Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs - It's Complicated

It's been a week since Steve Jobs, visionary to a bevy of incredible dreams, passed away. I was amazed with the surfeit of commentaries about the man, his many accomplishments, and thousands of bread crumbs many writers left behind for us to piece together. All of these on the day of his death or shortly thereafter - the very next day.

Yet something is missing in a majority of articles and postmortem op ed's - something complicated.

As a fan who has studied Steve Jobs for years I notice there is a pink elephant in the room in a majority of pieces written about this man. This elephant has a name and his name is - Abdulfattah John Jandali.

Abdulfattah, as you may or may not know, is Steve's biological father. According to John C Abell, writer for, Jandali recently learned (2005) that he was the biological father of Steve Jobs. He and Steve's mother, Joanne Simpson, had a strained relationship. It was not until after she became pregnant with Steve, moved out, placed him for adoption, returned home - and became pregnant by Abdufattah again - that Joanne and AbduFattah were married. Only later did they separate and finally divorce.

This is where the complication begins...

It begins with the learning of Steve's conception, his early development as a child and young man and on into the final man the world just witnessed passing away. If I can be so bold, as a seasoned student of the man, there appeared an evident and gaping hole to Steve's heart. Prominently displayed for all of us to see through interaction after interaction and story to story coming out of his first time as leader of Apple, then magnified in his return to Apple in 1997. Suffice it to say, I believe a significant Father Wound motivated, shaped and drove Steve Jobs in an array of incredible directions. His wound is our wound. As sons of men it is one each of us as sons relate to, yet many of us rarely speak of.

From a simple human and biological standpoint, an intentionally involved and loving father who affirms his son regularly through his sons development from childhood onto manhood is uniquely beneficial. Of the many responsibilities a Father has is the key responsibility to see his children succeed in the fulfillment of their desires and dreams.

Abdufattah wasn't there for his son in this key regard for many reasons.

As the story lines have been previously written, Abdufattah wanted to keep and raise his son with Joanne when they discovered they were pregnant. However, Steve's mother Joanne wasn't ready for parenthood and she decided to place their baby for adoption. As well her parents were dead set against her marrying or having any part of Abdufattah's life at the time. She, with a begrudged Abdufattah placed Steve into the loving home of Paul and Clara Jobs.

It's at this point a striking kinship between the man who grew up as Steve Jobs and the men Guys For Life serves, a plethora of sons not reconciled to their true fathers begins to appear.

The Kinship is this: "Children living a life without affirming Fathers fulfill their deep need for personal/spiritual affirmation ANYWAY they can.

Coach For America's founder and pastor Joe Ehrmann writes that as young men develop they will define the terms of 'What a Man is" through three unique categories - the Ball Field, The Bedroom and the Billfold. In layman's terms a boy defines manhood, first through the Ball Field, through his athletic abilities in school as a maturing child and adolescent. Moving forward in age, young men define their manhood through the second gate - The Bedroom. In this period, their culture and peer dynamics influence and mold young men through their conquests sexually. Progressing through the first two stages the final category presents itself - The Billfold. The majority of men today define what it means to be a man through their success or failure financially.

In each category of the three "B's", according to Joe Ehrmann, a father's affirming love and intentional leading of young men through each category is paramount for a young man's development.

What I believe I witnessed with Steve Jobs was:
  • Steve as a young boy was not an athlete [no biggie]. By contrast he was an introspective computer enthusiast with close friend and mentor Steve Wosniak. Wosniak affirmed him in this role - this was Steve's Ball Field.
  • Moving forward Steve as a young man found it exhilarating to be seen with and date notable women. Most well known was his dating of the folk singer Joan Baez - this was Steve's Bedroom.
  • Finally as a mature adult we come to Steve's stepping down as CEO of Apple this past August. At the time trough circulated stories, Steve's personal financial worth was estimated at $7 billion dollars. Tirelessly leading Apple as Steve did netted this man amazing personal profits - this was Steve's Billfold.
When it comes to men our ministry serves:
  • Young men in the absence of an involved Father struggle to make themselves known as competitive players on the Ball Field of Life. They live by the success of their accomplishments athletically on one end of the spectrum while at the other end, if no athletic roots take hold, they discover ways to make themselves shine. Sometimes that shining is apparently extrovert or it's withdrawn an introverted. In any case, young boys WILL find a way to make their own Ball Field [I.E. Sports, Computers, Computer Gaming, etc.].
  • The numbers don't lie. more than 2.5 million men ages 15-24 will discover they're a Father this year. With men of little Fatherly influence, young men are left to decide themselves how they're going to address the Bedroom of manhood. Yet don't be fooled, a great number of this yearly harvest is in The Church as well as outside of it. Both secular and Christian families are affected at the same rate.
  • Finally, as they come of age and are dealing with unexpected pregnancy men without direct input from loving Fathers are left to protect their Billfold as best possible. For them the solution is easy, a quick fix - because - a child would change everything. They hold precious the expectation of what it means to be a man through their wallet. Five guys every minute under the age of 24 are making that decision as we speak - to abort or not abort. Steve Jobs was 23 [read more here].
Watching Steve through this prism of a Father Wound and then corroborating the high numbers of men our ministry counsels, the kinship between Steve and these guys becomes apparent. Men growing up without a loving, involved father during their development leads many men to fill an affirmation hole anyway they can. Many discover what suits them best and for a host of personal, psychological and spiritual reasons trudge on never knowing if its right, if its the best or if they're in danger of harming themselves or others.

