This past week I attended the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) annual Homeschool Conference as a first-time attendee. Lisa and I have been homeschooling for 3 years now but have never taken the time to attend such a conference; what a mistake! I registered for the conference with the mindset that I would learn additional teaching tricks with which I could better grasp the nine and eleven year old minds I am responsible for filling. Or, I might find that miracle writing curriculum that would instantaneously transform my elementary writers into Plato, Shakespeare, or C.S. Lewis. On both accounts I struck out. I didn’t find any “special sauce” or the “magic bullet.” However, what actually occurred at this conference was something much more transformational for me personally. God, with the infinite wisdom and grace that only he possess, stripped me down on day one and began to reshape me on days two and three. The renewed energy, focus, and purpose that God has breathed into me over the past three days is greater than that I have received from most Christian Men’s conferences I have attended. As a result, I am moving in a direction toward something that God put on my heart nearly two years ago to the day – Radical Men Ministries (more on that to come in later days).
My big take-away from the weekend was not directly related to education or even our individual homeschool, but rather on the fact that “relationships are first.” With that in mind, and the fact that it is Father’s Day, I began to reflect on things for which I am grateful. But it wasn’t just gratitude that kept coming to mind, there was also regret. So I decided to write an open letter of both gratitude and regret and let it serve also as an introduction to Radical Men.
I will start with those things for which today I feel so much gratitude. First and foremost, I want to give all the glory and praise to God. As fathers, we should all go to Him daily with praise and worship for the grace that He continues to extend to us as fathers. Following God, I am so very grateful for Lisa, my wife, who gives me endless support and encouragement, mothers the boys like no other, and always keeps Christ at the center of her life. She has always believed in me more than I have ever believed in myself. Of course my mom deserves (especially if you know her) copious amounts of gratitude. I am most thankful for her endless love and teaching me tenacity and grit.
The next three guys I am expressing my gratefulness to today for something they all three did several years ago – they shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me. My uncle Gary shared the gospel with me after I was diagnosed with cancer about 20 years ago. I actually remember the day pretty well considering I was in a post-surgical fog. He called me on the phone in my hospital room, Lisa, not yet my wife, held the phone to my ear and Uncle Gary asked me if I knew who Jesus was and if I knew that He loved me so much that He died for me and to wash away the stain of my sins. He went on to briefly explain other gospel particulars, but like I said I was in a post-surgical haze and don’t remember much else, but the seed was planted. I am grateful that my Uncle Gary didn’t wait for a “more opportune” time to share the Word. Seven years later, and still not saved, David and Jason Benham, yes, the Benham Brothers of HGTV infamy and authors of two AWESOME Christian books, shared the gospel with me in a downtown diner over a business breakfast. It was a standard business affair, the Benham Brothers were pitching their business plan and I was deciding whether or not I was going to give these, at the time, two young start-ups any business. When almost mid-sentence, and in the midst of me shoveling a fork full of biscuits and gravy in my mouth, one of the brothers asked me if I knew Jesus Christ. I remember it hit me like a two by four out of left field. Of course, at the time, I knew ABOUT Jesus Christ but I did not KNOW Jesus Christ. I quickly lied, which I am sure the brothers knew, let them know that I was “tight with JC”, and tried my best to move the direction of the conversation back to business. I am grateful today that David and Jason Benham cared more about me as a man than they did me as a business gatekeeper and that the followed the Lords direction and shared His Word with me.
Up next is the late, great, Dr. Jim Dixon, one of the founders and the former Sr. Pastor of Cherry Hills Community Church. About ten years ago, we started attending Cherry Hills, by this time I was saved, but I was a “baby” Christian and didn’t know what I didn’t know (which is technically still the case for all of us until we get called home). I am grateful today for Dr. Dixon’s Sola Scriptura approach which spoke to my head, and his wit, charm, and love for his congregation which pierced my heart for Jesus. Last but definitely not least, I want to express my deepest gratitude to my boys Sam Jr. and Matthew, ages eleven and nine respectively. I am so blessed by your unconditional love for me and your mother, your forgiving spirit, and open heart for the Lord. No matter how rough the day or how many times I mess-it-up as a dad, you are always there with a smile and a hug – you are honestly living out your obligation under the sixth commandment to “Honor your Father and your Mother.” Thank you boys.
To Lisa, my mom, Uncle Gary, David & Jason Benham, Dr. Dixon and my boys I want to say thank you, I owe you all a debt of gratitude that can probably never be repaid.
On to the regrets. Because we are coming to the end of another Father’s Day, I need to begin with my own father. Dad, I regret that we have never had a better relationship, or at times any relationship at all. First, I want to say that it is not your fault alone. You did your best with the tools you had available to you and often times I am not the most forgiving person. Unlike my boys, I have not always lived up to the commandment to “Honor thy Father.” Second, fortunately you are still with us so we still have time. I pray that we can make it count.
Lisa and the boys are recipients of both gratitude and regret. To Lisa, I regret that I have not always provided the best leadership for our family. That is major part of what Radical Men is all about. I have too many times suffered from cognitive dissonance and acted in accordance with the direction of culture and ignored that “still small voice” in the back of my mind and acted NOT in accordance with the Lord. And to my boys, Sam & Matthew, I regret the crushing and unachievable expectations I place on you nearly every day. The constant “pressure, pressure, pressure” I heap on you leaves you both with the feeling that the unconditional love you show for me is NOT reciprocated – nothing is further from the truth.
To my Dad, Lisa and my boys, I am sorry and I am re-committed to allowing God to work on me daily to form a better son, husband, and father.
As this Father’s Day draws to and end and I reflect back on this letter, it occurs to me that all those things I have gratitude for and that I regret are not “things” at all. They are relationships. Perhaps there is a “secret sauce” or “magic bullet”, keeping with God’s plan of “Relationships First.”
To all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!