Bridge Building 101: How to Connect or Re-Connect with Your Child

I’ve been watching two construction crews for the past eight months or more. Both are within four miles of my home and both are building a bridge. They’ve taught me a lot about life and parenting.

 

I meet every week with five or six men at a local recovery center. They share things like, “My Dad never spent much time with me. We didn’t really talk. He was busy and I was more or less in his way. Maybe if Mom hadn’t been so messed up on drugs he’d have had more time, but you know, he had his hands full.” All of them aspire to do a better job with their children, but few of them have. I help them toward their goals and coach them on reestablishing a line of communication between themselves and their kids. What I tell them is much like what the local crews have done building their bridges.

 

First, you have to clear debris. One of the crews had to remove logs, trash, rocks, earth, even an old car door before construction could begin. The other crew had to clear trees, old fencing, and earth on the banks of the stream they were spanning. Heavy equipment was used to remove those obstacles; likewise, there is stuff in relationships that needs to be dealt with to clear the path for communication. The best way I know to begin reconstruction is through humility and honesty.

 

Ask for a meeting with your child. When you are finally together, begin by stating where you are and what you plan to build. These correspond to the land survey and the blueprint for a bridge. “Son, I love you. I want us to communicate and work together better.” “I love you,” says where you are and “I want us to communicate and work together better,” says where you are headed. It’s broad, but it is the starting point. So, to begin removal of the debris, ask this question, “Son, I want to hear your side of things. Would you tell me of any time or way I have hurt or disappointed you?” This is heavy equipment in operation, getting down to the root of the distance between you both. Wounds, like a river carving a gash between two river banks, divide loved ones from one another.

 

Listen. Can I repeat that for emphasis? Listen to what he says. Do NOT explain anything. Certainly, there may have been legitimate reasons that you did or said what you did, but that’s NOT the point at this time. Something caused the logs and car doors to be in the stream, but it doesn’t matter; the point now is to get them out. Your child FEELS hurt, angry, distant, disrespected, unloved, like he is the problem or a burden. Respond to their FEELINGS. “I have hurt you. You sound wounded. It must be painful to feel disrespected by your dad. I’m sorry. I don’t want to continue making you feel that way. I hope you can forgive me.”

 

If they forgive you immediately, rejoice! If not, don’t pressure them. Hey! It was YOU who called the meeting, so give them some time to think it over and get back to you. Your job now is merely to make the apology and let them know you will work to avoid hurting them in the future.

 

Next, builders dig down to bedrock. I was impressed at how long and messy that process was on our local construction sites. It didn’t seem they’d ever get all the metal pylons driven. These metal pieces were huge I-beams, up to 30 feet or longer. A crane held them on end while a ten-foot jackhammer rammed them into the bedrock. The crew must have been driven in sixty or seventy of them. It took weeks and weeks. Trust is the I-beam that must be established between you and your child. Trust is granted initially, but once lost or tarnished, it is earned. Earning it back takes time and effort. Prove to your child you mean business about this relationship thing. Being honest and vulnerable was a start, but they’ll need more. Trust simply means that your words and actions are consistent, reliable, dependable, trust-worthy. Without trust, a relationship crumbles. Too few I-beams allow a bridge to give way under the weight of traffic.

 

Trust building takes many forms and shapes. It can’t be scheduled. It happens on the fly, in the course of life, little by little. Like the many raps of the jackhammer, trust is built gradually and with consistency. If you promise to be at his ballgame, make SURE you show up. Tell the client you’ll have to call them back, reschedule, leave for your child’s ballgame, but make sure that you follow through on meeting your obligations to your child. Also, keep on listening to your child. Ask questions about THEM periodically. Don’t make it an interrogation, but get to know what they are doing and MOST importantly, how they are FEELING about what’s going on in their life. When they say, “I’m just doing school stuff,” respond to the feeling you perceive they are expressing. In this case, you might say, “Sounds boring.” You may perceive sadness or discouragement in their reply so respond, “So, is school stuff causing you some sadness or discouragement?” Keep listening to their FEELINGS because that’s reaching into the bedrock of their heart.

Don’t make it an interrogation.

