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: January 2017

The Pussyhat Project and Men

The 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C is history.  Many women were able to vent their collective discontent regarding more than just women’s rights.  Madonna was the public face of their anger.  A movement was launched leading up to the march called the Pussyhat Project.  The website at the time declared, “We love the clever wordplay of ‘pussyhat’ and ‘pussycat,’ but yes, ‘pussy’ is also a derogatory term for female genitalia.”  The word was used as a means of empowerment.  “Women, whether transgender or cisgender, are mistreated in this society… the answer is not to take away our pussies, the answer is not to deny our femaleness and femininity, the answer is to demand fair treatment.”  The knitting circles that make these pussyhats are visualized as “a safe place to talk, a place where women support women.”

Men, patriarchy as a system in society where men hold the power and women do not, is dead.  Women have been demanding “gender equality” for a long time.  I have come to affirm “equality feminism” with its focus on fair treatment, respect, and dignity. But when you look at the video of the march, you see angry expressions of “gender identity politics,” which Camille Paglia sees as “self-absorption” with gender identity.  She believes all the “hyper-self-consciousness about ‘Who am I? Where exactly am I on the gender spectrum?’ is mere navel-gazing.”  In Paglia’s opinion, it does not deserve the media attention it is getting. I agree.  The march helps me understand more fully the work both men and women have to do in becoming secure in their male and female identities.

Pink as a very female color representing “caring, compassion, and love” has been thought of as weak, but is now being declared by the movement as strong. Wearing pink together, “is a powerful statement that we [women] are unapologetically feminine and we unapologetically stand for women’s rights.” Knitting circles have been thought of as frivolous “gossiping circles” but now can be seen as “powerful gatherings of women.”  

I applaud these women and their attempts to show strength as women.  “A women’s body is her own.  We are honoring this truth and standing up for our rights.”  My questions are, “What is meant by ‘strong’ and ‘powerful’ and ‘empowerment?”  What are their rights?  Are historically masculine traits perhaps valued above the historically feminine ones?  And how do women come to a healthy balance of the feminine and the masculine?” masculine.  The image of God in humans is both male and female (Gen 1:27) and we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

Men, don’t let the feminist movement dictate how you view yourself as a man.  Could it be that the movement is emulating masculine traits at the expense of the feminine?   A 2008 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported this in a study of gender and personality in 55 nations:  “In all the countries studied, women tended to be more nurturing, risk-averse, and emotionally expressive.  Men were more competitive, reckless, and emotionally flat.” Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has observed, “Overall, I think we have enough studies to show that men tend to be, on average, more risk-taking and rule-breaking, and women on average, tend to be more nurturing – and this manifests across cultures.”

While men do not typically gather to knit, they do need “safe places” with elders and father figures, to find affirmation for their masculine souls, with an honest recognition of emotional wounds and baggage from the past, including an embrace of the nurturing and vulnerable side of the masculine soul.  The old paradigm of the masculine is no longer accepted. The new masculine includes a secure affirmation of the masculine that is balanced with a complementary feminine.  The best words I can come up with are, “tough yet tender.”

Row The Boat

As many of you know I live in the northwoods of  Minnesota.  I am a fair-weather Minnesota Golden Gopher fan.  We recently got a new coach.  You may have heard of him.  He is P. J Fleck, formerly of Western Michigan,  one of the hottest young coaches in college football.  He is really energetic and innovative.  He is  known for his motivating phrase, “Row The Boat.”

Here is an explanation: “When you’re rowing a boat, you can’t see where you’re going.  Your back is toward the future, you can’t control it.  You’re rowing in the present, which is the only thing you can control.  But you’re looking at the past, which is the only thing you can’t change – but you can learn from.”  The oar is the energy expended rowing; the boat is the sacrifice made with others, and a compass gives the direction. The coach declares, “either choose to take your oars and put them back in the boat and stop or you put them back in the water and continue to go.”

I thought of Paul words in I Cor. 9:26-7, “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line.  I’m giving it everything I’ve got.  No sloppy living for me.  I’m staying alert and in top condition.  I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself” (Message).  The writer to the Hebrews encourages us on with the words, “Strip down, start running – and never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Heb 12:2 – Message). Men, keep rowing, while keeping your eyes on Jesus.  Help others in the boat do the same.

The young coach has some good points regarding the past, presence and future.  First,  we can’t change our past, but we certainly can learn from it.  Men, it is bad advice to be told to forget the past.  No, we need to remember our past, so that we can bring the dark, painful parts to Jesus for healing and forgiveness. It’s part of who you are. Think of it as your sacred wound.  Secondly, all we have is the present.  We don’t necessarily control the present, but we are open and aware of all that it offers, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Remember Jesus is with you in the boat.  You will face adversity.  Thirdly, we have our backs to the future.  It is good for men to be reminded that they are not in charge. We need to trust the future to the Lord, who pilots the boat through any storm.

