youth ministry

Star Wars VII and Fatherhood

star-wars-7-force-awakens-images-kylo-ren

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!

 
I recently saw the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie and it was pretty cool. This is not a review, but more of an observation on the theme of fatherhood that is deeply rooted in this movie. As stated above, I am going to share some info that will spoil the movie for you if you have not watched it.

You have been warned.

We are introduced to Kylo Ren, the new Sith character, who is the son of Hans Solo and Leia, and the grandson of Darth Vader. Right away, you see that Kylo has daddy issues. These issues seem to stem from Solo not being present in Kylo’s life and it is clear that Kylo’s daddy issues have encouraged his joining of the dark side. I wasn’t surprised to see this plot in the movie. There are so many young people I interact with that fall into a, sort of, “dark side” due to a broken or absent relationship with their father. What was interesting to see is how Hollywood portrayed the devastating consequences of a young man not having a positive relationship with his father. Not only did the consequences affect the individual, but the surrounding community as well.

Kylo has a moment in the movie where he interacts with Rey, the female protagonist, and Kylo senses that she has some kind of attachment to Solo. Kylo cynically says, “He’ll disappoint you.” In this interaction you see that Kylo is very emotional when he talks about his father. At one point, Kylo is conflicted between the light and dark side of the force. He even asks for guidance from his dead grandfather as he speaks to Darth Vader’s beaten helmet in a room. I believe this struggle is driven by Kylo’s desire to know his father, yet he is angry about being deserted.

Kylo’s anger has distorted his understanding of living a good moral life. This anger has also poured into Kylo’s interactions with the world in general. Kylo murders, orders people to be murdered, and eventually murders his father. The monstrous weapon— the Death Star on crack—destroys several planets all because of this deep anger and rage.

Kylo is a wounded young man. Maybe this is a stretch, but I believe this story can be seen as a metaphor for what can happen to young men when fathers are absent. Solo may be a stand up guy in the galaxy’s eyes, but not being present in Kylo’s life seems to have done some major damage. Maybe Kylo showed great promise to be a Jedi and he was sent away to train and that’s why Solo wasn’t around. Maybe, but clearly Kylo has daddy issues.

In my line of work, young men who don’t have fathers are more likely to be angry and have emotional issues that don’t always remain in their own hearts. Usually this anger pours into all they do and say, and onto those they interact with. I unfortunately have too many stories that constantly remind me of this reality. I’m not saying these young men will grow up to be like Kylo, but it definitely wounds them. There are many reasons why fathers can be absent in a young persons life. Therefore, I cannot make any judgments. Neither can I say that a fatherless child will automatically become a bad person. Individuals with very good, holy and present fathers make bad choices too.

As my wonderful wife pointed out a distinction needs to be made between a father that leaves their child out of selfishness, versus a father that needs to leave due to a deployment, or job that demands a prolonged physical absence. The latter are still present to their children, maybe not in a physical-corporal-right-in-front-of-you sort of way, but the relationship with their child is established. Relationships between fathers and children that have prolonged absences can still communicate via phone, Internet, mail, etc. and continue to nurture those relationships. I know of many young men and women whose fathers are away on business or deployments that have solid relationships with their fathers.

Maybe J.J. Abrams is using this movie to communicate the importance of a good relationship between a son and his father. Maybe he isn’t. Whatever the case may be, the need for fathers to be present, engaged, and attentive to their sons is very important and something that, not only affects the individual, but everyone they come into contact with.

There are many young men who grow up without fathers and turn out to be great people. However, studies (this is just one site out of dozens) show how difficult it is for children—especially boys—to grow up without fathers.

As we close this year and begin a new one, let all fathers be more attentive to our relationships with our sons and our daughters. There is no greater force than the impact you will have on them.

Advertisements
Categories: boys and girls, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fatherless kids, fathers, importance of fathers, star wars, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Hallows’ Eve Revisited

hungry-history-the-halloween-pumpkin-an-american-history-E

Horse costume. Check. Flag with fleurs-de-lis. Check. Sword. Check. Home made Saint cards. Check. Fifteenth century French-like soldiers helmet and armor.

Umm…we may have to improvise.

