#FatherFactor

#FatherFactor

Last year, I was contacted by a guy named Andy from the Pacific Northwest and asked if I’d be interested in contributing to a book that he was working on.  The book he described was focused on the two topics that I write/think most frequently about, faith and fatherhood.  After a quick google search, I realized that Andy was not a hacker or a serial killer, that he had an epic beard, and that this was a real book project.  Of course I had to be a part of it!

I’m happy to announce that the project is done and that on October 14, 2014, Father Factor: American Christian Men on Faith and Fatherhood is set to be released!!!

father_factor_cover

 

The Father Factor project is part of the I SPEAK FOR MYSELF book series, published in partnership with White Cloud Press.  The book explores the intersection between faith and fatherhood, which is core to who I am. The book contains forty essays by forty men all under the age of forty. We represent a wide variety of Christian faith perspectives: Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Baptist, Church of God, United Church of Christ—and a whole host of different ethnicities: Korean, Mexican, Pacific Islander, Egyptian, Chinese, African American, and Caucasian. We represent all sorts of professions – ministers, professors, a real estate agent, an actor, nonprofit leaders, stay-at-home dads, and a call center representative. We can be found in cities as far apart as Honolulu, Hawaii and Paris, France, and many all points in between. Each of us shares a compelling story about faith and fatherhood…The finished work is amazing!!!

I’d highly recommend the book for your personal library and for small group discussions.  The website is here…Take a look around and take advantage of a great discounted price between now and October 13th!

Thanks to everyone who helped bring this project into being, and I look forward to all of you engaging on some level with the book!

Grace & Peace!!!

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Silence Says Something

Silence Says Something

Note: Back in April 2014, I wrote this post as a part of an online series on Race and Justice for Transform Minnesota, a local, evangelical organization here in Minneapolis. Since that time, several things have happened that have deepened my resolve to call for cross-cultural dialogue among Christians:

  1. Death of Eric Garner – On July 17th, a 43-year old New York man died after being placed in a prohibited chokehold by police as they tried to question and arrest him. In video of the incident, you can hear Garner screaming that he couldn’t breathe. The incident is under investigation.
  2. Creating Options Together Conference – CRU Inner City, a Christian organization with partners in nearly every urban center in the country, hosted a week-long conference designed to practically equip leaders to minister in urban areas.  It was a great week that provided a glimmer of hope in the midst of evangelical culture.  
  3. Death of John Crawford – On August 5th, a 22-year old Ohio man was shot and killed by police in a Wal-Mart store while holding a toy gun, a BB/Pellet gun that he had picked up in the store.  Witnesses report that Crawford screamed, “It’s a toy,” just before being shot by police. His death has been ruled a homicide and is under investigation. 
  4. Death of Mike Brown – On August 9th, an unarmed 18-year old Missouri teen was shot multiple times and killed by police.  The incident is under investigation and details really are unclear.  The incident, however, has set off several days of protests and confrontations between police and residents. 

Each of these events has impacted me in its own way, and they leave me more determined than ever to keep sharing this message. Grace & Peace! 

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I love communication. I feel it is one of the greatest abilities given to humanity. Be it the cry of an infant, the excited squeal of a group of teenage girls at the mall, the cheerful banter of a family over a meal, even the sobbing that accompanies the loss of a loved one—I can’t imagine what life would be like without the gift of communication.

“In a loud, painful public discourse, white evangelicals have been largely silent, absent and evasive. Why is that?”

The things that we say—our spoken words—are probably the most recognizable form of communication, but many people would agree that everything about us communicates something: our facial expressions, outfits, posture, choice of friends or spending habits. They all communicate something about who we are, what we value, where we are headed.

Even with all of that being true, there is an aspect of communication that we often misunderstand or overlook altogether. I’m referring to silence. Silence communicates.

When I think about the nearly 13 years since I met my wife during our college years and the eight years that I’ve served in vocational ministry in Minneapolis, I’ve had to become a much better communicator. Being married and being a pastor have taught me to listen for words, to watch for nonverbal cues, and to pay attention to moments of silence.

I’ve become acutely aware of the ways in which silence can be just as effective an indicator of a person or group’s thoughts, feelings, values and intentions as a mouthful of words. At times, silence conveys a message that causes one to have great hope. At other times, silence is deafening, harmful and cowardly.

