Stay Connected

 As he approached the cliff’s edge he was very shaky and nervous. He looked down and slightly tugged on his harness to make sure he was hooked in. He was. He visually inspected the carabiner and figure eight to ensure they were properly attached to his harness. He had gloves on. He bang to slowly inch backwards towards the edge of the cliff.

The closer he got the more nervous he became.

He got to the edge. He froze.

He called back from the edge and begged to be pulled up. He started to go again… stopped and once more begged to be pulled up. It was the point of no return. He was over the edge. He couldn’t go back up.

Back he couldn’t go down either.

He was frozen. Neither able to go up or down. Stuck.

He was going do stay on the cliff face until he died… which fortunately wasn’t going to be long!

Before he knew it he, was rappelling down the cliff. He was still afraid, but at least now he was moving… down.

As he unclipped from the rope, he realized he had conquered his fears. He was still afraid of heights, but they had not won this battle.

In September, I had an opportunity to take two young men from the Independent Living Program at Grace Landing on a camping trip as a culmination of a mentoring program we did with them this spring/summer. The first activity of this trip was a rock climbing trip. This portion of the trip was going to push their limits and challenge their fears. If you have never gone rock climbing or rappelling before, you must pay singular attention and your focus must be on the task at hand. One of the things you learn very quickly, is being connected to the rope is critical… lifesaving.

If you aren’t connected to the rope you will die.

Hands down. There is no way around it. Losing connection to the rope, while on the rock face will end tragically. Over the course of the weekend, one of the conversations I had with the guys was as a man the very real need to stay connected to a community… but more than that, the need to stay connected to God. We are not able to navigate this life on our own. We simply can’t do it. And too many times, we men view asking for help or relying on others as weakness. It isn’t weak to recognize where you need help and then ask for help. Being a part of a community, having a support network allows us to draw on a larger range of experiences and resources to navigate the rough waters of life. Having several other dudes who care deeply about you, allows you a built in accountability network as well as confidants and friends to carry you through the tough times.

But more important than all this, is of course the connection we have to have with God. Having a community of other men is highly beneficial, but we must be connected to the ultimate source. God should be the foundation for all we do and all we are. Relying on him in tough times. Turning to him in good times. Trusting him no matter what is swirling around us in life is essential to being successful. Other people will disappoint us. It’s a matter of when, not if they will. Being connected to God allows us to manage through the times other people let us down.

I encouraged our guys to stay connected to a community, but more importantly to stay connected to God.

Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

The Beginning of Another Year.

As we begin another school year, we have a fifth grader, fourth grader & a kindergartner.

We also have a safety patrol.

This is the only year they will all be at the same school.

These little dudes rock! So happy to be their dad.

I find as I get older, it is the little things in life which bring me the most joy. Sending the dudes to their first day of school for a new year. Celebrating the little things in life that make them who they are. Getting excited about our safety patrol in the family. I joked with my parents, that we all have to be on good behavior because we now have law enforcement in the family.

Noah had a pre-season soccer tournament this weekend. His team ended the tourney 1-2. He was a little disappointed, but happy for the win. Ronda and I saw a lot in Noah over the weekend and we spoke with him a length about playing the best soccer he can. I know he thought we were coming down hard on him, the reality is we see something in him and we want others to see it too. I told him (and his bros) I only push him for more, because I know he is capable of more. I know he has more inside him. I have seen it. He agrees. In the midst of our discussion, he conceded Hayden (our middle child and Noah’s arch-rival) was putting out more effort in soccer than he was. I asked how he felt about that… he said he was glad for Hayden and a little disappointed in himself. He said he was going to do better. He was going to put more effort into it. He left the house with a soccer ball today, to spend time at recess and in his free time working on his skills.

