Prince Caspian, Bacchus and Christ: Why Turning Water to Wine Matters

“I wouldn’t have felt very safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan.”
“I should think not,” said Lucy.
-Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis
 
In the end of C.S. Lewis’s book ‘Prince Caspian’, there is a war between the usurper King Miraz and the Telmarines for control and kingship of Narnia. The Telmarines presence in Narnia has led to the talking beasts to retreat to the woods and lose their ability to communicate with man. Narnia is forgetting Alsan. To win the war against the Telmarines, Aslan, Lucy and Susan travel to awaken the ancient god Bacchus his old mentor Silenus, come to the aid of Asla’s plan to defeat the Telmarines.
 
In the book there’s a particularly insightful look at believing and following God when others can’t or won’t believe. This connection with Euripide’s The Bacchae is particularly fascinating to me. Here’s a great article that explores that connection:
 
This kind of retelling, allusion or inclusion of old Greek/Roman tales, gods or images is what often got C.S. Lewis in hot water with some religious types. But it’s just the type of thinking, believing and writing that resonates with me. There are those who see the dark side of the moon in the crescent and those who see the reverse. I am one of the later moon gazers.
 
Christ is still turning water to wine.
 
Such an act, captures the dangerous freedom of life under the rule and reign of Christ. Freedom is dangerous, self-control is not a guarantee, cultivating moderation can appear less religious to the advocate and demands of abstinence. But Christ did not come to destroy the pleasures, no, He came to defeat their place of primacy. He came to save and reorder life, for the glory of God, the joy of man and the celebration of all that is good, true and beautiful.
 
The abundant life, the ‘rich and satisfying’ life…is a life lived with Aslan, apart from Him, it falls to disorder, chaos and calamity.
 
Myth speaks to the human experience in ways that stories only can. In my opinion the telling and retelling of stories is going to be a more effective way of engaging truth as our culture moves farther and farther away from modernism. We must have the ability to find the shared roots of human experience and to speak to those realities in a manner that comes around from behind and allows those we are communicating with to think and ponder without the defenses of familiarity and prejudice firmly in place. Kierkegaard called this “wounding from behind”. Lewis discussed this approach in his biographical reflections:
 
C.S. Lewis:
Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all: again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself … I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant’. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened. (letter to Arthur Greeves, Oct 18th, 1931; Collected Letters, 976-977).
 
I am sure if most Christians wrote the gospel of John, they wouldn’t of picked turning water to almost a 100 bottles of wine, to be Jesus’s first miracle. I am sure to the first century Jew, Greek or Roman, it may have been scandalous too, in light of the worship of Bacchus and his troupe of female Maenads with all their drunken raving.
 
But the Jewish prophets had foretold that a Messiah was coming and his signs would include rivers of wine:
 
Amos 9:13-15
“The days are coming days the Lord, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God.”
 
Joel 3:18
“And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim.”
 
For Christians, the new wine of God has been poured out.
 
“Whoever is in God’s grace is continually intoxicated with the sweetness of His love, for this intoxication, is so strong and potent that it drives away the thirst for worldly things.” -Divine Grace, Ripa’s ‘Iconologia’
 
This sacred revelation, intoxication and ecstasy is the fullness of all that the myths and the gods were but shadows of, the reality of experience is found in Christ. C.S. Lewis captures this conclusion in his baptism of Bacchus.
 
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe,
Mr Tumnus tells Lucy:
“…about summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end.”
 
Prince Caspian, The Lion Roars
“The girls watched them out of sight, standing close beside Aslan. The light was changing. Low down in the east, Aravir, the morning star of Narnia, gleamed like a little moon. Aslan, who seemed larger than before, lifted his head, shook his mane and roared. The sound, deep and throbbing at first like an organ beginning on a low note, rose and became louder, and then far louder again, till the earth and air were shaking with it.
 
The crowd and the dance round Aslan (for it had become a dance once more) grew so thick and rapid that Lucy was confused. She never saw where certain other people came from who were soon capering about among the trees. One was a youth, dressed only in a fawn-skin, with vine-leaves wreathed in his curly hair. His face would have been almost too pretty for a boy’s, if it had not looked so extremely wild. You felt, as Edmund said when he saw him a few days later, “There’s a chap who might do anything—absolutely anything.” He seemed to have a great many names—Bromios, Bassareus, and the Ram were three of them. There were a lot of girls with him, as wild as he. There was even, unexpectedly, someone on a donkey. And everybody was laughing: and everybody was shouting out, “Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi.”
 
“Is it a Romp, Aslan?” cried the youth. And apparently it was. But nearly everyone seemed to have a different idea as to what they were playing. It may have been Tig, but Lucy never discovered who was It. It was rather like Blind Man’s Buff, only everyone behaved as if they were blindfolded. It was not unlike Hunt the Slipper, but the slipper was never found. What made it more complicated was that the man on the donkey, who was old and enormously fat, began calling out at once, “Refreshments! Time for refreshments,” and falling off his donkey and being bundled on to it again by the others, while the donkey was under the impression that the whole thing was a circus, and tried to give a display of walking on its hind legs. And all the time there were more and more vine leaves everywhere. And soon not only leaves but vines. They were climbing up everything. They were running up the legs of the tree people and circling round their necks. Lucy put up her hands to push back her hair and found she was pushing back vine branches. The donkey was a mass of them. His tail was completely entangled and something dark was nodding between his ears. Lucy looked again and saw it was a bunch of grapes. After that it was mostly grapes—overhead and underfoot and all around.
 
“Refreshments! Refreshments,” roared the old man. Everyone began eating, and whatever hothouses your people may have, you have never tasted such grapes. Really good grapes, firm and tight on the outside, but bursting into cool sweetness when you put them into your mouth, were one of the things the girls had never had quite enough of before. Here, there were more than anyone could possibly want, and no table-manners at all. One saw sticky and stained fingers everywhere, and, though mouths were full, the laughter never ceased nor the yodelling cries of Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi-oi, till all of a sudden everyone felt at the same moment that the game (whatever it was), and the feast, ought to be over, and everyone flopped down breathless on the ground and turned their faces to Aslan to hear what he would say next…”
 
“…At that moment the sun was just rising and Lucy remembered something and whispered to Susan,
“I say, Su, I know who they are.”
“Who?”
“The boy with the wild face is Bacchus and the old one on the donkey is Silenus. Don’t you remember Mr Tumnus telling us about them long ago?”
“Yes, of course. But I say, Lu——”
“What?”
“I wouldn’t have felt very safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan.”
“I should think not,” said Lucy.
 
