No longer alone

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Great blog written by a great man. Rodger Gaskin:

I am part of “Man Alive,” Bethel Church’s men’s group, about 300 men strong, which focuses on leading men into godly maturity, purity, and wholeness. We started having our annual “Manifest” retreat a few years ago. They are great fun and a place where men are challenged to embrace truth and be a bit more wild. And, we eat really well!!!

The first evening of one retreat I found myself walking across a soccer field with a young man as we headed to dinner. He looked at me and said, “Rodger, I don’t know how to be a man.”

I was completely shocked.

This young man has a ruggedly handsome face and a lean muscular body. He has a beautiful wife and precious children. He had a job that enabled him to take care of his family’s needs. He loves God. How could he not know what it was to be a man, he was being a man.

Two things immediately struck me. First, why would he share this intimate fear with me? He knew I struggled with homosexuality. How could I help him, I needed his help. Second, a lie I had long believed was exposed. My young friend who had never struggled with homosexuality was struggling with the same thing I struggled with. The lie is that my struggle was unique, special, and profoundly different than all other men’s struggles, especially men like my young friend. And, I had nothing to offer to him. Our struggle was a deep uncertainty about masculinity, our masculine identity. What is a man and how does it feel?

As we walked I felt God’s presence but it wasn’t that great peace I was familiar with. It was his presence that challenges me to go beyond myself, see beyond myself. It’s that presence that requires me to believe and do what I’m afraid of.

In that moment I saw that my distorted view of myself blinded me to what my young friend saw clearly. He found in me a man with whom he could share his hidden fears. And, he saw in me a level of masculinity that drew him to me, in that moment he was trusting that I would “father” him. This required me to believe and to take action.

I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder (this was easy as he was walking very close to me). I acknowledged his feelings. I encouraged him he was more than enough to face his fears and that he was so much more than he realized. I told him what he had just done, sharing his secretive fear, was a powerful demonstration of masculinity. Men don’t hide and we face we our fears. And, I assured him that he was not alone, we would keep walking together.

This encounter has lead to a profound realization. As a man who struggled with homosexuality, I thought all of what I struggled with was uniquely a “homosexual struggle.” Certainly, I believed, men who weren’t sexual drawn to other men did not struggle with the same “stuff” as I did. What came to light is that most of what I struggle with is not unique to same sex attracted men, but it is common to all men.

Most men struggle with fears of some kind. Many men struggle with what it is to be a man, what it is to be masculine. All men have a sexual appetite they must manage. Many men struggle with the fear that they are not enough of a man to meet a wife’s desires, adequately care for a family, or be a good father. Many men are afraid they don’t measure up to other men, whether it is the speed of their car, size of their wallet, or the length of their penis. Many men long for friendships with other men but are crippled by the fear of rejection. The little boy in us is looking for other boys to conquer the world, to be friends.

I am no longer alone in my struggles. Even the things that are “unique” are not uncommon. As I have thrown away the lie that I was uniquely broken, I have found that my community is equipped to minister to me (us). Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 that when the church comes together Holy Spirit gives gifts for the common good. These gifts bring insight, encouragement, and healing. The gifted church brings healing and freedom to all in need.

I pray that today you will experience God’s presence calling you to truth and that you act on it. I pray that you reject the lie that you are not uniquely broken and therefore “unfixable.” Instead, I pray you see your struggles are common therefore there are many who can walk with you towards wholeness. And, I pray that you remember that God our father, the Lord Jesus our savior, and Holy Spirit our empowering comforter is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us!!!

 

4 months to live

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A friend asked me yesterday as we were returning from a hunting trip “what would I do if I only had 4 months to live?” I didn’t need to think about it because I have been asking myself the same question for 20 years. My answer was, is and always will be “exactly what I am doing now.” If that is your answer to the question “what would you do if you only had 4 months to live” then you’re doing it right. You’re alive and living life as it was meant to be lived.

Every interaction, phone call, every touch, tough situation you work through, financial decision, activity with your kids, every time you make love to your wife, come in contact with your enemies, neighbors, friends. Every word you speak, everything you do could be your last, make it all count all the time, every time. It could be the last time you see each other. Either by death, a move, or the circumstances of life. Time is precious, we’re all dying whether its 4 months or 40 years from now live every moment of your life like it is your last because it is.

                                     My friend saw me interact with 2 people that morning. One of them was on the way home when we stopped by another friends house who just had an extraordinarily tough year. As we cleaned our deer we talked, listened, encouraged, gave her some meat, and parted with a hug. Then on the phone to my wife before I hung up I said “babe, you are an exceptionally incredible person, I love you. “ I didn’t say it for him but he heard me say it. I was living the answer to the question. There was no one I would have rather have been hunting with, no one I would have rather stopped to encourage, no one I would have rather called on the phone.  I was living this day like every other day, like I was dying.

       As I dropped him off after the hunt I was simultaneously answering his question with some variation of the words above. I told him of the disappointment I just had reading the obituary of very rich man that lived near me and thinking is that it? That is not what I want. I want more, much much more. We are writing our own obituary every day, every action, every breath, knowing it is up to us to write the best obituary ever lived.

 

 

 

 

Feel it all

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Jesus had wide variety of emotions. He wept, he felt compassion, frustration, anger, anguish, sadness, grieved, betrayal, abandonment, happiness, and rejection.  A man in his 30s in one of the most violent cultures in history, yet he showed emotion openly.

Boys are born more sensitive than girls but by the age of 5 it begins to get conditioned out of them. With social conditioning lines like “toughen up, don’t be a cry baby, or only girls cry.” If you didn’t hear a line like this directly you got the message and from a very young age were culturally shamed into shutting down your emotions.

If the list of emotions you are feeling looks like Jesus, you’re doing it right. Not only is it OK for men to feel, we we need to feel. Feeling = healing. To be fully alive you gotta feel it all. To get to the happy you have to feel through the sad. Face it, embrace it, and enjoy it.  Both the brutal, and the beautiful need to happen, they want to happen. It’s your job to let it happen.

 

 

The Legacy We Leave

The Legacy We Leave

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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.

Poor Man Pays Twice

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I was working on some wood floors a while back and my belt sander busted.  My buddy looked at the broken machine and said “Don’t be cheap. Poor man pays twice” and went back to work with his fancy yellow one.

Punk.

But I learned a lesson.

I think it applies to more than electric belt sanders. 

Somewhere along the way I picked up a bunch of quick fix cheap tools to meet some basic needs.

For example: porn was a cheap tool I kept buying to meet an intimacy need.  There are more, and I’m sure you have a bunch you can think of for yourself. 

Lately,  I’ve been investing in new and better tools.  Tools like the Feeling Wheel so I can attach the right word to the right feeling.   Vulnerability is a great tool for breaking shame.

There are a load of others that help like, rest, eating right, worship, calling a friend, adventure.  A good list to start on is page 22 of ManAlive: The Making of Men.  If you haven’t got the book I highly recommend it.   

After 3 years, I’ve got a decent sized tool box, and it feels pretty good.  Some of them definitely cost more than others, but it has been worth it.

Start getting some new tools and don’t be cheap, you aren’t a poor man. 

The Man I Always Wanted To Be

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As a boy, I longed for adventure.  I thought for sure I would be a man along the lines of Indiana Jones.   

ManAlive in a hammock.

I imagined myself traveling the world, starting a business, climbing mountains, making a ton of money. There were fantasies about teaching and giving interviews about my amazing adventures.

The man I wanted to be was decisive, took action, did things, laughed and loved and lived life large.   At no point did I imagine myself in my 40’s dealing with indecision, passivity, fear, rage and rejection.

I was not the man I wanted to be, but I could not pursue radical self-improvement by myself and nobody could really help.   Every time I tried to change or stop, I was left buried in shame, isolated, more aware of my problems and more rehearsed in failure.   Oh, I tried. The meetings, counseling, the prayers, the books, all seemed focused on not doing bad things, being Holy, and on actions to do when I was triggered, but by then it was too late.

Nothing prepared me to deal with the emotions I couldn’t seem to control and was barely aware that I had.

It was ManAlive (the Monday night group), the men in the room, and reading this book, that changed my life.  Through ManAlive, I picked up the skills I would practice and hone to build solid relationships with myself and with men and remove shame from my life.  Once that started, I was able to uncover the things that brought me life and go after them.

The man I am now, is a man who goes after life and relationship.  I’m taking action, making more and better decisions, laughing, loving, crying, feeling.  I am a man more fully alive than ever before, and you can be too.   

It’s been over three years now and what I have learned from Mark has brought me, my marriage, and my family back to life.

Be the man you’ve always wanted to be.  Get the book, read it and do it.

Thanks Mark, you are amazing. 

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.
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