What is Man?

What is man?

In the first few chapter of Genesis the Bible introduces a handful of men, I took those stories and present them here from a little different angle. I hope that in returning to the book of origins, we might see that these stories are deep and profound sources of meaning for men and those trying to understand them.

Genesis 2:7

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”:

Genesis is a wild and wondrous book of beginnings and one of the firsts is the forming of human out of humus, man out of mud…Adam out of the soil of the newly created Earth.

Man…shaped and animated with terrestrial ground and celestial wind. A God breathed being, the awakened namer of names who speaks and things are forever declared. The Man who saw first things and spoke of them as He encountered them. A meaning maker, a teller of tales, a creator of descriptions, a speaker of words that still echo through mouths into eternity: “You…are….Lion, Turtle, Chameleon, Eagle, Salmon.” (Gen 2:18-20).

Man…the first born,

first to give birth,

blood from his side,

bone of bone,

flesh of flesh,

Origin, source, place.

The giver of himself…that another might be (Genesis 2:21-25).

Man…the seed carrier, planter, tiller and gatherer.

He who takes one thing and turns it into another,

image bearer…maker. Worker (Genesis 2:15).

Man…first to follow, first to blame, first to see himself, naked, vulnerable, not where he should be, first to know shame, to run, to hide, to cover.

First to know distance, divide, to be sought for.

First to hear: “Where are you?” “Who told you?” (Genesis 3:11-12).

Man…first to touch the Eden within Eden,

the garden within the garden,

to taste the fruit within the fruit.

Lovemaker, supernova rider, origin of the big bang,

epicenter of exploding of life (Genesis 4:1).

Man…first to know displeasure, to worship amiss, bearer of anger’s first ember igniting displeasure, depression and despair.

First to know the downward face of rejection.

First to hear that what you did was not right, to wrestle with repentance, to think of doing something different than you had done.

The first to choose to accept the reality of wrong and either rise to resist that path again, or succumb and let it lead to darker things (Genesis 4:3-7).

Man…life taker, brother hater, murderer…killer.

Blood spiller, discarder of the title of…keeper (Genesis 4:8).

Man…drinker of the cup of betrayal.

First to lose, to be lost, to end.

First Man…to return to the soil.

-This is an excerpt from my sermon: Reclaiming a balanced & biblical vision of Manhood: “Why the Creation Order Matters”

Manhood and the Pummeling of the Patriarchy

A biblical idea of masculinity should embrace liberty but not lawlessness. You don’t need to be too discerning to see that we have gone long past the idea of introducing more freedom into our gender roles and have begun dismantling the very idea of gender itself.

There is a movement to radically remove anything that resembles a traditional view of gender or gender roles and instead seeks to remove all sense of an intended order to the human experience.

There is nothing but chaos, no Intelligent design to our universe and therefore our moral order. There is nothing that is determined, ordered or requires one to submit too, we celebrate lawlessness, open instead of closed circles of intimacy and the elimination of language, ideas and values that resist, rebel or renounce these social experiments.

 

In the past the narrow definitions of masculinity have hurt more than helped many men develop into the people God desired them to be. Now it’s the dangers of the borderless understandings of ethics, biology and sterile scientific materialism that are infecting our hearts and homes with lawlessness.

Lawlessness is moral chaos and it promises freedom but only gives slavery. It acts like an angel of light but is a father of lies. It celebrates everything that agrees with it but seeks to denounce, demonize and devour all that defy it’s vision and values.

A balanced and biblical vision of manhood looks to Christ not Culture to determine who we are and what we are called to do and be in this world.

In order to understand our place in this universe we need a biblical understanding of what God has accomplished in the person of Jesus.

The gospel, the good news of God’s saving work for the cosmos is essential to finding a life of fulfillment and learning how to flourish as God intends as a man. 

Speaking of God’s ultimate purpose in Christ Col. 1:15–20 says: 

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians informs us that Christ is at the center of creation, that all things find their creation and meaning in Him. He was at the beginning and that means the anthropology of Genesis is deeply connected to the Christology of the New Testament. Christ was there making all things and all things find their ultimate meaning and fulfilment living as Christ intends. 

In Genesis 1: 21-22 we see a created order that is described with a definitive reproductive phrase “after it’s kind”, it says: 

21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

Being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth is connected to the boundaries of “after their kind”.

Understanding our “kind” is part of flourishing. A fish is not a bird, a cow is not a monkey and if it tries to live as one, it will not flourish. Such basic parameters of life are critical to cultivating a harmony of living as God intended for creation. 

When we reject or try to assemble life differently, we will end up with outcomes that reflect abandoning God’s healthy and helpful order. All of creation has an intelligent design, and that design matters for the wellbeing of the kind and the system as a whole. Disrupt the ecosystem and you begin to put into play possible destructions to the very system that keeps you alive.

 

When humans try to be what they are not, there is a profound dysphoria that leads to complex and debilitating disorders. This has a devastating impact on the soul and the health of the mind, heart and our ability to live meaningful lives of productivity, procreation and pleasure.

The Apostle Paul speaks of this Divine Order in 1 Corinthians chapter 11:2-3

“I am so glad that you always keep me in your thoughts, and that you are following the teachings I passed on to you. But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

This chapter contains some difficult passages to understand, and many people disagree with how to interpret the various commands in the discussion of authority, headship, head coverings, angels and the background cultural and theological distinctives discussed.

Nevertheless, Paul mentions a number of points that all come to this one conclusion: there is a created order. No matter what your interpretation of how a man or woman is supposed to demonstrate their obedience to the head covering commands, the overall principle is that God is a God of a distinct, Divine Order.

He expects humans to worship and witness to this Divine Order of Creation through their agreement, submission and actions to that natural order. To defy, disregard, dismiss or denigrate this understanding of Created Order as antiquated, sexist or somehow detrimental to human flourishing is to place oneself above the word and ways of God as revealed in Scripture.

According to the Bible gender matters and it matters in worship. Our worship is a sacred act that flows out of a heart and mind aligned with God’s will and ways.

It reflects a beauty and simplicity that the late-modern, secular and religious experiment is deconstructing with a dull cultural hacksaw.

The result is a culture, community, home and heart that no longer fits and functions as God intends and the results are devastatingly clear all around us.

So what is behind these various fronts against the order of creation?

Ultimately it’s about rebellion against the rule of God. Why is there a particularly adversarial and aggressive target of manhood, masculinity and the number one target…the Patriarchy?

Patriarchy literally means “the rule of the father” and comes from the Greek patriarkhēs: father of a race or “chief of a race”. Patriarch is a compound of patria: “lineage, descent” and patēr: “father” and arkhō: “rule”.

Ephesians 3:14-15: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family[*] in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

*The Greek for family (patria) is derived from the Greek for father (pater).

Hierarchy means sacred rule, hieros, for sacred, and arch, for ruler.

The fight against father is manifested in many ways in our culture and in some form or another, almost every argument eventually finds itself boiling down to the Patriarchy, the slavish rule of men, particularly white, western men.

The propaganda for this deconstruction is something most men recognize, feel and face in relationships with women, the workplace, in the courts and in schools as parents or  students.

The media in all forms is at work diminishing and demonizing men and has created a cultural narrative that isolates, silences and sours men as they retreat in response and survival from social responsibilities, marital commitments and any other situation that feels like trying to get your balance on quicksand.

Then men are shamed as the sources of our societal ills when they act out the roles written and play out the part assigned by our immersive and conforming culture.

When the late-modern man looks around at our culture, he sees that his role as Protector is not needed, there are police, firemen and soldiers. His role as teacher has been taken over by a public education institution that has his kids more hours than he ever will in life.

His role as Provider is no longer needed in culture that supports people through taxes via Government assistance, social welfare programs and organizations that provide for every niche need.

His role in procreation is growing obsolete if science and porgressive social programing prevail. They face a confusing maze of ever evolving social norms related to dating, sex and realtionships. They are force fed the evils of the traditional ways of manhood in the past with its supposedly rigid morality, sexual prohibitions and life long marital demands.

Today in our enlightened and liberated culture men can indulge in a hook-up culture that provides sexual access without any demands on the man other than navigating the swipe and text jungle. Yet, even still men, who are only one half of such inventions, are often judged as the lead consumers of a shallow, noncommittal and sexually irresponsible relationship landscape.

Then when it comes to the potential ending of a pregancy, men have little to no say in the termination of life through abortion, since the whole system was never designed to lead to marraige. The whole construct is all about quick and easy pleasure, in reality it’s just prostituion without the social stigma.

My point in showing this overview of the battlefield of manhood is to stir, awaken, compel, engage and provoke men and women to see manhood, fatherhood is under attack spiritually, socially, sexually and culturally.

The Mess of Manhood

The Mess of Manhood

”The questions surrounding manhood today are controversial and often spark unending debates, diatribes, divisions, delusions and demonizations. Many men struggle with a warped, wounded or weird vision of masculinity.

A short wade into the man-o-sphere and you discover versions of manhood from Archie Bunker, Mr. Brady, Homer, Mr. Rogers, Rambo, Phil Dunphy, Caitlyn Jenner, or Peter Griffin. The models of manhood are a pantheon of gods and devils and everything in between.

Where can a young man go to discover who he is supposed to be when so many boys these days grow up with no fathers, absent dads, dysfunctional, demanding or distant stand-ins or steps?

Unfortunately, places and organizations like the BoyScouts, Schools, Religious institutions and Nonprofits that used to be trusted and safe spaces of mentoring and modeling are becoming distracted, detrimental, delusional or even dangerous.

How do we grow healthy, helpful and holy men today that can provide, protect and procreate in a manner that builds and instead of destroys our communities?

I am sure that I don’t need to wade into the argument from a statistical and historical point of view, these last few weeks have given us the desperate picture that we need better answers, deeper connections and much higher visions of manhood in our day.

Too often in religious circles, folks just bark or bite about “The good ol’ days”, “Returning to the Bible”, “Getting back to our roots”, “A revival of traditional faith and values” and though there is much truth in these gasps for a greater past, many people when they look at the Church or the Bible come away with confusing conclusions about just what version of manhood the Normies are pointing to as models of masculinity?

Christians and churches can be confusing communities of weird, wacky and warped places of frankentenian versions of manhood. These pulpits and podiums provide hacked, slashed and sewn together bits and pieces of favorite bible stories, fancified Americana, geographical or cultural idols, temperament tainted tale-telling, media regurgitated, kneejerk, blowhardism or Harlequinized or Hanibalized Hero worship.

Jesus is either wrapped in a Kale and Hemp dress or a righteous version of a Marvel demigod coming back to open up a can of whoopass-taroid imploding apoacalyspe.

Boys often spin out of church into College thinking God is just a figment of our cultural imaginations, hallucinations, bred in bigotry or bruised and battered upbringings.

“The Bible says so…” has become a kitchen junk drawer that once opened, harms more than helps anyone come to definitive conclusions about what God is like and how he wants men to act in this world.

I confess, it’s a difficult mess, but the times demand us to engage the hearts, minds and hands of our boys and men with prayerful, intelligent, loving, faithful, strong, sanctified and serious presence, plans, purposes and projects.

The Bible can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to merely a blueprint for making men, it’s a historical record of God’s saving work through time in the lives of all kinds of men. Taken in totality the Bible is more like a woodshop full of tools and supplies for making, fixing, deconstructing and restoring men. It’s part instructional manuel, diagnostic tool and life experience journal. It contains the stories of great and godly men and grotesque and godless men.

We need a Jesus centered vision of manhood that is rooted in a biblical presentation of manhood that includes the whole of scripture. Jesus is the revelation of all of scripture, not the editor of it. Too often Jesus is presented as the ‘Pure-flick’ answer to Scripture or new download content that rewrites the main storyline with a more popular, sanitized 2.0 covenant that is “Safe for the whole family”.

We need the Holy Spirit at work in mature men of all ages, to walk with men for meaningful amounts of time, to help support, guide, equip and repair men who are learning to become who God intends them to become.

When we look at the Bible we see the story of man that provides hope, even in the horror of it all. We are shown a God who is at work in all men, and through Him we can develop a balanced and biblical vision of manhood.”

-Excerpt from my sermon: Reclaiming a Balanced & Biblical Vision of Manhood:

“Why the Creation Order Matters”

Eve’s Creation Mandate to Subdue & Fill

God created women to join Adam in “subduing and filling” the Earth (Gen 1:26-28) , most will do that as wives and mothers in a marriage. Others will come alongside Adams as Helpers, partners in the creation mandate using their time, talents and treasure to do the most good for the most people.

In The Lord of the Rings there is a storyline that captures many of these deeply existential longings and struggles of a woman.

Tolkien depicts Eowyn’s story arch of serving, rebelling, rising and reimagining her role and relationships as a woman. One poignant part is when she is talking to Aragorn and reveals her deep struggles with how her culture defined her role in it:

The Passing of the Grey Company, The Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien

‘Aragorn,’ she said, ‘why will you go on this deadly road?’

‘Because I must,’ he said. ‘Only so can I see any hope of doing my part in the war against Sauron. I do not choose paths of peril, Éowyn. Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell.’

For a while she was silent, as if pondering what this might mean. Then suddenly she laid her hand on his arm. ‘You are a stern lord and resolute,’ she said; ‘and thus do men win renown.’ She paused. ‘Lord.’ she said, ‘if you must go, then let me ride in your following. For I am weary of skulking in the hills, and wish to face peril and battle.’

‘Your duty is with your people,’ he answered.

‘Too often have I heard of duty,’ she cried. ‘But am I not of the House of Eorl, a shieldmaiden and not a dry-nurse? I have waited on faltering feet long enough. Since they falter no longer, it seems, may I not now spend my life as I will?’

‘Few may do that with honour,’ he answered. ‘But as for you, lady: did you not accept the charge to govern the people until their lord’s return? If you had not been chosen, then some marshal or captain would have been set in the same place, and he could not ride away from his charge, were he weary of it or no.’

‘Shall I always be chosen?’ she said bitterly. ‘Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?’

‘A time may come soon,’ said he, ‘when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.’

And she answered: ‘All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.’

‘What do you fear, lady?’ he asked.

‘A cage,’ she said. ‘To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

In the end of the book after the story of her courageous and pivotal part in securing the ultimate victory for the free people of MiddleEarth, and her recovery from the war, she is faced with the next stage of life after rising to the top of what she thought was her ultimate longings. When in convalescence she realizes that the life she led and the man she thought she wanted were not the pinnacle of her purpose but part of it. She comes to some new revelations about herself, her heart and her future. Realizations that she made for herself, not imposed, but freely discovered in the outworking of her heart, mind and life.

The Return of the King (The Steward and the King) by J.R.R.Tolkien

“And Éowyn did not go, though her brother sent word begging her to come to the field of Cormallen. And Faramir wondered at this, but he saw her seldom, being busy with many matters; and she dwelt still in the Houses of Healing and walked alone in the garden, and her face grew pale again, and it seemed that in all the City she only was ailing and sorrowful. And the Warden of the Houses was troubled, and he spoke to Faramir.

Then Faramir came and sought her, and once more they stood on the walls together; and he said to her: ‘Éowyn, why do you tarry here, and do not go to the rejoicing in Cormallen beyond Cair Andros, where you brother awaits you?’

And she said: ‘Do you know know?’

But he answered: ‘Two reasons there may be, but which is true, I do not know.’ And she said: ‘I do not wish to play at riddles. Speak plainer!’

‘Then if you will have it so, lady,’ he said: ‘you do not go, because only your brother called for you, and to look on the Lord Aragorn, Elendil’s heir, in his triumph would now bring you no joy. Or because I do not go, and you desire still to be near me. And maybe for both these reasons, and you yourself cannot choose between them. Éowyn, do you not love me, or will you not?’

‘I wished to be loved by another,’ she answered. ‘But I desire no man’s pity.’

‘That I know,’ he said. ‘You desired to have the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And as a great captain may to a young soldier he seemed to you admirable. For so he is, a lord among men, the greatest that now is. But when he gave you only understanding and pity, then you desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle. Look at me, Éowyn!’

And Éowyn looked at Faramir long and steadily; and Faramir said: ‘Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Éowyn! But I do not offer you my pity. For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten; and you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell. And I love you. Once I pitied your sorrow. But now, were you sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Éowyn, do you not love me?’

Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’ And again she looked at Faramir. ‘No longer do I desire to be a queen,’ she said.

Then Faramir laughed merrily. ‘That is well,’ he said; ‘for I am not a king. Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.’

‘Then must I leave my own people, man of Gondor?’ she said. ‘And would you have your proud folk say of you: “There goes a lord who tamed a wild shieldmaiden of the North! Was there no woman of the race of Númenor to choose?”‘

‘I would,’ said Faramir. And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many. And many indeed saw them and the light that shone about them as they came down from the walls and went hand in hand to the Houses of Healing.

And to the Warden of the Houses Faramir said: ‘Here is the Lady Éowyn of Rohan, and now she is healed.”

All women have to find their balance or seasons of “Subdue & Fill”. Today these aspects of womanhood are pit against each other but God intends women to flourish by expressing both.

The Caves of Calypso

“But I’m a selfish man. I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office. You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty; beguilingly innocent… the list is endless. I’m in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul.”

– E.L. James, “Fifty Shades Darker” Trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Fifty Shades of Grey topped best-seller lists around the world, selling over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015. It’s been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.

This is a book that revolves around BDSM (“Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism and masochism”).

Such confusing cultural realities are what men have to navigate in this complicated Tinder and #MeToo world. There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a new cultural wave of witness and wounding.

The sins of the sexes are being openly exposed and good work is coming about because of some of these movements. But there is a deep divide opening up as well and the separation between men and women is alarming to those working with men. What do you do when people’s voices need to be heard, but men are not always the most open conversationalists about matters of their inner and relational lives?

I think most people working with men know that men need sacred circles of other guys to contemplate, communicate and confess their life journey. Too many places are fraught with danger, shame and shallow analysis or answers. Men need to create faithful fraternities that can be the anvils upon which they forge new lives. Amidst the spark, flame and smoke of community, men can be remade, sharpened and hardened in the steel of their inner lives.

This takes time and a commitment by men and those working with them, to invest over the long haul. Too many men’s groups are all flower and not enough root. They are built on events and often fail to connect men beyond attendance life. They get herded into listening gatherings but rarely discover their own voices.

“The tale begins when all those who had escaped the pit of destruction were safe in their own lands, spared by wars and seas. Only Odysseus was held elsewhere, pining for home and wife; the Nymph Calypso, a goddess of strange power and beauty, had kept him captive within her arching caverns, yearning for him to be her husband.”

— Homer, The Odyssey

Where do men go to have open and honest conversations about today’s turbulent relational seas?

Where can a man tell his tale of shipwreck, his story of failure or captivity in the caves of Calypso?

Where can men find priests, sages and warriors to enlighten and empower them to face the “strange power” at work today?

Last night in our ManClan meet-up I listened to men retell their own stories with Calypso:

-The insight gained from multiple failed marriages.

-The witness of battles won over substance and porn addictions.

-The struggles of living in a time when the charges of objectifying women are launched like showers of arrows at men, and yet men can’t go to the gym, store, open a browser, watch a show or listen to a song from the media, advertising or fashion industries without being surrounded and seduced by Calypso culture.

-The lessons learned from orienting life and marriage by “beauty” instead of character, values and faith.

-The stories of men who had found good women and satisfaction in marriage for 4-5 decades.

-The surprising challenges of sexual temptation in the elder years of a man’s life.

-The struggle to maintain one’s life course towards “wife and home” in an era of Calypso caves.

-The joy found in setting aside relationships and distracting sexuality to focus on the rebuilding of one’s life and establishing and staying true to healthy directions.

“…but if you only knew in your own heart how many hardships you were fated to undergo before getting back to your country, you would stay here with me and be the lord of this household and be an immortal.”

-Calypso

Calypso’s are still offering men immortality but in reality it is imprisonment in the caves of unsustainable eroticism, empty worship of fading beauty, surrendering of movement and getting stalled out on maturity for years and fragile self-identities built on the attention of others instead of one’s own core convictions, values and faith.

Men need Divine intervention to escape the Caves of Calypso, last night I heard of such rescues and rebellions.

Every man needs such places to birth hope in their souls and build rafts of escape. I hope you have yours or are building one or might take a risk and check out ours.

There is a seat in the circle and other men waiting for your story to be heard.

Captured by Calypso

Men and navigating the seductions of life’s journeys.

“The tale begins when all those who had escaped the pit of destruction were safe in their own lands, spared by wars and seas. Only Odysseus was held elsewhere, pining for home and wife; the Nymph Calypso, a goddess of strange power and beauty, had kept him captive within her arching caverns, yearning for him to be her husband.”

— Homer, The Odyssey

Some men are prisoners of pleasure. Captured by sinister sensuality, kept separated from the duties and delights of home and wife. In anguish under the unrelenting pressures of nymphomania.

Many men deal with sexual shame and are often pummeled by condemnation as they struggle to survive the forces bent on subduing and enslaving them.

Too often those seeking to reach and teach men fail to fairly discern the sexual and relational realities of men’s shipwrecks, imprisonments and genuine longings.

Men need ways of escape and The Odyssey reveals that the Divine comes to the rescue of the man who truly longs for freedom.

Art: Calypso by George Hitchcock

The Search for Father: Telemachus, Odysseus and the Postmodern Man

The Men’s Group I lead called ManClan is using Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ as the basis of our weekly Sunday evening Table & Tales Meet-Up. This is an example of the content from this weeks upcoming gathering:

The Search for Father: how Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, search for his father is a picture of one of the most formational aspects of a man’s life.

In ancient times a man’s name was connected to the man who fathered him: Achilles, son of Peleus; Agamemnon, son of Atreus; Hector, son of Priam, Odysseus, son of Laertes; Telemachus, son of Odysseus.

In the Home:

But today it is not so, father and son have often been severed from one another by work, divorce, neglect or abuse. It seems the very social structures of our culture are working to separate men from their sons and one another. Many men have grown up without fathers and disconnected by distance or distraction from their grandfathers, uncles and cousins.

In Education:

The age old concept of a teacher instructing students face to face has been reshaped in such a way to further isolate people from one another with distance/online education and ‘independent’ study.

In Work:

The idea of apprenticeships has been diminished with the push of technology and entrepreneurial pursuits.

In Friendship:

Men searching for Mentors often come up short these days. Content learning has displaced character formation and the idea that a man would have a relationship with another man to grow into maturity is becoming a rare experience anymore. Google is the new Gandalf.

In Sexuailty:

Men no longer need to commit to a woman in marriage to experience aspects of the delights of the sexual life. Even the sex act has been reshaped by the porn and hook-up culture, men can independently indulge without having to be placed into a real relationship with a woman.

In Spirituality:

Our churches have followed the patterns of this world and now provide platforms of media consumption that replace a pulpit or a pastoral relationship. Men can “go to church” and never enter a circle of meaningful relationships that facilitate the difficult work of transformation.

All of these issues have a profound influence on the soul of a man and shape his relationships with others.

Learning about Rebirth & Resurrection through our Community Garden Rebuild

The history and vision of Jacob’s Well Community Garden:

Here are some pictures of the current season’s restoration and rebuild of our garden. We experienced a significant vandalism event two years ago and some volunteer problems that knocked the wind out of our sails and caused us to put the garden on hold for two seasons.

Work in struggling, yet rising communities can be challenging and just like learning that types of death, disease, pests and uncontrollable circumstances are part of gardening, so is it with community development.

But we’ve also learned that rebirth and resurrection are also part of this journey!

These pictures highlight that reality through new relationships and partnerships in the community, reinvigorated garden leadership and the generosity and hard work of many hands and hearts.

We’ve been gardening on this backlot behind our church for over a decade. The vision for the work was born out of the desire to reclaim neglected land and cultivate a garden for beauty, healthy food and meaningful relationships.

Another part of our vision is connected to our friendships and service with the socially marginalized or forgotten, immigrants and refugees in our neighborhood.

We’ve discovered gardening to be another way to build relationships, understanding and joy.

Anyone, rich or poor, can plant a seed and doing it together is an act of hope which is a powerful force for good in the hood!

The Odyssey and the Markers of Masculinity

The Odyssey: “A man—track his tale for me, Muse, the twisty one who wandered widely, once he’d sacked Troy’s holy citadel; he saw the cities of many men and knew their minds, and suffered deeply in his soul upon the sea try as he might to protect his life and the day of his men’s return; but he could not save his men, although he longed to; for they perished through their wanton recklessness, fools who ate of the cattle of Hyperion, the Sun; and so they lost the day of their return. From some point or another, Daughter of Zeus, tell us the tale. 

Now all the others—those who’d fled steep death— were home at last, safe from war and sea; but he alone, yearning for home and wife, was detained—by the Lady Calypso, most heavenly of goddesses, in her hollow caves: she longed to marry him. But then the time came in the course of the whirling years when the gods devised a way to bring him home to Ithaca; but even there he was hardly free of woe, even when he was back among his people. All the gods felt pity for him except Poseidon, who raged hotly against Odysseus, that godlike man, until he reached his homeland.”

This ancient proem (a preface or preamble to a book or speech) in Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ packs a lot of masculine journey markers into its narrative. If you slow down and contemplate the overview of the story of the man Odysseus, you start to grasp that there is way-wisdom for the man looking for help navigating the life journey he is traversing. 

In an era when the reality of masculine distinctives is being ignored, neutered, redefined, edited and expunged by the cultural overlords, it’s critical to listen to the ‘dead who still speak’ (Hebrews 11:4). 

One of my passions in life is engaging men to face their souls, their roles and relationships, their Gods and their philosophy and duties of life. One of the ways I do this is through stories. 

“Zeus can present us times of joy and times of grief in turn: all lies within his power. So come, let’s sit back in the palace now, dine and warm our hearts with the old stories.” -The Odyssey, IV

These “Old stories” be they sacred or secular become the catalyst for our group discussions meant to provoke thoughtful dialogue and manageable action steps to move men’s lives towards greater meaning, mastery and maturity. 

Last night we discussed the masculine markers within these opening paragraphs. Pulling on the literary threads of lines and ideas mentioned that resonate with men and give voice to the various seasons and challenges they face day to day.

Here’s an example of some of the topics we discussed:

Wandering Wildly: how men often end up in places they never imagined and how this is often the way of manhood, even when you plan, set goals and aim for a certain port. 

The Cities and Thoughts of man: the value of the impact of the cities and philosophies of men. 

Suffering deeply in the soul: All of life is suffering in some degree.

-Men who perish through wanton recklessness.

Being alone, even when like Odesseus, we are ‘back among our people’.

-Having a “home” that is our goal and facing the moments when all men will be “detained” or face opposing Poseidons who rage against us. 

These are the type of conversations we have at ManClan Meet-ups. I hope and pray that such things might resonate with you and that you would join us or find or found your own men’s gatherings for evenings around Tables & Tales.

Come & See: the Joy of Grandparenting

“Papa can Kinleigh have a chicken?”

My granddaughter said this as I was holding her in my arms before securing her into the car seat for her ride home.

I was trying to convince her that she would be able to come back to our house soon and see the new baby chicks again. I don’t think she thought my promises were sufficient to satisfy her deep and almost uncontrollable glee that she experienced holding one of those fluffy little chirpers.

In fact, she had such a death grip on that poor little cluck, I am sure he thought he was a goner! She wanted to take one home and add it to her collection of “friends”.

This little question reflected one of the joys of parenthood that returns to us in second coming glory as grandparenthood.

Being present as guide and doorway to the joys of light in life is one of the most meaningful gifts of being with those born anew to the world. It is true in all the realms of life, body and spirit, Jesus touched on this joy when he said:

“I am the light that shines through the cosmos; if you walk with Me, you will thrive in the nourishing light that gives life and will not know darkness.” -Jesus (Jn 8:12)

Thriving in the nourishing light, does give life. To be present with someone when that moment occurs is magical. It’s a sacred duty for the one who knows what is true, good and beautiful, to share together with the one who has yet to come to know, taste, see, hear or touch.

This is the joy I have known in the work of pastoring that I have done since I was a young man, it’s the spark of eternal fire that I miss the most these days. It seems joy has been replaced with far too much contention, debate, betrayal, dismissiveness, absence, abandonment and familiarity.

“Come and See” used to be one of the most alluring Gospel invitations, but today, it seems too many are deaf, defensive or distracted.

When Kinleigh takes my hand, it’s an act of trust and expectation. It’s a gesture of safe anticipation that we are going somewhere good or I am leading her away from something bad.

It’s a surrender of gentle love.

Sure there are moments when she has something she is convinced is better to do than obey the instructions of guidance that hand holding secures, but in most moments it’s an act of togetherness that promises a small joy of some kind.

It seems this is often our greatest challenge in walking with God and with one another too. Becoming like little Children was an absolute truth that Jesus said was needed to ‘enter’ the Kingdom (Matt. 18:3).

I understand this more and more as I grow older and see the joy of life returning in some…and fading in others.

When is the last time you took the Lord’s hand in some form or another?