Legacy

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Gideon is one of the most spoken about men in the Old Testament for reason. He was an awesome man. God used him to bring about deliverance from Israel’s enemies on a grand scale and gave them peace afterwords for 40 years. Fantastic story, incredible man. But there is more to the story.

He had 71 sons, 70 were the children of his wives that grew up with him in his household and in their community. One son, Ablimelech was from his concubine a woman who was servant in a neighboring town.

When Gideon died, Abimelech went to the elders of his city and said “my father is dead, do you want 70 men to rule over you from another city, or just one who is your own relative? They said we want only one so they gave him money and he hired mercenaries to kill his 70 brothers and became king.

Gideon after a great victory refused to be king. He said I will not rule over you, but God will rule over you. Ablimelech not only was made King where his father had refused but he wiped out his fathers legacy by murdering his brothers. His rule was short as he ended up being ambushed by his own people, then burning all the leaders of his hometown who had originally financed his coup to the crown and was killed shortly thereafter by a woman who crushed his skull with a rock.

Crazy story, I just found it myself last month while up camping. I’ve heard and read of Gideon many times, but never saw the back story and how the choices he had made destroyed everything he had built.

Quick subject change then we’ll get back to Gideon: What we do at ManAlive works because of the small group period. If a man comes in the room with a problem, that problem at it’s core is almost always a relational problem that is repaired ironically through the building of healthy relationships. As we are learning to do those relationships in our small group, picking up some tools, learning how to talk, touch, and feel, we’re surrounded by successes and failures. We are encouraged by the former, we learn from the later. Gideon is a biblical view of both. On one hand we are all encouraged by his life, what he did, and the revealed character of God. On the other we hand there is lesson in the story that will protect us if we allow ourselves to learn from it.

Gideon did great things but he had a compromise in his life that came back to bite him. Was it that big of a deal? I mean, concubines where a common practice back then right? Even the great Kings of of Israel had them. They were kind of like a wife, but not really. Lower status at best, they were kept women used for sexual purposes, their children did not enjoy full inheritance rights along with their siblings of the wife or wives. Maybe Gideon couldn’t or wouldn’t marry her because she was of lower economic status as she was a servant. Even if she was his wife which she wasn’t she lived in the next town over and she raised Gideon’s son Ablimelech there separate from a father and the community of his influence. Out of this scenario Gideon because he couldn’t control his penis, because he compromised in this area, because he didn’t embrace the mistake and raise his son in his own household it reeked havoc on all that was dear to him after his death when he wasn’t available to protect it.

I know that lesson here is obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. No matter how many great things you have done it can be wiped out in an instant by compromise. By lack of self control. By the removal of relationship, lack of fathering, and correct parenting and marriage modeling as is should be done.

In the next chapter of Judges the narrative moves on to Samson. An angel appears to a barren woman and tells her she is about to have a child that will do great things and that he should be kept holy from birth (Nazarite vow). The husband wants to double check the instructions so he prays that the angel will return. He does and tells him exactly the same thing i.e. keep the child holy from birth. The father wants more direction and asks what shall be his mode of life and the vocation of the child. The angel says again, he shall be kept holy with out adding any instructions but the reminder to be holy.

The answer to to the questions of life is holiness. If you are ever wondering Gods direction for you, it’s clear what is important: Be holy. In heaven the elders see God and go back down to their face repeating the words holy, holy, holy. He is holy, we are to be holy. Had Gideon stayed holy his family line and legacy would have remained fully intact. That he messed up doesn’t remove what God did, but It could have ended so much better.

Our mandate is to be holy as he is holy. With every action, with every plan. Like the father of Samson don’t get weighed down by the details of mode of life or vocation. When we live holy, it’s all good all the time. In our past, in the moment, in the future, and in the legacy we leave.

Make it right

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I wrote a must read blog a few years ago called “Words and your check book. Since then I have spent some time processing, living life, finding out what I need, what I would like, and what I really want in this area.

