Archives For boys

The primary difference between Moms and Dads, as far as I can tell, is the length of leash with which we are comfortable letting our kids run.  While 99% of the time Dads know that their children can run far afield with no more than a few near misses, the occasional potential debilitating accident, and a brush with death now and again, we can all say a collective “THANK GOD” for Moms during that other 1% of the time… when it really matters.

As the father of boys – five of them – my leash is even longer than the average guy.  Boys have gotta take an occasional ER run in order to experience the fullness that life has to offer.  No pain, no gain, right?  Boys don’t climb to the treetops because it just looks so safe up there.  Boys don’t launch their bikes and skateboards off ramps, steps, and railings because they shy away from risk.  Boys don’t try to light stuff on fire because they simply long for serenity.  No sir.  They are as addicted to adrenaline as they are to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  And somewhere in the heart of every Dad is that 12 year old daredevil explorer we used to be.  We understand.  Climb that tree, kid.  I’ll drive you to the hospital if you break an arm.

However, there are moments.  We Dads know that there is a threshold.  We know because we’ve had to cross it a thousand times ourselves.  These are the “big boy” moments along the road that lead to growing up.  We can see it in the eyes of our children, and we remember.  They are the times when we wish the incline wasn’t quite so steep and the roller coaster wasn’t quite so aggressive.  Sometimes the hard path is a necessary one.  Sometimes the hard path may not be entirely necessary – but good, nonetheless.  These are the times when we must look our boys in the eye, and with all the compassion we can muster, utter the words every child needs to hear once in awhile…

“Man up, Nancy.”

Sure, there are people out there with kids actually named Nancy.  I don’t think that makes it any less effective.

Real life example:  This past weekend I drove my 11 year old son Isaac to meet up with a youth group from our church on their way to a weekend retreat across the border in Wisconsin.  I had to drop him off at a suburban Applebee’s where the van would pick him up about 15 minutes after I left.  His bags were packed, the list was double checked, Bible securely stowed, sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the Jeep, and Ike was a bundle of energy.  I could tell that his adrenaline habit was being fed right now.  Heading off to a retreat away from the family, out of state, no older brother with him this time.  His first “on his own” outing with the youth group.  He was stoked.

But his eyes were sending mixed messages.  Flashes of trepidation between the smiles.  Traces of concern peeking out the corners of his eyes, betraying his “I can do this” adventurous gaze out the windshield.

“Are you nervous?”

Pause.  “Nah.  I’m excited.” Pause. “I mean… first time I’ve really done this.” Pause. “Seth’s not gonna be there…”  Pause.  “But it’ll be awesome.”  He said it like a declarative statement, and then his face looked at me like he had just asked a question.

I grabbed the bill of his baseball hat and jerked it around with a grin. “You’ll do great, Ike.  You’ll have a blast.”

That was it.

Sometimes the “man up, Nancy” moments – the big boy moments – don’t require many words.  I knew he’d be OK.  And this independent moment was both good and necessary.  He knew it was worth a few butterflies.  The best rides are, right?

Someday I won’t be dropping him off at Applebee’s and waving goodbye for the weekend.  Someday it will be a college dorm.  Then he’ll be the excited one, and the tears will be mine.  Amy will likely be giving ME a much needed “Man up, Nancy,” when that day comes.

The point here, after all, is that I am not primarily seeking to shield my boys from pain.  I have friends and family in the Marine Corps. who tell me “pain is just weakness leaving the body.”  My boys love it when I quote the Marines.

Pain avoidance is not our job, parents.  Character development is.  Maturity is the goal.  These objectives are long term and require stretching.  Sometimes, the hard path is the best one.

Isaac and I never talked all of this through.  But I knew that getting dropped off at Applebee’s with his pile of bags to wait by himself for the Youth Group van was a big boy moment for him.  And when he came home, among the hugs and high-fives, I was sure to look him in those just-a-little-bit-older eyes of his and tell him, “I’m proud of you.”

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“big boy moments :: why i tell my boys to man up, nancy” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Certain stories in our family have a way of finding new legs year after year at our family gatherings.  One such story has its roots in my parents’ small farm town upbringing in the upper northwestern corner of Minnesota, where the North Dakota plains have invaded the landscape, and families earn their bread in the  rich black soil of the Red River Valley.

My dad was in 3rd Grade.  The assignment was to write and share a poem about “your favorite sport.”  One of dad’s friends stepped forward and shared, with great aplomb, the following legendary verse:

When I was a little lad

I ran to meet my Dad

O’er the fields so wavy

Oh, how I love to eat gravy

There is a simple perfection in this poem.  The affectionate relationship between father and son.  The eagerness of the son to join the father as a prelude to feasting.   The tip of the hat to the waving wheat fields, ready for harvest… a sign of provision and plenty.  And then, in a glorious climactic moment, the hailing of gravy.  Nay, the very pleasure of ingesting said gravy.  Economy of words.  Perfect.

I’m going up north today to revel in my family.  And to eat gravy.  I love Thanksgiving.

Not just the holiday.  The act.  Not just the family meal.  The relationships.  Not just the gravy…

But gravy is a big deal.

