Fatherless

dadmom 

Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction… James 1:22

Scripture says a lot about fathers, including that God is our Father.  It also says a lot about the fatherless.  Older translations of the Bible (KJV) has some 43 references to the fatherless, but only a single reference to orphans. Even there it makes it synonymous with fatherlessness: We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows(Lamentations 5:3 KJV).

Contrary to what many progressives would say about same-sex marriages, studies consistently say that a traditional family consisting of a mother and a father leads to better outcomes for their children.

As we have observed in the United States starting in the 1960’s, the sexual revolution has had a dramatic and damaging impact on the nuclear family.  Statistics bear this out. A recent commentary by Matt Haviland in Crosswalk bears this out. He titled it “Will the Men of God Please Rise Up?

Haviland says this: “Fatherlessness is one of the greatest domestic and social problems plaguing our country these days; making up approximately 1/3 of all homes with children in them. There are approximately 15 million single mother households (compared to 2.2 million single father homes).”

Haviland goes on to say that the fatherless represent 71% of the school dropouts and boys are four times more likely to drop out than girls. These kids are more likely to demonstrate bad behavior:  promiscuity, criminal behavior, substance abuse, subject to physical or sexual abuse and teen suicide.

The bottom line is that the next generation (Generation Y and now Z) has the deck stacked against them…. that is, unless we take action. He’s right.

He advocates that the Church or other ministries stand in the gap.  Many of these young people just need someone to come alongside them and help them get on track.  He goes on to describe specific ways that men can get involved as a mentor.

I have four diverse examples of how that is being played out here in North Carolina. The first ministry is called “Neighbor to Neighbor” (N2N) which was started in 1994. Volunteers work in a poor area of Raleigh where minorities live and provide them positive role models, relationships, life skills, mentoring and tutoring.  The impact on the kids is remarkable – some of them are truly redeemed out of a life headed in the wrong direction.

Another is a charter school in Charlotte called Sugar Creek Charter School.  Their goal is to aim at disadvantaged minority students and provide a quality education.  Their goal is to achieve 90/90/90, which is 90% minority students, 90% scholarship, and 90% achievement in standardized tests by their students.  They have achieved the first two, and are working on the academic achievement since their ranking is only in the 60% range (which is still above the median for all students in the same age group).

A third ministry takes a different tack at reaching the unemployed and disadvantaged.  It is called Jobs for Life (JFL), and it strives to improve the lives of its students one job at a time. It started in Raleigh in 1996 and now has a global footprint by working with churches, NGO’s, non-profit ministries. JFL has partners in 43 states and are in 5 countries including Africa.

JFL provides a training model which can be run by its partners (other churches or ministries in other communities). Each student (ages 16 – 90) is connected to a “champion/mentor” who walks with them through the class.  The relationships that form from this opportunity open doors to jobs, support vocational plans, and continue to speak hope into previously hopeless situation.  They (JfL) has found that this is essential to the job discussion.

JFL training often involves helping each student get a hands-on experience in the work place by placing them as interns with participating business partners. This experience is invaluable because it teaches the students responsibility – just showing up on time to work is an important principle. And, studies have shown that a lack of good work is both a cause and an impact of fatherlessness – hence the need for churches to step in through Jobs for Life.

The last example is Young Life (YL), which aims at middle schoolers and high school students by acquainting them with the gospel in a fun and free flowing way. It is in every state, and now has exploded into Africa as well as other continents. It reaches some students who are fatherless or come from difficult or even hopeless home situations. I am currently mentoring the area director for YL, and have listened to his stories of lives that have been redeemed from difficult family circumstances.

These are but four examples of reaching out to the fatherless in our midst.  A high proportion of the young people that are involved with these organizations come from single parent families. I was reading a devotional by Tony Dungee recently, and he put it this way when talking about violent crime: “But I do know what when a young man feels no one really cares about him and his life has no value, it’s easy for him not to care about anyone else. Then taking someone else’s life doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.”

I have long been an advocate of mentoring the next generation.  I do it my way by meeting with young men and investing in their lives.  Others can mentor the next generation through other channels – through working with charter schools like Sugar Creek, or ministries like Jobs for Life or Neighbor to Neighbor, or Young Life.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for personal volunteering, you can help by providing organizations like the ones mentioned or others just like them in your communities that can reach the fatherless among us and help them see that their lives have value in God’s eyes.

If your community doesn’t have Jobs for Life or Young Life, consider contacting them to see what it takes to get it started. When you see a need that stirs your heart, you should act on it. The needs for the fatherless are only getting greater due to this rising demographic.

The challenge is clear.  The fatherless among us is growing at an unprecedented pace which does not bode well for their future.  The opportunities here are endless, but you have to take action.  It might be mentoring directly or financially, or participating with ministries or churches in your community that have an outreach to the fatherless or disadvantaged. As the Nike ad says: “Just Do It.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  There are lots of ways you can get involved with the next generation.  Look around your community and get involved so that the next generation of fatherless have a chance at life.

