Cultivating a Love Language [Video]

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion. Let this become the most important thing in your life.

Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child


When we excavate our layers of defenses, we find a longing for more. C. S. Lewis put words to this deep longing in The Weight of Glory:

“In speaking of this desire…I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both…The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

To be fully known and fully loved is perhaps the deepest desire of the human heart. What if so many of the conscious and unconscious choices we make throughout a day are shaped toward its fulfillment, and our gladness or despair the fruit of how it is all playing out?

Is there a different way forward, a path to a reliable Source of being known and being loved? What if our deepest need could be met by the One whose great gladness is to know us and engage with us in every moment of our lives?

Friends, I invite you to pause. To be still, to be seen, and to receive a glimpse into the promise that we are indeed each God’s favorite.

You are.

Enjoy this video from a recent teaching I offered.

For the Kingdom,
Morgan

Context Is Everything

It is the pungent aroma of elk that catches me first, a musk unlike any other in the wild. And it is intoxicating to a bowhunter. The prehistoric smell is a sure sign of close proximity to these giant ghosts of the forest.

As least it should be.

But at this moment, I’m not confident about much of anything in this land. It has been more than a year since I’ve been overnight in wilderness (painful confession), and my mind, heart, and body are rusty, stumbling to find their way. Thankfully, some file deep in the archives of my soul kicks in, and I am able to enter into the thrill of chasing wild for Colorado’s opening of archery season.

I am fully immersed in the rare experience of days without a single spoken word. No human interactions. No fences. No technology (with the exception of an emergency location device should all go sideways). No luxuries, unless you count the toothbrush (minus the handle I sawed off to conserve weight) or the micro flask of Fireball (a longstanding element of backcountry liturgy that joy alone insists upon). For three days, I immerse myself in a choice parcel of Colorado wilderness that stretches over more than 100,000 acres: cascading alpine meadows; rugged rock escarpments; ancient, towering aspen stands; and scores of wild animals that rarely encounter the presence of humans. In the brilliant words of Dan Flores, it is a sensual feast of the minimal.

I confess I find myself on edge as I fumble mentally to select a reliable camp site. I am clumsy with my tent’s guide wires as I work to brace for a potential storm like the one that destroyed my first backcountry tent many years ago. The awareness of three fresh piles of bear scat within a stone’s throw of this spot keeps me more punchy than I’d like to admit.

The first night I lie awake for hours as the light of a full moon holds time in a perpetual twilight. I must finally doze off, because I’m awakened in the dead of night by a magnificent bull elk sounding off with bugles somewhere close enough for me to feel his guttural chuckle shake the earth. Making his bravado known in every fold of the landscape, he calls out to potential mates and challengers alike.

In the predawn hours of opening day, my steps are heavier, noisier, and more awkward than in years past. I feel untested; I have grown softer than I realized from living in a more manicured world than my soul is meant to live in. As I begin to formulate my strategy, it is clear that once again, the advantage goes to the elk and not to me with bow and arrow.

Sweat builds as I work my way across a rugged rock face, hoping to gain the ridge before break of day. As I exert my body, I can feel my soul steadily detox from a plugged-in and instant world. I laugh out loud at the contrast between my life and the simple, rhythmic life cycle of bull elk. When I eventually gain the ridge, I take in the nearly endless expanse of wilderness below and the September thunderheads amassing above.

And I am reminded of this simple reality:

I am utterly dependent.

Through the unknown expanse of this place, the starkness of my dependency leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable. I consider my dependence on the water I filtered from the creek, my dependence on a flimsy one-man tent at risk of deadfall and underated for late-summer hail storms, my dependence on my minimal food rations, on weather, on survival gear, and on meticulously packed first aid materials.

But it’s more: I am dependent on God. And it is this revelation that causes part of me to recoil.

A wise mentor in the ways of the ancient path often says to me, “Context is everything.”

I think of the past several weeks and how I experienced the truth of this:

  • It was the context of a broken air compressor belt on my truck that created the necessary initiation I needed into deeper agency and fierce mastery in my domain.
  • It was the context of a date with my daughter this week that taught me that, at her age of 11, it’s still more fruitful to be playful and curious about her world than to try to dive deep into the Scriptures.
  • It was choosing the context with my kids of chasing wild in Wyoming that allowed them to step out of their insulated world and experience dependency on food, water, shelter, and God, in the moment-by-moment but also in unexpected challenges like getting stuck in the mud 21 miles from civilization.

And it is in this context of wilderness that I wake up to the truth of my ultimate situation: I am utterly dependence on a Source beyond myself.

