Three Things to Do When Your Child Disrespects You

A few weeks ago, I had a situation with one of my children. Upon the child’s arrival from school, the child’s grandmother suggested a haircut from the neighborhood stylist, which the child refused to do. My wife was home but very sick at the time, so she had no energy to get up and address the disrespect; it was actually disappointing that the child showed no concern for the sick mother. I resolved to deal with the disobedience when I got home, but when I arrived, the child was already asleep, so I couldn’t deal with the situation.

bible_rod_discipline_childrenI got my own version a few hours later though, when the child woke me up at 1AM because the child awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep. The scandalous shouting match that followed did not wake up anyone, thank goodness, but I certainly gave this child a piece of my mind for the events of that day.

As Christian parents, we set the example for our children in godliness, respect, integrity, perseverance, and excellence, and we set the boundaries and rules for them so they, in turn, grow up to become disciplined, independent Christian adults. However, it’s inevitable that every parent will experience a situation where their child disrespects their authority and pushes their buttons just right. So what is the Christian parent to do?

Disrespect is ultimately disobedience, which necessitates discipline. It’s important for parents to present a united front, especially if their natural discipline styles are different. Otherwise, the children will run to the more forgiving parent, while the other parent comes across as an angry monster.

My wife and I are united in three things when it comes to dealing with our children’s attitudes towards respect and obedience.

1. Instruct with the heart and deal with the heart. Every disciplining situation is a chance for a parent to speak his heart to his child. As you address your child, remember this is a learning opportunity for your child. Proverbs 15:5 says, “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” This is even more important to remember if you feel your child is willfully disregarding your advice or discipline.

No parent intentionally gives his children bad advice, and, on occasion, a child’s disobedience may not be because he intends to disobey but because the boundaries weren’t set or instructions weren’t clear. End of effort, it must be clear the child knew what he did was wrong.

2. Provide discipline that speaks to the child. There are consequences to negative behavior, not just so the child will learn not to do it again, but so they’ll understand how the world works. A home in which there is no justice is raising a child with blurred moral boundaries.

When it comes to discipline, I believe in the concept of “hit them where it hurts.” (This doesn’t necessarily mean the rod, although I have, on occasion, spanked my children when they were younger, and applying Tip No.3 afterward.) If you balk at spanking, you can still provide discipline in other ways. For us, we know our children hold something of value, and we apply discipline by addressing what they hold valuable. For example, my son is a techie, so discipline for him involves grounding from video games; my daughter loves her Shopkins, so discipline for her may involve the temporary withholding of Shopkins benefits.

I do want to also say, though, that it is not enough to (temporarily) remove the object of value; we need to fill the void that it creates. It is important to provide an alternative activity or item that will give the child time to reflect on what they did. For my son, I’ll ask him to clean the room (with me, because I enjoy that); for my daughter, I’ll have her read a few chapters from a book, which we will discuss afterward.

3. Restore. After every disciplining effort, it is essential for the parent to make time to sit down with the child and process the disciplining effort. Make a deliberate effort to speak to the child in their love language, and reassure him that there is forgiveness and grace for him. The child needs to know that you will continue to love him despite what he did, and you always will.

What about you? What are some things you do when you deal with your disrespectful child?

Image taken from here. No copyright infringement intended.

Three Skills You Can Help Your Kid Improve on This Summer

Most summers, some kids tend to vegetate while their parents pretty much allow them to run wild and free. While there’s nothing essentially wrong with that–some might beg to disagree even with that flippant statement–I would like my kids’ summers to count. A few days ago, I wrote about three things Christian dads can do with their kids this summer. In this blog entry, I’ve identified the following skills that I personally am helping my 11-year-old son improve this summer.

1. Improve his typing skills. In this digital age, keyboard mastery can make a huge difference. As a child, I remember playing a desktop game featuring a race car that sped up as I typed words into the text field. I credit that game for helping me improve my typing skills, and while I no longer have that game, there is an abundance of games that kids can play. I recommend Fun to Type, which has a variety of games that can help improve the child’s skills over time.

2. Improve his handwriting skills. No offense to him, but my son’s handwriting is atrocious. (Case in point: last night’s homework, he couldn’t read what he wrote himself.) I tend to subscribe to the “practicing with pegs makes perfect” model of education, so I’m requiring my son to do handwriting exercises with quality pegs during weekdays, and to answer the questions to No.3 in cursive, so he practices often.

