Thursday, February 19, 2015

Father, Son, and a Flat Tire

Men are constantly searching for validation. As Eldredge once wrote, “Men will spend all of their lives asking the question, ‘Do I have what it takes? Can I come through when it counts?”

Our culture and society offer us men a cheap counterfeit when it comes to validation these days: power and/or affluence. Holding a place of authority, owning a padded bank account, or the seductive combo of both is the popular answer to our question. The problem is these things aren’t rooted in anything deep or meaningful. They are a topical ointment covering up deeper issues of our hearts.

I get super excited and feel good when I have an energizing meeting at work, sell a few memberships, or have a good session with a new client. But the emotional high wears off after a few hours and not much internally has shifted for me. These things aren't necessarily bad, they just aren’t enough. Ultra success via drivenness at work and finances isn’t what we need.

We need something more.

We need a flat tire on an unimportant Thursday morning in February. We need that Thursday morning to be about -7 degrees with a slight breeze. And we need the oh shit factor.

God gave me this exact scenario today. My oh shit factor? It went something like this:

“I know how to change a flat...I’ve just never actually done it before--all by myself anyway.”

My oh shit factor quickly went from insecurity, anger, and depression to something a bit more settled and confident.

I can't quite explain it. It wasn't swagger.

It was a slowly growing assurance in one simple but profound truth I continue to lean into: There is a Father. I am his son. And he loves to initiate me deeper into genuine masculinity.

So I threw on some leather work gloves my dad bought me, borrowed a car jack from one of my generalist mentors, and ventured out into the frozen tundra they call Kirksville Missouri.

And I changed that stinkin' tire. I got more than a delicious emotional buzz I get from a good day at the office. That’s a counterfeit.

I got the real deal. I got validation in the truest sense.

Morgan Snyder sums up the current state of most men in America today: “We've outsourced masculinity.”

We seek our validation by specializing in one specific skill set that we are gifted at, and outsource everything else. To put it simply we’ve gone limp---we’re soft serve ice cream.

Leaky faucet? Piss on that. Call the plumber.

Broken light switch? Don’t have time for that. Call the electrician.

Shrubs need tending to? Let me call the local landscape grunts.

Men pursue lives of comfort and insulate themselves by making enough money to outsource the very things that make us men. Take the wealthy businessman for example. He has enough money to outsource any hindrance and doesn't have to “worry about a thing.” It looks like strength from the outside, but its a house of cards. Inside something atrophies in our masculine hearts when we don’t have mastery over things we own. It isn't about being the ultimate handyman, its about a shift in the way we view our world. It's about a shift in the way we view adversity whether it's a flat tire or a failed marriage. It is in the disruptions of adversity--big and small--that our character is forged and our masculinity strengthened.

“I don’t fish. I don't golf. I don’t cut the lawn. Football is my life.”- Joe Paterno.
Joe Pa didn't have time to be humbled by the disruptions of changing the oil in his car or cutting his own lawn--He was too busy winning football games.

His ability to lead and coach was extraordinary. One of the best of all time, without question. Unfortunately, 70+ years of fierce mastery over his profession didn't translate to 70+ years of fierce mastery over his own heart and soul.

Success without a good heart and deeply rooted character is actually the worst kind of failure.

Joe faced a rather dark issue, an issue I hope I never have to face as a coach. But he turned his back when his strength as a man was needed most. The problem was he had no strength to offer as a man. Football was his life. He quite literally had no capacity to speak up or say anything on behalf of the young man being sexually abused by a coach on his staff. In the face of a circumstance that desperately needed him to be a man, he was paralyzed.

Work, money or a combination of the two never answer our question. And when we take our question to these two arenas, it not only harms us but harms others.

Only the Original Source of masculinity can bestow the deeply genuine and personal validation our hearts crave. 

We are his sons. He is our Father. Run to him.

