Wildcats, Fatherhood, Jesus, And Perspective

 

wisconsin 2015 “Well bub, are you glad we stuck around for this game?” I stood in line with my oldest son, a high school freshman, trying to find a t-shirt to take home to his little brother and older sisters. Duke and Wisconsin were getting ready to tip off in the 2015 national championship game. Most other UK fans were absent from Lucas Oil Stadium that night and had evacuated Indianapolis after UK’s semi-final loss to Wisconsin on Saturday night. 38-0 had become 38-1. We had calmly walked from the stadium after the game, disappointed in the loss, but not crushed. Just talking about what makes winners and losers in particular games. I had learned by this time in life that these moments with my son were more important than the score of any game.

He answered my question as we glanced over souvenirs,  “Yeah Dad, I love being here. I’d love for the Final Four to be our vacation every year even if Kentucky isn’t playing.” Selfishly, I really just wanted (and still do) to experience a UK national championship with at least one of my kids, especially my basketball-crazy oldest son. This was our third failed attempt. A semi-final loss to UConn in Houston in 2011. A finals loss to UConn in Dallas in 2014. We were there for them all.

The agony of defeat diminished with each loss. Part of that comes from the wisdom we gain as we age. The thrill of victory may not be so high anymore, but the agony of defeat doesn’t sting quite as bad either. Perspective changes with time. But what was it that really changed my perspective. Why do I no longer break things, swear at the tv, and go into a week-long period of depression each season when UK exits the tournament?

Let me back up in time just a little to answer that. Eighteen years to be exact, to the 1997 Final Four. Same city, different arena (RCA Dome). I sat in the backseat of a car for what seemed like two hours waiting to get away from the stadium where UK had just lost the national championship game to Arizona in overtime. Nazr Mohammed had shot 0-6 from the free throw line. Arizona had converted 34 free throws compare to our 9.

I was angry. “How long is it gonna take to get out of this freaking field!”  I stewed. “We never should have lost that game!” My wife shared the back seat with me, but I wasn’t too concerned with her at the moment. My head was hurting terribly because I’d drank too much beer before the game. I just wanted to get back to the hotel and go to bed. Our first born child Macy sat in a car seat between us. As long as she wasn’t crying, I probably wasn’t too concerned about her either. Everything was pretty much about me and my anger and my self-induced pain at that moment.

We did return home the following day. And things sort of returned to normal. Going to work and trying to raise a 7 month-old little girl. Sure, I avoided watching TV or reading newspapers for about a week because I didn’t want to be reminded of UK’s loss (isn’t that what all UK fans do?).

But things weren’t really normal. Since those first days of fatherhood, I’d been nagged with the realization that I, along with her mother, was responsible for the direction this child’s life would take. The way we raised this precious girl would determine where she spent her eternity. The kind of man that I was at the time wasn’t going to cut it. Something had to change.

I’d been raised in church, but never accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. Since that day that Macy was born, I had read the Bible cover to cover. A lot of things didn’t make sense to me, but still I knew what I had to do and the kind of man I had to become. I knew all along that I didn’t want to die without Jesus. But I was coming to realize that I was helpless to be the kind of father I needed to be without Him guiding my life.

Later that month, about a month short of my 29th birthday, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The rest is history. Sort of. It’s been a journey, for sure. My wife and I were blessed with three more children. Life got pretty crazy pretty quick. And I came to realize pretty quickly that life wasn’t about me. Opening my heart to God’s love taught me how to love. Not just my own family, but slowly and surely the rest of the world.

Almost 22 years later in my Christian walk, I know it’s been a slow and sometimes not-so-steady journey toward becoming the man that God wants me to be. Keep seeking His word, grow to be a little more like Jesus every day, replace my ways with His ways, and find a way to love and forgive when it doesn’t come easy. Yeah, I still stumble a lot.

I’ve screwed up a lot of things in the past. And I’m sure that I’ll make a mess of some things in the future. But I have to keep moving. And keep changing who I am. And part of that comes constantly searching for perspective.