3. Build vocabulary, critical thinking, and composition skills. I want to encourage Nathan to think critically, learn how to write paragraphs well, and improve his vocabulary. Towards this, I’m making him read a short story or essay daily, and posing some questions to him that he has to answer. These questions are designed to help him think critically about the material and glean the main points behind the text. At the same time, I’m also having him select at least five words from the text that he may not understand, and look up the meanings in the online dictionary (or occasionally, getting them from context in the material).

I understand that it feels like homework, but all the materials put together don’t take up more than an hour of his day. I believe, though, that these will help him improve his performance in the coming school year, so that’s why I’m doing them.

I’m also taking active steps towards encouraging his own likes, so this summer, we’ve gone swimming and camping–which, if you know me, I just don’t do–and we’re also doing some sports like badminton. I want my kids to move around this summer rather than just stay in their bedrooms playing video games, so that’s why I’m actively making moves to participate in these activities.

What about you? Which skills of your kids are you working to improve, and what steps are you taking towards making it happen? :)

Three Things Christian Dads Should Do With Their Kids This Summer

Filipino Christian dad
I took my kids camping!

Ah, summer! Two glorious months of “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks!” While some kids probably dream of vegetating in front of their computer or television screens, many of their parents find the summer break a brilliant opportunity to enrich their kids with summer activities and co-curricular classes. Regardless of how your kids are spending the summer, I think we parents can all agree that these are two months containing the potential to help our children step up and be ready for the incoming school year.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” When good skills become habits, we prepare our kids for success. If we want the best for our children, I think we need to actively take steps to prepare them for the best.

For example, if you want your kid to be fit, then arranging for summer sports seems like the logical next move. If you want your son to improve his handwriting, assigning him handwriting work can help him over the course of the summer. If you want your daughter to develop a more organized outlook, then sitting her down and teaching her good study habits over the summer can be a fruitful and rewarding exercise.

You get the idea.

Christian dads, however, need to step up during the summer. Mothers are 200% awesome, but there are certain things that just have a certain “Boom!” when a dad delivers them. If a dad is Christian, his life and example is fueled by faith and powered by the Spirit. Here are three things I think every Christian dad needs to do this summer.

1. Take them out. Never underestimate the power of a “daddy date.” Kids need alone time with their dads. This is an opportunity, not just to connect with a child, but to speak life and strength to them. It is crucial, therefore, that your daddy date be conducted in activities that are enjoyable to the child, and I recommend active involvement. When a dad sets everything aside and spends quality time with his child, it communicates a powerful message of value that, when done consistently over time, will make a deep and long-lasting impact. It’s an investment that promises guaranteed returns.

2. Teach them well. Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “”You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” While this verse was referring specifically to the commandments of God, fathers can use the summer to teach their kids about important life skills.

You can use the summer to teach them a new skill or sport, or set aside time to mentor them on financial management. You could send them to summer classes, or train them yourself for tasks toward which they may be inclined. You could help them learn about the value of work by enrolling them in summer internships at local restaurants, give them summer allowance opportunities by doing house chores or ladderized skill improvement (using the Internet to learn how to type, or practice one’s handwriting or art skills), or help them volunteer at a local charity. The possibilities are varied, and you only have two months.

3. Tell them your story. The best legacy a Christian father can pass on to his children is the legacy of faith. Psalms 78:4 says, “We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” A father’s life is his testimony; a father’s whose word is based on God’s Word possesses a rare and unshakeable integrity and faith. This summer, Christian dads, please make it a point to share your testimony with your kids. Let them know how far God has taken you; tell them how He continues to change you for good; speak of grace, humility, forgiveness, and love. To children, Bible stories are beloved and powerful, yet these are stories of people to whom they have no personal connection. I assure you: your personal story and testimony will touch them unlike any Bible story they have read, and the impact you will make when you speak truth into their lives will be substantial.

Regardless of how you spend your summer, my prayer for you Christian dads is that God will multiply your time and that you will use it effectively to speak life to your kids! What about you dads? Any great ideas on how you plan to spend your summer with your kids? :)

Four Things Dads May Do That May Kill Their Child’s Spirit

20150226_071903Now that the school year has come to an end, my family and I are about to review March at our monthly family meeting, to see how well we did this month (and to sum up the whole school year).

As we do so, I have to be very conscious of striking the right balance between constructive and destructive criticism. While I am a naturally positive person, I sometimes tend to be a little impatient and critical towards my kids, and this is something that I’m working towards, only because I wanted them to avoid the mistakes I made when I was younger.

However, the mistakes I made did help make me who I am today, and I’m stronger, wiser, and smarter, because of them. A well-meaning dad may not know that his attempts to toughen his kids through constant reminders of their failures, or, on the distaff side, to shield his kids from the hurt and the pain of the world, may not actually be setting them up for success, but contributing to lower self-esteem (“I can’t do anything right”), laziness (“Dad’ll do it for me”), and complacency (“Whatever I do is a ‘great job’ anyway, so why try even harder?”).

