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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Join me in flogging me...

On Monday I was driving to a counseling appointment. My counseling appointment. To clarify further, the appointment where I am the recipient of counseling. There, I said it. I periodically go to counseling. The pastor gets pastored. The counselor becomes the counselee. I find counseling to be cathartic. A bloodletting of sorts. The pitfalls I've averted along the way due to this occasional checkup are innumerable.

It was snowing and the roads were 6-out-of-10-bad for the state of Michigan. Lots of slush due to plowing budgets cuts, so-so visibility, and icy blacktop under thin layers of packed snow made the journey not just a little exciting.

As I passed through Saranac moving south toward 96, I was trailing a car that seemed to be having some difficulty keeping 'er on the pavement, if you will. I didn't have good feelings about this persons capacity to handle inclement conditions. My gut feelings proved to be a harbinger of what was to come.

In a matter of moments I watched "said" car slide off the road and into the ditch (almost in slow motion). I was already about 15 minutes late to my appointment, so I had a conundrum on my hands. Do I stop and ethically offend the guy waiting in his office for me, or do I ethically live in denial of this guy who just slid off the road and is in need of some assistance and let him fend for himself? "What is the lesser of two evils?" became the situational ethics I was wrestling to reconcile.

I chose to pull around the aforementioned car and knowing that there were 2 cars behind me that would (surely) stop and carry out there Samaritanian duties. It was the weirdest feeling driving by this unfortunate mishap trying to make like I didn't see it. I was trying to justify my decision with all sorts of rationale that backed up my stance. But no matter how hard I tried to dismiss my guilt and assuage my sickened conscience, it would have none of it. I might as well have been a witness to an old lady being bludgeoned in the street only to sit and watch with moral indifference. As the scene passed from my rear view mirror, I was ravished by thoughts like: "You are not even a Christian." "You are the biggest Pharisee ever." And the thoughts kept piling on the closer I got to my destination. I tried to shake them as best I could before entering the office and sitting on the couch, letting my heart run wild in conversation. To some degree, because I've unfortunately mastered the art of compartmentalization over the years, I was able to block out the conviction for the time being as I entered into a conversation with my friend/counselor.

But as soon as I left his office and headed home, the memory of what I had done started to pester me again reminding me of my hypocrisy.

As I backtracked toward my home, I knew that I would be passing the very spot where the car slid into the ditch being reminded of my iniquity. Sure enough, I turned the corner and could see from a distance the car had slid further into the deep ditch, the owner of the car standing on the side of the road with his phone pressed up against his ear. Even after an hour and a half, still no one had come to his aide.

But another dilemma presented itself to me. I had run over in my time with my sage/counselor and was running late in getting home. I hate when I tell my wife I'll be home by a certain time only to be tardy. "Tardy" and "Retardy" are shame-names that cling to me like stink on a monkey. So as I approached the man and his car, another scene of situational ethics collided inside me. Shall I sin against this man or my wife. It could be that my recent preachings on the subject of elevating my wife to a higher plain than she often gets elevated to had something to do with the conclusion that I was coming to, but my brain and heart were warring and the "summation" of their war was this--do not sin against your wife...again.

Once again, I veered my car to the right and struggled to avoid eye contact with this guy standing in the slush on the shoulder of the two-lane country road. My shame multiplied four-fold as I, again, watched him fade from my rear-view mirror in my haste to get home. By this time, I about vomited in my mouth my stomach was so knotted up with angst. Here I am, a pastor, looking at an obvious need in the world and turning a blind eye to that need. It was almost more than I could bear as I performed "mind-over-matter" techniques all the way home. I knew that it would no good getting home on time if my presence was racked with guilt and forlorn feelings of self-hatred. I wanted to be home without the residue of regret covering my being. Again, compartmentalization came in handy as I buried "that scene" under a crafty covering of repression and entered the "present scene" with ready-minded poise. But some thing about that scene wouldn't go away, it was more than a scene...it was obscene.

