Impulse

Peter is one of my favorite dudes in the Bible. He’s all of us getting the chance to hang out with the one that changes the entire universe.  He jumps to the front of the line, speaks before he thinks, and tries way too hard.

He wasn’t always on the good side of Jesus.

The night of the arrest in the Garden, Peter cuts the ear off a Roman soldier. Later, faced with the thought of his own arrest and punishment, he issues his denials. Those moments stand out in the midst of faith stories.  We tend to gloss over them and rush to his reinstatement.  We don’t want to think about denying faith, about what we would do when pressed with a death or decision moment.

Peter, in his fear, acts on impulse and I get it.  I’d bet you get it too. Imagine, all the things he’s seen, all the miracles, the rising tide of crowds and revolution.

The betrayal.

The one who would finally give freedom is now in shackles. All the evidence goes out the window of short-term memory because, if you say yes, you’ll be there too. Suddenly going back to the lake seems like a good alternative.

The familiar provides a warm bed to distract us from a life of electric possibility.

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Last night, Carter was angry.  He was tired and angry, not an easy combination for a kid with anxiety. After talking for a few minutes, he calmed.

I had read something earlier in the day online that reaction for kids dealing with hyperactivity and anxiety are emotion-based.  This means they don’t try to purposefully make their parents angry.  As I spoke to him, the thought bounced around in my head.

It is not an issue of impulse, it is a matter of emotion.

I knelt across from him and took his hand in my own. I looked in his eyes, red and laced with tears, and asked him a question.

“Do you really want to feel like this?”

He took a breath and said no.

For the first time, in the moment, I saw things for how they were.  His issues were something concrete outside himself.  They didn’t own him. They weren’t his identity. They were something we could help with, work with, and teach him how to cope with and forge himself into the person he wants to be.

We stood and I hugged him, pulled him close and shut my eyes. I told him I loved him.

For a second, I understood.  That actions don’t make the person, that impulses are what they are. That Carter’s feelings ran as deep as his soul and that we had hope.  We would walk forward together.  No matter how many bumps in the road, we’d come back to a moment as father and son.

As I was going to bed last night, I stepped into his room and looked at him sleeping.  I thought, for the first time in a while, that we could do this.  It would take effort, time, honesty, and work but we could do this.  We could do this.

We could do this.

A Drunk Walk to Remember

The internet has grabbed onto a new trend at the moment.  The Woman Walking in New York video drew a massive amount of views and started valuable discussions about the ways women are treated in public spaces. Responses spanned from support to threats of violence (oh how easy it is to make threats in a comment thread). It looks like we aren’t finished as I read about this today:

The gist of it is an actress, pretending to be intoxicated, approaches men in Hollywood looking for help to get home. As you can imagine, her inquiries were met with interesting results. Yahoo posted an article about it here. The men filmed were ready to help her get back to their houses for more beer. A majority of them even approached her first to offer their “help.”

Let the bell ring for Round 2 in the fight against “men.”

A few things to remember:

1/A Youtube video does not represent the entire male population.  Both short clips were filmed in urban environments, one on each coast. They were edited and formatted for maximum result and, yes, they were powerful.

2/ It is a real and true reality that women face this kind of stuff on a daily basis.  For every guy who has moved past the caveman mentality, there are ten others stuck there.  They can be a product of their environment, family, or even outside influences.  Not every guy is grown up just because he’s left the teen years. Women have a right to not be harassed, to walk down the street without catcalls, to ask for help and get it without secondary motives.

3/ Every conversation is an exchange of power.  I’m married to a woman I love deeply. When we talk, we can read the levels under our discussion. I know when she’s angry, when I fail, when she needs something.  We give and take. The issue is impulse control, psychological filters, and respect.  Too often, men think with something other than their heads or their hearts, and this can get many of us in trouble.

