On Father’s Day

For Father’s Day I thought I would share some thoughts of what it’s like to be a father as well as share some reflections on my own father.

Prior to Morgan’s birth I had some anxiety about becoming a father. There are the usual issues that were running through my mind like the pressures of provision and the huge increase in responsibility. However, a large part of my anxiety came from wondering if I could or would measure up to the father that I had.

My dad is the most patient man I know and has one of the biggest servant’s hearts of anyone I know. He’s quite long-suffering and I long ago came to the conclusion that if he was angry at someone or pretty frustrated with someone – that person more than likely had done more than enough to merit such a response. However those times are so few that I could probably name them on one hand.

I’ve seen that part of entering into fatherhood is reconciling the differences between my father and I. I am quite different from my dad and because of that I’ve wondered how could I be the same kind of dad for my kids as he was to me and my sisters when I am so different. While I’ve grown to become more patient, I’m not the most natural servant nor am I incredibly long-suffering. I’m much more reactionary, intense, and cognitive while he demonstrates patience, approachability and warmth. These are some of the qualities I most admire in him and as a result I think I must have grown anxious in measuring myself against his strengths.

Upon the birth of Morgan, I was amazed at how natural fatherhood came. Things changed the moment Morgan came into the world at 3 and 1/2 pounds. I was surprised at how much fatherhood seemed to flow instinctively. Almost right off the bat, there were parts of me that were drawn out of me because of Morgan that I didn’t quite know were there. Over time I’ve seen how God can use who He’s made me to be to be the right father for Morgan, our new baby boy to come, and any other children that may come our way. It’s a great thing to be free from comparison so that I might be able to be free to be the man and father that God’s called me to be and that I want to be.

That’s not the end of my point however. What I’ve realized is that the father I am or that I am enjoying being to Morgan is not totally disconnected from my dad. While comparing myself to him does no good, I see that so much of who I am reflects him and the kind of relationship that he has had with me. I feel secure in who I am for the most part and I have felt secure as a man in the roles of both husband and father. I’m seeing more and more how rare this is as so many husbands and fathers struggle daily with their manhood and sense of self.

So I may never be the father my dad was to me, but I can enjoy knowing that the father I am and will be is in no small measure a result of my dad’s love, time, and sacrifice. I don’t need to fear what I am not, but I am most grateful for who he’s helped me to become.

I cannot fail to mention how amazing it is to watch him with Morgan. It’s almost like I get a glimpse of how he was with us as kids.

Also, if you could pray for him – his second surgery to have stents put into arteries around his heart is on Tuesday. Pray that the procedure goes well and that he has a quick recovery.

Grandma Rose

Last night we celebrated Rose’s 60th birthday. It’s the first time in about a year and half that Christine’s whole family was all together and it was fun to celebrate Rose. Christine’s sister Laurie led a process of putting together an incredible photo album along with some poems and writings from members of the family. I thought I would include the poem that Christine put together for her mom’s album.

“The important thing about my mom
is that she is the most caring person I know.
She cares deeply for others.
She is a servant, hardworker, and loves to spoil us.
I can’t imagine the last few years without my mom.
She cared for me when life felt like more than I could bare.
She has provided for my family in ways I will never forget.
She is my mother and she is my friend.
I am forever grateful for my mom and I thank God for her.
But the most important thing about my mom
is that she is the most caring person I know.”

Rose has been great to get to know from the in-law perspective. She’s been very good to me over the years and quite encouraging. Some of my favorite moments were with her when we used to visit them when they lived in West Virginia, playing Mexican Train and Scrabble, and of course when she loves on Christine and Morgan. She’s a quality woman and it’s really fun producing grandchildren for her.

She assures me that there is much more to my value to the family than my reproductive capability 🙂

It’s a…

….BOY!

We found out in our last appointment just before our big trip to our summer assignment in Colorado. If you look to the right, you can see Baby Beav in all his glory. You can tell he doesn’t seem to be too shy around the camera.

I was expecting a girl, but I’m excited about the prospect of a baby boy and so is Christine. It feels new and exciting, though it’s totally new territory from where we’ve been with Morgan.

So we’re now beginning to think through names. Christine has vetoed all names including “Holmes” and “Beavis” so I’m gonna have to dig deep on this one.

We arrived safe and sound at Christine’s sister’s in Colorado and after a brief celebration of her mom’s 60th b-day we’ll be off to Fort Collins. Some people say the best part of a trip is the journey itself. With a 2 year old I might have to say that the best part of the trip is actually reaching your destination.

Morgan Moments

Here are some conversations with Morgan of late…

  • After driving through the parking lot at a park because it was too full to get a spot we decided to go home. Morgan says to us, “That was too fast through the park….That wasn’t very fun for me!”
  • After taking medicine a couple nights ago she tells me “I need some water to chase it down.”
  • At our last “family movie night” before we leave for Colorado (Charlotte’s Web), she asks my dad, “Come sit over here so we can talk to each other.”
  • To Christine after Christine came back from a haircut, “Mama I like your hair. It’s really blonde.”

She keeps us laughing as well as amazed at how quick she is!

We’re off tomorrow morning for the 1st leg of our family roady. Pray for safety (& sanity)!

