Posts in category Being a mentor

Letters that transform



Letters that transformI have several handwritten cards saved from as far back as when I was a boy. They’re heavy stock 3-by-5 cards with the initials JFK at the top. These notes are golden … treasured. I loved getting them and I saved them to read again. I still read them. They assured me I was significant, I was valued, I was loved.

No, they didn’t come from the president, but someone much more important to me. The writer of these notes was a congressman, an athlete, my dad – Jack French Kemp.

When I was a boy I’d find these notes on my pillow or in my spot at the table. My dad continued to send them well into my adulthood. I valued those notes not for what they said about him, but what they said about me. He loved me. He believed in me. He was proud of me. He encouraged me.

Dad was a busy man who traveled too much, perhaps. But even in his absence he communicated love, and he took the time to leave it in ink on paper.

Most of us get too busy to write down in notes and letters our love and admiration for our parents, our wives, our children, or our grandchildren. But when we take the time to write them, our letters of love change the lives of our loved ones because they put to words what often goes unspoken — how much they mean to us. Children, especially, are desperate to know what their parents really think of them.

In case you think I’m overplaying the significance of these kinds of notes, it’s happening this year in the lives of single parents and their sons on a Los Angeles high school football team.

It all began when a 32-year-old coach asked the parents of all his players to write a letter of affirmation and love to their sons. Masaki Matsumoto had actually picked up the powerful idea from a coach near Seattle, but it resonated with him. Having been raised by his mom, Masaki knew how stretched single parents are. He also knew how hungry teenagers are to know how much their parents love them.

Coach Matsumoto asked the parents to get these special letters to him by the beginning of the practice season.

When 45 varsity football players arrived at the school’s gymnasium in July, they anticipated performing conditioning exercises. Instead, each was handed an envelope and told to find a quiet spot where he could read what was inside and reflect. What happened next took everyone by surprise. For the next 15 minutes or so, wherever Matsumoto looked he saw players sobbing — against walls, in corners, bent over in chairs.

The letters built connection. They brought everyone together as family.

BernsteinFootballLetters

I love stories like this because every one of us can replicate it. Not the football team part of it, but the letters are a gift we can give to our children, our grandchildren, even to our parents.

I’ve gotten letters like this from my dad … and I’ve written them to my sons. My wife has prompted my sons to write them to me for a special occasion and I’ve challenged them to do the same for her.

Whether you are the President or a congressman, a high school coach, a parent or a grandparent … I challenge you to schedule time this week to write a letter to a child or grandchild. Put yourself in their shoes and tell them what they want and need to hear.

Start by drafting a bullet point list of their positive character traits. Build on it by affirming their talents and dreams. Declare your love and pride in them. Apologize for your shortcomings.

Write those letters that transform — that will unleash your love and confidence. They may be the words that change a relationship.

The making of a champion’s identity



SeahawksHelmetBallMost problems in our lives stem from lack of confidence, insecurity, and fears.  These trace back to something fundamental about our identity: we don’t truly know who we are … and whose we are.

Society makes it hard to figure that out because it defines success and identity by performance, popularity, and prosperity. The making of a champion is about more than that.

People worldwide obsess over pro sports (in the U.S. we pour $30 billion into four major sports!). The idolization and focus on pro athletes is intense. Imagine how easy it is for these athletes to wrap themselves in that identity — an identity which is volatile and will end quickly.

As a pro athlete, I went through that identity-shaking transition. It’s hard. I’ve seen a lot of NFL players deeply struggle with identity, but that struggle isn’t confined only to athletes. Outside sports, teenagers struggle, women struggle, men struggle.

That solution struggle for true identity is captured in a video recently forwarded to me by my son, Kory. In the video, several players and coaches from the Seattle Seahawks use their pro football platform to point others to the only ultimate solution in life for true identity — the great news of God’s love for us through Jesus.

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It is so cool to see these NFL guys realize that who they are is really defined by who God sees them to be. They explain from personal experience that there’s a bigger and better confidence than one based on success and circumstances … even when you’re living your dream as an NFL player.