As a father, husband, and believer, I find myself reacting with a mix of disgust and hope.  If anything, hopefully the conversation started from these videos will raise some awareness and create second-thoughts before open mouths. I look at my boys and pray I can raise them to offer help to any woman who asks without anterior motives, to be gentlemen and genuinely nice. I think of my wife, of the women in my family and friends who have ever had to deal with this treatment and I’m sorry.  None of you deserved it.

Maybe one day us guys will get this “man” thing right.    If only we had an instruction manual.  Oh, that’s right, we do.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Now if only we lived that way.

Soundtrack Inspiration: We are going to see Kristian Stanfill tomorrow night with friends.  I’m excited for some quality worship!

 

 

A Walk to Remember

This video started making the rounds online this week:

The clip is a compilation of ten hours of walking the streets of New York City.  The woman in the video received over a hundred catcalls and even threats of rape online.  You can read an article about it here. Her clothing was not revealing. Her manner not engaging or provocative in any way. She was a woman walking down the street and getting harassed at an average of ten unwanted verbal comments an hour.

The entire clip is uncomfortable as the comments span from a simple “good morning,” to a more disturbing set of people following her and demanding a reaction.

So, for the ladies out there, here’s a catcall from me:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that there are men in the world who are stupid enough to infringe on your public and private space with their lame attempts at validation.

I’m sorry that there are men who have no idea how to respect a woman.

I’m sorry that little boys watch these men and grow up with tarnished images of love, respect, conversation, and how to treat women in their families and lives.

As a father with two sons of my own, I’ll make you a promise.  I’ll do everything I can to be sure they are gentlemen, they hold doors and pull out chairs. They open car doors and meet parents and shake hands with fathers. They know that love is a partnership on even terms and, on no level, does being a man make you any better than your partner.

I’ll do my best.

And maybe, one day, you can walk down a sidewalk in peace.

 

Soundtrack inspiration:

 

 

 

Killing Competition and Changing the Game

Second post in the preview series for Ignition, my upcoming e-book for men.

It starts early:

“Let’s have a race.”

That sentence has been uttered on playgrounds across the world.  Boys are stacked against each other.  The fastest wins. The strongest survives.  Young faces look across the starting line and take inventory.  Why is he bigger than me? Can I win? What if I don’t?

The primal urge tells them to run.  It plants the seed that grows throughout formative years.  We tell our boys to be tough.  Don’t cry. Be a man. Walk it off.  Stifle your emotions.  Eliminate weakness. Don’t be afraid and if you are, God forbid, don’t show it.

Every aspect of adolescence is placed against a measuring stick. Our education system is funded on test results. Athletics become tickets to college scholarships. We split students into groups and skill levels, tracking them through more than a decade of school meant to prepare them for the world when, in the end, all it does is create a stock member of society. Our boys are set for a lifetime of work at meaningless companies where they’ll find themselves at the starting line again in the race up the corporate ladder.

What if it could all change?

What if we foster our boys and their passions? Allow them to explore their feelings and know what it means to be sad, angry, or upset? What if we teach them the value of peace and teamwork, that the race is fastest when completed together? What if we help them celebrate their differences and reach across racial and economic lines?

There is hope for the future and it takes redefining competition.

Jesus calls us to a high standard in the Sermon on the Mount, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 3-10

Remember, at this time, Jesus is speaking to the minority population living under Roman rule. These statements were like bombs exploding the status quot. The dove of peace was flying in the face of the Roman eagle. Jesus was redefining competition, laying down new rules, creating a new field of play.

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The Creator had come to change the game.

As fathers we can easily get caught up in the spirit of competition.  We see our sons in contrast to their friends. We live vicariously through them (sit in the stands at any youth sports event and just listen for a while). We see them as extensions of us and not their own individuals.

So what can we do?

Teach them to serve: Go to a local charity or outreach. Donate some clothes, toys, or food. Tell them what you are doing and why you are doing it. Their world will expand when they see the realities of life and existence.