“Gravy” is the extra goodness that makes life sing.  More than brownish meat sauce.  It is the extra. The “beyond enough.”  The abundance of blessing.  The richness of the meal.  We could subsist on dry turkey and boiled potatoes, green beans and dry bread.  But why?  God has blessed in abundance.  When we eat gravy, we celebrate the love God has for us.  We feast, and thank the Giver.  The gravy is the the savory saucy goodness that signifies the fat of life.  Pressed down, shaken together, running over…  In America, we all are blessed with abundance.  If you are at a computer reading this right now, thank God.  Thank God for the warm place.  Thank God for the computer.  Thank God for electricity, and the ability to reason.  Thank God that you can read.

We have so much to be thankful for there are not enough seconds in a lifetime to express it adequately.

I saw a quote the other day that rang my bell:  “Thanksgiving is a prerequisite to joy.”

Yes and AMEN.  This is one of my most important goals as a dad – to raise gratitude-filled sons.  Because I also want to raise JOY-filled sons.

I believe my boys were created by God to live their lives celebrating Him in joy. Not a “ho-hum, work-a-day, give me what I got coming to me” life.  LIFE TO THE FULL.  Enjoying freedom from sin. Living in obedience to God as a joyful worship response to the God who gave us life and breath and heartbeats and mozzarella cheese.  And gravy.

The next few days in Bemidji, we’ll be in the thick of God’s greatest gifts.  Family who love us.  Abundant food.  Faith in God at the heart of our conversations.  None of it is lost on me.  God is a good God.  He is GOOD.  In the midst of the best times of life, and in the hardest, He is good.

When I takes that first gravy-laden bite (and the third… and the forty fifth…), I’m going to be saying a prayer.  “Thank you, God, that You are so good to me, though I don’t deserve your favor.  Thank you for your ABUNDANCE.”

Oh, how I love to eat gravy.


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“eating gravy is an act of worship :: thanksgiving precedes joy” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’m pausing briefly in my series on the pursuit of joy (check out part one, two, and three) to make this important announcement:

Seth is out of the family.  Man, I loved that kid, too.  It will be hard to lose him, sure, but he did, after all, leave the dishes half finished.  Levi is out, too.  He talked back twice yesterday.  It’s hard to kick a seven year old out of the house in Autumn, but Seth is going, too, and he’s a pretty resourceful kid.  They’ll probably cobble together lunch money with some kind of street performance involving music and dance.  They’ll do alright.  Too bad they can’t be Skogerboes anymore.  If only they had followed the rules…

This is so ridiculous that it hardly works as a metaphor… and that’s exactly why it works as a metaphor.  Let me explain…

Today in my Christian Ethics class we confronted a conceptual stumbling block that I’ve had for years concerning Christ’s imputed righteousness.  That’s fancy pants seminarian talk for “the righteousness Jesus credits to me because he has forgiven my sins.”  I have struggled to correctly understand what this means in relation to my “split personality…”  I’m a sinner.  And I’m a saint.  I’m wretched.  And I’m righteous.

This is a mystery.  But it is a stone cold reality.  Believers in Jesus – followers of Christ –  ARE righteous in God’s eyes, because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross on our behalf.  In church-ese, he has been made the propitiation for our sins, and his sacrifice on the cross 2000 years ago was the substitutionary atonement for us, redeeming us to relationship with God, and we have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness.  That means that HIS righteousness has been imputed (given) to us.  WE ARE RIGHTEOUS.

At the same time we live corrupted by sin, and like Paul, we who love the Lord are frustrated and horrified that the things we want to do we can’t do, and the things we DON’T want to do we can’t seem to let go of.  WE ARE SINNERS.

For years I have wondered how all of this works together.  I have read the passages that explain how Jesus is my Mediator (again with the church talk… so sorry) literally translated my “advocate,” like a defense attorney.  Only he’s NEVER LOST a case.  He only has ONE LINE OF DEFENSE, and it works every single time.  He stands before His Father, the Righteous Judge, and He shows the nail holes in his hands and feet.  His blood is the payment.  The debt is accounted for.  The sin is erased.  “And when God looks at me,” I’ve been told, “He doesn’t see my sin at all.  He sees Jesus’ righteousness.”

AWESOME.

So after He saved me, Jesus is basically my Elmore Smith. 

Elmore Smith was a 7’0″ center from Kentucky State University.  He played in the National Basketball Association from 1971 to 1979 as a member of the Buffalo Braves, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  While racking up an impressive stack of stats as a point-maker and rebounder, what Smith is best remembered for his shot-blocking, earning him the nickname “Elmore the Rejector”. He led the league in total blocked shots in both 1974 and 1975, and holds the NBA record for most blocked shots in a game since 1973, with 17.

This is how I have seen the work of the Trinity in regards to my sin and in view of Christ’s imputed righteousness in my life:  When I sin, I grieve the Holy Spirit (my Counselor) who lives in me and continually reminds me of God’s Word, the refining Law that points me to the cross.  In heaven, I have imagined the Father (Righteous Judge), ruling in holiness and unapproachable light, sitting on His throne in perfection and purity, the unattainable standard by which I will be measured in order to gain access to heaven some day.

And then there, before the Throne of the Judge, stands “Jesus the Rejector,” my spiritual Elmore Smith, shot blocking my sins with 100% accuracy, so that the Judge behind Him will never see my imperfection.

