A Few, and Those Very Deeply

A young apprentice once asked Dallas Willard,

“What books do you recommend reading?”

Dallas, after a long pause (there is always a long pause with Dallas), responded,

“I recommend a few. And to read those very deeply.”

The refreshing counsel of a sage.

We are all immersed in a culture bombarding us with content. Some of it very good content.  Perhaps to truly nourish our souls, it is not only good content we need, but less of it, and that content to be ingested, savored, considered very slowly and deeply.

As an apprentice in the ways of God’s Kingdom, I am a voracious reader and learner. But I also sense one of my Kingdom assignments is to curate and distill soul-centered content from far and wide, from which the hungry few might feast and be strengthened.

Part of that process, I believe, is to regularly recommend a few of the books I’ve dived into, pondered, and been deeply challenged and nourished by.

Particularly in the summer season, I make it a regular spiritual practice to pause more, linger more in a good reading of great books. Here are several for your consideration:

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (unabridged)

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.”

At 1466 pages, contending with its length is not for the faint of heart. But this brilliant novel is worth its weight in gold, truly unparalleled. The transcendent narrative plunges into the depths of the human soul. To see evil and goodness warring for the souls of men; to glimpse the heart of a good king, of a good father; to watch redemption in the face of personal and unspeakable evil; to be reminded what God is really like—it could save our souls.

A few quotes:

“He did not study God. He was dazzled by Him.”

“In passing we might say success is a hideous thing. Its false similarity to merit deceives men. To the masses, success has almost the same appearance as supremacy. Success, that pretender to talent has a dupe—history.”

“Can human nature be so entirely transformed inside and out? Can man, created good by God, be made wicked by man? Can the soul be completely changed by its destiny, and turn evil when its fate is evil? Can the heart become distorted, contract deformities and incurable infirmities, under the pressure of disproportionate grief, like the spinal column under a low ceiling? Is there not in every human soul—was there not particularly in Jean Valjean’s soul—a primitive spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world and immortal in the next, which can be developed by goodness, kindles, lit up and made to radiate, and which evil can never entirely extinguish?”

“There are men who work for the extraction of gold; he worked for the extraction of pity. The misery of the universe was his mine. Grief everywhere was only an occasion for good always. Love one another. He declared that to be complete; he desired nothing more, and it was his whole doctrine.”


American Buffalo by Steven Rinella

“Steven Rinella won a lottery permit to hunt for a wild buffalo in the Alaskan wilderness. In a book that combines adventure with a quirky blend of facts and observations about history and the natural world, Rinella takes us across the continent—from the Bering Land Bridge, where scientists search for buffalo bones amid artifacts of the New World’s earliest human inhabitants, to buffalo jumps where Native Americans once ran animals over cliffs by the thousands. A captivating narrative of environmental and historical significance, Rinella’s tale is a fascinating examination of an animal that has haunted the American imagination for centuries.”

A few quotes:

“[We must be clear between when we are] being sold the illusion of something rather than the thing itself.”

“At once [the buffalo] is a symbol of the tenacity of wilderness and the destruction of wilderness; its a symbol of Native American culture and the death of Native American culture; its a symbol of the strength and vitality of America and the pettiness and greed of America; it represents a frontier both forgotten and remembered; it stands for freedom and captivity, extinction and salvation.”


Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Good Kings come in all shapes in sizes. The story of Jayber Crow is an intensely thought-provoking and enticing story that will challenge the soul of a man if he is willing to take the risk.

“Jayber Crow, born in Goforth, Kentucky, orphaned at age ten, began his search as a pre-ministerial student at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with Old Grit, his profound professor of New Testament Greek:


You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time.

And how long is that going to take?

I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.

That could be a long time.

I will tell you a further mystery, he said. It may take longer.

Eventually, after the flood of 1937, Jayber becomes the barber of the small community of Port William, Kentucky. From behind that barber chair he lives out the questions that drove him from seminary and begins to accept the gifts of community that enclose his answers. The chair gives him a perfect perch from which to listen, to talk, and to see, as life spends itself all around. In this novel full of remarkable characters, he tells his story that becomes the story of his town and its transcendent membership.”

A few quotes:

“As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think.”

“To love anything good, at any cost, is a bargain.”

“Faith is not necessarily, or not soon, a resting place. Faith puts you out on a wide river in a boat, in the fog, in the dark.”


Adam’s Return by Richard Rohr

Much has been written on masculinity. Yet few other resources have helped to shape me more and to help me identify the core essence of what God is inviting me to shepherd in the initiation of my son into manhood. The Father has used this book to allow hope to rise in seeing how I am being initiated alongside my son, both of us recovering lost treasures and becoming men who, like Paul, can one day say with confidence, “Now that I have been through my initiation, I am ready for anything, anywhere.”

A few quotes:

“In the larger-than-life people I have met, I always find one common denominator; in some sense, they have all died before they have 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, their small life, and came out the other side knowing that death could no longer hurt them.”