FURTHER STUDY:  To read Matt Haviland’s commentary on calling on Men of God to Please Rise Up: http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/men/will-the-men-of-god-please-rise-up.html

For studies on better outcomes from traditional families:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/10/study-children-fare-better-traditional-mom-dad-fam/

For information about Neighbor to Neighborhttp://www.n2noutreach.org/about.htm

For information about Jobs for Lifehttp://www.jobsforlife.org/about

For information about Sugar Creek Charter Schoolhttp://thesugarcreek.org/about/

For information on Young Life:

https://www.younglife.org/About/Pages/default.aspx

WORSHIP:  Listen to “Good Good Father” sung by Chris Tomlin:

COMMENT:  I am delighted at your comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Intergenerational

 

intergen 

He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  Psalm 78:5-7

 A word being bandied about frequently in church leadership circles is “Intergenerational”.  It’s a big word but it speaks volumes when it comes to reaching the next generation.  From my vantage point and experience, churches that realize that mixing the generations in their activities and worship is a key ingredient to a healthy church.  The churches that miss this emphasis are dying in America.

Why is that?  The future of a church is based on raising up the next generation and “passing it on” to them. But, the millennials  today are often self-absorbed and narcissistic.  As such, they are hard to engage.  At the same time, they are spiritually attuned, but often don’t know where to turn.  In her book “Millennials in Ministry”, my friend Dr. Jolene Erhlacher has a chapter entitled “Disengagement Epidemic”.  The title of the chapter should make anyone in an older generation shudder.

Jolene starts the chapter noting that millennials are often hard to pin down and get engaged in any structured or formal activities of a church. And, because they rarely become members, they don’t participate in leadership teams or committees. A very frustrating phenomenon.

Jolene cites several factors, the first of which is that millennials want to evaluate all choices because they are used to having more options than prior generations. She goes on to say, in effect, that too much of a good thing may have negative consequences.  Studies show that the greater number of options creates a tendency to defer a decision – “sometimes indefinitely.”

Bottom line is that millennials appear to be indecisive because they have so many “possibilities pulling at them.”  They often defer commitment or choice because of some sense that there may be something better later.

Add to that, most millennials distrust institutions – any institution, such as a church, the government, education or corporations. When it comes to the church, millennials perceive that doctrines are impersonal, intolerant and inflexible. Jolene quotes one young adult: “Church to me is religion, a set of rules, a structure, a tradition.” Alternately, many young adults fail to see any value of religion and therefore they are “religiously indifferent or disconnected.”

The studies bear this out.  According to a study by Pew Research. the “Nones” have grown from below 16% to almost one in four of the millennials. These are young adults that indicate that they are not affiliated with any faith. Yet, they are not unspiritual.  They just don’t connect with formal religion and the established church.

According to Jolene’s research, generic spirituality “allows for greater openness and flexibility.”  Popular culture has stereotyped Christians as “narrow minded, judgmental, or bigoted” so by avoiding a commitment, they are able to maintain a system of personal beliefs and relationships.

Which brings me to the intergenerational topic of this post. Despite the studies and data on disengagement and self-absorption of the millennials, my experience shows that the millennials are looking for mentors and not finding them. This is a real opportunity of the church – to create an inter-generational ministry based on personal interaction of different generations. Mentoring works – it worked for Jesus with the Disciples, and it works now.

Reaching across generational lines may not happen in a church context. It might be a Starbucks, or, in my case, a Panera. As Tim Keller, from Redeemer Presbyterian has said, “We have enough churches. What we need is more Starbucks.”  Effectively, he was saying that if the millennials won’t darken the door of a church (for whatever reason), then we must meet them where they are.  Good stuff.

I recently visited a well-known church in southern Florida, and it had two services on Sunday mornings. One was described as “contemporary”, meaning that the music and worship would appeal to a younger generation.  The other service was described as “traditional” meaning that the style of worship would be more attuned to the generation that grew up with the classic hymns and organ music.

The only intergenerational interaction happened in the foyer as the two generations passed each other going in and out of the church.

This is not the only church that does this, mind you. What bothers me is that they are unintentionally creating walls between the generations.  Instead of trying to mix the generations together (thus, a true “intergenerational” gathering) they are separating them solely based on music and worship preference.

I think this is a mistake. I might be wrong, but that’s just my $.02. You cannot connect with another generation by going to separate services, even if they are in the same building.

One only has to look at the decline of Christianity in France as an example of one generations not passing it on to the next. In the period of two generations in the last half of the 20th century, France went from 75% Christians to just 5% today. It can happen anywhere, not just France.

Just recently, I agreed to go to sub-Saharan Africa which will now make my third visit. This time, I will go to Cameroon to do leadership training with my friend Dibinkap Benvictor Ojongmanyinkhongo.  No, that’s not a misprint.  I jokingly call him “Benvictor Alphabet”.  The second leg of the trip is to go to Togo for a gathering of west African pastors from approximately 12 countries.