Here are four things that I think parents should be conscious of when communicating with their children. I feel an awareness of these particular behaviors can be helpful towards avoiding soul-killing behavior in the future.

1. Dad constantly reminds him of past mistakes. Grace and forgiveness are two of the hallmarks of a nurturing home. Please don’t create a home that fosters habitual, constant bringing down of the child by bringing up his failures. More than just potentially lowering a child’s self-esteem, it creates a mindset that the child can never please his dad, because “it’s never good enough.” This kind of mindset towards performance-based behavior is dangerous; the child may spend his entire life trying to live up to your expectations.

2. Dad says he has no hope of improving. Fewer things in this world will scar a child than knowing their dad doesn’t believe they can improve. If anyone can speak hope to a child, it’s his father; if anyone can take it away, it’s his father. A person would rather the whole world lose faith in him, just not his dad. When our kids don’t believe we believe in them, I believe it becomes twice as hard for them to develop that confidence in themselves.

3. Dad labels or boxes him in. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21) May we never box our kids into pre-cut stereotypes or preconceived ideas of who we’re supposed to be!

For example, when we were young, there were people who labeled me “the smart one” and my younger brother “the handsome one.” While this would appear to initially be a compliment by highlighting our strengths, so to speak, it also had implicit implications: I wasn’t handsome, and my brother wasn’t smart. Today, I work in creatives, have written award-winning songs, and have a great job and family, yet I’m fat and consider myself ugly. Meanwhile, my brother looks amazing and is in fantastic shape, but he still hasn’t finished school. (He’s 37.) Coincidence?

4. Dad does everything for him. Let’s get one thing straight: as dads, we’re here to steward our sons and daughters and help usher them into God’s destiny for them. We didn’t become their dads so we could do their homework for them, find jobs for them, give them money beyond graduation, and essentially baby them throughout life. We’re not here to baby them, we’re here, to paraphrase and adapt the mission of my church to a more secular yet important situation (in which we can and should raise God-fearing kids), to engage our kids, to establish them in the faith, equip them with the tools to live God-honoring lives, and empower them to become influential (and ideally honor God by making disciples).

What are other things you think dads may do that might do more damage than good?

Sharing a Coke with God

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 9.09.39 AMThe past few weeks, most of my friends have been agog with Coca-Cola’s Share-a-Coke marketing campaign. To those unfamiliar with it, you can buy Coke cans and bottles with the message, “Share a Coke with…”, and it offers a wide range of names, from generic tags like Bro, BFF, Love, and Hottie, to personalized names like Cat and Niel. (No kidding — I saw this combination at SM Manila’s grocery.)

I have found myself rummaging through rows and rows of Coca-Cola cans and bottles looking for my name and that of my kids. Last night, I found a bottle that said “Rose” – the name of my kids’ nanny – and even contemplated buying that one as a surprise present for her. I’ve bought cans that said, “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Ganda” (beautiful), for my wife, and “Cutie” (for myself, haha).

Now, apparently, a Share-a-Coke marketing tour is now making the rounds of malls in Manila, where, for a PHP150 purchase of Coke products, you can get a customized Coca-Cola bottle with any name on it (8 characters). You gotta give Coke credit for this incredible campaign. It’s taking pretty much the whole country by storm.

What makes Share-a-Coke so great is that it empowers someone to bestow that “blessing of Coke,” so to speak, on you. “Share a Coke with Al.” “Share a Coke with Richard.”

It’s just a little disturbing for someone to have to pay PHP150 to see “Ganns” on a Coke bottle; “Ganns” isn’t one of the names on the standard list of names identified by Coke for the Philippines, unlike Nathan or Cathy, my son and wife, who could get it, if they happen upon it. There is no relationship between me and Coke; hence, an unusual name like mine doesn’t come normally.

Luckily, someone else knows my name, unlike Coke.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” – Jeremiah 1:5

I don’t have to pay PHP150 to be recognized or known by God; in fact, I received salvation for free (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 6:23), because Jesus, God’s Son, paid the price with His life (“…for you were bought with a price…”, 1 Cor 6:20).

“Share a Coke” wins because it’s based on relationship. And the best relationship we can ever have is with God the Father, and you don’t have to pay PHP150 to have a relationship with God. And because of that relationship, God calls me “Son,” and I can call Him “Father.” Or “Friend.”

I’ll drink a Coke to that.