Teach them to love: Empathy can change reality.  Want to stop the violence? Fight poverty? Build bridges? Make peace? Show your boys that others are important, that they are called understand feelings and make someone’s day better.  Help them to have a good heart.  It will go a long way to their future.

Teach them to pray: This is so simple and so powerful.  Carter prays every night. The prayers of children can change the universe. I get emotional listening to the cries of his heart as  it calls out to God.  Prayer builds a foundation that they will have for the rest of their lives.

The world’s view of competition can be harmful but, with effort, it can be reclaimed for good.  As fathers, our work is never done. As men of faith, our sons must see a legacy to follow. They are our mirrors.  Always give them something positive to reflect.

Redefining competition is a great place to start.

~Matt

Soundtrack inspiration: A great song from Common.  Listen closely to the words as the man is a poet.

 

 

 

 

Faith, Fatherhood, and Football: The Perfect Storm

This post starts a series previewing chapters from my upcoming e-book devotional Ignition for men:

I love football.  If you ask Val, I probably love it too much. It is a sixteen game season, unlike baseball’s marathon year, so every game counts. There is a physical, cerebral, and emotional element. Two teams of warriors meet on the battlefield in prime condition.  We’ve embraced the sport as a culture, pushing the NFL to stunning financial heights.  Boys still play the game in schoolyards and wear the jersey’s of their heroes on the weekends. Father’s and sons make it a tradition through generations of season ticket holders.

My team is the Philadelphia Eagles and one of my favorite players to ever wear an Eagles’ uniform is Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins played safety for the Eagles.  He was under-sized for the position and, after developing under defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, became one of the best safeties to ever play the game.  He was intense and vibrant, often laying down hits to the opposition that could be felt in homes across the Philly area. He embodied what it meant to be from the city; to work hard, fight, and never give up.

He is also a man of faith.

Follow Dawkins on twitter or listen to any of his interviews.  His faith is front and center.  He speaks with the passion of a preacher, talking about the blessings God has provided in his life.  The NFL has a website dedicated to player engagement and it featured Dawkins in an article here. There is a wealth of valuable information in this short piece.

Talking about fatherhood, Dawkins says:

It’s a tremendous responsibility and honor to be a father. Not every man that has kids is a father to his children. I understand that and know that it’s a responsibility and a blessing as well. The Lord blessed me to have these little ones and raise them to worship him.  All these other accomplishments are great blessings, but at the end of the day if I’m not raising them in the omniscience of the Lord then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do.

He’s right.  Not every man who has kids is a father.  It is a title we need to earn and we need to earn it daily. 

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He offers the following advice:

My advice would be to make sure that the foundation is laid in your faith. To walk the walk, don’t just be a church go’er or just attend bible study. Have a relationship with the Father. Don’t have religion have a relationship.  When you have this, it allows things to fall where they need to fall because now you’re being led by the Father in all that you do. Your footsteps are being ordered when you have your eyes set on him. That way he won’t allow you to stumble, and if you do stumble it will be something you will grow from because he has his hands on you. Secondly, don’t let somebody’s opinion of you define you.  If you allow that, then whatever bad thing that happens in your life, you will allow other people to have the pen in writing your story. I want you to look in the mirror and be able to say, Yes I made that mistake, but that’s not who I am. I’m going to continue to write this story with my FAITH!!

There are way too many things waiting to take control. As guys, the static in our lives can rise to deafening levels.  It can be the job, friends, money, addiction, sex, other people’s opinions, acceptance, even other family members.  We must know where we stand and what is our foundation.  We need a relationship, a real interaction with the Creator.

I don’t know about you, but I need my steps ordered.  I’ve tried grabbing control way too long.  The Father has bigger and better things planned for you and for me so, as we walk, we keep our eyes him.  Everything else will fall into place.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

Soundtrack Inspiration: (I’m challenging myself to expand my musical selections this week so, for the first post, here’s a classic)