Prophets in Systems

While I could probably share several thoughts on congregations or ministries as systems (and I may), I’ve been highly interested in the role of the “prophet” in a system. Much of this interest has been fueled by spending the last 10 weeks taking a prophets class though I’m always interested in prophet related insights because of how I tend to function in systems myself.

Steinke writes on page 44 of How Your Church Family Works,

“…True prophets are without honor in their own anxious country. Many of God’s messengers are ignored, mocked, or annihilated. But the false prophets who cry, ‘Peace, peace,’ and heal the wounds of the people lightly are too often welcomed. They promise stability but invite no reflection. False prophets offer simple, immediate relief. They don’t challenge people to change their limited point of view.” 

Given the tendency of groups to move towards stability and conformity (homeostasis), it only makes since that a force that may seek to challenge the dynamics and inner-workings of the system may face a stiff challenge if not fierce opposition.

In my readings of N.T. Wright as well as the Prophets class I’ve thought about the parable of the wicked tenants. The landowner sends a couple representatives to bring a corrective message to those that were being unfaithful in stewarding what had been entrusted to them. The wicked tenants beat the messengers and finally the landowner sent his own Son thinking that surely they would respect Him. However the Son was beaten and killed for bringing both the message of correction as well as for his representation of the landowner.

In the past I’ve focused on this merely as a parable that served as a prediction or “proof-text” that Jesus knew ahead of time that he was going to die. I think there is an element of that there, but the emphasis of this is really Jesus placing himself in the same position as the many prophets that the Lord had sent to His people. The prophets were continually rejected (see life of Jeremiah) and ironically much of the rejection comes at the hands of the current leaders of the religious “system” of the day. Jesus himself finally comes as the last prophet and is dealt with in similar fashion by the religious system of his day.

I’m beginning to see that the religious (and other) authorities over the course of Israel’s history were continually moving towards cultural homeostasis in the context of pagan nations. It was easier for the leaders and the people to adopt behavior patterns that were part of the larger system of the surrounding pagan nations. The Lord sent his prophets to call them to repentance and commit again to the Lord’s covenant. They were in effect saying to the people and leadership that they were embracing a corrupt system and they needed to turn from it and return to the “system” that God had called them to.

Common sense tells us that this is a rough calling for the prophet, but from a systems’ perspective the prophetic role becomes an even more unenviable position. Many leaders seek to find quick solutions so as to reduce anxiety. The prophet sees when the whole system is based on a faulty foundation and is willing to create a certain level of anxiety that may result in learning and change. Anxious communities, people, and leaders (anxiety meaning they have a high vested interest in their self-preservation in the context of community) react against the prophets because their way of living/dealing/coping is threatened.

Obviously the gospels portray Jesus in this kind of role with the leaders of his day as well dozens of others of Biblical leaders. It’s relevant to consider how the system might be functioning off of a faulty foundation. It’s relevant to consider how the prophet’s most severe opposition was actually from the religious leadership – those who had “control” and the most to lose. I’ll be sharing more thoughts down the road on the importance of the role of the leader in any system, but any leaders should seek to recognize who the true prophetic voices are in their system who can help bring needed change, learning, and even repentance. They should also recognize the difference between those true prophets and those who claim to be prophets, but are only seeking to reduce their anxiety – or as Steinke puts it, those who are chasing “fool’s gold.”

Incans From Another Planet

A lady approached me a couple days ago and got within 3 inches of my face to tell me that she had just identified someone was was an Incan, part of an ancient civilization, but who is really from outer space. Furthermore, there are billions of them, but we don’t need to worry about alien invasion quite yet because all they want to say is thank you.

Theological Mind Bender

I’ve been listening to some seminars given by British scholar / Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright over the course of my sabbatical and a few days ago he made a point that I’ve been revisiting in my mind over and over again.

He said something to the effect that God has revealed some of His future in our past.

He has argued that so much of the gospels in particular must be interpreted in light of its historical and eschatological context. In Jesus’ ministry God has revealed so much more of the future of God and His plan. However, for us to learn from this revelation of God’s future we must do the work of investigating what God revealed in past historical context.

The church fathers are a good example. They were dealing with a different set of problems, but in there historical context they were still seeking to be the light of the world to their generation. Because something of God’s future was revealed in their corporate life and witness, grounded in Jesus, we can learn something of God’s future by studying how they followed Jesus in their historical context and sought to have a redemptive impact on the world.

So, we can see God’s future* with a little bit more clarity by learning from what He’s revealed in the past. Pretty Cool.**

* By God’s future, I (and certainly not Wright) are not messing with any doctrines of God being a timeless being. By future, he means the vision or fulfillment of God’s plans in salvation history.

** For those of you who have done the strengthfinder thing, given that context is my #1 theme (seeing the present and future in light of the past), my interest in this line of thought should be self-explanatory.

Book Recommendations

Every once in a while people ask me for book recommendations. Then a friend of mine found a way through amazon to set up a personal bookstore where people can easily check things out. Since I want to be just like him, I have set up my own amazon bookstore where you can browse my favorite and/or highly recommended books.

The link is http://astore.amazon.com/brivirsboo-20

If you take me up on a suggestion and read one of them, let me know what you think!

Leadership Formation & Development Within Systems and Organizations