With all the boys, we are pushing them to work on the skills/drills each of their coaches assign them as homework. Additionally, we are trying to play more pick up games and encourage them to practice juggling the ball to improve their footwork and touch on the ball. We are trying to make it fun again. This is one of those little things I spoke of. Making soccer fun. Making it a friendly competition between them and me to see who can improve themselves quicker. I have decided I need to practice my ball skills too. I try to do the drills they do also in order to improve myself, but to also model the commitment they need to see.

Commitment. It hit me this weekend, we are asking our boys to commit to touching a soccer ball for 20-30 minutes everyday. Using the argument, the people who really want it, who want to be the best, who want to get better do this. You have to be committed to putting time in everyday for this. If you love it and want it, you will do it. As I gave those words of encouragement and instruction, I felt convicted there are many aspects of my life I give lip service to their importance but don’t follow through with any real commitment to them. I felt convicted to be serious about my life and the things which are important to me. It felt a little hypocritical to be asking them to do something I wasn’t willing to implement in my own life.

What does this mean for me? I hope it means I will take stock of the things in my life, identify those I wish to excel at, and them implement a strategy to excel at those endeavors. I want to take my own advice and become a father and leader they look up to and follow because they see me modeling in my own life what i am asking of them.

My Neighborhood

Photo courtesy of http://www.agentevolution.com/

Photo courtesy of www.agentevolution.com/

I’m in my car… driving to work. Yes, I shouldn’t be doing this… but I am. Technically, the law states it is illegal to text while driving. There isn’t specific mention of Evernoting. I bet I could find a Davy attorney who could get me off. Anyway, digression.

Several months ago, I began reading a book called ‘When I don’t desire God’ by John Piper. Real heady stuff. I began to read this as we started a life group with a couple other couples. Oddly enough, this life group/small group/missional community/community group whatever you call it initially birthed as three couples from h2o connected with each other, yet didn’t find a home in any of h2o’s missional communities (fancy name for life group). That’s not the strange part… the strange part is none of us attend h2o any longer (all for various reasons, some of which are intertwined but all happened independently of the others). I believe this group or community to be an authentic life-giving community for a number of reasons… but our ability to survive our separation from h2o is one of them.
I have found in my life I have often had two communities. My friends and my church friends. There has always been some overlap. Real, authentic community of friendship transcends church attendance. I count the men in this quorum to be my closest friends whom I can just as easily pound beers with, share my parenting issues with, ask for marriage advice (even though I’ve been married the longest), and share my sun struggles. In all we do together, we are committed to each other and to sharing our lives together… the good the bad and the ugly.
Community is about having people with whom you share common interests, but also a common interest in pushing each other forward and helping each other to be the best person we can be. This seems a little trite, but the reality of authenticity is just this. Community is about being integrated into each other’s lives in a such a way that when we are apart we are missed.
I have experienced this kind of community in the past. Sadly, it has not been a normative experience for me. I count myself lucky to walk alongside my friends in my community.
It is now late in the afternoon, and I finally have an opportunity to bring myself back around to wrapping this up. As i review my thoughts thus far, I realize when I began this morning I wasn’t intending to share my thoughts on the community I have with my friends (and granted, they aren’t even necessarily fulled thought out thoughts). Even so, I want to share a few closing thoughts to attempt to wrap this up in a semi-meaningful way.
We are community-driven creatures. I believe one of the aspects of being made in the likeness of God is this community aspect. We have an innate desire to surround ourselves with others. We thrive on having a group of people with whom we can travel through life. Loneliness is never our choice. As humans we want others around us.
Not only do we want to have a community, but we want to belong to a community. We want to a part of it, be a piece that matters. We want to know others depend on us and need us around. We want to feel as though we are irreplaceable. We long to be indispensable to those around us. Being in a group only brings the fulfillment we crave when we belong to the group.
Similar, yet still distinct, we want to matter. Not just to those around us, but in the larger cosmic scheme of things. We want to know we have a place in a larger story. We want to belong locally to our community, but also globally. We need to know our life matters, that it was for something. We don’t necessarily need to change the world to find this meaning, but we want to know the things we do each day are worth doing. We want to know the days we had here on earth amounted to something of worth. As a child of God, our very existence was worth every drop of our precious savior’s blood he poured out for us. Our very existence is of more worth than we could possibly know or comprehend.
Community, belonging, meaning. These are three truths of existence for every human being. I am thankful and blessed to have a community to travel the road of life with where I find these three basic needs filled in a way consistent with God’s design for me here on earth. I am able to walk through life with a little patience until these needs are ultimately fulfilled by my creator and savior.
I hope you find a community like mine.

