Of Graves and Shadows

When I became a young man I desired to be dad. Something in me wanted to impart life-giving truths to the next generation. I wanted someone on my shoulders seeing farther than I did.  I however, never anticipated the moment I would find myself upon a hill in our family forest, digging a grave.  I dug and chopped through frost and root-laden soil to bury our long-time family friend, our golden retriever, Montana.

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You Mad, Bro? The Key to Dealing with Anger

 I’ve recently run across more and more angry people. People that on the outside you wouldn’t think struggle with it. Our society is trying deal with an increasing level of domestic violence.  I have a history of anger that kind of ambushed me. There were times when I would be going along just fine and then BAM! Someone would do or say something that would trigger an angry outburst.  After I settled down I asked myself, “Where did that come from?” Years later, I’ve learned where it came from and how to deal with it so it doesn’t control my life and motivate me to do things I will regret later. Here’s what I’ve learned.

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Finding Vision

Hikers

While working as a youth pastor, I attended a fair amount of high-school graduation ceremonies. I took interest in class themes and commencement speeches. One senior class theme stunned me however. Not because it was crass or somehow offensive but because of what it stood for – nothing. It represented one of the greatest deficits of this generation – vision. The senior motto proclaimed, “We’re here, we’re not somewhere else, so we might as well be doing what we’re doing.” Exciting isn’t it?

One young man came to our church with a t-shirt his graduating class created. It was blue and said, “ut vinceret.” I asked him what it meant. He said proudly, “We will conquer!” I followed up, “What will you conquer?” He looked quizzically up at me, paused, and said, “I don’t know.” and walked away. This generation wants to conquer but has no idea why they are here. They recognize life is important because you only get one shot (YOLO!), but they can’t find their place because they have no idea that there is a story that God is unfolding. John Eldridge likened this generation to a person walking into a movie half way through. They notice the action unfolding on the screen but they cannot put the pieces together. They are on a stage, they know a play is unfolding, but they don’t know their lines. This culture has removed them from the greater story. They have no connection to the meta-narrative that will ground their story in something bigger.

Their science class tells them they are simply evolved animals propagating a species with no real purpose other than passing on your DNA. The priests of evolution proclaim,

“There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” Will Provine, Evolutionary Biologist, Origins Research

Richard Dawkins preaches hope to them in his book River out of Eden. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” p132-133

These philosophies will sap the vision out of anyone. But God proclaims that before he formed you in womb, he knew you. He created you to know Him and enjoy Him forever. God is unfolding a redemption plan and each unique person was created to play a key role in that plan.

Vision: Vision is possessing an unfolding revelation of your purpose and destiny and having the courage and fortitude to pursue it. If life is ultimately purposeless, you will never connect with a greater call. Life can then easily degenerate to living for the moment.

Proverbs 29:18 famously declares that without vision, people cast off restraint. Vision constrains our wandering and intemperate hearts.  So first, we must get a sense of God’s unfolding redemption plan and our place in it. This will help us see that the world does not revolve around us but was meant to be impacted by us. Our story is a part of the unfolding story that went on before we arrived and will continue on after we have spoken our last line.

The key to finding our dreams begins by discovering what God dreams about. Our most fulfilling dreams will only come to the surface when we immerse ourselves in the flow of God’s dreams. This will unlock the door to finding why God put us here in the first place.

What does God dream about? He dreams first, that all would come to know his love lived out through Christ. (John 3:16) He dreams second, that those who receive Christ would grow to their full maturity. (Ephesians 4:11-14, Colossians 2:1-10) Thirdly he dreams that his kingdom, his rule, his wisdom and love will manifest on earth as it is in heaven. When we begin to ask ourselves, how can we best reach people who have never heard about God’s grace? How can I help people grow strong in their faith? And, how can I best live out heaven in my earthly life, we will begin to gain ears to hear God’s unfolding plan for us. Life begins when we lose ourselves in the unfolding redemption plan of God. When we try to control our purpose apart from the larger story, we lose both.