Interestingly enough, in the famed movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" the TNN film produced in 1999 about the founding of Apple and Microsoft when scenes regarding Steve Wosniak [Steve's closest friend early on] and Steve Jobs became deeply personal the Father Wound would reveal itself. As Wos, would try and pry the family door open to get Steve Job's to open up and talk about his real birth parents Steve Jobs wanted no part of the discussion. Vehemently Job's would slam the door shut, every time on his friend Wos. I firmly believe there was profound truth to these scenes placed in this movie. They merely scratched the surface to Steve's complicated nature as a person.

By no means do I mean to discount the roll Paul Jobs accepted and lived out as Steve's loving adoptive father in the lat 50's. I do believe, however, in all my readings of Steve over the years a great deal of Steve's interactions with other people, be it personal or business, are blemished with the pain of Steve never receiving or processing the affirmation of his paternal father - Abdulfattah John Jandali.

I wonder, what would Steve be like as a man today, what would have happened to him all along the way, how might Apple be different - how might God have been glorified IF Steve was affirmed by his biological Father.

We'll never now. And so it remains - it's complicated.

Till next time,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Everyone's watching

Man is it hot here in St. Louis this week!

This is an actual photograph from the inside of a high school friend Linda Rehmeier's car as she left work today.

My bride is about to give birth to our tenth child in exactly two weeks and guess what? Wouldn't you know it - the AC in our 2006 Ford 15 passenger van went out!

We're in full time ministry and like churches and many other non-profits have hit their "summer slump" where when checking the post office box is proving futile for added summer donations. It's really tough right now.

Yet call me crazy - but in spite of donations literally evaporating in this summer heat - as Dad I am going to try an experiment with my kids and family. Instead of the desperate pleas, the begging and the downright force we could apply as fundraisers for the ministry we've been called to at Guys For Life I am going to take this time as Husband, Dad and ministry leader to demonstrate, as best as possible, a reliance on God which I think we all need.

Two weeks ago we took the van, loaded the kids in it, with a truck load of water and even a floor fan from home and early in the morning went to the post office, bank and store all before noon.

At first there was much screaming, pushing and shoving but then - my lovely bride began praying - inside of 15 minutes everyone settled down [even me] and as a family in the stress of incredible heat we all had one of the most memorable times as a family. I'll never forget it. Though we all wanted a shower afterwards being so sticky - hearts and minds were soothed that day.

As the hours wind down before the new baby [Oliver William Ramspott] appears I think we'll leave the door open for God to guide us and use us as his witness during this, one of the most stressful summers we've had in ministry.

I can't help but think everyone is watching. Our church, our donors, other churches, friends on Facebook, my bride and especially my children.

Isn't it time we as men, who say we're Christian demonstrate our faith in times like this?

Isn't it time we as men, who say we're Christian increase our reliance on God and shed the old ways of loving God for Him delivering us out of our temporary circumstances and love him regardless what comes our way?

Isn't it time we as men, who say we're Christians show everyone there is a God who deeply loves them regardless what they have or have not done?

Sure, this posting borders on the edge of being braggadocios, tooting my own horn, puffed up and all that jazz - I have taken that into account. But let's see what God can do.

More details soon.

Till next time,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Is it really that hard to accept to accept the verdict?

Is it really that hard to accept the verdict in yesterday's trial of Casey Anthony in Florida? Have we come to a place where we have forgotten our roots so quickly?

Are we so quick to jump to conclusions about the defense lawyers [we hate and loathe them], about the prosecution team [they're total buffoons] and about Casey Anthony [she clearly did it] that in all of this uproar for justice we are forgetting some of the tenants to our binding Christian Faith?

Call me crazy - say I don't want justice - say I am an insensitive idiot FOR NOT being disgusted and completely repulsed over the outcome of this trial - but friends - we're missing something.

Read with me:

1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you [a]considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man [b]fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to [c]ruin him without cause.” 4 Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” 6 So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your [d]power, only spare his life.”

7 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. [Job 2 1:10 NASB]

For most of us, in our flesh we feel something has been lost, that justice has not been served. That with all of our intuitive fiber - we feel - justice has escaped our earthly grasp and the enemy of God has won the day. Maybe he has, maybe he hasn't.

Our flesh crawled with disgust over what happened to precious little Caylee in her untimely death. Our hearts began to build an expectation and we were set on only receiving one answer in our minds which would truly satisfy us. GUILTY - no other verdict was acceptable.

"Guilty" was the word we were so desperately looking for yesterday and when it did not come - when it did not go as we expected - the flesh of the arm took over and our forgetful hearts, minds, mouths and all our strength cried out across thousands of call-in radio shows, internet blogs and forums to express our disgust with the legal system.

If I may, I would like to challenge that thinking.

As with Job, are we only to praise God, are we only to celebrate jury verdicts when they go our way? How about any situation in life for that matter.

No, we're not.

Regardless which way this trial went [for our against our expectation] we should embrace the outcome with a full reliance on God as our creator that justice was served.

Remember Jobs words, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?"

Think about it.

Till next time,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Don't give them ice cream, they'll turn on you...

Last week my bride Heidi went to her ladies bible study leaving me at home in charge of the kids. Normally and on almost all occasions this is no big deal. Yet, this summer is tough with the economy tight and as missionaries at Guys For Life even tighter as summer funding gets pinched.

To break the tension I have found that ice cream after a meal soothes a child's soul [actual photo of the event at left]. Matter of fact, ice cream soothes just about anybody's soul, regardless what's happening in the world or their own life.

Yet tonight was especially hard. The kids had a tough time following Heidi's lead with homeschool earlier that day. Three of them had been grounded for the day because of behavior. During the time Heidi was away and up through dinner the remaining four, who were not grounded, could not just help themselves from fighting one another. It was a really bad scene.

I thought it'd be a great application lesson for them. So I grabbed the bucket of ice cream and ice cream cones I bought earlier that day. Looking at me confused, the kids who were in trouble and the ones fighting said, "We never get treats after meals when we're grounded or in trouble" which I chose to ignore.