When my ways threaten to overcome His ways. When pride, anger, or selfishness rear their ugly heads. When love or forgiveness don’t come naturally. When life is ruled by fear, anxiety, or stress. Those are the times to search hard for perspective. The kind of perspective that’s usually found at the cross. “Seriously, did Jesus die on the cross just for you to screw this up or freak out over something so unimportant?” No, He died because His love is greater than our failures, but also to live inside of us as the Holy Spirit to steer us away from our next failure.

To search for perspective can mean to simply listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Why not look? Why not listen? Why not obey?

No, I’m not really talking about not freaking out when our favorite sports team loses. I’m talking about always looking for a bigger picture that has the cross in the center of it.

Today, as another UK basketball season came to an end, I’m just thankful for the natural bonds and the easy conversations that come from being fans together. And even more so, I’m thankful for the special bond with my son that becomes even stronger because of our love for UK basketball.

He’s a freshman at UK now. And as we watched the game come to a disappointing end together, he reminded me so much of a younger version of me. Pacing, yelling at the TV, and quickly exiting our home in anger to return to school.

And I could only smile. Because of perspective. Because I know that, as long as I live, that he and I will always share the bond that basketball brings, and we’ll always dissect games and teams together………….. just like I do with my dad. 

And someday, we might still get to witness a championship together. Maybe. But it’s okay if we don’t.

“See you buddy. Be careful. I love you.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

Yeah, it’s just a silly game. But to some of us, it’s so much more.

Kids These Days

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In the final minutes of Auburn’s regional semi-final win against North Carolina Friday night, disaster struck. Star player Chuma Okeke went down with a non-contact injury that silenced the crowd. As he squirmed on the floor in pain, it seemed obvious to all in the arena that this was a season-ending and career threatening injury. Auburn teammates rushed to his side to check on him. Carolina players near Okeke had looks of genuine concern for their fallen opponent.

Finally, Okeke was helped to his feet and assisted off the playing floor toward the locker room. As he left the floor, every single North Carolina player on the floor made their way to him to express concern and encouragement. In the game’s aftermath, social media raved about the acts of sportsmanship by the Carolina players.

But the actions of these players go beyond sportsmanship. All those little things that we consider acts of good sportsmanship are things coaches can require or demand. North Carolina’s kids displayed something much more important: a high level of character. They weren’t just following a coach’s demands or trying to uphold the values or their basketball program. They had genuine concern for their fallen opponent.

And you may not have noticed, but this is becoming the rule, rather than the exception. College basketball is being flooded with high character kids. If you’ve watched long enough and give it just a little bit of reflection and thought, you’ll realize it hasn’t always been this way. Think of Big East basketball in the early to mid 80’s. Dirty play, brawls, and plenty of guys that looked like they were destined for prison instead of the NBA when their college days came to an end. Academic standards were lower for college admission for athletes.

Coaches regularly took chances on talented guys with questionable academics, work ethic, character, and coachability. The best example of this would be N.C. State’s stereo stealing and 500 SAT scoring Chris Washburn (who left college after one year and was one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history). But guys like that don’t even get recruited now. Why? Because the unknowns have become know. How?

My guess is two things: Prop 48 and social media.

Enacted in 1986, Prop 48 raised academic requirements for incoming student athletes (combination of GPA and SAT/ACT scores).  The outcry didn’t take long to surface: “Prop 48 disqualifies a much larger proportion of black and low income students. ACT and SAT tests are racially biased.”  The short term statistics may have loosely backed up these claims.

But the short-sighted vision of looking only at short-term outcomes could have easily washed away any potential of lasting benefits.

What died after Prop 48’s inception was the attitude of, “If I play well enough in high school, some college coach will find a way to get me into school.” Once kids started missing out on a shot at Division 1 basketball, the attitudes of athletes toward high school academics didn’t take long to start shifting. “If I won’t do school work, I won’t play.”

It’s pretty amazing what happens when you raise standards for young people instead of making excuses for them.