Above-ground construction follows laying the foundation. Of course, this involves a wide variety of activities from wood framing, to welding, to mixing and pouring concrete, to paving, painting the stripes, and posting signs. Communicating with your child is not always or even typically a one-on-one deep conversation. It happens around the table, in the car, on the way to school, when you are busy, when they have a request, and on and on. Communication, healthy communication, is the goal, but it is more than the transfer of ideas or information. Healthy communication between child and parent, at its core, communicates value and esteem. HOW you talk with them is more important than HOW MUCH you talk. Not taking away from talking with them often, my point is that the heart behind your comments is more critical than the content of them. There are several ways this can be done. I believe that complimenting character is the most powerful.

 

Value comes by complimenting a person’s character. Flattery is NOT what I’m talking about here. Flattery is making comments, even nice ones, about anything that is theirs, but not them. “Nice shoes!” is flattery. “I like your haircut,” is flattery. “Your truck is awesome,” is flattery.  “You are a hard worker,” is a character compliment. Character is who they are rather than what they do. A guy who builds with wood is a carpenter, but there are honest ones and there are cheats, which would you rather be known as? “You have worked hard and been honest with me. I appreciate that very much,” says so much more than, “The cabinets look good.”

Practice noticing and complimenting your child’s character.

Practice noticing and complimenting your child’s character. Tell him, “Son, I noticed you working on your homework. I’m proud of you for putting in the time to complete your assignments. Follow-through is rare in people these days. Glad you have it.” Wow! Tell me he won’t remember that. Don’t you know he’ll be MORE inclined to do his homework next time? Don’t you see how you’ve just strengthened his view of himself and shaped his future? Words are powerful, especially coming from a father. Scripture says words have the power of life and death; you can give your child life or destroy them with yours.

 

Bridge building can’t be hurried, but once constructed, they make traversing dangerous rivers and canyons a breeze. For every parent and child, difficult days are certain to be ahead. The effort to construct a strong bridge of communication is worth every ounce time and patience required. Though it takes energy, the benefits and rewards will span a lifetime.

The Crime of Fatherlessness – Who is Guilty?

It is getting more attention in media, in journalism, and even by the government – fatherlessness is an injustice.  A man’s choice to walk away from his family and the duties owed to it is selfishness in a shell casing of immaturity. The pain and disaster father-absence delivers to children and society is no less villainous than a bullet fired into a body. Even if fatherlessness is not illegal, it is criminal.

 

Everyone paying attention knows the fallout, even if they haven’t read the research results.  Kids from father-absent homes are FAR more likely to fail in school, suffer low esteem, live in poverty, have a child during their teens, use drugs, break the law, or take their own life. “Some fathering advocates would say that almost every social ill faced by America’s children is related to fatherlessness.”  www.fathers.com .  As it did historically with slavery, and women’s suffrage, our society is again passively allowing a portion of its people to suffer unjustly at the hands of others.

 

Fatherlessness has reached epidemic proportions. According to a poll of 72.2% of Americans, “Fatherlessness is the most significant family or social problem facing America today.” From what gets attention in media and our coffee hour conversations these days, you’d have thought the threat of nuclear war, terrorism, or the low turn out for the Emmy’s would have been of more concern! Yet, those paying attention say, “If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.” Maybe it would help if fatherlessness were given a name like Katrina or Harvey. Actually, an analogy to these hurricanes has merit. The TOTAL number of people affected by all three of those two horrific hurricanes combined is roughly 21.5 million, while according to the U.S. Census Bureau there are over 24 million children living in homes without their biological father.

 

When will father-neglect be addressed with the same level of national concern deadly weather systems receive? Without exaggeration, the messes left by those weather events will be cleaned up in a matter of a few months; the messes caused by ten million rogue fathers gain momentum generation by generation.  America’s most damaging storm is not on her shores, it is within them.

 

Not to focus solely on the dark side of things, a look at father-presence is encouraging and eye-opening. Joe White, who operates Kanakuk Kamps, surveyed more than one thousand of his campers and found that 80% of them were AGAINST pre-marital sex and that 92% did NOT use illegal drugs. In fact, the majority of them didn’t even drink alcohol! So, what’s the pivotal difference

 

in this group and those who flip the chart completely? Joe found that 95% of the boys say their fathers regularly told them, “I love you.” He found that 94% say their fathers attended their athletic events and 97% say they get hugs from their fathers. (pg 24-25 Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family by Steve Farrar) The difference is the dad.

