A Powerful Life

“So what would you like to be for Halloween this year?”  I offered the question casually as we sat around the dinner table.  My four year old son, with a gleam in his eye responded, “I want to be a Hazmat Fire Rescue Fighter!”

Perfect. I had no idea what it was but I was in!  The next few days we spent time dreaming up a Hazmat Fire Rescue Fighter costume and collecting an assortment of dangerous, powerful objects.  Eventually we tricked out Joshua’s full body climbing harness with all of the lights from my road bike.  We cut mom’s garden hose, created an air tank out of a 2 liter coke bottle, added tubes, masks, goggles and an assortment of decals… Joshua was ready… a father’s dream.

Every man longs to be powerful.  Just look at little boys and see where they go with some free time or some treasures they can dig up in the garage.  Weapons and battle seem to be the “MO” for boys when really let go.

It is amazing to pause and see how deeply this is written in the human story.  Immediately after God creates man in His image, “male and female He created them” so the ancient text goes, he gives them their first command, “Rule.” (Genesis 3).  The very first words uttered from God to Adam were to rule – Fierce Master – it says in the Greek.  To “subdue”…. To bring the person, the character, the personality of God to all of creation.

It is deeply woven in the design of man.  It is the source of all great human achievements and it is the source of much corruption and pain.  Remember… we live very far from Eden in these days.

Dallas Willard once suggested that the primary mission of God is to find men in whom He can entrust His power. And the story of most men is being entrusted with power and it bringing harm to themselves and those under their care.

What about you?  Do you long to be powerful?  To walk in a sense of fierce mastery?  To walk in strength and courage?

Look at the men of power in your world.  In your government, your church, the businesses in your world, the men leading the schools and families around you.  Do they represent to you all that God meant, when He meant man – to walk in power – on behalf of love?

What have you done with the desire to be powerful?  Who are the men in your world you can point to that walk in power on behalf of others in the service of a greater good?

A Great Response

I received a great email from Aaron Johnson, one of the attendees of the inaugural thirties retreat and fellow sojourner.  He said that he walked away from the retreat with a list of about 25 topics to journal about, and walk with God, in time.  The first topic he journaled on was this question, “What is Satan’s plan for your life?”  Here was his journal entry, used with permission:

What is Satan’s plan for your life? – Urgency

In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis describes the demonic plan set against us as way more sophisticated, yet way more mundane than we tend to think. We would craft some huge suffering or overwhelming temptation, but the enemy is infinitely patient to shape our “little” attitudes, habits, and ideas – things that seemingly have no impact on anyone but us. Reflecting on the evidence that men, to use a phrase from the writer of Hebrews, “drift away” in their thirties and blow up in their forties, I begin to wonder if there must be some paradigm that we all buy into. There is. It’s so well-crafted that we don’t notice it, we don’t see it as something to buy into, or accept. We just kinda slide into it. Few catch a glimpse of it – fewer get out.

For me, the first way I sense it is in my mind. It feels like urgency.  As one guy explained it, “I feel like I’m always behind, always playing catch-up.” Because we don’t think about this sense of urgency much, most of the time we don’t even know what we are late for.  And the enemy is happy, so happy, if we are, not only driven by something, but driven by something and we have no idea what the hell it is. Ten years of that will be enough to take out even the most qualified among us.

What’s the message behind this urgency? You’ll probably have to put it into your own words, but for me it’s, “You thought you’d have accomplished _______ and _______ by now, but you’re no further than when you were twenty-five.” And everything I put in those blanks, they’re good things: freedom of time and money to be able to visit our families, to fix up my mother-in-law’s house and get her a reliable car, to finish writing one of my books, to push one of these entrepreneurial ideas into a place where the rest of this list is taken care of, and to not be so tired all the time.”

Urgency presents only 2 options to me: work harder or just give up. I don’t give up, so I push my body to it’s limits. Short on sleep and walking around with a cough that I picked up three months ago, I stare at myself in the mirror and realize that instead of “getting ahead” that I’m just getting weaker. The idea of slipping further behind kicks in, and urgency turns the pressure dial up another twenty degrees, in the hope that the seams will burst on my heart.

This is the kind of run-around you’ll get living by this paradigm. You’ll cycle around it until you wear out, or give up. You’re going to have to jump ship if you want to make it, leap from the box-car and make a wreck of yourself flying down that embankment – in short, you’re going to have to repent. The only solution is to search out and embrace a completely different pattern of life during this decade and to begin by replacing the urgency with the alternative that Jesus has been offering all this time.

