Revolution” on his website www.areyoulistening.live
by Matt Miller.
Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. (Proverbs 15:31)
This past summer my 17-year old son Aidan and I had the amazing experience of learning to sail a 50 ft. boat off the coast of Florida. The feeling of a boat keeled over at a 45-degree angle, the sails full of wind as we raced over the waves was amazing! In addition to being a great father/son experience, learning to sail has given me a useful metaphor for raising my kids, especially in the ever-challenging arena of correction.
Correction implies direction
Sailing a boat requires constant course corrections—but these corrections assume that a direction has been set. In the same way, a foundation has to be laid in the lives of our children that defines the heart we want to see in them. Thankfully, this foundation does not have to be complicated. Jesus said that two commands—love God and love people—sum up all of the law and the prophets (basically meaning the whole Bible). Think about the 10 commandments—all of them can be boiled down to one of these two ideas, and all of the principles or rules for a healthy household can as well. In our family, loving God and loving people sets the life direction we expect to see in our kids, and whenever we see them straying from one of these core commands, we know it is time for a “course correction”. Without laying this foundation, can we really expect to be able to correct our kids? Without a clearly communicated standard, correction can seem arbitrary and lead to frustration and rebellion.
To sail straight, you have to keep your eyes on something fixed
As we were learning to sail, one of the greatest challenges was keeping the boat on the correct heading. It was so easy to become distracted by something happening on deck or something on the water and realize that the boat was no longer heading in the right direction. My friend Paul, who organized the trip, gave some wise advice. He told us to pick some stationary feature far off on the horizon, such as a bridge or an island, and keep the bow of the boat aligned with it. This made it much easier to hold a course.
Rules can be an important part of raising kids, especially if those rules are based upon a Biblical standard. But for our children to truly keep a course towards a Godly life, they need something to fix their eyes on that goes beyond any particular rule—they need to be captivated by Jesus. It is easy to develop a set of rules for the family, teach them to our kids, and try to hold them to them, but if our kids don’t understand the reason for those rules, they may not be able to consistently keep them. Do you have a list of family rules? How do they connect to the life or characteristics of Jesus? We are raising our kids not to follow a particular moral or religious code, but instead to follow a person—Jesus.
Even the captain makes mistakes
Something unexpected happened early in our trip that help us “newbies” feel a little better about our mistakes. When our captain was pulling out of the dock, he miscalculated and nearly sheared off the box containing our life saving equipment. We were able to salvage the box and laugh off the mistake, but more importantly, we realized that there would be grace for mistakes and even our captain would make them!
Our kids need to know that we are not perfect, and we have to be willing to apologize when we do something wrong. I remember a particular time when I corrected my son in anger. I don’t remember what he did, but I do remember lashing out against him verbally and physically in a way that I immediately knew was inappropriate. Instead of giving “live-giving correction”, as the proverb says, my correction was harsh and shaming. I had broken one of my own parenting rules—never correct in anger, rather correct in love. After taking a couple of minutes to calm down, I returned to my son and apologized for the way I treated him. This led to a conversation in which we were able to talk about the root issues of his behavior and in which I was able to share with him my imperfect journey of trying to be like Christ. The result was correction in both of our lives.
Sometimes you have to drop anchor and play in the water!
Some of the most enjoyable times during our trip were when we furled the sails, dropped anchor, and dove of the boat into the water. It was important to have moments to rest from the rigor of constantly working the sails and helm to keep the boat on course and just have fun!
Our kids also need time to enjoy being with us—time to laugh and play. The relational capital that we will build up through such times of light-hearted play will help keep our kids hearts soft when we need to speak a word of correction to them.
I hope these insights from our sailing journey will be a blessing to you as you continue the challenging but rewarding journey of raising your children!
Matt Miller is the husband of Andrea and father of 4 amazing kids—Abigail (19), who is a Freshman at Lipscomb University, Aidan (17), who is a senior in high school and a young entrepreneur who just opened the first specialty coffee shop in our city, Asher (13) who is an avid reader and writer, and Anna (10) who loves art and baking. Matt is the director of Virunga Valley Academy, a Christian international school in Musanze, Rwanda, which is a platform from which the Miller family serves the people of their city. Matt and his family value creativity, community, and discovering how to follow Jesus. When they are not working with the next generation of Rwandan leaders at VVA, they enjoy encouraging and learning from an amazing group of disciples of Jesus in Rwanda who have started over 1,000 house churches over the past 7 years.
by Terry Bartlow.
“What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” Proverbs 19:22
When Daniel Hackett heard Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry speak the “Code of the West” then saw them model it in the movie Tall Tale, he bore witness to an extremely valuable and fundamental lesson in becoming a man. Not just any man, but a man who is able to influence those around him and to bring honor to his relationship with God. The “Code of the West” gave reason for and defined the character of the men who were speaking it and those who gave their allegiance to it.
Many men throughout history have demonstrated the power of living by these codes, these directives that guide our hearts and actions. Somehow, in some way we know and have learned the value of being generous, caring for the poor and of considering the weak. These three opportunities and directives to fulfill are in no short supply in our world. They are all around us and they need to be recognized and responded to by you and I. The world has always needed men to accept their role, men willing to fight the battle first in becoming intentional warriors for God and then living as one.
One difficulty I faced in the past was in recognizing these three areas and feeling how I could best address them. About fifteen years ago a Psalm came to my attention and has guided my morning prayer and daily intention since.
