Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: September 2015

God’s Furious Longing

One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, who has since passed away, offered these two observations about the love of God that have stuck with me. The first, “God loves you as you are, not as you should be” and the second, “It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sin and faults but with them.”  Manning calls it God’s “furious longing” for us.   There is sorrow on the part of our heavenly Father when we hide from his love.  I spend many years hiding from God’s love  because I did could not face my actual self.

Men, it is one thing to think about God’s great love for us, and another to truly experience his love.  It’s the difference between “knowing about” and “knowing of.”  To experience his love we have to allow ourselves to be known.  We find God in the realities of our life. As one spiritual writer observed, “The way to ascend to God is to descend into our realities.” This means allowing our actual self, the good, bad and ugly to be known by God.

Ever since Eden the human struggle has been “to escape from the grip of the spirit of fear and to be open to the embrace of love (Olthuis).”  I John 4:18 gives us a profound psychological truth to help us in this struggle. “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Or as the Message puts it, “There is no room in love for fear.  Well-formed love banishes fear.  Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of punishment – is one not yet fully formed in love.”   God desires our friendship rather than having us live in fear.  “He offers his love as the one thing in the universe capable of freeing us from our fears ( Benner).”

Over the last 10 years I have been coming more out of my cave of hiding into the radiance of his love acceptance of me as “a beloved sinner.”  Believe me, it is a process.  I am been so used to hiding my “unwelcome parts” from God.  But the more I have learned to embrace the truth of I John 4:18, the more there is  grace available for me to face the reality of my shadow self, that part of me that I am ashamed of and want to hide.  I am coming to realize that much of my shadow self is not evil, but rather unacceptable to the spiritual image I have created of myself.  This is illusion, not reality.  God can only be known in the real.

Recently in some relational tension with my wife, I had to face my hiding.  The new learning that I want to pass along in this blog is this –  not only was I pushing my  wife away, as I insisted on staying in my “self-loathing cave” but I was allowing myself to be alienated from my true self in Christ.  Instead of rising up in the strength of the Lord and facing my faults, I stayed in my cave.  It was not pretty. I cowered in my self-loathing.  But thanks to God’s “furious longing” for a fallen man such as myself, his love reached me in my cave, allowing me to come out into the light, so that I could meet my wife as a helpmate not as a “wounded, hurting boy.”

“zer” and “hir”

I am sure you are wondering what “zer” and “hir” mean.  Well, Harvard University’s arts and science college are giving students the chance to indicate whether they prefer to use the traditional pronouns “he” and “she” or alternatives including “zer, “hir,” or variants of “they.”  “If faculty or advisers are inadvertently outing someone by using a name or pronoun that doesn’t reflect their authentic self, that is a problem,”said Michael Burke, registrar for the university’s school of arts and sciences.  Burke noted that it was not uncommon, “to go to a meeting where people introduce themselves not only by their name and title, but by their gender pronoun.”  But what exactly is an “authentic self.”

Men, this is how crazy it has gotten on our college campus. But thankfully there are exceptions, like at Washington State University, where a professor in her syllabus entitled, “Women & Popular Culture” warned that offensive language would not be tolerated. “This includes [phrases such as] ‘the man'” and “reference to women-men as females or males.”  There was a reaction.  WSU released a statement reaffirming its commitment to free speech and announcing that “no student will have points docked merely as a result of using terms that may be deemed offensive to some,”  yet wanting to, “cultivate diversity of expression while protecting individual rights and safety.  This creates a real dilemma.

These are  examples of “the coddling of the American Mind” according to an article in The Atlantic.  The article maintains that the issue is more then restricting hate speech.  “The current movement is largely about emotional well-being….it presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm.”  The goal is to turn campuses into “safe spaces,” “where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable.”

The creation story is the true view of reality, which gives us the original blueprint for male and female relations.  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Jesus affirms this view of reality when he said, “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6).  Men, don’t let the rapid cultural decay in which the light of reason has gone dim,  shake your confidence and cloud your view of reality.  We are either male or female, period.

Men, in the midst of all this cultural confusion regarding gender, let us be “cultural warriors” in our own quiet manner.  What do I mean by this suggestion.  First, get it straight in your mind and heart that as men we will maintain a biblical view of reality.  We don’t have to be apologetic or defensive of our maleness.   We joyfully declare that our personhood as a male is a gift of God.  We cannot tamper with who we are, without serious consequences.  So as cultural warriors, we will celebrate our maleness, and make no apologizes for being a man.

Secondly, we will have a healthy and respectful view of the feminine as a proper balance to our maleness.  We will not flee from the feminine, nor disparage its importance to bring balance and harmony in relationships.  Thirdly, we will humbly admit the failure of men to respect and honor the feminine in the past.  Finally, we will live with open hearts before God, allowing God to bring healing to our male souls, in order that we might be more like Jesus, both “tough and tender” in his relationship with others, embracing the demeanor both of the “lion” and the “lamb”.

The Soft Male & The Donald

“To ask a man to become relationally aware, without being first of all secure in his maleness, is to ask a man to be less than a man.  It is in some ways asking a man to act like a woman without first knowing what it is like to be a man.  A man must be sensitive from the heart of a truly secure man.”  Insecure men can become trapped in a sickly, passive mood that paralyzes male energy. Due to the cultural demands of a distorted feminine, men become “feminized” or “soft males.”

