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Jon Favreau’s film Chef dramatizes a relationship between a father and a son. Favreau stars in the film as Carl Casper, the father of his teenage son, Percy, played by Emjay Anthony. Carl and Percy have a unique relationship and it demonstrates common dynamics between fathers and sons. Because of this, Carl and Percy’s relationship becomes a useful description and tool for exploring the dynamics of the father-son adventure.

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Jeff Nichol’s Mud is another film that depicts a relationship between a father, Tom, and a son, Ellis. What is the relationship between Tom and Ellis like? What can we learn from them as models of the father-son relationship? How might that apply to our own lives and relationships? If the father-son adventure is primarily concerned with the relationship between fathers and sons, what lessons can we learn from this film as we pursue this adventure together?

Reader, please be warned. This article contains spoilers.

Who is the father?

Tom, played by Sam Shepard, lives and works on the Arkansas River. He sells and delivers his catch of fish to local businesses and individuals. Tom expects his son Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan, to help with these deliveries. In one scene, Tom tells Ellis that he works him hard because life is work. This is our first direct glimpse into the father’s point of view, as he himself would define it.

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The reader should be aware that this article contains spoilers.

In the Tim Burton film Big Fish, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, Edward Bloom tells his son Will stories about past adventures, all of which seem to stretch the truth about what really happened. As an adult, Will believes that his father’s stories are mostly lies and Will and Edward become estranged from one another because of this conflict. Now that Edward is on his deathbed, Will seeks to discover the truth about his father’s life.

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David Schultz’s Ragamuffin is a portrayal of the life of Rich Mullins. One thing that makes this portrayal of Mullins’ life particularly interesting is the focus on Mullins’ relationship with his father. In the film at least, this focus is central to Mullins’ character development. Mullins’ relationship with his father affects him in profound ways, and Mullins’ central conflict has to do with discovering more about his father. Since the relationship between fathers and sons is the central component of father-son adventure, Ragamuffin is a relevant study in the father-son adventure.

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When we view J. C. Chandler's "All is Lost" starring Robert Redford as a parallel to the journey of authentic manhood we discover some interesting things. This is a survival story. In any survival story, characters are forced to deal with what really matters most. Perhaps a character does not know what matters most, but the intensity of their survival situation brings those issues to the surface and amplifies them. If a character has any realizations during the struggle for survival, it changes them and they carry the realizations with them afterward, even after rescue.

 

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There are particular values to which men on the journey of authentic manhood adhere. The book of Proverbs is a great resource for digging out those values. The book has a way of highlighting particular ideals and values, demonstrating that these values were esteemed at the time the text was written. Strangely enough the values that are highlighted are still esteemed today.

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Work is one theme in Proverbs chapter 10. This is applicable to us because we spend much of our lives in our work. In this chapter, the father tells his son about work. The father is concerned not so much about what to do for work but about how to work in general. “A slack hand causes poverty,” he says, “but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Pr. 10:4). Diligence is the ideal about work that the father wants to pass down to his son. This transference of the ideal will play a part in the son’s rite of passage into manhood.

As with many sections in the book of Proverbs we are dealing with comparisons, opposites in this case. It is one thing against another thing, one thing as opposed to something else. The father highlights not only the ideal of diligence, but the opposite of the ideal. “A slack hand,” he says, which in this case may refer to laziness, sloppiness, or a neglect of responsibilities. In any case it leads to poverty.

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Proverbs 2 starts with an appeal from a father to a son. This appeal and the instructions that follow play a part in the the son's journey of authentic manhood. The speaker addresses him as “my son” and presents a situation of conditional logic, “if” you do X, “then” Y will be the result. In this case, X is several lines long and you may find yourself anticipating the word “then” when you read through them. This creates an interesting expectation during the reading experience and probably for the son as well, when and however these words were first presented to him long ago.

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In the film “A River Runs Through It,” directed by Robert Redford, brothers Norman and Paul Maclean grow up under their father John Maclean, a Presbyterian minister and fly fisherman.

This film models themes in the journey of authentic manhood and gives us images specifically for the theme of the father's blessing. For those of you who have not seen the movie or read Maclean's story, this article has spoilers. For those who have seen the film, we looked last time at the father's blessing over Paul in "The Journey of Authentic Manhood: Paul is Blessed."

