Struggling with Manhood

What does it mean to be a man? This has been a serious question I’ve asked a couple of times on this blog and The CRC Network where I blog (you can check it out here and here). As I’ve been doing my doctoral work I’ve been focusing on men’s ministry and I came across something called masculinity studies (no, seriously, this is a thing). It’s goal is to study men as feminism studies women. The same critiques used in feminist studies is used for masculinity studies.

Now why is this important?

Well, in the 1990’s men started meeting together, beating drums, and talking about old rituals of pre-industrial worlds. They met together to bemoan broken father-son relationships. They met together to try to figure out how to live and be initiated into manhood. Also in the 1990’s thousands of men filled football stadiums worshiping called in the Promise Keepers movement. Something was touched upon 25+ years ago that left some people baffled. Why are men doing this?

Some have argued that it’s in response to the loss of privilege of the male in the world. Some speculate that it’s due to the changing roles of this world. Others speculate that there is a need for men to come together with other men to experience an existential spiritual something that brings meaning in a meaningless flat world.

Robert Bly (whom I’ve referenced here before) speculates that it’s because men have become “soft males” that they find that they are in need of something more. He says that men have been feminized. John Eldredge in Wild at Heart (whom I’ve referenced before as well) agrees and suggests men are hard wired to be wild at heart (hence the book title) and should live in such a way for Christ. Stu Webber in Tender Warrior states that men shouldn’t be “soft males” but instead tender warriors. He says that men are warriors at heart and need to be tender while also strong and masculine.

That’s all fine and good, I guess. But then it leaves out some things–women and daughters. Most of the literature post 1990’s deals with men and the need for manliness and manly men muchismo to be a good Christian man. To be a Christ-follower in proper like fashion, a dude must be all macho and manly and hunt and stuff like that. It also talks about repairing father-son relatinships and being good fathers and husbands. Good and all.

But it misses one thing:

If the best way for a man to be like Jesus is to be a warrior, what about women. Jesus came not just as a man but as a human being. Jesus came as a warrior and a peace-maker. Jesus came to bring peace not the way the world sees peace but a perfect peace of God. Not just that, but in Jesus we are new creations…the old is gone, the new has come. To only focus on the warrior aspect is to lose out on the other aspects.

Yes, Jesus is a mighty warrior and I’ll stick to that. But he was a warrior for peace not just for the masculine but for the feminine as well.

So there’s a struggle with manhood. How is a dude a dude. How is a man a man. What makes a man? This is a question of the ages. Epic stories and poems and movies have been made about this topic. This isn’t something that can be all tied up in a blog post or seven.

As I study men’s ministry, I begin to see where there is a need to understand manhood. There is a need to understand what it means to be a man. Not the machismo manly man thing–I’m worried if I’m part of a Wild at Heart group I’ll get lost in a thinly wooded area behind church–but a strong but solid man. A good man. A tender warrior who also lives for Christ as a new creation.

It’s a struggle and a balance. And it’s one I’m still looking at.

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New Year, Same Shalom

peace-sign-we-know-your-dreams-dot-come

From weknowyourdreams.com

If you haven’t noticed already, it’s 2017. It’s been 2017 for a whole day now. Actually a day and a good couple of hours by the time this is posted (a day and a half maybe?). So far, so good I’d have to say. Nothing bad has happened. Of course, you could be pessimistic and say nothing good either. Some good things have come my way already. Like time with my kids on a day off. That’s always good.

Many said that 2016 was pretty much the year from hell. A lot of hard things happened to a lot of people both locally and globally. Many favorite and beloved celebrities passed away in 2016. To be honest (and not going to get into it here) I went through a lot this last year. It was tough to say the least. Not always good. Some good things. Some happy things. Some fun times, but also many struggles.

2016 was also a year of refugees and war. Alleppo in Syria saw mass destruction. It’s been a struggle for years (I wrote about it here back in 2013 that’s how long it’s been going). People saw hunger and pain in the States. There were mass protests about injustice with the system of different kinds here in the US. It seemed at times that the world was falling apart.

