Over four years ago we moved into a church building that was owned by another church from a different denomination. And over the last four years we have done some building changes on the outside but most of our work has been on the inside. So most people that either live close to this building or had come to the building before would have noticed the subtle changes we have made. But recently we had a neighborhood meeting where we invited the community to come in and talk with us about one of the things we are doing when it comes to the building property.
We are developing the back 2.1 acres of our property to where there will be an apartment complex built for low-income housing. For people that are coming out of homelessness, people with disabilities, people dealing with mental health, and those that are transitioning from prison. The goal for us is that we want to be a part of the housing solution in our community for those that need the most help. So we knew that we were going to have some people that were not going to be supportive of what we were doing. During this neighborhood meeting, we heard from a few people that were very against the work that we’re doing.
But when it came to this meeting it was not a comment about the low-income housing project that stuck with me the most. It was from a man that has been living behind our building who says he is a Christian and it was about the people that come to Elevation. Here is what he said, “We liked the other church that used to be in this building because those people looked like church people. The people coming now don’t look like church people.”
Which made me want to ask the question; “So what does a church person look like?” Is it suits, is it nice cars, is it nice looking people? What does a church person look like?
Church people look lost but are now being found, church people look lonely but are building relationships, and church people look left out but are now being brought together as a family. Church people have different cultures, church people have different languages, church people have different races, and church people come from all over. So if that is what it looks like here at Elevation I am good, no matter what someone says.
Over the weekend we talked at Elevation about being a dad and how that is dangerous for Father’s day. I believe that being a dad is dangerous and it is not because of what happens when you tell someone to pull your finger. I believe that being a dad is dangerous and it is not because of the way that you can dominate the people in your family. I believe that being a dad is dangerous and it is not because of the genetics that they have in their body.
I believe that dads are dangerous because of the influence that uses or don’t use in the relationships that they have. Dad’s are dangerous because of the way that they influence the families that they are in, dads are dangerous because of the way that they care for their children, and dads are dangerous because of the way that they love others at work. A dad’s influence is what makes them dangerous.
In fact one of the ways that I have been thinking about it is this way; “Dangerous Dad’s influence on their surroundings, their surroundings don’t influence dad’s.” The analogy that we used when talking about this was the carrot, the egg, and coffee beans. The idea is that a boiling pot of water represents the different environments that dads are involved with, it would represent the surroundings in which we find ourselves each day.
When you place a carrot into the boiling water eventually the carrot is going to become soft. Being soft has nothing to do with your waistline or if you are an emotional person. Being soft has to do with being selfish! You have allowed your surroundings to influence you to think that as a dad it is all about you. The unfortunate thing is that many men believe that being a dad is about them when the actuality of being a dad is about others. So becoming soft leads you to mush all about you!
When you place an egg into the boiling water eventually the egg is going to become a hard-boiled egg. Being hard is again nothing physical like hard muscles or hard as being a badass and can fight your way out of a situation. When we allow the surroundings of life to make us hard it is about our hearts. I believe that we have many men that because of either something that has been done to them or done by them when it comes to their choices they have become hard-hearted. They struggle with the idea of loving someone or being loved by someone and it creates hateful people. The way that I was thinking about it was, “Hardened Hearts Create Hate Fueled Habits”. We have habits that have been created out of hate because of what is going on in our lives and that means we are influenced not being influencers.
But then when you take the boiling water that you used for the carrot, or for the egg, and you add to it coffee beans the water is going to be changed. It is going to become coffee. (We call it Christian Crack.) But the coffee is giving of itself to the surroundings and it influences the water. You see when a Dangerous Dad is able to see that he is called to be an influencer not influenced by his surroundings that he becomes DANGEROUS! When a dad is giving of himself and is influencing his surroundings that he becomes an influencer. For me I believe that it is when Jesus changes a Dad that the soft spots are hardened, the hard spots are softened, so that they are able to give of themselves just like Jesus did. That is TRULY when a dad become dangerously influential in their surroundings. So I am hoping that today you see that you can become a Dangerous Dad!
What are the soft spots in your life and what areas of your life have you become hardened?
