Tag Archives: church

Popularity that isn’t


Since who knows when the thing a lot of people have wanted was to be popular, to be liked, to feel like they belong.  To know what they say and think is important and heard.  There is nothing like going to school and quickly learning where you stand in the order of the world.

Popularity is something I struggled with growing up and is something I have and will continue work through with my kids.  There is something appealing about being part of the “in-crowd”.  It is glamorized particularly by Hollywood but in so many other realms as well.  If you are not hip, up on all the latest, part of what’s going on right now then obviously you are not cool.

My oldest daughter who just started high school struggled with this in middle school.  She saw the allure of being part of the in crowd and being popular.  After having been through this myself my advice to her was to find some solid, good friends and enjoy the time with them, make memories that will last.  Don’t worry about trying to fit in, once you are out in the real world and living your life it does become less about being popular and more about being comfortable with who you are and how you want to live your life.  Good advice right?

I’ve been contemplating the advice I gave her and our discussions about it.  To some degree I believe there’s a lot of truth in it.  To a degree I wonder if it really never ends.  For me I see this happen at work, ladder climbers who will step on others to get to the top. Always trying to be the best and do things to get them recognized.  There’s always a group of folks who are living it up and seem to be the “in crowd” who have an edge on everyone else.  The neighbors to keep up with the latest toys and gadgets that my kids think are totally awesome.  Trips, parties and the ones who everyone seems to talk about as if they are royalty.   Even in church there seems to be an élite crowd.  I’ve had experiences in churches where I had to compete and prove myself worthy to them.  They won’t talk or acknowledge you on Sundays even when you pass by them, you can come close to touching them and they look right through you.

I feel like that transcends to the online world and social media that I take part in.  If you are a writer or blogger you are trying to promote yourself.  For those that aren’t but engage in it, we project an image.  If you write and write well you get lots of comments, feedback and people will promote you as well as tell others they should read what you have written.   It can be intoxicating, you can feel like a celebrity who is incredibly popular – having a lot of followers and friends can also reinforce this.  The drawback is when you try to engage or take part and feel like you are not part of the conversation or what you had to say or share was completely ignored.

In many realms of life there is always going to be the in-crowd, those who are at the top of the game and seem to gain attention and notoriety.  The are the ones who everyone else talks about, wants to emulate and drops their name whenever theirs an opportunity.  Does all of this matter; I guess that depends on how you look at it.

I believe we are all valuable.  God created and designed us all by his very hands.  He gave purpose and value to us when he brought us into this world.  We all have gifts and talents we can use to impact the world.  No two people were created the same and for good reason.  We are all important and no one is more important than anyone else even though it may seem that way.  Just as a parent looks at each of their children with tremendous love and doesn’t choose favorites instead realizes the uniqueness of each of their children.  I believe God looks at all of us the same way.  While the world may try to tell us that some or more important or valuable than others it’s important to remember as quickly as the latest fad passes is as soon as the person passes.  We are not fads we are God’s handiwork and we matter.

Popularity is a man-made thing and one day that will end.  In the end I come back to having true and lasting friendships.  Using my gifts, talents and the story of my life to reflect what God has done in my life.  I don’t need to worry if I am not the most popular for the things I do have are more valuable than being the “it” person.

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Silent Sound


Growing up and being rejected I tried hard to get used to the fact that no one wanted me around and to learn to be content with just me.  I was never one who enjoyed the silence.  Left alone with my thoughts my brain never stopped.  I was and have always been my own worst enemy.  The things I dislike most about myself and the things I ruminated on.  Being told you don’t fit or belong time and time again only played into this.  I have never been one of those people who are very comfortable in my own skin.  If people didn’t want to be around me, my Dad didn’t want to be around me, clearly I wasn’t all that desirable.   I kept to myself, my thoughts and my world, I shut down and shut out the world, crying wasn’t any use because that would only make me a target for people to mock.  So I would walk around fearful of people, trying hard to blend in, not be noticed and just left alone.

I believe this is where my first love of music came into place.  I didn’t want the silence, that was deafening and a reminder of all the rejection.  So, I found music to be a place I could lose myself.  Since that time music has always been a place I could find solace.  The lyrics of many songs often identified with how I was feeling.   I don’t remember at what point but I used to make tapes of music I loved to listen to and depending on my mood a lot of the times my way of coping with being alone was to make tapes of really sad and lonely songs and then listen to them over and over.  As I listened to the words blasting from the stereo it would bring me to the point where I could actually cry and feel emotion.

Over the years music has always remained the one thing I carry with me.  I’ve had my headphones, Diskman, iPod and my phone.  I’ve always got music on the radio, computer or laptop.  Music is with me from the time I wake up in the morning till I fall asleep at night.  It’s been there more than anything else and I can always count on it.

I have never grown comfortable with silence.  Even as an adult I hate conversations that don’t flow easily, gaps of time where no one is speaking.  It is always awkward riding in a vehicle when the conversation comes to a halt and no one is talking.  My mind begins racing about what should we talk about next so there isn’t a lull in the conversation.

