Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Promise Keepers Canada is Awesome!

The Promise Keepers Game Day 2009 in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada was perhaps the most powerful and impactful men’s event I have ever participated in. Like in Regina, SK several weeks ago, about 625 men and boys attended this amazing event—many driving from hours and hours away. The community was so excited that PK was in town they had 50 volunteers show up! Paul Downer (son of Phil Downer) spoke first Friday evening with a powerful talk about his broken relationship with his father and how they had healed. I then again gave the closing session on the main stage Friday night with the topic of “healing our father wounds.” Much like in Regina, many, many men came down in tears to the front for the alter call to be prayed over for healing and forgiveness. I witnessed other men in their seats all over the sanctuary praying over the men next to them in tears of pain and relief. I observed elderly men come down to have life long wounds healed. I saw men praying with and then hugging for the longest time young men whose father’s had abandoned them, both in tears. Many tears were shed that night (including mine). Know that when men open up and allow their vulnerable insides to be exposed like this it is not an insignificant event.

Again the prayer team played a huge role in the conference. I went downstairs Friday evening into the bowels of the building for about 30 minutes where the prayer team was stationed for the entire weekend. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so abundant that the hairs on my arms were standing on end. I don’t think I have ever heard so many people (20-30 prayer intercessors) pray so powerfully.

The next morning I was blessed to be approached at the hotel restaurant and asked to have breakfast with a grandfather, father, and two teenage sons who were attending the conference together—three generations of men growing together. While the workshops given by me and the other speakers were very impactful (I had many men tell me how much mine had helped them), the final session of the conference was an incredible time of men’s hearts breaking. Rick Verkerk of Promise Keepers closed with an unbelievably powerful account of living with a sin in his life for 12 years that every man in the building could strongly relate to. During the closing alter call many men rushed down front and fell to their knees to be prayed for and receive forgiveness. It shook all of us deeply. I personally have never heard men sob so loud and hard. As the band began to pound out a powerful song of praise, men continued to stay on their knees with faces to the ground while those in their seats sang at the top of their lungs, rocking the building’s foundation. On and on the band played while men prayed, danced, and sang with abandon. The speakers joined Rick V. on stage to lead the men in wild worship. I was holding myself together pretty well until I looked over on stage and saw tears streaming down the drummer’s face as he pounded out the beat—then I had to find the Kleenex box. The evening ended on a boisterous note with men cheering and clapping for the longest time, reluctant to leave and lingering long into the night to bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit even after the music ended.

So many men approached me during the weekend that it is again difficult to remember any specific conversations. Some that stand out was the man that was a recovering homosexual who was touched deeply by my session on father wounds. One of the prayer intercessors somewhat timidly approached me with a message of prophesy for me from God (He said, “Who am I to tell a speaker what God says?” Frankly I was stunned that he would be that hesitant and seemingly give more importance to my supposed “status” than to the word of God and encouraged him accordingly). He said that God had told him many things (that I will not repeat here) but that were very encouraging to me and the Better Dads ministry. Interestingly, they were very similar to things that have been prophesized to me several times in the past by others. Another man approached me to pray with him so that he could reconcile and share his faith with his father who he has not spoken to in over nine years. As he called his wife to share that news on Friday night she exclaimed tearfully, “Finally--thank God!” He was originally only going to attend Saturday’s sessions because he was unemployed and didn’t have money for a hotel. But as he read about Friday’s topic of healing the father wound he knew he had to come and God made it happen.

I will remember this event for as long as I live, using it as a standard to compare other conferences I speak at. Many kudos to the local men who helped set this event up—they did an awesome job. I only regret that I am woefully inadequate to accurately describe the amazing miracles that happened this weekend. However, one final blessing was given me as I flew home today. As I was preparing to board the plane in Calgary to come home I found myself with a bad attitude (coming down from the “high” of an event like this is hard, plus going through customs and waiting around the hot airport didn’t help). I prayed to God to help me get a good attitude so that I wouldn’t negatively influence someone. I asked God to put me in someone’s path that would help me and that I could help. Now understand that in all the years I have been traveling and speaking I have never run into anyone I knew, much less been assigned to sit next to them. As I boarded the plane the man who sat down next to me was Paul Young, author of The Shack. Paul and I know each other but have not crossed paths for a couple of years. Paul was returning from being on the road since Sept. 13th. We had a great time catching up and encouraging each other. What are the odds that Paul and I would have the same flight, same plane, seats next to each other in Canada on the same day? What a great gift and answer to prayer. What a mighty God we serve! Thank you all for your prayers,


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Interview With Andrew Klavan

One of the great perks about being an author and speaker is that I get the opportunity to meet and hang out with other writers (usually ones a lot more famous and talented than me). One of the incredible authors I have been fortunate enough to get to know a little is Andrew Klavan. Andrew is an Edgar Award winning author of a bunch of great books such as Hunting Down Amanda, Shotgun Alley, Dynamite Road, and Empire of Lies. In addition, two of his New York Times bestselling novels were made into commercially successful films: Don’t Say a Word starring Michael Douglas, and True Crime starring Clint Eastwood.

