A Father’s Five Senses: Touch

Touch, taste, sight, sound, smell. These five senses enable sentient beings to receive information and translate it into pleasure or pain, delicious or disgusting. This five-part series will discuss how fathers can employ their senses and teach their children to explore their own senses in healthy progressive steps.

Touch. From conception humans are intricately and intimately connected by touch. The contact of flesh to flesh causes brain activity to increase greatly. A simple hug can lower blood pressure, alleviate fear, and, to be frank, make is feel good. Hugging releases oxytocin. A natural feel good drug your brain emits during a good old hug.

“Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein told NPR. “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.”

As a father, touch is a very natural thing with your newborn or young child. It is a wonder to embrace a freshly born babe. However, something can change in men as children age that causes them to be less physically affectionate. The tendency, as I have observed, is that it is not socially acceptable for men to kiss their teenage son’s head or to cuddle their adolescent daughters. Belief that doing this will inevitably lead to sexual abuse is a cultural lie that needs to be broken.

Dads that want to Father Further will need to share large sums of physical touch with their kids over an impersonal text message. This means less time for yard work, hobbies or after business hours work in order to provide our kids with the touch they need.

Here are three ways I recommend Fathering Further dads start:

1. Morning Greeting

It can be crazy right off the bat in morning to get the crew assembled for school and work and seasonal sports. Take a second to sit next to your kids in bed. Give them a hug or kiss and wake them gently. It might change their entire day having such a pleasant exchange from the get-go.

Each day that I drop off our kids at preschool I get down on my knees and hug them both, give kisses and say we say a prayer. It’s not a lot, but before we leave each other for a large portion of the day my kids KNOW I love them.

2. Hands-on-Treatment

Learning a new skill takes time. It takes patience and practice. And sometimes it takes the guidance of a steady and experienced hand to “feel” how to properly execute the new skill.

Learning to throw a ball isn’t the most natural thing. A number of years back, on a church softball team, I met multiple men who were playing catch for the first time.They told me that their dad wasn’t involved in their life and it left an indelible mark. I heard people joke that they “threw like a girl” (which is a phrase that needs to go, because I know a few girls that throw harder than me). It was apparent that their dads lack of hands-on-treatment had stunted their ability to physically perform a task that most people presumed they could do.

3. PDA (public displays of affection)

Preface: Never embarrass your children.

It is one of the most precious things in the world to see a dad hug his child. Whether they won out lost the game. Give them a hug. If they earn an A+ or F-. Give them a hug. Your love transcends their performance in life.

Put your arm around your daughter in church or at dinner. Tell her you love her. Be normal. Be gentle. Dance with her. Don’t let your first dance with her be at her wedding. Make it the norm in your home to put on music and swing her around to both fast and show music. Your sons will see you treat your daughter and will treat other women similarly.

The way I connect with my son is more intense than with my daughter. He can wrestle harder, go faster on a bike and in general be more physical. Because of the difference in my kid’s preference for touch, I adapt to make sure that they receive physical touch in a loving way that they understand. My care should adapt to their needs, I should not expect them to receive physical touch however I feel is appropriate.

Give high fives and chest bumps. Make up a secret hand shake. Do something special that connects you in a personal way.

Take the time today to share your life for your kids through affectionate touch.

For further reading: Loving Touch Is Key to Healthy Brain Development

Welcome to Fatherhood: Day 1

Less than 9 months ago you had no clue what you were in for. Life was EASY. Life was carefree. Life was you and your girl, enjoying life and each other.

Less than 6 months ago you had no clue what you were in for. You held a picture of an ultrasound. You heard a heart beat. You told family and close friends.

Less than 3 months ago you had no clue what you were in for. You read books. You took birthing classes and practiced infant CPR. You bought clothes, painted a bedroom and assembled a crib.

Less than a week ago you had no clue what you were in for. You took walks with your pregnant wife. You prayed for a quick and safe delivery. You sat anxiously at the doctor’s office waiting to hear any tidbit of information that might alleviate the worry.