 

While most of you don’t see yourself as one of these failed-father types, you might want to buckle-in for these next few paragraphs. Over my lifetime, I’ve heard well-intentioned fathers talk about ‘quality time’ with their kids. Most of them are thinking of an annual vacation or a weeklong trip with the wife and kids. I certainly agree with the good of vacation time, but there is a problem.  The problem is that the rest of their year these guys are primarily investing themselves in work, entertainment, or rest at the expense of time with their children. Quantity of time communicates value, infers interest, or shows priorities. While working to provide finances shows concern, forty hours at the office don’t have the same impact on a child as showing up for sixty minutes at a ballgame, reading stories at night, or spending a Saturday morning in a tree stand. In a very real respect, quantity IS quality. Kids read between the lines. They know when they are truly valued and when they aren’t.

 

My parents did not take us on family vacations, but it didn’t matter because the occasional invitations to go with my dad to the coffee shop on a Saturday morning or take a ride with him through the country were better to me than a week at the beach. Quality time is showing up. It is time you take to talk with (not at) your kids. It is answering serious questions, and it is also handling the silly ones. Often, the fathers who will gladly lay out thousands of dollars for a family trip will hardly pay the price of ‘their’ day off, ‘their’ time with the guys, or ‘their’ weekend. Men who don’t spend time with their kids pay for it in the long run. Quality time is costly, even if it doesn’t require a dime.

 

Dad’s who physically leave their families are clearly creating chaos in their kids and society, but present-in-the-home-fathers who emotionally and chronically distance themselves from activity, connection, and meaningful engagement with their children are damaging them as well.

 

Dads who constantly and chronically belittle, chide, or move the target on boys exasperate their kids. If no one can measure up, why try? Words are powerful and a man who consistently expresses disappointment, dissatisfaction, disinterest, or emotional distance to their sons is destroying his heart. The effects are as damning as those to boys and girls whose fathers abandoned them, but the Scriptures warn dads against exasperating their children. Both are criminal before society and God.

 

We are on a mission to help men launch a healthy relationship with their sons. We are preparing material in our Manabouts Manual that will guide them step-by-step through that amazing and powerful process. For those who have missed that opportunity, there is still much that can be done to restore and build. In a future blog  “Get Out Of Jail Free – Justice and Restoration,” I’ll discuss what a man can do who sees he has failed, but who is willing to do whatever it takes to right the scales of justice between themselves and their children (even if they are now adults).

See The Sky: Avoiding the 3 Ways a Man Loses Focus

I visited with a man today and asked him what he had learned to do, by age twelve, to be loved and affirmed. “Be the best,” he answered. Many of you may share that belief, but does it work? I asked him if he thought it had worked for him. He thought only a few seconds and responded, “No, it doesn’t work, because I can’t always be the best, and even when I am the best, it doesn’t mean I’ll be loved; sometimes it means I’ll be resented. He was right and yet, this had been his go-to all his life. If it continues being his way of getting approval and acceptance, there is disaster, disappointment, and a ton of heartache ahead. We all have misunderstandings like his. To discover yours, answer these three questions for yourself:

 

What did I learn to do to be safe and secure by age twelve?

What did I learn to do to control people and situations around me by age twelve?

What did I learn to do to gain acceptance, love, and value by age twelve?

 

How we find security and safety; our ways of maintaining or gaining control; and what we do to be accepted are loved are three of the biggest questions we will ever answer. It is in these three areas: safety, control, and acceptance that men almost always lose focus because these are trip wires that trigger the explosions of anger, addiction, depression, and anxiety in our lives.

 

Around age twelve, kids generally figure out something that seems to work for them in these three areas. The problem is that what works at twelve doesn’t work as they get older. Our juvenile understandings have shortcomings and deliver us messes and problems as adults. Addictions, depression, failed relationships; drivenness, obsessions, compulsions, suicidal thinking, low esteem and more are the results of flawed twelve-year-old beliefs that were helpful coping methods as kids but become toxic to us as adults. A correction is necessary to avert further damage to ourselves and more importantly, to begin to enjoy the rewards of living out accurate thinking and understanding. Those rewards are the things we really want in life like close and healthy relationships, respect, feeling good about ourselves, power over addictions, freedom to be who we are, peace of mind, and a sense of succeeding at life.

 

Every day, the priests of the tabernacle and the temple of Israel approached a very large outdoor basin filled with water. It was known as the bronze laver. Made from mirrors, as the priest leaned over its rim to wash his face, imagine what he saw. Of course, he saw his face, but didn’t he also see the sky above him?  It was a forced moment in which I think God wanted these men to keep a clear perspective about themselves by seeing themselves in the context of the heavens and who they represented. Remembering that I am under God is right thinking. It is liberating thinking.