What about social media? Just as higher academic standards removed some level of uncertainty for coaches concerning future academic troubles, social media of high school athletes gives college coaches a closer peak at the character of players.

If a kid’s Twitter account is full of profanity, unhealthy attitude towards women, racism, etc., it’s no longer a matter of some college coach being willing to take a chance on a kid of questionable character. It’s becomes a case of no longer being recruited by anybody. Coaches make it clear what is expected. Players have come to learn what is acceptable.

Simply put, I’m a firm believer that lower standards produce lower quality of effort. You can say what you want about requirement-lowering ideas like affirmative action, but you’ll never convince me that they produce anything other than the poison of meeting lowered expectations. If you demand less, you’ll get less.

Expecting and requiring more of NCAA athletes has produced some pretty favorable results. And as I’ve watched game after game during March Madness, I’m often impressed with great players and good teams and the excitement of the tournament. But I have learned to thoroughly appreciate all those moments where plays unfold, and the actions on the floor leave me thinking, “He just seems like a great kid.”

Good guys don’t finish last anymore. And bad guys don’t even make the team. I’m okay with that.

 

Building A Better Kind Of Wall

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Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Early in the morning, inside a white-walled compound sitting next to a busy two lane highway. I stood in a large outdoor shelter waiting for my toast to pop up in the toaster. Scanning over the Spanish labels on the butter, jelly, and peanut butter containers spread across the table. I couldn’t help thinking, “why can’t grape be the universal jelly flavor instead of strawberry? It’s always strawberry”.

My useless morning thoughts were interrupted by a man speaking behind me, “Are you with the group from Kentucky?” I couldn’t contain my grin, being a proud Kentuckian and making no attempts to hide my heritage. No, I don’t walk around barefoot, carrying a moonshine jug. But I make no pretenses by speeding up my slow and thick Kentucky accent or correcting the grammatical butcherings that I avoid using when writing.

When I answered, “Yeah, I’m with the Kentucky team”, he immediately asked how our group ended up here. “Here” was the 1Mission home base.  1Mission is a community development organization that gives people in poverty an opportunity to earn a home by serving in their community. In the last 10 years, they have built over 800 homes in Central America (primarily in Mexico). Work teams arrive from the USA to work 2-3 day shifts, and new homes are built in only a few weeks time.

“How did a team from Kentucky wind up here?” was a common question there, as most of the other teams were from Arizona. And my grin got just a little wider when I was personally asked this question while waiting for my toast. “Well, a few years back, my daughter raised enough money to build a house. And our church has sent a team here to build every year since then.”

About the time I started to tell my patchy version of the events at a Christ In Youth conference that started things in motion, my daughter Maddie walked up and I gave her a chance to finish the story that started with her.

I walked away smiling because I knew that the reason we were here was because Maddie simply said yes to God on that day at CIY. CIY’s website today loudly proclaims, “Amplifying Christ’s call to be kingdom workers”. Another page states that “God is using high school students to change the world”.

How true that turned out to be! When Maddie returned home from her conference as a high school junior, she explained to me that she had taken a challenge card to raise $4,000 to build a home through 1Mission. At the time, it didn’t seem real feasible to me. I don’t know if she realized how much money $4,000 was, but she did realize how big her God was. I saw a big Goliath, while she (like David) saw a bigger God. And her faith was bigger than her obstacle. So she moved. And a lot of God’s people moved with her. Enough was raised to build a home.

Soon afterward, Maddie and her mother started plotting to take a trip to Mexico to participate in building a home. A team was assembled, the trip was made, and another home was built. Lives were forever changed both here and there.

How did a team from Kentucky get hooked up with 1Mission?

As I walked away that morning, I fully realized that the reason I was there, the reason that one house was funded, and the reason that our church had sent four teams to build four houses………………

Was that one young lady had said “Yes!” to God one time.

When we search for our own talents or spiritual gifts, if you’re like me, you probably have trouble confidently naming just one. But I’ve realized over the past few days that a simple yes to God’s calling, in all things, large and small, has a value that we can’t measure with human eyes. Because once we start a ripple, we don’t know what will happen once God carries that ripple beyond our sight. And we have no clue just how big of a wave that a big God can make out of one little yes.

