Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goodbye Cowboy

I have been enthralled by John Eldredge's sequel to "Wild At Heart" called "The Way Of The Wild At Heart". I think I am challenged even more by this book than I was when reading the original. Though there are many things that have peaked my interest, the stages of a man are what I am enjoying most, analyzing where I am at and where I am going.
Though the stages are fluid John contends that you cannot really pass into the next until you have completed it. I realized I have been a cowboy for far to long. There are both positives and negatives in this stage, and God has a balance just like everything else. The cowboy on on the far right of the spectrum becomes Peter Pan, forever a boy, abdicating his responsibilities. I am sure you either know or know of a Peter Pan, these are the guys whose Mom is still buying them groceries and paying their bills. Playing video games all day or engrossed in some sort of hobby or sport that occupies all their time, energy and thoughts. Or maybe they are a thrill seeker always looking for that next great adrenaline high snowboarding in the mountains or bungee jumping off a bridge.
On the far left we have what John refers to as the kitchen window boy. This is the man that because of his own fears or the fears of those closest to him has declared that life is too dangerous and chooses to be a spectator, not taking the risks and or embracing the "danger" that comes naturally to a boy\man. He is generally unfulfilled with his life but it is safe.
When I look back on my life I can see how I have bounced back and forth between the two. Maturity comes when you can balance both and ride the line between. Accepting the "wild side" and embracing it but knowing that it in itself will not bring fulfillment.
I know my wife has waited many years to see the cowboy ride off into the sunset. There is something attractive about the cowboy, his freedom of spirit, his dreams but it is always the desire of the woman that he will pass through this stage and become the warrior she sees inside. The problem is, many of us don't see the warrior ourselves and wallow in "cowboyness" way too long.
The biggest question of the cowboy is "do I have what it takes?". This is where the role of a a father is so important for a boy. Through training and discipleship he has the power like no other in a boys life to bring a boy to a place where he can affirm his son and say "yes, you have what it takes".
That is why Matthew 3:17 chokes me up "and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Basically, God is saying "Go get em boy". If Jesus needed that from his father before starting his ministry, how much more do we earthly men need that affirmation.
I used to grieve, my heart would literally ache when I came to the realization that my father would never bestow this on me. Thank God for Jesus, he came to this world to die for me, and now I am restored to my rightful place, as the son of my true Father God. And He HAS affirmed me, He has said I have what it takes!
There is still a desire in me a blessing from and earthy father, whether biological or spiritual, but I don't need to wait for that any longer. At this point it would be an unexpected blessing, the cherry on top of the whipped cream (if I liked cherries but the example suffices). Goodbye "Cowboy Joe", awaken The Warrior!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Process Of Manhood

We have no respect for due process anymore. Our society is making us more and more accustomed to instant gratification so that when we do have to wait, it grinds on our rights and feels wrong. We don't have to wait for our meals or coffee. If I want to get a hold of you I don't have to wait, I can call, email or text you, instantly. There is no waiting to have our photos developed, with digital cameras it is instant. Even our fashion has been affected by our instant world. If you bought a pair of jeans, it typically would come from the factory, perfect material and color. Now, that desired character can be bought, pre-ripped and pre-faded. Character that can be bought and worn immediately.
God is a God of process, if you want and oak tree, you have to start with an acorn. If you want a bible, it is written over the course of a thousand years, penned by a hundred different saints. If you want a man, you need to start with a boy.
The process of becoming a man does not happen instantaneously, it is a time tested formula that needs to age not unlike a good wine. The lie that many of us fall into is that we can get where we want to be without the process.
Ironically, a movie that illustrates the due process of a man very well is a childs cartoon. I have never looked at the movie Lion King this way until it was pointed out to me, but there are actually many "coming of age" stories out there that illustrate stages from boyhood to manhood.
In the Lion King you have a boy...er cub, Simba that is enjoying the ways of a boy, smart pranks, taking risks with out a care in the world. He looks, talks and acts like a boy even to the point of his mommy bathing him. His father loves him, tries to focus the youngsters energy and even saves his life. This stage is simply the "Beloved Son" stage.
Then tragedy strikes, his father is killed and like many men we may know he is all of a sudden he is thrust into another stage of life. This next stage sees him running from all he has known and all he is destined to become and he forgets who he is. He lives life without responsibility and thrives in immaturity. This stage is the "Cowboy" stage.
Next he meets Nala, and falls in love and moves into another stage of life, being called to be the "lover" of a woman. They have a perfect relationship until she realizes that the one she loves is a coward and running from his destiny. Amidst his pain he runs from her and runs into the monkey Rafiki, who is able to lead him back to father to embrace his destiny. Simba as the rightful heir to the throne and he runs back to his homeland to battle his evil uncle and take back the kingship, here for the first time we see him rise to the occasion and we see him as a "The Warrior".
The final stage though less eventful than the others is just as important as it completes the other stages, it adds a period to the sentence of Simba's life, this is the stage of King. We see a new wisdom in his face as he surveys his subjects bowing to him, honor and justice has been restored in the land.
Those are the four stages of manhood, the boy, the cowboy, the warrior and the king.
The more I think about it, if this weren't a cartoon, and the story played out with some macho character I think this movie cold be seen as gritty as any other guy flick like Braveheart or Gladiator.
I think it is interesting to note that a mid-life crisis usually finds a man feeling like he has missed a stage in his life and many times he reverts back to the cowboy stage, often times abdicating his responsibilities but that's for another discussion.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Heart Motivations