Togo will be quite different. For the first time, I have invited two young “Timothy’s” to go with me – young adults that they can experience interacting with different cultures and hang around some very godly men and women. This is intergenerational ministry at work. I was inspired by a pastor in my church, Andrew Spangler, who wrote that he will always take a young “Timothy” with him on all future mission trips.

The challenge is clear: we need to reach out to the millennials, but perhaps in somewhat unconventional ways.  Just inviting them to church may be a non-starter. Interacting with them at work or in a coffee shop may be your venue instead. They want relationships that are authentic and are open to interacting with the older generation as mentors.  That’s one strategy that I know works.  It has worked for over two millennia, and it can work now.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  If you are looking for someone to mentor, widen your search to where they hang out instead of in your church.  They’re out there, looking for you to connect with them. Don’t be shy.

FURTHER STUDY: For the Pew Study in 2015 about the decline of religion: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/

For what has been described as the “me” generation: http://www.npr.org/2016/07/12/485087469/me-me-me-the-rise-of-narcissism-in-the-age-of-the-selfie

Jolene Erlacher’s book “Millennials in Ministry” may be purchased on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Millennials-Ministry-Jolene-Erlacher-ebook/dp/B00LLLM0PU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487862031&sr=8-1&keywords=erlacher

In my research, I came across the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships that had some interesting articles:  http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/wjir20/current

WORSHIP:  Listen to Meredith Andrews sing Open Up the Heavens:

COMMENT:  I am delighted at your comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Impartiality

 

 justice

They divided them impartially by casting lots, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of God among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar. 1 Chronicles 24:5

Life is fun, and often you discover things in quite unexpected places.  I’ve been thinking of this topic for some time, but hadn’t developed it very far.  Last night, since my wife stayed in Raleigh for an extra day, I ate dinner by myself at a local restaurant called Dugan’s Pub in Pinehurst.  They have great chicken wings. Since I was alone, I sat at the bar rather than be  seated at table because the restaurant was crowded.

As I was munching on my wings, a man came and sat down two seats away.  I asked him if he was here to play golf, and he said yes. We then talked about great courses he had played, including the three highly rated courses in Kohler, Wisconsin.  One thing led to another, and I mentioned that I had done a blog on how I came to play golf entitled “Flog”.  He was interested so we pulled it up on my phone and he enlarged it so he could read it since he didn’t have his glasses.

He loved the verse I had chosen (1 Corinthians 15:33) and our conversation continued. He admitted he had two older children, now in their 20’s, and that he had been a terrible parent to them.  He also had an 8-year-old and he felt better about his role as a father.  Of course, those in their 20’s are part of Generation iY.  We talked about their profile for a while.  He was from Generation X (i.e. born before 1980), and was having issues with connecting with Generation Y (those born after 1980).

Then he said something that interested me.  He said he would rather take advice from a stranger like me than from someone he who was part of his family. He looked at me and said “I can tell you care about me.”  “I would take advice from you before I would take it from my uncle.”

Which leads me back to the title of this – impartiality.  We talked some more about the role of a mentor.   One of the things is that they provide is impartial advice.  Mentors should have no agenda, which often is perceived by adolescents when they get advice from parents or family. The agenda of a mentor is to help improve the life of the mentee – to make them the best that they can be based on what talents, interests, gifts and passions God has blessed them with.

Having practice law for 45 years, the concept of impartiality is imbedded in our justice system.  Justice is said to be “blind” meaning that the justice system is supposed to be neutral and objective.  A judge is supposed to make a ruling in a case based solely on the facts of the matter and the applicable law. It is not to be based on public opinion, the views of special interest groups or even a judge’s own personal beliefs.

At least that’s how it is supposed to be. I will digress only to say that in some courts in the United States, politics and public opinion take precedence over “blind justice”. When that happens, the populace lose faith that the system will not work as it should.

As a result, lawyers, do “forum shopping.”  They know which courts are “friendly” to their case, and will file the case in the friendly jurisdiction in order to improve their chances of success. I can cite a lot of cases from my own experience where this has happened.  Even a system that is supposed to be impartial fails in real life.

Getting back to the concept of impartiality, the younger generation is looking for mentors – someone who is outside their family circle who can provide them an impartial sounding board.  A mentor doesn’t have any baggage or agenda to deal with.  His or her advice is based on his or her own experience, education or reasoning.   I recently asked one of my mentees why he continued to meet with me, and his response was immediate: “You are a great sounding board.”

The only difference from the man at the bar in the restaurant and the millennials is that millennials require trust before they will listen. The conversation I had with this man would not have occurred with a millennial.  Millennials would require that I first establish a closer relationship with them before I would be permitted to speak into their lives in a way they would accept.

Establishing trust with millennials takes time. It does not happen during a chance conversation at a bar (unless the conversation is with someone from an older generation).  Trust is “earned” through forming a deep relationship and being transparent and authentic.

A recent Pew survey said this: “[J]ust 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.”  (Note: “Gen X’ers”, “Silents” and “Boomers” are all older generations born before 1980).