Uncle Delfin’s hugs

This blog entry is about a man named Delfin Ong. No one I know calls him “Mr. Ong.” Everyone I know who knows him refers to him the way I do: “Uncle Delfin.”

Uncle Delfin is arguably the most gentle man I have ever met in my life. I remember meeting him for the first time: he is an usher at Victory Fort Bonifacio, and he welcomed me, a newcomer, to the Fort, with a big hug that took me completely by surprise.

That hug is Uncle Delfin’s trademark. Thinking back, it was not an uncomfortable hug; it felt genuine, warm, pleasant. It was a hug of friendship, of welcoming, of joy, that I was there, to share in the fellowship of God’s family.

I was a total stranger, but our first encounter was that: Uncle Delfin greeted me as if we were the closest of friends, perhaps as father to errant son, telling me this is what it is like to be part of a larger family.

I wouldn’t be surprised to think that Uncle Delfin has hugged arguably thousands of people. God has spoken to people through that hug. That hug has spoken unspoken volumes, telling hurting people that it was going to be okay, consoling grieving people in their hours of needs, and speaking fatherhood to children who never knew what it was like to receive a hug. Uncle Delfin’s hugs may have whispered silent confirmations to people in desperate need of affirmation that they were worthy of affection, of friendship, of love.

I believe God worked through Uncle Delfin’s hugs. I believe that his hugs helped bring about healing – not literal, but the kind that underscored our church’s capacity to welcome anyone in need of a little something extra before the time to worship.

Uncle Delfin is bravely fighting cancer, and we are stubbornly believing that he will receive the miracle for which his family and hundreds of us in the church are believing in faith. Uncle Delfin has already said that he is ready to go; he is clearly at peace with himself and his family. Still, we pray.

I believe Jesus will heal our beloved Uncle Delfin so that we may continue to delight in our time with him. I join the hundreds, if not thousands, of people asking God for more time for him. So many more people deserve to experience Uncle Delfin’s hugs!

Listen to “Healer” by Anthony Evans

But should the time come that God does call Uncle Delfin home, I’d like to think to myself it’s because God wants to sample Uncle Delfin’s hugs for Himself. And how I wish we could all be there to see it. Until that time, fight the good fight, Uncle Delfin! We stand in faith with you. You are loved!

On Father’s Day

Father’s Day 2012 was a bit of a blur for me, which is a little ironic because the day was relatively uneventful.

I got up in the morning to a blog surprise from Caths, who wrote a sweet Father’s Day message for me on behalf of Nathan and Nicki.

Since I was up early, I took Nicki – who was also up early – to Jollibee where we drove-through for breakfast, then brought breakfast home to the thoughtful (albeit sleeping) wife and son.

Then they surprised me with this present.

I was so thrilled because I love For Better or For Worse; it’s one of my favorite comic strips, right after Calvin and Hobbes.

Afterward, my family and I went to the church in Greenhills where we worship, where I took home this central point:

What you may never have gotten from your dad, you can get from God; He will stoop down to make you great.

This affected me a lot, because I remember making this post three years ago, for Father’s Day 2009. In that post, I wrote:

Fatherlessness may very well be the most important sociological issue of our time, and I am inclined to agree. A home with an active and caring father is the best thing you can provide for your children. All your sons and daughters will create their templates of manhood from you, and carry that template over to their children, and so on. Cast your love for them upon them and you change their lives; cast your love for God upon them, and you change the world.

During his preaching, Dennis admitted he never got much encouragement from his father; when he got a hug at 19, he was set for life! My father, on the other hand, was generous with his praise, but I hungered for more attention, more physical presence. And I think that’s what affected me a lot about what Dennis said. In my opinion, this is the gist of his message, or certainly what I took home from it:

Whatever shortcomings your earthly father had do not matter, because your heavenly father is more than enough.

I am not the world’s best dad by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a miserable father, really: my temper could afford to be longer, and I could spend more time with my kids than with this laptop (as I type, my little girl is playing with her Barbie). But see, my shortcomings can be forgiven, and I need to take time to really shower God’s love on my kids.

A lot of dads, myself included, think we need to work harder to provide for our kids. Yes, we need to provide. But they need us more than money. They need our presence, our encouragement, our time.

And that was my big take-home today. I’ve always known it, but it’s always good to be reminded.

My kids don’t need my money. They need me.

And God as the Creator of Time, will multiply my time. And He did today. I enjoyed my time with my family today.