I had personally run out of excuses for not tagging along on one of these trips to Mexico. Our youngest son turned 13 in December and we were the only remaining family members who had never participated in building a home there. So we helped make up a team of 19. I felt useless at times, due to my lack of construction skills combined with struggling with dry heat and headaches. But any negative feelings were overwhelmed by the feeling of being exactly where God wanted me to be. Serving others in the midst of a group of people that excel in the ripple starting business. Helping those who struggle to help themselves. Patiently teaching the next generation valuable and confidence-building skills. Modeling the true heart of a servant for both their peers and our youth.

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Yes, I needed to be there. Because I knew that the people who, year after year,  made these and other trips to selflessly serve others, were the exact same people who work tirelessly to serve God by serving others in their own community. I needed to change, to become more like them. To see the world just a little bit differently. To learn to say yes, even to some things that may sound crazy. Maybe you do too?

And maybe all of us, while all the bickering about a border wall is going on, could just learn to love just enough to help people where they are. Whether it’s in our own home, down the street, or even Haiti, Mexico, or other impoverished countries.

High school students really can change the world. Not with a vote, but with their heart and their faith. Maddie’s wave is still moving and growing. It started with a simple yes.

How hard will we look for our own yes today?

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Trust Me, You’ll Thank Me Later

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It didn’t match my style of parenting. And it wasn’t the kind of husband that I am. But at the end of this particular family conversation, the message was clear, “This conversation is over and my opinion is the only one that matters.”

I’ll circle back around to that, but I need to back up a few steps first.

Our family’s home currently has some unused bedrooms. We have two kids away at college and our oldest daughter is married and living a few hours away in the Knoxville area. When she came in to visit a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded that “her room” will always be “her room”.

There are personal touches there that I could simply never change. A sizable collection of track and cross-country medals hangs in a cluster on a  uniquely painted wall with hundreds of handwritten Bible verses. The opposite wall displays a mural type picture of a tree that she painted as a teen with the inscription, “Rooted in Christ” at its center.

During her visit, she joined me in the living room after spending time in her room studying. “Look what I found in my room, Dad.” It was an older Kindle. Obviously not that old, but one that had been written off as lost a few years back, and also one that managed to make a dad feel a little nostalgic.

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A leather-like case protected the Kindle. And the words scraped out on the case by a teenage Macy brought a warm smile to my face. Dream, lead, inspire, hope, soar, create, peace, joy, love, kindness, grace, loyalty, plus a few words that I can’t make out. She asked if I wanted it (because she uses an iPad now). Of course, I said yes.

Some days, I look at her words chiseled on the outside more than I read that Kindle that is stored inside. It’s a treasure to me. Another representation of what I know will always be remembered as the most amazing and wonderful years of life for her mother and me.

Inside the Kindle case was a single picture that I didn’t even know that Macy had.

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A picture of my brother and I on family farmland that we owned briefly. Walking sticks in hand. Just like our dad. It took me back to my own childhood. To our old family home where I spent the first 10 years of life. So many memories of those few years in that old house. Backyard wiffle ball games, pickup basketball games, avocado green appliances, kick the can, catching crawldads in the creek, backyard campouts, accidents and stitches, and staying up til midnight on Saturdays to watch the only wrestling show on tv in those days.

I loved my childhood. And I loved that house and all the memories that draw me back to it. So many times over the years I’ve had the urge to simply go knock on the door and ask the current owners if I could just come in a walk through it one more time.

On the weekend of Macy’s visit, our partial family crew, piled into my truck and headed out on to watch a women’s college basketball game and grab a Saturday afternoon meal together. And the classic “gang up on dad” ensued. My wife and our 13 year-old son began to plead slightly different cases for selling our current home and moving into a smaller place closer to town (we live about 5 miles from the center of our small Kentucky town).

