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: May 2017

Male Ban & “Adulting”

“We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence.  They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grownups.  Let’s call this kind of male Ban, a hybrid of both boy and man (Darrin Patrick).”  “The Peter Pan Syndrome” or “failure to launch” gives expression to the same phenomenon.  Former Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse noted that Titter has turned the noun “adult” into a verb. “#Adulting” is what young people post on social media to congratulate themselves for the rather ordinary feats of paying the bills, finishing the laundry, or just getting to work on time.

Adulting became so universally recognized that the American Dialect Society nominated it for the most creative word of 2015. “To a growing number of Americans,” wrote Sasse, “acting like a grown-up seems like a kind of role-playing, a mode of behavior requiring humorous detachment.”  We are witnessing something like “perpetual adolescence” among young men. John Stonestreet wonders if “isolation in peer groups of the same age, widespread complacency toward history and ethics, unbridled consumerism, and even those infamous participation trophies have all contributed to this crisis.

Adulting is evident in young men frowning at doing physical work. Instead of accepting responsibility to be working, it has become an act of obligation, something – like adulting – to be avoided. This is simply being lazy. Proverbs equates lazy people with fools. Their lack of productivity leads to poverty.  The Proverbs seem to poke fun at lazy people: “Just as a door turns on its hinges, so a lazybones turns back over in bed” (Prov. 26:15 – Message).  “The loafer says, ‘There’s a lion on the loose!  If I go out, I’ll be eaten alive” (Prov. 22:13 – Message).

As senior citizen living in the woods, I have learned to embrace physical work. I don’t have to go to a fitness center. I simply go out and cut wood. As a self-proclaimed “monk” living in my small monastery with my “nun” (my wife), I find focus for my life by identifying with the Cistercian monastic tradition. Cistercians valued the importance of work, along with prayer and study. Chapter 48 of the rule of Benedict states, “Idleness is the enemy of the soul.  Therefore all the community must be occupied at definite times in manual labour and at other times in lectio divina (prayer).”  The prayer of the monks is called the Opus Dei, “the Work of God.” “This prayer of praise to God throughout the day and night was considered the chief work of the monk, as well as the place where God worked on them.”

So out in the woods, I am talking with God as I sweat and labor.  All the while, God is working on me.   I listen, intercede, and cry out to Him. Working with my hands, exerting myself, is good for both body and soul.  Why do I mention the monastic tradition?  Because they give us men an example of how to include physical labor in the rhythm of our life as believers.  I know many of you are deeply involved with business and family life.  This blog is a reminder to include some physical labor in your routine, so it can be witnessed, especially by your sons. Don’t have the attitude of “adulting” when you do physical work.  Embrace physical labor as a man. Remember: “God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order” (Gen 2:15 – Message).

A Promise Keeper

Stu Weber in his book “The heart of the tender warrior” observes that a man’s greatest strength is “staying power.”  This is  particularly seen  in men being able to make promises and then keeping them.  He quotes Lewis Smedes, “When a man make a promise, he creates an island of certainty in a heaving ocean of uncertainty….when you make a promise you have created a small sanctuary of trust within the jungle of unpredictability.”  Those words have stuck with me, I suppose, because I grew up in a home where  my dad was not good at keeping his promises.  I have many memories of  disappointment. As a result, I was motivated to be a  “promise keeper.”

I’ve learned that to be consistent as a promise keeper, I needed to keep VIM in mind.  VIM is an acronym from Dallas Willard standing for Vision, Intention and Mission. Trust in  Jesus’ unconditional love for me (vision), has helped me to be a more faithful promise keeper (intention) in doing what Jesus called me to do (mission).  Remember the large “Promise Keeper” rallies.  I attended two  in the old Metrodome in the Twin Cities with over 60,oo0 men.  It was quite a movement.  I wonder what happened to all those promise keepers and their promises, especially in regards to their families? Have they learned to  trust Jesus in keeping  promises?  “Perhaps the hardest thing for sincere Christians to come to grips with is the level of real unbelief in there own lives” (Willard).

Peter was a committed promise keeper who failed his Lord. This was not his intention.  Peter’s promised early on to be faithful.  “Master, to whom would we go?  You have the words of real life, eternal life.  We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69 – Message). Later he confessed openly before the other disciples, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16).  Then in Jesus’ last hours, Peter declares “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matt 26:33).  But Jesus knew he would fail to keep his promises (Matt 26:35).

