Mentors

Mentor defineA big brother. A father. An uncle. A grandfather. A best friend’s father. A youth leader from church.

Every person, but young men especially, need an older man to pour into their lives. We need someone to help us learn how to be a man. In our society, we put a lot of pressure on young women but there is also a lot of pressure put on young boys to become manly men. There are certain things that men must know. Things it is expected as a man we are aware of. There are also expectations for men which will dramatically change the world all of the men on the planet would get it right. Once these boys develop into men and then as they take on the roles of husband and father, the expectations only get higher.

How do boys learn to be men? How to boys learn the critical ‘man-stuff’ they need to know? The same way any of us learn anything – someone teaches us.

We need someone who will teach us how to treat women. Women are to be treated with dignity and respect, not as objects for our use and abuse. Boys and young men need someone to teach them the proper way to speak to a woman. The proper way to treat a young woman. I am not necessarily a supporter of the whole idea of courting, but certainly something has been lost in the way our youth and young adults are approaching dating. It has lost the special-ness and wonder it once had. It is now a commonplace, ordinary thing and not something that is special. We have lost to excitement and mystery of entering into a relationship with the opposite sex. There are a myriad of societal issues that could likely be traced back to this… that is a discussion for another time! As boys we need someone to teach us how to treat girls and ultimately women.

We need someone to teach us the mystery, wonder and exhilaration that is fire. This is essential to being a man. Other men will immediately gauge the usefulness of a man based on whether he can build a fire. Whether you use raw elements, a flint stone, lighter fluid or straight gasoline a man must be able to make a fire. This ties into a man’s overall outdoorsyness. Men are supposed to skilled outdoorsmen, too. How good of an outdoorsman can you be if you can’t start a fire.

We need someone to teach us how to properly grill meat. Any meat. Dead animal cooked over open flames is quintessential manhood. Without this ability, is a man really a man? Grilling is more than utilitarian preparation of food, it is an art form. It is something special.  Magic happens when meat is grilled.

We need someone to teach us sports. Almost without exception, it is not possible for a group of men to arrive at a park, field, friend’s house or church without some sports equipment. It could be as simple as a football, soccer ball, Frisbee or a baseball and glove. It would seem as though men are hardwired to play sports. In a group of dudes, even the ones that aren’t ‘athletic’ will find themselves getting drawn into the exhibition off sports. While we seem to be inherently keyed into sports, we still must have someone take the time and interest to cultivate the athlete inside of each of us.

Who teaches us these critical life lessons? It is often our father. Sometimes it is an older brother. It can be an uncle. Maybe a grandfather. Maybe it is your friend’s father. Or it could be a youth leader from church. Or maybe it is all of the above. As boys and young men we need someone to teach us important skills and lessons we need in life. We need someone to mentor us.

We all do. We all need someone to pour into our lives and help us to grow. It doesn’t have to be a perfect mentor. It just needs to be someone who cares about us enough to walk through life with us for a season. Mentors change. Seasons and times of our lives change and what we need out of mentors change. But, no matter the season of life we are in we need mentors.

Who has been a mentor to you? What have they taught you? Who have you been able to mentor?

Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

When Parenting Happens and We Aren't to Blame

boysAs a parent, each day is full of moments where you are sure you are doing it wrong. On occasion, there is a moment when you know you have done it right. And then there are moments, when it is right and you know it wasn’t that you had done it right as much as the character you have been working so hard to instill in your children shows through their actions.

Recently, our oldest son has been having a bit of a philosophical dilemma with friends at school. He is finding himself in need of locating new friends. As we inquire as to what is going on, we have discovered the ‘cool kids’ are being mean to the ‘uncool’ kids. My son typically falls into the cool category, but he is having a problem with the way his friends are treating other kids. So he had started to hang out with others at school, because he doesn’t want to be cool if it means being mean to others.