So, in closing, I ask you, what I am sure Lewis would of asked as well, “Have you come to the table and partaken of the Divine Feast? It’s a dangerous call, but still Aslan calls you to drink your fill.

Learning to be astonished

I have been trying to put into words what I was feeling after encountering this Moose outside our house. I have heard plenty of stories about the dangers of these large animals and how they can pummel and prance you into a pancake if they were so inclined, and supposedly, they often are. Yet, I had no fear when I walked up to the area where he was trying to hide, it was all excitement.

Now, if you know the adult Blauers, you know we are not all that excitable, it takes quite a bit to provoke us to glee, well, near impossible really. We can laugh, joke, and enjoy many things, but it takes a fairly large injection of wonderment to move us to say we are excited. But standing there I was more than excited, I was caught up in a full blown, it’s Christmas morning, presents under the tree, rush of childlike giddiness. I was astonished!

In some ways it was quite humorous, moving up to about 15 feet from his “hiding spot” and seeing him peeking out through the trees and bushes. I wanted to laugh and say, “Found you!” like we were playing ‘hide n’ seek’. The average adult Moose stands 6 feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 1,400 pounds and this guy was around that, and yet, there he was trying to be so stealthy.

For a moment, I was absolutely mesmerized, like that scene in Jurassic Park when paleontologist Alan Grant is in the Jeep and stops, fumbles off his glasses, as he sees the massive, tree chomping Brontosaurus for the first time.

It felt almost prehistoric, looking at that massive, glorious rack of velvet like horns. It’s such an utterly primal display of masculine magnificence to behold.

When the spell broke, I realized I had absolutely nothing between him and I to protect me if he decided I was a threat or nuisance, so I ran off to the house praying I could get my camera before he took off.

Luckily he decided to stay long enough for me to return as he cantered off to the eastside of our property. This section is my favorite part, because of it’s lush, open area that is perfect for gazing upon such a beast. He stopped, and kept looking at me below and LeeElla watching from up above him. Back and forth he would tilt his head, calmly allowing us to admire his kingly self, it was absolute, pure…wonder.

After he finally decided he had enough of us gawking, he strolled off to the upper woods and left us high fiving and chattering like chipmunks.

Such a moment, leaves you with a lot of thoughts, especially at my age, when your starting to get loose from the mid-life blindness to mesmerizing moments. There’s a space of time when the duties of life seem to work double time to eclipse the desires of life. It’s a fever that for me, started really breaking at the birth of my first grandchild.

Grandparenting is like finding Narnia again. The animals start talking once more, the trees move and gods dwell in the rivers again, and it seems like life gets re-enchanted.

Astonishment.

That’s the word that captures what I have been feeling over and over in this season of life.

Below is a poem, that captures exactly what I have been thinking and feeling. I hope these words hang over my moments more and more and that the joy and gratitude that’s been invading my prayers…becomes the tone of my soul.

MESSENGER by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

The Wounded Man: Theoden and Denethor: “All men get wounded, not all men heal.”

Theoden, Lord of the Mark, king of Rohan and Denethor, Steward of Gondor. Two fathers, two leaders, both men who in the weight of war fall under it’s crushing burden.

Two men, estranged from son and nephew, men whose wounds were not of flesh but of mind and heart.

Men who needed other men to come to their aid, to confront, contend and conquer the voices, sufferings and fell moods that held them in their grasp.

Wounded men often wear crowns and sit on thrones. Wounded men have been struck by some great blow in their lives and they cease to grow.

Some men’s masculine journey stops at the wound. Others are like a tree impaled or caught with some immovable object, they begin to grow around it, within it and in spite of it, yet they grow warped and unnatural, due to the instrument of their wounding.

In the Lord of the Rings, both rulers needed Gandalf, one yielded to His offer for help and the other resisted it.

One lived by the hand of a friend and the other died by his own hand. Some version of salvation or suicide are often the only two paths out of the wound.

The Two Towers, ‘The The King of the Golden Hall’:

‘Now Théoden son of Thengel, will you hearken to me?’ said Gandalf. ‘Do you ask for help?’

He lifted his staff and pointed to a high window. There the darkness seemed to clear, and through the opening could be seen, high and far, a patch of shining sky.

‘Not all is dark. Take courage, Lord of the Mark; for better help you will not find. No counsel have I to give to those that despair. Yet counsel I could give, and words I could speak to you.

Will you hear them? They are not for all ears.

I bid you come out before your doors and look abroad. Too long have you sat in shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings.’

Slowly Théoden left his chair. A faint light grew in the hall again. The woman hastened to the king’s side, taking his arm, and with faltering steps the old man came down from the dais and paced softly through the hall. Wormtongue remained lying on the floor. They came to the doors and Gandalf knocked.

‘Open!’ he cried. ‘The Lord of the Mark comes forth!’

How many men have languished in their wounding, unwilling to receive life giving words, unmoved, not willing to stand up and face the light.

They will not yield their chains to the power of the light. They sit on thrones, they sit as men, lords of their houses but dark men, prisoners of the past, powerless to prevail against the dark things that hold them in their grip.

They reject the counsel of the wise, the resit the charge to throw down their wicked staves, their crutches of weakness that they have relied upon for years. They will not repent of their excuses, their rebellions, their lusts.

They sit in private palaces nourished on “Twisted tales and Crooked Promptings”. Wormtongue has burrowed his lies into their minds, his poisonous tongue has castrated kings and made men into eunuchs.

To these men, wise wizards cry out: “Will you hearken?”

Every men must make a choice to move beyond his wounds. To bring them into the light of healing and wisdom.