 

Look again at your written answers to those questions. Common answers are things like:

 

To feel safe and secure: I kept to myself. I did as I was told. I relied on my parents. I raged. I was funny. I kept busy.

 

To keep control: I kept the rules. I didn’t upset anyone. I tried to succeed. I intimidated others. I used force. I yelled. I submitted.

 

To be loved and accepted: I did whatever it took. I worked hard. I included others in my mischief. I did as I was told. I kept my mouth shut. I got attention. I made people laugh. I helped others.

 

These answers share a common flaw – they don’t work. Oh, in some situations, or for a limited time they may seem to succeed, but in the long run, they all fail miserably. Keeping to yourself doesn’t keep you safe, always, any more than keeping busy or being funny protects you from all danger — emotional or physical. No matter what tactic is used, the facts are firm that you can’t control other people, period. People make their own choices and they don’t always follow our rules about which choices they make. Lastly, love based on my actions or abilities is fickle. One day, when I can’t reach someone’s expectations of me, they’ll be gone and I’ll be miserable again. Even if I get their attention or approval this time, I may not get the love and attention of others using the same behaviors. I’m constantly a yo-yo on someone else’s finger and feeling up or down based on what they decide they think about me from day to day. None of these work because they rely on my ability to convince, persuade, or ignore others. In this equation, the weak link is me. Because I just can’t be everything to everybody, I turn to alcohol, people, drugs, possessions, accomplishments, accolades, and myself to deal with them, which is like trying to extinguish a fire by pouring gasoline on it! No wonder we are depressed, defeated, lonely, empty and weary.

 

Again, the reason the priest was sent to the laver was so he could see himself in light of God’s majesty, greatness, and beauty. Can you envision the brilliance of the blue sky highlighted in cotton-white clouds and illuminated by blinding bright light! This glory told the priest, “God is greater and you are to be in the light of His presence.” Safety is found in the fortress of a mighty God like this. Because He is above it all, He is unaffected by what is too powerful for us. While I can’t control others, I can control myself. I can choose to put myself under the control of God who controls all things. We need love and acceptance, but people aren’t the most reliable source for it. They may not love me when they should, and they may only love me when I’m good, but God loves us even when we fail, even when we don’t love Him! He loves us because He made us. That can’t change. Therefore, His love for me can’t change. That is the dependable, unconditional love we all crave.

 

A loved person can give love and handle rejection without losing any of their own peace or fullness. A man under the control of God doesn’t fret about troubles or even face death like one who has to manipulate control or risk his sense of stability. A person who knows that the ways of God are safe is not dragged away to imposters like drugs, relationships, or antics to gain a sense of security.

 

The power of the message of the bronze laver is that God is great, in control, and loves us dearly. Daily washing our thoughts in that pure truth allows us to proceed in life without the grime that life paints on us. David’s thoughts in Psalm 62:11-12 show us he saw these three truths.

 

“One thing God has spoken, two things, have I heard:

that you, O God, are strong,    (In Control)

and that you, O Lord, are loving. (Totally Loving)

Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” (Dependably Safe)

 

So, like David, as men who have occasionally lost our focus on these great pillars of stability, we pray, “Create in us a pure heart, O God. – Amen”

3 Steps to Avoiding Fatherhood Nightmares

What are your worst Fatherhood nightmares? I’ll share my top three. First, I cringe at the thought of a call from an ER doctor informing me my son has been in an accident. Second, my stomach turns (and blood boils) when I imagine one of my sons calling from police headquarters due to an arrest. These are two nightmares of the highest order, for me. My third is equally gut wrenching, but is the one I have some control over. Accidents happen, and kids make poor choices, but, as bad as both outcomes are, they aren’t totally my doing. Distance between me and my child is my responsibility, and that offers hope.

 

Distance. Disgust. Disdain.  Those words first come to mind when I think of a nightmare scenario in which my son and I can’t relate to each other. If we can’t talk, if he doesn’t want to talk, or if all we do is argue then we aren’t experiencing my dream of a father-son team and I feel like a failure. As a father and as a counselor, I’ve heard dozens of men, tears in their eyes, share how much they desperately wish for a close relationship with their son, but just can’t seem to make it happen. They know they are drifting apart, but feel powerless to turn the tide in their son’s heart. It’s like one of those bad dreams we’ve all had where we can’t run fast enough, keep stumbling, or feel stuck in the face of danger. These men are caught in a powerful riptide, unable to paddle hard enough to reach their boy drifting out to sea. Almost to a man, they ask, “Can this be fixed? Can we ever be close?” I have encouraging and hopeful news for them: There is a way to turn the tide!”