Two days later, I'm still messed up by that occurrence. I can't believe I passed by such an obvious need, not just once, but twice. It sickens me to think of what that reveals about my heart. A heart that still has a long way to go. A heart that still struggles to beat with Jesus'. A heart that can compartmentalize life in order to justify my own behavior. A heart that has the capacity to drive right by another human being in need making like I didn't see him.

Just so that my blogs don't become top heavy with success stories and pipe dreams, I must honestly lay forth my own depravity. Join me in flogging me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Freedom Fighters out there unite...

A call to Freedom Fighters to join me in Following Freedom Himself...

This is a call to those who want to join Jesus' cause of emancipation. It’s not a task that can be accomplished be any one of us alone, it takes a band of zealots encouraging each other to carry on the mission of Jesus…“to set the captives free!” This group of Christ-followers longs to lock arms with each other, and it is no small commission. We understand the hostility we will face, the challenges we will encounter, and the spiritual resistance of the enemy we are inviting with this agreement to free hearts. There is nothing that Satan hates more than free hearts, and to accept this responsibility is to also accept strong opposition from the forces of evil…a risk we are more than willing to take. If you are longing to do more than sit around and wish for better days, we invite you to take up arms with us to fight for His Majesty. You have no idea what you’re in for…“This is the adventure of a lifetime!”


Some Fueling Quotes for the Freedom Fighter...

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.

-Emma Lazarus

(U.S. Poet, 1849-1887)

“I can just hear Jesus uttering these words. And isn’t this what Jesus came to offer to people…the opportunity to breathe free? He is longing to accept with open arms the tired, poor, huddled masses who are trapped in darkness and chains. He is inviting the tempest-tossed and the homeless to find refuge in His heart. If we are to be anything like him, this must be our cry and our passion. ‘Come to me, I know where to take you.’ If we’ve been touched by the Liberator of our souls, then it is our duty and delight to bring others to his healing touch.”

Freedom is a dangerous thing. Anything else is disastrous.

-James Baldwin

(U.S. Writer, 1924-1987)

“Our choice is two fold and without a third option…we either choose danger or disaster. The former calls us to endanger ourselves for a cause that may cost our lives, but offers life. The latter won’t look like a typical disaster because it happens in and to the soul. It strips the soul of dignity and whips it like a hopeless slave…in the end, the disaster is revealed and irreversible…oh, the agony.”

Freedom—it is today more than ever the most precious possession.

-Pearl Buck

(1892-1973)

“Without freedom, all other luxuries and necessities are worthless. Freedom paves the way for any enjoyment of what it is we do. It’s more than precious…it’s priceless. If we are going to fight for freedom…we must know it’s worth and value it deeply.”

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

(French Slogan in the French Revolution 1789)

“Liberty…the freedom to enjoy the life you have. Equality…the freedom to be the person you were created to be. Fraternity…the freedom to enjoy life with a band of brothers for a cause that outlasts you. These are essential elements to Freedom Fighters.”

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning, but without understanding.

-Louis D Brandeis

(1856-1941)

“Everywhere we look around us there are happy people, satisfied people, busy people, and apparently stable and secure people. They find themselves passionately enjoying God’s common grace to all without respecter of persons. They may even downplay your desire to set people’s hearts free wondering what you see wrong with a person who smiles and has seemingly few cares or concerns. They don’t understand your fervor for redemption, because to them, man appears to be getting better. Plan on being opposed by passionate and talented people who don’t look like slaves, but very much are.”

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

“…nor does God for that matter. He’s made it clear that cowards will be first in line to hell’s eternal torment. Cowards are more than just shy souls, they are sorry souls who will wake up one day to the realization that pleasure was offered and they settled for the life of a pleaser.”

If you white men had never come here, this country would still be like it was. It would be all pure here. You call it wild, but it wasn’t really wild, it was free. Animals aren’t wild, they’re just free. And that’s the way we were. You called us wild, you called us savages. But we were just free.”

-Leon Shenandoah

(contemporary U.S. political leader,

Iroquois Confederacy)

“This quote struck me because of the perception of free as opposed to wild. I guess it is futile to pursue absolute freedom without the stigma of appearing wild. As you look back on history-makers, only the wild survived as revolutionaries. They were the only ones crazy enough to set aside their reputation for the sake of future generations and the passing on of honorable values. The genuine Christian will look wild, but what we are really seeing is freedom incarnate.”

