Access

The moonlight cascading into our bedroom oriented me to the fact that it was the middle of the night. I was roused out of a deep sleep to find my 10-year-old son at our bedside.

“Dad, will you pray for me? I’m not doing well.”

A pulse of adrenaline shot through my body and increased my alertness. Our little Abigail is quite susceptible to night terrors, but our bear cub, Joshua, typically sleeps like a rock.

As we made our way into his bunk bed, I could see he was shaken up and given over to fear. Before we could talk, I began to pray, commanding the authority of Jesus once again over his bedroom, his body, soul, and spirit. We brought the Kingdom of God afresh into his heart and mind and ordered warring angels to set a perimeter around his room. Only after that was I able to ask the all-important question: “Joshua, what’s going on?”

He proceeded to tell me he’d had a dream that he was at a birthday party. They were forced to do drugs. And the police came and made them run down the street as a test to see if they were using drugs. And when he went to run, he was too slow so they arrested him.

I was caught off guard.  Police?! Drugs?! Where is this coming from?!?!

While leading them on the path of maturing, we’ve worked diligently to preserve childhood and protect the innocence of our kids as deeply as possible. I wasn’t ready for this.

Instead of reacting (which I do far too often), I sensed we needed God’s interpretation on all of this rather than my feeble attempts.

“Holy Spirit, we need your interpretation. What is this about?”

After a linger pause Joshua said, “Dad, it’s about gym class.”

“Tell me more, son.”

“We ran the mile at school yesterday. I was almost the slowest in class. I got beat by most of the girls. I had to walk part of the way. I feel really sad. I feel shame.”

“Son, what is the enemy trying to whisper in your ear through this dream?”

“I am slow and I am weak.”

Of course.

My son has been bestowed with many great and powerful gifts. But sheer speed over distance at this point isn’t one of them. He’s built like a lineman, towering over most kids in his grade. They call him the “man of the classroom,” as he comes through for his teacher in many ways; he even stands an inch taller than his teacher. But the timed mile isn’t where he’s at his best. And the enemy found an entry point to bring his case against the image of God in my son.

Had I simply reacted out of my own concerns and not asked God, I would’ve missed this entirely. This had nothing to do with drugs or police. It was merely a context for the accusation of the enemy against my son’s strength and his identity as a growing boy.

I find a great temptation to race into these moments with encouragement and affirmation. While those have their purpose and place, I’m learning that a boy needs more than inspiration. He needs the power and the presence of the Kingdom of God at work on his behalf.

He needs access.

Joshua and Power Tools

Thanks to being a student of older wiser men for years, we’ve done our best to model for our kids how to pray against the enemy’s schemes and to bring the Kingdom of God. But over this past year, Joshua has officially made his transition into a new decade of life: Manscouts—the Father’s quest to lead him from boyhood to manhood.

And with this has come a critical shift in our prayer.

It’s his turn.

“Joshua, let’s ask God to reveal the agreements with lies the enemy is trying to get you to make.”

“You are a good Father. We are your sons. We trust you love us. So, Holy Spirit, reveal to Joshua the agreements the enemy is after.”

A wonder pause ensued, and then a remarkably natural response:

“Dad, I am weak, and I am slow.”

“Okay, now it’s time to break those agreements, son. I’ll start you through it, but this time, I want YOU to pray it, own it, for yourself.”

“Father, I break the agreement that I am weak.
I break the agreement that I am slow.
These are lies from the enemy. They are not true.
I reject these lies in the authority of Jesus. I agree with the truth. I invite you into my heart in these places.
I receive your life, your healing, and your love. Amen.”

His countenance began to change right before my eyes.

Peace and joy and strength was flowing back into his body and soul like a swelling tide.

“Joshua, I think the Father has some words for you, some truth He might want to speak directly into this place. Let’s pause together and listen. Father, what is it you want to say to your son in this place?”

Joshua turned to me with confidence beyond his years and shared with what He sensed the Father was speaking to his heart:

Be strong.
Reject fear.
Choose life.