***Note: This post was only made possible through the strong life that Morgan Snyder courageously leads. He is a good man and he is full of life. His blog and podcasts are definitely worth your time. They have nourished me on my journey to becoming a man. Check them out here -> ***

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Was it really 'Just a game?'

A large majority of my life I have heard many people refer to sports with a classic and popular cliche that goes something like, It's just a game. 


It's not, as the old saying goes, just a game. Sports have and never will be just a game, nor were they created or intended to be mere 'games'. With the exception of my marriage, sports have and always will hold some of the most meaningful and important pieces of my life. Some of my dearest memories and most life shaping moments have come in the arena of sports and competition. I used to be a little embarrassed by this truth I held in my heart. I felt as if my love of sport was nothing more than an empty addiction of which I should be extremely ashamed of.

You're that guy. Obsessed with meaningless child's play. Grow the hell up and move on with your life. 

But it was around 10:03 pm last night that I started to yet again be reminded that there is something very good about my love of sports. I was absolutely exhausted and was sleepily watching the Royals game. Just 40 minutes earlier, I had mentioned to Samantha that I struggle getting into baseball anymore. But there I was, one exhilarating inning and a handful of hard earned runs later, wide awake. My senses were tingling. Palms sweating and body temperature rising. My heart felt alive, young and invincible.

Whoa what just happened? How do I go from just barely conscious to absolutely bursting with life?

And I realized yet again the Father and his angels were on yet another rescue mission for my heart. Like Tom Hanks and the boys from Saving Private Ryan, he's on a risky mission to wake me up from the spiritual slumber stemming from a culture of constant busyness and routine that we simply accept as 'life'. Papa was enticing me, waking me, inviting me out of the mundane of business meetings, bills, and paperwork, and calling me up into my indisputable place in his Story.

The truth is God has been using sports for ages to stir the hearts of his beloved sons and daughters. But He has never done more so than now. In an age in which evil and suffering seems to be rampaging, and a pace of living assaults the life our deep hearts, God gives us sports as a doorway to re-enter his Kingdom again and again. He gives us the raw passion and energy of the opening kickoff of a football game to ignite desire in our hearts. He gives us the excitement of stolen bases, wild pitches, and walk off hits to stir joy in our souls. And He gives us the unlikely comeback in extra innings to restore deep hope to every fiber of our being.

Last night the Cardiac Kids that call themselves the Royals went extra innings with the A's and won a pulse pounding contest that no one can stop talking about. And it was more than just a game. It was the Father ministering deeply to our weary and exhausted souls.

It's a wildly scandalous plan to save his beloved.

And its working.

John Muir once said, "I'd rather be in the mountains thinking of God, than at church thinking of the mountains."

I would much rather be at the game experiencing the Father than at church thinking of the game.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why I Love Tim Duncan

Exactly one year ago I became a huge Tim Duncan fan.

I'm not too big on LeBron or the Heat for a lot of reasons. But this post isn't about LeBron being soft or the Heat being entitled.

It's about Timmy D. Now I know- Tim wears terrible jeans and probably owns more goofy old navy t shirts than even myself. But his heart is tremendous.

Last Father's day, the Spurs were playing the Heat in game 6. I plopped down on the LA-Z-BOY just as half time of last year's game 6 began. And what I saw forced my heart to leap within my chest.

Tim Duncan was sitting on the hallway floor outside his teams locker room, playing with his three children.


In that moment I knew Tim Duncan's actions were a living portrait of the Father's heart for us.

We live in a world of absolute unbelief. We say we believe in God, but at core, a majority of us think he's just to busy to give a rip about us. I mean, come on. He's God. He's real, sure, but he's got a lot of shit on his plate. He's not too concerned or invested in me.

It's not true. God is a good Father, a great Dad. The Best Papa we could ever experience.

If Tim Duncan isn't too busy to play with his children at halftime of the NBA FINALS, surely the Father is not too busy to care deeply for us and engage our hearts with personal affection. The Father is never too busy for us. Never.

