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.

OK holding a naked woman

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Just got this email from one of our former group leaders Josh Richards(he is also leading a group in his church down in Pasadena). I love this guy, so honest, passionate, & humble too. He’s an Australian so he’s naturally cool and that accent is boss. We did an impersonation contest at Man i Fest a few years back and he did one of me….hilarious, he won hands down. Be warned, this is about as edgy as I dare post. Many will be uncomfortable with this, but it should be known that this level of freedom is not only possible but happening. Here’s that email, enjoy.

Just wanted to take the time to share a rad testimony with you about my journey with God and growing up as a man. I remember when I started coming to group and it was my second or third week I think, you got up and told the men there that they can get to such a place of freedom that they could be in a room with a 100 naked Brazilian models and be cool. Well, I remember then, feeling the impossibility of that. I honestly felt such a longing for that level of freedom even though I was stunned that it could be possible. Two years of group beat me into shape, being married, and starting my own group down here in LA has also kicked my teeth in, in a great way.

         So, the other night I was acting for a buddy in his interactive, experimental horror show. Its gnarly and hes been asking me to come on board for about a year now. Every time I’ve said no, due to there being a bunch of full frontal nudity and super, super hardcore horror themes. Finally he convinced me. He told me that I wouldn’t have to interact with any of his actresses and that I wouldn’t have to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. I read the script and lo and behold I actually liked it. Turns out it was one of the most fun, freeing and enthralling experiences I have ever had in my life. I’m convinced that the Lord brought me this opportunity,  regardless of it being horror, or glorifying evil and nudity. But I love the guy who owns the show. And it turned out I had to be in a small motel room with a dead body (the part being played by a tiny, very naked and very fit women. ) I can not stress enough how awesome it felt to suddenly realize when she stripped down in front of the crew and I, that I was not triggered at all. I mean she was gorgeous. But apart from thinking that she is beautiful, there was no discomfort,  no melt down, no inner lust or torment. Man, I was so stunned that I had some how arrived at a place of freedom like this and could look her in the eye, see her completely as a human being, and fist bump her and say, good job with that last scene. I didn’t feel shame talking to her. I didn’t feel drawn to stare at her. At the end of the night/show she gave me a hug and told me she had had a lot of fun working with me. I responded the same in earnest.  I wasn’t lying. It was a great to act again. And it didn’t matter that she’d been naked or whatever.  Later on my buddy asked me to pose in my bloody makeup for a promotional picture for his website.  There is a tone of bloody, gory and sexual stuff on there by the way. So i said yes, I was on a high from finishing the show. The actress, now showered and clothed, was told to undress once more, as she was in the show, I was told to take of my shirt and shoes and smoke a cigarette as I had been during the show. It was at this time I realized that they were asking me to hold her, as if I was carrying her freshly murdered body over the threshold.  The actresses looked me square in the eye and asked, “are you OK with holding a naked women?” As if it was some sort of sarcastic challenge.  I replied, “yeah, no worries.” And so there I was, now hold this naked girl in my arms. Smoking away, shirtless and my heart was good and at peace. I accidentally placed my hand on her breast at one point and calmly apologized and she replied that it was not a problem at all. Mate,  I couldn’t believe myself.  I felt so free it was like being a new man. I told my wife everything and she was so stoked. Its cool that I didn’t even have shame when telling her about it all. She saw my heart, and to quote my wife, she is proud of me and my break through. I guess it comes with the industry down here. And id rather men of character be in roles like the one I was and can keep those others safe guarded. As long as roles with nudity or sexuality are around. But besides that, the show was so much fun and it felt so good to act again. It was literally the most fun I’ve ever had in my short acting career. I’m super stoked, so humbled and feel so loved by God and my wife, Its awesome!

Thanks for creating the room for me and the men and loving me well.

Love you mate,

Josh Richards

Miracle Documentary Movie

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I was asked today about my take on our Monday night ManAlive men’s group. It really made me think even after the call about where I am four plus years later. First of all I really feel like a rock star. I don’t envy anyone else on the planet and I really do love my life. If there is something I want to change, today I just go after changing it. I am not a Christian drifting through life waiting for that surprise miracle. Miracles are happening daily for the men apart of this movement. This is not a matter of just money, toys, houses, business and marriage success, it is matter of going after real freedom. This about a journey of not having any hooks.  I have been very much a part of Christendom my entire life including missions, pastor, etc. This group hands down produces the most incredible fruit I have ever seen. The miracle testimonies that are shared out of Monday nights should be center stage at church or featured in the next miracle documentary movie. It is normal for these men to succeed massively in every area of their life. I would sum it by saying that the impact of this group is second only to my salvation. My life will never be the same and I plan on being in this relationship with other men the rest of my life.

