Cultivating a Culture of Questions

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“Daddy, when I was in mommy’s belly could I see God since God lives in mommy’s heart?”

“Daddy, when we go to heaven are we older or younger?”

“Do those firefighters love God?”

“Does a fish have a penis?” 

“When I get married will my husband carry me into our house?” 

“How is this tree growing through the concrete?” 

“How do you tell the twins apart?”

“Are there some rapids in the Grand Canyon that are a thousand feet deep?”

“When you were little and you felt sad did you tell your mommy and daddy?”

These were just a few of the questions that my kids (Abigail 5, Joshua 8) asked me over the past two days during the regular course of life.

Questions come naturally for most kids, for a while. And then slowly, like the tide, the questions ebb and become fewer and fewer.  The false self takes root and we operate under some pressure to have life figured out. We ask fewer questions and even begin to pride ourselves in having answers and being self-sufficient.

I can remember the end of the innocence for me late in elementary school.  As I spent more and more time with older boys that had all the “answers” my questions went silent and internal.  As my world moved internal I learned from my peers that questions were weakness and risky.  Answers were the goal.

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At the heart of the decade of becoming good soil is the posture of asking questions.

Henri Nouwen brilliantly reminds us that

“Answers before questions do damage to the soul.”

Remember that Jesus is always after the deepest us. So often answers are a shortcut that miss the gold entirely, that Jesus is after in us, for us, with us.

Asking questions has become one of the core spiritual disciplines in cultivating my intimacy with God and facilitating the healing and restoration of my masculine heart.

Every question eventually leads back to the heart of God. 

One of the primary ways of cultivating this discipline is to create a culture in our home and our parenting of asking questions, encouraging questions, and valuing questions.

What if one of the most brilliant and winsome ways we can respond to our kids’ questions is: “I don’t know, sweetheart; what a great question!”

It is amazing how often Jesus answered a question with asking a question.  I wonder what that was about?

Here are some of the questions on the frontier for me:

  • I don’t get Philippians 1:18 at all.  Father will you speak to me about that through the heart of an older man I can trust?
  • How much is enough?  What is the lifestyle for our family that is holy and consistent with our calling today?
  • Am I living generously?  Is there more you are asking me to sacrifice for a larger story and to cultivate risk in my life?
  • God, where am I placing limits on who you can be and what you can do in my life?  And why?
  • How much of tomorrow matters today?  How much should it?
  • How do I engage in civilian affairs without being entangled (2 Timothy 2:1-7)?
  • Why am I captive to “the fear of man?” What’s behind that?

What questions can you ask today to become a student of the hearts of your children?

What questions are on the frontier of your masculine journey that you have yet to articulate?

Father, show me the deep questions of my heart. Help me put words to them in a way I haven’t before. Remind me of the Scriptures that have bugged me or bewildered me but about which I haven’t had the courage to ask. Bring these to light again.

Free me from the expectation that I should have more of everything “figured out.” Allow the exhilarating freedom to “not know” sweep over me.

Hold my heart in the instant regret that shows up when I think of the questions of my kids that I have dismissed and now can’t even remember. Stir up new questions in them and in me, Jesus; that today might be a new day. Renew an inquisitive heart in my whole family – in me, in my wife, in my kids. Come strong, delighted Father, come… come for my heart and my questions today… Father me in this today. I love you and receive your love.

 

For a previous related post see: What Are Your Questions?

Cultivate – Proverbs from the 2012 Intensive – Volume II

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cul·ti·vate/ˈkəltəˌvāt/  verb: prepare and use (land) for crops or gardening; break up (soil) in preparation for sowing or planting

You have one life to live, it is yours.
Be present in it.
Cultivate your life and domain as if it were your private garden.
Your future harvest will depend on it.
                                                                                                                           -Mike

Be There – On Parenting the Heart

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Much of the time I blow it.  But these past few months I’ve been focused on being present and engaged with my kids, and my wife, at the expense of so many other things…

Teaching Abigail how to make beaded necklaces and sew a button

Shooting bows, laser tag, picnics at a hidden lake

Teaching Joshua how to shoot pool and change a bike tire

Water parks and laughter until it hurts

Playing games and reading books

Accompanying my five-year-old Abigail to have her ears pierced

Rock climbing and cuddling

Chillaxing in a hot tub and water gun fights at the pool

Teaching Abigail how to go off the diving board

Movie night on the trampoline with a laptop in a laundry basket under the stars

Wading a creek, treasure hunting in the wild

Sitting in the quietness observing baby owls in a local cottonwood tree

This is why…

Years ago my good friend Dave told me a painful story when I sought his counsel about this decade of character over kingdom.  He recalled, “I was there when the kids were young.  I was there for all of my daughter’s cheerleading. I was there at every one of my son’s football games.  But years later I realized I was there, but I wasn’t THERE.  I was worried. Distracted. Caught up in so many other things, that I don’t remember any of it.  I found myself going repeatedly to my wife saying, “Kelly, remind me of the story when Katie turned sixteen and drove away in that new car.”