As a dad to three boys, I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to instill a sense of justice in my little dudes. As brothers do, they constantly fight and argue and get on each other’s nerves. They love each other, but they also love to fight each other. What inevitably happens, the youngest and smallest gets pushed around (although, in all honesty he can hold his own… he doesn’t know the phrase dog eat dog yet, but he is aware of the principle!). When the little guy gets pushed around, I try to instill in the older boys a sense of the injustice inherent in picking on the little guy. It really irritates me. I want them to know that it isn’t ok the push the little guy around just because you can. As a side note, this is an important lesson for them to learn in my kind because I want to ensure as husband and fathers, they don’t use their size to push their families around. We call those men batterers and abusers. If I teach my dudes nothing else in life, I will teach them not to abuse or batter their family. I wouldn’t necessarily say I have an inflated or big sense of justice, but I would say I want justice to prevail as much as I can help it.

So when my popular, athletic, electric, outgoing, tons of friends oldest son says he is struggling with his friends because they want to pick on and be mean to the less popular or cool kids, my heart is warm. It’s not that I did it right as a parent, as much as my son is becoming the man I have prayed and hoped he would be. It’s not that I have done it right as much as he had the character of a man who has a heart after God’s heart.

And the icing to this cake of awesomeness is when you realize the other two boys are walking through the same struggles with their friends too. When they are also beginning to see and understand it isn’t ok to pick on kids to be cool. For one son to demonstrate the character I hoped for is great… for all three of them to demonstrate that kind of character is indescribable.

I’m not some super parent who is awesome… but I am happy with who my dudes are becoming as men.

Vehicular Statement

Photo courtesy of http://agentsofgeek.com/2015/04/13-things-you-never-knew-about-the-millennium-falcon-infographic/

Photo courtesy of http://agentsofgeek.com/2015/04/13-things-you-never-knew-about-the-millennium-falcon-infographic/

Like many things in life, our vehicles make a statement about who we are people. Not just the condition of the vehicle mechanically and cosmetically, but also what kind of vehicle you drive.

If you drive a motorcycle, you are a rebel who lives life on the edge.

A small, economical sedan, you care about fuel economy and not being ‘car’ poor.

A sports car… well you know.

A truck or SUV, chances are you enjoy the outdoors and it’s not unlikely that you have a gun at home and possibly a dead animal on your wall.

A minivan, your life is over because there’s a wife and kids back at the house.

So much can be inferred or learned about a person based on their vehicle of choice… or not so much choice as necessity. Take me for example, I drive a mid-sized sedan. You can assume I have a budget-conscious wife, a decent-length commute and probably a minion or two running around the house. Those would all be fair and accurate statements.

So when a person like me, who knows how much is riding on having the ‘right’ vehicle choice, is faced with a cataclysmic dilemma in which the very fabric and foundation of the vehicle choices is shaken… it is a big deal.

We learned today my beloved four door sedan has lost her heart, and she needs a transplant. Problem is, not we aren’t sure the old girl is worth a transplant. Despite everything and all the love we have for her, it is going to be difficult for us to work it out for her to be on top of the donor list and snag that shiny new heart she so desperately needs.

So what do we do? Dump countless untold dollars into a special part of the family who is dying… or trade that sucker in for something else? It’s hard to know what is the best choice here. I would certainly hate the trade her in and make the wrong choice for a replacement vehicle. So much is riding on choosing the proper vehicle to express who Eli is.

I mention all of this for no reason other than to say, this has been a difficult week. We have a full plate and we gotta add this frustrating piece to the plate.

There ya have it. Maybe in a day or two there will be a follow up with further thoughts on how we solved this ‘crisis’. Realizing, while it is a crisis at least we have a vehicle to be stressing over. There are so many bigger, real problems in the world. Shelter, food, clean drinking water. And I’m worried about what to do with my vehicle.? Sadly, this is my reality.

We are going camping

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We have reached a new level of crazy today. We are going camping and we’re taking all the kids the dogs the kayaks everything.

This is insanity I feel like I’m going to go crazy and we haven’t even started packing things up to leave for the trip yet.

I fancy myself a reasonably intelligent individual although if I continue to do things like this I will question that.

This is very decidedly going to go one of two ways it’s either going to be epically awesome or an epic fail. 