My wise twenty four year old daughter walked across the room saying, "Dad, what are you doing? Don't don't give them ice cream, they'll turn on you!" I scoffed at her assertion.

I made ice cream cones for every child at the table and they sat there stunned.

As I handed it out I asked them if they knew what grace was. What grace really meant and how grace is applied to each of us daily.

I remember my son Timothy saying, "Grace is receiving from God what you don't deserve - because what you really deserve is wrath." Made me proud as a father to hear that. I spoke to them that each time they get an ice cream cone they could think of Jesus on the cross paying the penalty for your and my sins. Ice cream is just so good it's as if we don't deserve it - we deserve something less wonderful.

It was sheer bliss for the next 15 minutes. The kids sat around the table with, "Mmmmm" and 'Ahhhs" as they eat their ice cream. They thanked me individually for the ice cream and then a funny thing happened - they individually admitted their sin one by one and said they're sorry.

"Hmmmmmph" I said to myself gloating over my older daughter's clearly wrong thinking that ice cream and an application lesson from me could not bring these kids around. lasted ten minutes, tops...

After ice cream I had four of them in our large tub in my room for baths. No harm right?

I closed the door and went about doing dishes from the dinner we just had.

From the kitchen I heard screaming, splashing and general foolishness and came rushing back to the bathroom. I flung the door open to see water all over the place. The towels they were going to use were soaked and the 2 year old was crying and standing on the edge of tub with soap in his eyes and the older girls were yelling at one another, fighting and hitting each other.

All I could remember was, "Don't don't give them ice cream, they'll turn on you!" and I was crushed.

What happened to these sweet innocent kids who just ten minutes ago said they were sorry for their sin? Where did the innocence go?

I cleaned them all up and no one, I mean no one, went to bed with a smile on their face.

In closing, I remember this is the same for you and me. Just because we are in our 30's and above - does not mean - we don't do the same thing to Jesus day to day.

Continually we yell, fight, curse and even accuse Him of things each day only to come before Him when remember grace is extended to us on the cross - then - like kids with ice cream we're pleasant and oh so polite. Quickly as challenges happen, we forget, and the cycle begins again.

Next time you have ice cream this summer, for me and the Ramspott's, will you remember the cross and the grace extended to you?

Till next time,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Julia Holcomb - the story continues

Today in Life News Julia Holcomb the one time partner of Steven Tyler tells her side of the story to her and Steven's abortion in 1975 and the impact it had for both of them.

May 4th Kevin Burke released an article through National Review outlining the pain of the post abortion trauma of Steven Tyler, front man for the legendary rock band Aerosmith.

In his article Kevin wrote, "Long before he won accolades as an American Idol judge, Steven Tyler was a bona-fide rock star, with all that that implied. In 1975, when he was in his late 20s and the lead singer for the band Aerosmith, Tyler persuaded the parents of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Julia Holcomb, to make him her legal guardian so that they could live together in Boston."

With the next paragraph he then shares, "When Miss Holcomb and Tyler conceived a child, his longtime friend Ray Tabano convinced Tyler that abortion was the only solution. In the Aerosmith “autobiography,” Walk This Way (in which recollections by all the band members, and their friends and lovers, were assembled by the author Stephen Davis), Tabano says: “So they had the abortion, and it really messed Steven up because it was a boy. He . . . saw the whole thing and it [messed] him up big time.”

The article which can be read in it's entirety here outlines the traumatic effect the decision abortion has on a man, specifically on one man Steven Tyler. Kevin does an amazing job at drawing out the full effect so many of us simply want to cover up.

Yet, the story does not end there...

Today in Life News Julia Holcomb, the woman Steven Tyler was with and the one Kevin Burke wrote of tells her side of the story. As we know, there are two sides to every coin.

Amazingly, with both articles you can see the dramatic impact men have in the precious decision for establishing fatherhood.

Please read Julia's response and think long and deep about the impact of men as father's in the lives of women and children and leave with this blog your thoughts on all that God imprints into your heart about men and their role.

Read Julia's response at Life News here.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;"
Psalm 103:13(NIV)

Till next time,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No way - not the Terminator!

No way. This can not be! Not the Terminator! Say it isn't so Arnold!

But alas, it is.

News reports today reveal that Arnold Scharzenegger fathered a child out of wedlock more than ten years ago with staff member of his.

At the conclusion of his term as Governor, Arnold came forward with this information. That along with his separation from long-time wife Mariah Shriver.

If you're reading this, my gut tells me that questions flowing through your mind are:
  1. Why did we not know this BEFORE he was governor?
  2. Why is this being revealed now?
As Christians loving others and trying to come along side of them we desperately try and understand the motivation of people. We earnestly want to understand their reasoning for why they do things.

Part of that desire is pure - to understand a person's motivation is beneficial to leading them to new life in Christ. If we see the path they've taken, understanding their history, we can lead them to the future.

The other part, if we are really honest is impure - we like gossip, we like drama. For whatever host of selfish desires part of the explanation of why we desperately want to know peoples reasons and motivation for doing things is strictly from a desire to feed our flesh.

Which reminded me of one of God's choice select cuts of scripture "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9

The minute I heard the news about Arnold Scharzenegger, one of my favorite movie icons, I was instinctively bummed - but not surprised.

In my flesh I began to ask the questions, "What if this had come out before the election? How did this stay hidden from all of us? Why is it convenient for him to tell us now after he's stepped down?" Then my flesh plotted evil in saying, "I know why it didn't come out? Because if it had - no way would the people of California have voted for him!"

But the sweet small voice of God was whispering in my ear, "Kurt, remember the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

And then I knew, even with Arnold's sin, or any sin I see in the life of people around me I can let it affect the way I think about people. I even discount the Gospel and I reduce the deceit in my own heart enough to realize I am worse off for thinking this way.