Jeff Veal

When you pursue purity, prosperity will pursue you

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Two of our small group leaders this week received substantial raises at work putting their annual earnings at over 100K per year. Even better we had two small group leaders this week quit their 100k jobs to start their own businesses. Prospering through purity is a common occurrence on Monday night, we hear the testimonies regularly. So regularly that we expect nothing less. There may be down times, breaking, humblings, resets, adjustments, but the end product is the same every time, prosperity.

One of the biggest breakings I have seen in the room other than my own was one of our leaders who lost a substantial amount of money in the real estate bust of 07-09 and for years cut wood and delivered news papers to feed his family. What impressed me most was his humility through it all. His knowing that it was not permanent. Prior to the bust for 20 plus years he was a 100k + a year man. He had great earning potential but for what ever reason he couldn’t find work…anywhere, at all. It was brutal. Two years ago it turned around for him and now he is earning more than double what he used to make with much more to come. Case and point, the end product every time, over time is us prospering inside and out.

These are great stories, they’re our stories, they will be your story. Those who pursue purity, prosper.

Proverbs 28:13 says: He conceals his sin does not prosper. If you’re in the room and in a group what we are radically pursuing is living a life that is in the open, concealing nothing knowing that one of the many rewards is prosperity.

1 Peter 3:5 says: If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Integrity with our tongue, and complete honesty precedes happiness and the enjoyment of life.

Both of these scriptures are not just biblical mandates, they carry with them the promises of God.

Purity is better than an inheritance, a rich father in-law, or an MBA. If you want to do good for your balance sheet, provide well for your family, and extend your financial legacy for generations to come, purity is the best place to start. Sin destroys, holiness builds up.

Sexual purity isn’t a some magic pixie dust with the winning lottery numbers. What happens is that all the work you need to do to get pure is exactly the work you need to do to prosper.  They are: Become disciplined, learn to communicate, show appropriate emotion and passion, lose the passivity, learn how to build and maintain relationships, value and love yourself, embrace delayed gratification and show restraint. Have integrity and be honest, know yourself/your limitations and your strengths, be positive, encouraging, humble, confident and focused on the goal. All that along with the promises of God on top and you’re golden. When you pursue purity, prosperity will pursue you.

 

Delayed gratification persistence

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I’m not really interested in men not being bad. Doesn’t do anything for me. What does do something is men doing good, men getting better, men becoming men. This interests me a lot, I like it, it makes me happy.

I’ve gotten a crazy amount of calls this week, all good, all positive, all men doing good. It’s nice, I need a week like that every now and then.

I got a call today from a man in my small group who has been sober for 8 months (I don’t care that much about the sobriety time line……but it’s still good) who had hawked his wife’s wedding ring. Through happy tears on the phone he told me the story of after getting his crap together he was able to get his wife’s wedding ring out of hawk and re propose to her on their anniversary. How cool is that? They both cried, said words that went deep, words that healed. Bam! Now that’s the kind of story I love to hear.

That’s great you’re sober, but significantly better is that you’re going somewhere, something is happening in your life….  in your relationships, in your workplace. You are taking ground, that’s good. Keep going. These are your stories to keep forever about the transforming power of Jesus Christ. You are a living stone. Your life changes everyone in your sphere of influence both today and for eternity. Great stories come out of great pain, and delayed gratification persistence. If you hang in there the stories will come,.. both for you and the men around you. When they do you’ll know your doing it right and you’ll get that deep peace of gratefulness, on earth as it is in heaven.

Beyond safe Christianity

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A few years ago we one of our small group leaders sold everything and moved his family to Asia. He started a business, a men’s group, and began rescuing women from the sex trade. Monday night prepared him to do what what was in his heart to do. He wrote the following for this blog, here it is:

One of the things I love about Mark is that he gets you to think beyond safe Christianity. While most men’s groups are satisfied with keeping people from looking at porn, Mark strives for an army of men that can remain pure while walking through a crowd of naked Brazilian models. Safe Christianity is based on the fear of potential failures, while Mark’s model is courageously living life. I believe this is more like the model Jesus lived out.

Jesus didn’t walk away from beautiful women in hopes to remain pure; He engaged them and brought life and hope to their world. Jesus had a ministry to prostitutes. I don’t know exactly what it was like back then, but I assume these women were beautiful, sensual, and at times very seductive. Was Jesus never tempted to lust after these women? If He wasn’t then Hebrews lied when it says He was tempted in every way just like us.

