Fathered By God (review)

I took a friend’s recommendation and read John Eldredge’s Fathered By God this week. Much better than I expected.

My friend suggested it for several reasons, but I believe he was prompted by our conversation about men’s seasons of life. There are several authors who’ve taken on this subject. Fathered By God is Eldredge’s take, and it’s worth reading.

The enemy’s one central purpose-to separate us from the Father.

Chapter 3, Boyhood

Guys, you should read it for yourself to see if you agree. But here’s the list of the six stages he walks you through:

  1. Boyhood
  2. Cowboy
  3. Warrior
  4. Lover
  5. King
  6. Sage

The problem of self-identity is not just a problem for the young. It is a problem all the time.

Chapter 8, Sage

For me, the best takeaways were from the last three stages. Not rocket science due to my age. Of those three chapters, King captured me the most. Here are three quotes from the chapter:

I remember Dallas Willard saying once that he believes the whole history of God and man recounted in the Bible is the story of God wanting to entrust men with his power, and men not being able to handle it.

Becoming a king is something we accept only as an act of obedience. The posture of the heart in a mature man is reluctance to take the throne but willing to do it on behalf of others.

One of the big lies of the king stage is the idea that now you ought to know enough to operate out of your own resources. Not true. You will be faced with new challenges, bigger challenges, and the stakes are much higher.

Chapter 7, King

It’s doubtful you’ll agree with everything Eldredge writes, but I’m guessing we’d all agree on this one:

At nearly every stage of our masculine journey, something in us needs to be dismantled and something needs to be healed.

Chapter 9, Let Us Be Intentional

If you’re curious about these stages or you are in need of dismantling or healing, give this book a chance. I’m glad I did.

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Barking at the Fence

Earlier this year, my friend Mark invited me to regularly cohost his podcast, The Next Man Up. We’re roughly 20 episodes in, and he hasn’t fired me.

In the middle of recording an episode about Angry White Males, I remembered a reel I’d seen recently that seemed relevant to our conversation. The video showed the behavior of two dogs on opposite sides of a fence. Check it out:

The episode topic surfaced because of a college course based on it. Our conversation led us down several roads. All the roads circled around this truth: everyone deals with anger. It’s not just men, and it’s not just white folks. All God’s children have moments of anger…which can turn into seasons…which can turn into years. The question we wrestled with is “How do we deal with it so that it doesn’t become a college course title?”

Plenty of answers exist for that question. I’m going to do something that might anger you and answer it with two other questions: 1) What fuels your anger and 2) What are you going to do with it.

I’ve been asking myself that first question for two years. And yes, it’s taking me that long to get to the real answer. Why? At first I was doing what most of us do-looking at what I wanted it to be rather than digging deep in my soul to discover what it actually was. It’s a lot easier to bark at the fence. Removing the fences we erect to keep us safe and comfortable forces us to see more of what God sees-the sacredness of his creation, including those on the other side.

What led me to start asking question one was when I was asked question two. I was barking about folks on the other side of the fence when a trusted voice asked, “What are you going to do with your anger, John?” They had stopped listening for what had happened to me and who did it. They removed that fence and asked me to see what they saw, a man caressing his anger. My erected fence was gone with one question.

Stop and consider what anger does to you. How does it impact your gut? What does it do to your emotional health? How does anger manifest in your body?

Ready to stop barking?

Start tearing down the fence. Ask God to open your eyes to what he sees.

Feel the blessing of finding your answers to the fuel. Embrace the healing when your anger is replaced by beauty.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Vulnerability

One effort, and it is for me, to achieve better and deeper this year is to listen to more podcasts. I don’t tend to follow every episode of a podcast; therein lies my effort. Rather than just tune in for every episode dropped, I have to search for episodes that speak to what I’m looking to receive, areas of growth I need to pay attention to.

My friend Mark cohosts a podcast called The Next Man Up. His target audience is fathers. Since I’m not his target, I tend not to tune in to every episode. Reality is, though, most of the content is for men in general; so regardless of your stage of life as a man, you get something from each episode.

For example, I just listened to Episode #91. The subject is vulnerability, which men stink at. I’m not the worst at it, but I’m not the best either. But I know this, if a podcast episode has the name Brene Brown in the show notes, I’m probably going listen. I haven’t regretted doing so yet.

Guys, I’m not going to rehash the episode’s content. Odds are pretty high you need to get better in this area also. Click on the link. It’s a good use of thirty minutes today.