“Unfortunately, there has been an undeniable silence among white evangelical Christians.”

Let me explain one example of the latter.

Jordan Davis is a name the average American probably had never heard before 2012 and probably had forgotten again until last month. That’s understandable, though. Jordan was a regular young man from Florida. His life was not in any way remarkable or noteworthy. He lived the life one would expect of a teenage boy: full of music, sports and time with his friends.

What separates Jordan’s story from that of the vast majority of other American teens is that in November 2012, he had an encounter with an armed adult at a Florida gas station. At the end of that encounter, Jordan Davis lay in the back of a friend’s SUV with two gunshot wounds in his legs and another that had ripped through his liver, lungs and aorta.

Jordan died that night and his shooter drove away, returned to his hotel and had a drink before falling asleep. The shooter was later arrested, but not until he and his fiancé had driven 130 miles the next day back to their home.

Fast forward to February 2014. Just months after handing out a not guilty verdict in the murder of another young black Florida teen named Trayvon Martin, the state sat on the brink of another pivotal legal decision in the trial of Jordan’s killer. Despite the testimony of Jordan’s three friends who were also in the vehicle that night and the damaging testimony of his own fiancé, Jordan’s killer was found not guilty of first-degree murder.

In a strange legal ruling, the jury convicted the shooter on the charge of attempted murder for firing 9-10 shots into the vehicle, but did not convict him of first-degree murder when three of those bullets found their target. The public outrage was immediate and fierce. Unfortunately, it was mostly divided along racial lines.

In the weeks since the verdict, there has been a lot communicated by men and women who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. There have been calls for boycotts of the state of Florida, appeals to the moral conscience of our entire nation, prayer for the safety and protection of our children and much more. Cries for God’s justice have echoed from pulpits, pews, prayer benches and street corners.

Unfortunately, there has been an undeniable silence among white evangelical Christians. In a loud, painful public discourse, white evangelicals have been largely silent, absent and evasive. Why is that?

I believe there are a few reasons, some understandable, others a bit more difficult to excuse. Here’s my best estimation of why many white evangelicals chose silence in this and other cases of racial injustice:

Fear

Many white evangelicals realize that confronting racial injustice is dirty, messy work. The terrain is full of land mines and any misunderstanding—any comment taken out of context, any assumption made—can potentially “set things off.” I’ve seen situations where well-meaning friends have been accused of being prejudiced, ignorant, even racist. For many, that possibility is enough to keep them quiet, even when biblical justice calls for them to do otherwise.

Perceived Lack of Skills

Similar to the previous reason, many white evangelicals don’t believe they have the right skills to navigate this type of situation. They believe they lack the right words or the necessary experiences. Being silent often seems less treacherous.

Distance

Some white evangelicals are so emotionally disconnected from the likes of a Jordan Davis that they really have no reference point in which to identify. The idea of their teenage children leaving home and losing their life at the hand of some troubled adult just isn’t a reality for them. They remain quiet, often while harboring thoughts like, There must be more to the story. Stuff like this doesn’t just happen. Social distance makes it difficult for us to identify with those in other stages of life.

Unresolved Guilt

Finally, many white evangelicals remain silent about racial injustice because in order to address situations like the Jordan Davis case, we would have to address the historic, systemic roots of racism and injustice based on race in this country, including in the American church. Unresolved guilt, even for Bible-believing Christians is a struggle.

One of the underlying reasons that evangelicals are more committed to international missions than they are to missional living at home is that in order to do the hard work of justice in America, it would require us to acknowledge the deep, dark legacy of racism and racial injustice that haunts the American church. It’s easier to do compassion work on the other side of the globe than it is to let justice roll down our own streets.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood well the complexities of balancing the call to follow Christ with the challenge to fight injustice. In fact, his work to eradicate racial injustice was fueled by his love of God and his proper understanding of the Imago Dei. In 1956, Dr. King said: “There are not gradations in the image of God. Every man, from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that.”

I join Dr. King in pointing us toward a day when every human life is equally valued in our churches, our communities and given equal protection by our justice system. Even more so, I look with eagerness to the day when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, freeing us from all vestiges of sin, death and hatred.

Until then, let us not give in to any impulse that would keep us silent! Until then, let us refuse to be silenced by fear, ability, distance or guilt!

Silence

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2014. Elevate.