This is a great video to share with sons or daughters about how to be a champion in life, in the deepest sense. You can share it with a buddy who loves football, but who doesn’t yet understand the love of God. Star quarterback Russell Wilson and others in the video talk football, and they talk life. They share that their identity and satisfaction doesn’t come from their accomplishments, but from their relationship with Christ. It comes from knowing Him, surrendering to Him, and knowing the truth about who He makes us to be.

Check out the whole video, but especially these keys to identity and fulfillment:

  • What it means to be a champion (3:25-4:40)
  • Making the pros doesn’t fulfill (4:56-5:58, 8:25-9:51)
  • Putting your confidence in a God who’s bigger than sports (9:52-11:20)
  • Using your profession as a platform (11:20-12:42)
  • Life in Christ fulfills, and how you can have a relationship with Christ (12:55-end)

Grasping our true identity is a key to facing life.  So, enjoy and share an inside look into the spiritual core of some children of God … who happen to play football in the NFL.

Jeff Kemp quarterbacked for eleven seasons in the NFL, and with the Seahawks from 1987-1991.

Broadcasts for men (and their wives)



Recently the FamilyLife Today radio program featured a solid week of broadcasts about Stepping Up to Manhood.  On the first three days Dennis Rainey spoke to men, and on the final two days Barbara Rainey told women five right and five wrong ways to help their husbands step up.

These powerful broadcasts for men (and their wives) are worth listening to.  Here are the titles, descriptions, and links:

Broadcasts for men - Dennis Rainey - FamilyLife TodayThe Power of a Father’s InfluenceThere is confusion today about the meaning of manhood. Dennis calls men to step up and be real men — strong, purposeful, and spiritual. Hear Dennis tell how a father’s influence can be the compass that points a boy to true masculinity.

Defining the Search for ManhoodThere’s something in a man that inspires him to be a warrior. Hear Dennis encourage men to give their sons a vision of manhood.

Taking the Journey Up the Steps to ManhoodDennis talks about the four steps that need to be applied to help a boy develop into a man.

Broadcasts for men - Barbara Rainey - FamilyLife TodayBarbara Shares “The Wrong Way” Women Can Help – Barbara Rainey, talks frankly to women about the five things that hinder manly development.

Barbara Shares “The Right Way” Women Can Help – Barbara gives wives five suggestions for encouraging their husbands toward manhood.

The lasting impact of a spiritual patriarch



How can I use my gifts to advance the Kingdom of God in my community and in my world?

One of the ways a man steps up to become a patriarch is by beginning to use his experience, and his influence to have an impact beyond his family. He wants to leave a mark on his world.

I want to tell you about a friend of mine: a man who became a mentor, a man who I think of as a spiritual patriarch.

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Have you had someone in your life who you consider a patriarch? Share your story.

Learn more about Dennis’ spiritual patriarch, Bill Bright, one of the world’s most influential Christian leaders.

Courageous men and dads are warriors who protect



As a husband and father, you are the warrior who has been charged with the duty of pushing back against the evil that seeks to prey on your wife, daughters, and sons. If you don’t step up, who will?

Courageous Men Step Up

FatherProtectFromMontageIt began as a shopping date with my daughter, Laura, who was 13 at the time. I never dreamed it would end the way it did.

Laura decided that she wanted to go where her older brothers and sisters went to shop at the time—

In the store, Laura found a beautiful baby blue sweater, and she went to the dressing room to try it on. While I was waiting I noticed a life-sized poster of a young man completely nude, leaning up on a boat dock knee deep in water. The shot was from behind, but I had not asked to see that guy chilling in his birthday suit.

I stood there looking at that poster, thinking that this was a clothing store, and how inappropriate that poster was for my daughter and other girls to see. Finally, I asked if I could please talk with the manager. The young man, who couldn’t have been over 30, came over and I greeted him with a smile. I shared with him that I had six children and was a good customer; then I said very kindly, “This picture … I’m sorry, but it’s just indecent.”  I thought I’d get agreement. Abercrombie and Fitch.