Less than a day ago you had no clue what you were in for. You went for another date. People told you to have as many as possible before the little one comes. You laughed. You ate too much ice cream, again. You tossed and turned in bed, hoping that tomorrow would be the day you met your baby.

Less than a minute ago you had no clue what you were in for. Screams echoed down the hall way. Ice and sweat and blood dripped down her brow.

Less than a second ago you had no clue what you were in for.

Then

Life began

Welcome to Fatherhood: Day 1 of the rest of your life.

We get there one way or another. Whether on purpose or on accident. Through biology, by adoption, by science. The end by which fatherhood arrives are less important than the mean by which we parent our children. Some father with purpose and aim and desire, and others view it as some burden of responsibility; like a trash can that longs to be emptied and, when finally disposed of, sags at the weight of the waste.

There are two types of fathers. The negligent and the visionaries. You can choose to leave a field fallow year after year after year, empty but full of exponential potential. You can also choose to work a field. Pick the rocks. Till the land and lay seed in the soil. You can tend and mature the land and fruit so that it reaps an unprecedented harvest.

The negligent can become visionaries, but not alone. The visionary can leave an eternal legacy in his own offspring, but to reach further he cannot do it alone.

We were made for each other. Our stories, our experiences, our victories and wounds tell a story that each man might learn from and grow into something greater.

Hello Dad, the journey is waiting. Let’s go together.

#FatheringFurther

Pray for your enemies

When Jesus says

Pray for your enemies

What does He mean?

Does he mean people who want to bomb my nation? Or does he mean he school bully that threatens to “knock my lights out” if I don’t give him my lunch money? Does Jesus want me to really pray for my enemy?

Is my enemy a figment of my imagination? Am I my enemy?

When Jesus said, “Pray for you enemies” he was talking to Jews. A people group overtaken, conquered, overtaxed and persecuted in immensely painful ways.

These Jews had descended from generations of people who had been conquered and persecuted.

Consider the Egyptians – who enslaved and forced the Israelites to build their cities and drive their economy.

Consider the Babylonians – who conquered and deported the Israelites to a foreign land and forced them to lose their cultural identity through pagan idol worship and forced mixed marriage – imposing enormous taxation along the way.

When Jesus said

Pray for your enemies

The Jews knew what he meant.

He meant the Romans. He meant the Jews who had committed treason by becoming tax collectors for their oppressors. He meant anyone who might take advantage of, or hurt, or cause suffering. He meant the landlord who raised housing prices during an economic depression. He meant the land manager who overworked the field workers from dusk until dawn – withholding wages or meals unless set amounts of work were completed.

Pray for your enemies.

Today

You have an enemy. Someone you feel oppressed by. Someone who has hurt you. Someone who has taken advantage of you.

Pray for your enemies.

It may be our President. Pray for your enemies.

It may be an a political ideology. Pray for your enemies.

It may be your coworker. Pray for your enemies.

It may be your neighbor. Pray for your enemies.

It may be your spouse. Pray for your enemies.

Jesus believed that praying for our enemy had enormous potential.

To potentially change them. To ETERNALLY change US.

Pray for your enemies.

Your Poor Spirit is Called Blessed

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus begins his teaching ministry on a sort of hill-top. This sermon is notoriously called the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon marked the beginning of the new way to live as a Jesus follower. Fame and power and manipulation and the self-pleasing way of life had to go. No longer would external actions or traditions or rituals be acceptable. What was needed was a change from the inside out.

This entire sermon calls humanity, and me especially, to lay down my understanding and my rights and my way in order to fully embrace the renewed life in Christ.

Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

A dichotomy. Multiplicity of dichotomies.

How can one be poor and blessed? I see success and wealth and health as the blessed life. I’m told more means blessed, not less. I am taught from birth, intentionally or not, that excess equates with blessedness.