I have been involved in lifting weights since I was a teenager and I love it. But one of the very first things I was taught was when you are working out never lift heavy weights on your own. If you are going to shoot for a heavier weight or you are going to lift your max weight then you need someone there just in case you get stuck or can’t lift it. There has been time and time again where I have needed a lifting partner to help me. Just that little nudge, a yell of encouragement, or even the ability to grab the weight and rack it before I crushed my chest or blew out a knee. Everything that a lifting partner is taught to do when helping someone lift. Usually, when I was getting ready to lift the heavy weight I would find a good friend or a team-mate that I trusted and knew had the strength to lift what I was lifting. (I would pick a lineman who looked at what I was lifting and would laugh and say, “puny defensive back”.) Then I would get on the bench or I would get under the bar in the squat rack, get in position and begin lifting.
I tell you about this not because I am huge and all muscle but because I think we could use lifting partners every day of our life. Each and every one of us could experience powerful life change when we have life lifting partners. Just think about it your getting ready to make a big decision, call your lifting partner. You are getting ready to start a new job, call your lifting partner. You are struggling with an addiction, call your lifting partner. You are struggling in your marriage, call your lifting partner. Here is the problem most of us wouldn’t do that because we believe that we can handle the heavy lifting all on our own. We have been taught that we don’t need anyone else when things get tough. Except for when we are lifting heavy weights. (Why?) Here is a verse in the bible that I think sets the tone for what we need to do:
Galatians 6:2 (NLT) 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Why is that we can lay down on a bench and try to lift heavy weight and then realize it is too much and then go ask someone for help, but we won’t do it when our marriage is struggling. (Pride) We can step under a bar that has 45 lbs plate after 45 lbs plate on it straining against a squat rack barely lift it and say I can’t handle this at all, then go a lifting partner. But when our kids are having a really hard time we won’t say a thing. (E.G.O. – Edging out God)
Here is what I am suggesting today start to develop a relationship with some LIFE lifting partners. I guarantee that there are other guys just like you trying to lift and then carry some heavy burdens that could use your help. You see that is what is so amazing about when you get LIFE lifting partners it doesn’t become a one-sided relationship. There is give and take, there is the encouragement in the form of a pat on the back along with maybe a kick in the butt. You have another person or persons that you can call when the weight of the burden is just getting to be too much, so the can step in and help you lift and carry that burden.
So start by thinking about at least two or three other guys that you like to hang out with in your relationship circles. Then take a couple of weeks to pray about asking those guys to think about being lifting partners after you have explained to them what lifting partners could be for each other. Once you have asked them then take a couple of weeks for each of them to pray about the opportunity of being lifting partners. Then come together and talk some more about who is in and who is out, then plan the next time you are going to meet as LIFE lifting partners.
Now that you have some guys that are willing to be LIFE lifting partners just meet and talk about what you all hope to get out of being lifting partners. Then establish what will be your natural rhythms for when and where you are going to meet. You also want to let each other know that as you begin to share and pray for each other that whatever is shared with lifting partners stays with lifting partners. (Unless someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else.) Then ask each other how you can pray for each other, pray and enjoy the rest of your coffee, beer, or soda just hanging out. Then just continue to meet, talk, pray and hang out just a little reminder to take your time and not feel as if you have to go deep right away. Let the Holy Spirit guide your moments and let the time you spend together lead the conversations.
(This was written for men but it can very easily be used for women as well. The truth is that in my experience is that women already do this kind of relationship way better then we men do. But if this is something you can use by all means go for it. Too many people are spending their lives trying to carry their burdens all on their own.)
When you are growing up as the oldest of four kids there is no one to give you hand me downs, except your dad. Now if you don’t know what hand me downs are then you were either an only child or your family had enough money to make sure you had lots of new clothes. So this is not going to be a story that you can probably relate to when it comes to clothing. But by the time we get done here you are going to see that you are probably dealing with some hand me downs when it comes to your life.
Being the oldest of three boys and one girl and growing at a rapid rate around 8th grade I needed a lot of clothes quickly. You see I grew 9 inches in one year. So that meant I was constantly wearing pants that were called high waters. (If you don’t know what that means then we can’t be friends.) My mom used to joke that they were just the right length when I left the house in the morning but by the end of the day, they were too short. The problem with growing that fast is that it gets really expensive and being the oldest of four we were not in a place to buy jeans every other day. That meant I was getting dad’s hand me down clothes. Which you might think that can’t be that bad. Well if at the time your waist is a size twenty and your dads is a size thirty then it can cause some issues. But, you belt up and you keep going. Now here is what you might not know about wearing your dad’s hand me downs, it makes you feel grown-up. I mean to a 13-year-old boy you are now wearing man’s pants. They aren’t the kiddie pants in the boy’s area of the store they come from Men’s clothing, you see what I mean? Yes, they didn’t fit you perfect but, you knew that at that moment you were wearing man’s pants.