In my adult life it’s been odd, I have periods of time where I have a lot of friends that I do a lot of things with and then somehow through circumstances those friends move, change jobs or churches and the relationship is not the same and the communication fizzles out.  I end up going back to feelings of being alone with no one to talk to.  Even though I do have friends and really good friends it is still remains difficult and sometimes I harsh reminder of my past.  More times than not I feel like I put all the energy into most of my friendships. When it’s not reciprocated or I get nothing  for a long time I go back to feeling all alone, it’s then I just pull back completely and return to music.

Even in my walk with God I have struggled with this.  There are times I have purposely made it so I did have quiet time and could shut out the world to focus on God.  I don’t practice this as much as I should, I do believe it should be a regular practice.  The world and the things of this world drowned out God so we can’t stay focused on him.  All part of Satan’s plan I believe.  I do try to make it a priority first thing in the morning either going for a walk or on my way to work, just spending time alone with God praying, listening and waiting for him to speak to me.

Maybe that’s why I had a large family and a house full of people.  I don’t want to be in a place where something isn’t going on or happening.  I want to be in a place where someone talks to you.   My house is always full and our house in our neighborhood is the spot to be.  People are constantly going in and out, and there are times where I do need a break and just need some silence and I try to take it, but give me 5 minutes of silence and it immediately takes me back to being alone and I hate that.

The struggle of silence will most likely be a battle I face all my life.  Taking time out and just being silent is healthy, listening to your heart, your mind and your body will tell you a lot.  Most importantly taking time out and spending it with God is what I need for to center and give myself direction.  Silence has a place; it’s just a hard place to be for me.


The Rub of the Christian Cliche’


I’ve been involved in church since I was 5 years old.  I “got saved” in VBS by “asking Jesus into my heart”.  I acknowledged “Jesus is Lord” and “repented” of “sins.”  I didn’t fully understand all of those phrases I spoken to me at that time.  I did fully believe there was a God, Jesus was his son and I could go to heaven when I died.

It wasn’t until I was in the 5th grade when my family actually began “attending” a “church” on Sundays.  Since then I have been actively involved in different churches.  I have been in various degrees of leadership including being a Youth Pastor for the last 15 years.  I fully believe that God created heaven and earth and that he sent his son Jesus to save the world.  I believe in the Bible and what it says.  I have tested and experienced God first hand in my life in a variety of ways.  I still come back to the conclusion that what God says and has happened he is real, alive and still at work today.

Through all the churches I have attended I noticed that the same phrases have been used over and over.   We who are believers speak a different language and use phrases (those above I put in quotations) and say things those who don’t go to church or haven’t experienced church have no clue as to what we are saying.  The following is a list of words or phrases I put together of what I have said as well as continue to hear to this day:

  • Ask Jesus into your heart
  • Amen
  • Authentic
  • Bible-believing
  • Born-again
  • Can I get a witness?
  • Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven
  • Community
  • Creation-Care
  • Doing life together
  • Emergent
  • Feeding on the Word
  • Fellowship
  • God is in control
  • Hate the sin, love the sinner
  • Head of the house
  • Here’s my testimony
  • His pain, your gain!
  • How can I pray for you?
  • If you die tonight do you know where you will go?
  • I’m a child of God
  • Impact
  • In His Grip
  • Intentional
  • Jesus loves you
  • Jesus is my homeboy
  • Jesus Saves
  • Living in sin
  • Live that out
  • Lord willing
  • Missional
  • Post Modern
  • Pray harder
  • Read your bible
  • Relational
  • Redemption
  • Repent
  • Relevant
  • Salt and light
  • Say a blessing over the food
  • Small groups
  • Thank you Jesus/Praise Jesus
  • Transparent
  • We’re in the end times
  • What’s God doing in your life?

There’s a lot more I have heard but this is a pretty comprehensive list.  As I look at this list and think to myself of how many times I have used these, I am actually pretty sad.  By using these words and phrases I have given the appearance I know what I am talking about, I have it all together and that I am in this amazing relationship with God.

I’ve been told, trained and even told others how to have a relationship with God the things you must do.  Pray, pursue him; read the bible, go to church, seek out like-minded believers and you will become Christ-like.   I’ve been taught that true repentance means changing my heart.  To work out my faith with fear and trembling.  As I allow God to work in my life I will be changed and transformed into a man of God.