He only has known the full joy of living who somewhere and at some time has struck a decisive blow for the freedom of the human spirit.

-Walter Lippmann

“The full joy of living is a daily passion of mine. With all the resistance within and without, it only seems fitting to promote and then inspire people to enter into true and lasting joy…life everlasting. I want to strike a decisive and paralyzing blow to the enemies of spiritual freedom…and not only so that I feel joy myself, but that others may feel and know what makes life worth living.”

Where the way is hardest, there go thou; follow your own path, and let people talk.

-Dante Alighieri

(Italian Poet, 1265-1321)

“Let people talk…how hard that is to see this happen without in some way modifying and pacifying your true feelings or convictions. To free people is to come to an understanding that people will talk about and against you. You will be the target for criticism. They will make sport of maligning your character and motivations. This is why so few are remembered when they breathe their last, they lived for the praise of men which endures as long as your last heartbeat. The memory of any one person is transmitted throughout the generations when they love their comfort less than they love their convictions. This is the man that has enduring value for the wave of young hearts to follow.”

Choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonor, but met danger face to face.

-Pericles (5th century B.C.)

(Greek statesman)

“I know that I want to die resisting the broad road that leads to death. I am created to flee the dishonoring of God at any cost. I have to embrace the promise of danger in order to secure my place in the infantry of God’s mighty men. It doesn’t men I don’t fear it, but that I fear God more.”

I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

-Thomas Jefferson

“These oaths that we swear are sober and life-threatening. I take seriously the call to free the minds, hearts and ultimately the souls of mankind, and an oath is necessary for follow through. Will you swear to fight the tyranny of Satan’s agenda?”

No one, no, not one million ones dare deny my God. I go forth alone, and stand as ten thousand; the Divine upon my right impels me to pull forever at the latch on Freedom’s gate.

-Maya Angelou

I go forth alone and stand as ten thousand. It is always hard for me to reflect with my heart’s eye on the allies that stand with me in this fight for liberty. God is with me when I’m with him, and he is located in the fat middle of war this very moment. To be close to him is to be in the foxhole fending from freedom. This is closeness to God, this is nearness to His heart.”

It is difficult to make free a people that is resolved to live in slavery, as it is to enslave a people that is determined to remain free.

-Niccolo’ Machiavelli

“I’m always reminded of the shroud that enfolds the heart of enslaved souls. They often want nothing to do with your offer of freedom and don’t want to hear your inspiring speeches of greener grass and cleaner air. They are content in their slavery so long as it affords them the pleasures of fulfillment and accomplishment. The call to free is not accompanied by the cries for freedom. Our sounding trumpet is God’s call, not the world’s cry.”

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionaries and rebels—men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Throughout history there has always been a fine line between the heroic and the horrific. Many of the men and women who have affected the most change were viewed in their present culture as tyrants who deserved death by nothing less than brutal torture. Free thinkers who question the standards of the church, government or culture are often labeled rabble-rousers who have nothing better to do than challenge authority and call into question unfounded standards of living. In some ways, they’re right. For I can think of nothing better to do than unfetter the human soul from the paralyzing effects of status quo. This rebellion is godly and rare. Oh, that God would raise a band of renegades to turn this world upside down as in days gone by.”

The Miscarried Man #5...

2 Samuel 1:26 - I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

There are probably several things that could be deduced from this text that could explain David’s break-down-admittance that Jonathan’s love was better than that of women. But no matter how it's interpreted, I don’t know many wives that could hear something like that without responding with either cold contempt or heated hatred.

You don’t find many men who would say something like this, let alone put it down in writing for posterity. But I think you would be surprised how many men would write something like this if they could maintain a safe anonymity. There are a lot of things bouncing around in men’s minds that I don’t think they ever share for fear of the consequences. If they could be guaranteed immunity, I think a good many men would say that women have, quite frankly, been complicated and confusing to say the least, and have fallen short in their treatment of their man’s heart. Some might even say that the platonic companionship of men has far surpassed the romantic companionship of women.