Let’s roll this back. All these things I want are good. Most of them, I even believe that God has spoken to me about, a few of them I believe He has called me to. Morgan Snyder put it this way: (my paraphrase) “God gives us desires and we assume that they have to be fulfilled now. But during this decade, they probably are not going to appear. Instead they serve as fuel to keep us going.” Now, at first, this sounded a lot like God playing me with a bait and switch. Then I remembered that God has often planted deep and powerful desires in me which have come to fulfillment in very different ways than I ever would have expected, usually in better ways than I could have imagined. But my tendency is to immediately turn that desire into a vision and work my ass off to make it a reality. So, I want to take care of my wife’s mom. In my mind that equals a car, new siding, and a lot of time in New Jersey. I haven’t taken even a 20 minute walk with Jesus to discuss that desire. But that’s it isn’t it? That’s the place to start. That’s the place where the urgency begins to break.

Surely, these desires that the Father plants in our hearts are fuel , but they are not merely fuel, something to get us through the the decade of young kids, mundane work, and the stomach flu. They hold substantial promise, and clue us into the kingdom that the Father will eventually give us. “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8)  That whole chapter of Hebrew’s 11 is a good place to hang out. It lets us know that these things take time, and sometimes (maybe often) the promises are outside our earthly time frame because they contain that much glory, or simply because our lives are caught up into something bigger, the Kingdom of God. Giving up isn’t an option here because these men “die in faith.”(v.13) So, “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (v.16).

So we don’t throw ourselves headlong and we don’t give up. Instead we dialogue with our Father about our desires and we “confess” and “embrace” them. That’s just a first step in making the shift, but it’s an important first step.

What is Satan’s Plan For Your Life?

What is Satan’s plan for your life? It is a profound question and one I never considered until God snuck up on me.  I was sitting in a church service twelve years ago on a non-descript Sunday.  The pastor was talking about God having a personal plan for our lives.  And I sensed God asking me to ask this question.  “So if God has a personal plan and the enemy is a fallen angel, who one day was glorious but proved false, he must also have a personal strategy to take me out.”  In that moment, during the sermon, I paused and quietly asked God that question, “What is the enemy’s plan for my life?”  Instantly three ideas came to mind:

–         Be president of my own company.

–          Be rich.

–          Marry my high school sweetheart.

Wow.  For a moment, life was crystal clear.  I realized how much energy I invested in those three desires.  How much hope I pinned on these three dreams.  And how they would have ultimately led to my destruction, or at least to a very ineffective life.  You see, my story was one of constantly looking toward leadership, success and women for my validation.  And the hardest part was how often it worked.  But in the end, these three ideas (none of which in themselves are bad) would have been the perfect strategy for me to miss the call of God on my life.

It’s an important question for each of us to ask.  And a question to keep asking over time.

There are daily strategies, cultural strategies, geographical strategies of the enemy set to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) us.  And there are also the personal strategies, brilliantly and mischievously crafted taking into account our stories, our woundedness, our most vulnerable and most “true” places in the hopes that we can be destroyed before we ever become whole, holy and unstoppable forces of good in a broken world.  Peter says that the enemy prowls like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. (1 Peter 5)  Peter implores us to “be alert” and Paul urges us to be aware of Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).

A big piece of the decade of the thirties is coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation for the enemy’s strategy for your life.

This week, ask yourself that question.  And I’d encourage you to share your comments with other men on this journey.

Daring Greatly

The False Self, our “elaborate fig leaf” as John eloquently names, is so close to “us” it is hard to identify it. It’s a mask that has become so normal, that we have worn for so long, we are able to draw little distinction between our true self and the “self” that we have become. That false self, since the fall of man, is most deeply rooted in shame and fear (Gen. 3).  Brene Brown’s research is the best I have seen. She has mined “data with a soul” for over a decade to expose the roots of shame and fear and offer some life-giving possibilities in walking out into true shame resilience and steps toward freedom.  When taking her research and teaching, and then adding to it the essential categories of spiritual warfare (1 Peter 5, Ephesians 6) and true inner healing available today through Jesus (Isaiah 61) it’s a revolutionary model of wholeness.