It kinda works, right?

But there’s a problem…  My sins really do matter.  And The Trinity is in perfect communion.  And the God-head is ONE.  And the Godhead is omniscient (which is church-speak for “KNOWS EVERYTHING, past present, and future.”)

If God the Father knows all that God the Son and God the Spirit know, then it isn’t possible that my sins are “unknown” to Him.  So yes, I am righteous… the Bible says that I am.  My sins are covered by Jesus’ righteousness imputed to me.  But God knows all, and He sees that I sin.  How can I sin… and be perfectly righteous?

What really helped clarify this conundrum for me today was the understanding that this imputed righteousness is a righteousness of POSITION.  In other words, as a Christ-child, I still sin.  I need the cross everyday, and I need to turn to Jesus in repentance daily.  He is my Advocate, and His blood has covered my sin… but they are not unknown to the Father.  And yet my sins don’t affect my POSITION as a child of God.  That is Jesus’ work, not mine.

Just like my kids’ rule-breaking is not unknown to me.  Although they may think they get away with it now and again, I know.  I always know.  And I want them to do what is right.  I want them to follow the rules out of love and respect for me… out a a belief that they know I have the BEST in mind for them.  But they mess up.  They break the rules.  They sin.

Do I ask them to take responsibility when they sin?  Yes.  Do I expect them to turn and go the other way?  Yes.  But I don’t kick them out of the family.

They are still my beloved kiddos.  I will fight for them and direct them and raise them to live healthy, fulfilled lives, and when they mess up, I will forgive.  But they will always be my kids.

So it is with the righteousness of Jesus.  It is a righteousness of position.  It is placement within the family of God.  We are His beloved children.  When we mess up, He will forgive.  Does our sin matter?  You bet.  Jesus is not my Elmore Smith.  God knows it all.  But our position is not dependant upon our striving hard enough.  Our position is secure in the work Jesus has already done in our place.

Does this smack of “eternal security” to you… or to decipher for the non-church crowd… Does that mean once we’re saved we’re ALWAYS saved no matter how we live?  Absolutely not.  The Bible is clear that if we rebel hard enough, long enough, our heart for God will become a heart of stone, and we can fall away from the faith that saves.  Even children can rebel long enough – hard enough – that they become “dead to the family.”  Sometimes legal action is taken to sever family ties.  But even without any formal ceremony, family ties can be cut if the child wants out.  Sin is a dangerous flirtation with death and darkness.  Sin matters.  But if we want to be God’s children, and we live in daily repentance for our corrupt nature and misguided behavior, the righteousness of Jesus is ours.  Our standing in God’s family remains secure in Him.

Imputed righteousness.  There’s your daily dose of “church-ese” decoded for real life.


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“i used to have five boys, now i have three :: jesus is not my elmore smith” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

“Hustle! Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!”

I was 11.  I heard this word more than any other word during my Little League days under the summer sun in Bemidji, MN.  Coach Whitey Anderson could say HUSTLE more times in a minute than anyone I’ve ever known.  I loved baseball.  Still do.  In large part, thanks to Coach Whitey.

“Skogerboe, you’re a ball player, son.  You’re a ball player.  You can play this game right here.  Yessir.  Skogerboe’s a ball player.”

Coach Whitey was like encouragement on steroids for a young second baseman who otherwise wouldn’t have considered himself much of a ballplayer.  I was moderately athletic, but overshadowed by the up-and-coming superstars.  I could hold my own in the field and maintained a somewhat below average track record in the batting box, but I kept in the game year after year, growing better in my skill-set and deeper in love with the game.  Coach Whitey fueled me to keep getting better, to learn why “hustle” had more to do with a healthy competitive attitude than just physical “hurry-up,” and he helped build into me a deep love of baseball that has never gone away.

Now I have a 10-year-old out there under the lights.  I see his coach picking up the mantle from Coach Whitey for the next generation.  I see him FEEDING encouragement and high expectations to the young men under his charge.  And the boys are thriving.  When Isaac talks about baseball, his eyes flash.  Coach Haberlie is not just getting the bases covered, and he’s not just getting results…  he’s building baseball lovers.

I just got an email from Coach last night, asking me to encourage Isaac, that he was so proud to have Isaac on the Team, and he is consistent in saying, “He is made for this game.”  I hear echoes of Coach Whitey… “You’re a ball player, son.  Skogerboe’s a ball player.”

These guys are both great leaders, and I hold them both in high regard.

The consistent ingredient in great leadership isn’t enthusiasm.  It isn’t deeper, better, higher knowledge.  It isn’t the ability to control outcomes.

The consistent ingredient in great leadership is this:  INFLUENCE.

Coach Whitey literally changed my life.  My childhood years are full of great memories, and I was a ball player.  I believed it to my core.  And now I see Isaac out there making plays, wrecking the knees of his baseball pants, and it’s better than the Twins.  He’s hungry for baseball.  Isaac’s gone from casual to passionate.  THAT is INFLUENCE.  And Coach Haberlie has been clear from the beginning:  His goal is to help shape these boys into young men of character first, great athletes second.  He’s not only influencing the boys… he’s influencing their dads.  That’s great leadership.