Instead he quipped, “I beg to differ with you, sir. By whose standards?”

A little stunned by his response, I replied with measured firmness, “By any standard of real morality.”

By that time, Laura had wandered back with her sweater. I pointed to the picture of the chiseled, buff-buddy’s buns, looked the manager squarely in the eyes, and said, “Sir, if that picture is not indecent, then I’d like you to drop your pants and get in a similar pose to that guy in the picture.”

He looked at the picture, then my daughter, and back at me. He looked like a deer in the headlights. There was a moment of silence, full of anticipation. Then he shook his head and said, “Huh-uh.”

I probably shouldn’t have pressed the point, but I added, “Come on, you said that picture is not indecent. Come on, drop ’em.”

“Huh-uh.”

I smiled and said, “You know, it’s a good thing you didn’t drop your pants, because you could have been arrested for indecent exposure.”

Then he replied, “Well, if you think that’s bad, you should see our catalog.”

So I went over and opened the catalog. One photo showed four teenage girls in bed with a boy; I’m not sure what they were advertising — maybe bedsheets — because none of them had clothes on. I pushed the catalog back and said, “I’d like you to take my name and phone number. I’d like someone from your corporate office to give me a call.”

To which he politely said, “Sir, I can take your name and address but they’re not interested. They really don’t care what you think.”

My response was kind, but firm: “I just want you to know I’m just one customer. I’m just a daddy of six kids, but I’ve got a lot of friends. And I want you to know that wherever I go, I’m going to use this episode as an illustration of a company that doesn’t care about the future of our young people, their morality, or the future of our nation.”

I figure I’ve shared the story with about five million people on various radio broadcasts, speaking at conferences, and in writing.

Courageous men protect

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to British politician Edmund Burke, is

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” 

When evil invades a man’s life and marriage, his children’s lives, his work, and his community, the easiest thing for him to do is nothing.

As a husband and father, you are the warrior who has been charged with the duty of pushing back against the evil that seeks to prey on your wife, daughters, and sons. If you don’t step up, who will?

When you think of protecting your family, perhaps the first things that come to mind are keeping your house locked, or holding on to your child’s hand on a crowded sidewalk, investigating a strange sound downstairs in the middle of the night, or teaching your children about what to do if the house is on fire. But as I’ve looked at my responsibilities as protector at home, I’ve realized that they go further. For example:

  • I have established boundaries to protect my marriage. I’m doing battle for my marriage when I don’t meet with a woman by myself unless the door is open or there is a window so that others can observe. I do not have lunch with other women alone. I do not travel alone in a car with other women. I copy my wife, Barbara, on e-mails written to women, and I don’t have private conversations with women on social websites without her knowing. At the same time, I do battle for my marriage by helping Barbara with household chores, taking her on dates and getaways, and spoiling her with an occasional gift to her liking.
  • I protected my children by training them in the choices they would make. I organized weekend getaways with both sons in their early teens to discuss peer pressure, dating, sex, pornography, alcohol, and more stuff the culture was throwing at them. I continued these conversations with my sons through the years — we even talked about things like dealing with girls who pursue them sexually, and what to do if they see a fight breaking out at school. In addition, Barbara and I made a big effort to get to know our kids’ friends — especially once they reached junior high and peer pressure kicked into high gear. We wanted to be aware of the good influences and the potential bad ones.
  • I protected my daughters by dating them and, later, by interviewing their dates. On these dates I showed them how a young man was to take care of them, what they should expect from a guy, and how to deal with sexual overtures. I explained why it was important to dress modestly, and I did it at an early age before they experienced much peer pressure on the issue. I met with their dates and made it clear to each young man that I expected him to keep his hands off my daughter.
  • I protected my family by working with Barbara to set up boundaries about media. We set standards on the types of films and television programs we would watch. We made rules about when and where they could access the internet, and talked about how to protect their privacy and how to guard against sexual predators. If I was a father with children at home today, I’d also be setting boundaries on cell phones, texting, and video games, and I’d install porn filters on all computers.