All Hallows’ Eve, also know as Halloween is right around the corner and my wife and I are preparing our daughters costume. We have started a tradition in our household where each year we dress our daughter up as a particular Catholic saint. Last year she was St. Clare of Assisi after her namesake. This year she will be St. Joan of Arc. One of the things we are adding to this years Halloween tradition is that we will have our daughter give each home she visits a homemade card with a picture of St. Joan of Arc on the front and a little bio of her life on the back.

There are many Christians who have various thoughts on the matter of whether or not to celebrate Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve is literally the eve of All Saints Day (November 1st) in which we celebrate the life of all the amazing Saints that have lived their lives for Christ in an exemplary way. All Saints is part of our Christian history and therefore a big deal. I am a Youth Minister and I believe that God uses young people to change the world. If you don’t believe me, pick up a bible and read it. Many of the stories in the scriptures where God calls someone to do something amazing, involve a young person (i.e. David, Mary, the Apostles, etc.). I find Halloween to be an incredible opportunity to go and share those stories and the stories of the saints with people who may never get a chance to hear them. Also, it gives my daughter and opportunity to be one of those young people God uses to change the world. More on that later.

Think about it this way.

When else do we have an opportunity to go to a stranger’s home and be greeted with a genuine desire to see us? Sure it’s about candy and maybe we can say it’s expected of people to open their doors and greet us. Regardless of why people open the door the reality is: they are opening their doors to us. My daughter is very cute. Put her in a horse costume, with a sword in hand and people will listen and do anything she says. Claire is learning about St. Joan of Arc and my hope is that by the time we go out trick-or-treating she will be able to say, “I’m St. Joan of Arc. Thank you (in reference to the candy she’s receiving), here’s a present for you (as she hands the Saint card).”

We’re working on the enunciation.

Will people read the Saint card? I think they will at least look at it since a cute toddler is giving it to them, and maybe later that night they will read it. Will this card change their lives? Probably not, but it is hard to say. We don’t know how a person may react to a mixture of the Holy Spirit, our family’s prayers and a cute child dressed as a Saint.

Here is the other thing.

The reaction of the person who is receiving the Saint card is only part of the equation. My daughter learning to creatively share her Catholic faith is the other part. Claire needs to learn at a young age that her faith is not hers to keep. Claire (she’s 2 and a half) needs to be able to experience evangelization (aka sharing the faith) at this early age so that she realizes that this is normal, and what all Christians are called to do. Experts say that at this age kids absorb everything they hear and see, so it makes sense that we would want them absorbing how to share the faith as well. Evangelizing is not limited to special holidays and seasons, but Halloween gives our family an opportunity to do this together in a safe, and easy way with people we may never get another chance to connect with.

Discovering fatherhood requires that I take every opportunity I can to help my daughter grow and become who God is calling her to be. It also requires that I help my daughter learn that the gift of faith we have is so precious, so awesome and so needed in our world. Halloween will come and go, but the opportunity my daughter has to share the life of St. Joan of Arc will help her be a better follower of Jesus and with a little luck, some prayers and a cute costume we may just touch someone’s heart.

Categories: all hallows eve, all saints, Catholic, christianity, costumes, evangelization, fatherhood, God, halloween, halloween costume, Jesus, saints, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Tradition

As a Youth Minister I have come to see that 95% of the issues many kids have are in one way or another related to daddy issues. Whenever I have a kid come to me about drugs, behavioral, social, spiritual, sexual and or emotional issues a majority of the time it all goes back to their relationship with their father or lack of one. The flip side to this is that whenever I have kids who are confident, happy, and generally doing well it is because they tend to have a good relationship with their father. When I counsel teens I always ask them about their relationship with their father. Typically, this is where I get many of the answers I am looking for.

I have read several articles and studies on the importance of fathers being present in the lives of their children and they all say the same thing and confirm what I experience in youth ministry. Frankly, it pisses me off. If I can be blunt.

I recognize there are countless of factors as to why fathers can be inadequate, absent, not good enough, but whatever the reasons the result is always a damaged child. Maybe not badly damaged, but definitely with issues.

I do not want my daughter to have issues because of me.

So as of yesterday I am starting a new tradition. At least once a month until my children get married, enter religious life or move really far away I am going to go out on dates with them. I’ll come up with a better name than ‘dates’ for the boys, but for now that’s what I’ll call it. I will take Claire out on a date with me. We will go out just her and I and spend some quality daddy time. We may go to the park, chase things, pray, get Chick-fil-a or all of the above. The point is to spend time with my daughter and build a relationship where she recognizes her dignity, worth and that she is loved beyond all things.

