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: July 2016

Strong and Weak

In my recent reading I came across a new word for my spiritual vocabulary – “Flourishing.”  Andy Crouch in his new book, “Strong and weak” refers to flourishing as being fully alive, “…..not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to exist, but to explore and expand.”  The men who read this blog desire to break out of the conventional, cultural male mindset, into a spiritual space where they are fully alive and fully human.  To be fully alive to the glory of  God is to  flourish. But how do we learn to flourish?

Crouch suggests that flourishing comes from being both strong and weak.  To help us grasp to the nature of this paradox, he introduces a 2×2 chart formed by two axes – authority and vulnerability.  The vertical axis is authority, which Crouch defines as the capacity for meaningful action.  It’s  the difference we make in our particular sphere of influence.  The horizontal axis is vulnerability,  our exposure to meaningful risk.  “The vulnerability that leads to flourishing,” Crouch says,  “requires risk, which is the  possibility of loss – the chance that when we act, we will lose something we value.” The balance of authority and vulnerability lead to flourishing. that is, an “abundant life” (John 10:10), the “life that really is life” (It Tim 6:19).

Crouch can be helpful in our journey as “wild men.”  “We are meant to experience more and more of the full authority intended for human beings, which can never be separated from  vulnerability – the ultimate meaningful risk – of entrusting ourselves to one another and to our Creator.”   Greater authority and greater vulnerability will take us on two challenging  journeys.  The first is the journey of “hidden vulnerability,” the willingness to bear burdens and expose ourselves to risks that no one else can fully see or understand.  The second is sacrifice, “descending to the dead,” the choice to  visit the broken corners of the world and our own heart.

Jesus, of course,was able to hold this elusive paradox in tandem – full authority and full vulnerability – for the sake of those he loved.  Jesus’ authority was evident to everyone, while his vulnerability was more difficult to grasp.  It is Jesus who helps us to flourish.  “We will not restore the world to its intended flourishing by impressive feats of self-improvement.  Instead the restoration of the world flows from the singular human being, Jesus….It is only Jesus, and the Spirit he has sent to empower his people for their redemptive mission in creation, who truly sets us free from the mire of poverty, apathy and tyranny.”

I have spent quite a  bit of time with Crouch’s book in this blog for a reason.  It is a great help with the “tough” and “tender” paradox that I often refer to in these blogs. Men, if we are to flourish, that is, have an abundant life, the paradox of authority (tough) and vulnerability (tender)  will be operative in our lives.  Simply think of your role as husband and father (your domain).  We can make a difference by  embracing servanthood authority, or choose to descend into passivity or the need to  control.  We can learn to  balance  authority, by a hidden vulnerability that will expose us to risk and even failure.  Men are challenged with the question, especially in relationship, “do I have what it takes.”

Remember Jesus came to liberate  us from the dilemma of this paradox.  “That is what the Son of Man has done.  He came to serve, not to be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage” (Mark 10:45 – Message).

Male Lives Matter

Thank you, Mike Huckabee, for giving men this slogan  Thank you for standing up publicly for us.   Huckabee was citing The Washington Post’s findings that of the 990 people shot by police in 2015, 948 were male, 494 were white and 258 were black.  “The pure facts,” observed Huckabee, “…reveal that 94% of those killed by police are men, so by proportional standards… the real movement in America should be ‘Male Lives Matter.'”  Men in our culture are under assault simply for being male. This spells real trouble for our society.

In his book Kingdom Man, Tony Evans notes that 70% of all prisoners come from fatherless homes, as do approximately 80% of all rapists.  71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, and 63% of all teen suicides occur in homes where fathers were either abusive or absent.  This points to a pandemic.  In an article entitled The End of Men, Hanna Rosin suggests that “man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind.  But for the first time in history , that is changing – and with shocking speed.”  Feminist Camille Paglia has warned, “Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies.  There’s nothing left.  There’s no room for anything manly right now.”

The phrase Male Lives Matter speaks to the heart and soul of this blog site.  I am a voice in the wilderness (northern Minnesota) crying out, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight path for him” (Luke 3:4).  I speak as one who has struggled with his own maleness.  I try to stay abreast of the gender wars both within and outside of the church, and have a strong conviction that the church as well as society is becoming feminized. I am disturbed by the many Christian leaders who do not see this clearly.  “Feminization,” states Stephen Clark, “is a worldview, in which a man sees things more from a womanly perspective.”  A feminized man focuses more on how he feels, while trying to be more gentle, handling situations in a “soft” way.  He is more concerned about the approval of others, having a tendency to fear women’s emotions.

I believe many men are living unconsciously in a feminized bubble that needs to be broken.  From my own experience, I can visualize some of the following restraints men experience living in this bubble. 

First and foremost, men, young and old, begin questioning the nature of their own masculine soul.  It is vital for a man to flourish in life, knowing his unique capacity as a man. God took the man, not the woman, “and put him in the Garden of Eden to work  it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  Later, God gave him a partner. 

Second, men are being intimidated.  Paliga has said,” This PC gender politics thing… is a very anti-male way, it’s all about neutralization of maleness.”  In the process, men become intimidated, and more reluctant to tell the truth to women regarding their own experiences.

