Archives For July 2012

The other day I was with some friends and we were discussing what makes a life look different from others. Specifically, being Christ-followers, we were talking about what could make our lives look noticeably different than non-followers. Now, I know this is a risky topic to take on because of the incredibly emotional nature of the discussion. But I think this is relevant for anyone really. Don’t we all want to live a life that is somehow different than the masses of humanity?

MatrixWe’ve all seen the Matrix. And if you haven’t, stop reading this blog right now and go rent all three of them and get to work. Seriously. (Me tapping my fingers as some of you leave…) Okay, now that we are all on the same page, don’t you sometimes feel like Neo? Not that you live in a matrix and the real world is at war with artificial intelligence. But that when you look around you it appears so many people walk around in almost a drone-like trance. If you ask people why they do things and they were honest much of the time I think you’d end up with something like…because. That’s it.

Don’t you want to just shake them? Yell in their face to start thinking and wake up? But that is exactly the issue. Have you first asked yourself if you are walking in the same trance? There is a reason that daily life seems so unchanged and mundane throughout history. Yes, the environment changes. The clothing changes. The technology and organization changes. But fundamentally not much really is different from 1,000 years ago. We are born and want to grow up fast while our parents tell us to slow down. We play, learn and strive to be a man or a woman. We seek out independence and freedom from the bounds of our childhood homes. We seek out work. We find work. We look to advance in our work. We build stuff. We seek for even more stuff in our lives. We want connection with other people. We meet that special someone. We have kids. We complain about having no time to play anymore. We complain that youth is wasted on the young. We pay taxes. We die. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Wow. I’m not really that much of a downer I swear. But isn’t that the thing we fear? Pointlessness. That if you strip away all the Facebook bluster about how exciting our lives are and take away the occasional fun experiences our lives just about follow this kind of progression. This is where we stood the other day asking the question: What makes our lives look any different from other lives?

If this were an easy answer I wouldn’t be putting it in a blog post. I’d be putting it on a piece of paper in a bottle and selling it for millions per bottle. I can’t solve this. The best I can do is give a single perspective in a maze of views. The single thought that I have had since that night is this: Our actions should hint that our minds are focused on something other than the things that make this life better.

Here’s the point: if this life has looked the same for so many for so long, should start looking elsewhere? Maybe you believe that there is no afterlife and there is no God. OK. But can you at least see that living for the betterment of mankind as a whole (i.e., beyond your life) is carries a greater legacy than anything else you could do with your life? And if you are a believer (of any sort, really), shouldn’t you be focused on the next life more than this one? Simple math tells you that even if you live 150 years on this earth that eternity is waaaayyy longer than that.

But here’s the thing, how many of us live day to day thinking about life beyond the here and now? I’d wager the number is pretty much zero. Why? After millions of years of being on the earth (or thousands depending on your persuasion), learning how to deconstruct DNA and build computers that can almost think as well as a human, why have we not realized that optimizing this life means thinking beyond it? I’m not saying this is a new thought nor am I saying this is particularly revolutionary. It’s not. And yet you and I don’t live this way.

The question I’m asking here is what does your life point to? What does my life point to? When I’ve died and been gone for 100 years, what will it have mattered that I was here? Maybe I’ll attempt an answer to that at some point. For today, I’ll just let that question sit.

Ripples

Since my last post on this I’ve gotten to thinking – maybe this whole issue is deeper than just wanting and needing. What if this is more foundational? I feel a need to dig in for a while in my own thoughts on this.

The reason I think this is so important is because I deeply believe that a dad’s life is always forming the future. We are always teaching. You and I. Like it or not we are always role models. If we covet, we pass that along. If we show honor to people around us, that becomes a part of our legacy. Our ripples becomes the waves that push generations in the direction of our hearts. And I’m not talking about coveting in the sense of that XBox you just had to buy (which is the 3rd game system you have) or that one time you opened the door for that lady. I’m talking about the patterns of our lives. The rhythm our hearts have developed. What repeatedly goes on in our minds and hearts which makes us who we are.

Because men, our kids are learning. If you aren’t involved with your kids they are learning to leave. To abandon responsibilities. If you are around but you think your kids don’t know about that thing you’re hiding from them, they are learning to lie, hide and live secret lives. Because it does come across that they don’t know you for real. Maybe not today, but eventually they see it. That’s the thing about rhythms, they’re not like events. You can hide events. You can’t hide rhythms.