After church, we had a snack at Potdog and some delicious – DELICIOUS! – drinks at Dakasi. We then went to the mall to do some grocery shopping and pick up some awesome – AWESOME! – photos of our family from Pic-a-boo. We then went home, where we took a nap. I awoke to Nicki’s lying at my feet, and we went into the other room to play. (And surf. Sssh.)

Otherwise an ordinary day.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade this day for most others. I got to spend it with my family, and I praise God that my family and I are together, and whole, and lovely. That’s the best Father’s Day present I could’ve ever hoped for.

 

Revisiting my role as the “sleepy child whisperer”

The past few days have been difficult. Last weekend, my kids’ two nannies decided to hie away from our employ. They put my daughter, three-year-old Nicki, to bed, then left six-year-old Nathan, who was watching television, packed their bags, and left. No “Thanks for having us,” no tearful goodbyes, nothing. They up and left our kids in our house, with no one else, save Nathan’s nine-year-old cousin, to watch over them. We later learned of the reason as to why they decided to leave, and, well, while I can’t publish it on my blog, it relieves me to know that both nannies did not have issues with us as their employers, with our kids as their main focus of attention, and with the nature of their jobs.

While we have two nannies arriving tomorrow – Thank You, God!! – my beautiful wife Catherine and I have taken turns staying home to be with the kids. My kids are bundles of joy, but we all know that nobody’s perfect, either parent or child. I’ve struggled a bit, but it’s always a good thing to reconnect with your children. You’ll always have work around, but you won’t always have your kids’ childhoods around, so best to enjoy it while you still can. The Bible recommends we dads don’t exasperate our kids, and I’ve been trying my best to ensure that doesn’t happen. They, on the other hand, have continued to pay attention to me, so I think I haven’t completely outgrown my role as father.

Meanwhile, I’m revisiting the book Supernanny by Jo Frost, and it’s reminding me about some solid disciplinary steps to take when my kids (occasionally) misbehave. In particular, it has some solid ideas about bedtime that I’m really interested in reestablishing. My kids, you see, can’t sleep without me. That’s a surefire recipe for disaster, so I’m going to talk to my wife about it tonight. We need our evenings back, and Jo Frost has the master plan for ensuring our evenings belong to us again.

If your child refuses to sleep, Jo Frost says the answer is “The Bedtime Routine,” which “lets your child know there is a consistent pattern to going to bed, which s/he is not going to be able to change or manipulate at will,” and 2) it prepares for sleep in a calming sequence of events that are designed to help her relax.” Sounds good, no?

Her tips include:

  • Keep things as calm as possible. Winding down is important.
  • Tell your child that bedtime is approaching. About ten minutes before you start the routine is good.
  • Give a warm bath. Give a warning before bath begins and before it ends. Enlist the child’s help; praise the child when each stage is completed smoothly.
  • Read your child a bedtime story. (I love this part!) Ask questions to engage their attention. (After the story, the child may want to talk for a while; this is a good time to reassure, praise, and single out good moments.)
  • Give a few minutes’ notice before lights out.
  • Don’t get into the habit of waiting with your child until she falls asleep. (Ouch, sorry.)
  • Lights out! No child will learn how to get  to sleep with the lights on.
  • Don’t leave a stage out of this routine.
  • Be consistent with your partner in this routine. Present a united front.
  • Don’t let your child fall asleep on the sofa and then move him into bed. He may wake up in a panic wondering how he got there.

There are several great ideas in the book, as well as problem/solution situations. (My child can’t sleep alone. My child wakes up in the middle of the night.  My child gets out of bed. My child gets into my bed. My child has nightmares. Etcetera. She has a whole bunch of solutions to these questions, and more. Get the book. It’s awesome.)

Masculinity is bestowed by masculinity, or, Who Wants To Be My BFF?

Masculinity is bestowed by masculinity. One learns how to be a man from another man.

Author John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart, which I’ve recently finished, produced this gem of a statement. I have to admit Wild At Heart took me by surprise. The first time I’d read it, I was offended on a variety of levels; the second go-through, however, found me agreeing with some of the concepts. At some points, I was actually moved to tears as I saw the parallels between my life and that described by Eldredge sorely in need of healing.

Eldredge writes that many men who struggle with their flawed image of masculinity do so because they are unable to deal with “the wound,” which is how Eldredge refers to the hurt in a man’s psyche caused, intentionally or unintentionally, by their fathers and/or father figures. In my case, I knew my father loved me, but I was in need of attention, which I did not quite receive. That may explain why my love language is “words of affirmation”; I long for my father’s approval and his presence in my life. (Obviously, that’s not going to be happen, because he’s gone.)