I was blown away.

You see, these are precarious waters for me to enter. This parenting thing is all frontier. Most of the time I feel way out on a limb. And I grew up with my own monumental struggle with my body. As a young boy, I was significantly overweight. And shame filled my heart and fueled a 30-year battle with self-hatred. I too was the slow kid in gym class. Catcher in baseball, goalie in soccer, bench in basketball.  The only rational place for a kid my size.  My most defining childhood wound came at the hands of a cruel gym teacher. The internal geography of much of my childhood was defined by fear and shame, particularly in this place of struggle over my body and my physical weakness. The accusations of the enemy against me, the agreements I made, and the vows born out of those agreements shaped most decisions I made for decades.

My battle with this agreement lasted over 30 years.

The same battle for my son lasted ten minutes!

You see, our kids will one day outgrow their need for us as parents in very practical ways. But they will never outgrow their need for God.

There comes a transition we must make in shepherding their hearts that moves from modeling Kingdom living to providing them access to the full resources of God’s heart and His Kingdom for themselves.

Joshua bounded out of bed the next morning with a newfound confidence. The Spirit led me to write the words He had spoken to Joshua on a sticky note under his top bunk bed so they’d be the last thing he saw every night going to bed and the first thing that greeted him when he rose. I tucked a copy of them in his lunch box to remind him as he headed off for whatever adventure and battle might be waiting for him at school.

BeStrongRejectFearChooseLife

A few months later came another attempt at “the mile” at school. Joshua had put words to his desires for this next test: his goal was to not walk at all and to break the 10-minute mark with his time. With his desire and initiative leading us, we set to training. For two months, I watched the sheer courage of this big bear cub lumbering around our street side by side with mom, sister, and me. It was clear that his courage and perseverance to move directly into his greatest fear was being fueled by the love and intervention of our Father. I reflected on the contrast to myself at his age: I threw myself into fitness too at that age, but from an altogether opposing motive. The agreement “I am weak” drove me to anorexia and compulsive running. I watched in awe as my son was compelled by wholeness instead of shame.

The day finally came. I was completely distracted at work as I kept praying and praying for him with hopes that God would tend to his ever impressionable young heart. I asked my closest peers to stand with me in prayer against Joshua’s enemies and to fight for this budding Kingdom strength being formed in his heart.

I raced home after work to ask the risky question. “Son, how’d it go?”

He smiled ear to ear and raised his arm to show me big numbers the gym teacher had written on his arm in Sharpie. “Dad, I ran the whole thing!”

He stood there, looking 10 feet tall, proudly showing me his time he had written on his arm.

9:26

Mile Time

The gym teacher had tracked Cherie down after school that afternoon and told her Joshua was an inspiration and a joy. She had tears in her eyes at how inspired she was to see his character being formed and his determination to do the best he could.

Parenting is beyond human wisdom. I feel like I fly it into the side of a mountain far too often. We need to be parented as much as our children do. God is making Himself available to Father us and Mother us in places deep within our hearts and souls that need an upgrade of what He is truly like and who we are to Him.

The enemy has tried to mask these resources available to us all from a Mother and Father in Heaven who is available and deeply vested in the maturing of our hearts and the integration of our souls more and more with every passing day.

The Sacred Scriptures say in Isaiah that, as we receive mothering by God, the effect will be that we will burst with joy and feel 10 feet tall (Isaiah 66, The Message).

I saw it in my son. And I want more.
For him.
For me.
For you.
For your children.

The greatest treasure we can ever give our kids is their own personal access to God’s heart and God’s Kingdom.

Ask the Father to lead you from modeling the Kingdom to giving them access.

It’s their turn.

They will soon stand on our shoulders.