So I’ve been thinking about what my rhythms are. Some good, some bad. For example, some good rhythms I think I have:

  • Persistent seeking to become better…spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically
  • Genuine love for my family
  • Desire to be significant and not just successful
  • Willingness to sacrifice for deeper relationships
  • Disciplining myself to develop good habits

But then, others are really bad:

  • Selfishness
  • Arrogance
  • Willingness to justify my own darkness
  • Quick-temper

Each of these things are like rocks I’m throwing into the lakes of my children’s lives and those around me. They create ripples. They send shock waves into their lives that impact who they are, the choices they know how to make and the relationships they have. And to be frank, that scares me. It scares the crap out of me. Because even the things I don’t see will help or hurt my kids. Maybe even more so than the things I’m conscious of.  The worst of it is that there is definitely a lot I don’t see – and don’t want to.  

In the end we can only do what we know to do. But I have to give that statement two caveats: we can always increase our knowledge of what to do and we are most likely not doing all we know to do. In a way, I find this greatly encouraging. This is something we can get our hands on and get to work with. This is practical. It’s not some head job that we have to work through. If I’m selfish – I simply start consciously putting others before myself. And I ask others to hold me accountable to that. If I’m arrogant, I ask people to call me out when it rears its head. And I also learn to ask myself about an action I’m about to take, “Is this intended to make me look good or someone else?” And if it’s for me, I just don’t do it. At least for a while until the beast is tamed.

Now it’s time to close down the computer and get to work. It’s one thing to write about this but it’s another to really experience life change. So this is me asking anyone that knows me to help me be true to my word here. I need help and I want to win this war. My kids lives are at stake…and so are yours.

I heard someone say once, “When you approach any leader, they are carrying a sword and a crown. The angle of your approach with that leader will determine which they respond with.” In other words, it is the heart of the person “challenging” authority that determines if it ends well or badly.

I think the lesson we’re all trying to teach our kids is to think for themselves and when they see something they don’t believe is right to approach it with humble confidence. The confidence to ask the question and the humility to realize there may be more to the issue they than can see.

If your kids approached you this way, wouldn’t this be victory?

Originally in response to a post on http://andimthedad.com/post/24427960853/re-question-authority

Yesterday I decided to take my son out to the local trails to ride his new bike.  I could tell that both of us needed some time together just hanging and doing something active.  He was so excited to get to skip his nap and go out with me to ride his bike.  Helmet firmly attached to his head and bike in hand, we pedaled to the entrance of the trails.  Happy to be outside, even in 95 degree weather, I looked forward to the next 60 minutes or so of just having fun with my oldest son.  Then it happened.  We came to the top of the entrance to the trails and it was a decline.  Nothing huge, mind you, but from the vantage point of a 3 year-old it may as well have been a ski ramp.

Ski Ramp

Caleb looked at me and flatly refused to ride down such an unreasonable slope. “I could fall, daddy.” We’d been having this struggle for a few weeks so I really wanted him to at least try it. But looking at him I could tell this hill was definitely not the one to die on. “You can just walk the bike down the hill and we’ll ride at the bottom where it’s flat.” Hesitantly he began the decent. Sparing all the details, the next 100 yards (60 of them being flat) took about 30 minutes and massive amounts of encouragement, then pushing and finally flat out threatening to keep him moving. Finally, exhausted and pouring sweat while getting no enjoyment from the outdoors anymore I decided we should just take a break. We sat down to some bottled water and trail mix. At this point I just want to go home, throw him into bed and go take a nap myself. Instead, we sit in silence for a few moments and just listen to the silence around us. A few bikes whiz by with mom, dad and kids chatting happily as if to taunt the two sidelined riders sitting there. Finally, I gathered my thoughts and said, “Buddy, look at me.” Slowly he turns his head and I can see that he’s frustrated with me, himself and the whole situation.

“You know I’m not trying to frustrate you, right?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I’m just trying to get you to ride your bike and enjoy it. You love riding your bike in circles in the driveway. Riding out here is even more fun and it’s something we can do together. I’d never tell you to do something I thought was too dangerous for you. You’ve just gotta trust me sometimes.”

“…” Caleb sits staring off in the distance.

“I’m really sorry if I frustrated you, though. It really wasn’t my intent.”

“Daddy, you really need to listen to people more.”

What?! Where did that come from? But as his statement settled in it drove deep into my heart. I do have a problem with listening to people sometimes. So caught up in what I’m trying to get done I miss the other person in the process. Is that what just happened? And wait, this kid is 3 years old! What the heck is going on here?

“Buddy, did you feel like I wasn’t listening to you?”

“Yeah. If you don’t listen to me I’m not going to want to play with you anymore.”