But I find this openness quite perplexing. I think David’s heart was misunderstood by the vast majority, both men and women. He was continually writing about it in the Psalms, pouring out his heart like a victim of the most horrible misunderstanding ever recorded. He repeatedly was running from bloodthirsty men, working through the abandonment of his so-called friends, and nursing the rejection of his own family. Time and time again he cries out with the angst of a latchkey kid trying to find a place to call home. "You've turned my glory into shame!"

It appears that Jonathan hold the keys to his heart. He knew and loved him deeply. He understood him and vouched for his credibility. David, I’m sure, second-guessed his decision to write this revelation in the text knowing that it would unveil a deep-seeded issue that he had with women. The question is, “What made him say such a thing and what did he feel was lacking in marriage that he found in masculine friendship?” I wonder if the answer to this could catalyze a conversation between husbands and wives that would lead to deeper mutual understanding?

“The thoughts of a man’s heart are deep waters and a man of understanding draws them out.” – Proverbs.

The Miscarried Man #4...

David seems to be a perfect picture of "the full-orbed man". All of the polarization and characterization of men that permeates most cultural conversations is wiped clean, and the paint brush is once again free from cognitive biases that keep us in stereotypical patterns of the masculine construction.

Here are some of the roles David played the give a snapshot of "the full orbed man":

1. Warrior

2. Writer

3. Farmer

4. Hunter

5. Singer

6. Musician

7. Friend

8. Romantic

9. Leader

10. Communicator

I find this to be quite freeing and yet a raising of the bar that is much needed if we hope t0 ascend to something higher than than the reductionary pictures cast for us in this epoch of history.

The Miscarried Man #3...

“He-art” What does an artistic man look like? How will his artistic mind differ from a woman’s? Will his desires create a distinction that fleshes itself out into an expression that is befitting a masculine soul?

How did David do it? How did he mesh together the worlds of war, music, poetry, leadership, and spirituality? How could he go from war to worship? How could he move from being a killing machine to a skilled artisan? How do you cultivate this warrior-poet keeping both sides in tact? How do you have the mental constitution of a writer and the physical constitution of a warrior? How do you nurture a ro“man”tic side without losing that much-needed logician that lives with marked vision?

How do you become proficient with the harp and the sword? How do you stay tuned in emotionally and logically? How do you shed blood and remain soft? How do you stay vulnerable without losing your backbone? How did David survive the hostility of his life without losing heart? How could he write songs while routing armies? How could he make love one day and make war the next without being consumed with confusion?

How could he lose sleep without losing heart? How did he blend book smarts with street smarts? How did he know the difference between adventures and misadventures? How did he learn the art of conversation and communication? How can you be a both/and man instead of acquiescing to the either/or model of masculinity?

Several questions to ponder as we seek to recover the masculine heart.

The Miscarried Man #2...

And what is it about men wanting to get naked? Why can’t they just party with their clothes on like everyone else? Why are men so open and raw? Even if it borders on crude and crass, why are men drawn to a less refined, more unedited lifestyle. They don’t like the life of censored passion. They are above all drawn to something real. The more clothed it is and covered up; the more suspicious they are of the merit of it. The more naked and disclosed, the more drawn they are. It’s in their blood.

I think one of the problems in this story is that this was not a kingly thing to do. Royalty didn’t respond to things this way. They kept their composure, they maintained poise and professionalism. Cool, calm and collected. This is how a man in leadership behaved.

Which begs the question, who said? Who set up this behavioral legislation? Since when did propriety and all that is proper become the expectation of the quintessential masculine personality? Why is there such discomfort in transparent, candid leadership? Where did these O.S.‘s (Operating Systems) and M.O.’s (Modes of Operation) originate and begin to disseminate?

It is quite sad that the mass of men have to feel like they are misbehaving when they are dancing their dance. It isn’t long before men put two and two together and start minding their manners, putting their best foot forward, and being on their best behavior. This all sounds wonderful, but under this stringent new “man”agement, the heart of the man starts to atrophy. On the outside, he is pleasant and amiable, but on the inside he is caged lion, declawed and defanged. This isn’t to say that men aren’t to be gentlemen, chivalrous and gallant. But there is a way to call this forth without killing the lion.