“And all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” –Julian of Norwich

End Notes


Some related parenting posts:

Impossible Possible

Be There

The Question Every Daughter is Asking

Conservation of Energy

Kingdom Carpool – More Than a Minivan

Cultivating a Culture of Questions

Best Books for Boys

Looking for some Life filled leadership on parenting?  Check out these resources:

Fighting for hearts

 

 

 

013: Quick [podcast]

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“Deep calls unto deep…” the Scriptures suggest (Psalm 42:7).

There is in every moment of every day an accessible onramp to the narrow road that leads to Life.

Often the onramp is hidden in the ache and longing to ever more wholly experience life as a son.  And when we pause and let this ache rise, we begin to sense the voice of our Father: His deepest provision tirelessly, freely, joyfully calling unto our deepest need.

In Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton suggests it this way:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Could it be that our Father is “younger than we”?

Could it be that, eternally unwearied, He turns toward you and me, setting his gaze exultantly upon our hearts as sons, and offers us again and again a way to real and lasting life?

First offered at the Become Good Soil Intensive, this is perhaps the most important message I have had entrusted to my care.

With joy, hope, and deep anticipation, I invite you to savor it and to risk opening your masculine heart to the more the Father is making available to you today.


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What Story Do You Want?

I don’t know when it all went sideways.

All I could see in my rifle scope was a continuous blur of brown fur. The charged voice of the older man driving the truck rang out, “Shoot your gun! Shoot your gun!”

I don’t even remember pulling the trigger; what comes next in my memory is a fiery explosion—the muzzle blast from my .30-06 Ruger rifle.

“You cannot ever call a bullet back once it has been fired.” In the first moment after the shot, these blistering words from my hunter education teacher flared red-hot within me.

It was the first armed big-game hunt of my life. For a few years prior, I had tagged along with some older men on their hunts, bringing neither weapon nor hunting license, just a willingness to help and an eagerness to learn a world that both intrigued and intimidated me. Now I had both hunting license and weapon and was eager to be initiated as a hunter and—even more—as a man. I didn’t grow up with camo or guns, chaps or spurs. Collared shirts and golf clubs were the norm in my suburban life.  This was all frontier.

In the murky predawn haze of opening day of Colorado’s rifle season, I found myself in the front seat of an old truck, shouldering a rifle, bouncing along over the glow of headlights on an old, two-track forest service road. As the sun broke over the ridge, we rounded a corner into a meadow, suddenly catching a herd of thirty-plus elk bursting from the dark and shadowed forest to our west and dashing madly in front of our truck.

I had no idea what to do.

Any experienced hunter would know you always keep your scope on the lowest power setting to maximize your field of view until you are in a specific hunting situation that calls for more zoom; I didn’t have a clue. I had set my scope at full magnification, figuring I could use all the help I could get.

The urgent insisting of the older man driving the truck called me out of my frozen stupor: “Get out of the truck. Use the window as a rest. Shoot your gun! Shoot your gun!” As the elk careened across the road, all I could see was a frenetic kaleidoscope of early dawn chaos.

Then came that muzzle blast as I fired indiscriminately at the streak of living fur. The stampede descended into dark timber to our east, and it quickly became ominously quiet. I was left momentarily alone in the world with only my conscience and the smell of gunpowder. We began tracking through thick cover, finding trace blood spots less and less frequently. Minutes turned to hours, and soon we came to the end of a diminishing blood trail with no elk to be found.

I felt shame, humiliation, and rage—all turned inward. What I would have given to call that bullet back. It remains one of the great regrets of my life. Yet that erratically fired bullet blazed a path through my conscience and inflicted a wound of desire that eventually found its salve. Looking back, it was that day I was baptized as a bowhunter and given five priceless words from God that have shaped every hunting decision I have made since:

What story do you want?

That crisp October morning taught me that I didn’t want stories clotted with compromised ethics and marginal situations. More than hunting an animal, I longed to hunt for a story that honored fair chase, intimacy with animals and habitat, and a mode of hunting that esteemed ethics, ecosystem, camaraderie, mastery honed over time, and, above all else, beauty.