At the same time, there was a peace available to all that many sought and wanted. This peace wasn’t a peace that many would call peace. To so many peace is an absence of conflict, an absence of war. And to be honest, we need that type of peace to be sure. But there was a need for a greater peace. A peace that passes all understanding. A peace that guards our hearts and minds. A peace which says that things in this world aren’t the way they’re supposed ta be.

That type of peace is called shalom.

And this year, as last year, this same peace is available to all. New year, same shalom. Now this is where the spiritual part of Spiritual Musclehead comes in.

Jesus offers peace. A peace that goes beyond what we think of as an absence of conflict.

When Jesus’ disciples were worried, scared, and wondering what was going to happen next, He says to them:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

To be honest, we fear this type of peace at times. This type of peace means that we have to give up control of things. This type of peace means that we have to let go of our own wants and desires. This type of peace means that we have to give up our ideas of peace and accept Jesus’ definition of peace. And that can be frightening.

But new year, same shalom. The same peace, the same shalom Jesus offered all those years ago is still available today. In 2017 (feels weird just writing that actually).

The question is: Will you accept this peace? Will you live this peace? Will you allow this peace to drive you forward in giving out this peace to others?

We’ve been given the same shalom every year, every day, and we are to live this same shalom. We are to give away this same shalom. This is a peace that goes beyond all understanding. Will you let this peace guard your heart and mind this year? Will your 2017 be a year of shalom?

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Gathered to be Scattered on X-Mass

christmas-tree

From today.com

There’s an old Perry Como song that goes “O there’s no place like home for the holidays…” and I’m sure you could sing along for a little bit before you had to go to Google and look up the lyrics like I did. At this holiday season, this Christmas season, we yearn for home. We yearn to be gathered together with friends and family at hearth and home. And if we’re far from family we gather together with our substitute family which we’ve created. And there’s no place like gathering together for X-mas.

And I just said X-mas. And I probably just cheesed someone off. Was it you? Well please stay and read along a bit more please.

There’s a gathering for Christmas, for X-mas, and there’s also a scattering as well. We gather together at hearth and home and then we go our own ways afterwards (sometimes with gift receipt in hand to Target). We gather together to enjoy holiday cheer, drink egg nog, open gifts, and basically have a holly jolly time. And then we leave, gifts in hand (and gift receipts too) and head on home. Sometimes, if it was good, we’d talk about it a bit on the way home or a day or two later about how it was.

And then you get the traditional question from co-workers and friends “How was Christmas.” And we answer either covertly “It was fine” to overtly “It was a blast… so and so was here, and so was so-in-so and I hadn’t seen them for a while.” It all depends on how we viewed the get together. We will gather and then we will scatter.

That’s the point of X-mas–to gather and scatter. Why the X in X-mas and why the mas in it as well? The X has been short hand for Christ for centuries. It’s the first letter in the Greek for Christos (X is a “ch” sound in Greek). But what about mas? Mas is shortened for mass. A worship service. But it’s more than just that.

I did some digging on this because I have so much time on my hands (no really, my bible levitates two feet above my desk, shines golden and I just soak in what to say and do… okay, I don’t really but it sounds cool) and learned a bit more about the etymology for the word mass.

Mass itself is from the Latin and Greek meaning bread. Why’s this important? Because bread is crucial to communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist (please take time to Google or go to Wikipedia because that’s a long explanation). Long and short, after each worship service, bread and wine would be given as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice. More than that, it was the final part of the worship service and people would depart after that. Because of this, the word mass was associated with the Eucharist and with dismissal. It was time to go back out to every day life.

Christmas is not only the remembering of the sending of Jesus but also looking forward to when He comes again. It’s also a time where we gather together with believers around the world and in our local churches to spend time together learning more about God, about Jesus, and then we are dismissed to go into the world.

We are gathered and then we are scattered. We are dismissed.

We are gathered to be prepared to be scattered.

