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A Fathering Moment, and A River Runs Through It

So this past weekend,  I took my 11 year old for a first in his journey:  A Boy Scout excursion to North Carolina to paddle the Nantahala.  I was intent on fathering him this weeked, providing opportunities to speak into his life regarding his far-too-rapid (no pun intended) approach to manhood, through class 3 rapids.  What I wasn’t prepared for was God’s intent on fathering me through the exact same thing.

One thing I didn’t know about the Nantahala, and the outfitter we used, is that this river, unlike the Ocoee, is not guided.  You get in the boat, and you’re on your own to navigate your way down the series of rapids.  I and the one other dad in my boat were all of a sudden responsible for the safety of our 3 boys, 11 and under, on their first ever river run.  Then, the biggest surprise:  I was told that I was to be the guide.  Oh, my.  In that moment, I felt the familiar tentacles of my wounds begin to constrict around my heart:  “You can’t do this.  You will fail.  You do not have what it takes”.  It was powerful, as the wound always seems to be whenever I’m faced with a challenge.  But…something was different this time.  I realized immediately that Father was involved in this, understood that He desired an opportunity to father me, if I would only choose to let him.

So I said nothing.

I chose to let the adventure come to me.

I didn’t regret it.

We who were tasked with primary navigation were led to a map of the river, where we were given an impossible-to-remember layout of where the dangers were, where we were to aim the boats, what would happen if we did not.  We were told that, given that there are no professional guides on these trips, it was an absolute guarantee that we would lose someone out of the boat at some point.  Unavoidable, we were told.  The last rapid on the river that we would face was called ‘the Falls’ for a couple of reasons:  one, because it was a waterfall, and two, because if you hit the Falls sideways, you were going out of the boat…all of you.

So, with that encouraging information in the back of my mind, we made our way to the beginning of the run.  I was not confident, not at all.  I just knew that I would get us ‘dumped’ right out of the gate.  Everyone in the boat was counting on me to successfully navigate the river, recognize the danger areas, know when to have everyone paddle, all that.  And I didn’t remember any of the map instructions.

It was terrifying.

But a voice within me spoke up as we started.

“You will not lose a single person.”

I’d love to tell you that the voice gave me confidence.  I’d love to…but I can’t.

However…

Something wonderful began to happen as we started.  I began calling out orders, where to paddle, how, and when.  We were actually doing pretty well.  I felt my confidence grow-we might just do alright!

Then, we beached on a rock.  Beached hard.  No one fell out, but there we were, water rushing over the side of the raft, other rafts going right by, and we were stuck.  I heard the wound again:  “See?  You’re pathetic.  What an embarrassment.  You can’t do anything right.”

But again, there was another voice, strong, kind:  “You can do this.  Just trust yourself, and trust Me”.  And after a couple of minutes fighting the rock, fighting the current, fighting the demons…we were free, and off again.  We beached a couple more times along the way, but the wound’s scoffing no longer seemed quite so loud-it sounded rather pathetic and weak now.  And we kept going…but ‘the Falls’ were looming large in the back of my mind.

However, before we could get anywhere near the Falls, another adventure:  rain.  Not just any old rain, mind you.  Pounding, blinding sheets of rain.  Rather than being debilitating, though, it felt…Epic.  The adventure had just become a High Adventure, and my spirit soared at the opportunity.  I felt my Father’s smile, and a wink in His eye, as if He was saying:  “Try this on…I think you’ll like it.”

Oh, I did.

It was so much fun.

We couldn’t see.

The kids couldn’t hear my instructions.

The river got wilder.

And I was LOVING it.

I just knew that Father was deepening the adventure, because He had something very specific in mind for me.

We stopped about 20 minutes shy of the Falls to rest our weary arms, to wring out our soaked baseball caps, dump our boat, and prepare for the big finish.  Fear attempted to rush back in, telling me that we would overturn the boat, that we had been lucky so far, that our luck was about to run out.  I tried to ignore it, but it cast a large shadow on my mind.  I got the boys back in the raft, and we pushed off.

What happened next was just…well…it was just awesome.

As we approached the Falls, everything tightenend up.  (and I do mean everything!)  My mouth went dry, and I stared down what had become, due to the deluge of rain earlier, a much nastier piece of work than what it normally was.  The Falls.  As I guided us toward the mouth of the beast, we began to drift toward a large, protruding rock at the right side of the rapid, right at the drop-off.  Despite our best efforts, we hit it head on, and it turned us…sideways.  Uh-oh.  I heard the other dad in the boat say, “Well, here we go-we’re dumped!”  Something in me rose up, something strong, confident, and sure.

“No, we’re not going to dump-everyone paddle backwards-NOW!”

Backwards.

It was counter-intuitive, and they didn’t immediately commit.

“NOW!”

We dug our paddles into the frothing water, and the boat turned.  Yet we didn’t hit the falls looking ahead.

We went over backwards.

“Everyone hold on!”