All true warriors know that we do not hid our wounds, being wounded in battle is to be honored. We give medals and ribbons to those who have sacrificed, fought and fell. There is no shame of wounds among warriors.

Men who are wounded are treasured and measured among men who have yet bled for the cause.

Warriors would rather stand next to a man who has fallen and gotten back up then a man who has yet been tested by suffering. Scars speak of survival not weakness, they are the glory of a life lived on purpose.

Beware the warrior with soft and unmarred skin.

At the Break of Day and the Sundering of Souls

At the Break of Day,
and the Sundering of Souls
 
Father of flight and fight,
fashion these arrows,
to hit their mark,
swift, be their delivery,
true and steady, their aim.
 
Far and fierce, may they speed,
forceful, in impact,
deep, may they sink,
let them fly for fury,
for rescue, for glory
 
Hewn from the Victor’s victory,
formed, in passion’s furnace,
sharpened, in the oil of quickening,
unleashed, with breath of intent,
unto all ends, determined,
by the will of the Sovereign,
to the four corners, sent.
 
For the defeat of foes,
sting of conscience,
awakening of mind,
tipped, with conviction,
fletched, with healing,
Burning ever, with sacred flame.
 
Lamentations 3:12-13
He has drawn his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
 
-My pastoral prayer for the preaching of the word of God.

We need Heroes…and scars.

Power without love is reckless and abusive,

and love without power is sentimental and anemic.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice,

and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

I have been a man moved by MLK for years, his words and works, along with a few others like John M. Perkins, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and above all Jesus, have been at the root of much of my work with people on the margins. In this current political and cultural climate, as a white dude now in his late 40’s, it seems I have lost my place as a legitimate voice to even reference such true social justice luminaries.

In the past, if I mentioned these men and women were powerful forces of good that motivated my involvement in ministry and mission, it was seen as a good thing. The words and works that their examples and prophetic challenges propelled me to, have led me through decades of adventures on the margins. Because of these heroes, I have had challenging and meaningful moments of monumental impact on my mind, heart and soul.

A few of those were:

Sidewalk Sunday school in West Central in a sketchy little park with all kinds of beautiful, dirty, wild and lovable rugrats, speaking in Spokane County Jail on the men and women floors to pedophiles, brutes, beasts and villains who through Jesus’s eyes and heart became sources of compassion and love to me. Preaching at the old Victory Outreach in Hillyard for Alvin Moreno one of the generals of street gospel work in this area. Housing multiple families of refugees in my home with no language options and watching them become testimonies of character, courage and competency in this city.

Turning my home shower over to my filth caked, needle pushing, homeless by choice, friend in my neighborhood, giving water to a strung out, scabbed over, gangling meth addict on my porch , she was the first visitor to my home in East Central. Growing food in the hard and rocky dirt of East Central to try to improve the lives of families with access to too much junk food.

Spending hours in stacks of State, local and Obama Care paperwork in our community resource center trying to help refugees, immigrants and low income folks figure out that labyrinth. Befriending the physically and mentally handicapped which led to cleaning shit off my truck seats more than once from incontinence and fending off a neighbor I loved who was in a psychotic episode and tried to put a stone paver through my plate glass window. Enduring, confronting and working for peace among murderers, abusers and chemically driven thieves. Feeding and praying for healing with street kids under street overpasses on dark and rainy nights, holding communion services and foot washing outside a strip joint under neon glow. Holding the hands of young kids locked up with self harm cuts all over their arms while praying they don’t end up like the kid who chewed off part of the wall in the restraining room.

Preaching and ministering to drunks and thugs in ‘have to’ services and ‘get out for an hour’ for service time meetings, who really just want to argue or sit there and give me the bird while others wept from behind locked doors looking through small glass windows while pleading prayers of gratitude, joy and hope. You have not heard the voice of Jesus until you have heard a man cry out from behind a locked door down the hall somewhere begging to talk to you about Jesus. I have washed the toilets of prostitutes and wept before their redlight sexshop windows.

I have witnessed whites refuse service to blacks and asians rip off the wages of refugees and slumlords rule tenants like the mafia and the white poor live like feral animals off the dime of others. I have seen amazing generosity of city programs, non-profits and officials and seen the ugly underbelly of the politically driven ‘do-good’ game that is driven more by vote collecting than justice and mercy. I have watched pastors and leaders succumb to underhanded, power and people grabbing competition to build their own private and public kingdoms. I have watched flashy, prosperity gospel preachers milk the faithful for their own glory stage and glitter dreams while sincere, sold out gospel workers struggle to just get enough to care for the their own families and flocks. I have welcomed black ministers into my pulpit and been told I would not be welcome in theirs. I have walked in ‘race unity’ parades, heard speeches, promises and dedications and yet not see or hear from those folks until next years march.

I have seen so much glory, drama and trauma on the margins and all of those moments have direct connections to the lives and voices of people like Martin Luther King Jr. I wouldn’t trade any of them, they are the blows, breaks and bruises that have been remade by God into the grit, nerve and pluck in my stubborn, human-weakness prone, sinful but passionate, justice driven, phoenix like soul. I’ve tasted plenty of burned up ashes over the years, but still God’s grace gives me lift again and again.

But now, skin color is once again the reason many people can’t come together. Now we label someone as racist or promotes hate if they don’t follow the party line or bow and lick the boot of some self-promoted advocate, leader or justice warrior.

Words can wipe out decades of work, simply because your politics don’t line up with a certain voting color on some stupid tv screen, newspaper opinion piece or angry keyboard assassin. I have learned hard lessons that people use race, poverty, homelessness, immigration and a host of other justice issues for their own selfish agendas and pocketbooks. They can take the sufferings of others and build their organizations, reputation, bank accounts, voting block, churches or ego. It’s a reprehensible thing to squeeze the breath out of the down and out to propel your own sailboat forward but it happens too often in our communities.

We cannot build or rebuild anything that will last without each other. No ministry, business, non-profit, politician or political party can do it alone. You can’t rise in any meaningful way by pushing other people down. Oh sure you can do it, but you will lose your soul, your humanity and your own self respect in the process and ultimately you will stand before God and give an account for your ways. 

