Archives For holidays

Yesterday was Father’s Day, a day that I feel is something of a celebration not just of fatherhood, but of manhood.

In my Facebook feed were dozens of tributes to men, teaching both their sons and daughters the meaning of being a man.

It seems that our culture doesn’t really know what makes a man anymore. But a lot of men certainly do.

Our culture doesn’t really have any rites of passage anymore – a significant event in which manhood is conferred. So in its place, our culture tells us that manhood can be acquired…

Manhood can be acquired by buying a particular product. Maybe one of the dozens of gendered products that say “for men.”

Manhood can be acquired by playing or being devoted to sports.

Maybe manhood can be gotten by driving a particular car.

Perhaps one becomes a man by growing a mighty beard…

…Or by eating lots of bacon, or drinking a brand of beer.

Is being a man as simple as hanging out in a “man cave?” Must a man cave be a musty, derelict room to truly be a “cave?” Are the men who preen and groom their caves to perfection not as manly?

I didn’t see anyone posting tributes to the men in their lives because they use manly Dove soap, or drive a flashy car, or their facial hair, or their bacon consumption.

Our culture peddles a caricature of men that none of us really measure up to. It is a caricature that makes all of us, if we buy into it, feel unmanly.

There are lots of different kinds of men, and lots of different kinds of masculinity.

But there is one characteristic about masculinity that I think probably holds true anywhere you go.

Masculinity cannot be purchased. It cannot be conferred. It cannot be acquired.

It can only be earned. And there are very few ways to earn masculinity, but the chances are, there are opportunities every day.

masculinity

 

The thing about battles is they always cost. A battle is never won for free.

Masculinity takes sacrifice. It requires loss.

There will be many opportunities today, and they won’t come with a receipt. We need a lot more men who don’t buy the consumeristic vision of manhood, who know that manhood is actually acquired through sacrifice and loss, rather than gain.

 

In four months of being a dad, I have realized one unequivocal fact:Processed with VSCOcam with b6 preset

Being a dad is hard.

I have probably had more chances to be humbled in the last four months than in the previous four years. And I suspect it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. Right now, all we really have to do for Calder is meet his physical needs. It’s going to get harder when he begins to have more emotional needs and spiritual needs. It’s going to be hard when we have to talk about sin and death, about money, about sex and relationships, and about all the things that turn sweet little boys into unhappy young men.

The other unequivocal fact that I have noticed is this:

Parents like to talk about just how hard parenting is.

What Did We Expect?

Whenever I go to Google to ask a question, about how to not inadvertently kill my child, I can easily get entangled in endless blogs and message board posts about how hard all this parenting stuff is.

I can get on Netflix and find endless sitcoms and standup comedy routines about how hard it all is. Bedraggled parents who are “just barely hanging on,” barely clinging to their marriage or their sanity in the midst of raising their horde of children.

But I wonder…

I wonder how many of us, upon entering high school or college, actually believed that it was supposed to be easy. I laugh a little bit whenever teenagers complain about how difficult high school life is. It’s not supposed to be easy, I tell them.

I say the same thing to my third graders or even kindergarten students when they comment that the work I am having them do is hard.

I wonder how many of us actually believed as we met our spouse at the altar, that it would be easy.

I wonder how many of us secretly thought that raising kids might actually be easy.

Was It Supposed to Be Easy?

Perhaps none of us actually, truly believed that any of these things would be easy. But maybe we are surprised at just how difficult things actually turned out to be. At this moment, I actually think my life has never been harder.

But…

That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

There are so many shows, blogs and resources that talk about how hard parenting and marriage is. There are blogs and books about how hard faith is. There are resources about how hard building a career or a business is.

But how many shows or books, blogs or message boards told us this is the way life is supposed to be?

Parenting is supposed to be hard. A day with a toddler isn’t supposed to be productive. Life is supposed to move slower with a child. Chores are supposed to take longer. Parents are supposed to be tired at the end of the day.

Marriage is supposed to be hard. Marriage is this miracle where two different people become one flesh, and that is a miracle that takes a lot of work. Nine years in, I think I work harder at my marriage now than I ever have before.

Life Was Created To Be This Way

It’s great fun to bond with other parents over discussions about how hard parenting is. I’m sure that this Mother’s Day, Cheri will have at least one conversation about the challenges of mothering, and on Father’s Day, I’ll tell at least one guy the reality of fatherhood.

It’s a good release to watch a sitcom and see a little bit of yourself in that fake TV family. (Sitcoms have come a long way, and families have become much less perfect since the Cleavers went into syndication.) It’s hilarious to listen to Jim Gaffigan or Louis CK joke about the drudgery of raising kids.

But what the blogs and the comedians rarely say is that it wouldn’t be beautiful if it weren’t so hard.

Easy things are not satisfying. Easy things are not memorable. People don’t bond over the easy times. But God made life to be like this. God made us to do hard things, like raise children.

People bond and faith is grown as we clench our fists and try to hang on through the storms. I cannot imagine where my marriage would be if it had all been easy. I probably wouldn’t remember any of it.

