Thoughts on 2 Months of Fatherhood

As I’m writing now, celebrating two months of fatherhood, with little Justus sitting next to me and talking away, I can say that I absolutely love being a dad. It’s so exciting to see a little person growing up in front of my eyes. I’m excited for the role I will play in his life.

Yet, maybe, just as much, I’m excited for the role that he will play in my life.

Becoming a father has changed a lot of things in life. Mostly, it has changed them for the better. It’s challenged me to be more intentional with my time, with my decisions, with my energy.

It’s forced me to be more intentional about caring for my wife and taking care of the issues around us. It’s not just me that it affects. It’s not just my wife, a grown adult, who, though looking to me for leadership, is fully capable of caring for herself, but a baby who is entirely dependent on our care.

I can’t say that I’ve responded well to all of these adjustments. It is causing me to grow though. I’ve been incredibly blessed with a wife who is an incredible mother. Also, I’ve been blessed with a son who has been extremely flexible and relatively easy.

Even so – I know that I long to be a dad who is a picture of loving leadership to my son. He is watching me.

For Father’s Day, I was given an awesome reminder of the responsibility that I have in being a father.

It came in an incredible picture of little Justus and the words of Rodney Atkins.

Photo Jun 18, 11 36 53 PM

In the lead-up to Father’s Day this past weekend, there was some insightful commentary on the role of Father’s in American culture today.

I’ll not comment extensively on it, but I’ll include the links below.

The fundamental conclusion:

Fathers matter.

This is a statement of massive importance.

Here are some links for further reflection on fathers. Also, be on the lookout for a review of John Fuller’s “First Time Dad” – coming soon.

John Stonestreet: The Good Dad http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/25378
Eric Metaxas: What it Means to be a Man http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/25389
Albert Mohler: Father’s Day Demonstrates Cultural Confusion http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/06/16/the-briefing-06-16-14/
Janice Shaw Crouse: New Research Reminds Us Why Fathers Matter http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/12/crouse-whats-different-about-dads/ 

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Who do you know?

Just last week I finished up reading Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. The book  is not new. It has been around since 2007/2008.

In short, it’s based on the Gallup World Poll data and is one of the largest data collection surveys in history. The goal is to let people speak for themselves, rather than the more typical portrayal that is given by pundits or pop culture. There’s a lot of value in it. So I’d commend it to you as a starting point for reflection and discussions.

But what I really wanted to get at it is something more basic than what’s in the book. I guess, in some sense, it is a replacement for the book. Rather than having some massive study representative of billions of people tell you what the world thinks, my question is this:

Who do you know? What do they think? 

There are many perceived conflicts in the world. Whether along religious lines or political or social issues or even theological issues, there are a whole host of opportunities to find some group of people with whom you are at odds.

I’m in no way dismissing the importance of any of these stands. Oftentimes disagreements are truly over serious issues. There are many weighty debates. Not every dispute is petty trifling. They often emerge because people hold sincere beliefs. They stand for something.

But I wonder what we know of those on the other side?

Or, as I asked above, who do you know?

Have you ever spent time with those with whom you disagree? Have you sat down for a conversation? Not a debate, but just talked about life? Have you ever “loved your neighbor” (to put it in Biblical terms)?

We can start by reading a book – to tell us “what a billion Muslims really think” – but maybe, just maybe, we’d all be better off we knew what even just one person thought.

The Myth of Progress

One of Lewis’s more subtle aims appears to be to train us (and particularly children) to be suspicious of modern myths, particularly the peculiar modern Myth of Progress. Central to this Myth is Developmentalism, the application of Evolution to all spheres of life—physical, social, political, and religious—so that everything is not merely changing, but perpetually improving. – Joe Rigney, Live Like a Narnian (Loc. 922)

There is a danger in assuming that things are constantly improving and that what is new must be better than what is old.

This thought was brought up again when listening to this interview with George M. Marsden on his book looking back at the intellectual era of the 1950s. He commented that the ideology and arguments that seemed so profound to him as a college student when he looked back now with a half century of perspective were not as insightful as they had previously appeared.

We should also take stock regarding the intellectual fads of our time. What will they look like a half century from now? We should be cautious of embracing the idea that all spheres of life are “not merely changing, but perpetually improving.”

Refresh?

So it has been more than 10 months since I’ve written here.

To put it mildly a LOT of things have changed since my last post here.

It has been an exciting ride. In just a few days life is about to change a lot more as well. Kylie is due with our first child in any day now. We’ve relocated and started into quite a few new adventures. I imagine I’ll share more of those in the coming days.

Even with – and in some ways because of – all of those things coming I hope to start writing here on a more regular basis.

I want to keep developing my thinking. I need a place to digest some of the things I’m learning. I hope to provide some helpful reviews of the books I’m reading.

I don’t know exactly what shape this all will take. I’m sure I will re-work things in the coming days. So just bear with me through all of that, but I hope this will become a place where you can find some thoughtful reflections on things historical, cultural, theological, and political (which means just about anything is fair game!)

Means and Ends

IMG_5071Have you considered the difference between means and ends?

One is taking you somewhere, while the other is the destination.

Certainly, there is a certain amount of truth to the idea that “the journey is the destination” – but that is because the end of the journey was something bigger than just arrival at a particular location.

I was challenged to think about this first in the context of my own personal religious context. There are certain “spiritual disciplines” that often believers will engage in. These are – often times – things such as scripture reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers.

The question was raised, are these things means or ends? Not just in theory – in actuality, do you approach them as means of achieving something bigger – namely, in this instance a deeper understanding and relationship with God, a more tangible knowledge of His revealed word – or are they ends in themselves?

This line of introspection has application that goes much farther than just a personal spiritual level.

Take the field of education. For teachers are lectures ends or means? Assignments,t he essays, homework, exams, all of these, are they ends in themselves? Is the successful completion of an assignment accomplishing the end for which it was created? Perhaps, but not necessarily.

The goal of education is not just the accumulation of facts but the ability to reason and make that acquired knowledge useful in real life. There is a transformative aspect of education, not merely a process of addition.  An education system that confuses means and ends is going to ultimately struggle to really see the kinds of results it would profess to be seeking.

There could be a thousand other scenarios raised where there is the potential for the confusion of means and ends. In my own life I can think of a few where I am afraid I have substituted the means for the end.

What is the result of that? Usually, I think, it is a feeling of emptiness or worthless. We are not getting the return we thought we would on our investment. The reality though is we lost sight of what it was we were pursuing in the first place.

The thing we have pursued was never big enough to produce the results we wanted.

This is why the student may ace the test – but not really have learned anything. This is why you may have read the pages – but never really been changed.

Don’t lose sight of the ends which really matter. Make sure the means are aimed at (and never substitutes for) ends which are worthy of pursuit.

If the two are confused the result is chasing after the wind. It is grasping after shadows.