Peter thought he could be faithful in  his promises.  His intentions were  right, but in his denial of Jesus he failed miserably.  Jesus had warned of a spiritual crisis. He told Peter and the others that “Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat,” implying they could be tested regarding their intentions. The intention of the heart is the key to  keeping our promises.  “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me.  If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself.  But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me” (Matt 10: 38-39 – Message).  Through Perer’s sifting he came to a deeper trust in  Jesus.

Jesus reminded  Peter, “I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out.  When you have come through the time of testing, turn to our companions and give them a fresh start” Luke 22:32 – Message).  Men, if you have been inconsistent in your intention to follow Jesus, and have failed as a promise keeper, take heart from these words to Peter.  Peter denied his Lord, because he didn’t fully trust Jesus.  Through his failure, Peter came to a greater awareness of Jesus’ unconditional love for him.  With this  awareness planted in his heart, he became a faithful promise keeper.  Men, allow your inconsistency to draw you to Jesus, allowing  him the change your heart.  Promise keeping, begins on the inside, with a changed heart.

The Masculine Tone

Anthony Esolen in his new book, “Out of the ashes” gives the reader a “trigger warning” regarding a quote from Henry James’ novel, The Bostonians, in which the character, Basil Ransom expresses his desire to save men from the most “damnable feminization.”  I have often used the term “feminizing” in my blogs.  The quote expresses the changing climate  of the culture with the passing of “The masculine tone.”  I have some misgivings with the last statement, but it strikes me as almost a necessary consequence as men struggle to express their true masculine voice.  There will be stiff opposition.  Here is the quote:

“The whole generation is womanized; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age of hollow phrase and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities, which, if we don’t look out, will usher in the reign of mediocrity, of the feeblest and flattest and the most pretentious that has ever been.  The masculine character, the ability to dare and to endure, to know and yet not fear reality, to look the world in the face and take it for what it is – a very queer and partly very base mixture – that is what I want to preserve, or rather, as I may say, to recover; and I must tell you that I don’t in the least care what becomes of you ladies while I make the attempt!”

Could it be that the masculine tone is being drowned out by the ascending, demanding and unapologetic voice of the feminine, which wants to demean the masculine.  For example, why do we need female reporters in men’s locker rooms after the game or providing commentary during football games  played solely by men?  While the voice of the feminine has brought necessary correctives to gender equality, it seems to me that in many cases the feminine voice has lost the sense of equality and propriety that is necessary for the men and women to rightly relate to each other.  Men are left  confused and uncertain as to their God given role as men.  I wonder if all the rhetoric being absorbed by our culture, has not  brought a tone that is more nervous, hysterical, espousing coddled sensibilities, rather then robust debate, resolve and determination.

Could it be that this feminine tone is ushering in a “reign of mediocrity” in which the call to moral character and sacrifice of self is missing.  It seems we have become preoccupied with devaluing the natural order of creation rather than working together to bring harmony and balance to our cultural narrative.  I have never understood why we need “women warriors” deployed in the defense of our nation.  It is innate in the heart of man to protect and defend.  In the name of gender equality, we have dumbed down the requirements of a warrior.  Thus, “the reign of mediocrity,” even in the armed forces.

Could it be that “masculine character” is less apparent in the call for restoration of our nation.  I still appreciate Leanne Payne’s definition of masculinity. “At the heart of the true masculine is the power to honor the truth and to move forward in the truth, as it is spoken and lived out.” I admire greatly the man who speaks the truth, lives by the truth and will take “the heat” for speaking the truth.  “Christ has set us free to live a free life.  So take you stand!  Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” (Gal. 5:1).  This includes the demands of radical feminism.


Woody Uppman

As one of the elders in our Evangelical Free church, I am committed  to supporting, encouraging  and working alongside our new pastor, who is a young man (34).  As his head elder, I am 75. I often think back to the days when I was young pastor.  Recently I was reflecting on the three years (age 32-35), when I was pastor of a 800 member Lutheran church in northern Minnesota.  It was my second call, following three years in the Twin City suburbs.  I was insecure, but zealous to have Lutherans to come to know the joy and freedom in living for Jesus.  It was in Babbitt, that I began to discern my style as a pastor and who I was as a man.

