Archives for May 2012

Boys, Video Games and Extended Adolescence

The football passed back and forth tossed in high spiraled arcs. I smiled as I watched my son Kyle and our dear friend Michael wile away the last sunshine of a lazy Memorial Day and hang out man to man-or better yet man to almost man.

Kyle, at almost fourteen, is on the cusp of manhood -teetering precariously between maturity and immaturity on any given day. But with every pat on the back and encouragement from the dudes in his life (dads, grandfathers, mentors, coaches and older friends) he continues to inch towards adulthood.

I was struck with emotion when I realized how each one of our male friends went out of their way at some point in the day to connect and encourage my son. I don’t take that blessing lightly because I know how crucial it is for men to intentionally lead, parent and guide our sons if we are to regain and raise another generation of valiant men.

And this rite of passage is something I see sorely lacking in our society.

We used to send our boys off to college and the military, or at the very least an apprenticeship and have them return a little worse for the wear –but independent and savvy enough to survive on their own. Men led each other.

But there is a whole generation of men floundering.

I scratch my head and ponder where have we gone wrong? Could it be rampant divorce, boys abandoned by dads, or a culture targeted by media and bombarded by leisure?

Somehow we have we allowed our boys to stagnate –numbed, dumbed down and distracted by video games, sex and pornography. They are missing the glorious adventure and crucial transition of becoming their own man and surviving.

As the mother of a son, I know the last thing I want is his twenty-nine year old butt parked on my sofa –jobless –and playing Call of Duty shouting for me to make him and his boys a sandwich.

Church planter Darrin Patrick calls this type of male a “Ban,” a hybrid of boy and man.

Ban is a juvenile because there is an entire market niche created for him to live in the lusts of youth. He is the best thing for the porn industry and the video game industry (48% of men between 18-34 play video games for almost 3 hours a day). Ban puts off adulthood, mortgages and marriage. Women give up waiting for Mr. Right and settle for Mr. Ban, an apathetic, sarcastic boy man.”

So why the rise of Ban?

Sometimes I think we have taken away the most necessary elements of story in our son’s lives –conflict. Our boy’s shoot aliens on a screen instead of battling real villains or bullies on the playground. They look at porn instead of fighting for a woman’s heart and they flounder for meaning instead of forging a life of courage wounded and bloody from the trenches.

We protect and screen the hard knocks of adversity unwittingly sacrificing the triumphs of overcoming a great challenge and we give our boys crumbs to feast on instead of a meaty life of adventure and purpose.

It makes me want to send my kid off to wilderness camp or the military…but I think I’ll settle for football and a North Dakota trip this summer at least for now.

What do you think about Ban?

And more importantly…What can you do to invest in a boy or a young man today?

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Dr. Gandhi, Yoga and a Stress Test

I took a stress test yesterday but strangely enough it wasn’t too stressful.  It might have actually been the most relaxing part of my week. 

A stress test involves getting hooked up like the Bionic man with wires and sticky patches that suck your hair right out of the follicle.  Then they place you on a treadmill and slowly turn up the pace from a leisurely stroll to a Mt. Everest run/climb.  I was holding on for dear life at the end and panting like a dog on a hot day. 

But it felt good to run hard and work off some steam.

Work has been extremely stressful, finances tight thanks to our new Lion(i.e. private school tuition for Kyle), Kolby had the hand, foot, and mouth virus all week and then there’s my pesky little heart issue –which makes me more stressed.  It’s like a slippery slope of heart palpitations, fever blisters and sweaty pits.

I know I’m supposed to give this all to Jesus but clearly I’ve been grabbing my burdens back and stuffing them in my backpack. 

My Dr. came into read the results.  He almost didn’t let me take the test because my blood pressure was all wacky when I arrived-probably because I came straight from work, but then he remembered he had the day off on Friday and he didn’t want to miss his golf game so he let me take the test.

Here’s the crazy part –after I worked out my heart rate looked all pretty and even –in nice little up and down rhythms.  Once I let go and relaxed into the run my body fixed itself. 

The Dr. looked at me strangely.  “Usually when we test, it goes the opposite way.  Which means you are stressing yourself right into a pace maker.  Do yoga, cut back on the stress and figure out how to relax young lady.”

But Dr. Gandhi doesn’t realize how much I hate yoga after a bad experience with a man in front of me who forgot his underpants and wore tiny shorts.

So, unless I want a pace maker I guess I better learn how to chill.  The funny thing is I’m a pretty mellow person and I don’t even realize I am stuffing stress.  I have a secret little pocket in my heart where I hide emotions and cram pain into a bunch of toxic ickiness.  Then it explodes into shingles or heart issues.