Go ahead and ask the Father if he would like to hang out. You just might be surprised how he answers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fierce Commitment?

Sometimes I am completely flabbergasted by the commitment of God to Father me and bring joy to me as a son. My complete shock reveals a rather sad doubt in my heart as to how good of a Daddy my God really is. Slowly but surely, He is knocking down the walls of doubt in my heart and bringing me more deeply into Sonship. 

I have the privilege of being a personal trainer to many male clients who are older than me. To say this job is exactly what my heart needed would be an understatement. To stand in the presence of a man older than me, a man who has lived more life is powerful, restoring. There is something jumping for joy in my heart when an older man offers wisdom, advice, or even a piece of dry humor to me. Day after day, workout after workout I have experienced the Father's heart for me in ever increasing measure through the words, thoughts, and hearts of the men I train.  

I could post a blog a day for a whole month straight with the countless examples of how God is bringing me more deeply into manhood through the group of men I train on a daily basis.

I just recently finished training a 77 year old, firecracker of a retired math professor. He is kind, warm and caring. He is winsome and quite funny. And today, God Fathered me through him. 

Somehow our conversation took a turn toward the subject of fishing. He told me of his love of fishing, and how recently he has not had the motivation to fish any longer due to the loss of his long time fishing buddy and best friend. I sensed God extending me an invitation to join Him out on the water with a more seasoned fisherman than I. My client and I have agreed on getting together to fish starting in May. 

The beauty of this story is enough to make me weep. I have always wanted to fish, to learn the tricks of the trade, to hook the big one. Since the beginning of college God has slowly and surely equipped me to do so. My own grandfather is an avid fisherman, and has graciously given me all of the essential equipment to fish: Tackle box, lure, rod and reel, line etc. But due to physical distance, time, and his declining health, I haven't ever been fishing with my grandpa to learn the way. Other older men and friends in my life have taught me other skills necessary to fish, but I am still missing the essential ingredient to becoming a fisherman: experience. 

And here I am, almost 5 years later about to finally get the priceless experience of entering into life much more wild than my climate controlled building of employment. I have made plenty of excuses as to why I don't have 'time' to fish, dismissing my hearts deeper desire. 

As my client and I spoke about setting up a time to begin our endeavor, I could feel the pull to dismiss my desire once again. 'This is going to be another thing on my schedule...another thing taking from my time'

And in classic timing, my client turned to me with a mischievously enthused grin and uttered:

"I have an expression for fishing...A day spent fishing does not count against your allotted days on earth.."

So the Father delivered the final blow to my idol of busyness and capital gain with one of the more holy expressions I have ever heard from an older man. 

John Eldredge wrote that "God is fiercely committed to you, to the restoration and release of your masculine heart...and He is committed to bringing us back to the original design."  

The original design for me, as made in the wild and powerful image of God, being to rule over his created world in power and profound strength (Genesis 1:28). To borrow wisdom from Morgan Snyder, the original meaning of the word rule in this passage from Genesis, is actually translated as a fierce mastery. Fierce mastery. That is the original design God our Father is so fiercely committed in restoring us to. 

So I reckon I'll make time to go rule over the fish of the Adair County waters alongside my caring, humble, and wise guide who has promised to 'teach me everything he knows.' I sense the Father rather generously planning to restore both my client and I through time spent on the water together.

These upcoming fishing adventures, my client and I will not be 77 and 23 years old respectively. We won't be a retired math professor and an inexperienced business manager. Instead, we will both be--for a few glorious hours on weekends--sons. Son's being cared for by our Father. He is a much needed wise and seasoned guide for me in my masculine journey. And I am a gift to him from the Father--a fishing buddy to once more bring him out on the water, and bring him a bit closer to his original design. 

And so, Mr. Eldredge I respectfully disagree with your thought on God being 'fiercely committed' to our restoration of original design.

