On Being a Successful Father

Right now I still don’t have a job.

Like many Americans I am unemployed. And a very bright side of being unemployed these past few months has been the significant amount of time I’ve gotten to spend with my boys.

My wife and I have, hands down, the best four boys on the planet (no offense to you, the reader, it’s just true). Ezekiel is 7, Taieze is 5, Jaemien is (terribly) 2, and Huck is 0 (well, 5 weeks to be exact). Zeke, Tai, Jae and Huck. They are incredible in every way.

(from left to right) Tai, Jae, Zeke, and Lil' Huck

Spending all day every day with them has provided me more space than usual to reflect on what it means to be a father. As I watch each of my kids grow, develop, mature and move from milestone to milestone, I find myself asking things like:

How will I determine if I’ve been a good dad?

What does it mean to be a good dad?

What do I hope for for my boys?

What’s most important to me about how I raise Zeke, Tai, Jae and Huck?

A number of different answers could (and probably should) be given to these questions, but one thing kept coming to me over and over again as I reflected on what I thought it would mean for me to, when all is said and done, “be a successful father.” And here is that thing: If I can add to the world four loving, caring and respectful husbands, who try their best to be loving, caring and respectful fathers, then I will have done my job and done it well.

(I’ll quickly amend that by saying that my boys don’t have to marry and/or have kids for the above sentiment to be true. Rather, if my boys grow up to be the “type of men” who, if married or had kids, would be loving, caring and respectful husbands/fathers, etc…)

You see, for me it is far more important that Zeke, Tai, Jae and Huck learn what it means to respect women than it is that they have a good education.

It is far more important to me that they learn the virtue of love as being greater than all others than it is that they have a successful career.

It is far more important to me that they identify with the oppressed and are full of caring and compassion (which starts at home) than it is that they make a difference in the world (ironic side note: IF they do THIS [identify with oppressed] then they’ll automatically do THAT [make a difference in the world]).

It is far more important to me that they lean in to the worlds of their children (if they have them) and be active and involved in loving and nurturing them than it is that they make money, or become famous, or develop influence.

It is far more important, even, that my boys become these types of men than it is that they become Christians. (ironic side note: IF they do THIS [become the above types of men] then they will automatically be men who live in the Way of Jesus]).

I realize I’m not breaking any ground here. (Well, perhaps on that last one. Some people would probably view “becoming a saved Christian” as more important than anything else).

I’m sure many fathers have had these same thoughts, or would easily agree with them. But for me, to reflect on these things, is significant. Because I think the world NEEDS men who respect women. I think the world NEEDS fathers who are involved in their kids’ lives. Because I think the world NEEDS men who love and adore their wives (or husbands) at the cost of all else.

If Zeke, Tai, Jae and Huck grow up to be these sorts of men, then I will have done my job as their father.

(p.s. All the “I” statements in this blog should also be read as “we,” for my amazing wife certainly feels a similar (if not the same) way.)

Now… what if we ever have a girl…!!?!

TV Shows I Miss

Have you found yourself, as I have, hesitant to embrace new shows?

When a show you loved gets hacked after one season (or worse, mid-season!) you grumble and curse the network under your breath. “How can you cut _____________, but keep trash like ______________ on the air!?!?!”

And then, when it happens again… and again… and again… you start to guard your media-heart a little more.

Anyways, the other day I was reading about a new series being created by one of my favorite writers: Aaron Sorkin.
Sorkin created shows like The West Wing and Sports Night, and wrote the amazing screenplay for The Social Network. He is currently working on a new show that will be similar to Sports Night but in the context of a News Channel. Sounds awesome!

Another show he created that I loved, but got dropped after only one season, was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. And I found myself ticked off all over again that a brilliant, smart, funny and good show like that was not picked up by for more seasons. Which got me to thinking: what other shows do I wish didn’t die so early?

Which then got me thinking: what shows had a great run, but I still miss because they were just so darn good?

So, here’s a list of some of my favorite television shows that I miss. Some because they were killed too early, and others that had a great run but I still miss them anyways.

SHOWS THAT DIED TOO YOUNG

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – As stated, a smart, funny and well written “behind the scenes” dramedy that took place on a variety-show. Came out at the same time as 30 Rock, and with similar premises but drastically different approaches, 30 Rock (which is great, BTW) came out the clear winner. But if you have Netflix, do yourself a solid and go watch the 22 episodes of this great show that only lasted one season. Perhaps if they would have dropped “on the Sunset Strip,” more would have watched? I wish.

Pushing Daisies – Originality is hard to come by. It’s easy to make another CSI or Law and Order or Real Housewives. But Pushing Daisies stood out for its quirky characters, its original concept, its unique look, and its pure fun-ness. Even with 17 Emmy nods and 7 wins, it still only lasted 2 seasons. I wish Ned could touch this show and bring it back from the dead (although unfortunately it would only last 60 seconds, after which another nearby show would have to die… Wait… that could be perfect! #desperatehousewives)

Better Off Ted – Witty and chalk full of satirical humor, this comedy was a blast! Ted, the protagonist, would narrate each episode by breaking the fourth wall, and trust me, it sounds corny but they made it work. All while also mocking big business and mega conglomerations. Also, brilliant acting by the wonderful Portia de Rossi. This is also on Netflix, so please… go enjoy!