If you're looking at Arnold's sin, or the sin of people in your life while purposely ignorant of your own sin, deceived into thinking you're ok' and they're not - think again.

You and I need Jesus - just the same as Arnold - pray for the both of you.

Till next time,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting Your Hat Handed To You

Recently I sat down and began to meet with a new partner to me in my personal walk as a Son of the King, Husband, Father and Ministry Leader. I met with Mark Thom a real life coach. While we we're talking Mark shared something, something that profoundly riveted me to the back of my chair.

After listening to answers I gave of several of his probing questions he just piped up and said, "You know what Kurt? I've come to find out no one really cares what you think."

In our first meeting this new friend had the courage to tell me a truth I instinctively knew, but rarely admitted in my own heart.

To test his theory I tried something this week as a social experiment to prove or disprove his theory.

Using the social network FaceBook three days ago I left a message expressing my opinion on a particular subject. Within one hour I had zero responses. Within three hours I had an amazing repeat of the first hour - zero responses. It's been three days since I posted that message and with not a single comment, my first test is holding up rather nicely - no response at all.

Yet when I posted a benign and endearing message like this on Facebook yesterday:

Most nights I put my son Johny to bed. With my IPhone I look up old shows like The Banana Splits, HR Pufnstuff, Battle of the Planets and Johnny Sokko and his Robot. I can see amazing values and virtues in the shows of my youth but not TV today. What shows do you remember?

Can you guess what happened?

Within the first hour of it's posting ten different people responded with what they remember watching as a child on television. It's been just over twenty-four hours since that post and wouldn't you know, twenty-seven people have responded.

My new friend Mark, with tongue in cheek, quietly and calmly reminded me of the adage, 'People don't care how much you know - till they know how much you care."

This universal truth is paramount to us as people. We all want to be heard, we all want to be affirmed - and our propensity to continually spill out our opinion [regardless the matter, regardless the situation and regardless the tact] is evidence to this amazing truth.

So for us as Christians, investing in the lives of others remember this:

"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:14-17 NIV

Everyone, whether Christian or not is constantly in their heart crying out like little children, "Abba Father, see me, hear me - acknowledge me!"

Will you have the capacity to be reminded like I was, that no-one cares what you think and hear them?

Till next time,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What would you give up? Really give up.

Rolling Stone wrote writer Stepehn Holden wrote"Phoebe Snow has made it. On a musical level she shows the potential of becoming a great jazz singer. Among confessional pop songwriters she immediately ranks with the finest."

Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1976, Dennis Hunt said Phoebe's voice had "a marvelous 'cracked' quality" and added she "glides through and glances off notes in an appealing offbeat manner."

This amazing artist Phoebe Snow was a - one of a kind - in more than one sense of the term.

With a music and entertainment industry desperately built on the 'next greatest thing', Phoebe's work was soon to be a purine source of provocative fuel for years to come - or so the industry thought.

That is until she gave birth to her daughter, Valerie Rose Laub in 1975. Valerie was born with severe brain damage and in the eyes of the industry Phoebe was a burden to this up and coming artist.
Yet Valerie was not a burden to her mother Phoebe, who forfeited a career as well a marriage to be the sole caretaker of her precious child.

Phoebe made the incredible decision - against the industry - against the norms - against the suggestions of the people to institutionalize her daughter - to raise her on her own.
For thirty-one years Phoebe was the sole caretaker of her daughter Valerie Rose till her death in 2007. Phoebe personally shared in 2008 Valerie her daughter had been “the only thing that was holding me together. My life was her, completely about her, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed at night."

Sue Cameron, Phoebe's manager said the singer “was one of the brightest, funniest and most talented singer-songwriters of all time and, more importantly, a magnificent mother to her late brain-damaged daughter, Valerie, for 31 years." Closing with, "Phoebe felt that was her greatest accomplishment."

Phoebe Snow, one of America's most inspiring singer-songwriters, and more importantly a vision of motherhood, passed away one week ago on April 26th, 2011.

Articles crossing the spectrum of music and entertainment write that Phoebe never quite made it back to that pivotal moment in her career. That despite the attempts since her hits in the 70's, she came up short - insinuating - 'if it just had not been for that child, Phoebe could have been so much more.'

This writer believes Phoebe was more than the sum of her music, the disposable fuel the industry so desperately needs and is not bound by simple earthly accomplishments. Phoebe Snow leaves with us all the thought: "What would you give up? Really give up? To love another, to continue a life commitment, a gift of life - what would you really give?"

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

Till next time,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Never lead with the Truth

In a world of hurt and a life full of unanswered questions, where people simply want their problems solved, never lead them with the truth, they can't handle it.

It was one of the hardest things for me to listen to after two days of solid men's ministry training. During my ride to the airport with the man leading the men's program he broke me the news, "Kurt, I have spoken with our guys and while we appreciate your training, we've decided to bring these guys the truth [the Gospel] because that's what they really need."

To say I was taken back was an understatement. Quickly I remembered asking "Why?" would put this man on the defensive so I inquired, "That's an interesting position. What would lead you and your men to this conclusion?" His response was one that I hear quite often. "Well, none of us guys are very good at building relationships, and for the most part, we were challenged by what you said to meet guys needs first. So we talked and decided to do what we know best, bring guys the truth they so desperately need."

We still had an hour's ride to the airport together so as best I could I reasoned with this man, an elder at his church, to think back on his training and remember where we went over Jesus meeting peoples needs first - then delivering them the truth. I shared, "Whether it be a blind man, a crippled beggar or someone with leprosy we never see Jesus asking someone "What are your sins?" as the very first thing He does with people, do we?" Sitting their quietly for a few seconds he responded, "No, He didn't." Yet, going to a place which was comfortable to him, this man went back to his reasoning that his guys weren't good at building relationships and truly what people need is the Gospel truth of Jesus.