The Dignity of Labor

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As we celebrate Labor Day weekend, I want to remind us of four key concepts about labor we too easily forget.

1. Work brings pleasure into the world.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 tells us that a worker should enjoy the fruit of his labor.
“What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?  I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.”

When we experience some legitimate pleasure, we are eating the fruit of someone’s labor. When we sit down to an enjoyable meal at home or in a restaurant, we enjoy the fruit of labor.  When we sit to enjoy a sporting match, we enjoy the fruit of someone’s labor. When we sit to take in a concert, we enjoy the fruit of someone’s labor.  There is nothing like eating a fresh chocolate chip cookie my daughter baked, while I watch my son cut the grass!

2. Work alleviates pain.

 When we go about God’s business of destroying the works of the devil, we help a lot of hurting people.  When God’s people serve in hospitals, nursing homes, repair shops, agriculture, and hundreds of other noble occupations, they are doing much to alleviate pain around the world.  Jesus denounced the Pharisees for their rebuke of healing on the Sabbath.  He appealed to the power of work to alleviate suffering, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water?  This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?” Luke 13:15-17

3. Work brings meaning to our lives. 

God worked and called it good.  When we do good work, it brings meaning to our lives.  Chuck Colson, in his book, “Why America Doesn’t Work,” he shares a story about the Nazi concentration camps in Hungary during World War II.  The camp guards would have the men move piles of rocks from one place to another each day.  The work was completely meaningless.  He writes,

“The futile labor continued, and in the days that followed dozens of prisoners went mad and ran from their work, only to be shot by the guards or electrocuted by the fence. Their captors didn’t care, of course. Indeed the commandant of the camp had ordered this monstrous activity as an ‘experiment in mental health’ to see what would happen when people were given meaningless work.  After seeing the results, he smugly remarked that at this rate there soon would be “no more need to use the crematoria.”  

We were created for rulership.  That’s why people without lives become busybodies – if they are not actively involved in partnering with God in their calling, ruling their part of the world for God, they will look to rule other people’s lives.

4. Work is not a curse but rather a partnership with the Divine – Worship

Ephesians 6:7 tells us to, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” God designed us to live and work as co-laborers with Him.  We messed up this partnership by turning away from God.  This introduced the curse.  The curse is not the field, the curse is the thorn.  The curse is not the machine but rather the sand in the gears. God worked and is still working. Humans are created in God’s image, which means we are workers.  We are created to cultivate and exercise dominion.

In the Jewish culture of the Bible and even today, work and a trade plays an important role.  The word for work and the word for worship are the same word: Avodah. Jewish Rabbi’s would have the education of a college professor and yet they would have a trade.  The father would say, “If you don’t teach your son a trade, you teach him to steal.”

In the Greek culture of the New Testament, it was not like that.  They thought work was a curse of the gods.  Their word for work came from a Latin word for “punishment” (ponos).  They had a two layered view of work. The first layer consisted of manual labor meant for slaves and the tradesmen, the second higher level was for the thinkers and rulers.

Christianity changed all this.  Christianity brought dignity back to labor. Christianity was always a working man’s faith. Jesus was a carpenter and a Rabbi.  Rabbi Paul, brilliantly educated, but also a man of trade

If work loses this vertical dimension, it will degenerate into predictable patterns.  We will return to the Greek dualistic stratification that we have seen arise in communism. We will have corruption in the marketplace as those in power fail to remember that to whom much is given, much will be required.  Without the awareness that we are working with and for God to bring blessing to the world through our labor, we see the exploitation of labor, stealing from employers, and jealousy of those who have more than us.

Labor is so fruitful, I coach those who are unemployed to serve somewhere.  It brings them a positive momentum that attracts employers.  If they sit around and collect unemployment without serving, they lose this momentum and the opportunity for blessing and meaning.  God created us to work.  And work brings meaning, blessing and beneficial resources to our lives!