25 years ago I became a christian and immediately felt conviction for wrongs I had committed against others. It took me over a year and there were many but I slowly made it around to everyone I could think of and asked for forgiveness. In each case if there were material damages I brought my check book and if I didn’t know a number, I asked them to give me one. These were all emotional events for me because it’s extremely humbling to own up. I like money and can be proud so both at once made me feel it deep.

Though these paybacks were tough to do, I am so glad I did them. It’s like an instant weight loss because you feel so much lighter afterwords, more tender, and intimately connected to God. I like to feel good, and making amends feels good.

Adding the financial component to asking forgiveness gives our words weight. It literally puts our money where our mouth is. There seems to be this notion out there that if we say we are sorry we’re off the hook and all is well. A man doesn’t get to just use some words and walk away, he needs to make it right and fix what he broke. Non believers seem to understand restitution more than christians do. Zacchaeus understood it and he found salvation. The Old Testament is full of direction on restitution but so few follow it. Let this not be us. Let us be men who right the wrongs in the world starting with ourselves.

Last month I was up fishing with my boys and a boy came and stood right next to my son and casted over his line several times. It irritated me, but I am used to combat fishing so I let it go. His uncle came down to the river bank about the time the boy got tangled up so I took his spot for a few casts while he got untangled. When I did his uncle growled at me about my fishing edicate. I said he can have his spot back as soon as he gets untangled and by the way your boy just casted over my son’s line 10 times before you got here. He then snapped back at me that I should have taught him not to cast over someones line. I could tell this guy was so angry he was inconsolable so I held my tongue and moved back to my spot. 10 minutes later after pacing around he came up and said I didn’t mean to come off like a jerk. I responded that he did come off like a jerk. He got all sheepish apologized profusely several times and here is the point of the story. He then began to tell me about some of his secret fishing holes in the area and gave me directions. Not just once, but multiple times through out the day he kept coming up to me. My point is that men in the world like Zacchaeus innately understand restitution better than Christians do. Is it because we’re not teaching it? My guess is that we have been told so many times that sorry is enough that it’s over ridden our natural instinct to make things right.

If two men are in civil court, the one in the wrong pays damages determined by the judge, and jury. God has this biblical direction for us as well. We do not need the courts to tell us to do it, we have the Holy Spirit that brings conviction and a God given logical mind that can do math.

The standard is: Fix what you break. Repay who you cheated, return what you stole, make right those you have wronged. Do not be mistaken or misled that words will suffice, they do on occasion, but on many they do not. Make it your value system to be a man that makes it right no matter how much it hurts (Psalms 15) When you do you impact the people around you for the better every time.

I have made restitution many times, but only once to my memory has anyone made it to me. After a year of not speaking a friend of mine handed me a note asking for forgiveness with cash to cover the loss. I cried, and we’ve been close ever since. Much closer than before because restitution is an act of intimacy. It says that you value relationship more than money or your pride. Restitution brings men together and together, we’re strong.

Of all the times I have made restitution guess how many times I got a negative response from anyone? The answer,…..zero. Nothing but love. Fear not what you need to do. Make a list, don’t check it twice, don’t waste another day just go get it done. Chose relationship over pride and possessions. The power to reconcile is in your hands.

Find a field

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When you are tired of running, great things happen.

Two men in the story of David listed back to back right next to each other both got tired of running, fought it out, and won. 2 Sam 23: 9-12 These are different battles, similar circumstances, when everyone else was running, they stood their ground one to the point of exhaustion, one defending a field of beans, both  brought about a great victory. It was great because it wasn’t just for them, everyone they were in relationship with benefited.

Sound familiar? It does because this is you. I know because even if it isn’t right now, you want it be.

