Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

 

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


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A message for men that you don’t want to hear

A message for men that you don’t want to hear

Note: I’ll be the first to admit my own responsibility for being a part of the problem in the past. I’m lovingly, yet sternly challenging you to read and consider what I am saying. After thoughtful consideration (perhaps 24-48 hours), if you disagree – that is fine. Articulate your disagreement if you like.  Emoting is a sign of immaturity and my response will call out immaturity.  If that causes a bit of anger to well up in your little heart, so be it.  You need to learn to deal with anger and this conversation is not for you – yet.

Boys are crying out for help!

Over the last 50 years, our moral revolution has attacked the sanctity of human life, destroyed the family and diminished the father’s role in society. So, males are nothing more than animals that have sex at will with whomever they want, pursue immediate gratification and comfort, relish violence and affluence and move on like a swam of locusts.

Today boys, as young as 8 years old are immersed in pornography, addicted to violent games/movies and have ZERO respect for human life. As a result, girls (and  boys) are objects for their personal gratification, other children are targets for destruction and parents exist to feed and pamper them.

Our boys need to be rescued from this toxic culture and men who have abandoned their responsibilities need to repent and be restored.  We need to admit we need to help each other.

No matter how you slice it – Males hold all the cards.

We are paying the price for the “moral revolution”. This revolution is rooted in nothing more than personal immediate gratification (of males – primarily).  It says,

“I want what I want and I want it NOW… And I will use the veil of reproductive rights, feminism, sexual freedom, personal autonomy, marriage, coercion and political volition to achieve my personal gratification – be it comfort, affluence, power or orgasm.”

Our children are paying dearly with their lives. Make no mistake – the cost is high for “if it FEELS good, do it” culture. It is no accident that we have arrived at this very moment.

“A poor sailor blames the wind.”
It is also no accident that adult males are molesting and demeaning women, abusing children, stealing, doing drugs, lying under oath, murdering and going to jail at high rates.  We raise our boys according to the rules of the moral revolution and when our boys become adults infused with the ‘values’ of the revolution and act out of those impulses – the moral revolutionaries make an ‘out-cry’ and blame everyone except themselves.  A worldview that blames systems, things and institutions for society’s problems is rejecting any personal accountability.  They will deny this but there will always be a ‘but’ to avoid personal responsibility.

 

How about raising boys who know what it means to be authentic men?

A man does not give into passivity, he takes responsibility for his own actions, he practices personal accountability and integrity, he is humble, just, kind, self-disciplined, leads courageously and focuses on a cause greater than himself. A man is the voice for the voiceless, a protector of the weak and a provider.

Stop the cycle of blame. In order to raise men of honor and integrity, we must look ourselves in the mirror and ask how we are going to help raise boys into authentic men. It is an issue of our hearts. Boys are crying out for help. Let’s help them by modeling manhood for them – teaching and challenging them to become the courageous men they are created to be.

Ignore the screaming of the moral revolutionaries – they will never stop screaming. That is what they do – they rage against everything. They will not stop raging until they destroy everything – including themselves.  I’m not sorry for pushing back against the disjointed and dangerous worldview driving the ‘moral revolution’.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to challenge it with extreme moral force.

Dave Ramsey once said,

“We all have a red-faced screaming child inside us.  That child’s name is ‘Immaturity’.”

It’s not too late.

Our future depends on our personal accountability today.  

  • How am ‘I’ going to raise my son to be man?
  • How can ‘I’ support the fatherless who have no role model?

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Fatherhood: A Father’s Gain – Part 2

Fatherhood: A Father’s Gain – Part 2

In last week’s post about fatherhood, I described a father’s gain – the treasure formed and refined in the fires of pain and loss. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do so before reading this post.  Click here to read it.

This week, the story continues.

Jamon Horne, Jacob Steele and me circa 2000 in Austin, Texas.

In the months leading up to my friend Jamon’s passing, Pastor Horne and his son had grown closer than ever before. Jamon’s mother will tell you that his dad never left his side. He was with Jamon day and night – loving, serving and shepherding his boy. He was walking with him, leading him in faith knowing full well the final destination. Jamon’s mother knew why her husband was not asleep in the bed with her at night. There was a burning fire of refinement bonding a father and his sick boy. The heat of this trial was forming and fashioning a priceless treasure of fatherhood.

Pastor Horne asked me to speak at Jamon’s funeral.  I felt inadequate for the role. However, I realized it was a privilege to speak about my friend, encourage others and share my faith. Furthermore, I believed Jamon wouldn’t have had it any other way.

How does a man stand before his dead friend’s family and say anything worthwhile or meaningful?

How does a man stand before the teenage son of a friend and comfort him? I could barely look at him in the eye without crying.

At the funeral service, I was seated on a stage among a group of fine seasoned pastors. While their words were comforting and powerful, I found strength and encouragement in the silent and solemn acts of my friend’s father. I witnessed one of the most heroic, humbling and powerful scenes of my life.