The reaction to Donald Trump brings this feminization of American culture to the surface .  Trust me,  I am in no way endorsing Mr. Trump.  But he exposes the feminizing tendency.  Psychologist Dr. Kent G. Bailey observes that Trump, “is the prototypical, archetypal and testosterone-driven alpha male who rules by sheer force of his personality, imposing physique, quick wit, mastery of repartee and almost hypnotic control over his gathering masses of adoring followers.”  Bailey maintains that the archetypal warrior male has virtually disappeared in the last 60 years as our nation has progressively become feminized. Trump, however, has “taken primal maleness to levels unseen for at least a half a century.”  Compare him to some modern politician and you begin to get a picture of the feminizing tendency.

Mr. Trump is a throwback to an expression of the masculine that is in full flight from the feminine.  We live in a time when the complementary masculine and feminine are seriously out of balance.  The Donald typifies the classic “Rambo mentality” in which men express their aggressive, outgoing, take charge mentality, but disregard the need to be sensitive and relational, while expressing depth of meaning and purpose. It’s force over matter.  Our cultural reaction over the past decades has produced men who feel forced to be more feminine.  Many people – men and women – intuitively sense The Donald challenging this tendency.  At one point around 2015, Gallup had a 14-point gender gap: 68% approval among men versus 54% for women.

So, how do we address the feminization of men that Donald Trump has brought to the fore?  The quote above that noted “a man must be sensitive from the heart of a truly secure man” is a key.  In my own stumbling manner, I have tried to address this over the years.  I believe the issue of feminized men does not get the attention it deserves. The best image I have found to express the balance needed in the male soul is “tough and tender” or that of “the lion and the lamb.” The masculine can be expressed in initiative, while the feminine can be expressed in response.  As a culture we have been reacting for the last 60 years to a distorted male initiative that has not been balanced with a feminine response.  The pendulum has swung to the extreme of more and more feminine sensitivity and less and less male initiative.  With The Donald it has been fascinating to watch our cultural response to an all-out Rambo Effect that is woefully lacking the sensitivity offered by the feminine.

Men, Jesus put it very plainly, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female'” (Matt 19:4).  C.S. Lewis observed that, “gender is a reality and a more fundamental reality than sex.” Masculinity and femininity, being rooted in God, have transcendent dimensions.  That is why it so dangerous for a culture to let this get out of balance.  Leanne Payne, from whom I have learned so much, gives this warning: “A culture will never become decadent in the face of a healthy, balanced masculinity.  When a nation… backslides, it is the masculine which is the first to decline.”

Receiving Honor

We read in Isaiah 57:15, “The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One says this: I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.  I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”  God, the Holy One, is found among the contrite and humble.  Proverbs 18:12 reminds us, “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor,” while Proverbs 29: 23 warms us, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” To be honored is to be respected and thought of as a person of integrity.  We all want that as men, but it comes through humility.

These verses took on new meaning for me during a recent visit of my three teenage grandsons.  I certainly wanted them to think well of me as grandpa.  I was being tested about being present and open with them.  My wife and I had prayed before hand that we might be used of God to bear witness of God’s love for them. I was learning again that “honesty” and “openness” were key in communicating with them.  God provided a good incident in this regard.

This is what happened.  Two of my grandsons and myself were coming in from fishing just before our noon meal.  The boys had already gone up the hill, while I put the boat away.  All of sudden I had to do “a dump.” I knew I would not make it.  So I stayed in the water and cleaned up as best I could.  I came to the meal with a clean pair of shorts on, but I was unaware that I still smelled.  As we were eating, my two grandsons could detect a smell.  I was totally humiliated.  So for desert, I suggested we go out on the deck.  That saved me.

After desert, I made my confession of not being able to made it up the hill to go to the bathroom.  I acknowledged my humiliation.  We all had a great laugh.  I said that I had been convicted of my spiritual pride.  I told my daughter’s family that God was using the incident to humble me. Instead of neglecting to talk about “the smell,” I owned up to what had happen. More was accomplished in my publicly embracing my humiliation, rather then hiding  the cause of the smell.  By God’s grace I could shallow my pride, leaving my grandsons an example of humiliation, hoping that God could use my confession as a witness to them, remembering the humility comes before honor.

Men, I am  thankful for the freedom to be able to admit such a humiliating experience as that “smell” at the dinner table.  Words can not convey how uncomfortable and humiliated I felt.  I knew I would have to say something.  Being out on the deck, with the fresh breezes blowing, gave me my opportunity.  I am just “grandpa” not a “spiritual” elder in the church in the eyes of those boys.  I wanted to be a grandfather who was fully present to them.  It can be humbling at times.

Remember men, God has called you to be faithful in being both physically and emotionally present to your family.  It calls for real humility. It is through humility that we connect with our children and grandchildren.  If you want to be honored and respected as father or grandfather, the Spirit of God uses the posture of humility to communicate empathy to those we love and are called to influence, not a cold, indifferent, “performance orientated” spirituality.  Your family wants to connect with a real man.  Humility  will cause you to be real.

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