David, the man they fought with had done it too. When other’s were scared and ran, he did not. 1 Samuel 17 tells the story, my favorite verse is 57 when after it was all over and late in the day he was still carrying the head of the much larger man he killed, he didn’t want anyone to forget it was him who killed him, that it was him who turned the battle, that it was him who went for it when no one else would. It worked, because though the King Loved David (1 Sam 16:21) he didn’t know much about him even though he was his armer bearer and his personal musician. After he killed Goliath Saul wanted to know more than his name, he wanted to know who he was, where he was from, asking twice whose son he was.

When you stop running and start fighting, when you defend what you have you bring about great victory. There’s prep work for sure, you watch the sheep, you stay committed, you practice with your weapons. You defend the flock, you kill a bear, you kill a lion. More than that you get the sheep back. The prep work for greatness happens because you do what is in front of you. You eat what is on your plate.  Little by little you work through your stuff, you watch, you act, you learn, you grow.

Conor Mcgregor a UFC fighter is an is a fantastic example to be aspired to in many ways of doing the work, taking the steps, living the life, working hard, valuing himself, loyalty to his team, his family, his country. There seems to be a lot of hate out there for him because of his trash talk, but it’s not trash talk, rather it’s truth telling. He’s a great fighter, and he keeps proving it, he keeps rising, he keeps getting paid, he keeps showing up, doing what he said he would do, his words articulate the journey. You have to love the confidence, the dedication, the masculinity of this man who has come from low places and yet can speak at a level above the highly educated.

Conor is my guy, if he doesn’t do it for you, find your own. Find a man that speaks to you, that makes your heart burn, that connects to the places deep with in you. You don’t need just one, find many. It’s good to look up to people, it’s healthy, you rise with them and you learn and pull from their lives. Whether an athlete, a businessman, a speaker, an eccentric, musician, adventurer, artist, world leader, writer, a simple godly man that lives a quiet life, an activist, reformer, visionary, scholar, billionaire, tradesman, who ever he is, let him teach you something, let him help you become a better man, let him inspire you.

Be it Eleazar, Shammah, David, or your Conor Mcgregor. Picture what is possible. Grab onto greatness, find a field and fight for it.

 

 

 

 

Pay off

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Championships dynasty teams have men on them that are more worried about winning than the money they make to play. Tom Brady could be making triple what he is, Julian Edelman at least double, Steph Curry at least Double…the real money is in the rings. It’s delayed gratification because when they win they make up of for the lost $ in endorsements.  These selfless men have more fun, enjoy the game more, the comradery is real, they live with purpose, and have the trophies on the shelf because they took less so others could get paid more. This makes champions.

Delayed gratification is a motivating force, it keeps you looking and living with resolution, our goals come alive. Self denial pays off, both in this life and in the one to come, wait for it, when the pay off happens it’s sweet, beautifully sweet.
We live daily with choices over debt, masturbation, isolation, over eating drinking working, porn, dishonesty, these choices come with very brief pay offs at credit card interest rates.
Men wait. They wait for the right woman, the right business deal, the right home, the right friends, the right opportunity. Boys want it now.
 Benedict Arnold left what would have been a great legacy and defected to the British over money. He wanted to get paid, and get paid now. If he would have waited he would have gotten it all, instead, he lost everything, his name synonymous with traitor.
 It’s more than just being a warrior. Be the man that is wise enough to wait and get around men that cheer for you when you do. Be ok with the delay, greatness is on the way. Learn how to wait for it and go after it at the same time.

Scare stories

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I have been called crazy many times, but it’s not true. I am of sound mind, edgy yes, crazy, no. I have done a lot of things in life, dangerous things, but the risks were calculated, I went in prepared, half scared, half excited, I came out each time bruised but not broken. In fact I’ve never broken a bone, cracked a few, torn cartilage, many pulled muscles but never hospitalized. I will win most scar contests, I have 28 beauties and counting. I credit my many near misses to long list of scare stories.

