August Whetstone Newsletter

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Read

AFF Team Delivers First Creative Camp in Haiti – American Friendship Foundation

It is a simple and obvious philosophy… Haitians are going to find the answers to Haiti’s issues. Investing in teachers and students, specifically in their ability to tackle tough problems and work as a team, is a great partnership opportunity for us.

Read about my friend Kris Neese’s work in Haiti with the American Friendship Foundation.

OUR MINDS HAVE BEEN HIJACKED BY OUR PHONES. TRISTAN HARRIS WANTS TO RESCUE THEM – NICHOLAS THOMPSON

Technology steers what 2 billion people are thinking and believing every day. It’s possibly the largest source of influence over 2 billion people’s thoughts that has ever been created.

The attention economy. That is the currency of today’s internet. Time (attention) is money. Apple, Google, and Facebook don’t care about you, they want to sell you to other companies. So they manipulate your attention. Autoplay, notifications, streaks hijack your mind into spending your time the way Apple, Google, and Facebook want you to spend your time. And you don’t even realize it. Romans 12:2 says it best: “2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Our minds are being transformed…..by tech.

Rethinking Christian Calling – Kyle Borg

Discerning God’s will and guidance comes to us in the Bible and we need to be content with that. The specific details of his individual plan are things that can only be known in retrospect.

Calling is one of those tricky concepts in Christian life. Ken wrote about it last week. He wrote, “I say I want to know God’s plan. I say I want to know my purpose; or rather His purpose for me – my calling. But maybe I should be asking myself why I want to know these things?” 

Watch

The Manipulative Trick Tech Companies Use to Capture Your Attention – Tristan Harris

 Here’s the TED talk referenced in the article above. As Christians, we need to be intentional about what enters our minds. Are you in control?

Stay Sharp,

Matt

When We Least Expect It

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Sometimes I wonder about God’s plan for my life. What’s my purpose? What’s my calling? Am I where God wants me right now, or am I missing or ignoring something that would direct me otherwise?

I don’t know about you, but these thoughts typically come to me during times of idleness. Often plenty to do, but lacking motivation. I may even look busy on the outside, but spinning my wheels internally.

But then I look back and think about some of the great opportunities and experiences that have come my way unexpectedly:

Excellent job opportunities that I hadn’t really been pursuing (and honestly didn’t feel qualified for at the time);
Tremendous friendships stumbled into that have been enormously beneficial and impactful (and I pray the same is true for those friends as well);

Serving opportunities that tapped into gifts and passions I didn’t realize I’d been given. Where I received back tenfold in God’s joy and peace over whatever modest service I had provided.

Amazing conversations where time seemed to stand still and heaven came close. Where the Holy Spirit’s presence was palpable. Where words flowed from unknown sources. Where I almost felt like a spectator in awe of how God was using me.

In those moments, there was no question about God’s plan for my life. I knew I was exactly where God wanted me, and doing exactly what God wanted me to do. Or at least that God was using me exactly where I was – I’m honestly not sure which.

And that’s where the tension comes in.

I say I want to know God’s plan. I say I want to know my purpose; or rather His purpose for me – my calling.
But maybe I should be asking myself why I want to know these things?

Self-righteous Ken would say, “Well, of course I want to know these things so that I can get to work carrying out God’s plan!”

But if I’m honest with myself, I suspect I want to know so I can decide if I like the plan; perhaps there are a few tweaks that are needed?! I want control.

And then there’s the uncomfortable reality that His plan may (will?) take me through some very difficult times.

“…In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33)

How much of His plan do I really want to know with the trials and tribulations that are sure to come? And if I knew of those trials ahead of time, how faithful would I be in following that plan?

Hmmm. I’m pleading the fifth on that last question…

God knows this, of course, and knows my heart. And in His perfect and infinite wisdom, He leads me one step at a time; step by step.

And it’s often during those trials and tribulations of life (that I wouldn’t choose for myself) that I learn the most; that I see God working in the most amazing ways; that the distractions of this life – this broken world – fade away, and I see God’s purpose for me in that moment with complete clarity.

And I’m reminded that God is faithful and trustworthy. That God is good.

This isn’t to say that we should sit around waiting for God to drop things into our lap. Far from it. We’re called to action.

In what is commonly called the great commission, Jesus gives us our marching orders – our “big picture” calling:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And no, these aren’t just instructions for full time missionaries. I believe we’re all called to go into our jobs, into our neighborhoods, into our classrooms, into our families, into our day to day interactions, and yes into our hobbies and leisure activities ready to be witnesses to God’s love and faithfulness.