I think 'fiercely committed' is a gargantuan understatement. 

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father.  -Romans 8:15

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Spring is on its way

Winters in Kirksville suck.

This one has been particularly brutal. But yesterday the temperature jumped up to a whopping 40 something degrees. And it felt amazing; it felt like spring. I took Grigsby out for his late afternoon walk as the sun was setting in the west, revealing a picture of breathtaking hues. Purples, pinks, oranges and heavenly golds were thrown rather creatively into the sky. A light but slightly warm breeze kissed my face. It was not typical for Adair County in late February, and it had the scent of the coming spring.

Spring is on its way. Though the winter grays of February seem to dominate our experience, Spring is on its way and with it a reminder bursting with hope: The Kingdom is on its way, right around the corner if you will.

The restoration of green grass, budding flowers, and flourishing trees are a picture to a deeper reality. The reality that someday--someday soon even--Jesus will usher in his Kingdom, and with it innumerable joys.

Laughter. Life. Intimacy. Beauty. Joy. Healing. Complete Restoration of our deepest brokenness and disappointments. Most of all, an uninterrupted communion with God our Father and Jesus our Friend. I simply cannot wait.

Samantha and I walked to the large field next to our home and sat down with our pup to enjoy the gift of Beauty our Father had lavished onto Northeast Missouri. We drank in the view, and something in our hearts breathed a sigh of relief. We were ok. If the One who handcrafted that beauty of a sunset was also our Daddy, then we were going to be ok. More than ok. His heart for us is beyond good.

After the sun dove down behind the horizon, Samantha and I went to grab a gyro and feta fries from the square. While eating our dinner I asked Samantha to name her top three moments of her life. She quickly rattled off a whole slew of her favorite memories, a lot more than three. Our wedding. My proposal. A game winning hit against Illinois State. Bucketfulls of laughter with her teammates.

A few of mine included: Our wedding. My bachelor party. Our honeymoon. A slip screen from the 5 yard line to tie the game, thanks to a salty move by Garret White.

Samantha and I laughed heartily as we reminisced. Usually we remember our great moments with a touch of resignation and a thought something along the lines of "Those were great times. But they're long gone now. They're over."

But this time Samantha and I weren't discouraged or cynical. Thanks to a subtle but well timed reminder of Beauty from our Great God, we knew with confidence that the Kingdom will come, that the Kingdom of God will abolish the word over. Because in the Kingdom, Life never ends, and neither will the immense joy that awaits us on the other side.

Oh yes. Spring is on its way.

And so is His Kingdom.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Groomsmen Part 7: The Italian Stallion. Not if. But when.

Antonio Vincenzo Pucci. (POO-CHEE). Also goes by Tony Pucci and or Pooch.

Pooch was one of my roommates at Truman and was a slot receiver with some dynamite route running and catching capabilities. I am gonna miss throwin corner routes to him very badly. Like the other two dudes who were my roomies over the majority of my college time, I deeply treasure my friendship with him. I know that no words I write will do any of my groomsmen justice as to how much they mean to me, and this post will be no different. But its worth a try. 

Pucci was a constant reminder of the constant presence of Jesus in my life. And he too understood my heart and struggles, because he had the same heart and endured the same struggles.

But the thing about Pooch that I love most is his deep desire and longing for something better. 

Now this Desire of his is also one of the things that pisses me off the most about him. We could have the best 5 course meal in the history of college thanksgiving dinners, and he would still manage to say something like, "The turkey was good, but a little dry."  "It would have been perfect if we had stuffing" Or even "The green bean casserole was too soupy" 
Now, at first it seemed like Pucci was just nitpicking. And I'm sure there is a part of it that is just nitpicking. But upon further review, the ruling on the field has been over turned: The man simply knows deeply how life is supposed to be. He knows the kind of life and joy God handcrafted his heart to experience. Anything less is well, not very satisfying.  Pucci is driven by desire, driven by his desire for joy, love, laughter, tender thanksgiving turkey, and a meaningful life. 