These dates right now will be simple. We will spend them hanging out and helping establish her confidence by going down slides, or walking across the playground bridge by herself. As Claire gets older the dates will be a little different, the conversation will deepen, but my hope is that she will never have the insecurities and issues that are caused by a missing, uncaring, or physically-present-yet-not-there-father.

I’m not crazy. I know my daughter will still have issues—we all do. However, whatever those issues are I pray they will not be due to something I did or didn’t do. I don’t know if there is a list out there that fathers can consult to see if they are doing things right and helping their kids to be confident, recognize their worth and dignity. I think spending quality time, showing you love them and asking forgiveness when we fail is definitely key to this.

So for now I have to come up with creative ideas for taking my 13-month-old girl on a date. I welcome any thoughts!

Categories: children, daughters, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Parenting, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Telling the Story

IMG_0603I love telling stories. I’m going to be that old grandfather who tells stories over and over again, while the grandkids say, “Grandpa! You just told us that one!”

There is something about a good story that really can work a person’s imagination, help process through difficulty, or just leave us with a smile on our face. Stories are powerful.

I am very thankful for the “Little People” that Fisher Price puts out—especially the biblical ones. My father-in-law recently got my daughter Claire the Little People Nativity Set and she loves it. I can tell because they all are covered in baby slobber half the time. Baby Jesus is currently in a cocoon of solidified saliva.

Fisher Price has done a good job of creating these cute, little people. The facial features, outfits, and color design—they all do a great job at setting the scene. Yet, the toys in and of themselves don’t communicate the story. They are the cast of characters, the set, and scene. There still needs to be a storyteller.

Since we got this Nativity set, my wife and I sit with Claire and tell her the story of Christmas. We grab the camel, 3 Wise Men, and have them talk to one another. We pick up the Wise Men and have them give Claire kisses so that she can see that they journey to share love to the Christ child. We take Joseph and Mary and have her stare at them and tell her (with made up voices) “Jesus is our precious child and we love Him this much…” This line is followed by Mary and Joseph kissing Claire all over and we don’t stop until she smiles. Next, comes baby Jesus with His painted golden halo and saliva cocoon. “I came into the world, Claire, for you! I love you so much…” More kisses, more smiles from Claire.

As a Youth Worker I am saddened to see how many of our young people either don’t care or are bored by the story of the God who became man. In the last 13 years, I’ve realized that our young people don’t care or are bored by the story because we have stopped telling the story well. There is a lack of excitement, joy, and wonder in the telling of this story.

The storytelling has become dull. Think about it. How many times have you heard people talk about the Christmas story as if it were just another of BuzzFeed’s top 25 list, a matter of fact type thing that just is. “God became man. Can you pass the potato salad?”

Claire smiles and laughs when baby Jesus kisses her—she is introduced and becomes a part of the story. My wife and I change our voices, we place Jesus on top of the couch, sometimes He is on the Christmas Tree, or on the dog’s head. The story must be told with new ardor, new methods and new expressions so that it captures her attention. It is and will always be the same story, but the listener needs to hear it in fresh new ways. The ardor, enthusiasm, passion, etc. must be palpable. We are talking about the GOD who BECAME a MAN!! This story and the time uncle Willie used poison ivy at camp to clean his backside should not stand toe-to-toe with each other. The method and expression in which we share the story has to be fresh, especially for those of us who have heard the story so many times that it really doesn’t do anything for us. This doesn’t mean we change the story—we cannot—but, the way in which we tell it should be new. Paint/art, music, film, food, etc. are ways to tell the story. Humanity is so creative (click on the blue text)! We can come up with new methods easily; we just need to use our imagination and talents.

Claire will outgrow the baby Jesus kissing method and expression. My wife and I will need to come up with other creative ways to tell the story. Let’s face it, reading it from Scripture to her at the age of 1 or 2 isn’t going to capture it for her. The story must be told over and over again. When our children begin to show that they do not care or are bored with the story of God becoming man, it means we are not telling the story well.

May this story never seize to capture the imagination of our children. May you and I never seize to tell it well, because it is the greatest story ever told.

Merry Christmas to all of you and your loved ones.

