Open Letter to Moms of Boys

17 12 2014

Last summer I came across a Facebook post where a Mom was asking her friends for help in finding books and other materials to give to her young sons. She wanted resources to help them gain a better understanding of what it means to live a Christ centered life in a world that is increasingly not Christ centered.  There were lots of comments attached to the post.  Lots of other Moms listed some blogs and a few of books. But by-in-large there weren’t very many that I would have been excited about giving my boys.

For those who don’t know, I’m the Dad of two boys.  Each is very different than the other.  I’m also a full time Minister.  Because I have a fair amount of insight into the area my Facebook friends were talking about, I added my thoughts to the stream of comments. Over the years I have spent a ton of time looking for and researching the best tools to raise Christian boys. I’ve learned a lot along the way.  Now I’ll never say my boys are without error.  And I pray everyday that if they ever do anything that is not worthy of God’s character that I will find out about it before it’s too late. (Thankfully that prayer works most of the time!)  I’m not an expert, but I believe I do have a good word on the topic. So… I have decided to repost my comments here so that maybe others might see it and apply it.  Maybe it might even spark a conversation for like minded folks to develop better options for helping boys understand the ways of Christ.  Lord knows we all need it!

From a recent Facebook comment I wrote on a friend’s post: 

These comments break my heart. As the son of a Minister and as a Minister myself, (as well as the Dad of 2 boys ages 10 and 15) [my boys are now 16 and 11] I know for a fact that there are very few resources written for specifically for boys. Now there are hundreds for Moms (and a few for Dads) that will provide great examples of how to raise Godly boys, with plenty of exercises to try. There are personality and gifts assessments that you can use to try and figure out how they might receive the lessons you are teaching in a more absorbent way. However… there is hardly anything (bible study, devotional, etc) available that you can put in a boys hand that he will devour on his own. And here’s why… Boys don’t work that way. They don’t think that way. Unlike a girl’s natural desire for relationships to be deep and their willingness to be quiet and take the time to get close to their Heavenly Father, boys naturally don’t have it on their radar and see it as an unpleasant chore when they are told they need to dig in.

Now I know… these are generalizations. So where does that lead us? Should we write our own Bible Studies and devotionals? Here’s the inside track on the publishing world of Christian content… Products are developed based on market research. No publisher will produce a product they know won’t sell. Because the Market Research shows that boys don’t latch on to the kind of products we are wanting for our boys, they are much less likely to fund the product into production. Believe me, there have been some valiant attempts over the last 30 years.

This may all sound disheartening, but hear this… there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we are looking for resources to specifically put in the hands of our boys. It’s not going to be in a book or even an iPhone app! (okay maybe it is an app…). It’s going to be in the form of two critical paths. The first is in stories. Truly engaging stories that provide humor, danger, ritual, compassion, good and even evil. But these stories can’t just be in a book (remember that boys rarely read just because they can). The stories have to be told out loud… so that boys will HEAR them and SEE them. They have to be done in a way that makes the boy want to tell his friends the story. It has to be the kind of story that they fall asleep at night dreaming about.

The second path is through life experiences. Many of you are already paving the way for that. You are putting your boys into situations where they are SEEING and HEARING the ways of Christ put into practice. Plan for that. Fund that. Do that. Involve them in what you are doing to follow Christ. Be careful in this point though. Remember that most of you are women. The steps YOU are taking to follow Christ may not engage your sons in the same way it’s engaging you. When you plan, consider what will speak to their hearts. When you fund that plan be generous in the line item called “surprise and delight”. When you do the plan do with energy and excitement (and maybe add in some silliness, but in a macho kind of way).

Bottom line is this:
– Shift your sights on the kind of resources you are looking for by beginning to look for Godly stories that can be told out loud. Granted there are very few out there. Pray about creating more.
– Stop thinking that your boy will “get it” if only there were resources out there like there are for girls.
– Put your family into situations where your boys will SEE and HEAR God at work. Plan it, fund it, do it.

Lastly, by all means keep doing what you are doing! Pray together, read the Bible together, Worship together, go on mission together! Remember that no two boys are exactly alike. Use the resources everyone has listed to learn as much as you can about how you can better lead your boys. Use the personally and gifts assessments to get a better grip on why they are the way the are. Understand that there will be seasons in a boys life when you feel like you are getting hit in the face with a shovel. It will hurt and it will shock you. Also understand that his heart will be broken once he realizes what he has done.

Most of all, hug them and be sure to tell them you love them with all your heart. Especially in front of their friends. Boys love that stuff!

Oh yeah… And pray. Pray like your life depends on it. No… Pray like your son’s life depends on it. Because it does.

My Namesake and His Draft Card

12 11 2012

Chesley James Rivers was my Grandpa.  This week he would have turned 101 years old.  The Veterans Day celebrations that occurred this past weekend caused me to cast a light on his newly discovered (at least to me) Selective Service card. I find it so very interesting. He was 28 years old when he signed it in 1939.  I can only assume that it was signed in October of that year right after the Burke-Wadsworth Act was passed by Congress and of course, a couple of years before the U.S. entered World War II.

I have no idea if his number was ever called.  It would not have mattered anyway since he would have be classified as Section V. He was not able to hear. His deafness was caused by complications from a childhood illness.  As I recall the story told to me long ago… when as very small child, he developed pneumonia.  Near the end of his recovery, after the first snowfall of the season, his sister let him out to play in the snow.  The remaining fluid in his ears froze and forever damaged his eardrums.  How much of that story is accurate is in question of course. However that is how I remember it. I will add the disclaimer that my imagination often adds embellishments.