Klavan recently released his first novel for young adults, The Last Thing I Remember, by Thomas Nelson, and it quickly became a CBA bestseller. It’s the story of Charlie West, an ordinary, straight arrow teenager who goes to bed one night and wakes up strapped to a chair being tortured by jihadists. Charlie's desperate struggle to find out how he got into a situation like this will challenge him in every way, forcing him to rely on his faith, his courage and his fighting skills to stay alive. The second in the series, The Long way Home, will be released next February.

Andrew was kind enough to let me use one of his quotes in my first book and has put up with my barrage of emails and newsletters over the years. You can find out more about Andrew and his work on his web site at www.andrewklavan.com. Here are a few questions Andrew agreed to answer for our readers:

1) Let me start with the question that everyone always wants to know—how did you become a writer?

You know, the truth is, I never wanted to be anything else. I mean, when I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut and a cowboy or whatever, but by the time I was thinking seriously about who I was, I felt I was a novelist. I took jobs to earn money, but I was always writing at night, and the minute I scraped together enough money, I would quit and write full time until I was broke again. Looking back on it, it was a dumb way to do it, but I was obsessed with doing this one thing I wanted to do.

2) Second obligatory question—where do you get your ideas from?

I don’t really have a good answer to that. The fact that I get ideas is what I started with. If I didn’t have ideas, I wouldn’t be a novelist. If stories didn’t come to me that I had to tell, felt compelled to tell, believe me, I would do something far more secure, far less dependent on the opinions and tastes of others. I’d’ve gone to law school or whatever. The fact that I have ideas for stories is why I do what I do.

3) What was it like having several of your books turned into successful Hollywood movies? Did you get to meet any of the stars?

Oh hey, it’s cool. Just the fact that it goes from being such a private act of creation to such a public show on such a big screen is sort of wild. But to be perfectly honest, I’ve always loved books first. I’d always rather read a good book than see a movie, so I’m not always as impressed by the whole movie thing as people around me are. Mostly I stayed out of the process – although I did write an early script of Don’t Say A Word. And yes, I did get to meet Clint Eastwood at the premiere of True Crime. A totally gracious, classy guy.

4) I absolutely love your videos on PJTV. How did the “Klavan on the Culture” series get started? [http://www.pjtv.com/page/Klavan_On_Culture/168/;jsessionid=abc_4BOdUHcWNhXQlalps]

Well, Roger Simon, the CEO of PJTV, had given me a webcam and invited me to come on some of their talk shows. So I was watching these shows and thinking, you know, this is really different, a whole new medium, and I’d like to do something with this that no one’s quite doing. So I pitched the idea of Klavan on the Culture to Roger as sort of a weird blend of social commentary and Monty Python. And Roger’s a creative guy and he was, like, sure, try it. So I did and it’s been an absolute blast.

5) Some of the videos in the series are probably considered quite politically incorrect. I suspect I know the answer to this but why jeopardize your career?

LOL, dude, that is my career! Not being politically incorrect per se, but saying what I mean, trying to get as close as I can to my vision of the truth. I always think: what’s the point of putting words down on paper if you’re not trying to get at the truth about things? And if the truth is politically incorrect then that’s where you go. I get a lot of relativist feedback, a lot of people who say, oh, you know, you’re being moralistic, nothing’s really objectively good or bad but thinking makes it so. But I don’t believe that and, you know what? Neither do they, not really. There’s such a thing as truth, we all know it, and writing—art, in general—is one of the ways we try to approach it.

6) Having been a long time fan of your work I have observed that you have gotten progressively less secular in nature and more faith-based in your writing style over the years. What is the motivation behind this? Why go from a big New York house publisher to Thomas Nelson, a CBA publisher?

Well, I wrestled with questions of faith for more than thirty years, and finally felt free to believe and it’s unnatural for me to force that down. I think it took me all that time, not to convince myself that God was real, but to convince myself that there were no intellectual objections that couldn’t be overcome. I had to clear the way, if you see what I mean, so I was sure my faith was authentic and not a form of escapism. Still, I try very hard not to write about things I don’t know. I don’t have angels fluttering around my books because I’ve never seen an angel. I just feel freer to allow characters to express their faith—which in the end makes my stuff just that much more realistic, I think.

