You go first, dad!

Excerpted from the book¬†Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn

Your son is becoming a young man, and he aches for you to count him as one. But, there are natural obstacles, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bring up ‘the’ question himself. We must make it easy for our sons to share, and there is only one way to ensure that. We must go first. We must be the ones to initiate the conversation.

Thankfully, swapping stories is right up our alley, and it shouldn’t be scary in the least. In light of this, our call to teach our children isn’t really something to fear anymore either:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

I used to wonder how I could accomplish all this. Like most families, my kids and I lead busy lives, and we don’t sit around home, nor do we walk or work together very much. Our culture is vastly different from that of the Hebrews. And that’s perfectly fine. God understands the fast-paced society we live in, but He still wants us to teach our kids how we apply Scripture to our day-to-day lives. Since our kids aren’t with us much during the day to see how we apply Scripture, filling this call won’t look the same today as it did back then.

Therefore, we need to do the next best thing…we need to tell them what happened during our day and our weeks and our years.

To go deep with our sons, we need to do two things.

  • Spend time talking with them.
  • Be open and transparently share our lives and our walk with God.

Life’s hectic. Obstacles keep popping up like gopher heads in those arcade games. More often than not, we’ll beat those gopher heads down in the areas where it really counts.

Fortunately, we men have a secret weapon, a special category male communication that connects us every time it’s tried’ we can swap stories, tell tales, and regale listeners. Storytelling is right up our alley, and nobody does it better.

Do you swap stories with your son? How many of your stories could help your son if you took a chance and shared them? You shouldn’t just wait for such moments to arise. So what can you do to trigger the process? Spend the last moments of your kids’ day with them, talking with them in their bedrooms before they go to sleep. Read a book with them. Often the author’s stories will trigger memories of your own stories, providing a push to dive into deeper waters.

Regardless of how old your son is, it’s not too late. Your son still longs for a relationship with you. We all need that connection with our fathers and will seek it to the very end if given half a chance.

Two or three nights a week read six to eight pages of a book in silence separately in a room that can be considered your place. Of course the book is not the end game here; while your reading, you’re also looking for opportunities to talk later on, ask leading questions, and regale your son with stories. Underline thoughts that you want to come back to. Sitting across from one another will provide good eye contact and encourage honest sharing. Talk about girls, peer pressure, temptation, bullies, whatever’s on your mind and seems to flow naturally.

How do I choose which books to go through? Whatever makes sense at the time! Choosing the right book is part of being proactive and intentional. I always begin with a broad-based book on puberty and adolescence, such as Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle. Such books are foundational to everything that comes later in building your ‘swapping place’ with your kids. Believe me, after you’ve given them a taste for what the teen years will be like and shared your experiences from the past, you and your children will be tighter than you have ever been.

For some help on ‘swapping stories’ and connecting with your son read Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

Ode To My Dad

My dad was probably the hardest-working man I’ve ever known. He worked for twenty years at a large university in Texas while also running drive-in restaurants and selling real estate. He was simply an outstanding provider for our family.

One of the reasons my dad worked so hard was because he got a late career start. His father owned a successful machine shop during the days of the Texas oil boom. Somehow my dad was chosen to help his father manage the business while his four brothers went off to college. Then the oil boom ended and the family business floundered. My dad was left without either a career or a college education.

Men’s careers often take unplanned and unwanted turns, don’t they? It’s easy to incur mishaps, expenses, and responsibilities, and then feel stuck. I imagine more men today feel like they have jobs rather than careers. That can be a debilitating feeling, especially if you’ve got one of those ‘change the world’ types of dispositions.

I know my dad quietly struggled with those feelings. He sacrificed to serve his father, and played catch-up for the rest of his life. Yet he succeeded at honorably providing for his family despite his late start. For that I hold him in the highest esteem.

Men, sometime you have no choice but to grow where you’re planted. When that’s the case, don’t lose heart. There’s always something to be, even if you’re not crazy about what you do.

Behavior Change And Heart Change

Dave McWilliams

Most of us, at one time or another, have wished that we were a different person. These thoughts may come to us when things are not going well or in times when we are in trouble. We may feel shallow or inadequate in these times. Our behavior may have been offensive or unacceptable to others, and we may be embarrassed or overcome with guilt.