On a personal note, the disdain that adolescents have for their parents’ advice does wear off after a while – usually in early adulthood.  That’s when the adolescent’s perspective has advanced to see that a parent’s advice was often correct, even if they could not “hear” it at the time.

In the past two weeks, I have been approached by several in their 20’s looking for a mentor. One is a young woman in another city.  That one will be a challenge, because I need to find one for her. She learned about what a mentor does from a business colleague of hers that I mentor, and immediately wanted one of her own.  She deserves that. It’s our obligation to reach out to the next generation and help.

I met with the other 20 something just yesterday.  It was a good start, and he is anxious to set up more sessions as our schedules will permit. He found me, not the other way around. He read one of my posts (“We is Better the Me”) and sent me a blind email thanking me for it and wondering if I had any resources that could help him. He didn’t realize I live close by and was surprised when I replied ““What are you doing next Tuesday?”

The challenge here is obvious. As a potential mentor, you are being sought out by the next generation to provide impartial input.  You don’t have a stake in the outcome, other than to see your protégé advance in life to be the best they can be.  You can help them overcome challenges with neutral advice.  You can help them problem solve by analyzing their options, or even helping them consider options that they might not have considered. In a word, you can be that impartial sounding board that they need when life throws challenges in their direction.

FURTHER STUDY:  Read “6 New Findings about Millennials” from Pew Research (March 7, 2014) including their lack of trust:  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/07/6-new-findings-about-millennials/

WORSHIP:  One thing we know for sure, and that is we can trust in God. Listen to Lauren Daigle sing “Trust In You”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs

COMMENT:  I am delighted at your comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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All’s Well That Ends Well

 

 sunsetcomincaEven when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

 Every generation that comes along is often thought of as “going to the dogs” by older generations.  That was just as true in biblical times as it is today.  Yet, somehow the next generation manages to survive and often excel where the older generation thought they would fail.

Which brings me to “our” next generations:  Gen Y, iY and the latest, Gen Z. These are people born after 1980 and are now young adults in most cases. As I have noted, there are always going to be generational differences, but for these millennials, the change is much more.  It is a cultural change.  As Dr. Tim Elmore says: “They think differently, they communicate differently, and they often hold different values than [their predecessors]”.

Millennials make up the largest demographic group in the western world. They are our future (that’s a scary thought).  But their life, and their future, depends on us, the older generations to bridge the gap.  So, following some of the things that Tim Elmore has said recently, I thought I would give a profile of what makes millennials different.

In the job markets, most millennials will have up to 9 different jobs.  This is much more than prior generations where even career lasting jobs were replaced by greater mobility, but never to the extent of 9 job changes.  While I had several entry-level jobs (mostly during the summers when I was in college), my career only had three job changes.  That’s typical for my generation.

Elmore says the corporate ladder has been replaced by the “Corporate Lily Pad”, where job changes are more akin to a frog jumping from lily pad to lily pad.  Interesting metaphor. The only problem is that the job market looks for stability in your resume and a person who hops around at several jobs will be scrutinized more than others.

Millennials also want to find work environments in the workplace which has the “feel” of family where “working with friends, mixing laughter, games, passion, strategy, charitable service and even competition” is present.  This is more than previous generations who sought a work-life balance.

My last twenty years in law practice was in a law firm that was counter to most large firms where the only yardstick was performance, i.e. how much you worked and how much money you collected from your clients. We were blessed to have a large-firm sophisticated practice, but our smaller size permitted us to look beyond just making money to emphasizing family and a life outside of the practice of law. We were the exception, rather than the general rule.  I was fortunate.

The millennials – particularly Generation iY who were born after 1990– process information digitally.  A hardcover book is a rarity. Everything is on a screen.  “Their world has fewer words and a greater number of images” says Elmore. Currently, 82% of the internet content is in 10 languages, and futurists are predicting that half of the 6,900 languages will disappear in the next century.

We are already seeing this in the U.S.  For Generation iY, the average vocabulary of children in middle school (grades 5-8) has dropped from 25,000 words ten years ago to !0,000 words today.

As I wrote in an earlier post entitled “Critical Thinking” last October, according to The Mindset List put out by Beloit College every year since 1998, this years’ class entering college (called the Class of 2020) think that books have “always been read TO them on audible.com.

Millennials are effecting the workplace, where “bosses are being replaced by therapists.” Elmore talked to two managers who candidly said “they feel like they have to be a therapist, coach, diplomat and nanny.”  That’s a big difference in the corporate world I experienced where, except for clear cases of mental health issues, most companies were not all that concerned about the “emotional intelligence” of employees.

The workplace has always had a proverbial “water cooler” which was usually a break room where you could get coffee and sometimes chat with other colleagues at work.  The millennials are replacing the water cooler with social media, which concerns me because it means their interactions are far less personal and face-to-face.

Studies show that the millennials are not good at resolving conflicts.  I attribute this to the fact that they have defective interpersonal skills because they have isolated their interactions to social media.   They don’t know how to resolve conflicts on an interpersonal basis.