As I have walked with God, pursued him as well as said these things there are days where none of it seems real or feels right.  To be honest, at 40 years old I feel in some sense that I am a fake, phony and living a lie.  I am not nice every single day of my life.  I am envious and jealous. I struggle with sexual purity and lust.  I have terrible wicked thoughts running through my mind.  I am critical and judgmental about others.  I don’t always see the good in others or the situation.  I jump to conclusions and I tend to be short-tempered and unfair.  I struggle to truly love my wife and at times love my kids more than my wife.  It’s easier to love my kids and want to be around them when they do what I want and aren’t being rebellious.  I want to scream, yell and curse at people who annoy me or tell them off.  I can wear masks and act differently in different settings.  I want to be liked, loved and desired.  I want my ideas and ways acknowledged and have my way be right all the time. There are attitudes and actions I have done since I was a boy that I still do to this day.  I often try to surrender my will to God and give up control but 5 minutes later I take it all back and use my intellect to control my life. There are days I think I will never make it to heaven with all of this.

I bet looking at me you wouldn’t know any of this or even have a clue these thoughts were running through my mind.  Because I call myself and Christian and follow God it is assumed these things should not be a part of my life and that somehow all of this is no longer a part of who I am.  Yes I do believe in God and yes I do believe he is changing me.  I will never have it altogether and I will never be perfect at least not here.  Someday things will be much better and my ultimate hope lies in Jesus coming back and taking me to heaven.

All those words and phrases have impacted me and they have made me realize I need to remove these words and phrases from my vocabulary.  How in the world can I relate to the world and live out what I believe with every part of me if I just can’t be real, honest and talk in a normal way. Being real and honest in the Christian realm often means facing rejection, but what’s worse being real or being rejected?

 


Sacrificing for Life


Living in the richest country in the world I find it hard to utter the words “I am poor or don’t have much”. Those words used to roll off my tongue growing up in Montana. Growing up was spent living in a trailer, hand-me-downs, Kmart Specials and Goodwill clothes, my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and a lot of time we had no health insurance. I was ashamed of what I came from and being looked down upon by the community only it made it worse.

My parents owned 28 acres of land and while we weren’t a sprawling ranch it was enough to keep us busy year round. My responsibilities growing up included feeding & watering the animals, cleaning out the barn, bucking hay bales, mowing a ½ acre of grass as well as cleaning the house and making meals. While there was time to play, there was a very clear expectation to take care of our chores first before we did anything else. It only took a couple of times of not doing it to learn it was better I did it than getting in trouble.

Living here in Portland I miss those responsibilities I had as a kid. My kids main responsibilities is keeping their rooms clean, doing their homework and a couple other chores around the house. They think they have it rough and don’t want to do what we ask of them. Looking at my life growing up compared to what we have now is so vastly different. My kids have yet to fully understand what it is to have to get up and work hard.

Looking at my life as an adult, I am incredibly thankful. God has blessed me with a large home, 3 vehicles, a large family, friends, church, work and a state I love living in. I live in a city that is wealthy with resources available to folks if you want to take advantage of them. I don’t consider myself poor or disadvantaged. Even in times where I say I don’t have any money left, in all honesty I still have money available. I know where my food is coming for every meal and I have shoes and clothes to choose from. I do not consider myself poor, I am wealthy in many ways.

My wife and I chose to have a large family. We chose to have 4 children, and after having them we chose to have 2 international college age exchange students to come and live with us. We also chose to adopt 2 more children. When purchasing our first home we bought a larger house so we could continue with all of this. We made our children share rooms instead of giving them their own so our exchange students could have rooms to use. In doing all of this – family, friends and folks from church and strangers have felt it necessary to tell us how wrong it was we were doing this. We were crazy, ridiculous, thinking only of ourselves, even polluting the planted by adding more life to it. We’ve had people just look at us like we are crazy or be at a loss for words, even telling us it takes “special people” to do this.

Why do we do this? Are we rich by America’s standards, probably not, we’ve lived on one income most of the time and my job in social work isn’t a place where people go to get rich. We do this because God has blessed us. We have more than we could ever need. We are not hurting for anything, we have an abundance. Life isn’t easy in terms of raising a large family and all the extra we added in. We wanted and chose the life we have. It takes work to make it all flow, establishing boundaries, taking time out and getting away, refreshing and recharging. Communication and scheduling are key to our survival. We looked at all that God has given and realized we still had room to do more. We are making sacrifices to impact this world. We are giving up things in our life so that others can be blessed. Does this make us special or deserving of some award or trophy? Does this mean I am bragging and trying to make myself seem better than others. Absolutely not, that is the last thing I want.

What is has done is to challenge me on just how much am I really willing to sacrifice in this life. I know that Jesus chose to sacrifice his life for others, that was his whole purpose. What more I am I willing to sacrifice and give up so that others can benefit. I’ve told my wife and countless others that 6 kids was my limit. I am willing to continue having exchange students live with us, but I want to be done parenting at some point. This past weekend I was at a conference listening to Coach Tony Dungy speak along with Donald Miller and Todd Scott. They were talking about The Mentoring Project and the 1000 kids in our city who need men involved in their lives. A statement made during the conference was “our life is about serving others” . That really resonated with me. As someone who grew up being incredibly selfish and wanting my way all the time, God has given me new lenses for viewing life. Today those lenses are about serving others. I still have moments of selfishness, but when I stop and think about it, really everything I have, comes from God and I am only using it to help others. None of the “things/stuff” I have will be going with me when I pass from this life. Even when my kids are grown and gone, there will still be kids needing good parents, there will still be kids who need love, attention, affection and that someone is there for them. Am I willing to sacrifice for the rest of my life so these kids can be impacted and changed for good?