I am feeling a little low the last couple days, God has been downloading a lot of stuff to me and most of it has been very convicting. I am thankful for people who God had placed in my life to point out the things I don't see, but honestly it is really hard to hear sometimes. I have been the "nice guy" for so much of my life, nice guys don't have faults, and they are really humble in a prideful way.
I have become really passionate about a men's ministry tool called "Men's Fraternity", which has really impacted me on my healing journey. Naturally since it has helped me so much I have gotten really passionate about bringing it to other men so that they may enjoy the freedom that I have been given. But there was something that just has not been sitting right with me, and has given me a caution. When promoting the material to others I have felt like a salesman and my spirit really questions that. Should we ever have to try to sell God? Of course not! God living inside of us should impact those around us that they want what we have.
Just yesterday morning I was having breakfast when God just spoke to me while I was text messaging Darcy. When I heard it I didn't want to believe it, but I knew it was the truth. The reason I have been so passionate about bringing Men's Fraternity to other men is really speaking of the insecurities inside of me. Deep down my feelings have been that I have nothing to offer myself.
I have never realized until now how dishonoring that is to God, after all it is He who is doing the healing in me, not a program. He is the one who has brought my heart to a point where it can be molded and used for his purposes. God does use programs, organizations and people but He is the one behind it all.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

It is amazing how you can fool yourself, and tell yourself that I am doing what I am doing for God's glory and not for my own. This is especially true when it comes to doing things in the Church or for some sort of ministry. After all it is for God, how can it be wrong.
I have enough on my plate right now, but I know from past experience that one of the scariest prayer I have prayed was for God to reveal things in my heart that I did not know where there.

Optimus Prime, Father To The Fatherless

In 1986, the original Prime did something that distinguished him from most other cartoon heroes. He died. He died for freedom, for righteousness”. Scott Brown of Wired Magazine goes on to assert that American culture American males are looking forward to the July 4th release of the “live-action” Transformers movie for “more than galvanic summer thrills or simple nostalgia. They’re looking for redemption, as men.”

“Prime practically parented the latchkey kids of the mid-”80s. He was our Allfather at a time when flesh-and-blood role models were increasingly few and far between”.

I remember scrambling to the television when voice actor Peter Cullen would command the troops to “Roll out!” and my second father with a voice like John Wayne playing Abraham Lincoln would contort into a Mack Truck, rev his engine, and roll his crushing 16-wheels down the heroic highway, barreling over the face of evil with unstoppable resolve. An action figure, Rubik’s cube, and Tonka toy all rolled into one, combined with an unshakable morality and sacrificial love, even the “tech specs” on his packaging in 1984 proclaimed his mission to bring freedom to “all sentient beings”. 23 years later, his steely face is plastered on a poster with a single word: “protect”. It’s no wonder so many boys laid their weekly allowance on the energon altar.

Little did we know it would do more than simply enhance merchandising; it would give a generation something to believe in when dad and the local parish had failed; it would give boys an animated role model. and perhaps even a Cybertronian god.

This is why so many people I know are polarized: excited or exacerbated, feverish or furious, titillated or ticked off, by the Michael Bay directed / Steven Spielberg produced return of Optimus and the bots, transforming into box office revenue on 2007’s Independence Day.

The question on everyone’s lips: “When Papa comes truckin’ home, will we recognize him?”

With a lack of faith in earthly fathers, and lacking a relationship with God, who is our Father, I can see the grand attraction of a robot that is both “Optimal” and in his “Prime”. Intentional or not, there is something godlike built into the stoic Autobot Commander, a titanium trinity imaging a loving Father, a sacrificial Son, and even an indwelling Spirit represented by the “Matrix of Leadership” he carries in his heart (or cab). To a lesser degree, he also represents a rugged, brass-knuckle, rubber-meets-the-road manliness that contemporary culture has slowly leeched from its men. Optimus Prime is a desperate grab for God, daddy, and lost masculinity.

“With bated breath and shaken faith we await the return of our Almighty Rig. Because without Prime, we’re stuck with whiney Spider-boys, metrosexual pirates, and koan-spouting kung-fu Christs in designer sunglasses and unisex clubwear. Because these days, the only real men left are giant robots.”

Just a toy? Purely nostalgia? I don't think so. Truly, there is something going on here that is more than meets the eye.

Unqualified To Drive\Live

Were you driving today? Try and think of your drive to work or wherever you were going and ask yourself how aware were you of your driv...