Now I’m sure there are those who feel called into very specific vocations, and that’s fantastic! But in most cases I really don’t think God cares what career path we choose. We should certainly give it careful and prayerful consideration, but then go! God will use our service wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Often when, and in ways, that we least expect it.

Peace!
Ken

The Future of the Whetstone

“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt”
― Seth GodinThe Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit

“Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.”
― Seth GodinThe Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
-Thomas Edison
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” ~ Vince Lombardi.
~ Vince Lombardi.
Hi Friends,
I feel like I’m at a decision point with the Whetstone. Quit or change. The current status quo of the Whetstone is unsustainable for me. It has become uninspiring and laborious. I feel that the Whetstone is mediocre compared to what it should be. And, that is my fault. My fault for not planning, for not being disciplined, and my fault for not having a well-defined message. The last thing you and I need is for the Whetstone to be a guilt trip or an obligation. From a numbers standpoint, there has been no growth in the readership for quite a while. The last person to subscribe was 7 months ago.
So, at the end of August, the Whetstone will go on a break for the rest of the year while I decide what happens to it. There are essentially two questions I need to answer. 1- Is it working? Right now, no. I believe it needs a major overhaul to work. 2-Do I still believe in it? Right now, I’m not sure. Answering that question will be the bulk of the struggle in the next month or so. What I do know is if the Whetstone continues, it will not be in its current state.
But, first; I want to tell each of you how much I appreciate you. Your support in prayer, in words and financially, has been humbling, encouraging, and something that I will remember for a long time. Putting yourself out there with the potential for others to criticize is scary. So, thank you for walking with me in this.
Lastly, thank you to Gavin, Gerry, and Ken who either can’t say no to me or really trusted me enough to go on this journey. Your faithfulness, support, and encouragement have literally gotten me through to now.
I would appreciate your prayers as I sort through this.
Stay Sharp,
Matt

 

Jennifer and the Missing 1st Class Passenger

If you’re like most people I know, you like to have your flight schedule nailed down. You know what seat you’re in, when you need to leave home, and when you’re going to board. But, it’s not just in traveling… a plan gives some peace and assurance. Many of us have plans for our marriages, work, finances, kids, spiritual growth, volunteer work, and physical health. When those plans don’t come together or a wrench is thrown into the works, stress, angst and even anger are many times the order of the day! It’s particularly tough when you don’t know until the very end whether it’s going to work or not!

That’s where Jennifer and the missing 1st class passenger come in… and by the way… thank you to both of them, whoever and wherever they may be!

Sara and I were given “Buddy Passes” for our trip from Austin to Denver a few weeks ago. The way it works is you are put on the standby list and hopefully you get a seat! The challenge is that you are put on the bottom of the list. All other passengers take precedence. So… we got to the airport, checked in on time… everything going smoothly. A little nervous, we kept asking and watching, but no answers.  Boarding began. Then an announcement over the airport system… “The lower level has been shut down for a possible bomb and we are evacuating that level. The bomb squad is investigating so at this time no one is allowed to leave or enter. No action needs to be taken by the people on the concourse.” Can you imagine what everyone was thinking… the lower level isn’t that far away… a bomb could take it all out… are you kidding us!!!!

And then… “Harrow party of 2 please come to the podium.” Awesome… now we can get out of this place! “Mr. and Mrs. Harrow, I’m sorry to inform you that we only have 1 seat left and the next flight is already full.” What? I’ve got to get there but I can’t leave Sara behind with a bomb! A sick feeling in my gut. Sara urging me to take the seat. But there’s still hope… they’re waiting for one passenger who had already checked in online… Jennifer! After what seemed to be an eternity… no Jennifer… the gate agent said to both of us… “follow me down the jetway.” He needed to check if they had missed her boarding. No Jennifer!!!! Whew… we both took our seats and we were on our way! As we taxied, there sure was a lot of traffic backed up… probably because of the bomb scare. THANK YOU JENNIFER!

getting a standby seat to go home So what did I learn? Reflecting on the experience, I thought about how we are called to follow Jesus in every aspect of our lives and, even though we have it all planned out, He may have different plans for us that may not even revealed until the last minute. So, how can I… we… be more open to changes and the dynamic life we’re called to live? By watching, listening, learning and following our Savior closer and closer each day wherever and whenever He takes us… even at the last moment! What a great lesson! That will probably show up in a sermon someday! Confidently and boldly… feeling pretty proud of myself… I thought, I can handle this much better now!

