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