“In the morning Oh’ Lord I order my prayer to you and eagerly watch all day long.” Ps. 5:3 opens my day’s journey into seeing moments where I am being called to practice generosity to care for the poor and to consider the weak. Recognizing these three openings into another person’s life has served as an incredible threshold for my own personal development. For a long time I relegated these three phrases as a guide and motivation for financial giving and service and while I believe that is valid, I would also submit to you that it is so much more.
Being generous can mean generosity with your time, your affection, your service and use of your talents. Sometimes I will invite one of my students to come in for hot chocolate before school just to chat and to connect. On one more than one occasion their response has been, “I will bring some hot chocolate to pay you back. Thank you.” My typical response is, “Oh’ by no means. This is my treat.” The reward is always mine when I see manifest such grateful hearts.
Caring for the poor certainly means to help financially, however, the poor “in spirit” seem to be in greater abundance than the financially poor. I daily meet a student, colleague, friend or family member who is spiritually and or emotionally bankrupt and in great need. What do I do? Listen intently and hear. That often leads to some action but not always. I’ve come to know I can’t fix every situation but I can walk along and perhaps in a small way lift some of the burden.
Considering the weak requires some discretionary judgment and insight and is often recognized through our listening. Just this morning I was visiting with a gentleman whom I have viewed since I‘ve known him as very competent, capable and sure of himself. He has been a police officer in New York, directed a funeral home for several years, restores cars as a hobby and has an incredible ability to encourage and empower others. When he shared with me the statement that he is “afraid of failing” I was astounded. Never would I have imagined. We are surrounded by people held back by all sorts of fears and doubt.
Men who are leading the charge of God and modeling life for their sons are expected to listen, see and step into moments they are given. Like Daniel Hackett, we must be men prepared and willing to fulfill our roles with others that our sons may see. While I will not spoil the movie [“Tall Tale”- Nick Stahl (1995)] for you – the “Code of the West” is really summed up in the call to treat others kindly, show respect to them and do what you can to lift a burden.
Consider sitting for an evening to watch the movie with your son(s) and discuss the merits it has to offer.
Blessings on your journey!
Terry Barlow is a fifth-grade teacher in Loveland Colorado. He has been a
youth pastor, attracts the greatest and most interesting people where ever
he goes, hikes fourteeners in the Rockies, and built his own wood-strip
canoe from scratch. Read more about him and his current mission at
by Kirk Hayes.
“Son, I love you and am so proud of you.” It’s easy to see the power of those words. Perhaps you heard them from your father. If not, I pray you have said them to your own son (or daughter).
This is basically what the Father said to Jesus at his baptism: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, and again in 17:5 on the mountain). The fact that our heavenly Father felt it was important to verbalize his feelings towards his son should be a shout-out to us that we need to do the same.
Have you reflected on the power of words to shape the world? Consider a couple of well-known scriptures:
“And God said, ‘Let…’” (Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24).
“In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1).
Words are so powerful that God used them to create. Similarly, our words have a profound influence on our families—on our wives, sons and daughters. As a father, I am sure you are much like me in that you have moments you are not proud of, but to be fair, there are times you get it right. When you botch it, don’t lose heart. You may be dealing with baggage handed down to you from your parents, who got it from their parents, and so on. While this does not give you permission to pass the baggage on to your kids, God is understanding.
It is not healthy nor helpful to practice self-flagellation by beating yourself up. The words you speak to yourself have power to shape your own heart. So be kind and gentle with yourself. After all, Jesus said the greatest command is to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The more kindly you speak to yourself, the gentler you will be with your family. You need to love yourself. One brother in Christ, Wesley Hill, has said, “Be patient with all that is unfinished within you.” I believe it is accurate to say that God is more patient with our shortcomings than we are with ourselves.
But, beyond being patient with yourself when you fail, move forward and set realistic goals for how you can use your words to build up your family (Ephesians 4:29). I am 57 now, and back in my early 30’s I heard that we should have a 10-1 ratio of encouraging over critical words. While I did not keep a daily tally, over the years that suggestion helped me. My natural tendency was to be more critical than encouraging. I could fixate on things that bothered me with our three sons. I could major on the minors—make mountains out of molehills. In fact, during one such period, I had a very calm and realistic dream that one of the boys died. I woke, and with tears, had the clear impression the dream was a gentle rebuke from our loving Father to cherish and enjoy the boys. I wasn’t flawless after that, but I did better.
One other helpful dad tip I received concerning the power of words was this: don’t wear your kids out with them, i.e., consider the best words for the issue at hand, and then speak them kindly. Even if you are “a man of few words,” those few words of encouragement, or gentle rebuke, can powerfully impact your kids.
Let’s finish with this question: where in the world do we get the power to use our words constructively? Well, that gets to the heart of the matter. While it’s not impossible to control our tongues apart from the grace of God in our lives, the consensus of many good and wise people who have gone before us is that ultimately, we can shape and transform our sons and daughters only when we submit to the lordship of Jesus, and have his Spirit living in us.
Kirk Hayes is the President of South Houston Bible Institute
(www.shbi.org). Formerly Bible & Missions Instructor and Spiritual Life
Minister at Lubbock Christian University, Kirk also has over 15 years of
missions experience in Kenya. Kirk and his wife Susan live in Houston, and
their three sons and families serve as missionaries in Malawi and Uganda.