I can't help but look back on all of our times at Truman and see that suffering was the classroom God used for our divine education. And lets just say the Father taught us both quite a bit. I read that sentence and I cringe. Yet I know how essential suffering was to our growth and development as men. Its kind of like working out a muscle. To achieve the greatest muscle growth and to adapt the greatest strength, there must be a tremendous amount of stress put on the muscle. The muscle must suffer, must fail and fatigue to adapt and become stronger. At the time its not fun, but suffering has been the one thing God has used to produce the most goodness in Pucci and I's lives. 

Anyway, much like myself, Pucci's time at Truman was littered with suffering. He lost a close friend to an unexpected death. His football career was less than satisfying. 

Its safe to say Jesus understands how Pooch felt. He too lost his cousin and dear friend, to a brutal beheading even. Jesus' own brothers doubted who he was, didn't believe in him. Another close friend betrayed Jesus to his death. Throw in the exhausting death march and 6 hours hanging on a cross and I think we can agree Jesus suffered. The question I have is how did he live his life so well in the face of so much suffering? 

The answer is Desire. His profound, deep, unshaken desire for his victory. His desire for the Life and freedom of people like you and me. His deep longing for his homecoming reunion with his Father. Desire is the driving force behind Christs life. 

Much like Jesus was, Pucci is a man who lives from the desires of his heart, the desire for more goodness, more joy. A rather risky but utterly holy way to live. Pucci has stolen a page from Jesus' book here. 

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I have longed to bring you to myself..." (Matthew 23:37)

"And Jesus said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this meal with you." (Luke 22:15)

Jesus is indeed a man of profound longing and desire. His heart overflows with passionate desire. 

"Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long list of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" (Hebrews 12:1-2, the message)

Oh yes. Jesus knew where he was from, and he knew most importantly where he was going. He was Gods dearly loved son, and he was on a journey to reunite with his Father in victory after he defeated the evil one once and for all. He was on his way to a joyous homecoming celebration in which he would be deeply honored and rewarded for his sufferings. It was this joy set before him that kept our Savior going. 

I see the same thing in my friend Pucci. Now I am not saying every time adversity or tragedy hits Pucci handles it perfectly. I am not saying that each time he endures a season of suffering, he immediately puts his hope and desire in the day of his complete restoration and freedom. What I am saying is this: Puccis deep longings and desires are good, holy even. His honest and willing heart that is so willing to thirst and hunger and want more is something I deeply admire about him. Because it too will be the driving force of his life. Like Jesus, the deep desire of Pucci will allow him to walk through any suffering this life has to throw at him, and come out a better man on the other side. But most importantly, Pucci's deep desire and longing for Life, Joy, Intimacy, Love, and a meaningful life will ultimately lead him, rather violently to God. 

And if he lets his desire take him to the Father, there is no question he will live a very powerful life. If he lets his desire drive him home to the Father, he indeed will live life to the fullest. 

Excuse me. Let me correct myself. When Pucci lets his deep desire drive him to the Father, he will live a very powerful life. I already see in him the heart and desires of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind about the kind of joyous meaningful life he will be living in 10+ years. 

It's not really a question of if, but when. 

And that's why I love him. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Groomsmen Part 6: CRH III

Charlie Ringo Heinzmann. The Third. The man, the myth, the legend. He was by far my closest friend in my time at Truman and is splitting best man duties with Jack Klein in just 8 short days. 

I mean, you know when a guys middle name is Ringo, you got yourself a gem. In all honesty, this has been one of my hardest posts to write. For the simple fact that I know words can do no justice to the value of my friendship with him. So, instead of beatin around the bush I'll just get right into why I love old Chuck Ringo. 