I keep singing “Jesus take the wheel,” in a raspy little voice hoping for a Holy Spirit band-aid when I should probably be on my knees begging for a fire-hose washing of the gunk weighing me down.

I really don’t want to go to Yoga…

But maybe I’ll try to run again and whisper to God and find my rhythm.

 

Pay it Forward

So my heart’s been acting a little cranky lately. It’s not a spiritual issue –more like the forty-year warranty on my body is about to expire and the valves need some fixing. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out at the Happy Heart Center waiting, waiting and waiting for my busy but awesome cardiologist Dr. Gandhi to take more tests.

Kolby accompanies me on these journeys and even though it’s a pain the behind to hang out in a waiting room and atrophy, my two year-old keeps it real. We sing silly songs, read magazines called “Great Circulation” and play on mommy’s iPhone. We have long conversations about doggies, and William (her best friend) and Mickey Mouse.

A few weeks ago we sat near an older couple who watched the two of us and chuckled at my busy toddler. They told me about their grandchildren and we swapped stories about living in Newport Heights (my old neighborhood) and writing and life.

No one mentioned why we were there. It’s never good news at the cardiologist or the oncologist but it just might just be one of the more genuine places to meet people. Everyone there is a bit frayed around the edges. Masks are let down. Sadness and hope and resolve swirl around like air freshener.

I found out they owned a clothing company for little girls called “Girlfriends” and the lovely lady –Anita asked me what size Kolby wore. She also asked for my card to check out my blog and said she might send us a treat.

I wished them the best and off we went to wait some more.

On the day before Mother’s Day, a big box arrived in the mail and I tore into it. I pulled out one beautiful dress after another for my little girl.

And I was blown away at this couple’s generosity. We didn’t talk about God or illness or anything sad that day –because it was the unspoken and obvious, we just laughed and gloried in the life and vibrancy of a small child.

And maybe that was our simple gift to them.

Thank you Anita and Jerry for your random act of kindness and paying it forward! You made my Mother’s day very special ♥

What can you do today to bless a stranger?

Get to Know God -Real Dude Spiritual Leadership

If Real dude spiritual leadership starts with getting to know God, then what does KNOWING look like?  I hesitate to give any sort of rules or a 3-step plan because I know (all too well) it’s far easier to check off a list than to pursue a relationship, so maybe the first tip simply is this:

1.    Throw Away the Rulebook

Religion is about rules, relationship is two-way engagement. 

Getting to know God is a lot like meeting a best friend or a spouse and the space between the initial spark and eternity.  One day you are alone and the next –a son or daughter of the King.  You have become the bride of Christ (not a super masculine metaphor here) but the point is –you enter into relationship and it is sacred and set apart and it is good.  

Getting to know God starts with a yes.  You ACCEPT his invitation.  You say giddy-up to a grand adventure.  It is jumping into a wild river and not knowing where it will take you.  Faith is your only rope to hold onto.  Grace is your life-preserver.

2.    Seek Him not Stalk Him

As a bookworm-y sort of gal, I determined to know everything about God.  So for the first ten years as a Christian I became what Bob Goff calls a Jesus Stalker.

I read through the entire bible six years in a row.  I attended two to three bible studies at a time.  I listened to preacher pod-casts (actually we called them tapes back in the day) and I memorized plenty of scripture.  I read every Christian book on the market –including the men’s section and the care section and even the exegetical section.  I had a prayer journal with pictures (I used Christmas cards and pasted them in –all pre-Pinterest).  I had a sermon journal and a reflection journal and a “I’m clearly the best Martha” journal.  I even enrolled in seminary.

I chuckle now at my incredible pursuit to learn about and SEEK Jesus –and then slightly vomit in my mouth when I think about how annoying I probably was.  I was a modern-day Pharisee in a mini-skirt running hard and fast on a spiritual treadmill trying to win the approval of God. 

3.    He’s Got Your Back

The problem with the spiritual treadmill is eventually you can’t keep running any more –usually when a monster storm of circumstances hit and you lose your footing and go flying through the air and land in a sorry heap (At least that’s what happened to me)

One day, Jesus determined I had enough head knowledge and he picked up my ordered little universe with highlighted chapters and sticky notes and chucked it against the wall. 

In this season I learned to DEPEND on Jesus and apply everything I had so earnestly learned into a real and working faith.  I learned to listen and not just ask, I learned to be still and rest in him and I learned freaking HUMILITY.  I grieved and wailed and groaned to my God until the tears ran dry and there I remained –somehow still standing before a Holy God.