I have more to think about in regards to sacrifice. I know that my life is going to be lived giving up of my own selfish needs for the needs of others. How much do we truly sacrifice living in America? To what extent are we willing to give up things so we can help others out? These questions have been running through my mind as of late and I think I have the answer, do you?


Values of Manhood Defined


Growing up I had a father, but he was not around and when he was, he was not interested in me.  Conversations around becoming a man didn’t occur in my home.  The only nugget of wisdom passed onto me was if I wanted a large family I better get a good job to support them.  The concept and ideas of what it meant to be a real man were somewhat foreign to me.  I really had no good male role models; those around me did not discuss it or consistently demonstrated through their actions and words how something I would not describe as being manly.  The small country town, white is right, there is only one-way to do it culture I lived it shoved worldly ideas in my face about being a man and I was repeatedly reminded of how I never measured up.

As I left my family, began establishing who I am as a man and what I was about, I began looking at the world around me, observing the ideas and concepts that most men used to define themselves as men – someone who does it all on his own, has no need for anyone else and lives a life filled with money, cars and women. Many of the men I knew were not living their lives the way I thought it would look like.  I observed men not discussing their thoughts or feelings, used women in unhealthy ways and could only relate to one another through sports or drinking.  None of which appealed to me and it certainly was not how I was going to define myself as a man.

As someone who has been a follower of Jesus since I was 7 years old. I began looking at examples in the church of what it meant to be a man.  I discovered morals preached and rigid guidelines followed. Few men in the church discussed what it meant to be a real man.  Most of the men I saw in church did not want to be there, were unhappy and appeared to be living their lives,  just existing, but never having much passion or desire.  Once again, I found it hard to find what it meant to be a real man.  There are plenty of examples in the Bible of regular men who God has used to do amazing things.  For myself the one person I most admire and look towards in being a man is Jesus.  Granted I am by no means Jesus, but his life and how he lived it demonstrates so many characteristics of what a man can and should do.

When my wife and I got married the first things that actually made me feel like a man was finding out I was going to be a father.  When it was confirmed, something inside of me said, “You’re the man.”  Prior to that, every time I looked in the mirror all I could see was a 16-year-old boy who was lost and had no clue what it meant to be a man.  Finally, I felt like I was joining the ranks of others and becoming an official man.

As I closed out my 30’s and start my 40’s I finally am beginning to feel like I am fully a man.  My journey into this has been a long and difficult one.  It has taken me going from not allowing other guys to be a part of my life to finding amazing men who have spoken volumes into my life.  Evaluating events that have shaped who I am today, seeking out, and understanding God’s purpose in my life.  I can tell you as someone who is a deep processor and thinker; there have been many days where my brain just never turned off.

A few years ago after reading a couple of books and completing some profile tests I took a week and came up with what I believe defines me as a man.  To me a real man means you are honest and true about who you are and where you have come from.  A man is not afraid to share his feelings, admits when he needs help and someone who takes care of his family and not just through monetary means.  It also includes spending time with each person, getting to know who they are and what you can do to build them up and influence their lives. Having other men in your life you can go to and talk with, men who will hold you accountable.

For myself being a real man is defined by my core values:

Knowledgecontinually striving to be better than I am, through various means, which allows my words to be honest and wise, and my actions filled with insight and discernment

Honorliving a loyal life of commitment to God, my wife, kids, family and friends that includes faithfulness, commitment, responsibility and integrity

Fulfillmentliving a courageous life filled with passion that allows me to serve others out of love and devotion

Impact all that I do I do for the legacy I will be leaving behind me

Truth seeking to live a life that stands up for what is right and just and using my voice to silence injustice, evil and wickedness in the world

For whatever reason men still today do not feel the need to talk about this.  It greatly saddens me to see men in church who are walled off, hurting and do not know who they are or what they are about.  Men who have been so wounded and hurt they do not even know which way to turn.  It is for this very reason I write about these things and use the gifts I have been given to try to build relationships with other men.  For me I strive to live an authentic life, which includes being a real man to everyone I meet.  Pouring my life into other men and asking the questions that need to be asked.  In doing this I hope I not only will be the example but it will help other men in their own journey.

What about yourself, what values define you as a person?  How long has it taken you to feel like a fully grown man?  How do you see yourself today?


Designed by God to connect


I have been likened to George Washington, Mike Wallace and Vince Lombardi.  I have also been told I resemble Joseph in the Bible.  You could also characterize me as being a lion.  I am an activist, caregiver, naturalist and sensate.  After taking a test I was told I was ESTJ (extroverted, sensing, thinking and judging).  Where am I going with this, what does this have to do with anything? 