Even before reading Wild At Heart, I knew that only God would truly be able to help heal me of all the wounds and resentments that come with being raised by a father who couldn’t really give me the time and attention I (and my brother) desperately wanted. For the most part, I’m okay, but I live under the constant worry that my Nathan may turn out like me, a little soft, a little wet behind the ears, a little too sheltered, a little too nice.

Masculinity is about 1) having an adventure to life; 2) a battle to fight; and 3) a beauty to rescue. My life has gotten to the point where I have none of all three: my life is predictable and safe, and my wife, while undoubtedly beautiful, has done more than her fair share of rescuing me (I am convinced she’s saved me a lot more than I’ve saved her).

Eldredge writes that men need an “initiation,” that drawn-out process that allows us to see what it means to be a man, and to mirror that. Within our hearts, boys been programmed to be a little reckless, a little rough, a little danger-hungry. I’ve had those desires when I was younger, but somewhere along the way, I lost them. I’m 32 years old today, and I doubt “dangerous,” “masculine,” and “manly” would be in any one’s list of adjectives describing me.

Why am I so concerned about my masculinity? Well, for one, I’m getting more and more concerned with how I’m representing Christ; it’s not about conforming to set ideals about how one should conduct oneself as a Christian, but rather, ensuring that no one is led to sin (e.g., gossiping or wondering about one’s sexuality) because of my actions. Yes, I’m coming out and saying it: I’m very concerned about people thinking I’m gay, because it is not good for me as a Christian ambassador when people gossip – incorrectly – about me. It also has the potential to affect my wife and my family; I am very concerned about the future generations that are affected by this otherwise flawed sense of masculinity. I’ve stifled my son’s first six years of desire for adventure, and I am determined to right that wrong. (No matter what other people say, I believe that quantity time IS quality time.)

I’m working on my relationship with God daily, and working my salvation out day by day. Meanwhile, I’ll be frank: I want more guy friends. I’m not talking about a couple of brusko guys who can go play basketball or billiards with me or go running on Saturdays, or “men’s men” who’ll watch The Godfather with me. I’m talking about strong godly husbands who can speak into my marital relations; I’m talking about dads who prioritize their kids and have great parenting methods they can share; I’m talking about men who are not afraid to lift their hands in worship, but are not afraid to also speak up if they see something that needs correction.

Actually, you know what? We all need men like that. We all are looking for men like that. And with accountability and God in the center of our relationships, we can all become men like that. Who’s with me?

On masculinity (and a contest for you)

Wild At Heart Audio CDI am revisiting John Eldridge’s Wild At Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, which came highly recommended by several men in the church in the Philippines for which I work. Author Eldredge makes a case for the universal need of every man to live a life of adventure and risk, claiming God designed man to be dangerous, and Christianity leads many men to abandon these dreams and desires to be a hero or warrior in favor of becoming a “nice guy.” He further asserts that it is no wonder many men avoid church, and those who go are often passive or bored.

The first time I encountered Wild At Heart, I was offended on some level. I felt Eldredge’s definition of masculinity was too limiting to his concept of what it meant to be a man; he who did not actively seek the outdoors, or sought out danger, or felt the inner need to have a “damsel in distress” to rescue, was not, by Eldredge’s whole-scale definition, a real man. (One Amazon.com reviewer, Edward Vasicek, asserts, “God does not only bless the Esaus, but also the Jacobs.” Correct!) Of course, my surface interpretation was flawed in itself and missed the point; I was nitpicking, or grasping at straws, in an attempt to justify the direction I’d chosen for my life.

If I were to go back in time, when I was a boy, the happiest times were, in fact, the “wild times.” Given my urban upbringing, which significantly limits adventure by Eldredge’s definition, it was a wonder I’d managed to have “wild times” at all. But there were those rough-and-tumble times that I actively did seek out. I didn’t like the beach, but I did pretend I was a pirate digging for treasure. I once packed my clothes in a towel, tied it to the end of a broom, and told my mom I was running away. The wrestling moments with my brother, the thrill of car chases, the joy of succeeding at a game, any game… there was something wild in my heart. Where did it go? And for all the pseudo-effeminate antiseptic candor of my childhood-turned-teen years-turned adulthood, was there something deeper, darker, and wilder that God had planned for me?

I must underscore that this is not some knee-jerk reaction to some self-help book that I decided to pick up. No, more than anything, I have struggled with masculinity – not sexuality – all my life. More people would describe me as a “nice guy.” Certainly not “dangerous,” and most certainly not “masculine.” More than anything, the legacy of masculinity that I want to learn more about (and potentially reclaim, if I am to buy into Eldredge’s assertion that my life is far from masculine by his definition) is essential for generations to come. To reclaim the essence of masculinity in its broadest scope, therefore, becomes imperative. Not out of a desire to change – for I am essentially happy with how God made me, save for the obesity, which is my own doing, not God’s – but out of a desire to be all that He’s destined for me to be. And I know I am not alone.