Getting back to my title, I am worried that the future, for many millennials, might not end well. Unlike prior generations, for them to succeed, we may have to adjust to them, not the other way around.  A friend of mine, Julie Schmiesing, sent me a video recently which is a talk by Simon Sinek entitled “Millennials in the Workplace.”

She hoped that I would enjoy it, and I did.   I knew a many of the attributes of millennials in the video after a couple of years of study. The link to the video is below – it is 5 minutes long, and well worth watching. The video’s primary thrust is that companies may have to adjust to the millennials to assimilate them as productive employees in the business world.

Recently, Accenture, a company that employs over 330,000 people worldwide, joined several other public companies in eliminating the “annual performance review” which has been a staple of many businesses and professions over the years. Part of the reason is attributed to millennials who want to receive feedback immediately and consistently, not just annually. They want assessments in real-time, not something every twelve months.

There are other notable trends for millennials worth mentioning. They are staying single longer: only 26% of millennials aged 18-32 are married compared to 38% for Gen X (the prior generation) and 48% of the Baby Boomers. They are well-educated with some 23% having college degrees.

They are more multicultural, with some 38% of them being bilingual, which is up from 23% in 2003. On a down note, a recent study by Jean Twenge, a high percentage of them describe themselves as “overwhelmed”, so much so that close to half of them find it difficult to even function. As mentors, we have to help cultivate coping skills in younger adults so that they can develop resiliency to face life’s challenges.

Lastly, they want to do something meaningful in life.  They want a mission, not just a job. Some 87% of millennials consider a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes when choosing a job. Unfortunately, not all available jobs are with companies that want to transform the world.  As mentors and parents, we have to help them learn to do the little things (i.e. entry level jobs) to gain experience.

As Elmore notes:  “How can we capitalize on young adults’ desire to improve the world and, at the same time, demonstrate that they may have to do “little” things first?”

Yesterday, I got an unexpected message from a lawyer (Tom) who I mentored over 15 years ago as a young associate in my law firm.  He said “Bill, you made more of an impact on my life than you possibly can imagine. Thank you.”  His note surprised me. He went on to describe some of the mess that occurred from his divorce and then went on to describe his new “life-time partner (like Sis for [me].”  His faith has deepened, and I am glad to see him on the right track.  I haven’t given up on him.

The challenge here is not to give up on the next generation, but to jump into their boat and help them row through these new currents of rapid change caused, in part, by technology. They need mentors – people with a longer perspective to help them navigate and find their God-given purpose in life. It’s our job to help them “End Well”.  Not everyone has happy endings, but you can make a difference just by being a role model so others can see you handle your own struggles and overcome them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is desperate for inter-generational mentoring, and based on the studies, they need it badly.  You can do your part to invest in the next generation. Even investing in one person can make a difference.

FURTHER STUDY:  The video by Simon Sinek on “Millennials in the Workplace”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MC2X-LRbkE&sns=em

Read about the elimination of annual assessments to accommodate millennials preferences:  https://growingleaders.com/blog/changing-the-way-you-offer-feedback-to-your-team/

For a study on languages: http://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/how-many-languages-are-there-world

For a study on the emotional health of millennials by Jean Twenge:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1939-0025.2011.01115.x/abstract

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Take My Life (and Let it Be)”

COMMENT:  I am delighted at your comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

Flog

golf

“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”   1 Corinthians 15:33

 I often title my posts with an acronym where every letter stands for a word, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get), or even YOYO (You’re On Your Own).  Not this time:  FLOG is actually GOLF spelled backwards.  It’s an irony, because golf can be such a challenging and frustrating game.  80% of golfers have a handicap of 18 or above.  Only 5% have a handicap under 10.

For those who are not familiar with golf, a handicap is a number assigned based on your average scores on an 18-hole golf course.  You take the number assigned and subtract it from your actual score, and it is supposed to be your “par” – i.e. a score adjusted for your level.

A typical 18-hole course has a par of 72, so if a person has a handicap of 18, his reassigned “par” is a score of 90 based on his handicap.  I’ll let you do the math.

The handicap system is a convenient way to adjust scores so that people playing at different levels have a way of being competitive by using their handicap.  It permits a good golfer play with a non-so-good golfer.

My introduction to the sport of golf was almost by accident. Having attended a boarding school in New England, I returned home for the summer my first year to find that all my friends from grade school were on vacation for the summer.  My mother suggested that I consider learning to play golf. We were fortunate to belong to a Country Club in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

That was when I met George Jacobus. George was the head professional at Ridgewood, but he was much more than that as I would come to learn later.  He had been president of the PGA – the umbrella organization of golf professionals in America from 1930 to 1939.

He taught many professional golfers and amateurs alike. He was an encourager of youth to learn the game because he knew they would be the future.  George kindly took me and many others under his wing and gave us unlimited instruction without charge.

He was always available, even if we weren’t home.  He had a memory of your swing, and if you could describe what was going on, he would quickly suggest a “fix” that always worked.  His knowledge of the golf swing was magical.

As we improved, he asked that we “give back” by helping him teach clinics for others. By the time I was 17, I had a 1 handicap, and often spent Saturday mornings helping him with his golf clinics for other youth and adults.