Confession: I live the majority of my days within the comfort and convenience of modern life, and dangerously within the illusion of independence and self-sufficiency. And in this context of wilderness, I feel like I am back in confession in the truest sense of the word: each step into this expansive unknown exposes me and requires me to admit to the truth of utter dependency.

I, like many modern men, have been steadily distanced from many important things that were intended to form and forge my masculine soul. Yet as I have watched the wise men who have gone before me choose, I am reminded that I too can create context—trading the insulation of my daily life for experiences of the dependent life that comes only through chosen vulnerability.

Over these days, as I begin to consent, I notice the telltale signs of life returning the confidence in competency. My external world slows to a soul’s pace, and in time, my internal world follows suit. Conversation with God—listening, asking, becoming curious—begins to flow in like a much anticipated tide. The familiar pattern of alignment slowly takes place. I find myself thinking of the people I love and wondering what stories I would share if given the opportunity to honor them. I write the stories in my soul of men I know and admire who are going before me choosing the vulnerable path of initiation. With each passing hour, curiosity about God and his Kingdom takes over my thoughts and imagination. And for moments, here on this uncivilized landscape, it is well in my soul.

Whatever else we need as men, we must sacrificially choose and fight to place ourselves in an environment designed to mature our utter dependency. There is a particular grace (God acting) that flows only in a context of vulnerability. I spend much of my time observing older men, and I see the convergence of increasing time, money, experience, and knowledge that affords many of them to experience ever-increasing self-sufficiency. When exposure and dependency become unpracticed, something goes to sleep inside the soul of a man. I feel this at stake in my own story. Experiences of vulnerability, exposure, and dependency are not only to be found in wilderness. Vulnerability can be found in risking intentional descent into the unknown terrain of our kids’ hearts. Vulnerability can be found in admitting we know little about our vehicles (and other specific dimensions of our unpruned kingdoms), suffering the exposure and experiencing the reward of taking a step to expand our mastery. Exposure can be found in risking to lay off, for a time, the alcohol or other substances we use to manage how we feel in our bodies in order to experience the vulnerability, press through the anguish of powerlessness, and experience once again the restorative power of our utter dependence on God.

It’s the second day. Mid-morning on a clock, perhaps, but I’m spent from having put in a full day’s energy chasing elk. I make my way to camp, lower my bear bag that’s suspended out of reach of other hungry hunters in the area, and fire up the camp stove. Ravenously, I put down calories and settle into a morning coffee. I pause, breathe in the smells, the air, the ancient trees, dead and alive.

And then I hear them. First one, then multiples. It is clear as day: these are elk chirps and meows, just a stone’s throw away. I thought I was done for the day, but my Father has other plans.

I remember dependency…I return to my first love.

I dump my coffee and drop everything save bow, arrows, and range finder, plunging into the dense, dark timber north of the meadow in which I’m camped. The Author of my story is a wild one, and I’m eager to participate in this next chapter.

But it is more than chasing wild. It’s bigger than hunting for an animal and the hope of putting meat in the freezer. It is a hunt to know union.  To bank on the reliability of my Father. To both practice and learn in the deep recesses of my masculine soul a strength that only flows from dependency on the One from whom all strength is resurrected. God, you have my yes. Let’s go…

Friends, context is everything.  

The goal is dependency and the fruit is union. What will you do today to choose to engage your courage and your strength—sacrificially—in order to access the depth of the Kingdom of God known to the masculine soul through utter dependency?

Aldo Leopold reflected in his later years, “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.”

I am among those who cannot.

And there are also some who can settle for a life without dependency, and some who cannot.

I am among those who cannot.

Perhaps the deepest cry of the heart of God comes out in Jesus’ prayer: “Father, I pray that they might be one with you as I am one with you.” Oh, my friends, let us choose to respond to the invitation to go deeper into this oneness.

What context can you pursue to place your masculine soul in intentional exposure and dependence, in order to experience the reward of strength through the One who is inviting us into more?

For the Kingdom,

Morgan


God, you promise in your word that I honor you when I call for help.

Oh, God, may my yes be yes.

Oh, God, may my no be no.

I give my heart to you and you alone.

Undivided.

I call for help in my trouble and choose to trust that it’s in crying out for help that I honor you, God.

It is through this ask, through turning to you in my deepest and darkest need, that I honor you.

I need you.

More of me penetrated, intoxicated, consumed by your love.

I choose to be completely dependent upon you.

Be a river of life streaming out of me.