A trained warrior also has battlefield vision that anticipates the future.  He scans the horizon and assesses dangers that are coming so that he can prepare for them. And he realizes he is never off duty.

Courageous men are warriors in the community and boardroom

Not only does America need warriors at home, but it also needs men willing to use their influence to protect their communities and even the nation.

Like my friend, Scott Ford, former CEO of a large wireless phone network, who told me of the pressure he felt from stockholders who wanted to increase the company’s profits by putting pornography on the mobile phones they sell. Scott stood firm and many times stood alone.

Robert Rowling, whose holding company owns Omni Hotels, is another corporate warrior. He pulled all the pornography out of his hotels at a cost of more than $6 million, reasoning that if he didn’t want his sons to view that stuff, why should he make it possible for other men or their sons to stumble?

The Scriptures contain a simple admonition that men of all ages need to take to heart today:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Men, we are in the midst of a cosmic conflict of good versus evil. Wars are made up of battles, and battles demand a few good men who assume the responsibility of warriors and fight.

Many of you are not corporate leaders, but you may have the opportunity to step up in other ways. Perhaps it will be taking a stand against deceptive practices in the company where you work, or speaking out against sexual harassment, or talking with your child’s teacher if he or she shows an inappropriate film during class.

It takes courage for a man to step out and push back against evil. It will mean that you don’t go with the flow. You can’t fight every battle, but you can get involved when opportunities come your way.

When men don’t step up, the cost of doing nothing means that indecency, immorality, and other aberrant behaviors become the new norm in the culture. Our children and grandchildren will pay the ultimate price if we turn our heads. When men are not warriors, when men don’t push back against evil with good, the evil we were meant to conquer turns around and preys upon us and our descendants (see Isaiah 59:11-15).

In all these various engagements with the culture and others, real men are firm, but gracious. Having convictions does not give a man the license to be rude or pummel another person with his beliefs. Truth and love must be kept in proper tension with one another.

Courageous men step out and into the battle

Be ready!  You never know when you will come face-to-face with an issue that demands courage and stepping up.

A number of years ago a couple of our teens attended a junior high dance. Barbara and I decided we’d drop in unexpectedly and check it out. As we entered the darkened dance floor we saw about 30 kids off in the darkest corner, doing a dance called “freaking.” Now if you haven’t seen this, trust me, it’s an imitation of intercourse, but with clothes on.

A handful of parents were huddled near a light in a corner watching, grousing and complaining about what they saw, but generally doing nothing.

I walked past the parents and went over and stood near the swaying crowd. I watched as two boys drew a young lady in between them. As I stood there deciding what to do, my palms grew clammy, sweating with anticipation. I thought, Here I am, a 45-year-old man, and I’m afraid of what a couple of pimple faced, 14-year-old boys think about me? 

I finally concluded, What they’re doing is absolutely indecent. It’s ridiculous for me to cave in to fear!

So I stepped into the crowd of “freaking” dancers and tapped one of the young men on the shoulder. I smiled sternly and told him to knock it off. I challenged him to treat the young lady with dignity and respect.

He had a very blank look on his face. I could see him thinking, Whatever… 

His response didn’t matter, because one small step had brought victory. Feeling more courageous, I approached another trio of gyrating teens and busted them up. I looked over my shoulder and a bunch of dads were now joining me.

Here’s the point, guys: God made us to pierce the darkness. He didn’t make us to fight every battle, but He did make us to stand for truth, to embrace standards. And when men don’t embrace beliefs they are paralyzed and neutralized by the culture. They won’t step forward and can’t step up because they don’t have the mandate of truth resonating in their souls. In the absence of real men pushing back against evil, the culture continues its downward spiral and becomes increasingly shameless and vulgar.

Do not be overcome by evil. Step up and kindly overcome evil with good.

Share a time when you stepped up, out, or into a situation as a man of courage and it made a difference …

 

You can hear Dennis Rainey on our radio program, FamilyLife Today.