Psalm 139:113-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 

As reflected in this passage I believe God created each one of us uniquely and only he knows the specifics.  He didn’t make a mistake when he created us and I would be bold to say anything God makes should never be considered garbage.  Look around and take a look at the beauty all around.  Now go take a look in the mirror, you are truly an amazing work of the master craftsman.

In creating us he designed us all with gifts, if you want to read more about our gifting I suggest reading 1 Corinthians 12.   In these passages of scripture it talks about the gifts he has placed in us.  Our purpose is to take these gifts and use them to bring him glory. 

I also believe in creating us differently we relate back to God in different ways.  I love taking  various kinds of personality tests.  As a supervisor at work, leader in church and working with different groups of people it fascinates me how putting people together, the dynamics play out in that.  When you put a group of folks together you never know what is going to happen.  Sometimes everyone clicks and things go smoothly, other times folks don’t jive and it can be difficult to work together.  Personality tests are a great tool to use in understanding and relating to one another. 

A few years back I went through leadership training at church and we went through a session on discovering your spiritual temperaments.  As I went through the class it helped me understand more of how I was wired and how God has designed me.  For years I had been told just read your Bible and pray and you will connect with God.  Maybe I wasn’t going about it correctly, but I felt like it was forced and didn’t come naturally.  Through this class I discovered  I best connect with God when I was outdoors.  Since I was a boy growing up out in the country I always loved looking around and marveling at God’s creation.  I have always had deeper and significant God experiences when I am outdoors.  Taking this class helped me see that while I can grow and develop and incorporate other aspects into my life, there are very clear ways I draw nearer to him.

Here are the examples:

Activist – Loving God through confrontation with evil

Ascetic – Loving God through solitude and simplicity

Caregiver – Loving God through serving others

Contemplative – Loving God through adoration

Enthusiast – Loving God through mystery and Celebration

Intellectual – Loving God through the Mind

Naturalist – Loving God through experiencing him in nature

Sensate – Loving God through the senses

Traditionalist – Living God through ritual and symbol

So what about you – where would you fall under these categories and if you have taken a personality test, what were you told about yourself?


Real Authentic Men – Know Your Calling


A strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction or divine influence – as defined by Webster’s dictionary.

The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence.  Leave nothing for tomorrow, which can be done today – Abraham Lincoln

Every calling is great when greatly pursued – Oliver Wendell Holmes

The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership – Harvey S. Firestone

I was lucky enough to know exactly what I wanted to do when I was growing up.  I think one of the hardest things to figure out in life is what your calling is, and what truly makes you happy – not what you want to work at, but what you want to do.  – Scott Folley

Growing up most of us discover things that appeal or speaks to us.  Something clicks and we decide that is worth pursuing.  We make choices in regards to college or working, career or profession, singleness or marriage, small family or large.  Will we travel or settle down and if so where we finally land.

In my experiences in working with men, little has to do with knowing your calling.  As men what is it we were meant to do? What are our lives supposed to be about?  What have we been put on this earth for?  Many men can’t even begin to contemplate this, they just keep going and doing the things everyone else has told them to do.  There is a very rare breed of men who understand calling and follow it will all their heart, passion and soul.  Sadly for many men today, this piece is missing in their lives.  They find themselves going to school, working jobs, being husbands and fathers and behind all of it they are miserable.  They are leading lives where existing is just getting by. There is no joy or passion to their life and they have nothing truly inspiring to live for.

It’s really a sobering sight to see, men like this make me weep.  I to have been in this spot in the past.  If men who are supposed to be leaders have no clue about what they are called to do, that leaves the rest of us in peril.  I firmly believe we as men are called to be leaders in all areas of our lives.  I believe this will all my heart.  Men are the ones who need to step up and begin leading. How can this ever begin to happen if we lack the skills,  knowledge and passion for life?

I believe it involves parents who are tuned into their kids, having conversations with them around their hopes; dreams and desires as well as developing their strengths, gifts and talents. Continually building and affirming these areas.  Parents know what their kids can do well and hopefully use this in shaping and molding them in the right direction.  I also believe it comes from others who are invested in the kids lives.  Teachers, mentors, pastors, coaches, and friends all have the ability to speak into our kids lives in ways we as parents can’t.

I know I wanted to be a husband and father from a very young age.  At the core of my being there was nothing else that I desired more in life.  I spent countless hours of my youth imagining what my wife and children would be like and how I would be as the Dad.  No one really gave me the message that I was valuable or that I possessed certain gifts or talents that would help me later on.  I knew when I got to that place in my life, it would be like achieving a gold medal in the Olympics.  As life came and obstacles got in the way I begin to lose sight of this and felt it slipping from my hands.  I began thinking it was never going to happen.  By the time I actually got what I had most desired I was dealing with shame, hurt, anger and pain and not able to really give my best.   Many years later after getting what I so desired I continued feeling I was missing more.  I wasn’t comfortable with myself or who I was and I lived behind masks, trying to put on a good game face for those around me.  I kept doing all the things I believed I needed to do, was told were the right things to do and how I should act and behave.  I always came back to feeling like the last piece to the puzzle was missing.