I never heard my Grandpa speak.  However I did hear him sing.  Funny that I write this during Veterans Day… His favorite song to sing out loud was “Onward Christian Soldiers” and although the words came forth in a manner you would expect from someone who is deaf, the notes were always in the right place. I call it his “Marching Song”. He would sing it only while standing… and always at the top of his lungs.

The card was signed while he was working at the EM Holt Plaid Mill.  He worked a loom and although I’m sure the mass manufacturing process was laborious at best, he kept a nice sized loom in his home until the day he died.  He made beautiful things.  Mostly in plaid of course!  My Grandparents lived in the Carolina’s, but also in south Louisiana, Houston and Washington, D.C. He moved from the loom to the printing press and worked for the Congressional Record for a time in the 70’s.

Today I honor him for his service.  He signed a card and was willing to serve.  Though he wouldn’t be asked to fight in a war, I’ve never known anyone more patriotic. I used to think his deafness placed him in a world where only deaf people worked.  Mills and print shop are loud, distracting and sometimes dangerous places.  Many, many deaf people worked in these places because they were ideally suited for the work.  However as I look at it now, I see that he chose work that offered him creativity through the use of technology.  He made beautiful things… from loud, complicated machines.

Happy birthday Grandpa! Thank you for providing for your wife and daughters. For singing loudly and for making me smile.  Thank you for being tall, but for never looking down on anyone. Thank you for teaching me, even after you are gone, that creativity can come from the most complicated things. I miss you.


A Gift That’s Not Wanted

15 11 2010

I love playing 7 degrees of separation.  It’s how I came to find a point for this post.  It took less than 7 steps, but things are going my way today, so there!

I get the Daily Heller which is an email from Steve Heller (the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts). It’s a message of consequence about art things. Today’s email was about a piece of modern art by Roy Lichtenstein that recently sold for $38 Million. The painting is called Ohhhh…Alright….and it’s basically a snapshot from the frame of an old comic book. The painting was owned by Steve Wynn (as in the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, and The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi). He had it listed at an art dealer for $50 Million, so I’m sure he was pretty sad that he only got $38 Million for it.  The comic book sold for $0.10 in 1963 and the illustrators and colorist probably got pennies per frame for their work.

In the same article, Heller talks about another painting owned by Barney Ebsworth that sold for $23.8 Million. It was Warhol’s Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable). It had been estimated to bring between $30 and $50 million.  This economy is hurting everyone isn’t it? It turns out that Ebsworth was selling this Warhol to raise money to build a church!  That statement sent me on a path to learn more about this Ebsworth guy and this church.

Well it turns out that it’s not a church.  It a public meditative chapel, designed by a famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando.  It’s going to be built on Capital Hill in Seattle, WA. It will only seat 140 and have 75 parking spaces.  It will have a pipe organ and a 7 voice choir available… yes 7 voices.  Mr. Ebsworth is a very wealthy man.  According to Danny Westneat, Seattle Times staff columnist, “His dream, friends say, is to leave an artistic legacy in the form of a chapel to honor his family and be used by the public.” Image that. Image that you could sell a 48 year old painting of a can of soup and BAM!… an artistic legacy can be had.

Westnest goes on to report that Ebsworth (who doesn’t trust the press) has a friend who is a retired reverend named Gerry Porter. Porter says that the chapel is to be “an artistic gift to his adopted city.” A gift. Interesting.

The problem is that Ebsworth already tried to build the chapel in Bellevue, WA, but got turned away by the neighbors. It seems there is a storm brewing in the new neighborhood selection as well.

I feel for the guy.  I really do.  Have you ever tried to give someone a gift and had the Ohhhh…Alright…. reaction? It’s an okay idea, but it’s not really something that was on the wish list. Like when you were little and got socks for Christmas from your grandparents or crazy aunt (no Aunt Pasty, I’m not talking about you!).

I have to think that the gift to the city might have been packaged a bit wrong.  Oh… Did I tell you that the chapel design would include 6 burial sites and a memorial garden for Ebworth’s family? Oooohhh… now you understand why it’s not really something for the city.

How often do we do that? How often do we portray something as a gift or a favor in order to make it palatable for the public (or singular recipient)? I’m raising my hand here… because I’m selfish. I want to give my sons whatever I can for them to become rock stars and famous baseball players… So I can live vicariously through them and they can buy me a new house and a cool car. Or here’s a better one:  I want to give my wife a trip to the day spa and a quiet night out with just the two of us… so I can (use your imagination here).

You do it too. And so does the church at large.  This time of year it gets bad.  We’ll see signs saying “The 100th Annual Singing Christmas Tree, Our gift to the Metrocosium” Heck! I’ve written and designed ads like that! What it really means is that we want everyone to come see this show we’ve been working on since July that somehow will end with equating our work with the gift God has given us through His Son, Jesus.

That’s not the goal or the desire, but it’s how the neighbors see it.

The Bottom Line:  I think Mr. Ebsworth should have just bought the property and said it would be his family plot. Period.  After it was built, polished and shined up, he should search the obituaries and engagement announcements and quietly, anonymously and freely offer other families the use of the chapel in their time of sorrow and time of joy. Now THAT would be a gift to the neighbors!