Another dichotomy arises when we contrast a state of poverty with the claim to ownership of a Kingdom. How can the poor claim possession of a kingdom? We do not read fairy tales of paupers wearing crowns, or the homeless sitting upon thrones, yet Jesus states clearly that it is those whose spirits are destitute will reign.

A few quick notes.

1. The Jews who heard Jesus would have pictured in their head the poverty that surrounded them. Beggars who would sit by city gates, market places, or the temple and LITERALLY beg in order to live. This is not similar to our poor who have a government who will provide food, shelter and clothing to the needy. There were no 501c3’s running about caring for the impoverished. It was normal people, like you and me, who would obey God’s desire for mercy (Micah 6:8) and give to the poor.

2. Our world is VASTLY different from the world Jesus walked in. The Romans didn’t give a damn about the Jews. They were a conquered people, subject to taxation and Cesar’s laws. The Kingdom of the Romans was all-powerful. They had control of most of the known world by the time Jesus was born. To use colorful language such as “Kingdom of Heaven” would have evoked imagery of an all-powerful Kingdom but the ruler was God, not a man.

As I ponder what the “poor in spirit” life means to me, and the world today, I am asking myself these two questions: 1.) What does a poor spirit look like in real life? 2. How do I begin to walk in, and acknowledge, spiritual poverty while living in a culture of consumer excess?

A final thought: I wonder if having a lot in life makes the “poor spirit” life more difficult? My iPhone recently broke and I noticed an enormous hole in my life. My normal process in life was disrupted. I can not longer sate my need to escape by scrolling any social feed. I do not have instant access to information. Handheld games or banking or photos aren’t a chosen distraction to ease my boredom or sadness or loneliness.

For the last 4 days I have seen that my iPhone was an iDOL. My hearts affection was set on my technology so much that when I had only lacked the device for ONE day Robyn, my wife, noticed a marked improvement in my behavior and attitude. She saw that in my lack something greater had arrived.

I think Jesus wants something greater to arrive in me, He wants me to OWN the Kingdom of Heaven. “It’s yours,” he says, “if you will be spiritually impoverished.”

I want that. I want God’s Kingdom alive in me. My only fear is that it’s going to take a lot of broke idols, and a lot of poverty, in order for me to be allowed to reign. That means a lot less of what I want gratified and a lot more of God’s spirit filling those holes.

What does it mean to be spiritually poor?

What Being Pro-Life Means to Me

Pro-Life. What does it mean to you?

As a child I had a very limited understanding of what “pro-life” meant. One particular moment in my child-hood stands out where my family stood on a very busy street, with many other families, holding Right To Life – Anti-Abortion signs. I don’t know if this was good parenting or bad. I know of parents who force their kids to play football all the while knowing concussions are a probability. Another example, I, along with many other parents, allow our children to watch iPads and iPhones and Television despite the American Pediatric Association telling us that excessive screen time can kill a child’s brain’s grey matter. Life is sticky. It is a memory. My parents tried their best, we all try our best.

It was just a few years ago that I began thinking long and hard about what being pro-life meant to me, now, as an adult who follows Jesus. I can’t separate my thoughts from my faith. Faith, for me, is woven intricately to my way of life. I’d like to believe that my speech, behavior, attitude and demeanor are all shaped and influenced by my faith in Jesus.

So when I began to ponder what it means for me to be pro-life, I had to ask myself what I thought “life” was defined as. My definition of life is not set in cement; I think that it should evolve toward a greater goodwill toward humanity, but it goes something like this:

Pro-Life is…

1. For the life of the unborn (anti-abortion)
2. For the life of the imprisoned (anti-death penalty)
3. For the life of all nations (anti-war)
4. For the life of the sick (pro-universal health care)
5. For the life of the immigrant
5. For the well-being of every individual (mental, physical, emotional support and care)

It’s a work in progress, but these are things that being pro-life means to me.

Jesus said, “I have come that they would have life, and life to the fullest (the abundantly full life).” This is what I hope for everyone. An abundantly full life that is lived to overflowing.