Flash forward to now. I am no longer wearing my dad’s hand me down clothes. I am a dad of my own with a son and yes at one point in his life I gave him one of my shirts or even a pair of pants. And yes the same was true for him as it was for me when I was his age the waistline was for sure not the same. But I can remember as clear as a bell my son looking at me and saying, “Thanks Dad I really feel like a man wearing this.”
Here is the problem for many of the men that are around today. They never had that moment with their dad where they got to wear his hand me downs. Maybe it’s because their dad was no longer alive, maybe it was because their dad was in prison, or just maybe it was because their dad chose to not be in their life. No matter what the reason that little moment in life where you were able to see yourself develop into a man never happened and it is something that you have been thinking about with each day. Who knows you may be a dad now and you are trying to figure out what you are going to do for your son when the time comes in his life where he is starting to become a man.
Here is my encouragement to you. Don’t buy him a shield, don’t buy him a trip up some mountain, or create some party that lets him know he is becoming a man. Just grab a shirt, grab a pair of pants, take him one of your ties and let him wear them for a little while. Because the truth of the matter is that he is going to probably outgrow your stuff anyway. I am not necessarily saying he is going become a bigger man then you physically. (It could happen.) But he is going to outgrow what you have given him and that is ok because that means he is becoming his own man. Which is what you want so that someday when you see him as a dad he is going to let your grandson live in his hand me downs.
Over 10,000 ex-prisoners are released from America’s state and federal prisons every week and arrive on the doorsteps of our nation’s communities. More than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from prison every year. But what if I told you that most of them are still not free even though they are not living in a cell anymore. They are still prisoners to their addictions, their broken relationships, and their past.
So what is it that we can do to enable them to experience freedom? What are the ways that we can be a part of the life change for the men and women that have been in prison? I believe that these are a few questions that we need to be asking ourselves especially if we call ourselves followers of Jesus. Here are a few things that I have learned over the last couple of months from spending time with the men and women of our city that have been released from prison:
- SEE THEM AS A PERSON – They have already spent a great deal of time where they were seen as a number and not as an individual. They carry with them not the identity as a person but the burden of what they have done. That means we have the opportunity to see them not as a number and not as crime but as a person. Here is a quote that I have been thinking about: “Always pray to have eyes that see people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.” I believe that we have the possibility to be a part of the change of someone who may still see themselves as a prisoner. One of the things that I believe is important for some of us to remember is this: “The only difference between them and us, is that they got caught.” Just a little food for thought.
- TALK TO THEM NOT ABOUT THEM – I have recently had the opportunity to spend some of my time with several men and women that have been recently released from prison. It has opened my eyes to the fact that many of them still have a hard time talking with people that they feel can either do or take away something from them. They are constantly aware of what people can and will mostly say about them because of there life choices. So I make a point to talk to them, to look them in the eye and find out who they are and what is happening in their life. It is building on the first thing as seeing them as a person and then talking to them and not about them. If more people were willing to talk to returning citizens we just might gain some understanding of who they are and what is happening in their lives.
- CHOSE TO HELP NOT HINDER – This is where I am amazed at the hardness of some people’s hearts and the depth of the fear that they have for the unknown. People will unfortunately automatically think of a person that has been released from prison as the worst person they can think of in this world. But the truth of the matter is that many of these individuals are people just like you and me that have either made a choice or have been involved in a situation that has lead them to being in prison. (Think about Martha Stewart she is a felon.) So why not see how you can help them? Why not see what you can do to enable them to see that they don’t need to go back to where they have just came from. I am fortunate to be able to work and be with an amazing group of people that are doing just that, choosing to help these men and women and not to hinder them. The place and people can all be found at the Second Chance Center a place where the decision has been made to help returning citizens experience lives of success and fulfillment.
So what are you doing to help make men and women that were previously incarcerated feel free again?