They brought up valid points. The wisdom of buying something smaller and cheaper now that the kids were getting older and moving out. The convenience of being closer to the activities they are involved in. The points of argument kept flying at me. Macy silently grinned in the passenger seat.

But I wouldn’t budge. Finally my son took his pleas a step too far and began to talk to me like I was an idiot. At this point, he lost his privilege of stating his case, and I responded forcefully but still patiently, “You’ve mad some good reasons, guys. But as long as I’m living, there’s no way I’m selling or leaving .” Case closed. End of discussion.

But why, Dad?

Because it’s the house that all four of our kids grew up in. It’s the home that three of our four kids came home to from the hospital. It’s a house where they all learned to walk and how to swim. It’s the home of bedtime stories, birthday celebrations, and first days of school. It’s the home of hi-chairs, Blues Clues, and Thomas the Tank Engine. It’s the home where our kids’ friends have showed up, and still do, thinking this is their second home. And it’s a home of every pet we’ve ever had (and buried) since the kids were small.

No, we’re not leaving it. Ever. That’s my final answer.

But that’s not how I answered. I took a different path.

“Because you’re gonna be 30 years old someday before you know it. And you’re gonna come visit for Christmas or Thanksgiving with your wife and family, and your brother and sisters will be here with theirs. And your gonna still have your own room and you’re going to share fond memories and stories with your mom, dad, siblings, and your own kids about what it was like growing up in our home. And when that day comes, you’re gonna remember this day, and this conversation and you’ll thank me for this day.”

Kal was silent. I don’t think his mother said anything either. The value she places on nostalgia isn’t nearly as great as mine. And then I glanced at Macy. Maybe it wasn’t a tear forming in the corner of her eye that I saw. But I’m certain that I saw a twinkle there.

Because she understands. She knows. The joy of coming home. The wonderful memories of family and childhood.  And she knows that her old dad just might know what he’s talking about.

That’s what dads do sometimes. Think about things that nobody else is thinking about. And always be on the lookout for situations where the answer to “why” questions just might come in the form of “someday you’ll regret this” or “someday you’ll thank me for this.”

The Murder Of Work Ethic

Faith without works is dead (James chapter 2). The two go together. Also, an education without work ethic is dead. “Get an education. Get an education.” Well, just showing up in a school doesn’t make you educated; some consistent effort is required.
And just getting through school at any level doesn’t make you employable. And just having a job doesn’t make your employer responsible for you meeting your bills. These things are worthless without a willingness to try hard and the presence of good work ethic.
People tell me sometimes that “just try harder” isn’t the answer to everything. But it kinda is. No, we can’t try our way to earning our salvation. But just like our salvation isn’t something that we deserve, there are a lot of other things in life we are misled to believe we are deserving of.
I know my wife sometimes questions my interest in politics. But my interest isn’t in politics at all. My interest is in people and what they believe. And alarms go off for me daily when I hear anything that steers people toward compromising their morals or their work ethic.
These things usually appear in the form of telling people what they want to hear or what they deserve or offering to provide a some sort of shortcut in life that brings instant gratification or justification of destructive behaviors.
No, the billionaires aren’t our enemies (as Bernie Sanders and company constantly decry). I don’t know any of them and I don’t know anyone who has been prevented from providing for themselves by them. For a government and talking heads to target the super-wealthy as villains and use manufactured useless terms like income inequality does nothing but stir envy. People are being fooled into becoming their own worst enemies.
I don’t know any super wealthy people. But I do know of a lot of people that grew up in post-depression America with the same thing everybody else had: nothing. And it was a nothing that was much less than our poorest people have these days. But they had work ethic (and sometimes little education) and certainly never thought they were entitled to anything. And some of those people worked while other people were resting, saved while others were spending, and risked while others played it safe. It’s amazing what people are capable of when their life isn’t full of guarantees. And the sum of those people’s work is the very reason that many of us are employed today.
No, they are not the enemies of the people , whether millionaires, billionaires, or comfortably retired. To tag these people as villains or to further soak them to fund a never-ending mass of government programs is just destructive. Can they afford to pay up a little more? Probably. But it comes at the expense of eroding liberty and personal responsibility. And envy grows under the surface. “They don’t deserve to have what they have. I deserve to have more than I have.”
Work ethic dies a silent death in the background.
Trying harder. Work ethic. Are those enough? Yes, they should be. Believe it or not, there are people all around, whose stories you will never hear, that have done quite well because of these simple things. People who maybe never finished high school, but managed to show up at their same job and do their best. And they did it day after day, year after year. No guarantees of a living wage and no talk of what they deserve. But their skills, their value to their employer, and their paycheck grew consistently over the years.
And maybe they didn’t ever become wealthy or live comfortably, but they didn’t buy what they didn’t need or envy what others had and didn’t spend what they didn’t have. And many of those people have gone to bed every night with the satisfaction of doing a job well in a house that they have managed to pay for in full.
Does our younger generation hear the stories of these people? No, of course they don’t. These stories place power in the hands of individuals. Instead, we are forced to hear stories of guarantees and government saviors.  Young people mostly just hear about how they’re entitled to a “living wage”, the evils of the super rich, and the help they deserve.
Instead maybe everyone just needs to pound home the fact that people with terrible work ethic really should struggle in life…………and any system or policy in opposition of this is worth resisting.
So yeah, just try harder.