“That’s inappropriate.”

“Why do you have to do that?”

“That’s uncouth.”

“That’s taboo.”

When you continually call into question the man's style, it won't be long before you get at his substance.

The Miscarried Man #1...

"David danced before the Lord with all his might."

There is a way that a man dances. I call it a “mance”…but whatever it is, it happens with “all his might”. Interestingly it’s the only time this prepositional phrase is used in the whole bible.

It’s a dance that comes out of a couple places. First, conquest. There is nothing that brings a man to life like coming off the heels of accomplishing something great, especially if many others have tried and failed, leaving him feeling uniquely equipped, outstanding. This word “outstanding” happens to be the word used by Solomon’s beloved to describe Solomon in his piece of romantic poetry called the Song of Songs. Accomplishing something outstanding will cause a man to dance like nothing else.

Another thing that will cause a man to dance is leadership. When a man leads a group of people well, he can’t help but celebrate that feeling of fulfillment. Most men feel like fraudulent leaders, so when they pull off something significant in front of people, something oozes out of them emotionally that leads to a “mance”.

There’s only one problem. This dance is often not celebrated by the woman. There is something about the way a man expresses himself when he is fully alive that breeds contempt in a good many women. They watch as the man humiliates himself (her opinion) and embarrasses her (again, her opinion). Often times, the man will be scolded at the apex of his aliveness. He will be expecting affirmation and he will receive a look of disgust leading to a cold shoulder of disappointment.

When a man celebrates personal victory, whether it is a publicly affirmed checkpoint that was crossed or a personal benchmark reached that is only known by the man himself, there is often an “out-of-control” demonstration of triumph that can be sadly placated with diplomatic codes of conduct imposed from without. He wants to cast off the royal robe of distinction, and strip down to the non-constrictive, conservative underwear of freedom.

This grizzly form of celebration for some reason puts off too many wives along the way and creates an ever-increasing battle between the sexes. She is trying to calm him down; he’s trying to rev himself up. She is talking him off the edge; he is trying to live on the edge. She is unnerved by his barbaric yelp; he wants to flex his muscles and scream from the depth of his soul like Michael Phelps after a narrow victory.

The Miscarried Man...

I thought I'd throw up some posts on a passage of Scripture that has always intrigued me. I'll take the next several posts to comment on a few things that seem to emerge from the pages of this ancient text. I hope some of the thoughts stir up some things inside your heart.

2 Samuel 6:16-22

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"

21 David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Murky underworld of the Man...

What makes the murky world of the man's soul so hard to get your mind around is the ambiguity with which most men communicate their desires and their disappointments.

It is really hard to even find books about men that aren’t replete with worn out wit and over-used analogies leading to disturbing conclusions.

The Take Home is ubiquitously communicated and it is essentially this: Men are brain-dead brutes. They just can’t think for themselves. They always take the path of least resistance. They can’t resist even the most nonsensical temptation They’re goners, losers, loners. Hopelessly and helplessly beyond reparation.

_________________________________________________________

Men suck. They suck the life out of women. They suck the relaxation out of relationships. They suck the artistry out of communication. Everywhere they turn, anywhere they go…men bring with them a masculine vacuum that quite literally sucks…and real bad. At least this is what we’re spoon fed ad nausea by pop culture.

Men are morons. Cultural clods. Artistic abysses. Communicative corncobs. Sexual psychopaths. Relational retards. Athletic addicts. Hobby hobos. Lazy losers. Spiritual saps. As the country song says, “That’s the truth about men”. And very few argue otherwise. In fact, to do so, is to commit a cultural crime.

The minute you defend the dignity of men, the attack comes fast and fierce. Some believe you are condoning the ridiculous behavior of many mislead men in our culture over the years. I’ll admit, many men need to be taken to the woodshed for a workshop on masculinity/maturity. You won’t get much of an argument from me that many a man has conducted himself foolishly for way too long. These violent vices must be exposed and exterminated.