Finally, the moment arrived when Jamon’s casket had to be closed forever. His parents arose to their feet.  Pastor Horne left the side of his wife, accompanied by a friend, and slowly approached his son’s casket with streams of tears running down his face. Trembling but not shaken, the good pastor stood above his son. His face was set like flint. Pastor Horne had made up his mind to remain firm and resolute in what he was about.

A father’s final act of heroic love for his son.

The sanctuary of the church of a couple hundred family and friends fell silent. It was a holy moment. Pastor Horne reached Jamon’s casket and his friend patted him on the shoulder and walked away leaving Pastor John Horne alone with his son. He gently placed his hand upon Jamon’s lifeless chest and folded the casket dressings inside. Then, he raised his trembling arm to close the cover. This was the same arm that had held Jamon as a baby. The same arm that helped him up when he fell as a child. The arm of discipline and love. The same arm that hugged Jamon on Thanksgiving. Pastor Horne wept and trembled but, he wasn’t crushed by the tremendous weight of grief. His faith held him there.

God was right there and everyone could feel His presence.

I don’t know how long Pastor Horne stood over his son. But, he finally closed his eyes as he slowly closed the cover of the casket. And watching him walk away seemed like turning the final page of a great novel or hearing the fading notes of a sweet song. He returned to his wife’s side and held her head to his heart and sang a beautiful hymn. A man humbled yet full of pain, courage and faith beheld his Heavenly Father’s gain.

A father’s gain

I recognized this gain. I knew this treasure as streams of my memories flowed back to when I was with my dying father. He lay at home in the hospital bed provided by hospice – breathing slowly with eyes half open. My father’s mischievous blue-green eyes gazed at me as if he wanted to say something but he was unable to speak or move. We had progressed beyond words and the light was fading.

As I remember back, I couldn’t recall the last time I ate or slept. It seemed that being there was enough for me. God was there sustaining me. With a trembling hand, I would moisten a cotton swab and wet dad’s lips. In the fading embers of my father’s eyes, I saw my father’s gain – a priceless treasure.  Deep in those eyes, I caught a glimmer of joy.

Our story continues in the fires of this life.

Fatherhood ain’t easy. Being a son ain’t so easy either.

Sons will become fathers someday. As we experience fatherhood, we must understand there will be pain, distance and fire. However, treasure will be found if we can look beyond the blinding smoke and heat of trials.  Something beautiful is being formed. It is our duty to search for this majestic treasure and find a father’s gain.


“When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

 

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

 

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

 

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

 

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

– Anonymous


Read previous postsFatherhood: A Father’s Gain – Part 1

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Fatherhood: A Father’s Gain – Part 1

Fatherhood: A Father’s Gain – Part 1

Not quite a year had passed since my dad died when I received a call from a close friend in tears. He was on his way to see our friend Jamon. Jamon was in the final moments of his battle with cancer.

Fatherhood ain’t easy

As with many father-son relationships, there can be seasons of distance and contention. I experienced it in my relationship with my father. But, what is so interesting about terminal illness and dying is that the pain and suffering clear away the trivialities of life. The fire of trial and pain strip away the coldness of wills and egos.

When you are in the crucible, there is no way of understanding gain as there is no way of experiencing rising when falling. The goldsmith dare not attempt to snatch up the gold while it’s in its liquid form. He must wait. In the fire of trials, we must wait.

Priceless treasure can be found when the fire dies down and the fog of grief dissipates. I think it is our duty to discover the gain. Where is it? What does it look like? What does it mean?

Later that night as I was working in my home office, I received a call that Jamon was gone. Jamon died on March 6th, 2017 at the age of 44. Although time and distance separated us, he was my friend. I began to weep. All I could do was weep – weep for the loss, weep for Jamon’s teenage son who was going to be graduating from high school soon, weeping for his parents, weeping over the memories… weeping over the laughter and good times we shared.

That is when I discovered a priceless treasure formed when my father passed away. My son, Nelson (7yrs old) quietly entered my office. He gently placed his little hand on my shoulder. Nelson recognized the tears of his father. He had seen the tears before and he was ready and willing to step into my pain.

Nelson looked me strait in the eye and said, “I am sorry about your friend Jamon dying.” He put his arms around me and held me like I hold him when he’s fallen and hurting. I hope that I hold him like he was holding me and would do well to aspire to his example.

I cried on my 7 year old son’s shoulder for a few moments. Then, Nelson backed away to look at me again and put his hand on my arm. He said, “In times like this we should pray.” So, we prayed. Then Nelson said the most profound statement any human being could make. Remember, he is 7 years old.  He said, “Dad, when someone dies, instead of being sad, we can remember them and rejoice.”

“Dad, when someone dies, instead of being sad, we can remember them and rejoice.”

I was presented with a priceless treasure in fatherhood that had been refined and purified for more than a year in the fire of my dad’s death. I had received a father’s gain.

This is not the end of the story. Here is a link to Part Two…


Read previous posts: Are you a person of peace?

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