Adapted by permission from Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, ©2011 Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

Men should be investors not consumers



Men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.

man smashing piggybank

Do you know any men who pout or whine when their wife’s idea of frequent sex is different than theirs?

Do you know any men who only go on dates when their wife sets one up?

What makes more than a few young men devote massive amounts of time to video games and social media?

How many husbands need stimulation from more and more porn while their physical intimacy with their wife dwindles away?

Why can many young guys hook up with girls, but not have the courage to ask them on a date or navigate a constructive relationship?

What’s causing so much perpetual adolescence among guys in their late 20s and late 50s?

God has answers to these questions which drive us to passionately reach and disciple men.

We’re facing a crisis in our culture. It’s urgent! When a boy stays a boy for life … when a man doesn’t know what it is to be a man … when he uses girls and women like property … when he fathers kids outside of marriage … when his marriage breaks up … the price paid is compounded for women, children, and society.

Men don’t need to be attacked, however. They need to be welcomed into a Christian fellowship of other men, where manhood can be bestowed. They need to see and learn the manhood model of Jesus, while in the company of friends and mentors.

Men have been tricked, and we need to help them break free from the lies and false vision of manhood. One key cause for the counterfeit versions of manhood and sorry state of marriages today is one we can beat only if we identify it. We need to understand our identity as consumers and rebuild a new identity as investors.

Think about it. Most of us Americans see over 500 advertisements a day. We are trained by Madison Avenue and Hollywood to be consumers and pleasure seekers. It makes us petty, selfish, and little.

Investors not consumers

But men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.  Doing that in marriage for your wife, whom you are to cherish, makes you and your children much happier over time.

In defining manhood and leading men, we need to square up and tackle the passive, selfish, small vision of manhood that shapes boys and men into the mold of “consumer.”  Men want a vision to create something significant, battle for something good, and love a woman and family heroically.

That won’t be possible with a small consumer identity.  We need to wake men up to the devil’s and society’s trick.  God made us to be investors.

Consider pro football.  In the quarterback meeting room and in drills they teach Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, and Drew Brees to throw the ball to receivers in a target diameter of one foot, perfectly serving the receiver so he need not stretch, bend, jump or dive. And they teach wide receivers, “If you can touch it, you must catch it.” Make the quarterback and the team look good. Lay out. Sacrifice. Those are investor mentalities.

Let’s break the consumer mold, call men up to being relationship investors — guys who protect the weak, bring out the best in others, and love unconditionally. Galatians 5 tells us we were called to freedom, not so we could feed our fleshly desires but so we could serve one another — to love our neighbor. It warns that if we are selfish in our flesh and relationships, we’ll be consumed ourselves.  Philippians 2 tells us to be like Jesus and look out for the interests of others, not just self.

Men investing in other men will help us all rediscover the model of manhood: Jesus, the ultimate relationship investor.

 

Jeff Kemp quarterbacked for 11 years in the NFL.  He is a vice-president and “HomeBulder Catalyst” for FamilyLife, speaking to men and equipping men’s group discipleship with FamilyLife’s DVD men’s experience, Stepping Up™.   You can reach Jeff at jkemp@familylife.com.

 

Copyright 2013 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

Jackie Robinson’s story: becoming a mentor (conclusion)



This is the third and final part in the Jackie Robinson Story as carried in the book, Stepping UpBe sure to read parts one and two if you missed them.

20/20 generational vision

photo from www.britannica.com

photo from www.britannica.com

Jackie Robinson wasn’t forced to become the man to integrate Major League Baseball. Branch Rickey could have found another player, and it certainly would have been more comfortable for Robinson to follow someone else’s lead. He had the ability, however, to look beyond himself. Someone needed to make the sacrifice. Someone needed to blaze the trail so that others in the future would have equal opportunities.

I think that many of us men face a similar choice as we reach our thirties, forties, and fifties. We may never face the intense opposition that confronted Robinson, but I believe we are called to look beyond ourselves to the impact we can have on the next generation.