Step #1

After prayer, find some place alone with your son and prepare yourself to listen. For ninety percent of the next few minutes together you should be in listen-mode. You’ll then begin with a statement and follow with a question. Don’t make this an interrogation; keep it a humble inquiry. Begin with, “Son, I love you, and I want to hear from you. I want to listen to what’s in your heart because I want to do a better job of being your dad. I’ve made some mistakes, and I want to change those.”  Even if you’ve said or show it a thousand times, do it again. This lets him know it is safe to answer your question with candid honesty. Now, ask this important question, “I’d like to know anyway or ways I have disappointed or hurt you in the past. Can you tell me any that come to mind? It is okay to tell me, I want to hear. Take your time.”

Step #2

Listen to him. If he doesn’t have anything to say, it may actually be telling you, “I don’t know how to connect with my feelings.” In fact, his hesitation may actually be shouting the message, “I don’t trust you or feel safe telling you what I really think.” Give him time. He didn’t set up this conversation, you did. If he’s caught off-guard, it is okay. YOU communicate your heart to him through the empathetic tone in your voice and patiently assuring him, “It’s okay if you can’t think of anything right now. You can tell me later, or you can write it in a note if you like. I just want to open the door for us. I’ll be ready to talk when you are. I just want to be a better dad for you.”  LISTENING and PRESENCE are your goals….not him speaking a response. Giving him space and assuring him you are open anytime, cover a LOT of emotional ground and make healing a real possibility.

Step #3

Accept responsibility and ask for forgiveness. Apologize man! If the boy says something you did, didn’t do, said to him, or said about him that stung his heart, then accept responsibility for your actions. Sure, kids are kids and they misunderstand things. You may have been misunderstood and probably were, but still, it hurt him. The point is that your son was hurt. Respond to his pain, don’t explain it. “Son, thank you for telling me. I can tell this hurt you deeply. I’m so sorry for that. I don’t want you to hurt. Can you forgive me?” After asking for forgiveness, wait for his reply. If he can’t forgive you at that moment, IT IS OKAY! Give him some room, some time to process. Just do your part. You are responsible for asking for, not for obtaining, forgiveness. Assure him, “It’s okay. Take some time. I’m just sorry I hurt you.”

 

TWO PITFALLS

 

Guard against two common missteps that derail the whole thing!

Pitfall #1

Avoid explaining yourself, “Oh! It wasn’t that way at all! You see, I actually did XYZ because……”; “I really wanted to be at your game, but I got a call just as I was…..” These KILL his will to open himself to you. In fact, they strengthen the riptide between you. Remain focused on hearing his pain and making your apology.

Pitfall #2

Don’t dismiss his feelings, “Son, don’t feel that way because…..”; “Well, I don’t think that’s the way you should feel about ….” Face it, Dad! Your son (works for daughters too) feels hurt, angry, distant, forsaken, alone, and afraid. He senses you don’t care, he is unloved, or that he can’t measure up. Accepting this assures him that you hear him and care about his side of things. This is deeply powerful.

 

Affirming your commitment to an improved relationship, valuing his perspective, and making amends for how you’ve affected him emotionally allow you to step out of the current that’s drowning your relationship. So Dad, prayerfully, humbly, and immediately take these steps to awaken the connection between you and your son. It is in your power to begin the end of this terrible nightmare and patiently turn it into a dream.

Three Steps to Getting it All Done in a Single Day

“I don’t have time to do all that I should!” A thirty-something-year-old man just called me with that exasperatingly heavy thought. I think most men attempting to be responsible with work, family, and faith know what this guy is feeling – overwhelmed. Christ faced it too.

Jesus’ coma in the middle of a Houston-like storm illustrated the measure of fatigue he sometimes experienced, and it is no wonder. The Gospels picture him as up VERY early in the morning, busy all day, constantly being touched, called for, sought after, and up in the middle of the night in one-on-one time with God. Leading any enterprise is filled with constant headaches. Jesus’ movement hit snags. The rank-n-file were fickle, there was posturing and infighting among his leaders, the was continual opposition and competition. Scripture says once that he sighed or breathed deeply — extreme frustration. Like many men, Jesus kept a full calendar, but, unlike many of us, he did everything well. How can we?