“For some reason young bull elephants were acting strangely out of character—antisocial and aimlessly violent; they were stomping on VWs, pushing over trees for no reason, and even killing other small animals and baby elephants. Park rangers came in to study the problem and, in the course of their investigation, they discovered that there were no older bull elephants in that area…They brought in some older bull elephants…Things soon turned to normal once the elders started operating as elders.”


The Native Americans An Illustrated History

It has been said that one of the most effective ways to prepare for the future is to become a student of the past. Did you know there were over 2000 languages spoken in America before a white person ever entered the land?

“Dispossessed of their ancestral homelands by successive invasions of Europeans, the first real Americans have long been cloaked in a veil of myth and legend that has hidden from us the true richness and diversity of Indian civilizations and cultures. This newly unfolding legacy represents an unparalleled body of untapped wisdom, which even now provides fresh perspective on modern problems. The astonishing reality of Indian history, presented here for the first time from the perspective of native Americans, will deepen our understanding of what it really means to be an American.”  

Presented in this great work from the perspective of the native American, it contains a vast treasure chest of insight which serves to shape, mature and integrate the masculine soul.

“[Spirituality] pervaded all of life and provided a sense of context. Everything in the world had its spiritual component and every action had to be accompanied by proper ritual. It was not enough to accept a new plant or artifact; one had to know the exact ritual that applied to its special characteristics in order to be able to use it effectively… The ritually established connections of crops to the larger cosmos of seasonal cycles changed their way of life, but it was a [spiritual] rather than agricultural development.”


Essentialism by Greg McKeown

“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not  a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter…

Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to do less, but better, and declutter and organize their own their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.

A few quotes:

“Basic value proposition of Essentialism – Only when you give yourself permission to stop doing it all, stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter.”

“The way of the essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better.”

 


 

Enjoy…

For earlier recommendations go to the Books section in Dig Deeper

 

 

She Has My Delight

It all started with one shimmering pair of pink cowgirl boots.

My then two-year-old princess, clothed in her leotard, would tug them on with a grin, then twirl with delight. And melt this daddy-heart of mine.

A tradition began, inspired by a row of cowgirl boots I’d seen in the home of a mentor years before. Each Valentine’s Day, my Abigail and I now head out on a date for her to select a new pair of cowgirl boots for the year. This last trip, I shared with her my request that when the day comes for her to leave our nest, she is welcome to take with her all the pairs that still fit. But the ones she has outgrown—those she’ll leave for me so that I might savor the years long passed, treasuring our memories of daddy and daughter in my heart. To relish with both ache and longing the reminder C.S. Lewis offers to us parents:

“Children are not a distraction from work. They are the most important work.”

Today there are already more outgrown cowgirl boots on the shelf than my heart can readily bear.

As a wise elder once said,

The days are long, but the years are short.

Never has a truer word been spoken.

It’s been said we only become the fathers we long to be by fathering. In the wise words of Dan Allender, it’s children, after all, who raise parents.

I’m not yet the father I long to be. But I am the father she has today. And I choose to be here.

On this day, I still have her. She is nearly 10, and radiant. Brimming with life, beauty, wonder, questions, and emerging shoots of wisdom set to burst forth.

Several months ago, Abigail confided in Cherie that she wanted a “promise ring.” We are still not sure whence the inspiration came to her. Though I too had a ring in mind, my original intention was for this day to wait a few years. But I have learned too slowly,

“Many are the plans in the heart of a man. But is is the purposes of God that prevail.” Proverbs 19:21

To be a student of her heart is one of the great invitations and sacred trusts of my life, and the life of every dad.

Her heart is now asking deeper questions, wondering deeper things about the heart of her dad and the heart of her Father in Heaven. So this day has come upon me. And I choose again to roll the dice of parenting and venture along the frontier of mystery and risk. Perhaps, in the words of Roosevelt, I may fail as I often do—but at least I will fail by daring greatly.

Father, come.

What is the promise this ring is intended by Heaven to signify? I have heard of girls who are given a “purity ring” when they come of age. A ring that seems to carry a sense of their pledge to keep themselves sexually pure until they are married.

But that is not the ring I have in mind for Abigail.

The ring that I want to bestow upon her is not an effort to make her promise something to me. Rather, I want to give her a ring that would communicate my promise to her. What am I promising? After prayer and inquiring of my wife’s wisdom born of the decades, I sensed this was my promise:

I choose to never, ever revoke my delight in her.

No matter what. I will not conditionally wield my delight in an effort to conform her choices to my will. No, I offer her my delight and extend to her a sacred place in my heart without condition. I promise that my favor and delight will always be hers.

The day came for me to present this ring to her. And as I looked into her not-yet-10-year-old eyes, I glimpsed a flash of future moments reflecting back to me. I felt warm tears on my face. Then, with the rush of whitewater rapids, the scenes cascaded through my imagination:

The first was her driving away in a car with a young man I barely knew, heading off to a school dance.