Becoming a mentor

Becoming a mentor is the fourth of the five steps of manhood. Some guys can see clearly where they are in life, but they haven’t developed the ability, like Robinson did, to look past themselves. A mentor, on the other hand, exhibits “20/20 generational vision.” He sees the need to pass on his faith and his experience to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

A mentor makes decisions and orders his life to intentionally invest in the next generation. A mentor must pass on his values — lessons learned from his mistakes, successes, and defeats — the essence of his life. He intentionally passes on wisdom to the next generation and casts a vision for how they can do the same.

It’s possible to step up and become a mentor when you are a young man, especially if you are put in a position of authority or influence over others. But in this section, I’m going to speak primarily to those of you who are entering what I call the “prime time” years.

Most younger men pour their physical and emotional energy into building their careers, raising their families, and being involved in church or community. Once their children leave home, I’ve often seen men head in one of three directions:

  1. They pour their energy into a renewed effort to capitalize on their position and experience and seek further success and influence in the working world.
  2. Perhaps fearing the onset of older age, they regress and try to recapture their youth by seeking adventure and sensual pleasure.
  3. Realizing that they won’t achieve the wealth and success they had dreamed about in their careers, they gradually become depressed and passive and end up squandering the assets God has given them.

But there is a better path — a path of wisdom. Many men in the prime time years recognize that they now have the time and energy to broaden their influence and impact for Christ by mentoring younger men.

If you are at this stage in life, my challenge to you is to step up and become a mentor. You’ll find the “view” from this step to be quite exhilarating.

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

Major League trailblazer — Jackie Robinson story (part two)



Yesterday, we started the courageous story of Jackie Robinson as shared in Stepping Up.  Today, we continue the story in part two …

Stepping Up FamilyLife Jackie Robinson sliding-2

photo from http://www.myhero.com/

Handling the pressure

Rickey turned out to be an accurate prophet. After a successful year in the minor leagues, Robinson made his major-league debut as the Dodgers’ first baseman in April of 1947. The first resentment he faced was from his own teammates. They didn’t like the idea of a black player taking a white man’s spot on the roster. Many were from the south and weren’t accustomed to equal treatment for blacks.

Dixie Walker, one of the top Brooklyn players, worried about the reaction back home in Hueytown, Alabama, if he played with blacks. He feared how it would affect business at his hardware and sporting-goods store. “I grew up in the South, and in those days you grew up in a different manner,” Walker said years later. “We thought that blacks didn’t have ice water in their veins and so [they] couldn’t take the pressure of playing big league baseball.”

On opening day, most of the players ignored Robinson. He arrived in the locker room to discover that he hadn’t been assigned a locker; his uniform was hanging on a hook on the wall.

Robinson’s first real test occurred in a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies. A flood of insults poured out of the Philadelphia dugout during the game. The Phillies insulted his appearance and yelled about the diseases he would pass on to the Dodger players and their wives.

Robinson took insults like these personally. “For one wild and rage-crazed minute,” he wrote later, “I thought, ‘To hell with Mr. Rickey’s noble experiment.’ I thought what a glorious, cleansing thing it would be to let go. To hell with the image of the patient black freak I was supposed to create. I would throw down my bat, stride over to the Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of bitches and smash his teeth in with my despised black fist. Then I could walk away from it all.”

But Robinson withstood the temptation that day . . . and for the entire season. Instead, he let his playing speak for him. It was more than his hitting and fielding, which improved throughout the season. He also disrupted the opposing team with his daring base running. He would take impossibly big leads off base, throwing pitchers out of their rhythm and shaking their confidence. This led to more walks and better pitches for his teammates to hit. He could take over a game even if he never got a hit.

Still, he paid a price for holding back his emotions. At home he became withdrawn from his wife, Rachel, and found it difficult to sleep. At one point he called his sister and said, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m quitting.”

He received almost no support from his teammates, who excluded him from social outings and hardly spoke to him on road trips. The players’ wives met regularly for shopping, knitting, and impromptu sleepovers, but Rachel was never invited.