Boys Will Be Boys

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I saw the controversial Gillette ad. It says that men can do better, and we can. But the ad somehow managed to annoy me to no end. Maybe because of its #Metoo tone or maybe because feminism just isn’t a smart approach to selling men’s razors.

What was the most irritating aspect of the ad? For me, it’s the overall tone that men really didn’t know that some things weren’t okay until the MeToo movement came along to enlighten us.  Throw in a few “woke” made-up buzzwords like “toxic masculinity” and Gillette now has a lot of guys Googling Harry’s Razors.

Toxic masculinity. Urban Dictionary defines it as “any male action that doesn’t conform to liberal ideas about what a man should be in today’s society. This definition is probably better than that of any of its creators in the feminist movement. “Oh look kids. Another movement and another national conversation. Let’s stick around to see what position of self-congratulation is being assumed.” The thing about national conversations is that they’re never intended to be honest ones by the people who are itching to start them.

No, I don’t think many men are willing to let feminists or a movement define what it means to be a man or how to raise our boys. We’re not as hapless and destructive as we are freely portrayed.

It’s not that we’re offended. It’s that we just don’t want to hear it from people that don’t know as much as they claim to know. Not from a movement anyway. Some of us are smart enough to know we need to get better and to listen to people who have earned the right to speak truth into our lives. And that’s not going to be from a feminist toned movement. So just “stay in your lane”. Really.

The problems that surface in society aren’t really that men are bad or that masculinity is toxic. Masculinity is what sent first responders rushing toward danger on September 11 and soldiers storming the beaches at Normandy.

The rotten things that men do and the worst parts of our behavior surely didn’t just arrive on the scene. It doesn’t need a new name. We’ve been committing acts of stupidity and causing harm since Cain killed Abel. It’s called sin. Men (and women) give in to their selfish or evil desires and act upon them. That’s the real life battle that rages for all of us every day. Sinful desires vs obedience to God.

Through it all, over time, men are getting better. There has never been a time in history of Western Civilization where men have been more caring, sensitive, loving, and active in their roles as fathers as they are today. Some men, but not all men. Plenty of guys are just scumbags. They lack a moral compass and live a life of taking the path of least resistance. Lazy, disrespectful or abusive of women, neglectful as fathers. But don’t lump us all together (feminism battles tend to do that even if not by design).

We’re not all the same. Some of us are committed to not only doing a better job of raising boys, but also to raising up men to be better fathers than there own were. And we can’t or won’t trust women to redefine what it takes to be a real man. Living a life that earns the respect of other men, and not just the approval of women, isn’t something that we’ll release by hostile takeover.