The next was an aisle at a wedding. Her wedding…and an aisle the end of which I never wanted to come.

Then I saw her at my bedside. I was an old man. She was radiant, the splendor of her maturity altogether lovely, offering me care beyond words.

I was nearly overwhelmed by the emotion of these unexpected glimpses around the bend of time. I did everything to come back to the present moment. Storing these up as treasures in my heart, I endeavored to simply offer the portion that was for this moment on this day.

Abigail, this ring is the symbol of my promise and devotion.

You are the delight of my heart,

and I promise that I will never withdraw my delight from you.

Nothing you do or don’t do,

nothing you say or don’t say

will ever justify me withdrawing my delight from you

or closing my heart to you.

With this ring, I give you the promise of my delight.

You are the delight of your father’s heart.

And with this ring, I give you permission and invitation.

I invite you to tell me if you ever experience me withdrawing my delight.

I promise to listen to you and to respond.

It is my hope that God will one day provide a husband for you who will nourish and cultivate your feminine heart in all its depth and wonder.

Yet today this is my promise:

With my sword and my strength,

I am with you to the very end.

I will always protect and always provide.

You are safe.

You are loved.

You are known.

And you will never be alone.

You are the delight of your daddy’s heart.

Though my flesh and my heart at times will fail,

Our Father will always be the strength of our hearts and our portion forever.

May this ring be to you a symbol of my enduring delight and the place you have in my heart that is yours and yours alone.

And with it, I pledge to always point you to our Father, who is the Father of us all.

May you experience Him chasing after you.

He has you, Abigail.

Your soul will always be safe in Him.

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Hours later, I came into the house from a project in the garage to find her at her art table, creating another piece of beauty. I caught a sparkle from her ring in the afternoon light. Its shimmer compelled me upstairs to her childhood room to look at her collection of outgrown boots yet again.

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I felt the paradox of grief of years lost and the hope of what time I do have. I consecrated my life to God again, quietly and simply, as a daddy. And I asked Him to lead me, as if He were me, living my life. Asked His life to flow into me and through me to my daughter’s heart.

On this day and in this decade, I ask you, Father, would you guide me in bringing Your heart as Father to the heart of my little girl?

Father, I confess how often I blow it as a dad.  Father, I ask that where I lack maturity I might excel in affection and pursuit of her heart. I am deeply in need of growing as a student of her heart. Cultivate in me an increasing capacity to see her as You see her, to delight in her. Father, apprentice me to become the kind of father who is no longer capable of withdrawing my delight.

So that she might receive time and time again the miracle of validation—the gift of being known and received for who she truly is.

So that through me she might know You as Father, and in every circumstance, find rest and restoration for her vast and ever-expanding feminine soul.

Through my pursuit and my delight, by day and by decade, may her heart grow to know,

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring to a flourishing finish on the very day God appears again in his fullness…” (Philippians 1:6 MSG)

Abigail, may you and every daughter be able to say, from the depths of your being, far deeper than words,

I am the daughter of a King.

My Father is with me

And goes before me.

I will not fear.

Because

I am His.

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We are not yet who we will one day become. Yet we are the fathers they have today.

What will you do to communicate, to model your unconditional delight in your daughter?

What will you do to become the kind of father in a decade who offers even deeper delight to your daughter?


Justin – A special thanks to you for making these pictures possible. You capture soul with your camera and work in the unseen spaces in the lives of so many to bring light into darkness and to give voice to the sacred in all things. Thanks for your strength. It’s changing the world…

A Celebration of Boyhood

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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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…

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (video)

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.

Chasing Wild – Long Form

Since the inception of this blog over six years ago, my deep and sincere hope has been to strengthen the hearts and souls of men who are choosing the long, costly, and thrilling road of internal transformation to become the kind of kings to whom God can entrust His Kingdom.  

I’ve experimented with form and content with a three-fold intent: first, to offer worthwhile ideas and stories as invitations to explore the deeper realities of God and His Kingdom; second, to give myself permission to explore where my strength is; and finally, to uncover through experimentation what is actually helpful to you, my like-hearted allies fighting courageously on various fronts of the battle.

I’ve been working on a piece titled Chasing Wild I think you will enjoy. I released Part I some time ago with the intent of making it available in a series of several blogs. However, several iterations later, it’s evident that it has become a long-form piece whose content doesn’t fit well in a blog. Rather than forcing the proverbial round peg into a square hole, I’ve chosen to release it as a single long-form piece.

Simply put, the content doesn’t fit on a digital device. If you feel led, I invite you to print off this PDF and tuck it away in your journal. When you choose some time away from the distractions of the plugged-in world to nourish your masculine soul, my hope is that Chasing Wild could be a means of God’s heart and His Kingdom strengthening you and beckoning you further down the narrow road.

Chasing Wild – Long Form

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