SHOWS THAT HAD A GREAT RUN BUT I STILL MISS

Lost – Really? Was there any doubt this would be on my list? This show may have done more to change TV since CSI. Crazy original, brilliant cast, interesting and engaging story lines, mind-bending plot twists, all covered in a sweet sauce of love. TV, for me, was never better than when LOST was on. 6 seasons of awesomeness, and I still miss it.

The West Wing – After Lost, this probably ranks as my favorite show of all time. I’m a sucker for Sorkin, what can I say. I fell in love with the characters in this show like no other. A fascinating look in to the world of politics, for 7 seasons The West Wing was America’s other (and usually more interesting) White House Staff.

Gilmore Girls – After you stop snickering at me, listen to me say that this was a great show. Created by Amy Sherman Paladino, and written in the style of Sorkin (with the “always moving, always talking characters) Gilmore Girls was an honest look at the life and relationship between a (single) mom and her daughter. Lauren Graham is incredible, and if you like her at all on Parenthood then trust me, she was WAY better on Gilmore Girls. A massive thanks to my wife for getting me hooked on this show. We both mourned when it went off the air after 7 seasons.

____________________

What about you?

Have you had a “favorite show” that died too early?

And what are some of your all-time favorites from the past that you can’t help but miss?

 

The De-Evolution of a Beard

Goodbye “Depression Beard!”

For two months (November-December) I grew out my beard, calling it my “depression beard.”
And then, on January 1st, I shaved it all off.

Here is a video of that moment.

(check out this post, and the talk I gave last week, to learn more about my “depression beard,” what it meant to me, and how it relates to “Doubt” in our Christian faith.)

The De-Evolution of a Beard from colby martin on Vimeo.

Lean in to Doubt

The Psalm Center, at Corban University

Here is the audio from the talk I gave Friday January 13th at Corban University.

At their chapel service, I spoke about doubt. I shared some of my story, and talked about what I was learning about the power of “doubt” within the context of our expression of faith.

You can stream it here or download it for later listening.

Here’s a few excerpts:

Doubt is not something you do TO your faith, rather it is an integral expression OF your faith.

Much of Christianity gives no room for doubt. It is seen as a betrayal of God. It is feared and to be avoided at all costs.

When we engage with our doubts, when we open up the depths of our souls to the darkness that shadows us in our times of suffering, sorrow and doubt, we then find ourselves in a unique opportunity to participate in the crucifixion.

Something profound happens when we engage with the Divine Absence, when we suffer the Dark Night of the Soul, when we lean in to our doubts and let them fully develop. We find that as we begin to come out of it, after being confronted by the full trauma of doubt and despair, we discover that that which pushed us there no longer has power over us.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
Have you ever had seasons of doubt? If so, how did you handle it?

In my talk, I reference my “Depression Beard.”
To see a video where I finally shaved my depression beard, click here.

If you love Jesus, MUST you hate religion?

So, you’ve probably seen it. This video where the spoken-word poet talks about loving Jesus but hating religion. I’ve watched my FB blow up with people sharing this, and tried to avoid it just because… but I decided to watch it today.

If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Since this IS my blog, and all, here are my thoughts on it (as you read this, picture me standing somewhere cool, looking in to a camera, attempting to do “spoken-word.”)

So I see that this video has been going around,
tickling peeps ears with the spoken-word sound.
Almost 7 million views of this one video,
and so to stay relevant, to YouTube I go.

Watch it and listen, is what I just did,
but honestly it left me slightly sordid.

Was Jesus REALLY anti-Religion?
Or just anti the purchase of a temple-sold pigeon…
I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive
in the same sort of way that the this dude on YouTube did.

Jesus was angered by EMPTY religion,
seeing the poor and the hurting who lived in,
the time when God’s people were called out to bless,
but they cared for their purity and said “to hell with the rest.”

I guess what I’d rather this poet had done,
was emphasis Jesus as being the one,
who said,There IS a religion in the Kingdom of Heaven,
See for yourself… James 1:27.

This video creates false dichotomies,
but since it’s done real pretty we say “yes please!”
Before you click ‘share’ and repeat this sensation,
perhaps in your status place this iteration:

“In Jesus I’ve found the way of truth, love and peace
A religion that offers a hope for all things.
In Jesus we seek no hypocrisy,
cause THAT is what drove this Teacher crazy.”

Not “religion.”

(or something like that…)

 

The Lord Taketh Away and… Giveth?

The other day I saw someone’s status on Facebook, and it read:

God will never take something away from you without the intention of replacing it with something better!

I had to read it twice before I was assured that THAT is what they truly wrote.

Now, far be it from me to judge someone else’s perspective on who God is and how God acts in this world. I’m very aware of my own quirks when it comes to God’s posture towards humankind, and how God acts (or doesn’t act) in accordance. Eyes would roll and pitchforks raise (causing heads to roll) at some of MY thoughts on this issue. So I comment on the above statement carefully, not intending to make the original author feel small or crazy.