And Christmas is the prime time for this. Christmas gathers us together as people, as followers of Jesus, as believers and then scatters us into the world to proclaim, to tell, to speak about what we have just encountered. If we gather for the purpose of ourselves then we’ve lost the importance of the dismissal of the mas at the end of Christmas. If we don’t scatter to speak of what we’ve learned then we’ve lost the importance of the dismissal in mas. And en mass we do more harm than good then when in mas. (see what I did there).

How can you be gathered this Christmas to be scattered this Christmas. How can you be gathered together for a purpose to be scattered for a purpose.

The cool thing is, is that this is not just a yearly thing but a weekly thing. Each week we can be gathered and scattered. Will you be part of this? To have Christmas every day, every week, every moth, to be gathered and scattered for Jesus?

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Snow Day

Snow covered street

From freefoto.com

These two words either strike fear or joy in the hearts of people who hear them. To be honest, I never knew what a snow day was until 1998 when I went college from California to Michigan. It made no sense to close school just because of snow. We never closed school when I was in high school. Seriously, we didn’t. In 1992 we had the Malibu fires and the smoke filled the grounds of the school, you could see smoke all over. Did we close school? Nope. And then we had torrential rains and flooding, cars were floating down the street. School wasn’t closed. In 1994 we had the Northridge earthquake. Did they close school? Nope. They just put caution tape around the cafeteria and called it “cosmetic” damage. Even after multiple aftershocks we still had school. (I think I need to start yelling “get off my lawn”).

So to shut down school and most of everything else for white stuff on the ground made no sense to me. I didn’t even know schools got closed. And then I went to Calvin College who is notorious for not closing for snow. I didn’t even have a snow day until my kids went to school. And then I found out why they closed. Because of the snow and the wind and the cold.

This California boy learned the hard way.

But what do you do during a snow day?

I have no idea. And I still don’t.

I get a lot of “I’m bored.” “What can we do?” “Can we play the Nintendo?” “Can I watch TV” “Can we go outside?” They go outside and ten minutes later they want to come in “It’s cold outside. Can we have hot cocoa?”

Snow days are days off and unexpected days of rest. They’re unexpected days to go back to bed. They’re unexpected days to spend time with your family. They’re unexpected days to have fun–a license to be a kid again and play in the snow.

Now, I understand that not everyone gets a snow day. I understand that people still have to work. People still have to figure out babysitting for their kids and what not. They makes sense.

The thing is we all need a snow day or two in our lives. A day when we can just be. A day when we’re allowed to have some extra time on our hands. We need that extra time on our hands. We get into this thought that if we’re not doing something then we’re wasting time. Or if we’re not doing anything then we’re killing time until we find something else to do.

We need time to rest. We need time to just be and exist. We need time to focus on something other than what we do. Too many times when we get unexpected time on our hands we begin to worry about what needs to be done or what should be done.

Two words of advice about that: Stop it.

Take a moment or two today and just be. Take time today and enjoy some extra time on your hands. And if you have to, schedule extra time on your hands so you can just be. Have a snow day today.

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In Breaking Disciple-Making

shoes

From kindertransport.org

Dude. First of all, what in the world does that title mean? I almost titled it Breaking in Disciple-Making but liked the sound of this one better. But why? What in the world is in breaking? Breaking in makes sense. You break in shoes, you break into a house (okay, you really shouldn’t do that one, it’s illegal), you get things comfy. But that’s not what disciple making is all about.

In breaking refers to the in breaking of the kingdom of God.

Okay.

But what does that mean?

There’s something about being focused on the things of the world around us. We can get so focused on money, on toys, on the new iPhone, the newest gadget, or just plain old stuff we keep in plastic totes and have moved three times but never really opened. We focus on this stuff. But what if we focused on something different? What if we focused on something bigger than ourselves? What if we focused on something greater than ourselves.