7) Your last several books have been specifically about men (and boys) of faith. However, you appear to be pretty realistic in your portrayal of the struggles that Christian men deal with. Have you gotten much flack from the Christian community for this depiction?

A little flack, yeah. People saying why do I have to show men’s thoughts as being so highly sexualized, why do I have to show so much doubt, why aren’t I more sunny, more positive. I find this attitude kind of baffling. If the world were sunny and positive, you wouldn’t need faith! In True Crime, there’s a minister, who says something like, “If you want to believe in God, you have to believe in a god of the sad world.” I’m not trying to be unpleasant or disgusting or anything, I just want my stories to take place in the world as it is, not the world as we would like it to be.

8) You mentioned that you were “Getting attacked in the press for believing in God and being patriotic.” As a successful New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winning author are you concerned that you and your work will be blacklisted or banned by Hollywood or the secular media because of your conservative stance?

You know, I’ve taken a big economic hit since I became so outspoken, and it can be tough at times, but I’ve never lost a moment’s sleep over it. I know there are people who won’t work with me anymore and, conversely, I know there are stories I’m no longer willing to tell because I think they’re dishonest or abhorrent. But I’ve never felt so at peace or so joyful about what I’m doing—and there’s not enough money in the world to buy that feeling from me. So doors will close, but I believe others will open, are opening even as we speak. We’ll see.

9) What do you think is the greatest threat to our country today?

Ignorance. We’re ignorant of the meaning of liberty. We don’t understand what it is, how rare it is, how important it is, how difficult it is to preserve—our young people especially. Al Qaeda and the Islamists attack from without and they’re a danger, but there’s a danger from within too—a danger of people selling away their birthright of freedom for easy comfort and security. Everything truly worthwhile—faith, love, the journey to your best self—they all require freedom. We should be teaching the meaning of the word on every street corner so that people remember.

10) What’s the best thing about being Andrew Klavan?

Oh, that’s an easy one. Being married to Mrs. Klavan. Thirty years and I’m still just absolutely crazy about her. I’m not just talking either. I wake up every morning and wrap myself around her in gratitude. Frankly, I think she finds it a thorough-going pain in the neck! LOL!

Find Andrew's great books at:

Empire of Lies: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Thing-I-Remember-Homelanders/dp/1595546073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253241466&sr=1-1

The Last Thing I Remember: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Thing-I-Remember-Homelanders/dp/1595546073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253241466&sr=1-1

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Advice to a Young Woman

I’ve seen you at our seminars. Perhaps you’ve read my books. I see your pictures and I read your responses everyday on Facebook. I feel like I know you as a daughter. I see a beautiful, intelligent, vibrant young woman with a witty and ironic sense of humor. Perhaps you made poor choices in men and birthed children you are struggling to raise without a father. Yet you approach this overwhelming task with determination and courage, even though sometimes you feel like it’s draining you dry.

You put up a good front but you feel bad about yourself. I can tell. Maybe your father abused or abandoned you or failed to give you the healthy affection you deserved and longed for. So you failed to see in the mirror the picture of grace, beauty, and radiance that God sees when He looks at you. In your desire to get your desperate yearning for masculine love fulfilled you settled for the first man (really a boy) who paid attention to you. You settled instead of chose. You set your bar too low. Without even knowing it you allowed your self-image to be controlled by whether you had a man in your life. Therefore a bad man was better than no man at all. You still secretly fear that no man wants you—that somehow you are less a woman for it.

But know this. You are special. You are beautiful—despite what the world or anyone who should have known better has ever said. You are loved unconditionally by a heavenly Father who knows your deepest secrets and still cherishes you enough to die for you. This Father desires you and wants to hold you in his protective arms. Know that and rejoice in the fact that he has a plan for your life.

And for goodness sakes understand how special you are—don’t settle! Hold out for the man you deserve--a man who will cherish and honor you but still lead with wisdom and integrity.

--From an older man to all young women

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Camp Changes Lives!

Better Dads hosted our Third Annual Single Mom's Family Camp on June 12-14 at Canby Grove Christian Camp. I don’t even know where to begin to report all the incredible things that happened at this camp.

First of all, let me say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the volunteers, donors, and prayer warriors who were involved in this event. You will never know how many lives you touched or how deeply you touched them until you are standing before our Maker. But I know that miracles happened and lives were changed this weekend. I don’t make that statement lightly. Literally people’s lives were changed and hearts healed.