The most painful part of the story was that Dave and his wife divorced shortly after this conversation.  His “memory” literally walked out on him and left the state, forever.

Perhaps there is no season of parenting that is more challenging to be present and truly engaged than when the kids are young. And in general, there is no season that has more demands on the heart of a man and temptations to miss the gold.

I sit here today with pages and pages of counsel of old men regarding parenting.  So many of them resounding with the same plea: BE THERE.  The children are only young once.  Work will always be there.  But the kids grow up. And the deep bonds of loved are formed in the early years.

“I wish I would’ve spent more money on vacations.”

“I wish I would’ve been less distracted by work.”

“I wish I would’ve been there in the dailies.”

A summary of these men’s collective counsel could be this:

Quality time does not substitute for quantity of time; and quantity of time does not substitute for quality time.

Boy, do I live in this tension.  I confess how I find my kids losing the battle for my time over things that in the end were far less important.  And I confess how I find myself there with my kids, but so often distracted and not truly there.

Loving our children well requires both: quality time and quantity of time.

It is available, but the costs are staggering. Most of us don’t want to pay the price.

The real gold in fighting for the hearts of our children surfaces even more in the dailies than it does in the milestone events.  That’s why quality time isn’t a good substitute for being with them on their day-to-day, week-to-week journey. That’s what it means to have quantity of time, to engage our kids over and over again in the dailies of life.

A few weeks ago my eight-year-old Joshua experienced some major spiritual warfare in the form of nightmares in the middle of the night.  Through prayer we got to the root of the open door, which was a strained relationship he had with a troubled friend.  It took time, and being present, in the middle of the night to talk, hear his heart, engage, pray, walk him through the hard and holy long miles of a boy becoming a man.  I lay in bed after that with tears, thanking God I was there… not on yet another trip. Not on sleep meds.  Not taken out by – you name it – alcohol, exhaustion, passivity.  It was a wake up call. And an affirmation.

And no matter how much time we give them, how much we are “around,” if our hearts are not healed and free, and if we are not growing in our capacity to love out of our true self, we won’t really be THERE. We will be limp and distracted and our kids won’t receive what they need from us.

Quality time.

Quantity time.

Get your own heart back so you can love theirs.

No shortcuts.

No regrets

Ask God, “What is in the way of this? What will it cost me that I am not willing to pay?  What’s beneath that?”

Make this summer matter with your kids.

“The days are long but the years are short.”

Be There.

Live Aloha – Proverbs from the 2012 Intensive

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pro·verb – /ˈprävˌərb/ noun: A wise saying of ancient origin

At the close of the most recent Intensive retreat that many of us shared together, younger men had the rare and remarkable opportunity to hear proverbs from older men that have traveled much of the road before us. (Jeremiah 6:16)

I want to reflect those proverbs back to this growing fellowship of young world-changers so that we might stay on the narrow path and walk through, again and again, the narrow gate. (Matthew 7:13-14)

My hope is to share them through blogs over time, giving each of them space to find their way into our hearts and our world.

I would encourage you to try each one on. Write it down. Put it in front of you every day for a week and ask the Father to interpret it and let it find it’s way into you…

Live Aloha, Accept the invitation to play, live lightly. Eat more fruit, hold hands with your wife more often, watch a sunset.

‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you will recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you will learn to live freely and lightly.’ (Mt 11:28 MSG)

                                                                                                                                                                                ~Sam

flags of our fathers

Flags of Our Fathers

Epic, heroic story of Iwo Jima.  A great read to learn from our past and live more and more true in our present.

The following is the description from Amazon:

THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE IMMORTAL PHOTOGRAPH THAT HAS COME TO SYMBOLIZE THE COURAGE AND INDOMITABLE WILL OF AMERICA

In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island’s highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag.

Now the son of one of the flagraisers has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever.

To his family, John Bradley never spoke of the photograph or the war. But after his death at age seventy, his family discovered closed boxes of letters and photos. In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley draws on those documents to retrace the lives of his father and the men of Easy Company. Following these men’s paths to Iwo Jima, James Bradley has written a classic story of the heroic battle for the Pacific’s most crucial island—an island riddled with Japanese tunnels and 22,000 fanatic defenders who would fight to the last man.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the story is what happened after the victory. The men in the photo—three were killed during the battle—were proclaimed heroes and flown home, to become reluctant symbols. For two of them, the adulation was shattering. Only James Bradley’s father truly survived, displaying no copy of the famous photograph in his home, telling his son only: “The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn’t come back.”

Few books ever have captured the complexity and furor of war and its aftermath as well as Flags of Our Fathers. A penetrating, epic look at a generation at war, this is history told with keen insight, enormous honesty, and the passion of a son paying homage to his father. It is the story of the difference between truth and myth, the meaning of being a hero, and the essence of the human experience of war.