Try to imagine the scene where the adulterous woman was dragged in front of Jesus. We know a man was cheating on his wife with her, and we know that they were caught having sex before being dragged in front of Jesus. There is no reason to believe they gave her time to make herself presentable. These men were trying to trap Jesus, so they threw a half-naked woman before Him to prove their point. Could we have been able to pull our thoughts away from the nudity in front of us to listen to what Holy Spirit was saying?

Too often we put strict rules in place in hope to protect our purity. However, these rules become so rigid that they take priority over God’s leading. For many years I have had consistent thoughts of coming across a semi-naked woman in need of help, and I struggle with how would I help her without it becoming lustful. Should I just suppress those thoughts or dialogue with God and other men about what I should do?

I realize the likelihood of this happening is very limited, but in recent years it is more likely than before. I have fought for my purity engaging those trouble areas in my life and have built relationships with men to help me feel safe in who God made me. Now I am living in Asia with my family desiring to protect girls from being taken captive into the sex trade.

I don’t think we should be careless, but I do think too much of our Christianity is based on fear of what may happen. Life has many unknowns, but we can trust God to help us as we try to follow His leading. Let us focus on our love for God and for others, not the fear which opposes it. God has called us to so much more than playing defense. What might God be calling you to if you could just remove that fear of falling?

 

A group of King Davids

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Hey men, here is an email I just received from a friend of mine. A pilot, businessman, and a group leader on Monday night. His is a great story and I wanted to pass it on. Here it is.

 

What does Men’s Purity Really Look Like?

At first this seems like a super simple question. Just go to church, pray, read your bible and don’t sleep with anyone other than your wife and don’t look at porn and don’t lust and don’t swear and don’t drink and don’t and don’t and don’t……..But when I ponder this question I start to see a different answer than my life in Christendom might have produced. About three years ago I went through the worst month of my life. I lost my son and my wife within two weeks of each other.  I found myself doing some dumb stuff and then ended up joining a men’s purity group. I ended up making the deepest and closest relationships of my life with other men in this purity group. I was finally really known and knew other men in a depth of transparency that I had never experienced before. When we read the accounts of King David (a man after God’s heart) we see a total failure of the typical Christian purity list. A guy with his history would have never been in any type of church leadership in most of our denominational churches. But wait he was a man after God’s own heart, a champion in the list of great bible examples. My experience in these last three years has changed my answer to this question. First of all, may I only ever sleep with my wife and may I not lust, look at porn or do any other dumb stuff. May I also get to live an exciting, wild and crazy fun life totally free of the hooks in the” list of don’ts”. We have all seen the very public pastors scream out the lists of don’ts and then get caught in some crazy sex scandal. Real purity to me now looks like a scene in my life from about a year ago, when about fifteen leaders in the men’s purity group came out to my ranch for an overnight get together. These guys walk the walk in purity in a way very rare to any group of Christian men I have ever been around. They are the real deal! The evening slowed down after about a thousand rounds of ammunition were fired, killing countless paper targets, clay birds, cans and various things that blow up when shot and eating some really good meat. We were all sitting around a fire, each sharing some super deep personal stuff about our lives and it was then that I realized that I am sitting with a group of King David’s. I have been involved in “church whatever” for 49 years . Now check out the camp fire scene, each man has a beer in one hand and most have a cigar in the other hand (this sure messed with past Baptist theology picture of men’s purity). The bible says it like this: Prov.24:16 a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again. It doesn’t define a righteous man as a man that doesn’t fall or stumble. So we all fall, but it is what we do after, that is key. I want to be with men that are real and get up and go after it again.   My definition of men’s purity has now become a super cool lifestyle that includes being really known by other men, close relationship with God, adventure, success, business, play, cool family time, joy, peace, crazy erotic mind blowing sex with my wife and the list goes on including the ability to successfully navigate the pain that comes along at times in all our lives. Hey men choosing a life of running after purity, is not a loss of anything fun, it is a life of maxing out the excitement meter. It is a life envied by most other men in and out of Christendom. I love my life and I truly feel that I live life like a rock star, only better. Who would of ever thought Kingdom living would have included great beer and cigars.

Fire ants down the back of my shirt

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In the last two weeks I have heard of four new groups that have been started up by former alumni. Three in the US, and one internationally. None of those men told me they were going to start a group, they just did it. They already have what it takes, so they just went for it. I love that.