If you are in a hard time today, remember, it’s supposed to be this way. We were born for this. An easy life would not be one worth remembering or writing about.

There is beauty in the hard.

Many of us had the day off on Monday.

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said "free at last," right?

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said “free at last,” right?

MLK Day is a nice little holiday that has absolutely no social obligations attached to it. For those of us who have the day off, it truly is a day off. No family gatherings to attend. No meals to prepare. No gifts to buy.

On the other hand, the day that commemorates one of the greatest Americans in history has been kind of reduced to a throw-away holiday. It’s a day to sleep in and maybe save 20% on a new mattress, which I’m not so sure does justice for a man who gave his life in the name of equality and justice.

Despite all of our talk of “progress,” “acceptance” and “equality” I have become convinced that our culture in many ways has gone backwards, towards division and intolerance. Maybe we need a day like MLK Day more than ever.

These are three things I want to do with my family on a day dedicated to memorializing a great man.

Continue Reading…

It’s that time of year. The time of year for “resolutions.”

It’s the time when people make promises to themselves.

They promise that they will do more.

They promise that they will be more.

They make promises to themselves that they will be better people. Most of these promises turn out to be empty promises, of course. But we are still compelled, at least annually, to reflect on our successes and failures, and try to do better.

I cannot remember a year of my adult life when I did not want to do more, be more, be better in everything I did.

That can be exhausting, the relentless pursuit of better. Better is almost never enough. And so we get back on the treadmill next year, determined that this time will be different. We won’t let ourselves down this time.

I spent the last week of 2014 tending to my new son. Our first child. A long time coming.

Before he came, I had plenty of fears about all of the things I would now not be able to do, not be able to accomplish, not be able to promise myself. I feared that my life would go into standby mode.

I’m back at work today though. My life is not in standby mode. But it occurred to me as I read my son his first bedtime story (a completely unproductive activity to do with a five-day-old) that this is what life is supposed to be like.

There are moments in our lives, even whole seasons which are not designed for pursuing more, for chasing better. There are seasons which are meant to be less, to be quiet, to be a retreat from all of the things the world says we should do. This is the way God has designed life to be.

So maybe you have a new baby, and maybe not. But maybe you are in a season of life when it is okay to be content with less, with doing things a little bit slower, with being a little less ambitious, with things being a little bit quieter. Make peace with this season. Don’t fight it. It is our culture of celebrity, consumerism and glittery churches that tell you that it’s never enough.

It is enough, just to exist today.

productive

Happy New Year, friends. I hope yours is as blissfully unproductive, interrupted, and contented as I think mine is going to be.

It wouldn’t be Christmas time without all of the traditional trappings…

You know our culture doesn't have a real war to fight when this is its hill to die on.

You know our culture doesn’t have a real war to fight when this is its hill to die on.

The lights, the gifts, time with family,

Some sermonizing from Kirk Cameron.

Now, I am assuming that most of you have not, and will not see Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and a 32% user rating.) Even still, Cameron’s “movie” represents a bigger picture of American Christmastime, an annual tradition of defending tradition against the forces of paganism, liberalism, consumerism and whoever else may want to “destroy” Christmas. Every year, there is a part of our culture that makes it their mission as Christian soldiers to wage a culture war, to preserve American Christianity for the next generation.

You know what? I don’t think the liberals or the pagans or the retailers are destroying Christmas or Christianity. I think the culture warriors are. You shouldn’t not see Saving Christmas because it’s bad art. You should skip movies like Saving Christmas, because movies like this actually achieve the opposite of their goal.

It’s time we stopped trying to save Christmas and changed our priorities.

Continue Reading…

On Friday, people went nuts again.

I heard about people camping out for two weeks for some Black Friday deals. I don’t know what kind of math you have to do for that to make sense. But it seems more sensible to me to go to work. If you have to camp out for two weeks to buy a television, you probably have bigger problems than not having a television.

I wonder if Black Friday is even fun anymore. It does not look like it. It looks awful. I said that as I stayed at home in my pajamas, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful morning.

The thing is I do not even know what I missed. I don’t know about any of the deals I passed up. I don’t know about all of the fabulous stuff I could have had and unbelievable prices.

But I also know something else.

No matter how much time I spent or money I saved. No matter how hard I fought to get a great deal, I would still probably forget everything I bought by next Christmas. There are so very few gifts that I have received in my life that I remember. Does anyone else realize this?

Gift-giving has long lost its luster for me. In some ways, I actually dread it. The thing that used to excite me most as a child has all but lost its meaning for me. I am glad my family does a fun little “gift auction.” We get play money and bid on items that any of us would enjoy. The other option is that we all just buy gift cards for each other, which is a thinly veiled way to just swap cash.

I have long since learned that the excitement that Santa promised was very temporary, very fleeting. Stuff always loses its appeal, sometimes very quickly. IMG_7885

If everyone realized that, it would probably be a disaster for the economy.