But George taught me more than golf. He taught me about life, too. He was my first mentor, a term I didn’t identify him with until recently.  George was “classy” in his appearance. Even on the hottest days, he would teach wearing a long-sleeved white shirt, a tie, and a white linen jacket with a Panama hat. He usually looked like he was modeling sports clothes.

George was a disciplinarian, too.  Even though golf could be frustrating, he taught us that we were to be “a gentleman first, and a golfer second.”  You were not to alter that order or priority. In other words, your behavior on the course was never to change, even if you were playing poorly.  No throwing of clubs, no cursing or getting angry. It was not permitted. Period.  Violations had consequences.

A gentleman, by definition, is one who is courteous and polite.  In modern parlance, the term gentleman refers to any man of good, courteous conduct. In other words, a man of good character.

I have no idea whether George Jacobus was a believer, but his values were consistent and Godly.  George died in 1965, and it was many years later that I learned how special he had been, not just in my life, but in the lives of others.

A few years ago, I watched a documentary on Byron Nelson entitled “Byron Nelson: A Texas Gentleman” on television and learned for the first time the details of George’s influence.  Byron Nelson was hired by George as an assistant pro at Ridgewood Country Club in 1935. George changed Byron’s swing, and he went on to win 18 tournaments in 1945, including 11 pro events in a row, a record that stands today.

As you can tell from the title of the documentary, Byron Nelson was known as a “gentleman” throughout his career, first as a professional golfer, and later as a golf analyst on television. In the documentary, Arnold Palmer called Byron not just a great golfer, but a great person.

George’s message was the same to Byron as it was to all who he taught.  In life, your character matters.  It is a lesson I carry with me today, from my first mentor.

Our challenge is to pass on to the next generation values that matter and are consistent with Jesus, who was a gentleman in every way.  Character does matter, and the next generation is watching you to see if your words match your actions.  May you live so that a biography of you includes the word “gentleman” or “gentlewoman” in its title.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Authenticity is what the millennials are looking for in a mentor. They want you to exhibit your values, not just talk about them.  Being a gentleman is a great start.

FURTHER STUDY:  You can read a biography of George Jacobus including his involvement with Byron Nelson:

http://www.rcc1890.com/files/GeorgeJacobus_Jan2014.pdf

Watch a 71-minute video on “Byron Nelson: A Texas Gentleman” on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wAm247d1vY

WORSHIP:  Join Travis Cottrell who reminds us that we are a “Friend of God

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If

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The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good.  Proverbs 10:17 (The Message)

I recently attended a workshop for our worship team at my church.  We do three of them a year, and often speakers are brought in to develop and hone our skills.  This last one included a session by Scott Bullman who is on the faculty of Liberty University.

He gave ten points which would be important for members of the worship team, whether they be musicians, singers or the media folks who are so important (if there are no words to a song on the screen, then there’s a big problem).

One thing he said was a summation: “The best gift of worshippers is to be the best you that you can be.  It takes continual growth, and you have to be a student always.”   I think that advice is not just for members of a worship team, but for every believer regardless of how their gifts are used in the body.  You should strive to be the best that you can be at what you do.

In a way, that’s what a mentor does with his charges.  He helps them figure out what they are good at, and then he helps figure out what is needed to make the mentee the best he can be.  It might be encouragement, or helping suggest possible training or education.  It might be helping them get experience or connections to help the mentee get started. It might mean just being there to consider what options are available and dialogue the pros and cons of each.

Among other things that Scott said was that you need to develop your craft.  For a singer, that means working on your voice and practice. For instrumentalists, it means that you need to practice and get better. You must be willing to be stretched, and develop the courage and confidence in your abilities.

I struggled a little when Scott Bullman said that, at age 52, he had gone to a voice instructor because his voice had “changed”.  I started singing without any formal training at age 71, although I had a musical background.  I can’t tell any “change” since I’ve never sung before.

I played the piano as a child, and then switched to the bass violin.  That’s not an instrument that is easily carried around.  I probably should have switched to bass guitar in high school – at least it has frets and is easily transported.  That’s what I call an “if only” moment: “if only” I had continued with piano or a bass guitar.

But that’s a statement of “if only”, not a “what if”.  You see, the phrase “if only” is used when looking at life in hindsight.  It often reflects a regret what you may have missed a big opportunity for some reason or another.  “What if”, on the other hand, is forward thinking.

Scott then mentioned a book that I am now reading which is intriguing.  It is entitled “If: Trading Your ‘If Only’ Regrets for God’s ‘What If’ Possibilities” by Mark Betterson.  I had not heard of Betterson before, but when Scott Bullman quoted from the book at our session, I knew I liked the plain writing style. It is a book to be savored. A chapter a day, in fact. No speed reading allowed.

I recall using some of Betterson’s logic when my son was having trouble at a boarding school near Boston in 1986.  He came home for Thanksgiving vacation in his second year, and admitted that he had been so miserable that he had skipped going to class for the previous week. Over the next few days, we spent time together talking through his challenges.  As a parent, I wanted to find out the “why” of his misery.  Only then could I understand how to help.