We went over the Falls without being able to see where we were going, hit the bottom, gave a lurch, and…we were all there.  No one fell out.  No. One. Fell. Out.  We had come to the end of our journey, and a raft with 2 men, only one of whom had ever ridden this river (he had fallen out the other trip), and 3 young boys had bucked the odds.  We lost no one.

It was glorious.

As we coasted into calmer waters indicating the end of our run, the other gentleman, who is older than I, looked back at me and said, “You did a great job.”

Though it was him that was saying it to me, I felt a greater voice saying the same thing.  It was my Father.

We climbed out of the raft, high-fiving each other, each genuinely stoked by what had just taken place.  I was in awe.  God had taken me to my darkest places, and had spoken words to me there that shone light into those dark areas.  Yet more than words, He allowed me to find out for myself through this initiation.

To borrow from Eric Liddell, the great runner from Chariots of Fire:  I felt God’s pleasure.

I received a wonderful gift: A fathering moment.

And a river runs through it…

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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

New Daddy Feeling

I remember very well the day my eldest son was born.  I was one proud parent!  He was just perfect.  No, he couldn’t walk yet, and no, he couldn’t talk yet.  He could barely make out my facial features, even.  But he knew my voice.  I remember walking over to the ‘warming table’, where he was screaming his lungs out.  For months, I had been talking to him, inside his mommy’s belly, and so I leaned over to his ear, and said, “Hey, buddy.”  The crying stopped, and he turned his head toward me, looking my direction.  It was an incredible moment, one that I will never forget.

Though it pales in comparison, by a mile, there is a similarity between that event and the announcement of the first official Trailhead Outfitters adventure. In a sense, I feel like the newborn baby boy.  It’s not walking yet, it’s can’t really articulate everything the way I’d like.  Heck, I can’t even make out where I’m going.  BUT…I can hear the Voice.  And, in the midst of this unknown place, unknown circumstances, unknown destination, the Voice is a comforting reminder that my Father is here, even if I know nothing else.  And it’ll all be okay.

But I also feel like the new Daddy.  This is my baby, in a manner of speaking.  I’ve anticipated this day for awhile now.  I’ve watched it grow, getting ready for the big day.  And now, here I stand, looking at this tiny, helpless wonder in front of me.  No, it can’t stand on its own yet.  It isn’t close to what it will one day be yet, and I have no idea what shape that will take.  But it hardly matters.  It’s here.  And I’m proud.

September 16-17, 2011 is the date of our first Trailhead Outfitters Adventure, and it will be at Davy Crockett State Park in Tennessee.  More details will be listed at the facebook site, which you can link to from the blog on the icon to the right.  Check the ‘event’ tab, and sign up!  Look forward to a great time together camping, hiking, exploring, and just having a ton of fun with our boys!

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Good gifts

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”-Yeshua, in Matthew 7:9-11

One thing we can say for certain about Christ, he was certain of the goodness, love, and intentionality of his Father.  He knew, without a doubt, that He was prized and adored by his Father, and that assurance gave him the strength and courage to stand tall, set his face like a flint, and endure what He had to endure for us, because of ‘the joy set before him’.  That joy was in knowing he was a beloved son, the apple of his Daddy’s eye.  Further, the joy also lay in knowing that the same Father that loves Him so, loves US in the same manner, which is why Christ was sent to do what He did.  Father wanted his children back.  Now we have the best Father in the world.

And we have the opportunity to model OUR Fatherhood by that standard.  We don’t always do the best job, though, do we?

BUT, it’s encouraging to know that, even though we are less than perfect, we are still capable of giving good things to our sons.  That’s the essence of what Christ said about us.  The best part is that, while we sometimes get it right, albeit imperfectly, our Father does it for us perfectly, all the time.  So whatever we do for our sons, the Father does it for us even moreso.  Giving gifts to our sons, simply because they are our sons, and because we love them, is following in the footsteps of our True Father.

Just yesterday, I was in Dick’s Sporting Goods, trying to figure out how to spend a fifty dollar gift card.  I had been in there two or three times already, and though I love their camping section, nothing was appealing to me.

I think God was thwarting my self-seeking, in order that I might live out what Christ said there in Matthew, because out of nowhere, I thought of how much fun my boys have been having recently with their newfound love:  Airsoft.  I was drawn to the airsoft section, where I paused on the cool, ninja-like facemask/goggles that were made for airsoft.  It was as if God said to me, ‘give good gifts to them’.  So I bought one for each of them.  Before taxes?  They were 49.98.  Perfect.

And oh, the look on their faces when I brought them out.  Priceless.

Yes.  Give gifts to your sons.  For no particular reason at all.  Remind them that they are prized by their father.  And remember how much more our True Father prizes us.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Trailhead Outfitters-what is it?