Personality Testes, Personality Testes, 1 – 2. Personality Testes, 1 – 2 – 3?

No, it was not a Freudian slip.

Several weeks ago, I made mention of meeting a dude who offered to complete some personality tests on me. I thought it apropos to begin this way since for us men, our man-ness is often directly related to size of our balls.

We have big balls when we:

– don’t let our wives boss us around.

– make crazy-radical, on the edge kinds of choices.

– we are the first to do that daredevil act like jumping from a moving train.

– we grab life by the horns wrestle that beast to the ground and stand up and yell f___ you at it.

Like the size of our balls makes us the men we are, our personalities make us the people that we are. According to the ‘never wrong’ Wikipedia – Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

It is who we are.

This was an eye-opening experience to sit down and speak with this dude, who doesn’t really know me, and have him be able to peg me spot for who I am and what I am like.

This was revolutionary. I learned a lot of things about who I am and why I tick the way I do.

I learned the mechanics behind things in my life that I would have called failures. I learned the why of some of the things I struggle with.

I learned what drives me, motivates me, makes me lie awake at night. I realized the behind the scenes to many of the choices/decisions I have made in my life.

One of the benefits of being in ministry is having the opportunity to further hone my skills by learning more about who I am and why I think/act/feel the way I do. This was a great experience.

I have to be honest, I was wary going in. What if I didn’t like who the tests said I was? What was I gonna do about that? I would be screwed.

Providentially, the tests revealed me to be who I thought I was and more importantly who God knows me to be.

I am wonderfully and fearfully made… God made me how he needed.

And most importantly he loves me unconditionally.

The Company Men

During the message on a Sunday in June at H2O Church Orlando a trailer for the movie Company Men was shown. This prompted Ronda to want to watch the movie. So we rented it last night.

There were parts of this movie that were hard to watch and that hurt. Several years ago I lost my job and felt many of the feelings that were portrayed by the characters in the movie. That’s what made it hard to watch. Seeing the feelings and emotions that I experienced being played by the actors in a movie. Watching on the faces of the characters when they had to tell their wives and children. When they realized the lifestyle they were used to had to change. When they realized having lost their job meant their children had to sacrifice too. Realizing that much of who they thought they were as men, fathers and husbands was attached to their jobs. And then those jobs were taken away.

This hit home for me in many ways. A few years ago I was in a similar situation in the sense that the agency that I worked for lost it’s contract with the State of Florida for case management. This was a very trying time in my life, it lead to a serious and deep bout with depression. It’s kinda amazing how much of a man’s (or at least this man) worth & value comes from his job. Being able to provide for and care for your family as a man is an incredible source of value and worth.

What this movie was able to accurately portray was how hard it is to overcome those feelings of insecurity and lack of worth. The pain on the faces of the characters was almost too close to home for me a couple of times. I don’t admit this often, but I almost cried during this movie because of feelings/emotions/memories it brought up.

Good job to the makers of this movie to catch the emotions and feelings of the human existence.

The flipside, I feel I must mention, to realizing everything that you thought gave you value does not in fact assess your value is that you begin to discover where true value/worth comes from. In what I would call my darkest times of life, is when I feel that I was the closest to God. It was during this time that I learned to rely/trust/gain value & worth from God and God alone.

I am a child of his first and foremost. Without that, nothing else truly matters. God values/LOVES me enough to die for me. Die for me individually, not in some sense of dying for all of humanity (which he did) but for me as an individual.