I have seen pictures of the Western Michigan players with an oar in their hands.  This is a reminder of the energy it will take to accomplish the team’s goal.  When your rowing,  don’t turn around and look where you are going.  You will soon get off course.  Rowing is not  about you, but about contributing to the success of the team.  Make sure you have a compass.  This, of course, is the Word of God. Listen to the Lord in order to get  your bearings. The challenge is to keep rowing.  You either take the oar out of water, or you keep rowing.

Let me ask each of you men, “Are  you in the boat rowing?”  I know for myself – I am rowing as best I can for Jesus. No looking back, living in the present moment and trust Jesus with my future.   I’m in the boat with other concerned men, like many who read this blog.

Port-a-Potty Cover-up & Our Shadow

Workers preparing for the presidential inauguration have taped over the name of the company – Don’s Johns” – that has long supplied portable restrooms.  The name apparently strikes too close to home for the organizers of the inauguration of Donald John Trump.  Workers have placed blue tape over the company name on dozens of portable restrooms installed near the Capital of the inauguration.  The company does not know who did the cover up, saying, “We’re proud to have name on the units.”

I was struggling with this blog, when I read  this short piece at Fox News online.  I was wanting to write about our “shadow,” those parts of our personality that we try to eliminate from consciousness, which keep popping up, even though we spend a lot of energy denying their presence in our personality.   The port-a-potty gave me a way to grab the attention of some men.  Men, it is a danger to our spiritual growth  to attempt to eliminate unacceptable aspects of our personality by living in denial.    AA has a saying – “You are as sick as your secrets.”  Always remember God loves you in your stink, even hidden stink.

Richard Rohr in his discussion of the  shadow references Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:25-26 to help visualize the consequences of our faulty shadow boxing.  “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you.  Don’t lose a minute.  Make the first move, make things right with him.  After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail.  If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine” ( Message).  Men, our shadow is the “old enemy” whom we need to befriend, or else we will become captive to our shadow and “won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny ( (NLT).

Our shadow is not necessarily sinful, but rather can be experienced  as unwanted and undesirable, having been sent into exile as part of our spiritual cover-up.  While we will always be in the process of conversion due to our fallen nature, we should not confuse sinfulness for being seen as undesirable.  Shame and sadness can be the result. This has been difficult for me.  The more I have learned to walk in the light the more my dark side has been  exposed.  “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible” (Eph. 5:13-14). Shadow boxing – coming to terms with our illusive shadow self can be a humiliating practice.  It take courage to welcome home exiled, unwanted parts of our personality.

I had built an  image of myself as wanting  to be a spiritual “super-hero.”  I lived in denial of  my shadow self, wasting a lot of energy in self-denial, while living in the fear that my inner darkness would continue to ambush my attempts to be spiritual.  I finally realized that some of the guilt I was confessiong was not over my real sin, but rather my confusion over  those “lost fragments” of my inner life that I did not want to acknowledge.  It was not guilt, but sadness that I felt.

Men, I have experienced  more freedom, a spiritual lightness, now that I have been willing to embrace more of my shadow.  My advice is to welcome those lost members of your personality home.  By all means, do not fight with these members, trying to eliminate them, but rather show hospitality by being gentle with yourself.  A key to your progress in this spiritual  endeavor is the ability to have a sense of humor about your treatment of your shadow.

Everything is already done!!

Men, how well are you doing with your New Year Resolutions.  Here is a quote from Mark Galli, editor in chief at Christianity Today, that is a good reminder that our resolutions can cause more harm than good if we don’t have the right perspective.  “This is a paradoxical reality that has been exploited effectively by Alcoholics Anonymous for decades.  The more a alcoholic strives to control her drinking, the more she is given to drink.  The moment she admits she has no control over alcohol, that’s when she can gain some freedom – as long as she continues to identify herself accordingly: ‘Hi, I’m Anne, and I’m an alcoholic”….it remains a paradox that many don’t make any progress in the spiritual life until they understand themselves by their failure: ‘Hi, I’m [ Al ], and I’m a sinner.'”