From that day forward, I sought out, almost ravenously, a better story in the wilderness. Over the years, through trial and error, I aligned myself with men I found trustworthy to father me more into the desire deep within. Men who are “no compromise” when it comes to the ethics of fair chase. Men who are far less interested in a trophy on the wall or even meat in the freezer than they are an opportunity to adventure, grow, and be swept up into a bigger, better story.

As E. Donnall Thomas suggests in Longbows in the Far North,

The central step in becoming a bowhunter is the conscious decision to limit one’s means of take in the field. Once this decision is made, it is clear that most hunts will end without anything being taken in the conventional sense.

It’s been said that archery hunting is to rifle hunting as fly fishing is to bait fishing—far more art than science, a commitment to a metric that measures the success of a hunt supremely upon the quality of the story in the field. Most of the stories are about close encounters and “the one that got away.” I hunted diligently with my bow for nearly a decade before I successfully arrowed my first bull elk. But where I have lacked in excessive trophies on a wall, I have in glorious abundance stories of intimate encounters with wild animals in their place, on their terms.

I’ve heard the sound of a panting bull elk in the rut and smelled the pungent scent lingering on their fresh beds in north-facing dark-timbered slopes. I know what it is to have spent all my physical strength and yet feel my soul utterly full. I’ve been left many a time feeling, in the best sense, small in the presence of something great—some vastness in this creation brimming with life that reaches into time far more ancient than my birth and with far more length into the future than my passing.

It was over a decade after that first botched shot at an elk that I found myself deep in the remote wilderness of the Yukon with my bow at full draw, sixteen yards from a magnificent bull moose. With my sight-pin placed tightly on his vitals, it was clear that a branch was in the way, compromising the shooting lane. If the branch deflected the arrow even slightly, what would have been a lethal shot could result instead in mere injury. It’s a shot I am no longer willing to take.

As I remained at full draw, the moose thundered deep into the forest, taking with him meat and trophy and all that could have been. I was left in the quiet with a story I will never forget. A story that has been told around a few campfires, a story that will be told around many more. There is no trophy on the wall or meat in the freezer from that giant bull moose. But through that experience and choice for a better story, a different kind of man is being formed inside of me. Teddy Roosevelt was right: It is not only the thrill of victory but also the agony of defeat that truly makes us men.

And that is a trophy for a lifetime.


Endnotes:

Interested in checking out the world of bow hunting? Here’s a handful of ways to go deeper:

  • Read Wild and Free – A Conservation Ethic
  • Google “Archery Range” and “Archery Store” in your area. You’ll be surprise what you find. Talk to the men you meet there and with humility and courage, ask a lot of questions.  My journey into hunting began with walking into the local archery shop and saying, “I know nothing about hunting, but I’m willing to work really hard and I’m a good student.”  The pro turned to me and said, “It starts with this: Keep the wind on your face, the sun on the back, and every time you are in the wilderness, be sure you are having fun.”  That counsel has proven true and rich through the test of time and it has carried me over countless mountain ranges and into nearly two decades of adventure in the field.
  • Subscribe for a year to Eastman’s Bowhunting Journal. One of the best ways to learn is to listen to the stories of other men.
  • Pick up a copy of Longbows in the Far North and become a student of E. Donnall Thomas, Jr.
  • Watch this video featuring a bow hunting story to be proud of.
  • Most importantly, get out. Pick a piece of country that’s accessible to you and is home to some big game animal like deer or elk. Take a day or more, and get in the field. Act like a hunter and not a hiker. Be outside for a sunrise and a sunset. Borrow binoculars from someone. Do everything you can, without a weapon in hand, to find an animal and set up a spot, stalk, and ambush. You will never be the same.
  • Explore some of my top recommendations of reads for the student of chase:

012: Your New Name [podcast]

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C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, once said this,

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.

Every time we encounter the Living God in a deeper way, we are given another glimpse into the reality of who we are uniquely to Him and who He is uniquely to us. For each of us is invited to call upon Him personally as the The One Who Names Me.