But there’s more to the story of the man than heinous acts of misguided passion. There are triumphant tales to be told that deserve more than the all-too-common flippant honorable mentions. Men can be quite magnanimous.

_____________________________________________________________

There aren’t many stories in the bible that talk plainly about the man’s emotions in marriage. I know that we have the Song of Solomon, but unless you’re schooled in interpreting dreams mixed with a mastery of Hebrew symbolism, you’re left to wonder how this honestly relates with what you’re going through in the 21st Century. I mean, I’m not saying there aren’t days when I find the Songs of Songs titillating, what with all the talk of breasts being like prancing fawns and such. But when it comes time to really actualize the data and drama of that piece of poetry, let’s be honest, guys don’t know what’s really going on from one verse to the next.

We have few propositional nuggets to cling to. Paul, strangely single, telling us to love our wives like Christ loved the church. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a boat-load that can be gleaned by spelunking down those Christ-0-centric caverns of interpretive thought, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot of theorizing and theologizing by flawed human beings. It’s great stuff, but it’s not a story, it’s a letter and a pretty didactic letter at that.

Jesus wasn’t married. I’m not sure why exactly; I don’t think it’s because it never crossed his mind, or because it would blemish his perfect moral track record, or because he was butt ugly. Consequently, he didn’t model much in the husband/father category and talked very little about a man’s mentality, moods or general makeup. We don’t read of many do-it-just-like-this marriage stories in the Gospels, I’m not complaining, but it does make it harder to piece together a picture, and even more importantly, a story. A good story, a dramatic interplay of banter, an everyday exchange of verbals and non-verbals. Something to sink our story-starving teeth into. Something to grab a hold of as a documented account of marriage in action.

Men are largely misunderstood. From generation to generation they are miscarried and thus, mistaken. We are making up masculinity as we go, and every generation looks in vain for a story that describes their dilemmas and desires. We are creatures who find solace in shared stories. We relate best to real, live footage. We learn best when something is translated and conveyed via story.

When men don’t have a solid story to attach to, they make believe. Who would disagree that most men don’t have words to describe what they are feeling on most days, marriage or otherwise? It’s not new news that most men prefer books with frequent pictures to keep their attention and to communicate a clarity that only a picture can paint. “A picture is worth a thousand words” had to be a guy quote after attempting to read his first book without the promptings of an illustrator. Men typically need live footage, poetry in motion as they say. Actions by active actors. They are hands on. Active learners as they say in education settings. Men have been dying for a story to describe their feelings for quite some time.

And men, regardless of how they are pigeonholed, have feelings. Lots of them. Deeper and denser than portrayed by the weeknight media or the weekend minister for that matter. Their interior isn’t represented well at all. Let’s be honest, sitcoms or sermons don’t generally do much to bolster the spirit of a warm-blooded man in a quest for magnanimous masculinity.

Look no further than the treatment of the sexes on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. The women are lauded and applauded as pillars and anchors of life itself and are all but lifted up on shoulders and given the treatment of the Queen of Sheba. The men are scolded and scrutinized as dangerous and dutiful beings incorrigibly beyond repair outside of the miraculous intervention of Lord Sabaoth. Dejected and demoralized, they scamper to their cars at the conclusion of the service and lick their wounds.

Women thank the pastor for “taking it to ‘em” and “getting’ up in their grills”. Men believe they are beyond help, a menace to society, a blight upon God’s green earth.

And self-fulfilled prophecy runs its customary course. Men live up to the vision people have of them. He sees himself as others see him. And the Bible is clear what kind of carnage this leads to, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” I don’t think there is a more powerful verse as it relates to the state of the modern man’s heart. A man will always live out what he fears he is.

The Man's Soul...

It’s anything but new news that many men struggle to communicate their desires and disappointments. Women aren’t mind readers, so if the heart of man isn’t exposited and exposed, women will continue to handle it with uneducated ignorance. For too many years man has not been explained well. His explanation is either incomplete or incoherent. And we are in desperate need of better answers than have been offered as it relates to the mysteries of the man’s soul.