So after an eventful few days, we were looking forward to getting back to Texas. So… we got to the airport, checked in on time… everything going smoothly. Standby list looked pretty full… boarding progresses. “Harrow party of 2 please come to the podium.” Awesome… now we can get back home! “Mr. and Mrs. Harrow, I’m sorry to inform you that we only have 1 seat left and the next flight out is already full.” What!!! How is this going to work? No car or place in Colorado… how will we handle the Texas end? Let’s check other flights… maybe we can buy some tickets. $900… that won’t work. But there’s still hope… they’re waiting for one passenger… a 1st Class passenger! After what seemed to be an eternity… no passenger yet… the gate agent said to both of us… “follow me down the jetway.” He needed to check if they had missed him boarding. No 1st Class passenger!!!! Whew… we both took our seats and we were on our way! THANK YOU MISSING 1st CLASS PASSENGER!

So what did I really learn? That it’s really hard to fully give up our plans, our will, our future, our kids, our families, and marriages to God. How are you at that? God asks us to give it all up to the Creator of the universe… the one who controls nature… the one who provides every single thing we have. My prayer is that you and I both learn the peace, joy and freedom in living that way. It may not work out in the way or timing we want, but we know that it will work together for good.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose

-Gerry

July 2017 Newsletter

my son quote

my son quote

Let me ask you a question: When did you know, really know, you were a man? For me, it was after completing Army Infantry Basic Training at Fort Benning Georgia. Three months of Georgia summer heat, swearing Drill Seargents, and hard physical work from 4:30 AM to bedtime. That will make a man out of you. So, in a culture where there aren’t rites of passage how do we initiate our boys into manhood? What does that look like and is it even necessary? This month we’ll take a look at rites of passage.

Read

Heroic Rite of Passage for Boys Jessica Miller Kelley

“Manhood has to be shaped by Jesus,” Wright says. “He had the classic traits of manhood, fighting with the Pharisees, clearing out the moneychangers, and also a passion for justice, equality, and compassion that leads to action. You also see him weeping at the tomb of his friend; you see a man of deep emotion. We need to reconnect men to Jesus. Some people seem to be emphasizing manhood for its own sake, rather than connecting men to Jesus.”

Jesus is exactly the model we need and our boys need.

Rites of Passage for Your Son – Robert Lewis

the important thing is that you do something creative and memorable to initiate your son into manhood. Remember, too, that the power of the ceremony is the actual experience! It is the lingering memory it makes and in the potent vision it marks.

This is a 7 part series from Robert Lewis (Raising a Modern Day Knight) on the rites of passage for his sons. He lays out the 4 rites (puberty, high school, college, and marriage) through their early life. There are some great ideas to incorporate into a rite of passage for your own son.

Rites of Passage – From Boys to Men – Rod Arters

As I groom my son to become a man one day, I’m tempted to take him fishing. Or hunting. Or show him how to shoot a gun. Or use a hammer. Or change the oil. Or rotate the car tires. All good things for men to know. But without passing the baton of my faith, what have I really given him?

There it is in that last sentence. Does it make a difference how good of a man our boys become if they don’t have faith in Jesus? No, it doesn’t. Any rite of passage must help pass on that baton of faith to our sons.

Watch

Why Boys are Failing – Philip Zimbardo

Boys are opting out. Opting out of a confusing world. They are isolating themselves in a safer simpler place. They are going in to virtual worlds, where the objectives are clear. They have control over the outcome, they have no fear, and never get rejected.

Do we need rites of passage in this day and age in our culture? I think Philip Zimbardo answers the question of the need. Philip George Zimbardo is a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He became known for his 1971 Stanford prison experiment.  There are some surprising statistics in this video for boys related to health, video games, porn, and school.

Listen

Inviting Our Children into the Larger StoryRansomed Heart

The guys discuss helping their own and their friend’s sons into manhood. Boys need their dad and the godly influence of their dad’s friends.

 

Did you have rite of passage yourself? Did you or will you have one for your son? What will that rite of passage look like? Let me know in the comments!

Stay Sharp!

Matt

How’s Your Vision?

Vision_2

Our human tendency is to be very near sighted, or self-focused. If I’m honest with myself, I tend to be most concerned about how things are going for me; how the current situation and/or decision will affect me; how future plans might benefit me.

