An Arsenal, A Library, and a Tool Collection

This was no place for an Xbox. Or any digital device for that matter.

Though there were no “danger” signs posted, the heavy equipment, hum of the air compressor, and repeated firing of the nail gun made it clear: something powerful was under way, and as with every instance of power, you’d better be attentive unless you want to get hurt. We were part of an active construction site.

The crane truck had just left, having hoisted the roof trusses to the second floor. The day’s primary tasks were clear: dig 36-inch deep holes for concrete footers, dozens of four-foot by eight-foot plywood sheets through the framed walls, and, one way or another, get them up to the second floor. Then, by sunset, cut and lay out the plywood sheeting and secure it with nail gun and glue in the hopes of having a second-story floor.

We got to work, a handful of fathers and sons. Sweat and stories ensued. The fathers sharing stories of the exposure they did (or didn’t) have as young men to this type of hard and holy work. And the young men, with shovels, picks, and tamping bars, shared their own sorts of stories as well. As is the nature of hard work and young men, laughter mixed with just the right amount of griping and vain attempts to come up with shortcuts.

It was perfect.

For neighborhood dog walkers or any other passersby, the scene probably looked like just another work day within the slow and steady process of residential construction. But on the level of the soul, these were the rough-hewn ingredients of another round of masculine initiation.

The general contractor gets it: he doesn’t ultimately build homes—he builds people.

And the atmosphere he creates touches the hearts and hands of everyone who gets involved in his work. As Francis Schaeffer suggests, for the soul of a man who has been given over to God and his Kingdom, there are simply no little people, no little places, and no little things. When the Kingdom is at hand, all manner of things become sacred, infused with the Divine in a way that cannot be explained in material terms. Through the blend of hard work, story, complaining, and play, something was being passed from older man to younger man; an invisible process more substantive than the construction project was under way.

Much to their relief, lunch break came earlier than the boys anticipated. We gathered around a roaring campfire fueled by scraps of framing material. And in that place, we were all wondrously equal. Men, young and old, burritos, fire, dirty hands, splinters, and stories.

In time, to the surprise of the boys, the conversation shifted, and the fathers moved to bestow an unexpected gift upon them: the equipment for the masculine soul.

First came the Joy Buckets: five-gallon Home Depot buckets with tool pouches conveniently fitted around their rims. Next came pocket knives, bestowed one by one, son by son. Then came books. One for each boy. Each unique. From an older man to a younger one, each naming why this book held a treasured place in his story.

For a few moments, we inhabited what the celtic Christians named as a “thin place,” a place where the veil between the eternal and the temporal, the heavens and the earth, almost entirely dissolves. As Dallas reminds us in The Divine Conspiracy, “The most important things in our human lives are nearly always things that are invisible.” And for this moment, through the grace of God, we saw Reality as it truly is. In the context of hard work, transformational stories, and masculine love, God the Father was investing in the process of initiation for each of these young men within their quest to become the man God meant when he meant them.

Over the last few decades, in journeying into the stories of men as well as in participating in my own initiation as a son and as a man, I’ve observed several key ingredients that seem universal to the process of masculine initiation.

Every warrior needs weapons. Every student needs books. Every craftsman needs tools. Each of these realties, infinitely unique in its expression for each man, offers hidden treasures waiting to be awakened and nourished in the soul of the boy. The fruit of each man immersing himself in his particular books, skilling himself in his particular tools, and learning to wield his particular weapons in love is universal: pervasive inner transformation that forsakes the mere self-life and yields a capacity to bring harnessed strength on behalf of the Good.

Library

Most initiated men I encounter have a collection of well-read and cherished books. The books a man values speak volumes about the formation of his soul. Though the subject matter may vary greatly, when I meet a man who has taken the time to learn, think deeply, and explore the inner and outer world with curiosity, his deliberation begets a consent in my own soul to risk and devote myself to deeper curiosity, thought, and imagination. His posture as a learner spurs my own intention to be a student of things good, true, and beautiful.

Tool Collection

Most initiated men I encounter have a treasured collection of well-worn tools. Tools speak of agency and competence and reflect an essence of masculinity: deliberate action and skilled engagement. Our contemporary culture often values convenience, specialization, and outsourcing over physical work and agency or general competence. Learning, over time, how to wield a solid collection of tools is a path to reseating confidence and fierce mastery within the masculine soul.

Arsenal

Most initiated men I encounter also know how to wield power for the sake of the Good. The masculine soul was created to provide in many forms. To heroically offer strength in love. To defend the defenseless and protect all that needs protecting. To spend himself in a worthy cause. To wield every weapon necessary to see that evil and devastation do not have the final word. A weapon is a terribly powerful thing. An initiated man has the ability and resolve to wield power only for the good; not power over, but power for; power in the service of love. It was Chesterton who said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” A pocket knife is the beginning of the process of initiation regarding the peril and possibility of power. To bestow a pocket knife on a young man—and to train him to wield it in love—is cause for celebration.

The tools, books, and weapons no doubt vary in the specificity of every man’s story. Yet the essence of the thing and its symbolic role in masculine initiation cannot be overstated.

Today was only a beginning for these young boys. But I can assure you, as the fathers observed the light in their sons’ eyes, the dignity and delight reflected there, the world was being changed. This was no ordinary construction site—it was a context for bestowing masculine goodness and identity.

It doesn’t take much.

A few buckets, books, and knives, and perhaps a little bit of belief that the boy needs the man to guide him through initiation. And no doubt it takes a good bit of love and a willingness to sacrifice whatever it takes to ensure that the next generation of men will one day stand on our shoulders. They will be better, more wholehearted men than we have become. They will love their women with strength, tenderness, and sincerity. Their families and tribes will be healthier and bring an ever greater good to those in need. Families will gather around dinner tables and linger over stories. Restoration will surpass devastation. Wrongs will be righted. And slowly, in unnamed ways, the Kingdom of God will flow ever deeper, eroding the kingdom of this world and the misuse of power.

Pause with me for a moment.

Call to mind the current condition of your tool collection. Picture what it looks like. Pay attention to what rises within you.  

Call to mind your current library. Pause. Linger for a moment.  

Call to mind your current arsenal.

Holy Spirit, what are you desiring to reveal to my soul?

I want to suggest that whichever of the three holds the most pain might be the trailhead of invitation to venture deeper, to be curious what your Father might be up to with an invitation into more.

It was said of Winston Churchill in his role as a father that no man had become more of what he had not himself received. What if we became what we most wanted to receive? What if the next generation became fathers because they were fathered with wisdom and devotion, perhaps by men who themselves lacked the privilege of receiving such fathering in the parallel days of their youth? It is precisely this sort of legacy that will manifest through consenting to the process of masculine initiation, through choosing the daring path of becoming an apprentice of the King and recovering the ancient way.(1)

A collection of tools, a collection of books, and a collection of weapons. To invest in this for the soul of a young man will change the world. Let Love guide you. Your Father is hard at work. Ask him what he wants to do for the boy in you and for the boy in your kingdom, through you. One of the great tasks of masculinity is to move through the grief over what we have not received and transition into risking confidence in our Father’s limitless capacity to provide generously even still. And in turn we can become the kind of men who confess in quiet confidence, through word and deed, because of my Father, “in me there is no lack.”(2)

Through God’s personal and profound abundance, we can become the kind of kings and the kind of fathers to whom he is delighted to entrust his Kingdom.

The greatest weapon in history’s fight against evil is the soul of a wholehearted man. Let’s risk together. With a tool collection, an arsenal, and a library, let’s venture deeper with our Father and restore what’s been lost, stolen, and surrendered.

Strength and Honor,

Morgan


(1) Jeremiah 6:16

(2) Psalm 23:1

#039: Contemplative Prayer – Episode 3 of 3 [podcast]

In time it sometimes comes to pass that familiarity can give way to presumed familiarity. That presumed familiarity can then give way to unfamiliarity. And unfamiliarity can give way to boredom, obscurity, or even contempt.
– Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy


Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Play in new window | Download


There’s nothing like the practical.  

In this third and final episode of an Inquiry into Contemplative Prayer, we explore the pragmatism of integrating this practice into our daily lives, concluding with a third opportunity to practice together this accessible and time-tested means of experiencing the Kingdom Among Us.

If you haven’t experienced the first two episodes of this series, you’ll want to start with episode one.

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#038: Contemplative Prayer – Episode 2 of 3 [podcast]

Meditation and contemplative prayer is not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in him whom we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to himself.
― Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer


Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Play in new window | Download


What is it like to really know God? Not just know about God but to know him, thoroughly and comprehensively in the most essential places of our souls?

What if there were a way to practice experiential knowledge of God? What if we could regularly encounter God on a level far deeper than creedal statements through a vibrant knowing of a faithful God, even when we are lacking confidence in his reliability? How do we find a way to regularly access the life of God even deeper than our cognitive representations of things and in a manner which has the power to change our actual experience of our everyday life?

Friends, Cherie and I are excited to welcome you into part two of a three-part Become Good Soil podcast series intended to be an onramp to the spiritual practice of centering prayer.

For the Kingdom,

Morgan and Cherie

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#037: Contemplative Prayer – Episode 1 of 3 [podcast]

All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.
–Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Play in new window | Download


I find it fascinating that when Jesus speaks of eternal life, it’s less often about a specific time or place where we transition into some other state of being and more often about a quality of life—robust, deep vitality—that is being made available to us, right here and right now. He offers this invitation to a rich young man who has found his trust in things of this world. (1) He regularly teaches the thirsty that the Kingdom of God is at hand. (2) He leans into this idea on the night of his betrayal and abandonment by the men closest to him.

In intercession for these same friends and for us, he cries out to his Father, “The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you.” (3)

If deep, whole-person union with God is the invitation and inheritance of Christianity, what are the means by which we respond to this invitation? How exactly do we go about entering into this union?

Join my wife, Cherie, and me as we explore some deep waters in part one of a three-part podcast series on the practice of contemplative prayer. Our hope is that together we can recover one of the greatest means of deeper union—and through it, deeper life—embedded in the rich history of God’s people through the ages.

 


(1) Matt. 19:16-30
(2) Matt. 3:2
(3) John 17:21 MSG

If you’d like to go deeper, here’s one resource that helped launch our journey into centering prayer: Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating.

 

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The Gospel as Initiation [Video]

A wise man once offered these words:

In the larger-than-life people I have met, I always find one common denominator: in some sense, they have all died before they died. At some point, they were led to the edge of their private resources, and that breakdown, which surely felt like dying, led them into a larger life…. Instead of avoiding a personal death or raging at it, they went through a death, a death of their old self, there small life, and come out the other side knowing death could no longer hurt them.¹

What if all new life in us can only come through a process of a smaller life being put to death and a truer life being resurrected through immersion in a wider Reality?

What if the mystery of recovering a life that is truly life could be known through a vision of the Gospel as a process of whole-person masculine initiation?

In Fathered by God, John describes the first step of honestly admitting our current condition as unfinished men and opening ourselves to the process of God’s fathering and initiation:

We aren’t meant to figure life out on our own. God wants to father us. The truth is, he has been fathering us for a long time—we just haven’t had the eyes to see it. He wants to father us much more intimately, but we have to be in a posture to receive it. What that involves is a new way of seeing, a fundamental reorientation of how we look at life, and our situation in it. We need a process, a journey, an epic story of many experiences woven together, building upon one another, in progression. We need initiation.²

All true initiation embodies the themes of both agony and ecstasy, triumph and defeat, pain and pleasure. Would it be worth the cost if you could know, really know, through a process of initiation, the joy, happiness, and soul satisfaction manifested in the lives of the heroic men we encounter through the stories of ages past?

I want to suggest that this process of initiation and the discovery of an indestructible Life is available.

In this blogpost is a video from a teaching I recently offered at Discovery Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Come with me as we explore The Gospel as Initiation.

For the Kingdom,
Morgan

 


 

¹ Adam’s Return by Richard Rohr
² Fathered by God by John Eldredge

 

The Daybreak Prayer

A broken air conditioner and the scorching heat of the New Mexican summer sun left us no choice but to roll down the windows of our old truck, letting the wind whip through. From the center bench, poised like a king on the throne of his blue car seat, my four-year-old son sang the words of our favorite country song at the top of his lungs.

God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.

Even in the whipping wind, I was impressed with my hunting partner’s vocals. I won’t ever forget the joy. Our mission (so I thought) was to chase Javelina in the wilderness of southern New Mexico, me with bow and arrow and he as my lookout in the kid-carrying backpack. But looking back, what the Father was bringing on that trip was much more than meat for the freezer. Years later, I’m just beginning to see how sacred those hours of car time were for connection with my son and his soul’s formation.

A decade later, I can see the transforming possibility of seizing the daily car time Cherie and I still have now with 13-year-old Joshua and 10-year-old Abigail. Over the past few years, I’ve learned a bit more of what makes car time particularly rich. The field of neuroscience demonstrates that humans are wired with neurons that mirror the mental and emotional processes of other humans. These mirror neurons “read” the emotional experiences of others expressed through body language and emotional cues. Then the neurons in the observer sync with the other’s emotional state to create a shared mental process across an invisible space. Simply put, when one human attunes to another, he is able to feel, know, and experience some of what the other is experiencing as if it were his own experience. (1)

I see now that our hours and hours of car time are an opportunity to take advantage of the function of mirror neurons. As my kids and I attune to each other, we are forming each other’s emotional experiences. Deeper than words, this proximity allows us to place pins of orientation on the map of our kids’ interior worlds, heart-pins that could prove to be one of our greatest contributions to their direct experience of God and his Kingdom.

Over the years, the substance of our car time has changed: the VeggieTales songs and our own rendition of “People Are Crazy” have given way to sometimes playful, sometimes deep conversation. Our car time has also birthed an emerging daily prayer, a prayer co-created over time with the Spirit to be accessible and formational for each of our hearts.

Perhaps this prayer is best named as a sort of centering liturgy. What began as the Carpool Prayer has formed into The Daybreak Prayer. The first year, our 1.0 version was simply leading the kids out loud through putting on the armor of God. After almost a decade of formation, we’re on the 7.0 version. This prayer continues to work in us and we through it. With every emerging version, we feel invited deeper and deeper into God’s Kingdom.

As I listen to my children pray each morning, I am trusting that these realities are being threaded into them. I hope this prayer produces fertile soil and provides seed that will, in time, establish deep roots in both of them, roots that can weather seasons of plenty and also seasons of lack because they have been grounded in the Goodness of God and the reliability of God’s Kingdom.


We approach our Daily Prayer with four clear portions. Parts one and two, I (or Cherie) pray out loud, leading the family.

Part 1: Consecration

We begin our time with consecrating our kingdom—all that God has entrusted to our care. Each day we flow with this uniquely as we’re led; here is an example of what this portion looks like:

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, we center our gaze upon your great Heart and Love. We declare your goodness and generosity. We consecrate our kingdom to your Kingdom. We consent to you and your leadership and give you say over everything you have entrusted to our care. We give you our body, soul, heart, mind, will, and imagination. We give you our family, our home, our vehicles, our finances, and all of our relationships. We give you our schools and our work. We give you all our friendships and life and walk and calling. Everything we have and everything we are, we consecrate to you.

Part 2: Enforcing Kingdom Authority

The Kingdom of God operates on authority. In maturing as warriors, we learn to walk in the authority of Jesus, resisting evil and exercising God’s power to enforce the Kingdom of Love and Life in the particulars of the domain entrusted to our care. Again, this prayer is unique each day, but here is an example of what this portion looks like:

Father, thank you that through the death of Jesus, you have disarmed the power, authority, and rule of evil. Through his resurrection and ascension, you have established your authority over all creation. Jesus, our brother and King, thank you for granting to us all the authority granted to you by our Father. (2) We choose to take our place in your authority. We enforce your Kingdom in our kingdom. We enforce your rule. Through Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended, we enforce God’s authority in our kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus, we agree with your intentions, and we give you full say over everything you’ve entrusted to us. We intentionally open the gates of our kingdom to your Kingdom. (3)

Part 3: Our Liturgy

After we follow God’s lead in consecrating our kingdom and enforcing God’s Kingdom authority in our kingdom, we thoughtfully pray this prayer, together and out loud:

Father, thank you that our story begins with you and ends in the restoration of all things. (4)  

We choose to trust that you love us with the same love you have for Jesus. (5) Therefore we will not to give way to fear. (6)

We agree with who you are. We agree with what you are doing. We agree with how you are doing it. (7)

We ask for a revelation of your affection today. (8)

We ask that you would make the impossible possible. (9)

We put on the armor of God: (10)

The shoes of the Gospel

The belt of truth

The breastplate of righteousness

The helmet of salvation

The sword of the Spirit

The shield of faith.

We choose to wield these weapons at all times in the Spirit.

We accept your acceptance of us. (11)

We choose to live in the present moment. (12)

We ask for a wise and discerning heart. (13)

We unite our heart with your heart. (14)

We choose to listen to your voice. (15)

We ask you to father us and mother us today. (16)

We ask that in all things in us and through us, your Kingdom would come and your will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven. (17)

We declare the truth that whatever I have and wherever I am, I can make it through the One who makes me who I am. (18)

Part 4: Listening

Now that we have consciously united our souls with God’s presence, life, and love, we conclude each time of prayer with listening.

God, how else would You have us pray today? What do You want to speak to us today? (19)


This choice of investing in a daily family prayer has become one of the foundations of our faith. Its evolution over time is a testament to the always-fresh experience of venturing ever deeper into God’s Kingdom. The repetitive portion roots us beyond the day’s drama and deeper than the day’s circumstances. The fluid portion keeps us rooted in a moment-by-moment life in the Spirit, who is always leading us personally and uniquely. This combination seats our souls in the life of God, transcending the present moment and cultivating a posture of both curiosity and confidence deep within our souls.

My prayer is that, in the days and decades ahead, these pins on the heart-maps of our children will be there for them when they most need God and his Kingdom. My hope is that while this time of prayer authentically models life in God’s Kingdom, it will also open for our kids their own direct access to and connection with the life and power of God.

The season of driving our kids to school will be over before we know it. In a few short years, our son will be driving himself and his sister to school. Yet we are praying that the seeds of the with-God life are being planted in them and in us both for this age and for the age to come.

I invite you give the Daybreak Prayer a go for a season.

Part One – Consecrating

Part Two – Enforcing

Part Three – The Daybreak Prayer

Part Four – Listening

I’ve recorded Part Three above as a stand-alone prayer. You may find it helpful to press play and pray along with this audio until it is written on your hearts and becomes your own. Hopefully it will be helpful to you as we stand together, with our families, daily contending as one for the Gospel of life.

For the Kingdom,
Morgan

Footnote: Download a PDF of The Daybreak Prayer if you’d like to have it in hand to pray it and enjoy being unplugged from digital devices.

 


(1) My initial exposure to this concept of mirror neurons was through The Social Animal by David Brooks. This soul-filled, creative narrative is an amazing access point to neurobiology and how it shapes our days and our decades. Pages 39 and 40 present the heartbeat of his case.
(2) Matt. 28:18
(3) Ps. 24:7
(4) 2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:5
(5) John 17:23
(6) Ps. 27:14
(7) Ex. 3:13
(8) Eph. 3:19
(9) Matt. 19:26
(10) Eph. 6:13-18
(11) Eph. 1:6
(12) Matt. 6:34
(13) 1 Kings 3:9
(14) John 17:21
(15) John 10:3
(16) Rom. 8:15-17, Isa. 66:12-13
(17) Matt. 6:10
(18) Phil. 4:13
(19) John 8:47

Note: Other powerful prayers can be found through the Ransomed Heart app. John, thank you for modeling the power and possibility of a Daily Prayer over the last two decades. This daily liturgy has served as an anchor for my soul through both calm and stormy seas.