To review, the father's blessing is made up from things deeply connected to his own life experience. Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, says that the blessing is something in the heart of the father, something that wants to come out. Haddorff also says that due to a lack of modeling, fear, or natural encumbrances, the potential life-giving power of a father's a blessing may remain unexpressed in a direct way. However, since the blessing wants to come out, it may sometimes be expressed indirectly over the course of the father's life. This seems to be the case with the reverend Maclean's blessing over his son Norman.   

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Robert Redford directed “A River Runs Through It,” a film based on the story by Norman Maclean who is also the main character in Redford's film. The story is largely autobiographical and is about Norman and his brother Paul who both grew up in Missoula, Montana under their father, the reverend John Maclean, a Presbyterian minister and fly fisherman.

The film works as a fantastic model for a specific theme found in the journey of authentic manhood. For those of you who have not seen the movie or read Maclean's story, this article has spoilers. For those who have seen the film, we can start by viewing the story as a picture of the father's blessing. This article focuses on the reverend Maclean's blessing over his son Paul. See “The Journey of Authentic Manhood: Norman is Blessed” for a look at the reverend's blessing over Norman.        

Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, defines the father's blessing in a particular way. “The blessing is something real that resides in the heart of the father,” he says, “it's made up from the father's experiences, memories, thoughts, and feelings from his own experience.” A father's blessing, by this definition, is an extension of the father's own identity and life experience. This pattern is apparent in the blessings the reverend Maclean gives to his sons.  

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In Proverbs 1:22–33 we see wisdom personified as a woman offering insight to those who would listen. For those of us on the journey of authentic manhood, we are invited into the rewards for seeking wisdom and we are told of the consequences for those who chose to ignore wisdom altogether. Also, we are further introduced to a few characters like “the simple ones,” scoffers, and fools who continue to show up throughout the rest of the book. We are told more about these types later on. In this case, they are the ones who choose not to listen to wisdom.

They choose not to listen because they are each distracted by something else. In verse 22, we are told that the “simple ones” are distracted by their love of being simple. Scoffers are distracted by their delight in their own scoffing and fools by their hating of knowledge. “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” (Pr. 1:22).

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Proverbs 1:8–19 is fascinating to read in light of the father son adventure. Verse 8 starts with “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” (Pr. 1:8). From this we know that the writer of this proverb is also a father imploring his son to listen to his instruction. This speaks of the universal idea of the father passing down teaching to the son.

The father’s drive to hand down moral structure and good practical sense to the son could be an instinctual or a cultural phenomenon. Either way, we assume that the father is the one who feels it necessary to hand these things down to his son.

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Proverbs is a remarkable book, especially when applying it to the journey of authentic manhood and the father-son adventure. In verses 2–6 of Proverbs 1, the reader is given a specific kind of information. Almost every verse in this section starts with a purpose statement. This section is meant to reveal the purpose of the proverbs that follow.

The reader is told that the purpose is to give instruction, understanding, and insight to the youth and “the simple,” or to those who lack instruction, understanding, or insight, but also to those who have instruction already. “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” (Pr. 5:5). The reader is told the following proverbs are not just for those who lack but for those who already have understanding.

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Part of the father son adventure is the father communicating his own story to the son. The story of the father gives the son a perspective about his dad that he did not have before. The father’s story allows the son to view his father in a different light and helps the son see his dad more clearly. It gives him a more complete picture of who his dad really is and, in time, a more complete picture of the son’s own identity.

The father communicating his own story to the son is about communicating the truth. It is telling the real story about what happened from the father’s point of view simply because it is the truth about what happened. When the story is told this way, it gives the son a tremendous gift.

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How does this happen?

Passing down the faith from one generation to the next is part of the father-son adventure. This happens through words and actions. It’s easy to focus solely on the words, to tell sons what Christians believe. This is important but perhaps more important than passing down the words is that fathers show their sons what they believe, passing down the actions, being the example. When fathers exemplify a living model of faith, their sons will take notice.