It was as if all the training they had spent money for with me and Guys For Life had just vaporized.

I can remember how painful it was thinking, "These guys are nailing their own coffin in developing a men's program" as he took my carry on luggage out of the trunk of his car. Time came to a crawl and it was eerie giving the typical church guy hug as we parted. Going into the terminal I found a window watching him pull away and I prayed, 'Lord, God reach these guys in a new way and give them the freedom to stretch their faith."

Not six months after their start, this man and his men's program folded in on itself.

Starting with the truth, the full weight of the Gospel, while in our gut feels right as Christians to give to other people as the first thing we do them it's not what people who are hurting actually need at the time. As my buddy Dirk in my men's bible study constantly shares, "The more stress people are under, the less truth they can handle."

Jesus knew that about us. He knew that as we get stressed, filled with anxiety our minds can handle only basic functions [heart beating, breathing, maybe even walking] and to overload the system with immeasurable truth would crush us. Therefore, by way of great example He showed us the way - heal their wounds, listen to their hearts, lift them up and meet their needs. In so doing He reduced their stress, relieved their anxiety and in addition reached peoples hearts and minds.

Once their problems were addressed their minds had the capacity to handle the full weight of the truth and He delivered it to them.

The same is true for us. Whether it be as husbands, fathers, friends, mentors or disciples - if someone is coming to us in great need, under tremendous stress or anxiety - meet the need first, and then follow up with the truth when they can handle it.

Here's a few examples to bring it home: Matthew 8:1-4, Matthew 9:27-29, Luke 13:10-13

Till next time,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Seven questions with Moses - a mentor to new-found fathers.

If you're like me during this season of Easter and Passover sometime late Sunday evening after all the family festivities are over, your mind will remember the countless times you saw Charlton Heston playing the role of Moses in Cecil B. Demille's Ten Commandments on network television. Seeing the transformation of Moses always impresses me as to the Lord's patient handiwork of us as sons, fathers and leaders.

Yet, how many of us would consider Moses to be a great mentor to a guy in new-found fatherhood. Could you see this stony white-haired figure taking the time to sit down and speak with a young man who just found out he's a father? A kid totally unprepared to handle the situation. Can you see Moses taking the time to counsel a man? Tattoos and low riding jeans on one side and a distinguished figure in Hebrew garb on the other. Can you see it?

No, I didn't think so. But it was worth the shot to get your mind racing and your juices flowing.

Here's why:

I'd contend that a unique portion of scripture, something Moses requested, is by far one of the greatest tools you can use in meeting with a young man facing new-found fatherhood for the very first time. Read with me:

"When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)" Number 13:17-20 (NIV)

Not convinced?

Let's unpack each request one by one:

1) See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many? What's this young man's home life like? What's the relationship with his parents, siblings and friends reveal to you? How does this young man's peer group of family and friends bear down on his decision making process?

2) What kind of land to they live in? Probe a little more. What is the cultural makeup of this young man's home, school and work life like as a whole picture? What are the societal norms he is going to come against, flow with or avoid as a result of this pregnancy. You need to know this - 72% of young men facing unplanned pregnancy rely on their friends for advice FIRST before seeking the counsel of their elders, specifically parents.

3) Is it good or bad? Probing even more. Discover the potholes, the battles this young man is going to face internally and externally. No plant can grow in bad soil, as well a child, a young mother and father will also have a hard time growing if the soil is not good. Do what you can to exploit that soil in his life which is good.

4) What kind of towns do they live in? Drilling down - How is this young man's very own home and direct neighborhood impact for the positive or negative a decision to stand by the woman he's responsible for and child he's a father too? What will you have to help him unpack to prepare for these uncovered realities?

5) Are they unwalled or fortified? Can you identify the strongest opponent in this man's life? Who will come against him and his desires? Does he feel beholden to someone? Is there an influence in this man's life that you can see that would have a negative impact on this man taking a stand?

6) How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Are there people or other organizations this man is part of that bring him joy, lift him up and encourage him that could be leveraged to help him and help you encourage him to doing what's right? Have you uncovered anything in this man's immediate circle, personal or otherwise, that can help promote positive growth?

7) Do your best to bring back some fruit of the land. (personally my favorite request of the seven) Moses asks the spies to bring back fruit (I.E. God's greater good) and prove to those watching of God's promise being true. As for you, what can you uncover in this young man's life that is GOOD? Something about him personally that you can build on. Something that as I like to say, 'Honors the man'. Affirm him, let him know if he's here with you, there's something good deep down inside of him and you'd like to help him dig it out.

Seven powerful requests of Moses that you can use to get a 'lay of the land' in a young man's life.

I hope these suggestions have been of great help to you in your ability to reach and love men through this season of their lives, their child's lives and the women they are responsible for.

Till next time,

Monday, April 4, 2011

You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears...

Looking at this wonderful painting by Rapheal of Paul addressing the crowds in Athens I can see the parallel between what Paul is facing with a mixed crowd of philosophers - and us today - as mentors in men's lives - it's also a mixed crowd.

Click the image [then return to this blog] and see how well Rapheal captured what Paul encountered. Notice the range of response to what he's saying. Even the men in the center of the image seemingly not interested, talking to themselves, have a deeply significant meaning in what Raphel is trying to stress about this account of Paul in the book of Acts 17:16-34 [please read the biblical account before continuing with this blog].

What Paul is addressing - a crowd of mixed beliefs - is not much different than what we encounter mentoring and discipling young men in new found fatherhood.