Me as a sinner and wayward child.

Me.

I am valuable. I am worth something. And that value and worth comes from God and his love for me, not my job or some other earthly experience.

This movie not only brought up feelings that were hard to process again, it also brought up much work that I did in my personal/spiritual life to be aware that I belong to God.

God and his grace are the preeminent defining factors in my life…

Where do you gain your sense of worth/value? Do you turn to God or something/someone else?

What happens when they let you down?

Making Sense of Chaos… a Few Words for Men.

This isn’t the way that it was supposed to be… this may be your story as well, something that you can relate to I don’t know.

All I know is this isn’t the way it is supposed to be. In many ways on many levels this isn’t right.

Sure, there is the global and cosmic discussion about how sin entered the world and history through the first man and woman and that seriously impacted things and things aren’t right.

That isn’t what I’m talking about. Although; maybe it is a part of the problem here.

Things don’t go the way we planned, we don’t get that promotion that we wanted, we get fired from a job at the worst time possible.

The economy takes a down turn, we can’t find another job.

We lost all the retirement or nest egg you had when you made a good investment decision that just went south with the economy.

Or how about when you realize your home is now worth a fraction of what you paid for it… you still can’t find a job and now you couldn’t even sell your house to move if you had to.

Bankruptcy is close, foreclosure is closer.

The kids are screaming and won’t listen; they act like they are feral children when you are out in public.

Life doesn’t go as planned. Or should I say, my life hasn’t gone as I planned.

That’s not to say that you don’t like/love your life, but let’s be honest we would all change some things in our lives if we could.

What do we do when life unravels in front of our eyes?

How do we recover what we once had from the brink of destruction and despair?

Have you ever felt that way, felt like life was falling apart?

The biggest lie that you can buy when you feel that way is that you are alone. You, we, are not alone in those feelings.

Despair and depression set in when we think we are the only ones.

For us as men it is really hard when some of these things occur, because they cause us to question our manhood, our ability to be the father, husband or leader of the family we think we should be.

We begin to feel like we are half-men or incapable men or not real men.

We begin to feel like less of a man when we are unable to care for our families.

Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with being the man I feel God has called me to be.

I know what it feels like to have everything that made you feel manly, a job, money cars, respect taking away from me.

I have 3 awesome kids, a beautiful wife and a dog that need me to be strong.

When we don’t feel like we can be strong, our manhood is challenged.

How do we overcome when life doesn’t go as planned?

1. Realize where it is coming from. Remember that Satan is constantly trying to cause you to stumble. 1 Peter 5: says, Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Satan wants you to be overcome by the stress and hardship of life so that you cease to be used by God. Also, remember that God may be moving you to somewhere else that he needs you more.

2. Don’t buy the lie. Don’t buy the lie that you are worthless. Romans 5:8 tells us, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Before we even responded to the grace of God he died for us in order to bring us to him. We are worth God himself.

3.  Don’t give up. You gotta be like Cmdr. Taggart on Galaxy Quest, “Never give up, never surrender.” The moment you buy the lie or are fooled by where these feelings of worthlessness come from you have already given up. You can’t do that. The only way to defeat Satan is by continuing to fight.

Most importantly you have to Turn to God. It doesn’t matter if you realize the true nature of the attack, or don’t buy the lie

Or never give up, if you try to do it alone. You will fail, no way around it. You cannot win alone. God has left his Holy Spirit to reside within us in order to give us the strength to overcome. We can’t do it by ourselves; we have to rely on his power. You have to stay strong in the Scriptures, You have to be on your prayer game, You have to rely on others to help keep you accountable. When you begin your training the Navy’s BUD/S you get assigned a swim buddy. This person goes on every training mission and is with you no matter where you are. This is to ensure your safety during the training missions.  God needs to be our swim buddy.

Life is full of stress. That is a given. How are you going to respond to that stress?

You can either respond in defeat or respond by overcoming.