As I watched the kids (ages 5-16) arrive, most did not want to be there and had been forced to come by mom. There were angry and sullen. But very quickly they learned how much fun it was playing with the volunteers. Their veneer soon changed to one of excitement and happiness. The kids played soccer, volleyball, basketball, freeze tag, archery, fishing, biking, and all sorts of other activities. I watched Jon work with the teenage boys and saw him connect with them on a level they craved. He taught them simple lessons through actions and words on what it means to be a man—just what they all yearned for. They hung on his every word by the end of camp. Jon taught them to use a pocketknife and handed out several at the end of camp as gifts to the older boys. He taught another boy how to gut and clean a fish—just what every man should know. Lastly he taught them to build birdhouses with their own two hands—they were very proud of their work. Jon also showed them not to mess with us old guys in push-ups or running contests (although I heard he biffed on the BMX course).

At the campfire Saturday night I watched Katie sit with a little girl on her lap. Next to her, her husband Caleb had two little boys snuggled in his arms against his chest. They contentedly stayed there the whole night relishing the contact, sucking up his masculine essence like dry sponges. I watched Ron and Paul teach kids how to fish and the great joy and feelings of adequacy that comes from a boy catching his first fish by himself (46 fish were caught, cleaned and frozen to be taken home and cooked by the kids). Danny and Donna loved up the littler children. Kelsey played with kids until they couldn’t stand up any more. Her role model of a vibrant, healthy, godly young woman is powerful to both boys and girls. The youth group from Mountainview Christian Church was invaluable in playing with the kids who looked up to them as older role models. They produced some wonderful skits around the campfire to entertain everyone. Sheryl was the RN on duty who made sure no one was harmed and Adam and Tyson were firefighter/EMTs who lent their presence of protection as well. Linda took hundreds of photos that I can’t wait to see.

Overnight the behavior of the kids changed as they watched people they looked up to honoring and respecting their mothers. Just a brief amount of exposure to healthy masculinity in their lives calmed them and made them feel secure and content. Moms were somewhat stunned when their children became polite and happy to see them. By Saturday afternoon, they all loved being at the camp. Many wanted to stay and several asked if they could volunteer next year. One little boy told his mom, “I love this ‘school.’ Can we stay?” Mostly, the children’s behavior changed because someone offered them love and cared enough to spend time with them. It’s a huge lesson we all need to learn. One 16-year old boy (who was reportedly rolling his eyes in disgust as they registered) asked me if I was the “Tape Man.” He said his grandma plays my CD every time he gets in the car. I told him I was sorry. He said, “No, it’s helped me a lot.” He then proceeded to tell me one of the stories on the CD and how it applied to his life. Needless to say, I gave him a copy of my newest book on masculinity as a going away gift.

The speakers were incredible. Clearly, God orchestrated all of the speakers to scaffold one upon another so that the message was one of hope, encouragement, and the love God has for these moms and kids.

But it wasn’t all teaching and hard work for the moms. One of the great joys of the moms was being awoken Saturday morning with a tray of coffee, flowers, a newspaper, and goodies at their cabin doors. Most moms were shocked to find out the camp was actually for them—not for their children. Probably the people who worked the hardest with the least amount of credit were the beautiful women who served the moms. Suzanne, Terri, and Susan worked like lumberjacks (although they sure don’t look like one) to pamper and bless the moms with a spa experience on Saturday afternoon, and a karaoke fest that night. Along with Debbie O., Debbie A., Jen, Sarah, Lydia, and Linda they washed the moms’ feet, gave pedicures, and massaged their heads, necks, and shoulders. They also served them decadent deserts, coffee, and cold blended fruit drinks. They were treated like queens. Later that evening, I was afraid to enter the room where karaoke singing was taking place but I heard the women got pretty wild (led by Suzanne of course) and many said they had never before had so much fun or felt safe and free to cut loose. Later at night, as the moms walked together towards the campfire, the children (unprompted by the leaders) dropped their s’mores and gave them a long standing ovation. Quite a change in attitude from just 24 hours earlier!

Many tears were shed as the moms were leaving. Here are just a few of the comments made by moms:

“My life has been changed from Rick’s workshops…I believe God put me on a path to heal my heart from the father wound in my life….The workshop you did on relationships was hard for me—I wanted to cry like a baby….This camp has inspired me to work on the “black hole” that is inside me. I want to work on those issues of why I crave male attention or want to marry my father. It has opened my eyes. Thank you for blessing me and my son.”

“I want to say THANK YOU with all my heart to those who made this camp possible. My son and I will remember this time as a gift from God through people like you who made it happen. We leave here sadly, yet feeling oh so blessed!”

“My children and I have been touched and blessed to be here. The future is bright for our family and one of the brightest parts of our future is the tools we will take with us from this weekend.”

“To all those who made this miracle happen in our lives: THANK YOU from the depths of my being. There have been tears of joy and pain. Growth always happens during our deepest heartfelt emotions. You have blessed my son and myself so deeply and profoundly. God bless you all!”