And I learned he never left.

4.    Don’t be a Martyr (unless Jesus renames you Stephen)

Time marched on and then I married a pastor and we planted a church and like Isaiah I said, “Here I am God, use me.”  Only I forgot to set good boundaries and it came out more along the lines of “Here I am Church, abuse me.”

This was my entry into the Martyr season of my life, unfortunately I to had to crash and burn-out (again) before I listened to what God actually wanted me to do and not want I thought I should be doing.  I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t tell me to work outside the home and lead a women’s ministry and build a freelance writing career and raise three children and start a church all at the same time.

Only Satan could be such a masochist.

But the enemy of my soul didn’t have the last word.   Jesus picked me up –again- and gave me a lesson on boundaries and we started over.  Much of my journey has been trial and error, but certain activities do draw me closer to God.

5.    Spiritual Disciplines that ACTUALLY work

     a.    A life of Prayer

     b.    A life of Worship

     c.    Space to Reflect

     d.    Jesus with Skin On (friends who keep you accountable)

     e.    Occasional Fasting(from food, tech, muffins or anything you obsess on)

     f.     God’s Word

Here is what this looks like in my life…

 I do only what I am called to.  I say no more than yes, but when I say yes I am all in.  I mother, I write, I go to the park and swing in the sunshine, and I have time to love my husband.  I volunteer within my giftedness and serve when I see a need and where God opens a door. I lean into friendships. 

Life is much quieter now –more simple and yet far more abundant.  I pray constantly but it’s more like breathing and talking to my best friend instead of me picking verses and promises and expecting God to move in my time.  I journal when I want to probe my heart.  I read to grow deeper and I try to find solace and encouragement in the scriptures –not as a to-do list or a way to gain the approval of God.

Part of getting to know God was also getting to know myself and the depravity of my own heart. 

So when I reflect on getting to know God –I can only describe it as a long journey with a good friend who just so happens to be the creator of the universe. 

And the Real Dudes I see who are near to God seem to roll with the Big Guy too.

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Caddy for Sale

It’s always shocking to find a note from the Coroner’s office stuck to your front door. I can only feign relief that I wasn’t home when the cops showed up to leave their dirty little message.  Opening the door to two somber policemen conjures up thought of loved ones dying in a fiery freeway accident or sudden heart failure.  Can’t they come up with a nicer way to tell people their loved ones have kicked the bucket?  (Ahhh, but that’s a topic for another day!)  It turns out; they were investigating a ’66 powder blue Cadillac that had been parked in an unnamed parking lot for too long.  They figured the owner had died and it was time to gently break the news to the relatives… either that, or confront the perpetrators who had knocked off the poor sucker.  It just so happens that I know the owner of said Caddy, and though he is alive and well, he may be a victim of domestic assault by the time I get my hands on him.

My darling husband acquired this monster car (which measures longer than a Suburban to give you a good visual) about ten years ago, for the pure whim of taking a road trip to Vegas.  It has stayed with him (like a venereal disease) over the years and has traveled with him from home to home. And though he rarely drives it, it gets occasional use at weddings and for random photo shoots.  His claim to fame is using the caddy for a swimsuit calendar.  Somewhere behind the hot models is his beaming face behind the wheel. He reminds me that we both brought baggage to the marriage, I have two adorable children and he brought the beast…I mean the Cadillac. Fortunately, he has grown to love my kids but I have not felt any furthermore affinity for the gas guzzler that is now parked in my driveway.

Yes, in an effort to avoid towing, the Caddy came home and there it sits like a ginormous eyesore.  Last night I told him an anonymous caller had complained to the association about the obnoxious car in our driveway.  It took him a few seconds before he choked on his cashews and started chortling. Each night as I lay my head down on my pillow, I dream of it being stolen.  Then again, after they fill up the tank with gas and die of shock, they will probably bring it right back, washed and cleaned and ready for the next photo-op. 

66’ Convertible Caddy for Sale.  All offers considered. Please contact Scrappy!

*Note*  I first posted this eighteen months ago.  What the heck people?  I want my garage back now!

 

Real Dude Spiritual Leadership

When Christian husbands hear the words Spiritual Leadership they often cringe and move into an emotionally defensive ninja posture. They cover their ears and hum “nu nun nu nun” to drown out the sound of the “oh so subtle” but fully loaded assault they know their wife is about to lob at them.

“Did you hear what Pastor Awesome did for his wife for their anniversary? OMG…he flew her to a chapel in Tuscany where they ate biscotti and strawberries dipped in crème fraiche. Then he knelt before her, gave her a monogrammed gold leaf bible and prayed for world peace. Wow, what spiritual leadership!”