Categories: children, christmas, fatherhood, fathers, fisher price, God, husband and wife, Parenting, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Skimpy Costume Dilemma

jackolanternA few days ago I was in a Wal-Mart with my daughter Claire and I saw that they already had Halloween costumes out. There were two high school girls looking at the different outfits and I happened to overhear their conversation. The one girl thought that the costume she was looking at was not “skimpy” enough. Yes, she actually used that word. The conversation ended with them deciding to go to one of those pop-up Halloween stores in town to get something that would be more “fitting” for their needs.

Every year I see some of my Youth Ministry girls’ pictures on Facebook from Halloween parties and I dread the potential of seeing one of them in these “skimpy” costumes. I dread it because:

  1. It hurts my heart to see them dressing in a way that is going to objectify them and have guys thinking all kinds of inappropriate things about them.
  2. I have to call them out on it and remind them that they have dignity and worth that these costumes do not reveal, which is always a tough and sometimes awkward conversation to have—mostly for the girls.

So this is my open letter to my beloved ladies of Youth Ministry. I love you girls so much that I want to say this before Halloween comes around and you buy your costume.
Maybe this year the skimpy, inappropriate Halloween costumes are hitting closer to home because I am a father to a baby girl. Maybe holding Claire as I heard the above conversation had me see her in those two high school girls. Regardless of the reason I don’t think that the skimpy costumes are necessary. So here are this Youth Minister’s 6 reasons why I would advise against the skimpy costumes.

  1. The skimpy costumes are not original: Every year there are tons of girls scantily dressed up as cops, pirates, nurses, etc. I guarantee you that there will be at least one of each at the party you go to. If having the same dress, as another girl at a dance is a no-no, then I’m sure having the same costume, as another girl is just as bad. The skimpy costumes are not original, so be more creative.
  2. Halloween is not a modesty-free-day: No other day of the year would you wear anything remotely skimpy as that costume, so why is Halloween all of a sudden an acceptable day for this? Seriously, if it is the size of a dinner napkin it isn’t modest! Modesty is not something you can put aside for a day even if Seventeen Magazine says so!
  3. You become a target for the wrong type of guy: The skimpy costume is notorious for attracting guys that only want to check you out and potentially go beyond just staring. The skimpy costume is a magnet for jerks, pervs, and guys who don’t want to see the whole you. Who wants that?!
  4. Help a brother out: Our primary sense is our sight. For most guys sight is the one sense that can really get us in trouble. What the eye sees the heart desires. If you have a skimpy costume on that shows off your body, a guy is going to desire it. That’s not to say every guy who stares at you will be thinking inappropriate thoughts, but there is a real good chance they will. Help a brother out by not having them have to deal with that.
  5. Think beyond Halloween:  You might think the skimpy costume was cool, but what about after October 31st? What will people say when they talk about that night or look at those pictures you are sure to post on Facebook? “Wow, I thought Susie was really going to arrest me.” is not one of those things. If you looked skimpy, people will refer to you in that way. The rest of the year you will have to live with what you wore for a few hours of one night.
  6. The skimpy costumes don’t reveal enough: Let me explain. The skimpy costumes may reveal the beauty of your body, but that isn’t all of you. You are a person with a soul, with intelligence, dreams, talents, gifts, personality and most importantly dignity. A dignity that is yours to uphold, protect and reveal to the world. The skimpy costume only puts focus on your body, and as beautiful as that body is, it only reveals a very, very small, tiny, bitsy piece of who you are. You are so much more than just flesh!

There are so many cool, creative non-skimpy costumes out there that can highlight your creativity, intelligence, gifts, talents as well as your beauty. My challenge for you is to not get sucked in by the worlds desire to make you into a thing, an object, a means to an end.

You are holy. You are sacred. You are precious. So be all of those things.

Categories: costumes, dignity, fatherhood, fathers, God, halloween, holiness, modesty, Parenting, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holding on to you, dear life

Image

Before getting married I thought I was a pretty selfless person. When I got married I thought I needed to be a little less selfish. When we had Claire I came to the realization of the full extent of my selfishness.  It was real, big and in every facet of my life!

There is nothing like giving your life to someone else to make you realize your desire to hold on to it. I think we all come to a point in life where we recognize that to truly live we must die to ourselves, but the distance from dying to self…………and actually doing it…………is quite…………far.