For more on work and wealth creation see my website — http://www.creatingkingdomcapital.com/

There is No Pill for “Can’t”

I’ve recently been working as a tutor and self-defense instructor for a group of junior-high and high- school boys through the Joseph Center. The Joseph CeGame in a mobile phone is more interesting, than on the pianonter is a ministry devoted to helping boys mature into men who know who they are as sons (adopted by their heavenly Father), leaders, lovers, protectors and providers. More than once I’ve come home grieved at where they are as young men. (Not all of them for sure. But enough to spot a trend.)

It comes down to this: There is no pill for “can’t.” 

My partners and I do our best to challenge and call them up to the level of their potential but more often than not we are thwarted by a blockage in their mind of “can’t.” One day after class, one of our leaders said of one boy, “It’s my goal this entire semester to get (boys name) to stop making excuses. Every time I ask him to do something, he has an excuse why he can’t.”

Winners find a way, losers find an excuse.

Somewhere along the line for these boys, “can’t” became convenient. “I’m not a good test taker.” “I’m not good at math.” “I have ADD.” “I’m not a good reader.” One after another, the excuses flow from their mouths like well-rehearsed lines of some kind of mantra.

While each of these boys deal with complex situations at home, somewhere early in their life, the adults stopped expending the energy to expect excellence and started tolerating excuses for poor performance. Yes, it takes energy to expect and even more energy to inspect. But the adults in a child’s life — starting with the PARENTS — must create a culture where “can’t” is a dirty word. God has given each of these boys incredible potential. Many will graduate below grade level in every subject because somewhere in their life people stopped expecting and they started tolerating mediocrity and worse.

We have found ways to medicate and pacify our young men but I have news – you can’t medicate “can’t”. You can only lay out healthy, high expectations and strong, real consequences for not meeting them. Many of these boys struggle with basic math – addition, multiplication, and so forth. Most of these boys suffer not from ADD but from “Lazy Brain Syndrome.” They do not struggle because they are mentally impaired, they struggle because somebody gave up on them and allowed them to settle for “can’t” because “smart” is hard.

If your son cannot read and perform basic skills then you have the power to stop their life until they get it right. It is not the teacher’s fault. They don’t go home with your son. Pull out their pacifier (television, the internet and video games) and pull out the old-fashioned flash cards and get busy. I don’t care if they’re bored. I don’t care if they whine. No dinner before we drill the 12-multiplication family! You control the food supply! Their room has a door and a circuit breaker, doesn’t it? The door can come off and the breaker can be switched off! Switch off the breaker and switch on their brain! They will need it! And we need them to bring forth their talents to bless the world!

A young man walked in today for the tutoring session with a comic book. I said, “What’s this?” “Homework,” he said. “They let you read a comic book for literature class?” came my astounded reply.  “Yup, because the other books bore me.” Somewhere along the line, a teacher and a parent said that this boy’s entertainment is more important than his education. We have lowered the bar.

Last week during my mentoring session with a third-grade boy, the teacher suggested we play the “calculator game.” I asked, “What’s the calculator game?”  “You get a dry erase board, the student gets a calculator and he calls out math problems and you race to see who can get the answer faster.” I questioned, “You mean, I get the calculator and he gets the dry-erase board?“No, he gets the calculator and you get the dry-erase board.” My reply, “I already passed the third grade.” I took the dry-erase board and left the room grieved as the young man used the calculator to solve 10 + 3.

I realize not everyone has the same academic capacity. I recognize the classroom is not suited for all learning styles, but no learning, no achievement, no success will come with “can’t” in the way.

A generation ago, men rode on the end of a missile all the way to the moon using a slide-rule and some guts. Now, too many of our children have people in their lives that have fooled them into thinking that a productive, healthy life can be carved out on this rock without, blood, sweat, and tears. And the students have trained the adults in their life to lower the bar so they can step over it without straining themselves — they just say the magic words, “I can’t.”

 

 

Messing with Marriage — Teasing a Tiger

tigerMy daughter and I visited the Lincoln Park zoo recently. As we approached the tiger pen, I looked with amazement at the lengths the zoo went to in order to keep the tigers and people separated. A small fence separated by a tall fence, separated by a large mote. All so we could enjoy the majesty and glory of the tiger without experiencing his destructive power. It reminded me of the boys in San Francisco who relentlessly teased a tiger at the zoo until she surprised them by jumping out of her enclosure and attacked.