I mean, you look at boys and you see something of the lost masculine desire that gets pounded out of a man over time. Where’s did that boyish freedom go? Where’s that unleashed aggression that spews forth naturally. When they are young boys, it isn’t taught; it’s instinctive, inborn. There is an energy, a power, a godly violence about a young man that speaks of God’s design and desire. They have to be told to be careful, because there is something carefree about them. They have to be told to not play too rough, because there is something tough in their touch. They have to be scolded for horseplay time and time again. Their nature is seemingly unruly, because rules are made to be broken; disaster flirted with, death defied, and so on and so forth.

I think they reason so many men go the wrong direction with this aggression is because it is uncalled for in their calling, almost reprimanded. They want to live with unbridled masculinity, but this sort of enthusiasm is curbed and curtailed to fit the familiar and feminine form, the unquestioned norm. It’s tragic and the collateral damage is devastating.

What would happen if men would feel empowered to dance with the vigor they were created to? What if wives would applaud their unique victory dance? I wonder what the man would do quite honestly; I think he would drop dead. So many have to fight for their honor; what if it was just offered without a fight? There’s no telling.

I often wonder if a lot of women aren’t celebrating the desires and personalities of their husbands because they are ashamed with how their own story is turning out. I wonder if they nurse a turtle-waxed misery right under their own seemingly controlled life that causes them to despise the joy of their husbands. I wonder if the success of their man only reminds them of their own failure, so they dis”man”tle him by dissecting his style making him call into question his substance. I wonder if masculine accomplishment rather than making a woman feel secure now makes her feel insecure. I’m not sure these wonderments explain every situation to a “t”, but I would venture to say that they are in the ballpark.

If the women can keep battling her husbands style, it won’t be long before she gets at his substance, making him question his core callings and his designed desires. It neuters his will, making him frustrated that he can’t do things right, especially when he lives from an unadulterated heart. No matter what he does, it doesn’t measure up to the women’s so-called “mature” way of life.

It is this definition of maturity that starts to erode the masculine heart over time. We live in a civilized era that views maturity in terms of quiet confidence, stoic certitude, and measured conduct. Anything outside these parameters is viewed as childish, immature. So whenever someone steps “out of line” ruining the curve, so to speak, they are exposed and corralled. If they continue to persist in their wild ways, they are written off and dismissed as rogue rebels. Yet some of the best leaders in history died with this reputation only to be exonerated with time and historic hindsight.

I think you would be surprised what many men would say if they could maintain a safe anonymity. There are a lot of things bouncing around in men’s minds that I don’t think they ever share for fear of the consequences. If they could be guaranteed immunity, I think a good many men would say that women have fallen short in their treatment of their masculine heart. Some might even say that the platonic companionship of men has far surpassed the romantic companionship of women.

I think there is something deeper going on inside of a man than contemporary culture attributes. They hide hurts. They dismiss desires. They mask masculinity. And they play the part that has been written for them by pop culture, which is a crossbreed of something between a donkey and a doorknob. I don’t need to tell you this isn’t helping anybody.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Women's retreat letter #2...

Shhh…

“Peace, be still.”

I remember yelling those words at the top of my lungs that night with my buddies on that boat. Since then, I’ve about lost my voice screaming those words at the tempest inside the woman’s soul. And man, is it every crowded with noise in you head right now. So cluttered with conflicting emotions. So congested with embarrassment mixed with excitement. So confused with comparison blended with compassion.

Even as you look around you at the others who are getting settled in, I can see the firestorm of thoughts filling your mind. “I am too young to be here. I’m too old to be here. I don’t know anyone. I should have stayed home. Who am I going to hang out with? Will she be mad at me if I don’t sit by her? I should have gotten my hair cut. My t-shirt doesn’t fit right. I feel stupid. What are they going to make us do this weekend? Why am I so nervous right now? I feel so lonely. I wonder if anyone will talk to me this weekend. I’m so tired; I’m not in the mood for this.” Shhhh…it’s going to be alright. Relax. Take a deep breath. That’s better.