All kinds of people read this blog.  Friends and family, Pastors, Ministry leaders, Worship leaders…  All kinds of people in all kinds of leadership roles.  Here’s where ball meets bat, rubber meets road, hammer meets nail on the head…  LEADERSHIP = INFLUENCE.

This has implications for two groups today.

First of all, if you don’t consider yourself a “leader,” you are WRONG.  Think about your circle of relationships.  Certainly among those relationships are a handful over whom you have some kind of influence.  If you have influence, you have leadership.  You may lead badly, of course, and influence those around you to make bad choices, to turn away from God or from wise counsel.  But make no mistake:  if you have influence, you are a leader.  Lead well.

Secondly, if you THINK you are a leader, or if you are a leader by position, this is a good measuring stick for you.  Are you herding a group, or are you leading?  Are you steering outcomes, or are you leading?  In other words, are you truly INFLUENCING the lives of those you lead?  If you are in a position of authority, take a cue from Coach Whitey and Coach Haberlie… don’t just steer.  LEAD.  Don’t just point people.  INFLUENCE people.  Stop, pray, and think about how you can not just get the job done, but how can your influence lead to changed lives.  If you are a leader, then LEAD WELL.

The consistent ingredient in great leadership is INFLUENCE.  If you don’t have influence, you’re not really leading.  And if you think you don’t have a role as a leader, invest in those you have influence over.

We only get one life.  Wield some influence and change some lives, because time is short.  And in the spirit of Coach Whitey… HUSTLE.


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“leadership focus :: if i build it will they come?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

So we were having a… discussion. Do you have those?  All married people have them, I suppose.  You know, our marriage would be just about perfect if I wasn’t in it.  🙂  I thought for sure I was right this time. Just one time…

But no.  As it turns out, I wasn’t right this time. In fact, after I had said my piece, Amy quietly reminded me of a few of my idiosyncracies – my own personality quirks – that transcend rational thought.  It was one of these quirks that had started all of this in the first place.

This was one of those times.  She had, through no fault of her own, stumbled unwittingly into my irrational headspace.  And therin lay the impetus for the aforementioned discussion.  I had to concede, when faced with actual facts instead of my own irrational emotional personality quirks, that – doggone it – she had a point.

And no… I’m not going into the details.  Let your imagination run rampant.  I’ll never tell.

Suffice it to say, she was dead on about a few of my personality quirks.  I didn’t see myself as an unusually quirky person… but oh yes.  I let my quirk flag fly more often than I realize. And the glory of it is, people who love me roll with it, and love me anyway.  And that is a gift.

Today, my message is this…  Most likely you have your own set of irrational quirks.  Guaranteed, the people you love have their own, as well.  My advice:  instead of butting heads against those quirks, and as long as they are not causing the rest of the family undue stress, I’m encouraging you to roll with it.  Go ahead and enable those quirks.  Yep, I’m talking full-on quirktastic co-dependancy.

Because real, powerful, life-affirming love means “who you are… I love.” And there’s plenty of time for “who you are becoming… I love, too.”  But an open discussion of personal quirks within a home or among roommates or close friends seems  like good juju to me.  Get ’em out there in the open.  Respect the quirks, baby!

Example: My mom, God bless her, is a top-calliber cook/home-maker/guest-entertainer.  People love to come to her home for meals, conversation, and good coffee.  It was a great home to grow up in.  But the kitchen is MOM’s domain.  You do not mess with the kitchen.  I repeat: you DO NOT MESS with the kitchen.  Every detail matters.  Case in point, when we load the dishwasher, knives go point down, but all other silverware must go eating-end-up, so that as the water rinses off the utinsels it runs DOWN the handle, away from the eating end.  That, right there, is a grade-A quirk, in my book. But here’s the deal… this is Mom’s passion.  The kitchen is HER arena, and she uses it to love and serve people.  And she’s great at it.  And we love her for it.  So, you know how we express our thanks and love back to momma?

We put the knives pointy-side down and the other utensils eaty-side up.

I don’t know that it makes a lick of difference, but my Mom wants it that way, so…  good times.

So, in the spirit of transparency and personal confession (which is good for the soul, I’m told – and makes for more interesting reading), here is a short list of some of my identified quirks.  Again, these may not seem rational to you, but that’s not the point.  The point is, they seem not only rational but downright IMPORTANT to me… at the time. Of course, it is also therapeutic to be self-aware enough that I can identify when my personal quirk is taking over rationality in my inter-personal interactions.  Therefore, here’s a short list from the inner-mind of Joshua Skogerboe:

(1) When beginning to do laundry (which isn’t often – Amy has to shoulder this one most of the time), I must scour the house for every piece of dirty clothes.  Like the random sock that ends up under the boy’s bed.  The baseball shirt that got wet in the rain and then hung up in the closet when mom and dad weren’t looking.  The PJ’s that my seven-year-old took off while in bed and which now are stuffed under his covers instead of in his drawer or the dirty clothes basket.  Before I begin, I want to get EVERYTHING together so it can be properly sorted into piles before the process begins.  I know it’s borderline OCD.  I know.  And we have five rowdy boys who, unless herded with a cattle prod, tend to shed their clothes in a moving explosion of laundry, leaving a trail behind them.  So my quirk sometimes needs to take backseat to reason to keep that laundry train a’ movin’.