My grandparents were great at these, ran through the whole family, my dad was especially good at them. My first 25 years of life was spent on a farm around a ton of equipment and livestock that could kill you. Many of our friends had missing fingers, toes, arms, and legs. Many didn’t survive. Crushed by a tractor, drowned in a manure pit, head blow off by a riser under to much pressure, many accidents in heavy fog, men crushed under a load of peaches, men made into hamburger by a PTO shaft, loggers done for by snapping cables, ATV roll overs, chemical poisonings, electrocutions, propane explosions, bull gorings.  It was and is a dangerous vocation.

From an early age I have heard these stories, they keep me safe. I can’t tell you how many times we drove over this bridge near our house and my dad would tell me of the high school classmate of his that jumped off into shallow water and spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair. I love to cliff and bridge jump, I do it all the time. The stories don’t stop me, but they make me know for sure that it’s deep enough, every time, 100% of the time.

One of the many beautiful things about ManAlive is that we’re doing life right in the middle of a bunch of brutal scare stories. There are successes every where, so beautiful they will make you cry, but there are failures too, costly mistakes. When they happen, we all learn. When you are doing life with other men, sitting in a small group, hearing the stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly, you learn. Someone else’s stupid makes you smart. You feel the severity of the consequences of an affair, the cost of dishonesty, the destruction of passivity, anger, sin, haste, procrastination, unforgiveness, fear, lack of discipline. When you see the effects, it wakes you up, it helps you make correct decisions. Scare stories make you wise.

You only get to hear these stories when you are in relationship. When you are connected and invested you feel their pain, it’s not just some news article you read, you’re involved and it sears your memory.  A wise man has many counselors so get deep into relationship. Let them love you, heal you, teach you, and protect you. Don’t be fear the scare stories, rather look for them, embrace them, and let them help you live both humble and human.

 

 

Audacious

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We come to group for us, because it’s good for us, it’s good for our family and everyone we’re in relationship with. Because we take care of ourselves we are able to help others out of that place and it is not draining, rather it’s life giving. Pretty cool set up.

On Monday nights we’re around men that are getting better all the time. Men that are crying that have never cried. Men that are talking that have never communicated openly. Men that are learning how to touch that have never been touched appropriately, Men that are learning how to feel. It’s so very fun, I mean what else would we rather be doing? Not much really, besides exactly what we want to do….and wow, that helps men too because we’re doing what brings us life and we’re able to pass it along with out effort, so very cool.

Once you get in a small group, sober up, and figure out what is going on you can begin to help other men because you are now farther along than some. Helping other men get better is satisfying, it’s a constant helpers high. Feels so good help people and as you move along, as you get better, you keep going deeper. Sobriety turns into freedom and you start working on other areas of your life and able to help other men in their marriage, their family, their finances. Wait,…… isn’t this a stop looking at porn group? Yes, that is where we start, but once you’re past that all the fun stuff kicks in. It doesn’t end because there is always better, there is a deeper level of freedom, it is on going radical self improvement.

The dead are raised every Monday night, not just then but every day of the week because it’s not a program, it’s not a ministry, it’s a lifestyle. Everything you ever wanted is just on the other side of the sin you have been stuck in, many of you for decades. What are you waiting for? If you live here in Redding come to group immediately, if you don’t, move here. If you can’t, join an online group. Get out of that casket you’ve been living in and dance.

The God you have been reading about in the bible is real, so very real. Everything he has said is true, everything you have done is redeemable, it will fix, it will be better than you ever thought possible, you will live the life you couldn’t even dream about before. Its there for you, it’s here for you. Come and get it, come and take it. You are Robin Hood, and many poor will be fed from your future deeds.

You have been weak, but you will defend the weak. You have been poor, but  you will prosper and give generously. You have been in fear, but you will live courageously. You have been alone, but you will have true community, and real honest intimate friendships. You have been passive, but you will become aggressive. You have been late, but you will be early. You have lived in depression, but you will be happy. You have lived a constant lie, but you will live honestly, openly, and sleep like a baby. Where you are weak, you will become strong.