I began reading books, going to counseling, getting real and honest about my life and evaluating myself in a harsh reality.  That was when it finally hit me.  I was expecting something large and grand, I wanted to be this huge amazing “thing” outside of what I already was and I was filling my life with things that shouldn’t be there.  Suddenly staring back at me was what I had been called to do.  I am called to be a Dad.

As I began to peel back the layers of my life I was able to see that God had put everything in place so I could live out what I had deeply desired all those years ago.  I knew my calling from a very young age and now looking back I can see why I have been put through so much.  The testing and fires have all been for the benefit of my family.  I am no great person, but I am able to do great and mighty things through being a father.   This is my calling – I know it, accept it and I love it, even the hardest of times. As I look back at my life I realize that all that I have been through happened for many reasons, I am not angry or upset – it’s all been for a larger purpose.

The truly sad part is knowing if someone had invested in me years ago and walked me through it, I believe I would have been able to see it clearer long ago.  Not to discount the process of getting there, that’s been a valuable experience.  It’s also the reason I believe in mentoring and investing in men’s lives.

There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about my sons.  I want them both to understand and realize they are not alone.  I will always have their backs and am fully invested in their life till the final breath leaves my body.  That is the very reason I started writing Real Authentic Men articles and why I share them with others.  I want my boys to know they were wonderfully created by a God who loves them and placed them into a family where they are loved more than they will ever imagine.  Their gifts and abilities have yet to be explored.  Allowing my sons to realize how truly amazing they are, what they were meant to do and when they are grown stand confident in being men.

The other part for me is knowing I have also been called to invest in the lives of other men. Men who are still sitting there waiting for someone to come along and help them through the process.  Men are valuable; they are not just some bumbling buffoons getting through life.  We’re depicted in a poor light in the media and that is deplorable.  While there is a percentage of men who live their lives as we see depicted, the men whose lives I get to be involved in are not like this at all.  The want to move past their hurts, pains and the things that hold them back.  They want to  become men who don’t just sit allowing life to pass them by.  Men who live life to the fullest and live out what they have been called to do.

Real authentic men know their calling and use it to impact the world around them.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a janitor, president, married or single.  Be the man, know your calling, step up, lead the way and do so that those around you will be inspired to do the same.

 

 

 


Real Authentic Men – Forgiveness


All of us have had something happen to us that makes us mad, harbor anger, bitterness and resentment.  Events have occurred in our lives that have been turning points.  People are human and born out of sin and because of this; we collide with others and often react or do something that hurts another person, intentionally or unintentionally.  The fact of the matter is, the choices we make will affect others, seen or unseen, knowingly or unknowingly.  It is part of living here on earth.

As I reflect back on my life, many things have been said and done causing deep wounds, emotional hurts and some have paralyzed me to my core.  I feel like I walked around with a huge target on me.  I often felt like I was the poster child for how to screw up a boy.  In looking back at my life, it has not been a pleasant one on many levels.  My good memories pale in comparison to the bad ones.  So what did I do with all of this?

Most of my young and adult life was about taking whatever happened to me and just stuffing it.  I was resilient in my ability to just take and take.  My self-esteem was zero and even though I hated all that had been done to me, I just accepted this was my life, I was getting what I deserved and no one really cared so just suck it up and take it.  Because of this, I became a very angry and bitter young man who hated everything and everyone.  I would find something about you I did not like and that was it, you were dirt to me.  I did not want you around me, nor did I ever want to see or speak to you again.  I pretty much alienated everyone around me.  Bitterness and anger shaped me into something I never imagined.

I attended different churches since the 5th grade.  I heard to be forgiven you had to forgive.  That was the basic message and I never thought much about it.  After I got married, started having a family a friend of mine took me aside and said, “I think you have some serious issues you need to deal with.”  Of course, I got mad and dismissed what he said and being the person I was, I became angry with him and did not talk to him for quite sometime.  Looking back, I know God was trying to show me just how damaged I was.

Finally, I came around and went to talk with him.  We sat down and I went through a very exhaustive inventory of my life.  This included writing down hurts and pains I experienced, people who hurt me in various forms and my responses to all of it.  In the course of that day, I began seeing myself for who I really was and it was not a pretty picture.  My list included incest and physical abuse by older male cousins, rejection from other men in my life.  Names and curses flung at my by most folks from where I grew up.  I had a father who was sometimes present but absent.  There were pages of items listed out.  To see all of it written out the picture was clear for me.  It had all taken its toll on me and I had allowed it to shape the person I was.  I had allowed all this horrible stuff to gain control of my life and it was what fueled me to get through my days.