2014. Elevate.

As  2014 wakes up and stretches its limbs, I’m excited to share my vision for the year.  Unlike past years, it is not elaborate.  In fact, it’s a single word, ELEVATE, accompanied by a single image shown here:

Michael Jordan Playground…Pic Courtesy of TheShoeGame.Com

Michael Jordan Playground…Pic Courtesy of TheShoeGame.Com

For years, I’ve been a shrinker.  I’ve been overly concerned with the opinions of others.  In many cases, I would shrink to avoid the possibility of standing out or making someone else feel uncomfortable.  It ‘s exhausting.  So, I’ve decided that I won’t do it anymore.  In 2014, I plan to be more fully me.  I plan to give myself the same consideration that I give others.  I plan to pursue things that I’ve postponed due to fear or worse.
A few years ago, I stumbled across a piece that set me on this journey towards this new place.  I would often end my time with a group of young men in our youth group by having us read this aloud.  I thought it was impacting them.  In fact, it was impacting me, as well.

Here’s to 2014, friends!

Our Deepest Fear — Marianne Williamson

 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

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It’s OK to Celebrate Dads (Part I)

It’s OK to Celebrate Dads (Part I)

If you’ve followed my blog over the last year or so, you know that I write primarily about family and fatherhood.  In fact, telling stories and raising awareness around those two topics were huge motivations for starting the blog in the first place.  Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and you’ll see that a huge portion of my content relates, in some way, to family and fatherhood. Check out my Instagram and I’m sure you know by now what you’d find.  That’s right…many of my pics capture moments that reflect family and fatherhood.  All of this is true not by accident or by consequence.  There are many other topics that I find interesting, but I’ve come to believe that few things are more important and worthy of discussion than family and fatherhood.

That is why even after the Father’s Day holiday has passed, I feel inclined to invite all of you, my friends and associates, to join me in celebrating fathers and the contributions that they make to our families and communities! This post is one in a series of four that I hope will free us up to celebrate fathers in more genuine ways!

My message is pretty straightforward: It’s ok…Go ahead and celebrate dads!

 

 

Why is Permission Necessary?

 When I think about family dynamics and reflect on what I notice in society, I observe a growing reluctance to acknowledge and affirm the role of the father in the life of the family.  It seems that we have formed this false dichotomy where celebrating fathers is degrading to mothers.  Similarly, we often hesitate to celebrate fathers who are responsible and present, fearing that we might offend families where fathers are absent. In the name of sensitivity, we are often quite muted towards fathers.  On one hand, we wave the banner saying that fatherlessness is an epidemic.  On the other hand, we struggle or refuse to say thanks with any regularity and clarity to men who rise to the occasion day after day.  We know better; yet, we hold back.  My hope is that we can begin to address that breakdown!

So, If you’ve ever hesitated to make a big deal out of a father handling his business, take this opportunity to go bananas!

It’s a celebration!

 

Discussion Question: Would you say that it’s more natural to celebrate mothers? Why or Why not?

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Part II: We Recreate what we Celebrate (Coming on Friday, June 22nd)

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4 Essentials of King-like Service

4 Essentials of King-like Service
King2013

Photo courtesy of BlackEnterprise.com

Today, many around the country and many others around the world will take part in a day of remembrance and service in honor of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.  I’ve said for many, many years that Dr. King tops my list of the greatest Americans.  His life’s work, his strategic leadership on behalf of the oppressed, and his supreme sacrifice place him in a sphere that only few other leaders can even begin to approach. No other public figure has had a greater impact on my life!  Later this morning, I’ll be serving with Samaritan’s Feet International to bless 300 Minneapolis kids.  We’ll wash their feet, give them a new pair of shoes, and pray with them and their families.  I’ve never done this before, and I’m very excited about the opportunity!

As I prepare to serve this morning, I wanted to spend a moment reflecting on a few of the attributes that I aspire to daily as I work to live out the Gospel and carry on the prophetic work of great leaders like King. 

  • Courage – I pray regularly that I would have courage to see what is happening in the world around me and have the fortitude to respond well.  Sometimes, responding well demands an act of compassion, a simple encouragement, speaking up for someone else, or denying myself some bit of comfort.  At other times, responding well means identifying and working to dismantle systems and traditions that feed into cycles of oppression and inequality.  Whatever the case, I want to have the courage to speak up, even when being quiet seems easier.
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