This may sound crazy but I’m actually kind of looking forward to figuring out if it can be epic awesome epic fail. I’m not saying I want epic fail but that certainly would be something if it was epic fail to see how that would look and turn out and become.

My intention is for me to take some pictures on my iPhone because I call myself an iPhone photographer and then I’d like to share some of those along the way over the next few days.

We will see what these next couple days hold for us but I kind of would like an opportunity to write a little more about some of the things are on my mind and spend some time with Jesus but I will have to see I would have three dogs to give me three kids two dogs and a wife with me camping.

I’m excited the rest are going to be doing something this year for spring break last year we didn’t really get an opportunity to get out a couple day trips planned but it didn’t really work out the way that we had liked.

So hopefully you can join with me in over the next couple days you can see the adventures it is a life of Eli Westfall the one and only.

The Beginning of the End

Tunnel
I started this journey in October of 2007… that’s over six years ago.

Six years ago.

Today is the beginning of the end. This is the first day of class of my last term in my masters in counseling. In 9 weeks I will graduate and complete this degree. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

These last six years have been some of the hardest years of my life. Not because of this education… this education was one of the very few constants in my life over these years.

I have learned much about myself, my wife, the resiliency of my children, what authentic community feels like, the pain of losing jobs, the difficulty of financial ruin, the anguish of mental breakdown, and most importantly the unending love of my savior for me.

I also learned about the healing of restoration, the excitement of redemption and the joy of emerging on the other side of intense pain & difficulty.

By the grace of God I have emerged victorious against my foes.

There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting to this place in my life… but honestly, it isn’t the kind of feeling of accomplishment you might expect. I am proud of myself, but more than anything I am proud of the God who has gotten me through.

When I began this journey, this masters degree, I honestly wasn’t sure why I started it. I didn’t really want to be a counselor. I would have rathered an MSW (Master’s of Social Work)… I felt as though this was more up my alley and have continued to profess that over the course of 6 years. Each time reassuring myself when I complete this degree it will certainly help me in ministry. I no longer feel this way exclusively. It will help in ministry, but it also fits me very well. I enjoy counseling (actually I enjoy being on both sides of the couch, but that’s for another time) and believe I make a good counselor. I listen well. I have good insight. I offer sound, wise advice. I certainly have experienced my own pain in a way that is meaningful to others and in a way that resonates with them. I can help others because of what I have experienced. I am a better father and husband because of what I have experienced. I am more humble because of what I have experienced.

I have learned more than I can put into words about myself. One thing I have certainly learned is I am able to accomplish something. Over the last six years, more times than I care to recount, I have felt like a failure. I am not a failure.

Quite the opposite is true.

I am a Champion.

Today, I lift the head of the giant and celebrate my defiance. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

Today is the beginning of the end.

Margins

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Over the break I was talking to a friend of mine about running. We were discussing how I had recently ran 15 miles. He asked how long it takes me to do run this far. I replied about 2 hours give or take. I average nine minutes a mile or less, so a seven mile run takes roughly 63 minutes. I plan about two to two and a half hours for 15 miles. His follow up question was when do I do this. It is not uncommon for me to walk out the door to go on an hour plus run at 10 pm or later. I find time for this by running late in the day.

I began to feel guilty for finding the time to run when he replied II just don’t have the margin in my life for one hour or more of running each day. I felt like maybe I shouldn’t be finding the time either. Are my priorities out of whack because I have this margin?

I don’t think so. My health is very important to me.

Running literally is therapy for me.

I have about five therapy sessions of hour or more each week. I run because is I like it, I enjoy it. But more than that, it is essential for me to keep my mind sane. It may sound funny, but it actually need to run regularly.

For me, running is living within the margins I have established in my life to keep my life in balance. Just like eating (eating healthy foods) and sleeping are within the margins of life so is running.

Margins are in place in life to assist us to ensuring the things that matter to us have space in our lives. Margins in are place to keep us on track. Margins allow us to set priorities and then keep them. My priorities, or what is inside my margins, may not be the same as yours. Just because what’s in our margins is different, doesn’t mean either is wrong. It means we have different priorities, margins protecting different things.

