Crowds

I’m not a fan of crowds.

Give me a beach by myself and I’ll be happy.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I can attend things like church or concerts.  Put me in the midst of a crowded event where things aren’t moving and I’ll start to get uncomfortable. Crowds, besides being oppressive, can hurt us in other ways.

Our older son has had some issues in school the past two days.  As I read over the email from his teacher, I found myself getting frustrated. He hangs out with two kids in his class and, for some reason, they seem to be the center of trouble. And I know Carter is a follower.  He’s not the type to create issues.

So, he’s in the wrong crowd and we’ve found ourselves at one of those parenting crossroads.

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I’ve written before how I’m a fan of Pastor Erwin McManus out at Mosaic Church in LA. I remember, in one of his books, reading about how we are a society based on collective worship.  Youtube a popular artist playing live and you’ll find evidence in a second.  There’s an old clip of U2 playing Where the Streets Have No Name at a castle in Ireland and the sea of people is mesmerizing. It is, in condensed form, worship.

We are also wired to find community. As an introvert, this had made me uncomfortable more than once. I do believe that God places people in our lives to help us through the dark times and celebrate in the light.

I sat down with Carter yesterday and asked him about his friends.  I told him he needs to look at the choices he makes, that his friends will show him where he’s going.

We often stress about our own stories but, when your child is involved, their narrative sticks in your mind. More than once today I’ve thought about what he was doing in school and prayed he would have a good day.

I’ve had friends from when I was Carter’s age who’ve gone and had great success personally and professionally.  I’ve had others who’ve ended up in prison. At the time, these people were just my classmates, kids I’d see a few days a week for a few months of the year.

One guy I knew passed away from cancer the summer we graduated high school.

It can’t be easy being a kid today. Their processing demand is much more than anything we had to deal with. There are moments I sit across from him and wonder about the universe inside his mind.

This week has not been once of peace but I hope, as we go, we can find some. Carter will continue to find his own crowds.  We can only hope his internal radar gets tuned towards those that enhance who he is as a person, those he can laugh and grow with, the ones whose friendship will extended into decades.

The ones who will make him happy and challenge him to be a better person. The journey will not be easy, but worth it in the end.

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)