“I had a time to reflect on who I was in Christ without being judged.”

“I could never thank you enough for this wonderful weekend. This weekend has really given my son and my relationship those first few stitches it needed to be mended. I have seen a dramatic change in his attitude in just two days. From the age of 2 my son was taught by my ex-husband to disrespect women, other children, and people in general. Nothing has worked to break that behavior; not me, not months of counseling, not other positive people. During this weekend, thanks to everyone’s involvement, that hard shell has been cracked. Thank you so much!”

“I am so blessed after this weekend. I am grateful beyond words to God for bringing the volunteers, youth group, speakers, and so many other together this weekend. Truly words are not enough to express how wonderful this experience has been for the kids…we really lived!!!

“It was hard to come here this weekend. It has been so long since I socialized. It seems easier to crawl in my shell. Rick, your talk about “choosing” and not settling really encouraged me. I feel so “less than” all the time, and I hate that I feel this way. Lori’s talk inspired me to allow God to enter into the deep recesses of my heart for healing. My armor I have wrapped myself in is strong, it’s hard to be open to God breaking the brick wall I have formed…to love me. PS – my kids adored the youth counselors!”

“I came to this retreat hoping to take from it a sense of validation, new friendships, and a closer relationship with God. Not only am I taking those things but most importantly I take with me the knowledge that I am my Heavenly Father’s little girl! I know now that I can drop this unfounded fear that I will fail and be cast aside if I make mistakes.”

“Thank you for being our voice.”

As you can see, I was blessed mightily to be part of this event that God put together. You see I had resigned myself to the fact that we would not have a camp this year as we had broken ties with the camp we formerly partnered with. With the cost of the camp being around $10,000 and local camps being booked for 1-2 years in advance I just assumed we would not be able to do anything this year. But God had other plans. I soon received an email from a donor who promised the entire amount to underwrite the camp provided we could raise some matching funds. One day later Suzanne received a call from Canby Grove Christian Camp saying they had heard what we were doing and wanted us to visit to see if their facilities would work. Not surprisingly their facilities were perfect—and oh yeah, they just happened to have a summer weekend open. And so, it was up to me to organize and put together a camp for the first time from the ground up. A huge task I soon discovered. However, I believe God’s plan was to fully train us and a core group of volunteers how to implement these camps so that we can now go to other states and train other churches and groups how to fulfill this huge need in our society.

We learned a lot but the one thing I learned was to start planning as early as possible. Therefore, if you would like to partner with us next year please let us know. The earlier we can get the funding committed the earlier we can plan and get vendors, sponsors, churches, and volunteers on board. Sorry this blog was so long, but the work God did at the camp surpassed my skills as a writer.

May God bless all the volunteers and donors for your involvement in the lives of these widows and orphans.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What is a "Real" Man--Part 2

Seek justice
Encourage the oppressed
Defend the cause of the fatherless
Plead the case of the widow
Isaiah 1:17 (NKJV)

In the first part of this article we looked at what authentic masculinity was not—now let’s look at what it is. I am optimistic that there is a new kind of masculinity taking hold in this country. Men want to lead more rewarding lives and are recognizing that living for others is the path to true satisfaction.

An authentically masculine man puts aside his needs, desires, wants--and sometimes even his dreams--for the benefit of others. He does this without fanfare and frequently without anyone even noticing. His life is not about his individual rights, achievements, or happiness; it’s about making life better for others. His sacrifices are part of his character and give his life significance. He meets these sacrifices with the stoic nobility that God granted all men by right of their birth gender.

A real man has honor. He stands tall as the fierce winds of adversity blow around him. He cherishes and protects women and children. He knows he has an obligation to mentor those who follow in his footsteps. He recognizes his sphere of influence and uses it for good. He understands that life does have fundamental truths and lives his life according to a firm set of principles. He uses his God-given warrior spirit to fight for justice and equality. He stands for something. Too many men today stand for nothing—they are directionless.

Men who exhibit authentic masculinity live lives of significance. They lift up others to help them achieve their potential. They make sacrifices in order to make a difference in the world--for everyone, not just their own family. They have passion and vision and are genuinely interested in giving of themselves for the betterment of others. And they probably don’t make a big production out of doing it either. Men like this are other-centered, not self-centered. They are other-focused instead of self-focused. Authentic men live to a higher standard in life.

