I Can’t Believe I’m Doing This

“Really, Craig? Do we really need another blog?”

I have a thing about blogs. I’m sorry, but many seem self-obsessed and ego-driven. And honestly, I’m not really that sorry. There are outstanding exceptions, of course, but for me many blogs smack of values that drive our culture. Values I’m opposed to.

I’ve already spent 5 decades being part of the Me Generation: we Boomers who were raised with a sense of privilege like no other generation in history. Add to that the entitlement-messages we are soaked in by advertising directed to Gens X and Y, and the result is a cultural motto – “It’s all about me” – that flies in the face of everything I believe about men.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore that rally cry given the barrage of messages we receive. Facebook allows us to promote our preferred image and life to the world; My Space does the same, just more immaturely; You Tube allows us to broadcast ourselves living it. The countless websites starting with “my” or “your” reinforce the tasty lie that we love to believe: the world revolves around my life. We are the center of the known universe, and the sooner the universe agrees, the better.

I disagree. My conviction is that the primary characteristic that distinguishes immature, worldly men from mature, godly men is our center of focus. Immature men believe the world rotates around them, that it’s “all about them.” Their perspective is self-centered. Mature men are convinced their life is not about them; on the contrary, their life is for others. Their perspective is other-centered.

To me, blogs often reinforce the immature perspective not the mature one. I know I’m wrong in making blanket judgments this way, I’m just saying. It seems the height of self-centeredness to assume the world wants to know every thought that crosses my mind. Whether or not they asked for it.

The September-October 2010 issue of Relevant magazine went so far as to say that “social technologies can build a subtle narcissism, exhibitionism, self-absorption and neurotic co-dependency.” I have to say: I think they have a point.

Yet, here I am writing my first blog post. Why am I doing so? Because in my less visceral moments, when I take some time to think it through rationally, I know this is now an accepted and effective way of communicating with a broad audience.

Several years ago I realized that I actually would like God to use me to influence men in a positive way. In the years since, I’ve become only more convinced that my concern for men, my conviction that they matter, and my passion to see them living out God’s calling in their lives, is a message that God uses. I think it would be wrong and selfish to keep it under a bushel.

So here I am writing yet another blog; with mixed feelings. I don’t want to be grouped with men whose values are the opposite of mine. But I’ve decided that I’m willing to risk being misunderstood, disagreed with, and even thought to be condescending or self-centered, in order to get a message out there that is founded in Scripture. My commitment is to express insights and observations that I believe will encourage and inform you in the crucial roles you live out every day.

The world desperately needs men who live for others, not themselves. Men, your life is not about you; neither is mine. It’s time we lived that way. That’s why I’m doing this.

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Help and Hope

Just a month ago, as I post this, 33 Chilean miners were miraculously freed from their underground grave of 69 days. The whole world watched the miracle unfold. The survivors have already gone on to global fame, including one who completed the New York Marathon.

But experienced psychologists warn that these men will in all likelihood have a long road of recovery from the physical and psychological impacts of facing death for such a long period of time, post-traumatic stress. He said that they will have deeply experienced at least two significant emotions:

1. Helplessness– having no power to change something that is beyond their control, resulting in fear.
2. Hopelessness– having the conviction that no one else has a solution either, resulting in depression.
It’s why rescue workers fought immediately to provide reasons for hope to the trapped miners.

Do you know any men who struggle with helplessness or hopelessness right now? I sure do. As the recovery of our economic “mine collapse” inches along, many predict that the worst may still lie ahead of us. Nearly 100,000 U.S. workers lost their jobs last month; some observers fear a second hit in the housing market that will threaten many more homeowners with foreclosure. If indeed that happens, the aftershocks will circle the globe again.

We live in a time when many men and women are in MID-traumatic stress, if there is such a phrase. They have not passed through to the other side of stress. The stress factors are not safely in the rearview mirror of life, they are still hitting the windshield. In some cases shattering it.

We need outside Help because it IS true: we have no power to control many events in our lives. Psalm 41:1-3 reminds us: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

We need outside Hope so we don’t fall into the darkness of depression. I have come to love Romans 15:13 for its message of hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Surely two Bible verses don’t relieve all our fears. But the profound truth behind these words assures us of God’s presence and his power. We may not be delivered as quickly or smoothly as the miners we’ve watched in the rescue capsule. But some day, some day, we will dance with joy that dwarfs the celebrations we saw in Chile.

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Getting the Deer Out of the Headlights

Not long ago I got together with a group of men who were good acquaintances, but hadn’t seen each other in a while. We wanted to catch up with each other’s personal lives, but I find that when you ask men, “Tell us what’s going on in your life,” they either respond with a deer-in-the-headlight expression or launch into a superficial account of work, sports and physical maladies. At which point it’s tough to say, “You know,we really want you to go deeper than that.”

I have found a good way to ease men into a genuine overview of life, is to pay attention to the pattern of how Jesus implied we are made by God. In Mark 12:30 Jesus tells us to love God “with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength.” In one sentence he summarized the make-up of all people:

  • Heart- Emotions
  • Soul- Spirit
  • Mind- Intellect
  • Strength- Physical

That group of men went around the table and each to took a couple of minutes on each of those 4 areas and filled us in on how he was doing: Emotionally–What is he feeling these days? What is going on his most important relationships? Spiritually— How are he and God doing? What is God up to in his life? Intellectually— What is he learning or reading? How is he growing? Physically— How is his health and how is he caring for it? Then pray for each man after he shares.

It’s a surprisingly simple yet effective way to help men move from blank stare to honest connection.

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One of the best set of marching orders I know of for men is I Corinthians 16:13: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage and be strong.” Every one of those phrases is a good call to be manly. They resonate with the male heart: be vigilant, be faithful, be fearless, be powerful. This sounds like good stuff to our ears (although, if we are truly courageous we’ll be willing to admit we’re not sure we measure up with everything it’s asking for).

Then the passage gets thrown upside-down by verse 14. “Do all these things in love.” Huh? Love? Wait, what about that manly stuff?

Yes, love is in the middle of the manly stuff. In fact it defines the manly stuff. The direction of love is outward, toward others. That’s the direction a genuine man is concerned about. The self-centered, me-first pursuits of the world? That’s for “not-yet-men.” Real men do all this verse says. They pay attention to what is going on around them; they stand up for what they believe in; they willingly encounter fear; they engage with energy and passion. They just do it on behalf of others, not themselves.

I’m not great at consistently doing this myself. That doesn’t mean it’s not true; it just means it’s not easy. It’s what I long for, for me, and for you. And for the world.

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