If love is going to truly prevail in the fight against evil, than we are going to have to start calling a spade a spade and repent of all the sin, stupidity and selfishness going on in the justice and mercy circles. 

Faith without works…is dead. Don’t be mislead by talkers, find the walkers and stay close to them, you can find them on the margins and with the poor, and you will know they are legit, if they know the people’s names they work to ‘save’. True heroes see people first above problems, politics, policies and programs. We need more than heroes, we need the evidence that their words have driven us not to wonder, worship or wealth but to…works. I pray we all can be motivated for the glory of God and the most good for the most people. 

I know this rant can be de-legitimized by my skin color by some, my failures by others and my politics by many, but in the end..I trust my hard fought scars will be my justification (Galatians 6:17). 

The Warrior Ethos and the Masculine Journey in the Lord of the Rings

What does it mean to be a man today?

“[Éomer] let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot till all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising

I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.

To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking:

Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!

These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.” -The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 6, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

One of the most valuable gifts I received as I read the Lord of the Rings as a young man, was the introduction of characters, especially the men, who captured my imagination and admiration. At that time, I was being tossed around in emotionally devastating ways because of my parents divorce and subsequent events that took place. I was having my world dismantled and needed help, hope and healing and I found significant measures of that in Tolkien’s stories. All the meta-narratives in those pages spoke to me on multiple levels. I found light in dark places through the imprint of those adventures.

The power of that existential “I want to be like” idea took root deep in my adolescent psyche. My view of the world, men, women, home, land, virtue and evil was shaped by much of the truth that held the Hobbit’s fantasy world together.

It eventually even helped me embrace the gospel of Jesus. When I discovered the gospels, they resonated within my soul with the truth that had already found a welcomed home in my heart and mind. Tolkien’s works had prepared me in mortal and immortal matters that I had yet to fully understand. Tolkien’s worldview prepared the soil of my innerlife for the seed of God’s word and I came to hear the more full symphony of biblical truth in the songs I had came to know in pages The Lord of the Rings.

To me as a young reader, I learned that men mattered in the cataclysms of life. All kinds of men mattered, there was not just one type of guy in the books. I came to love all the distinctive differences of the races of men with all their particular strengths and weaknesses. Those differences mattered in the story and each man brought something unique and essential to the ‘fellowship’. I came to recognize that even the most unlikely of men, often are the great heroes in the story of life. Classic fantasy literature cultured me in the values of tolerance and diversity but without the insipid deconstructionism of the neo-progressive cultural agenda (read the definition at the end).

The debate in our culture about what’s real masculinity is taking on steam. There are those from certain political, ideological and even religious worldviews that desire to eliminate, redefine or at least minimize gender distinctives, roles and even scientific, biological realities. Here is a current example:

Redefining Masculine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6jz2Jma5-s

From one angle it appears to just be guys trying to help widen the masculine tent by pushing back on narrow definitions of masculinity. But it’s more than that, it’s a Trojan horse that seeks to remake culture in it’s own neo-progressive way. These are purposeful points of a political strategy to achieve a desired end and too many people fall for this social propaganda.

This agenda is being pressed on many fronts even though the cultural problems associated with young boys and men in matters of psychological and behavior development, education challenges, absentee fathering, domestic violence, suicide, and crime all shout to us that men need support, equipping and vision to face this confusing and contradictory world. Families are being deconstructed, redefined and patched together in ways that are leaving generations of men fatherless, without mentors, hopeless, unrighteous and dangerously isolated.

As men who care about other men and their psychological, physiological, relational and spiritual development we must help men answer these ancient and essential questions:

What does it mean to be good at being a man?”

“What does it mean to be a good man?”

One can succeed at one without the other, but in doing so, they will develop into a lopsided man, not a fully developed one. We all know of men who are traditionally considered ‘manly’ but are not good men or others who are not super macho or whatever and yet are good men. We must go beyond simple stereotypes and help men develop competence and character. They must develop the skills of being good at being a man and build the solid foundations of being a good man. Too many men are good guys but are not succeeding in life, they are nice, but not needed. Other men have solid masculine tactical skills (“Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor) but are failing in relationships, spiritual development, virtue and character. An effective, healthy, holistic approach to building men engages both edges of the masculine spear.

The warrior ethos in the Lord of the Rings is about cultivating virtuous masculinity. It helps develop men who can protect, provide and procreate with an ethical, moral and competent ideological, theological and sociological ethos. The toxic kind of masculinity being lamented today is often a caricature of the worst of masculinity, unmoored from it’s virtuous center.

Masculinity is not toxic, a misunderstanding of what being a good man is toxic and I would say men today don’t need to redefine masculinity but return to its core tactical, ethical, moral and religious convictions.

I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.“ -Faramir

 

Neo-Progressivism Definition“Beginning in the 1950s, a more radical form of liberalism emerged in the academy that sowed the seeds for the sexual revolution and multiculturalism. Neo-progressivism mobilized the New Left of the 1960s, transformed American politics, and continues to dominate the cultural and political conversation today. It combines what neo-progressives call personal politics (the idea that American citizens have a right to all forms of self-expression) and cultural politics (the idea that cultural groups are entitled to special status) together as the twin pillars of a new identity politics. As a result, citizens today have more, not less, freedom from government in the realm of sexual expression, and the American electorate has been fractured into various groups.”

“The new progressivism divides Americans into categories of race, class, and gender. It renews the specter of race conflict by rejecting the goal of civil rights, in which individuals achieve equality under the law; instead, the goal is political racial solidarity against what is viewed as an inherently racist American system.”https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/liberalism-radicalized-the-sexual-revolution-multiculturalism-and-the-rise?ac=1

Art: Frank Frazetta: http://frazettamuseum.com/product/LITHO-Atlantis.html

Agonizing over Anne with an E

Warning Spoiler Alerts: 
Do a google search on Netflix’s series ‘Anne with an E’ and this article will most likely be front page. “Anne With an E Ending Sets the Stage for a Feminist and Queer-Friendly Season 3”

If that’s the type of family entertainment you are looking for, Anne with an E, last half of the 2nd season will deliver.