In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven, a young widower blacksmith first meets his father as he travels to defend Jerusalem during the Crusades. His father introduces himself to his son for the first time and asks forgiveness for never having been a part of his life. With nothing to keep him in his village after the death of his wife and child, the young man follows his father and trains to become a knight. In the short period they are together before his father’s death, the young man flourishes under his father’s tutelage and follows in his footsteps, becoming a man of honor. Throughout the movie the young knight relies on his father’s instruction and example. In one powerful scene near the end of the movie while he is preparing the city of Jerusalem against attack by overwhelming forces, he endows knighthood upon the city’s commoners defending the city by quoting the same oath that his father did to him:

Be without fear in the face of your enemies,
Be brave and upright that God may love thee,
Speak the truth even if it leads to your death,
Safeguard the helpless.
That is your oath!

The local high priest admonishes him by saying, “Who do you think you are? Can you alter the world? Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?”

As the knight looks him in the eye and boldly proclaims, “Yes!” you can see all the men who have been charged with the challenge to greatness swell with pride and determination. They do in fact know that the expectations and exhortations of greatness can make a man more than he would be without the knowledge of God’s vision for his and every man’s life.

Manhood as defined by the Bible requires men to put the needs and best interests of others before their own. It’s about living sacrificially. A man uses his strength and influence to help others and defend those who cannot defend themselves. Read how manly this verse sounds and how it speaks powerfully to a man’s heart:

“I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him…I made the widows heart sing…I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.” Job 29:12, 13, 15-17 (NIV).

God gives men a mandate throughout the bible to protect women and children and be His representative here on earth. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress” James 1:27 (NIV).

We believe that our Better Dads ministry has the anointing of Isaiah 61 over it, but especially the first verse, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners” Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV). We believe that by helping others we are making a difference in the world, and thus justify our existence on earth.

Authentic men are passionate, fierce, and noble—they care. In fact, they are a little dangerous, but it’s a good dangerous. You might not see this passion on the exterior, but it’s bubbling under pressure just beneath the surface, forcing its way into every area of his life. They have a spiritual longing for adventure, for a battle to fight that’s bigger than themselves, for significance in their lives. Like modern-day gladiators they stand in the ring facing the challenges of life with courage and passion.

When you see a man with a passion for something bigger and nobler than himself, you are looking authentic masculinity in the eye.

For more on this subject pick up a copy of Rick’s book, The Power of a Man: Using Your Influence as a Man of Character, at www.betterdads.net.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is a "Real" Man?

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you are just naturally drawn to a certain man? People like being around him. You can’t quite put your finger on what it is, but you know you like it. When he comes into a room or walks down the street people automatically notice him—they see something different about him. There’s something invigorating and compelling about him. It’s exciting and even a little dangerous to be around him. He’s calm but confident, relaxed but prepared, kind but authentic, and bold but compassionate. You feel safe and better about yourself in his presence.

You’ve just encountered authentic masculinity. It’s rare, but it’s out there.
One of the most misunderstood questions today is, “What is a real man?” In this two-part article we’ll look at some false attributes our culture thinks a “real” man possesses and then we’ll investigate what authentic masculinity really looks like.

Our society typically ascribes a dismal role to men, with low or no expectations of nobility or greatness. Few portrayals of men in the media are positive. Television shows and commercials often cast men as bumbling idiots with their wives as the competent ones in the family. This subtle attack on masculinity (all done under the guise of humor, which makes it acceptable) serves to make men question their worth and value.

I recently spoke at a church on the topic of “Why Men Matter.” This was an inspirational talk on the value of men in families and our society. Afterwards an elderly man approached me and said, “For my whole life as an adult man, over 50 years, all I’ve ever heard was the faults of masculinity. I’ve never been told I was important and valuable. To think I wasted all these years feeling bad about myself--thank you so much for telling me I mattered!”

Our culture patterns a somewhat perverted stereotype of what a man should be. Young men raised without fathers are especially confused by the images projected to them by today’s professional athletes, rap stars, and movies actors (many who were also raised without positive male role models) that model men as being self-indulgent, self-focused, hedonistic, or even violent.

Hollywood’s version of a man’s man is a kind of “leader of the pack,” alpha male; the kind of man other men look up to and try to emulate. He is typically a womanizer or at least able to charm all women into bed at will. He’s rugged, handsome, and tough. He can win against all odds and he doesn’t need any help from man or even God.

We learn early in life that to be successful we have to perform well. Cultural masculinity appears to hinge on the combination of the ability to make money (lots of it), have power, the adoration of many females, and sexual prowess. Here’s why these “performance” myths are false and even dangerous:

First of all hear this clearly. Money and power mean nothing. Men, you already have unprecedented power just by virtue of your gender. God has given each man the ability to change the world by himself! How you choose to use that power is another issue.
Secondly, money is just a tool. Making money is not hard. Anyone can make a lot of money. I’ve made a lot of money and lost a lot of money in my lifetime. Having owned several businesses I understand that making money is not difficult if your objective is just to become wealthy. For instance anyone could start a pornographic web site and make tons of money. You can cheat on business deals and take advantage of employees as a business owner and make lots of cash. However, making money with integrity is more difficult; becoming successful while maintaining your moral compass is more of a challenge and requires significant effort. Some of the most miserable men I know have a lot of money.