Step #1

Put (and keep) first things first. Our hero spelled it out for us when he said, “What I hear my Father say, that I say. What I see my Father do, that I do.” His God was the center of his attention. For me, that means beginning my day with Him. I see Him through Scripture. I hear him as I LISTEN in prayer asking, “Is there anything you want me to say to me today?”  Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “Put the big rocks in first.” For Jesus, it was the Rock of Ages. But how?

If you can’t pause early in the morning before leaving home, use your commute, lunch break, smoke break, or Facebook time. Listen to Scripture on your phone, pray while you drive, memorize God’s word during breaks. Our typical first reaction is that we have no time, but try redeeming these minutes and hours by converting them into sacred moments.

Step #2

Minister in the Marketplace. Jesus spoke at Sabbath assemblies, but can you imagine what we’d have missed if he had ONLY ministered at the synagogue! Instead, he taught by the lake, on the mountain, from the center of a controversy, traveling, in homes, at dinner, at parties, and even dying. Life was his podium.

I think that non-ministers have MORE opportunities to minister than paid ministers. Preachers must lock themselves away to study and write for hours a week. Working-men are in the fray of the day and in the mix of people and things. They take orders, manage people, hear complaints, communicate information, deal with trouble and disappointment, and find solutions. Working man, the marketplace IS your sanctuary. It’s where you proclaim (in words and deeds) the life of Christ to those around. How you live, take on problems, and treat people is a sermon to the audience God places around you every day. Preachers have nothing on you! You are the frontline. If you are being Christ in your workplace, you are doing ALL you should be doing. Don’t be burdened by the notion that only ministry with or at the church is ministry. It just isn’t so!

Step #3

Accept your Acceptance. John records that Jesus knew where he’d come from and where he was going – very comfortable in his own skin. Early in John’s Gospel (2:24), it becomes clear that Jesus didn’t need anyone’s encouragement and took no one’s discouragement — he was undaunted by the opinions or thoughts of others. Listen to his own words, “I and the Father are one;” “I know my Father;”  “My Father knows me.” Because he knew who he was, though he faced enormous demands and difficulties, he was never overwhelmed. On the two occasions when he faced the greatest challenges (the desert and the garden), he did not sway or give way. How?

I believe knowing that he was loved and accepted gave Jesus the strength to deal with life’s challenges. His father spoke that power to him,  “This is my son. I love him. I’m very pleased with him.” Those words carry all a man needs to survive and thrive. Fathers should speak this power into their sons, but if yours did not, know that Jesus’ Father speaks them to you. Knowing who we are, that we are loved, that we measure up is power in a man’s inner-most being like steel in concrete.

 

In summary, we are human, we can’t do all we want, or all others want us to do, but we DO have the time to do all we should.

 

  • You can’t squeeze two hours out of one. You can’t do everything, but we can choose to do the right things. You can do the first things first.
  • Life happens outside of the sanctuary. The interactions of everyday life are God’s prescribed pulpits and you are his chosen minister in those cathedrals. You can be the message of Christ everywhere you are and in everything you do.
  • You can stand firm, even when life is overwhelming. Knowing whose you are, you are loved, and you are valued are the three-legged stand on which you can step and live above your circumstances.

 

At the close of our day, you’ll find you’ve had the time to do ALL you should have done.

Tracking the Path of a Hurricane of Faith

Time and distance are irrelevant in the context of how much influence a man can have on another man. As a personal example, three hundred thirty years ago, around the world in Luneburg, Germany a butterfly flapped its wings. It had a name – Augustus Herman Francke, and the motion of that moment began the wind that reached my life three centuries later….and today is reaching into yours.

 

Author Andy Andrews wrote a book in 2009 entitled The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters. I read it with delight a few weeks ago and walked away inspired by his historic mapping of how one man’s life’s work affected another person or an entire population of persons who lived many years later. His story was based upon the scientific theory first posed by Edward Lorenz. The simple, but powerful, principle behind the theory is that small causes can trigger larger effects.

 

If we track the effect of Francke’s life (1681-1727), we can trace it as far as this moment.

 

Francke is perhaps infamously known for his effort to lift the Lutheran church from the state of forms-oriented religiosity to following of God that emanated from the heart rather than primarily the head. He was ridiculed for it and was considered by the many of the established clergies to be a religious rebel of the early 1700’s. Meanwhile, he established a large orphanage and a Biblical Institute. His work in these areas was accomplished through prayer alone. He did not solicit charitable donations but instead relied upon God to impress people to contribute. It is this flap of the butterfly’s wings that is our link to him.