Rooting for Jackie Robinson

But as the season progressed, things began to change. His teammates began yelling in his defense at opposing teams, threatening retaliation if the insults continued. He was greeted by well-wishers and autograph seekers wherever he went. White kids began selling, “I’m rooting for Jackie Robinson” buttons at Ebbets Field.

Most of the letters the Dodgers received were encouraging. One fan wrote, “You’ve got a lot more friends in this country of ours than enemies. The main thing to remember is that it’s the unthinking few who generally make the biggest noise.” Another said, “If your batting average never gets any higher than .100 and if you make an error every inning, [and] if I can raise my boy to be half the man that you are, I’ll be a happy father.”

Robinson also began to see the impact he was having on the culture. An owner of an electronics factory in New Jersey, for example, was inspired by Robinson’s example and decided to integrate his factory.

Late in the season, Brooklyn fans were angered when Enos Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals appeared to deliberately step on Robinson’s foot at first base. One fan, Doug Wilder, was at the game that day, and he felt this may have been Robinson’s greatest moment “in showing how he would rise over and over to be the person he was. . . . It was a tremendous lesson.”  Later in life, Wilder went into politics in Virginia and became the first African American in the United States to become a governor.

Robinson was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1947, and he helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees. After the final game of the series, each of his teammates came by his locker to congratulate him for the season.

He had succeeded in integrating the major leagues; in fact, by the end of the 1947 season, there were other black players in baseball. But his greatest impact may have been in the broader American culture. As Arnold Rampersad wrote in his biography of Robinson,

Over a period of six months, from the first stumbling steps to the victories that closed the season, he had revolutionized the image of black Americans in the eyes of many whites. Starting out as a token, he had utterly complicated their sense of the nature of black people, how they thought and felt, their dignity and their courage in the face of adversity. No black American man had ever shone so brightly for so long as the epitome not only of stoic endurance but also of intelligence, bravery, physical power, and grit. Because baseball was lodged so deeply in the average white man’s psyche, Robinson’s protracted victory had left an intimate mark there.

Final post tomorrow…

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

A Major League trailblazer — Jackie Robinson’s story (part one)



This week, Major League Baseball’s first pitch was tossed for the 2013 season.  There’s an upcoming movie, “42”, about the man — Jackie Robinson.  And in the book, Stepping Up, we shared the story of Jackie Robinson.  The next few blog posts will be selections from that chapter, sharing the impact that he had on Major League Baseball, his personal courage and integrity to team with Branch Rickey to become the player that would break the racial barriers that existed in Major League Baseball and across the nation.

Jackie Robinson didn’t see much of a future for himself in professional baseball.

Stepping Up FamilyLife Jackie-Robinson

photo from Think Positive magazine, http://74.53.231.70/~thinktpm/

The year was 1945, and he was twenty-six. A UCLA graduate and World War II veteran, he was trying to make a living by playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. He hadn’t played much baseball; he was better known as a football star at UCLA. But when the Monarchs offered him a job, he decided to give it a try.

Jackie was infuriated by the indignities that black ballplayers faced. In some stadiums, they weren’t allowed to use the locker rooms because white owners didn’t like the idea of black men using the showers. He hated the segregated hotels and drinking fountains. In one instance, when the team bus stopped for gas and the station owner said the players couldn’t use his restroom, Robinson threatened to fill up the team’s bus at another station. The owner changed his mind.

And, of course, the worst indignity of all was the fact that Major League Baseball was segregated. For decades, some of the best baseball players in the nation —  legends like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson—were kept out of the big leagues. Robinson saw no hope for the situation changing, or for the opportunity to move up and play baseball in the whites-only major leagues. “I began to wonder why I should dedicate my life to a career where the boundaries for progress were set by racial discrimination,” he later wrote.

A legendary meeting

Robinson was contacted by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Word was that Rickey was forming a new Negro league and wanted to talk with Robinson about joining it.

