Canaans Rest

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: April 2016

Masculine Energy

A quote from my favorite feminist, Camille Paglia,  got me to thinking about masculine energy. “The more women succeed and rise up into positions of power, the more remote they become from actual masculine energy.” Reflecting on the present status of feminism, Paglia observed, “We don’t know what we want….My generation produced the sexual revolution and your generation is stuck figuring out how it’s going to work.”  Nicole Russell laments the lose of male energy, “Women have blindly followed the feminist mantra and now find themselves lonely and confused. It’s time to welcome back the patriarchy.”  She sees men, “slowly shriveled to mere shells of themselves in an effort to avoid the witchy brigade of feminist diehards.”  It is an indictment of men in our culture.

Like so many other issues regarding  gender, we have to go back to the order of creation (biblical reality).  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15).  These verbs can  be translated “serve” and “guard.”  The NIVZSB notes, “The man has a priestly role to protect the garden sanctuary” (Gen 1:26). When he failed in his task, he was expelled from Eden.  Productive work and guarding the garden were to be part of God’s good plan for man.  It was after his command to Adam that God created Eve as “a  helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:18).

This surely implies energy. Men, think of yourself as Adam, responsible for work in your garden.  Like God, Adam was to be a worker.  Without the taint of sin, work was an undiluted blessing.  The word “work” means “serve.” After the fall work became “painful toil” (Gen 3:17) being accomplished “by the sweat of your brow” (Gen 3:18). Without an understanding of our role as God’s worker in creation, our masculine energy can be distorted, misguided and even intimidated into passivity.

Like each of you, I live in my particular “patch of creation” (sphere of influence).  It has changed over the years from getting married, my vocation as a ordained pastor, raised a family of three and now living together with my wife in our “small monastery” on the lake in the northwoods.  Expressing and living out of godly masculine energy has consistently meant the following for me.  It has not been without its share of pain and disappointment.   I wonder how other readers have been challenged in a similar manner.

First and foremost is taking  initiative and being responsible. In my opinion one of the greatest tragedies among men in our culture today is the passive-aggressive man (the beta man).   The Genesis story tell us that we each have been put in charge of our patch of creation.  We get up every morning to tend our garden.

Second, provide direction and order.  God will show you how to do your work.  He wants you to work for his glory.  We do it grateful, without whining and complaining.

Third, being a  protector.  You are to spiritually fight and defend your patch creation.  God has placed you as a “watchmen” on the walls, alert to spiritual danger. Perceive the danger, name it, and cry out for God to come and do battle on your behalf.

Fourth,  being the priest.  Men, you are God’s priest in your garden.  You bring the presence of God.  Don’t depend on your wife and others in this task.  No one knows the condition of your garden like you do.  At times all you can do is cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” God hears the prayer of desperation.

Mainstream Media Uncapitalize ‘god’

In a major grammatical move, The Washington Post, The New York Times and a host of other mainstream media outlets are now instructing writers and editors that since deities don’t actually exist, they don’t deserve the deference of capitalization. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who purchased the Post in 2013, spearheaded the change.  “America will finally drop the whole “god” thing in this century and we wanted to be ahead of the curve.”  Bezos is very candid in his motives, “I take the militant advancement of liberalism under the guise of objective journalism very seriously.”  “To be clear about where we stand” states Mr. Bezos emphatically, ” anything vaguely religious will now be put in quotes to display our suspicion.” In an almost arrogant tone he promises, “While “christ” and “prophet” are out, the real people who historians agree actually existed, like Jesus and Muhammad, will continue to reap the rewards of capital letters. For the time being.”

So there you have it men –  the promise of the mainstream media to oppose the historic Christian tradition as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, confessing God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I thought immediately of Ps 2.  “The One enthroned in heaven laughs, the Lord scoff at them.  He rebukes them in his anger, and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my king on Zion, on my holy mountain” (4-6). My advice to followers of Jesus, who face such open opposition is to memorize the Apostles’ Creed.  In many church it is confessed every Sunday, as a reminder of the faith we profess.  Mr. Bezos and his cohorts are only the latest to want to silence the story of salvation.  But they like others before them will not succeed.

I have spent a lot of time in the prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, attempting to apply their message to our cultural context.  What follows is a prophetic response from passages in The Message to Mr. Bezos based on the prophets.

God sees the presumption. “But they were a proud and arrogant bunch.  They dismissed the message, saying, ‘Things aren’t that bad. We can handle anything that comes.  If our buildings are knocked down, we’ll rebuild them bigger and finer.  If our forests are cut down, we’ll replant them with finer trees” ( Isaiah 9:9-10)).

God sees the  pride.  “You were so confident and comfortable in your evil life, saying , ‘No one sees me.’  You thought you know so much, had everything figured out.  What delusion!  Smugly telling yourself, ‘I’m Number One.  There’s nobody but me'” (Isaiah 47:10).

God sees the arrogance.  “And yet you have the gall to say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.  God doesn’t mind. He hasn’t punished me, has he?’  Don’t look now, but judgment ‘s on the way, aimed at you who say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong'” ( Jeremiah 2:35).

God sees the Band-Aids.  “Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth.  My people are broken – shattered – and they put on Band-Aids, saying, ‘It’s not so bad.  You’ll be just fine.”  But things are not ‘just fine'”  (Jeremiah 6:14-15).