As we went through the list, I do not think he really had a clue about the extent of what I dealt with.  He talked to me about forgiveness and holding onto all that pain, hurt and anger and the power it held over my life.  We talked about how forgiving people did not mean I would forget it, only God was capable of that.  Forgiving other is agreeing to live with the consequences of their sins.  We discussed how I could live such a different life, a life of freedom if I was willing to let go of all of this stuff.  After talking for hours, it finally made sense for the first time in my life.  The true meaning of forgiveness.

We spent the rest of that day going over page after page, naming each hurt and pain and the persons involved.  I made the choice to sincerely forgive every person and event that occurred.  At the end of that day, I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally.  I felt as though I had spent years and years of my life weighed down by a boulder.  Now I felt like the boulder was taken away.  This had been a tough day, one that should have occurred years ago.  That night for the first night in a very long time, I slept peacefully and soundly.  .

As someone whose goal is to be a real authentic man, I want to extend forgiveness to those who have hurt me as well as ask forgiveness of those I have hurt.  As a real authentic man, you own up to your mistakes and fix what needs fixing.  If you have wronged someone, make it right as best you can.

As a husband and father, I want my wife and kids to know that I make mistakes all the time.  I own up to them and ask for forgiveness.  If I hurt them with something I say or do, then my response is to go and make it right with them.  It is hard to admit offenses and we were wrong, but I believe more honesty and sincerity comes from admitting you made a mistake and asking for forgiveness.  When we are forces to admit we did something that hurt another person and that it was truly wrong, I think that gets you to stop and think about it a bit more than you usually would.

Forgiveness is not easy by any means.  I still deal with the hurts and pains of what has been done to me.  The anger, resentment, and bitterness I once held onto are gone.  There are days I have ill thoughts or feelings towards those who have hurt me in the past, I remind myself I have already chosen to forgive them, and I left it with God.  I do not want anger and bitterness controlling my life.  I want to be free from that.  People hurt us and it leaves scars of all types.  Release people to God and allowing him to deal with the things they have done.  It is not my responsibility to get back at them, I rest in knowing that someday they will stand before God and be held accountable for their words and actions.  I am ok with that and I rest in the fact that they no longer hold power over my life.


R.A.M. – Integrity


Webster defines’ integrity as: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic value: incorruptibility

Theodore Roosevelt – “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike”

Thomas Jefferson – “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching”

Ben Franklin – “Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil, so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.”

Defining integrity for myself means I act the same way I would whether someone was watching me or not.

Integrity is a something I place as a high value for my life.  Unfortunately, I haven’t always lived my life this way. I learned to lie as a boy and act differently around different people. I maneuvered my way through life putting an image for others while my personal life was living nightmare of shame and dirty secrets.

Most of my life has been spent covering my tracks, wearing masks and putting up a front that wasn’t real. I spent countless hours having to track all this garbage and plan for the future. It was an utter and complete waste of time. My marriage and ultimately my relationships with everyone were slowly being destroyed because of all this.  Even those who thought they were the closest to me had no idea.

My personality is one where I will continually do something, get hit in the head with a 2 X 4 repeatedly, walk away and go right back to the very thing. I guess it’s tenacity but not in a good way. You’d think I would be brain-dead by now as many times as I have been hit.  Why it took me so long I really don’t have an answer for.  In my mid-30’s I finally came to my senses and decided I was destroying everything I really cared about. I decided it was time I manned up.

When I decided to start truly being a man of integrity, I had to lay aside my pride, begin removing the masks and get real with who I a truly am.  My first steps in attempting this was connecting with a group of guys who were committed to doing the same thing, we all came together by God’s divine intervention. My biggest fear going into this meeting was that no one would understand me; they would reject me. The first meeting I went to I remember being physically ill and intimidated and wanted to run as fast as I could and get away from there. I seriously felt like I was going to have a heart attack. My palms were sweating, my heart was beating and I felt light-headed. I listened as everyone brutally and honestly bared his soul. I could tell from the beginning this was not going to be like any other meeting I have ever been involved in. Because of my addictions and the various choices I have made I have always felt like I was the odd man out.   When it was my turn I hesitantly started sharing my life and my stories.  It all began pouring out.  The tremendous amount of  fear and rejection I had carried with me felt lifted. I was able to begin my first steps in being real about who I am.  As I think back to that day, it felt like I spent an hour releasing all the lies I had kept hidden inside, all the evil, wicked thoughts and deeds I had ever done. Something changed that day deep within me. I soon realized the power of truth and its ability to set people free.

It hasn’t been easy, my mode of operation even after being involved with those men for several years I still fell back to old habits and patterns. When things got difficult I turned back to my addictions and putting on masks.  As much as I said integrity was a huge deal for me, I was choosing not to live my life that way.  It has taken a lot of hard work to go back and deal with layers and layers of junk.  Even at church the one place I believed was safe, I’ve worn masks and made it seem like I was the “All-American Dad” this great Christian man, father and husband who had it all together.  As a man I have purposely chosen other men in my life that I could get real with.  I have shared all the nastiness of my past with them and have asked them to hold me accountable and call me out on stuff if they thought I was being fake and phony.  This has played a significant role in my ability to apply integrity in my life.