So what qualities do I hope to see in my own sons as they become men?  Hard worker, kind, respectful of others, caring, protector, provider, great listener, critical thinker, possesses moral courage, defender of the weak, humble, physically tough, considerate of the less fortunate, slow to anger, honest, disciplined, and always think before they speak or act. And one last thing. They will cry, not in cases because they are weak, but only because they love deeply.

Are most of these qualities biblical? Yes. Would my list look a little different for my girls? Yes, because boys and girls are different. Is there an accepted message floating around that they’re not and that it’s wrong to value or push our boys toward certain character traits? Yes, yes there is. That message is disguised in razor commercials and elsewhere by anyone who has ever talked about patriarchy and toxic masculinity.

So how do we change the culture of raising boys?

Maybe we start by, as a society, ceasing to pretend:

  1. That a household without a father present isn’t a big deal. Yes, it’s a huge deal that can’t be emphasized enough. Prison populations are full of men from fatherless homes. There’s little to dispute about that. The presence of a father in the home is big deal. The presence of a good father in the home has benefits that can last for generations. It’s foolish to pretend otherwise.
  2. That all methods of raising children are equal. God’s plan is for man and woman to be married and to raise children together. It is not for divorce or single parenthood. Men and women have unique qualities that compliment each other, and in no place is this more evident than in parenting. That doesn’t mean that countless single moms (or dads or grandparents) haven’t done an amazing job of raising children on their own. And it doesn’t even mean that same sex couple can’t love and raise kids better than those in some traditional marriages. But it is totally reckless to refuse to acknowledge the fact that traditional families provide the best setting for raising kids. All options may be permissible but not all options are equal and shouldn’t be treated as such.
  3.  That society/government programs don’t shorten the path to destruction. Single mom in the home=free housing and benefits. Marriage or having a man around=lose benefits. Human nature, as most liberal policies consistently ignore, dictates that if you provide enough people with a shortcut, many won’t be able to pass it up. With the loss of money by having the man around (in marriage), women avoid the commitment. With the absence of commitment, the path for men to carry on with their selfish and irresponsible ways is made easier. In every instance where we have a “baby daddy” instead of a family, the path to an empty life gets shorter. Sad and still inexcusable. But true, unnecessary, and ignored all the same. It’s time to stop shortening the path to destruction and ignoring human nature with systems that lower standards that men are held to.
  4. That it’s destructive for boys to be boys. “Don’t cry. Suck it up. Toughen up.” It’s okay to tell our boys these things. Physical toughness leads to mental toughness. Determination doesn’t just appear with armpit hair and neither does backbone. And because it’s not OK for men to sit at home playing video games, pretending to be disabled while their wives work two jobs, it IS okay to tell our sons about many things along the way, “No, boys don’t do that.” They don’t pee sitting down. They don’t wear high heals. And they don’t disrespect their mother. Because yes, boys are different than girls. And boys WILL be boys. That is never an excuse for bad behavior. But it is a reason that farts will still be funny when they’re 50.  And if you don’t understand why that is…………..you probably need to stay in your lane.

That Day I Wanted To Kill My Brother

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The year was probably 1976 or 1977.  It was a summer day when I was messing around in the small creek behind our house with my older brother and a friend or two. I honestly can’t remember if any of our buddies were around to witness the memorable events of that day. But I do know that my mom gave me a whipping on that day that I spent a lot of years believing was 100% undeserved.

I probably was never the most curious type of kid. But I did have a fascination with flood waters and dams. On this day, I was doing my best to dam up the creek. Piles of rock, clumps of dirt, and whatever it took to stop the flow of water and create a large standing pool behind it.

But anytime I neared achieving full stoppage, my big brother stepped in……..doing big brother things. Kicking away a carefully piled section of rock and running away laughing as the water flowed freely through again. I gave brief chase. I yelled. I said words that 8 and 9 year-old boys shouldn’t say.  My anger grew.