That’s ok.

There’s nothing wrong with it.

Running (even for an hour or more at a time) is within my margins.

What’s in yours?

Which Star Wars character are you?

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I have generally always fancied myself a Han Solo kind of dude. Even though, when I was a young boy I refused to answer my parents unless they called me Luke Skywalker.

But Han Solo is the shiz. His carefree cavalier attitude, his quick wittedness, his ability to think on his feet and get himself out of trouble. Not to mention his dopey, lopsided grin. These are qualities I see in myself. At least in my mind.

The last two nights we have watched Episodes 1 & 2 with our boys. We have played lego Star Wars for months, they’ve watched the clone wars and now we have begun the saga at the beginning to bring them I to the fold.

But this got me to thinking about which Star Wars character am I really? Is Han the best choice for me?

I think if I am honest with myself, I am Darth Vader. Or at least Anakin Skywalker as he turned into Darth Vader. Anakin struggled with anger and controlling his fears and emotions. Anakin was reckless and often didn’t think before he acted. He regularly threw caution to the wind.

These all sound strikingly similar to me.

What do I do with this newfound knowledge?

Nothing really.

But it is an interesting note that Anakin was touted as the prophesied one who would bring balance to the force. He goes crazy and murders everyone he could get his light saber on, but ultimately is redeemed and saves his son while destroying the emperor who was the pinnacle of evil.

He was redeemed.

He became know. For something other than his struggles and missteps. He became known for something beyond his mistakes.

This is what I want also. I want to be know. For something other than my mistakes, my sins.

In the end, Darth Vader didn’t win and Anakin prevailed in the battle for his mind and soul. Anger didn’t win. Hate didn’t win.

Redemption won the day.

Epic

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Epic.

What do we mean when we say something is Epic?

It is out of the ordinary. It has blown our minds. It has stood out beyond our other experiences because it was special.

It was unique. It was disastrous. It was unbelievable. It was unreal.

It defies explanation and is therefore EPIC.

But what really makes something epic is whether we decide an ordinary experience has somehow transcended the laws of physics, space & time and has stood out as something special.

We decide.

We determine it to be EPIC.

So, what becomes epic now? Anything.

Yep. The ordinary has transcended the boundaries of the ordinary and broken into the extraordinary and is now EPIC.

This opens up a whole range of possibilities when it comes to epic-ness. The mundane, the ordinary, the normal, the routine can now be epic.

Why not? Must something really be ground breaking, earth shattering to be EPIC?

No.

EPIC-ness comes more from the meaning behind the event than the event itself. Soccer with the boys can be epic. Hiking the local state park is most certainly epic… especially when the hike ends at a spring and we jump in and swim over the hole in the earth that millions of gallons of water are spewing out of forming not just the spring we are in but a river that sustains entire ecosystems. How could not be epic?

The first time your family camps together and listens to the sounds of nature as they drift off to sleep after having huddled around a campfire with s’mores.

Kayaking in the ocean with your wife as you celebrate being married. Watching the sun rise or set with loved ones.

Building stuff and repairing things around the house with ever so helpful little hands making the task t hand take three times as long.

EPIC.

Life is full of epic-ness around us waiting to be discovered. Will you continue to live a life of the normal, or are you ready to break out and live an EPIC life?

History

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There are times when it is almost too difficult to forget where we have come from. Times when our past overwhelms and not just informs our present & future but times when that past consumes the present & future.

Today is one of those days for me. As I think through my past failures and mistakes and realize the depths of brokenness I have come from, it feels as though I haven’t come far enough. Like I haven’t overcome yet.

Truth is I haven’t overcome. I’m done. Or should I say God isn’t done with me. He isn’t done redeeming me.

I am a sinner with a broken past… a past full of hurt and damage down to those I love the most.

But that is not who I am anymore.

Who I am is a son, an heir, a sought after purchased child of God whom he has lavishly poured out his love on.

Does this erase the past? No.

But it does keep it from defining my present and future.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)