Dear God, I Want a Bat-Phone!

ImageDear God,

I’m pretty sure this prayer is not theologically correct but knowing you have never been afraid of misguided, but honest seekers, I am daring this prayer.  Please, God, I want a Bat-phone.  Yes, you heard right…a Bat-Phone.

You see, as a pastor, I am privileged to be the point person for many people at the end of their rope. And after listening to their stories, I often have mixed reactions. On one hand, I am moved with compassion by their plight. And I am ashamed to say that sometimes, I just want to give people beatings. I know this prayer just took a bad turn but I shall continue. So many people crawl into my church whipped and wounded by the selfishness of others. I am seeing an exponential increase in the stories of abuse, neglect, and devaluing of the image of God in people.

There were times, Lord, when you just had to break out the whip and start turning over tables. I bet that felt good. Your sense of justice rose up and you took care of business. Sometimes I feel that if each church could call Batman, things would be better. Batman doesn’t ever intend to permanently harm people, but he’s really good at delivering those necessary “lessons.”  If I had a Bat-phone, I promise not to misuse it. But consider these scenarios…

Scenario 1. A poor, disheveled young lady walks into my church asking for the pastor. “Will you please help me?” “How can I help?” I answer.  “I just got back from the hospital where I just took a pregnancy test. And I will not make it home, can you give me gas money?”  she pleads.  “Please come in and sit and tell me your story.”  I offer her a seat.   She explains, “I’m with this guy and I’m pregnant with his baby and I need gas to get home. Please pastor, I have no-one.”  My response, “You have the father of this baby.” “He won’t help me, and he has a real anger problem.” comes her reply.  “Why do you stay with him?”  Her answer,  “I love him.” Uhhh, wait here.”  On my new phone, “Batman, yes, I have an assignment….”

Scenario 2. I receive a late-night call from a distraught mother looking for a place to house her children. Her husband is going off the charts drunk, angry, and she fears for their safety. We go to secret meeting spot to collect the children. On the way, I call Batman.

Scenario 3. I receive a call from a distraught parent whose daughter has snuck out to rendezvous with a man nearly twice her age. My call, “Batman, stay home, I’d like to take care of this one myself.”

God, I have noticed a tragic shift in society. We have devalued our children and left them unprotected. All the while, our society has fed a dangerous predatory instinct into a generation of males that synergizes with a sense of entitlement. Their masculine energy is spent destructively, instead of constructively. Somewhere along the way we have failed to teach them that our girls deserve respect, honor, and protection.  Equally, we have failed to teach our girls to that they deserve respect, and they are worthy of dignity, honor and protection from these same men.  We seem to be reaping a whirlwind.

Lord, remember when a young lady walked into my office distraught that a married man at her work was constantly making sexual advances toward her? I sent a signed postcard to his work-place that read, “Larry, if you don’t stop making sexual advances towards ________, I’m going to tell your wife.” It stopped.

Dear God, please send us a generation of protectors. Men who know you and love you. Men who are known by what they stand for in public and stand against in private. Men who will channel their masculine power to push back the darkness of our day and live out the truth in love. And give us a generation of men who will hold each other accountable, and if needed, to deliver a few healthy, constructive, loving, table-turning lessons to the boys of this generation.

Signed,

A fed up pastor

Fatherly Advice: Life Isn’t Always What it Seems

ImageAdolescence is a time of change. One of the things that will change is the gravity of your decisions. In today’s world, you have the power to make life-altering decisions before you can drive. You will move from having to choose between Fruity Pebbles and Coco-Puffs to big, life-changing decisions about God, humanity, authority, relationships, sex, money, and education. Previous generations had the benefit of a culture that correctly interpreted reality and a family structure that insured the lessons learned from previous generations could be passed down to up and comers. Today, our culture does not give you a genuine picture of reality. It reflects reality with all the accuracy of a fun-house mirror. It tells you evil is good and up is down. Couple this with a fractured and itinerant family structure — and hormones – you have a volatile mixture.

Today I want to talk to you about the most dangerous thing in the world and how to avoid it.

The most dangerous thing in the world is a lie you believe is true.