Third, having sex with scores of women is not difficult either. Many women, especially those reared without a father or who have been abused by men early in life, are easy targets for men without scruples. They are vulnerable to words that they wish to hear. These women desire masculine affection and validation so much that they willingly (if unwittingly) confuse sex for intimacy. But using women to confirm our manhood is a particularly non-effective tactic many men fall into. Unfortunately, femininity cannot ever bestow masculinity upon us, only masculinity can bestow masculinity. We know this in our heart—it’s why men raised by only women are often frustrated in the world of men. In the same way that a mother cannot bestow masculinity upon her son, a woman cannot bestow masculinity upon a man by sleeping with him. In other words even though we often consider sexual conquests or even the first act of sexual intercourse as the mark of manhood, a woman (even through sexual union) cannot grant that mantle upon a male. Some of the most immature, childish, and unhappy men I know sleep with a multitude of women.

Too often we men settle for judging ourselves by our sexual accomplishments, acquiring material possessions, conquering challenges, or sleeping with women in order to prove our manhood. Generally we do this when we have not had authentic role models to show us how a man acts. We then turn to posturing to try and show the world that we are in fact a “man.”
We have to find a way to give boys and young men a vision of masculinity that is greater and more inspiring than just making a lot of money or sleeping with as many women as possible.
We’ll address that issue in the second half of this article.

For more on this subject pick up a copy of Rick’s book, The Power of a Man: Using Your Influence as a Man of Character, at www.betterdads.net.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Are You a Man Whisperer?

The following are the Ten Keys to Successful Communication with Your Man. A woman, with her superior communication skills, can be a big help to her man (and her relationship) by helping and guiding him to learn to communicate better instead of being agitated by his lack of skills in this area. Remember men communicate differently than women. If you try to talk with your man like you do your girlfriend’s you will both probably be disappointed and frustrated. However, if you practice these ten tips on a consistent basis you will be well on your way to becoming…A Man Whisperer.

Whisper #1
GIVE HIM SPACE--One strategy that works well with men is to tell them something you want their feedback on and then ask them to think about it for a day before answering. It takes men time to process information—especially emotions.

Whisper #2
SIMPLIFY--Learn to simplify the conversation. If you talk to your man like you do your girlfriends he will just stop listening. Men have about a 30 second attention span. If you don’t get to the point by then their mind will start looking for other problems to solve.

Whisper #3
ONE TOPIC AT A TIME PLEASE--Stick to one topic at a time and let a man know when you’re changing topics. Letting a man know when you are changing topics allows him to shut off the problem solving mode and be open to the new topic.

Whisper #4
BE CONSISTENT--Consistency is very important when communicating with men. Men generally cannot process more than one thing at a time.

Whisper #5
LEARN HIS LANGUAGE--Men are much more literal in their conversations than women. When he asks you what is wrong and you say, “Nothing” he will likely take you at your word.

Whisper #6
GIVE HIM A PROBLEM TO SOLVE--Men love to problem-solve. Rather than nagging him about an issue that’s troubling you, say something like, “Honey, I have a problem that I’d really like to get your help with.”

Whisper #7
GET PHYSICAL--Since men are action-oriented, go for a walk or hiking, play a round of golf, or even drive on a deserted highway together (so he’s not distracted by traffic) when you want to talk with your man.

Whisper #8
TIMING IS EVERYTHING--If you bombard him with complaints the minute he walks in the door from a hard day at work, he’s not likely to be willing to listen. Oftentimes, giving him a half-hour to change clothes and decompress will do the trick.

Whisper #9
FIGHT FAIR--Men and women argue differently. You cannot take to heart much of what a man verbalizes when he is upset. He doesn’t think about what comes out of his mouth, especially in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately for men, women do.

Whisper #10
SPEAK PLAINLY--Remind him often that you just need to be heard, you are not looking for a solution. Tell him that at the beginning of the discussion so that he can switch off his “problem-solving” mode.