I work hard not to use big words, even though I like some of them, usually stay away as because I prefer simple clean speech but I wanted to introduce you to a new word if you don’t know it, if you do, read the definition again, it’s one of my favorite words.

au·dac·i·ty
ôˈdasədē/
noun
  1. 1.
    the willingness to take bold risks.
    “her audacity came in handy during our most recent emergency”
    synonyms: boldness, daring, fearlessness, intrepidity, bravery, courage, heroism, pluck, grit;

    informalguts, gutsiness, spunk, moxie
    “a traveler of extraordinary audacity”

     

    Repeat after me: “I am audacious” say it again “I am audacious” This is you, if you were a fighter pilot it would be your call sign. in your future you will be able to see what others cannot, dream dreams that others cannot dream, accomplish things others cannot. You will believe they are true, you will see it, you will run after it and others will follow. What you have been that is not desirable you will leave behind and take only the good with you. You are purging, moving on, settling into a new you. You are audacious.

    You will soon come to the place of supreme confidence so that you will speak like David spoke in Psalms 17:15 I will see you because have done no wrong and when I awake your presence will fill me with joy. Or like Psalms 18:20 The Lord rewards me because I do what is right, he blesses me because I am innocent. What? Innocent? I do no wrong? I don’t get it?….. David sinned, he killed his friend, he lied, he was passive with his children, he had sex with another mans wife. What’s is going on here? How can he say that? I’ll tell you how, because David knew he was forgiven, he had received grace, he had walked it out, embraced the discipline and his God, and finished well.

    This is your future. It’s shameless, it’s audacious, it’s powerful where once you were powerless.

     

Taking ground

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Great testimonies from men in the room about how their lives are being changed, how they’re healing, how they are prospering, standing up for themselves, loving themselves are so common I need a big box of most improved trophies to hand out. Josh Watkins, a group leader in the room just emailed this to me, pretty cool.

This has been an overwhelmingly stressful few months but but because of the tools I’ve learned, the relationships I have developed, and the new clarity of mind I now have it has allowed me to rise in a healthy way and do what needs to be done in the middle of some crazy chaos right now. 

Currently in my life I am running two businesses one of which has an employee who is having surgery next week and the other that has many logistics that must be worked out from a distance in the next week. I am currently working a second job out of town in open heart surgery on top of that I am living with my parents for the days at a time while I work here. I am on call 24/7 and have been for about 5 months. I have a three year old daughter who is in ICU after being flown there without me yesterday. I am unable to go to her and my wife for three more days due to the nature of being on call. I myself have been sick for over a week.

I have a daughter with a serious boyfriend and we have completely open communication. I have a very good relationship with my 13 year old son and we talk about everything. My seven year old daughter adores me. My wife’s heart is finally resting secure in me after almost two years of sobriety and investment back into our marriage. I know this because we talk constantly about everything and when I opened my travel bag this weekend, there was a note inside telling me that I have finally become her other half in a way that she didn’t know was possible.
I just took a shower after working out and feel absolutely no desire to act out. I feel as though the Lord has spoken to me today telling me that what was my greatest weakness (acting out sexually and porn), has become in turn the very thing that has led to my time of greatest strength. I feel solid, confident, powerful, and at peace. None of the above was possible in my life for over 17 years. I lived in daily failure, fear, and anger.

All this stress would have in the past pushed me over the edge, but that’s not even close to where I’m at today through surrender to Jesus as well as being proactively involved in other men’s lives and battles, I have become a warrior that is winning, and taking ground rather than cowering in the corner.

Chainsaw

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21 years ago I was a caretaker in British Columbia and was given a chain saw as a going away present, a Husqvarna 257 air injection. I’ve never had a problem with it, starts and runs like a champ. In the first half of our relationship together it cut upwards of 8 cords a year to keep us warm. We’ve lived through desperate times together, in cold country, under harsh circumstances. It’s been my friend, my therapist, & companion. It feels good in my hand, I like the sound of it screaming in my ears, the smell of the mixed gas, the bar oil, the saw dust.