(2)  We must eat hot food. This increases exponentially (a) when I cook it, or (b) if I have cooked it upon the grill, or especially (c) if the meal involves eggs or toast.  This is peculiar to me in a frighteningly irrational way when it comes to eggs and toast.  I would prefer the toast to jump hot out of the toaster into my mouth before it cools in any way.  This way I can savor the toasty crunch of the golden brown outer shell and still enjoy the soft core…  Mmmmm, toast.  But let’s say I put bread into the toaster and get sidetracked with another task, allowing the bread to pop up and sit in said toaster for more than 14 seconds.  No good.  Bad juju. The toast must be thrown out.  I know.  Starving kids in China.  Consumerism run amok.  I’m evil and wasteful and bad.  But dude… you GOTTA eat fresh toast.  And that is all.

(3) When the family is going to watch a movie, there must be no extraneous shuffling about or donning of jammies or last minute drinks of juice while the previews run.  No how. The trailers are sacred nuggets of extra enjoyment BEFORE the actual movie gets started, and I’m not about to concede this moment of extra goodness.  Now you kids SIT DOWN and CLOSE YOUR YAPPING MAWS and I mean NOW!  We’re going to have some FUN around here, or ELSE!  Keep on talkin’… that’s it.  I don’t care if you have to pee.  WE ARE HAVING FUN RIGHT NOW or, so help me,  I’m going to send you to your room for the week with nothing but gruel and  cold toast!  …wait. Did I say that out loud?  Sorry.  Quirk alert.

Ahhh.  I feel better. Not so much for my confession of irrationality but for the fact that many of you now, surely, are nodding your heads in silent approval.  Darn right you get every piece of laundry. No doubt eggs and toast must be consumed within seconds of leaving their implement of cookery.  Doggone straight the DVD trailers on family movie night are sacred and must be enjoyed silently or else.  Can I get an AMEN?!

OK, your turn… confession is good for you.  Besides, we want to laugh at you.  Or WITH you, I mean.  What are YOUR quirks?


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“let your quirk flag fly :: of trousers, toast, and trailers” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I lie to my kids.  I do it for fun.  It’s cheap entertainment.

Tonight’s episode was a personal triumph.

Amy and Seth and I helped lead worship for a Living Hope Church retreat last night and all day today.  By the time I got home, I laid down for a 10 minute snooze that turned into a two hour plunge into REM state.  I was exhausted, and I needed the rest.  Amy and I agreed that tonight was one of those rare times when we were HUNGRY for real food and lacked ANY DESIRE whatsoever to cook.

So I loaded up the boys in the van to pick them up some tasty 99 cent chicken nuggets and sandwiches from Wendy’s (don’t judge me), and proceeded to pull out my cell phone to call the a local steakhouse to order a tasty rib-eye for Amy and myself (don’t judge me… you’ve done this, too… you know you have.  Or if you hadn’t thought of it before, you’re now doing a silent fist-pump of thanksgiving, and you will commit a similar act of culinary inequity soon.  You know you will.)

“Who ya calling dad?”

In a moment of brilliance, the idea simultaneously was birthed in my brain and came out my face in a smooth flow, with that perfect blend of assurance and non-chalance that is needed to convince a van load of rowdy boys that the bologna you are selling them is trustworthy.  In a flash, a new hi-tech food delivery enterprise was born.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:  1-800-GET-BEEF.

Me:  “They’ve got this network set up across the country… They’re everywhere.  They guarantee a fresh, grilled-to-order steak, ready for pickup within three miles of your current location anywhere in the Continental United States – cooked and ready to go in 12 minutes.”

Boys:  (pause)  “Really?”

Me:  “Yup.”

Boys:  (longer pause)  “That’s AWESOME!”

Yes it is.  It is SO awesome.  Who doesn’t want a freshly grilled steak available at a moment’s notice?  Unless you’re vegan, this idea is pure grade-A awesome sauce with a side of extra tasty goodness.  Of course it is patently absurd, and logistically impossible, but let’s not let reality tamper with my sweet moment of victory…

Boys:  “Wait… Dad?  How do they know where to send it?”

Me:  “Uh… GPS.  They track your cell phone call and send your steak to the nearest drop point.  It’s pretty cool, really.”

Boys:  (pause)  “AWESOME!”

Dude.  They are buying this.  I’m a horrible father.  And yet…  I’m enjoying myself immensely.  No need to wrestle with those lingering pangs of conscience.  That would just bring me down, man.  Let me savor this sweet sweet tangled web of lies.

As I pulled into the  into the busy parking lot of a local supper club, the boys pause their ruckus in the back of the van to ask, “What are we doing here?”

Me:  “Oh… this is the local drop point for this area for 1-800-GET-BEEF.  They’re all over the place.  It should be ready by now.”