In a matter of about 10 seconds I’ve gone from daddy teaching his son a lesson to a guy having his heart ripped out like the witch doctor in the Temple of Doom. But I regain my composure and respond.

Indiana Jones - Heart

“Wow, kiddo. I didn’t mean to not listen to you. I’m so sorry you felt that way. Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll do my best to listen to you more and not frustrate you if you’ll promise to try and trust me when I ask you to do things that you aren’t sure about. Deal?”

“Sure.” (Pause)

Daddy?”

“Yeah, pal?”

“Will you play with me on the playground for a while?”

“Of course, buddy. Let’s go. You want me to carry your bike back for you?”

“Yeah!”

I knew the day would come when I’d get called out by my kids about something. I’m not perfect and I knew they’d catch me at some point. I just never dreamed it would be that profound of an insight nor at 3 years old. My kids just blow me away.

So I’ve been doing crossfit for a few months now and my performance is starting to really improve. But there is a major weakness in my process at this point – nutrition. The word diet is a four letter word after all. Who in their right mind decides that the best way to live life is without things like a Sunday morning donut run with the family? Or a couple of beers with a friend once in a while? And yes, if things are only occasional they may not be a big deal. But the problem is that there are a lot of things we only do occasionally and so it ends up being a constant flow of occasional habits.

So my wife and I have decided to set up an accountability to the Zone diet. Cherie was willing to do it when she saw Jennifer Aniston said it is what she does. (Hey, if you can look like her in your 40’s something is working.) I decided I wanted to try something because for weeks now I’ve felt like I needed either a giant cup of coffee or a long nap at about 2 PM every day. At 35 years old and being in relatively decent shape, that just ain’t right. Energy should be in more abundant supply at this point. So we’ve agreed and are working on getting our game plan together this week so we can start it up.

This brings us to the locker room. I’m standing there pouring sweat after a workout and my trainer (Ben Benson) comes in and we engage in what has become a pretty normal conversation for us.

Me: So my wife and I are starting a Zone diet accountability program this week.

Ben: That so?

Me: Yeah. And I’m going to start sharing my weekly eating log with you. I know I haven’t been doing this because frankly my nutrition has kinda sucked. But that’s going to change.

Ben: You get your eating right and I’ll bet your pull-ups will get better.

Me: Yeah…

Ben: Kind of hard doing pull-ups with what feels like a 50 lb. weight vest strapped to your chest…(as he leaves the room)

Me: (laughing to myself) Punk!

But that’s the kind of no-nonsense truth and motivation I love. And it’s all I’d expect from Ben. It’s just who he is and to be honest, I love it. Thanks, Ben.

Ben Benson

Previously, we’d tried the balance bike approach with Caleb to no real avail. You know, the bike with no pedals? The idea behind it is you just give the kid something to walk with, then they begin learning to pick up their feet as they go down hills to coast and learn to balance. We saw some awesome videos like this one and imagined our son ripping up the dirt trails with us recording the next viral kid video for YouTube. (OK, maybe that’s a little over-the-top. But we did think it was a pretty amazing idea.)

But the idea breaks down if your kid refuses to go down hills. Hm.  Now we have a pedal bike and he’s the driveway champion.  Strike one for daddy YouTube moments of glory.

I’m Nick Fury

July 22, 2012 — Leave a comment
Nick Fury and the Avengers

One of the best movies of all time.

The Avengers. Easily one of the greatest movies of all time. If you disagree, I’m sorry but all relationship bank account we had before now has been drained. You are dead to me. (Of course I’m kidding, Mom. Love you!)

After seeing a movie that epic you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be one of the Avengers. Personally, I think I’d want to be Thor. Maybe it’s because my wife has a bit of a thing for him. (Though she heartily denies this.) Yeah, Iron Man’s cool but I just have a hard time with his outright arrogance and selfishness. Captain America runs a really close #2 to Thor and only loses out because Thor can fly and travel inter-dimensionally. Hey, don’t act like you wouldn’t want that. The others are cool, but clearly these guys take the cake.

But then sitting there one day it struck me…I’m actually not any of the Avengers. I’m the guy with an eye patch. Nick Fury. What?! I don’t wanna be Nick Fury! (except the awesome name) He’s a spy that no one trusts and has no special abilities. He’s not particularly amazing in comparison to the team running the show. But there it is – I’m more like Nick Fury than any of the super-heroes.

nick-fury

Think about it. Fury is not the most powerful person in the room. He isn’t able to control the powers he’s dealing with. But he successfully brings out the best of amazingly powerful beings by helping them come together as a team and have a cause. He creates the right environment and finds the right “push” to help them become more than the sum of their parts for a greater purpose than they have previously known. He is a planner. A thinker. A man that is hopelessly outmatched by those he leads and yet still must find the courage and the will to lead none-the-less.