George MacDonald, in An Anthology, says it this way,

The giving of the white stone with the new name is the communication of what God thinks about the man to the man… (Rev. 2:17) The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the meaning of the person who  bears it. It is  the man’s own symbol—his soul’s picture, in a word—the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own  name? God alone.

This podcast is drawn from a session on The New Name that I offered at a recent Wild at Heart Boot Camp.  I pray that it will strengthen you in your inner man as you come to know and believe more deeply who you truly are to God.

Click here to find more resources associated with this teaching…

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Quick

Quick.

There may be other words in the Scriptures that are more significant to receive.  But in twenty years of searching, I haven’t found them.

This word found me in a moment when I was ragged and pining for death.

It would’ve been shame enough if it was my own bank account I had squandered on follies I don’t even remember.  But I blew the whole thing, everything coming to me from my father’s estate, half of everything he’d inherited himself and worked a lifetime to multiply.

I cashed it in when I had my chance, setting out to make life work on my own terms,  leaving my father behind to be the laughingstock of our community.

And all I had to show for it was a tattoo, an empty stomach, and a shattered heart.

It was early morning on the day everything changed.

The crisp frost of autumn glistened on the wooden posts in the still morning air.  My body ached with cold from head to toe under the threadbare wool tunic I had used again for a blanket. I lifted my head from the dung-filled thatch that had become my bed and looked at the pigs surrounding me, rooting aimlessly without care or concern through yesterday’s scraps.

“What have I done?”  I thought.

But it went deeper.

“Who have I become?”

Shame, grief, and sorrow washed over me as my consciousness slowly awakened with the breaking of a new day. The stench of death enveloped me even as a stain of light began to spread across the horizon.

I wanted to die: it was my only way out of this pain.

The words trickled into my mind like the seep from the broken well.

Tired.

Alone.

Broken.

Empty.

Ashamed.

In need.

Suddenly the dawn broke free and a spill of fresh light caused the frost on the heaps of dung to shimmer in a way that could only be described as beautiful. I pressed my hands into the cold earth and shimmied over to the splintered wall of the sty. I rubbed my fingers together, blowing warm breath over cracked skin.

My thoughts drifted to my father’s hired hands; it had been a long time since I had thought of them or anything from my former life.

In the cold of the morning I thought of their warm bunkhouse.

In the stench of the pen I thought of the meals they would enjoy today.  So different from sifting for a shred of nourishment through these scraps that I could wrestle from insistent snouts.

There was a flickering of  light within me that I hadn’t felt in years. Something in my heart began to rise.

“Father’s hired hands live better than I.  What if I go back?  What if I plead for mercy?  I’ll ask if I could become a servant, a slave even. At least I’d be warm. It’s my only hope.”

While the walk through rugged country was a full day’s journey, I can recall little from those hours.  I had deadened most of my senses, and my heart had learned to want for little and look for even less.  But what I do remember until this very day was the glow of light behind him when I crested that rise.

And his silhouette.

The light from the cabin was so warm, so inviting. And the silhouette… It was unmistakable. I knew the stature of those broad shoulders anywhere.  It was him.

What would I say?  It had been years since I left with my half of everything.  Many moons since I turned my back on him and this story.

It all happened so fast.

What I remember first is that one word. It reached into my heart like a fiery coal.  It pierced my deepest places. I’ve never been the same since.

QUICK!

It echoed through the box canyon that had sheltered my family for generations.  The reverberation against the cliff walls caused it to sink deeper and deeper into my soul.  He shouted back over his shoulder as he ran, calling for the fattened calf to be slaughtered and a feast to be prepared.

The next moments were a blur.  I hadn’t seen my dad run for nearly two decades.  He was well advanced in years and much of his strength had long since left him.  Our land is unforgiving; its harshness has a way of taking the best strength from a man. And grief as well had drained his vigor: the grief of a son wishing he were dead.