We act on what we think is true. And if what we think is true – is really false – life tends to go poorly. Only those things that are true have the power to sustain us in the real world. The problem is that your natural heart does not correctly interpret reality. I don’t care how many songwriters tell you to follow your heart, it’s dangerous advice if your heart is untrained to discern the real. Our hearts come out of the womb selfish – this distorts our perspective. When making decisions in the realm of the big-seven, you want to see things clearly. How do you get this perspective? It can only come from experience.

Problem: Experience is a great teacher, but she gives you the test before the lesson. Solution: Listen to those who have gone before you. Hang out more with older people. Before they were boring, they worked hard to carve out an existence on this fallen rock. You can learn from their mistakes and successes. Even better, learn from the only One who gives advice about life from the perspective of the Creator of life. When Jesus walked the earth, He cut through the haze of our hearts and a corrupt culture. He shared that life isn’t always what it seems.

He gave light to the fact that the universe is filled with paradoxes. If you want to live life well, follow the advice of Jesus, which will cut against your natural tendencies:
• In order to get, you need to give.
• In order to be first, you need to be last.
• In order to be great, you need to be servant of all.
• In order to really live, you need to die to yourself and place your life into the hands of your Creator.

#*%#*! A Primer on Profanity

ImageNot long ago I took a call from a man selling investments. Intrigued by the call, I asked him to give me the name of a few stocks he had invested in so I could track his success and evaluate the plan he was selling. (I suspected he didn’t invest in this wonderful plan). He said, “I don’t need to give you my stocks because our investment planners will create a custom portfolio for you for only x-hundred dollars.” We went back and forth for a few minutes and then he snapped. He unleashed a string of profanity and language I hadn’t heard since high-school (and some words I think he invented.).  He questioned my manhood, my sex life, and my ability to provide for my children. He left no stone unturned looking for the key to getting me to purchase this fantastic plan. This went on for twenty minutes. My only regret is that I didn’t record it.  Why didn’t I hang up? I guess I was entertained in some strange way, like watching an arrest.

Our world has seen a rise in profanity, rudeness and crassness. One student asked me, “What’s the big deal with swearing? Aren’t they just words?” Well, are they? Yes, they are words, but our society’s vocabulary has reflected a shift in our belief (or lack of) in the sacred.

The Bible tells us to avoid foul language, but why?

“Don’t use foul or abusive language.” Ephesians 4:29
“Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you.” Ephesians 5:4
“Bless and do not curse.”  Romans 12:14

Words are more than symbols, they are containers for thoughts. Thoughts come from the soulish part of us — our mind. Our soul also contains our will and emotions so our thoughts and words have a connection to our emotional state and our actions (as well as others). This is why God asks us to guard what comes out of our mouths. It connects to our hearts and can steer our lives like a rudder. Words build the bridge between the immaterial thought life and the material world of actions.

Profanity is wrong because it profanes the sacred, or elevates the base. One of the jobs of the prophet was to teach the people “the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezekiel 44:23)  Not everything is the same. Some things are sacred. Anything expressly and exclusively given by God or owed exclusively to God is sacred. Things like life, worship, marriage, humanity, and our sexuality are sacred. Words like the f-word take the sacredness of sexuality and debase it to the level of the sewer.  Words like the s-word take what is base and meant for the sewer and elevate it to the level of worship or consumption. This is why the word HOLY is often paired with it.  Some things are meant for nourishment and some are meant for elimination. Profanity has the power to take what was meant for elimination and feed it to the mind.

People will also take words that are “almost” swear words to accomplish the same thing. “Holy crap” “Frickin.” are simply thinly veiled attempts to express ourselves without really swearing. If we really knew the holiness, glory, and purity of God, we would never marry it with the word “crap.”

Our words provide the soil within which we grow our lives. Research by Anita Hart and Maria Harmon found that the primary language register known and used in poverty is the casual register. It has about half the words of formal register and contains few abstract words. In fact, Hart found in her research that a 3 year-old in a professional household has a more extensive vocabulary than an adult in a welfare household.  Because casual register has so few abstract words, many arguments and much communication in the workplace quickly turn personal. If people have a limited number of abstract words, they don’t have the ability to resolve conflicts and/or lesson conflict levels because they can’t go to the issue level – the conflict stays at the personal level as I witnessed with my classy sales call. (Hidden Rules of Class at Work, 93). Because favor travels through people, people skills and our ability to communicate calmly and persuasively are vital to our success.