Our culture is teasing a tiger. We are smugly tearing down the fence of marriage. As if we invented it, we declare traditional marriage (there really is no other kind) to be an outdated, puritanical, oppressive institution. Like any destructive force, it destroys faster than we can realize the full implications of its destruction. If we tear down this fence, we will momentarily look around and declare – “See, everything is fine, those religious rednecks were simply stupid” — then the tiger will stalk. We can quickly tear down fences, but societies erode slowly, almost imperceptibly. Please allow me to share with you just a few reasons why marriage matters.

Marriage helps hold the fabric of society together.

In his book Family and Civilization, Harvard Sociologist, Carle Zimmerman compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. He identified no less than eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture he studied.

  • Marriage loses its sacredness; it is frequently broken by divorce.
  • Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
  • Feminist movements abound.
  • Public disrespect for parents and authority in general increased.
  • Juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion accelerate.
  • People with traditional marriages refuse to accept family responsibilities.
  • Desire for and acceptance of adultery grow.
  • Interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes increase.

He wrote this book in 1947; it appears to be prophetic.

Marriage Helps Society Progress Culturally

Joseph Unwin was a noted British anthropologist of Cambridge and Oxford of the last generation.  His comprehensive study called Sex and Culture shows how the sexual morals of a culture impact the cultural advancement of that society.  He studied eight civilized and un-civilized cultures over several hundred years of history.

He divided cultures into four categories:

  1. Primitive (zoistic) –builds no temples, no thought out ideas about the universe and how it works.  No rituals for their dead.
  2. Semi-Primitive (manistic) – slightly more advanced, still no temples, have a few post-funeral rituals for their dead, a few vague ideas about how the universe works and the powers behind it.
  3. Deistic – Builds temples, employs priests in order to maintain a right relationship with the powers of the universe
  4. Rationalistic – this group is the only one that can be called cultured.  Developed a logical understanding of the universe, which allows its people to control their environment to a degree.  Elaborate rituals to mark important life events.

What he found was that in each culture, there was a direct correlation between what they taught about sex and marriage and their cultural advancement.  If a culture had a low view of marriage and sexual morality, they lacked what he calls, “expansive energy.”  Those cultures that had a high view of marriage and sexual morality within the marriages had great cultural expansive energy which is dedicated to cultural enhancement.

Glen Stanton, a social research analyst, referring to Unwin’s study writes, “Those cultures that allow sexual freedom do not display this kind of social energy and are consistently of a lower order.  They are slothful because their energy is consumed with meeting their physical appetites.  Therefore, they do not have interest or energy to invest in cultural improvements.  In these cultures, life is for now.” 

Clearly, our culture is in decline.  Many of our cities are dying from the inside out.  There are a number of places within our own borders where it is not safe to travel.  We are so self-indulgent and lacking personal discipline that our national and personal debt is threatening to strangle our financial viability and freedom as a people. The news headlines are getting more gory and bizarre.  Our law enforcement officials are consistently over-worked.  The dockets in our court systems are growing longer and longer.   Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant and getting worse.

We as a society are having to expend tremendous amounts of material, emotional and creative resources simply trying to hold our society together, let alone applying those resources toward advancing ourselves a civilization.  While marriage breakdown isn’t the only factor in this decay, it is one of the largest ones.

Marriage is oppressive, we want to be liberated from it?  Like the fish wants out of the bowl.  He finds that where he was wasn’t so bad.

Marriage matters to your children. It provides the best atmosphere for raising children.
Children raised with a married mom and dad are:

  • Seven times less likely to live in poverty
  • Six times less likely to commit suicide
  • Less than half as likely to commit a crime
  • Less than half as likely to become pregnant out of wedlock
  • Achieve better grades
  • Have better social skills
  • Are more healthy physically and emotionally as adults

Marriage matters to you: Makes for happier healthier adults.