No, not all the time, but more frequently than I care to admit or even realize.

Me, me, me.

Hmmm. Not terribly flattering…

To be sure, we can’t avoid focusing on ourselves to at least some degree. As human beings, we have basic needs that must be met to survive. We need air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, shelter to sleep. And I’m sure you can add a few more to the list that are truly needs. After those basic needs are met, it becomes a competition of my wants, my comforts, and my luxuries versus your needs, wants, comforts, and luxuries.

For most of us here in America, our basic needs are met, along with most of our wants. Comforts and luxuries are the new needs. And we’re constantly bombarded with messages that try and convince us of these new needs:

“It’s all about you!” (There was a billboard in town for a local bank last year with a woman smiling and pointing at passing motorists with this proclamation.)

“Be true to yourself!” (Was Hitler true to himself? What about Stalin? Bin Laden? Hmmm. The list goes on and on…)

“Follow your heart!” (“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9))

“You deserve this!” or “You’ve earned this!” (” …for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23) So what exactly do we deserve?)

“Look out for number one! (Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Look at this last one again. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

This really sums it up for me. Our tendency, again, is to focus on ourselves. That’s the essence of the “Look out for number one” mantra.

But Jesus corrects this faulty world view and commands us to look up to God as our number one. To love Him with everything we are; To trust Him, submit to Him, depend on Him. And then we are to look out to others; to love others as we love ourselves. The implication here is that we love ourselves just fine by default – we don’t need any instruction here. But we do need the exhortation to love others.

So back to the title, what’s all this have to do with vision?

I believe we’re called to have a long view. I mean a really, really long view, not just a five or ten year plan, or looking ahead to retirement, but a desire to see things from God’s point of view.

In other words, put on your eternity glasses.

What?! Wait a minute you say – I’m not God! I don’t know the future!!

Well, you’re right – you’re not God.

But you’re also wrong about not knowing the future. In fact, God has revealed to us all we need to know about the future.

Christ defeated death on the cross.
”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We share in that victory by God’s grace and through faith in Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God wins.
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5)

So those eternity glasses are not to see some hidden mystery of the future, but rather to remind us of the truth that we are sons and daughters of the most high God. Take comfort knowing the God who loves you is sovereign and in control. And while we’re sure to experience trials and tribulations in this world, our eternal victory is secure in Christ!

Peace,
Ken

I found God in Prison, Part 1

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“I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:36

 

There are times in our life when we are all alone. Though we may be surrounded by people, we may feel unwanted, unloved.

There are times in our life when we desire forgiveness. In a world full of shallow, cheap apologies we find the liberation that comes from genuine, deep grace to be allusory.

These are two fundamental concepts to the human condition: the desire to be in community, and the freedom that grace provides so that we can “have life, and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10).

Like you I have explored these ideas for many, many years. In my thoughts, in bible studies, weekend retreats and holiday BBQs. To answer the question of the meaning of life one will confront these issues squarely and regularly.

On this side of Heaven we may never fully understand the answers to life’s difficult questions. But an experience I had recently opened my eyes to them as wide as I have ever seen. I saw more in 4 days than I have seen in 40 years.

It was inside the walls of the largest prison in Colorado that I experienced God like never before. I have had moments in my life when I felt God’s presence – but nothing as palpable, as enduring and as real as the 4 days in April 2017 at Sterling Correctional Facility.

In 2004 I was invited to a Kairos Closing Ceremony at a prison in Huntsville, Texas. What I saw there affected me deeply and I swore that I would revisit the Kairos Prison Ministry later in life. In 2017 I felt called back to Kairos and reached out to their local chapter. In no time I was fully welcomed into the Sterling Chapter of Kairos. After some meetings, training, homework, background checks, lots of prayer and support and an all-day training with the Colorado Department of Corrections I was ready to start.

Why prison ministry? Jesus answers the question directly in Matthew 25: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

The inmates I met at Sterling have committed truly terrible atrocities. Some of the most violent criminals you have read about in the paper are spending the rest of their lives in Sterling, Colorado.

Even though their crimes are inexcusable, their stories are often tragic. Childhood stories of abandonment, homelessness, abuse and addiction are common. It’s no wonder that the first meaningful association in their life is often with a gang. Escaping the near certain fate of prison life at that point becomes all but impossible.