Claire is a pretty easy baby. She has been sleeping through the night since she was 2 months old.  I am told that I am extremely lucky, even blessed. There are those moments of crankiness, random crying and 2 am feedings that I can handle, but it’s the moments when I am unwilling to be interrupted because I am doing “my thing” that I recognize the full extent of my desperate hold onto life. Whether it’s watching re-runs of Arrested Development, praying, or trying to finish that book I started 5 months ago, I recognize that I am unwilling to fully surrender myself to my role as father.

I recognize that when I hold onto my life on my own terms I end up enjoying it less. When I am willing to surrender, sacrifice and serve my wife and daughter I am fulfilled, happy and joyful. However, 2 days later I am at it again desperately clinging to my own life not realizing that by doing this I am actually chocking it to death and keeping it from being what it should be—a gift.

I think all of our lives are a gift. And gifts are meant to be given away…to others. Discovering fatherhood is helping me to realize the power that this gift of life can have… if only I would be willing to let go of it.

Categories: dying to self, fatherhood, Parenting, selfishness, surrendering, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Cyrus Lesson

miley-cyrus-babyThe other night my Facebook newsfeed was inundated with comments about Miley Cyrus and something crazy, raunchy, etc that she did. I finally decided to Google her name and see what would pop up.

Yikes.

I’m sure by now many of you have seen the VMA “performance” that Miley was in. If you haven’t don’t look for it, your souls is better of not watching it. Lets just say she pretended to be something less than human on stage.

My first reaction to Miley’s performance was not shock, disgust or embarrassment. I was thinking to myself, how did she get to this point? Where along the way did this 20 year old think twerking (if you don’t know what this is you are better off) on stage in her underwear was the right thing to do? The sad thing is that anyone can become what Miley was on stage that night. My daughter, your daughter anyones daughter. We all have the potential to be incredible people or to chose something less…twerking.

The picture in this post is of Miley Cyrus when she was a baby. Here is a child with infinite potential in all aspects of life. A child with dignity, worth and goodness. The Miley on stage at the VMA awards is that same person. The same dignity, worth and goodness is there. I think she just forgot, or maybe was never told about it.

A few years ago Glenn Beck (*diclaimer: I am neither a fan or foe of him*) did an interview with Billy Ray Cyrus where he asked him about his daughter, Miley:

“Are you at all concerned?” Beck asked the young star’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus, at the time. “I mean, the odds of Miley turning into Ron Howard — meaning sane — pretty low. Living in Los Angeles, being a child star — hello? Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, name a million others…”

Cyrus was confident that his daughter had a “great head on her shoulders” and a “great heart.” He also explained that he tries to be her “best friend,” while letting his wife act as the disciplinarian.

“I taught them how to build a good snowman, how to ride a motorcycle, how to ride a horse, how to roast a wiener properly over a fire, and a good marshmallow,” Cyrus explained. “…But discipline I always left up to the mama. She was really, really good at that. That never was — I never was really good at that.”

There is a lesson to be learned here. Billy Ray is not to be blamed for Miley’s VMA spectacle, she is her own person and has a will and intellect to chose. One can though wonder what Miley would be like today if dad had disciplined her, told her no, change that outfit, you are grounded, don’t you ever twerk–ever!

There have been tons of articles, seminars and books that talk about the crucial role of a father in a child’s life. If you are a dad please understand this: you set the precedent to what your child will understand a man is supposed to be. You also set the precedent for helping your child discover their dignity, worth and goodness–especially a daughter. If you are a coward, lazy, angry, raunchy, immoral, good, caring, faithful, selfless…then this is what she will  understand a man to be. Why is it that every now and then we hear women say, “I just seem to attract all the losers and jerks.” The reason is probably because that is all they have seen and known.

As a Youth Minister I have ministered to some girls who have forgotten or were never told that they have dignity, worth and goodness. The majority of those girls had no fathers or if they did, were around but not fully, actively and consciously participating in their lives. So that is what they learn a man is: not around, not able to focus, not really invested in their lives.

Men, we have a responsibility to be more than a provider of house, food and education. Building snowmen, roasting marshmallows and teaching our kids how to ride a horse are great bonding experiences, but not enough for them. I realize I only have a 5 month old, but I cannot settle for anything less than my daughter recognizing that she is an unrepeatable, exquisite, beautiful human being. We must remind our children that they have dignity, worth and goodness. More importantly, we must live out dignity, worth and goodness in our everyday lives so that they can see it and understand that this is what they deserve!

If we do not…expect worse things than twerking.

Categories: fatherhood, God, Parenting, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.