18 Years to Prep for Battle – Happy B-Day, Zach!

The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday.  A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.

Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe.  These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift.  I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children.  Milestones are  important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them.   I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here.  I know they will always need me, but still…

Zach,

18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong?  Why is he so quiet?  What’s going on?  Is he ok?  C,mon, son! Fight!

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs.  I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier.  I had a daughter and now a son.  Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…

Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad.  I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!

Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies.  That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you.  They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.

There have been good and hard times on this journey.  I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way.  One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad.  No man is really an island.

During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man.  Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that.  I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss.  We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.

Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16.  Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man.  It was a good time.

That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it.  The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation.  You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away.  The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.

Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial.  You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well.  I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you.  You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.

Now you are 18.  You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man.  My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life.  This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.

For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son.  As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.

Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well.  I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.

So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become.  It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences.  The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.

You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome.  You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.

Stay in the Word.  There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face.  God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain.  Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you.  He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.

For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day.  I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom  You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.

I’m always here  for you when you need me.  I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

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No Excuses

there-are-no-excuses-4We have all been hearing the news of the Stanford rape victim and the lenient sentence passed down to the rapist.  Yesterday I read the young woman’s letter she had written to her attacker and I was hit with a few different thoughts and emotions.  I know I have not been here lately, and this is a pretty hard thing to come back from a hiatus with, but here we go…

  1.  I am impressed with this woman’s ability to so clearly articulate how she feels after this heinous act.  The way she described her emotional and mental state actually took me into her mind where I could feel the trauma she is experiencing.  I can never know what someone who has endured this has felt, but thanks to that letter, I have a much better idea of how deeply the wounds go into the mind and soul.
  2. I am full of respect for this woman for owning her part in this.  Careful.  No stone throwing… I did not say she should be blamed.  There is no excuse for what happened to her, but she admitted that allowing herself to get that drunk put her in a position for a bad thing to happen.  She could have made a better choice that evening, and she admitted that.  That takes character.
  3. I am cheering for the two young men who acted heroically by stepping in and stopping the act.  Truly Good Samaritans in their actions and bravery.  They must have a couple of very proud sets of parents today.  They saw evil and stepped in to do something about it.  Good job, men.  Good job.
  4. I am thankful that at the very minimum, and it was minimum, the attacker was convicted of the crime.  To the 12 jurors, I appreciate their ability to wade through all of the excuses and attempts to cast doubt and still come back with a decision that puts a mark on this man for what he has done that will stand for the rest of his life.  His victim has been marked, so should he.
  5. Beyond that, I have a range of thoughts and emotions I would rather not focus on in regards to the rapist, the passive father who made excuses for his son and tried to downplay his actions, the lawyer that worked so hard to humiliate a young woman who had already endured so much, and a judge who did not sentence a rapist with an appropriate punishment.  I am going to take the position that God will judge their actions.  I cannot change the past, and outrage simply for the purpose of being angry will accomplish nothing.

What we need to focus on is finding ways to make sure acts like this do not take place again.  Parents!  If you are going to count on school officials, government officials, and the ability of campus security to keep your children safe, then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!  I am sorry, but this is not a problem that will be cured with programs and more parking lot lights.  This is a matter of the hearts of the kids that we are raising and the character we instill in them.  As a country, parents need to step up and insist on building character and integrity into their children.

We will never see a world without predators.  It is a broken world we live in and the effects of sin are far reaching, but we can fight against them.  The education we give to our kids in how to think past the moment in their choices is so important.  What are the consequences of this decision? Who could potentially be harmed if I do this?  What are the long term ramifications of this choice?  We focus so hard to get them to look both ways before walking across the street, but are we teaching them to pause and look both ways when given options on who to hang out with, what to drink, and what to eat?  Are we teaching them to weigh the possibilities of walking through a dark place alone rather than hanging out with a group of friends?

Again, we will never be able to stop all evil, but we can build into our kids wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and character that can guide them when we are not there.  Take the time, be Relentless in it!

To my daughter – You are beautiful, sweet and pure, and I want you to stay that way.  I want you to think about the places you go and the things that you do fro other viewpoints than your own.  I have tried to tell you as much as possible about how the mind of men works and where they are weak and potentially twisted.  I have tried to show you how to identify behaviors that you should avoid as well as indicators of character that you can trust.  I pray that you will make the right choices when given the opportunity, and I pray for your protection when the evil of the world crosses your path through no fault of your own.

To my son – You are a young man now.  You have been taught and have been showing you understand how to properly show women honor and respect.  You have been taught that while women are strong, and intelligent and capable of doing things on their own, God has charged men to be tender warriors for them.  Our job is not to hold them back and keep them captive “for their own good”, but it is our job to be men and stand up for what is right and protect their honor as those two young men did.  Women are not tools or toys, they are treasures and should be considered that way by all men.  You will have opportunities to choose, and I pray that you will make the right choice to show the same respect for them as Christ did in the Bible.  You will see men who will objectify them or hurt them and I pray that you will suit up and gear up for battle against that evil as one of God’s warriors.