7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.Romans 6:7 (NLT)
No matter where you live I want you to know that the death of fatherhood is devastating your city from the inside out right now, today. Here in the United States the statistics are staggering when it comes to fatherless homes:
- 25 million children in the United States are growing up in fatherless homes.
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
- 71% of all adolescent substance abusers come from fatherless homes.
- 80% of all in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes.
- 70% of adolescents in juvenile correctional facilities come from fatherless homes.
- 60% of rapists come from fatherless homes.
- 70% teen pregnancies happen in fatherless homes.
(Statistics from National Center For Fathering 2015)
The statistics are not any indication on the women that are left with the heavy responsibility to care for children in many cases on their own. These women are doing the job of two and doing it, most likely while they are working more then one job. They are not the reason that we are talking about fatherhood. We are talking about fatherhood because in most cases (not all cases) that we have men that are walking away from their responsibility and opportunity to be a FATHER.
So what does this mean for us today? What does this mean for us in the coming years? I believe that it is an amazing opportunity for those of that have had a father or have grown into fatherhood to help both young man and high school boys. It is the opportunity that we have to be a part of breaking the chains of dysfunction that have lead to the slow death of fatherhood. Here are some ways that we can take this opportunity and begin to make a difference:
- Start where you are at with the boys that are right in your own neighborhood. I guarantee that you will see some young guys throwing the ball around or kicking that ball around on your street. Just take some to spend with them playing and talking. It is amazing how much a kid will talk while they are playing.
- If you are father then take the time to get to know the other boys or girls that are hanging out with your children. Don’t just let them wander through the house without them seeing or getting to know there is a father in the place.
- Take the time to talk and mess around with the boys and young men that are involved in your church. You just might be exactly what one of these mothers are looking for when it comes to helping them encourage their children. (I had two men in my life that were just like this)
- If you are single man that has no children of your own then I challenge you to get involved with an organization that would enable you to mentor a young man. I know that there are many amazing organizations like this where ever you life. (Where I live we have an amazing group called, “Save Our Youth”.)
Here is my challenge to you whether your are a father or not, do something. Take the time to get involved in a child’s life. You may never know the difference you can make by helping be a part of being a FATHER.
What are some other ways that you can get involved in the lives of children that are living in fatherless homes?
Have you ever arrived at someone’s home or to work and they asked you, “Did you see that car wreck?” I have and until recently I didn’t really pay attention to the question at least until the car wreck happened to be my son Tyler. I was sitting at home with my wife just relaxing when THAT phone call came. It was Tyler calling me to let me know that he had just been in an accident, that he was ok, but that I should get to where he was at as quick as I could. My son is 24 years of age he is a man, not a boy. So when he called and explained it all to me I really didn’t panic. I got dressed quickly to leave the house, had a back and forth conversation with my wife about which vehicle to take car or truck. I grabbed the truck just in case it wasn’t that bad a wreck and I could tow the car home. But I drove to where my son was at and as I came over the hill to see the accident my heart jumped in my throat. It was not a just a little fender bender, my son had been t-boned at a major intersection and his car was severely damaged. It was not what I had hoped to see at all it was a parent’s nightmare. So I parked the truck in a lot in front of a store that enabled me to get to where my son was at with paramedics.
But as soon as the truck was in park my cell phone began to ring. It was a number that I didn’t know, but I answered it none the less. It was an operator from the APP that I had on my phone called LIFE360 they wanted me to know that my son was in a car accident and they wanted me to know that the proper authorities had been notified. It was an amazing phone call and I thanked the operator for calling me. But you might be sitting there thinking, why was this an amazing phone call? You were already at the accident and didn’t need the phone call. And what you would be thinking right. But what if my son couldn’t call me, what if my son was unable to call me? It let me know that the APP that we had put on each of our children’s phones and had the monthly subscription was all worth it. Now here is the question that I know you want to ask, “How did they know he was in an accident? Here is the amazing answer, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Want to know why? Because they called me and let me know about my son. As a parent I was notified that my son was in an accident and that was a amazing news.
I want you to understand that I am not being paid to say this, I am not being told to say this. But if you are a parent or a spouse that truly cares for the people in your family then you need them to get this APP on their phone. This is the second time that the LIFE360 APP has been good for our family and has enabled us to know can care for our children. What are some APPS that you use as a parent that have helped you?