Third, men are questioning their God-given role as husbands and fathers.  This would include such roles as provider, protector, leader and spiritual shepherd.  As a ad says, “There’s no type of love like a dad’s love.” One pastor put it well,  “The true substance of masculine strength is about fighting with the heart, not the fists.  It’s about integrity, sexual fidelity, and promise keeping.” 

Fourth, many men are wondering, “Am I the only man feeling beaten down and devalued for simply being a man?”  I say with all my heart and soul, “NO!”  This blog seeks to help men find their voice and recover their unique story as men.

Be Better

Recently, Michelle Obama hosted a “United State of Women” summit at the White House.  The schedule featured an interview with the First Lady conducted by Oprah Winfrey.  At one point, Winfrey asked  Mrs. Obama if she has any advice for men.  “Be better” the First Lady replied, and then she reiterated, “Be better at everything.”  She elaborated a bit: “Be better fathers.  Just being good fathers who love your daughters and are providing a solid example of what it means to be a good man in the world.  Showing them what it feels like to be loved.”  I have no problem with this exhortation.  But how do dads do this?  Who will encourage, support and mentor dads?

How does this energize you as a dad?  I must tell you men, the statement “be better”  leaves me as a man feeling like I have been put in my place.  I am told to do better, which I interpret to mean, I have not been doing a very good job.  I am left on my own to figure out how to be a better man.  I get the sense that important female figures, such as the First Lady, are watching to see if I measure up to a their standard.  There is little empathy for “the male struggle” of discerning what does it mean to be a man and father in 2016. Most importantly I feel a spirit of disgust and condescension towards men in general (based on the video clip).  So here is how I would  respond to the First Lady and Oprah.

Speaking for men in our culture, I admit that we need to change.  The feminist movement has made that all to apparent. As a man who wants to be a committed follower of Jesus I feel I am a marked man. I do not fall into lock step with the feminist agenda.  In humility I do not defend how men have behaved in the past. I admit my own failings.  But I sense that the argument has become one sided. The initiative for change is directed towards helping women and girls more then for men and boys.   Women and their daughters seem to be  finding their stride, while boys are falling behind.

As a man I don’t need to be scolded. The First Lady missed a golden opportunity to encourage men.  I need help to be a better man.  Condescension will only drive men further away from the culture debate about men and women.  Women must understand that men may comply in their minds, but in the depths of their soul they will grieve and sink often into a kind of passivity that will not compliment women.  Strong women will wonder where have the strong men gone?

I want vocal, strong women to know that they will not be able to create the new men they are hoping for in the days to come.  Do they really know what is best for  a man?  Be careful, ladies that you don’t insist on men being created in your own image.  Once we lose the equally important role of the male in culture, we are lost.  Have we already come to that tipping  point, where men have surrendered to what is politically correct, going against their God given basic instincts as men?  .

My biggest concern is for men who feel that have been pushed into a corner, either afraid to respond or simply giving into what is political correct.  Women need to encourage men to do their own soul work.  This is best done by men helping other men.

Dove Soap and Caring Dads

I enjoy those Dove Soap ads that show clips of caring Dads.  The Dove+Care ads are intended to push its line of men’s grooming products and promote fatherhood.  A Father’s Day ad shows two dads kissing and rocking an infant to sleep. “As a brand, we’re focused on the evolution of masculinity and highlighting dads’ caring sides,” said Jennifer Bremmer, director of marketing.  “Definitions of heroism have traditionally been rooted in physical strength, but this Father’s Day, Dove Men+Care will celebrate how heroes gain strength from moments of care, elevating them to hero status in the eyes of others,” said Bremmer.  Are two dads kissing part of the evolution of masculinity?  Do heroes only have strength when they care?  What ever happened to the “tough” and “tender” man?

These ads want to portray the sensitive side of men.  But how do men actually become sensitive and more caring dads. In my opinion, the narrative is going to leave a lot of guys confused.  I thought of this quote: “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.”   If the ads implies that a man cannot be physical strong as well as caring, then we are talking about feminized men.  Is the ad implying that we celebrate a new kind of hero?  I worry about the emulation of the soft male.

I wonder if this ad is not going to cause some men to distance themselves from their natural instinct of embracing the strong, physical, protective role of men.  I humbly submit that if it were not for the heroics of men, we would not have become a great nation.  Camilla Paglia puts it bluntly,”If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts.”  We need a good dose of heroism in our culture.  Speaking of heroes, William Bennett observed, “there was a certain nobility, a largeness of soul, a hitching up of one’s own purposes, to larger purposes, to purposes beyond the self, to something that demanded endurance of sacrifice or courage or resolution or compassion, it was to nurture something because one had a sense of what deserved to be loved and preserved.”

Every man knows that he is meant to embrace both the “tough” and the “tender” aspect of his masculinity.  A man balanced in his relationships will express both the masculine and the feminine.  A  man can only be both tough and tender when he is secure in his masculine soul.  To emulate the soft side, without regard for the strong, protective side of a man, is asking a man to be feminized, that is, relating from his feminine side without regard for his true masculine soul.

Our model for the balanced tough and tender man is our Lord Jesus.  Philippians 2:5-8 expresses it well.  “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all.  When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human……It was an incredibly humbling process…….he lived a selfless obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death” (Phil 2:5-6 – The Message).  Being secure in himself Jesus could give himself for us.

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