The mountain of research is now in and one of the most consistent findings is that men and women do markedly better in all measures of specific and general well-being compared to their unmarried counterparts.

  • Married couples are healthier physically
  • Healthier mentally
  • Less prone to addictions, suicide, and stress
  • Live longer
  • Enjoy a more fulfilled life

This is rarely mentioned in the news about marriage. Marriage is much more than a legal arrangement.  Marriage truly makes a positive difference in the lives of men and women.

Some say marriage is an outdated, oppressive institution.  They say it’s time to admit that traditional marriage might have run its course.  Social evolution demands we progress to more enlightened forms of the family and child rearing.

My advice — don’t tear down a fence before you pause long enough to find out why it was put there in the first place.  You might find it was guarding the pen of a tiger.

 

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

#*%#*! 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

Fighting the “Man Creep”

ImageIn working to help marriages stay healthy and men to become better men, and also having 46 years experience actually being a man, I want to speak to a long-standing trend that must be addressed and fought – I call it “Man Creep.”

“Man Creep” is the phenomenon where men commonly pursue a girl passionately and lovingly, and then after marriage, they get romantically lazy and vision-less. They settle into a blob on the couch, become intimately familiar with the remote control, sports-pages, game-consoles, or worse, the bodies of exploited and pretending females that happen to be someone else’s daughters, mothers, and wives. We start well, but over time, we “creep” into lethargy. The passion and vision that attracted our wives to us has vanished like a sandcastle in the tide.

God programmed men to hunt. We love the thrill of the chase. But we also have a tendency – rooted in our selfish nature — to stop the hunt when we’ve bagged our quarry. This tendency must be fought within a marriage. Here are three practices that help fight “Man Creep.”

1. Cultivate your love of God and your vision for God. This must come first before all else. You must find yourself as a son toward your Heavenly Father before you find yourself as a husband, boyfriend, employee, or anything else. Your primary identity is that of God’s adopted child. (If you haven’t turned away from sin and placed your life in God’s hands, you will always be chasing this true identity with counterfeits.) When your love for God flourishes, you keep a clear vision of where you fit into His redemption plan. When you have a clear and compelling vision, the couch loses its appeal. And you want to take people along your journey to that heavenly city. When you lead your home in this way, things don’t get old.

2. See the complexities of the women in your life as a challenge, not a burden. When I talk to young men about the specter of spending the rest of your life with one woman they seem to think that will be boring. I gently lean close and tell them that the woman on your wedding day may be the same person ten years later, but I guarantee, she is not the same WOMAN. Her passions, turn-ons/offs, ideas, moods, wardrobe, pursuits, and many more things will change during her lifetime. If you spend your energy continually pursuing this moving target (then add to the mix winning your daughter’s heart), you will not have time, energy, or money to entertain the thought of another.

3. Own the responsibility to blossom your wife. When a woman trusts herself to you, she places herself in a vulnerable position. If you allow her to plant herself into the soil of your heart then you must accept the responsibility to help her become all that God made her to be.  If you lead her well, she will blossom into the most beautiful thing you could imagine. If you don’t, she may very well shrivel and die inside. Women have two questions continually rolling around in their head: 1) am I worthy to be loved? and 2) will I be ok? If, by your words and actions, you reassure her that she is lovely and she is safe, she will have the confidence to blossom under the sovereign care of God and the delegated authority of your leadership. If, however, you create uncertainty in her mind regarding her beauty and/or security through pornography, harshness, aloofness, indifference to her presence, financial carelessness, and a controlling/jealous attitude, she will shrivel and grow hardened or numb.  A good measure of a man’s leadership is the blossoming of his wife. You cannot control everything about her, but you can cultivate healthy soil for her heart to grow.

Keep in mind that females aren’t trophies to win and place on a shelf. When one places her trust in you as a daughter or a wife, you have not won them but have earned the opportunity of knowing them. If you fight the tendency toward “Man Creep”, your home will be filled with bright, glorious, and sweet-smelling treasures.

(By the way, there is such a thing as “female creep,” I’ll let my wife write about that.)

Givem’ Heaven!

Carey