Fathers are an example of the faith to their sons and the father’s example impacts the son with or without the father’s intention. It’s important that fathers model a living faith and not simply hand down a system of ethics or principles to their sons. Observing the father is a part of a son’s transition into manhood. It is part of the son’s role in the father-son adventure even if he is unaware of this. Without a living example of faith, sons may begin to believe that the Christian faith is nothing more that a set of principles, rather than a living relationship with Jesus. Sure, ethics and principles are a part of the game but fathers need to be these things not just tell their sons about them.

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Like many cultures, mainstream Christianity shares the value that rites of passage are a good thing for young men to go through. The belief is that young men need the benefits grained by the passage and the benefits may even be critical for them to correctly function as a man in the future. With so much potentially at stake, it would seem that this value would be emphasized more often and that there would be more Christian rite-of-passage initiatives.

Perhaps one reason we do not see many rite-of-passage initiatives in mainstream Christianity is that fathers likely recognize the value of a rite of passage more easily than sons. This is either because fathers have recognized the impact that such an experience has had in their own lives, or because fathers have observed the effects of the absence of such an experience in their own lives.

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Introduction

Christ in the Rockies recently had the unique pleasure of interviewing Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, and his daughter Stacy Haddorff who is actively involved with Yoga teaching, philosophy, and practice.

In Life’s Journey Part III: Life Stretches, Stacy talked about the Asanas, and Mike described a mindset of living moment by moment. What follows is Part IV of this transcribed interview where Stacy and Mike discuss the ideals within Yoga philosophy and how those ideals relate to Mike’s personal journey, Christ in the Rockies, and Christianity in general.

The source of this transcription is a phone interview. It has been edited but has favored the spoken English of the interviewees. The method of transcription attempted to make the language readable, yet preserve the original spoken interaction at the same time.

In Part IV, Stacy and Mike discuss the dynamics of mentorship, on the giving and receiving end, and how mentorship has affected their own personal journey.

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Introduction

Christ in the Rockies recently had the unique pleasure of interviewing Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, and his daughter Stacy Haddorff who is actively involved with Yoga teaching, philosophy, and practice.

In Life’s Journey Part II: The Stockdale Paradox and True Identity Mike talked about the Stockdale Paradox and Stacy discussed how personal challenge builds strength and cultivates a more full sense of joy. What follows is Part III of this transcribed interview where Stacy and Mike discuss the ideals within Yoga philosophy and how those ideals relate to Mike’s personal journey, Christ in the Rockies, and Christianity in general.

The source of this transcription is a phone interview. It has been edited but has favored the spoken English of the interviewees. The method of transcription attempted to make the language readable, yet preserve the original spoken interaction at the same time.

In Part III Stacy talks about the Asanas, or postures, of Yoga and the philosophy behind them. Mike talks about how that idea relates to a mindset of living moment by moment and how, in later life, one learns to become more accepting of things one cannot control.

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Spring is here. With new growth appearing all around, we arrive at this point in the cycle of life. Spring. It’s the time for new life, new ideas, and new adventures. We are reminded of how life regenerates and how, after a long cold winter, things grow back and life begins again.

At this time, we think also of our own lives and the path we are on. For men, this means the journey of authentic manhood. The new buds on the trees and everything turning green outside is a reminder that there is life on the journey. Life does begin again after the winter of barrenness and even death. Indeed, the journey of authentic manhood is a journey of life.

Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, talks about the process of death and the life that follows in his article “Authentic Manhood and The Way of Descent.” This process is consistent on many different levels of our experience. Overall, our journey’s destination is life and not death.

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The subject of pain is always difficult. It tends to raise questions like “why,” followed by the closer to home question, “why is this happening to me?” The underlying reason for these questions is that deep within we know that pain ought not to be. Pain is temporary, only for a time. We know intuitively that pain will one day be conquered. One day, all will be made right through God reconciling all things to Himself through Christ.

I have come to view pain as necessary but neutral. What I mean by this is that pain is neither good nor bad. It just is. Further, I’ve observed on several occasions that to search for the answer “why” leads only to a dark frustrating place, exhaustion and more pain.

It’s much more helpful to view pain as a call to listen, to learn, and within proper context a call to heal. To embrace our pain is challenging. It requires faith. But it is nothing more than what Christ modeled for us all when He faced His pain. For Him and for us when pain is faced there is always resurrection.

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