Below is a description from Amazon:

Researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown offers a powerful new vision that encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

2020

excavation-pic

 

Who will you be in 2020?  Yesterday I watched a youth video where that question was being presented to teenagers.  It struck me as a profound and inspiring question.  To measure life in a decade and wonder, dream about who you will be a decade from today.

That question seems to make more sense for teenagers.  The world is their oyster.  The options, the possibilities about what the next decade could look like for them seem limitless.

The thirties is distinctly different.  As one mentor put it,

“Somewhere in my late twenties and  early thirties  I found myself on a rollercoaster… it was all I could do to just hold on.” 

The demands are intense.  Time is the most precious commodity as we learn the hard way to juggle careers, marriage, and kids.  How the heck do you find time to ask those big questions when just getting the grass cut or setting up childcare for a date night with your wife feels like summiting Everest?

In the midst of the demands of the decade of the thirties comes another profound shift.  Not only are we in a sea of demands, but something of that decade of the twenties  – exploration and discovery – has turned a corner.

Our life matters to others.

Let that reality sink in for a moment.  The implications are staggering.

We look back and see that the decade of “exploration and discovery” for most men in their twenties takes a wild switchback turn as we find ourselves waist deep in responsibility and the constant demands to come through for everyone around us.

It sobering at times, intimidating at others.  Yet it is the beginning of the greatest treasure hunt of our lives.  Somewhere in that shift comes the gold.  It is in this crucible that our needs find their way to the surface.  It’s not always pretty (in fact it almost never is in my experience) but it sure is clear.  We need a Father like never before.  We need deep healing in our masculine soul.  We need to break agreements with lies that have shaped us since childhood.  We need set free from battles that are set to take us out.

We need God.

2020.  A decade from today.  Who do you hope to be?  One mentor said to me that

“our perspective on this next decade is one of the most profoundly shaping factors as to what the outcome will be.” 

In other words, what we believe, we will see.  What would it look like for you to roll the dice and take a big risk? To put all your cash on this – that the Father’s intention for this decade is to be one of building our character over building a kingdom.  That His fierce and loving intention is to take a decade to do serious excavation on the level of the soul.  To majorly dismantle that which is false in us.  And to establish what is true.  What would be at stake to risk spending a decade “under construction”?  While other men set out to build kingdoms, we choose to let “us” be built by God… restored… to become men with character, with integrity of heart.  Men that can be entrusted with God’s Kingdom and know how to walk in it, in strength, in courage, in love, on behalf of others.

Who do you want to be in 2020?

Make today a 2020 day.

(A note on the excavation picture.  I have this picture on my desk and have looked at it every day before I dive into my work for a few years now.   For a long time I resented it, as a metaphor about my life.  Now I welcome it.  There is much I’m clueless about as to what God is up to in my life.  But of this, I can be sure – he is after the deep excavation of the false in me and the restoration of what is true.  It feels at times like I’m moving backwards as I see “skyscrapers” being built on my left and right by peers giving their best energy to building kingdoms.  But I have seen too many causalities.  To many good men have been destroyed by their own power and their own kingdoms because they didn’t have the character to walk in the weight of God’s calling for their lives.)

Today

Well, it’s been a week since The Thirties Retreat.  How’s it going?  Fourth of July marked the second anniversary of the Snyders beginning to put our marriage back together after a big detour through Cherie’s illness.  Fourth of July holds deep meaning and hope in our household.  So, Saturday night, on the eve of this momentous occasion, we had the biggest fight of two years.  Both Cher and I feeling hurt, misunderstood, disrespected… just ugly.

So, an hour after that I’m sitting on my back porch, in a sea of suburbia, looking up into the stars holding onto an ice cold Icehouse and trying to connect with the Father, hoping that one of the two strategies would provide some life.  As I paused I could hear the accusations swirling… “You are such an a**hole.  Why would you try to sit down and work out the family budget with your wife on the eve of your anniversary?  What’s with the anger?  See, you did it again.  You are just full of sh*t.”  The list goes on.

And then I remembered… “Be present in this moment.  Be here with the Father. I bind a spirit of regret of the past, I bind a spirit of worry of tomorrow and forbid these twin thieves to steal the life that You Father are giving me today. I choose you. I remain in you.  I yield to you. I find my life in you.  Father, forgive me for my part in it, even that part I fully don’t understand in this moment.”