I was only beginning to come to grips with my “father wound.”  There was a hole in my soul, that would take years for me to understand and fill. This is why Woody Uppman is significant in my story.  Even as I write about Woody I get emotional.  You see, Woody became the loving, supporting and encouraging Father I never had. I loved hanging out with Woody.  Often I would go over to Woody in the afternoon on my day off (Monday).  I would just hang out with Woody. He  helped me learn how to do basic maintenance tasks on our two cars, we got into wood burning stoves together, did a little gardening and just had coffee together, taking  about life.  I felt at home over at Woody’s house.  We laughed a lot together.   Judy also knew it was feeding something in my soul.

Woody never talked a lot about the Lord, and seldom frequented the doors of our Lutheran church.  He was retired after years of working in the open pit iron ore mine.  He had little education, lived in a modest house with his wife, Edith, but he was my friend.  When I was with Woody I could just be me, not the pastor of the Lutheran church.  He accepted me for who I was as a young man.  I think Woody knew intuitively that I needed his unconditional acceptance as a young man.

I will forever be grateful for those few years with Woody. To that point in my journey, I had not hung out with an “old guy.”  I spend 10 years in school after high school, finally being ordained at 29 (1970).  My first three years were spent working with youth in a big suburban church in the Western suburbs of the twin cites (Edina).  So Babbitt, set the stage for my friendship with Woody.  He stirred in me a hunger and a longing to just be “an ordinary guy” not a pastor.  Woody didn’t realize what he was doing for me.  He just was my friend.  But he gave me “father energy” and “father nurture” that my soul desperately needed.  I just felt more whole after being with Woody for awhile

Why do I write about Woody?  Because there are men reading this blog who have a “father wound.”  You might be one of those men. Like me, you are not  able to identify the ache  you have in your  masculine soul.  You are driven to succeed and have people admire you.  You have no time for a relationship with an “old guy.”  But every once in a while you meet an “old guy” who is just ordinary, laid back and unassuming like Woody.  Something in you is drawn to that man.  Let me tell you, it is father hunger.  For the sake of your soul and your family, spend some time with that “old man” and let him feed your soul.

The Great Reversal

On Easter Sunday as I listened to my pastor’s sermon, I was struck by the words of Jesus in John 1o, declaring his authority to both lay his life down and take it up again.  Both the timing and events leading to his death were a choice  Jesus made because he rested in the love of His Father.  “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.  No one can take my life from me.  I sacrifice it voluntarily.  For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again.  For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:17-19 NLT).  “The Son’s death was voluntary.  Jesus was not a martyr or a victim. His decision to die was freely given in obedience and intimate relationship with his Father” (NLT Study Bible).

Do we as  men play the role of  victim because we are not secure in our Father’s love.   We think we have no choice, blaming others or the circumstances for our troubles. Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, under the authority of His Father never responded as a victim.  He freely choose his Father’s will.  While being one and equal with  God, the focus of his  ministry was to please His Father.  “The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing.  What the Father does, the Son does.  The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing (John 5:19-20 – Message). In wanting to please his Father, Jesus gives us an example of how to navigate our choices in life so we don’t end up playing the victim or martyr.

“We live,” notes Robert Mulholland, ” [in] an objectivizing culture,” in which the world is viewed, “as an object ‘out there’ to be grasped and controlled for our own purposes.”  We are the subjects who impose our will upon the world.  “Graspers” resist being grasped by God, “manipulators” reject being shaped by God, and “controllers” are not capable of surrendering control to God.  “Spiritual formation,” declares Mulholland, “is the great reversal: from being the subject who controls all other things to being a person who is shaped by the presence, purpose and power of God in all things.”

Over the years it has been helpful for me to remember that God is not an object “out there” to be manipulated,  nor to  think I am in control of my circumstances. Out of fear and insecurity I take over the reigns of my life. The “great reversal” requires the act of abandonment  or what the spiritual tradition calls “holy indifference.”   This means, “living from a place of interior freedom where one’ s heart is no longer constricted by egotistical demands,” notes Albert Haase.  “The great reversal”  is a life long struggle for men, who naturally want to control, manipulate and grasp.

Floating is a good analogy for remembering that we are not in control.  The more we struggle to maintain control – the more we will struggle and sink to the bottom.  Floating requires that we let go and give ourselves over to the flow of the water.  We need to trust the buoyance of the water.  Likewise, we need to let go and trust God.  Remembering the following  five truths should help in our contemplation of surrender:  1) Life is hard, 2) You are not that important, 3) Your life is not about you, 4) You are not in control and 5) You are going to die (Rohr).  Men, allow these truths to bring you to your knees, while crying, “Lord, have mercy on me.”

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