Change is very difficult for all of us. What about those of us who have gone through devastating situations, such as a hurricane or flooding, where we have lost a lot of what we own. Perhaps we have moved to a new location and changed jobs, and everything is now different. We can feel lost and left out in many ways. Things may never be the same again. Or we may have lost a friend who has been very close to us and supported us in many ways, and the pain is almost unbearable.

When it comes to making personal changes in our lives, it can be just as difficult. Often the focus is on changing our behaviors and our habits, but these are often not long lasting. As an example, many of us have made New Year’s resolutions, only to abandon them within a few weeks, because it was too difficult to maintain the new behaviors and habits. More often than not, our efforts are pointed at negative habits and behaviors and we put a lot of effort into trying to avoid them. It often does not occur to us to ask ourselves what to do to replace these behaviors.

While heart changes are more lasting, they cannot be made all at one time. They are not an event, but a process or a journey. In the mean time, we cannot ignore our behavior that is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves. If we are an alcoholic, or a gambler, or we struggle with pornography, our behaviors should not be excused while working on building our character.

The apostle Paul talked about making changes in our lives in Colossians 2:20-3:17. He pointed out that when we try to make changes in our lives through rules and regulations, or by trying to restrict our poor behaviors, failure is soon to follow. In his day (as in our time) people would say ‘don’t touch’ or ‘ don’t taste’, which really is nothing more than mere human effort to control our poor indulgences. But Paul pointed out that these rules and restrictions ‘lack any value in restraining our sensual indulgences’ (Col.2:23).

The best phase of our life to focus on restricting our poor behaviors is childhood. The duty of good parenting is to help us to recognize what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The down side to this process is that no parent has it all together as to what is good and bad behavior. When we made poor choices, the way that they were managed had an effect on us, some positive, and others were destructive. The guilt that followed those destructive attempts to change our behavior will remain in our minds for many years until we are finally freed from them. While our minds are filled with the thoughts of guilt, we seldom have the clarity of thought to find direction in our lives. Feelings of loss and confusion block us from finding our way.

Real and lasting change comes from a different place than focusing on our behavior. Lasting change comes from change in our hearts as we take the focus off ourselves and onto the needs and concerns of others as well as our own. Behavior change is external and is often done to deceive others, or to avoid our pain, etc. Heart change does not deny our behaviors, but focuses on internal and character change. Heart change has a purpose in mind that is greater than our own needs and desires. We begin to become aware of how our actions and choices effect others and their well being, as well as our own.

There is another powerful factor that is involved with making changes from the heart, and that is coming to the realization that we cannot do it on our own.

Real heart change comes only through the power of the Spirit of God working in our lives. This is different than behavior change, which is done mostly in our own human efforts. When our human efforts fail, we continue to carry enormous guilt. The opposite result comes as we focus on change from the heart. This change will usually result in freedom within our thoughts, thus giving us the ability to think about life situations much more clearly. We also refer to the results of this type of change as bringing us inner peace.

Paul talked about ways to achieve inner peace as we change from the heart. He sited several concepts of life that will help our hearts grow. Some of these things are compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and bearing with each other. There are many ways to display these principles to others. God did not assign to us only one way to carry out any of these life principles. These principles are found as we seek God’s direction in each and every circumstance in our lives. And as we display them, we let others decide how to use them effectively. For example, if we are going to be compassionate to our spouses, we will let them define the most effective way to show compassion, otherwise it is nothing more than a selfish act.

There is another benefit in changing from the heart. It takes a lot of the pressure out of life. Behavior change usually results in trying to achieve perfection, and usually trying to make it quickly to avoid pain. This is real stress and anxiety and worry over what others will think of us. It often leaves us angry and defensive with others, as they point out our flaws. Heart change accepts our flaws as a part of who we are in the moments that they are revealed. The pain is used to help us change and grow. But the growth process is done without a sense of urgency. Change becomes a journey that is at times slow but consistent. Our flaws and weaknesses are seen as opportunities to work with those flaws so that they become more acceptable to others. Thus, our weaknesses do not totally define us as a person.

For help with sexual integrity, see Every Man’s Battle.
If you need help in other areas, please join us at our next New Life Weekend.