Men like me are not “traditional men.” We don’t play basketball, we don’t hike in the woods, we don’t necessarily enjoy playing with guns. (Laser Tag, however, rules all!) We like computers; we like air-conditioning; and we like watching movies that don’t necessarily involve Arnold S, Sylvester S, Steven S, and other action stars with bulging biceps and family names that start with S. However, I agree with Eldredge on one crucial point: we all want that adventure. Whatever softness we may have – and that can often, as I’ve learned in my life, be interpreted as homosexuality – can and will change when we look at our lives as something ordained for adventure by a dangerously wild yet gently loving God.

My adventure has been my life with Cathy, but I realize that it’s been years since I looked at my life and relationship as an adventure that God has ordained for me. So a mindset change IS in order. Years of softening will take years of hardening to “undo,” but I know it will be worth it. As a God-servant, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, and as a worship leader, I am given the responsibility of being God’s ambassador in every circumstance, and if I take this life as the adventure that it should be, it is clear that the only way to do so is to seek out that danger and that unpredictability, and the only way to do that is, ironically, to be secure in my relationship with God to know that He will protect me and grow me secure in every essence of my being.

Let the adventure begin!

How do you define masculine? Post your definition in the comment section on or before October 31, 2009, and one of you (via electronic raffle) will win an audio CD of John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart.

We are privileged to be dads

(This is a cross-post from a blog entry I made in January on my Multiply blog. I think it’s appropriate for Father’s Day.)

Some men don’t appreciate the fact that they’re fathers. They think having children is a burden, a curse, an accident, a crimp on their social lives or careers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fatherhood is an awesome privilege and responsibility. In this day and age, not having a father – or having an apathetic one – can make or break the difference for generations to come. Look at these statistics (courtesy of AllProDad.com):

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
    (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
    (Source: Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes
    (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
    (Source: National Principals Report on the State of High Schools )
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
    (Source: Rainbows for all God`s Children.)
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes
    (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home
    (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)

The impact fathers make affects generations. These statistics translate to mean that children from a fatherless home are:

  • 5 times more likely to commit suicide
  • 32 times more likely to run away
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
  • Boys are 14 times more likely to commit rape
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of high school
  • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
  • 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution
  • 20 times more like to end up in prison

I grew up in a home with a relatively old father (my dad had me when he was 46; my brother came a year later). His age certainly was a factor in our dad-son time, and while, yes, there was no denying he loved me, I did yearn for more attention from my dad. A son’s template for manhood is set by his father, and, no disrespect to my father meant, but mine wasn’t around enough for me to develop a good “imprint” of what it meant to be a man. He was always busy working to give us a good life, but good lives aren’t always about having more than enough money. What I remember most about my dad were our lunches out at Shakey’s, our talks on his rocking chair, our time just him and me watching television.

Kids don’t want your money; they want your time. They want you.

The impact fathers make affects generations.

In hindsight, I can see the areas where my dad was weak as a father, and I am determined to not make that same mistake. When we have intimate relationships with God, when our marriages are strong, when we prioritize our family over less important things, we send a very important message to our children that they are important, that our values are straight, that we know who matters.

As fathers, we affect generations upon generations.

AllProDad asserts fatherlessness may very well be the most important sociological issue of our time, and I am inclined to agree. A home with an active and caring father is the best thing you can provide for your children. All your sons and daughters will create their templates of manhood from you, and carry that template over to their children, and so on. Cast your love for them upon them and you change their lives; cast your love for God upon them, and you change the world.

Being a father is an awesome privilege and responsibility, affecting generations. Go and be the man and father God destined you to be.

Breaking the dad-chain

For the past two nights, I’ve been leaving my Macbook Pro, Machiavelli “Macky” MacMcIntosh, at the office as part of a more concerted effort to spend more time with my wife and kids. It hasn’t been easy – and right now, it’s kind of a fail, because I’m still online, albeit on my wife’s Macbook, haha! – but this is an issue that is very close to my heart.

My dad had me at 46. We didn’t have a lot of the traditional father-son bonding rituals. There was no camping, no basketball games together, no raw tickling and roughhousing on my bed late at night. We also didn’t get to spend as much time together as I would’ve liked, and I can’t recall him ever checking my homework or helping me study. He had domino nights, dart nights with his friends, and when he was home, he’d spend time reading the newspaper, doing a crossword, watch television. He smoked like a chimney.