What emerged from our talks was that he felt he was an outsider – he didn’t have a group of friends that had his interests, so he felt socially out of water.  I found this hard to believe because he has such a sunny disposition that everyone at his previous school liked him. Yet here he was 700 miles away in an environment that was cold and unwelcoming.

We then talked about his options – he was 17 at the time.  I wanted him to be part of the decision process.  I wanted him to make the best decision for himself at the time, but I wanted him to understand the consequences of each option.  One of those options, of course, was to pull him out from Andover and return him to a school in Raleigh.  Another would have been to find another private school that was more suitable. His mother and I said that whatever path he chose, we would support him.

As we talked through his options, I used my “if only” comment.  I told him that whatever decision he made – either to stay, or go somewhere else – I wanted him to be sure that he would never regret a decision to leave and say “if only” I had stayed. I also told him that if he chose to stay, it would take courage. Going back to an environment that had seemed hostile was not an easy way out. Plus, he would be facing exams having missed an entire week of classes.

Another day passed, and he started thinking about returning – perhaps only for the rest of the semester which would be over in a couple of weeks.  I was concerned that if he returned to his misery and didn’t have any resources to help him, he would be in trouble and it might not end well.

I asked him if there was any teacher that he liked or felt he could lean on if needed.  He thought about it and said that Mr. Wennik, his German teacher, was someone he could connect with.  So, I called Mr. Wennik and described the plight of my son.  His reaction was interesting.  He said “I would love to help your son.  You see, I have just gone through the same issue with my own daughter, and I think I know how to help him through this rough spot.”

Another thing Mr. Wennik said in our phone call amazes me to this day.  He told me that he was surprised that I took the initiative to call him to help my son. As incredulous as that sounds, he continued by saying that most parents wouldn’t have done what I did.  I am astonished that any parent wouldn’t reach out to help one of their children through a struggle.

The rest is, of course, now history.  My son returned to school, and with Mr. Wennik’s help and mentoring, he was guided to a group of students that my son identified with – creative students who loved music and drama. He bonded with them.  His misery turned into happiness over time.

On his tenth reunion in 1998, my son flew back to Andover with his sister, who had also attended Andover and graduated with him. On the airplane trip, he told her that he wanted his children to have the opportunity of going to Andover.  Now, this was the school that he once hated and was miserable.

I look back on this story as a turning point in his life.  He faced adversity returning to a boarding school away from home.  With help from a mentor, Mr. Wennik, he stuck it out and was able to graduate the next year.  His grades (and his attitude) improved from that point on.  It wasn’t his intellect that was holding him back from being the best he could be.  It was the environment of being alone away from home and not having any friends.

There are two takeaways here.  First, when life puts you in tough spots, seek out a mentor who can help you navigate the difficulties.  Mr. Wennik was a god-send who reached out and took my son under his wing. He did something that I couldn’t do because I could not be present for my son when he needed immediate help.

The second takeaway, and perhaps just as important, is to think about the difference of “what if” in your analysis of a decision.  “What if” really is the idea of thinking about the possibilities that come from taking a certain action.  I used the flip side of that by talking to my son about the “if only” analyses:  I wanted him to look at his decision from a longer perspective so that he could look back on it and not have any regrets for his decision.  It worked for him and he made a courageous but correct decision.

Our challenge is twofold.  The first is to be available as a mentor when an opportunity arises. You can be the Mr. Wennik  to someone else’s child. The second lesson is that a mentor (or even a parent) needs to help his protégé make their own decisions. That’s a growth experience.  The mentors job is to help the mentee consider all options and then think through “what if” I took this path instead of another one. It’s fun to watch when it turns out well, as it did for my son.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is screaming at the older generation to get involved in their lives so they can have someone with experience to talk through their challenges.  You can help them find a way to convert an “if only” regret into a “what if” opportunity.

FURTHER STUDY:   Read “IF: Trading your ‘If Only’ Regrets for God’s ‘What If’ Possibilities” by Mark Betterson is available from Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/If-Trading-Your-Regrets-Possibilities-ebook/dp/B00XNJGQT4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486653612&sr=8-1&keywords=if+by+batterson

WORSHIP: Listen to Michael W. Smith sing Draw Me Close:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com

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Let My Words Be Few

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Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ephesians 5:2

I recently received an email from my friend, Steve Morrow, who lives in Minnesota.  He has been a big encouragement to me in my efforts to write posts which are interesting and provocative.  This email, however, took a different tack.

He wrote: “Also, it might be encouraging for you to convey in a blog or part of a blog how you came to Christ.  Being at age 38 and being a lawyer aren’t a combination we typically consider when we think about someone coming to Christ.”

I will overlook his lawyer “joke” innuendo.  Basically, a law degree is a post-graduate degree in skepticism, where nothing is accepted on its face and everything is challenged.  That’s how we are trained.  Taking anything by faith would be totally outside the box.