Beware, men – will power and determination will never be enough.   As David Zahel has observed, “We love the law because it promises us agency – it puts the keys to our wellbeing in our own hands.”  It has taken my a long time to escape the trap of “performance orientation.” I can still get caught.  Will power, determination and discipline will never be enough to carry out my resolutions.  The pressure to preform usually  throws me back on myself, causing me to fall into the pit of guilt, failure, discouragement and self-loathing.  It becomes all about how well or how badly I am performing.  The language of “if/then” indicates the tyranny of the law (oughts and shoulds).  Remember men, “The law tells us what we ought to do; the gospel tells us what God has done…..nothing that needs to be done, hasn’t already been done (Zahel).”

This year many in the church will be remembering the 500 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, begun with the posting of  Martin Luther’s 95 thesis.  In #26 Luther stated, “The law says, ‘Do this,’ and it is never done.  Grace says, ‘Believe in this,’ and everything is already done.”   Zahl noted, “The pressure  to self-justify has been removed, and it has been replaced with freedom: freedom to die and yet to live, to fail and yet succeed.”

Willfulness can  produces a rigid stubbornness that is more against then for something.  A man can become brittle and inflexible, with little spiritual vitality in his walk with the Lord.  In some cases, he can be cut off from relationships and the truth about himself.  He will be prideful of his spiritual improvement project, while displaying a defensive, negative posture to those who disagree with him. We have a name for it – Pharisee.  I am personally  “a recovering Pharisee.”

Real change comes when a man admit that he is powerless to change; the first step in AA.  He lnows transformation comes from within, not tinkering on the outside.  The key is – surrender to love. Only love is powerful enough to bring transformation change. It’s not the will to love, but the openness to love that counts. In trust,  the choice is to open our hearts to the love of God.  This was the key in my life.  I began to accept God’s unconditional love for me, beyond my understanding and experience. I slowly came to the awareness that God loved me so that I might love him, through the love he has for me. Its all about relationship rather than compliance to a standard.

For men who can be so focused on accomplishment and achievement, based on performance, this is truly good news.  Remember Jesus words to Paul, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness” (II Cor. 12:8).


A Safe Space or a Safe Place

You have probably heard enough about the” safe spaces” created for students on university campuses, who feel so traumatized by the social unrest that they need a safe  space to deal with their emotional responses.  Called “snowflakes,” they  behave as victims, unable to cope with the cultural wars.  Recently, universities have begun creating safe spaces for young men to deal with their “toxic masculinity.”  As one curriculum stated,  “Masculinity can be extremely toxic to our mental health, both to the people who are pressured to perform it and the people who are inevitably influenced by it.” I strongly object to such programs, since the agenda is intended to  deconstruct  male identity, making men more accountable to radical feminism, with its intention of creating a gender neutral society of feminized men and masculinized women.  I worry about men capitulating, causing a kind of paralyzing passivity.

Men of all ages need to stand against the wind of opposition coming from the voices of 3rd wave feminism.  Men don’t need safe spaces.  We need to renounce cultural  intimidation and the vestiges of victimhood, by standing strong in our  god given masculinity.  Instead of safe spaces, young men need older mentor to guide them.  Deep soul work is men’s work, not something left to feminists.  Again I remind each of us –  masculinity is not something to be learn, but a quality to be experienced. “The masculine within is called forth and blessed by the masculine without” (Leanne Payne).  It is a dangerous idea to assume that a course run by feminists will help men navigate the gender wars.

Instead of a safe space, I suggest  allowing God to creates a safe place in our souls, so we can hear the Father’s voice assuring us of being his beloved.   We are endowed with a God-given masculinity, and a complimentary  feminine, which our heavenly Father helps us to  recognize, embrace and celebrate.  Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphaned (John 14:18), but he and the Father would make their home with us ( John 14:23).  God desires to communicate to “the deep caverns of the soul” (St. John of the Cross) with his loving presence.

Our loving heavenly Father take the initiative by carrying men and giving them assurance of their maleness.  Embracing their longing for God, men are open to the inflow of God’s love.  Our part is the willingness to yield to his love. We let go, making room for a safe place in our souls for God.  Where space is given, God comes and fill us with his loving presence, allowing us to know our true masculine soul.  Our tendency as men is to flee from this emptiness, since it creates a  kind of unsettling darkness, which is contrary our need to understand and control.  Our part is to trust  that God is communicating his loving presence beneath our thoughts and feelings.  He is forming our masculine soul.

Men, I can not stress enough the danger of “walking alongside” ourselves. We naturally prefer to look in upon our soul, attempting to fill the space, thus overshadowing  God’s presence.  Don’t run from the darkness that is created by the emptiness.  The uncertainty we experience is the result of own preoccupation of self.  Embrace the darkness, as you experience  your own emptiness, so God can flow into the deepest parts of your masculine soul, allowing you to come forth as the man of God  you were created to be.  Remember, “It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa!’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children” (Rom. 8:15 – Message).

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