We did have great moments. Sunday lunches at Shakey’s. Tickling moments on his rocking chair. Great conversations in the car. I loved my dad, despite my missing out on a lot of the stuff that I would’ve wanted to experience and enjoy as part of a father-son tandem.

I swore to myself that I would spend more time with my kids, especially if I had sons. Lo and behold, I did have a son, Nathan, who is my pride and joy. I look at him and I am overwhelmed by God’s favor, by the knowledge that God saw fit to bless me with the stewardship of a man who would influence nations for Him.

Nathan is now five years old, and I realize that I am slowly sinking into the trap that was my father’s. Nathan and I don’t have the basketball games (or any athletic games for that matter, haha). Instead of newspapers, my face is always buried deep in my computer. We’re very physical – I tickle him a lot, he enjoys it – but I also don’t study with him. Instead of Shakey’s, we go to the Toms World arcade.

It hit me like a hammer: in terms of quality time spent with my children, I was becoming like my dad. And it had to stop.

So I’m leaving my laptop at the office to ensure I spend time with my son. Even now, as I type this, he’s still asleep, but when he awakes, we’re spending this Saturday morning enjoying each other’s company. We’ll play iSpy. I’ll work with him on his workbooks for school. Maybe by the end of this month, if time and finances allow for it, a game of Lazer XTreme at Market! Market!

For Nathan to see that God the Father loves him, he has to know in his heart, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that his earthly father loves him too, and wants to set the example by which he can know God’s love. That has to start today. If it means leaving my precious Macky at the office behind lock and key, so be it. It is the least of sacrifices compared to the joy I will reap spending my life with my son.

Faithful Friday: Getting the Template for Righteousness

Today’s Faithful Friday devotional is based on Richard Exley’s How to Be a Man of Character in a World of Compromise. Chapter 1 delves into Proverbs 1, and is titled An Awesome God.

When I was a kid growing up, my dad was my template for what it meant to be a man. As a child, I was always getting into some kind of trouble, and my dad was not one to ‘spare the rod.’ I was spanked often; I was reprimanded frequently. The father of my early youth was a disciplinarian who I feared greatly.

As I grew older, I learned more about him. I learned he was a man of integrity who loved his family and served the Filipino people faithfully in his government work. As age mellowed him and toughened me, I received less reprimands and more encouragement. The fear was replaced by a gentle love for this man of integrity. I realized he wasn’t athletic, smoked like a chimney and drank on occasion, and he  brandished a wicked sense of humor and razor-sharp wit, which made me love him more. I loved him, but I no longer feared him.

As I look at the dichotomy of my earthly dad, one who I feared greatly and one who I loved immensely, I see a parallel between him and my heavenly Father, in the sense that my concepts and ideas of them were dictated upon greatly by my experiences with them. In both cases, because my experiences were limited, I did not have the pleasure of knowing more about them, and what I could do to please them. My dad’s long-gone now, but God, my heavenly Father, is still around (and will always be).

I could ‘live the Christian life’ to earn points with God, but that would be beside the point. Impure motives pretty much render all the good deeds worthless; all the good I could do in the world is useless without His grace and Jesus in my life. God loves me regardless of whether or not my life is blameless. So why live the Christian life?

Proverbs tells us why. A life of character, lived according to how God tells us in His Word, is a rewarding life. It’s a good life. It’s a life that allows and empowers us to bless other people because we want to bless them. The objective is not to earn brownie points; the objective is to glorify God with a life of victory, of success, of worth, defined in both the worldly and spiritual senses. Proverbs provides a great template for how we can live a ‘disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair’ (Prov 1:3). If we are looking to live a life that is both meaningful and influential, we would do well to go through God’s Word, especially the practical tips mentioned in Proverbs.

My dad certainly wasn’t a ‘powerful’ man, but he was an influential man. He could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo if he wanted to. One doesn’t have to be powerful to make a difference; one merely has to set the stage for righteousness in his life, and the influence, the character, the uniqueness of a person from all those around him, will shine brighter than the sun.

[audio:Proverbs 1.mp3]
Listen to my recording of Proverbs 1

Ask yourself this: Would I consider myself a man or woman of character? Do my actions reflect who I am on the inside and out? Am I consistent in my dealings with people, that they know who I am and what I represent?

Prayer: Lord, let my life be a living testimony of the great work You have done in my life. Help me lead a life of consistency and character, with Your Word as my blueprint for a life of influence and power. Please use me and my life as an instrument to bring other people closer to You. In the name of Jesus, Amen.