In amazement they watched me return to the van with a freshly grilled steak, Medium, baked potato, and side salad.  As the smell of the hot, savory rib-eye filled the van on the ride home, I got to enjoy my two eldest sons discussing ways to beat the system.  After all, if 1-800-GET-BEEF “guarantees” local delivery within 12 minutes, there must be some way to finagle some free steak…

“We should, like, go hiking in the mountains, and once we’re WAY up the trail, call 1-800-GET-BEEF.  Yeah.  There’s NO WAY they’ll make it to us in 12 minutes…

While I can’t argue that logic, I fail to see how this plan would actually work in the real world.  Are you going to hike cross country to pick up your steak at the nearest drop zone?  Three miles is a long trek through the brush on a mountainside, after all.  And wouldn’t it cost you more than the price of the steak itself to equip yourself at the local REI in backpacking gear?  They clearly haven’t thought this plan through.

As Amy and I sat at our table tonight, savoring a delicious meal which we did not cook, I smiled to myself with each bite.  Sure, I lie to my kids.  It’s just rare that they all fall for it in one fell swoop.  Or in this case, medium…

I’m not sure just when they’ll figure out that I’m full of beans.  In the long run, this probably won’t help my case in arguing for the reality of the Tooth Fairy,  but I refuse to back down.

In any case, tonight’s deception worked so well, I may just run with the theme.  This is America, after all.  Home of capitalism, the unfettered entrepreneurial spirit, and consumer-driven ingenuity. 

Surely there is a market for 1-800-MY-BACON?

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“i lie to children :: pride cometh before the beef” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’ve failed as a father.

Perhaps there’s hope.  He’s only seven.  So I figure I have 11 more years with him under my roof, where his very food and shelter may be leveraged in the shaping of his character.

Levi Kyle is our precocious, out-spoken, Type-A+, heart-on-his-sleeve, leader-in-training, seven-year-old tornado-on-wheels of a boy.  He says what he thinks.  All the time.  I love that kid so much.

Where little girls (from what I’m told) only ripen into ever-increasing layers of complexity and emotional nuance, we are the parents of BOYS.  There’s not so much nuanced about their snips and snails and puppy dog tails.  And Levi has been endowed with an extra measure of boy-ness from His creator.  What Levi thinks comes out his face in a rush.  We’re working on it.

One of the blessings of people with a Levi-like personality is the immediacy with which you know exactly what they are thinking.  Whether solicited or not, you will get their opinion on the matter.  Whatever is the matter in the moment.  So listening to Levi as he grows up is an open window to his character development.  It’s fascinating.  Equal parts thrilling, comedic, and on occasion… a little unnerving.

“Dad, I want a credit card.”

“No.”

“Why not?!”

“You’re seven.”

“SO?!”

“You have to be older.  They won’t give you a credit card.  It’s a big responsibility.”

“What’s the big deal?  You just give people your credit card, and they give you whatever you want. Easy.”

“Right. But then you have to pay for that stuff.”

“WHAT?!  It’s NOT FAIR.”

Not fair.  Nice.  I’m a failure.

I’ve written before about Levi before and one of the most important values we are trying to instill in our kids… GRATEFULNESS.  I firmly believe that beyond a dynamic relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the most powerful indicator of happiness through this one go-round we have on the planet is the degree to which we embrace and practice the value of gratefulness.  Or thanksgiving.  Or gratitude.  Call it what you will, but that right there is at the top of my list as Dad.  I want to raise sons who are deeply grateful – for their life and breath, for their freedom, for the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance in heaven which we don’t deserve, for their future spouses, and for every cookie and every cup of coffee and every soul with which we have the privilege of interacting.  To embrace life to the full (John 10:10) and to be joyful always, full of thanksgiving.  For EVERY good thing.  THAT is what it means to live truly deeply profoundly happy.  And I want that for my boys.

“Dad?”

“Yes Levi?”

“When you get your driver’s license , do they give you a free car?”

“No.  You have to buy it.”

“WHAT?!  Sheesh.”

I’m failing here.  See, the opposite of gratefulness isn’t indifference.  You might think that.  How many people do you know who walk around and breathe the air and take in the sunsets and drink their coffee and haul their kids to soccer practice without a shred of “thank you God for this moment”?  Honestly, how many times has that been ME?  How many times just today?

But that kind of non-acknowledgement isn’t the opposite of gratitude.  The opposite of thanksgiving is ENTITLEMENT.

He’s only seven.  I’m going to cut the kid a lot of slack.  For now.

But Levi, and the rest of us, need to constantly be reminded that every blessing is a gift.  And there is a Giver.  And the Giver pours out blessing like rain upon the redeemed, the searching, and the hostile.  Even more, he has given us energy and creativity and the freedom to EARN even more blessing – like that shiny new car Levi expects to be granted unto him with no real investment of time or sweat.

Well dude, I’ll give you some grace.  You’re only seven.  But we’ve gotta get a handle on this entitlement stuff.  From now on, you will understand the value of that PBJ you ate for lunch and the IKEA bunk bed in which you wrap up at night.  According to a June 18 US NEWS article, the cost of raising a child to age 18 is roughly $222,360.  If I’ve done the math correctly, in your seven short years you’ve already cost us $86,473.

Levi, I’ll go halvsies with you.