I want others who see me, interact with me or even read what I write to know what you see is what you get, there isn’t some hidden agenda here.  If you meet me in person you going to see me and see how I do life.  Through tough times I have learned the value of living a life of integrity. I regret so many things I have done in my life where I have chosen less than wise decisions. Counseling, men’s groups and committed men in my life have all been the reason I have been able to stop wearing masks and see who I really am, see who God made me to be.

Now I live a very different life. I let integrity be my guide in most everything I do. I choose to be a Real Authentic Man, a man of quality and character. Yes I still have regrets from past mistakes, but as I move forward and mature I realize that living a life of integrity means I can be free and not be held back from the mistakes of my past. Choosing to live my life free from lies and masks makes for a sweet life and as Ben Franklin said a continual Christmas.

 


R.A.M. – God First In Everything


I often struggle trying to understand where folks obtain moral guidelines and principles.  As someone who is a follow of Jesus how do they know it’s not ok to cheat, lie or murder. Who tells them it’s not right? Do they get their standards from what society says is right?  I am in no place to judge others, but it’s a question that has always run through my mind and most of the time I don’t have the answers.  It is also why I enjoy talking with other folks in deep conversations and understanding where they come from.  It help give me a better perspective.

Maybe I am the only one who thinks this.  I don’t know, what I do know is the “church” and those who profess to be Christians have deeply wounded and hurt many others who have honestly been seeking to find truth. This has left folks feeling betrayed and hating God, Christians and wanting nothing more to do with the church. Don’t think for a minute as a follower of Jesus that I don’t struggle with those same thoughts.  There have been plenty of times where I have questioned my faith journey.  In my experience as a believer, someone who has served in leadership and been an active member of the church I have been deeply wounded to the point of wanting to walk away from it all and never return.  These aren’t just one time things, they’ve happened more than I ever imagined they would.

I didn’t start attending a church until I was in the 5th grade.  Once I went and started, I really enjoyed it.  The first church I attended was a Lutheran church, services were actually held in the Catholic church because we couldn’t afford our own building.  The building with it’s stained glass, statues and other decorations was beautiful and held my attention every week.  I enjoyed the services and even as an adult going back home to visit I can still recite the liturgy.  I have truly loved going to church and being part of something greater.  Growing up I never realized all that went into having the church work.  It wasn’t until I got into leadership where I saw a different side of it.

The church is made up of sinful humans, who act out of their brokenness.  They say and do things that don’t always match up with the way God intended them too.  Being able to remember the “church” is just a building, while the people who attend it are the body.  For those of us that are sold out believers, we still have sin issues in our life and will until the day we die, however we are purposeful about constantly seeking to follow Jesus and treat those around us how he would have us treat them.

I continually keep coming back to God because my life and all that I have been through shouts out there is a God and he is in charge. Time and time again I have seen God prove himself in my life through grace, peace, wisdom and love. The only way I am the person, husband, father, friend or leader I am today is because of God and his work in my life.

For me I go back to the Bible as the place I use as my moral compass and guide. I have never read the entire Bible from front to back. I tend to focus on the New Testament, Proverbs and Job. Frankly, I find it difficult to read a lot of the Old Testament writings, they never appeal to me. However, I do believe that the Bible is relevant today just as it was when it was written. I don’t doubt for a moment that what God had to say in the beginning doesn’t pertain to me today. I have learned to take the principles of what he was speaking, test them and then work them out in my mind and see how they fit in my life and in the culture in which I live. For me the center and core of my life is designed around God and his word. The morals that guide me as a husband, father and person in general all ties back to what God has called us to be.

Every single day starts of with reading something from the bible and prayer time. I need it. I’ve always needed it, but as I have grown and mature I need it more. I strive to be the example for my children as they are my greatest audience. I take an active role in our church not just as a leader, but as a participant, I go to church on Sunday, meet with other guys weekly and talk openly and honestly about life issues we all face, I pray with other folks and make myself accountable to stay on track. I open myself up feedback all the time to make sure I am getting it right. Through all that I do it allows me to hear God at work in my life and this includes his word and him speaking to me through others.

I believe that real men need a moral compass to guide and direct their lives. Mine happens to be God and the Bible. I can’t imagine what my life would look like without him. I need and want him everyday. I believe for a man to be any good at anything he will need a force greater than himself to guide and direct his path. In my experience I believe men who are authentic choose to get real about who and what they believe and follow. They are proud of these things and allow it to permeate everything about them. These are the real authentic men I know.  Though I may fail daily, I still know it’s the right thing to do and I get back up again and push forward. Jesus is my moral compass.