Flow into me so that you may flow through me.

You are water.

You are life.

I choose strength through dependency.

I give you my need.

I honor you.

 

(A prayer applied from Psalm 50, MSG)

043: Intensive Series (Episode 4 of 8) [podcast]

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


In Renovation of the Heart, Dallas says,

“Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction and harmony to every other area of our life. When the stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His Kingdom…and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. There we are harmony with God, reality, and the rest of human nature and nature at large.”

It’s been said that the infinite need of the soul can only be satisfied by God’s infinite capacity and desire to satisfy.

The soul was designed for a habitat in which it can thrive.

Let’s dive in behind the scenes for a portion of another session from the most recent Become Good Soil Intensive.

In this episode, among other categories, I refer to an IKEA instruction manual and, by way of contrast, a powerful trailer from Gerber Knives: Hello, Trouble.


Through October 12, we are accepting applications for the next Become Good Soil Intensive. Find out more.

For the Kingdom,

Morgan

Click to Listen

Play

An Invitation – (Now Accepting Applications – Colorado BGS Intensive 2019)

Growing up, my dad was my hero. He was everything I wanted to become. He was strong, yet playful. His courage taught me how to stand up for those in need. He was daring and always dreaming up and investing in our next adventure. He could fix anything from a broken mower to a broken heart. He loved God, and he taught me a life of wholehearted integrity. At every turn, he modeled for me and gave me access to vibrant life in God’s Kingdom. What I remember most was his laugh. And what I’ll never forget was this simple fact: no one loved me more, knew me more, and pursued me more than him. 

And he lives forever because he lives in me.

What will your children say at your funeral? How will you be remembered? What if someone was able to speak these words—of you?

It was Johann Goethe who said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

As a desire, this priority seems clear. As a practical reality, however, to recover a life centered on what matters most is a rare and remarkable treasure few find and even fewer are able to sustain.

There is an ancient path, a tried and true road that leads to a life abundant, a life burgeoning with what matters most, a life everlasting. It has always been so. And this hope whispers to us, beckons us in every moment of every day.

Roughly 2,600 years ago, a wild-eyed prophet, living through four of the most violent and tumultuous decades of his country’s history, cried out on behalf of the people:

“Go stand at the crossroads and look around.

   Ask for directions to the old road,

The tried-and-true road. Ask where the good way is, and walk in it.

   You will discover rest and what is right for your soul…”
(from Jeremiah 6:16, The Message, NIV) 

Every generation and every person experiences the devastating loss of the Gospel. And every generation and every unique person is charged with its recovery.

As a small company of like-hearted peers, surrounded by sages who have marked out portions of that tried-and-true road, our team is endeavoring to do everything in our power to participate in the recovery of the Gospel in our generation.

In May of 2019, we will host the 10th Become Good Soil Intensive. As this mission has grown and matured like fine single malt, so has the event. The 2019 Intensive will take place in a new facility here in Colorado and will incorporate more alumni participation, more sages, and more leadership from Kingdom-hearted men who have courageously journeyed through much of a decade of becoming.

It was Dallas who said, “The most important thing about a person is not what they do, but who they become.” Who will you become? What will your wife and children and friends say about the impact of your life? And how will you get there?

We are now accepting applications. The deadline for submitting completed applications is October 12th.

Find out more details about the event and access the application here.

For a behind-the-scenes peek into some of the teaching of the event, be sure to check out the upcoming series on the Become Good Soil podcast, featuring never-before-released content from the 2017 Intensive. The first episode will go live next week.

In the meantime, this week, choose an hour. Write out the eulogy you hope to be spoken at your funeral by those closest to you.

And ask our Father this question: What is next for me in becoming that man?

For the Kingdom,

Morgan

 


Photo by Justin Lukasavige

Receiving the Mother Heart of God

What would it be like to burst with joy and feel ten feet tall?(1) If that were available, where would you find it, and how would you make it last? 

I invite you wonder about the *more* that is possible. Come with me as we explore Sonship – Receiving the Mother Heart of Goda teaching I recently offered at Discovery Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For the Kingdom,
Morgan

Reflection Questions and More to go deeper into this teaching


(1) Isaiah 66:14 MSG

An Arsenal, A Library, and a Tool Collection

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

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

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

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

It was perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Library

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

Tool Collection

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

Arsenal

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

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

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

It doesn’t take much.

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

Pause with me for a moment.

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

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

Call to mind your current arsenal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strength and Honor,

Morgan


(1) Jeremiah 6:16

(2) Psalm 23:1