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“i’ve failed as a father :: why my seven year old will be paying rent from now on” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Here’s my theory:  At some point on the parenting path with each child, you must give up control to gain influence.  Let’s discuss…

My oldest son has that look on his face again.  Wide eyes.  Forced blank stare.  Trying not to convey anything.  Underneath he’s angry, but he’s trying to look unruffled.  Unchallenging.  He’s trying to avoid hearing his parents say, “Don’t look at me that way.”

But Seth is tenderhearted, so the forced nonchalance doesn’t suit his face.  There’s still that anger around the edges, in his posture and his hands.  And there’s hurt in his glazed eyes.

We’ve been here before, but not often.  Seth is a deeply good kid, and I’m so very proud of who he is becoming.  I can’t even type this without tears coming up, just under the surface.  I’m so proud and grateful he’s mine.

But he’s a normal kid with an independant streak a mile deep, and we, his parents, are actual people with attitudes and character struggles, too, so we’re bound to butt heads once in awhile.  In those times, I’m shifting my parental strategery.  I’ve begun to have these conversations differently…

From “The Silence of Adam” by Dr. Larry Crabb:

“Manly men release others from their control and encourage them with their influence…  Manly men nudge their family and friends to the same crossroads where they, as men, have found that trust [in God] or unbelief must be chosen.  Unmanly men require their friends and family to meet their demands.”

Do we require obedience from our kids, then?  Yes, we do.  And we don’t always have the time to answer the “why?” questions, so we require our kids to verbally agree with an “OK, Mom” or an “OK, Dad” after a directive is given.  This has been a VERY helpful piece of our parenting tool kit.  This assures that our boy is making eye contact and acknowledging that the directive has been heard.  Further, it reinforces the understanding that obedience is the expected norm.

But when kids grow, they gain complexity as they become more independant.  We still expect obedience, and we will not allow disrespect even when our boys disagree with our decisions.  But there is no question that parenting Seth requires a different kind of nuance.  And this is where being a manly dad means leading more by example and clear expectations , and less by demand.

So I’m trying to park my pride in my parenting.  I’m trying to be clear with expectations, and I still give PLENTY of directives.  But when I see that blank/hurt/angry/stubborn/conflicted/growing/complex/young/old/forced calm/frustrated face, I’m shifting my parenting gears.  I’m doing more nudging, and letting him choose.

Instead of, “Go apologize to your mom,” I’m encouraging Seth to choose the honorable way. “When you settle down and think it through, I think you should consider talking to Mom.  I think you owe her an apology.  And real apologies don’t come with any ‘but’ connected.  You think about your part of this, and you decide what to do.”

Seth will be a teenager in a month.  He has a living faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit feeds his conscience with a steady data stream.  He’s becoming a young man, and he’s not blindly falling into moral traps at this point… he is choosing.

My job, as I see it, is to help him become the man who will choose what is right because his character won’t allow him to do otherwise.  And that means prayer, trusting in God to shape him, and letting go of control in favor of influence.

Seth, and all of our boys, are miraculously wonderful kids.  Lord, help me not mess this up.

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“being a manly dad :: control vs. influence” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’m so grateful to God for my life and breath, I don’t have the words to express it.

Every heartbeat is a gift to me. Literally. My five rambunctious boys bring me such deep joy – they are above my expectations in every way, and I love them and am proud of them to the moon and back.  I have the deep privilege of studying God’s word and the care of His Church in Seminary this year – an incalculable gift.  I enjoy the blessings of the love of my parents and in-laws, siblings, friends, and an unshakeable sense that God cares for me.

How can I not shout my thank you’s to God all day?

And on top of my every need being met, and my redemption as a Son, God saw fit to grant me a bride for my one time on this earth who is at the very top of my thank you list.  My favorite person ever. God the artist was showing off when He made Amy.

Now in my first year of Greek language study, my once razor-sharp grammar skillz (yes, with a “z”… I was THAT good) have proven to be JUUUUUST a wee bit rusty.  It has been 22 years, after all, since my last real grammar challenge.  Of course, the aforementioned crown jewel of my thank-you-God list was a 15 year 5th grade grammar teaching machine, so I avoid head to head grammar challenges with my wife to much the same degree I avoid rabid badgers, the Wiggles, or Ethiopian food.

And then today… on the eve of my favorite holiday of the year… I found what may be the Grand Mack Daddy of all run-on sentences. With a tip of the cap to my grammar champion wife, my fellow grammar-chewing Greek student Seminarian compatriots, and all those (like my eldest son and my travel-stained Literature teaching brother-in-law) who find words to be both an ocean in which to dive deep and a playground in which to frolic, I give you this timely and wonderful example sentence structure run amok…

The First Official Presidential Proclamation in U. S. History

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

 

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us;

 

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
 

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.       – G. Washington

 

THIS is why.  God bless you and your family, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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“why thanksgiving…  the MOTHER of all run-on sentences” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Yesterday morning, my Greek class felt insurmountable.  Status update:

Then, as a timely clarion call to summon my inner manliness, a good friend challenged me with what was to be my favorite Facebook comment of the day:

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.  The day may come when the courage of Lutheran Seminarians fails; when we forsake our Catechisms and break all bonds of fellowship; but it is not this day…  An hour of Baptists and shattered shields, when the AFLC comes crashing down…  but it is not this day!   This day we study Greek!  By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand!  Seminarians of the west!