But here’s my problem with this line of thinking.

This statement makes the following assumptions:

  • That God is active in the removal of “things” from our life
  • That God not only removes things by God’s own action, but that God does so with a greater purpose
  • That this purpose is noble and good and will lead to the betterment of the person who had this thing removed
  • That we are decent enough judges of what is “better,” so that we can know (or at least say) that “B” is better than what I had, which was “A”
  • That God only removes something with a plan to replace it

While some of these assumptions may have merit, I cannot buy in to all of them, and I don’t think you should either. My fear is that this line of thinking will inevitably end in disappointment or disenfranchisement. I suppose it isn’t overly  harmful to believe that God is active enough in our lives to possibly play a part in “taking something away.” This assumption, while probably needing clarified, is decent enough. God, as the Benevolent One, who knows and loves us like a Father knows and loves their children, surely might work in our lives in such a way as to add OR remove certain things in our lives.

However, does this mean that if something is “taken away” from us (which begs the question: what does this MEAN? A material object? A job? A relationship? An addiction? A temptation? A personality trait? An emotion or feeling? What are we talking about here?), then must we assume it is because God either did it directly or influenced it somehow?  And how can we discern when it’s GOD taking something away, or when it’s a result of some other force? (Or do we embrace some sort of deterministic worldview where everything that ever happens to anybody is already determined and caused and controlled by God? *shudder… No thank you). So then, if perhaps SOMETIMES something is taken away by God, and other times not, then how do we know when we ought wait expectedly for “something better?” And is the counter-point to this line of thinking that when something is taken away by a force OTHER than God, then there ought be no expectation of it being replaced with something better? Again I ask, how do we discern?

Furthermore, let’s say that I have “thing A” in my life, and I am able to clearly and with certainty know that it is gone from my life because God took it away. And let’s say that I have enough objectivity to step back and assess that such a thing has happened (namely, that God has taken “thing A” away from me). Then I ask you this: how will I know WHEN  it has officially been replaced with “thing B?” What if “thing B” is categorically different than “thing A?” Can we adequately judge the goodness of things if they are in different categories altogether? Let me illustrate what I’m getting at…

Todd and his girlfriend Stacey just broke up. Todd, a dedicated follower of Jesus, has prayerfully discerned (and possibly told by his youth pastor) that God must have thought it was better for him to no longer be dating Stacey. God has taken her away from him. Some of his Christian friends tell him the above words of encouragement: “Todd, dude, God will never take something away without the intention of replacing it with something better! So have faith, bro!” As weeks and months go by, Todd starts to get curious about when this promise will come true. Will it be Judy from geometry? Or perhaps Hillary from Home Ec? But what if, in this scenario, God’s entire “plan” was take away Todd’s girlfriend and replace that lack of relationship with an inner sense of peace and security?  Helping Todd to move in to a state where he can know that just being a child of God is enough. That being single will allow him to focus on other (better?) things. And so after a few months, with no new girlfriend, Todd concludes that God doesn’t, in fact, want him to have a girlfriend at all. After sharing this insight with his youth group friends they say back to him, “well there you go, Todd! That’s the “something better” that God was intending to replace Stacey with!” Todd nods in agreement, and they all sing a worship song together. But when Monday comes, and Edith from English class asks Todd out, he then smiles and realizes that THIS is what God was REALLY up to the whole time. Because as everyone in 7th grade knows, Edith is way better than Stacey!

I guess I just think that we would be better off not living in the sort of simplistic formula as described above. It will inevitably lead to disappointment, frustration, and feeling like God owes us something every time a thing that we like gets “taken away.” And life surely doesn’t work that way, so we end up feeling like God has abandoned us. Or another fear I have is that we might miss out on the blessing in our life if we are focused on “thing A” being replaced by something categorically similar. What if (assuming that God has done the taking) God really does have a purpose for the taking and is planning to re-fill that gap with something that is much more beneficial to the one experiencing the loss, but the plan involves something of an entirely different nature? If we don’t broaden or deepen the way we think about such things, we could go on and on in life completely missing the blessings of God.

A final issue I take with this saying, is that if we move from our time of loss straight to an expectation of gain, then we completely miss out on truly grasping with our loss. We skip over experiencing the trauma of such a loss. We lose an opportunity to essentially participate in the crucifixion, and cry out “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” But since I’m going to be giving a talk on Friday about this exact issue, I’ll say no more about it now. Hopefully I can get the talk recorded, and I’ll upload it here.

Perhaps, in the end, I might amend the original Facebook status as thus:

If we lose something in life that was dear to us, and we are sincerely led to believe that God was involved in the process of initiating or directing this loss, then let us choose to first engage with that loss. Experience it. Know it. Let it stare at us in the depths of our soul and let us not move on to quickly. But when we do, when we begin to move from crucifixion to a time of resurrection, then let us begin to believe that no matter what comes next, whether or not what we initially lost will ever be replaced, that we will be better because we engaged with Christ and participated in his crucifixion and are now living in his resurrection. And that, ultimately, is life.

Kinda long for a pithy FB status, though.