So choose to make your words sweet to the taste and pleasant to the ear.
“Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
Proverbs 18:20-21

Please Unplug Me

ImageDear Mom and Dad,

I am hesitant to write you this letter. I know I need to but there is a part of me that likes having you ignorant. I enjoy the freedom your distracted indifference provides me but I also see a different kind of prison forming around me and well… I need your help.

I need you to please unplug me. Do it quick. I know when I was young, the T.V., video games, and internet provided you a convenient pacifier for a rambunctious child, but now that I am growing up, they are hindering me from becoming a man.

I now spend between 7 and 9 hours per day looking at a screen. I realize we live in a technological age, but please unplug me. My developing brain needs to grow the ability to concentrate, to focus, and to rest.

The digital juice you have allowed me to drink has had an effect on me.

It has trained me to expect easy success. I have learned to be a guitar hero, but the guitar you gave me for Christmas two years ago lies buried in my closet. I won’t be able to play it at the next camp fire. Had I devoted the time I spent plugged into the game to the real instrument, I most definitely could. But when I picked up the guitar, it hurt my fingers. I felt clumsy, I couldn’t come close to my virtual virtuosity. So I took the easy road. Now I’m beginning to realize, there are no short-cuts to anyplace worth going. In real life, success doesn’t come through a few hours and some cheat codes. It takes 10,000 hours to master a real skill. I’ve mastered some skills, but I’m finding the world needs real heroes, not just guitar heroes. Please unplug me.

The digital juice has trained me to consume rather than produce. I’ve spent my childhood enjoying the hard labor of other people but I have not learned to produce anything of value. I have enjoyed the production of other programmers, producers, animators, and writers. But I have not learned any of those skills. A sure sign of maturity is the ability to produce more than I consume. In a globally competitive world, I have little to offer because I haven’t found that job yet that will pay me to watch You-Tube.  I suggest you teach me the difference between a consumptive technology and a productive technology. Then make me earn my consumptive technology time by spending time learning productive technology like video and audio editing, programming, web development, and graphic design. And don’t forget to help me learn to write because the element of story is woven into everything.

Staying plugged in has trained my appetites to crave the counterfeit. I feel like I want to conquer something. I want to be a hero. That’s why the battle games appeal to me. However, my life must be lived in the real world. I have shunted my masculine energy into airbrushed girls and virtual battles and I have little left to conquer in the real world. I haven’t the foggiest idea how to care for and steward a real person. I have traded ruling in the real for conquering the counterfeit. Sadly, the world needs my positive masculine energy to push back evil and carve out a place for my family. But it’s scary to me because life doesn’t have a reset button. Unplug me and help me learn where I fit into the real story, not just the virtual one.

So much access to the internet has stained my imagination. I know you think I’m a good kid – and I am. But you have left me in over my head. The internet is like a big city – with all the good and bad a big city has to offer. And from a young age, you have left me to wander around unguarded. I know you told me there was bad stuff out there, but I’m curious, now I’m stained. You left me to walk around Detroit at night and now I struggle to get those images out of my mind. It has influenced how I look at girls, sex, and family. It has fed appetites in me that I need to control in order to live a healthy life. I realize now that you were too preoccupied in your own world to know that YouTube, Vine, and other popular websites give me access to images that stain my imagination.  But I appeal to you now, please unplug me.

I know I will throw a fit. I’ll be angry. I’ll most certainly be bored. But let me be bored, it is a signal that my soul is starting to detox and my mind is plowing the soil to grow a healthy imagination. After awhile, I may go outside and discover things like sticks, rocks , and fish. Help me. Unplug me, the world will thank you.

Post Script: I have worked with boys and men now for over 20 years. The above post reflects my observations and objective research. I have watched the digital world shunt the best of our boys’ masculinity. In response, I have launched a ministry called the Joseph Center designed to train the next generation of godly men to be sons, leaders, lovers, protectors, and providers. I would also recommend the article below by a pediatric occupational therapist Chris Brown below.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cris-rowan/10-reasons-why-handheld-devices-should-be-banned_b_4899218.html