I wouldn’t consider myself knee-jerk or rabidly averse to the modern entertainment industry including characters and storylines with gay characters. It’s part of the culture, I get it.

As a conservative leaning libertarian/Independent type of guy, I generally have a ‘live and let live’ attitude on things like this in the public square. I embrace equality in a pluralistic secular society and support liberty in matters of personal beliefs and values. I choose to vote with my ‘butt and bucks’ if I don’t like something as well as use the freedom of the speech and press if something rises to that level of needed response.

What disappoints me and gets me writing or speaking out, is when I see one group tearing down another in order to lift themselves up and that’s what really bothers me about Season 2 of ‘Anne with an E’.

Why paint the married characters as gossipy, unhappy, painfully misogynistic and patriarchal, gullible and outright unhappy with the married state?

Why champion stereotypes of slim, socially awkward artists as gay? Or paint someone who is confused about their aunt being gay as sour, bigoted and mean? Why parade the whole gay crowd as fun and fantastic party lovers who accept everyone and are the enlightened social group that brings people alive and the rest of the boring town folks as backward, brutal and beastly?

Why insert awkward and overt messages in the story that read like a PSA instead of realistic explorations of the eras bigotry and biases? Can’t we engage the subject without the villains and good guys being painted with such overboard caricatures? The sexually suppressed and tormented teacher is a tall and black haired jerk with a wiry mustache for heavens sake! Give him a stovetop hat and he’d be the quintessential villain on the train-track tying up the damsel in distress!

Why highjack and force feed a load of pushy, pedantic progressive moralisms into the skin of a tender and tough kids story? It’s as bad as watching Christian films that have to insert Jesusy religious moralisms into every other scene in order to firehose a message.

These kind of projects leave the art used and abused by the breathless proselytizing. It’s like watching shows with obnoxious product placement gimmicks, the audience ends up getting turned off by the commercialization of it all.

Equality doesn’t have to be abrasive and antagonistic in order to make room for diversity. We don’t need to shame others to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. The answer to straight on gay hate, isn’t gay on straight hate.

There’s a place to get real about the awful and horrific realities of different eras cultural norms or evils but in every time there have been good, decent and loving people who could see the truth and value of the humanity in others, even if they personally disagreed about the actions or values of others.

In my opinion the writers of this adaptation are speaking way outside the circle of the audience that was hoping for a quality show that would celebrate individualism, family and adventure. The beauty in quirky things, the power of friendship and creativity and the gift of finding your own unique voice.

They could of done all that and even included gay characters without all the cultural divisiveness. It’s a shame, it could of been so much better at bridging the divide between gays and straights. But instead it just reinforces the bigotry.

Becoming a King: why boys need to become men before they crown a queen

Too many young men claim a woman for themselves before they have become the type of men worthy of the gift of a woman’s full self. There’s a need to maintain the measure of a man in any community for the health, safety and prosperity of families.

Whenever the river of culture is polluted with dangerous and destructive cultural problems, we must go upstream to the source. For most of society’s ills, they begin with the family and push even farther up to the state of marriage. A marriage, in an ideal circumstance, is meant to be between two well adjusted, healthy and whole people. Unfortunately that reality is growing more and more difficult these days.

We live in a culture that is unmoored from much of the moral communal context from which a healthy and long lasting marriage could have a fighting chance. Marriage itself is not even considered relevant to many, so this conversation might fall on deaf ears. Why marry if you can get all the physical benefits without any of the meaningful commitments? We must be hard at work in our communities nurturing, equipping, training and influencing men, especially young men. Investing in men will increase the likelihood of cultivating the conditions and potentials for a better community.  

For this to happen we must help men become kings before they pick their queen.

In the Bible’s book on love, sex and relationships, the Song of Songs pictures the entrance to the domain of marital bliss as a locked garden with a key. It was a locked garden meant for one man who had won the heart and hand of his beloved and granted the key. It was both a private and public process, a reality that is shown throughout the book by the intertwined conversations between the couple, the daughters of Jerusalem(5:8), the mother’s house(8:2), the brothers(8:8) and the fatherly voice of blessing spoken over the couple(5:1).

Unfortunately these days, the individual key to the secret and locked garden is long lost, and no longer needed (Song of Songs 4:12). The gate is often left unlocked and wide open and there are fewer guarded walls of private gardens and more public gardens.

In days past acquiring that key meant a man had prove himself in some capacity to be worthy of opening the gate and enjoying all the delights therein. To be considered worthy is connected to the idea of getting the father’s blessing. It’s meant to be a safeguard against the flush of relational blindness that often falls upon a couple in the throes of infatuation or sexual desire. It’s a stable third party safety net, meant to safeguard the treasure of a daughter and a son.

A young man should have to prove himself in some capacity to earn the hand of a woman. To show her and the family that she will be protected and provided for by the man who marries her. A daughter is a peal not meant to be thrown to any piggish fella. Sadly, this standard is rarely in place anymore due to the deconstruction of the family, the plague of moral relativism and the devaluing of community, covenant and competence. Hollywood is the sacred book of romance, not scripture, character, tradition or family.   

In the Lord of the Rings (in the Appendices A., all that stuff us nerds read at the back of the book) these ideas are told in the story of Aragorn and Arwen and her father Elrond.

Aragorn meets Arwen:

“The next day at the hour of sunset Aragorn walked alone in the woods…And suddenly…he saw a maiden walking on a greensward among the white stems of the birches; and he halted amazed, thinking that he had strayed into a dream, or else that he had received the gift of the Elf-minstrels, who can make the things of which they sing appear before the eyes of those that listen…For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Luthien which tells of the meeting of Luthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth. And behold! there Luthien walked before his eyes in Rivendell, clad in a mantle of silver and blue, fair as the twilight in Elven-home; her dark hair strayed in a sudden wind, and her brows were bound with gems like stars.”