In other words, “Man-up Sally.” Sure, there may have been a wee bit of plagiarism involved, but with a tip of the cap to middle earth, it worked.  My inner manhood was roused, and tomorrow’s Greek Quiz is GOING DOWN.  When men get stirred to action, they are a force.  So today, men of the church, I appeal to your core. The church needs you to lead…

Let the record show that I shoot animals.

To up the ante (and by “ante” I mean “sheer manliness”) I wish I could jump them from the trees and do the deed myself with a knife to the jugular… but on a squirrel that spot is hard to find.  Also, they’re fast.  And jumpy.

But big game is even better.  And demolition derbys.  Steak – medium rare, thank you very much.  Vikings football.  Difficulty.  Adrenaline.  Risk.  Danger.  Driving with no map, whether I know where I’m going or not… Man stuff.

I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world! (to quote Walt Whittman)  That’s how I roll.

So I’ve been increasingly bothered by our Seminary discussion in Pastoral Theology about the current view of “church” (and church leaders) that is held by most of America… and most of the world.  Ladies and gentlemen, apparently the local church often has about as much appeal to the modern man as a Pampered Chef party.

The Church, in the view of the world, has suffered a serious bout of wussification over the last few decades.  And unfortunately, the view of pastors, on the whole, goes hand in hand with that. They’re seen as soft… overly emotional, non-athletic, and basically not effective in other business areas, so… ministry, I guess.  They can’t kick me out of ministry, right?  So… yeah.

WHAT IS WRONG?! Whatever happened to “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”?  That’s the mission of the Church!  On the offensive. Gates don’t advance.  Gates can only stand their ground and resist the oncoming assault.  The CHURCH is supposed to advance…  and forcefully, for that matter.  Check out Matthew 11:12…

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”

You know, come to think of it, maybe it’s time to update this verse…  “From the days of John the Baptist until, oh… 12 or 13 years ago, maybe… the Kingdom of God was forcefully advancing…”

No.  I’m not ready to concede ground here, watching our culture dismiss the Church as irrelevant, or at best, inept.  It’s time for the Church to be a place where men lead. Where forceful men advance the Kingdom in the power of the Word of God and the unstoppable force of the Holy Spirit.  Have we forgotten that the Commander of Angels is our advocate – and He lives in us to infuse us with supernatural power, courage, and the force of His life-changing Truth?  Where are the men of God – rising up to lead their families in the Truth of God, with conviction and prayer-fueled determination?  Where are the men of God – rising up to lead their churches by example – raising the next generation of young men to advance the Gospel with an iron resolve, a humble dependence on the Lord, and the courage of their convictions?  Where are the men of God hungry to simply lead a Bible study?  Instead, when the call goes out to get the job done, the women-folk step up and fill the slots our men aren’t interested in.  And it has led to a feminized Church.

*Whoa, wait a minute...* Isn’t this just the kind of gender stereotyping that made the church of the 50’s and 60’s a hotbed of patriarchal chauvinism?  Some of you probably think I’m pushing this man thing too hard.

Here’s the deal… I think women can be great leaders, too, and should be.  This isn’t a post about gender roles in church – it’s about our mission.  Many women have deeply significant ministry to do in the local church.  God has wired and gifted many of them to be leaders, teachers, shepherds, mentors…   I’m married to one.  Don’t think that by calling out the men I am in any way diminishing the value of women in the church. Actually, I’m making my way to a point here that I believe will resonate with y’all, too.  And it is this…

People don’t sacrifice their lives for a safe bet.  People give their lives for a passion-producing, life-changing, high-stakes mission.

That’s the Gospel.  Life and death.  Life-changing.  A high-stakes rescue mission in hostile territory.  And yeah… I think that has special appeal to those of us on the bearded, flannel-wearing, non-direction-asking side of the gender coin.  But really, whatever your particular chromosomal mix, who among us wants to lay our life on the line for sappy sing-alongs, some life-improvement bullet points, practical child-rearing advice, and coffee at a mid-week small group session?

Woot.  Can I get a woot?  Anyone?

I think WAY too many churches have settled for comfortable, safe, easy.  And as I’m neck deep in Seminary training, I feel like a racehorse at the gate right now.  The amazing DEPTH of the Word of God is overwhelming, and the consistent thread throughout the Old and New Testaments is this: we are all broken and scarred people, but God has provided a remedy in Jesus… I can’t wait to preach it.  People are dying for lack of this truth.  And to think of a local church on fire for the advancement of the Kingdom…  it will require forceful men to lay hold of it.

Pastors, Worship Leaders, men and women of the Church:  people right next to you are dying.  Literally dying. We have the only remedy.  I will lay down my life to tell people that Jesus gave his life for them, and he has a life-changing mission for them to live out.  But I will not call them into a safe, wussified life-improvement club.  Sure, our church family will stand together in deep authentic community, and we’ll learn how to be better parents, and how to live healthier lives… that’s all good.

But our core mission is disciple making. And it’s life-and-death serious.  C’mon men.  Step up.  And Pastors, let’s call our congregations into a mission that’s worth giving their lives for.  Let’s forcefully advance…


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“rise up, oh men of god, and put down that froo froo latte :: resisting the wussification of the church” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.