Tackling Pornography

Earlier this year, I challenged my friend Mark Stanifer, a men’s ministry leader, to create content that would help men address a prevalent issue in our culture that we don’t really want to address.  At first, he wasn’t quick to jump on it for many reasons.  But the more we talked about the need it seemed he decided he couldn’t not do it.

So he got to work.  We planned a talk on the subject, and we scheduled an event for men and their teenage sons.  For several reasons we had to cancel the event, mostly due to low response.  It was never said to me, but I’m guessing a major reason was men just couldn’t get their hearts and minds to the place where they’d show up to a talk about this subject.  What was the subject?  Pornography.

Well, now you are probably thinking, “Yep.  Nobody’s going to show up to talk about that.  What were you thinking?”

A conversation I had yesterday answers that question.  A grandmother in our church asked me what resources I knew to share with a newly widowed single mother with a 13-year-old son who has recently started dabbling in pornography.  Think about it.  A middle-school-aged son has lost his dad.  His mother has lost her son’s leader, mentor, counselor, and confidant.  There are so many layers to what that situation means for the two of them.

Because Mark didn’t steer away from creating this needed content, I was grateful to be able to say, “Yes, I have a suggestion.”  That suggestion was for this mom to listen to a two-part series called Tackling Pornography that Mark and his ministry partner released recently.

Here are a couple of takeaways that I encourage you to take from this post:

  1. Tackling something hard or uncomfortable is necessary for personal and community health and growth.  When we have the opportunity to provide answers/encouragement/resources, we do everyone a favor by surrendering to taking the first step.
  2. Pornography doesn’t have to remain in the corner.  If we care about ourselves and others, we must follow the lead of Mark and others to bring it out in the open.  Darkness prevails as long as no one flips the light switch.

What If, Men?

I’ve traveled to Jordan twice this year. Much could be said about traveling to that part of the world. One thing I noticed the first time and then even more the second time is this: Arab men know how to do community.

They enjoy talking to each other. They enjoy healthy disagreement. They share the good and the bad. They lean into one another. They plan time together. From my experience, they do it better than we Americans. So I’m doing what I can now to change that experience.

We have an opportunity. If the opportunity could be boiled down to one word, I believe that word is trust. Much like we have to grow our trust in God, we should pay attention to grow our trust in one another. It’s quite possible that the former is needed and necessary in order for the latter to happen. So how do we go about growing these trusts?

TRUST BY SHARING YOUR FEARS

Yesterday one of my friends did this with me during a breakfast conversation. He shared a fear he’s dealing with, and I’m the first male that knows. He seemed to feel better just because he had a brother to share his fear with. Scripture tells us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Imagine how lighter the community of men would be if we shared our fears rather than bearing them all alone. What if we started by sharing our fears with God and asking him to give us the courage to share them with a brother?

TRUST BY BEING HONEST

We have the habit of not being real, not being completely honest and transparent. Guys, you are not going to be weak by being real. You are going to be stronger because you are not denying the truth. The truth can only set you free when you speak it and live in it. Earlier this year I watched a brother go through a trying season, life threatening, because he refused to be honest. Imagine how stronger the community of men would be if we embraced honesty. What if we started by being honest with God and humbling ourselves to be honest with a brother?

TRUST BY TAKING THE CHANCE

As I’m writing this, the news is reporting the murder/suicide of a deputy sheriff’s family in a nearby county. Familiar story-no one knows why, no one suspected it, no one saw it coming. We can grow our trust in numerous ways of taking chances. What if we took a personal chance by considering a mental health check up as much as a physical one? What if we took a chance by pointing out odd behavior to our brothers? What if we took a chance by asking how to pray for one another? What if we took a chance to follow through on a Holy Spirit nudge to reach out to a brother? Imagine the impact to the community of men if we took more chances. What if we started by asking God to give us a chance to take today?

31 Proverbs Highlights: #20-Honorable Men

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel…Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man? (‭Proverbs‬ ‭20‬:‭3‬,6 HCSB)

“A good man is hard to find.” How many times have you heard that statement? (Let’s not get into where and by whom)

“An honorable man is hard to find.” I can’t say I’ve ever heard that one. Can you?

Maybe we should have. Or maybe we should be asking it.

These two verses start the list of what makes a man honorable:

  • He works to resolve a dispute rather than pick a fight.
  • He doesn’t always have to get his way.
  • He doesn’t look for an argument just to get into one.
  • He doesn’t have to proclaim his loyalty.
  • He proves his trustworthiness over and over again not out of necessity but by nature of his character.

What else makes a man honorable? Leave a comment if you have an answer.