 

After Francke’s death, George Muller, who had been a resident student in Francke’s schools almost one hundred years after Francke’s death, did not know the history of its founder until a happenstance occurred in 1832 in which Muller, while on a visit to the home of another family, caught glimpse of a book in their library and picked it up to peruse. The small volume was the biography of Francke’s life. When Muller realized he had been housed in the very buildings God had built through Francke, he was intrigued, read Francke’s story, and was so moved that thereafter he followed Francke’s lead in establishing both orphanages and a Scriptural Institute employing the same principle prayer and reliance on God to impress individuals as Francke had practiced.

 

In 1987, while visiting friends for a meal, I was standing in their office and noticed a small worn hardcover book on the shelf. I took it down to take a closer look. It was the autobiography of George Muller and his story were the winds of the butterfly and they caught me up and moved me with great force. Faith missions have actually been cropping up in larger numbers since the time of Francke and Muller; I am not alone in this hurricane.  The examples of these two men, along with God’s nudge, have taken our family on an adventure we could not have scripted for ourselves. Since reading Muller’s story, we have led three ministries: a Christian youth encampment, an East African church planting ministry, and an outreach in rural Appalachia. Each of these has been supplied only by means of prayer and God’s provisions through those He has moved to assist.  Close to two million dollars have been donated during these years and not a cent was solicited by us – except through prayer to God. Many of these accounts were privately recorded, but are now publically available my book Provisions: A Story of Divine Care.

 

Who do you influence and how? Every day, every word, each moment of your life makes a difference, and even if your life seems as insignificant as the effect of a butterfly’s wing, it isn’t! Don’t doubt it that in a year, or in a hundred years, or three hundred years, there will be hurricanes, of good or evil, tracking their origins to how you lived your life. We all have great influence and we must use it wisely and carefully.

Hope and Opportunity in The Red Pill

As liberal groups become fanatical beyond civility, a backlash is beginning. The left, but non-radicalized are calling their line in the sand ‘the red pill.’ You aren’t going to believe this paragraph from a recent online major network post about this phenomena:

 

“Many who proclaim themselves “red pilled” express a yearning for traditional values. “Pat Riarchy” wants to see a return to an era where comedians can “attack everyone,” not just Trump. “PC culture is going down,” he says. “A lot of people want this to stop.” Kirsten Lauryn, a 20-something hipster sitting amidst empty church pew worries that, “A lot of our society has drawn away from religion as an important way of instilling values.” She observes, “The pendulum is swinging back to a more traditional lifestyle. I see this with my generation Generation Z.”[1]

 

Indeed, the pendulum is swinging and what an opportunity for those who hold the inside scoop on ‘traditional lifestyle’ and on ‘religion!’ Now, I don’t imagine that the author or those red pilled patriots is suggesting a swing back to traditional VALUES or CHRISTIAN religion, but perhaps a swing toward them. This movement is noting short of tidal wave of opportunity IF those values and Christianity are being lived in trustworthy and authentic ways.

 

Capturing the power of that wave boils down to individuals living honestly, kindly, genuinely in their neighborhoods, in the bleachers at little league games, on their jobs, and with their family. It isn’t hard. It should not become complicated. It must be real, and I believe that men hold the key, though admittedly not the solo component, to a great, but silent, revolution-possibility afforded by Gen Z’s pendulum swing.

 

The article from which the above quote was taken indicates the direction and affections of the crowd that’s pushing back from the alt-left and perhaps a little toward the center. They will reject PC culture which means they will be looking for non-PC answers. They will reject group-like mandates and prefer individualism. They’ll be experimenting with traditional things and ways (ie. family structure, home-based living like homesteading and homeschooling, dependable relationships, smaller/supportive community). They’ll also be look to satisfy the religious gnawing in them. How will we answer them?

 

Unabashedly, I hold that key to the eventual outcome of this moment are men –men who live as Adam was suppose to live. I don’t see men like I’m talking about very often, and when I do, they aren’t in the headlines – because attention-grabbing is selfish and narcissistic and fundamentally contrary to what makes these men true men. I believe that men, who live as the image of God on the earth (not as gods, but as an example of God), create and preserve an environment in which everyone and everything can flourish. A secure woman blossoms. A safe child who knows they are loved lives fully and free. A community led by wisdom and selfless leaders will encourage the good of one another. This and so much more is possible when men live as they were created to live – selflessly loving those around them out of reverence and respect for their Creator.