Let me introduce myself to you, before I say anything else. My name is Prince of Peace. I know that you used to dream of being rescued by the handsome prince, the knight in shining armor who would slay the dragon and free you from the dungeon. I placed that longing in your heart as a little girl. I did it to ultimately draw you to me. I am the Prince that you’ve been wondering if you’ll ever meet. I am that girlhood Dream come true. I hate all that is not peace. In fact, I get pretty worked up about all that threatens the peace of your heart. This weekend, you’re talking about peace; you’re talking about me. I am Peace, peace is Me.

So I have one favor to ask of you. Can you let me fight for your peace this weekend? I’ll do the fighting, ok? No fighting for you in the next two days. No making. No working. No striving. No stressing. No trying. I’ll do all the battling; I’m the Prince who’s come to fight for you so that you can be the Princess of Peace. If you’re going to have a relationship with me, that means you must take my name and make it your own. And, oh, how I love to see you taking my name and embracing it as your own. You are never more beautiful than when you are at peace.

“Peace, be still, my princess. Your Prince is fighting for you.”

- Peace

A letter I wrote for the Women's Retreat #1...

I've written a couple letters over the years for our women's retreats. They are written from God's perspective. As I've been contemplating the next couple weeks and the messages that I'm going to give on the Man's heart and the Woman's heart...I reread these snippets and thought I would share them with my blog. I don't know, maybe they will strike a chord with someone out there who needs their chord struck something fierce right now.

_________________

My Daughter…

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for some time now. It’s finally here.

I’ve been watching you more closely since I knew that you and I would finally get some time to spend together this weekend and I’ve noticed some things.

First thing…you are a very busy person. You are always on the go and even when your body stops moving, your mind is running a mile a minute. It breaks my heart to see you so uptight with guilt and pressure and preoccupation. Sometimes I wish I could just take you by the face and look into your eyes and whisper to you, “It’s going to be alright, Precious.” But you’re a hard person to keep up with, let alone catch. I’ve been chasing you for months now. You wear even me out…and that’s not an easy thing to do.

I’ve also noticed something else that has less to do with a busy life and has more to do with a busy heart. I think sometimes you forget that I can see the unseen, that I can see the traffic jam of congestion that fills your spirit on most days. I was listening in to your inner conversation just this week and I couldn’t believe my ears…my heart broke from your brokenness. I thought I’d speak back to you some of the thoughts that were bouncing around inside of you this last week: “I will never find a good friend.” “No one really knows who I am and what I feel.” “I wish I could change almost everything about my body.” “Why does it look so easy for everyone else?” “I can’t stand her.” “I hate my stinkin’ life right now!” “I wish I wasn’t so irritable and cranky.” “I feel so lonely.” “My husband is a loser.” “Why is everybody so fake?” “I don’t trust a single soul.” “If God is real, why am I the only one that can’t connect with him?”

That last thought just cut me to the quick. I started to tear up and get angry at the same time. Oh, I wasn’t angry at you. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t take on flesh and just come to your rescue, assuring you of my presence with a nice long hug. Believe me, I want to be close to you way more than you want to be close to me…sometimes it’s all I can do to hold myself back from just ripping the veil apart between faith and sight…but I can’t; it has to be this way. It is what I call “faith love” and it is the kind of love the means the most to me. I love feeling this love from you in the times when you’re free enough to offer it. It gives me--what do you call them?--goosebumps. I feel everything inside of me explode with pure life. You make me feel that way.

I guess that’s why I’m like a groom on his wedding day…I can’t wait to be with you away from all the stuff that gets between you and me on most days. I will have you all to myself. I know that sounds selfish, but if you loved me as much as I love you, you would understand the strength of those words. I am sick of not being close to you, literally sick. Sick with longing. Sick with loneliness. Sick with love.

Some people get homesick, I get daughtersick. I love being with my daughters, but not nearly as much as I love being with my daughter. You.

I hope you can relax the next couple days. Let me carry your burdens the next couple days, ok? You just crawl up into my lap like my beautiful little girl and let me hold you, sing to you…

Whisper to you…

“You’re my girl and everything’s going to be alright.”

“Let my love hold you, my precious daughter.”

Oh, I’m so glad you’re finally here. Welcome to my love, My Love.

Your Father…