Here's the parallel:
  1. Paul comes to Athens a city chock full of idols and is majorly bothered.
  2. Rather than go on a witch hunt he takes time to build relationships with Jews, Greeks [who fear God] and anybody who'll talk to him for a couple of days [in other words, like Jesus amongst sinners and tax collectors, he gets to know people intimately].
  3. As a result some of the locals get wind of what's he is sharing and ask A) What is this new teaching? and B) You are bringing us new thoughts. What do they mean?
  4. Having gained their rapport Paul then shares with them the Gospel through the prism of their critical thinking process.
  5. At the conclusion of Paul's great presentation of Jesus Christ A) some guys blew him off B) Others wanted more C) Some went as far to follow Paul and then believe him and the Gospel of hope in Christ Jesus.
When it comes to a highly successful men's ministry reaching men in new-found fatherhood take a look:
  1. Many men come forward to serve faithfully after seeing a world in decay destroy the role of fatherhood.
  2. Letting go of their personal pride, they take time to learn, gut-check their motivations for serving God and spend a great deal of time building relationships with younger men [whom make huge mistakes] then in their and heart mind forgive them and love them trough their development process as Dad's.
  3. Many young men respond literally by saying, "I've never heard these type of thoughts you're bringing me, this is new. I'd like to learn more..."
  4. With an open door, after serving a man's literal needs, they deliver the hope that has personally rescued them - the hope of Jesus Christ.
  5. When they do, you know, some guys blow them off and leave. Yet some say they still want to learn more - but the best thing is - some guys make a real heart connection with their mentor, follow his leading and believe in Jesus Christ as their savior - turning their life around.
What a privilege it is to mimic Paul [1 Cor. 4:16] and actually see that what he preached about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is absolutely true.

I know it might be a strange idea coming to you ears [and eyes] but try it my friends. Imitate Paul who is following Jesus Christ and I promise you the same results.
  • Some will sneer and blow you off.
  • Some will want more.
  • Some will come to believe in Jesus and turn their life around.
What have you got to lose? A sixty-six percent closing ratio is more than good. Amen?

Till next time,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why is it hard to get male volunteers? What can we do?

Office Away From the Office from Guys For Life International on Vimeo.

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Linda Trask, Executive Director for the Care-Net Pregnancy Center - Lakes Region in Laconia, New Hampshire. While we were on the phone she shared how hard it is for her to attract and then keep male volunteers at her pregnancy care center. Many male clients shirk their appointments and leave male volunteers high and dry with wasted time. This is an all too common part of the conversation I hear from many pregnancy care centers around the country.

There are a host of reasons this phenomenon occurs such as not having a male friendly environment, the fact that over forty-five percent of pregnancy care centers predominantly use the words "Woman", "Women" in their agency titles and others. Men as clients, and ultimately volunteers, don't feel welcome in this environment. However, I have seen these issues being addressed for the last seven years and it brings me great joy to see so many pregnancy care centers understand the unplanned pregnancy issue is a "them" dilemma and not a "her" issue alone. The tide is changing.

It's going to take more than a name change, paint scheme and having male brochures on hand to turn this problem around. If I may, I would enjoy challenging you to go one step deeper in your understanding of why you may find it difficult in attracting and keeping male volunteers. It comes, from all sources, God's word:

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Deuteronomy 25:4

A key reason many men do not come forward to volunteer is the simple fact that many men weigh the investment you're asking them to make as a volunteer as 'too high' or 'too rich' against the backdrop of the jobs/career and income they need to generate as the leaders of their home. In their spirit, they feel they would be muzzled in their capacity to logically provide support to you faithfully - then meet their key responsibilities as provider for their families. Therefore many a good man goes walking by - yet your legitimate need for male volunteers still exists.

A challenging predicament for sure, but one that is quite easily overcome. Things are not as bad as they seem. Follow me:

Some of the best mentors you could ever attract to work with male clients are those men in the workforce whose jobs or careers lead them to being ‘mobile’ or 'on the go' (salesmen, small business entrepreneurs, etc.). Most of the time these men need an “Office Away From the Office”. If you were to provide them a secure place where while they wait for males client to present themselves your male volunteers could complete the work their employers have hired them for.

Returning calls - writing quotes - developing presentations - forming contracts - follow up...

The concept is simple - provide men an office away from the office - many pregnancy care centers we have trained are doing it.

  1. Designated area for work (Office, Desk, networked computer)
  2. WI-FI internet availability, wireless internet access points (for his laptop, IPad, etc.)
  3. Wi-FI Color Laser Printer
  4. Ample Office Supplies
  5. Small Refrigerator with water and refreshments
  6. Peace and Quiet
This is a win-win-win. The idea being that while he is waiting the male volunteer is productive and hitting his primary goals to his employer and family with your goals secondary.

By allowing men to use your office environment as a quiet secure place where they can meet their primary goals your organization will logically become more attractive to the potential male mentor wanting to help you, but realistically knowing he has other priorities that must come first.

Download the Office Away From the Office one-pager to discuss with your team, male volunteers and donors/partners that can make it happen.

Till next time,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

'Going Fishing' and Reaching Men in Need

He said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men". Using the backdrop of a fishing community as a way of life, Jesus positioned rather nicely, the fishing community to illustrate His ministry. The parallel of men fishing for a livelihood and how easily transferable the thought of men fishing for men's hearts minds was brilliant.

It's not far off when marketing services to male clients who find themselves in the throws of new found fatherhood. A key element to 'fishing for male clients' is your ability to attract male clients by selecting the right tackle and your means to cast the right bait before them. You want to solidly 'hook' them on the love and support you can provide them.

There are four measures [types of tackle and techniques] to attracting male clients to your services. They are Service, Cost, Place and Proclaim. We'll get to these terms in just a moment.