Maybe you think that is a bit dramatic. But maybe it isn’t so out of line with reality depending on how you view being a dad. My kids will very likely grow up to be more powerful than I ever was (if I’ve done my job). I absolutely can’t control my kids lives. (In the sense of guaranteeing how they turn out, the choices they make, the destiny of their lives.) My job is to take this incredibly powerful and yet intensely fragile group of individuals and turn it into a team. A team of love, valor and purpose. A team that comes together when times are bad and challenges each other to stay the course when times are good. I have to observe each member of this team and know what buttons need pushing at times to help them find out just how powerful they are and I have to give them opportunities to overcome their demons.

Yeah, I think I kinda like this. From now on you can call me Fury. I think something epic is about to unfold.

Kid Pitching a Fit

Gimme!!

Ever heard it? It starts as a slow but familiar request.

“Please, please?! I want this so bad.” It quickly escalates in urgency.

“I’ll do anything! I really need this!”

You know what I’m talking about. That grating, high-pitched whine that makes the tension in your shoulders build almost immediately. The pulse quickens, lips press together, eyes close in a desperate attempt to imagine a happy place. Then when you open your eyes you stand there a bit taken back by the fact that the person you’re staring at is…you.

I heard a talk the other day about coveting. I know. It’s a pretty old fashioned word that likely brings up thoughts of an angry guy on a soap box screaming about something to do with brimstone and sulfur. This talk was different. And it got me to thinking: just what is coveting? Maybe it’s what happens inside of me when I want something and it goes from a desire to a “need.” Not a legitimate need, mind you. But one of those “needs” that leads to choices I would advise a friend against making. Then the speaker made this point: we’ve taken covetousness and turned it into a value. When we see someone NOT driven we call them unambitious and look down on them.

Of course, my first reaction to this was that it was probably true for someone else. But the more I think about it I’m starting to wonder. When I see people that are satisfied in life, what do I think? Do I admire them for having the maturity to know their needs are met and to be happy with that? Or do I think that in some way they really just don’t think they can do any better and given up? Is their contentedness something I want to celebrate and use as a reminder to not allow myself to be caught up in the lie of the American dream that says I need to have it all? And when I think about all I have, do I tend toward thinking I’ve gotten closer to reaching satisfaction? (I’ve rarely had that feeling, by the way.)

Funny thing is, when I stop and think about what I want my life to have looked like when I’m 80 it never has a lot to do with money or stuff. Granted, there are aspects of that dream that are material. I’d love to have a house my kids and their families could visit and have great times in. I’d like to be able to travel and even pay for others to come if they couldn’t afford it. Be able to eat at nice restaurants around the world. But those are really small side items.

Maybe you’re wondering where I’m going with this. I guess I’m thinking about what kind of attitude I’m passing on to my boys. I mean, my responsibility as a dad is to help them know what it means to be a man, how to be one and to give them the tools to live a significant life. But if part of what rubs off on them is well, covetousness, that seems like a step backward from those goals.

My challenge is blindness. Am I blind to what I don’t see? Kind of like what the speaker said, “We’ve taken covetousness and turned it into a virtue.” Have I lived so long in a culture that looks at this issue as a non-issue that I’m not able to see its subtle influence on me? And this is such a polarized issue that it’s really hard to get good feedback. One side of the fence says all is well. If you’ve made it you’ve earned it. Spend as you please. Give a little away to appease the guilt and just keep on going. The other side is equally as intense. Sell it all! Move into a field somewhere and forgo all earthly delights! Material things are the devil! (Imagine the Waterboy’s Mama here)


Waterboy's Mama

Material things are the devil!

When my kids get older and they are able to look back on their days under my leadership I want them to be able to say that they didn’t just learn how to be polite and do good things. More than knowing how to make money. Beyond the basics of having the right behaviors. I want them to be able to say they “caught” my attitudes and that they are thankful I had the right ones. That my heart was not only good but well trained.

And so I find myself asking, “Where do I start to evaluate my heart?” And what other issues are buried down in my life that are so normal that they are practically invisible at this point? I wish I had a neat bow to tie around this post. Instead, I just send it out as more of a reflection. This is bound to be a tension I’ll wrestle with the rest of my life. At least I know I won’t be solving it today.