 

Elrond, Arwen’s Father, Stand’s Between them:

“Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, Lord of the Dúnedain, listen to me! A great doom awaits you, either to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin. Many years of trial lie before you. You shall neither have wife, nor bind any woman to you in troth, until your time comes and you are found worthy of it.”

‘Then Aragorn was troubled, and he said: “Can it be that my mother has spoken of this?”

‘”No indeed,” said Elrond. “Your own eyes have betrayed you. But I do not speak of my daughter alone. You shall be betrothed to no man’s child as yet. But as for Arwen the Fair, Lady of Imladris and of Lórien, Evenstar of her people, she is of lineage greater than yours, and she has lived in the world already so long that to her you are but as a yearling shoot beside a young birch of many summers. She is too far above you. And so, I think, it may well seem to her. But even if it were not so, and her heart turned towards you, I should still be grieved because of the doom that is laid on us.”

“….But there will be no choice before Arwen, my beloved, unless you, Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, come between us and bring one of us, you or me, to a bitter parting beyond the end of the world. You do not know yet what you desire of me.” He sighed, and after a while, looking gravely upon the young man, he said again: “The years will bring what they will. We will speak no more of this until many have passed. The days darken, and much evil is to come.

 

Aragorn Leaves Arwen and Rivendell:

Then Aragorn took leave lovingly of Elrond; and the next day he said farewell to his mother, and to the house of Elrond, and to Arwen, and he went out into the wild. For nearly thirty years he laboured in the cause against Sauron; and he became a friend of Gandalf the Wise, from whom he gained much wisdom. With him he made many perilous journeys, but as the years wore on he went more often alone. His ways were hard and long, and he became somewhat grim to look upon, unless he chanced to smile; and yet he seemed to Men worthy of honour, as a king that is in exile, when he did not hide his true shape. For he went in many guises, and won renown under many names. He rode in the host of the Rohirrim, and fought for the Lord of Gondor by land and by sea; and then in the hour of victory he passed out of the knowledge of Men of the West, and went alone far into the East and deep into the South, exploring the hearts of Men, both evil and good, and uncovering the plots and devices of the servants of Sauron. Thus he became at last the most hardy of living Men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they; for he was elven-wise, and there was a light in his eyes that when they were kindled few could endure. His face was sad and stern because of the doom that was laid on him, and yet hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart, from which mirth would arise at times like a spring from the rock.

This short portions of the story captures some very essential aspects of the masculine journey. Aragorn doesn’t marry Arwen until he becomes King. He spends 30 years becoming the man worthy of the woman, but in the full arch of the story, He doesn’t become King without Arwen’s help.

Arwen was instrumental in helping Aragorn in his journey to fully understand and embrace his true identity and take up responsibilities and honor of the royal throne as King. She was both the source and support of the core part of his masculine journey, as all women are for men.

“And while the world darkened and fear fell on Middle-earth, as the power of Sauron grew and the Barad-dur rose ever taller and stronger, Arwen remained in Rivendell, and when Aragorn was abroad, from afar she watched over him in thought; and in hope she made for him a great and kingly standard, such as only one might display who claimed the lordship of the Numenoreans and the inheritance of Elendil.” (Appendices A)

This banner and the Sword Anduril, were the sign and symbols that he was indeed the heir of Elendil. This heritage and identity allowed him to gain command over the Dead army from Dunharrow and led to the victory of the war on the Pelennor fields.  

Arwen sent him the Elessar, Elfstone, through her grandmother Galadriel. This  stone fulfilled the prophecy that the true returning King would have healing in his hands. All kingly men, know that a kingdom can’t be ruled by a sword alone.

‘Maybe this will lighten your heart,’ said Galadriel; ‘for it was left in my care to be given to you, should you pass through this land.’ Then she lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gem flashed like the sun shining through leaves of spring.” ‘This stone I gave to Celebrían my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil!’ (FOTR: Farewell to Lorien)

Aragorn (Elessar) born this this stone gifted to him through the love of his life. She was his ‘Helper” in the fullest sense of the Edenic promise. Noble women understand the power and place of their role as helpers, a title the Holy Spirit bears himself. They empower a man to become the person he was intended to be. Without them, we falter, with them we rise, and together rule and reign as co-equals to the glory of God.

“And word went through the City: ‘The King is come again indeed.’ And they named him Elfstone, because of the green stone that he wore, and so the name which it was foretold at his birth that he should bear was chosen for him by his own people.” (ROTK: The Houses of Healing)

Arwen helped Aragorn embrace:

His Identity…who he was

His Power…what he could do

His Purpose…whom he would serve

Every man’s identity, power and purpose is wrapped up in his relationship with a woman….Adam is always looking for an Eve. Men today need to grasp a higher God given vision of themselves and their spouses. They need to rise to the challenge to rule and reign over themselves first, before they even take the roll of a king. They must become men worthy of the hand of those they choose as the Queen of their hearts and home.

I hope and pray you are on that journey and helping other men in theirs.

Embracing the Wildman 

My son Micah and I were exploring our property and the land around it and discovered a cistern fed by a natural spring. We opened it up and inside it was full of dark and deep water. As I stared into water, I was reminded how I have been meditating on the fable of Iron John by the Brothers Grimm, particularly the portion about discovering the wildman at the bottom of the pool.

Here’s that portion:

The huntsman therefore set forth with his dog into the woods. It was not long before the dog picked up a scent and wanted to follow it, but the dog had run only a few steps when it came to a deep pool, and could go no further. Then a naked arm reached out of the water, seized the dog, and pulled it under. When the huntsman saw that, he went back and got three men. They returned with buckets and baled out the water. When they could see to the bottom, there was a wild man lying there. His body was brown like rusty iron, and his hair hung over his face down to his knees.”

Here we were standing in the forest, gazing into the unknown depths of pool, I half expected a hand to reach out of it!

Men need to go to the pool, they must find the ‘wildman’…but they cannot do it alone.

Men of any age, need other men to help them discover the truth about themselves, life and God. In a perfect world, that would be a process that would involve a father, but in our day, that reality is often a fractured one for sons and fathers. But that doesn’t mean we are without help or hope in seeing men move to a healthy maturity. Mentors have always been at the center of soul development. Men shaping men, walking together, engaging, equipping, encouraging and empowering one another to face life, our inner lives and those around us with love, wisdom, courage and competency.