 

Where are these men? Gen Z is looking for them. I want to join them and assist them in the making of more like them. I hope there will be millions joining that pursuit, because it will require a mountain of us making the decision to swallow that pill – even if it is a difficult one to swallow.

 

[1] Liberals sick of the alt-left are taking the red pill.  By Elizabeth Ames September 13, 17 FoxNews.com

 

All Idols Must Go Boys. No Pity!

“Do not look on them with pity…” (Deuteronomy 7:16) This might need to become your personal rallying cry. It has become my family motto.

 

Pity, at least the word used here in Hebrew, seems to carry the idea of having no limits. Where a person might normally stop or restrain himself, Israel is to proceed without hesitation. Hang with me a bit and let me explain a little about Hebrew. The word used here for pity is pronounced ‘hus’ and consists of three characters: hey, vav, and samech. Every Hebrew letter is a symbol carrying long held meanings. We could loosely compare it with the way we use the letter X to signify ‘the spot’ or A to signify ‘excellence’. In ‘hus’, the first letter, hey, symbolizes ‘the breath of God’, vav is the symbol for ‘a man of the word’, and samech represents ‘support for the fallen.’ To get the connection, watch what is going on in the word. Within it we see God’s word and a man who represents or embodies it. This godly man is the support for the fallen. It is easy to connect these dots to Jesus – the Word of God come to support those fallen from God. He’s there as God’s representative to help those who have fallen from God’s word.. But….wait….wasn’t he merciful? Didn’t he show pity?

 

Good question! We’ll get to the answer. But first, remember the context of Moses’ statements. Fresh from their wow-moment with God, and straight out of a land filled with gods, Israel was about to enter Idol-Central. Now, Canaan, though flowing with milk and honey, wasn’t a beautifully serene country with tidy religious practices sequestered to quaint little whitewashed structures. Idols, sorcery, witchcraft, demonology, and even human sacrifice lined the streets. Innocent human blood flowed in the name of the necessary price to pay.

 

Years ago, I experienced something similar to this blanketed idolatry. With my wife, I traveled to the countries of Benin and Togo in West Africa. Literally, every 10 feet along both sides of the village roads there were idols. Odd looking things. Eerie. Ghostly stone figures roughly made with no real art to them, just images resembling the human form close enough to be recognized as that. Everyone wore charms and bracelets. Skin packets, small cloth pouches, and bundles of straw or sticks were attached to their homes and businesses. “Voodoosee’ was openly advertised on handmade billboards. Crowds marched through town with one or more of them apparently in some state of demonic or spirit possession. Idolatry was everywhere….and so was poverty, discord, filth, and any type of evil you might imagine. Idolatry does not promote unity, love, care, compassion, or consideration. It enslaves, limits, impedes, and divides. Idolatry is selfish, works based, and depletes energy and resources. It was into territory like this that Israel was told, “Have no pity.”

 

Moses’ instructions became very specific. Don’t intermarry them. Don’t make any exchanges or treaties with them.  Crush and burn the idols, symbols, and any jewelry or artifacts associated with their fallen state. In other words, Israel was being told to have no area or arena in which they were to tolerate the local’s behaviors or beliefs – no pity. This clear line of difference, distance, and distinction apart from being an uncompassionate act was actually an offer of vitally necessary aid to the fallen. By removing the evil, by destroying the images, by resetting the stage, those who had fallen (see Rahab later in Joshua 3) and those who might fall were enabled to stand again. This is a much needed instruction for us today. We are offered a new life through Jesus, but it isn’t an add-on. It’s an all-or-none offer. We can’t participate in evil, even a little, because we’re to be men who have no pity for anything contrary to God’s breathed word. Our ‘no pity’ stance is an offer of strength to our society, but especially to our sons.

 

We all know the fallacy of a Dad directing his son, “Do as I say do, and not as I do.”  It just doesn’t sit well and it certainly doesn’t inspire better behavior.  If I tell my sons, “No sexual immorality,” while I’m spending hours a day viewing porn online…well, you understand my point without me having to spell it out. A man who has self-control is in the most powerful position to support and help his son to avoid falling into evil. “No pity” is the greatest help a dad can offer his boys.

 

“No pity!” is a position of strength. Consider the ties that need to be severed, the idols that need to be trashed, the associations and agreements that must end in your life. Take action. Remove them ALL so you can access all the good God has for you and for your sons. Put no limits on what goes; attack without hesitation! NO PITY! NONE!