God sees false religion. “They’ve spread lies about God.  They’ve said, ‘There’s nothing to him.  Nothing bad will happen to us, neither famine nor war will come our way.  The prophets are all windbags.  They speak nothing but nonsense”  ( Jeremiah 5:14).

But God promises to be our guide. “I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country.  I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.  These are the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute” (Isaiah 42:15-16).

Starbuck’s call to Civility

During Starbucks 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, chairman and ceo Howard Schulz said he had “struggled for weeks to find the right words to express the pain I  feel in my heart about where America is headed and the cloud hanging over the American people. ” Viewing the American Dream as a “reservoir” that is replenished with the values, work ethic and integrity of the American people, Schultz said, “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.”

He suggested citizens fill the reservoir of the American Dream back up, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility.  Not with division, but with unity.  Not with exclusion, but with inclusion.  Not with fear, but with compassion.  Not with indifference, but with love.”  “It’s not about the choice we make every four years,” Schultz said, “This is about choices we are making every day.”  Based on this theme, Starbucks sponsored a two-page advertisement in the WSJ and NY Times,  sharing a message of optimism for the future through the choices individuals make every day.

I agree with Mr. Schultz’s angst regarding our lose of  civility.  To be civil is to be courteous and respectful.  Men, while we will be severely tested in expressing the virtues suggested by Mr. Schultz, we will have a significant opportunity to be a positive exemplar as Christian men in an increasing hostile environment. Titus 3:1-2 gives us our marching orders, “Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding always ready to lend a helping hand.  No insults, no fights, God’s people should be bighearted and courteous” ( Titus 3:1-2 – Message).  Hebrews reminds us, “Work at getting along with each other and with God.  Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God” (12:14 – Message).

While attempting to fill our  reservoir with these  commendable virtues is determined by our daily choices, we will fail.  Why?  We are already filled with  a self-referencing  false self, greatly handicapped in being virtuous.  This false self will needs to be surrendered through repentance and confession so that we can be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.  We cry out for God to be merciful to us as sinner living in the midst of a fallen society.  We then  invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill us with what is needed to navigate the entanglements of contemporary culture.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:23).  The fruit manifested through our true self in Christ gives us the capacity to be  other-centered, that is, civil.

Our  motivation in being civil is not the American dream, but seeing other persons as created in the image of God, even if they deeply oppose our viewpoint.  “I’m telling you to love your enemies,” Jesus tells us.  “Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matt 5:43 – Message).  The incarnation is a model for the practice of civility.  God did not wait for us to cry out  or act.  No, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Remember God’s dealing with us is a matter of long-suffering (Rom 2:4).  We live “in the time of God’s patience.”  God has not chosen to rush to judgment, but rather allows us to make basic life choices, for good or evil.  God will do the final accounting.  In the meantime, we are to practice humility and long-suffering, which is the foundation of Christian civility.

I hope you dance

While on a retreat not long ago, I was deeply convicted.  We all listened to a song entitled, “I hope you dance,” sung by LeaAnn Womack.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wept, to the point of embarrassment, as I listened.  The song reflected on the choices in the journey of life.  “And when you get the choice to sit out or dance, I hope you dance. Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along.  Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where  those years have gone.”  I was convicted of my resistance in entering  a deeper spiritual dance with  my dear wife.

For Valentine’s day she gave me a card with a husband and a wife flying in a hot air balloon. I felt my resistance to the metaphor. She wrote, “This hot air balloon is the Spirit carrying us to new places we’ve never been before – new vistas!  New communication!  New ways of seeing things!  New ways of responding!  It will be good as we hang on to each other and let the wind of the Spirit carry us.  There is no one else I want to be with in the hot air balloon.”  I am still struggling with her invitation.  I am afraid of going into the unknown with my wife, knowing it requires a surrender at a deeper level.

We read that King David danced “with all his might,” unashamed in the midst of the people and  before the Lord. “David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.  So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet” (II Sam. 6:14-15).  Dancing in the Bible symbolizes praise, freedom and yielding to God.  In Ps 150: 4 we are encouraged to “praise him [God] with timbrel and dancing.”  The Psalmist exclaims that God, “turned my wailing into dancing” (Ps 30:11).

I am thankful that my wife is giving me  space to get into “the swing” of the Spirit.  The Lord has freed her for the next phase of our journey together.  While I still resist, I can sense I am getting to the place of “entering into” the dance.  While on that retreat, here are some of the issues I identified in my struggle.  I wonder if some of the men reading this blog don’t face some of same issues.

First, evidence of my selfishness.  My focus is on me rather than my bride.   I want to protect my “spiritual turf” as I have come to understand it.  I talk a good talk about being response to my wife, but I want things to be on my terms. This is hard to admit after 50 years of a marriage in which I thought I was a pretty sensitive guy.  Lord, help me to open my heart to my wife.

Secondly, while being known as an outgoing, friendly guy, I still lack spontaneity in my spirit.  I have a hard time being childlike; being free in the present moment.  My wife is waiting for me to “let go” and enjoy the next part of our journey.  As the song reminds me, “who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone.” Lord, help me to live without regret.

Thirdly, I am hurting my wife with my self-centeredness.  She has to pull back and wait for me to join her.  I know she is right, but I resist.  Lord, help me to “let go and enter into.”

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