Richard Rohr, highlights this reality in his book: ‘From Wild Man to Wise Man Reflections on Male Spirituality’:

Interestingly enough, our word “mentor” comes from Greek mythology. Mentor was the wise and trusted counselor of Odysseus. When Odysseus went on his long journey, he put Mentor in charge of the son, Telemachus, as his teacher and the guardian of his soul. This illustrates that one’s biological father is seldom the initiator of the son, it is always another special man who must guide the boy into manhood, from wildness to wisdom. (perhaps much of our problem today is that we have so few “godfathers” and that we expect from our biological fathers far too much.)”

In the Bible there’s a profound prophecy about a time when men and sons hearts would turn towards each other.

Malachi 4:5-6

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Think about that word for a moment. When you look around do you see “turning or curse”? When you think of the men around you, do you see that burden of the Lord compelling men to engage with one another from the heart? Do you hear the Spirit turning hearts of men towards one another, especially along generational lines? Do you as a son, long for the fathers to stand up? Do you as a Father feel the burden of the Lord for the sons?

Jesus connected this prophecy primarily to John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11-15

I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

John was a wildman, a prophet who Jesus described this way:

What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet.” (Matt. 11:7-9)

What kind of man?

That’s a penetrating question isn’t it? What kind of man are you? Are men drawn to you? Do you have something to give that is worth leaving all the duties, demands and distractions of day to day life and seek you out? Are you confident enough about the anointing and call of God on your life to make it more difficult to be found or are you running around begging people to make time for you? When there’s something of worth, people with seek it out, men will dig to the depths of the earth to find gold! Even John’s appearance and manners seems designed to sift out the people that were serious about seeking radical change and those who were just looking for an positive word, at just the right time of day, in a comfortable seat, with uplifting music to accompany!

Those who want to find the wildman have to ‘empty the pond with buckets’ as the fable describes. You need a small company of men to face the wildman, go alone and you’ll most likely encounter loss, come, linked with men of purpose and competency and you might capture what you are after. Too many try to discover who they are alone and wonder why such actualization alludes them. Men need men and men need other men to help them drain the lake.

Matthew adds a few other peculiar descriptives of John to the list (Matt 3:1-12):

-he lived in the wilds,

-was a prophet and oracle giver,

-wore animal skins and belt,

-ate bugs and honey,

-he didn’t do house calls, you had to find him in the wilderness,

-called on people to confess sins,

-plunged them under water in a river as a sign,

-was often confrontational,

-prophesied of coming figure who would baptize with fire.

He was the embodiment of the archetypal wildman and Jesus had to be baptized by him. The wild man baptized…Jesus and something mighty broke loose in the heavens as they opened up and something like a dove descended on Jesus.  

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17).

Like the dove after the flood signaled a new era, after the “decree of utter destruction”, so this powerful moment was pregnant with a message that everything was about to get crazy! And it did, Jesus was driven into the desert by the Spirit for a confrontation with the dragon of old and when He had defeated his lies, he began his ministry echoing the same message of the wildman: “Repent!”.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil…from that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:1&17).

Men shape men and when life touches life, men transfer a message to each other. It’s truth that is both word and spirit. Being together isn’t just a process of accumulating knowledge, it’s also absorbing the very essence of manhood. We learn ‘way, truth and life’ by being with one another.

Nathan Miller writes about impact of Theodore Roosevelt’s father in ‘Theodore Roosevelt: A Life’:

No one had a greater influence upon [Theodore Roosevelt’s] namesake. By example and instruction, he imbued Theodore, Jr., with a strong sense of moral values and remained an almost palpable presence at his side long after his death at the age of forty-six.

“An almost palpable presence” is the language of fatherhood…discipleship, transformation, mentoring and pastoring. It’s the power of influence over position. Men are drawn to those who touch their minds and hearts, mere titles don’t promise transformative relationship.

The Wild Man’s job is to teach the young man how abundant, various, and many-sided his manhood is. The boy’s body inherits physical abilities developed by long-dead ancestors, and his mind inherits spiritual and soul powers developed centuries ago.– Robert Bly, Iron John

Being a ‘wildman’ isn’t about sports, hunting, cars or trucks. It’s not about guns, MMA or eating meat. It’s not about position or prosperity or good looks. It’s not about how many women you can conquer, how long you’ve been married or how much booze you can drink. It’s not about the number of degrees on your office wall or being a ‘maker’, having tattoos, growing beards or if you play in a band. It’s not based on your family, your IQ, your pristine character or how how old you are.

Influence isn’t based on those things, a  true wildman has had something happen in his soul that is God-breathed. He bears a message and a mandate. He cultivates sacred fire in his belly. He is set apart but not anti-social. He is not a hermit but a hemorrhage between worlds. He is a branding iron of truth and he smolders waiting for the fresh steel of souls willing to be plunged into the furnace of his life. His root of power is spiritual, God given and determined and the fruit that grows out of that can be as diverse as the shelves at the supermarket. Don’t look at other wildmen, look to your Creator and ask Him to set you aflame!

This generation needs more wildmen to stay the curse. Embrace the Malachi call of God in this hour for the sake of your own soul and the lives of the young men and families that you know.

Tolkien, Men’s Ministry and Philosophy

Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate…It’s a dangerous business…going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Why use The Lord of the Rings instead of the Bible as the primary source for my summer men’s group?

Because I believe philosophy matters, not in place of theology but in relationship to it. I think good questions and good thinking should lead to good answers.

What is philosophy? “In a broad sense, philosophy is an activity people undertake when they seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other.”(1)

As someone who’s life work revolves around matters like these, I seek to include the exploration of these subjects through various sources of literature, film and art as well as the Bible.

I believe men care about these big issues. Not that every man is necessarily a philosopher or theologian, but most of the men I know are not perpetually shallow streams. There are places in men, if approached from the right angle that reveal deep pools of thought and even emotion. They may not always know how to articulate these spaces within them, but when they hear someone speak of them, they quickly own them. They just needed some help in putting descriptions to the places they have have been.