But even though they may have committed heinous crimes; even though they may have proven themselves incapable of civil behavior; even though we may have removed them from free society and exiled them to prisons to be forgotten; and yes even though they may have lost their way and even turned their back on God – they have a Holy Father who loves them, forgives them, will never forget them nor leave their side.

Kairos prison ministry is all about reminding them of exactly that. Kairos tells them you are loved; you are not alone; if you seek forgiveness you will have it; you can have peace and you should have hope.

If this sounds hokey or preachy let me be the first to agree – until I witnessed it. Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) God was most certainly present with us in Sterling, and he filled that place until it was overflowing with His Spirit. At the close of each day we would sing the following with the inmates:

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel God’s mighty power and God’s grace.
I can hear the brush of angel’s wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. (Lanny Wolfe)

During those four days lives were changed. Tough men broke down and cried tears – in heaving sobs – that had been stored up behind decades of hardened hearts. Hatred and animosity made way to love and forgiveness. People were reunited with the God they last encountered as a child, if at all.

And, most miraculous of all, I witnessed man after man after man stand up and confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. A satan worshipper, two wiccans, a deist and countless non-believers accepted Christ into their lives for the first time. To witness that may be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

A new friend who is a retired Episcopalian Pastor and has attended 13 of these 4-day events told me he has seen more people accept Jesus at Sterling than he did in over 40 years as a Pastor. Another new friend said, “There’s just no doubt about it. This is the most important work I do for the kingdom.”

God was working that weekend in April, and it wasn’t just the inmates He was transforming.

-Gavin

Challenged by Continual Change!

change_road_signOne of the difficulties we all deal with is continual change… a lack of permanency in work, home, family, church, school, politics, and friends. The constant ebb and flow of people in and out of day-to-day living takes its toll. Of the Top 20 stressors in life, job change, moving house, and lack of friendships made the list. If we’re honest, as guys we tend to just suck it up and gut our way through all of these.

In this ever-changing world, there are so many questions. How deep do I want to go with that neighbor? Do I even want to make an effort to plug into a church or be a part of a faith community… who knows how long and at what level I can be involved? With all my current responsibilities, I may not be able to make a difference so should I even get involved in the civic realm? Change and the dynamic, transient nature of today’s world can bring unsettledness, fear, loneliness, and even a sense of depression. Most of us as guys don’t even want to think about these emotions and if we don’t, they don’t exist… right? Wrong! We will have to deal with them sooner or later!

The good news is that God never changes. In Hebrews 13:8 it says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” But who is this one true God? Throughout time God has shown that He is a God of mercy. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. He’s also shown that He is a God of grace. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Even when people failed, rebelled against Him, and even murdered His Son on the Cross, he forgave them and restored them. It’s only in Him that we can get rest, have true relationships, be forgiven, experience true love, and have peace in the midst of change and turmoil. He wants that full life for you and those you know. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

More good news. God leads the way and is always with you. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” In Joshua 1:9, God speaks to Joshua but also speaks to you and me. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Think about this, the Creator of all things is with you wherever you go!

So how can you experience this full life in the midst of all the change and turmoil? A great starting point is to get plugged into a Christian, worshiping community no matter how much time you think you have! Let me be clear… when I say “plugged in” I mean at least weekly. God has given us community to help experience His love, forgiveness, and grace. Hebrews 10:23-26 encourages us to “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

It’s in a healthy Christian community that you can be encouraged when things look bleak, you can experience strength, support, and forgiveness when the world gives otherwise. You can find rest and refuge in a difficult world. My prayer for you is that you experience the fullness of life in Christ in spite of what the world throws at you!

To all who are in the midst of change right now…

As you go on your way, may God go with you.
May God go before you to show you the way.
May God go behind you to encourage you,
beside you to befriend you,
above you to watch over you, 
below you to support you,
within you to give you peace.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen

-Gerry

June 2017 Newsletter

Parenting Quote

Parenting Quote

Father’s Day is Sunday. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads, step-dads, and father figures!

Dad’s seem to be getting the short end of the respect stick lately. From being the butt of jokes on TV and the internet to having our role marginalized and trivialized in our culture, we dad’s fight an uphill respect battle. But, study after study shows that even just being present in their kids’ lives, dads play an important role in who the kids become. You have a strong influence on what your son will be like and who your daughters will marry. So be encouraged and challenged in this month’s Whetstone Newsletter on fathers.

Read

7 Things a Good Dad SaysTim Challies

I love you. Let me kiss it better. Come with me. Please forgive me. You’re forgiven. Let’s pray. You can’t do it.