Single Mom Camps Change Lives

Each year Better Dads ministry hosts our annual Single Mom Family Camp for approximately 25 single moms and their children. Our goal is to honor, teach, and pamper the moms. All the while their children are enjoying time in the outdoors with positive male mentors doing activities like swimming, rafting, fishing, playing sports, building stuff, and playing with other kids. These three-day, life changing camps are free to the families who attend and the response has been overwhelming. The moms spend time in some very intense classes reflecting on how to choose healthy relationships and the role their father played in their previous choices. The moms also have some opportunities for fun and reflection with other mature women mentors through prayer and conversation. Finally, they are pampered and honored through a variety of volunteered services that many seldom get to experience. At meal times and in the evenings everyone comes together for fun, wholesome activities. Many of the moms break down in tears as they describe how powerfully impactful the camp has been in the lives of their family. Some of the comments heard from the moms included:

“I felt like I was really seen this weekend, I was not just invisible anymore.”
“This was the first time my kids saw me valued as a person.”
“Before this weekend, I felt like a statistic--just a minority single mom. But now I know that God thinks I am valuable and special.”

One mom brought her 13 year old daughter whose father had died the previous year. The girl was wearing dark makeup and angrily refused to speak to anyone. Over the weekend her walls slowly came down until by Sunday she was happy and outgoing. Her mom sent an email saying, “I saw more healing in my daughter in the past three days than I’ve seen in the last two years. It feels like I got my little girl back again!”

Another mom was touched to tears because for the first time in years her closed off daughter had reached out and taken her hand as they walked together.

The camps use married couples as volunteers. The men "play" with the kids while the wives pray with and for the moms. These mature Christian women are also available to mentor the moms one on one. This also allows both moms and kids to see healthy married couples interact with one another during meals and other times together. Church youth groups also work with the kids, modeling for them how to have wholesome fun in a group setting.

To find out more about the upcoming camp on June 12-14 or to volunteer or donate to these powerfully impactful camps please contact us at betterdads@verizon.net.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Still Do

My wife and I were blessed to attend a celebration dessert for couples married 25 years or longer called "I Still Do." This annual event is sponsored by an organization called Every Marriage Matters (EMM). EMM is a facilitator in the community bringing together faith-based, governmental and business entities to vitalize marriage and family. Through both secular and faith-based programs, they provide a resource center for marriage and family building assets, and for their community support.

At 27 years married, Suzanne and I were clearly one of the "baby" couples that attended. The longest married couple had been together for 76 years, and many had been married over 45 years. As the MC went around the crowd asking for advice on how to stay married, the answers struck me with their simplistic, yet common sense nature. Long time married couples said the secret to their success were things like:

Praying together daily
Being positive toward each other
Saying, "I love you" to each other daily
Working together with common goals
Conflict resolution skills
Never going to sleep angry at each other
And from one man to other men--"never quitting, always staying"

It was a true blessing to be surrounded by couples who had made a decision to stay together through sickness and health till death do us part. Their committment to their vows was an inspiration to me. Suzane and I are spending this season of our lives trying to pass along the things we have learned during our marriage by providing pre-marital counseling to young couples. We wish we had had an older couple when we were first married to talk with and learn from. It sure would have made things easier!

To find out more about Every Marriage Matters, contact Tom and Liz Dressel at everymarriagematters@comcast.net.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rick's Newest Book!

Stand Up and Be the Man You Were Created to Be.

Rick Johnson tried to fake authentic manhood until he learned an important lesson: A man armed only with a fork in a land of soup doesn’t fare very well.

God gave men incredible power in their masculinity. With humor and honesty, The Power of a Man shows men how to live a life of great significance and healthy masculinity in a world afraid of real men. Johnson demonstrates that:

Real men aren’t passive—they wield positive influence to change the world.
Real men don’t quit, no matter how tough things get.
Real men love, protect, and provide for their wives and children.
Real men defy cultural expectations and live by a code of honor.
Real men recognize that only masculinity bestows masculinity.

The Power of a Man is about being calm but confident, relaxed but prepared, kind but authentic, and bold but compassionate. It’s about becoming the man you’ve always wanted to be—the man your world needs.
To purchase a signed copy of my newest book please go to www.betterdads.net.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Tips For Moms Raising Sons

• Boys need clear, unambiguous boundaries

• Boys need to be held accountable for their actions and decisions

• Boys need to learn the correlation between taking risks and success in life

• Boys need to not acquire the habit of quitting early in life

• Boys need positive male role models in their lives

• Speak to your son in simple, short sound bite sentences

• If you need to discuss something in depth, take a walk or other physical activity with your son

• Women have much better communication skills than a boy. It is intimidating to sit across the table, eye to eye from someone so much more skilled in an area than he is

• Start discussing sexuality early in your son’s life—it will be easier later on

• Don’t be discouraged--millions of good men have been raised by just their mothers.

Find out more in Rick’s book, That’s My Son—How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character, by Revell Publishing. Go to www.betterdads.net for more information.