In the many decades I have been working with men and women, I have heard countless generalities about both. The endless assumptions, conclusions and determinative classifications often end up being exposed as fads, fantasies or falsities. Men and women are created by God and though there are uniquenesses in each gender, they both bear His Image. That image is as creatively diverse as the natural world displays in it’s myriads of beauties and complexities. If I were to ask you to describe for me flowers, or birds, there would be similar attributes, but the kaleidoscope of differences would be insurmountable to name.

Men and women are the similar, there is no one way or one type of ministry to reach and teach them, it takes all kinds of means. My experience in ministry to men has taught me to simply follow the grain of one’s own interest, passions and concerns. There are many ways and means to gather men, find what you care about and you will find there are some other men that care about that too. Many men’s ministries grow stale or fall into ruts because they derive from vision statements, leadership books or church how to manuals instead of the soul of someone who has found a fountain of meaning that they love to drink from and long to share it.

The Apostle Paul described the type of reality, when he wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “You may have ten thousand teachers in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers…”(1 For. 4:15). A teacher and a father are very similar and very different, men need more than teachers, they need Fathers who are compelled by the father heart of God.

Men will be moved by men who have been brought alive by the touch and breath of the Divine. Men who are not just transmitting information but transformational life. Spirit empowered men who can shape other men through the power of words and ways. Men who know that passion begets life not information alone, that one can know how a child is born but also know that it’s quite different to make a baby!

Too much of men’s ministry has lost it’s potency and devolved into a grown up version of youth group. Men get together to play, party and punch shoulders. There is a place for ‘shoulder to shoulder’ ministry, where men do stuff together, but don’t be fooled into thinking that if you just golf together or BBQ Angus or Asparagus, meaningful ministry will take place. We all have the types of friendships that we do stuff together but never come close to the marrow of life. We have a laugh, enjoy ourselves and consider them friends, but it’s even easy to have christian friendships that hardly ever mention Christ.

Bottled water is fine but drinking from a fresh, flowing mountain stream is incomparable. Too much of our relational life within and without the church is way too tepid, packaged, sanitized and safe. Drinking from streams is somewhat dangerous, but the taste is incomparable to tap water. Men are drawn to the wild, that doesn’t mean every guy is a lumberjack or mountain man but it does mean that men long for a faith that was born in the wilds not the synagogue. Our message must be at home in everyday life not just in Sunday school or from a pulpit or pew.

We need our ‘Hallelujahs’ but if you haven’t heard the word ‘fuck’ in your men’s gathering you are probably are not connecting with men outside the church walls. If we want to reach men and not just connect with them, we must become men who are human enough to relate with and divine enough to inspire men to seek the truth and life that is behind and beyond this one we can see.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

The ‘truth’ in myths and legends bears repeating because it cannot be taken in all at once. There are stories that we have to grow into; stories that deal with the way the world is made, and the way the Self is made. These stories are like dreams, but dreams that can be shared by an entire culture; wholesome dreams that restore a balance to the psyche by turning our energies and our thoughts towards truth; dreams that resemble an oasis in the desert. Reading them can be a bit like praying. “Finally, brethren, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, consider these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

C.S. Lewis in his review of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings wrote:

[The Fellowship of the Ring] is like lightning from a clear sky…here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart.

Men need the lightning not just the thunder and the sad reality is, that most of our hearts and gatherings are void of both. Ministry to men cannot just add another cubical to their already hemmed in life. Men long for adventure and they want to be with men who are going somewhere and doing something. Men that are growing, expanding and exploring. They want to find out how to fully embrace the people and life they have committed to love, care and serve. They want to know how to be more fully alive right here and right now. They most likely won’t be able to able to afford or find the time for grand safaris or expeditions to exotic lands. They know that going to Hawaii on vacation is lovely, but a few days back at work and life is still frenetic with it’s hamster-wheel realities.

Men can find meaning in building and fixing stuff but most men won’t go to the mechanic or contractor when life is falling apart. They will need men who know how to care for the soul. Men who can listen as well as talk and when they do say something, it’s meaningful. Crass jokes only go so far in a life that is prone to cracks and crumbling chasms. Men will need other men who have found sources of wisdom as well as great fishing spots. Men who can handle the bible and great literature as well as a rifle, nail gun, spatula or socket wrench.

We all, like Frodo, carry a Quest, a Task: our daily duties. They come to us, not from us. We are free only to accept or refuse our task- and, implicitly, our Taskmaster. None of us is a free creator or designer of his own life. ‘None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself’ (Rom 14:7). Either God, or fate, or meaningless chance has laid upon each of us a Task, a Quest, which we would not have chosen for ourselves. We are all Hobbits who love our Shire, or security, our creature comforts, whether these are pipeweed, mushrooms, five meals a day, and local gossip, or Starbucks coffees, recreational sex, and politics. But something, some authority not named in The Lord of the Rings (but named in the Silmarillion), has decreed that a Quest should interrupt this delightful Epicurean garden and send us on an odyssey. We are plucked out of our Hobbit holes and plunked down onto a Road.-Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings

All men are on a ‘Road that goes ever, ever on’ and they need a fellowship,…companions and leaders, who will journey with them. Our fellowships will be full of all kinds of men…brave rangers of the wild-lands, wise old wizards with spells, books and tales, cantankerous and fearless dwarves, fair, intelligent and far seeing elves, noble, battle hardened men of cities and small, insignificant,  a bit overweight, flower and farm loving, pipe smoking hobbits.

We will need them all in life and my prayer is that at the end of our days, we will be able to sit down after all our ‘going out’ and be content with the life we have lived, but always have one ear open for “returning feet and voices at the door

“I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.” (2)

This is the kind of men’s ministry I love being apart of and if you can’t find it…stop looking for it and become it. There are men all around you that need it more than you could ever imagine.

  1. https://philosophy.fsu.edu/undergraduate-study/why-philosophy/What-is-Philosophy
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Ring Goes South”