For several years we lived in a one bedroom shack in the woods, we had chickens, the house was fed by a natural spring, but it had no insulation so we burned a lot wood. I almost always cut wood when I’m in pain, I cut wood to get out of the house, to get outside, to get my head right. I need the wood, but I need what getting the wood does for me more.

The sound of that saw is the sound of healing to me. For years in the rain I worked through mountains of rejection, regret, hurt,  injustice, and disappointments.  I didn’t pray through it, I worked through it, one cord at a time. I’d save the splitting to help me work through the anger. It feels good to bring that big maul down and break up big rounds, nothing like it.

I help men heal, it’s what I do. I know what they need, and more often than not it’s a chain saw, a shovel, a hammer, a wheel barrow, a trawl. I don’t counsel men, I work with them and we talk. I rarely meet for lunch or coffee but I do like to meet up while digging a ditch, planting a trees, fixing something, or burning brush. When you work with a man, you get to know him. You sweat together, you feel the project, your moving, you see how he thinks, you gain respect for each other, you get something done.

I have felt some of the most intense emotion of my life out running that saw, I’ve had it out with God on the most extreme levels in the woods with it by my side. I have worked until exhaustion set in because I didn’t know what else to do, I’ve wept with that saw in my hand. It’s made me feel powerful, and it’s broken me. I’ve bled with it (literally) on many occasions. I am generous in loaning out my possessions, but not my saw. I care for it, sharpen it, keep the mix right, the oil full, the filter clean, I chain it up when I go on vacation. There are many like it, this one is mine. We’re as close as something with out a heart beat can be. Someday when it dies I will mount it on my wall, when people ask why, I will tell them, and we’ll feel it together.

I ran the Husqvarna today, it felt good and once again it helped heal me. That saw has been a gift that has kept on giving. Find a saw, find a forrest, find yourself. Our faith is foundational, good counselors are a gift, friends are essential, but sometimes you just need a chainsaw.

A better you

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To get better we have to have a place to process and the best place to learn to do that is in small group. We have only one rule to protect you, and that is confidentiality, nothing leaves the room. Depending on the small group leader and his style we also have several strong suggestions that most enforce as well, they are, don’t interrupt when some is speaking, no advice, no fixing, no church words, and no bible bandaid horizontal fix-it prayers.

What we learn in group, we take into life and make it a lifestyle. We get good at processing, and letting others do the same. The rules and the strong suggestions still apply in life, they work, its a code we live by and expect from others. It’s healing.

Processing is messy but we need it, we have to do it, we gotta have a place we can lay our stuff out there, get it in the light and look at. When we are able to share openly with out judgment with men that we feel accepted by we come alive. We start talking about things we have never talked about before, we get ideas, find answers, we become known, we get to know others, we correct behaviors, we feel loved, we heal, we get better together.

What I say from the pulpit i have already processed. What I say up front is true, its who I am, it’s solid. What I say during my share in small group is often messy, imperfect, and my thinking isn’t always spot on. It doesn’t have to be, I’m working through things, I’m listening to myself talk, I’m getting my thoughts out there, purging, cleansing, organizing, feeling. When I’m done if I’m doing it right I feel better, I feel loved, I feel accepted. I recognize what isn’t true, I see my faulty thinking, I make adjustments, I redefine my goals, I plan my week, I get prayer, we hug, I’m good, I’m ready to go, it’s just what I needed.

Jesus the night before his execution processed with his Father. He was working through things he he didn’t want to be working through. It was tough, painful, extremely uncomfortable and he put it to words, he let his emotions flow, his words speak honestly and it got him to the place he needed to be. His process saved us.

Like Naaman in 2 Kings 5 to be healed he had to to dunk himself in the dirty water water to get healed. Not just once, but many times. Get over the pride of perfection and the know that the mess that come with processing is temporary but the result is a better you.

 

 

 

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