Which statement do you need to work on? Which one are you great at?

Dads- It’s Time to Lead.Dr. Meg Meeker

Your daughter doesn’t want to see you as an equal. She wants you to be her hero, someone who is wiser and steadier and stronger than she is.

That quote is taken from Dr. Meeker’s book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters I can’t recommend the book enough. Get. It. Now. Also, read her new book, Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need.

Parenting Adult ChildrenKaren O’Connor

If we do the vital inner work necessary to spiritual and emotional parenting, then relinquishing our children will be easier than we might expect. We will no longer feel compelled to use them as a means of working through the unfinished business of our past or as the focus of our future desires.

For you Dads out there with grown children, the job is not done yet. Focus on the Family has an eight part series on parenting adult children.

Watch

The Council of DadsBruce Feiler

 

Watch as Bruce discusses his cancer diagnosis and how he enlisted the help of other men to be a “father” for his children after he is gone. Just another testimony for having a close group of intimate male friendships.

Listen

A Legacy of FaithHank Parker on Family Life Today

Hank Parker, host of Hank’s Outdoor Magazine, informs moms and dads on the benefits of taking their children hunting and fishing. Fishing breaks down barriers so children feel comfortable opening up to their parents while doing something they love. There’s nothing like fishing to calm your nerves and build happy family memories.

Some of my best memories with my Dad and with my kids have been in the outdoors. There’s something about being surrounded by God’s creation and the family he put you with that make for incredible times.

Happy Father’s Day!

Stay Sharp,

Matt

Who’s Your Gardener?

master gardener

The crab apple tree in my front yard was over grown and hadn’t been pruned in years. The canopy was thick and dense and blocked the sun from reaching the grass below, resulting in a powdery mildew infecting the lawn, and providing shelter for unwelcome birds that roosted (and pooped) above my driveway. Some branches were low to the ground and others shot out at odd angles – untamed in their purpose or direction.

Long overdue, it was time to prune.

With saw and shears in hand I began to circle the tree, starting with the lower branches to make room for mowing, then moving higher to thin the canopy. The more I pruned, the more I saw need for additional pruning. Removing branches that rubbed against and entangled one another; water sprouts and suckers that were likely the result of previous pruning; large horizontal branches that would be susceptible to damage from the heavy spring snows that were sure to come.

When I finally put the saw away I had cut out much more than I had initially planned, but the tree looked much better and the lawn was getting a lot more sun light. And when the heavy spring snow came in late May, the tree survived with hardly any damage at all.

All this got me to thinking about tree pruning as a metaphor. While pruning a tree involves cutting out undesirable branches, what might that look like in my life?

– Left unpruned, trees can become a wild mess. Think of those wild unkempt branches as harmful thoughts, words, and actions that are contrary to God’s will. In a word, sin.
– Bad branches left too long can be both ugly and dangerous – resulting in broken branches and / or a split trunk. Or broken relationships and poor health.
– Pruning is an ongoing, lifelong process. As long as we’re alive, pruning and shaping will be needed.
– Pruning a problem branch early leaves a minimal scar. Nipping bad behaviors in the bud can keep them from becoming a problem.
– May need to be done in stages, or wait until the tree is strong enough to withstand large cuts. Again, a lifelong process.
– Pruning allows light and airflow into the canopy and through to the lawn below. A level of transparency and openness to our lives helps root out old habits and prevent new habits from forming.
– Some bad branches (like water sprouts) can be the result of nicks in the bark. Physical and emotional injuries can result in unhealthy defense mechanisms if not tended to.

One aspect of this metaphor that gets my attention is that the tree doesn’t prune itself. While we (unlike the tree) may be able to identify some of our own “bad branches”, we’re likely unable or unwilling to cut much on our own. “I’ll just snip this small branch and see how that works…” And we’re simply not going to see all that needs pruning, no matter how long and hard we look.

No, we’re going to need help. Trusted brothers that come along side us to help identify what needs pruning, and to hold us accountable for clearing out the junk.

But most of all we need the Master Gardener to take control of the pruning shears in our lives. God is the one who created us and knows everything about us. Much more than we know ourselves. And while the pruning may be painful, He is trustworthy and faithful.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15: 1-2)

So how about you?

What areas of your life need pruning? Got a trusted friend to help you with the dead wood? And are you ready to hand over the shears to the only One who really knows what needs pruning?

Peace!
Ken