Charlies from the picturesque town of Metamora located in the beautiful state of Illinois. It is a mirror image to my hometown of Kearney, just slightly smaller in size. The town revolves around the high school and its athletics teams much like Kearney. And they love their football in Metamora, having a storied winning tradition much like Kearney. We are from the same type of town, and we are the same type of guys. 

Charlie and I both enjoyed some success in our high school football careers, and brought with us a common attitude to Truman State Football that went something like this: "I'm gonna start for 3+ years and show these dudes what it takes to win. I'm gonna be a reason Truman Football turns things around.

And though Truman had their first winning season in a while this past year, it didn't exactly happen how Chuck or I thought it would. Neither of us started as quickly as we desperately wanted to. We didn't enjoy team success or the turnaround we wanted. And Charlie tore his ACL. Twice. 

Even though I was fortunate to not have any serious injuries in my career, It's safe to say Charlie and I shared very similar frustrations and setbacks regarding football. We came in with the same mindset and attitude, and were disappointed by the same things. I won't go into any details, because quite frankly the details do not really matter. What matters is this: Charlie understood exactly how I felt. He understood with perfection my every longing, desire, dream, and let down because he had the same ones. This is, in my opinion, one of the most tremendous qualities of Jesus' personality. I'll let Eldredge take it from here:

"A notion has crept into our perceptions of Jesus. And this notion has done great damage to our experience of him. Its the notion that Jesus was really ''pretending'' when he presented himself as a man. We hold fast to the belief that Jesus was God. The heroic actions and miracles of his life attest to it. So, when we read the more human moments of Jesus' life, we feel that Jesus was sort of.....cheating. With a nod and a wink, we know whats really going on...Einstein just dropped in to take the first grade math quiz. Mozart is playing the flute for the kindergarten choir. After all, we're talking about Jesus here. The guy walked on water, raised Lazarus from the dead. He never broke a sweat right? But what about that terrible sweat in Gethsemane? 
Then he went to Gethsemane. He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here with me." Jesus said to them. And then he fell down and prayed, "Abba Father, if its possible, take this suffering from me." And being in anguish he prayed more fiercely, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Mark 14:22, Luke 22:44) 
Deeply distressed. Overwhelmed with sorrow. Anguished. This doesn't sound like someone cheating to me.He begs his Father, with tears, that this cup might pass from him. he doesn't want to do it. Sweat like blood puring from his tormented brow. Does this sound like Einstein adding two and two? 
Jesus was human. Really. When Jesus gets word his cousin and dear friend John has been beheaded what does he do? He takes a boat, leaves the crowds behind, and sails some place he can be alone. The man needed to get away, needed to grieve, just as you would. I cannot say this more emphatically--life affected Jesus. He never did anything halfheartedly. When he embraced our humanity, he didn't pull a fast one by making a show of it. He embraced our humanity so fully and totally he was able to die. God can't die. But Jesus did. 
It will do your heart good to discover Jesus shares in your humanity....The more we can grasp his humanity, the more we will find someone we can approach, know, love, trust, and adore."  (Beautiful Outlaw)

Now all of the 3 amigos (Pooch, Dusty and Chuck) had this characteristic as well. But Charlie embodied this piece of Jesus to a deeper personal level for me. Like Jesus, he didn't just take on my struggle, he knew my struggle. Knew what I was feeling, what I was going through, what I was fighting against. To have such a friend that knows exactly how you feel is unspeakably valuable to the human heart. 

You don't have to be misunderstood. Ever. Jesus got pissed. Jesus laughed. Jesus farted. Jesus got hungry and thirsty. He needed to sleep. Jesus cried. He felt loneliness, rejection, longing. He felt the whole range of human emotion and feeling. Joy, weakness, sorrow. 

Chuck was a daily reminder of my Jesus friend who understands me exactly and perfectly. And that's why I love Charlie Heinzmann. 

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity....Jesus took on flesh, and made his dwelling among us. (Hebrews 2:14, John 1:14)