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.

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.

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.

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