This cycle repeated a few times, but I always returned to work, trying to finish the dam. I eventually found a type of grass that grew on the creek bank in clumps that, when pulled straight upward, would dislodge from the ground with a large root system clinging to a good amount of earth. These grass/dirt clumps would be the perfect finishing touches on my dam. But each time I set one down in a place to stop the final flow of water, my brother intervened again. He just picked up the mass of grass and dripping earth and threw it aside on the creek bank, once again undoing my work. Anger became rage.

Finally, the brief chase through the creek became a major chase toward our house. He may not have been any faster than me, but he did cover the 200 feet to our back door much faster than me. But I was handicapped by the muddy clump of grass that I carried in my right hand. Seeing that he was going to enter the house and the safe zone of mom’s presence, I knew I couldn’t let that happen. So I let it fly. I threw the grass clump.

And with perfect timing, my brother opened the back door. The grass clump flew over his head and splatted perfectly on the kitchen wall. I don’t recall exactly what happened next. But I recall something of my mom talking about just having finished cleaning the kitchen. I don’t recall the words that were spoken, but I’m pretty sure my mom was a bit angry. And I don’t recall what the weapon of choice was (belt or switch), but I do know that my brother and I got our tails busted.

And now, over 40 years later, I’m almost positive that my mom whipped me above the protests of, “But mom, but mom…………..don’t you know what he did to me first?”

Justified rage? No I don’t guess so. As I grew older, my family got a lot of laughs over the creek incident. And for some reason, I never let go of the lame reasoning that what he did first somehow justified what I had done. “But mom………….you don’t understand.”

Then I became a dad. Then I became a Christian. And I became a Christian dad that found truth and wisdom from the Bible (some things easier to grasp than others). And I found value in dealing with anger in biblical ways.

James 1 tells us that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

That’s pretty simple and straightforward. A person that can park these verses at the front of their brain will eventually see that the vast majority of things they get angry about aren’t really worth getting angry about.

Yes, our anger can be justified, but we can never use anger to justify poor decisions and the questionable acts that follow in their wake.

Sorry Mom! “Because Scott was being a butthole” isn’t an acceptable reason for my actions. I see that now.

But many times anger catches us off guard. So it becomes necessary to plan against it.

How many times have you witnessed this in an NFL or NCAA football game where the score is tight, the team on defense is clinging to a small lead in the 4th quarter, and they make a key stop on a 3rd and long play. Oh but wait. The defense gets a dead ball personal foul penalty, extending the drive, and allows the offense to march on to the go-ahead or game winning points. Why? Because an offensive player delivered a cheap shot, and the defensive player retaliated. “But, but……..he did this first.”  Well, that’s all fine and good, but you probably just lost the game for your team.

You can’t follow up one act of stupidity with one of your own, just because they did it first. Sometimes you just have to know what’s coming and make plans to walk away.

When I see news clips these days, I notice a lot of angry people. Obviously, being angry is what gets you publicity in the first place, but still. There seems to be a growing trend of opposing sides of protests (following the perfect model of mob mentality of course) lashing out at each other with violence or hateful speech. I assume these same people could calmly discuss their opposing views if they found themselves sharing a booth and a latte at Starbucks. But I guess that there’s a reason that most people show up at a lot of these protests and act the way they do; they make no plans to not be angry. They show up because the are angry and they plan to stay that way.

That can be a dangerous thing. People who falsely identify their anger as justified when it’s really not. It’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in public figures and elected officials being confronted and harassed in public places. But what is surprising (and disturbing) is the number of people who are willing to defend these kooks.

“I don’t blame them.”

“They deserve it.”

So I guess I should make a point in this other than “don’t let your siblings irritate you to the point of rage”, so how about this:

  1. Plan against anger. Know ahead of time, the kinds of situations you will be faced with, and make up your mind that your anger won’t lead you to poor decisions.
  2.  Don’t try to justify acts of stupidity, born of anger, where your only lame attempt at reasoning matches that of a 9 year-old………”But mom, don’t you know what he did first?

Some people honestly just choose to be mad. Yeah, I get that.  But that’s not really a good choice, is it?

Just because your big brother peed in your snuff can when he was 15 doesn’t mean you can blow up his car when he’s 17.