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.

 

 

This Hope is for You

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For years I couldn’t dream. I couldn’t laugh.  I couldn’t cry and I could barely feel.  Life required so much from me, I didn’t know how to do it.  I was lost, hurting, and messing up.

In 2012, I described myself as a booster rocket.  I would expend all I had, burn up as I pushed my family up and away from all the crap I had grown up with.   I would launch them and fall back to earth, spent and wasted.   It had a noble ring to it and reeked of self pity. 

There was hope for them but not for me. 

During the fall of 2013, I heard Dave Stevenson speak. This man got up and shared deeply and passionately about his process, his shame and pain, but he spoke with a confidence and hope that stirred me.

Is it true.. how did he get there?   

Screw it!  If Dave Stevenson could do it, so could I.  Two weeks later I joined a group at ManAlive.

And….life actually got harder before it got better.  As I faced my issues and quit running from difficulty and pain, I was feeling more hurt than ever before.  It sucked.  I yelled at God. I pouted and went on long walks.  I did my homework. I fought with my wife.  I journaled a bunch trying to find words for my pain. 

The grind was not fun and part of me wanted to quit.  Was it worth it? 

I would not have continued without seeing men like Dave Stevenson, Eli Leedy, and others crushing it week after week.   Even their failures modeled a life wide open and alive.  Their stories were hope for me and still are.   Hope that this process was temporary and that I could actually win.   Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him.  Jesus had hope in the coming joy that allowed him to dig in and endure.

I started grabbing on to the hope that the guys shared in the room.  I could endure this present pain because I saw them push through into something more.  There was more here than not messing up.  I saw men starting their own companies.  Other fellows were getting pay raises and promotions because they were no longer passively plugging along in their jobs.  Relationships improved and even marriages restored.  I saw dudes going after big dreams and coming fully alive.  Who doesn’t want to ride a motorcycle across the country, or run with the bulls, or write a novel? 

I saw men do amazingly well in difficult times and it inspired me. 

Around my second year in group it dawned on me, I had some hope.  I was doing it.  I wasn’t coping or merely getting by; I was facing issues and doing what needed to be done. I was living… I was Alive! 

So here is my personal message to you.

I have so much hope for you.  You are in the right place.  Look at the lives changed, listen to their stories.  You can feel the hope in this room, in these blogs and podcasts.  Grab it.

This hope is for you. 

Step Off the Cliff

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We don’t hunt men down at ManAlive. We don’t evangelize it like we do for people to know God. Our evangelism is living a life that other men envy. A marriage where we are fully in love with our wives and are able to make them feel alive because of how easily we give to them. Our wives actually trust us and respect us because we are trustworthy respectable men. We are fathers that other men want to be. We are not afraid of our kids or their mistakes. We are not afraid of talking to them about purity because we are walking in freedom and we have so much to give away. We have friendships that are enviable. Men who would lay down their lives for each other. We are men who feel deeply, cry often and cry well. We are men who protect the weak and who do not run from conflict. We take ownership and create change. We know how to communicate because we are in touch with our needs and emotions and we are okay even if someone is not okay with us. We love much because we have been forgiven much.

We don’t hunt men down because we don’t work harder on other peoples problems than they do. One of the most common traits in an addicted man is passivity. Passive men are always looking for someone else to make their decisions, fight their battles and ultimately for someone else to make them better. If they don’t choose to humble themselves, then they can’t be helped. If they don’t choose to make a decision for themselves, they can’t be helped. When you walk through those doors, you are doing so because you need it. There is no coddling, swaddling or diaper changing going on here. If you want friends you must pursue them. You must give time and honesty. If you want sobriety you must be willing to sacrifice and work hard. If you want freedom you must choose to never give up and never give in to hopelessness.

When you come to ManAlive, we treat you like men because that’s who you are. It’s who you are becoming. Boys don’t become men at their mothers breast. Boys become men when they step off the cliff, trusting God in relationship with other men.

An Emotional Laxative

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I’m fine.  I don’t have time to cry, I’ll deal with it later. Suck it up.

This is what I was taught and what I thought was normal.  Guys don’t cry, they aren’t emotional.  That’s a moody woman thing. 

The reality is all these emotions kept coming, and I kept cramming them down and shutting them up. 

As I shoved them away, bit by bit, I lost the ability to cry, to feel, to articulate what I was feeling and connect on an emotional level with anybody around me. 

Unless it was sports, then I could be as emotional as I wanted, that was OK.  What was worse; exploding into a fit of rage.   

Basically, I was emotionally constipated and it was isolating me.

ManAlive taught me that the feelings are real, important, and a bigger part of my well being and life than I ever imagined. Emotions were driving many of my unwanted behaviors.   Not only that, but my inability to connect with myself inhibited my ability to connect with anybody and that was making things worse. 

Every week I got a chance to share in group. To focus on what I was feeling and to practice saying it. But I needed more.  Decades of emotions were not going to open up in a 5 minute share once a week.  It’s a good start, but I was ready and needed more. 

A friend of mine at work came across an exercise by Dr. Doug Weiss in his emotional fitness book that worked great and I wanted to share it.

It’s pretty simple.  You get a list of emotions, or a feeling wheel, and take three emotions each day.   Connect with the emotion, try to feel it.  How does your body respond? When was the first time you ever felt it? You then look your buddy straight in the eye, and tell him.  It can be funky at first but that’s the point.

Here is an example:

I feel frustrated when I don’t do well at work despite my efforts.  When I’m frustrated my chest and forehead get tight and my muscles tense up.  The first time I felt frustrated was in 3rd grade, we had just moved, and my new school had already started cursive, but my old school hadn’t.  I was put in a remedial class and I felt frustrated. 

I looked my friend in the eye, and did three of those in a row. It took several weeks

 as we worked through the list of emotions.  

Had the best cry of my life a few months after we started. 

There is something powerful in the sharing and connection.  But if you can’t share with a trusted friend, then journal it.  Seriously, do three a day.  Write it down just like I did above and work through all the emotions you can. 

Every little bit is good. 

You have to break up the years of constipation.   This exercise was a powerful emotional laxative for me.  Hope it helps. 

Slice of the Pie

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Guys in the room that are not married, dating or not: your physical intimacy with a woman should never surpass your level of commitment. If you’re unaware of these levels, here’s a quick guide: holding hands, kissing and cuddling = exclusively dating; boobs, butts and genital enjoyment = marriage. The reason is simple. Physical intimacy that surpasses your equal level of commitment takes the same mental, emotional and spiritual path as porn. It’s selfish, short-term gratification that requires no sacrifice.

You will wind up marrying your level of health. So if you aren’t sober, I don’t suggest looking right now because you have the wrong lens on. Basically, you have beer goggles on. Sobriety clears the fog so that you can see more clearly. You can see more clearly who you are and what you need. When you are acting out regularly or semi-regularly, you are attempting to fill needs in an unhealthy way. Men who are regularly acting out, are men who don’t fully know or understand what they need and therefore, don’t know how to get those needs met in a healthy way. Naturally, when you see a pretty girl, you think, “This is what I need.” In fact, most guys will become “Sober” after meeting the girl of their dreams and that seems like proof to them that this girl is exactly what they needed. They don’t need porn and masturbation for the first time because they this girl is filling all of these voids and it’s awesome. The only problem is that you are going to suck the life out of her because her filling all these holes in your life so completely (or so it feels) is so temporary.

The “in love” feeling is a bonding one and it’s necessary but its not forever. When I first started dating my now wife, I remember thinking, “I never want to lose these feelings of passion and crazy intensity,” because I felt full for the first time in my life and I wanted it forever. I raged against people who told me that I couldn’t have that. But that crazy intensity can become co-dependence in a hot second because she was never meant to fill all of you, all of the time.

The unsober man is vacuum looking for something to meet his needs and an attractive woman seems to have the sustenance that will finally fill the void. The only way for a relationship to be healthy is when it has two whole people who aren’t relying on each other to fill the God need, to fill the friendship need, to fill the adventure need, to fill the self-love need, the confidence need, the passion need, the purpose need and the list goes on. A wife is supposed to touch all of those places but she is not supposed to completely fill them.

Mark recently proposed an idea that was revolutionary to me. He said, “No one man should or truly can fill the entire pie of your fathering needs. You need multiple men who can fill a slice of the pie.” This is true of every relational need. No one has the capacity or capability to be everything to you. Your wife is only a piece of the pie. She is not the whole thing and the sooner you realize that the sooner you stop bleeding her dry or becoming bitter at her for not being what you thought you needed.

This is what I did with my wife. I wasn’t sober when I got married. I didn’t start going to men’s group until my 3rd year of marriage and leading up to getting married, I was masturbating a lot and porning out at least once every three months, and “accidentally” “stumbling” upon questionable material at least weekly. I didn’t know what my needs were and therefore, after I got married, I became bitter with my wife. I was so confused that all these things I use to love about her were becoming things I despised. I never laughed at her jokes anymore. I didn’t find her adventurous nature endearing, I found her conversation habits annoying, I resented her asking me about what I wanted to do with my future, I rejected her displays of affection. Why? These were all reasons I married her. I used to love these things. Here’s why. Those were all things I needed and truly did love about her, but she was not fulfilling me like she seemed to do when we were dating and I thought she was supposed to. It angered me that I was not happy even though she had all these things. I aimed my dissatisfaction and my inability to feel full at her.

I’ve been in men’s group for 5 years now and over that time I’ve begun to understand the dysfunction and lies I was living my life under. I’ve not only recognized those, but I’ve pointed myself in the direction of health. I’ve sought out relationships, shared my deepest, darkest shame, pursued the Lord, made a thousand phone calls, put up boundaries and faced fears. In all of this, I started recognizing my needs and how to get them met long before running on empty. I’m beginning to love my wife and children out of an overflow of life that I feel from the fullness I’m experiencing rather than out of discipline and necessity. My wife is no longer my source. She is one of many sources and because of that, she finally gets to be the recipient of a husband that is fully alive and free to fully love her.

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.

     

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.

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