Trailhead Outfitters is designed with the idea that we who are dads must rediscover the lost art of masculine initiation.  Look around.  Fathers are unavailable, to an alarming degree, in this day and age, and our sons are suffering because of it.  Our daughters, too.  Gender confusion, senseless violence, stunted men…all have a direct tie-in to fatherlessness.  We have lost our intentionality.  Fathers have been told for years that their contribution to the family is nothing more than putting on the yoke, hooking up to the plow, and producing.  Bringing home the bacon.  So dads become workaholics, so much so that their ‘leisure’ time tends to be AWAY time from the very people we should be deeply invested in and engaged with.  We hit the golf course, or the gym, or the lake to fish…or the bar to drink the monotony away.  Meanwhile, there are young boys, growing into young men, who are having to figure life out on their own, who are asking the all important question “Do I have what it takes, Dad?” and who are getting answers that emasculate them, strip them of pride and dignity.  “No, you don’t have what it takes”.  “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”  “Sorry, I have better things to do”.

Enough.

Trailhead Outfitters is about equipping (outfitting) dads with the time, the opportunities, and the focus needed to begin to repair the frayed bonds between father and son.  Here, at the start, it simply consists of this:  I am in the process of scheduling weekends of adventures with my boys, so that I, personally, can learn to be more intentional, and I’m inviting everyone who wants this for themselves and their sons to come along.  Camping trips.  Day hikes.  Whitewater rafting trips.  Renting a cabin in the woods for the weekend and learning to build something together.  Water gun wars.  Whatever it is that gets fathers and sons into close proximity to one another, without distractions from the outside world.

There are phases, two, in fact, that are primary to some of the things we will do.  For a more comprehensive idea of what these are, I highly recommend John Eldredge’s book, ‘Fathered by God’.  For the younger sons, the adventures are all about time with dad.  Dad, your job will be to be completely, totally, and unreservedly available to your boy.  They need to feel like the apple of your eye.  Prized.  Of course, a son of any age longs for this, and, if he hasn’t received it, I don’t care if he’s 4 or 44.  He needs it from you in order to better pass it on to his sons.

For sons in the realm of 12, 13, 14, there will be adventures designed to challenge them, hard work-related challenges that father and son enter into together, so that the question “Do I have what it takes?” can be better answered in the affirmative.

There is a double benefit to these things:  Yes, the sons get to feel prized, and feel manly, but you dads will receive the same kind of initiation, and embrace, because we all have a Father who loves us, who prizes us, and who wants to initiate us.  And He will do for you, what you decide to do for your sons.  It’s an amazing thing.

So, that’s what Trailhead Outfitters is about.  As it grows, so will we.  But the growth is God’s area.  Mine is simply to do what I can now, with what I’ve been given.  And it’s an incredible thing.  I encourage you to join in whenever you see us planning an adventure.  If you can’t be with us because of distance, then do it for your sons right where you are.

Let’s reclaim our mantle as fathers, and together we can rediscover the path to intentional fatherhood.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Intentional Fatherhood

“YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE!”  my 7 year old bellows at his 11 year old brother.  It’s a familiar refrain, one that many a parent has heard echoing down the hallway many a time.  Almost always, the ‘thing’ that was done ‘on purpose’ is something decidedly less than benevolent, usually teetering on the brink of just plain mean.  Brothers do that, of course.  It’s all part of sibling rivalry.  It doesn’t *usually* do any real lasting damage.

It makes me wonder, though: Dads, are we raising our sons ‘on purpose’?

Too many statistics tell a sad commentary on the state of fatherhood today.   It requires very little effort to find an article, or a statistic, that bemoans the absence, either physical or psychological, of fathers, and the devastating effect such absence has upon sons who need very much to know what it means to be a man; these sons unfortunately tend to find their definition of manhood from a variety of ill-suited sources.  It requires much greater effort to find stories of inspiration, whereby a father is the hero to his son, trains his son well, and initiates him well into the world of men.  Such a son grows into the various stages of boy/manhood with a kind, strong, and engaged father, and has no question in his mind who he is.

But, again, such a father is hard to find.  Because such a father must be a practitioner of Intentional Fatherhood.

To be an intentional father, we must be ready, willing, and able to fully and completely engage in the lives of our sons.  It simply is not enough just to ‘stay married'(though that certainly helps), or attend the occasional ballgame.  No, intentional fathers are present, aware, and always ready to engage.  We need to be intentional.

Speaking of that, my 11 year old son just asked me to help him fight an air-soft battle in the front yard.  Gotta go!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Who’s Your Daddy?

Welcome to the inauguration of the Trailhead Outfitters blog.  I hope you find what you read here inspiring, enlightening, and encouraging.  Being a dad in this day and age is tough, even tougher to be an Intentional Father.  Don’t know what that is?  Read about it in the Intentional Father blog.  My hope is that we can recapture the true masculine spirit, and in so doing, reclaim our sons through authentic masculine initiation and invitation.  If you like what you read, tell a friend, link to it on your website, and help us at Trailhead Outfitters ‘turn the hearts of the fathers toward their sons, and the hearts of the sons toward their fathers’!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized