#027: Venturing Toward the More (The Marriage Series) [Podcast]

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If we are relational to our core, fashioned in the image of the One who is Three, then it is in dynamic relationship that we participate in the unending Life of God. And among human relationships, there is none more brimming with the loving potential to both expose our “not yet” and to beckon us forward than marriage.  

In The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason writes,

The book of Proverbs as a whole takes a view of marriage that remains proverbial to this day: there is nothing in the world worse than a bad marriage, and at the same time, nothing better than a good one.

Man, if we haven’t tasted that truth, for better and for worse.

As we reflect on our marriage and on the stories others have shared with us, we hear Love’s offer that pain need not be the final word. Rather, we are finding that the pain in our marriage is becoming a spiritual trailhead of sorts, inaugurating a journey to increasing expanses of goodness and life.

“You are a rare couple. You are choosing not to just phone in some prescription and call it good enough.”  

These were the words that marriage counselor spoke into the lives of good friends of ours last week. When my buddy shared them with me yesterday, they became a mirror, causing me to inquire in my own soul—could the same words be spoken of my marriage? I was reminded of how much easier it is—at least in the short term—to settle, find some medication for the pain we experience in our marriage, and simply call it good enough. It is far riskier to let the pain be a teacher, guiding us to risk both the belief and the action toward choosing the more.

Our friends’ choice for more surfaces a question: Am I willing to forsake the shallow waters of good enough and set out into deeper waters where it is all frontier?

Seventeen years ago, having very little acquaintance with what it really meant, Cherie and I included the following poem by Sir Frances Drake on the final page of our wedding program.  

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, 

when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, 

when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore. 


Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; 

when having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity;

and when in our efforts to build a new earth, 

we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. 


Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, 
where storms will show your mastery, 
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. 
We ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes, 
and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. 

Now, with a bit more experience, more pockets of pain, and yet a growing vision of the Goodness of Trinitarian Reality, we take hold of these words afresh, drawn forward by the promise that we do not go alone. There is one who offers His kind, competent—though unnerving—leadership if we are willing to follow.

Our need is great: there is much that is hindering love. We are in need of deeper submersion into the Life of the Trinity; we are in need of the continual exposure of our imposing blind spots; we are in need of deliverance from our vast entanglements with the narrow self-life and all the harm it brings to us and to our marriage.

Yet our hope is greater still: we want it all, the full portion of what is available between a man and a woman in marriage.

We want to uncover and experience all the treasure hidden in this mysterious union as two become one: all of the transformation, joy, co-creativity, ecstasy, play, intimacy, shared mission, and unending giving and receiving of love, honor, cherishing, and delight that is available.

In the spirit of a shared expedition, with joy and a healthy dose of trepidation, Cherie and I offer this series of Become Good Soil podcasts as we venture out toward the more in our marriage.

Together may we seek, ask, and knock unceasingly in order that as it is in the Trinity who is Love, it might be in us and between us and through us.   

God, you have our yes.

And, friends, we invite you to set sail into deeper waters with us as we all risk believing there is more.

With all our hearts and hope,

Morgan and Cherie


Looking to go deeper into the mystery and possibility of the full portion in marriage? Consider these onramps to the Narrow Road.

Intimate Allies by Dan Allender

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Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge

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Love and War Video Series

Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason

 

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A Celebration of Boyhood

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It wasn’t at all what I expected.

A long driveway meandered up a gentle rise under an extensive canopy of Colorado ponderosa pines. On my left, a creek drainage harbored a well-worn treehouse. Early evening light highlighted bikes, skateboards, paintball guns, and other boyhood accessories, all of which testified to a world of adventure and play.

I was a young man, fresh out of college and brimming with questions that were only assuaged by the lives and stories of older men. I tried intently to put words to my questions and to risk the vulnerability of seeking proximity to older men to whom I could bring my curiosity.

Now 20 years later, I recognize the bedrock of my desire for proximity to elders was the longing to be initiated by a Father into the world of men.  

The longing for masculine initiation is common and unquenchable in men, not by accident or cultural imposition: it is our common desire because it is for this we were made.

The elder I sought out that long-ago evening was named Mark. He was the father of five young boys and an executive for the same company where I was low man on the totem pole. Every time I ran into him, he stood out from the crowd, generating a larger-than-life atmosphere around him.  

He had something. Better said, he had become something, someone. Someone whose masculinity inspired me and to whom my soul desired to be near.

It has taken me years to articulate what drew me to Mark. Now I have words for it: Mark was a man who had been effectively initiated into the world of men. He was a man who had faced the specter of death and passed through into a Life greater than his own. From that place of initiation, Mark was connected with the life of God in a measure that was unhinged from circumstances and unable to be destroyed by the things of this world.

When Mark invited me to his home, I had no idea where he actually lived. His directions had me leaving the city behind and traveling into a little pocket of nearby wild. Finally arriving at his driveway, my first thought was of the length of Mark’s commute; my second, of the length of his driveway and how much shoveling it would take to dig out after a winter storm.

Mark’s joyful greeting interrupted my shortsighted inner calculating.

After a brief exchange, I had to ask.

“Mark, what caused you to move way out here?”

He paused, considering my question with soulful sincerity before slowly responding.

“By moving here, I bought my five sons two more years of childhood.”

The substance of his response steadied my young heart. He was articulating a portion of Reality in God’s Kingdom that the world around me had all but forgotten: boyhood in all its wonder is an invaluable stage of masculinity that is worth fighting for. And it is a stage that every boy must experience and every man must recover if he is ever going to take the full journey into manhood.

So it began.

Again. Yet another category of divine disruption as Father continued the apprenticeship of my masculine soul.

In over two decades of proximity to men, I have observed a handful of themes that run through the stories of most men I encounter. No theme is more consistent—and few are more tragic—than the premature end of the stage of boyhood. For so many men, boyhood was cut painfully short as they grew up too fast and too soon.

This premature end of boyhood often happens as the result of one of two forces. The first is the agony of the unanswered question of his masculine soul, “Do I have what it takes?” For many boys, the quest to answer this essential question compels them to forsake boyhood and seek early entrance into world of men in hopes of finding an answer there.

The intolerable agony of an unanswered question is what drove my good friend Bart to lie about his age in order to be hired for a demolition job on a construction site at the age of 14. The ruthless foreman did everything he could to drive the little boy off the site. During one of Bart’s first weeks on the job, he took a fall from the top of a 10-foot ladder while removing ceiling insulation. Bart ended up in the emergency room because of a nail that had punctured his boot when he hit the ground, driving its way up through his foot until it protruded menacingly from the top. Bent on proving himself as a man, Bart was back on the job site later that afternoon; nothing would stop him from proving to his boss, to the world, and mostly to his dad, that he had what it takes.

For other men, the premature loss of boyhood is imposed upon them by abruptly changing circumstances in their family of origin. This was Greg’s story. When Greg was 12, his dad was caught having sex with the church secretary, a woman barely half his age. At the time, Greg’s dad was a pastor in their small town, and the rumors of the scandal quickly took their toll. Both their family and their place in the community began to unravel overnight. Within days, Dad fled the house and the town, choosing a new life with this younger woman, leaving Greg’s mom alone with two young daughters and a son. On his way out the door, Greg’s dad said these final words to his young son:

“You’re the man of the house now.”   

Greg is 44 and has spent the past 32 years reaching to recover the boyhood he abruptly lost that afternoon on the front steps of his childhood home.

Whether at the hands of unfathered fathers or through a personal search for validation from an unanswered question, the stories of many men follow a similar narrative:

The reality of Boyhood is cut violently short.

With the loss of boyhood comes the loss of the ancient path, the tried and true road, of masculine initiation that alone provides rest for the masculine soul.

It took me almost a decade to begin to identify with why Mark chose the long commute to work: preserving and relishing in boyhood was one of Mark’s greatest aims as a father. And our Father was inviting me to make it one of mine as well.

I suppose that’s why Joshua’s first formal rite of passage in ManScouts was celebrated with mounds of Chick-fil-A nuggets, limitless cans of regular Coke, and pictures highlighting his boyhood adventures.

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I rolled the dice.

As much as we might learn, there is no detailed roadmap for masculine initiation. Though the themes are similar, each man must walk his own path and lead his son as only he can, given their particular context and narrative. Yet there are ancient signposts and universal themes—and a Father who precedes us in order to illuminate a path to lead the soul of the boy into life as an initiated man.

Cherie dropped Joshua off on a winter night, leaving him to walk into a warm room filled with celebration and masculine love. His smile said it all, as he looked beyond the mounds of Chick-fil-A nuggets to the handful of the men who love me and him and with whom we share life.

I said,

“Son, tonight is for you. It is a celebration of your boyhood. You are welcome here.”

In time we shared a short film of images from his first 10 years of life, classic shots of boyhood adventure and play.

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We then gathered in a circle, one of the most sacred circles of which I’ve ever been a part. My son at the center, seated on the top of a ManScouts treasure chest he would soon learn was part of the gift of the evening for his next decade.

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On this night we participated in a contemporary expression of an ancient rite contiguous with preceding cultures and epochs of human history. Each man spoke words of blessing over Joshua, and together we presented him with gifts, inviting him into communion with a company of men and with a Father who orchestrates it all.

But something even more fundamental than a passage into the company of men was taking place.

Before it was a passage, it was first a celebration of boyhood. The central message we communicated was this:

“Joshua you are a boy, a delightful and radiant boy.  

Tonight we celebrate your boyhood. We welcome it, bless it, and invite you to savor every bit of what the Father has for you as a boy.

And also, we begin tonight with your welcoming into the fellowship of men. I have been entrusted with only a portion of what you need as a man. But look around this room. Each man brings a different expression, a different portion of Father’s heart. Only together can you see the Father and experience His love, and only together, in a fellowship, can you cultivate a knowing of what it means to be a man. And through that discovery, you will come to know the uniqueness of the man God fashioned when He fashioned you.

You are welcome here. As a boy, you are welcome among men.

In time, you will embark on a Vision Quest and enter the trials and challenges of masculine initiation.

But today, we invite you to savor boyhood. And today we celebrate boyhood with you.”


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The gifts we gave were meant as an outward expression of what we carried in our heart.

  • A set of Legos to continue to cultivate play, adventure, and imagination
  • A wooden sword handcrafted by master craftsmen at Bastian Woodworking—both real and also playful—as a symbol of the boyhood warrior who carries a practice sword but will one day brandish steel
  • A ManScouts treasure chest to hold the symbols and story of this decade set before him, adorned with the names of God’s chosen men who will participate in portions of the initiation of his soul

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Lingering. Permission. Delight.

With our bodies, our words, we said what only the Father can say:

You are my beloved son, my favorite son, in whom my soul is well pleased.

We did everything in our power to celebrate boyhood. To savor it. And through our love, to remove pressure on the masculine soul to grow up too fast and too far.

Everything is beautiful in its time, Solomon once said.

That day, the celebration was boyhood. And with both my repentance and my strength, I was able to pledge my fiercest commitment to preserve, protect, and supernaturally partner with the Father to lengthen boyhood, as long as we both shall live.

“Thanks, Dad.  I’ve never felt more loved in my whole life.”

Those were the words of my son as we drove home on that snowy night.

Those were nearly the identical words spoken by Alex’s son and JD’s son as they followed suit in their own time and in their own way, fighting to celebrate boyhood for their ever-maturing sons in the months to come.

The boy needs permission and possibility to be a boy if he is ever to become a wholehearted man.

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Jesus makes the impossible possible.

In the same way we too need permission and possibility to recover what was lost in our own soul as a boy.

The loss of boyhood is one of the great destructive realities that keeps most of us from ever becoming wholehearted and true. And the recovery and restoration of boyhood, for us and for our sons, is one of the great promises of the Kingdom of God. Whether at 12, 22, or 62, we are invited to turn to the Father and ask Him to restore the boy in us and to teach us to celebrate the boy in the hearts of our sons and the men we love.

We are reminded of the scandal of the Gospel in Paul’s letter to Galatians: through the Life of Jesus, we have full access to everything the Father has:

  • If you are a son, you are also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance… (The Message)
  • Because we are His, we can access everything He has…(The Passion Translation)
  • Through this bold redemption, we have received full rights of sonship… (NIV)

And now, one of our central tasks is to practice receiving this reality and to mature into the more that is being made available in this day and in this decade.

It’s been over two years since that joyous celebration of boyhood.

We are now poised on the eve of Joshua’s Vision Quest. From the foundation of boyhood, we can now set our hearts on pilgrimage to the deeper frontier of the masculine soul.

Mark chose to move to the edge of town to recover two more years of boyhood for his sons.

What will you do for the boy entrusted to your care?

What will you do for the boy within your soul?

You are not alone.

And it matters more than we have been led to believe.

Strength and Honor,

Morgan


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#026: I Love Beer More than Jesus [Podcast]

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By day and by decade.

These words have become a mantra for my masculine soul. A sort of North Star as I attempt to orient and re-align my life with the Reality of God and His Kingdom.

Allen Arnold and I had an opportunity to share some dialogue and prayer regarding how we’re choosing to orient our souls at the beginning of this new year.

In the podcast, we reference A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, which I’d recommend strongly as a read to launch this next year.

I also reference Gerald May’s Addiction and Grace.Also, as part of the podcast I reference a blog from a January past titled I Love Beer More Than Jesus.

In The Pursuit of God, Tozer offers these words:
In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of [God’s people] there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct ‘interpretations’ of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

Friends, be encouraged. You are woven into a redemptive community. A fellowship that spans the globe of like-hearted men who will not be satisfied with less than the full portion of what is available under Heaven.

As you set your face like a flint toward another year of choosing to become good soil, know you are not alone. Nothing is wasted.

Let’s keep going.

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#025: Back To Life – Live with Esther Sparks [Podcast]

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This most recent episode was a treasure to record, featuring Esther Sparks, a Scottish poet and musician whose music has been uniquely sustaining to Cherie and me throughout this decade of excavation and becoming.

Offering transparently from her own story, Esther’s music speaks to central themes of the human experience: love and loss; betrayal and forgiveness; abandonment and embrace; birth, death, and resurrection.

Luminous in her insights and raw in her offering, Esther draws us deeper into our own stories and the Kingdom-among-us that connects all therein. Her songs have become dear companions for the narrow road, songs that say, “Yep. Me too. You are not alone. Don’t give up. We can find our way together.”

Join me as Esther shares the stories behind some of our favorite songs. Her music is substantive food and drink for hearts that beat to become good soil and have been broken along the way.

You can find more on Esther Sparks here.

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You’re invited to join us for the Sons of Thunder Brewing Christmas Party and you can hear Esther Live.

And as a gift from her heart to yours, Esther is making available the following tracks to the Become Good Soil listeners for your continued nourishment:

Cry All Over You

Back To Life

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What Is the Way In?

A young man once asked Dallas Willard this question:

On normal days, what does your prayer life and daily rhythm look like?

After that quintessential and thoughtful pause of his, Dallas carefully offered this response:

There are very few normal days for anyone, especially in our world. So you have to be careful with that question. Let me say what is a constant that I can do everyday no matter what’s happening. Normally when I wake, I will work through the Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm one or more times. By work through it, I mean not just rattling it off. I start with “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Now I just stay there a while, letting that soak in. I think about what Our Father is like. He isn’t “my boss who art in in Heaven” or “my eternal scrutinizer who art in heaven.”  No, He is our loving Father in Heaven. Finally, when I sit to get out of bed, I proclaim, “God is here.” I announce that.  I recognize (and take heart) in the presence of God… 

There are indeed very few normal days. Yet there is a constant available to me every day: the intentional recognition of the Goodness and Greatness of God, our Father and Teacher.

God, my True, Generous, and Loving Father,

I ask for one thing, only one thing:

To live this day and my whole life long at Your Side, in Your House, and within Your Story.

I remember what You are like.

I contemplate Your beauty, Your provision, and Your Reality.

I proclaim I am Your student and You are my teacher.

I am Your son and You are my Good, Good Father. (paraphrase, Psalm 27:4)

Dallas goes on in The Renovation of the Heart to offer this thought:

Jesus invites us to leave our way of heavy labor, especially religious ones. And step into the yoke of training with Him…The easy yoke is the way of inner transformation…The perceived distance and difficulty of entering fully into the divine world and its life is due entirely to our failure to understand that the way in is the way of pervasive inner transformation and to take the small steps that quietly and certainly lead to it.

Take a moment to read this sentence again: “The easy yoke of Jesus is the way of inner transformation. The perceived distance and difficulty of entering fully into the divine world and its life is due entirely to our failure to understand that the way in is the way of pervasive inner transformation and to take the small steps that quietly and certainly lead to it.”

What is your reaction to this sentence?

How would you answer the question: Why does entering fully into the divine world and its life seem to be so hard and unattainable?

What do you think about Dallas’s suggestion that the reason it seems so unattainable is because we have failed to understand that the way “in” is the way of pervasive inner transformation? How have you been trying to get “into the divine world and its life”? How has that been working for you? Why would inner transformation be an easy yoke? What is your reaction to the idea that there could be “small steps” that you could readily take that would quietly and certainly lead you into the world of God and His life?

For me, I realize how hard I have been trying to get “in” in a myriad of other ways. But what if the primary way in is simply, joyously, and soberly stepping into the easy yoke of training with Jesus and taking the slow and steady steps of learning from Him how to live in His Kingdom in dependence upon Our Father and receiving His powerful action to effectively and pervasively transform my inmost being to resemble His?

One of the small steps Jesus leads me to is immersion in the great writing of good people.

Now and then I have offered a handful of books I recommend as you continue your journey of consent to our Father as His son to be His student. While there are many more I could suggest (see some previous book recommendations at Become Good Soil), here are a few books that have been particularly nourishing and re-informing in this past year. May these recommendations strengthen you in the easy yoke with Jesus as  you take, in His power, the “small steps that quietly and certainly lead to [inner transformation].”


 

This collection builds upon the foundation of our treasure chest of great resources at Ransomed Heart. Now through December 9th, 2016, every order at RansomedHeart.com you place will automatically be 50 percent off.

Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

Renovation of the Heart, a bestseller by Dallas Willard, explains the common misunderstandings about human nature and the discipleship process by outlining the general pattern of personal spiritual transformation…” (more detail here)

The Social Animal by David Brooks

“David Brooks has written an absolutely fascinating book about how we form our emotions and character. Standing at the intersection of brain science and sociology, and writing with the wry wit of a James Thurber, he explores the unconscious mind and how it shapes the way we eat, love, live, vacation, and relate to other people…” (more detail here)

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Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge

Reading the Gospels without knowing the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off. The result is a dry, two-dimensional person doing strange, undecipherable things. But when we discover his true character—this man who made the wind, music and flying squirrels—suddenly all of the remarkable qualities of Jesus burst forth with color and brilliance like fireworks. Breaking Jesus out of the typical stereotypes, Beautiful Outlaw welcomes readers into the rich emotional life of Christ, showing how they can experience the actual personality of Jesus in their daily lives in ways that will deepen their faith. (Amazon description)

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, Tribe explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning… (more detail here)

Preparing for Heaven by Gary Black Jr.

C.S. Lewis once said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often, I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”

In his acclaimed books, renowned writer, speaker, and philosophy professor Dallas Willard explored the nature of Christian life in God’s Kingdom… (more detail here)

 

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth… (more detail here)

Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard

In these pages Dallas Willard explores what it means to live well now in light of God’s kingdom… (more detail here)

 

Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard

What if you were handed a golden ticket that could magically start your life anew?… (more detail here)

 

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

In this inspirational work which seamlessly weaves keen clinical observation, neuroscience, historical analysis, the arts, and personal narrative, Dr. van der Kolk has created an authoritative guide to the effects of trauma, and pathways to recovery… (more detail here)

War by Sebastian Junger

In War, Sebastian Junger turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat—the fear, the honor, and the trust among men in an extreme situation whose survival depends on their absolute commitment to one another… (more detail here)

Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians by James Gilchrist Lawson

Recommended by John Eldredge and Dallas Willard, this book is a collection of stories from man of ages past who have recovered the Ancient Path. It provides story after story of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of ordinary people and inviting them up to an extraordinary life as they take their place in the Kingdom of God. (more detail here)

JUST FOR JOY…

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It was Lewis who said, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” Mentor Richard Foster further adds, “Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be light-hearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride.”

This is the Movie of the Year in the Snyder household.  May it bring some joy to your clan in this season.

#024: Going Deep – An Invitation to Become Good Soil [Podcast]

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It has been said, “The lives of many rest in the courage of a few.” How are you becoming the kind of person to whom God can entrust the lives of others? How are you becoming the kind of person to whom God can entrust His Kingdom?

In this third episode of a three-part series, I take us deeper into a Become Good Soil Intensive, where we are invited to participate in portions of a guided session inviting more of us to belong to more of God.

We are now accepting applications for the upcoming Become Good Soil Intensives in Colorado and Australia in May of 2017.

 

Deadline for complete applications is November 15, 2016.

 

To learn if you qualify to apply and to find out more about the message of Become Good Soil, go to www.RansomedHeart.com/BecomeGoodSoil.
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