And then this sweet, loyal and loving husband, who goes to work every day, provides a home and provision, plays horsie with his kids, coaches baseball and takes his wife to brunch every Sunday after church hunches his shoulders, looks morose and feels completely inadequate.

And the reason he feels like a schmuck is because too many women confuse Spiritual Leadership with a cross between Fabio and their youth pastor –a Jesus-y James Bond sort of guy with a golden tongue who waxes poetic spiritual metaphors about car-care and the football draft from his pre-dawn quiet times with the Lord.

All too often, Christian wives inadvertently adopt a distorted idea of Christian manhood as a spiritual measuring stick for their husband. They take a few examples of biblical application regarding humility or faith (or any fruit of the spirit for that matter) from the pastor’s Sunday message and apply it with a broad stroke to beat their husbands up with after the service.

They don’t envision a real man, a real life and the day-to-day decisions which encompass true spiritual headship of a family. Pastors aren’t all saints or perfect husbands (although my man is a rock star) and a guy doesn’t need to work for the church to be a true minister of Jesus Christ and strong spiritual leader to his wife and kids.

What men do want to aspire to (and their wives can gently encourage them to) –are spiritual disciplines which will help them develop a closer relationship with God and therefore build strength and leadership within the marriage. So, I’ve got a few ideas culled from the plethora of awesome men I have the privilege to know (and yes…I’m talking about you Mariners MV men) . These are the traits and attributes I see exhibited in their lives which bless the socks off their adoring ladies!

Sam’s Tips to Develop Real Dude Spiritual Leadership

1. Get to Know God

2. Pray with your spouse

3. Intimacy (Christian code word for SEX)

4. Serve One Another

5. Parent with Purpose

6. Rethink Love as an Action Verb

The next six blog posts will address these traits and give helpful suggestions for Christian couples who are honest enough to pull out the jammed logs blocking their vision and get real about their marriage, the state of their own heart and what it means to love like Christ did.

And just in case you think this is a series written only for men…I want to challenge you with this.

I believe, above all these tips, the most important factor in a man’s spiritual leadership is his wife’s ability to AFFIRM, stop nagging, pray, forgive, and become her husband’s biggest champion allowing God to transform her husband into the man of her dreams in his time.

Care to join me on the journey?

About William

There’s one thing I can count on for sure each and every evening –my two-year old Kolby’s non-wavering answer to “What was the best part of your day?”

She can barely contain herself as we start Peak and Pit during dinner.

“Mama, mama.  What about me? Best part is…”

“Sshhh sweetie, wait for your turn,” I reply gently.  “Try not to interrupt your brother.”

Finally, it’s Kolby’s turn.   “What is the best part of your day Kolby?”

“William!” Kolby says with a grin.

“What did you today?” asks daddy.

“William…”

What game did you play?” big brother Kyle inquires.

“I play hit William,” giggles Kolby.

It’s the same scenario every night, though sometimes the details about William change.  There are days he gets put in time-out.  Sometimes he gets a boo-boo and band-aid.  Occasionally William is absent and Kolby is sad.

But one thing never changes –Kolby’s epic love for her friend William.

Ms. Maggie (Kolby’s pre-school teacher) says they have to separate the two at times because they are so overly affectionate.  Kolby and William hold hands, rub each other’s back and sit as close as possible. 

There is something so precious, raw and innocent about the love these two-year olds have for each other.  Kolby can’t contain her emotion for her beloved.  It spills out of her.  Her love for William interrupts life.  She bursts with joy at the sound of his name and William is always the best part of her day, even when she doesn’t see him –he is still so close.

I think Kolby is on to something.  This tiny girl of mine knows innately how to love with abandon. 

No image.  No games.  No William in a pre-school box.

It’s all about William.

And this is how I want to be with Jesus. 

I don’t want to evangelize at the mall, have an agenda with everyone I meet, or have to bother with fishing out the four spiritual laws out of my dirty purse and drawing a cross and a bridge on a napkin at Starbucks.  I don’t want to share formulas about my faith or even rules about sin –though I am the worst of these.  I simply want to wear Jesus on my sleeve.  I want my love for him and his people to squeeze out at the seams.  I want it to be so obvious people know something is different about me before I even open my mouth. 

In a seminary class on evangelism many years ago the professor’s first words were to us, ‘We will spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and use as few words as possible.”

I was as stunned as the rest of the class.  And then I let it wash over me and slowly change my Jesus paradigm.

Kolby has it figured out.

It’s all about the ONE WE LOVE.

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