Men, the battle is won in the preparation, and our home is the place it needs to start.  Show your wives how much you care for your children and their character.  Prepare your children, be involved.  Identify their battles. Teach them to recognize their enemies. Educate them on the weaknesses of evil. Coach them in how to fight evil. Cheer for them as they fight. Recognize their victories. Nurse their wounds. Encourage them for battle.

This world is not getting better.  We must be Relentless in developing children who can stand in it.

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Those Pastor’s Kids…

12821566_922719921179919_8072265062176788583_nI saw this picture on social media the other day. At first glance it made me laugh because I grew up in church and I have seen the extremes that often take place, and seeing the anti-hero Deadpool compared to the virtuous Captain America seemed to be an apt comparison.

As a son of a former deacon, I felt like I could laugh about this picture because of the stereotype that exists there, and even though people don’t like stereotypes, they exist because in many cases, they are true. Not always, but often enough that you can have a snicker from time to time over them. The Pastor’s kids got in trouble because the whole church was watching them The deacon’s kids probably got it the worst from the other deacons more than anyone else. We were a different group, but still in the mix.

After seeing this and thinking about it, I started to see different faces from my childhood – kids from school and church and how they “turned out”. Often they did swing to one of these extremes – “good guy” or “bad guy”. Whoa. Where am I in that mix?

Looking at the two extremes is just a part of the story. You also need to look at where a kid is in the process. They don’t just become Deadpool or Captain America. It’s a process. Some of it takes a long time, and sometimes, time is the best way to help us see where that person might land. I’m not saying I’m Captain America now, but I can say that there was a time that a fairly decent crowd might have considered me well on my way to being a Deadpool! Time was a good thing as it allowed God to work in me. Time is working in a lot of kids right now.

Since time is working on them, we might be better not to judge those kids we see out there. They might be dealing with some issues we don’t know about. They might have more on the ball than we give them credit for. We may have an unrealistic expectation for that kid, or we might just think they should be a little more mature than they really are.

At the end of the day, I don’t see this as a good person or as a bad person. I see them as two very different attitudes. In a way that is a little reassuring, but at the same time, it is a little scary. If it is an attitude, then it can be changed. It is not a defining thing unless you decide to leave it that way. Once you have slipped down a slope, it is harder to get back up. Doesn’t mean quit, but it will be hard.

Anyway, back to the attitudes. Here is how I see them:

Deadpool – “This is who I am. I’m not changing for you or anyone else. My reasons? Why should I try? Nobody expects anything better out of me, and being better than I am is more work than I am prepared to give. It will never be enough to satisfy those people. I know I could do better, but this is how they see me. So, I am just going to embrace it. This is all there is.”

There is so much potential in a Deadpool. So many things that could be done, but self is chosen over others or even a goal. Opportunities are missed, Potential is unrealized, relationships are hurt and sometime destroyed. There are glimpses of heroism from time to time, but they are tempered by a fear form those closest that they will soon decline again.

Captain America – “I might not be the best person for the job, but the job needs to be done, so I am here to do it. I’m willing to go the distance to help another person. I want people to live free and happy. I can follow directions, but I am willing to lead as well. I make mistakes, and I am trying to be better. I’m not satisfied at just being who I am, I want to be better in order to help those who need it”

There is a humility in a Captain America. They may be as gifted or even less gifted than a Deadpool, but they are not focused on themselves. They are focused on others. They are not settling for who they are, they want to grow and develop new skills. They have down times where they feel like they have failed, but they do not let those moments define them. They get back up and keep going because they see the goal is worth the effort even if those around them do not.

The pastor’s kids really aren’t any different than the rest of us; they just live under the microscope. Take any cross section out there and if you just want to take a snapshot of that moment in time, you will see the extremes, but the reality is that there is a near constant swing in kids as they are figuring out who they will be. Personally I see a lot more Captain Americas start showing up around the late twenties and early thirties. Life has a way of helping you see things in a different way.

There were a lot of comments and a lot of Scripture being taken out of context where I saw this pic. I saw a ton of legalistic talk, and I felt ashamed by that. It’s easy to draw lines sometimes when you don’t really know what you are talking about. I’ve never been a PK. Never felt the stress of living up to an expectation that I didn’t ask to be a part of. I know what it feels like to be held to a higher standard though…

I see that photo now as a warning to me. How do I look at people around me? We all have an internal struggle, and we will choose whether to take that struggle and use it as an opportunity to serve ourselves or to serve God. I hope that people see me as a guy who is Relentless in his drive to grow and make the right choice. I hope they see my failures as pivotal moments for me to stand up smarter, and stronger for the struggle rather than weak for failing. I hope I see the same in those around me.

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