A few days ago I received an email from a fine gentleman from South Africa that was in my small group last year and has since started a group. He had a question about all the hugging that we do here on Monday nights and said that it hasn’t been such a huge hit down there and that some of his men have been….let’s say, “a little resistant” to having a hug. He asked if I could help? I sent him short reply but also forwarded it to Casey an excellent small group leader here whom I knew had a cool story. His response was so good I asked permission to post it. He said yes, so here it is.


I can share my story, hopefully it will help. Maybe it is as Mark said, a masculinity issue. Maybe it’s a homophobic issue. For me it was a vulnerability issue.

I grew up receiving hugs fairly often from my dad, although not so many from my mom.  But over the years I have spent so much energy erecting walls to protect me from everyone else, that the thought of physical touch was incredibly uncomfortable.  It was like someone dumping a cup full of fire ants down the back of my shirt.  It made my skin crawl.  I just didn’t want to be touched.  Even from my wife.  She would try to be affectionate and I would stand there like a log, hardly bearing it.  I had the biggest negative attitude you can imagine.  “I am here.  This is my space.  You stay over there.  You don’t get to come in here.”  What I didn’t realize is how hardwired we are for physical touch and hugs.  How badly we really need it.  And how my aversion to it was rooted in self-hatred.

A friend of mine adopted a little boy who had been put into a crib for the first three years of his life.  The little boy had never been shown the love and physical affection that kids need.  He was wild,  without discipline, could not speak at all.  Most of his healing came from the hugs my friend gave him.  But where did we learn that hugs are just for kids?  When did it stop being okay for friends to hug one another?  What is it supposedly saying about us when we hug another?  Are we afraid of how it will appear to others?  If that’s the case, why are we living in the fear of other people’s opinions of us?   And if sex addiction is really just a pain problem and a relational disorder, then why can’t a big part of our healing come from the physical love of our friends?

Vulnerability is rooted in trust issues.  I hated the first three or four months of group.  It was so painful to admit all of my shortcomings and secrets.  It was so humiliating.  So vulnerable.  I literally sweated through every session.  I cried a ton from my embarrassment.  But over time I began to realize that I was not being rejected by my group.  There wasn’t any judgment.  I could tell them the most heinous thing I had done, and they would just tell me “thank you for sharing.”  So over time, my trust level went up with them and it was easier to receive love from them.  Much of my dislike and discomfort in hugs came from not feeling like I was worth a damn.  The tapes that played in my mind over and over were phrases like, “You’re an idiot.  What a loser.  Dumb-ass. You’ll never amount to anything.”  So as I shared with my group, and felt the discomfort of hugs but received them anyway, my trust grew.  I forgave myself for my stupidity.  Shame fell off.  Life began to not seem so dark.  And now I realize that when I embrace my men and they embrace me, I am being healed.  And they are being healed.

Now for some of your guys maybe vulnerability is not the issue.  Maybe it is rooted in homophobia.  And I’ll admit that when I started group I had a level of that going on in me.  But as I heard men’s stories who struggle with same sex attraction, I realized that their story was the same as mine.  They had pain and they were simply trying to find relief through something artificial.  When I began to embrace these guys, I wasn’t embracing their gay lifestyle. I wasn’t being an object of their desire.  I was (and am) giving these guys what they REALLY want / what they REALLY need: healthy affection.  We spend all of this time going after things in life that artificially fill and therefore bring no satisfaction. It’s like eating meal after meal of chocolate cake and apple pie instead of meat and potatoes and fresh veggies. We have to find what feeds and heals our soul and go after those things. Those are the things that we REALLY want and need.  Hugs are one of these things.  So as I give and receive from them, I am playing a huge part in their healing process.

David was the man after God’s own heart.  David and Jonathan embraced, cried, you name it.  They had a masculine vulnerability. There was nothing gay about David.

I have seen this healing process happen in a stair step pattern.  We get healed from something and we take a step up. And then we may sit there for a while waiting to find out what the Holy Spirit wants to take us through next.  There are ceilings that we can hit where we feel stuck, like we’re not getting anywhere.  In order for a man to experience the greatest levels of freedom in the shortest amounts of time, the more vulnerable, the better. To put it plainly: We are created to give love and receive love and a huge part of that is physical touch and hugs.  When we don’t get it, it contributes to our pain and wounds.  When we do get it, there is a healing of these wounds. Hugs are a physical vulnerability and can be uncomfortable as hell.  But without them,  a man’s healing and freedom can only go so far.

Hope that helps.

Casey

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