In the past we would have called these four measures your "marketing mix". This is a term Neil H. Borden presented in an article, The Concept of the Marketing Mix. Borden referenced this idea when he taught through his discovery of James Culliton's notion of a marketing manager as a "mixer of ingredients" just before the 50's. Borden's 'marketing mix' included product planning, pricing, branding, distribution channels, personal selling, advertising, promotions, packaging, display, servicing, physical handling, and finally fact finding and analysis. It was E. Jerome McCarthy who later linked these ingredients into four categories many of us know today as the 4 P's of marketing Product - Place - Price and Promotion.

Yet for a non-profit, seeking to work with men a concept known as 'marketing mix', while so very close in terminology, requires a subtly different tone and approach to reaching men in need. Using the fishing analogy to catch men, think of the terms Service, Cost, Place and Proclaim as the lures you have in your tackle box that you're going to go fishing with.

Tackle #1 - SERVICE - (2 Cor. 9:12-14) The term "Service" refers to the tangible, physical services you provide men. Here are some examples of the service decisions you will need to make in order to be most attractive to men's hearts:
  • Brand name - Give your service a name that reaches men's hearts - resonates with them
  • Functionality - Make it a “No brainer”
  • Styling - Is your style from the 70's, 80's, 90's or is it today?
  • Quality - Best, Best, Best - half measures are scorned
  • Safety - Make a guy feel secure, does he feel welcome and secure?
  • Presentation - Make it sincere, real and transparent
  • Support - Go beyond business hours
  • Promise - (Matt 5:37) Oath & Vows - yes, stick to your word
  • Services - No Snags, make it seamless
Tackle #2 - COST - (Luke 14:28-30) - Similar to Price in the 4P's of marketing is COST. What is the literal cost to a man wanting to receive services from you? Not so must cost in a literal dollars and pennies proposition, but a cost of time and energy. Here are five thoughts you'll have to consider:
  • Suggested Investment - Layout the cost for being involved with you
  • Cost Strategy - Compare your cost to other cost choices (Planned Parenthood)
  • Investment Incentives - Show the payoff, in his terms
  • Bundle multiple payoffs - Show more than one positive payoff
  • Cost Flexibility - Show variance of payoff from low to high
  • Cost Discrimination - Be able to show the real value of a decision with you vs. the competition
Tackle #3 - PLACE - (Matthew 13:3-9) - Simply put, where will men encounter the services you want to provide them? Have you thought of:
  • Administering Services - on-site & off-site. Some of the best ways to service guys are 'outside' your four walls.
  • Market coverage - how far and how deep will you go to serve men?
  • Specific service members - who gets to serve men where they're at? Can you scan your team and decide in advance how to match a particular mentor to a particular client?
  • Inventory Management - What do you need on hand to serve men and make them feel welcome?
  • Client Processing - How few steps can you take to keep info fresh and up to date, the more steps he's gotta take - the faster he leaves.
  • Transportation - How far will you go to get men? Can you transport them as an added benefit?
Tackle #4 - PROCLAIM - (Luke 14:17-19) In the context of a ministry's marketing mix, “Proclaiming” represents the various methods of marketing communication. The communication of information about your services with the goal of generating a positive client response. “Proclaiming” decisions include:
  • Promotional strategy - Will it be a “push” strategy like Abstinence or a “pull” strategy like Unplanned Pregnancy counseling? What is your strategy otherwise which makes them take a listening to what you have to say?
  • Advertising - How will you get word to men where they are most accessible?
  • Personal Proclaiming - How can you use your very own story to reach men? [by far, the most effective]
  • Public relations & publicity -Who can you partner with who is sympathetic to your work - which will give you access to guys? [The courts, hospitals, etc.]
  • Marketing Communications Budget - create a short-term to long-term budget.
Working the elements of Service, Cost, Place and Proclaim appropriately could lead to incredible nets full of men turning their lives around in protection of the women and children in their lives.

Till next time,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why the board needs to be on board

After four years of leading more than 300 pregnancy care centers to begin intentional men's programs there's one simple truth we've learned at Guys For Life. That is: "If the board of directors ain't on board with starting a men's program - T'aint nothing gonna get done about it - period."

At first glance that statement might sound harsh, even considered a hard edged thing to say by some. In reality it isn't a hard thing to say; it's one of the best things we could have discovered as an organization over time.

We've learned a highly qualified, strategic and purposeful board of directors who keep the main thing, the main thing, are responsible for a great number of uniquely selected initiatives . As a team they have got to be on board with a men's program as One-Team One Dream if a men's program is going to work well within their ministry model and have any chance of being successful.

Hence, should anyone want to start a men's program at a pregnancy care center, or like minded organization, we've developed a list of the top ten responsibilities of a board of directors [thanks to BoardSource] with specific suggestions from Guys For Life for Christian non-profits. This list should help anyone bridge the gap between them and a board of directors to join your vision of men's ministry:

Top Ten Responsibilities of a Non-Profit Board of Directors

1. Determine the organization's mission and purpose.
  • Ultimately, that by adding a Men’s Ministry [if you are Christ centered] the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be advanced (often considered a “DUH”, spell it out for them).
  • The Men’s Ministry enhances the mission and purpose and does not slow it down or distract from it.
  • Will the addition of a Men’s Ministry actually cause the mission and vision statement to change? (I.E. “Women”) Could it even impact a name change?
2. Select the chief executive.
  • You won’t be selecting the chief executive, however, how will a men’s ministry impact the workload of the chief executive (positively/negatively)?
  • How can a chief executive ‘parlay’ the men’s ministry with key donors and other community organizations for deeper levels of involvement? (Actually prepare this for them)
  • How/where will the Men’s Ministry come under the leadership of the chief executive?
3. Provide proper financial oversight.
  • A budget. Plain and simple. Start off small and build up. (Humble beginnings can be used by the Lord.
  • A fundraising plan - plans that do not counter the overall ministry and strengthen it.
  • Help with Partners (donors) to bring the lost ones back and forge new territory with prospective partners.
4. Ensure adequate resources.
  • An annual list of what you physically need in the form of supportive resources (well thought out and justified).
  • Additionally a list of conferences and training you see lifting up the male mentors and leaders to execute the mission.
  • People - Can the board be helpful to pointing you out to people groups they are associated with (CBMC, men’s groups, other organizations) that a volunteer presentation could be made?
5. Ensure legal and ethical integrity and maintain accountability.
  • Assurance that men’s program will be compliant with current policies of organization (search it out, are you?).
  • Men’s program is covered by center’s insurance (off-site, transport, etc.)
  • Men’s program is providing a “look in” into what they are planning and doing - No surprises!
6. Ensure effective organizational planning.
  • Making sure Men’s plan is in the Strategic Plan seamlessly and not disruptively (Dove Tail).
  • Any Men’s plans are well thought out from “Concept” to “Final Impact”.
  • Back up Plans - Prepare “What If” scenarios.
7. Recruit and orient new board members and assess board performance.
  • The Men’s Ministry will broaden the reach and impact of the overall ministry. As such the men’s program will be a great tool for reaching new board members.
8. Enhance the organization's public standing.
  • Testimonies - Gather victories in print and video (put ample resources in their hands to give out and use socially).
  • Program Highlights - Gather victories in print and video (put ample resources in their hands to give out and use socially).
  • Encouragement - Times will get tough and board members will struggle and wrestle. Make sure you have ample examples of how God is winning!
9. Determine, monitor, and strengthen the organization's programs and services.
  • Honest input - What’s working, what’s not working. Tell it like it is, let God be your defender.
  • Challenging input - The stuff they might not want to hear, but need to hear - respectfully and God honoring.
  • Suggested Changes - Don’t just bring them a problem, pack 1-3 solutions to each problem you can identify.
10. Support the chief executive and assess his or her performance.
  • Assurance that the Men’s Ministry are behind this person 100% and will give them their all (submit to Jesus).
  • Proof that the men’s program is not “needy” but rather a blessing to the leader and propels them further in excellence in Christ Jesus.
Should you 'come under' the leadership of the board lifting them up in this manner your men's program, and practically any other component of ministry not being addressed, will have a greater chance of 'buy in'. From there the overall general interest of the board for these initiatives should rise as each sides begins to respect the other. Up and to all the way through completion of the program should be protected once these considerations are put in place.

Till next time,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Who wants to be a Mentor and Why

Recently my bride Heidi and I watched a great documentary called Waiting For Superman. Written and directed by Davis Guggenheim the film underscores why America's public school system is failing. With a quick pivot Davis spotlight's what is working - charter schools - and Heidi and I quickly noticed why they are working. "Charter Schools foster students with highly qualified and highly motivated teachers as mentors."

In an instant, the answer to failing schools jumped off the screen. A highly interested, motivated and qualified mentor working with students for extended periods of quality time makes a difference. Giving students a total school life with great mentors gives him/her the advantage they need to succeed.

The same is true for men as mentors in the lives of men discovering new-found fatherhood.

Rewritten we could say - "A highly interested, motivated and qualified mentor working with new fathers for extended periods of quality time makes the difference in a father and family getting a 'fighting chance to make it'".

Yet, for us Christian guys looking to make difference in the world and the chance to impact a father, mother and unborn child what's some of the important stuff that's gotta be in the head and heart first, before we make a move to love these guys?

Take a good look at this: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Notice something? A guy who wants to be a mentor of young men in new-found fatherhood needs to possess a few traits such as:

1) His message is God’s good news (v.2).
2) His motive is not impurity (v.3).
3) He does not do his work to please people (v.4).
4) He works/serves/ministers to please God (v.4) .
5) His manner is not one of trickery (v.3), flattery (v.5) or a cover up (v.5).
6) Rather his manner is one of courage (v.2), gentleness (v.7), love (vv. 8,11), toil (v.9) and holiness (v.10).

But you say - "Kurt, that's impossible. I have been in sales, I have been in management, I have been in leadership and not many people really spread God's good news, right? Everybody tries to please people, not many people live to please God. I know you gotta use trickery, flattery and cover up watcha can!" C'mon, don't be so strict - we're all good guys just trying to help out".

As founder of Guys For Life, you know what I say to that, "Nope I am not kidding. This is EXACTLY who wants to be a mentor and why." Being a good guy, ignoring these core principles and helping guys like you want to may work for a while. Yet in the end, you'll run outta fuel trying to help, get discouraged and move onto something else.

So where do you find these kind of men?

Try here:
  • Retired pastors (Your Pastor - they communicate with other pastors)
  • Retired men (Your church, men in your life, fathers, uncles, etc.)
  • Elders & Deacons not serving (Your church)
  • Men who have experienced and unplanned pregnancy for the + or - (an agency you are connected with)
  • Bi-Vocational Pastors (Your Church, seminaries placing pastors in your area)
  • Seminary Students (especially those pursuing an M.A.C.S) (Seminaries in your area)
  • College Students who have a practicum to fulfill in counseling (Communicate with all colleges in area)
  • Christian Psychology majors (Communicate with all colleges in area)
  • Members of churches that have strong and established Pro-Life groups (Your organization should know this)
  • Men enrolled in Promise Keepers, Men’s Fraternity, Men at the Cross, The Timothy Project
  • Young and budding churches who have a strong focus on outreach (inner-city) (Relevant
  • C.B.M.C groups (Christian Business Men’s Committee) and similar groups
These are the men who want to be mentors and why and where you can find them. Now go get 'em!

Till next time,