That’s where the kingdom of God breaks in. In Jesus, the kingdom of God has broken into this world. It’s here. Now. And it is shown through the church. It’s reflected in what the church is supposed to do. And I emphasize suppose. God’s kingdom broke in when Jesus died upon the cross. It came in when He ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came ten days later. As NT Wright once said at a lecture, we now have something of earth in heaven and something of heaven on earth. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, the church is moved to reflect the kingdom of God.

Okay, cool stuff. But what of it?

When we truly live the in breaking of the kingdom of God, we begin disciple-making. Jesus says in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples. He says to teach them. He says to baptize them.

Who are “them”

Them be disciples. And disciples are to be made. To be crafted. To be formed.

Think of it like an apprenticeship. An apprentice isn’t fully a journeyman nor master at their craft yet. They are learning. They are learning what it means to be like the master. They learn through watching and doing and being corrected. They learn by trying things out and failing in a safe environment. Sometimes they are even allowed to try things themselves. Sometimes the master says “I do, you watch” other times it’s “I do, you help” then it’s “You do, I help” and then “You do, I watch.” After time, the apprentice becomes a journeyman, one who can practice the craft, and then becomes a master themselves.

Discipleship is like that. Disciple-making is apprenticeship. You are apprenticing others into the kingdom of God which has broken into this world. You are walking with someone else as they learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You are being walked along side with by the great Master Hisself, Jesus. And He teaches you what it means to be a follower. And in turn, we apprentice others into what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

The thing is, is that when done right, in breaking disciple-making is hard, messy, and uncomfortable. If it were breaking in disciple-making, it’d make things more comfortable. It’d make things easy after a while. Disciple-making isn’t easy. Disciple-making isn’t comfortable.

And that’s a good thing. When it isn’t comfortable, it breaks us. When it isn’t easy, it makes us rely more and more on the strength of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. And when you do in breaking disciple-making, you begin to teach others how to do the same. And the whole time along, Jesus walks along side us all.

How can you be involved in doing in breaking disciple-making today?

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Listening

playing-guitar-wallpaper-hd

from runrecordings.com

Listening.

It’s hard.

Most of the time we’re waiting to speak when someone else is talking. Sometimes we get so excited about a thought in our head that we just blurt it out while the other person is in mid-sentence. I know. I do it. It’s hard to truly listen.

I’ve bee learning about listening as I’ve been learning guitar. If you’re a regular reader, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the F chord for years. I’ve been trying to learn how to play the guitar since 2007. I took lessons for a while, stopped, and since January have been taking lessons at an awesome guitar shop called Firehouse Guitar. Cool people there. Check them out.

As I’ve been learning how to play, I’ve started to pick up where I’m messing up. It’s weird. The more I learn to play, the more I learn to listen to what I’m playing. And then the more I learn how I need to correct myself and my technique. But I need to listen. Truly listen to what I’m doing.

When I’m listening, I’m starting to realize where I’m muting certain strings when I play a G chord. Or when I’m strumming along, I realize I’m playing a C chord or D chord wrong. I started learning how to play through plucking and I learned even more how I need to adjust my fingers so that strings can ring out properly the right tune. By listening to my guitar, I’ve learned how to correct myself. By listening to my guitar, I’ve learned when I need to adjust my fingers or go back and restart from where I slipped up.

Not just that, but my teacher has started to introduce variations of certain chords like Em7 and Em6. There’s a slight difference to them, but if you listen just right, you can hear it and it makes a difference. Yes, you can just play an Em, but in Tom Petty’s Into the Great Wide Open, you can hear it.

Where am I going with all this?

It has to do with listening to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (and that within itself is a whole ‘nother blog post or 30…I mean people have written whole books on this topic and it’s still hard to explain). The Holy Spirit is fully God as God the Father and God the Son. Three in one (that’s the best I can do with so few words, sorry). And the Holy Spirit, He (note He) is the presence of Jesus here and now. He is the moevment of God here and now. He directs us, leads us, moves us, and dwells within us. And as a follower of Jesus, you are filled with the Holy Spirit. Awesome stuff to say the least.