But he ran.  With wild abandon.  His sandaled feet flailed. His wild hair was longer than I remembered. The glow from behind him set it alight like a shimmering mane.  His robe sailed on wind.

He was strong, alive, and running.

Right, at, me…

I remember those arms, that smell, those tears.

And more than anything…his laughter.

All my words left me.  My confusion was replaced with something I can only call home.

He pulled me up as if I also were young again.  Still to this day I can’t explain how. But He did… like a man in the full strength of his youth, neither tired nor weary.

He held me and laughed.

The laughter and the tears washed me clean in a way I had never known possible.

QUICK!

He called back to the cabin.

“Find my tambourine!  Prepare a feast!  My son has come home!”

It was the way he said “son” that finally broke open a vault of fear and shame at the core of my being.

It had been years since someone called me son.

And never before had I felt the safety and the wealth laden in this name, in my name.

“I am still a son?”  I never imagined that possibility.

Not after what I had done.

Where I’d gone.

Who I’d become.

But the word “quick” still hung on the canyon walls, shattering every possible doubt.

Words began tumbling out of my mouth.  I’m embarrassed to think of them now.  Looking back, they were the last vestiges of shame bumbling out as desperation.  I was asking him if he’d take me back as his servant.  After what I’d done and who I’d become, even to ask for this mercy felt preposterous.

I watched his face.  I won’t ever forget those eyes.

Piercing blue. They were endless oceans. Bottomless seas.  Brilliant, safe.  They were the answer to the questions so deep inside me I didn’t even know to ask.

His words were few.  His laughter and tears are what I remember…

He set me down and then hastily stooped to the red, dry earth. I thought he was finally showing the reality of his years and collapsing from exertion.  And then I realized that he was taking off his sandals. Before I could understand, he was putting them on my tired and bloody feet.

Bewilderment and awe seized me.

Before my mind could make sense of it all, I felt his strong and weathered hands holding mine.  I felt warm metal as he slid his signet ring on my finger.  His smell was intoxicating as he put his robe on my shoulders.

His laughter and tears haunt me to this day.

Haunt me every day.

Never before and never since have I received and witnessed something so raw and so real.

He yelled with the strength of an exultant warrior and the joy of a heart made whole again.  I don’t know if it was the glow of the countless stars on that moonlit night or his words that seemed to light up the box canyon in way that I hadn’t ever seen before or since in our land:

“My son was lost!

And he is found!

My son was dead!

He’s alive!

He’s alive!

He’s alive!”

That was years ago.  But my heart remembers like it was yesterday. And there isn’t a sunrise that I don’t find myself stretching my memory back to that canyon to watch my dad run toward me again.

Running wild, young, and free.

I was dead.  And I came back to life that day.  In those arms and through those tears.

I became my father’s son.

I came home.

And everything changed.

Everything.


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Endnotes:

If God is pursuing you as Father through this, I would encourage you to get this song, Good Good Father.  Listen to it on repeat several times, and receive.  Let it soak in. Feel the Father coming for you. Receive His love in deeper places than you ever have before.

Lins, thank you for the stunning photo from your farm you graciously shared with me for this blog which captures the heart of the Father.  Chesterton was right, every sunrise does speak of His resurrection.  Thank you for believing and bringing this sunrise to us…

011: Live in the Day and Measure in the Decade [podcast]

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LiveInTheDay-01

It is rare that we pause and pull back far enough from our daily life to observe and wonder about the who we have and have not yet become.  At Ransomed Heart we produce a weekly podcast, and Craig and Allen recently invited me into the studio to reflect on how we’ve each changed over the last decade.  It was the first of a series of rich conversations that led us into some core ideas, hopes, and desires that have come to shape us as we pursue lives ever more true and ever more deeply lived in God and His Kingdom.

We wanted to make that episode of the Ransomed Heart podcast available to you.

We strongly encourage you to check out the Ransomed Heart Podcast. You can find that and more through the Ransomed Heart App.

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