The rationale for Steve’s request?  He thought It might be an encouragement to people reading my posts “not to give up on people who don’t know Him, even those well into their career and those they may not expect would be open to the Gospel.”

It hadn’t occurred to me to detail how I came to faith until Steve sent me his email.  When I first went to Africa and was asked to speak in a church in Nairobi, I asked my friend, Stacy Rinehart, for suggestions on what to say.  His immediate response was similar: “Tell them your testimony!”  Africans love stories, and are used to an oral tradition where their culture was handed down from generation to generation by stories told and retold.

I don’t think my testimony is very spectacular or riveting. My experience was enough to get my name written in the Lamb’s Book.  I grew up in a family where religion was mostly a social thing. My parents were not believers, and they had some background with Christian Scientist theology. I won’t digress on this point. Suffice it to say that this denomination is not mainstream Christian theology.

My concept of God was limited. I think I always believed in God, but only in a detached way.  I met my wife in college. Both of her older brothers were in my fraternity.  She had grown up in Shelby, NC, a rural community in western North Carolina.  I had grown up in a suburb of New York. We were opposites in so many ways.  Growing up, she had been active in Young Life and in her church. I had not. Cub scouts was the closest I got, and that’s not very close.

We got married when I was 21 and in my second year of law school.  As our family grew, she was desperate to have our children involved in Christian things.  Grudgingly, I agreed to visit various churches in Raleigh with her. She was hoping one of them would appeal to me. They did not, and I often opted to spend my Sunday mornings at my office trying to catch up. My kids even enjoyed coming with me because they loved to play with paper and pens at my office.

Great spiritual leader?  Well, no, not exactly.

By the time our third child arrived, I was entrenched in a life devoid of anything spiritual. Work was my god, and at times I was a workaholic, spending many hours at the office.  In the law business, you get paid for every hour that you work for a client. Ergo, the more hours you work, the more money you make.  I think you get the idea of what that might look like to a young aspiring lawyer.

That all changed in the early 1980’s.  My mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer in September, 1981.  She lived about 4 hours away by car.  I had grown close to her over the years. She treated me like one of her sons.  Both brothers often accused me as being her “favorite”.

During that final year of her life, my wife took our 5-year-old with her and spent most of the week with her mother.  She would return to Raleigh on Friday night for the weekend, and then return to Shelby on Sunday night. I remained in Raleigh and kept up with our older two children. My wife put some 25,000 miles on our car going back and forth that year.   My youngest son spent so much time in Shelby that he graduated from two separate schools – one in Shelby and one in Raleigh.

The experience of that year could have caused marital friction, but it didn’t because I knew how much my wife loved her mother.  Her mother was a rare bird:  a school teacher with a severe case of osteoarthritis, a painful, deforming and debilitating disease.  Yet she never complained about her circumstances.  In fact, you could never get her to talk about herself.  She would quickly turn every conversation to finding out what was going on in your life, not hers.

Over that final year of her mother’s life, I began to realize that she had an inner peace about her life that I had not encountered before.  Self-effacing.  Ever gracious, even though her health was on the decline. She was a true servant of God – always putting others’ interests ahead of her own. Her life had an enormous impact on me.

In February of 1982, we went to a church service and I heard the gospel message.  I had never heard it before, and it penetrated me. For the first time, Christianity made sense to me.

In tears, I came forward and I accepted Him into my life.  It was a game changer, as I have noted before.  I later realized I had been the product of 17 years of prayers by my wife.  The terminal illness of her mother was what caused me to turn my life over to someone greater than me.

While my mother-in-law played a key role in my coming to faith, she did so without ever verbalizing it.  She just lived it. She was a billboard for Christ without saying a word.  She had a peace that was surreal and unfathomable.  It made me wonder what made her different, and where she got her inner strength.

Several years ago, I had a card with a saying on it on my desk.  It said: “Preach Christ always; if necessary, use words.” That’s what my mother-in-law did. And that saying is something we can all use.  Sometimes, it is not the words you use to point to Christ, but what you do and how you live.

That’s what the next generation is looking for: authenticity.  When you have shown them authenticity, they will then listen to your words.  You must first earn the right to speak with your life.

That was the beginning of my journey in Christ. It has not been linear.  No straight roads.  Lots of turns and twists, many of them unanticipated.  But that’s life. I quickly learned to trust Jesus to guide me through the unknowns.  I also have learned that he does perform miracles – often in others.  I wish I had kept a list of the miracles I’ve seen happen in my life. It makes a convincing story to tell of God’s power.  If nothing else, it confirms that God is real and that He answers prayer.

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The challenge here is that we all need to remember that the world is watching.  You may be a billboard for Christ. Not just what you say, but what you do.  Is your life authentic?  Does your faith show up in your actions?  Remember: one picture is worth a thousand words.  If you are going to be a picture to someone else, make sure it is a good one.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  How you live your life is more important than you realize, and your mentee is watching you.  Be authentic and transparent. It is the key to being able to speak into their lives.

WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman sing Let My Words Be Few.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.