The Holy Spirit isn’t impersonal. He isn’t like the Force from Star Wars or some karmatic cosmic force that moves around righting our wrongs. He speaks to us. He directs us. And we are to listen to Him.

That’s the point. We need to listen to Him. Too many times when we come to God with our wants and needs, we just talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. We don’t listen. We just blurt things out. Now, it’s important to talk to God. That’s what prayer is for. Prayer is also for listening to God. And that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in.

He speaks to us.

It’s that pull on the heart string or the burden on the soul. It’s that voice that won’t shut up in the back of our head telling us not to do that thing we’re doing which we know is wrong. It’s not a conscience, it’s the Holy Spirit convicting us. But we need to learn how to listen.

Just like listening to the strings of my guitar, I need to listen quietly and intently to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Because He speaks. But if we’re not used to hearing Him speak, we don’t know what to listen for. It takes practice. Just like learning how to play guitar takes practice, learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit takes practice.

Lot’s of it.

It involves being still. It involves paying attention to things that happen. It involves studying Scripture. It involves prayer. And when we learn to listen, we can hear His voice directing us through those pulls on the heart strings, through the heaviness of the soul. But we need to listen.

How can you listen for the Holy Spirit today? How can you pay attention to His voice? Take time and truly listen.

 

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A Much Needed Hymn Sing

music-notes-clip-art-png-139835101453

From clipartpanda.com

For those of you who may not know, a hymn sing is when a church decides to forgo the sermon and instead sing songs, usually the classics, the whole service. Usually there’s Bible readings and a little bit of reflections here and there. But it’s mostly just sining old classic songs called hymns. And I went to one last night.

I am want to brag (a lot) about my working on my Doctor of Ministry degree. Roughly three times a year I come out to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on the north side of Chicago. Here I spend a grueling (but awesome) four days of class at 8 hours a day. It’s a sprint of academia. I call it drinking out of the fire hose of knowledge.

Each time I come down, I’m always a nervous wreck. I tend to have that dream where I somehow forgot to do an assignment. I show up at the wrong time or place, or something just bad will happen. Not sure why, but I think it hearkens back to high school issues. Not just that, but I also fret about doing the pre-course assignments. Each class has a bunch of stuff to read before the class and usually some sort of assignment to do before you arrive. And I get into panic mode about a week or two before the class because I’m never finished on time. Never.

And so, as usual, leaving on a Sunday afternoon, I forget stuff. Worse yet, I went to print off the pre-course assignments and I couldn’t find my flash drive. Anywhere. I was freaking out beyond belief. Not good. Not good at all. Soon I found it, printed stuff off. Went to leave. Realized I forgot my phone. Got it. Then finally left. The whole time feeling like I forgot something else.

As I’ve written a number of times before, I tend to get stuck in traffic when coming down to Chicago from Michigan. Always. So this time I figured I’d play it smart and factor in an extra hour of drive time just in case. There’s construction. There’s the Gary/State Line traffic. There’s the traffic on the 80/294. It’s a mess. Yet there was no construction traffic. And I sailed easily through Gary/State Line area (granted, though the speed limit is 55 I was going 20 over with people passing me like I was standing still). I had over an hour to kill.

So I stopped by my father-in-laws church.

It’s a nice church. A bit traditional but in a good way (a shout out to all the people from there who read this by the way). So I show up tired after a two or so hour car ride wearing blue jeans and a Star Wars T-shirt (What else would I wear). And I come to learn that they were having a hymn sing. I slipped into the back pew and just enjoyed the time.

It was refreshing to say the least.

I needed it. I needed the time to rest. I need the time to sing. I needed the time to eliminate the hurry from my life. It was good to rest and sing. It was a time to just sit back and praise God.

I think at times we all need a hymn sing. Doesn’t have to be the classics. It can be others as well. But we need a time to just sit back and praise God regardless of the circumstances. There are times in our lives where we just need to sing to God. There are times in our lives where we need to take a moment from everyday stuff, everyday things, and sing. It doesn’t have to be on key. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but still sing.

How can you take time today to sing to God?

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