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?

Overcoming the Fear of Doing Something Wrong

“The pioneers cleared the forests from Jamestown to the Mississippi with fewer tools than are stored in the modern garage.” -unknown; but attributed to Dwayne Laws

One of my goals in buying a home and some land out in the woods and hills was to become more competent at the type of skills needed to improve, sustain and repair such a place.

A ‘homestead’ is the goal but it’s pretty pretentious to call what we have anything near such a word. In my mind ‘homestead’ implies a level of sustainability, competency and productivity, right now, it’s a vision but there’s a big learning curve in it all and that takes time and action.

But there’s one element that has been a surprising crucible for me. This whole endeavor challenges a certain type of mindset that I think is cultivated within our culture: It’s the fear of doing something wrong.

The ‘analysis paralysis’ can keep me stuck in neutral. It comes from many things but too much knowledge is part of it for sure. Things like Youtube are amazing tools to learn almost anything but it can also overwhelm one with conflicting concerns of doing it just right.

I am all for wanting to do something correctly but you don’t need to do something perfectly. There was life before YouTube. It’s the process that develops skills, not the acquisition or assumption of qualifying competencies before doing anything.

Thankfully we have access to information in an age when many of these skills are not passed down. Not many people need to know how to do much in a world where you pay people to do what everyone used to have to do for themselves.

Don’t get punked by the Instagramation of everything out there. If you get stuck in comparing or being concerned by the looks of everything, you will never start or finish

Just figure it out.

Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect.

Stop getting hung up in the anxiety of it all.

Just do something.

Learn from your mistakes.

Accept that you don’t know how and learn it.

One other thing that has been surprising to me is just how many times the phrase I used to bark out in math classes comes back to whack me on the head.

“How will I ever use this in the real world?”

Things like math, algebra and geometry are directly linked to homesteading and homemaking skills.

Numbers and Nature go hand in hand, you can’t do anything without these skills, especially in woodworking. There’s a whole conceptualization skill that has to do with seeing the way things connect that baffles me at times. Woodworking is a step into a multi-dimensional world of digits, lines, circumferences and angles it’s fascinating and frustrating, it’s pure wizardry.

Listen to the pathetic prophet: “Math Matters”.

Here’s a few books I plan on adding to my library to develop and improve some of these skills:

-Practical Shop Math: Simple Solutions to Workshop Fractions, Formulas + Geometric Shapes Paperback by Tom Begnal https://amzn.to/2N4A6Nr

-Woodworking: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Skills, Techniques, and Projects (Fox Chapel Publishing) Over 1,200 Photos & Illustrations, 41 Complete Plans, Easy-to-Follow Diagrams & Expert Guidance Paperback by Tom Carpenter https://amzn.to/2X2bb1o

-Essential Guide to the Steel Square: How to Figure Everything Out with One Simple Tool, No Batteries Required (Fox Chapel Publishing) Unlock the Secrets of This Invaluable, Time-Honored Hand ToolPaperback by Ken Horner https://amzn.to/2Y8P3Px

The Artisan life is a Godly & Manly path.

The Artisan life is a godly & manly path.

2 Chronicles 2:14

“The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David your father.”

Exodus 31:1-5

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts”

Artisan Prayer by eric blauer

Father of inspiration,

Resuscitate my inner world,

Grant me the steady plod of training,

Mystical Muse,

Spark desire from duty.

All Seeing One,

Author of creative sight,

Open me to the wonder of all about me,

New worlds hidden within the old.

Image bearer am I,

Flesh of flesh, bone of bone,

Womb dweller, water breather,

Son of hearts and hands,

Willing witness, born to work.

Divine Palette,

origin of all,

My hands hold chaos and void,

Brooding order,

Bring life from the elements

of Earth again,

and again and again

and again.

Is Instant Anything ever as Good as Slow-Cooked?

I was reading a post from a friend who shared a prickly interaction with someone, this was her comment:

“A little while ago I had a weird confrontation with someone I barely know who called out my armor, and even though this felt like an unhealthy interaction with an inappropriate use of power, this person wasn’t wrong about the guarded, defensive posture of my heart.”

She continued to write about how she took the comment and turned it around to help her do some self-reflection in her life in a positive way, of course, this is a good and mature way to take criticism or attacks and use them for one’s own growth. Everyone needs to learn how to do this to navigate the world as it is, but one issue stuck in my craw and I want to yank on it a bit.

What place do we really need to give to the types of people who “call out your armor” that hardly know us? Is it really some type of gift, to undress someone’s soul? Is real and meaningful life gained through such ways of being with each other?

Confrontational engagements almost always reveal something more about the other person than the one they are exposing. I’ve found that envy and jealousy are often at the root of most encounters. Crafting a life that is deep and nourishing is a work that involves all the roots, fruits & refuse of life. We all need help tending our land but that work should be granted to those who love us but not to those who want to see us fail.

We can all learn from fan or fiend but the education our culture is getting about relationships via the Internet is destructive more than constructive. It’s taught people to handle one another in a manner that’s uncivil, harsh, curt, persnickety and pushy.

People think a comment section or email address is somehow an invitation to a level of interpersonal interaction that used to be the sole gift of time and trust. Instant access isn’t authority. We’ve created a borderless interpersonal existence that Friend or Fiend can invade.

The whole idea is summed up in the phrase “Instant Message”. What a profound assumption it is that anyone thinks they should have 100% access and place to speak whatever and whenever they want. It’s a dangerous illusion that empowers much of the ugliness going on these days.

“You set all the boundaries of the earth.” -Psalm 74:17

This truth extends to our relational lives as well, everyone is a guest and how they use that access determines the level of place they are given.

We need to recapture the art of the slow-cooked life, one that honors the specific elements of purpose, attention, space, limits, levels, amounts, temperatures and time. God has given boundaries for a reason and there is a generous grace in submitting to the limitations of our lives. Let’s return to the place where we invite and respond to invitations in a manner that honors each other and celebrates the gift of relational hospitality.

Marriage, Sex & Age

I pastor many people of many different ages. One of the realities of age is the changes it brings in our bodies on spiritual, mental, physical and hormonal levels. Everyone is affected in some way, some more than others.

The norm for anyone has to be walked through with grace, wisdom and whatever help one can find to deal with whatever their new issues the seasons of life may bring. Injuries, health challenges of disease, sickness etc can impact the whole person.

Our sex lives are obviously impacted, altered or injured by all these realities. One’s psychological life impacts one’s sex life too. All kinds of life events, abuses or stages can influence this part of ourselves and our marriages.

So even in our attempts to foster healthy and fruitful marriages, we also know that it looks different for each person or couple.

What doesn’t change is the fact that every person in a marriage is supposed to attend to the needs of their spouses.

How you figure that out has to be navigated with love, understanding, intentionality and selfless care for one another.

If you run into dead ends, difficult issues, problems of heart, mind or body, that is where reaching out to professionals that focus on your mental, physical, sexual or relational health can be the next step. Doing nothing and not attending to one’s self or the other, is not caring for each other in a loving way.

We live in an amazing time where one can find a lot of help for things that used to be hidden in silence, shame, stubbornness or sin.

Open and honest communication in a gentle and helpful way can ease the embarrassment, release the tension of unexplained actions or patterns, bring light to lonely darkness, attend to unmet needs, reorient sexuality back into togetherness; instead of unhealthy or unsatisfying alternatives and bring the couple back together in heart, body and soul.