Robinson’s meeting with Rickey on August 28, 1945, became a turning point in America’s history. Robinson learned that Rickey had no intention of starting another Negro league. Instead, he wanted to break the color barrier in professional baseball . . . and he wanted Jackie Robinson to lead the way by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Rickey could have chosen better players, but he was looking for someone with the right character. He had no illusions about the pressure that the first black ballplayer would face — the hatred he would encounter from white players, and the impossible expectations he would feel from the black community. He wanted someone who was angry about segregation but could keep that anger in check. Choose the wrong player, he felt, and he would push the cause back by years

“If you’re a good enough man, we can make this a start in the right direction,” Rickey told Robinson. “But let me tell you, it’s going to take an awful lot of courage.”

In the meeting, Rickey confronted Robinson with examples of the situations he would face. He acted the part of ballplayers using racial slurs and trying to start fights. “They’ll taunt and goad you,” he said. “They’ll try to provoke a race riot in the ballpark. This is the way to prove to the public that a Negro should not be allowed in the major league.”

“Mr. Rickey,” Robinson said, “are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” “No,” Rickey replied, “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” Robinson wondered if he was the right person for this. Did he have that kind of strength and courage? “Yet I knew that I must,” Robinson later wrote. “I had to do it for so many reasons. For black youth, for my mother, for Rae [his wife], for myself.”

Continued next post…

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

Boys will be boys: Stepping up to become men



Boys stepping up to manhood is what our culture craves and needs

BOYS WILL BE BOYS

Boyhood is about exploration. A boy has license to wander and roam. But boyhood is also a time when he finds barbed wire at the top of fences and learns that some folks really mean it when they post “No Trespassing” signs. Boys bump into boundaries and experience the consequences for right and wrong choices.

The apostle Paul understood that boys will be boys when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” Or, in my words:

When I was a boy, I was all boy. I used to speak like a boy, think like a boy, reason like a boy. (All of which explains why I behaved like a boy.) But when I began stepping up, I did away with boyhood stuff.

One of the tragedies of our day is that too many boys are growing up without the guidance of a father, or another man, to show them what it looks like to do away with that boyhood stuff. As a result, they often move into adolescence and then adulthood looking like men but still speaking, reasoning, and behaving like boys.

Stepping up to become men

Our society is equally confused about when a boy becomes a man.  Here are some responses to our Man on the Street question, “When does a boy become a man?”

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Why is it so hard to go from boyhood to manhood

In a cover story titled “Education: Boys Falling Behind Girls in Many Areas,” Newsweek magazine examined the growing achievement gap between boys and girls today. “By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind,” wrote Peg Tyre. “In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests.” According to the American Council on Education, young men now represent only 43 percent of college undergraduates, with women comprising nearly 60 percent (Jacqueline E. King, Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2006 (Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 2010).

After examining how educators are working to close the gender gap, the article finally focused on what I’d consider is the key issue:

One of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: does he have a man in his life to look up to? Too often, the answer is no. High rates of divorce and single motherhood have created a generation of fatherless boys. In every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, an increasing number of boys — now a startling 40 percent — are being raised without their biological dads (Tyre, The Trouble with Boys). (emphasis added)

Making the problem even larger is the number of boys growing up with fathers who are physically present but emotionally distant and uninvolved.

What to do about it?

One of the biggest needs in our generation is for men to step into the lives of boys to train them, equip them, and cheer them on to grow up as they begin the process of “manning up.” And I’m not just talking about fathers getting involved with their sons. I’m also talking about a generation of boys who are growing up with no male figure in their lives — boys who are desperate for a man to show them how to be a man.

To think about:  There is no benefit to beating yourself up because of what has transpired in your life as a father.  Shame is never good.  Conviction that results in positive and fruitful action is what we need.  What really matters is “what do you do with what you know?”  What can you do TODAY to build into your son or another young man who needs a man that cares enough to help him grow up from boyhood to manhood at the right time.  Will you step up and fill that gap?

On February 2, 2012, thousands of churches, ministries, men’s groups and community groups of men will be hosting simultaneous Stepping Up™ Super Saturday events.  Will you be one of the groups hosting a great event for the men in your church and community?

Adapted from Stepping Up by Dennis Rainey. FamilyLife Publishing, 2012.

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